- Death-Minor Character
- Alternate Universe
Frerin sighed in relief when he saw the sign for Redwater near a turn-off from the South Road.
“About bloody time,” Vornok grumbled from his pony beside him. “Never thought we’d get here.”
“We’ve reached this area a full three weeks before we intended when we first started out,” Frerin told him, not bothering to hide his exasperation. “Honestly, if I knew you two were going to be such whiners, I would have left you at home.”
“It’s a long way and I’m not used to traveling like this,” Vornok said, huffing when Frerin turned to glare at him. “I just don’t see why we had to make this big trip. Most of the escort is comin’ from this direction anyway. They could have sent someone out to do the negotiations.”
“Then you should have bloody well stayed home! No one asked you to come, Vornok. Nor you, Tarin. You both volunteered to go with me. It was a volunteer trip, and you don’t hear any of the others bitching constantly about it, do you? I went because I wanted to. I wanted to see the places that Bilbo came from. I wanted to meet his family and get to know them on the trip back. I wanted to meet his great-grandfather at a less formal gathering. I wanted to escort my future brother-in-law’s family and his belongings back to Erebor myself! And my father, my king… Your king tasked me with making the negotiations and rekindling our relationship with the Dwarrow of Belegost. If you don’t like it, then when we get back home, you can go straight to King Thráin and tell him all about it!”
“You might want to remove the stick from your arse before you meet with King Moran,” Vornok retorted. “Might make bowing difficult.”
Frerin rolled his eyes when the others laughed. “You’re a pain in the arse.”
“And a bloody complainer to boot.” Vornok shook his head. “You know this about me. If you didn’t want to listen to me bitch the whole time, you should have told me to stay my arse at home. It’s not like my personality is new to you. We’ve been friends since we were practically in the cradle, for Mahal’s sake.”
“I think he’s nervous,” Tarin said, his tone revealing just how amused he was at the whole thing. “He’s on a mission for not only King Thráin, but also for Prince Thorin and the future King’s Consort.”
“Not to mention the distinct possibility he might find someone he wants to court here,” Vornok added, grinning at Frerin outright. “I mean, it’s not like he’s kept the fact that he wonders if there’s a Dwobbit out there just for him to himself. We’ve only heard about it about a hundred times…every single bloody day since we left Erebor.”
Frerin made a face as he felt the heat creep up his face. “All of you are arseholes. I should have left the lot of you at home and taken my chances alone.”
“You’d have ended up just as lost as Thorin would have,” Carnak told him. “You’re as good at finding your way around above ground as your brother.”
Frerin blew out a breath but didn’t say anything as he continued on down the road, because what could he say? As much as he liked to boast he wasn’t nearly as bad as Thorin, the truth was, he was probably worse. Under Erebor, and even in the Iron Hills, it took little time for him to figure out where he was going even if he’d never been in those parts before. But outside in places he’d never explored extensively many times before? Forget it. He counted himself lucky that he could get around Dale without making an idiot of himself.
They spent the time between the South Road and the Sarn Ford chatting amicably, with the occasional grumble from their resident complainers – and Frerin knew damned well they were doing it now just to poke at him – and so the few hours before reaching the town of Redwater passed by relatively quickly.
The town proper seemed to be perhaps twice the size of Bree, and it seemed to be a bustling place. Frerin looked about and saw a mixture of Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and surprisingly Elves, though they seemed different from those of Rivendell but similar to the non-royals of Greenwood.
“We should probably stop for the evening, let the ponies rest and get some hot food,” Vornok told him.
Frerin looked up at the sky, which was still bright but the sun was clearly closer to sunset than he’d realized. There was no way for them to reach Belegost anywhere near a decent hour. “Yeah, that would be a good idea. Let’s see if we can’t find a stable and an inn for the night.”
They headed in and after a quick question to one of the Men that passed by, they found themselves stabling their ponies and heading into an inn in short order. After securing rooms, they headed into the dining area and sat down at the table the barmaid escorted them to.
“This place is a lot cleaner and more pleasant than the Prancing Pony was,” Tarin murmured after they put in their drink and food orders.
“Aye, it is,” Soren said as he peered around the room. “People don’t seem quite as rowdy either.”
“Probably because of the larger variety of peoples,” Frerin said. “Also, this is the town the Rangers themselves have built as a base, according to what Bilbo told us. This is where their wives and children would be housed, so I doubt they’d want a rough crowd to settle in here. Plus it’s off the main roads, so they wouldn’t get the travelers who wouldn’t have a care about causing damage or misbehaving.”
“You’d be right about that,” a cheerful voice piped up behind Frerin.
Frerin turned and felt like he’d been hit in the face by one of Bilbo’s cast iron skillets. There was a Dwobbit behind him, and he was – in a word – beautiful. He had dark hair and vibrant blue eyes. His hair was just below shoulder length and was somewhat curly…kind of like Thorin’s, whose hair never fell straight much to his annoyance. And unlike Bilbo, he had a beard. It wasn’t long by any means, but it was full and obviously kept neatly trimmed.
Then the Dwobbit smiled at him and it felt like someone had stabbed him in the heart. The feeling was so real he actually rubbed at his chest. The Dwobbit before him looked down at his hand before quirking an eyebrow and smiling wider as he leaned against the nearby empty table.
“Well, aren’t I a lucky arsehole?” He tilted his head. “My name is Flambard Took. You must be Frerin. Bilbo described you very thoroughly in his letter to me. He wanted to make sure I knew who you were, but I don’t think he anticipated this.”
Frerin jumped when Vornok started laughing so hard he was practically howling. He sighed and shook his head. “It’s not that funny.”
“Oh, it’s hilarious,” Tarin said, laughing almost as hard. “You… you just… Oh, Thorin is going to be so pissed he missed this.”
Frerin sighed as he lamented the fact that he didn’t leave them at home and then smiled at Flambard. “Would you like to join us?”
“I’d love to,” Flambard said.
Frerin elbowed Vornok to move down so that he could slide down to make room for Flambard, who had gone over to the barmaid. “Shut up and behave,” Frerin said, feeling his face heat when he saw all of them staring and grinning at him like a bunch of maniacs.
As soon as Flambard sat down, Frerin turned his attention to him and ignored the others. “So what brings you here? I didn’t think we’d be seeing you until after we traveled to the Shire.”
“I hadn’t planned on it, but we had more people who wanted to travel with us than I thought we would, so I needed to order a few more wagons and purchase some horses for them. As well as pick up and order more supplies for the trip. I’ve more or less taken care of everything for Bilbo and myself, so I offered to make the trip for this. I had no idea I’d find such a pleasant gift in exchange for my generosity.”
Frerin felt his face heat up again. “I suppose I should be grateful that you’re such a sweet talker. Thorin was berated for his cheek and audacity more than once in the few days I was with them.”
Flambard laughed as he took the ale the barmaid put in front of him. “Oh, I’m just as good at berating when given just cause as Bilbo is. From what little Bilbo told me, Thorin likely had it coming.” Flambard nudged him. “So come on. Give. Tell me about them. What are they like together?”
And so Frerin did, going over what he knew of their first meeting, which he’d heard of from Dwalin, and then the next day when they’d run across Thranduil. He also went through what had happened with the attack and up through the moment he’d left the mountain. He even told him about what he knew of Bilbo’s adventures prior to reaching Dale.
Flambard was leaning against him and wiping his eyes by the time he was done. “I’d like to say that these kinds of things are an anomaly, but Bilbo just seems to attract these kinds of things wherever he goes. It’s never dull being cousins with Bilbo Baggins.”
“At least their courtship is now officially underway. Your grandfather, Gerontius, has been there many weeks and your grandmother arrived some weeks ago. I am hoping that our stay here won’t be over long. I discovered after I’d left that my sister is pregnant with her first child. I’d like to be there before she gives birth.”
Flambard smiled warmly at him. “I’m certain we’ll be able to leave soon enough. I’ll let everyone know that you’ve arrived early and that we’ll want to be ready sooner than they were expecting.”
“Don’t put anyone into a rush so much that they don’t get what they want or need or they start to stress and panic,” Frerin told him. “We have some time before she pops. I realize we made it here faster than we intended, mainly because the Elven paths we used hastened our journey on the front end of it. It will be slower going the other direction because we’ll have to go along the Old Forest Road with the wagons, as well as the lower passes on the other side of Rivendell.”
“How many are plannin’ on going?” Vornok asked.
Flambard hummed. “I’m not sure. We don’t have the final numbers, as those wanting to go are from various parts of the Shire, and then of course those from Belegost. Everyone is supposed to send in a final tally from their farthings and from the mountains in a couple of weeks so we know who all is coming. It will determine how many guards are coming with.”
Frerin nodded. “That will give us some time to go through the trade agreement and renew the alliance with King Moran. Once we know how many, we can decide on when to leave.”
“I’ll escort you to Belegost then head back to the Shire,” Flambard told him. “Dad and Papa will be thrilled I found my One. They’d been waffling on whether or not they wanted to make the trip now, but this will probably tip them over into going.”
“Especially since courtship can’t officially commence until after we return to Erebor. I have no blood family with me,” Frerin said.
“But it will be easier for us to do the one year courtship since you’re not the Crown Prince and I won’t have to deal with the same things Bilbo has to learn.”
“True,” Frerin said cheerfully, continuing to ignore his friends and their amusement at his expense and focusing on his One.
“Are you going to write to your family and tell them about me?” Flambard asked the next morning as they rode on Flambard’s wagon together, while Vornok took care of Frerin’s pony.
“Once things are settled with King Moran, I’ll write to them about that, when we’ll be leaving, and that I did indeed find my One.” Frerin grinned at him. “I do believe, however, that I will keep who it is to myself. Let it be a surprise.”
Flambard’s laughter filled the small meadow they were riding through, causing several birds to take flight. “Oh, Bilbo’s going to be eaten up with curiosity by the time we get there.”
“You think I should tell them, then?” Frerin asked, a little worried. “I have a feeling he can be rather… mischievous when he’s put out.”
Flambard snorted. “The word you’re looking for is ‘mean’ and no, you shouldn’t. A little mystery never hurt him, and I can guarantee you that if the roles were reversed, he’d do the exact same thing.”
“Thorin, too.” Frerin sighed and nodded. “I won’t tell them, then. I’ll just hide behind you if Bilbo decides to take offense.”
“You do that,” Flambard said, patting his hand. “It has been many a year since Bilbo managed to scare me.”
Frerin grinned. “So, what is King Moran like? I remember meeting him, but I didn’t interact with him. Too many people mingling about, and everyone wanted to suck up to all of us and got in everyone’s way.”
“I’m probably a little biased, since he’s my great-grandfather. But he’s a good king, and he’s kind to his family and to his people in general. He ensures everyone is well-cared for, and that all the little ones even in the poorest families have food and clothes and a home, as well as an education and the ability to get themselves an apprenticeship, no matter their status. Not that the poorest are very poor, but he makes certain that everyone is treated as equally as possible. He doesn’t hold with the social hierarchy crap that some aspire to.
“I think part of it probably has to do with the mixing of the Hobbits and Dwarves of old. We’ve influenced one another in more ways that we could probably account for at this point. Different values and differences of what they find important makes for needing a great deal of compromise.”
Frerin nodded. “I can see that. I actually saw that in Bilbo. He didn’t give one whit whether someone was royal or a guard or a miner. He treated everyone equally, and he was very comfortable telling off a King of Elves and the Crown Prince of Erebor in one fell swoop.”
“That’s my Bilbo,” Flambard said with a laugh. “Grandpa Moran makes an attempt at appearing to separate the royals from everyone else, but usually only when someone from one of the other kingdoms comes around, and the entire kingdom and those from the Shire fall in line for him, because our normal seems to make outsiders uncomfortable. My guess is Bilbo and the others are currently breaking in your family gently before they give them the full Belegost-Shire treatment. No need to shock them into heart failure first thing.”
Flambard tilted his head and hummed. “Though hopefully they’ll have broken them in somewhat before we get there. Bofur is a miner and a part-time toymaker, Bombur is a Master-grade chef, and Bifur… well, he mostly makes toys since mining hurts him because of the ax in his head, but he was a miner. They’re very colorful and very down-to-earth types. Bilbo will likely beat someone over the head if they take offense to the miners being close friends with the future Crown Prince.”
Frerin snorted. “I think our family can do with some of that. We actually don’t stand on ceremony as much as one would think, considering Erebor’s place in the Dwarf-kingdom hierarchy. Grandfather was really strict about keeping those hierarchies well defined and divided, but Adad is far less concerned about putting on airs. He’ll do it more for official ceremonies involving visitors, but he’s not nearly as rigid when it comes to just us. But I’m guessing that he’s not as laid-back as King Moran.”
“Probably not,” Flambard said, laughing. “I think you’ll like him, though.”
Frerin watched as a deer looked up from where it was grazing and stared at them. A moment later it spooked enough to run into the nearby trees, and he turned back to Flambard. “Do you think he’ll allow me to see the terraces where their children are planted? Bilbo told us about it, but it would be nice to see what it actually looks like. When I left, Adad was already contemplating where we might be able to build one of those.”
“I’m sure,” Flambard said. “Grandpa Moran is often on hand when one of the little ones sprouts, and I know there are several who will be popping up in the coming weeks. Perhaps you might get lucky and the parents will allow you to witness it.”
“I wouldn’t presume to intrude on such a thing, but if it was offered, I wouldn’t object,” Frerin said.
Flambard nudged his arm and grinned. “You do realize that one day it will be you there waiting for our little one to sprout.”
Frerin blinked at him and then beamed. “Yes, it will be, won’t it! I wonder if Bilbo will let us plant on his terrace.”
“I’m entirely certain he’ll insist,” Flambard said. “He’ll insist on any family planting there, at least until a safe space is built.”
“Oh, I don’t think it will take all that long before Adad puts a great deal of people on that particular project. He’s looking forward to an influx of little ones within and around the mountain. It’s been far too long since we’ve had a large number of children in Erebor all at once.”
“Well, he has Grandpa Gerontius there, so I’m sure he’ll be helping him with the details of what’s needed and where would be the most ideal place to create it.”
They reached a fork in the road. The sign in the center pointed to the left for Belegost. “To the right there will take you on to Tuckborough, where the majority of my family line lives. From there there are several smaller roads that will take you to different areas, and the main road, which is the East-West Road, that will take you to the far reaches of the Shire, to the Grey Havens and that part of the Blue Mountains, and if you go the other way, to Bree and the roads you just traveled on.”
Flambard turned the wagon toward the west and they went on, chatting about nothing of real consequence, mostly discussing the differences between the two kingdoms and little stories about their lives up until that moment. Before long it was late afternoon and they arrived at the great doors of Belegost.
Frerin jumped down and looked around curiously. While the entrance to Erebor was undoubtedly grander, the entrance to Belegost were impressive all the same, with the usual Dwarvish geometric style and nod to past battles that often decorated anything they put their minds to make their own.
The Dwarves at the entrance paid them no mind, seemingly caught up in their own daily comings and goings, which was also expected. Frerin knew they weren’t expected at all for another few weeks.
“Flambard? What’re ye doin’ here?” a Dwarf called out as he walked toward them.
Frerin noted the old, matted hat and the pigtail braids sticking out from underneath it. The Dwarf had a handsome, cheerful face, and he looked well-pleased to see Flambard.
“Bofur!” Flambard called out a moment later. “I’m surprised to see you out of the mines before supper time.”
“Eh. Was me day off. Spent most of it with Bombur and his little rascals, wearin’ ’em out while he and Paladin focused on the wee one.”
“Ah, yes, little Lily. How is she doing?”
“Growin’ like a bloody weed,” Bofur replied cheerfully. “But just as pretty as the flower she’s named after. Not near as delicate, though. She’s already punched Dagon in the nose twice.”
Flambard laughed. “I can’t wait to see her. With all the work dealing with the move, I just haven’t had time.”
“I can imagine, since you’re the one organizing everything. We have our hands full just gettin’ our family situated for the move,” Bofur replied, and his attention turned to Frerin. “Now, who is this lovely Dwarf?”
“This is Thorin’s brother, Prince Frerin of Erebor,” Flambard told him. “He’s also my One. We’re not telling Bilbo until we get there.”
Bofur burst into laughter. “Oh, he’s gonna love that. Can’t wait to see the drama,” Bofur said once he got himself calmed. Then he bowed in a rather elaborate fashion. “Pleasure to meet you, Prince Frerin of Erebor.”
Frerin laughed a little. “Pleasure is mine. And please, no bowing. It’s always made me a bit uncomfortable.”
“Which means he’ll be doing it all the time now,” Flambard told him.
Bofur snorted but didn’t disagree. “Ye are a might earlier than expected. Make good time on the road, did ye?”
“Very good. The Elven paths are well maintained and patrolled. Plus we made haste through the Elven lands because a couple of my companions are delicate flowers and all the trees gave them a fit of the vapors.”
A chorus of indignant shouts sounded from behind them and Frerin grinned. “They wouldn’t protest nearly as much if it weren’t true,” he added.
Bofur laughed. “Well, we best be gettin’ them under stone before they succumb due to all the trees about here. And we might want to get them a fainting couch to take along. The Shire is positively full of growing things.”
“Do you know where Grandpa Moran is right now?” Flambard asked as he handed over the reins to his ponies and wagon to a Dwarf who ran over to take them.
“He’s in a meeting, being bored to tears last I heard.” Bofur made a face. “Dignitaries from Rhun wantin’ an alliance update or something. Saw ’em come in yesterday, and that’s what I been hearing.”
“Gossipers are usually right about that sort of thing,” Flambard said and then snorted. “I’m certain he’s having the time of his life.”
“Oh, yeah, certainly. What with that lot walking around like they got a stick up their arse and all.”
“Blacklocks. They are rather more traditionalist than even us Longbeards at our worst,” Frerin said as he took his pack from Vornok. “I don’t envy him at all.”
“Nor I,” Flambard said. “Ah, well, if Grandpa Moran can’t get away, I’ll have to see if we can steal Lorena.”
“And Lorena is?” Frerin asked.
“Basically the Dwarrowdam who runs everything and everyone, including the King and the rest of the royal family,” Flambard said, grinning when Frerin laughed. “She’ll be able to tell me where we can put you lot up for the duration, since it’s likely that the Rhun Dwarves brought a big delegation and are taking up the primary visitors’ rooms.”
“There were at least thirty of ’em, I heard tell,” Bofur told him. “Ye stayin’ long, Flambard?”
“No, unfortunately. Too much to do, and I need to let the others know that they’ve arrived early. If we can leave earlier than we’d intended, all the better, because I don’t fancy heading through the Misty Mountains late in the year.”
“Plus, Erebor can get really cold early in the winter sometimes,” Vornok added. “It’d be best if we got back before the snows started falling on the ground and the lake starts freezing.”
“Then we best get you settled in before I have to leave in the morning,” Flambard said, taking Frerin’s arm and guiding him into Belegost.