Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Prince's Secret, A Thorin Oakenshield Fanfic, Chapter 1

Every Iron Day, she secretly watched Prince Thorin as he came down to the village to the annual fair and market, strolling along the main street with his young nephews, Fili and Kili. His manly beauty took her breath away, just like every time she had seen him before. Not that she'd ever had a chance of catching his eye. Even if the villagers tolerated her well enough, every time a male dwarf directed his gaze to her, he quickly turned away when he noticed her hideous appearance. Some managed to hide their repulsion politely. Others stared at her with open disgust. They thought her painstakingly thin, with long, ugly limbs, hands and feet that were far too small for their taste. Her height didn't matter much, although she was taller than most dwarves. Only very few, among them the prince, towered over her. But the worst thing was that she didn't have a beard - not even the tiniest wisp along her jawline.

Keyla Slatestone, about twenty years old since she never learned the day of her birth, was named after the place her dwarven parents had found her: A massive block of slate near Erebor, where she had lain as a baby, left back to die by her own kin. Eldur, a merchant who had been on his way back home, had come across the tiny, wailing human that had been draped in dirty rugs. He couldn't bear the thought that the child would be eaten by some passing animal, or die of hunger and thirst. Deciding to bring it to the next human settlement the next day, he took the little girl home to his wife, who was childless and convinced her husband to raise her as their own daughter. Sadly, her parents died only a few years later, both lost to the same fever that took a third of the dwarves' population in a matter of weeks.

Afterwards, she was sent from house to house, raised by the whole village who felt obligated to her deceased father and mother. However, no one seemed to care for Keyla, since she didn't talk much and was deemed dumb. In fact, she wasn't talked about at all, and no one ever dared to mention her to King Thrór, or to those close to him. For who would want to bring shame on himself and his family by raising a human in his household? As soon as Keyla was old enough to live on her own, she was placed in an old, abandoned hut outside the village, at the forest's edge. She went to the market once a week, earning a meager income by selling vegetables she grew in her garden, and eggs by some chicken he had managed to buy. Apart from that, she was an outcast, and lived on her own.

Today, she had her own little both at the market, neatly stocked with the goods from her small farm. Many people had come to the village, dwarves and humans. She loved this day - it was the only time of the year she didn't feel so awkward but vanished in the crowd. Nevertheless she wore a wide cloak over her dress, and had pulled her hood forward to cover her human features. It was better for business anyway. One day, when she had saved enough coins, she would leave this place for good and settle down in one of the humans' cities, far enough to start anew. Maybe she could buy a little shop in some market town. No one would miss her here. Her parents were long dead, and the few friends she had made among the other children were grown up now. Even they didn't dare to recognize her anymore, for they feared their parents' disapproval.

When Prince Thorin drew near her booth, she made sure to hide deeply in her overcoat, but underneath watched him with wide eyes. Gods, he was a handsome man. She was sure that no warrior, male or human, possessed the width of his shoulders, or such strong arms. His whole being seemed to radiate power, strength and integrity. But he also held himself with a quiet dignity that made everyone accept his authority. People succumbed easily to his will, even if he was just a young dwarf, his beard not even long enough to touch his chest but cropped closely to his handsome chin.

His clear blue eyes were constantly scanning the place as he walked, taking in every detail he saw. There was a fierce intelligence in their depths, and definitely a spark of humor. While his younger nephews constantly chatted about, making jokes and flirting with the blushing women who were selling their wares, the prince kept himself quiet, apart from occasional remarks to his companions. It was a tradition that the royal family went to the village that day, spending Iron Day with the peasants. They even joined the famous dance around the fire at midnight, since this late summer's day, shortly before the harvest, was a celebration of fertility.

Every year, the heir to the throne chose a maiden among his subjects and opened the dance with her. Keyla had never seen it herself, but quickly packed up her goods and went home before the evening's festivities started. Without knowing why, she had never wished to watch the prince dancing with one of the prettiest girls. However, she'd heard that whomever he chose, this one dance would bestow a great honor upon the girl and her family, and from that day, she would be a prize to all the men who wished to marry. Usually, the woman quickly found an eager, wealthy suitor who bid for her hand. The villagers hoped the prince would choose his own bride among their daughters one day. However, none of them had caught his attention for longer than just this one dance.

When Thorin finally walked by her stand, an unexpected crowd gathered around him and his nephews. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the young princes, maybe get the chance to bow to them and present themselves. The two guards, who had been subtly following Thorin, Kili and Fili in case they needed protection, quickly stepped into the peasants' way, making the princes step back. All at once, Thorin stood right at Keyla's booth. They were only separated by the narrow table she had stacked her eggs upon, and for a moment, their arms brushed. It was a hot day, and besides his trousers, boots and sword belt, he wore just a deep-blue shirt that hugged his strong shoulders and chest. It clung a bit to his wide back, and she caught a sniff of moss, mingled with a hint of the clean, musky essence of his fresh sweat. Keyla's arms beneath her cloak were bare, and she felt the warmth of his skin all the way through the fine silk that covered his arm. His face was averted, his attention drawn to the gathering people who had suddenly began to push forward, all-too-eager to see him. But he was close, so close.

His long, dark brown hair fell openly over his shoulders. As usual, he wore it in a simple style, with only two braids at his ears. She just couldn't help herself. Everyone was looking elsewhere, especially the prince himself. Cautiously, she stretched out her hand and touched his hair, very lightly. It was surprisingly soft, and smelled heavenly, emanating the fine, male scent she already recognized as his very own. With a small sigh, she retrieved her hand, glad that he hadn't felt it caressing his tresses. But he still didn't look her way. What if she …?

Before she knew it, she leant slightly forward and placed a soft kiss into the dark, silky mass, inhaling his wonderful, seductive smell. Smiling, she closed her eyes, savoring the moment. This might be her only chance in life ever to touch him, to come so close just once, and she had seized it.
She had already begun to draw back when she opened her lids, but was abruptly jerked back into reality by a sudden movement. The heavenly mass of hair brushed over her arm as the prince moved his head …

… and directly stared into her eyes, his face close to hers. He had caught her.
She gasped, wanted to run, but felt herself unable to move at all. His eyes pierced her, looked right into her soul. He knew. She blushed to the roots of her hair when she became aware that he realized what she had been doing.
Gods, what had she been thinking? It was forbidden to touch a member of the royal family without their consent, or talk to them without being asked to. She knew that it would be just a few moments before he'd call his guards and have her arrested.

Instead, he just continued staring at her, so close that their breath mingled. "Now, what have we here?" he murmured in a deep, low voice that sent shivers down her spine. She couldn't utter a single word, just held her breath while her heart was racing, pumping her blood through her veins so hard it hurt inside her chest. Surely he must hear the wild, frantic beating, too. It was the only sound she heard, thundering in her ears.
His hand went up to her hood, lifting it from her head. His sharp eyes were on her, taking in her pale, fine-boned face, her beardless cheeks, her curly, sun-streaked hair. She stared at him wordlessly, mesmerized by his intense gaze. His eyes seemed to light up for a moment, but she couldn't tell how he felt about her unexpectedly human appearance. But it wasn't disgust what she saw, nor anger for her shocking behavior. She just looked at her, looked into her.

Then, very slowly, his gaze dropped to her mouth. Without knowing why, she quickly licked her lips and opened them a bit. His eyes widened, and she realized that his breathing had become fast and shallow, too. A sound escaped from his chest, a deep, low rumble. She didn't know what it meant, but it made her feel so weak that she grabbed the table in front of her, steadying herself before she humiliated herself even more and dropped to the ground right before him.

He opened his lips again to say something, but right at this moment all hell broke loose. There seemed to be some riot in the crowd as more and more people rushed down the narrow street, forcing the guards and the prince's nephews to retrieve. Suddenly, Thorin was pushed over the table, right into Keyla. She was so surprised that she didn't even notice when he grabbed her, slung a strong arm around her waist while they went down to the floor, landing in a heap of broken eggs. During the fall, he had somehow managed to turn around so he landed on his back, with Keyla lying right on top of his body. Completely in shock, she just breathed deeply, trying to recover for a while. She didn't have the faintest idea how this had happened, but her face was buried in the crook of the prince's neck, against his warm, heated skin while his arms were all around her, protecting her. Only faintly she heard his voice asking if she was all right, felt his hands touching her back as if he wanted to check if she was hurt.

Seconds later, she was roughly grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground. Two spears were pointed right at her throat, and she stared up into the faces of two particularly furious palace guards.
"Damn," she murmured, hardly aware that this very word had escaped the prince's lips at exactly the same moment.

(To be continued …)

To read more chapters of this story, click here. Enjoy! ;)

All rights belong to their respective owners. No monetary gain for the author. This story is for entertainment purposes only; a hommage to Professor Tolkien's work and the awesome movies by Peter Jackson.