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"I feel like I should warn you," Dwalin said as they started to walk.

Náriel looked up at him confused. "Are you warning me against possible behaviour and language?"

"Yes," he said slowly while opening the door to the room Balin had disappeared into.

"It's fine," Náriel put a hand to her chest. "I'm not totally oblivious to such things." Dwalin didn't look like he wholly bought what she had said. But he didn't question her, he instead led her over to Balin and then swiftly sat down.

"What brings you here, Princess?" Balin asked when he had noticed the surprise guest.

"Do not tell anyone, but I am bored in that hall, and I am most curious as to what you are all doing." Náriel explained quietly. "I am not here to take part, do not look so worried, Balin, I'm merely here as a spectator." She entwined her hands over her stomach and smiled at him honestly.

"What? Can't hold your own?" A dwarf with wild bushy red hair exclaimed lightly.

Náriel narrowed her eyes at him, "Manners, Glóin," Balin said while putting a hand on Náriel's arm.

"Actually!" Náriel exclaimed, "You may be right." The dwarf now known as Glóin looked to her. "Wine, I am used to wine, not ale. So for all we know, I can't hold my own; as you say."

"Maybe you should find out?" Glóin smirked.

Náriel narrowed her eyes again. "Maybe I should."

"Oh, no," Balin shook his head and his hand tightened on her arm. "No, Princess, you don't want to do such a thing."

"Master Glóin has inadvertently challenged me! Who would accept that without taking action?" Náriel questioned with a small frown suddenly appearing on her face.

Balin ran a hand down his face and shook his head again. "I shall be honest with you, I do not think it's wise."

"...They won't go easy on me, will they?"

"No."

"And then they'll joke about my failure, won't they?"

"Most likely."

Náriel looked from Balin to the line of dwarves who were already seated. Smiling she put a hand on Balin's shoulder. "It's fine. Do not look concerned again, I will not take part. I shall ignore his jesting."

"I think you've made a wise decision."

"With thanks to your gentle words, Balin." Náriel side stepped and stood behind him.

"All right gentlemen, here are the rules: drink as many full mugs of ale as you possibly can, you pause, you spill or you lose consciousness you're out." Hearing something about regurgitation caused Náriel to look at Balin sceptically. "Glad you're not joining in now?"

"Very much so." She commented just as the room filled with cheers, she couldn't help but laugh at their shared moment over ale and possible unconsciousness.

"You can be on refill duty with me." Balin said while patting her on the arm and taking the empty mug from a nearby dwarf. He refilled it and slid it down the table back to its owner.

Náriel inclined her head, rolled her dress sleeves up and picked up the pitcher of full ale. Having a mug slid down at her she easily refilled it and slid it back down. Noticing how the mug belonged to Dwalin she smiled cheerily at him. He toasted the mug and took to drinking the golden liquid within it. Once she had refilled perhaps her eighth of ninth mug, Náriel had found that she got into a strange rhythm. Leaning her hands against the table she looked to Balin. "How long do these competitions usually go on for?"

Smiling he looked to her. "Truthfully, hours." He replied while filling the mug which suddenly appeared near his hands. Náriel looked at him sceptically then to the crowd who were present and watching.

----

Upon entering the hall again, Thorin spent a few minutes trying to find Náriel, or anyone who would have seen where she had gone to. He didn't succeed. He couldn't find her, nor could he find anyone who would be able to point him in the right direction. He did spot Thranduil, but thought against it. If he knew Náriel had gone off somewhere, it wouldn't end well.

Heaving a sigh of defeat, he turned on his heels and exited the hall. Stopping when he heard a rather loud, excited voice exclaim something from a closed off room, he couldn't help but investigate. He wasn't going to interfere with a little competition, so he soon continued on his way. He stopped though when he clearly heard Balin's voice. It wasn't his voice which stopped him, it was more the words he said: "Náriel, I believe we may run out of ale."

Stopping in the corridor, Thorin turned and walked back to the room. "Oh, no." He said slowly. "Don't be involved in anyway." He silently prayed while carefully opening the door. He wasn't surprised to see a lot of unconscious dwarves, that was to be expected, naturally. It seemed that the main competitors were Dwalin, Glóin and a few others.

"Oh, dear, Master Glóin, I do believe you are slowing down." A joking tone said, Thorin was still standing near the door yet clearly saw her flit and stand between Dwalin and Glóin. She leaned against both of their shoulders. "Master Dwalin is overtaking you," she said still jokingly. Glóin narrowed his eyes up at her and slammed the mug down. "Refill, are you sure?" Smirking she took the mug away and walked back to Balin's side. Refilling the mug she slid it back down to Glóin. Leaning her hands against the table she smiled lightly. Never had it crossed his mind that they would rope Náriel into this competition to play barmaid. To make it worse, or slightly more bemusing, she seemed quite up to the task. "Are you doing all right, Glóin?"

"I'm fine," he replied to Náriel's joking, although his words were rather slurred. Dwalin eyed him slowly while leaning his head against his hand and drinking casually from his mug. "If...if you were involved, Princess, you'd be on the floor right at this point..." he said while pointing a finger up at her. Only, he wasn't pointing at her. The drink had clearly made him see double, or perhaps triple because he was pointing to her side. Slowly, his hand fell and so did he.

Wincing and leaning over the table, Náriel looked down at Glóin. "That look like it'd hurt."

"Oh, he'll be fine, Princess." Dwalin replied and held his mug up to her, while everyone laughed at Glóin's downfall.

"Oh!" She took it from his hands and darted off to refill it.

Thorin just watched the whole thing in a small state of confusion. Shaking his head slowly he decided that Náriel had perhaps played barmaid for long enough. Walking past the surrounding dwarves, he moved over to stand behind her as she slid Dwalin's mug back down to him. Reaching up he tapped her on the shoulder.

She jumped and turned around, "Prince!" She exclaimed and looked sheepishly around. "Where have you been? I was trying to find you earlier."

Thorin crossed his arms and looked at her amused. "Really? I think you had your priorities sorted for quite some time." She faltered and looked to the floor. "I shall tell you later. For now I think it's time for us to leave, I'm sure you've been an admirable barmaid, but your duty is over."

"But...I want to stay and see who wins."

Thorin looked to those remaining. "My guess, Dwalin." His friend heard him and cheered and raised his mug. "Come," he took hold of her arm gently and pulled her away from Balin's side, he just looked at the two with a small smile.

"You didn't partake?"

Náriel laughed. "I was going to if Glóin kept badgering and joking!"

"I'm glad you didn't."

"So am I, I do not think I would fare well. Out of all the things I wish to do here, being drunk under the table in an odd competition isn't on my list." She smiled faintly. "That was quite fun though." She commented as they entered the hall again. Looking up when she heard the quiet murmur of music she swayed on the spot and looked to him. Thorin on the matter of dancing seem more reserved.

----

(Edited: 13/July/2018)

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