Calm The Fire: 114

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“You look deep in thought, Princess.” Náriel looked up with a start. She was sitting staring at one of the fires which was set up and burning brightly amongst a cluster of tents. Admittedly she didn’t know who the occupants were. She presumed Thranduil was in one, because of the guards positioned nearby and because Legolas kept entering and leaving, clearly giving reports or something or rather. She guessed Gandalf was in another, he'd be close by to give advice if such an important person like her uncle was around. The only other occupants around the surrounding tents were herself and Bilbo, and Bard, who stood cross armed looking down at her passively now.

She watched as he slowly moved over and sat down by her side. They were using fallen trees as benches. It was effective, if a little uncomfortable. Looking at the flickering flames he slowly straightened up and looked to her. He just didn't expect to turn and see her still looking at him.

“And may I say, you look troubled, my Lord.”

Bard's passive expression disappeared and was replaced quite quickly by a blank one. He rolled his eyes and looked to the sky which was slowly darkening. “Stop that,” he said firmly. She had addressed him as 'Lord' once before and that was enough to cause him to frown. He didn't see himself as a Lord.

Náriel smiled. “All right, sire.”

“Princess-”

“Apologies,” Náriel smiled and waved a hand at him. “Though the people of Lake Town seemed fit to deem you worthy of being a King.” She commented after a moments silence, looking to the side she just smiled sheepishly at the look Bard sent her way. “Sorry.” Holding out her hand she looked at him simply. “I shall not formally address you as anything, if you do the same for me.”

Bard easily reached up and enveloped her smaller hand in his. “You have a deal.”

“So...why do you look so troubled?”

“Why were you so lost in thought? I spoke first, remember?” He smirked and leant his arms against his knees.

“A good friend of mine once said that it is not all about fighting, and that a time will come when I won't want to.”

“Sounds like a wise friend.”

Náriel scrunched her nose up. “Radagast is wise, but he's also a few sandwiches short of a picnic.” Her words caused Bard to look at her quickly and questionably. Náriel smiled and gave a shrug. “I said that when that times comes, I’d think back to that conversation. And that's what I was doing.” She smiled wistfully. “Because he's right.”

“Best not let him hear that, you'll confuse the poor man.” A voice behind them spoke, both Bard and Náriel looked over their shoulders as Gandalf made his way over. Shaking his head he sat to the side of them. “Is he not confused enough?”

“True,” she looked down at the ground. “You don't need to answer my question. What troubles you troubles us all.” She looked to Bard. He looked a little grateful at this, though it was hard to tell because he still had a set serious expression on his face. “Are your family all right? They never travelled over did they?” She asked worriedly.

Bard looked at her confused. “No they're not here,” he said firmly, he would never allow his children over the river, not least to this desolate land. Náriel nodded slowly, “There are people still remaining in Lake Town. They're with an old family friend.” He commented quickly while looking to the flames. “For all of what's happened, they're fine.” He said while rubbing his hands slowly together.

“Are you going to move back to Dale?” Náriel smiled deciding to change the subject, this was something that even Gandalf seemed to perk up to. He pulled out his pipe from somewhere within his grey robes. Through all this quest it had still somehow managed to survive and was in one piece.

Bard frowned and looked at her with a sidewards look. “I have fond memories of Dale, it would be good to see it inhabited again.” Náriel furthered on with a smile and a nod. Hearing quiet pattering feet she looked up to see Bilbo suddenly appear. He sat down by her side and patted his knees.

“It's peaceful, isn't it?” He commented off-handedly. He had just appeared half way through a random conversation and changed the topic rather skilfully. Seeing Gandalf smoking his pipe prompted Bilbo to pat himself down. He sat with hunched shoulders when he realized that his pipe had most likely disappeared ages ago.

“You expect chaos, Mister Baggins?” Bard commented while looking past Náriel to look at the Hobbit.

Bilbo straightened up and fidgeted. “No, no...no, I think for the moment we've had enough chaos. This peaceful moment can last for as long as possible for all I care.” It was silent then. Everyone pretty much agreed with him. This peace wasn't to last, they all knew it. When morning comes they'd be getting prepared for a fight of some sort. Be that to get into the Mountain, or against Dain, or against the Orcs and Goblins, there'd be fighting.

“It seems like quite the discussion was going on, but you've ran out of topics.” Legolas moved passed where Bard, Náriel and Bilbo were sitting and sat down on the opposite log to Gandalf.

“Scouting?” Náriel asked while looking to her cousin, he gave a slow nod. “Anything?”

“Nothing.” Throughout the day a few had taken it in turns to travel out to see if anything was moving on horizon. So far there was nothing, which was good, but no sightings just added to the heightened feeling of apprehension.

“They'll come,” Gandalf said while blowing out a smoke ring. “They have a purpose to fulfil after all.” He said while coughing and letting out a low hum and looking to those gathered. It wasn't too certain which army Gandalf was referring to.

“As do we,” walking out of a nearby tent Thranduil looked at the group. He had sat for the most part in his tent in silent contemplation. He could hear everything they were saying. He just opted not to take part in their conversation, until now.

“Sitting around being melancholic isn't the way to remember this.” Thranduil furthered on with a light frown. He still stayed in the door way to his simple tent.

“The calm before the storm.” Náriel said quietly. “It's a bit different to being melancholic.” She pinched the bridge of her nose and rubbed her eyes slowly.

“Anticipation.” Bilbo blurted out quickly seeing as how Thranduil was going to retort to Náriel, now he sent a look to Bilbo who got in there before him. “I think that's what she means.” He smiled awkwardly and tried not to let the icy look which was being sent at him affect him. Instead he just looked around those surrounding him and gave a nod.

Against her better judgement, Náriel laughed. Hanging her head in her hands she pushed her hair over her shoulder and looked to the Hobbit by her side. “Bilbo Baggins...I know you do not mean to, but you do make me laugh.”

“What...what have I done?” Bilbo asked truly confused.

Náriel put a hand on his shoulder and stilled her laughter. “You have a habit of cropping up. Be that literally, or with words, I just find myself wondering whether you realize you're doing this.”

“Oh.”

“It's a good thing, my friend, truly it is.” Náriel smiled and removed her hand and shook her head. Beside her Bard just shook his head slowly over her moment of spontaneous laughter. He looked down at the ground and then up at the rest of the people around them. Gandalf seemed partially amused by Náriel's words because he smiled lightly. Legolas and Thranduil on the other hand just looked indifferent on the whole matter. But it was something Bard had accepted from them, since knowing them neither had particularly shown great wells of emotion.

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(A/N: Yeah literally, I wanted calm before the storm...and partial awkward socialising xD Also, updated before work, if there's errors let me know, also also updated while feeling kinda crappy and ill, so I apologise now if this is a bit of a meh chapter!!)

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