Thrandili tried to get her breath back, but it felt like there was a whole nest of baby drakes fighting in her belly. One little kiss and her world was blown apart. She dropped the heavy pouch of zircons on her bed and listened. Was Byli still downstairs? He wouldn't come up, would he? For one mad moment, she wished that he would. Her parents were away and - no no, she shouldn't think that. She was the daughter of the Uzbad.
She threw herself across the embroidered coverlet and scooped up the pouch. Before Kandral and Buhni returned, she'd have to hide it, but now there was still time to admire the fabulous stones. They tumbled out onto the purple silk, a waterfall of ice and moonlight. What had Byli called them? Zircons? She held one up to the firelight and marvelled at how the rays refracted over the stone walls. A prism for dreams, this was. She wondered if they were worth anything; they should be, if their weight and lustre was anything to go by. And he'd given them ALL to HER!
She gazed at the stones, and gradually it hit her. He had declared himself with this gift. And she had accepted, with that kiss, though the moment had gone so quickly that she hadn't understood what it all meant, just that it had thrown her into a panic of confusion and anger. Had she really hit him with her house axe?
Thrandili scowled, her brows like thunder over the deep pools of her eyes. This was not Forochel, where a maiden was considered ready for the world when she could bear children. This was Thorin's Hall, and she was too young for Byli, or any other lad, to even approach, let alone declare his favour with zircons and kisses. Hastily, she poured the zircons back into their pouch and stuffed it under the mattress. There let it lie, with her dreams.
Byli ruefully dabbed at the huge lump on the back of his head… He had to admit she had a great back swing.
He had never been much interested in the lasses.
Too busy with the life of a hunter out in the wilds or else with his jewelry business.
He loved cleaving raw stones to perfect gems... One little tap and you have perfection or heartbreak.
That reminded him of Thrandilli... One little kiss and a moment of perfection, then next moment Heartbreak... She was right of course to have whacked him. He had overstepped the mark, but boy was it worth it!
He had never realised until now how soft girls felt... Or how they smelled... summer meadow with wild flowers is how she tasted.
Byli went hot and cold at the thought and he hastily adjusted his britches hoping no one noticed.
He regretted the mistake with the Zircons... He was just learning how to turn them into faceted gems and would have loved to practice more on the uncut pouch now in Thrandi's possession.
Never mind... A gift was a gift never to be retracted and he could always mine more.
He would HAVE to mine more... all his credit was tied up in gold, silver and mithril for the settings he had no spare cash for anything until he sold some items and he had been making a fortune with the zircons.
So far he was the only jeweller using them successfully... They had a habit of cracking jaggedly unless you hit them perfectly with the chisel.
He sighed... Girls were so much more complicated than hunting or mining... She had kissed him back, but then changed in an instant and whacked him down the stairs with her axe of protection.
Byli determined to leave Thorin's hall and go off for a week or two to replenish his Zircon stocks and do some crafting.
He carefully laid the bunch of meadow flowers on Thrandi's window sill and slunk away with a deep sigh.
The next morning, as Kandral was strolling through the Ulfirth Homestead market, he couldn't help but notice some of the market vendors, especially the womenfolk giving him rather angry looks... as if he had done something wrong. "I must be imagining things", he spoke to himself, and lifted his chest again, walking by the stalls, nodding gently to all.
Then Kandral heard a whisper: "It's not proper, it is, and the Uzbad allowing it... I say it's a disgrace! I say, a disgrace, by Durin". Kandral turned round, eager to find the one who had uttered such words. Clearly something was afoot here, something he wasn't aware of. He moved toward the stall and then noticed two seamstresses at their stall chatting away in secretive whispers. "Best not let them see me", Kandral thought and he silently hopped behind a tall stack of boxes close enough to hear their whispers, but blocked from their sight.
"Such a young lass... forty years is too young for such affairs", said one. "Forty? Fifty more like it! I say, in my day we had to get the permission of our fathers, the eldest of our house AND the king, and that wouldn't be given easily... now girls don't have their honour anymore I say. It's all those men from Bree and those -towns-... , a bad influence I say", said the other. "It's that Uzbad, he's never there for his children... I hear one of them is a drunk, and now this one here... kissing lads while she is not even fifty... disgraceful!". "Oh, I quite agree", nodded the other", "I saw that young lad walking from their hall, looking all aflutter..., what a disgrace... they should demote that Kandral to Idmul for such malcare of his daughter... leaving her unprotected." Both nodded, but suddenly heard a growling sound getting louder from behind the boxes.
Kandral's eyes widened, as the corners of his mouth started to foam and he started to make a sound akin to charging bears... and before he could hear more from the two he kicked the boxes sky-high and tore down most of the market stall. "How dare you!?", he bellowed at the market seamstresses, raging. The two seamstresses were so shocked they fell back on to their market goods. The whole thing was causing quite a scene. The whole market was now looking at the Uzbad with open mouths. "How dare you spread such filth! Such lies! I will have you punished! I will have you banished! I will have you shorn!!!!" He screamed louder and louder. "The reputation of my daughter is untouched! And I will destroy any that say otherwise!" He concluded while marching determinedly down the market alley.
He refused to believe it, convinced these foul busybodies had made up such baseless lies for their own amusement and that of like-minded foul-tongues. His daughter would never disgrace her father that way, never. He marched down the market street proudly, chin held high.
Byli slowly walked down the road to Frerin's court... A smile on his face and a subtle swagger to his walk... A long two weeks had passed... He SO missed his Thrandi but his efforts had been worthwhile... No longer did he regret losing the roll of Zircons to his love.
A Geode... He had found a Geode!!!
A once in a lifetime hoard of a thousand sparkling Zircons... He was rich beyond his dreams and his fortune was secure...
With this hoard of magnificent jewels he could surely petition the Lord Kandral to allow him to woo his love, Thrandili
Byli strolled slowly down the street having stabled his goat in the finest of the stables available to him... He chuckled to himself... "I am Flippin RICH!!! A geode is a life of ease and wealth!!!"
Walking slowly along the street he slowly espied an old friend from the academy... Damn! The one friend he always lost to...He waved...
"Hey Brother... come and celebrate my good fortune!!! Hey brother Strongbeard... how goes the day... What's the problem?"
"Kandrin's my name, brother Byli. But Strongbeard is my father's name, not mine!" *rolls his eyes at Byli* "Ohhh, hey... you seem to be jumping into the cash these days brother, what happened? ...A geode eh?"
"So, when were you going to tell me about the gems you sent to my sister?" Kandrin said, crossing his arms. He gave Byli an angry look, startling Byli.
"I know about it! I found them beneath my sister’s pillow! And I told my mother! Just wait till my father hears of it! He'll kill you! How dare you send her gifts at her age!" Kandrin shouted and then out of nowhere he landed a massive blow right on Byli's eye and followed it up with another smack in the middle of his nose, landing Byli on his bottom.
"And stay away from her!" Kandrin yelled as he walked off.
Byli sat there on his bottom gasping like a fish out of water. His eyes stung with the tears from the broken nose. One eye closed over and rapidly turning black; his head ringing from the mighty blow.
Boy, they sure taught 'em to fight dirty at that academy!
Only as he slowly got to his feet did Byli finally grasp the impending doom about to fall on his head... Kandrin was going to tell his father... The UZBAD!
Mistress Buhni knew about the stones! That meant Thrandili was compromised and his life was surely forfeit!
Oh how cruel was life! From delight to utter despair in the space of five minutes.
Byli gathered up his things scattered from the fight... His finest bow cracked from where he sat on it. His pack fallen to the floor with the top open. Top open? He rummaged inside “My geode my beautiful geode it's gone!”
No other Dwarves were near to steal it... Kandrin surely hadn't taken it? Byli looked down the hill. Oh goodness it must have rolled off down the hill.
Byli slipped his pack over his shoulder and dejectedly walked down the hill. He stood little chance of finding the rock in all this undergrowth but he had to try. Dejectedly he scuffed his feet and kicked at bushes, vainly looking for his fortune.