Her father was still shouting downstairs. Thrandi hurried round her room, throwing clothes, beard clasps, jewellery and hair bands into a leather satchel. She must be ready for whatever small chance she got to leave this house and find Byli!
Buhni said something, then the door shut softly. Thrandili stopped and listened, barely breathing. Kandral was still ranting to himself, incensed over what she'd done. "We'll all be ruined - oh the horror! How can I live this down? What will we do now? At least they didn't hold hands!", and other exaggerated pronouncements rumbled up to the top floor.
But - what exactly had she done? She sat down on the crushed coverlet and thought about it. Yes, Byli had given her the gems. And yes, he'd stolen a kiss, though thankfully only Buhni knew that. But SO WHAT! What harm had been done? Thrandili set her teeth - she'd done no harm to her father, but harm had been done to Byli, she just felt it. Kandrin had surely killed him! An image came of her brother gloating by the water, laughing and waving his axe. Then she saw Byli's blood-smeared white face, floating down the river, staring empty eyed at the stars, while ravens cawed and wargs prowled, and she grew old and white-haired, pining for her lost love, forever doomed to a loveless solitary life - for a while she let her mind go wild with such melodramatic horrors, building her rage, stoking the fires of her desperate heart.
She didn't know that what she felt was rare and wonderful, or that few Dwarves ever found their one love. And especially she didn't know that such love, once given, was forever and to the death.
She didn't know, but Buhni did.
Byli searched the guard station. The lute was a real find. Scrunched in the corner of the room were a few sheets of parchment and some sticks of charcoal.
"Now I will write my Thrandi a song to let her know my feelings."
Feelings... What were his feelings? It was strange, weird even... his heart leapt whenever he saw her.
He would fight for her... Yes even Kandrin.
He wanted her in his life more than he could imagine.
Just to hold her hand and walk with her through the forest or lie on a grassy bank in the sunshine with her.
"I'm obsessed with her... I think I'm in love!"
He strummed the lute slowly. A tune formed in his mind and he imagined the melody in his head: Laa La La Laaaa La, La La Laaa La La La La.
Hmmm... words. He needed words. He was a hunter, not a poet. He knew the woods and trees not songs and lyrics.
Woods and trees... Hmmm, that was a start... He scribbled furiously on the parchment.
“I am a hunter, I walk in the forests,
I see Mahal’s beauty in all I survey.
Mountains and rainbows, deep pools and dark caverns.
All fade to nothing when I see my true love.”
He sat on the bed unconscious of time passing.
Thinking furiously of his song and making it rhyme.
Could he really write these words down? Well, it was what he felt, so why not?
“Thrandili’s my true love, I can’t live without her.
She’ll fill up my lifetime for as long as I breathe.
She’s wild and she’s feisty and she’d give her life for me.
She'd swing her club for me, she’s clubbed me for sure.”
He grinned, thinking of the swing with her house axe. Boy that was a swing and a half... right down the stairs!
How was he ever going to get close to her? If Kandral saw him as a Dwarf of property, A fine jeweller and a Dwarf of substance perhaps he would relent and let him see his love?
Pah! Dwarf of substance, my backside! He'd lost his geode and hadn't a penny to his name.
Byli groaned. My goat! Three silver a day in that stable! "I am ruined! I'm a pauper... I'll be locked up for debt." He giggled slightly hysterically to himself. "I am locked up!"
He gave a deep sigh and thought about how to finish the song. What did he want? He wanted his Thrandili and he wanted her for all time!
He bent over the parchment and with the last bit of charcoal scribbled in the final verse.
“Once in a lifetime, we get such a moment.
A moment to reach for and keep for all time.
This is my moment, Thrandili’s the reason
This is our season, now reach for my hand.”
He carefully gathered the parchments and rolled them up tight before stowing them in his inside pocket.
Hmmm, thought Byl... No reply.
He could still hear the curious noise coming from the rear of Kandral's house.
Something between a bear’s roar and a mass of orcs shouting he thought.
“Ho hum. It is the weekend, I bet they are out shopping. I hear a new spice emporium has opened.”
Byl determined to go and have a look into the new business and perhaps pop into Runulf's on the way home.
"Weekends... I love'em!" He smiled to himself as he made his way towards the halls.
Thrandili went over to her bedroom window, the leather satchel on her back. With Kandral roaring around downstairs, she'd never get out the front door unseen. That tree branch was pretty high; how had Byli ever climbed up there when he left her flowers? If she fell off that while trying to climb down, it might seriously interfere with her plan to find him now!
A Dwarf came down the road, whistling. She couldn't see who it was through the foliage. The bell pealed merrily in the hall, but Kandral didn't answer. And where had Buhni gone anyway? Thrandili leaned out of the window, pushing aside some leaves. It was Byli's father! Frantically she waved, but he couldn't see her way up here. "Byl!" she hissed. "BYL!!!" She dared not raise her voice further...if Kandral heard, a fall from a tree would be the least of her worries.
Byl thought he heard his name called... He looked around but saw no one.
"Hmmm must be the wind whistling" he muttered "Now then... Let's find this spice emporium"
Off he walked whistling to himself.
"Ah, there you are, master Byl" Buhni said, as she came from around the house. She thought she heard a noise in the tree near to their home. "Luckily I found you now... Kandral is in such a state".
It took a good five minutes before Buhni had explained all to Byl.
"I just wanted to let you know the state of affairs... before you enter the dragon’s den." She smiled knowing the situation wasn't amusing but some lightheartedness was needed after the tension they had these past hours.
Byl followed Buhni back towards the door. "After you mistress... Oh and by the way I brought you a little present."
He handed over the pipeweed box.
He walked to Kandral's study at the rear of the house and tapped on the door. The room had gone ominously quiet.
"ENTER" came the command. Hmmm, thought Byl. Command indeed. He had faced many enemies in his life and wasn't going to be cowed by some angry dwarf, but care and diplomacy were needed here.
Byl stepped through the door and bowed low to the Uzbad. "Mistress Buhni has acquainted me with the outline of the problem we have here Lord. What are your orders?"
Kandral sat back and spluttered "Orders? This is no battle, this is my DAUGHTER we are dealing with!"
Byl spoke softly as if he was calming a skittish goat "Well then lord, this is a family matter... we must discuss it thoroughly and decide on an outcome that satisfies your honour. Ah Mistress Buhni. With tea and cakes! How kind. Now may I sit down?"
Byl settled into a chair as Buhni poured the tea.
"Now lord... We have a serious situation here, one that demands the utmost care and planning to resolve to everyone’s satisfaction."
Byl piled on the charm.
"How can family Brokenspear help?"
Buhni bowed and smiled at Byl as she showed the beautiful pipeweed box to Kandral, put down another tray and looked at the two for a moment. Kandral paced, in his usual fashion, not noticing the gift, then let out a whispered sigh and sat down in what seemed a very comfortable armchair, furnished in high quality Ereborian leather.
"I do apologize for my earlier rash tone" spoke Kandral is a surprisingly calm voice, "it's just... well...". Kandral sighed again then looked Byl straight in the eye, "She means the world to me... and I want the very best for our Thrandili in life.... and getting INVOLVED with lads at this tender age... well, it can't be right... it just... ". He sighed again, this time shaking his head very slowly while looking at the floor and uttering in a whisper as if to himself: "Where have I strayed from the path, Mahal? Where?"
He looked back up at Byl and said, "Have one of my wife's cookies. I'm told they are quite good. She doesn't hand any to me sadly". Kandral gave Buhni a sharp look just as she left the room, then patted his belly, indicating the wife had him on some strict dietary regime.
"Now I see your lad Byli hasn't come along. Unfortunate... I had hoped to talk to him in person", Kandral's voice changed as if the humor of a moment ago was erased. "I must say that I would have expected your lad to do the honorable traditional thing... and ask permission first." he continued, then noticed a slightly raised eyebrow by Byl. Kandral knew Byl was right. He didn't have to say it even. He never would have allowed any dwarf to see his daughter at her age, no matter how many honourable traditions he respected.
"Regardless.... ", Kandral continued, not allowing Byl an interjection, "we are at this point in time... Mahal has handed us the materials and we must craft as best we may." Kandral nodded as if trying to convince himself.
"To answer your question master Byl... my good friend....", he hesitated, "I don't know". Kandral sat further back in his chair as a silence filled the room. Byl could see the Uzbad was still formulating ideas in his head. Interjecting now would be a bad move. Let him step forward with suggestions first, then make a counter-offer... that sounds like a better deal that came from the other party. It was basic tradesmanship in action, yet Byl doubted it would work, considering the delicate nature of the matter at hand.
Kandral sipped his Earl Grey Mountain tea. Not a word could be heard. Did he really not know how to proceed? OR did he have this all planned out? Treating this like a dangerous game of chess, awaiting the move of the other party first.
Thrandili lay flat on the floor upstairs, her ear against the crack. Byli's father had arrived, and Kandral was not shouting. Buhni must have arranged this meeting! Words filtered up to her...'apologize'...'getting involved with lads'...'cookies'... Cookies? She listened some more...'Byli'. Thrandili's heart jumped. 'Byli hasn't come along'...
She growled. Of course he hadn't come along! He was lying out there in the dark, with his face bashed in or worse! Thrandili thumped the floorboards with her fist and then went very still. Oh why had she done that?? Now they'd know she was listening...
Byl heard the thump and looked up.
He glanced over to Kandral and gave the hand signal *enemy forces above* He guessed someone was listening and didn't want to reveal to the listener that he knew.
Kandral nodded "Let's take a stroll in the garden." He signaled back *Friendly troops* indicating that it was probably the lass herself listening in.
Byl wasn't sure how to proceed...
He had never seen Byli even look at a girl before let alone pine like a lost puppy and mope around the halls. But he knew the signs... He had experienced it first hand when he courted his Esilde...
Byli was in love! Love for Dwarves was a strange occurrence and when it hit, it hit hard. But they were both so young... Too young perhaps?
Byl took a deep breath "Lord I need to make clear three things. Byli is an honourable dwarf, trained by me in courtesy and honesty... He would do nothing to destroy your daughter's or your house's honour.
Secondly, I do believe he has true feelings for the lass... Not calf love but true blinding love, just like it hit me and my Esilde! I see the symptoms and I recognise the disease.
Finally I had a long chat with Thrandili after the last band practice while she was waiting for you and Buhni to collect her.
She is as earnest as Byli, I truly believe there is mutual attraction at work here. Mahal's way of getting Dwarves together I fear."
Byl gave a wry smile "If only they were ten years older! The burning question here lord is how do we proceed?"
"How do we proceed indeed?" said Kandral slowly while stroking his beard thoughtfully.
"Let us not strike around the vein here... Thrandili is only forty-two... and Byli is what... in his early sixties... ", Kandral spoke as if clinically assessing the situation.
"But as you've pointed out master Byl, Mahal works in mysterious ways... and his hammer has seen fit to hit firmly on these two... so betrothal and marriage must follow", he nodded and continued, "Now, I know that some in my line... and yours I believe", he added looking at Byl, "have married earlier... it is not unheard of... yet I'm a firm believer of that none should marry before the traveling ready age... which is sixty-five at the earliest"
Kandral lit his pipe and continued. "Well, I'm not opposed to an early betrothal... it would only be proper given the circumstances, yet I will not budge on the matter of marriage age", he spoke firmly.
"Furthermore", he added, "we must follow ALL dwarrow customs when it comes to marriage", he stressed.
What did Kandral mean by that? Things were moving fast now. Kandral had set the path and seemed determined all would walk it.
Thrandili jumped up. The voices had stopped! Where had they gone now? She had to know what they were talking about! Then she heard the door close; they'd gone outside! Throwing open the spare room door, she hitched up her skirts and ran for the stairs. They couldn't decide her future without her, it was unthinkable.
They weren't in front of the house. She cast a quick look up and down the road; not there either. The garden! It must be the garden; Kandral often sat there of an evening, reading, sipping ale, and handing down judgments and pronouncements to his officers in Thorin's Hall. She tiptoed round the corner of the house, then froze as her father's gruff voice spoke. "Let us not strike around the vein here... Thrandili is only forty-two... and Byli is what... in his early sixties..."
She bit her lip, and then frustration and fear propelled her into the garden, a furious, dishevelled, earnest cloud of teenage intensity. "Age doesn't matter!" she yelled, startling the two older Dwarves. "You have to find Byli!" She stopped before Kandral and laid a shaking hand on his arm. "Please, 'Adad! Kandrin's gone to kill him! He took his axe! Please!" Her voice trembled, then grew strong and fierce. "And if you won't help, I'll find him myself!"
Byl stepped back as the wildcat attacked her father, grabbing his sleeve and pleading with him.
Byli's here? I thought he was still off prospecting?
Why hasn't he been home then? A worried frown crossed his face.
Kandral looked up in surprise when he heard Thrandili's voice, barging in on what he thought was a private conversation. He was angry, how dare she interrupt her elders, how dare she sneak out the house without his permission, how dare she... his heart melted when Thrandili grabbed his arm and looked him in the eyes. How could he stay mad at his little Thundercloud?
He smiled at his daughter and nodded, then, shocked by her words, he stepped back and said in a determined voice: "Now you listen here young lady.... what is this? Accusing your own brother of murder... have you heard yourself? Nonsense... Kandrin may be a rascal, but murder... never! Now I want you to head back into the house and help your mother. Byl and I will sort this, won't we Byl." He looked at Byl who nodded in return.
"Now, do not fear, young lady, 'Adad will have this sorted in no time", he took Thrandili under his arm and guided her toward the door of the house.
Thrandili heard her father's words and couldn't believe them. "But -" she stammered. "I heard Kandrin say it! He said -" She paused, out of breath, to remember her brother's words just right. "He said: 'That randy little rat! I'll sort him out, he won't be having his perverted way with any more maidens in THIS hall while I'M around!' And then he took his axe and left!"
She felt Kandral's hand on her arm, guiding her to the door. Help her mother? Was he insane? Whirling round as they reached the door, she yelled to Byl, "I know he's hurt! Byli's hurt! He's gone and Kandrin's gone and - and - the axe is gone and - You have to DO something!"
The door opened and she was gently pushed inside. Just as the door closed in Kandral's determined face, she muttered defiantly, "All we did was kiss..."
"So" said Byl to his Uzbad "We have a missing Byli and a missing Kandrin...Lord... what on earth do we do?"
"I have an urge to go and see that guard commander chappy... Utterly useless as a commander but he might know something. Any other ideas, lord?