The princess and the dwarf 6

chapter 30

"Quick now," Melda said as she tied the last tie on Gamli's thin tunic, "I hear him outside. I think it wise you hide yourself until I can convince him our quest is noble and my dwarf companion is good and wise as I have come to know."

She ushered him into a large closet that was nearby. "Be silent, my dwarf. I would hate to have to battle my old friend in order to keep you alive. I would rather make sure he is ok with you first." She kissed him and shut the door.

Gamli settled down in the closet to keep from making too much noise. He could see through a small crack in the wood but his range of vision was greatly impaired. He heard the great front door open and heavy footsteps entered the room. "Beorn, my old friend, it has been too long," she warmly greeted the old shape changer.

The responding voice was like a low growl. "Melda, a maiden such as you your self is not here for just pleasure. You want something from me."

"Beorn, I do need a favor. But please, let us visit before we discuss such matters. We have much to talk about and not much time to do it."
"I do not suffer unwanted intrusions, elf, no matter how "urgent" they may be." The huge and shaggy man shaped creature loomed over her, glaring down at the defiant slender maid. A glint of humor sparkled deep in his piercing eyes. "A visit you wish then it shall be, unfortunately for me a short one if you are in such a hurry to rush off. It has been many years since your kind visited me and conversations with the forest beasts I herd and protect leave much to be desired."

He moved to the long table and sat, pouring himself a flagon of sweet scented meade, which made Gamli's mouth water.

"Come sit with me and let me speak. I have left the affairs of elves and men to my son Grimbeorn in the north. I am in the twilight of my years and care for naught but the restoration here in south Mirkwood the damages wrought by the dark lord and his foul orc spawn at dol Guldur. This is a dangerous time to be alone in my forest, young Melda, despite your skills in wood lore. Yes, I've heard of you. Does your family know of your whereabouts? The skies are growing darker at midday. There has been word of massive armies of men and orcs clashing at Helm's Deep and more armies of men are on the march to join in battle one last time at Gondor. Word has just come that the wizard Saruman has fallen, Isengard razed by the ents. Yes, a dangerous but interesting time."

He watched her across the table, her eyes still defiant yet at the same time he saw concern flicker across her small eleven face. He drank deep again not wanting to wait for her answer and decided to push her. "You are not here alone, are you elf" he said with a sniff, "I smell a dwarf. And by the size of the leather shorts I see drying by my hearth he is a fat one."

"Aye, I travel with a dwarf. One that will change the course of our people's. I asked him to remain out of sight to ensure your mood but I would greatly like you to meet him. He is dear to me."

"Then by all means, let us meet this special dwarf of yours. Come forth dwarf and introduce yourself, then I will decide if I want you as a guest or for my dinner."

Gamli moved into view hesitantly and bowed to the shape changer, elegantly for a dwarf, especially for one with as large a belly as he carried. "Good evening sire, I thank you for your hospitality. We will depart in the morning and trouble you no longer." He smelled the rich drink and blushed as his stomach rumbled.

Beorn laughed, his deep rich baritone ringing in the dark cavernous room. "Come dwarf, sit and pacify that great belly's growl. You are a fat one, aren't you. And please both of you put out of your minds leaving tomorrow. You must stay with me for awhile to build your strength and re-provision your packs. Now tell me what brings you to my forest."

Gamli saw Melda relax imperceptibly...if he hadn't been looking at her so closely he wouldn't have noticed. So she wasn't as sure of her plan as she had seemed! She was so good at hiding her uncertainty.
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