18 Riddles in the night

Arya stared at the sky, completely covered by a blanket of dark clouds, leaning on the edge of the balcony of the room that had been assigned to her in the Master's palace.

The Lord of Laketown had been quite hospitable with the company, just after the promise of numerous riches made by Thorin: he had allowed them to stay in his royal abode and had immediately given orders for a banquet to be organized in their honor.

The girl watched now the snow fall on the worked railing that surrounded the balcony, and on the embroidered sleeves of her wine-colored dress, which the Governor himself had given her for the occasion, waiting for dinner.

"Someone here is very restless."

Viseryon's voice rang in her mind. The dragon had read her thoughts and was right: Arya was very restless. She had just revealed her true identity to her companions and wasn't sure how they had taken it. Especially how Fili had taken it.

"Someone here is in love! Being restless is perfectly understandable!"

Saphira retorted firmly, taking her defense.

"And what would you know about it, exactly?!"

Viseryon demanded, in a sarcastic tone.

"That's enough! Stop it! Guys, this is really not the time!"

The girl ordered: she already had enough problems without adding their squabbles.

"What happened?"

Drogon, which until then had been quiet listening, intervened quietly.

"They found out who I am..."

She murmured in a worried voice.

A sudden knock on the door distracted her from her thoughts, forcing her to turn to go and open it.

"Fili..."

The girl said, almost in a whisper, seeing the blond dwarf standing in front of her.

"I... ehm...I came to see if you were ready for dinner."

He asked her in a cold, detached tone. For Arya it was like being stabbed in the chest.

"Of course. I am."

She said, closing the door behind her

The two began walking down the corridor leading to the main hall. The tension between them was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. The young dwarf couldn't bear that situation much longer, he had to know.

"Why didn't you tell us?"

He suddenly asked her, stopping and turning to her. The young woman closed her eyes and sighed: she knew that the moment for explanations would have come, but she did not expect such a direct question.

"Because I was afraid."

She admitted, turning her face slightly to look at the dwarf at her side, who widened his eyes at that answer. Fili didn't really know what to say...fear? Fear of what?

"Since we were little, my brother and I had to keep our identity hidden: we knew they would never stop hunting us, we are a threat to orcs and, I'm afraid, not just to them..."

The girl explained quietly.

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"That's why I didn't say anything. I was trying to protect myself...and to protect you: we were already hunted down because of Thorin, we couldn't afford to be chased because of me."

She concluded in a voice full of regret, looking him straight in the eye. Fili felt like a real idiot: he had doubted her, he was offended because he convinced himself that she hadn't considered him worthy of her trust, when instead she was just trying to protect him, to protect them all. The dwarf lowered his eyes, no longer able to hold her gaze, and took her hands.

"Forgive me. Please, please forgive me. I should never have..."

"Fili..."

She interrupted him immediately, freeing her hands from his sweet grip to place them on his cheeks and forcing him to look at her.

"There's nothing to forgive. I kept my identity hidden from you, it's normal for you to doubt me now. "

She asserted seriously.

"You wouldn't have done that if you didn't have to."

He replied just after.

"And I'm sure that the others will understand it too, if they haven't already."

He concluded, smiling at her. The girl smiled back at him, definitely relieved that he understood. Fili pushed himself forward leaving her a sweet kiss on the lips, a kiss that was worth a thousand words, more than apologies and explanations, that kiss meant love and understanding, respect, loyalty and immense trust. They parted shortly after and reached the main room, where a long solid wood table had been set with all sorts of dishes. Their companions had already taken their places at the banquet and were filling their plates abundantly, drinking and joking with the Governor and his lackey.

Arya and Fili joined them and were immediately infected by the general feeling of joy. Unlike what the girl had feared, none of those present gave her malevolent glances, or behaved in a rude or suspicious way towards her: they were the usual companions of all time, loving scrappers, slightly tipsy because of the beer.

The evening passed between jokes and laughter, until the hour was late and the members of the company were reached by fatigue. The fifteen travelers began, one by one, to retire to the rooms that had been assigned to them. Arya was one of the first, after Oin, Dori and Ori, to leave the feast. "It's been a rough few days and we don't know what the future holds, I really need to rest." was the explanation she had given to justify her retiring so early. The truth was that the young woman needed to reflect. How were they going to face Smaug inside the mountain? How could they think they were going to defeat him alone, without the help of her dragons? A similar beast could only be beaten by another of the same kind. As long as it remained in the halls of Erebor, Smaug would have been safe, invincible. They had to get it out.

Arya didn't sleep a wink that night, her mind was focused on her enemy, on how to deal with it, on what its weaknesses were. What tormented her most, however, was how she would have been able to explain to her companions that she couldn't leave with them.

It was barely dawn when the girl made the decision to get out of bed: continuing to lie down staring at the ceiling was perfectly useless. Arya put on her usual traveling clothes and took the two swords she had recovered from the armory the previous day, short and thin enough to be hooked behind her back. She would've been ready for whatever awaited her.

Once dressed, she closed the door to her room behind her and headed for the main hall. She didn't expect anyone to be awake already at that time, however, once she entered, she found the young Dwarf King standing in front of the large window of the room. Thorin was looking at the sky, admiring how the colors of dawn began to fade away as an intense blue took their place. The girl approached him with a soft step, without being noticed.

"I didn't expect to see anyone already awake."

Thorin spun around, then smiled at the young woman beside him.

"I could say the same."

The dwarf replied quietly.

"I'm glad to find you here anyway, I needed to talk to you."

Arya asserted seriously. He gave her a surprise look but nodded, waiting for her to continue.

"I'm afraid it's time for our paths to part Thorin. I can't come to the Mountain with you: my place is here, in Esgaroth."

The dwarf's eyes widened at that statement: he couldn't believe his ears! Was she really leaving them?! Why? Why now?

"What are you talking about? You are part of the company, your place is with us. We will need your help to face the dragon."

He hastened to ask her, in a more aggressive tone than he wanted.

"Only a dragon can face a dragon, and as long as Smaug is locked inside the Mountain he cannot be touched. The only way we have to defeat it is to force it out, to let it come here. And when it'll reach the city, my dragons and I will be the only hope for these people."

Arya explained firmly.

"I see."

Thorin then replied gravely, looking down and crossing his arms to his chest.

"Don't try to kill it, Thorin, you would endanger your lives for nothing, you have no chance against Smaug as long as it stays in Erebor. You have to force it out, only then can we face it."

Arya continued, hoping that the dwarf would have followed her advice.

"You must promise me that you'll do everything in your power to defeat that filthy snake!"

The dwarf then replied in a fit of rage: that beast had killed his people, it had taken his house and his treasure, it couldn't get away with it!

"You have my word, Thorin."

She replied nodding.

"I'll join you when all this is over."

She then added. The young king relaxed and smiled at her, placing a hand on her arm, but before he could say anything else, some drowsy dwarves began to enter the hall and prepare for departure.

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