“Reckless!” Mrs. Yuen shouted at the top of her lungs. “Absolutely outrageous! You could have killed everybody!”
On the left side of her head a blood vessel throbbed and threatened to erupt at any moment. Thorin had never seen Mrs. Yuen this angry before — well, not since he was put in charge of the last field trip to Rivendell and then decided, all on his own, in the midst of it, to terminate the trip and leave without their local guide. That almost cost all the tourists their lives too. The Goblins would have eaten the party alive if the local guide hadn’t realized they were gone and went in search of them. Perhaps best not to mention it at this time.
“But no one actually died,” Thorin began, but Mrs. Yuen cut him short.
“Really? Is that your measure of success? ‘No one actually died’? Ugh!!” she screamed out of exasperation more than anything else.
“You had a very simple task, Thorin Oakenshield,” she scolded. “Escort a party of twelve to the Lonely Mountains for a family reunion. My company has planned several events to Lake Town and the Lonely Mountains in the past ten years and there has never been a single incident. A simple task, I would have thought, as you’re so familiar with the territory. But clearly I was mistaken!”
Mrs. Yuen attempted to massage the increasing tension headache on the left side of her forehead. She sat down to regain her composure, closed her eyes, and then rubbed both sides of her head.
“You were told to stay on the path, you incompetent little man!” she shrieked. “Had you stayed on the path that wouldn’t have happened!”
“But our guide sent us into that deathtrap all on our own!” Thorin argued.
“And he said to STAY ON THE PATH!” screamed Mrs. Yuen.
“And then, as if you couldn’t mess this up even more, you were specifically told by your guide NOT to enter the Lonely Mountains, but to wait for him to reach you. And what did you do?”
She paused for dramatic effect while gesturing.
“You ignored all the warnings and ENTERED the same place you were specifically told NOT TO!”
Mrs. Yuen waved a fistful of papers before Thorin.
“Do you know what these are? Complaints! Threats! Lawsuits and medical bills! All from the twelve people in your party.”
She read from the first one. “Skin rash and hives from being stuffed into a barrel with raw fish poured on top on him. He’s allergic to seafood!”
She pulled out another sheet of paper. “Several of the tourists who were chased and infected by large spiders as you traveled through the Mirkwood are suing for pain and suffering!”
“Here’s another: This person almost died from being shot by a poisonous arrow and you didn’t even try to help him! Instead you left him and his brother behind and took the rest of the party to the Lonely Mountain reunion!”
Thorin spoke up this time. “He would have held us back! He was already losing consciousness when we got to Lake Town! I told him to stay there and recuperate while the rest of us took the last leg of the journey.”
“You shouldn’t have left him, you moron!” Mrs. Yuen bellowed. “It’s a prepaid family trip and it would have to be their decision whether to leave him or not, not yours!”
She swallowed hard before continuing and looked across at him from her desk.
“Thorin, I’ve tried hard to work with you, as a promise to your grandfather, who as you know, was my very best friend. But you seem to have no control over your actions. You’re filled with some kind of intense obsession of self-destruction. You take unnecessary risks and feel that you know everything and need no one’s assistance. Your management style is completely autocratic and you believe you’re always in the right. No wonder you mess up so many times. You never listen to anyone!”
Thorin shifted from one foot to the other and kept his gaze low. He’d been out of work for a long time and Mrs. Yuen was the only person who’d bothered to even give him a job. After word had gotten out that his grandfather had lost the family business of several generations, Erebor Mining Industries, through a series of greedy bad investments, no one would speak to Thorin. Several investors had lost too much and had no intention of putting their faith and their cash in Thorin. He owed everything to Mrs. Yuen, no matter how demeaned he might feel.
He looked up at her with the saddest eyes he could muster.
“I apologize for everything, Mrs. Yuen. I know you’ve taken a chance with me. If you could just give me one more shot at this I know I’ll be able to do the job as tour guide as you want me to. Please. I’ll do anything.”
Mrs. Yuen looked at Thorin and slowly shook her head. She sighed.
“Okay,” she relented, “one more chance. But this is the final one. No excuses this time. I have another small party of a dozen or so men who wish to go to Lake Town. Do you think you can handle this trip without completely mucking it up?”
Thorin beamed. “Yes, ma’am! I can totally handle this trip. I’ve done it many times. I promise nothing will go wrong this time!”