When Thorin and his Company come to Imladris, Elrond knows that the leader of the dwarves had been female at birth. Inùdoyinh, as the dwarves would call Thorin, a son who is female, for all eldest children - and only children - are sons. Now, though, it seems Thorin is seen as entirely male, even to the point that Gandalf introduces him as such.
Elrond does not say otherwise, though he is curious why Thorin had felt the need to be so adamantly male. He knows that dwarves do not worry so greatly about the gender of their leaders as some other races do, and Thorin would not need to be male to be assumed to be so by Men, and even by most elves. It is not, though, a question that is polite to ask, so he does not.
When the map is brought to him, and he is asked to find what they cannot, he thinks he sees a glimmer of a reason to be seen entirely as male, though it would not effect Thorin's inheritance. To be the leader of such an expedition - to lead from the front as Thorin will need to do - he must be seen as male, thought of as Melhekhûn. Elrond still does not comment upon it, though his curiosity nags at him.
A week into their sojourn in Imladris, he finds one of the dwarves in his study, idly sharpening a knife as he lounges in Elrond's favored seat. Watching Elrond with an expression that's disturbingly blank - and likely meant to be disconcerting, if not a bit frightening.
"Master Nori." Elrond tilts his head to the red-haired dwarf, while quietly wondering just how he'd gotten in. The study is one of the few places in Imladris that has a lock on the door, and is fully enclosed.
"Lord Elrond," Nori returns, putting his knife away with a flick of the wrist. A sort of flourish that Elrond finds amusing. "You have questions about Thorin."
He had thought himself sufficiently discreet in his thoughts that they would not have shown on his face, but perhaps Nori is more observant than the others; indeed, he would have to be in order to have found a way into Elrond's study without Elrond present. However, as he had clearly failed to keep his curiosity hidden, there is no reason to deny it now.
"Yes." He moves toward the small cabinet where he has a decanter of distilled wine he keeps for guests, only to pause when Nori smiles, and lifts a glass from the table that is near Elrond's chair. There is a second there, both filled, and Elrond gives Nori a mildly irritated look before he takes the second glass and the empty seat. "Questions that I thought would be rude to ask, and thus did not intend to."
"I thought as much." Nori shrugs, taking a sip of the wine, and smiling briefly in appreciation. "Ask, and I'll answer what can be answered."
Elrond raises an eyebrow, curious what right Nori has to answer questions for Thorin, as he was unaware there was anything between them save the bonds of a newly-formed Company.
"He's mine, and I'm his." Nori answers the unspoken question with a sharp-edged grin that makes Elrond suppress an amused smile of his own.
Remaining silent a moment, Elrond takes a small sip from his own glass, watching Nori. "When did he become khuzdûn rather than khuzdinh?" Elrond can see the faint annoyance on Nori's face at the use of khuzdul words, though they are among the few Elrond knows.
"Between Smaug and Azanulbizar." Nori's answer is clipped, and brief, which doesn't surprise Elrond, nor does the answer itself. It would be the most likely time for such a transformation, when the dwarves of Erebor were traveling, and could more readily become something they had not begun as.
Elrond tilts his head slightly, watching Nori. "You may ask any questions you wish of me, in return, Master Nori, and I shall, as you, answer what I may."
There's a flicker of surprise across Nori's face before it's hidden behind a bright, dangerous grin. "You may regret that offer, Lord Elrond."
"Perhaps." Elrond takes another sip of his wine. "As you may regret offering to answer my questions."
Nori tilts his head in acknowledgement, and leans a little more comfortably back in the chair. "Why do you care if Thorin is khuzdûn or khuzdinh?"
Studying Nori's expression to see what the dwarf is expecting, Elrond waits a moment before answering. "I remember being introduced to a very young prince who was zabadinh, by his grandfather." It had been nearly two centuries since that visit to Erebor, and Elrond is certain Thorin does not recall that visit. He had been a very small child, not truly old enough to be brought out to meet visiting lords. Thror had been too proud of his smallest kin to not introduce Elrond to Thorin, though. "Why do you keep your bond with Thorin secret?"
It is a question that Elrond doesn't entirely expect an answer to, for all that he gives Nori the silence to answer it as he will. The emotions that flicker across the dwarf's face are almost answer enough, though he at least does not see shame among them. Elrond would worry if there had been sign of such, when he has seen little worry among dwarves in the past for the relations between them, so long as the two involved are content with how it proceeds.
"He is Melhekhûn." Nori's answer is simple, and yet not an answer at all - he leaves out why it matters that Thorin is king, and what he might be that it is a relationship that must not be seen. There is silence after, and Nori drains his glass, studying the bottom of the glass as if it might hold answers. "I am nobody."
There's a mocking tone to that, a sense of wry humor that makes Elrond think Nori is not speaking of what he thinks of himself, but what he would want others to think of him. That perhaps he wants others to forget he's even there, which only makes Elrond think he needs closer watching. He gives Nori an unimpressed look, and makes a mental note to soothe Lindir's ruffled feathers when some of the more readily stolen goods vanish. It is the only occupation that he can see Nori having that would involve being overlooked, yet still be allowed in Thorin's Company.
"How do you know any khuzdul?" Nori's question is pointed and almost sharp, his expression closed.
"I was not always Lord of Imladris." Elrond smiles serenely at the annoyance that crosses Nori's face. "I needed to know how to address - properly - anyone, including khazâd. Both for my own sake, and for that of my king."
That last eases some of the annoyance, bringing to Nori's face instead a contemplative expression. Assessing and finding he can understand where Elrond stands, before nodding in acceptance of the answer he's been given. Of course, it's not the entire answer, but it is the most important part of the answer.
Elrond is silent after having answered, not having another question yet that he wants an answer to quite yet. He might ask some that are rather more pointed or more precise in their scope, but they can wait a few minutes at least, perhaps a day or two. He hopes some of them may wait until Thorin has achieved his ends, but he worries that perhaps that might prove too late for answers.
Nori doesn't speak, either, sipping instead at the distilled wine, watching Elrond and waiting with the patience of a hunter. Observant, indeed, and perhaps the most dangerous of those with Thorin, in that respect. Hopefully enough to survive even a dragon, and to keep the heirs of Durin as safe as they ever manage to be.
fehemûn = lore-man (used as Lore Master)