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Kili awoke and swallowed, the rope biting into his throat again. The young prince instinctively cleared his airway, but the lump remained. He reached up, tugging at the rope but it was fastened securely against his throat, and his frozen fingers were unable to work the knots. He closed his eyes and pulled his knees up against his chest to find warmth. Another coarse rope bound his hands together, and he languished against the side of the wagon, weak from hunger and thirst, the memory playing through his mind yet again. It was two weeks gone that they had taken him.

Kili walked along the path and kicked at stones toward the colorful trees. The sun was shining, making it a pleasantly warm autumn day. Erebor was nearly a day’s travel south from their position; his patrol had been selected for the far north reaches, and they were nearing the end of their week in the wilds.

“Eyes up, lad,” said Dwalin. “Don’t be caught unaware.” Dwalin’s duties usually kept him near to his king under the mountain, Erebor. When Kili’s patrol had been chosen for the northern patrols Thorin sent Dwalin along to keep watch over his nephew. Kili was unaware of Dwalin’s true purpose but was happy for the warrior’s company.

“There’s nothing out here! It’s been a week and nothing,” Kili said, exasperated. “I thought this was the most dangerous patrol. The worst we’ve seen was that rabid squirrel.”

Dwalin chuckled, his ever watchful eyes scanning the tree line. “Aye, but never let your guard down,” he said. He carried his warhammer in his hands as always. Kili kept his weapons sheathed, as did the other nine dwarves assigned to his patrol.

A ruffle of noise from the bushes caught their attention; Dwalin signalled for the rest of the patrol following behind to hold. Kili reached for his bow, nocking an arrow and aiming. He stood quietly, observing the movement; Dwalin moved up closer to the bushline. The head of a boar suddenly pressed through, and Kili released the arrow, piercing the chest of the creature. It crashed into the dirt. Kili grinned in satisfaction. The best meals were the ones he could claim as his own.

Dwalin closed the distance to the dead animal and yelled back at the patrol. “C’mon now! Who wants to carry your dinner back?” He moved back to Kili and clapped him on the back.

The guttural speech of his captors drew his attention back, and his eyes opened wide with fear. The dwarf with a long red beard, laced with small bones, slapped him harshly and laughed at Kili’s pained expression. Kili gasped and pulled himself upright. Kili hated this dwarf; he enjoyed inflicting cruel torments. Most of the others were indifferent to his suffering, save the one with the blue tattoo. The caravan stopped, and the dwarves shuffled into sparse trees and underbrush, relieving themselves. Kili was dragged out of the wagon, falling to the unforgiving ground. The dwarf grabbed a loop of rope left at his neck, yanking Kili from the back of the wagon onto his knees. He fell hard, eyes cringing with pain, but the dwarf took no notice and led him to the trees to do his business. He tried but there was nothing in him; his lips were dry and chapped and his stomach empty.

“Water,” Kili begged desperately. “Please, I need water.” The bone-bearded dwarf laughed and pushed Kili down into the dirt. He dropped to his hands and knees, fear of provoking them further kept him there. The other Firebeards howled with amusement. Kili lacked energy to run or fight; he knelt in the grass until a hand rested on his shoulder. It was warm, almost comforting, and Kili’s eyes slipped close for a moment. He pretended it was his uncle, waking him up on a lazy day, until a harsh grunt stirred him from the memory. The warrior with the blue tattoo across his face towered above Kili, offering him a waterskin and crust of bread. Kili sat back in the grass and consumed the small meal with relief. It was little but he was grateful. He counted day to day now, and the small gesture of kindness would keep him alive a little longer. His patrol would be discovered by their replacements, and surely they would have sent word back to Erebor about his absence. He only had to stay alive long enough to be rescued. Escape seemed unlikely in his current state. He laid back in the soft grass and closed his eyes. Suddenly Bone-Beard was kicking him in the side with a steel capped boot. Kili cried out in surprise and pain, and the Firebeard dwarf grabbed Kili’s rope, pulling him to his feet. The large dwarf dragged him to a small caged wagon containing some pigs the dwarves took from a farm they plundered and burned. He was shoved in and the door locked. Kili sat in the corner, the pigs stumbling over his legs. At least he might stay warm through the night with his new travelling companions. He snuggled into one of the animals, pressing his frozen fingers against its belly.

A large, red-bearded dwarf plunged out of brush, swinging his weapon wildly at the patrol, shouting in a guttural tongue. Dwalin pushed Kili behind him but the dark-haired dwarf didn’t protest; he took a few more steps back while unsheathing his bow. Dwalin pushed forward, crashing his warhammer into the Firebeard’s arm. The dwarf was as tall as Dwalin and half again as wide, and only snarled and raised his axe to try and take off Dwalin’s head. Kili released his arrow, managing to strike the dwarf in the side. It looked down without a hint of pain and turned towards Kili. Another recruit ran in, swinging his sword and slicing the dwarf’s arm; Dwalin swung the axe again. Kili nocked another arrow and aimed.

“Kili! Behind you!”

He didn’t know whose voice it was, but he turned, ducking just in time to avoid a double-sided axe threatening to behead him. Kili withdrew his sword, managing to parry the second blow but he was driven onto his back; the dwarf was incredibly powerful. Like the other, it was tall as Dwalin and larger. This dwarf also had a thick red beard, and a blue tattoo covered most of his face. The dwarf lifted the axe again, aiming for Kili’s torso; he rolled away and dodged, dropping his bow. Dwalin ran to his side, swinging the warhammer and hitting the attacker in the side of the head, and the large dwarf crumpled to the ground. Behind them, eight members of the patrol had finished off the other one, but one of their own cradled a marred shoulder.

Dwalin knelt beside Kili, a hand on his arm. “Are you injured?”

“No...he missed. I’m fine.” He stood, breathing heavy, collecting his bow and sheathing his weapons. “Who are they? Where did they come from?”

“Firebeards,” Dwalin told the patrol, most too young to know. “From the North. A tribe of barbarians, a rogue clan that pilfers from others. They raid other settlements, even those of other villages held by their own people, for supplies. It’s a long, cold winter in the north and difficult to grow enough food of their own. It has been a long time since they came this far south. Not long enough. Your uncle would be interested in why they are pressing this far south.”

“Firebeards,” Kili paled at the thought. His uncle had told him the story when he was old enough. He had been only a few months old when his mother, Dis, was travelling north to a farming settlement to barter for food late one autumn day. He was a babe, and she took him along to nurse him. The Firebeards attacked, taking the food and livestock and killing the dwarves in the caravan. Kili, asleep in a wagon, was overlooked by the brutes; fortunately a nearby farming family came across the carnage. They rescued the crying dwarfling, returning him to Erebor with news of the slaughter. “The ones who killed my mother,” he looked to Dwalin, expecting confirmation.

A growl sounded from the ground, and Kili felt his foot grabbed, and pulled out from under him. The air was violently thrust from his lungs as he fell onto his back with a yelp, Dwalin was upon the blue-tattooed dwarf, thudding his warhammer into the dwarf’s arm. The injured Firebeard laid back down, panting.

“Wait!” Kili shouted, crawling to his feet. “I’m okay. We should take him back with us then. Maybe they’re just hungry?”

“Lad, these are a violent, bloodthirsty people. He would murder every last one of us if he could. They kill everyone they come across, take everything they have. We should finish him off!” Dwalin raised his warhammer, with every intent of ending the life of this and every Firebeard he came across.

“No!” Kili shouted, pressing between Dwalin and the prone Firebeard. “This is my patrol. He goes back to Erebor with us. We find out why they are at our borders.” Dwalin dropped his warhammer, the rest of the patrol looking between Dwalin, the Captain of the King’s Guard, and Kili, their Prince and Patrol Leader. Fear was etched across the young dwarven patrol’s faces as they awaited direction.

“Very well. We’ll let your Uncle have the final say.”

“Agreed,” Kili said with a satisfied smile. “Thank you, Dwalin.”

“Let’s get back to camp and have some dinner. The other patrol should be here tomorrow, and we can go home.”

Dwalin tied the prisoner and Kili insisted he be given a blanket and bedroll. The patrol took turns watching the barbarian, and Dwalin was never far from him, one eye always fixed on the Firebeard. The patrol gathered around the fire, roasting Kili’s boar and talking and laughing merrily; they were looking forward to returning to their families the next day. As one of the young dwarves cut the boar from the spit and split the meat between themselves, Kili took a large portion and walked over to the Firebeard dwarf, holding it out. The dwarf was the enemy, but Kili wanted to learn more about the tribe that murdered his mother, and hoped his offering would soften the brute’s demeanor. The red-haired, blue-tattooed dwarf stared at him in disbelief momentarily, then nodded and took the meat, eating it quickly. After the others finished their meals, Kili offered him a drink and another portion, which he took with a nod.

The camp laid down to sleep. The clouds lifted and a chill set in; the company hunkered under their furs, the fire crackling. A young soldier who Kili had been teaching archery sat watch, stoking the fire as he could. A crackle sounded nearby and he turned, peering into the dark; the moon was bright and full and cast shadows from every tree. He took up his bow, aiming into the night and waiting. After several minutes of silence, he relaxed and dropped the bow to his side again. He pulled out his pipe and weed pouch and had taken a pinch when the attack began. From all sides of the clearing came Firebeard dwarves; the lookout needn’t shout, because the Firebeards let out fierce war cries as they ran into the camp. The young dwarf lifted his bow but a spear hit him, ending his life instantly.

The remainder of the patrol rose quickly, their weapons at their bedside. They fought valiantly. Kili managed to strike down two with his bow, and Dwalin fought to keep them away from the young archer. But the attack force was double in number, and eventually all the patrol were felled, save Dwalin and Kili.

“You need to run, lad, I’ll hold them off!” Dwalin shouted, voice gruff with desperation. He grunted and dodging another blow, his movements fluid and effective.

“I won’t leave you!” As much as Kili’s instincts told him to flee, he had no desire to do so without Dwalin beside him. “Come with me!”

“Listen to me. They’re strong but slow. You can outrun them!” He swung his axe, parrying a blow but another took him in the back. “Kili, go!” Another axe came down, smashing into Dwalin’s skull, and he fell forward, bleeding heavily from his wounds.

Kili turned, watching Dwalin drop into the grass; a cold chill rippled through his body. “Dwalin!” Another Firebeard stalked towards Kili, his axe poised to swing; Kili’s eyes darted about looking for a clear escape path, but they had surrounded him. At the last moment, the blue-tattooed dwarf that the patrol had taken prisoner earlier stepped in, having been freed. There was some argument, and Kili stood with his bow in one hand and sword in the other; he wanted to move to Dwalin but an axe in the way prevented him. The blue-tattooed one finally turned, grabbing Kili by the arms and violently ripping his weapons free from his hands. Kili stood frozen, his eyes fixed to Dwalin’s form, looking for signs of life. Tears stung his eyes. The dwarf’s iron fingers dug into Kili’s shoulder and he was led away. The Firebeard unwrapped a leather cord which bound in a braid in his hair and used it to tie the young prince’s hands. Kili’s shock wore off, and he turned, sprinting back to Dwalin, shaking his shoulder, despair threatening to overwhelm all his senses. “Dwalin! Dwalin!”

A large arm wrapped around Kili’s waist, lifting him from the ground and easily carrying him away despite his fervent attempts to free himself. He looked back at the battle scene - his entire patrol dead, Dwalin face down and bleeding out, and a couple Firebeards dead too, the entire campsite in blood. The fire warmly crackling in the middle as if nothing had occurred. The surviving Firebeards began to gather some of the bedrolls and weapons, unconcerned with the loss of their own, and followed the blue-tattooed dwarf north to where a caravan waited. Kili struggled fiercely until a blow to his head darkened his world.

Snow fell and Kili shivered in his cage with the pigs. They kept him in the cage most of the time now; the space in the open wagon taken up by more plunder. The cage was too small to stand or stretch, and filth covered the floor. He was adapting to it; being left in the pig cage meant they would torment and beat him less. Some of his bruises had healed but they painted him with more for their own twisted amusement. He couldn’t understand any of their speech; occasionally they came back and laughed and talked to him, but he only understood the word Erebor and he was sure it was used to mock him. Only the blue-tattooed dwarf bothered to feed him, when the others let him. Kili buried his face into his arms. He had never felt so terribly alone and afraid.

The wagon creaked and shuddered as it rolled along, bumping in the weather-worn road. They acquired several cattle, a horse and a few goats from the latest farmhouse raid then continued north. The last weeks of autumn were upon them, and Kili wondered if their destination was near or if he would slowly freeze to death in the pig cage. The animals were fed better than him; he ate some of the tasteless slop given to the pigs to stay alive. Why had they bothered taking him if to let him starve to death? Kili rested his head against the bars of the cage, watching as the terrain grew barer in the tundra. Erebor was gone from view long ago, and the plains were cold and windy, tearing at his exposed skin like a jagged knife. He leaned down, curling against the pigs, shoving his feet below a fat hog which grunted in displeasure. Hours later, Kili saw the mountain pass drawing near, anguish settling deep in his stomach. He knew of the pass far to Erebor’s north; beyond was the home of the Firebeards - a cold, desolate land where kin sacrificed each other to save themselves. But more importantly, Kili understood the significance of the mountain pass; once they traversed the gap the heavy winter snows would settle and block the passage, and nobody could reach him until spring.

Kili’s head sagged against his chest and the young dwarf thought back to his patrol, and Dwalin, last seen bleeding on the ground. His thoughts drifted to his Uncle Thorin and his home, Erebor; he wondered if he would survive long enough to escape or be rescued. Tears in his eyes threatened to freeze before falling, and he tried to blink them away.

Chapter Text

The moon was full again when the wagon approached a tall wooden wall with a massive gate; there was cheering and shouting from the battlements. The great gate opened, admitting the caravan into a village. Kili’s eyes took in his new surroundings; the town was built aside a mountain, with several of the homes carved into the mountainside facing out into the open, the remainder cluttered in timber and stone structures within the wall. Most of the livestock clustered under a shelter at the edge to keep them out from the snow; several others roamed about. Kili laid against the side of the cage, exhausted, terrified, yet grateful to be at the end of the journey. This was the home of his captors, this clan of Firebeards. The caravan rumbled through large doors in the mountainside, central to the rest of the village.

To Kili’s surprise, the livestock and wagons entered directly in as well. The doors led to a great hall, tall and wide and long; cloths of various colors hung from the walls. Kili guessed that they had been taken from all of places these dwarves had plundered through the years. He startled when he saw a long red tapestry hanging, with a image of Erebor on it and a royal rune set around the edges; it was very old and his grandfather’s rune graced the outsides.

In the middle of the hall sat five piles - one of foodstuffs, one of clothing and furs, one for furniture, one for weapons, and finally a large temporary pen where all of the livestock were herded. The Firebeards began to empty the newly arrived wagons, splitting the new goods. The pig cage was opened, and Kili braced himself against the side, raw hands clutching the bars; this was his home for the last few weeks. He would rather remain in the relative safety of the pigs then at the mercy of the Firebeards. But they were strong and he too weak to fight; a hand closed around his ankle and pulled him out to the floor. His mouth opened in protest but no sound came out. The dwarf cut the ropes holding Kili’s bruised wrists, and wrenched his hands to his sides, pinning him; another approached with another knife, and Kili squirmed in fear, but the first held him tightly. The knife carefully slid under the rope around his neck, and it was sawed away; Kili relaxed in relief, able to breathe easily for the first time in a month.

His relief was short-lived, however, when the second dwarf returned with an iron collar and a pair of iron manacles for his wrists. Kili’s struggles were futile as the collar locked around his neck, followed by the manacles; a heavy chain threaded through the rings and closed with a heavy lock. The cool metal against his raw red skin hurt terribly. The dwarf grabbed his chain near his throat, dragging Kili to the livestock pen and throwing him in with the animals. He stumbled, falling forward and rolling into the sheep; his misfortune met with raucous laughter from the barbarians.

Kili tried to push himself up, but the short chain only let him rise a little from his hands; he rolled onto his back and sat up instead. The dwarf beside him grabbed the cloth of his shoulders, pulling him up and pushing him onto his knees. A goat nipped at Kili’s hair. He shoved at the hungry creature and his guard backhanded him; the metallic tang of blood touched his tongue. His attention turned to the activity around the pen. More dwarves arrived in the hall, cheering and clapping the newly arrived raiding party on the back. The dwarves were tall and broad, with beards of the deepest red to a near strawberry blond. They were rowdy and loud, and Kili began to feel quite small. His interest slowly turned to fear, and he sat back on his haunches, hiding behind the livestock. He needed to escape, but he was struggling to hold his chin up.

A loud banging brought his attention to the center of the room near the pile of foodstuffs, where an older dwarf stood with arms in the air. The hall’s occupants quieted, and offered small bows to the old one. He was dressed in clothing finer than the rest; still utilitarian but with far more designs and layers; he was a leader. When he spoke some words were met with cheers. It was a celebration; and eventually three dwarves came forward, bowing on one knee before the old man; one of them was Bone-beard, who had exerted his control over the dwarves that captured Kili. The second was older with a face scarred by fire and a persistent angry look in his eyes, glowering at the leader. The final one had a shorter beard; but he was unique, in that his hair grew bright and golden, not red, and hung in beautiful braids around his face. A simple tattoo of red circled around one eye like a flame. He wasn’t as tall as most of the Firebeards, but still broad for his height. He was young, not much older than Kili.

The dwarf behind Kili thumped the back of his head, pushing his face down towards the floor. Exhausted, thirsty and hungry, Kili slumped over to the floor, and the room laughed and pointed at the dark-haired captive. The dwarf guarding him walked around, grasping the chain and yanking him up. A fist slammed into Kili’s cheek, then the rough hands pushed him to his knees again. Kili was confused, breathing heavily and reached up to feel his sore cheek; it would surely bruise. Was he not meant to look at the dwarves? He cast his head down, trying to look through strands of his greasy hair hanging in front of his eyes.

The lord began to speak again, in his guttural language, and the crowd cheered, the three dwarves bowing. After some time, he motioned the golden-haired dwarf forward, and indicated the five piles of plunder. He moved through the first four piles, taking a few furs, some spices and vegetables, a sword and shield. Two young dwarves followed behind, holding his chosen goods. He entered the livestock pen, his boots thudding ominously against the wooden floor, the crowd silently watching. Kili peered up, and the blond dwarf met his eyes. They locked gaze, studying each other curiously. Golden One reached out, gently rubbing his hand against Kili’s hair; the young dwarf stilled himself, trying not to show fear. Kili’s body shook from its mistreatment and he silently cursed himself; he would appear weak. The dwarf guarding Kili noticed the captive’s upward glance, smacking him the back of his head until he looked down again. The old dwarf called loudly, and the two talked; the blond dwarf suddenly pushed past, selecting two pigs and a goat, and then moving to the side of the hall amongst cheers, his eyes still fixed to Kili.

Bone-beard approached next, walking through the piles. He reached the livestock pen, not looking at Kili but giving him a swift kick in the ribs as he walked past to choose a cow. Kili hunched over and remained quiet, not making eye contact. He realized his status in this village, where animals were more valuable than captives. Finally, the face scarred by fire proceeded to the piles of loot, choosing articles from each pile as well. He came to the livestock pen, moving immediately to Kili, and nudged the guard aside with a fat elbow. Kili’s chain changed hands and the new owner pulled the young dwarf to his feet. From the corner of his eye, Kili could see Bone-Beard and Golden One watching as Scarred Face looked over him. His thick hand reached out, cupping Kili’s jaw and lifting it to meet his gaze. The Firebeard looked into his eyes, prodding his cheek and the newly blossoming bruise. Kili winced and pulled back, but the dwarf held the chain tightly, keeping him near. His hands moved down, squeezing Kili’s arms, feeling his stomach and legs. The hand shifted and groped between Kili’s legs.

Kili twisted away with a yelp, pulling from his grip and stumbling away. Scarred Face reached out, grasping the chain and roughly hauling him back. Kili fell into him, and the Firebeard knotted his fingers into the young dwarf’s dark hair and pulled his head back cruelly. Kili let out a stuttered shout, his head aching, terrified, but the dwarf tugged him along and threw him out of the pen towards his other waiting goods. Kili slid across the timber floor, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He wanted this torment to end, this fear to leave him.

There was a shout behind him, followed by Scarred Face chatting with another in a raised voice. The two voices exchanged words, while the Firebeard that had been guarding Kili came out and pulled him upright again, smacking him across the face and growling a few words. Kili swore that when he was strong enough, he would find this dwarf and put an arrow through his chest. But today, his eyelids fluttered and he swayed in position, turning just enough to see Scarred Face and Golden One having an argument. Golden One motioned to Kili and Scarred Face laughed, shaking his head. They pushed, then shoved, and it developed into a physical brawl. Golden One was at least a head shorter than the other dwarf, and slightly thinner, yet he was strong and experienced and Kili watched with surprise as Scarred Face began to tire faster, the crowd cheering and booing simultaneously.

The elderly dwarf finally intervened, calming the combatants and the onlookers. More discussion in their guttural language, until Golden One called the two young ones forward who held his loot; they dumped it in front of Scarred Face. Golden One stalked over to Kili, grabbing the chain from the guard and jerking it close; Kili’s knees buckled and he pitched forward. An arm caught his waist, holding him up. He shivered, and looked over to see Golden One staring back at him. He let out a small cry in surprise, and the Firebeards in the hall laughed. Golden One dropped to one knee, pulling the young prince over his shoulder and carried him out of the hall.

Golden One trudged out the door. His demeanor was angry, and a new fear passed through Kili. He’d been taken. Traded, even. A prize for a barbarian. A heavy snowfall came down; Kili shivered as a cold breeze passed over. Golden One kept a tight hold on his legs. He hung over the shoulder, raising his head to see the village quiet, with the occasional cheer from the hall in the small mountain. Golden One followed the curve of the mountain until he reached a door in the side. There were very few homes which entered into the mountainside and Kili guessed from between his home and his status in the plunder pecking order that this Firebeard must rank highly amongst the village. He pulled up the latch and entered the home; Kili heard him barring the door behind.

He walked through, his steps quiet. A long, soft bench covered in furs sat in the middle of the room in front of a warm hearth and Golden One gently set Kili down on it. Only just managing to hold onto consciousness, Kili watched quietly while Golden One moved off into a side room before returning with some bread, cheese and water. The young dwarf licked his lips, only realizing then that they were cracked and tasted of blood. The Firebeard dwarf dropped the plate on the seat beside Kili and thrust the water into his hands. Kili drank quickly, finishing the entire glass and wavering uncertainly. The other dwarf’s hand reached to his back, steadying him and taking the glass. Kili reached for the plate, but hit the end of the chain’s length. Golden One lifted the plate into Kili’s hand, then leaned in to look at the lock on the chain, making a displeased noise.

Kili had never tasted better bread or cheese. Having gone a month without a proper meal, he was weak and thin; he tore through the bread and cheese, coughing as it caught in his throat. Golden One lifted his hand and placed it gently against Kili’s mouth, motioning to a closed door off the side of the main room. He wasn’t trying to scare him, but to tell him to be quiet. The Firebeard likely had a wife or children; either way Kili chose to obey and nodded. Golden One seemed pleased with his acknowledgement. Kili finished the meal and looked around while Golden One moved off to another room. The center room had a large hearth, with benches and chairs and a table in the middle. There were several closed doors, and through an open entrance was a long table with several chairs. The walls were stone, the home hewn into rough rock save the front which had been built up. Two shuttered windows and the door were the only features in wall.

Kili tentatively stood, peering down into dining area, searching for Golden One. He took a step forward, and his vision wavered and legs gave out; he crashed to the floor, eyes half closed, shivering. His body was not responding to his commands, and his head dropped to the floor. He could see Golden One’s boots rushing towards him, and the dwarf kneeled down to scoop Kili into his arms like a babe. He walked up to one of the closed doors, nudging it completely open with his foot. Inside was another hearth, the fire glowing and casting a dancing light across the ceiling and walls. In the center was an enormous bed covered in pelts. He was laid down into the soft furs; the first bed he’d felt in well over a month, since he’d been home in Erebor. Erebor. His tired, confused mind jumped around and he began to think of home, of his uncle, of his friends, of Dwalin. He looked up, vaguely aware of Golden One lifting holding up a small metal object, and feeling the iron manacles disappear from around his wrists. A hand scooped him back up from the bed, and large hands fumbled at his neck; the iron collar pulled away, and Kili was gently laid back down in the bed. Golden One piled furs atop his body, and Kili snuggled under them, a tear rolling down his cheek. The Firebeard knelt by the bed, looking at the young prince, then spoke in his guttural language and left the room. Kili quickly sunk into a long slumber, dreaming of home.

Chapter Text

Kili awakened to a natural light in the room. He rolled onto his back, looking curiously. A soft glow came from a small tunnel chiseled in the roof of the bedroom. The fire had nearly gone, glowing embers left in its wake, and he curled into the furs, snug and warm. He was more comfortable than he’d been in weeks, but he realized he was still a prisoner of these people, and had no idea what they wanted with him.

With that harsh thought, he stood and shook off the layers of furs. He wore same clothes he’d been wearing for a month, sitting in filth, and smelled terrible. He was curious however, having been left alone and unbound. He walked quietly towards the partly shut door; his legs shuffled at best after weeks of disuse, and he grew frustrated with his slow movements. There was no noise and nobody was was visible through the opening. The wonderful smell of bacon wafted to his nose and his stomach churned. He stumbled out into the room, looking around. Golden One appeared from the dining area, walking over to him and Kili backpedaled away from the Firebeard, slamming into the wall, his muscles cramping and protesting their mistreatment. He looked for a weapon, but there was none and he was cornered by the dwarf.

Golden One sniffed the air and frowned. He took Kili by the shoulder, leading him to one of the other closed doors. Kili’s heart raced and he tried to pull free, but the hand held him firm yet not tightly. A door was pushed open and inside was a privy and washbasin full of water; the Firebeard left Kili alone to do his business.

Finishing, he exited and Golden One took him by the arm again, directing him to another room. The chamber contained a large smooth stone bath; water ran down the stone wall into a gap below, and Golden One placed a hollowed wooden stick in a channel, redirecting the flow into the bath. Kili moved forward curiously, pushing a finger into the water; it felt wonderfully warm. Like Erebor, hot springs ran through the mountain, and simple redirection of the water meant warm baths. Erebor was full of bathhouses; yet not even Kili had a private bath, only his uncle the King had that honor. Kili felt his shirt lifted from him and stumbled to the side away from Golden One, pulling it back down. He stared at the dwarf, meeting bright blue eyes which looked on with frustration and concern. The Firebeard stepped back, lifting his hands, then exited the room. Kili looked into the bath again, slowly filling, and stripped his own clothes. He climbed into the comfortably hot water, sitting back and closing his eyes. It rolled around his skin, and he breathed deeply. He felt that he could slip back into sleep, despite having only been up twenty minutes.

Golden One returned with a brush and a bar of soap, placing them on the edge. His eyes fixed on Kili, who cared little in his warm, watery bliss. He picked up Kili’s soiled clothes and exited the room again. “Wait!” Kili called out, realizing he was left with nothing to cover up with. His worry drifted away as the water enveloped him, the clothes forgotten in moments. He removed the rod as the stone tub finished filling. The bath relaxed his worn body, and he slunk back down, closing his eyes again. His muscles were sore from weeks of confinement in the pig cage and non-use; he longed to take up his bow and hunt again. He needed to escape; the soft bed and warm bath would not make up for a month of cruelties. He knew his chances were very unlikely now. The mountain pass would be blocked, and his Uncle wouldn’t be able to press north until spring. Even then, he’d have to find Kili in the wilderness amongst many Firebeard villages. Kili opened his eyes, resolving to find his strength, escape and make his own way south. The mountain pass sloped downward when moving south, and with snowshoes he could possibly pass through alone.

The door opened and Kili jumped. Golden One came in again, carrying an array of clothes. Kili looked over him carefully. He was dressed in fur trimmed clothes, natural brown dyed with a soft red tint. Golden hair was plaited into four braids around his ears, and his eyes were a striking shade of blue. Over one was the fiery red ring tattoo. He met Kili’s eyes and pointed to the door, uttering meaningless words in his language and then exiting again. Kili finished cleaning himself, watching the water turn a muddy brown, then rising and drying away the water. He sat down and began to go through the clothes; they were far warmer than he was accustomed to but would serve the northerly climate well. He slipped into the leather breeches which were too wide and long. A belt was in the pile, and he pulled it over the cloth, cinching it and hoping it would keep the trousers up. A long tunic was next and far too big, slipping off his shoulder. The Firebeards were a large, broad people, and Kili’s body was considered quite slim for a Longbeard dwarf. There were warm fur lined boots, and he slipped into them; they fit better than the other garments and would suit. He stood up, feeling like a child in an adult’s costume.

Dressed in the Firebeard’s clothes, Kili moved into the common room. Golden One sat at the dining table, eating a meal of eggs, bacon and bread. Across from him sat another plate, and Golden One looked up, motioning Kili to sit and eat. Kili slowly moved forward, cautious, sitting across and gratefully eating the meal. As he finished, he heard a bang in the kitchen and looked up, but saw nothing; Golden One had finished his own meal and sat staring at Kili. Intimidated, Kili looked at his empty plate instead. His shoulders sagged and he wondered what Firebeard expected of him. Fear twisted his stomach, threatening to bring his breakfast up.

“Kinra su sha?”

Kili looked up. It was definitely a question. He looked nervously to the side and his stomach rumbled, anxiety rolling within.

“Kinra su sha?”

“I don’t understand,” Kili answered, feeling ill. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you want.”

A voice piped up from the kitchen doorway. “He wants to know what your name is,” the pleasant voice said. Kili’s eyes darted up; the speech being the first common he had heard since Dwalin told him to run. It wasn’t a dwarf; the speaker smaller than Kili, with curly hair and large, bare feet. A hobbit. Kili stared at him with surprise, twenty questions in his head but unable to speak any of them.

“It would be rude to not answer your host,” the hobbit prompted, leaning in the doorway and crossing his arms.

Kili turned back to Golden One. “Uh, Kili. My name is Kili.”

Golden One stared at him with shock, suddenly shoving the bench back and standing to glare down at Kili.

“Gravya kinra met su sha! Krin ven ack lon! Dror!” Kili cowered under the unmistakably angry dwarf, raising his hands to protect himself.

“What did I do?” Kili asked, confused, turning to the hobbit but keeping one eye on the upset Firebeard.

The hobbit walked from the doorway, setting one hand on Golden One’s arm gently and speaking to him in the Firebeard language. Golden One replied, his tone still angry. Kili heard his own name mentioned twice, and the hobbit shook his head, walking back to the doorway.

“He says he cannot call you Kili. What other names do you have?”

“Kili is my name,” he answered confused, turning back to Golden One who glared, his hands hanging in angry fists at his side. Why did he not want to hear his name?

“Then I suggest you pick something you don’t mind hearing,” the hobbit’s tone was light, unafraid. Kili wondered why the Firebeard did not frighten him.

“Uh...Raven? My uncle used to call me his little raven.”

Golden One turned to the hobbit for a translation, and the hobbit complied before moving back into the kitchen. “Rah-ven,” Golden One said, looking to Kili and tasting the name. “Rah-ven.”



“It’ll do,” Kili stood from the table and Golden One watched him but did not interfere. Kili was far more interested in the hobbit, and more than a little relieved to have somebody who he could speak with. He moved into the kitchen, casting his eyes over the large space. The kitchen area had a hearth, pots and pans and knives, and a large open pantry full of food. Kili browsed through the food in amazement; he didn’t expect such a variety in this barbarian’s town. It seemed far to cold to grow most of the vegetables and fruits that sat in cans. He turned, seeing the hobbit peeling and cutting potatoes, tossing them into a pot of water.

Kili walked up beside him, leaning on the counter. His legs were still shaky. “What do I call you and how did you come to live in a Firebeard village?”

“My name is Bilbo,” he replied. “And I came here the same as you did, as a slave captured in a raid.”

“We’re slaves?”

“What did you think we were?” Bilbo was amused.

“I - I don’t know. I hadn’t put much thought into it, I guess. What does he expect me to do?”

“I have no idea, Raven.”

“Can you call me Kili? I’d prefer it.”

Bilbo paused from his food and looked back to Kili. The young dark-haired dwarf was pale, wide-eyed and likely distraught. Bilbo sighed and recalled his first few weeks in captivity so long ago. “Very well, Kili. Only when he’s not listening.”

“Who is he?”

Bilbo stopped peeling the potato and set it down, alongside the knife, walking to the doorway and peering out; Kili followed, looking at the Firebeard from a distance. Golden One relaxed in a chair by the hearth, a length of leather in his hands which he was stitching; his head down, the golden braids tumbling forward as he worked. “That, Kili, is our master. His name is Fili.”

Kili pulled back, staring at Bilbo and sucked in a breath; his voice barely above a whisper. “Fili? How is that possible?”

“I don’t know; I have suspicions but it’s a topic for another day. I suspect that is the reason he does not wish to call you Kili. You may call him Fili when you are at home or unheard by others. But in front of the other dwarves, you must call him Urku Fili, or simply Urku.”

“What does that mean?” Kili turned, unconsciously running fingers up and down his arms.


Kili’s next question caught in his throat, and he stared at the floor, now hugging himself. The very idea of belonging to somebody made him angry. Only the cruel kept slaves. He desperately wanted out, but where would he go? He swallowed and found his voice again.

“How long has he been your master?”

“Just over five years now,” Bilbo relied, returning to his potatoes. “Before him, his father was my master, for nearly thirty years.”

“You’ve been here thirty-five years?”

“I have, Kili.” The hobbit tossed another potato into the pot.

Kili looked at him in disbelief. Kili wasn’t much past 70, and couldn’t imagine living half his life in captivity. The hobbit was relaxed, attending to his business and spoke of it nonchalantly. He was accustomed to this state, and Kili swore he would not allow himself to become complacent. He would return to Erebor.

“Why haven’t you escaped? Why would you allow yourself to remain a slave for so long in this place?”

Bilbo slammed the knife down hard, startling Kili. “Allow myself? You think I wouldn’t go home if I could? But tell me this, Kili. How would I get there? I’m not a warrior. I’m a damn good gardener and cook, and it’s more likely that I’d be caught by another Firebeard if I tried to escape. And while other slaves come and go in the village, they mostly go. Slaves who escape and are recaptured usually do not survive the punishment, thankfully. I’ve not seen another survive more than a year here!” Bilbo’s voice raised into a shout, and Kili realized he’d offended and angered the hobbit. Bilbo went back to the potatoes, his movements quick and sharp, and muttered as he worked.

Kili crossed the room to stand beside Bilbo and picked up the knife, grabbing a potato and beginning to skin it, hoping his silent offer of help would be appreciated. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just...I’m just not sure what’s happening to me yet, and I need to learn everything I can. I won’t-“

Two arms reached around Kili, strong hands snugly grasping his wrists. The hand on his right wrist, which clutched the knife, directed his hand back down to the cutting board and shook it until he dropped the knife. Fili then walked him backwards across the kitchen before letting him go. He stood in front of Kili, taking the potato from his hands. “Rin fa ne shinshosa mat vu.”

“He said you don’t touch the knives,” Bilbo translated listlessly.

“Rin fa Bilbo ken min va!”

Bilbo’s face melted into a soft smile. “And that you don’t upset me.”

Kili glanced between Fili and Bilbo nervously, holding his hands up defensively. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I only wanted to help. And I’m just curious.” Scared would have been more appropriate to say. He was scared, but he didn’t want to admit that.

Bilbo murmured to Fili, who moved off into the other room, casting a sharp look at Kili as he went past.

“Why are we here, Bilbo?” Kili walked to the far wall, away from the knives, and sat on a stool.

“I am here to cook, garden, and tend Fili’s livestock. And I’m very good at it,” the hobbit said with a hint of pride as he collected potato skins and dumped them into a wooden pail. “Which is why the other Firebeards treat me better than most slaves; Fili trades the extra food for items we need in our home. I am fairly valuable to the tribe because of my ability to garden in this climate and cook something decent. They are still rude to me...but I don’t think any would attempt to permanently hurt me now.”

Kili gaped. “Permanently? They still hurt you?”

“They love to show off their rank and status to each other; the village elders bully the patrol leaders; the patrol leaders bully their subordinates; and the subordinates bully the ones left behind in the village. Children bully other children, wives bully other wives. And they all bully the slaves. They’ll push you around, call you names, and threaten you. Some will bruise you, small cuts or break fingers. As long as you belong to Fili, they shouldn’t hurt you too much though. He’s not well liked as of late, but he’s respected. He’s an excellent warrior.”

Kili nodded, tugging on a loose string on the oversized tunic. It slipped off his shoulder and he pushed it back up. “What does he expect me to do?”

Bilbo picked up his board, sliding more potatoes into the large pot. “I don’t know. What did you do before you came here?”

“I trained to be a warrior, and ran patrols around our home.” Kili craned his neck to look in the pot, but couldn’t see and didn’t want to risk scaring the hobbit again. Bilbo would be an invaluable source of information when he was strong enough to plot his escape.

“Well, they certainly don’t want a slave to be a warrior,” Bilbo said, setting a ladle into the pot. “You’ll have to ask him.”

“But he doesn’t speak common,” Kili said. “Can you ask him? For me, please?”

“When I am done here, I will talk to him. We need to go check the livestock soon,” Bilbo added. “He will probably take you with us.”

Kili yawned against the wall, looking around the tidy kitchen. “Is there anything else I can do to help?”

“You look exhausted, Kili. You should rest. It’s only your first day here, and I know from experience the journey would not have been pleasant,” Bilbo sat down his knife. “Come on now,” he took Kili by the arm, pulling him up and through the dining area to the common room, speaking in the Firebeard’s tongue to Fili.

Fili set aside his work, nodding and gently taking Kili’s arm, guiding him back towards the bedroom with the large, fur covered bed. Kili didn’t want to sleep. He wanted to learn; but his body betrayed him and he stumbled as they walked. Fili took Kili around to the far side, pulling back the furs until Kili had sat down and removed his boots. Kili noticed the furs from the night before were gone; likely soiled from his old clothing. He laid back in the bed, the Firebeard warrior hovered over and tucked him in as if nurturing a small child. Kili watched him curiously as he ensured the bottom fur rested snug around the young prince, then laid another on top. The warmth enveloped Kili and his eyes grew heavy again.

“Rah-ven krin riana ben tuatu,” Fili said, looking down. He reached over, gently pushing Kili’s hair back from his face. “Rah-ven.” Kili slipped into sleep, feeling strangely comforted by this Firebeard who held him captive.

Chapter Text

The trio never did go to check the livestock that first day; at least not with Kili in tow. He didn’t rise again until late in the evening. They all shared supper and Kili was back in bed again. He struggled to stand or walk for long periods for another week; he fatigued rapidly and Fili watched over him carefully. The young prince would blink too slowly or stumble and he found himself taken to the bedroom quickly, despite his protests. Fili was stern, and when Kili began to physically resist being taken to bed, Bilbo made herbal teas, forced onto him by Fili, which relaxed the young dwarf’s muscles until he could no longer control them himself. He slumped, boneless in front of the common room hearth. Fili would pick him up and take him to the bedroom, where he stared at the door until falling in a deep, dreamless sleep. Kili began to resent the hobbit’s skill with herbs, feeling groggy when he came too after one of the tea-induced sleeps. He didn’t blame Bilbo. No, the fault was with Fili. His life was no longer his own, and the constant presence of Fili watching him, forcing the tea on him and taking him back to the bedroom reminded him daily.

For the first week, his days were short and dull. When awake, he stayed with Bilbo in the kitchen most of the day. Fili often sat doing some leatherwork in the lounge, watching the pair carefully. In the evening they would gather in the common room, and Bilbo and Fili chatted in the Firebeard tongue, Kili’s mind drifting back to home as he watched the fire crackle.

Kili woke on a particularly cold morning, struggling to push the furs off of him; Fili often had them wrapped and tucked around him quite tightly. He finally managed to shove them aside and sat up on the bed again. He felt better than he had in in weeks, much stronger through his limbs. He stood, stretching momentarily. Pangs of soreness prickled through his muscles, and he flinched, dropping the stretch and moved out of the bedroom. Fili sat in a chair, Bilbo was beside him chatting away; Fili occasionally laughing. His nose wrinkled in merriment, and Kili nearly found himself smiling; the Firebeard was beautiful when he was happy. But the laughter of the Firebeards during the caravan ride sprung to mind and he wouldn’t allow himself to view Fili that way. He turned away.

Bilbo noticed Kili, and Fili turned after seeing Bilbo’s eyes dart up. They exchanged a few more words, and Bilbo stood and went into the kitchen. Fili brushed past Kili, leaving him alone. Kili’s eyes took in the small table beside Fili’s chair; there were some metal tools and leather. His eyes narrowed in on a small, sharp metal tool and he looked up. Fili stood there, holding Kili’s boots and watching him carefully. The Firebeard held out the boots, and Kili sat on the long bench and put them on. He felt Fili sit in beside him, holding a few items. Kili tensed, contemplating moving to Bilbo’s side instead. He didn’t, to his own surprise, curious about the Firebeard’s intentions. Fili took Kili’s wrist in his own, and wrapped a small, soft leather band around it, and stitched the material together. Kili watched him work. The bands appeared ornamental; they were very supple, made of high quality leather. Once he finished the first wrist, he took the other and began to do the same to the second.

Bilbo walked out of the kitchen, carrying a large bag around his shoulders. He set it down, moving to a shelf near the door and picking up some metal manacles and a collar. Kili watched, dumbstruck, as Bilbo put the manacles on his own wrists and pulled out a key to lock them. Bilbo picked up the collar, closing it around his throat and locking that in place as well before throwing a fur coat over himself and picking up the bag again.

Kili was startled as Fili was suddenly wrapping another leather strap around his throat, and began to sew it closed. The wrists were tolerable, but the idea of leather around his throat frightened him and Kili pulled away, putting up his hands to keep Fili away. “What’s he doing?” he asked, looking to Bilbo. Fili growled and reached for Kili’s arm to pull him back, but the young prince fell off the bench as he squirmed away. Fili also turned to Bilbo, awaiting assistance.

“Ah. Let him work,” Bilbo said, reaching over to help Kili up again. Bilbo pushed the manacle on his wrist aside to show Kili the leather strap around his own wrist. “They’re to protect your skin against the metal,” he explained. “I have them too. Let him work.”

Kili sat down beside Fili, tilting his head to the side and avoiding Fili’s eyes. The Firebeard still frightened him somewhat, his quick temper showing through occasionally.

“Why do we need the metal restraints?” Kili asked, trying not to move much as Fili worked the soft leather around his neck.

“If you’re not in the tribe, then you can be claimed as a slave by anybody,” he explained. “Unless you’re already claimed, which the others can see if you have a collar and cuffs. I put mine on when I leave the house, and remove them when I come back; Fili gave me a key for them. These ones are very light weight, thin and out of a lighter alloy. I’m sure he’ll have some lighter ones made for you as soon as he can.”

“I don’t want to be here long enough to have my own custom made collar,” Kili said. “I won’t be a slave.”

Bilbo ignored him, moving off to bring Fili the set of iron restraints they had fitted Kili in on his arrival. Fili held up the restraints in front of Kili, giving him a long, meaningful look to express his displeasure with having to put them on; Kili just looked away. He was still a captive, and the leather and metal only served to remind him of that.

Once the soft leather was in place, Fili lifted the iron collar and locked it around Kili’s neck. He placed a hand on his shoulder, grasping Kili’s chin and meeting his gaze; another unmistakable look to say he was sorry. Kili nodded slowly, still uncomfortable at being reminded of his position, and held up his wrists so Fili could put the shackles on. Kili sat on the bench, staring at the cold metal. Erebor, his uncle, Dwalin, and everybody else he knew was far away now, on the other side of the mountain pass. He was on his own and would have to survive until the snows melted and he could pass through again. Fear and loneliness suddenly consumed him, and he bent over, lowering his head to his hands.

“Rah-ven,” Fili’s voice was high with concern, and an arm wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him back up. “Rah-ven?”

Kili looked at him, tears collected in his eyes. He almost felt bad for worrying him; but he was the one holding Kili prisoner, keeping him from his family. The one Kili had to call Urku. Master. Fili rambled off a few sentences in his language, Kili hearing his uncle’s nickname come up several times.

“He wants to know if you are ill or if you will still go out to tend the livestock and gardens with us,” Bilbo said quietly.

“I’m not ill,” Kili whispered, ashamed of his show of emotion. “I’ll go,” Kili said. “I don’t want to have to stay here. I want to see where...where I must live until I am rescued or can escape.”

Fili turned to Bilbo for translation; Bilbo replied but Kili knew he hadn’t translated directly. “I told Fili that you wish to go out, but you’re still tired and confused. You mustn’t think of rescue or escape, Kili. Nobody has been rescued or can escape. I think you’ll find you can survive well enough if you let yourself adapt to this place.”

Kili shook his head in disagreement. Fili returned with a large fur coat, helping Kili slip his arms into it and then moving around to do up the ties, making sure the collar was clearly visible. Fili led them out the door, turning around to bar it and lock it. He walked along, the two slaves following behind; Kili noted with surprise that Bilbo was still without shoes, his feet crunching in the snow.

“Aren’t your feet cold, Bilbo?”

Bilbo shook his head. “We hobbits have the hardiest feet in all of Middle-Earth. We can withstand all sorts of temperatures and environments on our feet. So yes, they are cold, but I can tolerate it,” he smiled, shifting the bag on his shoulder.

They crossed through the village, reaching a square near the center, out front from the massive doors into the mountain. A stone obelisk was in the middle, iron rings hanging from the top and dwarven faces carved into the stone. Kili stopped, looking over it curiously. What stories did the pictures tell? Did the Firebeards have more history than just killing and plundering?

“Grati,” Fili’s hand moved into the center of Kili’s back, pushing him along a path between the timber and stone homes. Chickens and pigs were penned near to the doors of homes, and skins, dried meat and furs hung outside of the buildings. Firebeards moved along, doing their business; he saw wives attending to livestock and children playing. While some paid him no mind, others stared. A small dwarfling, no more than ten years of age, ran up to Fili and blocked his path. He asked a question, pointing at Kili and staring.

Kili glanced to Bilbo, who had a small grin on his face. “The boy asked Urku Fili if your hair is real. The Firebeards are unaccustomed to seeing people with dark hair. It’s been awhile since a slave of dark hair lived here. He wants to know if he can touch it.”

Kili looked down at the child, who stood with his arms folded behind his back, staring up. Kili turned to Fili and nodded slowly, unsure what to do. Fili reached down, lifting the boy into his arms and speaking to him as he reached out, taking a handful of Kili’s hair and tugging at it gently, Fili spoke again to the child.

“Urku Fili has told him not to pull. He’s telling him that you are from the south where they have dark hair, and are a good person who will be staying in the village with us, and that you should be treated kindly.” Fili set the boy back down, and he laughed and ran away. Kili stole another glance at the Firebeard, who seemed pleased with the child’s reaction.

The trio pressed on through the village, coming to a home on the edge of the village. Fili knocked on the door, and a Firebeard with a massive red-orange beard done up in loops opened the door, greeting Fili jubilantly, and admitted him and his two slaves into the home. The first room was full of metal, and an anvil sat in the middle of the room; Kili realized it was a forge. Various implements hung around the room, and the blacksmith continued to chat away to Fili. Kili looked at him, taking in the small metal ringlets adorning his beard, ears and nose; they were all intricately designed and unique. The dwarf was balding on top, but seemed to compensate with his beard. Kili suddenly realized the dwarf was looking directly at him, and the blacksmith reached out and slapped Kili hard across the face, spouting some angry words. Kili stumbled back into the door, lifting a hand to his face in shock.

Fili quickly moved himself between Kili and the blacksmith, placing an arm out against the blacksmith to hold him back. “Rin fa nen a tu Rah-ven!” He turned, placing a hand on Kili’s shoulder and shoved him toward Bilbo, who moved over and whispered in Kili’s ear while helping him stand upright.

“Keep your head and eyes down until you are given permission to look upon him. Do not speak unless asked a question. There is etiquette for slaves.”

“Etiquette?” Kili’s hand tracing his sore cheek. “What sort of etiquette was that?”

“Quiet,” Bilbo whispered. “Eyes down, head down, say nothing. I’ll tell you more later.”

Kili stood straight, looking to the floor to keep from being battered again. He kept his eyes on Fili’s boots, watching as Fili swapped his weight from side to side, rocking. The two Firebeards talked for a few minutes, and then Fili’s hand was on Kili’s chin again, pulling his head upward. Afraid, Kili shifted his gaze to the side to look at nothing instead of the blacksmith and his Master in front of him. Fili was motioning to Kili’s collar, and then holding up his wrists, twirling the manacles on them around gently. The pair then moved over to Bilbo, looking at his restraints.

Kili resumed staring at Fili’s boots, and after a few more minutes of talking he heard the clinking of coins, and they turned back out into the cold, late autumn air again. “What happened?” Kili asked, once they were far away from the prying ears of the other Firebeards.

“Fili just purchased a new collar and manacles for you,” Bilbo said. “Ones not of iron, lighter. Now we go to the tailor. You’re much thinner than a Firebeard and he wants to find you clothes that fit.” Kili looked to Fili, surprised and grateful that the Firebeard would take the time to find him comfortable clothes. Fili caught Kili’s eyes, and Kili found himself smiling for a moment before he turned his gaze downward. He didn’t see the twinkle that came to Fili’s eyes.

They continued through town, and Kili noticed a frail, thin dwarf behind a home, tending to the pigs. Evidently Fili and Bilbo had noticed as well, and Fili nudged Bilbo ahead while standing on the path with a hand on Kili’s shoulder to keep him in place, but looking around. Keeping watch. Bilbo moved up and whispered to the old dwarf, who turned around and looked at Fili. He smiled and bowed his head; only then did Kili see the iron collar around the old man’s neck. The dwarf didn’t have any furs on, only light leather clothes, and Kili could see how he trembled in the cold. Bilbo reached into the large leather bag he had been carrying, withdrawing a small bun and some slices of meat, passing it to the slave, who tucked the meat into his leather tunic and quickly devoured the bread. Fili smiled and Bilbo returned to his side, the trio continuing through the village.

The house they were searching for was well appointed, with embroidered cloth over the window and a new roof. Again, Fili knocked and pressed his two slaves behind him, beside each other. Bilbo bowed his head, and Kili followed suit. The door opened, and the Firebeard boisterously greeted Fili again, as was their custom. Fili took a step back, pushing Bilbo and Kili through in front of him this time. The tailor had a short beard with intricate braids through the side, looping up and behind him into his hair. Kili suddenly realized he was looking up, and redirected his gaze to the floor. He hated this. He knew he wasn’t a slave and he should be holding his head high.

The ache on his cheek and heavy iron marking his station told him otherwise however, and he kept his head bowed. Fili’s hands came up to Kili’s shoulders, pulling the fur off and he glanced up curious. Fili’s expression told him that all was well, and he looked over to see Bilbo setting down his bag and removing his own fur. The tailor came up to Kili, lifting his arm and measuring with a knotted string; then following suit on the rest of his body. His hands were rough and quick but not cruel. He ruffled Kili’s hair as he finished, chuckling as he continued to chat with Fili. Kili looked to Bilbo, noticing he had his head up, looking around calmly; he carefully followed suit. He saw that the tailor was already going through leather and furs, using his knotted string and a knife to begin cutting shapes into the materials.

Fili spoke to Bilbo then sat down at a table beside the tailor, continuing to talk. The hobbit pulled another bun and some meat from his bag then took Kili’s arm, leading him into a side room. Inside the room was a young female dwarf; heavily pregnant. She had a strip of leather around her throat and wrists, and Kili realized she too was a slave. Bilbo spoke to her, but she only sat and stared blankly at the wall. He gently set the bread and meat down beside her chair, and sat down across from her; Kili easing himself onto chair beside Bilbo.

“Who is she?”

“She was captured last summer,” Bilbo explained. “The tailor, Nurek, took her as a bed slave. She carries his child. She is not handling her captivity well, however. Out of mind, rambling, and now this. Always quiet, doesn’t respond. Nurek fears she will die before the baby is born, taking the child with her.”

“Why not let her go?” Kili asked. “To save her.”

“Nurek is kinder than most; but he is still a Firebeard, and he wants the baby in her belly. He wants her here to raise the child, and he will keep her until her death. Firebeards don’t let slaves go.” Bilbo walked over, placing a hand against the dwarrowdam’s cheek, her head moved against it, but her eyes did not move. “Gildin,” he whispered. “You must eat. For the baby.” She did not reply, and Bilbo sat back down.

Kili yawned and laid his head back against the chair; it was warm and comfortable in the tailor’s house, and he felt at ease. The sight of the old man in the cold worried him, and now there sat a young mother who had lost all hope. And yet Bilbo was strong, confident and healthy.

“Bilbo,” Kili said quietly. “Why are you feeding the other slaves?”

Bilbo smiled sadly. “Because more often than not, their masters do not give them enough. The old man in the garden is near his death, fortunately. He has suffered long enough at the hands of his masters; he is undernourished and half-frozen. He will welcome death’s embrace. Gildin here...she is better off than most, yet he does not show her love. He shows her kindness, but she yearns for love. She misses the dwarf who was slaughtered when she was taken.”

Kili looked over to the dwarrowdam, and a tear rolled down her cheek. She still had not moved.

“Fili does not approve of how the others treat slaves, and most of the practices associated with slavery. Which is why he insists I cook and bring the bread and meat every time we go out. He wants to feed the other slaves, to bring them some comfort.”

“He doesn’t approve of slavery?” Kili’s voice raised, and Bilbo shook his head, encouraging him to lower his volume. “How can he not approve? He’s keeping two of us!”

“I think you’ll find that he’s actually protecting us,” Bilbo said. “While he must adhere to the customs of the tribe, Fili will do what he can to protect you. You’re fortunate he chose you. I’m quite surprised he chose you, these dwarves only take a single slave at a time. This is the first time somebody has taken two.”

“I wonder why he chose me. He didn’t at first, Bilbo. He passed me up and took some pigs. But another dwarf was going to take with a scarred face. He was rough, touching me and throwing me about. Then Fili came in...and traded all of the plunder he’d claimed...for me.”

“So that’s why he came home with nothing but a malnourished dwarf,” Bilbo mused. “I’ve heard that’s he tried to take a second slave last year, but the others ridicule him and his uncle, the chieftain, won’t allow it. I wonder why they changed their minds.”

Kili shook his head. “I only wonder why he wanted me.” Outside the door he could see Fili sitting at a table, drinking from a wooden mug and chatting with the tailor while he worked. Fili turned from the tailor, meeting Kili’s eyes and smiling at him. Kili turned away and focused on Bilbo again. “I’m getting hungry and tired,” he sighed. “Where else did we have to go?”

“To the livestock, but we can be brief. I’ll let Fili know how you feel; he’s been worried for your health.” Bilbo stood from the chair, walking past the pregnant dwarrowdam and giving her a friendly pat on the shoulder. Kili looked at her, resolving that he would find his freedom before he slipped into a similar state. A warm fur was slipped over his shoulders, and he glanced back to see Fili behind him. Kili pressed his arms into the warm cover while Bilbo found his own fur and grabbed his bag. The tailor waved them off as they exited, and Bilbo led the way this time, moving towards the gate where Kili had seen livestock gathered in various pens. Fatigue was setting in rapidly, and Kili struggled to keep his footing in the slick snow. Fili’s hand found his way around his arm, gently but firmly holding him up and he nodded at the barbarian. Fili’s eyes lit up, filled with joy and his lips curled up, but Kili’s eyes were downcast and he didn’t notice.

The pens housed a variety of animals, but they were small without enough room to graze, and Kili was fairly certain this wasn’t the extent of the animals. When they arrived, Fili let go of his arm and found a crate stuffed with hay; he upended the crate, feeding a pen of horses, then moved back and set it upside down and guided Kili to sit on it. Meanwhile, Bilbo took a small metal pail from his bag and set about milking a cow. Kili watched through tired eyes as the two set about their work, feeding some of the pens of animals; obviously not all of them were Fili’s.

The sun was disappearing behind the mountain, and cold winds bit into his cheeks from the north. Kili slumped lower on the crate, swaying dangerously. His vision dimmed and the ground appeared to move from side to side. Kili tried to call for Bilbo; only a moan escaped his trembling lips.

“Rah-ven!” Fili had crossed swiftly to Kili, reaching him just as the brunet toppled off the crate, into the snow; Fili’s arms caught his shoulder and head, keeping him from hitting the ground. The Firebeard gathered up the thin dwarf into his arms, standing and drawing him close to his chest. “Bilbo! Mak ven!”

Bilbo glanced over, nodding and carrying his bucket with haste and taking up his leather bag. Fili had already moved towards the house, Bilbo’s shorter legs running to keep up. Fili looked down with concern; the brunet slave’s eyes fluttered and he mumbled as if stuck in the throes of a nightmare. “Rah-ven,” he whispered, trying to rouse him. “Rah-ven!” but the young prince didn’t respond.

Chapter Text

Bilbo caught up with the two dwarves, running past them and to the door of their home in the mountainside. Snow coated the rock face, and the windows were accumulating a thin cover. Fili looked down at the young unconscious dwarf in his arms, concern gripping his movements. He shouldn’t have taken him outside. As strong as he looked...he had suffered a month in the other patrol’s hands. Fili’s heart twisted and he cursed himself. Bilbo reached into his pocket, finding a key and yanking it out quickly to unlock the door. He looked over to Fili and Kili, and his master held the young dwarf looking impatiently at Bilbo.

“Sorry,” Bilbo muttered in the Firebeard’s dialect, and Fili nodded, imploring him to be quick. He finally pushed the door open wide, rushing in and grabbing the tinder box to light a fire. Fili walked in with Kili still cradled gently in his arms, and motioned to Bilbo to set a fur down directly in front of the hearth. Fili set Kili down into the grey wolf-fur, turning him toward the slowly growing fire and laying down against his back. He slipped his arm under Kili’s head as a pillow, wrapping his other around Kili’s stomach, holding him close to warm him. Bilbo moved off to the shelves by the door, removing the iron alloy manacles with his key and storing them on the shelves.

“Please, Bilbo. A soup tonight; it will be easy for him to eat. I shouldn’t have taken him out today. He should have rested.”

“Yes, I’ll make soup. He seemed well enough in the morning, you shouldn’t blame yourself,” Bilbo replied, moving to the kitchen with his feet scuffling against the stone floor. “I thought the fresh air would have done some good,” he called over his shoulder.

“Rah-ven,” Fili muttered, moving his hand from the young dwarf’s torso up to stroke the dark locks of hair that he found so entrancing. “You will be well. Please be well again.” He looked over Kili’s cheek; most of the bruises from his arrival had faded to a yellow green, but he could see the blacksmith’s strike forming a new bruise. He sighed; he should have asked Bilbo to explain what was expected before they left the house. He gently kissed the head of the dark-haired dwarf. Kili still trembled in his unconscious state, and Fili held him tightly to still the shaking. Eventually, his convulsions stopped and he slipped into a deep sleep; Fili pulled away, and took up the key to remove the iron restraints. He covered him with another fur and left him in front of the fire, moving off to find Bilbo in the kitchen.

Bilbo stood at the hearth, stirring a large pot. The pleasant smell filled the kitchen and dining area. “How is he?”

“Asleep now;” he breathed deeply. “I was foolish, Bilbo.” Fili looked back, the dark-haired dwarf wrapped in the furs, unmoving. Fili watched for a few moments until he saw the chest rise and fall again.

“Nonsense. He was willing to go.”

“I am responsible for him. I should have forbid it. And I should have told him to keep his head down.”

“Calm yourself, Fili. You couldn’t have predicted that. What’s done is done.”

“Did you speak with him at Nurek’s home?”

“We did talk. He asked why you’ve taken him. I must admit I’m curious as well.” The fire crackled as the stew bubbled over the side. Bilbo reached for some herbs, sprinkling them into the stew. “Nobody else has two slaves. Do you know he was a warrior amongst his people? He told me that on the first day. Otherwise he mostly asks questions about the village.”

“A warrior?” Fili sat at the long table, positioning himself to watch both Bilbo and Kili. He needed to see that they were both safe and well.

“That’s what he told me. I told him he wouldn’t be able to do that here.” Bilbo went into the pantry, bringing back a jar of chutney and a loaf of bread, setting it to the side of the hearth to warm.

Fili pulled out one of his knives, taking the point to clear the muck from below his nails.

Bilbo turned, saw what he was doing and slapped lightly at the Firebeard’s hand. “Fili, not at the table,” he admonished, taking up a cloth to wipe down the table. Fili watched Bilbo, a small smile playing at his lips as he watched the hobbit. “Now, why did you claim him? He’ll continue to ask me until he has an answer.”

“I took him because he needed help,” he said. “Grenik would have raped him then killed him for sport.”

“I believe there’s more than that. You’ve watched others taken as bed slaves or as sport. Why this one?” Bilbo sipped at the soup in pot.

“Don’t pry,” Fili warned, his jaw jutting out firmly.

“Come now, Fili. We’ve known each other too long for this. If he’s staying, what do you intend for him to do?”

Fili flicked his knife a few times, then stabbed it into the table. “He doesn’t need to do anything.”

Bilbo sighed, setting the spoon aside and walking over to sit across from Fili. “Something bothers you. Talk to me, Fili. Tell me why you chose to bring Ki- Raven here.”

“I am surprised my Uncle permitted me to keep him. At first he told me to leave him, but after I protested Grenik’s treatment of Raven and bargained, my uncle changed his mind.” He looked back towards the common room where Kili lay on the floor, asleep. “It may not matter if he doesn’t regain his strength.”

“Fili, please,” Bilbo reached out, setting his hand over the Firebeard warrior’s own. “Why him?”

“He’s from Erebor, Bilbo. Erebor! Has there been anyone from Erebor since my mother was taken? He is like kin to me, if he is from Erebor. I want to hear all about where my mother was from, and he could tell me. All the stories he could share with us around the fire at night. And look at him; he looked so terrified, so frightened when Darek’s patrol brought him in. Thin, bruised, barely able to stand; he would have died within days in misery. I wanted to take him in, protect him. And there’s...there’s something about him, Bilbo. His hair, his eyes. I was drawn to him.”

“Then you feel he is family, because he’s from Erebor.”

“Yes. He is of my mother’s people.”

“And you were attracted to him.”

Fili’s cheeks flushed. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“What will he do?”

“Nothing. I expect nothing of him. I just want to keep him safe. You know I would bring all the slaves here to keep them safe, if I could. Most slaves do not deserve death. Many serve well and should be treated well.”

Bilbo sighed; Fili was a far more caring Firebeard than most, but sometimes he slipped back into the mindset of the slavery ideals instilled in him by his dead father, his extended family and the village. Bilbo stood and moved back to his stew, pulling it off the fire and setting it on the ceramic counter top. It was easier to avoid those questions. “That’s well and all, but I fear if this one has nothing to do he’ll perish. Like Gildin. She still draws breath but she’s not alive, Fili. Raven was a warrior. He’s not going to accept stillness.”

“He can help you in the kitchen.”

“Fili, I’m afraid you haven’t thought this through. A warrior will not accept being a slave, far from his home.”

“Then help me keep him happy, Bilbo. To keep him safe. He’ll come to accept his position here. I’d rather not have to force this onto him, but I would in order to save him.”

“I’ll try, Fili. I’ll do my best.” he took the loaf of bread, slicing a few pieces from the end and setting it on a plate near Fili, followed by a small bowl of one of his best chutneys. Bilbo picked up a wooden bowl, spooning out a portion of the stew and setting it in front of Fili. “You have far more power to keep him happy than I do. But I will try.”

Fili smiled. “Thank you, Bilbo. You are my friend.”

Bilbo turned back to his stew, accepting the best compliment that could be given to a slave. He served up his own stew, and the pair ate quietly then returned to the common room to play cards and other games, Kili at their feet. The fire crackled, casting light and shadow across the room, and Fili laughed uneasily as they played, glancing back down to the young dwarf in front of the fire. Bilbo eventually set his cards down, watching Fili. He was distracted, playing terribly tonight, and now only stared down at the pile in front of the fire.

“Fili?” Bilbo set his cards down. “Fili, please.”

Fili jerked and turned back towards Bilbo, raising his cards again. “Yes. My turn?”

“I need to sleep, Fili. The stew is still warm. I moved it to the edge of the fire. You should have him eat some when he wakes. He needs to eat to get better.”

Fili nodded. “Thank you Bilbo. I’ll wait until he wakes. Good night.”

Bilbo moved off into the small room that he called his own, closing the door. Fili moved back down to the floor, brushing his fingers through the beautiful dark hair on the grey fur. The skin was cool and clammy, and he pushed the fur aside and took the young Erebor dwarf into his arms, holding him close again. He looked at the dark hair, mesmerized, trying to recall his mother’s countenance. She had dark hair as well, he remembered; he would play with the braids beside her face. The hair was only slightly darker than the bruises she used to carry on her cheeks. She told him it was okay, they didn’t hurt much, and it was her fault for disobeying his father, and that Fili should obey his father.

Fili winced at the memory. He kissed the forehead and felt the form go rigid. He drew back to find two brown eyes staring up, wide with fear. Fili gently set him down, and he could see the slender dwarf’s body relax.

“Rah-ven, you should eat,” Fili said, watching as the dark eyes just blinked in response, not understanding his words. He smiled, standing and moving into the kitchen. He filled a bowl with Bilbo’s warm soup. He watched Kili look around in confusion; the last thing the young dwarf would recall was being out by the livestock after visiting the blacksmith and tailor. Kili sat up, drawing his knees up and staring into the fire.

“Eat,” Fili sat on the fur beside him, pushing the warm bowl into his hands. Kili shook his head, and Fili took the bowl back, taking a spoonful and pushing it to his lips. The dwarf would eat, and Fili hoped he would do so on his own. The smell of meat and vegetables and herbs filled the room, and Kili leaned over to look. After a long pause, he took the spoon and swallowed the broth, then dipped it into the bowl for more. Fili smiled, holding it out in front of him.

“Eat Rah-ven,” Fili said again, and the young dwarf took a small bite, appearing to understand.

“Ray-ven,” Kili said. “Ray-ven. Raven. My uncle called me his little raven,” he took another bite. “Ray-ven. It’s a bird.” He slumped down, eyelids half closed with exhaustion again, unconcerned that Fili wouldn’t understand his explanation in common.

Fili watched, eyebrows knitted together, listening to him repeat this name and did the same. “Ray-ven. Ray-ven?” He helped Kili sit up again.

“Yes,” Kili took a few more bites, then set the spoon aside as his eyes slipped closed. “Raven.”

“Raven.” Fili took up the spoon and set it aside in the half-finished soup bowl. He reached down, shaking Kili awake gently and leading him into the privy before helping him back into his bedroom. As usual, Bilbo had started the fire in his room and it was burning pleasantly. He directed Kili into the far side of the bed, setting him into the furs and stoking the fire. He sat at the edge of the bed, waiting for the deep breathes the other would take. To his surprise, Kili’s hand emerged from the edge of the cover, grasping his own. Did Kili mean to hold his hand, or was his mind elsewhere in his exhaustion? He didn’t pull away, but continued to listen to Kili’s breathing. He reached out, gently brushing his fingers along the other's cheek, and back through his hair. Once he heard the deep breathing of slumber, he finally allowed himself to leave the dark-haired dwarf’s side. Fili stripped his own clothing and moved off to the bath, leaving the dwarf asleep in his own bed.

Chapter Text

Two more weeks passed. Like most days, Kili slept late into the morning; with little to do he slept to pass time, and was still healing from his time on the road. Generally he was far better than when he had first arrived. Every morning Fili told Bilbo that they would wait patiently, and Bilbo kept Kili’s food warm at the kitchen hearth. Not far before noon, Kili finally stumbled into the common room, hair poking out at strange angles and glancing to Fili and Bilbo momentarily. The pair sat together on the fur-covered bench, Fili doing his leatherwork and Bilbo doing some stitching.

“Hungry,” he said simply, padding into the kitchen area while Fili looked at Bilbo.

“He said he’s hungry,” Bilbo translated for Fili. “I’ll make sure he gets his food and ask if he’s ready to go outside today.” Bilbo stood, following Kili into the kitchen area.

“Thank you, Bilbo,” Fili said, picking up a stretch of leather and his tools, working the soft material and allowing the Hobbit to speak to Kili in the common language south of the mountains. He would have to be taught the local language soon.

Kili stood at the kitchen counter, finding the plate set aside for him with bread and eggs. He took a bite, leaning against the counter.

“Sit, Kili. Have a seat and eat.”

“I’m fine here.”

“Sit, or Fili will come in here and help you sit. He doesn’t like you standing near the knives. He’s told you that before. Please don’t upset him.”

Kili grumbled something unintelligible and took the plate over to the table, kicking the bench out angrily and sitting. Bilbo brought over a cup of milk for him, and sat down opposite.

“What’s gotten into you today?” Bilbo asked, concerned for the young dwarf.

“Nothing,” Kili stuffed more eggs into his mouth, keeping his eyes fixed to his meal.

Bilbo frowned at Kili’s outright lie but didn’t press; it wasn’t in his nature to be combative. “Do you feel well enough to go out?”

Kili perked up, his fork tapping against the plate. “We’re going outside today?”

“Yes. The sun is shining, it won’t be too cold. We need to pick up your new collar and cuffs and the new clothes Nurek made for you.”

“Oh, is that all? Then we’ll come back and sit all day and do nothing. Again.”

“What do you like to do, Kili? I’m sure Fili will do what he can to make you happy.”

“I want to hunt, to roam the forest. To explore. To practice my archery. To spar with the others.”

Bilbo tilted his head with sympathy for Kili. The dwarf was regaining his energy, and now he lacked an outlet for it, and his frustration grew by the day. Just as Bilbo had predicted and warned Fili. “It’s too cold here to spend much time outdoors. The Firebeards stay inside as much as they can during the coldest months. We could teach you the card games we play at night.”

Kili stood and flung his plate against the wall in an unexpected outburst. Bilbo leapt to the side as it smashed into pieces. “I don’t want to play card games!” he shouted. “I just want to get out of here! I can’t stand this!”

Heavy footsteps sounded across the stone and Kili had only barely turned when Fili’s arms wrapped around him, pinning him. “Rin fa, Raven!” the angry voice shouted in his ear.

“Fili says don’t do that, Raven. Rin fa means don’t. Rin means no.”

Fili looked at Bilbo with approval, holding the struggling dwarf tightly. “Rin, Raven.”

“Let me go!” Kili thrashed, trying to pull away. “My name is Kili! I’m Kili and I don’t belong here! Let me go!”

“Raven, stop struggling and we can sort this out.” Bilbo moved forward, placing a gentle hand on Kili’s arm to try and calm him. He only tried to pull away but Fili held him still as he groaned, flexing his weakened muscles.

Fili growled and tightened his hold on the struggling dwarf. “Bilbo, tell him if he doesn’t stop struggling I will lock him in the bathroom while we’re away and until he calms down. Or he can go with us if he behaves. Tell him this is not how a slave should act, and in any other home he would be beaten severely.”

Bilbo nodded, translating the Firebeard’s instruction word for word. Kili began to quiet until the last sentence.

“Oh, beaten severely in any other home? This is kindness?” Kili shouted and flailed again, Bilbo pleading, until a hand slipped up to the dark-haired dwarf’s throat, squeezing. Kili’s hand came up, prying at the the offending arm, tugging and gasping. His vision dimmed and his arms dropped uselessly to his sides, unable to fight any further. The hand and arms let go and he slumped down to cold stone floor, panting.

Fili growled and spoke to him directly in the Firebeard dialect. “You will behave while you stay in this house, Raven. And you will go with us today, do you understand?”

Bilbo, still hovering nearby and watching Fili standing over the prone dwarf on the stone, began to translate again. “Raven, Fili says -”

“No, Bilbo,” Fili interrupted. “Don’t tell him. He’ll figure out the words later. I don’t care if he understands now.” Fili turned on a heel, moving off toward the common room.

Bilbo looked uselessly between the two, wanting to follow Fili but also comfort the dwarf on the floor.

“See?” Kili panted from the floor, his throat sore. The cold stone was refreshing now, and he welcomed the cool pressure against his cheek. “He’s a barbarian, just like the rest of them.”

“You broke a plate,” Bilbo sinking down on the floor beside Kili, reaching out to gently rub his hand in circles on the dark-haired dwarf’s back. “He’s going to get angry.”

“We’re captives. I hate it here, Bilbo.” Kili wheezed with each breath.

“Make the best of it Kili.”

“I don’t want to. I’m going to go home.”

Bilbo sighed and stood. “Well, until you do, try to make the best of it. Fili says you’re going out now. You’d better dress yourself for outdoors.” He extended a hand to the dwarf, who took and stood up, swaying and clutching at his head.

“Mm,” Kili shut his eyes. “That didn’t feel good.”

“He was just trying to stop you from hurting yourself or anyone else.”

“By hurting me.”

“Ornery dwarf,” Bilbo grumbled, turning away.

Frustrated with Kili’s self-destructive thinking, Bilbo reminded him to get dressed and moved out into the common room where Fili sat with his leatherwork, muttering angrily and pushing his sharp tool through the leather far too hard, piercing his thumb on the other side.

“Oh, Fili,” Bilbo sighed, picking up a cloth from the mantle. He sat down beside the Firebeard and pulled his hand into his lap, pressing the cloth to the bleeding finger. Fili grunted and set the other work to the side.

“We should go soon. Tell him he has ten minutes or I’ll take him however he’s dressed.”

“I told him to hurry,” Bilbo said. “He’s getting restless already, Fili. He’s not accustomed to sitting around indoors.”

“He’ll learn to deal with it.”

Bilbo stood, moving off to his own room. “Stubborn dwarves,” he mumbled, picking up his coat, collar and cuffs and beginning to slip them on with his key.

“Pack some rolls, Bilbo. We’ll feed anybody we come across,” Fili said, sucking on his bloody thumb until the bleeding slowed. He slipped into his own boots, picking up the iron restraints for Kili. He hefted the heavy metal in his hand with a frown. He didn’t believe any of the slaves deserved such a cruel reminder of their servitude; they were trapped by the village’s remote location. They should only be used as punishment, not daily wear.

The dark-haired dwarf was still in Fili’s bedroom, where Fili had kept him every night. He realized that the young dwarf always fell asleep earlier and woke later, and didn’t know Fili shared the large bed every night. It was too early to allow him another room; Fili wanted to keep him in sight as much as possible. He walked into the room, where Kili was dressed to go out save his coat, and sat on the other side of the bed staring at the wall. Fili wanted to show him kindness, but he couldn’t allow Kili’s fit of anger to go unpunished. He couldn’t allow the Erebor dwarf to continue to endanger himself or Bilbo. Any similar outburst outdoors in front of another Firebeard would have serious consequences.

“Raven,” he said sternly. The dark-haired dwarf stared at the wall as if in a trance. Fili threw his shoulders back and walked forward with the collar. “Raven,” he said again, receiving no reply. He leaned over, slipping the collar around the slender neck, trapping the dark hair as well. Only then did Kili roll away, glaring up and tugging at the collar to pull it free. Fili pounced on top of Kili, holding the smaller dwarf below him and pulling out the key. He would submit; it was the only way he would be kept safe. He grasped his wrists and pinned them to the side, then leaned in and locked the collar into place. He reached back and picked up the manacles; when he turned back, the Erebor dwarf cleared his throat and spit, the gob landing on Fili’s cheek.

Despite Fili’s kindness, he was still a Firebeard and had learned the quick temper of the red-haired dwarves. Fili enraged. His arm raised back, he backhanded the pinned dwarf across the cheek. He paused, feeling a pang of guilt; but reminded himself that the dark-haired dwarf needed this to correct his attitude. To save him from worse. And hit him again. And a third time. Kili lay still and stunned, breathing heavy. Fili took up the cuffs, locking them around the young dwarf’s wrists. He walked into the common room, where Bilbo stood, mouth open.

“What happened? Is everything alright? I heard -”

“He is insolent. I am trying, but he is not,” Fili growled, pushing past Bilbo to take up the chain and lock that Kili wore on the first night. “You have never been so difficult, Bilbo. None of the others we come across respond so rudely or violently. Why has he?”

“Most the slaves we come across are weak with hunger or beaten regularly and have no energy,” Bilbo said.

Fili grunted and shook his head. “Bring me one of the dishcloths.”

“Is he hurt?”

“Just do it,” Fili said sternly.

Bilbo ran into the kitchen, worried that Fili had lashed out and injured the captive dwarf. He found a clean cloth and filled a cup with water to clean wounds, bringing them back to Fili.

Fili disappeared into the bedroom with both. He pulled Kili up into a sitting position, pressing the water to his lips. Kili looked at him through tired and pained eyes, but Fili turned away. This new slave needed punishment, to learn his place. Otherwise he would be killed by the clan. Once the cup was finished, Fili let it fall into the pelts on the bed, taking up the chain and threading it through the heavy iron restraints and locking it with very little slack; Kili’s hands rested up near his neck. He pulled Kili off the bed by the chain, shoving him forward. Fili moved up behind him, slipping the cloth through his teeth and tying it tightly behind his head.

“Mmph!” Kili muttered through the cloth twisting his head to try and dislodge it. Fili took him by the shoulder and pushed him forward into the common room. Bilbo, waiting patiently on the bench with his leather bag, gasped.

“Fili! What are you doing to him!” he leapt to his feet, moving to the pair, and lifted his hands to Kili’s face, those dark eyes looking sadly at Bilbo. He pulled his hands back when Fili stepped between them.

“Tell him that once he promises to stop spitting, I’ll take it out.”

“You’re only going to make him hate you more by doing this!”

“And if he acts up like this outside, the others would kill him. He needs to understand how he’s meant to behave. I would not have chained him if he had not fought, and I would not have gagged him if he had not spit.”

Bilbo’s shoulders dropped and he walked toward the young dark-haired dwarf. “Oh, Raven,” he said, glancing towards Fili while speaking in common. “You brought this punishment on yourself. Be good to Fili and he’ll be good to you.”

Kili muttered mutely and looked down, shaking his wrists and the chain rattled. Kili’s defiant look was gone, replaced by the frightened one Bilbo had seen on his first day.

“Fili, is it really necessary to do this to him?”

“Yes. He may not be comfortable, but he will learn this way. He can wear them around the village today and I’ll remove them when we are home. The others may finally I believe I am capable of disciplining a slave, so there is another advantage to this.” Fili picked up Kili’s coat, draping it over the dwarf and pulling the ties over his bound hands. Kili cast one last glare before his gaze was downtrodden again, and Fili only glared back. Bilbo just grumbled to himself, quickly growing irritated with the situation.

Chapter Text

Bilbo walked before Fili and Kili; the Firebeard kept his hand on the shoulder of the bound and gagged dwarf, pushing him forward along the path. The snow had grown hard after partially melting in the sun, and it crunched underfoot. Several dwarves were outdoors, cutting up the caracasses that hung from the racks outside their homes or tending to the livestock. Some were butchering a cow, and Bilbo turned away as the dwarves laughed at the animal’s death throes.

They made their way to the blacksmith’s forge without seeing any other slaves. Bilbo clutched his leather satchel with the bread rolls and frowned, glancing back to Fili and Kili. The dark-haired dwarf hung his head and eyes, watching his feet. With his arms held near to his body, he was struggling to keep his balance. Bilbo was glad he kept his head down; he didn’t need to anger any other dwarves this day. He considered that Fili could be right; as cruel as it seemed, Kili would be kept safe this way. Fili kept watch as they walked, his face showing no emotion. They reached the forge door and Fili pushed in front of his slaves and knocked. The blacksmith threw the door open, greeting Fili and pulling him into a hug. Bilbo kept his gaze carefully away from the Firebeard’s face.

“Come, Bilbo, Raven,” Fili said, stepping through the door into the forge. The coals glowed and the blacksmith’s beard had been braided back away from his bare chest. He was covered in grime and sweat, and grabbed a cloth to wipe away the muck. He indicated to a side room, and moved through to sit in a cozy armchair, offering the one opposite to Fili.

Fili glanced back to Bilbo and Kili; they both kept their heads down, and Fili felt both grateful and guilty for Kili’s obedience.

“Ah, do you wish to secure your slaves?” the blacksmith said, standing again. “You will be pleased! Ranek requested some hooks in his home, the slave he took from the early summer raid was very disobedient. We worked a piece of metal into the floor, and he tethers his slave to it through the day and night. The dwarf can no longer run or fight.” He grinned, overly pleased with himself. “I added one here in the workshop, so my clients can leave their slaves without concern, while we do business.”

Fili’s brow creased. “I don’t think that’s necessary, Rignor.”

“Nonsense. Let me show you. I only have one hook though, I can’t chain them both.” The dwarf walked to the nearest slave, Kili, and grabbed his wrist. The chain rattled and the blacksmith paused, looking down. He grasped Kili’s chin, pulling it up and looking at the heavy chain and the gag. Kili’s eyes darted to the wall. “So this one has been disobedient then? It’s not like you to chain a slave, Fili.”

Fili stood, moving close to Kili but hesitant to interrupt. Too much kindness towards slaves would cause the some of the others to resent him even further, and they wouldn’t hesitate to use that against the warrior or his slaves. He dropped his arms and nodded.

“He’s insolent and fights and spits,” Fili said. “I’m correcting his behavior.”

The blacksmith grinned. “I’m pleased to hear that. Perhaps you aren’t as soft as we believed.”

Fili bowed his head to hide his frown. “Bilbo is well behaved, it was never necessary before. The new one tests me.”

“Come then. Perhaps you need a hook in your home to tether your dwarf,” the Firebeard laughed, pulling Kili by the chain lead to a corner by the front door. “Down,” the blacksmith growled, and Kili stood with his head down, not understanding or even realizing he was being spoken to.

“Down!” he shouted again, shoving the dark-haired dwarf to his knees. Kili cried out behind the cloth gag as his knees hit the hard floor. Bilbo looked over with worry, his eyes moving to Fili who also looked frustrated but held his tongue.

“See, we have put a hook into the stone with mortar.” Rignor kneeled down, pulling the chain taut and forcing Kili’s head down toward the floor. He slipped a ring through, clasping it and standing again. Kili’s head bobbed against the chain, trying to find a comfortable kneeling position.

“Yes, that’s nice,” Fili said neutrally. Inside, his anger began to boil; but he knew better than to allow his temper to show here.

“For you, Fili, such a good customer, I would put one in your home for free,” the blacksmith said proudly. “Then you can train your slave easier.” Rignor nudged Kili with his foot, earning a groan from the dwarf.

Fili flinched. “I’ll let you know.”

“It’s very good for them. They learn to bow properly and keep their eyes down.”

“Can we move onto business, Rignor? I came for Kili’s new restraints.” Fili said impatiently.

“Of course. Come, sit again, I’ll bring some ale.”

“Quickly.” Fili had no desire to leave Kili on the floor for very long.

The blacksmith forced a smile and moved away from Fili and the two slaves. Fili turned to Bilbo. “Tell him I’m sorry for this and we will leave soon. Be fast.”

Bilbo nodded, moving over to Kili and placing a gentle hand on the dwarf’s back; he jerked, trying to pull away.

“Kili, it’s Bilbo,” he whispered. “Fili says he’s sorry that the blacksmith has done this. We’ll try to depart soon, just sit quietly, please.”

Somewhere under the hunched figure was a sad moan. Bilbo felt his heart twist, and he gently combed his fingers through the young dwarf’s hair.

“Bilbo!” Fili hissed, and Bilbo stood with haste and returned to Fili’s side, dropping his head as the Firebeard approached.

Rignor walked back into the room, passing a mug to Fili and holding out the collar and cuffs in his other hands. “Here they are. I’m not sure why you need them, if he’s misbehaving then surely you will punish him with the ones he wears now.”

Fili took a moment to smile, taking the restraints from his hand. “Of course. But when he behaves, he wears the light ones. Then the heavy ones only go on as punishment, understand? That helps reinforce the positive behavior.”

Rignor tilted his head. “I suppose that works too. Or you just keep the heavy ones on all the time, and lock them to the floor when they’re bad, or you’re bored of them!” The Firebeard laughed, pleased with himself. Bilbo sucked in a deep breath, glancing over to Kili, who visibly trembled now. He tried to nudge Fili, but saw the blacksmith facing them and stopped.

“My way is very effective,” Fili said. “Bilbo is the most well behaved slave in the settlement, is he not?” Fili took a large swig of the ale.

Rignor nodded. “That he is. And his pastries are excellent. How about I install two hooks in trade for ten of Bilbo’s pastries? A fantastic deal for you, friend.”

Bilbo nearly groaned, and was certain Fili felt the same. “I’ll let you know,” Fili said again, passing the new collar and cuffs to Bilbo, who slipped them into the leather bag. “Now, if you’ll release my other slave, we have other business to attend to this day.”

Rignor stood and moved, kneeling to undo the clasp holding Kili down. He gripped the chain and pulled the young dwarf roughly to his feet. “Have you thought about cutting his hair and shaving that little beard? Keeps them colder, more pliable.” He lifted the fur tied around Kili’s torso. “This is a little excessive for a slave, is it not?”

“You are a fountain of tips, Rignor,” Fili said evenly. “I’ll keep that in mind as well. Thank you so much for your insights.” Fili took the chain from Rignor, pulling Kili in front of him and rearranging the fur to cover the dark-haired dwarf’s arms. Kili looked up briefly, meeting his eyes then looked down again. Fili frowned and opened the door, pushing Bilbo and Kili out in front of him gently. “Thank you, I’ll see you next time I need your services.”

“Soon, I hope!” the Firebeard waved happily from his door.

“Idiot,” Fili muttered, keeping a hand on Kili’s shoulder but wanting to lead him and Bilbo far from the blacksmith. Kili was shaking, and Fili stopped. The last time Kili was outdoors, he had fallen unconscious after shivering. Fili looked on with concern, reaching down to tilt the dwarf’s head up toward his own. He looked into the wide brown eyes. “Soon, Raven. We’ll be home soon, and your punishment will be over.” The slave looked away, and Fili released him with a sigh, remembering that he couldn’t understand the language yet.

Fili knew he ought end the punishment now, but Rignor’s comments stuck in his head. They thought he was too soft. He tried to hide his true feelings towards slavery in the village, but it was difficult when he couldn’t bring himself to harm the innocents who were dragged here. The others claimed the slaves deserved it for their weakness, for their inferiority to the Firebeard clans. Fili knew most of them simply enjoyed the feeling of power over another. He had to admit he found it entrancing when he was younger. His thoughts quickly changed after taking Bilbo as his own after his father’s passing. He regretted how he had treated Bilbo in his younger years; not as cruel as most, but not as kind as he should have. He looked up and focused back on his task, carefully guiding Kili.

Further along the fence they reached the tailor’s home. Nurek admitted the group, and Bilbo moved into the small side room that Nurek always allowed Bilbo to sit in with Gildin. The heavily pregnant dwarrowdam sat curled in her chair, a blanket over her body. She stared at the wall today.

“What’s this, Fili?” Nurek looked down at Kili, noticing the chain. “This is very unusual for you. Why did he need the chain?”

“He became very angry this morning. I’m trying to calm him and prevent him from hurting himself, or Bilbo.” Fili took Kili’s elbow, leading him to the side room and sitting him beside Bilbo. The shaking had ceased, Fili noted with relief.

“Ah, I understand,” Nurek explained. “Gildin had fits when she first arrived. Used to bite and fight me, she did. Could you imagine her having a fit while your uncle or somebody else was in here? I did what I had to. It took a couple months for her to become more pleasant. Now she is agreeable.”

Fili glanced at the lifeless dwarrowdam with a frown. “Agreeable,” he muttered. “What did you do to calm her down without hurting her?”

“I learned a few tricks, some that old Selsiv taught me. Similar techniques that work on animals. Not that slaves are much smarter than livestock, so they worked very well.”

Fili nodded, not agreeing with all his comments, but knowing that Nurek was not overly cruel either. “What tricks?”

“Warmth and pressure. Selsiv says if you press a bull into a small space, especially if you can press something into it, like a gate, it will grow still. And add heat. A warmer creature slows down. So I began to wrap Gildin in furs, and used leather straps to buckle them around her tightly. Once she was immobile she would quickly lose the fight in her. I’d move her close to the fire, and she’d warm up and eventually fall asleep.”

Fili nodded. It wasn’t cruel; the slave would be kept safe and calm down. “That sounds reasonable, Nurek.”

“And blindfolds. If you blindfold a wild animal, it subdues quickly. I would carefully bind Gildin in her chair and blindfold her; she would stop talking and go still. Only took a few minutes and I could release her again.”

Fili nodded with interest. If these techniques would help tame Kili, he would try them. He was pleased that they would not cause any permanent harm to the young dwarf. “Those do sound safe,” he said.

Nurek stood. “Let me get your order. I cannot remain long. Gildin will be due soon, and I must leave her in the care of the midwife today.”

Fili nodded. “Thank you, Nurek. I hope to see a crying baby here next time.”

The tailor stood and moved from his workroom into a closet. “Does Bilbo have any bread today, Fili? Gildin always eats what he leaves her.”

Fili smiled. Nurek was the only dwarf who knew about Fili and Bilbo’s habit of feeding the others. He agreed to keep it a secret, and was happy that they would bring her food even though she was well fed. “He does. Bilbo, can you leave Gildin a couple of the rolls, please?” he called over into the side room.

“Yes, Master Fili.”

Nurek smiled warmly, pulling the stack of clothes down. “Thank you, Fili. It pleases me to see her eat, with the baby so close.” He moved to a shelf, pulling down some other items. “Here. The order for the Erebor slave, and the ties I used for Gildin,” he motioned to the buckled leather straps on top. “They are soft but strong, they won’t hurt him.”

“Thank you again, friend. I’ll have Bilbo bake something special once the baby is here,” he said, standing and slipping the clothing and straps into Bilbo’s bag. “Come Bilbo, Raven,” he called, watching as Bilbo stood, patted Gildin on the shoulder as he often did, and taking Kili’s elbow to guide him out.

The sun was low when they exited; it was early winter and it didn’t last long in the sky. He walked in front, allowing Bilbo to guide Kili as they moved along the village paths back towards their home in the mountainside. Fili moved as quickly as they could through the settlement; Kili’s small slow steps however caused him to pause, waiting for the two slaves to catch up. He had stopped again, looking to Bilbo but the hobbit only kept his eyes on Kili, muttering to the dwarf in the common tongue; Fili wasn’t sure what he said, but his instinct told him that Bilbo was trying to comfort the dwarf. He didn’t hear his name spoken, to his relief.

“FilI!” a gruff voice called from nearby, and Fili turned and looked over his shoulder.

One of the village’s other patrol leaders, Darek, walked towards him. The small bones weaved in his beard rattled as he walked. Fili looked back to confirm that both Kili and Bilbo were behind him. He raised himself up and brushed his hand over the hilt of the knife in his belt. “Darek.”

“So the Erebor slave still lives,” he peered over Fili’s shoulder. “I thought you would have had your fun with him and taken him out to be hunted. I was looking forward to the invitation. Are you trying to make him stronger first, to give us better sport?”

Bilbo glanced to Kili, who kept his head down, hair falling over his face. The hobbit turned, trying to watch the Firebeard dwarf from the corner of his eye. Darek was a dwarf known for his cruelty; it was one of the reasons he became a patrol leader so young in his life and remained one to this day. It was rare he brought slaves back alive. Usually they were tortured and killed during the journey for amusement. Kili must have had one of the others looking out for him to have survived the journey as part of Darek’s plunder.

Darek would occasionally claim slaves; last year he took young dwarrowdam from a neighboring village and dragged her through the village nude then taking her into his home where her cries could be heard for days. Fili had vehemently protested to the Chieftain that a well-behaved slave should not be subject to such cruelties. The Chieftain eventually told Darek that her cries were keeping the village awake, and she was taken out of the wall and tied to a post, naked and bloody, as bait for wolves. Darek and his men returned home with many wolf kills that night, the dwarrowdam was never seen again. Bilbo winced and tried to forget again. He never would.

“Tell me, Fili,” Darek craned his neck around the golden-haired dwarf to seek the newest slave, “Is he good? Does he warm your bed?”

“He does,” Fili answered truthfully, although he had never touched the dark-haired dwarf inappropriately.

“And the hobbit still keeps your home, does he?”

“What do you want, Darek?” Fili lowered his chin, setting his jaw.

“Nothing, I only wish to see how the household of our most illustrious patrol leader fares. Many of us wonder what anybody needs with two slaves, Fili. It is most unusual. If you had taken him for a hunt, then we would understand. But it’s been nearly a month and he still lives.”

“He has his place. I’ll keep him as long as I desire.”

Darek’s lip curled, and Fili kept his eyes fixed on the rival patrol leader. He didn’t hear Darek’s second, a young dwarf named Coran, sneak up behind where Bilbo and Kili stood. Coran slipped an arm around and Kili’s neck, finding the chain and yanking him back. Bilbo turned to see Kili’s eyes go wide, and a small noise of surprise as he was pulled back into a broad chest.

“Fili!” Bilbo cried as Kili lost his footing, kept upright by the dwarf holding the looped chain. He stumbled, choking as the collar dug into his neck, and finally managed to get his feet under him.

Fili turned and saw Kili staring at him; the dark-haired dwarf was clearly frightened with no way to defend himself. Fili grabbed Bilbo, pulling him to his hip, the two dwarves on either side of him. “Release the Erebor dwarf,” Fili hissed.

“Come now, we just want to play with him too,” Coran grinned, tangling his fingers in the dark hair and twisting Kili’s head up.

“Oh, what has he done, Fili? Gagged and chained? Haven’t you broken him yet? Come now, we brought him back nearly broken, how could you not finish the job? Shameful,” Darek laughed, moving around Fili in a wide circle to stand with Coran. He slipped fingers between the iron collar and Kili’s throat, curling them and increasing the pressure. Kili gasped for air, and both Darek and Coran laughed, poking and manhandling the slender dwarf.

Fili pulled his knife, swiftly moving to Coran’s side and hooking the knife beside the other dwarf’s ear, whispering. “I am well within my rights to slice this off for touching my slave, who has done nothing.”

“He looked at me,” Coran’s voice trembled.

“You lie. Let him go and push him toward the hobbit.”

Darek stood back with a sneer, and Coran shoved the dark-haired dwarf hard. Kili stumbled, tripping over the footpath’s stones and falling into the snow, unable to break his own fall with his hands secured. He groaned as he smacked into the ground, his head bouncing. Bilbo kneeled, slipping his hands under the young prince’s head and whispering. “Oh, Kili,” he said. “Look at me, please. Look.”

Two brown eyes looked to Bilbo, rimmed with tears. He shut them again, turning toward the ground and curling into himself. Bilbo looked up, watching Fili run off the other two dwarves with a mouthful of angry words. Some of the dwarves from nearby homes peered out windows and doors, and FIli felt their glances. He wanted to carry Kili home, but he couldn’t with everyone observing.

“Get him to his feet,” Fili said to Bilbo, crossing his arms.

“He needs your help, Fili!” Bilbo replied, pushing Kili’s hair back from his face and finding the dwarf’s eyes still closed.

“I know, but I can’t give it now. Please, Bilbo. Others are watching. I can’t. I have to be stern today.” Bilbo’s head dropped toward the ground, his shoulders slumping.

Fili felt his heart being ripped to shreds. He was upset that he had to punish the Erebor dwarf, even if it was his own fault; upset listening to Rignor’s thoughts on how to keep slaves; upset that he might have to use Nurek’s techniques in the future; angry that Darek and Coran had harmed him; and now very upset that Bilbo was unhappy.

“Please, Bilbo. Please.”

The hobbit picked himself up and leaned over, whispering against Kili’s ear and stood. He helped Kili stand, then looked to Fili expectantly. Kili only kept his head down.

“What next, Master?” he said tersely.

Fili balked. Bilbo never called him Master only. It stung, and Fili realized how upset the hobbit was with him. Perhaps he did deserve it; he had failed to protect Kili.

“Lead him in front of me,” Fili said. Bilbo whispered, and Kili began to walk towards the house, stumbling repeatedly in the snow. Only Bilbo’s steady presence kept Kili on his feet. The day had been far longer than Fili wanted it to be, and his eyes darted to the darkening sky once again. This was not how he imagined it when he begged his Uncle to allow him to take the dark-haired dwarf. He thought he would bring back the grateful slave, keep him happy and safe in his home, and they would sit around the fire sharing stories about Erebor and other places Fili had never seen. They would be happy in each other’s company, thankful for the other’s presence. Not this.

Bilbo released Kili and pulled out his door key; Fili moved up to behind Kili and placed a hand on the slender dwarf’s shoulder. Kili jumped but remained in place. Bilbo entered their home, dropping his bag and moved to strike and kindle the fires in all the rooms before returning to remove and store his restraints. Fili kept a hand on Kili, leading him to the bench; the young prince dropped quickly to the bench, keeping his head down.

Fili turned Kili to face him, then pushed the long hair out of Kili’s eyes. Kili leaned forward, shaking it all down again. Fili shook his head, moving to the shelves and taking an old clasp into his hands. He stood behind Kili, threading his hands through the dark hair. The gag was in the way, and Fili gently began to unknot the cloth, pulling it away and throwing it to the side. Kili coughed.

“Bilbo, can you bring us some water?” Fili called out, continuing to run his fingers through the dark hair, brushing it out. He took the clasp, pulling the hair from the ears back and trapping it within the metal, out of Kili’s face. Fili resumed sitting beside him, pleased the dark-haired dwarf could no longer hide behind a wall of hair.

Bilbo arrived, holding a cup; Fili took it and the hobbit moved off without a word, but his posture and heavy footfalls told Fili how the other felt.

“Raven, drink,” he pressed the cup to Kili’s lips, and the dwarf began to gulp down water until he coughed and some dribbled down from his chin. He ducked his head again, and Fili tilted his chin up, bringing the cup to his lips. Kili drank more and pulled away.

Fili felt a pang of relief, now that Kili had water. He looked up, where Bilbo had his hand out carrying the key for Kili. “I’ve put away the spare loaves in the bread box. I’m going to bed. It’s been a difficult day.”

“Yes.” Fili took the key and turned back to Kili. “Thank you Bilbo, I’m sorry-” Bilbo’s door slammed shut. Fili stared at it; he’d never upset Bilbo before. He was lost for words.

Fili turned back to Kili, who kept his eyes fixed on the fire. Fili undid the chain and removed the heavy irons, setting them on the end of the soft bench, then moved back to inspect Kili’s neck. The young dwarf didn’t fight or even acknowledge his presence as he worked. Fili found a red line around the top of his neck,and another under his hair along the back; he thought it might bruise from where Coran had pulled at the collar. The corners of Kili’s mouth were pink from where the dishcloth had rubbed during the past few hours, and Fili lifted his thumb, gently pressing against Kili’s cheeks as if the marks would come off.

“I’m sorry, Raven. I didn’t want any of this to happen today. Please, I don’t want to hurt you.” He reached down, taking one of Kili’s hands into his own and rubbing the back of it gently. “I wish I knew the common word for ‘sorry’.” He continued to chat to Kili, knowing that he would understand nothing, and rubbing the other dwarf’s back. Kili’s eyes looked vacant, and his mind flashed back to Gildin. He moved off the bench, kneeling in front of Kili and looking at him until the brown eyes finally found their sight and there was a flash of recognition.

Fili placed a hand on Kili’s cheek as they stared at each other, and then a wetness came down from the dark eyes. Kili tumbled forward against Fili. The young prince’s exhaustion, pain and fear had finally broken through the wall he had constructed around his mind that day. Fili held him as he sobbed, fingers grasping at Fili’s tunic and holding it desperately. Fili wondered if Kili would remember this in the morning; he doubted it.

Fili wasn’t sure how long they sat like that. After some time, Kili leaned back, swiping at his eyes with a sleeve. He stood on uncertain legs, moving towards the privy. Fili hovered nearby, waiting; Kili moved to the washbasin next, scrubbing at his face and eyes before looking towards the bedroom. Fili nodded and took his hand, leading him in. He tucked dwarf under the covers, wrapping him tightly and securely as he often did, and Kili rolled away, facing the wall. Fili sat on the opposite side of the bed, watching until he took slow, steady breaths, then returned to the common room.

He fell back into his armchair, expelling a long breath and glanced at Bilbo’s leather bag left on the floor, Kili’s shackles and collar on the bench. With the two slaves away and asleep, he finally allowed himself to pitch forward, tears spilling.

Chapter Text

Another week passed. Bilbo kept to himself for the first couple days, busying himself with emptying the pantry, cleaning down every shelf and wall, and reorganizing it. Both Fili and Kili tried to help, but he refused and sent them away. Fili would return to his leatherwork or sharpen his weapons; Kili sat on the bench in the dining room and would watch Bilbo, or return to the bedroom and sleep or sit. He kept himself as far from Fili as he could. The tension in the household was thick. Fili most certainly would have gone hunting to escape, if a blast of frigid air hadn’t hit and kept everybody indoors; it was too dangerous to be outside for very long. The stores of meat were growing thin, and when the cold air lifted the clan’s warriors would go hunting for wolves, boar, elk and moose.

For the first few days after the outdoor excursion Kili looked frightened; skin pale and eyes sunken. By the end of the week a hint of that stubborn defiance was back, and there was a strut in his step. Eventually they all gathered in the common room again, and Fili and Bilbo continued their chats and took up their card games. Kili sat in the corner, staring at the fire. Fili asked Bilbo to cut down Kili’s meal portions, to keep his energy levels down and reduce his restlessness. Bilbo agreed, and it went unnoticed. Kili would awake late in the morning, sit in the kitchen watching Bilbo for a few hours before taking a nap. He would wake again for dinner and sit in the common room for a few more hours before heading to bed. He wouldn’t speak or make eye contact, but Bilbo could see he was quietly seething inside. Bilbo was concerned. One evening, while they all gathered around the heat of the fire, Bilbo decided to bring up Kili’s mood again. He didn’t want the Erebor dwarf to slip further away and become like Gildin.

“Fili,” he said carefully, speaking in the Firebeard dialect which Kili was still ignorant of. “We need to find him something to spend his time on.”

Fili looked up from the leather vambrace he was crafting. He glanced over to Kili, who sat on a small stool near the fire, still as far from Fili as he could be. The dark eyes stared at the fire, light reflecting in them.

“He’s fine, Bilbo. He’s quiet and safe. The bruises have all faded. He should be happy.”

“Would you be happy if you were trapped in somebody else’s home every day, sitting and listening to others speak an unknown language and nothing to do or look forward to?”

Fili paused. “He’s not trapped.”

“So he’s free to leave?” Bilbo watched Fili expectantly.

Fili grumbled but moved to Kili, standing in front of the dark-haired dwarf and staring down. Kili looked up momentarily, then cast his eyes back to the floor. Fili looked to Bilbo, shrugging.

“You’re only going to frighten him again by doing that. Go to his level.”

Fili crouched down, setting a hand on the other dwarf’s knee. “Come, Raven. Let me teach you this.”

Kili didn’t respond, and Fili looked to Bilbo. “You should help me teach him the language,” Fili said. “He’ll do much better once he understands me. Can you tell him to come sit beside me and watch my hands?”

Bilbo nodded and translated for Kili. He hadn’t spoken to him in sometime, he realized when a wave of guilt washed over him. He’d only sent him away when he’d tried to help in the pantry. “Just sit beside him, Raven. He wants to show you what he’s doing.”

Kili nodded, face still slack and emotionless, and moved to sit beside Fili on the bench. Fili held out the vambrace he was working on, and began to puncture the edge with his metal spike, then stitched it with fine sinew. He finished one side, then pushed the sharp tool and the leather into Kili’s lap. Kili carefully took up the tool and the leather, and looked at Fili. He understood but didn’t believe that Fili was wanting him to do this.

“Try it, Raven,” Fili said, pushing his hand toward the leather. The dark-haired dwarf jerked at the touch but didn’t move away. Fili looked to Bilbo, frowning with frustration. “He doesn’t understand.”

Bilbo spoke in common again. “Raven, he wants you to try to stitch the leather. Do you understand?”

“He gave me a sharp tool.” Kili turned it over in his hands, fingertips brushing the cool metal, until Fili rested a hand on his own.

“Fili is hoping you would try leatherworking.” Bilbo didn’t want to discuss Kili’s mood with him directly. Fili needed to make a better effort to improve Kili’s quality of life.

“Can I have a piece of wood?” Kili asked suddenly. “Just a small piece.”

Bilbo turned back to Fili, switching to the Firebeard’s language. “I think he understands, but he asked for a piece of wood. I’m not sure what he’s thinking, Fili. I’m a little concerned with how he’s holding that tool.”

“I’m watching him carefully. Tell him he can choose a piece of firewood from the basket.” Fili was watching. Kili had stared at the small tool far too long, with far too much interest. The golden-haired warrior was ready to jump and remove it from him with a moment’s warning.

Bilbo relayed Fili’s words in common, and the dark-haired dwarf stood, still clutching the tool and moved to the cut wood beside the hearth. He found a small branch, no larger than his wrist, and about the length of his forearm. He sat back down, next to Fili, much to the Firebeard’s surprise. Then he lifted the tool, and began to scrape the edges of the wood, the shavings falling into his lap.

“Bilbo, bring him a towel please, to catch the scraps.”

The hobbit jumped up and brought back the cloth, laying across Kili’s lap, picking up some of the shavings from his leg and dumping them in it. Kili looked up and nodded. “Thank you.”

He head dipped down as he worked at the strip of wood, cutting away all of the bark and smoothing down the knots. Kili carefully took the end of the tool and began to cut into the branch, etching out a design. Bilbo and Fili watched quietly and Kili was quickly lost to his task. Nimble fingers danced over the object, pushing and prodding into the grooves; dark eyes fixated on his work. He used the pointed end of the tool to create grooves in the wood, then flipped it over to the flat end to chisel out chunks. An hour later, with Bilbo and Fili watching with utter fascination, he had whittled down the wood into a beautiful design of flowers, vines and leaves wrapping around each other. He held it up, admiring it in the light of the fire and smiling.

Smiling brightly, long and genuine, for the first time since his arrival. It was not unnoticed by Fili.

Fili thought his heart would leap from his chest, seeing those lips upturn. He watched as Kili turned the object over and over again, afraid to disrupt Kili’s moment of happiness and his own bliss at seeing the dark-haired dwarf’s joy. His curiosity built up and broke through. “Bilbo. Ask him what it is.”

Bilbo translated the Firebeard tongue into common.

Kili shook his head, blinking; Fili noticed the sadness leaking into his eyes again. “It’s nothing,” the dark-haired dwarf said. “Just a quick design. It’s not the right wood to make a flute, or a whistle or a pipe or anything good.”

Bilbo relayed the words back to Fili.

A flicker of hope crossed Fili’s face. This was good news. “Tell him on the next day of good, warmer weather we will go out of the village to look for the right wood.”

Bilbo’s jaw dropped in surprise. “You want to take him out to look for wood?”

“Yes. Tell him that. If he wants to carve things, then we’ll do that.” Fili turned to Kili, waiting for a reaction.

Bilbo switched back to the common tongue. “Raven, Fili says if you wish to carve he will take you out of the village to look for the right wood.”

Kili’s eyes lit up. “He will?” Then his face fell. “But will it be safe? The other dwarves, won’t they-”

“Outside the village walls. We’ll travel alone, and it’s unlikely we’ll see anybody else outside the walls. We’ll just have to be careful in and and near the village. But he promises to find you better wood for carving.”

Kili looked down but his smile didn’t diminish. “Tell him thank you.”

“Tell him yourself, Raven. Say ‘chokto Fili’ to tell him.”

Kili looked to Fili, who already stared back, eyes wide. “Chokto, Fili?” Kili said, his uncertain pronunciation sounding like a question. His own dark eyes were brighter than usual, and he held himself up straighter.

Fili rocked with a satisfied smile. “You’re welcome, Raven. Thank you, Bilbo.”

A few days later the weather was sunny and mild, and Fili woke Kili instead of allowing him to sleep late as he often did. He held Kili’s carving and pointed to the door. “We’ll go outside today, Raven,” he said. “Dress warmly.”

Kili didn’t understand a word of the speech but he saw his carved stick and understood. He was out of the bed instantly and had a quick bath. He dressed in the new garments Nurek had given him to wear outdoors, finding them snug and well sized; they were lined with a thin, light fur which tingled against his skin. Moments later, hair still dripping wet, he rushed into the dining area to join Fili and Bilbo at the table.

“Raven,” Bilbo stood, grabbing a towel from the bench. “You’re dripping all over the floor. Somebody is going to slip.”

“Sorry,” he smiled back at Bilbo, devouring the first strip of bacon on his plate. The hobbit walked up behind him, wrapping the towel around his head and drying his hair for him. Fili watched with amusement, then told Bilbo to sit down and finish his meal. He took Bilbo’s place at Kili’s back, drying the dark hair. Kili tensed as Fili came up behind him, but Fili was gentle, and the young prince eventually found it soothing and leaned back against Fili’s legs. He was excited and he let his guard down far sooner than he normally would. Fili stood behind him, continuing to massage the dark ends, content in his task.

Fili sat again and the trio finished their meals. There were no words, but none were needed to convey the excitement in the room. Fili’s fingers flicked along his utensils, Kili’s knee bounced under the table. Bilbo had prepared large breakfasts since they would be outside and walking for a good portion of the day; he emptied his leather satchel, and placed a smaller bag within carrying waterskins and dried meat. The hobbit dressed in his warmest clothes and slipped on his restraints. He brought Kili his set; the young dwarf put them on without complaint, much to Bilbo’s relief.

Fili went into his room, unlocking the chest at the end of the bed and removing his sword, several knives, bolas and a spear. He attached all of the weapons to his person, save the spear in his hand. He emerged from the room and nodded to the two slaves. Bilbo opened the door and locked it behind them, and they left through the village’s great wooden gate into the cold open beyond the settlement’s walls.

Kili bounced ahead of Fili and Bilbo like a small child filled with too many sweets. He would look back to see how far they were, grinning and pointing toward a clump of trees. Fili glanced over to Bilbo with a content smile. “I think he’s happy, Bilbo. This is good, right?”

“Very good, Fili. Thank you for doing this.”

“This is what I want. To keep him happy, keep him safe,” Fili glanced up, and Kili was racing to the trees.

“He’s getting far away. How do you know he won’t run?” Bilbo asked with hesitation. It was an unpleasant topic, but he had to ask. He didn’t like the idea of Kili coming to any further harm. He’d seen enough already; the dwarf attracted trouble.

Fili patted the bolas hanging from his belt. “If he does, I can catch him. But I don’t think he will today, Bilbo.”

“He talks about it, you know. Escaping.”

“Doesn’t every slave talk about running when they first arrive, Bilbo?”

“Probably. I think so.” He readjusted the bag on his shoulder. “I just worry that he’s more capable than most of carrying out that plan.”

“That’s why we’re doing this, aren’t we? To keep him content. If he tries to escape, he’ll die, unable to make it through the pass, or be found and killed. You know that.”

Bilbo nodded, and they fell silent until joining Kili at the trees. Fili removed a short saw from Bilbo’s bag, giving it to the dark-haired dwarf and letting him cut the branches he found worthy. Once Kili had an armful threatening to spill to the ground, Fili took the bag off Bilbo and rearranged its contents. He pulled out the lunch satchel and put the cut wood in its place, then handed the leather bag to Kili, giving the lunch to Bilbo. “Tell him it’s better if he carries the heavy wood. Don’t tell him that it’ll slow him down and wear him out as well,” he winked at Bilbo.

Bilbo smiled and translated, and Kili took up the leather knapsack onto his shoulder. The trio continued through the snow covered plains, reaching small groups of trees where Kili continued to add more to the bag. When they reached a rocky shelter, Fili ushered Bilbo and Kili in and they ate their meal. The sun shone bright overhead and Fili turned the small group towards a rocky ridge where animals often dwelled during winter. One good kill would feed them for several weeks.

Fili noticed Kili straining under the weight of the bag and stopped him. The Firebeard removed a few of the heaviest branches and dropped them into the snow. He watched Kili stubbornly pick them back up, mutter something in common, shove them back in the bag and continue. He held the small saw at his side, looking for more trees. Fili smiled despite Kili’s stubborn disobedience and didn’t push the issue. He pressed on with his spear in hand, looking for animal tracks.

“Fili...what do you remember of your childhood?” Bilbo cocked his head to the side, watching the golden-haired dwarf curiously.

The dwarf glanced at the hobbit with a shrug. “What does it matter? It’s past.”

“Aren’t you the slightest bit curious why his real name is similar to yours?” Bilbo peered up at Fili, who was still scanning the rock face for prey.

“Coincidence. It must be common in Erebor.” Fili shifted his spear from one hand to the other.

“Fili, family members in Erebor often have similar names.”

“Don’t speak of it, Bilbo.” Fili walked faster, and Bilbo hurried to catch up.

“Tell me what you remember of your childhood. Please, Fili.”

The golden-haired dwarf sighed and stopped, looking at the hobbit. “I will speak of this once, and never again. It is not pleasant.”

Bilbo let out a small smile. “Thank you. What’s your first memory?”

“My mother holding me. She had dark hair, like Raven. And blue eyes, like mine. She was beautiful, but very sad. Father used to beat her.”


“Because she would speak common to me. He told her to stop. She tried to when he wasn’t listening, but he found out, and he would beat her. She tried to teach it to me, Bilbo. But after some time, she told me to never speak it, to forget everything, forget her stories of Erebor, so that he wouldn’t hit me too. It’s difficult to picture her face without bruises.”

“Do you remember speaking it? Do you remember Erebor?

“Some. I can picture Erebor from Mother’s stories. And I can remember trying to speak it, but I’ve forgotten all the words now. I tried to remember a few after my mother died, but my father told me to forget, or he would beat it out of me. So I did, and never spoke another word of it. My father was very...physical, Bilbo. Disobedience was harshly punished. I still have the scars to prove it. He told me Erebor would weaken me, and he would beat me until I told him I couldn’t remember anything my mother had told me. And I couldn’t. I can’t, Bilbo. I pushed it all away, because I didn’t want Father to beat me anymore. And my mother gave her life for her disobedience; she tried to protect me when I tried to tell Father about the lake near the mountain. But he did it because he cared. He wanted to make me strong. He wanted to make me a warrior, and a leader who would eventually be Chieftain, like he was.”

Bilbo nodded, understanding what Fili had endured but hating to hear about the violent aspects which Fili believed were normal. He knew all of this and more, but now wasn’t the time to tell Fili. He wanted to know the extent of Fili’s knowledge of his own upbringing.

“Do you remember anything of your life prior to that?”

“I don’t think so,” Fili crouched in the snow, looking at some tracks and scanning the trees. “There is an boar nearby, Bilbo. Keep your voice down.”

Bilbo nodded, unconcerned with the boar and more interested in FIli’s past. “What do you remember of Erebor?”

“I imagine it was a massive mountain, with pillars from floor to ceiling, carved with ancient runes. There was a lake, and forest nearby. Lots of gold, and fishing, and hunting. It was beautiful.” Fili moved along, following the tracks.

“So you remember it?”

“Of course not. I’ve never been there. That’s what I imagine from mother’s stories.”

“Are you sure you’ve never been there?”

Fili turned, exasperated with the line of questioning. “I’ve never been there, Bilbo. I was born here, son of my father, the former Chieftain, and my mother, a bed slave from Erebor. I’ve travelled towards Erebor on the summer raids, but never close enough to see anything but the tip of the peak. Why do you want to know all of this?”

“Fili, your father told me things as he was on his death bed, five years ago. I don’t -”

“Shh,” Fili interrupted, lowering into a crouch and tensing. “The boar is near.” He signalled to Kili to stop, noticing the dwarf looking exhausted from carrying the bag; his shoulders bowed and his eyes drifted. His original plan was to have Kili carry the boar home, but he would have to do that himself. Fili crept into the trees, lifting his spear to shoulder height.

Bilbo moved back to stand beside Kili, placing his hand on Kili’s arm and offering him a smile. He returned it, but he wavered slightly and Bilbo bid him to sit and have some water.

“Are you tired?” Bilbo asked, although he knew the answer.

“No, I’m fine,” Kili lied. “I like this,” he motioned to their surroundings.

Bilbo smiled. “He thought you would be happy to come outside. He did this for you.”

Kili leaned his head to the side, staring into the trees where Fili had disappeared. “He’s not as bad as the others, is he?”

Bilbo raised his chin. “Fili has a good heart, Kili. You can trust him. The not trust the others. It’s much safer to assume that any of the others will make any excuse to lay hands on you, to hurt you. You must always keep your head down and be obedient. Fili will do his best to keep you safe, but you must trust him and do your part.”

Kili nodded, looking down. “I can’t escape until spring, can I? I think I will try,” he said. “Try to survive until then, even if I must play the part of a slave. It’s not shameful to keep myself alive in that manner until I can escape, is it? And I will try to trust Fili until then.” He looked up, gazing into the trees where the golden-haired dwarf had disappeared.

Bilbo frowned again at the talk of escape, but was pleased to hear that Kili would make an effort to accept his situation for the short term. “Fili will do anything he can to keep you safe and happy; you only need ask.”

Kili tilted his chin. “I like his hands.”

Bilbo startled. “What?”

“His hands. They remind me of my uncle’s. The way he tucks me into bed...when he guides me to the bedroom at he dried my hair today. I like his hands.” A hint of red graced Kili’s cheeks and he turned away from Bilbo. “Please don’t tell him that.”

There was a crash in the trees, and Bilbo peered in, listening. He’d never been out with Fili while he hunted; he wasn’t sure what to expect although he trusted Fili to be safe. A few minutes later, Fili emerged from the bush, a triumphant smile on his face and dragging a boar behind him, the tip of his spear bloody.

“Bilbo, get me the rope from the bag,” Fili instructed. The hobbit dug through the leather bag, under all of Kili’s branches, finally finding the rope. Fili trussed up the boar, tying it until he was able to toss the rope over his shoulder and carry it across his back. He kept his spear in his hand and returned to Bilbo and Kili. “Time to head home. Are you both ready?”

Bilbo nodded, extending a hand to the dark-haired dwarf. Kili picked up the leather bag, blinking slowly. “We should bring him home soon, Fili,” Bilbo said. “He’s been carrying all of that wood for hours. He’s drained but he won’t admit it.”

Fili grinned. “That’s fine. He does have quite the stubborn streak, doesn’t he? Just keep an eye on him. I think he’ll manage. He’s been in good spirits today.”

The group reached the settlement with an hour of daylight remaining. Fili led Bilbo and Kili through the gate, turning down the first path towards their home.


He tensed, his hand on his spear, and looked to the side. His uncle, Chieftain Bronin, emerged from around the corner of a building. “Well done on your kill.” The old dwarf looked over the boar, then to Bilbo and Kili. Bilbo kept his head down. Kili’s eyes glanced up, making eye contact; he recognized the dwarf as the leader from his first night in the large hall, when Fili had claimed him. The older dwarf pulled himself up straight, hands straightening his coat, a frown crossing his face. A chill born from fright passed through Kili’s frame as the cold eyes bore down on him.

“Fili. Your new slave both carries a saw and is looking at me. Why does he have a weapon?”

Fili winced. He’d completely forgotten about the saw. He should have taken it from Kili hours ago and tucked it into the bag. He took a deep breath and spoke calmly.

“It’s just a dull blade. I was making him cut firewood with it, Uncle, and carry it back.”

“Slaves should not have weapons, even dull ones. And he still stares. If he is a mule, why does he not carry the boar as well?”

Bilbo, listening to every word with his eyes down, nudged Kili in the side. “Eyes down, Raven,” he whispered. His fingers dug into Kili’s coat, hoping the dwarf would be spared retribution.

Fili looked back, seeing Bilbo tell Kili to look down; the dark-haired dwarf complied. Fili walked over, taking the saw from Kili’s hand. “My mistake, Uncle. It was only for him to cut wood and I forgot. And I didn’t expect to cut so much. He can’t carry it all.”

“Then he is weak and doesn’t try hard enough; I expect he should suffer a beating to remind him of his weakness and his failure to adhere to expectations. And for you Fili - there are rules. If you cannot make your slaves obey them, then I’ll find somebody who will make him obey the rules, or he will be removed from the village. This sets a poor example for the others. Especially from one who is meant to be Chieftain soon.”

“That’s not necessary, Uncle. He will obey and serve. I will deal with his punishment for being unable to fulfill his task.”

“You had better. I’ll be watching, nephew.” The old Firebeard moved off, and Fili breathed out, relieved to see his uncles back. He was pleased Bronin had left him and the two slaves untouched; he didn’t expect that his uncle would allow that to pass again.

“Quickly, Bilbo. Let’s get inside,” Fili ushered the group to their home, his hand fiercely gripping his spear and the other resting on Kili’s shoulder, keeping him close. The dark-haired dwarf leaned against him as Bilbo unlocked the door. Fili set his kill down outside in the snow where he could tend to it in the morning. Inside, Bilbo quickly went about his usual task of lighting the hearths and then moved off to put together a quick dinner. Fili turned to Kili, carefully taking the heavy bag laden with branches from the slender dwarf and setting it off to the side. He was surprised by the weight Kili had been carrying, and turned back to pull Kili’s tunic aside and look at his shoulder; there was a red indention from the bag’s strap.

“You shouldn’t have carried that all day, Raven.” He gently massaged the shoulder, keeping his touch very light. He let the tunic up and looked to Kili, who was watching him with a light smile. Fili couldn’t help but smile back, then retrieved the key for Kili’s collar and cuffs. The dark-haired dwarf settled onto the bench with a yawn. As Fili approached Kili lifted his chin, allowing Fili to remove the restraint; he then held out his wrists. Fili set the metal aside and turned back to gently massage Kili’s wrists. Kili yawned again, looking content and allowing the Firebeard to caress his limbs.

Curious if he could show more affection without the other dwarf recoiling, Fili slowly stood and manouvered himself behind the young prince, sitting behind him and lifting his hands to Kili’s shoulders, continuing to rub his fingertips in gentle circles. Kili let out a soft sigh, leaning back into Fili. The golden-haired dwarf continued, pleased to see Kili content and happy; a warmth grew in his stomach and he desired to pull Kili closer, but held back. He didn’t want to frighten him.

Even so, this was what Fili wanted; Bilbo was whistling from the kitchen as he went about preparing the evening meal. Kili was relaxed, showing Fili signs of gratitude and happiness. His mind wandered through the day and he smiled to himself as he remembered Kili running towards trees, full of energy and life. Then his thoughts turned dark again as he recalled his meeting with his Uncle, and his warning about treating slaves properly.

Fili’s smile quickly turned into a frown. His Uncle wouldn’t hesitate to act upon his threats if he believed Fili was being too kind to the slaves; taking Kili out for wood again would be difficult if not impossible. Dread settled in his stomach with the reminder that he couldn’t let his desire to make Kili happy compromise the safety of all three of them.

Chapter Text

Six more weeks passed in the Firebeard village. It was nearly mid-winter, and the snows grew heavier, the winds colder and the days shorter. Bilbo went about his business, cooking and cleaning and keeping house for Fili, and providing extra food for Fili to trade with. Kili had been generally content, only occasionally showing flashes of anger and restlessness. He hated being kept indoors and said as much. Fili would push one of Bilbo’s teas onto him to keep him settled some nights when he began flicking his carving knife too hard. He took to his woodwork most evenings, crafting simple designs or items for around the home. He agreed to allow Fili to trade some of his crafts for items they needed. The villagers believed Fili to be the craftsman; he couldn’t tell them that a new slave was using a knife.

With Kili’s newfound task, he was happier in Fili’s presence. Bilbo was surprised to the see the dark-haired dwarf sitting closer to Fili, pressing against him and Fili wrapping an arm around his shoulder. They smiled at each other and in the absence of a common language, their hands conveyed affection through small touches. While Kili still had his fits of stubbornness, and Fili his slight temper, they were growing closer each day.

On a brisk but sunny day, Fili and most of the other warriors left the village to hunt for meat from the animals roaming in the hills. It was too cold for Bilbo to depart, and Fili left both slaves at home. Kili might have braved the weather, but he didn’t want him to be subjected to any more ridicule or cruelty by the other warriors. After Fili departed for the day, Bilbo enthusiastically thrown himself into his kitchen, proclaiming that he would bake a venison pie for dinner, Fili’s favorite dish, and that he would be begin to prepare food for the mid-winter feast in two days’ time.

“Mid-winter feast?” Kili asked, sitting down on the stool against the far wall. Fili would now allow him to hold the knives, but habit drew Kili back across the kitchen.

“Yes. The village does it every year, in the great hall. A huge feast to mark the shortest day of the year, and the turn towards spring. Everybody attends, Kili. The young, old, men, women, children, and all the slaves. We have to serve during the meal, but once everybody has eaten their fill, we can eat from the scraps. Not really an event for you and I, we eat well enough. But once you see the joy on the face of the other slaves, you’ll see how important this is for everyone. The village becomes happy, and the slaves benefit as well; they’re less likely to suffer at the hands of their masters, at least for a little while.”

Kili was full of questions, unsure where to start. “We serve at the meal?”

“Yes. You will be expected to stand behind Fili, filling his plate with whatever he desires, and keeping his wine glass full.”

“But what do you do?”

“Well, I’ve always done that. Nobody else had two slaves, we’ll see what happens. Whatever you do, remember to keep your eyes down, don’t speak except to answer yes or no. Well, don’t speak at all, since you won’t understand. Just listen and only look at the table or floor. I’ll try to keep near but just remember - plate full, glass full, head down, no speaking.”

“Okay, that sounds easy enough.” Kili’s fingers thumped against his legs and he looked at the ceiling. “Do we have to go though?”

“Unless there is an excellent reason for not going, then yes, you will be expected. I believe absence is only permitted for illness. And if you are not there...they I imagine the Chieftain would investigate your absence,” Bilbo said with a note of concern.

Kili wrinkled his nose and flicked his thumbs, nodding to himself.

“Come over here. I’m going to need your help.” Bilbo poured a lump of dough out onto the counter and handed Kili a rolling pin. “Roll this until it’s this thick,” he indicated to the side of his knife, cutting chunks of fresh venison.

Kili pressed into the dough with the roller. “Are other slaves beaten often?”

“Yes, Kili. Most slaves die within their first year, usually from the beatings, or hunger or cold, if they aren’t hunted.”


“Very common, especially amongst the strongest they bring back. Men in particular, if they find one. They’re taken out and hunted like wild animals. Speared and slaughtered,” Bilbo sliced the venison off the bone and set a slab aside.

Kili set down the roller, checking the depth of the dough. “That’s what they wanted to do to me,” he frowned, feeling his neck tense. “The one who brought me here.”

“You’re very lucky you made it here. Most of the dwarves and men Darek finds don’t survive the trip home.”

“One of the others fed me, kept me alive. One with a large blue tattoo.”

“Ah, Nisor. He’s the cousin of Nurek. He is kinder than some, but worse than others as well. He kept his last slave outdoors and she froze to death. A more merciful death than some.”

“Is this the right thickness, Bilbo?” Kili crouched down at the counter edge, looking at the dough.

“Let’s see.” Bilbo set his knife down. They were interrupted by a large bang outside, followed by shouting. It stopped, and the two exchanged looks.

“What was that?” Kili said, voicing both of their thoughts.

“Leave it be. Not for us to be concerned with.” Bilbo went back to appraising the dough when there was another shout, and clanging noises.

Kili recognized it instantly. Weapons striking each other. “Bilbo, somebody’s fighting outside. Fili might need our help.”

“Fili will be far outside the walls,” he said, wiping his hands on his apron. “Let’s go peek through the shutters.”

They entered the common room, and Bilbo unbarred and opened the shutter over a window, pushing his face to the thick window, trying to see out. Snow covered half of the view. Kili stood behind, curiosity prompting him to open the other shuttered window.

“Oh no,” Bilbo gasped, quickly closing the shutter.

Kili peered out; a couple homes were on fire, and a large group of well-armed red-bearded warriors were bursting into homes, dragging out occupants. Children and dwarrowdams alike were thrown to the ground, some speared, others dragged out of sight; only a few warriors were left to guard while the others went hunting, and they fought but were being overrun.

“Get back, Kili!” Bilbo shouted, urging him to close the window and move away from the wall.

Kili latched the window closed and stepped back with Bilbo. “Who are they? What’s happening?”

“It’s a raid from another village,” Bilbo said, his voice quivering, eyes darting around. “Plundering for food and loot. It’s been years since anybody dare attacked us. We’re too big, too strong. How did they get past the wall?” Bilbo ran into the kitchen, grasping his knife. “Let’s hope they pass and ignore this place.”

Bilbo’s wish was denied by a harsh slam into the front door, and Kili looked about, only seeing his small carving knife. That wouldn’t do. Fili kept his weapons locked in a chest; Kili ran over, tugging at the lock.

“Where does he keep the key?”

“I don’t know,” Bilbo said, shaking with fright. “I think he keeps it with him. Let’s hide in the bath, they might ignore us.”

The door slammed again, the wood shaking on its hinges. It spurred Kili into action. He grabbed the iron poker by the fireplace, running to the lock and trying to dislodge the metal. He slipped it through, putting pressure on the end, groaning. To his surprise, the lock snapped. He threw open the dark lid. The chest was full with a wide variety of weapons; bolas sat on the top. There was a bandolier with several knives. Near the bottom were different swords; Kili’s preferred weapon, after the bow. He reached in, tugging the nearest one out. It was heavy and looked dull around the edges. He reached for another when the door was broken, flung off its hinges and two large Firebeards came through, setting their sights on the dwarf and hobbit.

Kili hefted the sword he had picked up. “Bilbo, get behind me!”

The hobbit ran clear into the kitchen, and Kili placed himself in the wide doorway, blocking their way. The two Firebeards had black tattoos with similar designs. One had a asymmetrical beard, and the other had gone bald, black tattoos covering his skull. A memory of Dwalin passed through Kili’s mind, and he pushed it away, taking of a defensive stance and watching the pair.

They laughed.

Kili gritted his teeth, lowering his head, ready to show them that he wasn’t going to back down. The oddly-bearded one reached to his side, pulling a knife and flinging it at Kili’s head. He darted to the side, managing to dodge the blade. A surge of confidence welled up inside of him, and he smiled. That only enraged the dwarf, and he both pulled two more blades, launching them at the same time.

Kili swung the sword to try and block one of them, shifting his body to the side; one grazed his thigh and the other missed completely. He saw a thin slice through his clothes and a thin red line across his leg.

“Kili! Are you okay?”

“Quiet, Bilbo,” he said simply. It was far too early to know how he would fare. He shifted his feet again, and the Firebeard with the asymmetrical beard ran forward, sword raised.

Kili swung, parrying the blow and kicking out at the other’s shin at the same time. The Firebeard was clearly surprised by this move, stepping back with a grunt and looking over Kili with surprise.

“Kurn,” the Firebeard muttered, swinging again. Kili jumped back to miss the blow, but was too far to try one of his own; he stole a glance at the other, which was looking through Fili’s box of weapons, holding them up. Clearly they felt Kili was not a threat, if one was already plundering while the other fought.

That thought annoyed Kili; he knew he was a good fighter, and he was going to prove it to these two raiders. He lifted the sword, crying out and running down the large dwarf. The Firebeard didn’t expect such a bold move from a slave, and held his weapon in defense, blocking Kili’s blow; but the young prince of Erebor thrust immediately after, the sword lodging deeply into the Firebeard’s side.

The Firebeard shouted, grunting as he fell to the ground, blood pooling from his side. The second one dropped the bandolier back into the chest, pulling his own sword from its scabbard. He advanced on Kili with a snarl.

The dark-haired dwarf glanced back to see Bilbo cowering in the pantry; the hobbit had no fighting skills, and furthest from the conflict was the best place for him. Kili turned back toward the bald Firebeard, holding his sword and pursing his lips. There was a stiffness in his arm; he hadn’t practiced with a sword in months, and the jarring movements were already taking their toll on his muscles.

The Firebeard muttered in his dialect, and Kili just glared at him. The words were repeated, and Kili thought he was meant to reply. Instead, he thrust with the blade. The raider parried him easily, with a lazy grace. Kili took a step back; this dwarf’s confidence was unnerving. The other moaned from the floor, bleeding across the stones. The Firebeard thrust forward, and Kili stumbled back towards the table, catching against it. He slipped out beside it, swinging at the raider’s other arm. The larger dwarf turned his sword, parrying it and laughing. He was toying with Kili.

Kili huffed, taking a few more steps back. He reached Bilbo’s knives, and grasped one and flung it. It sunk into the Firebeard’s thigh. From the pantry, Bilbo raised himself, watching hopefully as one of them bled on the floor, the other stopping to tug at the knife in his leg. Kili attacked.

The dark-haired dwarf lunged forward, slicing at the dwarf’s sword arm, managing to snag the clothing but not doing any damage. He swung again and was parried. The same again. And dodged the third time. The Firebeard lifted his sword, and Kili’s eyes widened as he leapt back, trapped at the counter.

The dwarf brought down his sword hard against Kili’s, knocking the weapon from his hand. The Firebeard moved his foot onto the weapon, kicking it away, then grasping Kili by his shirt and throwing him to the floor. Bilbo cried out from the pantry, but the raider wasn’t concerned with the terrified hobbit.

The Firebeard knelt down, one knee on Kili’s chest to pin him to the floor. Kili struggled, trying to dislodge him, but the dwarf only turned his attention back to the cooking knife lodged in his leg, pulling it out with a grunt and a sickening squelch. He brought the knife up to Kili’s face, and the dark haired dwarf held his hands up, trying to protect himself.

The Firebeard laughed, setting the knife aside to grasp Kili’s hands within one of his, pinning them above his head and shifting to sit astride his chest. Kili gasped under the heavy weight crushing his ribs.

The bald dwarf collected the knife again, running it against the bloody wound in his own thigh, then brought the blade to Kili’s forehead and set the flat of the blade against his forehead, smearing his blood across Kili’s face. He reached down with his fingers, gathering more of his blood on his fingertips, painting it along Kili’s nose and cheeks. Kili shook in terror; all of his bravery had departed the moment he was well and truly trapped below the burly raider.

He tugged against the hand, but it held fast, and the dwarf seemed to take no notice of Kili’s struggles. He lifted his fingers to Kili’s chin, leaving more blood there and further down his neck with a low, satisfied laugh. His hand went out to the side, collecting the knife and bringing it back to the young dwarf’s face. The point tickled Kili’s cheek; and then dug in. Kili cried out as it was dragged from his temple down to the tip of his mouth; he felt his own warm blood flow onto his face. He could hear a sob from Bilbo.

Kili blinked and the point of the knife was hovering above his eye. He flinched, but the other hand released his hands and moved down to catch Kili’s jaw, holding him in place as the knife point came closer and closer to his eye.

“No!” Kili cried out, struggling as hard as he could, yet afraid the dwarf would drop it.

There was a crunch from the common room. Bilbo’s head turned but Kili continued to fight, trying to push the hand with the knife away from his face. Fingers dug into his throat, and he gasped for air; nails bit into his skin, drawing more blood.

Then there was animalistic, feral cry filling the kitchen; the Firebeard holding Kili turned, clinging to the kitchen knife. A weight was lifted from Kili’s chest as the raider was pulled off. Kili was dizzy and couldn’t see; he listened to an alarmed shout, a crunch, a short cry and the sound of metal hitting metal. It was over fast. He rolled over onto his side, raising his arms over his face, drawing his legs up and panting.

“Raven,” a frantic voice tried to unbundle him. Kili stubbornly tried to maintain his protective posture, but the other dwarf was far stronger. His arms were pulled down, and he was lifted to sit again the cupboards, still on the floor. A hand grasped his chin, and Kili slapped weakly at it.

“Raven. Kili! Do you understand me? Are you okay?” The hobbit knelt beside Kili, waving a hand in front of his eyes.

“Bilbo? What happened? Where did he go?” Kili looked up lazily through half-lidded eyes, where a face framed by golden braids peered into his. Fili. “What happened?” A cool cloth pressed against Kili’s face, wiping at the blood, and voices chattered in the Firebeard dialect. Kili’s head swam and he ignored the voices.

Bilbo looked to Fili, who held Kili still as he looked over his wounds. “He saved me, Fili. He broke into your weapons chest and fought them with one of the swords. He killed the other! I don’t think he had the strength to take care of this one, though,” Bilbo glanced over at the dead Firebeard raider. “I’m so happy you made it back when you did.”

“We heard the clang of the alarm and came running,” Fili said, lifting the cloth and cleaning the blood from Kili’s face. “This isn’t all his blood, is it?” Fili asked, his mind easing as he found no cuts along the forehead.

“The raider wiped his own blood onto Kili’s face,” Bilbo said. “But he left a long gash across his cheek.”

Fili nodded, watching Kili’s head fall to the side. He finished cleaning the dark-haired dwarf’s face and found the wound; he pressed a cloth to it, trying to staunch the blood flow. There was another small wound on his leg, and a few scrapes on his hands; but they were minor compared to the cut across his cheek. It probably required stitching, but it would take a hefty bribe to convince the healer to attend to a disposable slave. Fili frowned and hoped they could bandage it well enough to heal properly.

“Let’s move him to the bedroom.” Bilbo took a few steps back as Fili slipped an arm around Kili.

“Wait,” Kili called out, words slightly slurred. “I can walk.”

Bilbo translated for Fili. “He says he can walk.”

“Nonsense. Tell him now is not the time to be stubborn.” Without waiting for Bilbo’s translation, Fili lifted the dark-haired dwarf against his chest and carefully carried him to his own room, setting him into the pile of furs. Fili lifted the cloth to his face again, and then caught Kili’s eyes following his movements.

“Raven,” he smiled down. “You did well. Very well. Bilbo tells me that he owes you his life.” Fili gently reached out, stroking Kili’s cheek.

“Bilbo?” Kili called, and Bilbo quickly crawled onto the bed, hovering over so Kili could see him.

“Here, Raven. I’m here.”

“What did Fili say?” He reached up and grasped Fili’s hand, holding it against his cheek. Fili looked down fondly, keeping his hand pressed to Kili’s face.

“He’s very proud of you.”

Kili nodded and smiled. “That’s good. Tell him thank you.” He paused. “No. I can, I know that word. Chokto. Chokto, Fili.”

Fili embraced Kili in response, laying down beside him. Bilbo slipped out to leave them together. Kili pulled off the furs, and shifted to his side, pressing his back up against Fili’s front. Fili happily held him close, wrapping an arm around the slender dwarf. Kili’s hand clung to his own. They lay quietly together for awhile, and Fili marvelled at Kili’s relaxed state and eagerness to be held. He gently kissed the back of Kili’s neck and received a pleasured moan in return. Encouraged, Fili brought his hand up to brush through Kili’s hair, pushing it aside to place more kisses along his neck.

Kili gasped but arched his back at the sensual feeling coursing through his body. Fili’s hand gently traced his ear and neck and Kili shivered. Fili raised up onto an elbow, carefully taking Kili’s chin in his fingers and turning the dark-haired dwarf’s face until he could lean in and kiss his lips. Kili’s eyes closed and he pushed up off the bed, wrapping an arm around Fili’s shoulder for another, this time parting his lips and waiting for Fili to do the same. Fili accepted the invitation, delving into that heat with his tongue, claiming Kili’s mouth.

There was a painful moan from the figure below, and Fili pulled back with alarm. Kili’s hand came up, holding his cheek; the cut by his mouth had begun to bleed again. Feeling guilty for renewing Kili’s pain and letting his own desire overtake Kili’s need for rest, Fili took up the cloth, pressing it to his cheek to catch the blood. Kili let himself fall back into the bed, a soft smile on his lips despite his wounds. The Firebeard knelt and brought up his other hand to stroke Kili’s hair back, and the dark-haired dwarf’s eyes fluttered close. His breathing became longer, more even, and he slipped into a deep sleep, his body spent. Fili was pleased to find the bleeding had ceased again. He finally moved away, tucking Kili under the furs, his own heart pounding rapidly at the encounter.

Fili walked into the common room and over to Bilbo, pulling him close to hug him. Bilbo twitched in surprise; Fili had never hugged him before. It was inappropriate for a slave and his master, even a bed slave outside of the bedroom. Bilbo realized he was shaking.

“I’m so glad you both are safe,” Fili said. “I was worried after the I saw the door down. I don’t know what I’d do without either of you, Bilbo.”

Bilbo smiled and hugged him back.

Chapter Text

Kili slept through the night soundly. When he woke, Fili and Bilbo were both at his side telling him not to speak and to lay back down again. They rebandaged his wounds, save the long, deep cut on his face; Fili asked the healer to come when the villagers had all been looked at. It was impossible to know if he would visit or not. Meanwhile, they begged him to keep his jaw still so that he wouldn’t pull at the skin and cause the wound to reopen. Kili sighed and nodded, and Bilbo prepared soups that he could sip at.

Elsewhere in the village, twelve had been slaughtered. Fortunately the guards had sounded the alarm and Fili and the others were not far, their hunt fairly successful early on. Four homes had burned; the residents moved into places vacated by the dead. The mid-winter feast was delayed a week, giving Bilbo more time to prepare dishes.

Bilbo noticed that Kili openly desired Fili’s presence and physical touch more since the village attack. Kili would sit with Fili on the bench or on the floor in front of him, pressing against the other dwarf. Fili’s fingers would drop his leather and tools and find their way to Kili’s hair, combing through the dark locks. Kili would simply drop his own woodwork and close his eyes, lost in the sensation. Then they would show each other their woodwork and leatherwork, smiling and praising each other in their own languages. What Bilbo didn’t see was that Kili no longer stayed to his own side of his bed, but sought the warmth of Fili’s arms in the cold mornings. Fili was encouraged by this behavior and felt the dark-haired dwarf would survive and be happy with him.

By the morning of the feast, the healer hadn’t shown. Fili inspected Kili’s cheek, pleased to see it was closing fairly well on its own, but would certainly leave a scar. Bilbo had risen early and into the kitchen, cooking food on the kitchen hearth, as well as in pots in the common room and the small hearth in his own bedroom. A plethora of smells filled the house, and Kili wandered from pot to pot, peering in until Bilbo pushed him away and told him to sit and behave. Kili wandered their home and found Filii had set out some of his best clothes, and Kili ran his hand over the fine garments with interest, and wandered off to find Bilbo again.

“Bilbo, what is Fili’s position in the village?”

Bilbo frowned, taking metal tongs to remove a pan from the fire. “You shouldn’t be talking much, that cut needs more time to heal.”

“I’ll stop talking when you start. Tell me more about Fili. He pulled out some nice clothes for the feast.” He spoke in a mumble, trying to keep his jaw from opening too widely.

“The tribe is run by a Chieftain. The current Chieftain is Fili’s Uncle, Bronin. Up until five years ago it was Fili’s father.”

“Why isn’t Fili Chieftain?”

“Keep your mouth closed, I’m not finished.” Bilbo moved around the room, stacking pies and pastries on the table. Kili’s mouth watered, and Bilbo pushed him over to his stool on the far wall, away from the food. “Fili will be Chieftain when he reaches eighty years of age in a few years. When his father passed, he declared that Fili’s uncle, Bronin, would serve until Fili reached the age of eighty, at which time the title would pass back. Until then, he has served as a patrol leader since his sixtieth birthday, and participated on patrols before that. As the most successful patrol leader, he holds the position of second in the tribe.”

“Then why did Darek treat him badly, if Fili ranks above him?”

“There are some who are unhappy that Fili, whose mother was a bed slave from Erebor, will be their Chief because he is not a full Firebeard. Others are frustrated with his rather liberal views on slavery. Most of the tribe loves the idea of having slaves; somebody to push around and do their hard work. But he insists we be treated with some respect.”

“Why not set us all free when he becomes Chieftain?”

“I don’t know if that could happen. There would be too much of an outcry. Annoy enough of the population and they’ll kill the Chieftain and find a more popular one. He does what he can.”

Kili nodded; Fili was in a difficult position. “So what do we wear tonight?”

Bilbo began covering some of the trays with cloth. “Most slaves turn up in their best wear. In our case, we turn up in our worst. Fili doesn’t want them to think he’s being too kind.” Bilbo glanced up with a smile. “Go put on the clothes you were given the first day; the ones that fit poorly.”

“I hate those, they fall off my shoulder.”

“Perfect. And remember, plate full, glass full, eyes down, no talking.”

“I understand, Bilbo.” Kili sighed, not looking forward to the event.

Kili, Fili and Bilbo made several trips before the feast to transport all of Bilbo’s cooking to the great hall. Bilbo’s culinary skills were widely known and appreciated, and many of the clan looked forward to sampling his pastries and other dishes. The tables were set in a long U-shape; the end table would hold the Chieftain and most prominent warriors, including Fili; the village would line the long tables. More tables were set along the side with an array of food, and the slaves would stand behind their masters.

Fili dressed in his best clothes, and Kili couldn’t help but stare as they walked to the hall; the deep red cloth and leather was beautiful against his hair, matching the fire tattoo around his eye perfectly. He stood tall and regal, looking every bit like a prince, Kili thought. Kili meanwhile found himself adjusting the belt keeping his large pants up. Fili kept with his custom of allowing Kili and Bilbo to wear their light alloy collars, telling others it was part of positive reinforcement for slave behavior.

Fili sat down beside his uncle, Darek on the other side and Scarred Faced warrior beside Darek. A dwarf Kili did not know sat beside Scarred Face, and finally Nurek was next to Fili. Kili was relieved; he could serve in the space between Nurek and Fili to avoid making any mistakes that would upset another Firebeard.

“Eyes down,” Bilbo muttered, holding a pitcher of ale. He hovered over Fili’s left shoulder, with Kili over the right shoulder. Kili cast his eyes downward again, but trying to peer up through strands of hair which he hoped hid his true gaze. The village had just over two hundred residents from his estimate; on top of that, there were about thirty-five slaves, which only the more wealthy households claimed. Kili noticed that the other two patrol leaders had no slaves and that Nurek’s slave, Gildin, was not there. He made a note to ask about her later; the baby was due nearly two months ago, and he thought she was probably nursing at home. The dwarf he didn’t recognize at the end was flanked by a human male; the man was shackled at the waist, connected to his wrists, and hobbled at his feet. He wore a sleeveless shirt despite the chill, and his pale skin was mottled with old and new wounds, long cuts and bruises. A strip of leather was latched around his mouth.

Kili looked on with deep sympathy, and peered up long enough to look at Fili’s plate and goblet. The meat on Fili’s plate was disappearing fast; the large slice of Bilbo’s venison pie was nearly gone. Kili watched carefully as the last bites disappeared, and he shuffled forward to collect the plate. Fili turned until he was facing away from the others and gave him a reassuring smile. He pointed to several places on the serving table, and Kili nodded and moved over to collect the items.

Two other slaves stood at the table, and a handful of dwarves without their own slaves. Kili tried to smile at the other slaves but they paid him no attention, hastily gathering food and moving back to their owners. Kili moved along, trying to figure out if Fili had been pointing to the carrots or potatoes. He pulled up the ladle, scooping a little of each onto the plate. A hand suddenly grabbed his elbow, shoving him violently to the side, and he stumbled, falling and the plate clattering to the floor.

All the chatter filling the hall came to an abrupt halt, and everyone turned to see what had happened. Kili dropped the plate in order to twist and break his fall with his arms; he pushed up onto his hands and knees but a boot stepped onto his fingers, grinding against the knuckles. He whimpered, looking up to see Darek standing above him with a leering grin. The entire room broke into laughter, and many turned back to their meals while others watched the spectacle with interest.

Fili turned the moment the plate hit the floor; a sickening feeling set in his stomach before he’d even seen what happened. He knew. The warrior was out of his chair and across the small gap in seconds, shoving Darek off of Kili and helping the dark-haired dwarf to stand. Kili looked nervously between Fili and Darek, then remembered to cast his eyes down. Fili’s arm slipped around his shoulders, and Kili leaned into the Firebeard’s side, seeking his protection and comfort.

Fili motioned Bilbo over. “Bilbo. Take care of the plate and clean up the food. Let Raven take the ale.” Bilbo nodded, pushing the ceramic jug into Kili’s hands before moving to clean up the mess and refill the plate with food. Fili turned his gaze back to Darek.

“Don’t ever touch my slave again.”

“He is too slow. You should teach him to move out of the way of his betters. Everybody.”

A few of the dwarves filling their plates chuckled, moving off. Fili’s uncle rose from his large chair, moving over beside the patrol leaders. Fili carefully pushed Kili away from his side but kept one hand on the nearest shoulder. He nudged him a few steps back as his uncle approached.

“What is going on here?” Bronin asked, looking between the two patrol leaders.

“Fili’s new slave is slow and defiant. I moved him for being too slow, and he fell. Then he looked up at me.” Darek began to fill his plate again.

“Is that true, Fili?” Bronin turned on his nephew, casting a glance back at the dark-haired slave that now stood with head bowed.

“I didn’t see what happened. But he’s threatened him before without reason. I am merely protecting my property from unnecessary damage.”

“He is poorly behaved. He knows nothing of proper servitude to his superiors.” He glared at Fili. “Fili coddles him in their home. I heard from the healer that Fili sought treatment for the slave’s wounds after the raid. The mark on his face isn’t Fili’s, it was from the raid. There isn’t a mark on him that Fili has put there.”

“You seem overly concerned with the welfare of this property, Fili,” his Uncle continued picking up a piece of cheese and nibbling at it. “You are protecting him. I thought I warned you about the proper place of slaves here. Do you mock this tribe’s traditions?”

Fili growled, casting a glance back at Kili, who clutched the vessel, staring into it. The dark-haired dwarf couldn’t understand a word about him, only knowing there was some sort of argument surrounding him. “No, uncle. But I don’t harm others, even slaves, where it is not necessary. He is obedient. There is no need to punish him, therefore I haven’t marked him.”

“No slave is obedient their first few months here, Fili.” He sidestepped the smaller Firebeard warrior, moving to Kili, who took a step back. “Look. He moves away. You are too gentle.”

Bronin’s hand darted out, grasping Kili’s shirt and pulling him forward. The ale sloshed out onto the floor and Bronin looked down; Kili’s breath hitched and Fili took note. “Look there,” Bronin stared at the spill.

“Uncle. You cannot expect that he would be able to prevent a spill when pulled like that.”

“I can and I do. And he should have cleaned it up immediately.”

“Uncle, please, you never treat any of the other new slaves this way, why him?” Fili tried to move back in front of Kili, growing frustrated with his uncle and his aggressiveness toward the dark-haired dwarf.

Bronin’s hand caught Kili’s wrist, and he pulled him over. “I would like to see this slave’s obedience then. If your techniques are truly as excellent as you say, then I expect that this one will do everything that we expect of him, without hesitation, without question, and perfectly so.”

“I can-”

“For the rest of the evening he will serve Darek and myself. I should like to see his abilities.” Bronin pulled the jug from Kili’s hands, thrusting it at Fili. His finger looped into Kili’s collar and tugged him forward. Kili gasped and looked to Fili for help.

“Uncle, please-” Fili reached out, grasping Kili’s fingertips.

“You can have him back at the end of the feast.” He pulled Kili back towards the table.

“Bilbo, tell Raven, please. Tell him that he must serve my uncle and Darek tonight-”

“No. Keep Bilbo silent. The new one knows why he is here.” Bronin returned to the table, his fingers pulling Kili along, who stumbled on his feet, looking back to Fili again, his face pallid.

Bilbo rushed to Fili’s side once Bronin had taken Kili away. “I told him what he must do before the feast. I think he’ll understand, Fili.”

“I know he will do the best he can. But they are going to push him, provoke him, anything they can to warrant laying a hand on him. I can see it in my Uncle’s eyes, Bilbo. I don’t know what he is trying...but he’s up to something, and he’s using Kili to accomplish it.”

Fili watched as his uncle sat, speaking to Darek and motioning back to Kili. Darek’s face brightened as his eyes looked over the dark-haired dwarf; Fili felt his muscles tense between his shoulders. He returned to the table, bidding Nurek to make conversation to keep everyone’s minds from the slave.

Kili did well. He kept his head down, he filled their glasses. He had only begun to relax when Darek cleaned the last scrap from his plate, and turned expectantly to Kili.

“Well, slave, what are you waiting for? I’m still hungry.” The words meant nothing to Kili, but his eyes flickered to the plate and he understood. He moved forward carefully, reaching out to take the plate when Darek’s hand closed around his wrist tightly. “You will bring me two pieces of chicken, a spoonful of potato, and four of the apple pastries.” He let go, allowing Kili to pick up the plate.

Fili watched with trepidation; Kili moved to the table, and Fili pushed his chair back. Kili wouldn’t have understood a word. He desperately needed to help him. Bronin placed a hand on the back of Fili’s chair, nudging it forward again. “No. You stay here.”

“Uncle, I-”

“Disobedience will be harshly dealt with Fili. Perhaps by the loss of your property? Sit.” The last word left no room for question. Fili cast his eyes back to Kili, who hovered over the table, looking through the items, hands shaking as he reached for a bread roll.

Fili felt anxiety welling up inside and closed his eyes. They had their excuse. A harsh slap sounded, and he popped his eyes open again. It wasn’t Kili; the healer at the end of the table, Renig, shoved his human slave on his knees and pulled out a switch. He began to lash the man’s bare feet, the man crying out despite the leather wedged between his teeth. The villagers turned, watching and cheering their approvals. They enjoyed the spectacle for a few moments before returning to their food.

Kili returned with the plate, hands shaking, trying not to raise his head or watch the other slave’s harsh punishment. He set down pork, apple tarts and rolls in front of Darek and stood back, head bowed. Darek and Bronin turned to each other and smiled. And Fili leapt up, knowing exactly what was passing through their minds. Behind him, Bilbo moved away, shaking his head. “Master Fili, they can’t-”

“Uncle, you can’t, he doesn’t know what he wanted!”

Bronin grasped Fili’s arm, shoving him back harshly. “Sit or it will be worse for him.”

Kili’s dark eyes looked up at Fili’s shout, and he turned to see Darek advancing on him. He backed away, taking a step toward Fili but Bronin’s hands grasped his hair, pulling him backward until Darek had a hand on either of his arms, and forced him to kneel.

“I would like to borrow that switch, Renig,” the Chieftain said. The healer happily handed him the bloodied shoot with a smile; his own slave lay sobbing quietly on the floor, and the Firebeard turned back to his meal without concern.

Darek pressed a hand to Kili’s shoulders, pushing his head down into the floor. He set his knee down onto Kili’s neck; the dark-haired dwarf thrashed and hissed, trying to escape the uncomfortable position.

Fili huffed, trying to move toward Kili but his Uncle moved back in front.

“Sit, Fili. Or I’ll make sure he can’t walk for a month. Grenik!” he called to the scarred-faced warrior, who turned from his food; he’d been uninterested in the commotion behind him. “Keep Fili seated while his slave is dealt punishment.”

The scarred warrior shrugged, standing to block Fili’s path, and laying a hand on Fili’s shoulder. Grenik wasn’t concerned with the events, but obeyed his tribe leader as was custom.

Fili’s eyes went wide, and he sat on the edge of his chair, watching nervously, feeling helpless to help Kili with his Uncle’s threats. “Don’t do this He’s not yours.” He pleaded. He jumped forward, but Grenik was fast and pushed him back into the chair.

Bronin merely laughed. “You are in no position to make demands. You rise from that chair again and I swear I’ll hit more than just his feet. Darek, remove his boots.”

Kili tried to still himself as he felt his boots come off; he knew exactly what had happened to the other slave, and he only hoped the punishment would be over quickly. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together.

The rod bit into the heel of his foot first. He gasped, toes curling at the strike, shuddering. Darek’s hand slid along his back, holding him still. The second strike hit the balls of his feet, and he writhed, sucking his lip. Another strike, this time in the arch of his foot; he couldn’t contain his whimper.

Two more, harsh and fast, and he cried out. There was movement above, and he registered Fili’s angry voice. A hand tugged his head back, and a hard bread roll was stuffed into his open mouth. He groaned, trying to dislodge it, but the switch beat against his bare feet, and he had suck in more air through his nose.

Eventually he bit through, the bread falling out onto the floor. There were five more harsh blows to the arch of each foot, then he was tugged up by his hair. He stumbled onto his sore feet, hissing and tears falling from his eyes. Bilbo was turned away; Fili sat with his face buried in his hands; the scarred faced warrior stood with both hands on Fili’s shoulders.

Kili felt both anger and sadness dwelling within, confused, and would have fallen to the floor if not for Darek’s ruthless grip digging into his arm.

Fili looked up, his own mind dizzy with emotion. He had failed keep Kili safe, and it tore at his heart. “I wish to leave, Uncle. I’ve had enough food tonight. I wish to go home with my house slave and my bed slave.”

Bronin looked between Fili and Kili, and a smile crossed his face. Bronin took Fili aside from the table, against the wall where the others could not hear. “You should be pleased nephew. He will be too tired to fight. Or does he enjoy being fucked by you? I haven’t heard his screams at night. Are you too soft? Or do you gag him with your cock? Tell me, how good is he?” Bronin leaned over his nephew.

Fili seethed, his face reddening and legs planted wide. “My business with my bed slave is none of yours.”

“But that’s where you’re wrong, nephew. Your father entrusted me to watch over this clan until you were old enough to claim it. And by rights, it will be yours in three years, unless you turn it over to me. Until then, I need to make sure that our customs and traditions are being held; that includes the subservience of our slaves, fulfilling the duties set for them. Especially those under our half-breed Chieftain-to-be.”

“And what do you want?”

Bronin smiled pleasantly, enraging the golden-haired dwarf further. “You claim he is a bed slave. Tomorrow morning, I will bring the healer with me to inspect your bed slave. To ensure that he is filling the task you have set for him. If he has failed and there is no evidence...then we will cast him into the wild to be hunted tomorrow afternoon.”

Fili’s throat went dry. “You- you can’t. You don’t mean-”

“I mean every word of it, Fili.”

Fili’s arms went slack and he felt he was going to be sick. To protect Kili, he was going to have to hurt him.

Chapter Text

Fili collected Bilbo and Kili without delay. He shoved Kili’s boots into Bilbo’s hands, placed one hand on each of their shoulders and sternly led them to the hall’s exit; most the villagers paid no attention. But Fili could feel his uncle’s eyes on his back, watching every step. He was aware of the thuds of Kili’s feet hitting the boards, each followed by a pained hiss or moan from the dwarf. Fili winced with each noise; each stinging him nearly as much as Kili.

Once they passed through the great doors into the open, Fili swiftly reached over and swept Kili up, carrying him along the mountainside. Everybody was at the feast, and Fili had no fear of being seen. Kili’s head dropped against Fili’s shoulder, his hand coming up to lock around the edge of the red vest, holding onto it tightly. Fili wished the dark-haired dwarf to stop clinging to him for comfort; it wasn’t making his next task any easier.

They entered into their mountainside home, and Kili was gently set down onto the long bench. Bilbo moved to stoke the fires and Fili removed Kili’s restraints, taking time to gently massage his wrists and check his neck. Kili watched him; a hint of exhaustion in those dark eyes, but stubbornly holding them open. Fili moved to his feet, frowning as he looked over the marks. They were not as bad as he feared; Bronin had been lighter than he expected. The would likely close and heal in a day or two’s time. Fili sighed, looking over Kili’s scar down his face, the marks across his feet.

He had tried to protect him from all sorts of threats. His failure frustrated him, but knowing that he was going to be the one to cause Kili pain angered and saddened him more than any of the past transgressions ever could. His breath quickened and he closed his eyes.

“Fili? Are you well?”

The golden-haired dwarf turned to Bilbo. “Make him an herbal tea, Bilbo. One to relax him.”

“He doesn’t need one, Fili. I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Bilbo busied himself with folding the fur coats.

“No arguments now. Go make a tea.”

“Fili, we should-”


Bilbo looked on with surprise, grumbled and moved off to the kitchen. Fili moved along the bench, pulling Kili into his lap. He gently tugged his legs up close, pressing the slender body into his, holding him tightly until he could feel the heart thudding against his chest. He carded his fingers through the dark hair, pressing a gentle kiss to Kili’s forehead. He wanted to apologize before it began.

“One tea, Master Fili.”

“Don’t call me that, Bilbo.”

“Don’t act that way.”

Fili took the tea, pushing the warm mug into Kili’s hands. He turned to Fili, confusion written across his features and spoke to Bilbo in common.

“He wants to know why he needs this tea, Fili. He doesn’t care for the taste, or the effects.”

Fili hung his head. “Tell him that he must drink it.”

“He’ll ask why.”

“I know. But I don’t know how to tell him.”

“Tell him what?”

Fili took a deep, shuddering breath. Kili looked nervously between the two, unable to understand the conversation; but Fili could feel the limbs in his lap tensing. Kili had to drink the tea; it would hurt far less.

“Tell him what, Fili? What happened in that hall between you and your uncle?”

“I have claimed that Raven is a bed slave. I’ve been claiming that for sometime, Bilbo.”

“Yes. It makes perfect sense. They don’t have to know.”

“My uncle told me this: tomorrow morning, he brings the healer here. They are going to check Raven to see if I use him as my bed slave. If he’s not...they’re throwing him out and hunting him.”

Bilbo sank into the chair, silent.

Kili’s terrified eyes darted between the two, and he looked between them, begging for answers. “Bilbo? What’s he saying? What’s going on?” he asked, interrupting their conversation in the Firebeard language with his own common speech. Neither looked at him, and that frightened him even more. Kili tugged at Fili’s vest, trying to find an answer in those eyes, but the Firebeard looked away. “Fili? What’s happening?”

Bilbo sat up, shaking his head. “Fili, you can’t do that! He trusts you now! You can’t, you just can’t, you’re going to destroy him. There has to be another way!”

“If there is, I don’t know it!” Fili shouted. Kili flinched and pulled himself away from Fili’s lap, rubbing at his ear.

“I’m sorry, Raven. I’m so sorry,” he wrapped a hand around Kili’s neck, pulling him closer to kiss his nose and the tip of the ear. The dark-haired smiled softly and visibly relaxed. Fili pressed the tea up towards his lips, and Kili sipped at it. “Bilbo. Make another tea. I need to relax him, so he isn’t hurt.”

“I’m not worried about the physical injury, Fili. You need to consider more than that.”

“I hope he falls asleep, and I can do what I need to and explain it after. Please, more tea. To help him.”

Bilbo moved away silently to the kitchen, his bare feet padding the ground harder than usual.

Kili sipped his tea, looking between the two. He could see anger, sadness, hesitation, worry and fear passing through both Bilbo and Fili’s features. He finished he tea and leaned forward, drawing up a leg and tracing a line on his foot.

“Look, Fili. Look,” he tugged on the Firebeard’s sleeve. “I’m fine. This hardly hurts anymore, see?” He ran his finger up and down the welt, hoping to placate any concerns about his health. Fili smiled weakly and responded with a short phrase in the Firebeard’s dialect, then looked away. Bilbo returned with another mug, handing it to Kili and taking the other.

“Bilbo, I don’t think I need this,” Kili said, peering into the cup warming his hands. “I’ve already had one. I feel fine. Tell Fili my feet don’t hurt that much anymore. It was just the initial sting. They’re fine. Tell him not to worry, please, I don’t need the tea for my feet.”

Bilbo turned, switching to Firebeard speech. “He’s afraid he’s worrying you, Fili. He wants you to not worry. He thinks you’re giving him the tea for the injuries to his feet.”

Fili frowned and shook his head. “Tell him he isn’t the one that worries me right now, and ask him to drink it anyway.”

Bilbo translated, and Kili looked curious. “Something’s not right, Bilbo. Please, what’s going on?”

“Fili, what do I tell him?”

“That you’ll explain to him after he has the second cup and when he’s sitting in the bed. Go prepare yourself for bed. I suggest you take something to eat for breakfast; it may be safer to remain barred in your room until the healer has gone in the morning. And please...try not to listen. I hope they don’t hurt him too much. I hope I don’t hurt him too much.” Fili’s fingers gripped the edges of the bench, tugging at the furs. “Mother forgive me,” he whispered. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Kili finished his tea and stood, wincing as he put weight on his lashed feet, but trying to hide his pain with a thin yet genuine smile at Fili. He didn’t want the Firebeard to worry, hoping it would ease his mind. He headed into the privy, and Fili stood, moving toward the shelf.

He pulled down a blanket, opening it to find the leather straps and buckles Nurek had lent him. He took a deep breathe, taking them into the room and tucking them to the side of the bed, out of view. He didn’t want to use them; he was pleased he never had to in the past. He took a few cloths from the kitchen as well, and a jar of sesame oil. It had been quite some time since he had taken another dwarf; both of them young lads on a patrol. It had been pleasurable, but since then nobody had caught his eye. He imagined that Kili might want him this way someday, particularly after Kili’s response to the kisses that passed between them. But he knew it was too early, far too early for it. This was going to drive a wedge into their relationship, and he feared it may never close.

Fili finished hiding the items under the edge of a pelt, then stood in the doorway. Kili came out from the bath, hair a little damp on the edges. He limped but again caught Fili watching, and straightened his gait. Fili smiled softly at his stubborness; he had come to love that about the dark-haired dwarf. Kili sat on the bed, waiting expectantly for Bilbo arrive and explain things to him.

“Bilbo,” Fili called out. The hobbit turned up a few moments later, head bowed. Kili tensed again, watching the hobbit’s body language. Something was terribly wrong, still. He shuffled on the bed; his limbs began to loosen again immediately, the tea settling into his system. His eyelids drooped.

“Tell him this, exactly. My uncle believes that he is my bed slave. At dinner, he told me that he will come here tomorrow morning with the healer to see if it is true. If it is not, he will be taken out and killed. I am sorry, but I do this now because I have to. I do this because I want him to live. Tell him that I do love him.”

Bilbo took a deep, shaky breath and translated word for word. His voice began to crack as Kili’s face fell, and quickly turned from confusion and worry to fear and panic. When he finished, the young dwarf was looking to Fili with anxious eyes, shaking his head in disbelief.

“No. No, he wouldn’t. He can’t. I don’t believe him. He won’t do this, will he Bilbo? Will he?” Kili blinked rapidly, his voice going shrill with each exclamation. “He...he’s been good to me. No, he won’t. I’m not ready for this! You said he was protecting us Bilbo, he won’t do this! He won’t allow them!”

The hobbit had gone, barring himself in his room with a blanket and pillow over his head.

Fili looked down at the quivering dark-haired dwarf; he wore his usual bedclothes, and sat with his knees pulled up against this chest, arms wrapped around as if they would leave if he didn’t hold tight. He kept muttering, Fili hearing his name repeatedly.

“I’m so sorry, Raven. Kili. I’m so sorry, Kili.” The young prince looked up at the mention of his true name, listening intently to words that meant nothing, shaking his head.

“Please, I have to do this. I’ll make it as painless as I can.” Fili crawled across the bed, tugging at the bottom of Kili’s pants. The young prince crawled further away, slowly as the tea was making it difficult to move; only adrenaline sparked by his fear gave him the power to shift around.

“Please, Kili. Cooperate and we’ll finish this quickly.” He reached again for the young dwarf, managing to grasp an elbow. Holding him tightly, he leaned forward enough to wrap a hand around Kili, pulling him back against his chest. He spoke softly in his ear, gently stroking along his arm and back, trying to reassure and relax him. Kili sat without protest for a few moments, then a hand flew up, and Kili was pulling away again, pleading.

Fili shut his eyes with resignation. He reached down the side of the bed, pulling up the pelt and taking one of the long straps into his hands and setting it onto the bed. Kili’s eyes spotted it, and he flung himself backwards off the bed. His mouth opened but no words came out. A cold sweat covered his brow, and he shook his head side to side, willing the nightmare to stop. His body was too tired, too relaxed from the tea to prevent what happened next.

Fili took a fur, throwing it around Kili, pinning his arms below it. He wrapped it as tightly as he could, then took up the strap and buckled it low around Kili’s arms and torso. Kili thrashed tiredly, crying out. Fili tried to block out the distressing wails, taking up another strap and buckling it further up until he was certain and Kili was truly pinned in the fur wrap.

Kili’s cries only grew louder; the sound was upsetting to Fili, and he knew Bilbo would feel the same. He did the only thing he could think of; he took up a thin dishtowel, balling the fabric and shoving it into Kili’s mouth. One of the small leather straps was placed over the cloth, holding it in, and he buckled it. Kili’s cries were muffled, making it more bearable. He moved the dwarf to the middle of the bed and glimpsed his face. Red, puffy eyes, tears streaming down the pale cheeks. Once Kili was pinned with little chance of escape on his own, his courage and hope faded and he sadly yielded to his fate.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Fili muttered, stroking Kili’s cheek. “I don’t know what else I could do. I can’t let them hunt you, I can’t.”

With a gentle tug the pants were removed. Fili took a moment to sit back, looking over the bound form. Kili flexed weakly against his restraints. Brown eyes bore into his blue ones, and he shook his head, pleading behind the jaw-stretching gag. Fili took a deep breath, leaning up to press a soft kiss on his cheek, muttering another apology.

Fili then turned from the tortured face, not wanting to watch that terror and sadness he was responsible for. He returned down between Kili’s legs, moving between them and forcing them wide. He reached for the oil, setting a finger in the slick substance and then lifting it to Kili’s entrance.

To his surprise, Kili’s bare foot came up, kicking him in the chest.

“Please Kili. Let me finish this. I’m doing this to save you.” He tried again, but the foot kicked, catching his chin. Fili was forced to take up another strip of leather, tying either end around Kili’s ankles, leaving a small gap. He lifted the slender legs up to his shoulders, pulling the strap over his head to rest on the back of his neck for the time being. He took the slick finger back to Kili’s dusky hole, and pushed a finger in. The dark-haired dwarf bucked and groaned, trying to pull away; Fili steadied him with a hand against hip, raising him slightly and holding him. He pushed another in, and tugged, stretching at the hole. Eventually a third finger entered, and Kili mewled softly, his struggles very weak.

“Please, just relax and sleep,” Fili begged. “I’m so sorry.”

Fili worked him open, his own arousal pressing against his pants, spurred by Kili’s soft moans and cries. After some time he removed the fingers, and Kili groaned, unmoving. Fili moved back up to his face, resting a hand against his cheek, whispering more apologies. He avoided looking directly into the pained eyes. He spread a liberal amount of oil over himself, enjoying the sensation more than he wanted to, and turned his attention back to the bound dwarf on his bed.

He slipped his hands under Kili’s buttocks, lifting him slightly and pressing his tip against the puckered hole. He pushed in gently, moaning as the warmth enveloped his member; Kili was tight, too tight. He paused and gently moved back, thrusting shallowly for a few minutes, then slowed down and pushed further in. Physically, it was bliss. Mentally, he was in agony. Fili continued to push, finally reaching his full depth and sat there, groaning in pleasure at the sensation. Kili’s labored pants pushed him over the edge, and a carnal urge took over. He thrust, hard and fast. Kili cried, sobbing, choking, but Fili’s mind had shut him out, only focusing on what he needed to finish. He moaned, sweat beading from his forehead, thrusting in and out of that pleasant tight heat, until he finally found his release. He jerked, pressing into Kili hard as his seed spilled, his lips parted and eyes closed. After a few moments he gently pulled away, looking over the sad figure in his bed.

Fili flipped Kili over onto his stomach, placing pillows under his groin to keep his ass upturned; he needed to keep his seed in his hole until the healer arrived. The young dwarf’s back bowed from the new position. Fili undid the leather strap around the pale ankles, and moved it up around Kili’s thighs to prevent him from moving too much. Kili’s face buried into the bed, tears soaking the cloth. Fili climbed on top of him, laying against his back and carefully unlatching the gag and pulling out the cloth. Kili gasped and coughed, head dropping into the sheets. Once he had caught his breath, his sobs quieted, and Fili rested on top of him, gently rubbing his back, stroking his cheek, whispering and apologizing until they were both asleep.

Morning came too quickly. Fili awoke on his side; his eyes fluttering open and Kili still lay on his stomach with the pillows below his middle. His eyes were closed but still obviously puffy from his tears. Fili quietly and carefully sat up, watching for a reaction from Kili.

When none came, he exhaled deeply. Guilt was caught in his throat, but the healer would be there soon and he couldn’t afford to let it catch up with him now. He crawled to Kili, straddling his legs. Carefully spreading his cheeks, he looked into the hole in hopes that what remained would convince the healer. Kili moaned and twisted in his sleep, and Fili let go, satisfied with the result. He stood and quickly dressed, then paused to look down at Kili’s sleeping form. His arms were still trapped in the fur that was strapped around him; a belt kept his legs together. There were bruises along his hips.

Fili cursed himself; that was his fault. Then he cursed himself again. It was all his fault. Would Kili be able to forgive him? Did he understand why Fili had to do this? Fili wanted to say he felt as victimized as Kili was, but he stopped himself. That didn’t seem fair; he wasn’t the one bound on a bed with no choice in the matter. He was given a choice, and he had made it. And the results now lay in front of him. Fili ran a hand through his hair, moving out to the kitchen to find some water and await the healer.

Kili woke before the healer and his uncle arrived, unfortunately. Fili sat in common room, warming the fire; Bilbo remained hidden away in his room as requested. And then he heard the soft cries again, and his heart broke. He wanted to pull Kili up, hold him, apologize, and try to explain. But he couldn’t yet; he couldn’t move him. He walked back in and saw fearful eyes looking at him. Kili wriggled in the restraints, and Fili turned away, unable to watch the dwarf any longer, his guilt threatening to slowly consume him. It was another hour before heavy thuds rocked the door, and Fili answered it quickly.

His uncle stood with hands clasped behind his back; the healer Renig stood with a small leather pouch. Fili looked between them both, unable to utter a greeting.

“Good morning, dear nephew,” Bronin drawled. “You look shattered. It was a good night then, was it? How many times did you take your pleasure?”

“He’s in the bedroom,” Fili answered neutrally, trying to shut out the strong emotions plaguing his mind. Kili’s face wandered into his mind’s eye, and he paused. “Wait. I...I just need to see him first.”

Fili only wanted to keep Kili calm when he considered Nurek’s suggestion of the blindfold. Fili left his guests, entering the bedroom where Kili continued to struggle, looking apprehensively at Fili. The golden-haired dwarf took up a long cloth, folding it over and over. He leaned in, pressing a kiss to Kili’s forehead again; Kili jerked back. He slid the cloth over his eyes, tying it tightly against his head.

“I think it will be easier this way,” he said, although Kili didn’t understand.

Kili moaned, muttering again in common tongue.

“Shhh,” Fili cooed, gently running circles down his back. “You mustn’t speak.” On that thought, he picked up the balled cloth from last night, pressing it back into Kili’s mouth and buckling it there. Fili sat back on his haunches, observing the blind, gagged and bound dwarf. A shiver went through his body, and a tear leapt to his eye. Kili’s struggles had ceased completely. The dark-haired dwarf lay motionless and silent, save the harsh, short breaths through his nose.

“He’s ready,” Fili called to the common room while gently tracing his hand down Kili’s thigh. The healer entered, followed by Bronin.

“Ah,” he uncle smiled. “I too find it satisfying to have them bound and gagged. I enjoy the noises they make. Does this one make pleasing noises, Fili?”

Fili closed his eyes and nodded; it was the easiest answer. A sharp cry caused him to look again, and the healer sat beside Kili, pressing apart the globes of flesh apart and poking his finger into Kili’s hole. Kili tried to shift away, but the healer held him steady, and pinched and slapped the flesh if Kili’s moans were too loud. He reached into his leather bag, pulling out a long metal rod with a bulbous end, and pushed it violently into Kili. Kili screamed behind the gag.

Fili nearly collapsed, locking his knees in place to avoid killing the healer then and there. He turned away, face ashen. He heard more digging in the leather bag. A clang of metal instruments, and then another terrible howl from the bed, followed by prolonged whimpers. His throat went dry, but he couldn’t bring himself to look.

The healer finally spoke up. “He has been taken, and quite hard from the looks of it.”

Fili felt light-headed.

Bronin turned to Fili, grabbing his chin and forcing his nephew to look at him. “I am surprised. And more than a little pleased to see how you do treat him in your home,” he glanced to the dark-haired dwarf, writhing under the healer’s cruel touches. “You may keep him for longer.”

The metal instruments clanged again as the healer packed them away, and Fili never wanted to hear that noise again, nor the pitiful wails from the dark-haired dwarf on his bed.

Fili nodded curtly, hurriedly showing the other Firebeards to his door. Once they were out, he rapped on Bilbo’s door on his way back to Kili. “They’re gone, Bilbo.”

Fili dashed back to the bed, quickly undoing the blindfold, gag and all of the buckles and straps. Kili didn’t respond but lay quietly, breathing heavily, tears streaming down his face. Fili rolled him onto his back; he stared at the ceiling with pupils dilated; the Firebeard wondered what the healer had done to him.

“Rav- Kili. Kili, please say something.” Dark eyes eventually shifted, gazing into Fili’s. Then he rolled over, facing away. Fili moved up behind him, wrapping and arm gently around his waist, pulling him close and kissing his neck. Kili was tense and didn’t respond to his touch as he usually did. Fili held him for as long as he could; eventually Kili tried to roll over, and Fili let him go quickly, not wanting to restrain him any further. He backed away until Kili was laying on his side facing him.

Fili looked sadly at him, tracing his fingers over the eyebrows, nose and lips. “I’m so sorry, Kili.”

More tears slipped down from those beautiful dark eyes, and Fili shook his head. “It’s okay now. You’re safe now. I did it to keep you safe.” He repeated the mantra.

But no matter how many times he said it, he couldn’t convince himself that it had been the right course of action. Fili would look over and find that beautiful yet terrified face looking at his own, saying nothing and still reminding him of his betrayal with a single glance.

Chapter Text

Kili fell back asleep, curled into a small ball on the edge of the bed as far from anybody as he could be. Fili left him in the bed to join Bilbo in the common room. Bilbo sat quietly on the bench, sipping at a mug of steaming tea. The firebeard fell into his armchair, stretching his legs out before him. It was nearly noon.

“How is he?” The hobbit’s tone was clear and neutral, and his eyes stayed fixed to the fire, pushing away the cold seeping in from the outdoors.

“Asleep again. I think, I hope, physically...he will be fine. But you should speak to him when he’s awake. I want to know what he is thinking. I’m worried for him.”

“I will. And how are you?”

Fili tapped his fingers against the chair’s arm. “I feel dreadful, Bilbo. I shouldn’t have done that...but what else could I do?”

“I don’t know.”

The silence between words was long and punctuated, and finally Fili stood and wandered into the kitchen with a great sigh. Bilbo followed. “Do you want make to make you anything?”

“No, go and rest in the common room Bilbo. I want you to be there for Kili when he wakes.”

“So it’s Kili instead of Raven, then?”

Fili pulled out some bread and butter, nodding. “Kili. Don’t let anybody else know that.”

Bilbo returned to the common room. He pushed the door to Fili’s room open, and saw Kili lying under a cover, looking up at him. He swallowed, afraid for the dark-haired dwarf. “Fili said you fell back asleep; I wasn’t expecting you awake. Can I come in?”

“Yes please,” the soft voice rasped.

“How do you feel?”


Bilbo frowned; he knew that Kili would be sore, but he wanted to know more Kili’s mental state. “Anything else?”

Kili didn’t respond, but a tear trickled from his eye.

Bilbo sat on the edge of the bed, beside Kili’s knees. “Do you remember me translating Fili’s explanation last night, why he did it?”

Kili gave a small nod.

“He’s really upset, Kili. He didn’t want to. But you know he did it because they would have killed you otherwise. Do you understand that?”

“I know,” he stuttered, recalling Bilbo’s words before the act, fingers digging against the blankets. “I just was hoping he would find another way. That he would understand I didn’t want him to. Not like that.” There was another long pause. “I’m not upset that it was Fili,” he said, and Bilbo only just caught the soft whisper. Kili looked around the room before turning back to Bilbo. “I wanted it to be Fili. But I didn’t want it like that. I was hoping that if we did...when we did...our first time would be happy. I wasn’t ready.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling.

“Are you going to be okay?” Bilbo asked, concerned. “Fili needs to know.”

“I know why he did it,” Kili whispered, his mind still wrapped up in Bilbo’s earlier comment. His fingers twisted along the edge of the pillow, and he buried his face against it. “I didn’t like it, but I understand why. I really do. It hurt, Bilbo. I was afraid and I couldn’t relax. I fought back, I tried. I kicked him. I didn’t mean to, I just... It really hurt, and the healer hurt more. But that part of me will recover.”

Bilbo winced at Kili’s chosen words. “What part of you won’t recover?”

“I wanted to trust him.” Kili paused then rolled toward the hobbit, his voice a low whisper again, heavy with grief. “I loved his soft, gentle touches. The way he touches my hair. It was...nice, Bilbo. I began to crave that touch. And I wanted him near me. At the feast...I saw how he tried to protect me. How he tried to put himself between me and the Chieftain. He was doing what he could to keep me safe. And then he carried me home so I didn’t have to walk.” He pulled himself into a sitting position, and looked Bilbo in the eyes. “I think I loved him. I don’t know if I can anymore. That hurts more than words can describe.” He buried his face against his knees. “Oh, Bilbo, I don’t know what to do. I want him close...yet it’s safer if I’m far from him.”

“You should speak to him. You’re both upset, but on the same side of this divide. Neither of you wanted this.”

“Yes. But one of us had the power to stop it.”

Kili took a deep breath, sitting quietly. He was upset. He cared for Fili, more than he wanted to sometimes. There were times where he reminded himself that Fili was his captor, and he was the slave; no matter how kind the Firebeard was to him. And he tried to quell his feelings for Fili; but despite his attempts, they shone through. Worst of all, he understood why Fili had done it, and could understand his predicament. Kili was ignorant of the words which forced Fili into the situation; yet he still found himself believing that Fili had little choice, despite the actions that followed. He was beginning to hate himself, already finding that his heart was using logic to forgive the golden-haired dwarf, when his head needed to blame him for longer. He shifted, and a sting of pain from within fuelled his argument; he let out an involuntary moan.

Bilbo watched with alarm. “Kili? Can I help? Is it your feet or-”

“Not my feet.” He shifted uncomfortably, trying to find a better position.

“Fili will be happy to fetch anything you need, if it will help.”

Kili shook his head. “I know he would.”

“Will you talk to him? He’s just as upset as you are.”

Confused and hurt, Kili pulled his knees up against his chest and took a few minutes to calm himself; conflicting emotions and thoughts tearing through his mind. “But you might be right. He didn’t want it either. Can you ask him to come here? I don’t want to get up yet. And can you come back and stay with me? I don’t want to be alone with him.”

Bilbo wasted no time in fetching the Firebeard dwarf from the kitchen, who entered hesitantly. Shame was written across his face. Bilbo translated, and the golden-haired dwarf slipped into the bed beside Kili, not touching him.

Kili took a deep breath, drawing up his courage. He looked to the golden-haired dwarf’s sad eyes, his hesitant moves, his tense arms. His trembling hands; the hands Kili had fallen in love with. And Kili reminded himself why Fili had taken him, and hesitantly tried to show the warrior that he understood. He reached out a hand toward Fili, then withdrew it, burrowing his face in his arms.

“I’m sorry, Bilbo. I can’t, not yet. I’m so sorry. It wasn’t your fault, Fili. I understand why you did it. I didn’t like it but I understand. I’m sorry I fought and kicked you.”

Bilbo translated, and Fili’s eyes grew larger in shock. “No, Bilbo! Tell him he shouldn’t apologize! It was all my fault. I didn’t want to...I..didn’t mean to tie him down, but I had to, because I had to... Oh, Bilbo. Tell him I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

The hobbit translated between them, and they continued to apologize for sometime, then sat in silence on opposite ends of the bed. Fili reached out a hand. Kili noticed but glanced away.

Fili turned before anybody could see his expression and slipped out of the room.

Despite Kili’s understanding and Fili’s apologies, Kili chose to keep his distance from Fili and slept in the common room. At Fili’s request Bilbo stoked the fire there before bed each night, and Fili brought furs to Kili and left him in front of the hearth. No words needed to be said; Fili was upset that Kili felt the need to do so but he knew it was his own action that caused it. Fili did his best to apologize through gestures; he would gently wake Kili in the morning by bringing him food and sitting beside him while he ate, but always maintaining enough distance to not frighten him. Kili began to keep his eyes on Fili whenever he was near, and put his back towards a wall. Bilbo watched sadly; Fili was obviously pained by these actions, but Kili was still hurting too, and needed time to come to terms with Fili.

Fili made a show of bringing forth the softest furs from his own bed, building up the space that Kili chose to sleep in. He asked Kili what he wanted for dinner, and even tried to help Bilbo cook until the hobbit chased him out the kitchen. He sharpened Kili’s woodworking tools.

Weeks passed with no improvement between the pair and on a chilly day Fili woke early and moved into the common room quietly where Kili still slept. Bilbo was asleep as well, although the hobbit was often the first to wake. There was a mumble from the floor, and Kili twitched, mumbling in his sleep. Fili heard his own name, and realized Kili was pleading and begging in his nightmare. Fili walked around the sleeping figure, desperately wanting to reach down and pull him into his arms, to stroke his hair, to kiss his neck and lips until he roused from the dark sleep. But he was too afraid of traumatizing the dark haired dwarf further, and held back, his nails digging into his palms. He sat on the bench nearby and began whispering.

“Kili...Kili, wake up.” The figure continued to thrash under the furs, and Fili reached forward, continuing to whisper. “Kili.”

“No,” the small voice whimpered in common, over and over again, eyes still shut. Kili would not wake, and Fili could not touch him.

The Firebeard felt an unwelcome wetness on his cheeks, surprising himself, and quickly wiped away the tears. Quietly, he moved to the hearth and added a few more logs to keep the room warm and Kili comfortable. Then he dressed in his warm furs and headed out of the home, leaving the two slaves asleep, unable to cope with his grief in their presence.

He walked through the village somewhat aimlessly, although he knew he should stay indoors and away from his Uncle. He busied himself with tending to his livestock and milking the cow; dropping off the pail of milk to Bilbo without a word before leaving again. He could hear the hobbit calling after him, but he checked that the door was locked, keeping the pair safely inside, and headed to Nurek’s home, knocking on the door.

To his surprise Nurek’s cousin, Nisor, answered the door.

“I’m sorry. I was looking for Nurek,” he told the blue-tattooed warrior.

“He is gone,” the burly Firebeard replied, a sadness in his voice.

“Gone?” Fili pushed past him into the house looking around with alarm. “What? What happened?”

“He has gone to bury his child and Gildin.”

Fili’s flesh prickled and he turned back to dwarf. “What happened?”

Nisor shook his head. “Stupid slave smothered the child with a pillow,” he said. “Nurek came home and she was in the bed, the child without breath. Then she pulled out his cutting tool, and sliced her wrists.”

Fili shook his head. “I don’t understand why-”

“Nurek said she was laughing and telling him that she saved the child and she was going to save herself next. Stupid slave,” Nisor said. “This is why we keep them away from knives.”

“She killed herself,” Fili mused aloud. “And her own child. That’s how badly she needed to escape.”

“Oh no, didn’t kill herself,” the Firebeard fell heavily into Nurek’s chair. “Nurek finished her before she bled out. He was furious at the loss of his son.”

Fili’s face twisted in pain. “He killed her?”

“Stabbed her through the heart, several times over. Did you not hear the screams this morning?”

“I - no.”

The pair sat in silence for a few minutes until Fili found his voice again. “Nisor. The dark-haired dwarf from Erebor you brought back as a slave on the last raid; the one I keep. Tell me how he came to be here.”

Nisor looked thoughtful. “We found a group of Erebor dwarves,” he explained. “Myself and Tirnok, who fell in the fight. They had very good weapons, and they were young, inexperienced. We thought we could take them down easily, but there was one, a big one, he fought well. As did the dark-haired little one.”

Fili nodded. He wasn’t surprised to hear the Kili was a good fighter; the young dwarf had held his own in the raid from the other village for some time before Fili arrived.

Nisor’s hands traced over Nurek’s tools. “The big one knocked me out, and they held me captive. But your slave...he was different. He brought me food and water, kept me alive. When the rest of the patrol turned up, I returned the favor. I kept him alive, all the way back to the village.”

“Is that it? You saved him because he showed you kindness?”

“I owed him my life, so I gave him his. I owe him nothing now. It was not kindness, it was payment.”

Fili leaned against the wall. “I see.” The blue-tattooed dwarf’s reasoning was sound by Firebeard principles; he would not admit kindness to a slave. And yet there was a hint of emotion in his statement. Fili was even more surprised by his next question.

“Is he well?”

“He is alive.”

Nisor looked down thoughtfully. “That is good. I hope he fares better than Gildin.”

Fili looked at Nisor with pause, then nodded. “I should go. Please tell Nurek that I stand strong with him at the loss of his son.”

“I will.”

He left the tailor’s home, thoughtful on Nisor’s words, and thinking back to Kili immersed in nightmares on the common room floor. He moved hastily through the village, back to his home and unlocking the door. Removing his outer furs, he locked the door and noticed Kili was gone and Bilbo’s door open.

“Kili? Bilbo?” he called out, moving towards the kitchen. He was relieved to find them both there, Bilbo rolling dough and Kili sitting on his stool on the opposite side. He moved in, boots thudding against the stone floor. Bilbo turned casually, but Kili pressed his back against the wall, his eyes fixed on the golden-haired dwarf. Fili made his way to Bilbo, leaning over to hug the hobbit.

“Fili? What is this?” Bilbo asked, confused. “What’s wrong?”

“Bilbo,” Fili pulled back, his hands still resting on the hobbit’s shoulders. “You would tell me if there was anything I could do to make your life more bearable, yes?”

“I...I don’t know,” Bilbo stuttered. “I’ve been in this village a long time. What I want is irrelevant, and I’ve come to terms with that.”

“Maybe under my father,” Fili said. “But under, no, with me, you must tell me what you want to be happy.” He pulled off Bilbo, turning to Kili, who shrank on his stool. Fili took a step forward, and Kili slid off to keep his distance.

“Fili, not yet,” Bilbo pleaded. “Kili isn’t ready. Why are you saying this?”

Fili nodded sadly. “Please tell Kili the same as I have told you.”

Bilbo turned to Kili, who stood in the doorway, and translated Fili’s wish for them to talk to him about their needs. He turned back to the Firebeard. “What provoked this?”

“Gildin and her son are dead.”

Bilbo’s mind twisted from confusion to sadness. “Oh.” He felt light-headed, and walked over to the stool vacated by Kili, and sat down. “Oh.” He closed his eyes as they welled with tears.

Both Fili and Kili moved to him, Kili jerking away as Fili came near, avoiding a near collision.

Bilbo opened his eyes. “I’ll be fine,” he said to Fili. “It’s not the first slave I was allowed to know who has died here. But that does not make it any easier.”

Fili frowned at the statement; he had never realized this suffering that Bilbo endured. The silence was broken by Kili asking a question in common; and then Fili could hear Bilbo mention Gildin’s name and realized Kili had not understood why Bilbo was upset. He allowed the pair a moment to discuss in common, then he moved back towards Bilbo, embracing the hobbit again. “I’m sorry, Bilbo. I know how you tried to help her.”

Kili sat on the bench watching Fili hug Bilbo and hanging his head.

Later that evening, they gathered in the common room where Fili and Bilbo took up a card game, and Kili sat on his stool near the fire, his woodworking tools set out on the hearth by the firewood basket. He was bent over his piece of timber, frowning as he drove the spike through the edge, and began chiseling away.

Bilbo looked up as Kili muttered again, sitting up and cursing his work before leaning back in. “He’s very agitated tonight,” Bilbo sighed.

Fili glanced and nodded. “He is. We should make him a tea, to relax-”

“You know he will never drink one of those again unless you hold him down and pour it down his throat.”

Fili grimaced. “Please don’t say that. I have no desire to do that to him.”

Bilbo set his cards down. “I know, but-”

His conversation was cut off by a yelp from Kili. Bilbo and Fili both turned to him holding his knife, a bloody cut across his wrist, just beside the leather bands which protected them from the manacles. Nisor’s comment about Gildin suddenly replayed in Fili’s mind, Then she pulled out his cutting tool, and sliced her wrists.

“Kili!” Fili leapt up, dashing over and grasping the wounded wrist. “Bilbo, a cloth, quickly!” Bilbo hurried away. Kili was trying to pull away, pleading, but Fili only held him tightly with one arm, his other hand tightly around Kili’s wrist to staunch the blood flow. He sat behind the dwarf, pulling him into his lap to keep him still. He could feel a heartbeat pounding below his fingers resting on that slender wrist.

Bilbo was back in a moment with the cloth, and Fili wiped away the first blood; Kili was speaking to Bilbo. Fili pulled back the cloth to find a shallow slice across the skin; Kili has failed to cut deep enough. He gasped and brought his arm up, holding Kili and rocking back and forth, trying to control his own shaking.

“Fili,” Bilbo said, grasping his shoulder. “It’s okay. He says he slipped. He is frustrated with the quality of the remaining wood, and he pressed too hard and cut in the wrong direction, and it slipped. He says he will be fine.”

Fili’s heartbeat slowed as relief washed through him; he absently leaned in and kissed Kili’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I thought know I will do anything for you? I would, Kili.”

Kili looked to Bilbo with wide, confused eyes as Fili’s grip remained strong around his arms, pinning him. “Bilbo...I’m okay. Please ask him to let me go.”

“Fili wants you to know he would anything for you.”

Kili sat transfixed momentarily. “Yes. I’m sorry I scared him. Can you ask him to let me go? He’s squeezing too tightly.”

Bilbo relayed the words, and Fili carefully unwrapped himself from the other dwarf and knelt in front where Kili could see him. He pointed at the cloth and the wrist.

Kili looked on with hesitation, then nodded. He had been terribly frightened of how he would react the next time Fili touched him; however the sudden embrace hadn’t been as bad as he feared. He felt his heart rate increase, but that was more his own surprise at his mellow response than directly to Fili’s touch. He glanced up to the blue eyes which patiently waited a reply and nodded.

Fili’s hands were gentle as they often were, save that terrible night. He took the cloth, folding it over. An unpleasant memory of Fili folding the blindfold passed through Kili’s mind, and he swallowed and suppressed it. Kili’s hand was shaking as he held it out; Fili steadied it before wrapping the small towel around the shallow cut, and tying it off.

Fili brought Kili’s wrist up further, pressing a gentle kiss to the palm and looking deeply into Kili’s eyes, holding him there for a few moments. “Kili,” he said softly, smiling at the dark-haired dwarf.

Kili felt a flutter in his chest and smiled back. His fears dissipated, and he realized how much he had missed Fili’s kind touches.

The turning point for the pair of dwarves truly came the next day, nearly six weeks after the feast and incident. Fili departed to fetch more logs and branches for Kili’s woodwork, upon hearing Kili’s oaths that the remainder of the logs were not suitable. Upon his return he picked up the woodworking tools which he purchased for Kili, and carefully took up the small spike, pressing it into a section of wood and beginning to carve a shape. Large hands carefully dug into the stick, and he concentrated while Bilbo worked in the kitchen and Kili kept the hobbit company.

He worked quietly and carefully to not disturb or attract attention, mimicking Kili’s techniques. When Bilbo passed into the lounge, followed by Kili, he tucked the tool and block away to the side and smiled pleasantly until they headed back into kitchen. He was a little frustrated; it was far more difficult than Kili’s skill showed. But his desire for the finished product overruled his irritation, and he continued on through the afternoon, eventually asking Bilbo to keep Kili occupied in the kitchen area until dinner.

After the evening meal they gathered in the common room, taking up their usual places as of late; Bilbo and Fili sharing the long the bench, and Kili on a short stool to the side. Fili’s eyes flickered to the dark-haired dwarf, who was going through his new stash of timber, humming to himself.

“Bilbo,” Fili said. “Ask Kili if he would sit beside me. I have something to show him.”

Curious as well, Bilbo relayed Fili’s instructions in common to Kili, who hesitated momentarily before crossing over to sit with Fili. The golden-haired dwarf reached down behind the bench and withdrew a small carved figurine. It was misshapen and looked vaguely like a dwarf. Fili held it out to Kili. “For you.”

Kili gingerly took it; Bilbo translated the last two words but Kili had understood. He turned it over and over, a small smile creeping up, then laughed with delight at Fili’s first woodwork attempt, holding it close and then hugging the golden-haired dwarf. The Firebeard trembled with surprise at Kili’s embrace; he hadn’t felt it in over a month. He pulled Kili closer, overjoyed when the dark-haired dwarf stayed in his lap, resting against his chest. He reached up, stroking Kili’s hair. The movement always relaxed both him and Kili, and he was surprised when Kili began to snore a few minutes later, still clutching the figurine. Fili wrapped an arm around him, sitting contently while Kili slept peacefully for an hour.

After he woke they continued around the fire, each content in their own hobbies. Bilbo excused himself early, moving off to his own room. Kili kept glancing up towards Fili, who was working on a new belt. The Firebeard eventually noticed the dark-haired dwarf’s glances, and took them to mean that Kili wished to sleep. Fili stood and moved to tend the fire that would warm Kili for the night, but Kili stopped him. The young prince placed his hand on the golden-haired warrior’s arm, shaking his head, then turned and walked into the bedroom.

Fili’s heart swelled as he watched Kili’s disappearance; he quickly set aside his work and followed. Kili stood by the mantle of the bedroom hearth, looking over his little figurine that he’d placed on the corner. He smiled warmly at Fili and threw a few logs into the fire. Changing into his nightshirt, he slipped into the large bed and looked to Fili expectantly. The Firebeard quickly divested his own attire and joined him. The dark-haired dwarf turned, resting his head on Fili’s arm and pressing against his torso. Fili felt Kili’s action was a sign that he was finally forgiven for the pain he had caused, and was pleased to try and put the despicable memory behind them. Fili welcomed Kili’s warmth, having missed it terribly, and held him close. Both fell into peaceful slumbers that night.

Chapter Text

A few more days passed, and one early afternoon found Bilbo washing laundry while Fili was showing Kili how to hold and wield a spear properly. Kili laughed, swinging the staff of the weapon at Fili who dodged with a grin. Fili moved over to the dark-haired dwarf, wrapping his arms around him and demonstrating the proper stances again. Kili closed his eyes, the golden-haired dwarf’s scent filling his nose, and turned quickly to plant a kiss on his lips. Fili looked down with a start, set the spear aside and pulled him to the bench, sitting down and passionately returning it

Bilbo walked into the room, saw them and headed back to the kitchen with a huff. “Again? There’s only so long I can stay in this kitchen! You two have a room, you know!” Despite his words, there was a lightness in his tone; Bilbo was relieved to see them enjoying each other's company again.

Fili laughed and while Kili didn’t comprehend the all of the words, since Bilbo had chosen to speak in the Firebeard tongue, he was happy to watch Fili’s display of joy. The day’s merriment was interrupted by a loud thumping on the door, and Fili suddenly drew himself up, tense. He stood, placing a hand on Kili’s shoulder and pointing him to the kitchen. The young prince nodded and slipped into the kitchen with Bilbo. The hobbit looked hesitantly toward the common room, and grabbed the broom and shoved it into Kili’s hands. “Look busy, eyes down.”

Fili approached the door, opening it and finding his Uncle standing there. He drew himself up and offered a curt bow. “Uncle.”

“Fili.” He pushed through, seating himself in Fili’s armchair. “I would like to discuss the spring and summer raids with you.”

“Very well.” Fili seated himself on their bench.

“How about drinks, Fili? I am thirsty.”

Fili stood. “I’ll get them.”

“No, no. Sit. Don’t you have slaves to do that for you?”

Fili sighed and sat back down. “Bilbo! Two ales!”

“No. I want to see how the other one is doing. The dark-haired one from Erebor. What do you call him again?”


“Raven. Very well. Let’s see him again.” A malicious smile crept across his face.

Fili could feel the hair standing on the back of his neck. His uncle cared nothing for the raids, but was interested in Kili. “He is busy. Bilbo can serve.”

“Is he? Let’s see what he’s up to, shall we?” His uncle was up and into the dining area before Fili could run through to stop him. To his relief, Bilbo was busy washing clothes in a tub, and Kili was turned away, hunched over and sweeping the floors that Bilbo kept spotless.

“See? He is busy. Leave them to their tasks. I’ll get the ales,” Fili said, pulling two mugs off the shelf and moving to the keg.

Bronin cleared his throat, and spoke deeply. “I want to see him serve it, Fili. Put the mugs down.” It was a command, not a request.

“Raven,” Fili called, and Kili ducked his head upwards apprehensively. Fili held out the two mugs, indicating the keg and then nodding to the common room. Kili took the mugs and began to fill them. Fili moved back to the bench, his uncle claiming his chair again.

“You must be looking forward to the raids, Fili.”

“Not really.”

Kili came out of the dining and kitchen area, carrying the two mugs. He handed the first to Fili, who frowned. Kili’s eyes went wide, silently asking Fili what he had done wrong. Fili handed the first mug to his uncle, and allowed Kili to pass him the second.

“He doesn’t even know how to serve guests properly,” Bronin stated with disdain. “He’s been here months, does he know anything other than how to be fucked properly?”

Fili set his jaw, holding back his retort. “He does what I need him to.”

Kili stood before Fili, staring at the floor, uncertain what to do. His shoulders shook as he stared at the ground; Bronin’s presence clearly made the young dwarf afraid. The last two times Bronin had seen Kili, he had been hurt. Fili wanted to pull him down into a hug, keep him safe beside him. He did the best he could at the time.

“Raven!” he said sternly, and pointed at the floor beside the bench. Thankfully, Kili understood and knelt on the floor beside Fili’s feet.

“And tell me again, Fili, how good is he in bed?”

“He meets my needs.” Fili took short breaths, wondering how much longer he would have to deal with this ridiculous line of questioning and show of superiority.

“Well, he doesn’t do much for your guests, does he? Send him over here, I wish to put my feet up.”

Fili shook his head. “No.”

“Do I need to remind you that I have the power to rip him from you hands and destroy him?”

Fili closed his eyes. He wanted to kill his uncle. And enjoy watching each and every drop of blood that painted the floor. “Raven,” Fili said, looking down at Kili. He didn’t know how to explain in words Kili knew, so he carefully placed a hand on Kili’s arm, leading him over in front of his Uncle, keeping downward pressure so he had to crawl. Kili’s eyes darted up, wide and confused. Fili shook his head softly, and positioned him on his hands and knees, facing Fili. He glanced up again, and Fili pointed to the floor. He cast his eyes down again. Fili knew he was confused and frightened, and his own heart ached to relieve Kili of those burdens.

Bronin stretched out, raising one foot and then the other, letting them fall heavily into the middle of Kili’s back. Kili’s head fell further but he kept his position. Bronin began to talk to Fili about the raids, discussing his plans to focus on bringing back more slaves for the settlement, and to stake out mining claims the slaves could be used at. He spoke at length, and Fili heard some of the words, but his eyes moved down to Kili, who stared and the floor, body swaying as time wore on. He hoped that the dark-haired dwarf could survive his Uncle’s presence a little longer.

Finally Bronin yawned. “Should be dinner time, I think. Has Bilbo made anything good lately that I can take back with me?”

“Come and I”ll show you,” Fili stood.

“Oh, no. I’ll stay here. Just bring me a plate of something.”

Fili stared at his uncle and down to Kili; he moved quickly into the kitchen, grabbing the nearest plate and throwing some pie and pastries onto it. He’d made it back to the doorway when he heard Kili cry out, and came through to see him laying on his side, curling in on himself and eyes shut tightly.

“What happened?” Fili roared, setting the plate down and rushing to kneel behind Kili. He put his arms around him to pull him up, but Kili groaned deeply, clutching his ribs.

“My mistake,” Bronin smiled. “I went to get up and stepped on his hand. I think it frightened him. And he rolled, and my boot collided with his stomach.” Fili’s uncle shrugged. “If he’s broken you can just bring home another next year.” Bronin collected the plate. “Oh, the apple tarts. I do love these.” He picked one up, walking to the door and biting into it carelessly. Crumbs fell over the floor. “Lovely chat, Fili. I’ll see you again soon.”

The door slammed shut, and Fili let out a loud growl of frustration, sitting with Kili on the floor. Bilbo came running out.

“I don’t know what that bastard is up to, but I’m going to make him pay for hurting Kili,” Fili muttered, running his fingers through Kili’s tresses. “I didn’t see what he did, can you ask, Bilbo?”

Bilbo translated and Kili just gripped his stomach, muttering.

“He kicked him. Kili thinks he may have cracked a rib. He says it hurts but it will heal soon enough, and not to worry.”

Fili put his hands on Kili’s face, leaning in to gently kiss the tip of his nose. “You’re going to be okay, Kili. I’m going to figure this out and find out what I need to do to keep you safe. Just give me some time.”

That evening Bilbo and Kili chatted while Fili sat behind Kili, massaging the dark-haired dwarf’s back. Kili’s eyes fluttered closed as Fili’s strong hands worked through the knots in his shoulders; he hadn’t realized how much tension he built up in Bronin’s visit. He wrapped his hands around Fili’s knees, noting how stiff Fili was as well. Kili had tried to give the same treatment to the Firebeard dwarf, but Fili was having none of it. He pushed Kili back to the ground and continued to rub his neck and shoulders.

“Vrik. It means to rub or massage,” Bilbo explained, trying to give Kili a new word.

Kili just shook his head.

“Say it, Kili. Vrik.”


Bilbo sighed. “You need to make an effort to understand their dialect. It will make your life much easier.”

“I don’t want to understand it. You translate well enough and I intend to leave in spring.”

Bilbo sighed and shook his head. “You’re too stubborn, Kili. Just learn a few words.”

“I know a few of the words. I don’t want to know any more.”

Bilbo didn’t press the issue any further. Fili’s fingers lightly danced up and down Kili’s neck, and his held fell to one side, resting on Fili’s leg for a few minutes.

“Bilbo, you and Fili were safe and happy before I arrived, weren’t you?”

“Well, I suppose well as we could be.”

“Did Bronin ever visit before then?”

“Rarely, and if so, very short. I’ve known him since I’ve been here, but fortunately he mostly ignores me except when he wants food. It’s only been these past few years that he’s grown more hostile towards Fili. Since Fili’s father died. He’s never been overly rude to me; he used to bruise me by way of grabbing my arms to pull me into the kitchen. But I don’t think he did it purposely.”

“I’m the problem here,” Kili said quietly.

“No, no Kili. It’s not you! It’s Fili’s uncle that’s doing this. I don’t know why he is targeting you, but give Fili time to solve it.”

“But I should be in Erebor, living the life I was meant to live. Without me, you would both live peacefully here. Fili can be Chieftain and improve the quality of life for slaves and everyone else. I only hinder that.”

“Of course not, you-”

“You just said that you were both safe and happy before I arrived, Bilbo. It is me. Or related to my presence.” Bilbo reached out a laid a hand on top of Kili’s; the dwarf turned his over to grasp Bilbo’s. “I’m sorry I’ve brought you grief, Bilbo. And I don’t know how much more I can take, knowing there’s a dwarf out there who delights in harming me. I don’t like living in fear. I miss my family, Bilbo.”

Fili’s hands dug into Kili’s shoulders, and he groaned as the deft fingers hit a tender place. Fili stopped, speaking in the Firebeard dialect.

“He says we should stop discussing whatever it is we’re discussing,” Bilbo said, amused. “He doesn’t know what we speak of but he says it’s making you tense again.”

Kili turned upwards toward Fili, offering him a smile and patting his knee to tell him that all was well. The firebeard leaned in and kissed his nose. Kili sagged in between his knees, and he began massaging again.

“Are you well?” Bilbo asked.

He smiled weakly. “Yes. I’m just tired.”

Kili, sitting with his eyes closed, his own hands wrapping around Fili’s calves, set his mind to work. He was formulating his own plan to save Fili, Bilbo, and himself.

A few days later Fili left the home to speak to his uncle, the Chieftain. His uncle’s home was in the mountainside as well, on the other side of the great hall. Fili sheathed his knife and kept it on him, approaching the door to his Uncle’s home. His uncle was old, but he still had a fair amount of fighting skill, and Fili felt the need to have protection. He rapped his knuckles against the the door, waiting impatiently.

The door opened, and his uncle loomed over him. “Fili. I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I would like to speak with you.”

“Of course. Come in.” Bronin swung the door open, and Fili walked through, finding a seat nearest the door. His uncle moved around, seated across a long table from him. They sat in silence for a few minutes, the crackling of the fire filling the void. Fili was frightened of the answers he would get; not for himself, but for Kili.


“I am concerned, Uncle. I want to know why Darek insists on taunting my bed slave, and why you test him.”

Bronin smiled. That toothy grin infuriated Fili. “Why do you keep him hidden away, Fili?”

To keep him safe. That was the wrong answer, and Fili didn’t speak it. “I like having him inside my home.”

Bronin shook his head. “You always were a poor liar, Fili. Your face gives too much away.”

“Oh?” Fili drummed his fingers against his thigh, waiting for his uncle’s explanation.

“I knew the moment you spoke up at the hall when I let another claim him. You were attracted to him. Our illustrious patrol leader, who brings back more livestock and food every year, more than the others who enjoy finding riches and slaves. You keep us alive more than anybody. Yet you’ve never brought back a slave. You turn away from them with guilt when they arrive. You want to protect them, but you know you can’t. We need them, Fili. This village grows stronger when we can use them for labor and other tasks.”

Fili shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“But when he was brought in, there was a far different look in your eye. Desire. And you gave up everything to keep him. It was music to my ears, Fili.” His uncle sat back with a smug smile.

“What do you mean?” His voice faltered, and he cleared his throat, hoping his uncle wouldn’t notice.

“I’ve led this village for five years, since your father passed. And in three years you will have your turn. But you know, Fili,” he said, rising from his chair, “I rather like being in charge. I enjoy being able to manipulate those around me. Whatever I require, somebody will bring me. I don’t think I’m ready to give this up in three years time. I can make this village far more prosperous than you could even dream of. I think I might keep this position.”

He moved along the hearth, picking up a sword. Fili’s hand moved to the handle of this dagger. “The position is mine by right, as decried by my father. I will take it and I will do far more for these people than you could even dream of. You can’t take that away.”

“I can, and I have options. I’ve been planting seeds amongst the village, Fili. About your heritage. While your father declared you would take over again...suggest to a few people that a half-breed shouldn’t be Chieftain, and they’ll agree and spread the suggestion to others. I’ve questioned how you treat slaves; reinforced how important slaves are to this culture. Doing everything I can to discredit you. So that in a few years time, Darek would challenge your leadership and suggest that I remain. And with the village no longer supporting the fierce, golden-haired boy that they used to adore...the young man they pitied when his father passed’ll just remain a patrol leader, serving his Chieftain. Me.”

“Is that it then? You don’t plan to step down, you want to remain in the role.” Fili stood. “It’s not going to be that easy. You’ve told me everything, Uncle. I have three years to build my reputation amongst my people. Those in my patrol trust me implicitly. They’re on my side. I can sway everybody else in the next few years.”

Bronin shook his head. “That was only the first option, Fili. The first plan. The second arrived late spring, when Darek brought back a pathetic slave that you took a liking to.”

Fili stiffened. “No. You’ll leave him be.”

“The only thing better than taking leadership from you, Fili, will be listening to you relinquish it willingly in front of the tribe. To protect him from a gruesome end.”

“No. I won’t do this, and I won’t let you harm him anymore.”

“Until you take over the position, I can order you to do anything I like. And while I did enjoy whipping those filthy was far more satisfying to watch you hurt him for me. I saw how it hurt you to tie him and fuck him in your own bed. It was delicious.”

“You bastard.” Fili turned to leave. “You come near him or me, and I swear I’ll kill you! And nobody will know it was anything but an accident!”

“Darek will know.”

The sound of boots filled the room, and Darek emerged from a side room with a pleased smile. “Hello Fili.”

“I’ll kill you both if I must,” Fili hissed.

“And Coran will kill your slave if that happens. And if Coran falls, then another will take his place. No, Fili. I want to hear you gather the entire tribe and tell them you will not take up the mantle of Chieftain, but leave it with me.”

“You don’t mean to do this!”

“I’ve meant it for a long while. And your slave simply gave me the means to accomplish it. Now tell me, Fili. Do you agree to give up your claim, or should I have Darek collect your slave for our amusement?

Fili turned and headed to the door. “Give me time to consider it then.”

Bronin laughed. “You won’t change your mind, but I give you until the next full moon. And I’ll have my eyes on you the entire time.”

Fili stormed out.

Bronin smiled, watching as he went. “And I haven’t said all that I know about you, dear nephew.”

After Fili’s visit to his uncle, the sun shone brightly for two weeks, and it was unseasonably warm. Fili and Kili grew even closer through the time, and Bilbo found himself retiring to his room often to give them privacy. Kili had carved Fili a handle for a new knife; Fili had to take it to the weaponsmith to have a blade put on since Kili was confined indoors, and he wore it proudly every day. Fili in turn had crafted a fine leather belt for Kili. They did everything together, aside from when Fili had to go hunting or visit others in town.

When Kili was left behind, he sulked. It was these moments that Kili was reminded of his status - a slave of the Firebeard people. Fili insisted he stay inside to keep him safe; he didn’t disagree with Fili, but he still hated having to do so. Fili barred the door and bid that they open it for no one.

But despite Fili’s adoring attitude toward Kili, Bilbo noted a change in Fili since he visited his uncle, one that was plainly evident when the dark-haired dwarf wasn’t in his arms . Fili would follow Kili with anxious eyes. Bilbo asked Fili what was wrong, and what he could do to help. Fili shook his head sadly, and would only find and pull Kili into him, hugging the slender dwarf tightly. He told Bilbo he had some decisions to make, and would tell him in a few days time.

Chapter Text

Two days later Bilbo woke and found Kili humming in the common room and Fili away. Kili had Bilbo’s leather bag, and Bilbo peered into find clothing, bread and dried meats. His eyes went wide.

“Kili, what are you doing?” Bilbo asked, eyes full of concern, and knowing the answer.

“I’m leaving, Bilbo. The sun has been high and warm; if I can reach the mountain pass I should be able to slip through and head south. I can be back in Erebor by mid-spring.”

On such a fine morning most of the warriors from the village had gone to hunt; Kili knew this was his best chance to escape the village. He would then have to avoid the hunters in the plains, but because of Fili’s stories he had a fair idea of their preferred hunting areas. His heart racing with trepidation, he dressed quickly in layers and warmth, and looked through Fili’s chest of weapons. He took the sword that most reminded him of the one he used to carry, and fitted several small throwing knives to his garments.

“You can’t!” Bilbo jumped in front of him, catching his arm to hold him in place. “The others will catch you!”

“No. Fili woke early and I watched out the window as they all headed out. If I stay clear of their hunting areas, I will be safe. With good weather I can make good time to reach the pass.”

”If they catch you...oh Kili, you can’t! No runaway slave has ever survived very long after being recaptured. It happens every year, Kili. Slaves try to escape and they make examples of them! And Bronin will be cruel to you, you know that. I can’t bear to think what he would do. This is a terrible, irrational decision! You should talk to Fili first, I’m sure we can find another solution.”

Kili sidestepped the hobbit and continued to pack. “No. I’m a good hunter and I can hide well. This might be my only chance. I feel strong enough. I can defend myself against the occasional Firebeard,” Kili said, shoving another sword into his pack. “I can make it out of here. I know what they’re doing, Bilbo. The beating in the hall. Forcing him to rape me. Kicking me in our house. They won’t use me to hurt Fili anymore. He doesn’t deserve this. He’ll be safe, and so will you.”

“No. It’s too dangerous! You won’t be able to make it through, it’s too early for the snows to have melted. You’ll be trapped.” Bilbo shook his head and crossed his arms but the dwarf continued.. “Kili, don’t do this. Your rib won’t be healed yet!” When the dwarf didn’t show signs of stopping, Bilbo moved over and wrapped him into a hug to still him. Kili hissed in pain, and Bilbo was certain he’d placed his fists around Kili’s bruised side, and carefully unwrapped himself. “Please, Kili. Fili has done so much to keep you alive, he’ll be so upset-“

“I know,” he said softly, slowing down for a moment. “And I don’t want to leave him. That’s the hardest part of this, it really is. But I’m still a liability. And I don’t belong here. I want to go home. I have to go, Bilbo. I can’t live like this!” He bit his lip and threw his hands up. “Unable to fend for myself. Having to deal with Fili’s uncle intimidating me. Fili can’t do anything, so I’ll do it myself.” He adjusted the bag on his shoulder and turned to Bilbo, his voice soft again. “Thank you for everything. If I can, I’ll come back for you someday. For both of you, when Fili is Chieftain. Thank you.” He hugged the hobbit, and Bilbo squeezed him gently. “Please...just tell Fili I love him, and I did this for him.” He picked up the bag, a sword, and slipped out the door.

Bilbo leaned against the doorway, sadly watching him go, surprised to find his own heart racing. “Fili, come home soon, please. Kili needs you.”

Kili was able to clear the first major hurdle with ease; he moved along the wall, looking as though he was heading to the livestock and simply continued on through the gate into the plateau beyond. A few of the warriors’ wives watched in surprise, as did a couple of slaves, but none attempted to stop him. All of the warriors were out hunting, including the ones assigned to watch Fili. Bronin hadn’t expected that the slave would try to escape on his own. Kili set off in a light jog across the plain, trying to reach the safety of a small group of trees to the south. As he closed in, he felt elated. He moved as quickly as he could, but was dismayed to feel the bottom of his feet stinging along the welts he’d received so long ago; he hadn't subjected his feet to such pressure. His side ached as well, and he adjusted his bag. He gritted his teeth, vowing that the pain wouldn’t slow him down.

Day went by smoothly, and Kili saw none of the Firebeards, to his relief. Nightfall set in and he slaughtered a rabbit for his dinner. The poor beast was skinned and he made a small fire to cook and keep himself warm for the night; he’d selected a small outcropping and carefully set his fire facing south, away from the Firebeard villages. With his back along the rocks, he toasted his dinner and began to eat. It wasn’t as good as Bilbo’s cooked meals, but it was his, hunted by his skill, and that delighted him. He hadn’t realized just how much he had missed being out hunting in the open air. He was pleased he stayed on his feet all day, and with the Firebeards slow travel pace, he felt he’d be out of their reach in another day or two. Small game in the plains and small hills would serve as dinner as he approached the mountain pass, then he would survive on dried meat as he made his way through the pass. Kili unrolled the furs, setting them down beside the fire. He wished Fili would be there to warm him, but he put the thought aside, and quickly fell asleep, tired by the day’s travel.

Night passed quietly. Unfortunately in Kili’s exhaustion he had passed into a fairly deep sleep, not waking with the dawn’s light. The sun was high when he scrambled up in a panic, hearing the boisterous laugh of dwarves nearby. The fire had gone out, and he gathered his weapons and ducked behind the boulders, pulling the bed roll and his heart racing. Had they seen him? Why had they come so far south, so soon? He couldn’t let them find him, not after his first day of freedom.

“Shinsu ven boren,” he heard a deep, familiar voice say, and laughter followed. He heard the firebeard word for ‘hunt’ and he pressed his lips together.

Kili’s heart was beating faster than he’d ever felt, and he tried to hold his breath, afraid that they would hear him. He raised his sword, ready for them to round the corner and find him. What he didn’t expect was the hand which came around from behind him, closing on his throat and squeezing. He gasped, tugging desperately with his left hand, reluctant to drop the sword in his right hand. The fingers only tugged harder, and Kili’s vision dimmed as he struggled for air. He tried to swing his sword backward, felt it hit something and a short grunt returned.

Another dwarf stepped into view, his axe swinging down and across Kili’s forearm; he dropped his sword and pain seared from the arm. The dwarf on his neck finally let go, and Kili sank to the ground, gasping for air, holding his arm against his chest. The axe had cut through his furs and leather tunic, slicing into the muscle. Blood poured freely from the wound.

“Slanu Erebor,” the familiar voice said again. Kili’s eyes slowly shifted from the safety of the ground upward, where he saw the Firebeard with the Scarred Face, a pleased grin across his twisted lips.

He laughed jovially and motioned to one of the other two dwarves with him. A younger dwarf with a spear moved forward, dropping his weapon and pack. He took out a length of rope, and Kili pushed back with his legs, tears collecting in his eyes. He wasn’t going back; he swore he would find his way home and this wasn’t going to let this happen.

“No,” he whispered, finding himself backing into Scarred Face’s legs. “Get off of me!” His heart raced impossibly fast as he rolled over, yelping as he pressed on the cut arm. He vaulted up and took off at a run. He was relatively fast, even in his injured state. But while Firebeard dwarves were slow, they made up for that in skill with thrown weapons and spears. And moments later, he found out how good when a blinding pain stung his left shoulder.

Kili let out a strangled cry, falling face first into the snow, groaning and suddenly feeling dizzy and tired. He tried to rise up onto his arms, but the smallest movement from his arm caused pain to radiate from his shoulder blade, and he fell forward into the snow with a grunt. The raucous laughter of the Firebeards announced their approach, and he looked back, seeing the tip of the spear embedded in his shoulder, the shaft bouncing around with the smallest movement. It was pure agony. One of them grabbed the spear, pressing his foot down on Kili’s back, and yanked it out of his shoulder. He screamed and lost consciousness.

Fili pushed on, despite his two companions complaining of exhaustion. He was fortunate they’d agreed to come with him; they were on his patrol and he counted them amongst the villagers he could trust. They had agreed to help him reclaim his runaway slave without making a fuss of it and letting his uncle know. Fili was certain Kili would be heading directly south, away from the village and toward the mountain pass.

He had arrived home the previous day to find Bilbo standing at the door, holding fresh supplies. “Kili’s trying to run,” Bilbo had said. Fili didn’t need to hear anymore; he took the goods and was gone. He and the others had only stopped for six hours during the night, and felt they had to be making good time in catching up with Kili.

He cursed himself for being too slow to act; he had been delaying his reply to his uncle for as long as possible, to give the snows more time to melt. It should have occurred to him that Kili would also have a plan to save himself from Bronin. Why hadn't he explained to Kili his plan to hide him outside the village until the snow finished melting? To placate his fear and worry, to give him hope? He cursed himself and his own stupidity. Perhaps he didn't want to raise Kili's hopes until he was certain the cave he found would be safe for a couple months' time. He desperately wanted to save Kili, but options were limited until the snow melted. Fili shook his head, trying to bury his negative thoughts about would could have happened, and refocusing on finding Kili. Snow crunched as he stomped along, fingers white on his spear, looking for tracks or any other sign of the dark-haired dwarf that he’d come to adore.

He hoped he could catch up before any harm befell Kili, be it wildlife or other dwarves. Fili heard a grunt and looked back. The other two Firebeards couldn’t keep Fili’s pace, and he waited again. Frustration hammered away within him; but then it was interrupted by a scream in the distance. He sprinted.

Kili woke to more searing pain; an intense heat burning into his back. He tried to reach for it, but found his arms bound and another rope around his neck. The young dwarf kicked and struggled, trying to pull away from the heat but the Firebeards held him still, fingers digging in with a bruising strength. He looked over, skin still burning when one finally pulled away, a dagger bright red with heat. They had cauterized the shoulder wound. He was yanked to his feet by the rope around his neck, and they pulled him toward north, toward the village.

“No,” Kili cried. “Let me go!”

They only tugged on the rope, causing him to stumble forward. He grasped the rope, pulling back but felt dizzy. Darkness seeped into his vision and he plunged forward into the snow before they could move a step. In his last moments, he thought he saw a golden-haired dwarf running towards him.

“Get off of him!” Fili shouted, launching himself into the midst of the trio. There was a small fire, Bilbo’s bag, one of his old swords, and a bedroll nearby. But what frightened him the most was the amount of blood, contrasted against the white snow. It surrounded Kili, who was still face down; Fili knelt to roll him over and pull him up. He pulled out his dagger, cutting Kili’s hands free, and gently stroking his cheek.

The scarred faced dwarf, Grenik, laughed. “Seems this one escaped you, Fili. Found him while we were out on an overnight hunt for elk; fortunate we were nearby, eh? I thought you said he was well-behaved. A good sprinter, he is, even when wounded. But not better than my spear.”

“Chieftain Bronin frightens him. He ran because of him. He is well-behaved in my house.” He didn’t feel the need to lie to Grenik. He leaned in, feeling for a pulse. It was slow but steady and that brought Fili some relief. He looked over his shoulder to where his two mates were approaching, having finally caught up. Fili handed his weapon and bag to one of the others, and tried to gently lift Kili.

Grenik laughed. “Your uncle frightens this little dwarfling? How cute.”

“I’m taking him back home. He was foolish to run.”

Grenik put a hand on Fili’s arm to stop him. “By law, he is mine. I found him, uncollared.” One of the dwarves with him moved to take Kili’s limp form.

“A mere mishap. Surely we can reach some sort of understanding so that I may keep my property.” Fili looked him square on. He would find a way to keep Kili from Grenik; fortunately the other patrol leader was easily swayed by material wealth.

“I am not opposed to that,” Grenik said. “I am still a little disappointed that you took him on the first night, but for all the plunder you had, it was worth it,” he grinned toothily. “I was kind enough to close his back wound and bandage the arm. Surely that will count for something.”

Fili frowned, glancing over the arm which was already bleeding through the bandage. “I need to get him home. Can we discuss it there?”

Grenik shrugged. “Fine. You can carry him back, saves me the trouble.”

“You come direct to my place, understand? I don’t want to involve my uncle.”

“We’ll see,” Grenik replied, taking up his weapons to continue his hunt.

Fili turned to his companions, nodding and hefting Kili up in his arms; they had several hours of travel to return to the village.

Luck was not on Fili’s or Kili’s side. Despite sending his friends ahead to scout for his Uncle and arriving in the dark of the evening, the old Firebeard was still able to catch Fili carrying the dark-haired dwarf back into the village. Fili ached terribly; aside from allowing his companions to carry Kili for an hour each, he felt it was his duty and thus shouldered him most of the way. Their trip was slow, being careful not to hurt him further. The dark-haired dwarf had not yet come to and Fili was growing concerned. He desperately wanted to take him home, bundle him up in bed, and hold him until he woke again.

But his Uncle standing in the path took his hope away. His Uncle stood with hands on his hips, a leering grin as Fili stumbled back into the village. Nearby, Fili could see Grenik’s hunting party stringing up an elk on a rack; they would have made better time dragging it through the snow.

“I heard from Grenik’s hunting party that your slave ran,” Bronin smiled. “A pity for you and him, Fili.”

Fili stared, biting his tongue, then turned towards his home. “We’ll speak of it tomorrow.”

“No. We have rules for escaped slaves, Fili. And there is the question of who the Erebor slave belongs to. Grenik found him without a collar.” Bronin moved closer, and Fili backed away.

“Then let Grenik and I discuss his ownership. Nobody else need worry.”

“There is still the matter of his punishment. Come, bring him to the hall. He remains a prisoner of the village until his fate is decided. We will convene tomorrow to discuss his ownership and punishment.”

“Please, uncle. Let me take him home and tend to his injuries tonight. I can bring him back tomorrow.”

“No. You know the rules, Fili. Dare you defy them again? I can bring in the other elders. You may find yourself beside the slave, begging for our mercy.”

Fili bowed his head, and followed his Uncle into the great hall. Now was not the time for disobedience; but he knew soon would be. He couldn’t help Kili if he was locked up as well.

“Here,” his Uncle called, standing near a cage. “He stays here for the night.”

Fili eyed his Uncle with disdain, but moved forward and gently lay Kili down. The rules for escaped slaves has been established for years, and Fili felt powerless to challenge them now. In the past even he insisted that they adhere to these particular guidelines. Fili removed Kili’s fur coat, balling it up and placing it under the dark hair. He noticed a small lump beneath the edge of Kili’s tunic, and gently felt along the pocket; inside he found the wooden figurine he’d crafted for Kili. Tears gathered in his eyes as he looked at the carving; Kili chose to take it with him. He slipped it into his clothing to keep it safe, then took off his own coat and laid it over Kili, tucking it around him.

“Faster,” Bronin said impatiently.

Fili knelt beside Kili, trailing his fingers over cheek and chin. He lay curled in a ball, taking short, labored breaths. His skin was pale and sweat beaded at his forehead. Fili leaned in, whispering. “Kili...I was going to save you. I only needed a few more days. Hold on for me, please.” He stood and exited, brushing past his Uncle.

Bronin closed the cage with a lock, and pocketed the key. “I’m posting two guards. You will not visit him during the night.”

“I request that you choose two from my patrol,” Fili said, then stopped. “No. One from my patrol, and Nisor, from Darek’s patrol, who saw him north.” Fili hoped that Nisor would still be concerned for Kili’s well-being, as he had been before. He might even tend some of Kili’s injuries through the night, if he cared enough.

Bronin smiled. “Fine. I can agree to that. After all, tomorrow is the day that you will proclaim that I will remain Chieftain of this tribe for as long as I see fit, in order to save your little Erebor dwarf.”

Fili ignored his uncle and took one last, long look at Kili. Fili could no longer try and use diplomacy and tactics to reason with his uncle. He no longer cared what happened to the tribe or his birthright; only Kili and Bilbo mattered. Anger and guilt threatened to overwhelm him; he had failed to act quickly and now his options were even more limited than before. He exited the the hall, his mind reeling with what would happen tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Kili woke in the cage, curled on the floor with his outer furs gone. The floor was solid but the air was cool and drafty. He could not stand, nor fully stretch his legs. The ropes were gone, replaced with the iron restraints the Firebeard favored for their slaves. There was a painful sting on his arm and his back. Kili glanced down, seeing his arm wrapped in a bandage, blood soaking through. His feet were bare and cold. The large hall was empty save a single table in the center where six Firebeards gathered around the table, drinking and having a discussion. He suddenly felt a fur being pushed over his feet, and he looked back to see Bilbo trying to reach in the bars to tuck it around.

“Bilbo?” he said groggily.

“Quiet,” he said. “Say nothing.”

“I’m so tired,” Kili muttered.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“Bilbo...what’s happening?”

“Quiet. You’re an escaped slave and your fate is being decided. Fili is trying to bargain for your life. You shouldn’t have run, Kili. It was stupid. Nobody has ever escaped.” Bilbo’s whispered tone was curt and angry, but tinged with sadness. He reached into a small bag and pulled out a bun and some meat, pressing it through the bars. “The one you called Scarred Face is trying to claim you. He wants to take you and make sport of you.”

“What does that mean?”

“Hunt you, rape you, kill you. Whatever they please. If I were you, I’d beg for a quick death if he gets you. But he may keep you alive for a little while before he ends your life.”

“I thought I belonged to Fili.”

“You did until you were caught by another Firebeard uncollared. Fili is trying to claim you again. It is up to the Chieftain and his council, which Fili and the others sits on.”

Kili’s mind clouded, the ache from his body becoming difficult to tolerate. He laid his head back down, watching Bilbo move off to stand behind Fili at the table. Fili turned, catching Kili’s eyes; Kili could see his sorrow. Kili frowned and buried his face in his arms. He didn’t want to see Fili upset. He had run to stop that; but now it was only worse. He closed his own eyes and fell back asleep to escape the pain plaguing his mind and body.

“The slave should be mine.” Grenik slammed his mug into the table.

“Tell me what you want and you will be given it in exchange for him!” Fili pleaded.

Darek shook his head, shooting a glare at Fili. “The slave should belong to the one who found him.”

The healer shook his head. “Slaves should stay with their masters. Their master knows what is best for them. Let him go back to Fili.”

Fili bit his lip, hating the healer for what he had done to Kili but nodding in agreement. He needed him back.

Nurek nodded. “Let this one go back to Fili.” The group descended into arguments again, shouting to be heard.

“Stop!” Bronin stood and looked between them. “I need a moment with Fili. Alone.”

The other dwarves nodded, standing and moving away from the table. Bilbo stayed near; the command wouldn’t apply to him unless Bronin specifically stated so. Fili watched nervously as Darek approached the cage; but he was relieved to see Nisor move in front and stand between Kili and Darek.

“I have made a decision. Grenik may not be pleased, but you will make it up to him however he desires.”

Fili sucked in a breath. “I’m listening.”

“The village has heard the news of an escaped slave; they will be gathering to see a spectacle. The punishment must be delivered. And I could allow Darek to deliver his punishment. A hundred lashes for running.”

“A hundred? From Darek? You can’t be serious!” Fili’s breathing sped up, and he glanced back towards Kili, who still lay still with eyes closed.

“He was caught with multiple weapons, Fili. Stealing weapons is a serious offense as well.”

Fili shook his head with a sneer. “Darek will kill him within thirty lashes.”

“Which is why you will be pleased with my other solution. I will return your slave to you, on two conditions. First, you will stand in front of the village and let them know you have no intention of being Chieftain, and you grant the title to me.”

“And the second?”

“You deliver the hundred lashes.” Bronin didn’t hide the smile and the pleasure he found from the suggestion.

Fili closed his eyes. It was both torture and relief. He would do his best to keep the pain minimal; but bringing Kili any sort of pain made him anxious. Just what his uncle wanted.

“Otherwise, I give him to Grenik and allow Darek to deliver the blows.”

“I don’t have a choice, do I?” He gritted his teeth.

“It would seem not,” Bronin smiled. “You were always going to lose this game, Fili.”

Fili leaned back, rubbing his hands over his face. “I see. I see it all clearly now. You gave him to me in the hall that give me a weakness that you could exploit for your gain.. He’s just a pawn in this game of yours. An innocent dwarf caught up in your game. He doesn’t deserve this. And what if I had given him up? What if he had never arrived, Uncle?”

“I had other plans. Discrediting you was only the beginning. I know secrets that even you don’t know, Fili.”

“You’re getting what you want anyway. So what do you know, Uncle? I don’t believe there’s anything more that you could possibly use against me. I am an honest, hard-working dwarf who has done nothing but try to help this village since I was old enough to swing a sword.”

Bronin laughed. “That’s not true, either.”

Fili narrowed his eyes. “Then speak.”

“Bilbo, come closer,” Bronin stated. Bilbo looked to Fili nervously, but walked up and stood nearer to the two of them. “Bilbo was at your father’s bedside in his last months, as was I. Your father told us a great many things in those months, Fili, and Bilbo will confirm what I know. He was trying to make apologies for his wrong deeds in life. Old age weakens warriors.”

Fili tilted his head to the side, listening intently.

“Do you remember your early years, Fili? I doubt you do. Let me tell you a story. You are not your father’s son, Fili. No. You were found south of the pass with your mother, Dis. Both of you taken in a raid; your father and I were there. Your mother cried and cried on that day, trying to get back to the wagon with her son. But she was tied and taken. You fought, for such a wee little thing, kicking and biting. Your father was intrigued by your bravery. He proclaimed that you were his son, and brought you back. Several of the dwarves wondered where he suddenly had gained a five year old from, but he harshly punished those who questioned it, including death, and it was never spoken of again.”

“You lie.” Fili’s fists drew tight.

“Listen. Your mother tried to tell you about Erebor. Your true home. But your father wanted you for his, and he beat her until she stopped teaching you common tongue, and stopped telling you stories of your home. Then he told you to forget. And when you wouldn’t, and you would speak common or ask for stories of Erebor, he beat you. Do you remember? He would hit you and lock you in a closet. It took time, but eventually you listened to him; he told you to forget all you knew, and you did in order to protect yourself.” A wicked grin passed across Bronin’s face.

“I would remember something! It’s not true!”

“Tell him, Bilbo.”

Bilbo took a deep breath. “Remember when I asked you what you remembered about Erebor? And you told me what you knew was from your mother’s stories. But he’s right, Fili. You came from Erebor.” Fili gripped the edge of the table, shaking. “Your father told me this on his death bed. He wanted me to pass this onto you, after you became Chieftain. It’s true. I’m sorry.”

Fili stared blankly across the room where the others gathered by Kili’s cage, but he no longer saw the dark-haired dwarf, or anything at all. He tried to think back to his youngest years, but the pounding in his chest and head made it difficult to think.

“Haven’t you ever wondered, dear nephew, why you are the shortest warrior in the village? Why your beard isn’t as red like the rest of us? Apparently you take after your birth father.”

“I’m sorry Fili. But he’s right. You’re not Firebeard at all. Fili is your rightful name, which your mother Dis gave you. I don’t know anything else of your family.”

“I do,” Bronin interrupted. “Dis cried over the loss of a son she was nursing. Said we must have killed it during the raid. Her husband had been killed in battle. She was raising you with her brother before we took her. But she always swore her brother would save both of you. She was wrong. Nobody from Erebor ever came looking. Your Firebeard father took her as his own, and made you his own. Nobody cared to find you, Fili. Erebor cares not for its lost sons.”

Fili dropped his head on the table. Bilbo moved forward, but Bronin waved him away, and he took up his place several steps back. After some time, Fili raised his head. “I’ve heard enough. I will rescind my claim to the leadership of this village, deliver Kili’s punishment and take him home. And you will leave him be, in my care, as my slave. Do I have your word? Are we agreed?”

Bronin nodded.

“Good. Let’s get on with this.”

Bronin grinned, and moved to tell the others on the council what he had decided. Bilbo rushed to Fili’s side. “I didn’t want to tell you while he was here. But now that you know that much...remember what I said about family members from Erebor often have similar names?

Fili sat up straight. “What?”

“You refused to listen. Fili...I think you and Kili are related, somehow. I’ve wondered it since he arrived.”

“A cousin?”

“Possibly. Or closer. Bronin says Dis was nursing a newborn who died. Maybe he didn’t die, Fili. Look at him! Does he look like your mother?”

Fili turned, looking at Kili asleep in the cage. He did have the same hair as his mother; which Fili hadn’t inherited. And the same smile, now that he considered it. Fili didn’t like the thought that his brother or cousin could be laying there, hurt because of him. He refused to believe that. “No. That’s impossible. It’s just coincidence, that’s all, Bilbo.”

Bilbo shuffled his feet with a sigh, hanging his head.

Kili awoke to a heavy bell sounding outside the hall in the courtyard. He lifted his head, feeling stabs of pain throughout his body. Everything hurt. He shut his eyes again, willing the world to go away. The hall doors clattered open, two Firebeards in leather armor approaching his cage. Kili rolled over onto his back, sitting against the back of the cage. He was scared. He was tired and even weaker than when they had first captured him. Blood had soaked through the bandage on his arm, smearing on the stone floor below him. Home was looking unlikely; he hoped death would welcome him with kind arms. He hoped he’d find his Father and Mother in the afterlife.

They unlocked the cage, reaching in and hoisting him up onto his feet; he fell to the floor, boneless. They grumbled and lifted him again, slipping his arms over their shoulders to carry him through the doors and into the square.

The sun shone brightly and Kili blinked, looking away until his eyes adjusted. It was early morning, and the snow had melted and re-iced overnight, leaving a shiny surface which reflected the sunlight. But more surprising was that all of the village seemed to have turned out. All of the warriors, their wives, children, and even all of the slaves, stood around. Most warriors looked joyful, but some looked downcast. Kili was dragged to the obelisk in the center of the square. Hanging from the stone pillar’s iron ring was a pair of shackles; the dwarfs escorting him pressed him against the pillar, lifting his arms and securing his hands above his head. He rested his chest against the obelisk.

Most of the crowd stood in a semi-circle at his back, and he could hear the Chieftain, Fili’s Uncle, begin to speak. The crowd murmured their approval and displeasure, and cheered. Kili tried to shake an arm free, but the shackles were tightly secured and he closed his eyes against the pillar. “Fili,” he moaned, but nobody came to him.

During the Chieftain’s speech he felt his arms going slack, and his knees dropping; his eyes closed. He was jarred back into awareness when a bucket of cold water was thrown over his head. He glared at the dwarf guard holding the bucket, standing beside a trough full of water. Despite the sun the air was still freezing, and he shuddered, gasping and the crowd laughed. He shivered violently in the morning air, and then watched as the other slaves in the village were brought around in front of him, and made to kneel where they could see his face. Bilbo kneeled where he could clearly see his face; wearing his slim, lightweight restraints unlike the other slaves who wore the heavy iron versions. Bilbo looked upset, his face blotchy and eyes red. Kili wanted to hug him, comfort him. In his fatigue, he was oblivious that Bilbo was crying for him.

Bronin continued to speak, until finally motioning to Fili. The golden-haired dwarf spoke loudly and clearly, and Kili heard anger in his voice, but didn’t understand what was happening. He didn’t understand enough words to know that Fili had just relinquished his claim to the position of Chieftain in a few years time. The crowd went silent, then began cheering. Fili was obviously upset; Kili could only guess that he was once again the source, and he closed his eyes. He received another bucket of cold water in his face and forced his eyes open.

There was a thud of boots behind him, and he wanted to look but could not turn his head. He closed his eyes, and then felt a gentle hand pressing against his cheek and back through his hair; warmth flooded through him and he opened his eyes again to see Fili standing there. Fili lowered his head, standing beside the post where Kili dangled from the shackles.

“Sorry, Kili.” Fili spoke softly, and in common.

Kili looked up through half-closed eyes in surprise; Fili had never spoken common before. Kili pressed his head against the hand, but it disappeared and suddenly the comfort was gone. He was in the middle of the town square, chained to a post, being doused with cold water on a chilly morning.

More boots on the dais behind him. Then, a knife slicing through the tunic, tearing it into pieces and off of his back. He looked to Bilbo, terrified and fearing what might come, and Bilbo turned his eyes away. The first strike of the whip caused him to raise onto his toes with a shout of surprise. The second caused his muscles to tense. The tenth caused his muscles to cramp. He closed his eyes again on the twentieth, and another bucket of cold water was thrown over his head. After that it became a blur, the strikes coming hard and fast, the crowd cheering. Was that sound Bilbo weeping? By the fortieth strike he’d lost control of his bladder. Around the fiftieth came another bucket of water. On the seventieth he could feel nothing but burning on his back in stark contrast to his freezing feet, arms and hands. On the eightieth he was laughing, delirious. On the ninetieth there was another bucket of water. And after a hundred, his legs had given out and he dangled by the shackles, blood streaming down from his wrists and back, moaning.

He needed Bilbo and Fili. He tried to call to them, but his lips wouldn’t obey. His eyes began to slip closed again, and another bucket of water was thrown on his head; it didn’t matter. They closed, and he was met with yet another bucket of water. He forced his knees straight again, taking the weight from his wrists. He was thoroughly drenched, and his cold toes were starting to feel pleasantly warm. But the whipping had stopped. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the whip coming around toward his front side, and he tried to take a step back, but only swayed in place. He wearily lifted his head. Fili was holding the whip. Kili let out a low wail, body going slack against the post, only the manacles keeping him from collapsing.

Fili was only just keeping his emotions in check in front of the crowd, maintaining the cool demeanor that he usually kept up. Kili’s wail nearly did him in though, and he put a hand on the post to stop his knees from shaking. It probably would have been more merciful to agree to Kili’s death; most slaves were whipped hard and died days later from infection or starvation. A few had died on the post; so thin that the whip had damaged their internal organs. But he needed Kili alive; his blows were hard enough to look like he was trying, but as light as he dared to spare Kili the death that most others succumbed to. That decision was now haunting him as he looked over the Erebor dwarf. His body quivered, from pain or cold, Fili did not know. Probably both, he feared. He moaned aloud occasionally, and Fili thought he was unaware of this too. The guard with the bucket filled it and threw it over him again, the dark head rising.

Fili circled around Kili, a large red welt in the shape of a blade across his shoulder where the spear had pierced him. The long cut down his face from the rival Firebeard tribe that had attacked. The deep cut on his arm from Grenik’s axe. The mass of blood and torn skin on his back. The punishment which Fili was forced to administer to save him. Would this truly be the last deplorable action his uncle forced him to commit?

Fili leaned in, taking Kili’s chin into his hand as carefully as he could. “I am truly sorry, Kili,” he whispered in his own dialect, knowing Kili would not understand, but hoping his voice would bring him some comfort. “I didn’t want to do this. I wish you had not run. Please be strong and survive this day.” The brown eyes were unfocused. Did Kili even realize he was speaking?

Fili’s uncle, the Chieftain, came up behind and began to speak to the tribe about the order of things and slave obedience. He walked around the post, moving towards Kili but Fili placed himself in front of the young dwarf. His uncle only smiled sweetly and moved on towards the kneeling slaves, tracing a hand over the back of their collars as they all bowed their heads. Fili watched as his uncle paused at Bilbo, resting his hand on the hobbit’s head. Fili tensed, staring at his uncle, his desire to protect Bilbo only thwarted by his need to stay with Kili, who suffered far more grievous injuries.

His uncle finally moved on, reclaiming his position on the dais, moving towards Kili; he slipped past Fili and came up from behind. “Those fortunate enough to have a slave will take them home and remind them who they serve. If they are disobedient or attempt to run, tell them they will suffer a fate worse than this one,” his hand reached out, grabbing Kili’s hair and pulling his head back. Kili moaned, clearly in pain, and Fili stiffened. “Now go to your homes.”

The crowd dispersed and Fili’s uncle rounded on him. “The next time you or your slave do anything that even slightly irks me, he’ll be back on this post. Remember your place here, nephew, and you’ll survive. Defy me and I’ll take him apart, piece by piece.” Fili seethed but bit back a retort for Kili’s sake. The Chieftain’s hand slid across the slave’s red welts, pressing his thick fingers into the bloody wounds. Kili sucked in a shaky breath. “He remains here until I release him.”

“At midday?”

“When I’m ready.”

Fili bowed his head and turned away. He collected Bilbo, taking him to their home where the hobbit would be safe and returning with a large fur to drape over Kili. It was unlikely that anybody would seek out Bilbo to harm when Kili was a more appealing target at present. Fili walked onto the platform, a few passers-by watching when he lifted the large fur onto the back of the near-naked slave and tried to tuck it around pale, bloody body. The villagers smirked, shaking their heads with disapproval and moving on. Fili stood before Kili, gently cupping the chilled face but he didn’t awaken.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Fili whispered. “I’ve been doing what I can. It’s very difficult, but I realize it’s not been enough. I should have told you. I...I think I’ve never had an equal in my entire life, Kili. I’ve had slaves, subordinates, and only ever answered to my father and uncle. I will do better. I want to make you my equal. It will be difficult, but you must let me let me know if I’m doing well. I'm going to talk to you more; if you won't learn my language, I'll learn yours. And we'll discuss everything through Bilbo until I can talk to you. Do you understand? Nothing like this will happen ever again." He looked at the pale face with a frown, gently rubbing his thumb along Kili's lip. "Wake up. Give me one more chance, please?”

Kili’s foot slipped within the blood pooling at his feet, and he groaned as he slipped down, manacles jarring his arms. Fili quickly wrapped his arms around him to try and steady him then resumed whispering in his ear.

Fili stood at the obelisk for hours, but it could have been a lifetime. He checked Kili for breathing, cleaned the blood away from his wrists, and held him up to keep his weight off the manacles. He pressed his body against Kili’s to keep him warm. The Erebor dwarf stirred, limbs convulsing and eyes fluttering, and Fili felt his heart lift, but Kili slipped back into unconsciousness within moments.

The golden-haired dwarf swore that Kili wouldn’t leave his sight again. As much as he wanted to leave tomorrow with Kili and Bilbo, doing so would be a death sentence for Kili. He would be too weak to survive in a chilly environment, even if he could hide him away in a cave. Then would be trapped north of the mountain pass where his Uncle would find him and kill them all, if they hadn’t frozen to death first. He wrapped an arm around Kili’s bare torso, holding him close. The only one who hurt more than Kili was Fili.

Chapter Text

It was late afternoon when his uncle returned to the post, holding a key and unlocking the shackles holding the young dark-haired dwarf upright. Fili was there to catch him, gently scooping up the inert dwarf and carrying him towards his home in the mountainside. Some of the other Firebeards laughed as he walked home, mocking him and Kili; they didn’t even think. It was customary. Fili was angry. Angry at his uncle, angry at the rest of the village, angry at Kili, and most of all angry with himself. He hated how proud his people were of causing pain in suffering in others. He had once revelled in the surge of power he felt when another bowed to him, or when he squeezed the last drop of life out of a kill. The rest of Firebeards would never empathize with a slave; but Fili had passed that forbidden barrier and there was no turning back.

He was suddenly struck by the thought that these weren’t his people. Fili was from Erebor; not a Firebeard like he’d always believed. Born in Erebor, to a father he never knew. Who looked like him. His past had been ripped from his mind through violence; now his future was threatened by violence. He glanced down at Kili, clutching him tightly.

He reached his home and kicked the heavy door with a steel toed boot. “Bilbo!” The latch was released and the door swung open wide, Bilbo’s apprehensive eyes inspecting the dwarf in Fili’s arms. The bundle was only just covered by the fur Fili had taken from their home earlier in the day. Blood encircled pale wrists and a gaunt face fell back with unseeing eyes.

“Put the grey fur beside the fire, Bilbo,” he said. “We’ll both keep watch over him in the open. He’ll be in a lot of pain. You should be there to talk to him. To comfort him.”

Bilbo set the thick pelt on the floor, setting a pillow under Kili’s head. Tears gathered in his eyes; he was angry with Kili for trying to escape the village and subjecting himself to this, but in his heart he wished the dark-haired dwarf would be successful. The hobbit knew the young dwarf was living a miserable existence, in a land far from his home and family, hidden away from those who would harm him. His only solace came to be in the arms of his owner. Bilbo cleared his throat and brought himself back to the present.

“Should I bring anything? You haven’t eaten, I can make you a small plate of meat and cheese? and he’ll need food, won’t he?” Bilbo asked. “I can bring some broth, he might swallow it. He will be well again, won’t he?”

Fili looked at the Hobbit, his eyes heavy with sadness, but his voice even. “Yes, thank you. A meal for me and broth for him. And a bucket with a rag, please, Bilbo. We’ll clean his back and his arms.” The blood seeped from the young dwarf’s wrists slowly; it was a sticky mess along his back and arms where it had dried over the hours, and Fili winced as the fur he had covered him with clung to the wounds.

Bilbo brought forth the water and a cloth, setting it near to the fire. Fili gently began to clean the wounds along Kili’s back and arm, bandaging them with clean cloth. He wiped down the dwarf’s entire body with the warm water, gently removing the fur from outside and replacing it with a clean one. The trembling had ceased, to Fili’s relief. Kili still felt colder than he should, and Fili continued with haste so he could warm him up. He cradled the wounded wrists in his hand, every swab of the laceration done with care and consideration. Bilbo stood over, watching as Fili knelt low, his hands brushing across the young dwarf’s face with a tenderness he rarely saw.

A ragged gasp filled the room, and Bilbo startled. Kili was awake, tense and weakly trying to get away from the hazy form before his eyes. Bilbo choked back a sob of relief. Fili’s fingers combed through the dark hair, murmuring soft words of reassurance until the wounded dwarf stilled on the fur, staring at Fili. The golden-haired dwarf pulled over a clean pelt, wrapping it around Kili’s body.

“Fili.” Kili’s voice was hoarse, and Bilbo jumped up and ran to the kitchen to find cool water and the promised broth. When he returned, Fili had pulled Kili up into a sitting position, supporting him from behind yet being cautious of his torn back. Kili’s head fell back onto Fili’s shoulder and his eyes partly closed.

“Bilbo,” Fili reached out, taking the mug of water and carefully lifting it to Kili’s lips. “Drink,” he said, and while Kili did not understand the word he felt the vessel against his lips, lifting his head and sipping the cool water. The first drink helped restore some lucidity, and the dark-haired dwarf lifted his hands to help steady the cup as he consumed more. Bilbo smiled at Fili with relief as he watched Kili drink greedily. Stubborn. He’d always heard that dwarves were stubborn creatures, but possibly none more so than Kili. Pushed to his limits, and yet alive.

Fili held him close, pushing his fingers gently through Kili’s hair. He occasionally shifted and moaned. Fili simply talked softly to Kili, grateful that he had woken so quickly, but knowing he would need to sleep again soon.

Kili rolled slightly, breath hitching and shutting his eyes with the pain. “Ask him why it was him with the whip.”

Bilbo translated for Fili, who entwined his fingers with Kili’s. “Tell him that it had to be me, or they would have given him to somebody else. I’m sorry, but I had to do it.”

Kili nodded sadly as Bilbo explained. It was just as he feared; Fili was forced to hurt him again. He tried to turn away, eyes slipping closed, but Fili directed his attention toward the food. He ate with Fili’s help, grateful for the hot liquid warming his limbs. Bilbo sat at Kili’s feet, trying to help warm Kili’s cold feet with his own hands. Kili shuddered with the touch; Bilbo’s warm hands felt like hot coals against his toes, and he tried to pull away. Both Bilbo and Fili kept him still, and he turned his attention back to the soup, taking large mouthfuls.

“Don’t eat too quickly,” Bilbo said. “But it will help you heal. You can rest soon. Fili will want to put you into that bath soon and get you into bed.”

“I know,” Kili whispered through a haze of pain. “Please tell him I want to sleep first. The bath,” he paused, raising his damage wrists, “will hurt too much. Tell him tomorrow.”

Bilbo relayed Kili’s message and the young dwarf didn’t need a translation to understand Fili’s agreement. He lay back against the strong chest, closing his eyes again and taking comfort in Fili’s warmth. He loved the feeling of the dwarf against him, holding him close. Fili was good to him, and good to Bilbo. In this harsh northerly village, he was extraordinarily fortunate to have found somebody who cared for him. The corners of his lips curled up and he wrapped his hand around Fili’s forearm, pulling it around his middle and snuggled into Fili.

“No, Kili.” Fili said softly, holding the dark-haired dwarf close to him but nudging him up.

Kili opened his eyes, moving forward slightly. He understood the words for ‘no’ or ‘do not’ but he didn’t understand his transgression. He turned, blinking in confusion.

“Not here, Kili. You can sleep in bed. Can you walk?” Fili’s voice was melodic Kili’s ear, and Kili turned to the hobbit who observed from the bench for a translation.

“He says you can sleep again in bed,” said Bilbo. “Will you walk, or should he carry you?”

“I can walk.” Kili pushed against the grey pelt, now stained with his blood. Dizzy with blood loss, he staggered but strong arms wrapped around him, holding him upright. Arms flooded with a warmth he desired, and he let himself fall against Fili’s side to feel more of that heat. Fili held the other dwarf close, keeping him firmly at his side and supporting every slow step towards the bedroom until he was laying on the soft bed. Bilbo stood in the door.

“Bilbo,” Kili called out. “Can you please tell Fili that I’m sorry? Tell him I’m sorry I ran. I appreciate what he does for me. I wanted to stop Bronin from using me to hurt him, and I only caused him more pain. I’m sorry if I have disappointed him.” Kili choked on the last few words.

The hobbit entered the room, threw another log into the fire at the end of the bed and translated the apology as Fili set Kili into the bed. Fili looked on with wide eyes at Bilbo’s translation, and Kili sat nervously below him, awaiting a reply. He felt the heat from the fire wrapping around his toes, yet another warmth settling in his gut. Suddenly Fili was on the bed, crawling over Kili and looking down at him. Fear of disappointing him washed through Kili as the bright blue eyes met his own.

Fili looked over the dwarf below him; any other slave would be broken and wilting by now. Kili was far stronger than that, and he smiled with love for the dark-haired dwarf.

Fili’s fingers came up against his cheek, tracing his eyebrow, his cheekbone, and finally across his lips. He replied; the words were soft and reassuring. He spoke at length, and Kili reached up, setting his hand on the Firebeard’s cheek.

“He said,” Bilbo’s voice cracked, to Kili’s surprise, “that he is also sorry, because he should have taken more action sooner to protect you, and he should have told you before. He promises he will return you home, soon. He said he has been planning to take both of us from this village to where we can be happy, and not live in fear. We must be strong until we can run. Oh Kili,” Bilbo was overcome with emotion, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I could go home.”

Fili watched as Bilbo spoke the common tongue, noting how the hobbit began to shake with every word and phrase. He became concerned and moved to get up.

However, the hobbit left the fireplace, bouncing across the bed to hug Fili fiercely around his neck. The Firebeard turned from Kili long enough to wrap an arm around Bilbo and return the embrace. Kili watched on with admiration for his host. He relished the thought of returning home, to hunt alongside Dwalin again, to learn beside his uncle. To be distant from these cruel dwarves and their bleak surroundings. He stared up into the blue eyes, extending an arm to touch the face that promised to save him from a cruel fate. He winced as his skin tore on his shoulder, moaning. Fili immediately turned back to him, and Bilbo slipped away, tears still glistening on his cheeks.

“Don’t move, Kili.” Fili helped the slender dwarf adjust in the bed, laying him down setting a soft pillow behind his head. “Let me help you.” He gently lift the bare torso, moving the bedding until Kili could lay on his uninjured arm. Fili crawled over him, laying down to face him. He gently lifted his finger, gently trailing it through the dark hair dusting Kili’s chest, then up again and resting it on his chin.

He leaned in to place a gentle kiss on Kili’s forehead, then laid back and began to run his fingers through Kili’s hair. It had the desired effect; Kili fell asleep, and Fili followed.

Fili woke to a gentle rapping on his bedroom door. He opened his eyes, seeing Kili still asleep on his side. His eyes glanced to the bandaged arm, but he couldn’t see any fresh blood. He turned toward the door.

“Can I come in?” Bilbo whispered from outside.

“Yes, Bilbo.”

The hobbit pushed the door open, holding a plate filled with bread and bacon, and a jug of fresh juice.

“I thought something special, so I made juice.”

Fili smiled. “Thank you, Bilbo.” He sat up, glancing back to Kili who continued to rest.

“I was hoping he would wake too.” Bilbo looked past Fili, setting the plate onto the edge of the bed.. “He needs a proper bath, more than just warm water on rags. To keep his wounds clean from infection.”

Fili frowned and nodded. He rolled back over, gently placing a hand on Kili’s cheek. “Kili. Time to wake up.” There was no reply, and Fili sighed and leaned in further. “Kili. You need food and a bath. Time to wake, Kili.” The figure mumbled and a hand came up to bat his away. Fili smiled fondly and glanced back at Bilbo. “He’s never been one for mornings, has he?”

“He has good reason this time.”

Fili turned and took a piece of bacon, dangling it in front of Kili’s nose.

Kili’s eyes blinked open. “That smells good,” he mumbled.

Bilbo laughed. “So you’re telling me we could have been waking you with breakfast in bed every morning?”

“Yes.” Kili pushed a fur away, then hissed as he tried to sit up; he didn’t share Bilbo’s smile but the hobbit didn’t mind. Kili was too tired and sore to laugh. Fili was beside him in an instant, helping him up until he sat, pillows at his back. He passed the plate between them, and they shared the meal.

“You should have a bath next, Kili. We need to keep all of those cuts clean.”

The dark-haired dwarf nodded, reaching for the pitcher of juice then gulping a large portion down. Fili chuckled as he watched Kili’s enthusiasm for his breakfast. Kili finished the last piece of bread, then pressed the plate away and sunk into the pillows.

“Bath next, Kili. We’ll redo your bandages then you can rest again.” Bilbo picked up the plate and jug.

“Can’t I have a little nap first? I’m so tired, Bilbo.”

Bilbo sighed and shook his head. “Let’s do it now and get it out of the way. Then you can rest as much as you like for today.”

Fili pushed closer to Kili, gently taking his arm and beginning to unwrap the cloth over the wound. Kili yawned and Fili paused. He reached up, pushing long strands of Kili’s hair behind his ears. Kili closed his eyes at the touch, and Fili stopped, grasping his wrist and giving it a little shake to keep him from falling asleep. Fili then paused and tilted his head as he stared at Kili’s visage. “Bilbo,” He turned to the hobbit. “Ask Kili about his family.”

Bilbo smiled and nodded; pleased that despite Fili’s earlier disinterest, the thought had lingered. “Kili, he wants to know more about your family.”

“My family,” Kili replied. “I don’t have much, sadly. I have my Uncle Thorin, who raised me. And some of our distant relatives - Balin, Dwalin, Oin and Gloin. They’ve all helped Thorin with my education.”

Bilbo translated to Fili. “Ask him what happened to his parents,” Fili said. “Does he have any siblings or cousins?”

The question was put to Kili and he shook his head. “My father died in battle just before I was born. I never knew him. My mother was killed by Firebeards. I wasn’t even a year old; I never knew her, either.” He slumped into the pillow.

“Fili wants to know if you had any siblings?”

“None that I know of. My uncle said all of my kin were slaughtered by the Firebeards, except my father. Why?”

Bilbo told Fili. “So he is an only child then,” Fili replied. “The names are coincidence.”

“He didn’t say that, Fili. He said none he knew of, and that his Uncle told him they were all slaughtered. All implies more than just a mother, to me.”

“Then ask him if he knew his mother’s name.” Fili turned to Kili, watching the dark-haired dwarf’s face intently.

Kili listened to Bilbo’s next question. “My mother. Her name was Dis.” There was silence, and Kili watched blood drain from Fili and Bilbo’s faces as he looked on with unease. “What’s wrong?”

“Kili,” Bilbo said slowly. “Dis wasn’t killed by the Firebeards.”

“What?” He tried to turn on his elbows, wincing and laying back down onto his side. “She was, my uncle said everyone was killed except me. Farmers found me in the wagon when I was crying and everyone else dead. They burned the bodies and returned me to Erebor. My mother was killed, Bilbo. Why would you say otherwise?” He knew the answer, but he had to hear it.

Fili suddenly reached over, pulling Kili up into him and hugging him tightly. Kili hissed from the pain on his back, but Fili seemed to take no notice this time, pressing his face against Kili’s hair and breathing in his scent deeply.

“Fili, he doesn’t understand yet,” Bilbo said, and the golden-haired dwarf released Kili from the hug but took his hand into his own. Bilbo turned back to Kili with smile. “Your mother survived the raid. She was brought back here, Kili. She lived here in the village for a few more years.”

A tear fell from Kili’s cheek. “So she was a slave too, and died in misery.” He drew his knees up, pulled his hand free from Fili’s and wrapped his arms around his knees, burying his face. “My mother died cold and alone,” he sobbed.

Fili looked to Bilbo, eyes wide with concern. “What’s wrong? Why is he upset?”

Bilbo ignored Fili for the moment. “No, she wasn’t alone. She had her other son with her. Fili. He’s your brother, Kili.”

The dark-haired dwarf looked up, head throbbing.. “Brother?”

“We believe so.”

"But I thought he was from here," Kili shook his head with disbelief. "His father was the Chieftain. Our names...aren't chance then? But how-"

Fili suddenly pulled away, jumping up and moving into the common room. Bilbo and Kili looked on with surprise, hearing his heavy footsteps move away from the door.

“I’m so confused, Bilbo. My mother...she couldn’t have….”

Moments later Fili returned, holding a chain with three small stones attached; one large and two smaller. He spoke in the Firebeard dialect and waiting for Bilbo.

“He says this was his mother’s pendant, one of the few items she was permitted to keep. It has three designs on it.”

Fili pressed the chain with the crests into Kili’s hand; he turned it over, looking at the three stones. The largest stone had his mother’s crest; it had been a long time since he had seen it, but his Uncle had shown him, and given him a treasure box of his mother’s which had the crest inscribed on the top. The rune to the right of his mother’s had his own crest. He thumbed it with a small gasp of surprise. His finger flitted to the third stone, on the left of his mother’s. He looked to Fili, who explained and Bilbo translated.

“Fili’s mother told him that was his stone, and that was his mark. She never explained the other small one to him. She said it brought her too much sadness. She must have thought you died too, Kili. Fili was five when they were taken from Erebor's lands. He didn't know until this morning, when his uncle confirmed it. He knew his mother came from Erebor, but he believed he was the true son of the Chieftain. He's not a Firebeard at all, he's your older brother."

He gazed up into the blue eyes, euphoria and fatigue mixing, making him light-headed. “Fili. It’s true then. I have a brother.” He fell back into the pillow with a gasp. “I have a brother.”

Fili watched curiously, then sat on the bed and moved closer. “Kili?”

Dark eyes met blue ones. “Fili,” the dark-haired dwarf replied. “My brother.” He was jarred fully awake with the news yet had never felt so exhausted in his life. “Fili, my brother.”

Bilbo translated the last word, and Fili wrapped himself around the slender dwarf again. “Brother,” he said, echoing the word in common. “Kili. Brother.”

“There’s so much I want to know,” Kili whispered, shrugging against Fili. “You knew my mother. Our mother. I want to know more about her. And about how you grew up here. Why did Thorin never tell me about you? Oh, Fili.”

Bilbo translated, and Fili answered.

Bilbo smiled. “He says rest now; you need your strength to recover. He’ll tell you all he knows in time, and you can tell him more about Erebor.”

The dark haired dwarf blinked, trying to stave off the exhaustion threatening to overtake him. Fili’s fingers found their way into his hair again, and Kili hummed, content. The golden-haired dwarf shifted himself behind Kili and wrapping a muscular arm around the slender dwarf, slipping the other under the dark hair and pulling him close. He left out a soft gasp, and Fili stilled himself in concern.


“I’m good. I’m fine. Just hurts a little is all,” he said. “But don’t leave.” Knowing his words meant little, other than his tone, he lay one hand on Fili’s, the other arm over the one on his middle, holding him there. He wanted Fili to stay beside him, wrapping him in a warm embrace and whispering to him until he slipped into sleep. His body was overwhelmed with pain and fatigue and his mind with revelations of his mother, but at the forefront of it was one thought: Fili was his brother.

Much thanks to Tokiyoh (makoto) for the gorgeous art! You can follow Tokiyoh here: Tumblr.

Chapter Text

The next month passed slowly for the two dwarves and the hobbit. They were eager to leave, but restrained by the weather and Kili’s condition. Spring was well and truly upon the settlement; the snow had melted in the open areas of the village but still clung to the mountainsides. The mountain passage isolating the Firebeards from the rest of Middle Earth would be passable soon. Fili had been keeping to himself, not wanting to provoke any more retributions from his uncle or others. He escorted Bilbo on all of his tasks outside of the home, and traded Bilbo’s baking for meat instead of hunting himself. He was jovial with his fellow Firebeards but made a show of keeping his slave in line; Bilbo played the part of the wounded servant. He didn’t want to leave the hobbit or the Kili alone for too long. Threats had been made; while he expected that the worst for Bilbo would be taken into servitude by somebody else as his baking was well loved by all, Kili would be tortured and killed for sport. He had not let the dark-haired dwarf out of his house, and he could see the frustration building up within him.

Kili had grown stronger again each day, but he suffered in the same fashion as he had when he first arrived. His endurance was severely hampered, and he tired quickly. He was restricted to bed or laying back in Fili’s chair most of the time; he would often drift off to sleep. Bilbo and Fili had been cautious, keeping his wounds treated with herbs and poultices, insisting he drink foul smelling beverages to fortify his immune system. He had grown sullen when they restricted his activity, occasionally snapping at the other two but immediately apologizing for his words. Bilbo gave him reassuring smiles and Fili comforted him with physical affection.

Fili purchased three knapsacks from Nurek and set about enacting his plan. He had told his old friend he would use them during the summer raids for loot. He wanted to tell Nurek about his plan and perhaps he would join them in escaping; but he thought that would be dangerous, and he wasn’t certain he trusted Nurek so much after he killed his own slave. Instead, he took the sacks back home to Bilbo, who packed them with preserved foods and prepared bedrolls. Kili had been tasked with sharpening the weapons in Fili’s weapons chest when he was feeling well. The Firebeard was delighted to return to his home and find the young dwarf absorbed in his work, a happy smile across his face as he turned over a simple sword with and leather handle embossed with dwarvish runes. The Khudzul meant nothing to the Firebeards, but Kili was enamored with the writing.

“What do they say?” Fili asked, bringing his hand over Kili’s to hold it still. Kili reached for his other hand, pulling it up against his cheek and laying into it.

Bilbo, busy patching up some clothes by the fire, translated as they chatted.

“This one,” Kili took Fili’s fingers, gently tracing a rune. “This means strength. Very common. But this one is friends, and this is family. And this one means good fortune, and this shape here is freedom. And this one is hope.”

Bilbo and Kili exchanged a few words in the Firebeard’s dialect before Fili turned back to Kili.
“Family?” Fili said in common, pointing to a rune on the blade.

Kili nodded. “Family, yes.”

“Family. Bilbo, Fili and Kili?”

Kili set down the sword and wrapped his arms around Fili’s neck. “Yes, family. Bilbo, Fili and Kili,” he repeated, pulling the Firebeard into a hug. “Fili, you really are wonderful.”

Fili wrapped his arms around the dark-haired dwarf, comforted by his show of affection. He took up the sword again, slipping it into the scabbard and pressed it into the Erebor dwarf’s hands. “Kili.”

Kili smiled and wrapped the belted scabbard around his waist, trying it on. It felt good to have a weapon at his side again, and he pulled out the sword and swung it a few times, his training coming back to him. Fili looked on with admiration, his heart swelling. When Kili was working on the weapons, he was far more alive then he’d been since arrival. He had thrown himself into every task necessary for the journey with zeal. They passed their days at home, chatting and discussing the journey. Fili had not travelled far south of the mountain pass, but Kili felt confident enough to lead them on to Erebor.

While Kili sharpened and prepared the weapons, Fili had taken on the task of showing Bilbo how to use a sword. The hobbit was nervous and flinched more than he thrusted, preferring to jump away than parry a blow. Fili trained as best he could, eventually accepting that the Hobbit would probably curl into himself and make himself a small target but not fight back. Kili however was happy to spar with Fili and while he was still weakened from lack of practice, exercise, injury and illness over the past several months, he put up a good fight most of the time. Fili was cautious though, worried that he wasn’t pushing Kili enough to prepare him for a true fight and that the young dwarf’s strength was not enough to withstand a battle. But Kili enjoyed it, so he engaged him carefully, watching him for signs of exhaustion. They had shoved all of the furniture out of the center of the common room, sparring in the safety of their home, Bilbo cheering them on.

It was during one of these sessions when a heavy knock sounded on the door. The trio looked at each other in surprise, and quickly began to shove the furniture back into place. Bilbo and Kili moved into the kitchen, trying to look busy. Once everything was in place, Fili opened the door. His Uncle Bronin, the Chieftain, waited with his chin raised; behind him was Coran, the dwarf who served as Darek’s second in command on his patrol.

“You were slow. And I heard swords clashing. What have you been doing in here?” The older dwarf pushed in past Fili, looking around. Coran followed as well, and Fili’s fists clenched as he noticed a short sword at Coran’s side.. His uncle had never brought along another dwarf, and Fili grew concerned.

Fili moved quickly to catch up with his uncle, blocking his path with his body. “My Chief,” he bowed. “My Uncle. I was cleaning my weapons, and dropped them.”

“An odd noise for dropped weapons, so rhythmic,” he said. “I will not tarry, Fili. I am here about the raids and your slaves.” Bronin looked past Fili to the kitchen, where Bilbo was moving around jars in the pantry; Kili stood beside him, trying to look busy, picking up items and putting them right back into the same place.

“What of them?” Fili endeavoured to keep his tone indifferent but his eyes flickered over to the pair.

“I have decided that the raids will go early this year,” he said. “The snow is melting quickly, and the earlier the patrols leave, the farther you can travel. New lands, new plunder. More livestock, more spices, more weapons.” He plodded into the kitchen, moving close to Bilbo and watching him with interest. “I expect you’ll be gone for a fair while. I will take Bilbo into my own home for the summer. I can see he is very dedicated to his tasks in the kitchen, and I would like to have him cook for me as he does for you and did for your father.”

Fili glanced around, visually taking stock of the weapons availabe to him. “Bilbo has always been fine remaining behind on his own. Nurek looks in on him.”

“Not this year,” Bronin said, catching Bilbo’s arm. “Bilbo does have a special place amongst us, but he is still a slave and he will no longer be left alone.” The hobbit turned, meekly looking down at the floor. “I will look after this one.”

Fili bristled, hands in fists but kept himself in place; his rage was on the cusp of boiling over. “And my other slave?”

Bronin released Bilbo who moved himself into the back of the pantry, placing a shelf between himself and the Chieftain. Bronin’s sights were elsewhere however; he crossed the dining space, pulling a jar from Kili’s hands and slammed the young dwarf forward into the wall.

“Your other slave,” Bronin rumbled, peering down at Kili with disdain. “He is well, then. We wondered how he fared from his punishment on the obelisk.” Bronin pulled at his tunic, revealing the scarred back. “And survived without infection. He seems to have recovered from his punishment remarkably well. You put so much effort into this one, Fili.”

Bronin flipped Kili around, placing a meaty forearm on the young dwarf’s neck, above the leather collar. “Tell me, Fili. Are you still in love with this one? Surely he must be growing frightened of you after the rape and whipping. I don’t even know what you see in him. He is small and thin. Quite ugly.” Bronin’s other hand nested in Kili’s hair, wrenching his head to the side. “He is a pitiful, hideous, useless and scarred creature. We would make good sport of him in a hunt.”

“I did what you asked on that day! You promised you would leave him with me. Let him go and leave my home.” Fili approached, fists clenched; Coran moved his hand to the hilt of his sword.

Bronin shifted to the side, giving Kili’s head another tug. “Stay back, Fili. I gave you permission to take him, and I can take that right away. Some days I am tempted, just to watch you crumble.”

Bronin’s lips twisted up in delight. Fili was nearly shaking with his fury, watching Kili try to hold himself still in Bronin’s rough grip as his uncle taunted both of them. Bronin pressed his arm further into Kili’s throat. Kili squirmed, his air supply limited. Bronin picked up the knife from the table, bringing it under Kili’s chin to still him. The Firebeard’s hand drifted down to his groin, roughly groping. Kili flinched, turning his head to Fili, seeking him out with wide, terrified eyes.

“Leave him be, Uncle. Does your word mean nothing to you?”

Bronin ignored Fili, still touching Kili’s trousers. “Ah, I can see why this one would amuse you in bed,” he replied coolly. “You realize he resembles your mother, the same hair, the same eyes? I have decided that he will spend the summer with Grenik, who is growing too old for the raids. And because I took the slave from him, I will let him look after the boy while you are away. It only seems fair. He will be taught proper submission and continue to serve as a bed slave. I think you’ll find he’ll be even more pliant and ready for you when you return. But if he fails, then we hunt him. For now, this one carries far too many clothes for his position.” Bronin slid the knife along Kili’s collarbone and torso, cutting his tunic until it slipped from his back to the floor. The Chieftain’s hands went to Kili’s breeches, unlacing the ties.

The combination of Kili’s fearful eyes with Fili’s own anger sent him over the edge. Fili rushed forward, wrenching the knife from his Uncle’s hand and throwing the larger dwarf off Kili. In seconds he had his uncle pinned to the wall, as his Uncle had done to Kili only moments before. Kili brought his hand up to his throat, eyes wide as Fili snarled at his Uncle. Bilbo ran out of the pantry long enough to grab Kili’s hand and pull him away.

Fili hefted the knife in his own hand, pressing the blade into his Uncle’s neck, drawing a thin line of blood. “Stay away from him. You will not touch him.” Coran withdrew his sword, looking uncertainly between his threatened Chieftain and the two slaves in the corner. He made a move for Kili and Bilbo, and Kili picked up a jar of pickled onions, throwing it at Coran and hitting his shoulder, but he continued to advance.

“Fili!” Kili shouted desperately, and Fili looked at him, the dark-haired dwarf panicked and anxious. Fili backed away from his uncle and swiftly moved to Kili’s side, holding the knife out and putting himself between his slaves, Coran and his Uncle, whose face was as red as his beard.

“You will pay for that,” the Firebeard groused. “He comes with me, now. I’ll see what his skills are like before I give him to Grenik. I wonder if he will make the sounds your mother made when I fucked her in your father’s absence?” He laughed, a cruel derisive noise.

“No!” Fili pushed Kili back further, who cowered. The young prince was desperate for a weapon, and knew their escape plan could be in jeopardy. He reached up, clinging to Fili’s arm. Bilbo watched nervously.

“No more discussion. Get a chain so I can lead him to my home properly. If you do not obey, Coran and I will fetch Darek and the others to help me escort him away.”

Fili backed down, cursing; he didn’t like his chances of taking both his Uncle and Coran with only a kitchen knife while also protecting Kili and Bilbo. He dropped his head. “Uncle, please. If you’re going to take him, allow me one last night with him. I’ll bring him to your place by midday tomorrow, when I’ve finished with him.”

Bronin looked down at Fili, then back to Erebor slave, who had wrapped his arms around himself and stood against the shelves fearfully. He smiled again. “Very well. One last night, only for you to try and comfort him, and make it all worse in the end. Yes, try to explain to him what he’s in for tomorrow. Fill him with anxiety and fear, it will make it much more pleasing for me. I look forward to seeing what state he is in come morning. Coran will remain outside tonight, with another guard.”

Fili breathed an audible sigh of relief. Kili took notice of his reaction, standing a little straighter. “Yes, Uncle.”

The old Firebeard dwarf left. Fili sagged down onto the table bench in relief, pulling Kili over and onto the bench beside him. He reached up, stroking the dark locks again, muttering apologies. Bilbo emerged from the pantry, moving to Fili’s other side and placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Finish packing the goods. We’re not fully prepared, but we leave tonight, or I fear I will not be able to save all of us,” said Fili.

“We’ll not get past the mountain pass, will we?” Bilbo asked with concern. “It will still be blocked for a few more weeks!”

“My uncle said the snows are melting fast this year. We’ll take our chances; we have no other choice. Pack all the food you can, and we’ll eat well tonight before we travel.”

“And the two guards?”

“I’d rather take care of them then try to rescue Kili from another’s home. I’ll figure out something.”

Bilbo nodded thoughtfully.

“What happened?” Kili asked, looking between the pair, senses still heightened.

“He was threatening to take you away from Fili tonight,” Bilbo explained. “Fili asked that he keep you for another night then give you up in the morning. Bronin agreed. Fili says we have to go tonight, or we may not all escape. Pack the rest of your things, Kili.”

Kili leaned into Fili, grateful for his intervention. “Thank you.” He planted a small kiss on the Firebeard’s nose, and the dwarf blushed, wrapping him into a big hug.

“Family,” Fili said in common before releasing Kili.

“Come on now,” Bilbo interrupted, tugging at both their arms. “We’ve got a bit to do if we’re leaving tonight!”

Darkness fell and the village retired to their homes and evening meals. Outside, Coran and another dwarf sat near Fili’s door, shivering in the air; it wasn’t the most pleasant of tasks, but their Chieftain had commanded it, and they wrapped themselves in layers and kept watch as the lights around the city began to dim.

Inside Fili’s home, the Firebeard and his two charges laid out a feast, eating their fill until they felt the next bite would make them sick. They would have to travel at speed, without stopping for food, for the first day. Fili didn’t expect that his uncle would take treason without seeking vengeance. Retribution would be swift and brutal. The trio would no doubt be exhausted but they had to put a great deal of distance between themselves and the Firebeards. The village had little in the way of horses; mostly ponies and mules to carry carts. None were swift, and so the trio would travel on foot.

Fili sat pensively, then thumped his fist against the table. “Bilbo, ask Kili if he feels strong enough to take the second dwarf while I take the first; he would only need to slit his throat.”

Bilbo stared, shocked at Fili’s callous tone. Fili frowned. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. But it will be necessary.”

“Can’t we just knock them out?”

“We need as much time as possible; we can’t have them waking early.”

Bilbo sighed and tilted his head to the side, glancing at Kili who was smothering a small bun in chutney. He sat straight again. “I have another idea,” he smiled. “A little less blood, and more time.” Fil frowned but Bilbo stood and went into his cupboards, pulling out ingredients. “Give me an hour.”

“We need to leave then, so that’s all you have,” Fili said, finishing his food and moving back to the common room. He collected all of the gold pieces he had collected, tucking them into a small sack and attaching it to his belt. He walked over and collected a couple of clasps and the small chain from the shelf. The only reminders of his mother, Dis. He looked over them gently, flipping them through his fingers. She was kind, gentle with him and she never deserved the end she had met at his father’s hands; Fili’s guilt deeply penetrated his soul. And now he resolved to protect his newly found brother, and the hobbit who had served his family for so long. He placed his mother’s chain over his neck, tucking it below his tunic. The silver clasp was wound into his own hair, pulling it up and away from his face.

“Kili,” he called to the slender dwarf, who rose and walked over, a smile still beaming across his face. It was evident how he looked forward to returning to his home, his life and family. After his mother died, Fili had no one that he loved and admired. He embraced the ways of the Firebeards, the tyranny of his father, and only treated the small hobbit with any semblance of kindness. It wasn’t until his father passed and he took Bilbo into his ownership that he began to return to his mother’s ways. Now Kili stood in front of him, head cocked to the side curiously as he looked at the silver clasp in Fili’s hands. Fili took the dwarf by the shoulders and carefully turned him away. He moved his fingers up into the beautiful dark hair, collecting the sides and pulling it back in a similar fashion to his own and putting in the small clasp.

Kili’s fingers came up, gently brushing against the clasp with a smile. He took Fili’s hand into his own, whispering a thank you and returned to his pack. Bilbo still worked in the kitchen, and had finished collecting the remainder of the food and distributing it. The trio began to dress themselves in layers; it was still cold in the northern reaches in early spring, and there could be light snowfalls overnight. Fili wondered what the weather in Erebor would be like; he’d never known a climate that wasn’t desolate and frozen most of the year.

Bilbo came from the kitchen, holding two mugs and a plate of tarts. “Right. I’m ready.”

“What are you doing?”

“Open the door. I’ve made a rather strong mixture of herbs. Slows the heart, will put them to sleep. Quite dangerous,” he said with a frown. “If it’s too strong, they’ll stop breathing.”

Kili looked alarmed. “Is this what you gave me in the teas?”

“Only one of these in the mix, and in less than a quarter the dose,” Bilbo replied. “I would never use this on you, Kili.”

Kili nodded, looking uneasy.

“Can’t say that these will be my tastiest treats, but those two won’t feel anything in fifteen minutes or so.” Bilbo headed toward the front door.

“And how do you plan to deliver it to them?”

“Listen and you will see. Get the door, will you?”

“Bilbo, are you sure about this?”

“Yes. Nobody has been able to resist my cooking until now, and I don’t expect they will.”

Fili smiled, grabbing his sword and handing Kili his before opening the door. “Careful. I’ll be right here listening.”

Bilbo swallowed and nodded, then walked out onto the path. “Excuse me, masters,” he whispered.

The two dwarves had turned instantly, hands going to weapons, but withdrawing when they saw the food and drinks. “What is it, slave?”

“I bring you food and drink, it’s too cold to go without a warm beverage tonight.”

“And why?”

Bilbo cleared his throat, keeping his gaze down. “Please do not tell Master Fili, who is asleep with the Erebor slave. But I don’t like him, the Erebor slave. I’m glad you’re taking him tomorrow. I don’t like sharing a space with him. I want you to stay warm so you can take him tomorrow.”

The two dwarves laughed. “Don’t pity us, slave. But we will take your food and drinks.” They stood, grabbing the plate and mugs and Bilbo turned away. “Thank you, masters,” he said. “I look forward to the Chieftain’s return tomorrow.” He slipped back into the house, closing the door and leaning against it, taking a deep breath.

Fili and Kili both grinned. “Well done, Bilbo,” Fili praised him. “I would not have thought of that. Let’s finish packing and give them some time to succumb.”

They packed their belongings and began to gather their weapons. Fili proudly watched as Kili belted the runed sword around his waist. “Family,” he said, pointing down at the scabbard.

“Family,” Kili replied, delighted. “And you’ll have more family when we reach our destination.” He hummed contently as he picked up a variety of small throwing axes, fixing them into his clothes and along the belt. He disappeared into the bedroom, returning with the small wooden figure that Fili had made for him, tucking it into his bag.

Once all of their supplies, clothing and weapons were collected they gathered at the front door of the home. Bilbo set his items to the side and crept back outside. The strong mix of herbs did their job; both were asleep, leaning against the wall on the crates they had been sitting on. Bilbo carefully checked they were breathing; afraid that he may have given them too much. He was relieved to find he had only knocked them both out. He slipped back in with a nod. “It’s done. They’re asleep. They’ll never hear us leave, and still be on guard in the morning; that will give us more time.”

Fili clapped Bilbo on the back. “Excellent work.” Fili finished attaching his own weapons before helping Bilbo with his one sword. The Hobbit ambled into the kitchen, picking up his favorite kitchen knife as well. Fili glanced back around one more time.

“Is there anything you wish to take, Fili?” Bilbo asked. “You may never see this place again.”

“Good. I have my mother’s mementos,” he said, his hand absently tracing his neck where the chain lay. He looked around the abode, his own for the past five years, his father’s before. The fire where his mother would sit and tell him stories of Erebor until she cried herself to sleep. She tried to teach him common and Khuzdul, but his father only hurt her until she promised to stop. Each memory laced with more pain than happiness, but the only home he knew. Fili turned towards the hobbit and the door. “There is nothing more of this place I need to remember. Nothing more that I want to remember, Bilbo. I’m sorry that you’ve been held here for so long.”

“You’ve known nothing else, Fili. Now you’re the brave one for leaving home and taking us to ours. So thank you.” The hobbit patted his arm with admiration. He was eager to begin this journey, to move to a warmer climate and happier days. He only had the smallest, shortest memories of his homeland.

Fili collected his spear and opened the door, peering out into the cold and dark; the village was quiet and still. He walked out and waited a moment, casting small glances to the two slumbering guards. If they were to be caught within town, then the mission was a complete failure; Kili and Bilbo would be taken and he would be exiled. This was the most dangerous part. Fili’s heart thudded against his chest, his stomach threatening to retch. After a few minutes with no response, he waved Kili and Bilbo out and quietly closed the door of his old home.

With no words, the Firebeard led the other two towards the tall timber wall around the village, hiding in the shadows as they moved along to the gate and the small door beside it. If a dwarf was still hunting after dark the gate was locked and a guard posted. Fili approached with caution, rounding the corner to find the guards’ room empty. It was locked but the key hung nearby and Fili opened the door, ushering the other two through. They had cleared the first obstacle and were on their way to Erebor.

Chapter Text

Fili navigated the wild plains with ease; he led Bilbo and Kili away from the primary hunting zones and down paths through copses of trees that would help hide them from prying eyes. The plains eventually turned to undulating terrain as they approached the mountain range and the gap that they would have to pass through. The streams began to pool together into a shallow river which ran through the gap, and they followed near to the stream as they moved along. They travelled for a week with no sign of any other dwarves.

Fili glanced back at Bilbo and Kili. Bilbo was doing far better than he expected; the hobbit had been a slave for the past thirty-five years, kept in the village, aside from the rare once or twice a year trip out to look for mushrooms and other plants, under the watchful eye of Fili and before him, his Firebeard father. He complained about the food they were having to eat, apologizing for not having any spices or other items to make their simple stews and meals any more pleasant. Fili simply laughed, explaining that nobody expected anything other than simple nourishment on the road. Fili worried for Bilbo’s bare feet, but Bilbo shrugged it off, once again claiming that hobbits had the hardiest feet in all of Middle Earth. Fili was beginning to believe that his claims were truth and not just prideful boasting.

At the end of the pack was Kili, trudging along often looking down at his feet. Fili would look back every few minutes to make sure he was still behind and walking. It was a month since he’d been whipped on the obelisk; he once again mostly recovered, but Fili was aware that his endurance was lacking. He could see that it frustrated the dark-haired dwarf, who would insist he was fine although his step was unsteady and he swayed. Fili would take up Kili’s bag for awhile, hoping that the relief would help him find his second wind. He merely muttered and looked down at the ground, disappointed with his own weakness. Fili removed a glove, pressing a hand over his cheek and uttering encouragement to his younger brother.

They would walk through dusk, until the sun was fully gone from the sky and there was no moonlight to guide their path. Fili took the squirrels he managed to slay and skinned them while Kili moved off to gather wood for a fire and Bilbo arranged camp, setting up bedrolls and the cooking pot. After a few minutes Kili returned with an armful of logs, dropping them into the firepit that Bilbo created and flopping down to wait. Bilbo took up his tinderbox, striking a fire. The temperature quickly dropped after the sun went down each night, and they huddled as close to the fire as they dared, picking at the squirrel meat. Fili found himself in the middle, although he’d rather have put Bilbo or Kili there. Kili slipped under his left arm and Bilbo huddled up on Fili’s right side.

Fili smiled, arms around both of his companions. He was nervous, excited, and a little frightened. While Bronin told him that he was taken from Erebor as a toddler of five years, he remembered nothing of it. The cold northerly plains and hills had been his home for another 72 years, and it was all he remembered. He wondered if the dwarves of Erebor kept slaves; he hadn’t thought to ask. Thoughts of what he would do passed through his head as well. He knew Kili was a soldier, but he knew little else. They might allow him to serve alongside Kili; he couldn’t imagine being kept from hunting and exploring. He looked to Kili, realizing that the dark-haired dwarf had gone through that exact scenario. A hunter reduced to a slave who could no longer hunt. The thought saddened him, and he gripped his arm around Kili’s shoulder tightly, causing the dark eyes to look over to him with a smile. He returned it.

They hunkered down in their furs in the same position; Fili drew Kili into his arms, pressing his chin into the dark hair and gently running his hand up and down Kili’s arm. Behind him, he could feel Bilbo scooting closer to share warmth, until the hobbit was firmly laying back-to-back with him. The fire crackled and popped, and Fili fell asleep with a content smile.

Morning came and Fili blinked as the light danced over the hills. It had been a clear night, and the sky was still cloudless. The fire was out, and Kili was shivering in the cold morning air. Fili drew him in closer, pressing his body against his and tucking the furs around him. He knew they needed to rise and move, but Kili still needed a little more rest, and he tried to comfort the slender dwarf until the shaking stop and he slipped back into a comfortable sleep for a little longer.

Bilbo stirred behind him, standing and stretching. He looked over and Kili, still asleep. “Is he well?”

“Just tired, I think,” Fili replied. “Cold night, I don’t think he slept well.”

“Mmm. Very cold. I’ll get some dried food from the bags and fill up the water skins. I could make a hot drink if you think that will help him?”

“That sounds like a very good idea, Bilbo. I think we will hit the mountain pass today, and perhaps we could all use a little warmth to get us moving.”

Bilbo nodded, reaching into the bags to find some tea leaves that Fili claimed from a raid. He crushed them into their mugs and started the fire before trudging off with the skins to fill them nearby.

Fili heard a whimper from the dark-haired dwarf, and frowned, pulling him in and stroking his hair. “Shh, Kili. You’re alright. You’re safe.” His soft touches worked and he felt Kili relax again with a snort. Fili smiled and kissed his cheek.

“Here we are.” Bilbo announced his return and filled up the pot with water to boil. “Tea for three coming up.”

Fili unravelled himself from Kili’s side and sat up. “Tell me, Bilbo. What do you look forward to once we’re away from these lands?”

“I’m not sure. I suppose I’ve been fortunate; I haven’t dwelled on my past life. It will be nice to go back to the Shire; I can barely remember it. It was my first trip out of the Shire when I was taken, you know. I’d never been anywhere, and I was frightened I’d never see home again. For years, I thought I was right. I gave up hope, Fili. But I learned to be content in the life I was given. Now...I’m a bit afraid to go back.”

Fili nodded. “I’m afraid too. I don’t think they will like me. Our clans have only ever raided others. They might be upset with me for enslaving you and Kili. I could end up in a cell for the rest of my life, couldn’t I?”

Bilbo shook his head. “Nonsense. You were a prisoner of their ways as much as we were. You saved us, and you’re his brother. That will certainly count for something.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do in Erebor, Bilbo. I was going to be a Chieftain. Now...I don’t know, and that frightens me.”

Bilbo nodded. He was quite surprised to hear Fili admit his fear, but kept that to himself. “We’ll take this a day at a time. Just keep focused on Kili, and all will fall into place.” He stirred the water in the pot, and poured it over the tea leaves. “We should wake him,” Bilbo motioned to Kili.

Fili turned back to the dark-haired dwarf, leaning over him and gently kissing his cheek and shaking his arm. A small murmur passed Kili’s lips, and he rolled over, looking up. His brown eyes blinked, crinkling at the edges and he smiled at Fili. “Morning,” he mumbled.

“Good morning to you,” Bilbo replied. “Time to get up and have some tea and breakfast. Fili thinks we’ll reach the mountain pass today. And then it’s only another couple weeks before we reach Erebor’s lands, correct?”

Kili sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Yes. Home.”

“Home.” Fili said the word in common before turning back to Bilbo to confirm the meaning.

“Yes Fili. Your new home.” Bilbo took the mugs, passing one to Kili and another to Fili. They finished their tea and ate a quick breakfast. They packed up their gear and worked to destroy any signs of their camp. Fili took up his spear and watched as Bilbo and Kili belted their swords on, then the group headed out in the cool air towards the dip in the mountain range.

It remained cool most of the day as they moved along in the shadows of the mountain range. The pass loomed nearby, and Fili intended to move through and make camp just on the other side. It would be late in the day by the time they were fully through, but he felt it would be safer than stopping in the middle or the north side. Fili traveled as quickly as possible; but he couldn’t travel a straight path to the pass, as it was in the open and they could be spotted from a great distance. So he swung wide from the direct path to remain hidden in trees, boulders, hills and other terrain. He feared Bronin would be in pursuit and made good time on the straight path to wait in the mountain pass for them to arrive.

Fili told Bilbo, who relayed it to Kili. The dark-haired dwarf nodded, and Fili watched him carefully. He struggled worse than any of the previous days, threatening to topple over as they walked. Fili watched sadly; he desperately wished to give Kili an early night, even an entire day to recuperate, but the threat at their back made that impossible. He hoped they could finish the pass in a few hours, camp on the southern side, and perhaps find a farmstead after to spend a day or two at, if they would have a Firebeard dwarf and his two wards. If he must, he would send Bilbo and Kili to the farmhouse and camp nearby until Kili was well-rested and ready to continue.

They continued along the meandering stream until the banks began sloping steeply; they were entering the mountain pass. Fili was relieved to find no tracks and no signs of other dwarves. The wet snow came up to the knees of the dwarves and a bit higher on Bilbo, slowing them down significantly. Fili put himself first to try and clear a path, with Kili second and finally Bilbo following in their footsteps. The pass was fairly narrow, only just wide enough for a wagon and a single dwarf at its side, and well worn; Firebeard dwarves travelled this way every year to plunder the settlements beyond. Wagons had worn tracks into the ground and Fili wondered each year how long before the path was impassable for the carts and wagons they stole and brought back. He couldn’t see the path under the snow, but the cold frozen mud was uneven, and his feet hit ridges left by the wagons, or slipped into the ruts.

They trekked along the cold and slick trail, Bilbo muttering as he tried to push the snow away from his legs and growling about needing a warm bath on the other end. Kili slipped, his balance gone in his exhaustion. He fell onto his side, wet snow quickly soaking his outer garments. Fili was at his side in an instant, wrapping an arm around him to pull him up. He brushed the remainder of the snow from the dark-haired dwarf, then looked over him. His eyes were unfocused and Fili was troubled.

“Not much longer, Kili. We can’t stop in the pass. We’ll get through, and then I promise you can rest,” Fili explained, and Bilbo dutifully translated.

The dark eyes nodded, and the shoulders slumped. Fili moved to Kili and lifted the strap of the bag on his shoulders.

“No,” Kili pulled away, twisting dizzily in the wet snow. “I can do it.”

Fili didn’t need a translation. He shook his head and kissed Kili on his forehead. “Brother,” he growled in common, and pulled at the bag again. This time Kili didn’t protest, allowing him to take his heavy bag. Fili draped it over his other shoulder and continued walking, turning long enough to make sure Kili was moving again.

The path began to descend and had widened significantly; there were a few sparse trees.. The stream running alongside was now a roaring, turbulent river with the melting snows filling its banks. They reached a sharp turn, and Fili went around the corner and stopped in his tracks. Blocking the path was a landslide, carrying mud, snow, and boulders. The raging river had managed to clear a chunk of it along the water’s edge, but it was too dangerous to slip down the bank towards the river to skirt past the mass of earth. Fili set his two bags down, telling Bilbo and Kili to rest while he appraised the situation. The hobbit nodded gratefully and Kili had his eyes closed in moments.

Fili moved back, taking his spear and shoving it under a stone; he rocked it and to his surprise the boulder began to slip again, tumbling down into the stream where the strong current moved it downstream. He stuck his spear under another stone, and after a little maneuvering the second rolled down the bank. Another few stones and there would be a narrow section they could move through, although it would delay them well into dark. He could see the trees fanning out below the pass and knew they weren’t far. That thought gave him strength as he wedged the end of his spear into the ground to find leverage.

An hour later, he called to Bilbo and Kili; the hobbit sat quietly, watching over Kili who had fallen asleep. Fili hoped that the short nap would give him the strength until they set up camp further on. Bilbo turned, shaking Kili gently and Fili moved to his side as his eyes slowly opened.

“Nearly there, my brother,” Fili said in the Firebeard tongue. “We’ll be through the valley and make camp, then you can rest.”

Kili blinked but nodded as if he understood. Bilbo translated and Kili stood on shaky legs, letting out a yawn.

Fili moved back, pulling up both his pack and Kili’s again, and setting forward around the mudslide into a clearing with a few trees along the edge. He could hear both Bilbo and Kili trudging along, Kili’s breathing heavy and labored.

They continued for another two hours; the sun was low, the mountain peaks threatening to swallow up the last direct light. Fili wondered if they would make it through the pass tonight or if they would have to stop part way down; stopping in the pass would be very dangerous, and he tried to increase the pace, glancing back to Bilbo and Kili.

They reached a large flat section where the path opened into a clearing; Fili knew it well as they had made camp once or twice when it had grown too late to continue. It was one of only a couple wide sections of the path, and on the outskirts of the clearing was a small group of evergreen trees and shrubs below.

Fili was startled by the sounds of ponies ahead, and bid Bilbo and Kili to stay for a moment while he investigated. Kili slumped to the cold ground and Fili frowned; he would be getting wet and it couldn’t be good for his health. He made a note to strip Kili’s clothes when they stopped and dry them by the fire; he would dress Kili in his spare clothing for the night. Bilbo, meanwhile, had moved off towards the trees and small clumps of underbrush, searching for edible items.

Fili pushed forward, clinging to the side of the mountain. There was an occasional muttering of sound, but he mostly only heard the sounds of ponies moving up the hill. He looked back towards the clearing; there was a slim chance they could hide in behind the few trees and underbrush and allow the party to pass by. He finally caught a glimpse of the group, and could see two dwarves at the head of a large party that he could not see the end of. They were moving far faster than he expected, yet still at distance; he turned and ran back to find Kili and Bilbo to hide them and protect them.

Unfortunately, he found more than Kili and Bilbo. He could only just see Bilbo hiding in the trees; Kili was on his knees, Darek standing with a sword pressed to his throat, hand entwined in Kili’s hair to hold him still. Bronin stood back, at least another two dozen Firebeards behind him; most of the warriors from Darek’s and Grenik’s patrols; his own men, many more sympathetic to his views, left behind to guard the village.

Bronin and Darek exchanged smiles. “Fili,” Bronin greeted him. “My dearest nephew. Your property seems to keep slipping through your fingers. Fortunately we seem to have found it for you.”

Darek tugged at the dark hair, pressing the sword closer to Kili’s throat; he gasped as he tried to keep his neck away from the sharp blade. Fili unsheathed his sword, holding onto his spear tightly.

“You are very brash; taking a weapon to me then defying me by leaving. Nobody defies me without consequences. Tell me, Fili. Do we take him back, put a proper collar on him and teach him to be a submissive bed slave?” Bronin tilted his head at Fili. “Or should I take you both back as slaves, so you can watch his pain again? Or should I just have Darek slice his throat open here and now, nice and slow, so you can watch his death before we impale you with your own spear?”


Everybody froze and turned to the new voice; in their own heated conversation they hadn’t heard the other party’s approach. Two dwarves stood at the forefront of a large party of mounted dwarves; one with dark hair laced with grey, braids down the side, and a large dwarf, bald headed with tattoos and two large axes. The tall, dark-haired dwarf slid off his mount, his eyes wide and only fixed on Kili. The bald dwarf’s face was twisted in anger, and he held two axes out in front of him. Other soldiers slid off their own mounts, taking up positions behind the pair.

Every movement appeared slow and deliberate yet happened in only mere moments. The newly arrived party on horseback took up defensive stances; the Firebeards unsheathed their weapons in reply. The tall dark-haired dwarf reached to his horse, picking up a bow and nocking an arrow to it. He turned to the nearest Firebeard, one with golden hair, and let it fly.

Kili cried out.

Chapter Text

“NO!” Kili’s voice echoed in the mountain passage. Darek withdrew the sword momentarily, slamming the pommel of the weapon into Kili’s temple. Kili slumped further down, head ringing and feeling blood trickle down his cheek. Darek slid the sword back down and under Kili’s neck.

Fortunately for Fili, he was already moving as Thorin released his arrow. It sailed past the golden braids, past Darek, and clattered harmlessly into the river. Fili glanced back with surprise at the narrow miss; had he not begun running he surely would have been hit. Thorin took up another arrow as Dwalin ran towards Fili, the first obstacle between them and Kili. In the chaos, Fili had failed to notice Thorin calling Kili by name. He withdrew his sword, turning his back to the trees where Bilbo cowered so he could watch both groups of hostile dwarves.

Bronin held his spear and grinned as the other group turned their attention onto Fili first. He nodded to his men and they ran forward to attack Erebor’s soldiers; Bronin turned his own attention toward Fili, watching and waiting.

Kili was relieved beyond words to see Dwalin alive, but as soon as he saw axes in the air moving towards Fili, he shouted. “Dwalin! Thorin! Not-”

Darek’s hand released Kili’s hair and slid down over his mouth, muffling his shout. The sword fell away from his neck and Darek repositioned himself to keep Kili at his feet but protect himself from the Erebor dwarves. Darek’s hand slid from Kili’s mouth down to his throat, holding him in place. Kili paid little attention, his eyes fixed on Fili.

The sharp clang of weapons striking each other reverberated in the valley. Blood began to splatter across the muddied snow, and dwarves grunted and shouted as they attacked. Kili squirmed and Darek drew the sword against his neck until he stopped, then resumed holding it out to ward off an attack.

The golden-haired dwarf focused on Dwalin, using both sword and spear in ways Kili hadn’t thought possible. He was incredibly skilled, swinging the two different weapons, and managing to keep Dwalin back for the most part. Thorin was still back near the horses, lining up another shot with Kili’s bow.

Despite Kili’s exhaustion a force swelled inside him when he saw Fili in an increasingly desperate situation that nobody, no matter how much skill, would win. He took a deep breath, then swung back with an elbow into Darek’s knee, startling the dwarf who dropped his hand from Kili and raised his sword. Darek sliced downward with the blade. A stinging sensation sliced along Kili’s collarbone. He winced and rolled in the snow to his side, growing dizzy and stumbling to his feet. Darek hefted the sword - the one Kili had claimed, with the runes - and advanced on the dark-haired dwarf. Weary and without his sword, Kili backed away.

“Kili!” Thorin’s voice rang out, and arrow cut through the air, skimming Darek’s arm. The Firebeard grunted, looking down. Kili jumped, running forward and catching Darek’s heel with his own while shoving him back; Darek crashed to the ground Kili brought his knee down, crushing into Darek’s elbow, and Darek dropped the sword, staring at the dark-haired dwarf with surprise. He began to growl in Firebeard, muttering and bucking Kili off and into the snow.

Fili groaned as the bald dwarf’s axe sliced across his bicep. He wanted to find Bilbo and Kili but he couldn’t spare a moment to take his eyes off the strong warrior in front of him, and the one to the back wielding the bow and arrow; he wondered where the last arrow had gone. The dwarf had put away the bow, and taken up a sword, but his attention was not focused on Fili but two Firebeards racing for him. Fili gasped as the axe came down hard, parrying with his sword and thrusting with his spear, managing to catch the other warrior in the side, although he didn’t seem to notice.

On the ground, Kili panted, eyes half closed. Warmth and exhaustion flooded his body, and the heat was welcome, lulling him to sleep. But Darek’s face suddenly filled his vision, and the dwarf sat down heavily onto Kili’s chest with a grin, lifting his hand back to Kili’s throat and squeezing. Kili cried out with his last breath then was left gasping.

Fili heard Kili’s cry and turned. Darek had him pinned. Dread filled him as he couldn’t get to Kili; the bald dwarf rained more down more blows and he was forced to defend himself. He sneered at the bald dwarf, trying to finish him but finding they were evenly matched.

Kili kicked and squirmed, and Darek was looking about for the fallen sword, hand still fastened to Kili’s neck. Kili recalled some of the small throwing knives Fili had helped him with, and he reached to his side, grasping the hilt of one in his belt. He yanked it free and thrust it into the side of Darek’s neck. The Firebeard gasped, turning back to Kili with eyes wide. His hands fumbled at the blade. He pulled it out, followed by a gush of blood, running down his front and onto Kili. He fell forward onto the dark-haired dwarf, gasping for breath.

Kili pushed Darek off, the other dwarf’s blood covering his own neck, cheek and tunic. He found the sword Darek had taken from him and hefted it, getting to his feet and looking around. Bronin stood back, watching and directing his soldiers fighting with the Erebor men; he hadn’t taken notice of Darek’s demise yet. Fili and Dwalin still raged on but both were showing signs of tiring. Bilbo was well hidden in the bushes to Kili’s relief. And Thorin fought against two of the Firebeards, managing to keep them at bay. He heard Fili shout and saw Dwalin’s axe slice through the golden haired dwarf’s thigh, bringing him down to one knee. Fili grasped his spear and stared defiantly at Dwalin; blood spilling from his leg and arm now. Dwalin had wounds of his own, and approached slowly.

Kili sprinted forward for Fili. His throat sore from Darek’s chokehold, he tried to call out but it only came out as a ragged whisper. Dwalin pulled his axe back to strike the kneeling Firebeard and Fili raised his weapon to parry. Kili ran in, placing himself between Dwalin and Fili. Dwalin stumbled as he quickly drew back to avoid swinging his axe into the Erebor prince.

“Lad! What are you doing!” he shouted, grasping at Kili’s arm to pull him out of the way.

Fili’s second wind came when the bald dwarf took hold of Kili; he jumped up, pushing himself back into the middle to save his newfound brother. He grabbed Dwalin’s arm, twisting it and forcing him to release Kili. He wrapped his arms around Kili, pulling him quite a distance before shoving him back behind him. His only concern was keeping Kili and Bilbo safe. Kili pushed forward again, but Fili put out an arm to hold him back.

“Rin fa, Kili,” he said, raising his sword at the bald dwarf who began to close the distance again.

“Dwalin, don’t hurt him!” Kili rasped, knees giving out at Fili’s side, and he fell sideways into the snow, his hand coming up to the gash on his shoulder. Around them, the sounds of battle were softening; the numbers of dwarves standing was dwindling rapidly. Blood and mud mixed on the ground, weapons scattered, armor rent.

Thorin was racing forward to join Dwalin, but another Firebeard swung a club, distracting him. Dwalin stood uncertainly, looking between Kili who lay behind the Firebeard, covered with blood, and back to Fili who stood protectively over him. There was a cry from the side, and Bronin was racing forward with his spear raised in one hand, a small dagger in the other.

Fili glanced at the bald dwarf who turned to hold off of the Firebeards swinging a mace at him; the rest of the foreign dwarves were caught up in their own battles. The golden-haired dwarf turned towards Bronin, flipping his spear to parry his Uncle’s attack. Bronin growled and swung again, and Fili blocked with the spear while thrusting with his sword again; he caught Bronin in the side. He cast a glance back to make sure Kili was unharmed. His younger brother lay in the snow watching Fili with concern, but the other dwarves began to advance on him again. Bronin grinned at Fili’s distraction, leaning to the side to fling the knife at Kili.

“No!” Fili tried to block the projectile, but it sailed past. Kili quickly rolled in the snow, but caught the edge of his leg and he cried out. Bronin laughed and withdrew another knife from his belt.

“I’ll bleed him dry,” Bronin chuckled. “And you’ll watch before I finish you.”

Fili dropped his chin, determined to rid himself of his Uncle then return to Kili. “You will never harm him again!” He jumped forward, thrusting with both spear and sword. Bronin moved back, parrying both weapons with a single strike, then tossing the second dagger at Kili and swiping his sword at Fili. Fili jumped to the side, catching the small dagger in his vambrace; he could feel it hit, but the boiled leather kept the blade from penetrating too deeply. He grunted with the pain but was relieved Kili wasn’t hit. He ducked his head, determined to keep Kili alive and safe. Bronin swung again and Fili dodged it but slipped in the snow. He caught himself and pursed his lips.

“You are weak and pathetic,” Bronin taunted. “You were never a part of our tribe, you’re only a pathetic dwarf from Erebor.”

Although Fili’s spear had been his primary method of defense from Dwalin, he took a few steps back then hefted it in one arm and thrust it forward. The distance was short, and his uncle wasn’t prepared for this sort of move at a short distance. The projectile sliced through the air, landing firmly in Bronin’s chest, knocking him back to the ground.

“And where does that place you, Uncle,” Fili sneered as he approached. “Killed by an Erebor dwarf. Let that be your last thought.” He pulled a knife from his coat, kneeling and plunging it into his Uncle’s chest. Bronin growled one last time at Fili and blood blossomed from the wound. He sucked in a final breath, fingers twitching, and then was still.

Fili was unaware that the other dwarves had all stopped, watching in confusion as a Firebeard kill another Firebeard. He took the opportunity to run back to Kili and kneel at his side, placing a protective arm around him, carding his fingers through the dark hair and checking over his injuries. Thorin moved forward swiftly, dispatching the last Firebeard on his way and holding his sword out at Fili who jumped back in front of Kili and lifted his weapon.

“Move away from him, now.”

“Uncle, please, don’t hurt him,” Kili wheezed, his hand coming up to his sore and bruised neck.

Dwalin took a step forward. “Thorin-”

“This barbarian has hurt you,” Thorin’s voice was low, filled with anger. “He deserves death.”

“No, no,” Kili whispered, pushing himself up from the snow. “Please, put your weapons down. He’s not a barbarian at all. He’s...he’s one of us, Uncle.” Kili stumbled to Fili’s side, wrapping an arm around Fili; the golden-haired dwarf in turn placed a protective arm around Kili’s waist, holding him up despite his own injuries and keeping his sword level and eyes fixed on Thorin.

Thorin was frustrated but lowered his weapon. “I swear I will do him no further harm if he does none to us,” he said. “But please Kili, come away from him.”

Kili rested his head against Fili’s chest, hearing the Firebeard’s heart pounding fiercely. Fili didn’t show his emotion very often, but Kili knew he was frightened. There was a fierceness in his eye and a twitch in his fingers. Fili still stood with sword out defensively. He’d always been in control or knew what to expect from those in his village. Now he stood amongst armed strangers, the dwarf he cared most about against his side, injured and fatigued. Kili gently placed a hand over Fili’s, pressing the sword down and shaking his head at Fili. He gave Fili a hug and the Firebeard kissed his forehead. Kili then moved across to hug his Uncle. Thorin handed his sword to Dwalin and lifted Kili slightly off the ground, hugging him tightly.

“I missed you so much Kili. I’m sorry it took us this long to reach you; we’ve been camped for a month waiting for the snows to melt. I was so worried that we wouldn’t find you, or find the worst.”

“I understand,” Kili whispered into his Uncle’s shoulder. “I’ll be okay. He protected me. He’s not one of them, Uncle.”

Dwalin and Thorin looked to Fili, who stared back defiantly, fingers white around his sword. “Kili?” Fili’s voice asked, confused and terrified for his brother.

Kili moved from Thorin’s embrace and returned to Fili’s side, wrapping his arm through the golden-haired warrior’s arm. Dwalin handed Thorin his blade back; he gripped it and watched with uncertainty. “Uncle, I know this is sudden, but I have to ask you something very important. When my mother took me north and the Firebeards attacked, I lost more family that day than just my mother. I had a brother, didn’t I?”

Thorin shifted his weight from one foot to the other, tightening the grip on his sword. “Kili, why would you-” he looked to Fili and his voice caught in his throat. The blood drained from his face, and his sword clattered to the ground.

“It can’t be,” he muttered, taking a step forward toward the golden-haired dwarf. “It can’t were dead. Everyone was dead, they burned the bodies. You didn’t…”

“Thorin?” Dwalin asked with concern.

Thorin reached forward, placing a gentle hand on Fili’s forearm; Fili tried to pull away, but Kili held his arm in place and Fili looked between Kili and Thorin. He saw the resemblance, but stood quietly, unsure of what to do.

“Fili. It’s you, isn’t it? Fili.”

Fili nodded at the mention of his name. Dwalin gasped, one of his axes slipping free from his fingers.

“Oh, Mahal forgive me,” Thorin reached over, wrapping his arms around Fili in a hug. Kili looked on apprehensively, but Fili allowed it, standing stoically with arms straight down, fingers clenched around his sword. “Forgive me, Fili. I thought you were dead. Oh, I left you with those barbarians for seventy long years. Forgive me, forgive me.”

Both Kili and Dwalin looked on, surprised, as tears began to fall from Thorin’s eyes. They had never seen such an open display of emotion from their King before. Kili looked between his Uncle and Fili. The same peak of hair on the forehead. The same braids by their ears. The same nose. And usually, the same cool, collected demeanor.

“Let me look at you,” Thorin pulled back, looking at the braids down the side of Fili’s face, similar to his own. “Just like your mother used to braid them. Oh, my beautiful nephew. I have you back.”

“Family?” Fili asked in common, slowly beginning to accept the situation, but still tense.

Thorin drew back, cupping Fili’s cheeks. “Yes, my dear nephew, my dear Fili. Family.” Thorin pulled him into another embrace, and this time Fili returned it. Thorin held him tightly, unwilling to let go.

“Judging by the hugging, it’s safe to come out?” Bilbo emerged from the bushes. “I didn’t want to interrupt, but I thought if I didn’t you might forget me over there.”

Kili grinned and nodded. “We wouldn’t forget you, Bilbo. Uncle, Dwalin, this is Bilbo. He was a slave in the Firebeard village as well. He can speak both common and Firebeard. Fili only knows Firebeard; he can’t remember speaking common, but he knows a few words.”

Thorin released Fili and looked down at the hobbit and back to Kili. “Slaves?”

Kili nodded, a knot suddenly in his throat which reminded him of the collars. “Yes. They took me as a slave, Uncle. Bilbo was a slave in the village for thirty-five years. Fili took me in, and he tried to keep me safe from the others.”

Fili moved back to Kili’s side, still eyeing Dwalin apprehensively.

Thorin flinched. “Tried to? What happened, Kili?” He reached up and traced the scar across Kili’s cheek.

Kili looked down. “It’s been a difficult winter, Uncle. There’s much to tell, but I’m really rather tired, and we all have wounds to be treated. Can we head to camp? I can share on the journey back to Erebor.”

Thorin nodded. “Yes, yes, of course.” He called over his troops, who were helping their own wounded back onto the ponies. He called on one of the soldiers to bandage Fili’s arm and thigh and took up a bandage for the small slice on Kili’s leg, temple and across his collarbone. Fili pulled away from the strange dwarf trying to bandage his wounds. Bilbo spoke to the soldier, taking the bandages and did it himself, Fili glancing about nervously and keeping his sword in hand. Thorin tried to encourage Fili and Kili onto the back of a pony. Fili was having none of it and insisted on walking despite his leg wound, with Bilbo in agreement that walking was preferred.

Kili nodded. “I’ll walk with you,” he said, taking Fili’s hand and moving alongside the golden-haired dwarf. Fili shook his head, pointing at the pony, muttering in his Firebeard dialect.

“Fili says you are definitely riding, Kili,” Bilbo translated. “And he’ll tie you to a pony if you disagree.”

Thorin laughed. “Tell Fili that I agree with him.”

Bilbo told Fili, who glanced at Thorin and nodded before helping Kili onto the pony. He took the reins, staying close to his side, and Bilbo beside him.

“Ask Kili who the dark-haired dwarf is,” Fili said to Bilbo, who promptly translated.

“That’s our Uncle, Fili. Much, much better than Bronin. His name is Thorin, and he’s the King Under the Mountain. The King of Erebor.”

Bilbo gaped at Kili. “You’re a prince?”

Kili shrugged. “Yes. It’s not really that important, though. I’m the same as anybody else.”

Bilbo laughed. “I think not! You’re going to be a king someday!”

“Well, maybe. Now that Fili’s back things could be different,” he smiled, unconcerned with who should rightfully take the throne. “But we’ll sort that out later. Thorin isn’t going anywhere soon. There’s so much more to discuss in the short term,” he yawned, fingers gripping the pommel of the saddle.

Fili said something, irritated that he didn’t have a reply in his own language yet. Bilbo translated, and he looked at Thorin and Kili, shocked to learn about Kili’s, and his own, royal heritage.

Kili smiled, reaching down to grasp his hand again. “Brother,” he grinned.

“Brother,” Fili replied. It was his favorite word now. He took the reins of Kili’s horse, watching over his younger brother as they moved down the mountain to return to Thorin’s camp. As happy as he was to have found Kili’s family, and what would be his own, he could not settle the uneasy feeling in his stomach yet.

Fili vs. Dwalin

Kili vs. Darek

Fili protecting Kili

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Chapter Text

It was dark when they made the base of the mountain passage, where a large camp had been set up and another group of soldiers waited for their King’s return. It was a sprawling sight, having become a semi-permanent settlement as the small army sat waiting to press north in better conditions. Torches burned brightly around the perimeter, as did braziers with groups sitting around eating. Thorin had only taken enough soldiers into the pass to clear the mudslide, with the intent of returning to camp for another night before pressing on. As the group trotted in dwarves came out to greet their King. There were cheers as they saw Kili, and Thorin smiled at his nephew.

“They have been very eager to see you come back safely to us,” Thorin said.

However Thorin didn’t miss how soldiers’ hands moved to their weapons as Fili came in beside Kili and eyes awash with questions as they saw the small hobbit beside him. Fili’s hand hadn’t left his sword and Thorin took notice of that as well. He hopped off his horse, placing himself between Fili, Kili and Bilbo and the rest of the camp.

“The mission has been a success,” he spoke loudly. “I will have more news for you, but for now, the Prince is tired and needs his rest,” he nodded to Kili, who slumped over the horse with dark circles under his eyes, blood still staining his clothes. “Thank you all for your hard work. Kili is coming home with us.”

The dwarves cheered, lifting their weapons into the air and Fili took another step back, pulling Kili’s horse back as well. “No, Fili, everything is fine,” Kili said quietly, and Bilbo translated. Fili nodded but his stiff posture didn’t change. He bit at his lip, hands itching at his sides.

Thorin turned to the trio. “You will stay in my tent,” he said. “You won’t be disturbed there.”

Balin, Oin and Gloin all pushed forward as the soldiers dispersed, helping the returning group with their weapons and ponies. “I heard there were injuries to be treated,” Oin said, pushing forward with his bag.

“Lad, we’re very happy to have you back,” Gloin replied at his side, and Balin simply smiled.

“Let’s get you off that horse and have a look.” Oin pulled open the leather bag and moved toward Kili. Fili stepped in front, blocking his path and lowering his chin; the three dwarves paused, looking between Thorin and Kili.

“I think it’s okay,” said Bilbo, speaking in Firebeard to Fili. “He’s a healer.”

Fili’s eyes went wide. “I won’t let him touch Kili. Tell him to get back.”

Bilbo sighed and spoke in common. “Fili is reluctant to allow your healer near to Kili. The healer in our own village was...not gentle with Kili.” Kili winced at the memory, swallowing and looking away. The three dwarves turned toward Fili in surprise, not seeing Kili’s reaction.

“Fili?” Balin looked over the golden-haired dwarf. “ found Fili! He survived this long?”

Bilbo looked nervously between Thorin and Fili, having inadvertently revealed his identity. Fili looked around, his frustration threatening to boil over as he heard his name, still maintaining his protective posture in front of Kili.

Thorin shook his head, noticing Fili’s stressed state. “We have and I think he needs some time alone. He has a lot of catching up to do, but this is very overwhelming for him. For now, do not tell the others about him.” He turned to the trio. “Let me see them to my tent and I will send Kili out to be treated shortly.” Oin nodded and Balin led him and Gloin away, leaving Thorin, the brothers and the hobbit alone.

“Fili, are you well?” Kili leaned down with concern, then flung a leg over to dismount the horse. Bilbo translated as Fili turned to help his younger brother from the pony. His hand didn’t leave, and he pulled Kili close to him. Fili gave him a tight smile then glanced around, eyes open and on guard.

Kili frowned. “You’re among friends, Fili. Nobody is going to hurt you. Or me, or Bilbo.”

Bilbo translated and Fili nodded uneasily.

“Come,” Thorin said, walking towards a large tent. “You may all feel more at ease away from the others.”

Kili followed, and Fili pressed Bilbo in front so he could watch over both of them. Thorin led them around the edge of the camp away from the others, cutting into his own tent from the back. The large tent was well-dressed for a King spending time away from home, including a large fur-covered bed, a desk, a wardrobe, and a table with a few chairs. Colorful carpets covered the ground, and a brazier in the center warmed up the entire enclosure. He held the flap open, admitting the others. Kili immediately flopped down on Thorin’s mattress. “Oh, a soft bed,” he sighed. “This will be much better than cold, hard ground.”

Thorin smiled. “I’ll have three more cots brought in. They can return the other furniture to the wagons. Oin will want to see you tonight, Kili. And I hope Fili will allow him to look over his injuries soon as well. And you, Master Hobbit? Have you any injuries?”

Bilbo shook his head. “I am fine, thank you. I’ll try to explain to Fili that the healer means well.”

Thorin nodded gratefully. “Thank you. I will be back shortly. Please make yourselves comfortable.” His eyes went directly to Fili, who stood in the center, still taking in the tent’s furnishings, then departed.

Kili closed his eyes and laid back into the blankets and furs. “We’re going home, Fili. We’re safe now.”

Bilbo translated as always, his task second-nature now, but Fili didn’t respond, only standing beside the bed where Kili lay.

Kili popped his eyes back open, looking over his older brother with concern. “Fili?”

Fili turned and looked down. “Kili.”

Kili frowned. “It’s okay, we’re amongst friends. Sit and relax,” he stood and pulled Fili back down with him onto the bed. Bilbo took up a seat nearby, looking over some books on the table, conveying Kili’s words as he spoke. “These dwarves will not hurt us. Please, Fili. Tell me that you are well.” He leaned over and hugged his brother, yawning and resting his head on Fili’s shoulder.

Fili calmed slightly at Kili’s touch, and finally set his sword to the side to wrap his arms back around his brother, pressing his nose into Kili’s hair and speaking softly.

“Your - our - Uncle will be upset with me when he finds out what I’ve done to you,” Fili muttered. “I did terrible things. That night when I-”

“Oh, Fili,” Kili hugged him tighter. “You only did what was necessary to save me. I understand that, and I forgave you for that. I didn’t like it, but I forgave you. Please, can we put that behind us? I don’t intend to tell Uncle about that.”

Bilbo winced as he translated; sometimes wishing he didn’t have to be part of such an intimate conversation.

“I know,” Fili muttered. “I don’t always understand how you are able to forgive me for that terrible deed,” he combed his fingers through Kili’s hair, taking in his scent. “But I am grateful that you have.”

Kili sat quietly for a few minutes, enjoying Fili’s gentle touches; but he knew his brother was still bothered. “Fili, there’s more. What’s wrong?”

Fili glanced toward the tent flap, waving his hand and muttered in the Firebeard dialect.

“He says he does not know which dwarves he can trust and the tent is not secure. That frightens him and he wants to keep you safe.” Bilbo shook his head. “He says he will stay awake and keep watch tonight.” The hobbit stood, padding over to Fili and resting a hand on his knee. “I’ll tell him it’s not necessary.”

“Yes,” Kili agreed. “Tell him that all of the dwarves here have sworn to protect me and Uncle, and would give their lives to protect one another. Fili included.”

Bilbo translated the words into Firebeard and then continued. “Fili, these are the people Kili grew up with. They won’t hurt him. And they won’t hurt you, Thorin has taken you into his own tent. They know that you are not to be harmed or touched from that very action.”

Fili’s hand slipped into Kili’s and he glanced around. “So you say. And I know that is truth, logically. But it is very hard for me to accept that as well. I have always been taught to watch my back; that others are always out for what you have. If you let down your guard, you are hurt or killed.”

Bilbo nodded sadly. “That was your way, yes. But their way is different. Please try to relax, Fili. They are worried for you.”

“I will try, but it’s difficult, Bilbo. It’s all...too much right now. Perhaps I will feel better after some rest,” he muttered. “But how can I rest, surrounded by strange dwarves?”

Bilbo changed his method. “If you don’t rest, Kili will be distraught and not get the rest he needs.”

Fili turned to meet his younger brother’s eyes, and noticed the concern and fear behind those dark orbs. Kili was not afraid of his environment anymore; Kili was afraid for Fili. Fili was afraid of his environment. It struck Fili odd how their positions were completely reversed from when Kili had first arrived in the Firebeard village.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Fili muttered in common, one of the few words he knew, pulling Kili back into another hug, bringing up a hand to stroke the dark tresses and comfort him. He continued in Firebeard. “Please don’t worry for me. I will be fine, I promise.”

Bilbo told Kili, who smiled sadly, eyes fluttering closed. There was a noise outside, and the curtain threw back and Thorin entered. Fili’s hand quickly went to his sword, and Kili watched him. When Fili saw his younger brother’s glance, he released the weapon and returned it to Kili’s hand, his own shaking. Kili squeezed it gently.

“I have two dwarves coming to remove furniture and bring in a few cots. Kili, I would prefer you to take my bed. It will be far more comfortable, you will sleep deeper and heal faster.”

“Fili should share it with me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. We’ve become accustomed to sharing each other’s warmth.”

Thorin paused but nodded. “Very well. Two cots then. Will you go out and see Oin? I don’t want to worry your brother.” Fili glanced to Thorin, understanding the word brother and still knowing the conversation was referring to him.

“Of course,” Kili stood, taking a moment to hug Fili who stood as well. “Bilbo, will you tell him I’m going out for a moment, but he should stay. Please ask him to stay.”

Bilbo nodded, putting forth the words to Fili, who looked concerned but nodded. Not long after Kili left, Fili began to pace, keeping his distance from everybody.

Thorin made a show of removing his outer garments and all of his weapons before approaching Fili and sitting beside him on the bed where Kili had been. “Will you sit, nephew?”

Fili sat following Bilbo’s translation.

Thorin smiled at Fili, who appeared utterly lost to him. “I had no idea you survived. I’m very glad to have you home. We have so much to catch up on, Fili. You must tell me what you remember from before your time up north. We thought you were dead. Firebeards don’t come that far south very often,” he said. “But I suppose you know that. And we always thought they killed only. We didn’t know they took hostages. Slaves. We didn’t know. When the patrol found Dwalin, and learned that Kili had been taken as a hostage,” he took a deep breathe, “I never imagined that they did that seventy years ago.”

Fili listened to Bilbo, then nodded.

“What did you do in your village, Fili? Did they treat you well?”

Bilbo glanced down. “I don’t think you would want to hear that answer right now, King Thorin,” Bilbo said, not translating the words to the former Firebeard.

“Please, just Thorin is fine.” He looked to Fili with concern. “Did they hurt him?”

“They hurt everyone; it’s their way. Fili is strong though.”

“Hurt him?” Thorin frowned, looking over Fili.

“Kili?” Fili asked, looking toward the tent entrance.

Thorin smiled and gently set a hand on Fili’s elbow; the golden-haired dwarf tensed, and Thorin carefully withdrew it. “Your brother is fine. His kin is a healer, and is making sure his wounds are clean and bandaged. I would like him to check your cuts as well.”

Bilbo explain to Fili, who shook his head and stood, heading toward the entrance. Bilbo stood and ran to catch his arm. “Fili, please. He’s not going to hurt him.”

“Perhaps, but I’d feel better if I were with him.”

Thorin looked on with concern, but allowed the hobbit to try and calm Fili. Fortunately, Kili came back into the tent at that moment, and Fili relaxed again. Thorin rubbed his forehead and glanced over to where the pair of soldiers were bringing in a pair of cots.

“Fili was worried,” Thorin said. “He doesn’t like being separated from you.”

Kili smiled and showed Fili the fresh bandages. “It’s okay. He was fixing me.”

Fili inspected the bindings, then sat back down, satisfied. Kili lay back into his older brother, closing his eyes again; his adrenaline from the battle and day’s events was wearing thin. Fili was surprised he’d managed to remain awake this long; the thrill of seeing his family again gave him more strength than Fili thought possible.

Thorin chuckled. “You are tired and need rest. Let me bring some food in, then we can sleep.”’

Thorin fetched a few meals and the group ate quietly. Kili had only finished a small amount before toppling over, resting his head on Fili’s thigh and beginning to snore. Fili set aside his own food, combing his fingers through Kili’s hair and whispering to him quietly. Thorin watched with admiration, finishing his meal and glancing to Bilbo.

“Fili is incredibly protective of him from what I have seen.”

“Oh yes,” Bilbo said, finishing his own meal. “He has done his best to keep him safe. I am certain Kili would not have survived if Fili had not been there for him. Kili was quite stubborn about escaping.”

Thorin chuckled. “I’m pleased to hear that he did not give up. And so glad they have found each other.”

Bilbo set aside his plate. “Fili is going to need Kili as much as Kili needed him. I believe they’ll be impossibly close to each other for months to come.”

Thorin smiled. “That’s good. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He looked up, watching as Fili struggled to keep his eyes open, hand still pressed against Kili’s head. “Come, Master Hobbit,” he stood, setting aside the plates. “We should sleep. Can you tell Fili he ought make himself and Kili comfortable.”

Bilbo nodded, translating while adjusting the blankets and furs on his own cot near Thorin’s. Thorin picked up a flickering candle, moving it over beside Fili and returning to his own cot. Bilbo watched as the King made himself comfortable on a soldier’s pallet while his nephews claimed the large soft bed. Fili gently shook Kili awake, then stood to remove his boots before helping Kili with his own garments. He took a fur, tucking it around Kili who slipped back into sleep quickly.

Thoin extinguished his own light and quietly watched Fili. His eldest nephew moved his sword down to the edge of the bed in easy reach, before blowing the candle out. Thorin could see him turn over and press again Kili. While both Thorin and Fili’s minds were caught up in the day’s event, their physical fatigue was enough to put them both to sleep quickly.

Kili woke to sunlight streaming in around the edges of the tent. Bilbo and Thorin were nowhere to be seen, but Fili sat on the bed beside him, thumbing through a book of maps.

“Fili?” Kili croaked, his throat dry.

The golden-haired dwarf turned and smiled, leaning down to kiss Kili’s forehead. “Brother.” His fingers moved to Kili’s forehead, brushing back strands of hair falling into his eyes.

“Good morning,” Kili replied, glancing around. “Where is everyone?”

Fili didn’t understand and continued to smile at his brother, looking far more relaxed than the night before, before pressing the book over to Kili and showing him the map. The mountain pass and river were clearly shown, but the lands to the north were vague in the book.

Kili nodded and pointed to Erebor. “And this is where we’re going,” Kili said. “But where are Thorin and Bilbo?”

Fili understood, and pointed outside. “Bilbo. Nekrat,” he said, speaking in Firebeard, then miming an eating motion, even though Kili recognized the word.

“Oh,” Kili said. “Breakfast. Of course. Should we get dressed and join them?” He stood and collected his tunic, slipping it over and moving to get his boots. Fili followed along, slipping his boots on and belting on his scabbard. Kili turned and shook his head. “No, no. You don’t need that.” Kili leaned in, unbuckling the belt and laying it back on the bed.

Fili frowned and reached for it again, shaking his head, but Kili firmly took hold of his arm. “Please, Fili. You don’t need that.” He stared meaningfully at his brother, until Fili finally nodded. Kili took his hand, leading him out of the tent. The sun was bright, and a warm breeze blew from the south. Kili closed his eyes, feeling the warmth on his cheeks; it was wonderful. Fili tugged at his hand, and he looked to see his brother pointing across the camp to a table with both Thorin and Bilbo.

Kili started for them, but moments later Fili stopped walking, holding both of them in place. Kili glanced around and noticed that much of the camp had paused and were staring at his brother. He turned back to Fili, who was clearly assessing threats, and watched as Fili’s hand slid up to his tunic, where the glimmer from a concealed knife caught Kili’s eye.

“Fili, no,” he whispered, catching the other hand in his own. “They’re just curious.”

Fili trembled, feeling incredibly vulnerable without his armor and primary weapons. Instinctively, he pushed Kili behind him. Thorin had noticed now, and bellowed out across the camp, directing everybody to continue their business. The soldiers suddenly looked away and resumed their morning duties. Thorin made haste across the camp to reach his two nephews.

“Fili, Kili,” he said, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. Kili leaned into the touch; Fili leaned out. “Please, join us for breakfast. I’ll have the cook make something fresh for you.”

He led them both towards the table, and Fili followed, watching those around him; for the most part they kept their gaze carefully away. He frowned; it reminded him of the slaves at home. The pair sat beside each other and Thorin moved off to request breakfast for them.

“Kili,” a voice boomed behind them,and Fili turned. Dwalin stood behind them, maintaining a healthy distance. Kili turned as well and smiled. “Dwalin! I worried about you so much when we were attacked. Are you okay? How terribly were you hurt?”

Dwalin chuckled. “I’ve a hard head, lad,” he pointed to a new scar along his skull. “Will take more than some Firebeards to take me down.” He nodded to Fili. “Is he well? I didn’t hurt him too badly yesterday, did I?”

Kili glanced over Fili’s poorly bandaged wounds, hoping he could convince him that Oin wasn’t a threat. “I don’t think so. He hasn’t shown any signs that it’s hurt him.”

“Good. Tell him he has a very impressive swing with that sword,” Dwalin said, allowing Bilbo to translate. Dwalin lifted his shirt, showing a thick red line ran across his side, and Dwalin grinned at Fili.

“You have a good swing, lad. Very impressive.”

Fili looked at the wound then up to Dwalin. Dwalin held a hand out to Fili, who stared at it but did not move. Dwalin frowned. “He’s still on edge, isn’t he?”

“I’m afraid so,” Bilbo replied. “He may need a little more time.”

Thorin approached carrying two plates with bacon, eggs and toast. “Here we are.” He set the plates down on the table, and Kili turned around to eat but Fili kept his gaze on Dwalin. Thorin glanced over to his friend. “I think perhaps if you come stand around this side of the table, Fili would find it easier to eat and relax. You have to remember that all he knows is you were trying to kill him yesterday and nearly succeeding.”

Dwalin stood and moved around slowly, Fili following him. “I don’t know about that. He’s quite tough. Fitting for a Durin. Ambidextrous. I’d like to see him fight with two swords.”

Thorin smiled, watching as Fili began to eat though watching Dwalin and any other dwarf who moved too close to the table. “Perhaps in the future.” He watched Fili quietly, noting the tense arms and sudden movements of his head as he took in his changing surroundings. “Dwalin, we need to help him realize he is amongst friends. I have an idea.” Thorin stood and took Dwalin aside, allowing his nephews and Bilbo to finish their meal in peace.

After their brunch, as it was quite late when Kili had risen, Fili pulled Kili along back to Thorin’s tent. He felt safer in this space, although he knew the Erebor dwarves mingled around on all sides. He kept several small weapons in his clothing, especially upon Kili’s insistence that he leave his sword behind. He was pleased to be back with it. He sat and took up the book of maps again, keenly flipping through the pages and looking at lands he never knew.

Thorin returned soon after and was relieved to see that Fili was looking more calm in his presence. Kili rested on the bed, chatting with Bilbo. Thorin was deeply absorbed in his own thoughts when Kili spoke up.

“Uncle, why did you never tell me about Fili?”

Thorin sighed, expecting and dreading this question. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered. “Thinking that I lost him...brought me great sadness. I didn’t want you to be burdened with such things. I thought it better if you didn’t know at all.”

“Then it seems you and my mother were very similar,” Kili said. “She wouldn’t tell Fili about me either.”

Thorin’s breath hitched. “Dis survived too?”

Kili looked over to his uncle’s pale face, realizing his slip. “Y-yes,” he stammered. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have told you like this. Fili wasn’t taken north alone; our mother went with him. He said she died after a few years though. But she did raise Fili for a little longer.”

Thorin nodded, turning away to hide his sadness. “I’ve let so many of my family members down. You, Fili, Dis. Your father, my brother. Oh, Dis. She survived? I never thought to search...for her or Fili…”

Kili rolled out of bed, padding over to Fili and gently tugging on the chain around his neck. Fili removed it and Kili carried it to Thorin. “Dis kept this and gave it Fili. That’s how we confirmed that we’re family.”

Thorin’s eyes watered as he thumbed over the crests in the necklace. “I-I made this for you mother,” he stuttered. “When we found out she was pregnant, I found the stones and engraved the ones for her and Fili. Then the day you were born, I added yours and gave it to her before she left. I never saw her again.” A tear fell from his cheek and he turned away, unwilling to dwell on his negative thoughts longer for fear of exposing them further. He was much like Fili in that respect, Kili realized.. Thorin cleared his throat and turned the conversation. “I am sorry I could not reach you sooner.” He stood and returned to the chain to Fili who hooked it around his neck. “It pains me greatly that you suffered so much. All of you.”

“None of it was your fault, Uncle. It’s true, what happened up there hurt. But it’s all been worth it, because I found my brother.” A smile lit up his face, and Thorin was warmed as well, helping push his own sadness away.

“Then perhaps it was meant to be. I’m glad I have you both back, and I look forward to getting to know Fili again. And I must know more about Dis, when Fili is willing to share.”

“Thorin?” The curtain rumpled and Dwalin entered. Fili glanced up, setting the book to the side and watching him again. “Everybody is ready.”

Thorin nodded and stood, turning to his nephews. “I have decided to announce to the camp that Fili has returned. Most do not understand who he is right now. And a small ceremony to show Fili their loyalty to him, which I hope will make him feel more welcome and comfortable. Please, if you would join me. And you as well, Bilbo.”

“Of course, Uncle,” Kili replied, curiosity in his voice. He took Fili’s hand, leading him out of the tent to where four chairs had been placed in a row, facing out to where all of the dwarves in camp stood watching; a poor imitation of Erebor’s throne room. Fili tried to draw back, but Kili pulled him forward, and Thorin stood behind him.

“Bilbo, if you would sit on this end, please.” Thorin motioned to the chair on the far left, and the hobbit sat. “We may require some translations. Kili, you have the far right side. Fili will sit beside you, and I will sit between Fili and Bilbo.”

Kili nodded and led Fili to his seat. The golden-haired dwarf sat stiffly, glancing between Thorin and Kili. Kili kept his hand entwined with Fili’s and gave him a reassuring smile.

Thorin remained standing in front of his chair and spoke loud and clear. “First, I wish to thank you all for your service to Erebor. Prince Kili was successfully found and rescued yesterday from a tribe of Firebeard dwarves.”

The soldiers cheered.

“We will remain here for another two nights, as he needs rest. Then we will return to Erebor.” There was another round of cheers; the sprawling camp had been nestled at the south end of the mountain passage for a month, and they were eager to return to their homes.

“Now I understand you are all very curious about our other two guests.” Thorin indicated to Bilbo and Fili. “This is Bilbo; a hobbit who was also a prisoner of the Firebeards. Please make him feel welcome.”

Happy murmurs and cheers went up through the crowd.

“And finally, this,” he turned, reached for Fili’s hand and pulling him into a standing position, “is your long-lost Prince Fili, feared dead for the past seventy years, who was also a prisoner amongst the Firebeards.”

There were more murmurs amongst the crowd, mixed with looks of confusion and elation.

“For those who believed he was a Firebeard - he is not, although he was forced to live amongst them. He is not accustomed to our ways, and he remembers little of the language. So for the time being, I ask you give him a great deal of space as he settles into our customs again.”

Fili looked to Bilbo, who began to explain in Firebeard. Fili looked to Thorin, eyes wide with amazement. He wanted to speak to Thorin, but didn’t have time as the King continued.

“To help Fili understand that everybody here is a friend and not foe, I would ask that you all come forward one at a time, leave your weapons behind and introduce yourself. To show him that you would lay down your life, not only for your Prince, but for a friend.”

Balin came first; the elder dwarf less likely to frighten Fili. He removed the weapon at his side, handing it to Dwalin who stood back. He walked up before Fili, bowing deeply before him and smiling. “Balin, at your service.”

Fili glanced between Thorin and Kili, confused, but turned as the next dwarf approached, again leaving his weapons with Dwalin and approaching unarmed. “Gloin, at your service.”

And so it continued for over an hour. Every dwarf, soldiers and camp hands, the chef, the horse attendants, and the nobility, all coming forward to greet their long-lost prince. Fili finally understood to nod to each dwarf as they individually approached him. His nerves began to calm, watching each dwarf set aside his arms before approaching and bowing. Kili was overcome with emotion at the display toward his older brother, a tear falling down his cheek. He felt he could even see the hints of a smile on Fili’s face.

Finally, after the last dwarf had returned to the crowd, Dwalin removed his own weapons, laying them into the ground. He walked up to Fili, choosing to kneel before him. “Dwalin, at your service.” He looked up again. “It’s good to have you back, Fili.”

Fili smiled and lay a hand on the sturdy shoulder. Dwalin stood and Fili leaned in, pointing to Dwalin’s side where he had sliced him in the fight. “I’m sorry,” Fili said, some of the only common words he knew. Dwalin burst into laughter and Fili found himself unable to hold back a chuckle at the bald dwarf’s merriment, much to Kili’s surprise. “Oh lad, you’re an excellent fighter. I hope you might spar with me when we return to Erebor.”

Bilbo translated, and Fili nodded. As Dwalin stepped back, Thorin turned to Fili, pulling him into an embrace that Fili easily accepted and returned; a far cry from the previous day. “Thank you,” Fili whispered in common.

“Bilbo,” Fili called out. “Please tell Thorin, and all of the others, that I was afraid of how they would treat me here. I thought I would be turned away or perhaps imprisoned. But I see that is not the case at all. I am overwhelmed by their support and cannot express in words how much it means to me.”

Bilbo happily translated Fili’s thanks to the crowd, and the loudest cheer of all went up. Thorin turned back to Fili. “You are more than welcome here,” he said, listening to Bilbo’s guttural pronunciations into Firebeard. “I loved you when you were a toddler, and I loved you into what I believed was your death. Now, I can show you again how much I love you.” Thorin hugged Fili tightly again. The ‘family’ he had in the firebeard village had never shown him such affection and kindness; only his mother had embraced him. Now, his true Uncle was embracing him in the same fashion. He felt a pleasant warmth in that realization, and returned his uncle’s hug, holding him there.

Kili stood, joining his Uncle and brother. Fili reached out, pulling him into their hug, and Thorin wrapped an arm around his younger nephew too. The newly reunited family remained there for sometime, oblivious to the continued celebration around them.

It took another three weeks to reach Erebor. During that time Bilbo began teaching Fili words in common; he was taking to the language quickly, unlike Kili who had flatly refused to learn the Firebeard language. To surprise Kili, he’d learn a new phrase each day and try to find an appropriate time to tell it to him. Kili would laugh merrily, which pleased Fili greatly and only encouraged him to learn more.

At Thorin’s insistence, Kili had finally explained to Thorin most of what happened. He didn’t go into details about what Fili was forced to do to him in bed; that brought him too much grief. The scar from the attack in the village was still prominent, and he explained how he’d defended Bilbo but ultimately Fili had saved him. He explained the collars, and how slaves were treated; and he told his uncle about his failed escape and the whipping in the square. Thorin had insisted on seeing the scars along his back; he had frowned and ran his finger down them.

“Brother, how far?” Fili trotted up on his pony, Bilbo hanging onto his back.

Kili laughed. “You learned something new. Hours, Fili. We’re only hours away.”

Fili spoke in Firebeard to Bilbo, who helped him understand what hours were. Fili nodded excitedly. “Hours far.”

Indeed it was only hours away, and Kili was bouncing with excitement as they moved into familiar territory. He pointed out woods, streams, rocks, trees, and anything else that had a tale to go with it. Bilbo tried to translate but gave up, exasperated. Fili told him it didn’t matter, that he was only too happy to see his brother’s excitement, but he gripped the reins of his pony tightly.

Kili slid off his pony as they approached the gate, members of the guard coming to collect his pony and greet him enthusiastically. Fili followed suit, allowing Bilbo to dismount before he climbed down as well. They stood toward the back until Kili returned.

“Home, Fili. This is our home,” he said, taking Fili’s hand into his own. He could feel it tremble slightly, and he pulled the golden-haired dwarf closer. “We’re home. I’m so happy, Fili.”

“Happy. Brothers home,” Fili replied, and Kili kissed his nose. Fili smiled broadly, all of his fears gone and replaced by hope and wonder as as they entered the towering doors into the mountainside.

Again by Tokiyoh (Makoto)! Check out Tokiyoh's Tumblr for more gorgeous artwork.

Chapter Text

A month had passed since the group had returned to Erebor. There were initially whispers about the golden-haired dwarf who was always at Kili’s side, and the small hobbit who was usually not far behind. Thorin quickly made an announcement that the long lost prince, Fili, had been found alive and returned to Erebor. He had specifically requested that no fuss be made, yet it was impossible to stop the stares. Fili found himself uncomfortable again and drew closer to Kili, seeking solace in his company.

He found it difficult to be on the other end of the spectrum; he no longer protected Kili, but counted on Kili to help him in this strange new place. A few dwarves came up to ask questions, but Kili spoke kindly to them and they would eventually move on, and Fili could only smile, understanding a few words but often struggling to make sense of the entire conversation. He no longer carried his sword around Erebor, but kept a couple small knives on himself at all times for his own peace of mind.

Thorin had set up two rooms beside Kili’s for Fili and Bilbo, moving the former occupants further along; he insisted that they all be near to each other. However after the first night alone in his new quarters, Fili had asked if he could stay in Kili’s room, and from then on he shared Kili’s large bed, wrapping himself around his little brother and sharing his warmth which soothed him to sleep every night.

One morning he woke to find Kili out of bed before him, and he rolled over and saw his dark-haired brother standing in the doorway, holding a long spear.

“I had this made for you,” Kili grinned, clutching the long, dark shaft tipped with an iron arrowhead. “I thought you might want to go hunting and exploring.”

Fili understood a few words such as I, you, want, go, hunting. He didn’t know exploring but hunting was enough to excite him. He climbed out of the bed, moving and grasping the spear, hefting it in his hands.

“I hope it’s okay,” Kili said, watching Fili turn and inspect it. “Not many dwarves use spears in Erebor. The weaponsmith did his best.”

Fili seemed to understand. “Good.” He knocked the base into the floor. “Good spear.”

Kili smiled. “Let’s go hunting. We need to get you out of this mountain,” he said, digging around into a chest and finding some leathers for Fili to wear outside. “I know how I felt when I was stuck inside the village. I imagine you might be feeling the same.”

Fili, looking over Kili’s clothes and the choices being pulled from the chest, understood and dressed himself quickly. Kili reached to the door, pulling a leather strap over his chest which contained a quiver and a scabbard with a sword. He picked up his bow, showing it to Fili. “This is my weapon of choice.” He thrust it into Fili’s hands. “It’s my bow. Bow.”

“Bow,” Fili nodded, understanding. “Bow is to Kili.”

“Kili’s bow,” Kili said, correcting him. “Fili’s spear. Kili’s bow.”

“Kili’s bow,” Fili smiled. “Thank you, brother.”

They finished preparing themselves, and walked down the hall to there Uncle’s rooms. Kili knocked and announced himself, and Thorin invited him in. He was surprised to see Bilbo sitting there with Thorin.

The look on Kili’s face didn’t go unnoticed, and Thorin stood to embrace his nephews. “Bilbo has been telling me what he knows of Fili’s childhood. He’s been with Fili for half his life; he knows far more than any of us could even guess at.”

Bilbo turned, explaining to Fili in the Firebeard dialect what was transpiring, and Fili nodded. He was relieved that somebody else would do the telling. He didn’t find his childhood to be special at all; it was all he knew, but he could already tell it was different to a childhood in Erebor.

“Fili has suffered great hardships, but his strong spirit saw him through,” Thorin placed his arm around Fili’s shoulder, squeezing. “You have much to be proud of, my nephew.”

“Thorin is happy he’s found you, Fili.” Kili explained. “He knows about your past and he thinks you are strong.”

Fili paused, asking Bilbo to explain a few words and nodded. He was relieved that his past wasn’t being held against him, as he feared when they’d initially left his village. “Happy is good,” he smiled. “Thank you, Thorin.”

Thorin’s manner of accepting of him surprised him further. He had considered his Firebeard father’s beatings and harsh words to mean that he was loved. To be loved unconditionally and with hugs of tenderness was new to Fili and his eyes sparkled as he looked around at those who cared for him in such a manner.

Thorin sat back down. “I see you intend to go hunting. Be back before dark, or I’ll have a dozen patrols searching for you, understand?”

Kili grinned broadly, grasping Fili’s hand. “I promise Uncle. We’ll be very close by.”

Bilbo nodded and explained in Firebeard, and Fili grinned enthusiastically. “We come back.”

“Off with you both then,” Thorin said, clapping a hand on his knee. “I’ll see you for dinner tonight.”

The brothers left the room, and Thorin relaxed in his chair beside the Hobbit. “Thank you for looking after Fili all these years,” Thorin said.

“Oh, he’s looked after me as much as I’ve looked after him,” Bilbo clarified. “I don’t know if I’d have survived without him.”

“Tell me, Master Hobbit, do you intend to return to the Shire?”

“I should like to see it again,” he replied. “But I think for now, my place is here beside Fili. He’s looked after me for so long. It wouldn’t do to leave him here, still learning the language on his own. The Shire can wait a little longer.”

Thorin smiled appreciatively. “It warms my heart to hear that. You will want for nothing; let me know what you require and I’ll arrange it.” Thorin paused, his gaze diverting to the door where the boys last stood. “He’s growing more competent in the common tongue by the day. He’s a smart lad, isn’t he?”

“Very much so,” Bilbo agreed.

Kili and Fili first headed to the kitchens to find breakfast; Fili was overwhelmed by the choice every day, despite having the most extensive pantry back in the Firebeard village. They ended up with simple breakfast of eggs and bacon to not upset Fili’s stomach with something new, then packed a light lunch and headed outside.

Kili wasn’t too worried about catching anything during their hunt. He looked forward to running around in the forest with Fili. Fili was simply happy to have some time with his younger brother, alone, outside of the mountain. Kili laughed, sprinting away, and Fili chased him through the paths. They reached the archery range and Kili passed his bow to Fili, encouraging him to try and shoot with it. Fili released the arrow, and it flew into the side of the target.

Kili cheered. “Good!”

Fili smiled, pleased with both himself and Kili’s reaction. “I want do bow.”

“You want to learn archery?” Kili asked. “I can teach you the bow,” he took back his own weapon, nodding Fili on. “Let me show you a place I love,” he ran forward, leading the golden-haired dwarf further into the trees. Fili sprinted after, new spear in hand, the warm southerly breeze blowing his hair back.

The day was warm, and the sun was directly overhead. Ahead was the sound of water bubbling, and Kili bounced with excess energy as they reached one of his favorite places where a stream flowed from the rock face.

“This is my special place, Fili. Where I would come and sit alone. Now, I want to share it with you.” He set his weapons aside and began to strip his clothes off. Fili’s gaze lingered over Kili’s body before he realized what was happening; he turned to the woods to keep watch while Kili bathed.

Kili laughed. “No, no. It’s very safe here, Fili. I’ve never seen another dwarf at this stream. And there’s nothing dangerous in this area. Come join me.”

Fili turned, and Kili motioned him to the water. He pointed to the forest, indicating his uneasiness; Kili shook his head and took the spear from his hand, setting it down and pulling Fili’s shirt over his head. “Keep going. Get undressed, we can have a quick swim.”

Fili had never heard of swimming outside; it was too cold for that up north. But the day was pleasant, and he was pleased with the idea of removing his layers of clothing. He followed suit, leaving his clothes in a pile and slipping into the stream beside his brother. The water was cool but pleasant; Kili grinned and splashed some at Fili’s chest. Fili laughed and splashed too before tackling Kili under the water, then letting him up and holding him tightly. They took each other’s hands, pulling each other around, flicking water and laughing.

Kili waded into the center of the stream where the water came up to his chest, pushing another wave of water toward Fili with a grin. Fili shoved it back at him, following him in and catching his brother’s wrists in his hands and holding him still.

“Rin fa, Kili,” he said, smiling.

Kili struggled to break free, laughing. “Oh? I have other tricks, brother!” He took a deep breath and dropped under the water, pulling away. Fili held on tightly however, dragging him back up to the surface and drawing him against his chest.

“Oh fine then, you win,” Kili grinned and stopped struggling, resting his head against Fili’s shoulder. Fili’s warm hands wrapped around his back, and Kili hummed happily, then leaned in to pepper Fili’s neck in small kisses.

Fili went rigid. “Kili?”

“Shh.” He brought a hand up to Fili’s neck, holding him and pressing more kisses along his collarbone, his other hand running down Fili’s strong back. Fili suddenly shifted, but Kili nudged into him again; he felt Fili’s arousal pressing against his leg. Encouraged, Kili reached down, stroking his brother.

“Kili,” Fili said softly, pushing him back. “I made bad hurt you. Not make hurt again.”

“You won’t hurt me again. I know you won’t.” Kili took his hands, walking backwards into the shallows of the stream. The younger prince sat on the edge of the stream. As Fili knelt beside him, Kili lay back and pulled his older brother over him.

“Fili, I want to make it right. The first wasn’t right. Can we try again?” He leaned up and kissed Fili’s neck again, continuing down his chest and wrapping his fingers around Fili’s hard length, sliding along it..

Fili gasped and reached down, pulling Kili’s hand off. “Kili - you want?” He frowned, searching for better words. “You want me?” He sat back on his haunches between Kili’s legs. “You want? Want right?” His frustration grew as he tried to explain himself, the burning sensation in his groin not willing to wait much longer. Fili needed to be absolutely certain that Kili wanted this.

Kili smiled softly. “Yes. I want you. I want to make this right. To fix what happened before.” Fili stared back, nodding slowing, and Kili continued. “To...heal us.”

“Heal,” Fili nodded, understanding that word. “You want heal.”

“Yes.” Kili arched up into Fili, closing his lips over Fili’s and delving in; the golden-haired dwarf eagerly returned the deep kiss, his heartbeat speeding up. He released Kili and sat back; the younger dwarf parting his legs eagerly.

Fili frowned; he had nothing to slick himself or Kili up with. “Hurt,” he said, rubbing his hands together roughly, hoping Kili would understand.

“Oh!” Kili pointed to the pile of clothing. “In my tunic.” He suddenly blushed a deep crimson. “I brought a vial along.”

Fili stood and moved to the clothing pile. A quick search of Kili’s tunic revealed a small vial of oil. He turned back to his blushing brother with a smirk. “Kili much want.”

The dark-haired dwarf laughed, cheeks still tinged with red. “Yes, I do.”

Fili knelt again between Kili’s legs, opening the vial and carefully dribbling it onto his finger. Once slicked, he gently pressed his finger again Kili’s entrance, then paused. Kili leaned back on his elbows, lips parted and eyes partly closed. Fili admired him for a moment before Kili’s eyes snapped open.

“Yes,” Kili whined. “Do it.”

Fili smiled, hearing the desperation in his younger brother’s voice, and slowly pushed his finger in, gently moving it around his brother’s passage. Kili gasped, letting his head fall back. “Oh,” he muttered. “That’s good. It feels good, Fili.”


“Yes! Oh, Mahal, yes.”

Fili gently pressed in a second finger, and Kili squirmed against the pressure. The younger dwarf was far too eager, pushing up and against the penetration; Fili gently placed a hand over Kili’s hip to hold him still against the soft bank of the stream. Kili writhed, and Fili gently crooked his finger, earning a wanton moan. Reassured, Fili pushed in a third finger, gently stretching Kili and occasionally tickling his prostate, eliciting more moans from the dark-haired dwarf. Fili glanced down, sliding his hand down his hard member a few times to relieve the sensations building in his groin.

“Fili,” Kili croaked, looking up through half-lidded eyes. “Please, Fili. I want you.”

Fili pulled back, taking the remaining oil and slicking himself. He knelt back down over Kili’s form, leaning over him to kiss him again and run his other hand through Kili’s dark tresses.

“Don’t make me wait any longer!” Kili’s hands wrapped around Fili’s torso, pulling him down until they were laying chest against chest. Fili shook his head but lay against Kili for a moment, pinning him down with his own weight but making no effort to move. He reached down, taking Kili’s hardness into his palm and stroking. Kili whined, struggling beneath him but unable to create anymore friction.

Fili chuckled at Kili’s impatience, sitting back and feeling the water lapping around his toes and ankles. He set his hands along Kili’s hips again, pressing the tip of his engorged member against Kili’s entrance and gently pushed in. Kili exhaled then rolled his hips up. Fili pulled back slightly then pressed in again; Kili responded with a pleasured moan.


“So good, Fili,” he replied, lifting his hips a little more.

Fili pressed into the slender dwarf, wrapping his hands around Kili’s back and carefully pulling him up. Kili wrapped his arms around Fili, leaning into and sucking a mark into his shoulder. The golden-haired dwarf shuddered with delight as Kili’s lips pressed against his chest, sucking and nibbling. Fili groaned and bucked his own hips hard, jostling his younger brother and earning a startled cry from him. Fili’s eyes went wide.

“Kili? Hurt? I not make hurt,” he said, placing his hands on Kili’s waist to lift him away.

“No! No,” Kili responded quickly. “No. You didn’t hurt me. It surprised me, and I liked it. It’s good, Fili. Very good.”

Fili looked nervous but nodded. “Not make hurt.”

“I promise I will tell you if you’re hurting me,” Kili smiled and brought up a hand to stroke Fili’s cheek, gently tugging on his braids. “You are not hurting me. This feels so good. Very good.”

Fili nodded, understanding enough of the words, and Kili rocked his hips against him, moaning as he did so. Fili began to move with him, and they eventually found their rhythm, the pair speeding up, moving in pleasured tandem. Kili closed his eyes, head tilted back, moaning loudly. Fili found pleasure both in the physical sensations and also watching his brother’s bliss. He reached down, taking Kili’s cock into his hand and gently thumbing over the slit. Kili gasped in surprise, jolting his head up and eyes going wide. Fili smiled, giving him a few rough tugs and bucked hard. He rubbed his thumb along the underside of his brother’s member, then across the head again again; Kili suddenly arched, seed spilling out and across Fili’s stomach and legs. His muscles clenched, and Fili thrusted a few more times, finding his own release.

Kili fell forward into Fili and they wrapped their arms around each other, Kili still straddling Fili’s lap. Fili’s hand slipped gently through Kili’s hair, and Kili responded with small kisses along Fili’s jaw.

Fili leaned back, taking Kili’s chin in his fingers to force Kili’s gaze to his own. “Love you, brother,” Fili said, using his new words. He felt light, and warmth radiated through his chest as he looked at Kili.

Kili’s heart melted and he took Fili’s hand into his own. “I love you too, Fili. He rested his head against his brother’s shoulder and closed his eyes.

They sat together until the sun ducked behind the trees and the last hour of sunlight reminded Kili of their promise to Thorin. They waded back into the deeper section of the stream, cleaning themselves then dressing. The pair moved along home, having thoroughly enjoyed the day and each other’s company, and knowing that it was only the one of many more days together. They looked forward to creating a lifetime of memories.

Illustration of the trio, "Family" by Tokiyoh.