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the world was young (the mountains green)

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There lay Khazad-dûm.

Its three peaks reached towards the sky, towering even over the rest of the mountain range, almost endless in its glory. Of course Durin had chosen to carve his kingdom here. Nothing, not even Erebor in all its solitary splendour, came close to being as awe-inspiring as the trinity of Barazinbar, Zirakzigil and Bundushathûr. Thorin felt small and insignificant in their growing shadows.

He tore his gaze away from the snow-dusted peaks, letting it drop to the mighty gates at the roots of the mountains. They, too, were breathtaking still, even in their state. Rust had settled on their iron hinges, the silver embellishments were tarnished. The orcs had broken them open wide enough to allow them to enter, but Thorin was glad to see that it must not haven been an easy task. One of the great doors had been torn off half its hinges and leant now outwards, it's bottom edge ground into the stone. The other door had been pushed inwards, opening into Khazad-dûm. Blades had bit into its stone along the innermost edge, leaving welts and gaping wounds were some of the granite had been broken off. Both doors bore the marks of a mighty ram, a starburst of splintered granite cut in half between them. They stood not fully open, but had been torn apart wide enough to allow a row of a dozen dwarves to pass through, shoulder to shoulder. A dozen dwarves, or eight to ten orcs.

The sun was setting behind the snowy peaks, painting them the colour of the richest amethyst. Thorin's hand dropped to the hilt of his sword.

“My, aren't you eager?” Frerin said from beside him, his jest belied by the twin swords he was already holding. Thorin cocked an eyebrow at him and Frerin laughed, loud and full of mirth. Still Thorin heard the sharp edge to it, the bite left by the hunger for battle. Thus was Frerin's way, always eager for the excitement of crossed steel, the yield of flesh beneath a blade. Always eager to prove himself, the Second-born, to escape the shadow of his older brother.

The sun crept lower behind the triple peaks, turning amethyst into sapphire blue, dark as wave-less Mirrormere. Between the gates, screeches and war drums sounded.

Thorin reached out with his left hand, clasping Frerin's nape and pulling him in, knocking their foreheads together. Frerin laughed, a puff of ale-seasoned breath between them.

“Getting sentimental now, brother dearest?” he asked just as his hand came to rest on the back of Thorin's head. Thorin chuckled, feeling the pressure against his forehead increase as Frerin did his best to squeeze his head like a walnut between the throngs of a nutcracker. It had been a game between them, even as dwarflings barely old enough to hold a weapon. They'd butted their heads and pressed them against each other until one of them would yield. Often enough, it had been Thorin. Mahal must truly have fashioned Frerin from stone, for his skull was as hard as the densest granite.

Thorin squeezed his brother's neck until his fingertips dug into muscle and sinew, and Frerin let finally go. He glanced at the red mark on Thorin's forehead, grin wide and toothy.

“I ought use you as a battering ram,” Thorin said and pulled the shield from his back to buckle it to his forearm, “against any barriers these filthy orcs put up for us.” He looked towards the gates, a grin tugging on the corners of his mouth. “Why, had they used your thick skull against these doors, they would have been pounded to dust by it in a matter of minutes.”

Behind them, Dwalin's growl of a laugh rang out.

“Eh.” Frerin shrugged. “I'd like to see you try and lift me with these sticks for arms.” He flicked the flat of one sword against Thorin's upper arm.

“Cease your bickering,” Thráin interrupted before Thorin could form a response. The line of his mouth was hard and disapproving beneath his formidable beard, yet his eyes carried none of that. Their corners crinkled with a hint of amusement. Still he went on, “if you continue to behave like dwarflings, I'll send you to the tents, where you may wait out the battle as dwarflings should.”

“Of course, father,” Thorin said, and Frerin bowed his head. It would have been a demure gesture, had Thorin not caught the edge of his grin vanishing beneath the curtain of his many braids.

“Boys,” Thráin said and turned towards the gates once more. The sounds from within were growing ever closer and louder. Shrieks and guttural words too crude to be called a language, the steady roll of war drums. Thorin drew his sword and brought up his shield.

“Oi, brother,” Frerin whispered, eyes bright and dancing with the light of the fires that had been lit all over Azanulbizar. “Let's keep score, highest number wins.”

Thorin felt his brother's sharp grin mirrored on his own face. “Wins what?”

“Honour,” Frerin said, then winked at him, “and bragging rights, of course.”

“Of course,” Thorin said under his breath, inching forward as Frerin did the same. “I'll never let you hear the end of it.”

Frerin laughed. The sun vanished behind Moria's peaks.

Orcs spilled into the valley.

 

They fought through the night. Blades clashed and blood spilled. Orcs and dwarves fell, fires licked at the darkness. Like a storm-wrecked sea of bodies and metal, the line of fighting curled and undulated, orcs pushing dwarves away from Moria's gates, and dwarves breaking through them again, reaching out towards their lost kingdom.

With the first rays of the rising sun the orcs retreated into Khazad-dûm's darkness, leaving their wounded and dead behind. The dwarves withdrew as well to lick their own wounds, and gather strength for the next night.

“How many, then?” Frerin said around a mouthful of bread.

Thorin dragged a rag over his blade. It came back wet and black. “Thirty-eight.”

Frerin shouted, bits of bread spewing from his mouth. Thorin frowned at his boorish display and flicked a wet crumb from his shoulder. Frerin paid him no mind and washed down his food with great gulps of ale. He wiped his mouth and beard with the back of his hand, leaving a broad grin behind. Then he belched and put his mug down, loudly, with an air of finality.

“Ah, no sweeter victory,” he said, clapping his hands down on his thighs “than one over my brother.”

Thorin's brows wrinkled and he pressed his lips together. “So?” he growled.

“Thirty-and-nine, brother dearest!” Frerin said.

“Thirty-eight and a half,” Dwalin spoke up, without looking away from his sharpening of Grasper, testing the edge with a thumb. “Kill-stealer.”

“Alright,” Frerin conceded with a nod, “Thirty-eight and a half, then.” He furrowed his brows in mocked consideration. “Though that one had only lost use of one arm, so it should be thirty-eight and three quarters.”

Dwalin growled and dragged the whetstone against Grasper's blade in one swift movement.

“Fine.” Frerin raised his hands, smile curling one corner of his mouth. “Thirty-eight and a half.” Under his breath, he added, “and a quarter.”

The whetstone bounced off his temple into Frerin's lap and he yowled, jumping to his feet, a string of curses tumbling from his mouth.

“Brat,” Dwalin said.

 

They slept through the day and gathered in the late afternoon. The fires were lit when the sun began to set behind the triplet peaks and their shadows grew ever longer.

Thorin pushed the tent flap aside and stepped out into the cooling air, dragging a deep breath into his lungs. Inside the king's tent, the air was humid and stifling, breathed by too many lungs and warmed by too many bodies as the council sat and debated. As his father's heir, he was not exempt from their deliberations, even though his thoughts were rarely asked for and even less considered. Too young, they thought him still, and too rash.

Another deep breath of air as balm against the fires of his irritation. His gaze trailed along the line of soldiers meandering along the valley in a half circle around the gates, hoping to catch sight of a head of bright hair.

A hand clasping his right shoulder almost made him flinch, but he caught himself. Balin patted his shoulder, his smile kind and understanding. Thorin hated it. He felt like he was barely out of his eighties, and everything they still thought him to be.

Without a word, Balin passed him, walking along the mithril-white row of tents snaking towards Mirrormere. Thorin followed him with his eyes, and thought he saw a bobbing head of fair hair slip between the healers' tents and out of sight. Frowning, Thorin wondered what Frerin might need the healers for, already taking a step forward, when his brother's shout brought him up short.

Thorin twisted around and saw Frerin approach him.

“Ho, brother,” he called. “Off to the healers? Did the ale not agree with you?”

Thorin shook his head. It must have been another, then. Though fair hair was seldom seen among the dwarves, Frerin was not the only one blessed with it. “I thought I saw you between their tents.”

“Oh? Whatever for?” Frerin raised his brows and widened his eyes. “You especially should know I cannot be bested in a fight,” he added with an air of innocence betrayed by the twitching of his mouth.

Thorin raised his chin and regarded him through lowered lids. “True, but I thought your giant head might have finally broken off your neck beneath the weight of all that smugness.”

Frerin boxed his shoulder and laughed. Together, they took their positions in the line of sharpened blades and gleaming armour.

The sun was setting. The war drums drew closer.

 

“Fourteen!” Frerin's voice carried across the sounds of battle. Thorin laughed, his sword sliding into flesh.

“Keep up, little brother,” he called back. “I'm already at twenty-three!”

Frerin cursed and Thorin laughed harder.

 

Another night of battle, another day of rest.

Thorin lifted his mug of ale to his face, inhaling deeply before taking a first swallow. “This,” he said and licked foam from his moustache, “tastes of victory.”

Frerin chuckled, knocking his boots together to dislodge the dried mud caked to their sides and soles. “Enjoy it while it lasts, o' brother mine.” His pipe bounced up and down, clamped between his teeth.

“I will,” Thorin told him, taking another sip and exhaling grandly. Frerin shook his head at him, amused.

“Ah, prince Thorin,” someone said, “and prince Frerin, if I'm not mistaken. Well met.”

Thorin looked up, and up, at the grey-clad man standing now at his left shoulder, filling the empty space between Frerin and him so suddenly as if he'd appeared out of thin air. The man was old, and tall even for his kind, his beard as long as any dwarf's. Pale eyes glanced back at Thorin from the shadows cast by a wide-brimmed, pointy, and grey hat.

“Although I have met you, Thorin, before,” the man said with a curl to his lips, and crossed his arms to reach inside his sleeves. “I don't think you remember. You were only a babe, then.”

A name flickered like a flame of realisation at the edge of Thorin's memory. “Tharkûn,” he said slowly. And then added, “well met.”

Frerin sat up straighter, glancing at Thorin before turning towards the wizard.

“Well met.” As Frerin was even less one to waste breath on diplomacy than Thorin, he went on, “what brings you here, Tharkûn?” His brows drawn together, he took a pull from his pipe. “Are you here to help?” Each word was accompanied by a small puff of smoke before he exhaled a twisting cloud into the warming noon air.

Tharkûn chuckled and pulled his hands from his sleeves, presenting a pipe. “In a way, yet not like you might imagine, young prince. But,” he went on before any of them could ask him to speak plainly, and held up the pipe, “for now I am the one in desperate need of help. Would you mind sharing some of your leaf? It appears I have misplaced my own.”

Frerin glanced at Thorin, who caught his gaze and dipped down his chin ever so slightly.

“Of course,” Frerin said and reached into the satchel at his feet. He held out the pouch of pipe-weed but pulled his hand back when Tharkûn reached out. “Come and sit,” he said as Tharkûn regarded him, brows inching towards the brim of his hat, “if we're to share some leaf, we might as well share the fire, too.”

“How generous of you, prince Frerin,” Tharkûn rumbled. “And I'll gladly accept. The pipe-weed, and the company.” His face seemed to brighten as he stepped over the edge of the log Thorin was sitting on and picked his way around the fire. With his hat he brushed sticks and dust off a large stone before he sat. “It shall be a nice change from the company I kept all morning. I have always found it refreshing to spend my time with the young. They often offer a different perspective.”

Frerin shifted a bit at being called young—as the young tended to do—while Thorin exhaled loudly through his nose. He pulled the pouch from Frerin's grasp and handed it over to the wizard.

“Our kings' perspectives are not enough to satisfy you, then?”

Tharkûn barely hesitated while filling his pipe and only shot a quick glance at Thorin, mouth curving into a somewhat pleased smile.

“Glad I am to see you have grown into your own, prince Thorin,” he said as he gave the pouch back to Thorin, who took it with a nod and made to fill his own pipe. “Why, as I last saw you, you'd grown into barely anything, least of all your legs.”

Frerin laughed. “Amad always said you had sticks for legs.” And he made to shove Thorin, but Thorin leaned out of the way. Frerin kicked at pebble at him instead.

“You're avoiding the question,” Thorin told the wizard and flicked the pouch of leaf onto Frerin's lap. Tharkûn lit his pipe with a forefinger and took a few puffs, smoke creeping from the corners of his smile.

“I am, aren't I,” he said and pursed his lips.

Thorin said nothing in return, waiting. Frerin looked between him and the wizard, elbow propped up on one knee and chin resting on his palm, his other hand hanging between his legs, thumb twisting the ring around his middle finger. He took a drag from his pipe, exhaling through his nostrils.

“Tell me, prince Thorin, what do you hope to gain from reclaiming Moria?” Tharkûn asked finally, gaze trailing over the blood-soaked valley where a handful of brown-clad healers were picking their way through the bodies, looking for survivors, trailed by soldiers carrying away those who were beyond saving.

Thorin thought he caught a glint of bright hair catching the sun's light, but then it was gone again.

“A home for our people, of course,” he said.

Tharkûn hummed. “A fine cause indeed.” He blew a smoke ring across the fire, where it was quickly torn apart by the hot air rising from the flames. “That comes with a great price,” he added as he watched the healers go about their work.

Thorin inclined his head. “A price we're willing to pay for the halls of our forefathers.”

“Besides, where else are we to go?” Frerin scratched at his beard. “The Iron Hills have enough room, true, but barely enough food to fill their own mouths, not to mention Erebor's on top.”

“The Blue Mountains border on fruitful lands,” Tharkûn said. “Their veins of ore are plenty, and rich.”

Frerin glanced at Thorin and then looked at the ground, where he nudged a small rock with the tip of his boot. Thorin finally lit his own pipe.

“You have told our grandfather this,” he said. It wasn't a question.

“I did.”

“And what did he answer?”

Tharkûn folded his hands in his lap, around his pipe. “Something foolish.”

Frerin's head snapped up and towards the wizard, just as Thorin growled, “I would ask you to not call our king a fool, wizard.”

“You may,” Tharkûn said and tapped the pipe's bit against his bottom lip, “and yet I will continue to call him a fool as long as he insists on acting like one.”

Thorin opened his mouth, a protest at the tip of his tongue, when the wizard quickly looked up across the valley, eyes narrowed. Thorin followed his gaze and saw a group of healers huddling over something. Tharkûn knocked out the pipe against the side of his seat and stood.

“I thank you for the pipe-weed and the company,” he said and turned to go, then stopped. “You should know that there is more than mithril waiting in the depths of Moria.”

Then he left.

Frerin frowned after him. “I damn well hope so,” he said and crossed his arms over his chest, grinning. “Gold would be nice, too.”

Thorin kicked a bit of dirt at him.

“To think you fancy yourself the smart brother,” he said and shook his head at Frerin's protests. “Mahal wept.”

 

 

It was not their wager that kept him seeking out his brother's bright head of hair on the battle field that night. No, Thorin's eyes would always search for Frerin among the fighting, as surely as they would look for his father, and his grandfather. Even when the force surged and ebbed around him, he would look for them. Tharkûn's words had not changed that, but they had given him further incentive.

Dwalin was a reassuring presence at his back, mighty and wrathful. His cries of triumph and blood-hungry laughter rang out behind him, the slash of his axes the fiddles to his war song, the dull thud of his knuckledusters the drums beating an unsteady rhythm against flesh.

“I should keep score as well,” he called once, Grasper's blunt bottom curve hooked around the nape of an orc to propel it into his reach, Keeper biting into its side and making it squeal with pain. “I'd never lose the bragging rights.”

Thorin snorted and grunted, blocking a mace blow with his shield. His sword, Deathless, plunged forward, past the shield's side, swift and sure as a striking snake, and buried itself in the orc's unprotected side, past buckles and crude plating.

“You keep telling yourself that.”

Dwalin laughed and they were swept away towards the gates.

Around them, the dwarves sang. Of mighty halls, of a king gone but never forgotten, of the lost kingdom they were eager to reclaim. Voices sure and deep, they sang for victory.

Thorin joined them, and fought, and sang.

 

“Ye,” Óin hollered, poking his head out of the tent and stabbing a forefinger in Thorin's direction, eyes narrowed, “yer royal highness, don't think I cannae see that arm, get in here.” He didn't wait for a reply before pulling back into the tent. Thorin debated for a moment if it was less disgraceful to heed the command like a dwarfling, or be later pulled by his braids towards the healer's tent once Óin found him. Really, he thought with a frown, someone ought to remind the healer that Thorin was royalty still, and no common soldier, and deserving of better treatment. Then again, Thorin would not be that someone, he decided as he slunk off towards the tent.

He pushed the flap open and couldn't help but grimace as his left arm twinged in protest. It was just as well that he was here, then, apparently his wound needed a bit more tending than he'd originally thought to bestow upon it.

“Come to feast your eyes on my misfortune, brother?” Frerin asked from one of the cots, looking at Thorin from the corners of his eyes. He was holding a rag to his left temple, the cloth already soaked with red. Thorin walked over to him, eyes roaming his brother's form for any more injuries. He was relieved when he saw no more than a few scratches and bruises. His gaze settled back on Frerin's face, which was pale apart from the dark rings beneath his eyes and the dirt splattered over the right half.

“To share the misfortune, more like,” Thorin said and indicated his left shoulder. “I'd rather take it up with another horde of orcs before ignoring Master Óin's,” here he paused before continuing, “gracious offer of care.”

Frerin snorted just as Óin harrumphed from a corner of the tent, where he was scrubbing his hands in a water bowl. “As ye should. 'Least one of ye didn't need to have some sense knocked back into yer thick skull.” He waved a hand at the chair by Frerin's cot. “Sit down, yer highness.”

Thorin did and Óin walked over to peer at the wound, humming as he pulled the studded leather sleeve aside.

“Ye'll live,” he said as he straightened. “But that'll need stitches.”

Thorin nodded. “Make it quick then.”

At that, Óin snorted and turned towards Frerin. “Ney. This one here needs my gracious care more right now.” He tapped his fingers against Frerin's hand. “Let me take a look.”

Frerin hissed as he peeled the cloth away and complied when Óin turned his head towards the light with brisk hands. Óin whistled through his teeth and reached for a bottle of clear liquid, uncorking it.

“Nothing that cannae be mended with some stitches and a good rest,” he said and poured a generous amount of the liquid over Frerin's temple, making him curse and all but jolt from the cot. “Ah, stop yer whinging. Ye've had worse.”

“Surely not,” Frerin breathed, hands curling around the edge of the cot and squeezing his eyes shut as Óin used a clean cloth to dab none-too-gently at the wound. “Can't you bother Thorin for a while?” Frerin asked, eyes round as he looked at Óin.

“What did I tell ye about whinging?” Óin said but stopped his ministrations for a moment to jab a forefinger at a young healer that had just walked in. “Ye, make yerself useful and get me that beardless sprite.” The healer nodded and then quickly ducked back outside, eager to escape, it seemed.

“Beardless sprite?” Frerin mouthed at Thorin from beneath Óin's arm, and Thorin shrugged his hale shoulder, leaning back in his chair and getting as comfortable as the seat would allow. Which wasn't much, truth be told. His limbs felt heavy with fatigue and his muscles were sore, and there were no cushions to ease the wood's unyielding pressure on his bruised skin. But he'd slept and rested in harsher places, and Thorin would make do. He tipped his head against the backrest and closed his eyes, listening to Frerin's hissed complaints and Óin's short rebukes for a while.

“Master Óin, you called for me?”

The voice was breathless and high but lacked the timid nature the younger healers tended to carry whenever they addressed their elder. Thorin cracked one eye open and looked towards the tent flap. There stood the sprite, beardless indeed. Pointed ears poked out of a mop of curly hair, a few shades darker than Frerin's sun-bright braids, but that is where all similarities to the elves ended. The sprite's face was round, flushed from the cool air outside, or maybe running here, Thorin thought when the sprite walked over without hesitation, gaze on Frerin and brows wrinkled.

“Sure did,” Óin said without looking up from his work.

“Do you need help?” the sprite asked and walked towards the wash basin, pushing the brown sleeves of his healer's tunic up to his elbows.

“Not with this one,” Óin rumbled and nodded at Thorin, who slowly lifted his head and raised a brow at him. “That one there needs tending to. Just some stitches.”

There was a clunk as the water pitcher was sat down on the table, and the sprite blew out a labouring breath. Thorin twisted around to look over his shoulder, watching the confounding creature scrub a brush over his hands with purpose, a wrinkle between his brows and his mouth a thin line.

“I'm sure Bor could manage some simple stitches?” he asked, words clipped.

Óin shook his head. “This one needs better care than Bor's butchery, halfling. He needs soft hands.”

The halfling threw the brush into the basin and made to cross his arms over his chest, then stopped and held his hands up, loosely curled and away from his clothes. They were covered in dried mud, and darker splatters Thorin guessed were blood. “Surely there's someone else,” he said and glanced around the tent, gaze quickly brushing over Thorin, only hesitating for a moment on his shoulder. “I've got to--”

Óin cut him off, “Mahal knows ye've done all ye can fer him, halfling. Someone else can pour some broth down his throat now.” He nodded at Thorin. “Go ahead and stitch up that royal dunderhead while I see to the other one.”

Thorin waited for a reaction at the mention of his status, a demure apology perhaps, or some gushing, but he was quickly disenchanted when the halfling only sniffed and then grabbed a water pitcher. He made his way over to Thorin and looked down at him. Thorin matched his expectant gaze, raising his brows.

“Well, go on then,” the halfling said, “show me that wound.” And then, “your highness,” like an afterthought.

Thorin pressed his lips together and reached for the buckles of his armour, unclasping them while the halfling busied himself with preparations, putting the pitcher down on a small table at Thorin's side and gathering needle and thread. The halfling's hands indeed appeared to be soft, Thorin noted as he watched him put the thread through the needle's eye. And so small, just like the rest of him. Apart from his feet, Thorin found. They were surprisingly big and hairy, the soles thick and dark like leather.

Someone chuckled, and Thorin looked up to find Frerin grinning at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” Frerin replied, and though his grin shrank a bit, it stayed where it was. Thorin furrowed his brows at him and wanted to demand what was amusing his brother so, when the halfling was back in front of him, a clean cloth in hand.

“Hold still,” he said and leaned in.

“Yes, brother, relax,” Frerin chimed merrily and Thorin took some pleasure from his yelp when Óin poked at his temple. He grinned at Frerin and then dropped his gaze to the halfling's bright curls. He was close enough now that Thorin could smell him: herbs, sweet and bitter, the metallic tang of blood, sour sweat, and earthy mud.

Thorin sucked down a breath, flinching when his wound stung as the halfling pressed the cloth over it. He turned his head to the side, looking away from the bright curls and those pointy ears.

“Do you always treat your patients so?” Thorin asked.

The hafling glanced at him without stopping his work and then snorted. “Óin was right. You do need soft hands, apparently,” he said and the next dab at Thorin's wound was not as careful. Thorin bit down on nothing and narrowed his eyes at the infuriating sprite.

“I meant your lack of respect.”

“Is this the patient speaking,” the halfing asked, “or the royalty?”

Frerin laughed at that. “The halfling's got some bite to him, brother. You'd better watch out.”

“The halfling is right here,” the sprite said and grabbed Thorin's wrist, pulling his hand up to lay it against the cloth over his wound. “Hold that there.”

He reached for needle and thread and frowned at Frerin. “Did no one ever tell you to be nice to those attending to your wounds?”

Frerin offered him one of his most charming smiles. “Forgive my brother, Master Halfling, no one's ever taught him to play nice.”

“I'm sure your brother can ask for forgiveness himself,” the halfling said, the wrinkle between his brows only getting more pronounced as he looked at Frerin. “And I'd thank you to not call me halfling. I'm not half of anything, I'm a whole hobbit.”

“Master Hobbit, it is then.” Frerin nodded, which earned him a pinch to the ear from Óin.

The hobbit's mouth twitched into a small smile. It quickly vanished, however, when he turned back to Thorin and pulled the cloth away from his wound.

“I've never heard of a hobbit healer, especially one willing to travel to battlefields,” Thorin said. “I thought your kind kept to the kindly West.”

The hobbit laughed then. “And you'll likely never hear of one again. No proper hobbit would willingly leave the Shire to trail around in bloody mud and tend to impudent, thankless royalty.” At that, he set needle to skin, and Thorin hissed.

“Impudent,” he repeated and the hobbit looked up.

“Indeed,” he said, not at all bothered by Thorin's frown, and continued stitching the wound closed.

“Don't ye agitate Master Baggins,” Óin spoke up. “He's a fine healer, learned from Elrond Half-Elf, and that one knows his craft, despite the pointy ears.”

“Thank you,” the halfling said. “Though I really think you should stop holding Lord Elrond's heritage against him. He's very pleasant to be around.” He quickly pulled a suture tight and Thorin ground his teeth. “Unlike some.”

“Did Lord Elrond teach you stitching, too?” Thorin bit out.

“That, I learned from the best,” Baggins said lightly and put a last suture in place before leaning back to gesture at his work. The row of sutures was neat and small, keeping the wound firmly together. Thorin caught his gaze and Baggins smirked at him. “My mother's cross-stitchings were a sight to behold. Now,” he wiped his hands on a cloth and dug into the satchel at his hip, pulling out a small tub of ointment, “rub that on the wound and wrap it up. I'll take my leave now. Master Óin.” He nodded at the healer and then stepped out of the tent, hurrying away to do Mahal knew what. Poking someone else with his needles and waxing-poetic about the leaf-eaters, likely.

“Well, that was entertaining,” Frerin said after a moment and smirked at Thorin. “What a feisty little creature. No bedside manner to speak of.”

“And he's better fer it,” Óin said and brusquely wiped some ointment onto Frerin's temple. “There's no healing to be done when the healer's busy prostrating himself at his patient's feet.”

Thorin rolled the small tub between his hands, remembering something.

“Who needs broth being poured down their throat?” he asked Óin, who sighed long and deep.

“Magna, that's who. One of Náin's,” he clarified when both Thorin and Frerin didn't recognize the name. “Got a nasty infection, that one. Fever finally broke this morning, but he's still not woken up. Master Baggins is the one who saved his leg, so ye better put that ointment to use.” He nodded at the still unopened tub and walked back to the wash basin, boxing the back of Thorin's head on the way. “And that's fer yer bedside manner, yer royal highness.”

Frerin laughed so hard at him he almost toppled off the cot.