“We’ve been out in the woods for days and we haven’t even seen one deer, uncle. We should head south and into a city to get something to eat. You’re going to kill us all if you keep up this pace.” Kíli quickly threw his eyes down after one angry glance from his uncle, the two guards that were accompanying them eyed each other. Kíli had gone far over the line with that comment and everybody knew it. The kid just couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
Fíli quickly glanced over in his brother’s direction, but held his own tongue. He knew their uncle was displeased at his brother’s outburst, even though it was true. However, his brother had been complaining and commenting a whole lot more than he ought to during the trip, and this was the last straw. To be fair, Fíli did agree with Kíli, he was hungry too and the only food they had left was a couple of loaves which they could probably use as weapons by now; they had gone stale days ago, and Fíli was actually surprised that they hadn’t started to develop mould yet, but they would most likely spoil in the next day or two. Besides that, they had two or three rock cakes left, which would keep fresh longer, but the quantity
wouldn’t sustain them for more than one nights march, and barely that even.
They had been on this mission for over a fortnight. They had been tracking down a group of young dwarves about the two nephews’ age who had set off to reclaim Moria once more in a fit of haughty desperation and by egging each other on with tales of glory, those fools. !!!!!!!!!!!!! A couple of them had been close friends with Fíli and Kíli, and of more noble birth, and thus they had personally set off with their uncle on this mission with a minimum number of guards to try to take over the larger group before they were able to get too far.
They had found them less than a week ago, only the youngest dwarf still alive by some miracle, but only barely. The rest of them were strewn around the campsite. Blood everywhere and so much of it. Severed limbs all in a pile, and most of their heads had been chopped off. Fíli remembered the face of his brother at that time. How pale he had looked, how horror-struck he had been. He could just imagine how he had looked himself. He had tried to keep a neutral expression, but the scene had really mortified him. At the time, all he had wanted was to find a quiet spot and grieve on his own for the loss of his friends, but there had been to time for such things.
The young dwarf who had survived the attack died before he was able to tell the whole story of what had happened, but he had managed to relay the gist of it. Considering they were only five on the recovery team and there were so many dead, they had no chance of getting them back to their families as of now. Thorin had sent a letter with a raven back to the Blue Mountains, letting them know of the coordinates of the slain group, so that a larger party could come back with wagons to collect them later. However, the best thing they could do was bury them for now so no animals could get to them. All in all, It had taken over half a day to bury all the bodies.
The young dwarf group had been raided by orcs in the middle of the night. They had barely had any time to defend themselves before the orcs had ascended on them. The young, wounded dwarf had told them how he had watched the orcs scavenge for valuables, before they had humoured themselves with “making sure everyone were dead” which had involved in mutilating several of the already dead bodies. The very thought had made Fíli’s blood boil with anger.How could this have happened to their own people? And the only reason was reclaiming Moria? Hah, like they didn’t know what happened last time their people had tried something like that. How foolish… They had all been told the tales, they should have known better...
Fíli closed his eyes and shook his head, leaving the memories behind him. He raised his speed to a brisker pace. When he passed Kíli by, he wrapped his fingers around his brother’s lower
arm and squeezed without saying anything, but he hoped it would calm him down a
Bit. Fíli leveled out his strides as he came shoulder to shoulder with his uncle and cast his uncle a knowing look. “Uncle-“
“Fíli, there’s a stream running by about twenty yards up the hill there, take our water skins and replenish them,” Thorin cut him off abruptly then pointed at the two dwarves that were
their guards. “And the two of you go with him.”
Fíli, unable to disobey such a direct command, even though their water skins were already replenished not long ago, and were thus quite full, simply nodded and uttered a quick; “yes, uncle,” as Thorin handed him his own water skin, and one of the guards collected Kíli's.
Giving his brother a pained look, Kíli was left standing with his uncle alone on the forest road, knowing he was in for a lecture.
Sorry, Kee… Fíli held back a wince for his brother as he trudged up the hill with the two guards trailing behind him. They sat their course towards the small, bubbling brook up the hill. When they got there, Fíli got down on his knees and took a couple of sips of water himself before he started to fill the water skins.
A branch broke behind him, but he didn’t pay it much attention believing it to be one of the guards. Shortly after, a choking sound made Fíli go completely still as something wet hit him
in the back of the head. Clenching his fists around the water skin, Fíli swallowed. He wondered how long they had been tracked, or if they had just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, there weren’t too many of them. That way, Kíli might not be hurt. Yes, if only he could take these ones out, he could go off and help him.
Tensing every muscle in his body, he made himself ready to grab at his swords, but he knew it was already too late. He was on his knees and his enemies were standing behind him, their
weapons already drawn, but he refused to go down like a coward, not even looking his enemy in the eyes. He was no coward, if he was going to die, he was going to die a noble death, in battle. He was not about to be executed, his knees in the mud and his neck so perfectly exposed.
In one fluid motion, Fíli swung around, and tackled the closest Orc to the ground and at the same time tried to grab one of his swords out of its scabbard.
But again he was too late, they had surrounded him. Fíli barely registered a flash of bright steel in his direction and ducked just in time, evading what would have been a deadly strike. He drew a dagger that he had hidden within his fur vest, and stabbed the orc he had tackled deep in the neck. The orc let out a guzzling sound as Fíli rolled over onto his knees, drawing one of the swords he had strapped to his back while he did so, only to see the last guard that had been with him get his head chopped clean off. Fíli let out a pained yelp, unable to do anything but watch while he sidestepped a mad swing from the closest orc. With a loud yell, the orc swung again, and again, before he charged at Fíli, sword held out in front of him. Fíli batted away the sword, stepped to the side again, and came face to face with the orc’s companion. Fíli moaned. He could taste iron on his tongue as the world started to blur. Once again Fíli was on his knees, his hands trembled, and he gripped the sword that was now impaling him with both hands, trying to pull it out. A small cough escaped past his lips and again he tasted the tangy metal taste of blood. Closing his eyes Fíli let out a sneer, as he saw the other orc lurch towards him, it’s mace held high ready to bring it down on Fíli, to crack his skull open. The only thought going through his head as if on repeat was; I’m sorry, brother… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…
Feedback is highly appreciated!
Chapters have been edited somewhat and proofread to the best of my ability for ease of reading.
Chapter 2: Seeing Red
A bone chilling cry rang through the forest only to be cut short by a gurgling sound from the same owner. Thorin and Kíli froze where they stood. Thorin’s face grew pale, but Kíli shouted out; “Brother!” and at once Thorin seized him by the arm, yanking him back. He gave him the clearest scowl he could muster. Be. Quiet. He drew his sword, gesturing at Kíli to do the same.
Slowly the two of them started to scale the hill as quietly and as quickly as possible. Kíli felt his heart throbbing away somewhere high up in his throat. He could barely swallow. Sweaty hands gripped around the hilt of his sword. The thump, thump, thump of his heart was the only sound he could hear. Was it the orcs? It couldn’t be orcs, no, no, no! Lifeless, desecrated bodies flashed in front of his eyes. He blinked once, twice. No, he needed to keep his calm. A hand on his shoulder and Kíli flinched, but it was only Thorin.
With his sword, his uncle pointed forwards where an orc was holding a sword towards Fíli’s throat. Blond hair half submerged in water and Fíli’s locks followed the flow of the stream. Fíli was stretched out on the small river bank, and mixing with his gold hair, Kíli could see blood. More blood welled forth from Fíli's mouth, a blade protruded from his stomach and a nasty wound covered the side of his head. Several orcs were standing around him, their loud voices rasping in something that was supposed to resemble laughter.
For a split second, Kíli thought his brother to be dead. His heart fell from its throbbing place high up in his throat and landed somewhere around his kidneys. It felt like it had frozen.
Fíli’s hand twitched towards the hilt of his sword that was lying on the ground, but the orc besides him stepped on his fingers. Emotions surged through Kíli. His brother wasn’t dead. His brother wasn’t dead! And those orcs were about to feel his wrath! Before Kíli could move though, another orc grabbed a hold of the sword jutting out of his brother’s stomach and twisted the blade around with obvious glee. A haunting, arduous moan escaped past Fíli’s lips. In an instant Kíli's vision turned red.
He didn’t even think before he charged forwards, bellowing his entry so all the orcs could hear, not exactly the embodiment of stealth. He couldn’t even hear the muffled whisper of his uncle go; “Kíli, wait!” Nothing mattered to Kíli now, all he had to do was save his brother, damn the consequences.
A few seconds later and Kíli had slain his first orc, the one who had twisted the blade in Fíli. He panted and turned around towards the next, ready to deflect a blow or stab out, but he had underestimated the number of foes. Now he was standing in the middle of the group, his back exposed. Kíli came to this realization a bit too late. The orc in front sneered at him as he felt the one behind him slash him across the shoulder, but luckily for Kíli the hit wasn’t too deep. Kíli's saviour was Thorin who had flung himself forwards to stop the orc from splitting Kíli's skull open like a block of firewood, and thus the orc had missed its intended target. The pain however, was still a lot worse than Kíli could ever have imagined. He roared out and slashed blindly at the orc in front of him before he fell to one knee, losing the grip on his sword which went flying out of his hand. To everyone’s luck it flew straight into the orc in front of him, slicing its stomach in two. Kíli closed his eyes, feeling sick as he saw the orc realizing what had happened as it doubled over backwards, its insides spilling out as it fell.
“Kíli!” Thorin shouted towards his youngest nephew. The last orc surged towards Kíli, murder in its eyes. It knew it was too late, that it was already dead, but it would try its hardest to take one last dwarf with it first. Thorin lounged, and with a practised swing, he wedged his sword in between the orcs shoulder blades before it could reach Kíli.
Kíli gasped as he fell forwards one arm on the ground, the other hanging limp besides him. “I’m, I’m fine, check on Fíli!” Kíli growled out through gritted teeth while trying to regain his composure. He hadn’t even noticed the mortal danger he had been in just a moment before.
Thorin lingered a second looking over the wound on Kíli's shoulder, then gazing out towards the blood sprayed clearing. He noted the two dead guards. One had their throat cut, the other had the head lying ten feet from its body. That they were beyond help was plain to see, so he hastily turned around to Fíli. It did not look good. The time it had taken for Thorin and Kíli to get up the hill, the orcs had used their time to play with their prey. Small red blotches in the fabric on Fíli’s arms and chest revealed several stab wounds where the orcs had humoured themselves. Crimson ran from the corners of his mouth indicating more severe, internal injuries and a nasty head wound caked the side of Fíli’s head with blood. Thorin sat down besides Fíli and ran his eyes over the larger injury on his stomach. Leaning closer he could see something purple on the blade but… it was hard to tell. No matter what, he had to treat this before Fíli bled to death. Thorin hurriedly opened his nephew’s shirt and started to undress him. “Kíli, find the bandages, he’s losing too much blood,” he barked out in a gravelly voice and started to rinse the minor wounds clean, leaving the blade in his stomach for now or else he would bleed to death in an instant without anything to stop the flow of blood.
“U… Uncle…” Fíli coughed and opened his eyes, his vision blurry as he tried to focus.
Thorin merely shook his head not wanting him to waste his energy on speaking and kept on working.
Behind Thorin, Kíli was rummaging through his rucksack with one arm, his teeth clenched tightly to manage his pain, small winces escaped him now and then when he wasn’t able to. He found the bandages and the healing salve, gathered them in his good arm and turned around to Thorin. There he was met with the pale and bloody face of his brother and Kíli froze up, simply staring at him, his mouth half open.
Thorin let out an impatient sound and went to work. He started with the messy wound on the side of Fíli’s head, rinsing it, and found to his surprise that it was rather shallow and not severe. Thorin let out an elated, ragged breath, it wouldn’t even scar. In one fluid motion he ripped the sword out from Fíli’s stomach, wiped a wet cloth over the wound to remove excess blood and started to apply the bandages. He knew he was treating the wounds roughly, but they didn’t have anything else with them. “Kíli, get it together. Hold Fíli as I put on the bandages.” His voice was loud and sharp and he nudged Kíli in his good shoulder with a finger to get the youngest dwarf to snap out of it.
“Oh, oh right. Yes, sorry, uncle.” Kíli's voice was flat and Thorin could still see he was in complete shock. Kíli propped his brother up against himself as best he could with one working arm, and their uncle wrapped Fíli’s belly, chest and head tight in the bandages, before he started to work on the more minor injuries.
Twenty minutes later Fíli had been wrapped up as best Thorin could. At least he wasn’t bleeding out anymore, but in the meantime, Fíli had passed out again. Now, Thorin turned his attention to Kíli. “Take off your jacket and shirt.”
“I- I- oh” Kíli stuttered and started to do as he was told, realizing what his uncle wanted. Fumbling with the buttons at the start, he soon lowered the sleeve of his shirt as carefully as he could revealing the cut on his shoulder.
“Can you move your fingers?” Thorin asked as he inspected the wound.
Kíli tried, it wasn’t as bad as he had first thought. He could move his fingers a little, but when he tried to move anything higher than his wrist, pain shot up his arm and he used all his strength to hold back a howl.
“Alright, as long as you can move it, it’ll be as good as new in no time. Now, sit completely still.” And with that Thorin started to work his way around treating Kíli's wound. The young dwarf did his best to look calm and unmoved by both the pain and the events that had happened, but Thorin knew better. Rich, brown eyes stared into the muddy soil without seeing as Thorin worked. He knew how he felt every time Kíli's eyes darted over to Fíli, taking in the fresh bandages over and over again. How hopeless he must feel on the inside. He wanted to hug his nephew, but at the same time he wanted to swat the moron over the head for barging into battle so recklessly. Right now, however, there was nothing they could do but hope that there weren’t any more orcs around.
Chapter 3: Making Camp
It was close to two hours since the initial fight, and the foul stench from the dead orc corpses stifled the air. Thorin had started to dig a grave for their dead comrades, and was soon to be finished. Sweat rolled down his forehead from all the exertion but he refused to stop or allow himself a moments rest before he was done. He couldn’t leave them to be taken by the elements and it was impossible to bring the bodies’ home to the Blue Mountains, what with their current… difficulties, just as with the young dwarf group. However, it was heart wrenching. It was ungodly. It wasn’t right, but he didn’t have a choice. Digging graves in the dirt wasn’t right, but he guessed he shouldn’t be too worried; after all, it wasn’t to be permanent. He had all intention of recovering both the young dwarves and the two guards’ bodies and bring them back to the Blue Mountains to get their proper burial in stone when they got back. The orcs however, he would leave for crows and animals to feed on. If even animals would touch such foul creatures.
“Uncle,” Kíli murmured in a gentle tone, the words almost getting lost on the wind, but they grabbed Thorin’s attention anyways. He had been cradling his brother in his arms and Fíli was now stirring.
Thorin stopped what he was doing and rushed over. “Don’t exert yourself, Fíli,” he said, stroking three fingers covered in dirt down Fíli’s jaw carefully. He had almost died, so feeling his nephew’s life under his fingertips was a fantastic feeling. “You’re safe.”Thorin was struggling to keep his composure; his voice almost hitched in his throat and he could feel the knot in his chest tightening with sadness, but he tried his best to not show it. Both his nephews were still alive and he was so thankful. His heart leapt with joy, and all he wanted to do was grab the two idiots and bring them into a tight bear hug like when they were kids.
Fíli groaned in response, but didn’t say anything, he looked up at his brother and blinked slowly. Kíli simply smiled back and whispered soothing words to him. That everything would be alright, and that soon they were going to go back to the Blue Mountains, and that Fíli had nothing to worry about, and that Fíli should just rest because he was safe now.
Thorin got to his feet again after assuring himself that the older nephew was doing, well, at least somewhat alright, and went back to look at the graves. They were deep enough now he figured, and so he started to drag the dead guards over to the holes.
One by one the bodies fell down, after making them as comfortable as now stiff and lifeless bodies could be, Thorin covered the bodies with dead leaves and stalks of grass and then went on to cover them with the dirt. In the end he laid stones in a cairn on top of the mound of dirt as a way marker. He went down the hill where they had come from, down to the trail they had been following on their way home, and made a cairn there too. That way it would be easier to find it again later when they were coming back for the bodies.
“Come on, Kíli. Help me hold him. One, two, three,” they managed to get Fíli up, one arm over Thorin’s shoulder. They tied Fíli’s left arm around Kíli so he wouldn’t slide off seeing as Kíli's left arm was in a sling so he couldn’t help hold him. “Got him? Perfect, let’s go.”
It was a hard journey onwards, Fíli was only half awake for the most part and his feet dragged over the ground. His chin lolled against his chest and his breath came in short bursts. His eyes flickered under his eyelids and he muttered incomprehensible words now and then. Soon Kíli started to pant, his own wound starting to take its toll. His feet would drag over the ground at times too, and his breathing got more and more laboured with time. Thorin could hear him trying to keep back a whimper now and again, and he wondered how long they could keep this up. “We’ll rest soon,” he said over and over, every time he said so, Kíli would pick up his speed and Fíli would wake up a bit and they could manage the next trek of their journey would be slightly easier. But each time he repeated it, they would put in a little less effort.
The soon that Thorin had promised had turned into four long hours. It wasn’t before Fíli had passed out completely between them, and Kíli stumbled and nearly fell that Thorin gave up, and sought out a safe place for them to camp.
Kíli propped his brother’s head up against the roots of a tree and covered him with the blankets from his backpack. In the meantime Thorin sat down to get a fire going, it was important that both of them got some warmth in them. “Kíli, go get some dry branches for the fire,” Thorin said in his usual demanding voice as he wiped the ground clean so nothing near the fire would catch potential sparks. “Kíli?” he looked behind him, only to find Kíli passed out besides his brother.
Thorin let out a long sigh, opened his own backpack and covered Kíli with another blanket, hiding a small smile in his beard. He just couldn’t help it. Their sleeping faces looked so serene, and the scene was in such stark contrast with the grueling events that had just happened some hours ago, it helped elevate Thorin’s mood a bit. He decided to move the fire a bit closer to his nephews so they would get warm without having to move them, then he set out to find some dry branches by himself.
Neither Fíli nor Kíli had woken when he came back, but he guessed they both needed the sleep. Everytime he looked over at the two sleeping brothers, he couldn’t help but smile. He was happy they were both still alive. He went down on his knees and started to get the
fire going, thoughts about his nephews and the future of the throne flying around and his happy thoughts of his surviving nephews turned into worry.
As he sat there besides the fire, tending to it now and then to make sure it would burn good and proper, he silently cursed the young dwarves that had run off on their own. He knew deep down that their young would never go all the way to Moria. This wasn’t the first time a group of young dwarves left the Blue Mountains in search of Glory. No indeed, this usually happened every year, it had become an event of sorts,a tradition, a test of adulthood, of strength and character, and the practice had been allowed to continue; but the group of young dwarves would usually never venture beyond their own borders. This marked the first time the entire group had been slaughtered. How had they managed to get that far? Usually they would stay close to the Blue Mountains, having small jousts, brawls and drink up half a storeroom of mead, and when they came home, their parents would scold them. If they stayed out too long someone would be sent to retrieve them, and they would all be sent shame-faced home. Never did they make it past the Hills of Evendim. Never had any died. Yes, they might have had some scrapes here and there, a few broken bones, some prides shattered. Never had the foolhardy parties made it this far and never had they been attacked by anything bigger than a mountain lion. Thorin, as king, had to make sure that nothing like this would ever happen again.
Thorin sighed, rubbed his beard in contemplation, and then slammed his fist hard in the ground. Those blasted orcs. Curse them and their ilk. This would be the talk of the Blue Mountains for quite some time. Losing a dozen young dwarves. It was shameful, and he, Thorin, the king, had failed in over taking them, failed in getting them all back before they got too far. Failed in saving their lives and retrieving them. Blast everything. He silently sneered at the flames that were starting to eat at the dry branches and trailed dirty fingers across his greying eyebrows. Blast it all.
Chapter 4: The Way Onwards
The fire was nice and warm by now, and Thorin was sorting through all their bags putting the heaviest things in his own backpack. He re-tied the straps holding together Fíli’s backpack and made it so that he could carry it by his side. That way Thorin could carry two backpacks at the same time. It was crude, but he figured the straps would hold and it would provide minimum discomfort. He thought about the best way to get his nephews safely back to the Blue Mountains, their safety was top priority. They couldn’t make a stretcher for Fíli because Kíli only had one functioning arm. If they had a horse or a pony they could have tied the stretcher to it, but Thorin wouldn’t be able to drag it along the ground by himself, and it would also potentially hurt Fíli. Would Fíli wake up enough to get back by himself, or would Thorin and Kíli have to carry him all the way back between themselves? He wasn’t sure, and he was worried.
In one fluid motion Thorin got to his feet and started trotting back and forth in front of the fire, clenching and unclenching his fists, his anger returning. His eyes darkened, his scowl ever deepening. He needed to figure out the road ahead. Which way should they take? They were definitely too far away from the Blue Mountains for Fíli to make the whole trip back by himself, but where else to go? Suddenly, Fíli started to stir under his blankets behind him. Colour had returned to his face now that he had rested. Stopping, Thorin closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths, letting his anger simmer down. As Fíli got up in a sitting position, Thorin could hear him murmur something about; “blasted roots breaking my back.” He couldn’t help but smile at his nephew’s choice of words.
At the same time, Kíli started to wake up because of his brother’s movement. He looked up groggily at his older sibling, blinking slowly, trying to remember where they were and what was going on.
Thorin passed them by, mentioning something about taking care of business to Kíli, and Kíli merely nodded, absorbed in watching his brother besides him, and alive.
"Hey kí..." Fíli said in a solemn voice once he was fully awake too. He wanted to lift his hand and stroke his younger brother over his thick, black hair, but he didn't think he would have the strength to lift his arms.
Big, brown eyes stare up at Fíli, and Fíli could feel his gut wrench once more, not unlike the feeling of when he was stabbed. "I'm sorry..." he whispered and leaned closer to Kíli and felt his brother's arm wrap around him and hold him tight.
Kíli didn't say anything, just held around his brother, tangling his fingers in his hair and breathed in the smell of him. It was still there, somewhere, under the caked blood and dirt smudged in his hair and the smell of the bandages. He could smell the, oh so familiar scent of pine cones, well-polished metal and the faint, faint perfume of their mother which would probably never wash out.
"I'm sorry I worried you," Fíli mouthed into Kíli's dark locks, but Kíli shook his head.
"No, brother. It wasn't your fault, no way. It was an ambush and nothing you did could have changed anything. You did your best. I’m just thankful you survived.”
Fíli gave a deep, shaky sigh, after a couple of quiet minutes he started to tell the story about what had happened. About how he had gotten overwhelmed by the orcs. It just flowed from his mouth so naturally and he felt like he had to justify why he ended up like this. Almost dead. Nearly dead, and pretty beat up. He’d let his brother down, and he wanted to explain why. He had gotten their guards, their friends, murdered.
It hadn’t taken long for Fíli to tell Kíli what had happened, and really, he couldn’t even finish a sentence without saying he was sorry. The two remained quiet for a while until Fíli stopped his talking and his apologies to take in his surroundings, “where is Thorin? He's been gone for quite a while now."
Kíli stifled a laugh, "he had to go take care of some 'royal' business if you know what I mean."
A smile tugged at Fíli's broken lip, oh. "Still, he's been gone for quite a while now, we should go look for him," and thus Fíli tried to get up, completely forgetting, or perhaps, disregarding his injuries. Loud and pained noises started to bubble from Fíli's throat.
"Hey, hey, whoa!" Kíli almost shouted, his voice breaking slightly and tried to get to his own feet. Only he too forgot his injuries, tried to grab out with his wounded arm and fell over in agony. It must run in the family.
"What are you two doing??" Their uncle's voice rang out from the trees as he stepped out from under the branches. In his hands he was clutching an assortment of recently collected herbs.
Fíli groaned and closed his eyes. "We were just going to go look for you, we thought your business was dragging out a bit," behind him, Kíli tried his best to smother a pained laugh as he slowly got to his feet without using his wounded arm.
Thunder gleamed in Thorin's eyes for a quick second before it disappeared and he mumbled something under his breath, but Fíli thought he got the meaning.
"I'm sorry uncle, we were just worried, forgive our jesting."
Thorin simply waved his apology away with a fist full of herbs, "I found some herbs that will do you both good. We leave in half an hour, so be ready to march."
Fíli put a tired hand on Kíli's leg and shook his head, he knew his younger brother was about to say something that would most likely annoy Thorin even more. A simple, "Yes, uncle," rang from Fíli, and he gave Kíli a warning look to keep his own yap shut. Afterwards he went to rest against the tree roots once more. He shifted several times to try to get more comfortable, but the tree didn't yield any soft spots and withstood his efforts. Fíli sighed, and without even noticing he fell asleep again.
Kíli looked over to Thorin as he folded his own blanket with some difficulty and put it under Fíli’s head as a substitute pillow. Fíli’s head lolled over on to the side, his breathing even as he slept.
“We should all get something to eat, before we continue” Thorin’s voice was back to its regular, emotionless bass. He reviewed the meagre supplies in their backpacks, took out a loaf, broke it in two and tossed a small piece to Kíli.
“He’ll survive… Right, uncle?” Kíli couldn’t help but ask as he caught the loaf Thorin had thrown to him, not looking at either his brother or his uncle, trying to hide the grief and worry in his eyes.
Thorin didn’t answer, just took out a small, light pestle from the backpacks and started to grind the herbs into fine powder against a stone, as a small pot boiled water on the fire.
Kíli looked down at his brother, his lip quivering a bit, but he hurried to conceal it. He didn’t manage to hold back a small sniff however, and he sent a scared look towards Thorin’s back, wondering if he had heard it. Thorin made no notion that he had.
The herbs were transformed into fine powder which Thorin scooped into two small, deep cups, then poured the now hot water into them.
He held his promise and let Fíli sleep for another half hour. “Wake your brother,” he said, when the time had passed, and Kíli did so reluctantly.
It wasn’t easy, waking Fíli, and the wounded dwarf woke up with a loud whimper, he looked like he had started to run a fever. He sat up quickly, eyes darting back and forth as if he
had just had a nightmare, but he regained his composure quickly. “Is it time to leave?” he asked, trying to get to his feet.
“Eat something first, and drink this, then we’ll leave, yes,” Thorin said, handing Fíli a loaf of bread and handed the two cups with the herb water, one to each of his nephews. Fíli simply nodded and started to eat slowly.
Kíli stared at Fíli. He felt scared. His brother wasn’t strong enough to move camp, he could see the sweat on his brow and he had noticed the fever. He was scared Thorin would push him too hard. But he knew his brother would never complain. He was too proud. Too like his uncle. Damn them both, their pride would kill them in the end. Reluctantly, he too started to eat at the loaf of bread he had been handed before Fíli had fallen asleep, but hadn’t touched yet. Maybe Fíli would prove him wrong and make the long, arduous trip home without any complications. He could at least hope.
"Uncle!" Kíli cried out as Fíli fell to the ground, his face ashen.
They had moved on from their camp about three hours ago and Fíli had been able to walk by himself up until now. He had insisted on it, that fool, much to the protests of his family, especially Kíli. However, Fíli refused to listen to them. He didn’t want to seem weak in front of their uncle, and really, he reasoned, he did feel a bit better.
Now, Fíli could feel all the pain he had been trying to ignore coursing through his body. Lying there, his face buried in the ground, his nose taking in the overwhelmingly close scent of dirt and rotten leaves mixed with moisture. His insides knotted and Fíli bit his lip to keep in a pained yell. He could feel his injuries throb, making his entire body ache. A small curse escaped him. Maybe he had pushed himself too far? But, honestly, wouldn’t Thorin do the same in this situation? Fíli couldn’t appear weak in front of him. He knew what was on his uncle’s mind, even if Kíli didn’t understand, yet, he was too young, too inexperienced. They needed to get closer to home. In reality, the three of them were easy kills out here. Way easy, and where there was one orc pack, there could easily be more. Besides, in their current state it wasn’t just orcs they would have to watch out for. Fíli didn’t want his uncle or his brother killed because he was too infirm to carry on; because he couldn’t defend himself; because he was too weak.
Kíli stormed over to his brother, fell to his knees and rolled him over onto his back. “Fíli? Fíli!”
Thorin came right behind him, forced Kíli out of his way and begun to search Fíli for further injury. To their surprise and relief, Fíli was still awake. His breathing was laboured, his face pained and glisened with sweat mixed with dirt but he still managed to cough out:“I just stumbled, don’t worry…”
Thorin frowned and started to help Fíli to his feet. Kíli watched, his pulse racing, scared and worried, “we should make camp,” he stated, his voice trembling, “he’s too weak to carry on like this."
“Don’t… worry about me brother, I- I’m fine, honest,” Fíli got to his feet, to his brothers horror. He simply smiled at Kíli and took a couple of steps forwards, he didn’t want them to worry any more than necessary. They needed to get back to the Blue Mountains as quickly as possible. It was only a two days march left, surely. At least no more than three, right?
Thorin’s face grew ever darker, his eyebrows covering his eyes in shadow. Then he simply nodded and started walking after Fíli.
“Uncle! You can’t let him do this! He’s sick and wounded, he needs rest!” Kíli was almost screaming now, begging Thorin to see reason. Kíli knew his brother would fall over once more at any moment, maybe fall over dead. Fíli had been stabbed in the stomach, for crying out loud! Not to mention the other places he had been hurt. Kíli had seen the orcs twist the blade around inside of him. Why couldn’t Thorin understand that he would end up killing him if they carried on like this?
Thorin stopped and turned around to face Kíli. “Keep your mouth shut, Kíli, and keep up. We need to cover a bigger distance. Once we are close to the edge of the forest we will stop and take a rest, do you understand?”
“No!” Kíli howled, clenching his fists. “No! I won’t allow you to fuel him on like this! The only reason he’s still moving is because he doesn’t want to appear weak in front of you! He’ll die if he keeps this up,” Kíli swallowed, seeing his Uncle’s eyes shooting lightning again, but he pressed on, “you’ll kill him!”
Thorin was now standing just a few inches from Kíli, a finger stabbing him in the chest, he looked like he was just about to lose it. “Do you not think I know he is weak? Do you not think I know he is wounded? Do you not think I have considered the possibilities to stop and take a break?” Thorin wasn’t shouting. His voice was low, almost a whispered growl, but Kíli could hear the anger and anguish in his voice.
“We are still too far away from the Blue Mountains, we cannot stop, we are still in dangerous territory. If we stop and we get attacked again, what then? Are you going to fight with that shoulder of yours? Do not make me laugh, Kíli, we will all be killed and I will not have that. Let Fíli use the strength he has, let him keep his dignity, then I will carry him myself if he faints.”
While Kíli and Thorin had been talking, Fíli had kept moving forwards, his feet dragging slowly, but surely over the ground. One hand clutched against the wound on his stomach, his breath came in shallow, ragged bursts. He didn’t even hear the quarrel his family was having behind him, his whole mind was fixed on this one objective; to keep moving. And so he did. Even though he refused to admit it himself, he was at the end of his rope - and suddenly, without warning, the world blacked out in front of him and he fell to the ground once more. Maybe it had been a stupid move to keep going, to keep up appearances, but he hated feeling this weak! He hated feeling so helpless and useless. He felt his cheeks burn as he clenched his eyes shut. He grasped after his thoughts, but they escaped him as he fell into darkness. He let out a pained sound, then fainted.
“Thorin!” Kíli cried out.
“No, listen, Kíli, I care, but we ca-“
“No, Fíli!” Kíli sidestepped his uncle and ran over to the motionless bundle that was lying on the ground which was his brother for the second time in the last five minutes. “You pushed him too far, you…” Kíli trailed off, rolling Fíli over onto his back.
All colour vanished from Thorin’s face. Had he pushed him too far? No, no, he didn’t believe so, he wouldn't believe so. He ran after Kíli, kneeled and inspected Fíli, “help me get him up again.”
“You can’t seriously m-“
“Do as I say! I will carry him on my back as I said I would!” Thorin almost spat at Kíli, wary of his youngest nephew’s incessant arguing.
Kíli closed his mouth, simply staring at Thorin for a long while. He bit his tongue to keep back a heated reply, then did as he was told.
And so, up on his uncle’s back Fíli went. Keeping his mouth shut, Kíli followed suit, throwing worried glances over to the two as he walked beside Thorin.
“I do not want my authority questioned, even if there are no one else around, Kíli. Do you understand?” Thorin stated, staring straight ahead, not even one laboured breath left his lips from the added weight.
Kíli simply nodded.
“Do you understand, Kíli?” Thorin repeated, a bit sharper this time.
“Yes, Thorin, I’m sorry,” Kíli looked away from him, clenching his fist as they kept moving in silence, trying to keep his voice steady.
The problem was, that Thorin felt awful; because Kíli was right and it hurt his pride. He knew they should have stopped. The smart thing would have been to walk shorter stretches at a time, rest and then carry on. That way he wouldn’t exhaust his nephews all at once. At the same time, he knew they were much closer to enemy territory than he liked to acknowledge. So the choice was, keep them all moving, or linger for too long and be caught in an ambush. The other issue was, he was afraid. A night raid by orcs was no joke, and he, Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór and the King of Durin’s Folk, was scared. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was. He would rather exhaust and push his nephews and bring them to safety, than stay too long in one place and be slaughtered. He didn’t want to be the cause of his nephews death. But last of all, he was scared for Fíli’s life. He was scared this ordeal would kill him. He had seen lesser dwarves die from lesser wounds, but Fíli kept on moving like a true warrior. Nay, an idiot, Thorin admitted. Doing exactly what Thorin would have done himself. That knowledge made it feel like this was all Thorin’s fault to begin with, and that did not make him feel any better.
PSA: if anyone's rereading this, I messed up in the timeline.
Thorin is the current king, end of story.
Chapter 6: Poison
A mere hour had passed since Thorin had taken Fíli up on his back, and not a word had passed between Kíli and Thorin since then. They had trudged on in complete silence. Thorin, brooding over the situation they were in, and Kíli, fearing for Fíli, worrying and wondering, trailing close behind Thorin to keep an eye on his brother.
Fíli, in the meantime, had not woken up, quite the opposite actually. It seemed as if he had fallen into a deep sleep. His eyes shifted quickly under his eyelids. His breathing came in short bursts and he whimpered at times. His fever had also gotten worse, he was shaking slightly and he was sweating heavily.
Kíli shrunk every time he heard his brother whimper. He had only ever heard his brother make such a pitiful noise once before when they were children. Fíli and Kíli had been playing beside a lake when Fíli had fallen in and almost drowned. Thorin had rescued him, and Kíli had stayed by Fíli’s bedside crying his eyes out. The whole time his brother would joke with him, tell him that Kíli sounded like a lost wolf cub when he cried like a child. And anyways, he shouldn’t worry because he was fine, Fíli was the crown prince after all, a mere puddle couldn’t defeat him. So why was Kíli even crying? He didn’t want to have a wimp for a brother, so, brighten up, alright? Fíli had been trying to cheer him up of course, but Kíli still remembered the whimpers and the terrified sounds Fíli had been making in his sleep afterwards, when Fíli had broken into a heavy fever.
Shaking his head, Kíli drew a deep breath and glanced over at his brother. He would come out of this just fine, exactly like that time. Kíli just had to believe. Kíli eyed Thorin who still carried Fíli with his head held high, not even allowing himself to break a sweat. Just as Kíli looked over at his uncle, his uncle quickly flashed his eyes over in Kíli’s direction. Neither said a word, they just kept trudging along through the forest. Kíli wondered what was going through his uncle’s head while they were walking. Was he angry at Kíli? Was he worried about Fíli? If he was, he didn't allow himself to show it. Sometimes Kíli really despised his uncle for being so stoic, for being able to keep it together at all times while Kíli was the complete opposite. He never knew when to shut up; he was brash and always way too rash for his uncle’s tastes. Kíli carried his emotions on his sleeve, hardly king material. Not that it mattered, Fíli was next in line after Thorin, and really, Kíli liked it that way. Fíli would make a worthy king. He was similar to their uncle, but softer. Sure, Thorin was kind, but Fíli had a kind of warmth to him that their uncle lacked.
Kíli sighed, directing his gaze towards the road. They had gotten out of the worst of the forest, it seemed. Now they were walking down a muddy path that swerved left and right to either avoid a tree or a large thicket. Kíli wasn’t sure if it was safe walking on such an exposed, open road, well, almost open, but he guessed if his uncle didn’t say anything about it, neither would he, not this time.
A sudden cough racked Fíli’s body, splitting the silence. Kíli glanced nervously up at his brother and stared at him in horror as his brothers coughing fit continued and worsened. He tried saying his uncle’s name, but not a sound left his lips. He stopped and stared, his mouth agape, a moment later Thorin stopped too, wondering what Kíli was doing back there.
In the corner of his eye, Thorin could see what Kíli was staring at. It was dripping down Thorin’s shoulder. Fíli coughed again, even harder, and Thorin’s face was bathed with drops of blood.
“Fi-Fíli, no…” Kíli managed to stammer out, staggering towards his brother, grabbing a hold of his brother’s hand and squeezed it, as if he was demanding him to wake up, “no…”
Thorin stopped. He let Fíli down on the ground as gently as he could while the young dwarf kept coughing, drops of blood coating the young dwarfs chin and it started to trickle down his throat, down his tunic and into his hair. Quickly, with deft hands, Thorin started to undo Fíli’s clothes and opened the bandages.
“Uncle…” Kíli’s voice was low and lifeless, “look at the blood…” Kíli’s hand was now resting on his brother’s cheek as his brother continued to cough violently.
Thorin wanted to snap at the idiot sitting across him. Look at the blood? As if he hadn’t already seen that Fíli was coughing up blood? Did he think he was an idio- then he saw, and once more all colour escaped from Thorin’s face. The blood that ran down Fíli’s chin was not just red, it was mixed with a grimy, purple colour, a disgusting, blackened slime.
“He is poisoned. Grab the herbs from my backpack and more bandages, quickly,” Thorin wasn’t sure if his order had been loud enough, but Kíli burst into motion besides him, so he guessed he had been heard.
Thorin was now completely sure: he had doomed Fíli to his death.
“Isn’t there anything more we can do for him?” Kíli whispered into Fíli’s dirty, blood streaked, blond hair.
“No, I do not have the right medicines or herbs to heal him. I- um...” Thorin trailed off, staring at the misty corners of his youngest nephews eyes.
“He can’t die…” Kíli mouthed, his face contorted into a pained grimace.
Fíli laid motionless in Kíli’s arms. He had stopped coughing now, but his breathing was ragged and shallow and he was shaking more than he had previously on Thorin’s back. Thorin had wiped away most of the blood and rinsed Fíli's mouth to get rid of any excess poison. The bandages had been changed after Thorin had checked the wound anc rinsed it as best he could. He just hoped that would be enough. The wound on Fíli’s side was deep, there wasn’t much else he could do for him. Fíli’s skin colour was a mix between mist and metal and an unhealthy sheen was hanging around him. Between the shallow breaths, he was mouthing words neither Kíli nor Thorin could catch or understand.
“He can’t die, not now…” Kíli held his breath to keep his tears from flowing. He couldn’t cry here, in front of Thorin. Crying would make everything that much more real and final.
“He will not die, I will not let him,” Thorin scoffed and got to his feet.
Biting his lower lip, Thorin clenched his sweaty palms to stop them from shaking. He was the cause of this. Why didn’t he realize so earlier? Thorin had even seen traces of the poison on the blade he had pulled out of Fíli’s stomach and then he hadn’t given it another thought. What kind of a tree-hugging moron was he? Closing his eyes, he cursed himself in three different languages and swore to himself that if Fíli died, he would personally hunt down every orc, goblin and maggot infested dark spawn on this earth until nothing like this could ever happen again. A trembling breath escaped him, “we need to head into the forest and make camp. You wait here with Fíli until I get a fire going. I don’t want to move him any more than necessary. I won’t be far; shout if his condition worsen.”
Kíli nodded, too grief-stricken to be able to respond with words. He stared down at his brother and squeezed his hand, "I'm here for you, just hang on..."
Chapter 7: Run
Thorin’s heart was beating high up in his chest, it felt like he was close to vomiting it up; he felt nauseous and sick to his boots. He had killed his nephew, it was sure as solid rock. His hands paused in mid-air where he was kneeling over quickly gathered firewood and he stared down at the flint in his hands. What would he do if Fíli died? He could not bear that responsibility. He could feel Fíli’s life weighing down on his shoulders, crushing him. It was simply too much. Clenching the flint in his hands he bent over, hugging his stomach, he could feel tears stinging his eyes. He wanted to hit himself for being so stubborn. This was all his fault, none of this should have happened. If he only had listened to them. Thorin covered his eyes with dirty fingers, rubbed them quickly and took a deep breath. No, he was the King, he needed to keep it together. He gathered up the flint again and kept on trying to light a fire.
Kíli had dragged Fíli over to the side of the road into some bushes. He wasn’t completely stupid; he knew it wasn’t smart to sit so exposed in the middle of the road. The exertion had taken its toll, however, his shoulder was still wounded and it was not easy moving Fíli with only one arm. The young dwarf groaned and flopped down beside his brother, staring longingly at his closed eyes and his half-parted lips. He wanted him to open his eyes at him and smile; say something comforting; reassure him it was all going to be okay. Kíli could barely make out his brother's breathing now, it was quick and shallow and laboured. Grabbing a hold of Fíli, Kíli dragged him up into his lap again. He made his brother as comfortable as possible while keeping his airways free. Then he started to look the roads up and down for danger, keeping his ears peeled on the silence permeating the forest.
Time passed but nothing around them moved, Kíli could hear a couple birds chirping now and then high above in the trees. He closed his eyes for a second and dragged his fingers through Fíli’s hair. He refused to let his brother die, but there was nothing Kíli could do for him except try and soothe him and make him comfortable and keep him close. Kíli didn’t even know if his brother could hear him. He hoped so, but Fíli was just lying there all quiet in his lap, the only sign of life was his chest going up and down each time he struggled for air. The shaking from earlier had settled into a slight trembling.
In the distance, Kíli could hear a flock of birds screeching and taking to their wings. Were they fleeing? Maybe they had been scared by a predator. He turned his head, staring the road up and down, listening to the forest, and then he heard it. Hooves trampling dirt. Kíli could feel his heart skip a beat. He grabbed onto Fíli’s shirt and tried dragging him further into the forest in the direction he had seen their uncle disappear. He didn’t dare shout out of fear of being heard by the unknown riders. More orcs? Or humans? Maybe they were friendly? Kíli hoped so, by Mahal, he hoped so.
Kíli heard the riders closing in on their hiding place. He gave up trying to get further into the forest and laid down as close to the ground as he could get, covering his brother with his own body. He hoped the bushes would protect them from unwanted eyes. Kíli tried to breathe as quietly and evenly as possible, but he was afraid his thundering heart would give them away. A hoarse voice called the group to a halt, Kíli could hear them go into a trot then stop not far from their hiding place and the riders get off their horses. Perfect, just perfect! Had they seen them? If so, they were dead, so, so dead!
“Why are we stopping? We need to hurry back,”
“What is it, Hakon?”
“Tracks, someone’s been here.”
“You think it’s the orc’s we’ve been following?”
Kíli’s stomach tumbled around inside of him and knotted, well, at least it wasn’t orcs. It was a group of horsemen, he could see their armour through the undergrowth, but he didn’t have much knowledge about them that would help. Kíli clenched his eyes halfway shut and squinted up at them. A man hunched down and followed the tracks.
“Do you think someone’s been attacked?”
“Someone’s been here at least, look at the imprints.”
“Fan out, it doesn’t look like they have gotten far, the tracks are fresh,” the men grabbed at their swords, ready for combat and started the search.
Oh no, oh no, they were going to spot them at any second, Kíli thought. He didn’t even dare swallow even though it felt like his mouth was filled with gravel. He grabbed Fíli’s hand and squeezed it protectively. He prayed for his life and his brother’s that the men were friendly. Hopefully they would ask before impaling them with their swords. Kíli didn’t dare to move, he was afraid to look like a threat and he knew he was unable to defend both himself and Fíli.
Suddenly a stone came hurtling out from the branches to the side of Kíli and hit one of the men square in the ribs. The man fell over, gasping for breath and startled their horses who neighed nervously, reeling away from the man.
“Ambush!” another yelled out, several swords were raised simultaneously as another stone almost hit a second man between the eyes, but he sidestepped it at the last second.
“Come on,” Thorin was standing beside Kíli all of a sudden and he grabbed a hold of Fíli, gathering him up into his arms, “run!”
Kíli did not have to be asked twice; he sped up from his position like a scared rabbit from its hole and ran with all his might. Behind him he could hear the men shout after them; the horses neighing indignantly as they tried to take up pursuit on horseback.
“RUN!” Thorin shouted again, he managed to hoist Fíli up on his shoulder and they ran for their lives.
Kíli could hear his uncle’s breath go quick and ragged behind him, now that they were running, the extra weight took its toll on him. Luckily, the hoof beats sounded more and more distant. The riders were slowed down by the thick undergrowth and close knitted branches no doubt.
It was a long time before they dared stop. Both Thorin and Kíli were gasping for breath, Kíli fell down on the ground, heaving for air and coughing something horribly. Kíli was used to sprinting, but he was no good at long distances, and now his shoulder hurt something incredibly, Kíli thought the movement might have reopened the wound. Besides him, Thorin lowered Fíli to the ground. Kíli closed his eyes and thanked the gods that they had managed to escape, hopefully the horsemen had given up the chase by now. Still, he tried to listened to any threatening sounds.
“Fíli?” Thorin stared down at his oldest nephew’s face with a crinkled nose and worried eyes.
Kíli raised his head to look, but he was too weak to move over to where his brother was, he couldn’t even crawl, he just had to lie there and watch while Thorin checked for life signs. To Kíli’s horror he could not see his brother’s chest rise. It didn’t seem like he was breathing at all.
Thorin urged Fíli again loudly and swat his cheek a few times until Fíli murmured something incoherently, then he coughed violently. Kíli felt a surge of relief flooding through his veins; Fíli was still alive, thank the Gods.
Thorin laid Fíli over on his side, trying to encourage easy breathing, before he started to take in their surroundings. They were deep in the woods, trees stood huddled together side by side, branches holding on to each other. The trees were tall and thick and massive. Dead branches littered the ground and there was no green on account that no light escaped this far down.
Thorin sighed loudly, he did not know where they had ended up. Just perfect, on top of it all, they were now lost.
Thorin didn’t answer, but he turned his head an inch to indicate that he was listening. Rain was falling heavily around them. The trees leafless branches did little to stop the heavy drops of water from falling on them. It had been raining for hours already, and they had been walking through the night after Thorin had allowed the three a short rest following their wild chase through the forest. The night had settled and with dark storm clouds looming over the treetops, the forest was completely blacked out. Kíli could barely see his own hands if he reached out in front of himself.
“Uncle, do you know where we’re headed?”
Thorin stumbled on a tree root and grumbled something into his beard, but Kíli couldn’t catch what he was saying.
“Uncle, are you sure we’re headed in the right direction?”
“Of course I am sure, now be quiet, I do not want to be ambushed because of your loud mouth,” Thorin hissed at his youngest nephew, his voice low and hoarse; he sounded extremely tired.
Kíli sighed and shook his head, looking over at his uncle. He could barely make out his features even though they were walking side by side. His uncle was even more grumpy than usual. It seemed the stress of recent events had finally taken a visible toll on him.
Kíli knew Thorin didn’t know where they were going. It was obvious, Kíli didn’t need to see his face to know he was lying. Kíli shook his head again and turned to look over at his brother. Thorin had hoisted his brother up on his back again, trying to make him as comfortable as possible, but it wasn’t easy. Kíli couldn’t see it, but he could hear Fíli’s low wheezing each time he drew his breath. It really pained him how much his brother was suffering.
“We’re taking a rest,” Kíli said abruptly and stopped dead in his tracks. “We can’t go on like this, we need to rest. You need to rest.”
Thorin stopped a few feet away from Kíli, his back still turned on him. Kíli was afraid he was going to burst, but he was willing to take that chance for his brother’s physical well being as well as his uncle. To his disbelief however, Thorin let Fíli off his back and settled against a large tree with enormous roots sticking up from the ground that would help shelter them from some of the rain. Kíli let out a relieved sigh and walked over, settling down beside him with Fíli between them, and it didn’t take long before Kíli fell asleep.
When Kíli woke up, Thorin was already on his feet, staring at the weak morning light. Wait, the light? It was peeking through the trees in front of them. Kíli got to his feet as quickly as he could. That meant they were almost out of the forest!
“Come on,” Thorin turned around to Kíli and gave him the weakest hint of a smile, a smile Kíli felt like he hadn’t seen in a long time.
Kíli helped get Fíli up on Thorin’s back again and with increased vigour in their steps they hurried towards the faint promise of a sun peeking through the trees. The rain had stopped during the night, even though they were all still soaking wet, and being this close to the edge the forest made everything seem a lot more cheery and a lot greener, even though the trees were still ridiculously tall.
They were almost at the edge when Thorin shushed Kíli to silence, although the younger dwarf wasn’t even making a sound. Thorin hunched down and creeped slowly towards some bushes at the forest edge. Kíli followed him as quietly as he could. In front of them was a small hut built partly into the hillside and on top of the hill (Kíli's gut wrenched around inside him) was more forest. They hadn’t gotten out of the forest, it was only a clearing. Kíli sighed loudly and was about to complain, but got an angry elbow in his side from Thorin who was pointing towards the hut. A human woman was kneeling in a small kitchen garden, a basket besides her as she worked to pull up some vegetables from the earth. She seemed completely absorbed in her work.
Kíli made up his mind there and
then and got to his feet, refusing to counsel his idea with Thorin before taking action. Thorin made some hushed indignant noises and grabbed onto the edge of his shirt to hold him back, but Kíli tugged himself away and started walking towards the woman. Thorin hissed at him, but didn’t follow.
Kíli had already guessed that Thorin wouldn’t come after him, it was probably best that way. Hopefully this woman was friendly, no matter, Kíli was willing to risk it for Fíli’s sake. Kíli closed his eyes and drew his breath, getting ready for an unknown confrontation. He coughed when he was getting close to make his presence known and the woman looked startled up from her gardening.
“I’m sorry to trouble you, but would you be so kind as to help me? My brother is sick.”
Thorin was fuming, he was outright enraged. That kid had some nerves to not even talk it over with Thorin before storming off into unknown territory without even knowing the enemy. He thought the kid would have learned some respect after their last talk, but apparently not! He huffed and laid Fíli down on the ground besides him. Looking down at his wounded nephew he sighed and all his animosity left him. Kíli was probably right, they needed all the help they could get, and Thorin needed to swallow his pride if it meant getting Fíli better.
“Uncle! Come over!” Kíli turned around and shouted towards Thorin, waving his hands at them.
Thorin drew a deep breath before he gathered Fíli up in his arms and walked over, keeping his back straight and his head held high.
“Oh my, what has happened to the poor little one?”
The poor little one? Thorin almost gasped, but managed to stop himself, the nerve! The woman was talking about a dwarven prince like he was a tiny human child, he demanded respect. Kíli moved quickly next to him, putting a reassuring hand on Thorin’s shoulder to shut him up and quickly explained that the woman was going to help them.
“Good,” Thorin, his expression closely resembling that of a stone wall, nodded at the woman who smiled back at him and lead all three into her hut.
“Put him down on the table, I don’t have anything more comfortable than folded bed sheets for his head I’m afraid. Oh, poor dear, how did this happened? Now let me look at him,” the woman was fussing around the small room as Thorin put Fíli on the table and undid the bandages.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” the woman fussed again as she looked down at Fíli’s injuries.
The injuries looked bad indeed. After their latest ambush on the road with the human riders, they hadn’t had time to change Fíli’s bandages. Adding to the fact that it had been raining, soaking the three dwarves to the bones, it hadn’t done much to help the healing and it definitely hadn’t helped keep the wounds clean. Fíli looked a right mess. Fíli’s skin was pale which was in stark contrast to the black and purple edges from the stab wound. Veins reached out and branched across his skin, making it look like the poison was spreading.
“This is going to take a while for me to heal, I’m afraid. He was stabbed by an orc, you said? Yes, yes, an orc, and I can see this isn’t just an infection, oh no, he was poisoned too. Very bad indeed, if only I knew which poison, it would help greatly, oh I have just the idea, just the idea indeed. I think I might be able to cure this, oh yes, but it’ll be painful, sadly, very painful. Oh, here we go, this is exactly the root I need, very good. Now let me see, I need some cloth, some water, yes,” the woman was practically storming around, mumbling to herself as she did. She walked out of the room, came back with a cloth and a bucket of water, then she started rooting around her shelves, all the while mumbling to herself.
Kíli sat down at a chair by the table, his feet dangling off the ground. He was clutching onto Fíli’s hand,just staring at his brother, unable to do much else.
“It’s going to be okay, Fee, we’ve got you some help. It’s going to be okay.”
Fíli didn’t answer, he laid there on the table, his face ashen and his breath more laboured than the last. His eyes were flickering quickly beneath his eyelids. It didn’t seem like he was conscious or could hear anything at all.
Kíli's voice hitched in his throat and he squeezed Fíli’s hand harder, “it’s going to be okay.”
I'm sorry that this is a bit filler, but it's necessary to get them from point A to point B.
Hope you're all enjoying so far!
Chapter 9: Common Decency
Fíli could feel the heat from a beam of light crawling over his face. His eyes were closed and he felt in no particular hurry to open them, neither did he remember how to at the moment. His thoughts seemed like they were at a standstill, they crept along at an uncomfortably slow pace, making it impossible for Fíli to make up or down of where he was. His head felt unnaturally foggy and heavy, but at the same time, he didn’t mind.
However, the longer he laid there, and the more time passed, he could feel his body starting to throb with pain, each wave more intense than the last. Every heartbeat started to shoot small surges of pain through his body and he started to tense up as old fatigue crept up on him. Soon after he started to remember the arduous journey he had gone through with Kíli and Thorin, how he had been ambushed by orcs and everything that had happened afterwards. Fíli threw his eyes open and was greeted with an uneven wooden ceiling, his mind racing, worried about his family. Where were they and were they okay?
“Fíli?” a small voice asked groggily, uncomfortably close to his ear.
That voice was really familiar. Immediately a ton of questions started to flood Fíli’s mind and it gave him a tremendous headache. He closed his eyes again quickly. The room was spinning; not a pleasant feeling at all.
“Fíli! Are you..? No, don’t fall back asleep, not again!” a choked sob rang out.
Fíli quickly opened his eyes out of an instinct to protect this voice he knew so well, “brother, I’m… here, don’t cry… come on, brighten up,” Fíli managed to cough out, the words coming out of his mouth felt almost automatic and had a slight metallic aftertaste. His throat was hoarse and dry from being unused, but he tried his best to smile at his brother.
“Oh, thank the Gods, you’re fully awake, finally. We’ve been worried sick. How are you feeling?” Kíli's face was hovering above Fíli, his dark eyes fixed on his brother’s.
“I’m sorry Kee, I didn’t mean to,” the room Fíli was in was still spinning, but he found focusing on his brother’s face helped ground him. “You look like a mess,” Fíli said with a light chuckle.
A huge huff of disbelief came from Kíli as the younger brother sat up in the bed they had been sharing, “and how do you think YOU look?”
“Better than you, thank you very much. I always look better than you,” Fíli chuckled, but quickly fell into a coughing fit.
Kíli huffed again and grabbed a stone cup standing on a small table next to the bed and proceeded to help Fíli drink the water it contained. “You’re an idiot,” Kíli sniffed and his brother nodded slightly in response.
Kíli laid down besides Fíli again as close as he dared to, he didn’t want to accidentally hurt his brother even more. They stayed quiet for a long time. Kíli was simply enjoying his brother being conscious and alive. He ran a few fingers through his brother’s messy, ochre coloured hair and closed his eyes. He was alive, Kíli felt close to crying, but held himself. He couldn't stop himself from putting his other arm across Fíli's chest protectively however.
"Hey, how's your arm?" Fíli asked in a low voice and looked over at his brother.
Kíli shook his head, staring at his brother incredulously, "you wake up from the brink of death and the first thing you think about is others."
"What can I say, you're my soft spot."
Kíli let out a long shaky breath, trying not to laugh or blush. His brother was a huge dork and he loved him oh so much. "It's much better, we got it fixed up. Now I can move it even, as you can see," Kíli demonstrated his regained skill by drumming his fingers lightly on Fíli's chest.
With a nod and a small smile peeking through his beard Fíli closed his eyes again. Good, now all he was worried about was Thorin, but he guessed if Kíli was in a good mood, Thorin should be alright. Kíli was a horrible actor after all, he had never been a good liar or good at hiding his feelings.
"Hey," Kíli said after a while. It could have been five minutes, maybe even longer, Fíli wasn't sure. "Don't fall asleep on me again," Kíli whined and shook Fíli gently.
Fíli startled awake and opened his eyes abruptly. His eyes flickered across the room for danger, "wh- what???"
"You fell asleep, hey, stay with me, please?"
Fíli nodded weakly and tried to keep his eyes open and fixed on his brother, "okay, but then you need to... talk to me."
Kíli nodded back at him, "okay, I will."
The two brothers kept talking for almost an hour. Kíli told Fíli about his and Thorin's trip, about everything that had happened after Fíli had fallen unconscious. Fíli interjected at times, asked a question or tried to encourage his brother on. He kept his eyes on his brother to make sure he didn’t fall back asleep. It was difficult for Fíli to keep focused. He was so tired, and all he wanted to do was fall back into the warm embrace of sleep, but Kíli's words were kind and pleasant and kept him awake, and slowly he could feel his strength returning.
After Kíli finished he was quiet for a long time, so long that his brother looked up, wondering what was wrong. To Fíli’s surprise he could see a darkness had settled over Kíli's usually gentle and soft face - he looked angry all of a sudden.
“What?” Fíli asked him with worry in his voice, he was still a bit hoarse.
Kíli shook his head and closed his eyes, letting out a heavy sigh, “I’m angry at him.”
“He- he can be- he’s so mean. He didn’t even tell her thank you.”
“Who didn’t tell who what?”
“Thorin,” Kíli opened his eyes again and looked down at Fíli, “he never said thanks to her. She helps us out, gives us shelter and heals you and brings you back to us and all Thorin did was nod at her when she agreed to help us.”
Fíli had a feeling about where this was going. Kíli was talking about the owner of the hillside hut they were staying at. Kíli had mentioned her in his story. What was her name again? He didn’t even remember her name, if Kíli had even said it, but it was obvious why his brother was upset. Kíli and Thorin’s personalities were so different, they usually clashed a lot, their differences obvious to everyone around them but themselves. He doubted any explanation Fíli could give him was enough, but he had to try; “you know how he is. He’s the King. Kíli, he’s OUR King. He’s just not… used to it.”
“That’s not good enough,” Kíli almost growled, “he’s so stubborn it makes me so mad. He’s an- he’s just-“
A light chuckle escaped Fíli, he knew how much Kíli looked up to their uncle.
“You’re laughing at me?”
“Can’t help it.”
“Obviously,” Kíli scoffed and shook his head, “still, I don’t care if he’s the King, he should have some common decency BECAUSE he’s the king. He has taught us about courtesy, why isn’t he using it himself?”
“Because he’s got a sti-“
Fíli was suddenly interrupted by quick feet entering the small bedroom. “Oh, look you’re awake! Welcome to the land of the living again, little one, would you like something to eat?”
With a smile Fíli tried to sit up in the bed, his brother rushing to his aid quickly. He looked towards the woman who was standing in the doorframe. So this was the one who had healed him. He nodded slightly and cleared his throat, “a meal sounds lovely, thanks so much,” he threw a quick glance towards his brother.
“Very well, little one, I’ll make some supper for everyone, your uncle is outside helping me chop some wood. See if you can make it to the kitchen table, I’ll have it ready before the sun sets. Isn’t this just perfect, it’s such a long time ago since we’ve had guests~”
Looking out the window, Fíli could see the sun was now low on the horizon. Not long until dinner then. He could feel his stomach rumbling slightly. He wondered how long ago he had had a decent meal. Although he doubted if he would be able to keep much of the food down. He was hungry, but he didn’t feel like eating. His dizziness didn’t help much towards that end.
“I’m still mad at him,” Kíli said as he helped Fíli get out of bed.
Fíli chuckled again, but was quickly interrupted by pain shooting up into his chest.
“Sheesh,” Kíli said in a low and worried voice, “you’re no help at all in this matter,” but he could feel a lump forming in his throat. It was a strange mixture of happiness, compassion and grief, and he had to grip Fíli’s arm just a little bit tighter to make sure he was really real and there with him.
Chapter 10: A Slightly Awkward Supper
That evening, everyone had gathered around the small dinner table and Fíli soon learned the name of the owners of the little cabin: Sága and Tyr. Sága was short and round with fingers dirtied by a long life of farming in her small kitchen garden and digging for mushrooms and other herbs. She had wrinkles around her eyes and she smiled and laughed often, and her voice flooded the room because she talked like a waterfall. She didn't seem very old, but her eyes looked ancient.
Tyr on the other hand was tall and lean with muscular arms sculpted by a life lived in the forest. He was missing two fingers on his right hand and his left eye was closed at all times. Sága explained to them that Tyr had gotten an eye infection when he was young and that he was missing an eyeball because of it. Tyr looked gruff with a wild beard and even wilder hair and didn't talk much, instead providing input via small grunts and nods from time to time, looking between the two with an approving smile, while Sága and Kíli carried most of the conversation between themselves.
Fíli was smiling too. He saw that Kíli had taken a liking to the woman and had quickly started to pour his heart out to her, telling her everything about life back home. Fíli thought maybe Thorin wouldn't like Kíli blabbing so much about the Blue Mountains, but for the time being, it didn’t seem like his uncle was bothered too much about it, and thus Fíli couldn’t find the energy to worry much about it himself. Fili’s mind was preoccupied with trying to eat, stirring his spoon around slowly and trying his best to look less pale and sickly; even though that was how he felt.
Sága had made sure everything they could desire was available at the incredibly cramped and small kitchen table. Kíli made sure to take a little of everything so as not to insult Sága’s cooking; which was delicious anyway. Kíli also made sure that his brother ate, even though Fíli wasn’t able to get much down. The old woman talked and laughed and talked some more, telling one story after the other. Kíli was impressed that she actually managed to eat, at times it didn’t even look like she drew breath between sentences. No matter, Kíli was enjoying himself. His brother was alive and on the mend, and they were all safe, well, relatively safe, at least.
The evening dragged on while they all enjoyed themselves around the table. Kíli kept talking with the old woman; her husband, Tyr, being mostly silent, but listening; Thorin, as stoic and stone-faced as ever; and Fíli who the further into the meal they got, slowly started to slump and his eyes started to get heavy, sweat coating his brow. Kíli sent worried looks over at his brother at times, but Fíli refused to return the gesture, his eyes fixed on the spoonful of soup he was steering towards his mouth, his grip tight and his knuckles slightly white - Kíli was sure he was trying his best to keep his hands steady, if just to keep up appearances.
“It’s so wonderful to have guests, you know. It’s so rare to have anyone come visiting us here in the woods. But oh, we do love it here though, the cities just have too many people, you understand? But it truly is fantastic with some company at times too, oh yes. And oh, my husband is usually so quiet unless he’s telling me about one of his many hunting trips, but maybe you can convince him to tell you all later tonight? What do you think, Tyr? Would you mind telling them a story?” The woman started laughing, her smile beaming at everyone in the room at the same time, “Yes, indeed, as I said, we really appreciate someone coming out here and keeping an old couple such as ourselves company, we might get someone by here wanting to buy a herbal mixture, but they usually hurry on their way immediately, folk are so busy lately it seems, always running to and fro like mice. but this, this is much different, a pleasant change, really. And I mean, what wonderful guests we have too! Royalty of all things! Isn’t it wonderful, Tyr? I think it’s wonderful, thank you all so much for coming, I’ve never been in the presence of Royalty myself, not even human Royalty,” this last part Sága directed towards Thorin and did a small curtsy with her head which looked somewhat awkward considering she was still seated.
Thorin looked up from his food and squared his shoulders, his stone-face getting slightly more hard and he made the most solemn nod towards her, “It is our pleasure,” he replied.
Kíli put his knife and fork down and stared towards his uncle. Come on, really? Our pleasure??? She had saved Fíli, sheltered them all, given them their food and shown them nothing but kindness and he was still not going to say thank you? Kíli could feel his anger starting to build up again, and at that moment he felt someone else's hand squeezing his own. Kíli frowned and fixed his eyes on his brother’s. Fíli was smiling at him ever so slightly and Kíli understood the message: Don’t worry about it. Kíli sighed and made the tiniest nod back at his brother. Fine, he wouldn’t make a big deal about it, for now. But he wished to confront his uncle. He wanted to, he had to. He would, but not now, not in front of everyone...
“Oh, dear, you look very pale, don’t you?” Sága suddenly interrupted Kíli’s thoughts. “Oh my, how long have we been eating and enjoying ourselves now? What did you say Tyr, dear? Two and a half hours?? Oh my Goodness, march to bed right now young man, or young dwarf? I’m not sure what you would like to be called, Fíli, was it? Yes, well, you really should go back to bed, dear, you look awfully dreadful. I’m so sorry dear, we shouldn’t have pressured you to this. I’m sure some rest will do you good now. Would you be so kind as to escort your brother to bed, Kíli, so I can start clearing the table? Thank you so much.”
Soon Fíli was lying in bed again, his face was pale and his forehead warm with fever yet again, shaking slightly under the covers. Kíli sat down at the edge of the bed, putting a damp cloth on his brother’s forehead, shaking his head sadly. He wished his brother would get better immediately; he wanted him to jump out of the bed and beam at him with his amazing smile and hug him and tell him that everything would be alright, like he had done whenever Kíli had been sick or scared in the past. He looked down at his brother’s closed eyes which were shifting quickly underneath his eyelids and understood that for now, it was his, Kíli’s job to be the bigger brother. All the happiness Kíli had felt earlier at dinner was replaced with worry once more.
Chapter 11: Confrontation
Initially, Thorin wanted to leave the little hillside cabin merely two days after Fíli had woken up. A sentiment he had loudly voiced to his nephews. Fíli had of course agreed immediately, while his brother had protested but ultimately been ignored. Preferably, Thorin would have liked to have left even sooner, but even he understood that was not going to happen what with Fíli’s injuries and current condition.
The next few days Fíli spent in bed with a fever. According to Sága he had just overexerted himself at dinner and would get better again given time. At least his wounds had started healing now, but the poison had proven itself far more potent than Sága had first thought it to be and it had wreaked havoc on Fíli’s immune system - which was possibly another factor in him getting ill again. And thus, the next morning, the morning Fíli had promised he would be healthy enough to travel, approached rapidly; faster than Kíli would have liked.
Fili, true to his word, was already up and about helping his uncle get ready to head out when the day dawned on the morning of their departure. He was clearly still wounded and still in poor health; his skin pale with blue rings under his eyes and a slight hunch in his back from long-time exhaustion, but his eyes shone with determination, which was something not even Kíli could deny. Even though he looked like he’d been through hell, he insisted that they all leave before the midday sun hung high on the sky.
Kíli was outside helping Tyr skin a deer that the old man had killed the night prior. The old couple had insisted that they should bring with them as much meat and other kinds of food from their pantry as the three could fit in their packs; after all, it was still quite a trip to the Blue Mountains and the hunting would be slim what with only one functioning hunter. Thorin had forbidden Kíli to use his bow until his arm was completely healed. Thorin had nodded in acceptance and Fíli had thanked the old couple on everyone's behalf; his tired eyes shining at the grand gift. All the while, Kíli had glared at the back of his uncle’s head, his eyes dark and annoyed and resentful. Why did Thorin insist on refusing to say those words himself? Why couldn’t Thorin, as King and their supposed leader, be the one to thank the kind, old couple? Why did he refuse to do so? It was downright rude and it agitated Kíli to the extremes. Kíli didn’t care one bit that Thorin was King, not when he was behaving this way, it was downright undignified.
Looking over towards the small cabin, Kíli could see his brother through the window sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast while Sága busied around him, her mouth going off without interruption while making sure the three dwarves were set for the road. His uncle was nowhere to be seen, but he could hear him chopping wood behind the hut, the steady sound of the axe meeting the chopping block giving his position away.
“That should be about it, take these parcels to my wife, she’ll put them in your packs. Thanks a lot for volunteering to help me with the deer,” Tyr’s gruff voice sounded and Kíli snapped out of his own sullen thoughts.
“Oh, no, no, don’t mention it, it was the least I could do after all the help you have given us, both of you,” Kíli replied with a smile. Thorin could learn a thing or two from this man.
Kíli picked up the parcels of meat and stepped towards the hut, throwing a glance towards the corner he knew his uncle was hiding behind. He sighed, shook his head and stepped inside and was greeted by Sága’s beaming face.
“Oh, you got the food, how great, I doubt you’ll starve on your way back. Your uncle was chopping some wood for you to take with, right? Yes, I can hear him outside. I think you’re all done once he’s finished up. Maybe you should go and help him with the last few blocks? You know, just to speed things up a bit? After what I’ve understood, you’re all very eager to get on your way. I totally understand, but oh, I will so miss the three of you, it has been wonderful hosting guests again. You’re all welcome back at anytime of course! We would love to host you all again one day!”
Kíli nodded, mumbling a quick thank you, put the parcels on the table and reluctantly turned around to go help his uncle with the firewood. On his way out Kíli avoided looking over at his brother; he already knew the look his brother was sending his way: Don’t say anything to him, it’s not worth it, don’t confront him, is what his eyes would spell. And he was probably right… but...
Kíli turned the corner and saw his uncle was just about finished with the firewood. The axe was firmly planted in the chopping block, his back to Kíli as he gathered up all the finely chopped pieces of wood, and stowed them all into his backpack. Kíli clenched his fists and made a courtesy cough, pronouncing his presence to his uncle: “Sága said you might need some help with the firewood? You look almost done, though? Anything I can help you with?”
Thorin fastened the buckle on his backpack and tightened the straps before he got to his feet and turned towards his youngest nephew, “I am fine,” Thorin said, his answer short and his voice assertive before he started walking towards the cabin. “Everything should be ready by now, come, let us head out.”
Kíli stood rooted to the spot, trying to keep calm, but really, he was fuming. Every little thing his uncle was doing made him furious, every word aggravated him and all his anger from the past days boiled up inside of him. He just couldn’t help it… He had to say something, lest he might just burst soon, “it’s: I’m fine, thank you. You know, I can’t see how you, as the King, manage to be so rude and impolite; it really baffles me!”
Thorin stopped short in his tracks, a few paces behind Kíli now, they were both facing away from the other, “Excuse me?” he turned around, his eyes thundering.
Kíli clenched his fists against, his knuckles turning white and he turned to face Thorin, “you’re supposed to be the King, but you show no courtesy to anyone! Not to me, not to Fíli and certainly not to Sága and Tyr, who by the way, is the only reason Fíli is still alive!” Kíli could feel his eyes watering, but he tried his best to appear calm and adamant. “They shelter us, give us their beds, give us food, offer to cram our bags with more food than we necessarily need, and you nod at them! You’re the leader aren’t you? Or so you’ve reminded me several times on this disastrous trip, and since you’re the leader, YOU should be the one thanking them, that is NOT Fíli’s job! It’s not fair to anyone!” Kíli drew his breath and cast his eyes towards the ground.
Of course, Kíli knew he had gone way too far this time.
Fíli stared morosely at Kíli's back as his brother left out through the door to help their uncle. He was worried about him, about both of them, really. They had both been sulking and brooding ever since the attack. He could still remember the conversation he had had with his brother when he had first woken up, and the thought of it didn’t help one bit to lift his mood. Hopefully his brother would keep his cool. Fíli doubted that a confrontation between the two would turn out well.
Sága looked over at the young dwarf and smiled brightly, setting down a small basket of bread on the table. “I guess you’ll head out within the next hour,” her smile faded slightly as she said so.
Fíli plastered a warm smile onto his face to try and cheer her up, “yes, it’s about time we get back to the Blue Mountains. Our people are probably worried sick, so getting back home will be a relief. We have a few matters we must attend to as well…” his smile faltered, remembering what had made them all go on this mission in the first place. It was something he had nearly forgotten about in all the commotion. But now, he could vividly remember the massacre scene. It did not help to lift his mood. However, this was their problem, not Sága’s or Tyr’s.
Sága smiled back at him and continued busying around him, “well, in that case, let’s make sure you all leave as quickly as possible, especially when you have so many people counting on you!”
Fíli made a tiny bow with his head and his smile returned, “thank you.”
“Kíli, I want you to lis--” Thorin tried to interrupt Kíli, but was quickly blown off.
“No, I refuse to listen to that same tirade you gave me in the forest. It’s your fault Fíli ended up in that state to begin with! If you hadn’t pushed him, if we’d only taken more breaks, maybe his wounds wouldn’t have taken so much out of him!”
“Kíli,” a low voice came from behind Thorin; Kíli had been glaring at Thorin so intently, that he hadn’t even noticed that Fíli had come out to join them. Now Fíli was standing there besides their uncle, fully dressed and his swords already buckled on his back and sheathed. He looked tall and proud and much healthier than he had looked in days, but his eyes showed pain and sorrow. “Brother, please. It was my decision to not rest, I could have acted differently myself, but my pride got in the way. I didn’t want to appear weak. Do not blame all of this on Thorin alone.”
“Appear weak! You got stabbed by a sword! It pierced your stomach! And, it was poisoned as well! You were almost killed and you were afraid of losing face in front of our uncle??”
“Honestly? I was ashamed, I felt I had failed my people and my King. I felt weak and useless, and I don’t just mean physically. When I got injured in the attack, I felt like I had disgraced myself. I didn’t have time to defend myself and our kinsmen died because of me. I felt worthless and I wanted to prove that I was still worthy of Thorin’s respect; of being the crown prince. That’s why I kept pushing onwards. I realise now how foolish those thoughts were, but Kíli, there is one thing you have to understand: Being King, it’s more than just a title, and one day I too will be King. Dignity, pride, honour, courage; these virtues, they’re important. So yes, I was afraid, I was afraid of losing face in front of my - our - King,” Fíli’s face showed sadness and shame. Kíli wasn’t used to seeing such a look on his face and that made everything so much worse.
“That’s ridiculous… I - You can’t be serious…” Kíli didn’t know what to say. He stood there, casting his eyes between his brother and his uncle, his mouth agape. They couldn’t be serious, could they? Was pride really THAT important to them? What did it matter if Fíli showed pain in front of his own family? In front of the ones he cared about and the ones who cared about him? How could Fíli possibly blame himself for what had happened? Kíli swallowed hard, half wanting to cry, half wanting to smack his brother hard across the head for possibly being the most thick-headed and foolish person he had ever known.
“Kíli, please,” Fíli’s voice was low and pleading.
Kíli was just about to open his mouth when Thorin raised his hand and silenced him, “you forgot one thing Fíli. Yes, we hold these virtues dear, but we should not forget gratitude. You are both correct, we are royalty, but as Kíli have pointed out… many times… we must also show our respect.”
“I am sorry,” he said, Thorin’s voice was steady, his eyes locked with Kíli’s, “I am sorry that I did not listen. You were correct when you told us, when you told me, to stop and rest. However, I was afeared of losing you, of losing you both. We were in enemy territory, and thus I made the decision to push on, I decided it was better to run than to die sitting still, hiding like mice, I worried that there were more orcs in the area. My fear was seeing my nephews die in front of me, to lose you both, and for that I will not apologise, but I do apologise for my behaviour, for not listening sooner, for putting my own feelings first. I was in the wrong for not heeding your warnings. Both Fíli and I was blinded by our pride which could have ended up dooming all three of us in the end. Without you, we would never have stopped here to heal and rest, so I thank you for being the voice of reason.”
Fili was standing beside Thorin nodding solemnly along to Thorin’s speech, his eyes cast towards the ground, not looking at his brother anymore.
Did Kíli hear that correctly? Did his uncle really say both thank you and I am sorry in one go? Suddenly his uncle moved towards him, put both hands on Kíli's shoulders and stared into his eyes.
“I really am sorry,” Thorin said before squeezing his shoulders and giving him a quick hug. He then shifted the weight of his backpack over to the other shoulder and turned around. He stopped besides Fíli, put a hand on his shoulder as well and murmured something to his oldest nephew that Kíli couldn’t hear. Fíli nodded slowly and for a split second Kíli thought his brother was going to tear up. Before stepping around the corner of the house he stopped and in a low tone he added: “However, in the future, I expect your outbursts to be better formulated and more respectful,” and without another glance, Thorin headed inside the cabin.
Kíli was left standing in the same spot completely baffled, his eyes wide with shock. Kíli couldn’t really comprehend what had just happened. With confused eyes he looked over at his brother wanting an answer.
Fíli shrugged, but there was an amused smirk hiding in his beard, “to sum up: The reason why he refused to stop was because I was too stubborn and he was afraid to hurt my pride. Not to mention the danger we were in...” Fíli finally looked up at Kíli.
“He was afraid?”
“Of course, we’re family. Or did you forget that, brother?”
Kíli shook his head, still confused and dazed, “but…”
“Like I said, he’s our King, but he’s also our uncle. Of course he was afraid. I can’t imagine the turmoil going inside him after we got hurt. If you haven’t noticed yet, Kee, Thorin isn’t exactly the most emotional person, and he was most likely torn between his duties as King and tearing out his beard because his dearest nephews almost died,” there was a hint of mirth in his eyes. “He’s still the same solemn ass,” this last word Fíli mumbled under his breath, “though, as before… Only now, dear brother, we’re no longer in a life or death situation. Just remember that, just remember how far away we all were from dying, and you will understand why Thorin acted the way he did. Of course he was afraid, we both were. He was afraid of losing me, of you dying while doing something reckless in the face of new danger. I was afraid of slowing us down and being the cause of us getting captured and killed,” Fíli glared at the ground, looking ashamed and sad again. Then his eyes brightened again and he looked up at Kíli once more. “If you haven’t forgotten in all the chaos going on up in there,” Fíli stepped over to his brother and poked him firmly between the eyes, “we’re family, which means we’re kin. Do you know what that means?”
Kíli shook his head.
“That our dear uncle is just as stubborn and hot-headed as you are,” Fíli was smiling widely now. “Not to mention ill-tempered.”
Kíli took a step back and crossed his arms, sulking.
“Oh, so you’re neither of those things?” Fíli was almost laughing.
Kíli didn’t deign to answer him.
Fíli chuckled and crossed his arms as well, “you worry too much, little brother. Just accept his praise, and mine too, if you want it,” Fíli stepped forwards, put his hands on his brothers shoulders and squeezed, just like Thorin had done, but instead of a hug he brought his forehead to rest against Kíli’s. “Thank you, I am pretty sure you saved my life, and Thorin’s.”
Kíli followed Fíli to the front of the house, still somewhat sulking and still somewhat confused, but the small ball of anger that had knotted together in his stomach had been replaced by a feeling of joy and pride. Outside the small hillside hut they found Thorin shaking hands with Tyr while Sága stood behind her husband giggling and with rosy cheeks. Fíli leaned over and whispered in Kíli's ear: “I think uncle Thorin just kissed her hand.”
Kíli looked startled over at Fíli for a second before looking at the scene unfolding in front of him with wide eyes.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality. You have both been the most gracious hosts to me and my family, and we are all in your debt, “ behind Thorin, both Fíli and Kíli made a deep bow.
Sága was still giggling slightly and she beamed out to all three of them, “now, now, don’t be strangers, we hope to see you all again soon.”
Thorin nodded at her, “yes, and we hope that if you ever travel across the Lune you will come see us, both you and your kin will forever be welcome in the Blue Mountains.”
Fíli looked over at Kíli and grinned. Kíli on the other hand felt somewhat embarrassed.
After a couple more farewells and blessings the three dwarves took off into the forest again. As they entered beneath the branches of the tall trees Kíli looked over at his brother. “Say, do we know where we’re going this time?” Kíli said, a bit sheepish. Now that he had had time to think things over, he was feeling all kinds of embarrassed about his outburst earlier.
Fíli nodded at him, “If we venture south we will come upon the town of Bree, but that’s still at least a day’s walk, and in the wrong direction. Thorin wants us to get back to Ered Luin as quickly as possible, so we’re cutting through the forest instead. If we keep up this pace, we will come out by the bottom of the Hills of Evendim tomorrow morning. If you two hadn’t gotten lost while I was out cold, we would have been home tomorrow evening at the latest.”
Kíli struck a glare at his brother, ready to give him a biting remark, but before he could open his mouth he saw the mirth in his brother’s eyes and understood he was only joking with him and had meant no ill.. Kíli sighed, slightly miffed, “if you hadn’t decided to get stabbed we would have been home in time for lunch two days ago.”
Fíli smiled at his brother, reached out and squeezed his arm, “I know, brother…”
Enjoy a long, kinda fluffy, chapter, guys.
This was probably the hardest chapter so far to write. Dialogue is my biggest enemy still and this chapter is pretty dialogue heavy, not to mention pretty important! I hope it makes sense and fills all with happy Durin feels~
And we're not even finished! There's one more chapter coming after this, so stay tuned!
Update: 17.02.18: I know this has taken literal ages, but the next and final chapter should be out within the month!
Nothing eventful had happened since the three dwarves had set out from the little hut on the hill hidden in the forest. The little group had been on the road now for just about a day and a half, and nothing had befallen the party since they had set out for home. Kíli was trudging along after the other two dwarves, functioning as lookout, while Thorin scouted ahead. Fíli had been given a stern talk to by Thorin who refused him to do any duties except getting better. And that if he started to feel ill again he had to tell them immediately so that they could stop for a rest. Fíli hadn’t voiced any concerns so far, but Thorin had made them take plenty of breaks throughout their journey. He seemed determined to not have a repeat of before.
Eventually the small party had made it out of the forest, and the trees gave ground to open plains and rolling hills. There were no settlements to be seen for miles, but all three of them knew that beyond the horizon was their mountain, their home and their people. It wouldn’t be long before they could finally set their feet down on familiar stone.
Kíli, feeling much more confident after his bout with Thorin and more cheery now that Fíli was looking visibly better, turned to his brother and smiled, “it won’t be long before we’re back, huh? A little less than two days and we’ll see everyone again.”
“I can’t wait to feel the safety of the mountain walls around me… There is too much green around here,” Fíli replied, smiling back.
“Come on you two, we still got a ways to go,” Thorin said in his regular stiff voice, but there was a hint of a smile hidden in his beard.
“Don’t worry, Uncle, we’ll be home before you know it! That is, as long as Fíli manages to not faint this time.” Kíli shouldered his backpack and threw a glance at his brother who snorted, but Kíli quickly cast his eyes at the ground when he saw Thorin’s eyes thunder. “I didn’t mean…”
“Hah! I’m sure I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back, brother, I mean, I would have to give you a handicap. Perhaps both arms, seeing as you would be at the same disadvantage…” Fíli looked up at the blue sky above them, scratching his beard. “It would only be fair. I’m still stronger than you, injured or not.”
Thorin shook his head, sighed loudly and walked out of the safety of the trees, stepping into the tall, blindingly green and untouched grass on the plains. If the two could banter and joke like that, they must both be feeling better. Their noise would be a pleasant change of pace from their recent events. He wouldn’t interfere.
As the day dragged on the brothers talk quieted down. Fíli might be feeling better, Thorin thought, but he was still injured and so was his younger brother. Throwing a quick glance over his shoulder, he could see that his oldest nephew’s strength was starting to fail. The first day had seemed to have gone fine, but being constantly on their feet didn’t seem to help his condition. They would need to find a safe place for an hours rest before they continued. They still had several hours left of daylight, and making camp this early would ensure their journey home would be extended severely. Hopefully a quick rest and a bite to eat would help him.
As the three of them sat down in the tall grass some time later, they were hidden somewhat by a tall hill to their right, Thorin started to prepare some food for them. Kíli had become even quieter after they had sat down and was now hugging his knees, his eyes wandering and the glassy glint in his eyes revealed that he was completely lost in his own thoughts.
“Say, I still don’t get it,” Kíli suddenly said, turning his head to look at his brother.
Fíli didn’t return the look, but his eyes became unfocused, “I don’t know how, Kee, I don’t know what you want me to say.”
Kíli scratched at his chin and frowned, “it’s just, your’s and Thorin’s explanation just feels a little thin. Sure, I can understand that you need to “keep up appearances” but after the attack there weren’t anyone but us to see.”
“Exactly, there weren’t anyone else but us,” Fíli's eyes grew dark. “It’s my fault they died. Back then, it was my fault that …. and … now they’re dead...I should have protected them, should have been able to foresee the attack, should have known that there would still be orcs in the area, and I couldn’t save them.”
“That’s insane, Fee! Of course it’s not your fault! It was a rotten sneak attack!”
“And now,” Fíli continued, as if Kíli hadn’t said anything, “I have to explain to their families that I am the fault that their sons didn’t return with us...”
“Fíli. I told you this before,” Thorin said, suddenly on his feet, standing in front of the two brothers, a piece of bread torn in two in his hands; “I won’t allow you to blame yourself for their deaths, if the dead knew about you blaming yourself, they would be furious with you. So will their families. Kíli speaks the truth, you are not to blame. You-” Thorin cut himself off and stared off into the distance behind the two.
“Uncle, what are you--” Kíli started to ask as Thorin’s face grew dark.
The bread he had been holding dropped from his hands onto the ground, but Thorin paid it no attention. “Get up, run. Someone is coming…”
The two brothers jumped to their feet, spinning around to see this new threat. Off in the distance a cloud of sand and dirt trailed a small outline of riders heading toward where they had settled down. Everything had gone so smoothly, why now?
“Run!” Thorin almost shouted this time, grabbing Fíli's backpack off the ground and bolted off down the hill, his nephews following as fast they could behind him.
Thorin knew they would never be able to outrun them, but perhaps the party of riders hadn’t seen them yet and the direction they were heading in was pure coincidence. He couldn’t believe their ill fortune of late. They were so close, but yet so far from safety.
“Uncle!” Kíli's voice rang out loud an clear and full of worry.
Thorin slowed down some and looked over his shoulder. Kíli had stopped and was about to turn back. What was that fool doing now? Why could he never listen! Then he noticed Fíli on his knees, head bent down and heaving for breath several houndred feet behind them with the riders quickly approaching him. He hadn’t even noticed that Fíli hadn’t been able to keep up. Why did everything bad have to befall them? “Fíli!” Thorin screamed and started sprinting back towards his oldest nephew. If something befell him now…
Fíli felt like an idiot. He felt weak and useless and more like a sack of spoiled potatoes than the crown prince of the Blue Mountains. He could feel his side sting and burn and his head felt light. He was heaving for breath and trying not to scream out in pain. Perhaps not all of the poison was out of his system yet? Considering how long ago it was now since he’d been stabbed that didn’t seem plausible, but he was definitely not fit for fight like this and now he was going to die.
But, what if the riders were friendly? They didn’t know for sure, but there were enough dangers in Middle Earth that taking chances weren’t the best options. It was easier to jump first instead of asking for permission, and considering their recent events Fíli didn’t feel very trusting. Fíli grit his teeth and slowly got to his feet. He could feel his entire body shaking from the strain. Running really hadn’t done him good. He took out a sword from the sheath on his back and turned to face the riders. If they were friendly, he could talk to them, clear up this confusion. If they weren’t… well. This time he refused to face his fate without fighting. He refused to die like a dog, beaten and on the ground.
“Drop your weapon and surrender!”
Fíli's fingers curled around the shaft of his sword. At least these people weren’t orcs, and they didn’t seem like they might attack immediately. He still didn’t trust these strangers enough to drop his only means of defence, however. The riders were almost on top of him now, any moment they would halt their horses and then… Fíli swallowed hard and threw a quick glance over his shoulder, he could see his brother and uncle approaching, but they were still a ways off. He wished they would have ran off without noticing. If this really was the end… He didn’t want to be the cause of their deaths, as well.
“You have some nerve, dwarf, to not heed our orders,” the voice came from a tall man astride a grey mare. The horsemen stopped in front of Fíli all five of them had their swords or spears at the ready. Everyone wore thick metal armour.
Fíli raised his head and made no notion to drop his sword, “that is a bold statement coming from a group of riders in heavy armour, outnumbering my group nearly two to one,” Fíli's voice rang loud and clear as the riders encircled him.
“More like three to one, considering their height.”
Fíli paid no attention to the insults from the riders behind him and kept his eyes fixed on the one who had spoken first, the one Fíli guessed would be their leader.
The leader jumped down from his horse, his sword still in his hand and walked over to Fíli. Even though there was a sword length between them, Fíli still had to bend his neck upwards considerably to keep eye contact. The man was a giant.
“Since we outnumber you by so much, why do you refuse to answer my question, dwarf?”
Fíli threw a glance around him. He noticed one of the men had a cut in the middle of his forehead that had only recently started healing. The rest looked unharmed. “It’s customary when one is being hailed by allies that they leave their weapons sheathed. Seeing as you are all ready for combat I wanted to show the same courtesy.”
“Quick with your words, aren’t you, dwarf? And these are your companions, I presume?”
Fíli turned around to see Thorin, weapon in hand and Kíli, bow strung and arrow at the ready standing some distance away, ready to intervene if the altercation ended in blows. Those fools! At least they hadn’t attacked immediately, but if this really did end in battle, Fíli would be dead before Kílis arrow struck, if it even connected considering their armour. “Yes, this is my brother, Kíli, I am Fíli and this is our uncle Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór and the King of the Blue Mountains.” Fíli could hear a whisper travel through the humans and he held back a smile.
After a brief pause, the rider’s leader nodded at Fíli, but his features remained stiff, betraying no emotion; the man reminded Fíli of Thorin, “we are rider’s sent by Gondor to defend Bree. We had gotten word that the village folk had seen orcs about and we came to investigate the matter.”
“A long ways away from home then,” Fíli interrupted.
“Yes… Less than a week ago we set upon tracks in the forest and were attacked. We sustained no casualties, but neither did we see any orcs, and we couldn’t recognise the prints as orcish. The ones who attacked slipped off before we were able to apprehend them.”
“No casualties? Wha’ ‘bout my face? It’ll nev’r look the same again!”
“Shut up, Ravn, you look better’n now than you did then.” The rest of the riders laughed at the unfortunate man with the cut across his forehead.
Fíli mentally groaned. They were attacked less than a week ago, but sustained no casualties. The tracks weren’t made by orcs and it didn’t sound like the rider’s had gotten a good look of their attackers. Fíli threw a glance back at his brother and uncle and… he saw Kíli freeze up and his uncle clench his jaw. Of course...
“To be frank, the assailants were rather short and of stocky build, two brunettes and one blond were all we managed to catch of them before they fled like scared rabbits. I’d say the description matches, wouldn’t you say, lads?”
Fíli could feel the tension in the air thicken. Armour clanked and the horses stamped in the dirt nervously.
“I attacked you.”
Fílis head snapped around and he stared back at his uncle. Did he really have to be so blunt? Kíli was looking down at the ground, biting his lip, his bow still strung, but his arms were shaking.
“They did it for me,” Fíli said before Thorin could interject again. Fíli didn’t remember much from the time, but he had a guess. He remembered their arduous trek through the forest and he remembered collapsing on the road. Then he had woken up in Sága’s hut. The riders must have happened upon them while he had been out of it. “If they attacked you,” Fíli continued, “they did it for me. The people of Bree are clever folk, and their tales true. There really have been orcs in these parts as of late. A group of them attacked our young, slaughtered them to the last. We met a few stragglers on the way back home who attacked us as well. I was severely injured. If my family attacked you they must have seen you as a threat to my health. Dwarves value family above all else, a trait I believe we share with our taller cousins.”
“And yet, blood was spilled.”
“A minor injury is something to be expected as a soldier. Something we dwarves know well.”
The leader held his hand up and the injured man was silenced, “your words ring true and sincere, but wouldn’t it have been easier to simply have stopped us and asked for aide?”
Fíli looked away and chuckled slightly, “you are probably right, but tell me, if you met several large men wearing heavy protection and carrying heavy arms, would you stop them to ask for something as simple as directions if you were wounded and knowing the enemy could be around the next corner?”
The leader nodded again, slowly, Fíli could hear the injured man to his side scoff and whisper an insult under his breath. “You do your people proud and your reasoning is sound. Let’s put this issue aside, seeing as it was clearly not meant in ill will. However, I would like you to tell me more of these orcs, we need to eradicate them before they can cause further harm. Our condolences to your deceased.”
Fíli bowed and started to tell of what he knew of the orcs and their last attacks.
On top of the hill Kíli lowered his bow and glanced over at his uncle. His hands were shaking and his shoulder ached. Kíli swallowed hard and let out a breath he’d been holding for far too long. His heart had been pounding against his ribs during the entire exchange. Thorin had told him not to shoot unless the humans acted first, and Kíli had been clutching the fletching hard between his fingers so much that it had frayed. Fíli was safe. They were safe. However, Kíli still wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. He could still feel the hostility from a couple of the humans. Especially the guy Thorin had injured.
Finally, Fíli wrapped up his conversation with the human leader who swiftly jumped up on his horse again. Quite a feat considering the several pounds of extra weight the armour added. Kíli let out yet another shaky breath he had been holding and waited for Fíli to walk over to them as the riders took off.
“Fíli,” Thorin said, his eyes twinkling, “good job, you handled yourself well back there. I am proud.”
Kíli almost gaped, but restrained himself.
Fíli was beaming back at Thorin as he sheathed his sword, however, he looked a bit pale, “thank you, uncle, that means a lot…”
Kíli was still half in shock when the three started walking again. Had that really happened? All Kíli could feel was disbelief and pride in his brother. His brother had saved them all from being stabbed to death by a large number of some rather intimidating human knights and they had walked away from the event with no scratches, no death threats and a promise of their kinsmen being avenged to the last orc.
Kíli shifted his backpack higher up on his good shoulder and looked off towards the back of his uncle and brother. They were of another calibre. True royalty. Deserving of the crown.
He smiled and thought to himself: There was one he could call king.
Thank you to everyone who stuck with this fic!
This chapter is slightly longer than usual, so I hope that helps!
I'm sorry to have taken so long, but the final chapter is here, and I still have Durin family feels, several years later! Hope you guys have too ;)
Again, thanks for reading!