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The Time that is Given to Us

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Battle was not suppose to be this way. Bifur repeated it to himself as he ran forward and blocked an orc’s mace from hitting a downed dwarf. His boar-spear ended the vile creature’s life a moment later. The thought continued to echo in his mind as he lifted the youth, even younger than himself, over his shoulder.  The grime covered dwarf grunted weakly. There was no time for names or introductions. Bifur barely caught sight of a single clean strand of gold hair as he hosted the injured male before he found himself once again defending them both. The dwarf tried to push him away but Bifur ignored him. The battle was ending, the cry that Prince Thorin had dealt a death blow to the Defiler roaring over the fallen. Bifur was too far to be a part of the final charge and could not find his father or uncle, but there was one thing he could do. He could make sure that at least this dwarf did not join their dead and dying kin.

With only his resolve and boar-spear Bifur fought through the remaining orc straggles. He would not remember the violence that followed but many dwarrows would later recall the fierce warrior who raged his way through the last of the enemy. His helm long lost, his shield abandoned, and a comrade upon his shoulders. No battle cry heralded him, only the sound of his spear cutting down the filth. If not for his appearance, one might have mistaken him for one of Fundin’s sons so ferocious was his battle-fever. But in Bifur’s chest all he felt was the reassembling of a fractured heart whose beliefs had been betrayed.

At the healers’ tents he dumped his charge. He did not stop when the healers called for him to stay or when the discarded male asked him to wait. Neither did he notice when one of beads fell from his mangled braid nor when the other dwarf plucked it from the ground.

No. The battle ended and Bifur saw and heard nothing as he passed face after face that looked nothing like his kinsmen’s. What use was winning the battle when so many lay dead? A cry rose up for the fallen, a mourning wail. It rang for fathers, brothers and sons, for their murdered King Thror and their missing heir Thrain. For the fallen warrior Fundin who lay at the feet of the still Prince Frerin. He imagined he could hear Prince Thorin’s yell of despair ascend above the rest. But Bifur did not raise his voice with theirs as he combed the dead. No sound came from his throat. No dirge lingered on his tongue.

Even as he fell to his knees before the bodies of his uncle Bafur and his father Bour, Bifur did not shriek his mourning along with his brethren. Bifur’s grief lay in the noiseless tears that cleansed his kinsmen’s faces of blood. It scattered itself on the bodies of two brothers that had wrapped their arms around each other and died in that embrace. Forever joined by the orcish pike that had pierced through their cheap amour. No prayer or vow fell from Bifur’s lips at the sight. The only sound of his anguish was silent. For no one hears a heart break.

***

He came home or what they now called home. The Broadbeams had originally hailed from Gabilgathol, lost over an age ago. They later lost Kazad–dûm with coming of Durin’s Bane. Erebor and a few small colonies along the Blue Mountains had accepted them, but Smaug’s coming had left part of their clan homeless again. Like Durin’s Folk, they too were left to wander.

The small Dwarven village that lay before the Blue Mountains had been emptied at the call for warriors to Azanulbizar. So many who believed that victory was theirs if they but reached for it. So many that would not return.

He found himself again without words as he faced Aunt Rota at the door. No language to offer comfort with as she looked from him to the beads in his hand and turned away. He had only his arms and shoulder as Bofur clung to him and wept. Uncle Bafur’s funny lucky hat sat askew on his cousin’s head. Little Bombur, still too young to understand the term for tragedy, sobbed pressed between them.

Where his words failed Bifur’s body gave. He could not make Rota eat or tend her children, but he could wrap her in blankets so she was not cold and carry her to bed. He could not tell Bofur the words the lad needed to hear, but he could show the lad that the burden of adulthood was not his alone. The day he pressed a newly carved flute into Bofur’s hands and his cousin laughed was one of his better accomplishments. Constantly he worried he would fail them further. He feared his quiet would keep the little one from speaking as well. He could not give Bombur grand tales or words to mend their hurt. What use were the stories of glory and honor when the only led to broken hearts and dreams? But he provided all he could and even if some nights he was hungry he made certain both his cousins ate. He kept Bofur from lying about his age to join him in dull labor. At night, when Bifur let Bombur and Bofur curl with him in the large bed Rota had abandoned, he forced himself to keep his nightmares silent. To rise from his slumber with only slightly shallow breaths as his shook with battle-dreams. When his aunt finally died of her mourning, Bifur found the strength to bury her. To hold Bombur as he wept and let Bofur lean on him while neither of them cried. They both knew Rota had long been lost.

A few months later when Thorin now called Oakenshield gathered together Durin’s Folk and set about reclaiming the mines of the Blue Mountains, Bifur was one of the first to volunteer. It would provide more money than his woodworking and odd jobs. So he packed up his little family, Bofur and quiet Bombur. They settled and he worked away beneath the earth, clearing bad rock and digging for coal. At night when his arms were strained and his fingers trembled, he still found time to carve his wood. In those hours while his cousins slept, he taught himself to master his Craft inbetween his work and sleep.

And if some rare nights, when he was afraid he could not keep the nightmares silent, he found his way to the pub where other survivors of Azanulbizar had gathered, he tried to not feel so guilty. Though he knew did not truly have the money to spare, he took comfort from finding others who did not have words. If once in a while the sons of Fundin were seen there or the sons of Groin, Bifur did not mind. Sorrow and fear treated every dwarf as equals.

It was on one of these rare nights, just shy of Bofur’s coming of age, that Bifur was once again found drinking the single pint he allowed himself. A body heaved itself down beside him at his empty table. He took no notice until two more sat before him. He looked up into the recognizable faces of the sons of Fundin. Dwalin gave him a narrowed stare while his brother Balin elbowed his side. Bofur nearly lost his seat when he turned to find an unfamiliar golden-haired dwarf.

“Hello. I am Vili son of Skali and I believe you know of my companions Balin and Dwalin, the sons of Fundin.” The dwarrows gave short nods which Bifur returned. “They are here to assist me. You see I’m looking for someone and I was told that you might help me,” the youth informed him. Bifur answered the youth’s bright tone with a curious look. Vili son of Skali was not a well-known face but even Bifur had heard of the Stiffbeard noble who had been fostered with the Ironfists. What use could any of these upper-class dwarfs have of him?

Dwalin’s hand smacked against the table, his mohawk trembling. “He’d better because I’m not wasting another night helping you search when there’s ale to be had.”

Faster than any could anticipate Balin’s hand shot out and cuffed Dwalin upside his head. The younger son of Fundin seemed barely to notice except to turn his glare on his brother. Balin’s mouth quirked in an apologetic smile directed at Bifur. “Please ignore my brother. He was not actually raised in hole, he just acts like it.”

Dwalin continued to look displeased though his frown had morphed to more of a pout.

Bifur looked from one dwarf to another in confusion. He fixed his gaze on the blond youth. “I’m not sure what help I’ll be but I’ll do what I can.”

“Perfect,” this time the tone was accompanied by an even brighter smile. A hand slipped into his jerkin and returned with a small pouch. “I’ve been looking for someone from the Battle. Brave dwarf, kind of reckless but then who of us weren’t. He saved my life and I never got his name. He dropped this.” A single beard fell onto his palm. Bifur stared at it in awe. He could still remember the day his father had gifted it to him. If he closed his eyes he could feel Rota’s hands braiding it into his beard. He could picture Bofur and Bafur joking that he would be the most handsome warrior as Bombur sat on his knee grabbing for the jewelry.

Some sign of recognition must have shown in his eyes for all three dwarrows focused on him. Vili leaned in closer, a spark of Bifur’s memory alit upon his golden hair. An awareness passed between along their gazes. “I was told you were the only one old enough to be of the family it belonged to. If you don’t mind I’d very much like to know your name.”

And for the first time in years Bifur found the words he needed. “Bifur son of Bour.”

“Well, Bifur son of Bour,” Vili’s eyes sparkled in the tavern’s dull light, “seven years is much too long to have waited to say this but I’d still like to.” He placed the beard in Bifur’s open palm and closed his fingers over it. “I-I’ve—” Vili shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe I’ve dwelt on our meeting for almost a decade and I still don’t know what to say. Just—thank you.” He looked up and held onto Bifur’s hand with a near crushing grip. Vili’s gaze on him spoke more of heroes than any of the song’s Bifur had once sung. “Thank you.” The dwarf gave a half-choked chuckle. “The words seemed too little for what you’ve given me.”

But Bifur understood. Wordlessly he settled his other empty hand on Vili’s and bent his head over their clasped palms. The golden haired dwarf returned the gesture, letting his forehead rest against Bifur’s. A blessing and a sign of friendships, the two recalled that shared memory of terror and relief while the brothers Fundin blocked them from prying eyes.

Yes Bifur understood. Sometimes words were not needed.