This is the sequel to “A distant Light” and I would strongly recommend reading it before, because otherwise you will be confused how Boromir is still alive or how Kili ended up in Moria, along with some other events that won’t be explained here again.
For all those who shared the journey of “A distant Light” with me: welcome back! I will admit that this is the craziest plot bunny I ever tried my hand on, but some friends encouraged me to go for it.
A short note on parings: I do not know of any as of yet should that change at some point throughout the story, I will put an appropriate note into the story description.
Comments, hints, wishes and speculations are always welcomed!
I want to thank Harrylee94 who threw this plot bunny at me and stroked it gently until it grew into the pink-monster bunny. Thank you my friend!
Prologue: What has been sealed
Last day of September, Year 21 of the Fourth Age
The sight of the Eastern Gate always woke mixed feelings in Boromir, when seeing it from afar. More than two decades ago he had stumbled from that dark hole in the rocks, bleeding, exhausted and just escaped from the Orcs, Gandalf and the Balrog fallen in the shadow behind them. Back then the darkness had amassed behind them and an uncertain road lay ahead, before night the hills had been swarming with orcs and the look behind had only revealed a stark landscape of rock and river in the cold light of late winter.
Now the sight was quite different, the warm light of the late summer sun bathed the road that led up the dimril dale and the once broken gate of Moria was long replaced with a proper stone gate again. Invisible when closed the lines on the door reflected only the setting and rising sun, so the door shone in fiery lines at dawn and dusk. Boromir always felt a sense of pride when he saw Dimril Dale now; the Eastern gate had been one of the last parts of Moria they had conquered. Seven years of merciless underground war against the Orcs and Goblins, before they had conquered the last part of Moria, before there was no nook or cranny where an Orc hid. It had been a long hard war in the darkness under the mountains and one that had Warmaster Dwalin swear more often than not that it would make him an old dwarf. At least that’s what he had said whenever it came to a certain Dwarf Prince and his tendency to go where the fighting was worst.
With none of them as familiar with the map and secrets of Dwarrowdelf it had only been natural that Kili often led the most daring raids, guiding their troops through paths and places that were nearly forgotten even to dwarven memory. “Someone has to look out for him,” Dwalin had grumbled after the battle of the Hall of White Fire. “and I am putting you in charge of that. You are one of the few that can keep up with him. Assemble whatever fighters you think are up to it.”
That task had made sure he had his hands full for the next few years, because Kili would certainly listen to Boromir’s advice and tactical thoughts but between them their plans got rather more daring than not. Boromir had followed Dwalin’s orders and assembled the best, toughest dwarves for the task. Back in that first winter underground he had not believed that from the ranks of this hard, wild troop he had hammered into shape, the Raven’s Guard would one day rise. He cast a glance back over his shoulder, there were only fifty of them present, riding in formation, watchful eyes on the grounds left and right, ready to jump into action the moment an Orc dared to show his nose. Boromir smiled, his gaze going back ahead. Nine years after entering Dwarrowdelf the city had been nothing like the dark place Boromir had seen during the War of the Ring, with the dwarven population of old Arnor and Ered Luin flooding back to their ancestral home, joined by quite a number from other parts, light and life had returned to their city and Dwarrowdelf shone again in the light of thousand lamps.
On Durin’s day, marking the turn of the tenth year since entering Moria the new Lord of Moria had been crowned, and Boromir had found himself with his new task, as the Captain of the Ravens, the Royal Guard, and still the warriors to follow Kili into every danger he walked in on, and those were numerous still.
“You always look pensive when we come up here,” A familiar deep voice interrupted his thoughts. Turning his head Boromir saw Kili had guided his horse beside his own. Like so often when travelling the dwarven King wore a heavy scale mail armor, but no helmet, allowing his dark mane to fall free over his shoulders. His dark eyes met Boromir’s gaze and it was easy to see that he had read his friend’s mood.
“It always reminds me of the day we came out there, running from the Orcs and the Balrog,” Boromir replied, in the long years they had spent fighting side by side their bond had grown in strength considerably, but it had also settled comfortably, even as they had an affinity beyond sensing pain or wounds. “It sometimes seems so far away, in another lifetime, but then… I just need to ride up this hill and feel like it was only yesterday.”
“I remember it well,” Kili’s eyes traced the hillside that sheltered Dimril Dale and Mirrormere. “let us hurry, we should be home before dark falls, otherwise Dwalin will send one or two banners in our direction. He knows when we left Meduseld.”
“And he will grumble again that if Éomer King has a problem he should go pester King Elessar.” Their horses extended trot as they entered the dale, Boromir saw the handsignal of the lookout that everything was clear. Even ten years after their victory it was a necessary to stay watchful; the Goblins still had footholds in other parts of the mountains.
“Only that Elessar would not be able to help him,” Kili laughed. “I was lucky you could talk some sense into Shantar. They were close to open war again. He and Éomer aggravate each other so much they should declare their undying love right away.”
Boromir had heard that joke before, it was not the first tangle Éomer King and the High Lord Commander of Rhûn had gotten into. Those two were prone to lock horns and had been on the brink of war three times already. “Shantar will listen to what I say because I defeated his father in single combat, that makes me his elder in a way and gained me some respect. They will always prefer a good enemy to a dishonest friend, it’s their way… they have lived under the shadow for far too long.” He replied, well recalling Shakurán and their last fight.
The road led them past Mirrormere, the lake shone blue under the cool evening sky, it was not the bright azure of summer’s heat nor the deep steely colour the lake would take in winter, right now the waters reflected a serene sad midnight blue, like a shining jewel. The huge stone statue on the other side was mirrored in the lake as a long shadow. The mighty stone warrior was the memorial for the battle of Azanulbizar, back then the dwarves had been forced to burn their dead and scatter the ashes on the lake, because there had been no chance to build stone cairns for their fallen. Now this statue of a warrior with his axe commemorated all those who had no grave. And while the lake still shone in the deep blue the echo of the darkening waters were clearly visible. Autumn was upon them. “At least we are back well enough before Durin’s day.” Kili’s eyes had also been on the statue, but now his focus was back on the road.
Inwardly Boromir agreed; Durin’s day would be met with a grand celebration, like always. It had been on Durin’s day eleven years ago that Kili had been crowned with the Raven’s Crown and formally become Durin VII Ravenswing. The coronation had been something the dwarves had shared with no one, no strangers had been invited and no dignitaries of any sort either. Boromir had been the only non-dwarf present, and he knew he was not regarded as such any more. Since he had sworn to Kili, his branch of the House of Húrin had been written down in the chronicles of Durin’s folk as theirs. Still, it had touched him to witness this.
Dwarven tradition demanded that the Prince would spend the night in vigil at his father’s grave, something more or less impossible as Kili’s father Dari was among the many dead whose ashes rested in Mirrormere. And the man whom he was heir to: Thorin, King under the Mountain, was buried a thousand leagues to north under the pines near Erebor. In the end he had chosen to go to the grave of the one who had preceded him in the title, if not in blood. Of the Raven’s Guard Boromir had been the only one to be present for Kili’s long vigil at Balin’s grave. The Captain had never met the old dwarf, but heard a lot about him from Kili, Dwalin, Bofur and some others, it was easy to see how much traces the kind grand old dwarf had left in the lives of his people.
The next morning under the magnificent dome of Dwarrowdelf, in the light of a thousand lamps, Kili had been crowned, the ceremony had taken place there and not in the palace, before all his people. To his own surprise Boromir had been deeply touched when he watched Dwalin place the Raven’s crown on the kneeling Prince’s brow.
Ever since Durin’s day had been a huge feast in all the city and one that the Dwarves still did not share, no guests or dignitaries, thank you very much. Startled Boromir looked to Kili, when he felt a jab of discomfort and dread from him, but before he could ask a Raven fluttered down from the heights and landed on Kili’s hand, cawing softly.
The dwarven King sighed. “Anarion send him, some dwarven envoys are at the eastern gate and make fuss. We will not be able to avoid them.” He straightened up, to his full height as he made his white horse go in a dignified trot instead of their fast pace.
Boromir had seen this before, within one breath’s space he had gone from being Kili to Durin VII, the change was startling for those who did not know him. Wordlessly the Captain of the Ravens took his dark helmet from the side of the saddle; it would not hide his face, but obscure it. He gestured the Raven guard to fan out into formal formation as they approached the Eastern gate.
The Envoys proved to be from Erebor, and they were quite angry at not having been let into the city. There was a semblance of peace between the two dwarven Kingdoms, but it was a cool to cold relationship. Boromir knew that very well. When Kili had heard of Dain’s brave death in the second battle of Dale, he had send appropriate words to his successor, unfortunately Dain’s son had not taken that well, especially with a number of his young people already having wandered off to join the Moria conquest. That Dain’s son had been crowned Thorin III Stonehelm had not helped things at all. It had taken Boromir a year and some patient lessons from Bofur and Brea to understand the rifts between the seven dwarf tribes and why the Firebeards and Durin’s folk were not on best terms over things that went back as far as the founding of Belegost. And even with all attempts to mend the rift, it had never quite healed; in fact it had broadened with deepened with the political situation. Erebor and the Aglarond dwarves had close ties to Gondor and the elves in Lothlorien. The Moria dwarves on the other hand had allowed the hill people to settle in Eregion and were on excellent terms with Lord Elrohir of Rivendell, who had succeeded his father after Elrond debarked for the undying lands. The dignitaries had been sent at a bad time, and were of course not happy that they would not be allowed into Dwarrowdelf. Boromir had half expected Kili to make an exception, for diplomacies’ sake, but the dwarven king did not give in, and things came close to the guard being forced to remove some very angry firebeards.
The great gate closed behind them and they approached the bridges – a magnificent double bridge now spanned the chasm that still was one of the greatest natural defenses of the city. Mithrandir Span, as the bridge was named was cut form white stone, with a statue of the wizard, one Gandalf the Grey and one Gandalf the White, on either side. Even with all the conflicts they had had with the old wizard, the dwarves honored the man who had slain Durin’s Bane.
Passing Mithrandir Span and the Hall of the Waking Fire always felt like homecoming to Boromir, inside these walls they were save and with no strangers in the city, danger for the King’s life was practically nonexistent. While Kili never evaded the Raven’s Guard, he disliked being shadowed every step he took inside his own halls. So Boromir dismissed most of the troops, knowing his King well enough to just keep himself, Bladvila and Aligern close at hand as they walked through the grand halls towards the heart of city. “Have your men get some rest,” the King spoke up when they reached the huge dome of Dwarrowdelf, with the Palace visible across the grand plaza. “and get some rest too, this ride was tiring for all of us.”
Boromir bowed slightly, he’d have a replacement details sent to the palace, just in case. He felt a light touch on his arm, and knew he was found out. “I need a few hours alone,” Within a breath’s space again Durin VII had given way to Kili, or maybe Boromir was used to see it, when Kili allowed for others to look beneath the role of the King. “I will be down in the crypt. If you feel restless, find Dwalin, he will have refreshing news on the Lord of Mt. Gundalbad, and he’ll enjoy strategizing over a goblet of wine.” The last was said in a warm, affectionate voice, Kili knew them both well.
** ** **
The ancient crypts were a silent part of Moria, here the ancient kings, their followers, the old houses, were laid to rest in the days of old. With the city retaken, the crypts had been expanded to house those who fell during the conquest, but the ancient crypts had been left untouched as a sign of respect. Atop the stairs of remembrance Kili met Brea, she had known he’d come and wordlessly handed him the flask. “It’s all brewed as you said, stronger this time.” She said calm and directly. In spite of being their King, Kili had never lost the connection to his people, he hated constant formalities.
“Thank you, Brea,” he said; glad she had made it in time. He also noticed her worried glance. “What is it, Brea?” he asked.
“Elf-root, dreambane, twilight-asp and moontears,” Brea shook her head, her black beard emphasizing the movement. “I know what it does and it would send a Mumak into a prophesizing trance, proclaiming itself King of Harad, Why, Kili? Why do this every year?”
Kili could see she was upset, he had chosen her for this task, because she would keep her silence. Brea would never break trust. “Because he already feels it every time I take an arrow, or get injured in battle, not to mention that damned bite from the fell beast… he lives with these things, and I don’t know sometimes how he manages to do it. There are things I don’t want to force him to share, and your draught will at least drown the bond for a few hours.”
“You know you are lucky he hasn’t noticed yet,” Break pointed out. “even if you managed to send him to Dwalin for some wine… one day he could notice. He’s a sharp one, clever.”
“I know; he’s one of the best. You let me deal with that, Brea.” Kili replied and continued down into the crypts. In the ancient grave of Durin II he flipped of his travelling cloak and the scale armor, leaving only the leather tunic he wore beneath before continuing on, into the deep chamber below. He emptied the draught while he walked, knowing the effects would silence the bond, even if they could not block out the sensations, the pain that was to come. Walking into the dark chamber, Kili fought an urge of panic, forcing himself to walk straight into the circular room. Wings fluttered in the dark, he knew it was coming.
** ** **
Kili had been right about Dwalin being happy to see Boromir return; the old warrior greeted him heartily and insisted on hearing about their journey first. They were seated in Dwalin’s home Vinhall in Dwarrowdelf and Boromir told him of Rohan and their latest quarrel with the east. “He should have asked for Shantar’s hand, they quarrel like an old couple,” Dwalin grinned, as he refilled their goblets.
“Queen Lothiriel would have a word to say about that,” Boromir pointed out, bemused. “and knowing her noble house as I do, I’d say Éomer should live in mortal fear of ever straying from her.”
“If you say so,” Dwalin grinned. “Now, on to less tasteful Kings, His Ugliness up at Mt. Gundalbad has been behaving strange of late, we had a few raiding parties as war as the Northern pass.”
“Raiding parties or just chased off troops? King Elrohir might have taken to shake up the place earlier than usual.” Boromir knew well that the Elven Warrior-King had lost his mother to these Orcs and would always raid some of their prominent bastions around the day of her departure. Which send Orcs running all the way to Narn Curunir.
“Raiding parties, no troops running scared,” Dwalin confirmed. “King Elrohir will not go Orc hunting this autumn. His sister is said to be due for her child and he and his brother are bound to be in Annúminas, with Prince Elladan being a healer like his father and all…”
“Is it a rumor again or will Gondor finally see an heir?” Boromir asked, sipping on the red wine, Dwalin liked the strong stuff and the Captain of the Ravens had long learned to never enter a drinking contest with his friend.
“Anarion says it’s the real thing this time and he has more contacts among the Northern Dúnedain than they might like. I always knew Rangers were spies in disguise.”
“Anarion simply listens to people and he has a fine ear for the truth,” Boromir said. “and few people notice his blindness if he is careful and keeps Windwolf close.” The young Ranger had followed Boromir on his quest, finding a home among the dwarves. After living in Dwarrowdelf for twenty years he knew the city so well, he moved there as easily as if he had never been blinded. After the Nazgul Horse had been killed during a skirmish in Dimril Dale, he had trained a Northern wolf to be his guide and with him he even dared the wildnerness and roads of Eriador, often send by Dwalin when the Warmaster needed to confirm rumors in Arnor.
“Careful, your friend never knew was careful was,” Dwalin shook his head. “but he’s good at what he does. If your brother trained all his Rangers so well, they should be Gondor’s finest weapon.”
Boromir wanted to say something about that when he felt a surge of pain erupt in his back and chest, like fiery claws raking over him. He gasped, nearly dropping the goblet, pain made his head spin; he felt a sense of dread and iron determination amongst another drowning wave of pain.
“Boromir! Damn, you are doing that thing again,” Dwalin had grabbed his shoulders, the old dwarf knowing what was happening. “Which is it?”
“Kili!” Boromir forced the pain to the back of his mind. He knew it had to be Kili, while the bond to Faramir was there too; it had never grown so deep and intense, due to their separation. He got to his feet. “He said he wanted to visit the crypts.”
Both warriors left Vinhall, luckily the hall was located right at the heart of Dwarrowdelf, calling the Raven’s Guard and other warriors was a matter of moments. “Bladvila, send your men to the Stairs of Silence and the Stairs of the Forgotten, cut the city of the dead off,” Boromir told his men. “Aligern, you are with Dwalin and I.” He knew Dwalin would have the entire deep in lockdown with patrols on every corner before long. Orc Alarm, it had to be.
** ** **
They hastened down the stairs of Remembrance, the only way into the crypts they had left open. Dwalin and Boromir advanced quickly, taking the risk of an ambush over the waste of time. When they came into the crypt of Durin II Boromir stopped, pointing on the cairn. Kili’s cloak and armor rested there clearly left behind. “What is going on here, Dwalin?” he asked, wondering why Kili would leave both behind like this.
That moment a scream, a pained, bloodcurdling scream echoed through the tomb. Without waiting Boromir hastened on, down the stairs that led to an ancient area of the city of the dead, the Hall of Introspection. In the light of his raised torch he saw a thing – a winged shadow release Kili from its grip, dropping him on the floor, before vanishing in the darkness. It was the Captain’s first reflex to chase after the thing but not with Kili on the ground, his tunic torn and his body bleeding. Boromir knelt down beside him. “Aligern, we need a healer down here!” He barked, sending the dwarf off, Kili would not mind Dwalin’s presence but no one else should see him in this shape.
“Don’t…” Kili coughed, his voice hoarse. “don’t go after it… let it go. It got what it came for…”
“I’ll teach him to want anything,” Dwalin grumbled, taking off his cloak to rest Kili’s battered body on it. “we’ll catch it, lad, don’t worry.”
“No,” Kili had a hard time to force the words out. “let it go. It’s gone… I won’t let the curse hurt my people again. Durin’s Bane… it’ll not harm you again.” He passed out with that, pain and injury taking its toll.
** ** **
“I can’t believe it!” Dwalin paced back and forth in the main guard room of the palace. “Durin’s Bane has been dead for twenty years and whatever did that, it was no Balrog.”
Boromir had to agree on both points; the very nature of the injury precluded the Balrog. He had seen the beast, and was certain it was not the same thing he had shortly spotted in the crypts. “He said he’d not this curse harm his people again,” he mused. “could it be something else? Some ancient curse?”
Thoughtfully Dwalin scratched his bald head. “Maybe. Where’s Balin when you need him? He knew such things, something about Moria worried him, he was nearly glad when Kili did not come with us right away the first time. When he called for him… he said something to me about being safe.” The warmaster’s fist made a hard impact on the table.
“Is there someone else who could know more?” Boromir asked. “One of the chroniclers maybe?”
“Na, don’t bother.” Dwalin waved it off. “Durin’s House, they always had their secrets, things only they knew. Balin knew a lot, because he was in high in the trust of Thror and Thorin. I had thought the old knowledge lost when Thorin died, but when Kili knew Moria like he did I knew it had been passed on after all. But what other secrets may still be buried there? He won’t tell us, he went to a great length to hide it in the first place.”
“True,” Boromir leaned against the wall, closing his eyes. “the year before, he said he got injured during an Orc attack on the last day of September, and another year before he went to Mirrormere and supposedly had that run in with a mountain bear…”
“Every year?” Dwalin asked. “he has been going through this every year since we returned?” Horror was clearly written on the old warrior’s face. “Why? Why would he consign himself to such suffering?”
“To protect his people,” Boromir looked at his friend. “if I know one thing about our King it is that he will do whatever it takes to protect his people and to the Gate of Night with the scars. But without knowing more we can’t help him.”
“Aye, and no one in this city will know a lick more than us.” Dwalin grumbled, and then he stopped. “and you look like you have an idea.”
“Not much of one.” Boromir admitted. “I’d simply do what I always do when I can’t make head and tails of some ancient lore. Ask the one scholar who had the free run of all the libraries of Gondor since he was a boy.”
“Your brother.” Dwalin’s eyes sparkled. “Go, Boromir.” He said. “Ride to Annúminas, I’ll stay here and protect Kili. We need answers.”