?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

This Long and Winding Road - Chapter 7

Title: This Long and Winding Road
Chapter 7: Haded
Pairings: Mostly Platonic Kíli/Fíli, Kíli/Bilbo/Fíli, Dwalin/Ori, Dwalin/Nori, Bilbo/Thorin, minor and background pairings
Rating/Warnings: None for this part unless you count epic amounts of pining and some violence
Word Count: 4452 (38,878 so far)
Disclaimer: If I owned it, there would be more threesomes.
Summary: Fíli and Kíli have spent decades searching for the last piece of their hearts, but meeting Bilbo is just the beginning of the tale.  Because hobbits believe in love, not destiny and someone else catches their burglar's eye.

Chapter 1: Ze'                           Chapter 6: Ges
Chapter 2: Nu'
Chapter 3: Gem
Chapter 4: Ramekh
Chapter 5: Gamekh


Bilbo had slipped on his ring and followed the dwarves after they were captured, sneaking inside the elvish palace just before the doors were barred. He watched Thorin and the elf king growl insults at each other, his heart sinking as that discussion quickly went downhill. Truthfully, the hobbit thought that Thranduil made a couple valid points and it would have been easier for everyone if the dwarf lord hadn't rejected the elf king's bargain out of hand.

However, Thorin couldn't trust Thranduil's word, not after the elf king's treatment of his people. Indeed, he made sure that Thranduil knew exactly what the dwarf lord thought of him and in so doing, bought his company a hundred years' imprisonment. Which meant that it was up to Bilbo to save the day again.

So the burglar followed Thorin and his guards back into the dungeons, staying hidden as the dwarf lord was locked away with all his kin. There seemed to be one ring of keys for the entire prison and when Thranduil's jailer took it down into the cellar, Bilbo followed carefully. The hobbit didn't actually have a plan beyond stealing the keys and releasing his friends, but apparently Yavanna had a soft spot for halfling burglars. Because the elf king's cellars opened onto a river that flowed through Mirkwood to the Long Lake and a score of empty wine barrels would carry the dwarves straight to their goal.

Assuming, of course, that Bilbo could sneak Thorin's company past the cellar guards somehow. But the Valar really were looking out for Durin's Folk tonight; the wood elves were having some sort of celebration and while the keeper of the keys was clearly reluctant, the other elves convinced him to join their drinking soon enough.

Bilbo waited in the shadows while the guards tossed back cup after cup of wine and as soon as they passed out, he grabbed the keys and ran. The hobbit returned to his companions quickly, but when he reached the dungeons, he discovered Kíli flirting with an elf-maid and his urgency was replaced by indignation almost instantly.

Ten minutes the burglar has been stuck here, listening to the two of them blather on and on. While Bilbo was running around Thranduil's palace, risking his life to help his friends escape, Kíli has just been chatting with his captors as though he has no cares at all. The prince appears to have forgotten that time is of the essence; he's too busy talking about Fire Moons and smiling at this Tauriel like she's the best thing he's ever seen.

Honestly, this is ridiculous. How can Kíli flirt with an elf in front of Fíli? It's not like that relationship could happen, not when infidelity of any kind is supposed to be a death sentence. Thorin had been very, very specific on that point in their discussion earlier.

Of course, Kíli being Kíli, he probably just thought that Tauriel was pretty and didn't bother to consider the consequences of what he's doing now. But his brother should have stopped him, shouldn't he?

Unless Fíli doesn't mind, a traitorous voice whispers softly inside the hobbit's mind. Maybe the princes like to share.

Bilbo shakes off that thought immediately. Although trios aren't completely unheard-of in the Shire, such relationships are rare and that's hardly the sort of thing that one assumes in proper company. So even if dwarvish law allowed it – and that seems unlikely – the hobbit could drive himself crazy pining for the princes when they haven't shown any signs of being interested. That way lies madness and Bilbo has a perfectly acceptable suitor in Thorin, one who finally seems to return his feelings after weeks of offhand slights; the burglar doesn’t need to be thinking about Fíli and Kíli now.

Thorin cares about him; that much is obvious even if the dwarf lord hasn't managed to speak the words aloud. Bilbo can wait. He's waited this long, hasn't he?

And while the thought of actually having Thorin is a little daunting, the hobbit will get used to the idea. He'll get over his nervousness just as he's getting over the twinge in his heart when Fíli and Kíli turn those brilliant grins his way. Because Bilbo isn't jealous, the very thought is ludicrous; it's simply the family resemblance twisting him around.

When Kíli and Tauriel finally finish their conversation and the elf-maid leaves the dungeon, the hobbit goes straight to Thorin's cell. He removes his ring and the world snaps into focus, a surge of relief running through him as that strange grey limbo disappears.

“Bilbo! You're all right!” the dwarf exclaims as he reaches through the bars. He clasps Bilbo's hands and the delight on his face chases the burglar's last few doubts away.

“I'm going to get you out of here,” Bilbo promises as he holds up his stolen keys. The hobbit unlocks the door to Thorin's cell and pulls it open before leaning in and kissing the dwarf lord on the cheek. Although neither of them has spoken any formal words of courtship, Bilbo knows where he stands and he wants Thorin to know his heart as well.

But when the burglar pulls back, the dwarf lord is staring at him blankly and his courage falters. Maybe Thorin didn't mean it; maybe Bilbo misread the signs somehow.

“Come on then,” he mutters, turning away to hide his burning face. “We don't have much time.”

However, the hobbit has barely taken a step before the dwarf lord grabs his arm. Thorin spins Bilbo around and leans in to kiss him properly. The dwarf's lips are warm against his, hungry and yet softer than the burglar expected, and his chest is wonderfully firm beneath the hobbit's hands. He holds Bilbo closes and kisses him until his head is spinning pleasantly and he really doesn't want to separate. But the hobbit has to breathe eventually, his cheeks flushing when the dwarf lord smiles down at him.

“I do hope you'll let me court you,” Thorin murmurs and Bilbo can only nod.

“That... that would be lovely,” the burglar stammers before a subtle cough from the next cell over reminds him where he is. “But, um, we really should be going. The elves will notice their missing keys eventually.”

Thorin steals one more kiss from the hobbit before releasing him. Bilbo quickly unlocks the other cells and then leads his companions down into the cellar. The burglar explains his plan for them all to float to Laketown but instead of being thankful, the dwarves start arguing. Indeed, Bilbo can't help feeling a little miffed by the lack of trust they show; empty wine barrels may not be the most comfortable way to travel but at least Thorin's company is getting out of here.

Fíli and Kíli in particular could have looked more pleased. It's not like the princes had been doing anything productive before Bilbo won their freedom. But the pair doesn't even bother to argue with the others; they just huddle together and stare at the hobbit miserably.

Bilbo doesn't know that he's the reason for their sorrow. How can the dwarves be happy when they saw their uncle kissing their amrâbulnas and they know a formal courtship can't be far behind? Thorin kissed Bilbo and his sister-sons felt it, the flashes of pleasure that slipped through the hobbit's barriers pouring salt across the wound.

Fíli and Kíli are losing to their uncle in a battle that he doesn't even know he's fighting and the princes don't know how much more their hearts can take.

Every member of the Sigin-tarâg knows that their world isn't built on fairness and no khazâd expects the Valar to offer charity. But Kíli never imagined that Mahal could be so pitiless. Kíli never wondered if the Valar were enjoying his misfortune before this journey started and yet the archer is seriously starting to suspect that this might be the case now.

The idea gnaws at Kíli even as Thorin ends the argument, ordering his companions inside the empty barrels with a glare. The thought burns even brighter when an alarm starts to sound through Thranduil's palace and the company's path to Esgaroth is blocked. Because of course there's a bridge of stone built across the river, the sluice gate at its base slamming shut just before the dwarves arrive. Thorin curses as his barrel runs into the metal and Kíli wants to join him; their grand escape is over before it even started and the elves who guard the gate will never let the prince's kin pass willingly.

Thorin's company is trapped like weasels in a hole, trapped and waiting to be dragged back to Thranduil's cells again. Indeed, Legolas is already leading a score of warriors down the riverbank to grab them when, as though to prove that the day could actually get worse, a horde of orcs suddenly pours out of the trees.

At their head stands Bolg, the eldest spawn of Azog, and he grins ferally at the sight of his prey. The orc barks a command and his pack surges forward without mercy, cutting down the elven guards in seconds before focusing its gaze on Thorin’s company. Those eyes are filled with hate enough to drown in and Kíli knows that this is it. Without weapons, armor, or solid ground beneath their feet, the dwarves can't even flee. Slaughter is the only option but something inside the prince’s mind shouts, Nê! Not while I still breathe!

If the archer dies here... if Fíli and Kíli die before their mission is completed then nothing will ever change. The khazâd will go on pining for loves that cannot be and without Bilbo, without the princes' amrâbulnas, even eternity in Mahal's hall would be naught but misery.

So Kíli leaps to the bank of the river with a strident battle cry. If the company's only chance is to run, then he will make that happen. He will open the sluice gate or fall in the attempt.

The first orc charges toward him and the prince ducks as a spiked mace whistles above his head. Kíli kicks his foe into the river before leaping back when another orc tries to gut him with a spear. He dodges several blows, one after another, while waiting for an opening.

However, the prince's companions have not been sitting idle and moments later, an orcish weapon flies past Kíli's head. The sword buries itself in his enemy’s chest and the orc's expression is almost comical as it collapses to the ground. Kíli flashes a quick smile to his brother – who else could that have been? – and Fíli snaps back a short salute before taking out his last dagger and slicing another orc from ear to ear.

By now the elves have joined the battle but Bolg is keeping Mirkwood's guards well-occupied and another wave of orcs rushes at Thorin's company. The dwarves struggle to fight them off while Kíli grabs the sword his brother threw. He yanks the weapon free and then decapitates the next orc with one clean swing. The prince races to the top of the stairs, carving a bloody swathe through his enemies. The orcs try to stop Kíli but he's almost to his goal now; soon the sluice gate will be open and Thorin's company can flee. However, when the archer reaches out to grab the gate lever, his world suddenly dissolves in agony.

Kíli screams then and the noise slices through his amrâbulnâs like they've been shot as well.

Bilbo doesn't know why that cry cuts him so deeply. The hobbit only knows that he is terrified when he looks up and sees Kíli lying on the stone above him with an arrow in his thigh. The younger prince is barely moving and Bilbo's panic is mirrored in Fíli's eyes.

However, before either of them can run to the archer's rescue, Kíli drags himself back to his feet. The dwarf uses the last of his strength to pull the lever, opening the sluice gate and then jumping toward the river down below. It's more of a fall than a leap, but the archer lands in the barrel that Fíli is holding for him. Kíli has to bite back another scream as the arrow snaps in half, the point digging deeper in his thigh.

Only his brother's solid strength keeps the archer conscious and even then he can't concentrate on anything but his injury. A battle rages down the river without Kíli's participation, orcs and elves attacking everyone in sight as the younger prince holds onto his barrel and does his best not to puke.

Fíli is forced to push his brother out of danger more than once; elvish arrows and orcish daggers coming much too close for comfort. The older prince guards Kíli fiercely while keeping one watchful eye on Bilbo to ensure that their burglar doesn't fall behind. The hobbit is the only member of their company who isn’t riding in a barrel and Fíli can't help thinking that his amrâbulnas will slip beneath the water's surface if he looks away too long.

So the older prince is feeling rather frayed by the time Thorin’s company finally manages to outpace its pursuers, both orcs and elves alike. The respite is welcome and the dwarves breathe a collective sigh of relief as they paddle toward the shore, although Fíli doubts this peace will last. If the orcs have already chased his uncle this far, they’re unlikely to give up.

However, the orcs will soon be the least of Fíli's worries if he doesn't treat his brother's injury. The shared strength of amrâbulnâs is also their shared weakness and Kíli is fading fast. The older dwarf can feel the strain through their bond already, a burning ache in his own leg where his amrâbulnas was shot. The pain fluctuates as Kíli struggles to block out their connection, the archer trying to protect his brother even now. But the princes have never hid their emotions from each other and Kíli is only partially successful at dampening his agony.

Even then, the hurt is strong enough to make Fíli lightheaded and for once he's actually grateful that Bilbo cannot feel the ashânumahâl as the princes do. At least the hobbit won't have to share their suffering.

Indeed, Kíli's energy is fading much faster than it should and he is barely conscious when the dwarves get to the riverbank. He stumbles and almost falls on his way up the shore, groaning weakly as the older prince helps him sit down on a rock. Both brothers grit their teeth when Fíli pulls out the arrow, wicked barbs leaving fresh gouges in the archer's thigh. Blood flows down Kíli's leg, dark with black flecks that disappear upon a second look.

Even so the wound is ugly and Fíli quickly slices a few strips off his tunic with which to stop the bleeding. He presses his hands against the wound, murmuring reassurances when his amrâbulnas flinches at the pain.

“It's all right. You're all right,” Fíli whispers, bolstering his brother's strength as best he can. He forces himself to believe the words so that Kíli will not doubt them and the relief on the archer’s face is worth the hint of lie. Fíli isn't lying if he makes his promise true.

Once the bleeding finally slows, the prince cuts off another piece of cloth and starts to tie a proper bandage. He focuses on Kíli, doing his best to ignore Thorin as he paces back and forth. Their uncle is doing nothing to hide his impatience and his foul mood is wearing on Fíli’s nerves. The dwarf lord should be worried about his younger sister-son, not angry about the delay that his injury is causing – they wouldn’t have made it this far if not for the archer’s bravery. In truth, Thorin is more of a father to Kíli than Hothor ever had the chance to be and while their uncle has always been stern, he's never seemed uncaring until now.

But the dwarf lord barely gives Fíli time to secure his brother's bandage before he chivies his companions to their feet, the dwarf lord driven by an urgency that he can't quite explain.

Although Durin's Day is quickly drawing nearer, missing that moment would not be the end of everything. Thorin's company could spend a year in the Iron Hills if need be and their burglar could certainly be convinced to stick around.

My burglar, the dwarf lord thinks a little smugly, remembering the way that Bilbo had melted in his arms. Thorin intends to court the hobbit as soon as possible, to shower his beloved with jewels and gifts and gold. He will give Bilbo everything that the hobbit might desire once his kingdom is returned. Perhaps that is why the dwarf lord feels such urgency. He knows that he will need to send his hobbit into danger and he doesn't know if he'll have the heart much longer. Thorin doesn't think he could send his betrothed to face a dragon on his own.

Yet Azsâlul'abad is calling him. The Arkenstone is calling and while Thorin truly means to court Bilbo, he cannot begin as he desires until the gem in his hands. He cannot come to Bilbo as a beggar; his pride will not allow it when the hobbit's bravery has earned him so much more than that. The dwarf lord must have the Arkenstone before his dreams come true.

So Thorin shoves the sweetness of Bilbo's lips from his mind and hardens his heart against the pain on Kíli's face. His younger sister-son cannot be allowed to slow them down, not this close to the mountain; Thorin will make up for his harshness once their family has reclaimed its rightful place again.

Perhaps with a wedding gift since he couldn't give Fíli and Kíli one when they were married, a treasure to match the shining marks upon their wrists. Once he is crowned King Under the Mountain, Thorin will be able to give his sister-sons any boon their hearts desire and he will be as generous as his grandfather's throne allows.

Indeed, when a Lakeman stumbles upon the dwarf lord's company a few minutes later, Thorin sees their meeting as a sign of Mahal's favor. Sure the man seems more inclined to shoot the dwarves than offer them a ride upon his barge, but the dwarf lord doesn't care.

Here is a way to sneak inside of Laketown without being challenged by the city's master, one that will allow Kíli to rest his injured leg. Thorin has heard stories of the Master from his cousin Dáin and while he should be able to barter with such greed if necessary, he thinks it would be best to avoid the man instead. Even if the price of secret passage is every coin that his companions carry in their pockets, this silver will be repaid ten thousand times once Azsâlul'abad is won.

Thus, Thorin tells Balin to give the man whatever he requires. He does not have time for bargaining and a few extra silver coins in exchange for speed is a fair trade in his mind when every step brings him closer to his homeland and the gem that should be his.

The Arkenstone’s light shimmers brightly in the dwarf lord's memories. Thorin used to stare at that gemstone when he was a dwarrowling, his eyes drawn to the shining star embedded in his grandfather's throne. The King's Jewel is unmatched in all the world and this treasure occupies his thoughts as the bargeman's boat moves slowly toward the heart of Esgaroth.

None of Thorin's companions are willing to interrupt his brooding, not even Bilbo, although the hobbit glances at the dwarf lord more than once. He's feeling insecure again – despite Thorin's words of future courtship and that one lovely kiss, the burglar isn't quite sure where they stand now and he doesn't want to force his presence on the dwarf lord when he's preoccupied. Instead, Bilbo settles down next to Fíli and Kíli in the middle of the barge.

He feels better when he's near the princes, somehow more secure together than apart. The hobbit can't explain the sense of comfort since the archer's obvious agony also leaves him sick at heart. Kíli is barely even responding to his brother's worried fussing and Bilbo actually misses the archer's boundless vigor. That had been overwhelming but this is so much worse.

The prince's energy and optimism are part of what makes Kíli Kíli and the lack of those bright smiles leaves the burglar adrift. He feels as though he took a step forward and his foot found air instead of earth.

Every time Kíli winces with the movement of the water, Bilbo ends up rubbing his own leg in sympathy. The hobbit is hardly conscious of the action. He's too worried about the archer to realize what he's feeling and Fíli is too preoccupied with Kíli to notice that Bilbo's walls are slipping down.

Although the younger prince grumbles at his brother, he's only getting worse and when Bard orders their company to hide inside the barrels, the archer can barely stand. He huddles in his barrel and struggles to stay conscious, his gorge rising when Bard covers the dwarves with fish and smuggles them into town.

All this blood and death can't be helping Kíli's injury and the prince does his best to keep his bandage clean. But there's nothing for it when Bard sneaks Thorin's company into his house via the privy, filthy water soaking into the archer's clothes. Now Kíli is dirty, wet, and wounded, the cold water soothing against his fevered skin. The dwarf has never felt like this, like he's burning from the inside out, and it's a relief to sit again.

Kíli huddles against the window as Bard and his three children start handing out dry clothes. The prince should probably stand up and get his own set of clothing but he simply doesn't have the energy to move.

“Are you all right?”

When the archer raises his head, he sees Bard's eldest daughter staring down at him. Sigrid, her father called her, and her expression is sincere. She seems so honestly worried that Kíli finds himself touched by her concern and he tries to smile reassuringly.

“I'll be fine,” Kíli tells her. “I'm simply tired. My kin and I have traveled a long way from our home.”

“Are you sure?” the girl replies. “That bandage on your leg looks like it covers a nasty injury and I'd like to help you if I can.”

“Thank you, but that will not be necessary,” Fíli says as he walks up beside Sigrid. The prince knows that she doesn't truly mean his brother harm but he doesn't want a stranger anywhere near Kíli while his amrâbulnas is injured. So the dwarf places himself in between Sigrid and the archer, edging her out of the way as politely as he can.

“You should help your siblings. I will see to my brother,” Fíli tells the girl and with an understanding smile, she leaves the pair alone.

The older prince doesn't relax until Sigrid is out of earshot and then he leans forward to murmur quietly, “Seriously, Kíli. Are you all right?”

“Don't worry, Fí. It hurts but I'll survive,” the archer reassures him. Kíli honestly isn't sure about the latter statement but his brother is worried enough already; he doesn't need the added stress right now. So Kíli holds back his pain as best he can and tries not to wince as his brother helps him change into dry clothing, cloaks and tunics carefully positioned to cover his nakedness.

By the time the princes finish, the rest of their companions have gathered around Bard's table. Sigrid and the younger girl are handing out bowls of soup while the bargeman goes downstairs.

Thorin's company had paid for blades as well as passage, but when Bard lays a bundle on the table there is no steel inside. The weapons that the bargeman offers to Thorin and his companions are either mockeries or insults; even true dwarven merchants would have spit upon these tools.

“What is this?” Thorin asks scornfully. “We paid for proper steel, not fishing hooks and hammers.”

“Give my silver back,” Glóin demands, beating his fist against the table. Dwalin and Nori look ready to riot and if this turns violent, Bard's family will suffer for his generosity. Of course, Thorin and his kin are hardly going to hurt children, but the implied threat has its uses and indeed, the bargeman holds out his hands in plea.

“I know these weapons are rough and crude,” he says, watching the dwarves warily. “But they will protect you better than your fists and you will not find any iron-forged blades outside the city armory. The Master of Laketown guards his power jealousy.”

“The armory, you say?” Thorin murmurs, an idea sparking in his mind. If all proper weapons in this city are kept under lock and key, then the dwarf lord will simply have to commit a bit of thievery. Thorin and his kin must have steel in case they are forced to fight the dragon and there is no dishonor in avoiding a one-sided bargain whenever possible. If the dwarves cannot negotiate from a position of strength, then Thorin would rather not negotiate at all.

So he cuts his companions off with one sharp gesture, their outrage reduced to minor grumbling as the dwarf lord bows. “Our apologies, Bard. We are grateful for the assistance you have offered and we will not impose upon your family any longer than we must. My companions and I will take our leave as soon as our gear is dry.”

“Although I appreciate the gesture, you will need to wait for dark,” Bard replies. “There are spies watching this house and guards on every dock.”

“Spies?”

“The Master is not fond of me.”

Bard doesn't offer a more detailed explanation and Thorin doesn't care enough to press. The division within Laketown's power structure may be useful in the future, but he's not particularly interested in the city's politics. All he cares about is reaching Azsâlul'abad and taking back his throne again.

Instead of asking questions, the dwarf lord takes the bargeman at face value. Spies or no, the cover of night can only aid his mission and so Thorin and his companions settle down to wait.


Chapter 8: Gimon