Chapter 1: Paranoia
Pairings: None (this part);[Fic Pairing]Kíli/Bilbo
Warnings: offscreen torture, angst, unreliable narrator
Word Count: 5141Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, I wouldn't have to write fanfic
Summary: Thorin believes that his nephew betrayed the company in the goblin caves and leaves him there to die; Bilbo will not stand for this.
When the Goblin King sneers down at him and greets him with his true name, Thorin Oakenshield knows that he has been betrayed.
The dwarf has known that someone was working against him ever since the beginning of his quest, suspicion sparked by the ill-luck that plagued him from the start. Why else but sabotage would so many dwarves who were pledged to aid him suddenly change their minds and give no explanation? Why else would so many of his brave warriors turn coward and refuse to heed his call?
Someone had raised doubts among his people where there had been faith before, doubts about his fitness to be their lord and king. Someone made his clan, the Sigin-tarâg, beg Thorin to stay in Ered Luin when they should have been fighting for the chance to journey at his side and reclaim Erebor. So with every shamefaced denial of aid or provisions, the dwarf lord became more certain that someone was working against him in the shadows to seed fear and uncertainty into the hearts of those he ruled.
Yet Thorin had no idea whom this enemy could be for all his usual opponents were silent and his council had unanimously supported the idea of his quest. None of the twelve who answered his summons had been warned off directly and as far as the dwarf could tell his people were happy with how he chose to rule. Or at least they had been, before this.
Even Balin, who kept his finger on the pulse of Thorin's kingdom and was usually well-informed about political intrigue, had neither name nor face to give him. All the old dwarf could say was that there were rumors circling among his people. Rumors saying that Thorin's mind had been addled by the wizard, that his journey to reclaim Erebor was a suicide mission from which none would return and that the dragon Smaug would rain a fiery death upon any who dared face him.
No one knew from whence these whispers came, only that they must have been started by someone with influence and respect. A dwarf close enough to the royal family to know that Thorin worked with Gandalf and to have heard the details of his plan.
It was ill news to hear that there was a two-faced snake among his kin and the dwarf king hated to leave this enemy free to strike his back. However, Thorin could not afford to delay his quest any longer, not when all the omens said it must be now. So he gathered what supplies he could and sent his twelve companions to meet Gandalf and their burglar in the far off land known as the Shire.
Then the dwarf left the Sigin-tarâg in his sister's capable hands and warned her to be careful as he rode to take council with his kin.
Thorin's fellow dwarf lords had agreed to meet with him and he hoped that here at last he would receive assistance in his quest. However, he could feel his invisible enemy in the shadows of the council and the whispers that followed where he walked. The dwarf saw his foe in the way that the other dwarves would not meet his eyes and in their staunch refusal to give him the aid that he was due. Even his cousin Dáin turned coward in the end and when pressed for reasons all the dwarf gave was those same rumors as excuse.
Perhaps Thorin should have taken this as a warning that his journey was doomed to failure and he should secure his own lands before seeking Erebor. Yet he could not do this, not with the call of the Lonely Mountain singing in his veins and even if that was what his enemy desired, the dwarf would undertake his quest with the few companions that he had.
There would be time enough to deal with the traitor after he took back his homeland, and if this treachery claimed his life along the way, Thorin was certain that Dís would avenge his death.
Such dark thoughts turned the dwarf's mood foul and by the time he arrived at the Green Dragon Inn, he just wanted the day to be over. Thus when Thorin received Gandalf's message asking him to meet the others for dinner at one Bilbo Baggins' house, all he could do was grind his teeth and sigh. The wizard's faulty directions did not improve his disposition, for that patch of flowers was really more blue than turquoise and no real dwarf would call that hill a mountain, and thus Thorin was frustrated indeed by the time he pounded on the hobbit's door.
While his anger may have made him overly harsh with Mr. Baggins, the halfling was clearly unsuitable for facing down a dragon and Thorin had enough working against him already without adding a millstone around his neck. The wizard's insistence that this soft creature must be his burglar actually made the dwarf wonder briefly if Gandalf could be his secret enemy, but he shook that suspicion firmly from his mind.
If the wizard had wanted Thorin's quest to fail, he need only have kept his father's key and those rumors could not have been started by a stranger to his clan. Indeed Gandalf had come up with their plan himself and so the dwarf had to trust in the wizard's motives and his judgment if he were to have any hope at all. However, he could not deny being relieved when Mr. Baggins chose to stay behind.
Although that relief had been short-lived, Thorin thought that with the start of his quest he could at least put his enemy behind him and focus on this chance to make his people's future bright.
But this was not to be and on the company's last night in the Shire, Thorin received word from Dís that would haunt his mind throughout the days to come. His sister's letter warned him that the rumors had spread despite her efforts and the dwarf would need a triumphant return to keep his people's faith and keep his crown. Ill news indeed for a fool's journey such as his own.
She had also received a message from Rivendell replying to Thorin's request for information and while the dwarf knew that he needed Lord Elrond's expertise, it had been difficult for him to overcome his mistrust long enough to ask. Yet his effort had been wasted for all the elf wrote in his letter was that Thorin's quest was ill-advised. Such a condescending statement of the obvious was salt poured in a wound and it only made the dwarf more determined to succeed without any outside help at all.
So he sent a missive to Dís that told her of the route they planned to take and promised to keep his sister informed of any changes if he could. Then the company of Thorin Oakenshield set out upon the long and dangerous journey that the dwarf hoped would bring the Sigin-tarâg their home.
However, while the rest of the company became caught up in the joys of traveling and the hopeful spirit of their quest, Thorin's worries would not leave his mind. He brooded on them as they rode and his dreams were filled with dragon fire and a malevolent shadow laughing from the dark. The thought that his quest might fail due to some traitor's machinations was unthinkable and the idea that the dwarf might succeed only to lose his people to another ate at his tattered pride.
Thus Thorin was determined to make everything go right so that he could reclaim his homeland gloriously and prove all the rumors false. His triumph must be so overwhelming that the Sigin-tarâg would follow him beyond any shred of doubt and all his enemies would rue the day they chose the other side.
This overwhelming pressure made him hard and snappish where he might have been encouraging and even the dwarf's nephews felt the sharp side of his tongue. However, despite his impatience with each of their mistakes, it did not occur to Thorin that his companions might be disloyal, at least not until the fiasco with the trolls.
Once Gandalf had rescued them and the immediate threat to their lives was over, Thorin looked back on the night and shook his head in disgust. What in Mahal's name was everyone thinking? This could hardly have gone worse if I had planned it myself.
Even as he thought these words, the dwarf realized what truth they held and the seed of doubt was planted there in fertile ground. As long as one didn't mind the danger, the easiest way to undermine a quest such as his would be from within, and no one would ever think that the sabotage was more than awful luck.
Yet Thorin had known all of his companions for years, most of them were some manner of kin, and they had been the only ones willing to answer when he called. But while the dwarf tried to put the idea from his mind, it would not die completely and his thoughts were torn in two. How could he repay such brave loyalty with this dark suspicion? But on the other hand, how could Thorin ignore the clear signs of treachery?
His doubts grew when his company suddenly found themselves hunted by an orc pack, a pack that should not have known that they were there.
“Who did you tell about your quest, beyond your kin?” Gandalf had asked furiously and Thorin did not lie when he swore there was no one. That was the problem for no one else should have known the route that they would take and only one close to the dwarf could have betrayed his plans so well. So suddenly the fact that his company was made of friends and relatives was no longer reassuring since the traitor must be someone Thorin trusted and only kin could slice so deep.
When Gandalf went against his wishes and led the company to Rivendell, the dwarf's doubts were temporarily pushed aside by anger at the wizard and his annoyance with the elves. While Thorin could not fault Elrond's hospitality and appreciated the chance to send another messenger bird to his sister, he was certain that the elves would try to stop him here and the dwarf resented the attempt.
What right did they have to treat him as a child to be coddled and removed from dangerous things? He had known the risks when he chose to take them, and no meddling elf was going to keep him from his homeland. Especially not when the doubts he saw in the elf lord's eyes reminded Thorin of his own.
It was easier to take refuge in anger at the elves and at his enemy than to face that kernel of despair. It was easier to assume that his quest was being sabotaged by one within his company than to acknowledge that his luck had turned so foul.
Thus as the dwarves and hobbit climbed high into the Misty Mountains, Thorin found himself searching his companions' faces for any hint that they were not what they seemed. He found himself second-guessing every action and looking for falsehood in even Balin's eyes, while his uncertainty fed on nightmares in the dark.
However, the only sabotage that the dwarf discovered was the hobbit's complete incompetence and even he was not so suspicious as to think that Bilbo was some kind of evil mastermind. Useless, yes, but to doubt their burglar was to doubt the wizard and Thorin could not do that without despair.
Given this complete lack of evidence, the dwarf tried to shove the paranoia from his mind and reminded himself fiercely that the traitor was probably back in Ered Luin, hiding in the shadows for fear of his sister's retribution. This attempt was largely successful so after several days of mostly normal behavior, Balin stopped sending Thorin worried sidelong glances and his nephews could sit beside him again without triggering his sudden wrath.
While Kíli still frowned at his uncle in disapproval when Thorin used Bilbo as a convenient target for his remaining frustrations, the dwarf started to think that maybe he could put his doubts behind him and trust in the loyalty of his friends once more.
Yet even as he thought this, the stone disappeared beneath their feet and the fourteen companions tumbled into the clutches of a goblin horde.
Beaten, disarmed and dragged in front of the creature's leader, the dwarf does not look like any king and so when the Great Goblin says that he has been expecting him, Thorin knows that all his fears were correct. There is no way that this Goblin King should have known that they would be traveling this way, not unless one of his companions has betrayed him.
No one but the fifteen of them knew which route the company was taking and Thorin had chosen the less common paths to throw off their pursuit. No one else but Dís and the dwarf trusts his sister more than anyone, including even himself. He tries desperately to think of an explanation other than treachery, but there is none and as his anger gradually overrides the sting of betrayal, the dwarf burns with the need to take his vengeance.
The traitor must be one of the twelve dwarves that he brought with him, one with something to gain from Thorin's failure or his death. Someone trusted by everyone and evil or foolish enough to side with goblins and orcs to see his purpose through.
As he and his companions are stripped of their weapons, the dwarf's mind races, trying to figure out which of them has double-crossed him. There are only five dwarves who have the power and the real motive to be the one whom Thorin seeks and the thought that any of them could have done such a thing threatens the foundations of his world. Yet the dwarf knows that they have and so he hardens his heart against this weakness for his only goal now is to make them pay for what they've done.
However, he is not sure how he can determine which of them is the traitor while stuck in this captivity, and Thorin tunes out the Goblin King's rambling speech as he tries to come up with a plan. If he is smart, my betrayer will not draw attention to himself so that he can continue his sabotage if we escape but he also would not wish to risk his life. So how? How do I flush him out? And how do I get us free?
Thorin's attention is recaptured when the grotesque goblin reaches out and hits him across the cheek, obviously annoyed by his disregard.
“I see you do not take me seriously, little dwarf. Well if you will not talk, I'll make you squawk instead. I shall torture each member of your company one by one until you change your mind and tell me the answers that I seek.”
As if you do not already know. As if my betrayer has not already told you. Why would you bother with this charade except, but oh...of course.
Now that Thorin recognizes the answer it seems obvious and he does not understand how he could have missed it before. What better way than this to separate the traitor from my company without arousing our suspicion? The Goblin King will try and use this false threat to break our spirits while my betrayer moves on with the next stage of his plan. I wonder if he truly means to kill me, to kill us all, or if there is some deeper scheme at work?
The Great Goblin snarls, “Start with the youngest,” and when the creatures grab Kíli instead of the younger looking Ori, Thorin does not fight them. He is frozen with horror at the knowledge that his nephew has betrayed him, for the dwarf did not actually believe that the traitor be either of his sister-sons. Yet all the evidence fits and his shock is consumed in an icy rage at the truth before his eyes.
So Thorin watches implacably as the goblins start to drag the dwarf away, ignoring the twinge within his heart at the terror on Kíli's face. The traitor is a talented actor to have hidden his malevolence for so long beneath a mask of eager foolishness and his skills don't fail him now when he fakes a desperate struggle against their captors.
Although it is a terrible thing, Thorin is actually pleased to see the fear and worry on Fíli's face as he fights to reach his brother, for it shows that his nephew knew nothing of this treason and Erebor will still need its heir when the day is done.
After Kíli has disappeared into the tunnels, struggling all the while, the Goblin King sneers down at his prisoners once again. “I would love to let you watch his torment but I am afraid that I just can't risk you interfering with my work. So you will have to accept my hospitality instead and I am sure that the screams of your friend will be more than enough for you to see the folly of your silence.”
These words remove the last trace of doubt from Thorin's mind since the goblin would surely want the dwarves to watch if he was truly going to torture Kíli? So the dwarf disowns the traitor from his thoughts as their captors haul the rest of the company away and before long he finds himself in a small, dank cell carved into the rock. The goblins have separated Thorin from the others, the only connection between the prisoners a single flimsy bridge that is guarded fiercely and he does not know how they will manage to escape.
When the bars of their cells have been set firmly in place, the Great Goblin appears again to gloat over his victory.
“You are more ruthless than I thought, dwarf, to give one of your own into my hands without a fight, but I promise you that he will squeal before too long. However, if you tell me what I wish to know about your quest, I will grant both of you the mercy of a quick death before Azog comes to take you all. The Defiler will not be so kind, I swear to that.”
Though the thought of his old enemy gives the dwarf pause, Thorin looks up at the goblin with disdain and shakes his head.
“How stupid do you think I am? There is no need to continue this charade now that we are captured and you have already been told everything you need to know. I will take my chances with the pale orc, should he actually still live, and we shall see who begs for mercy in the end. Torture my companion if you must, but I will not bend to your demands.”
“You are a strange one, Thorin Oakenshield, and I would question your sources since Azog is both very much alive and not one to share his information. However, if you wish to give me your comrade then I accept with pleasure and perhaps the sound of his suffering will soon change your mind.”
With these words the creature leaves the dwarf to his dark and brooding thoughts and the screams begin soon after.
As the first shriek of agony echoes through the caverns, Thorin jerks upright and something in him still wishes to rush to the traitor's aid. Though he tries to remember that Kíli has proved himself disloyal, the dwarf has been conditioned to relieve his nephew's pain and he has to clench his fists to keep from banging on the walls.
It is not an easy thing to listen to, even knowing that it is probably an act and if not, then the traitor deserves his fate for consorting with such evil. But the Goblin King is a master of his craft and he lets each scream linger and makes every silence a nerve-wracking anticipation of the next agonized cry.
Even Thorin's enemies deserve a quicker death than this and so the dwarf is relieved when the monster pauses in his work to come taunt his prisoners again. In the sudden quiet, he can hear the others yelling and the knowledge that they still live gives Thorin the strength to resist the goblin's mocking even while he worries about Fíli's mental state.
When the Great Goblin still receives no answers to his questions the monster returns to his torture, and the dwarf loses track of how many hours have passed as he listens to the traitor scream. The sound cannot be blocked out no matter how he tries and Thorin wonders idly if it will eventually drive him mad, though he refuses to beg for it to cease. However, the next time that their captor returns, the creature has realized that Thorin truly will not surrender to change his nephew's fate and so the goblin turns to other threats.
“I am afraid I just don't know how much longer this one will last me; he is really such a fragile thing compared to the other dwarves I've taken. So which of your company should I torture next to ease my disappointment? The blonde perhaps, he is your heir is he not, and I am sure he would scream beautifully beneath my blades.”
Thorin cannot keep from snarling at these words, even as his thoughts are filled with complete repulsion. Your brother Kíli, how could you give him that? Unless that is the plan? Let this creature kill me and Fíli and then stage a daring rescue so that you can claim the throne for yourself. Claim Erebor in our memory and none would realize what you'd done.
The Goblin King laughs heartily to have finally gotten under his captive's skin, but before he can make good on his threat there is a crack like thunder and a wave of force slams through the cavern. It blows the bars off of Thorin's cell and knocks the Great Goblin from his perch into the dark below.
When the dwarf regains his senses, Gandalf is standing over him with Orcrist in his hands and Thorin takes his blade from the wizard with a feral grin. He races across the bridge to rejoin the rest of his company, cutting down those few goblins that dare to remain standing in his way. Gandalf helps the dwarf smash open the other cell and release his fellows and he is glad to see them all safe and sound.
Physically safe at least, for Fíli is not the only one who looks haunted by Kíli's anguished cries. The young dwarf tries to catch his uncle's eye, but Thorin knows that he will ask about his brother so he just nods reassuringly and lets his nephew draw the wrong conclusions. After they are free of these fell mountains and out of Kíli's reach, then he will tell his heir the truth.
Once they have rearmed themselves, the dwarves begin their charge to freedom, Gandalf running in the lead through the maze of paths and platforms. Thorin loses himself in the crunch of bone and steel, his sword slicing down his enemies in a glorious dance of carnage. However, for all their skill, his company is sorely outnumbered and eventually they find themselves surrounded on all sides by enemies as the Goblin King rises up to block their way.
Yet before Thorin can charge forward to meet the creature, Gandalf strikes a killing blow and they are falling, sliding quickly into the abyss. No one has time to scream before they land heavily, battered and bruised but somehow still alive. Thorin drags himself upright and pales when he sees the swarm of goblins racing down the rocks toward where they stand.
“Run!” He yells, pulling Fíli from the wreckage and shoving him in the direction of the closest tunnel. They cannot hope to fight such numbers and so they flee, running for their lives and daylight, which is the only thing that can save them now. Thorin hates to turn tail even though he knows they must and in his heart his wishes that he could fight the monsters that slaver on their heels. If he must die then he wants to die with honor instead of cowardice.
But just as the dwarf is thinking that it may come to that, he spies light up ahead and the company spills out upon the mountainside. Only once they have put a safe distance between themselves and the mouth of the tunnel does Thorin stop, the others gathering around him as they catch their breaths.
However, the respite is short-lived for as soon as the wizard has a chance to look around and count their numbers, Gandalf cries out, “Where are Bilbo and Kíli? Where are our hobbit and our friend?”
Thorin winces when everyone turns to him and he can see the trust within his nephew's eyes. He knows that Fíli expects Kíli to be waiting for them somewhere, perhaps injured but still part of their company and still one of their kin.
The dwarf knows what they all expect and although he will not shy from telling them the truth, Thorin almost wishes that he could delay the pain that his news will cause. His companions will not have seen the same signs of his nephew's treachery and so the dwarf doubts that they will understand. Nonetheless the others must be told and Fíli will learn to forget his brother in time for a traitor's name cannot be spoken in Khuzdul.
“I do not know what has become of the burglar,” Thorin says grimly though at the moment he also does not care. “He was not with us in our captivity and if he fell within the tunnels then we must assume that the hobbit is either dead or fled back to his home. For his sake I hope that it is the latter, that he saw his chance to run and he took it. Baggins has thought of nothing but his soft bed and his warm hearth since first he stepped out of his door and so he will not be much of a loss. Either way his life is no longer our concern for we will not be seeing him again.”
At this the wizard glares in disapproval, but Thorin ignores it. The dwarf told Gandalf that he would not be responsible for the halfling's fate and he has much greater losses on his mind.
“However, I do know of Kíli's fate and he too is no longer our concern. Though it pains me to say it, I left him within the mountain and I must name him a traitor to my line.” These words are met with shocked gasps from the rest of the company while Thorin silences Fíli's cry of denial with a glare.
“I know that this is a harsh surprise, but I have seen the evidence with my own eyes and it is undeniable. Kíli has been sabotaging this quest under our very noses, and our capture by the goblins is only his most recent attempt to claim my place. I swear that I do not make this accusation lightly but the Great Goblin knew information that only Kíli could have told him whether through torture or other means and so I name him traitor. I name him traitor to his oaths, I name him traitor to our kin and should we meet again, he will face my wrath. However, Erebor takes precedence over even this betrayal so we will leave him to whatever fate Mahal proscribes.”
The dwarf can see that the others are not entirely convinced but they have no grounds on which to challenge him and so even Gandalf eventually bends his head and defers to Thorin's judgment. Only Fíli stands stubbornly in his brother's defense, but his heir has no evidence except his own belief and the dwarf cannot let emotion change his course.
“Your loyalty does you credit, nephew, but you are my heir and you must learn to rule with your mind instead of your heart. The evidence against your brother is overwhelming, and even if the greater charge of treason were somehow false, he still broke his oath of silence beneath the goblins' hands. He could never live with that dishonor and a rescue attempt would do nothing but cost us all our lives. Thus you must accept that his fate is sealed and there is nothing to be done.”
“Even if I cannot save him, it is still my right to try. And my brother should be remembered for his sacrifice, not stricken from our history because of your suspicions. Kíli should be remembered,” Fíli replies fiercely, glaring up at his uncle.
Thorin's fist slams against his nephew's jaw, knocking him to the ground and the dwarf looms over his heir as he growls.
“You will not speak that traitor's name. I tried to go easy on you but the truth is that your brother wants you dead. He wants both of us dead and if not for Gandalf then he would have succeeded in his plan. You will recognize this fact and submit to my judgment or you are not worthy to be my heir. I will kill you myself before I let you challenge me.”
Against this wild fury Fíli can do nothing but submit, though something seems to break within his eyes when he nods his grudging acceptance. As soon as he does, Thorin pulls his nephew upright and starts his company moving again because they still have far too much ground to cover before the day is done.
He is pleased when his heir does not look back at the mountain and assumes that his harsh words have shown his heir the folly of his ways. Fíli will forget this pain in time and the lesson that no one can be trusted will make him a better ruler in the end.
Whatever uncertainty the other tried to raise in Thorin's mind has failed, broken against the wall of his belief. There can be no more doubt now that the dwarf has made his decree because he will not second-guess himself once the deed is done. So his voice is filled with conviction when he gives his heir one last command. “Forget about your brother. He was a dagger at our backs and the worst will be over now that he is gone.”
Chapter 2: Courage and Despair