Chapter 6: Truth and Insanity
Rating/Warnings: angst, violence, death, brief allusion to past dub/non-con (in other pairing)
Word Count: 6903 (56,376 so far)
Disclaimer: 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.
Chapter 1: Paranoia
Chapter 2: Courage and Despair
Chapter 3: Healing
Chapter 4: Guilt and Dissension
Chapter 5: Intrigue - Part I
Chapter 5: Intrigue - Part II
“I am going to kill them all, every last soul who dares to stand against me. Starting with the wizard's twice-damned halfling burglar.” Thorin mutters as he stalks across the floor, restless with anger and with hate. “He is the one who turned everyone against me, he and Kíli plotting to take my crown.”
The dwarf has been in this room for days now, this tiny storage room just ten paces on each side. Thorin has been here when he should have been basking in the glory of his triumph over Smaug and he will never forgive those who stole his rightful treasure from his hands. His rightful treasure and his rightful place and the thought of Fíli on his throne burns like fire in his veins.
I should have left the ungrateful bastard with his brother in the mountains, bled him with a thousand cuts and thrown him from a cliff to die, the dwarf lord thinks, baring his teeth in a snarl. At least then he could not have betrayed me. He could not have repaid all my years of kindness with a dagger in my back. His thoughts are a gold-tinged fury, the yearning for his treasure warring with the knowledge of the fate which surely awaits him if he tries to leave this room. Because there is a guard outside his door at every moment; Thorin can hear them breathing even in his dreams.
It is a cadence of betrayal that will not let him rest and in frustration the dwarf slams his fist into the wall. His skin splits against the stone and the pain is a sharp accent to the chaos in his mind, the siren's voice that sings of what belongs to him.
Because everything belongs to him, even the lives of those he rules. “And they should have been honored to die for my cause,” he whispers and the song agrees with him, just as it always does. Thorin has never wondered where it came from; how can he when the music fills every corner of his heart and mind? It pulls him back to older, better days, when he was young and the glory of his family was known far and wide. Those days when wealth and pride were all he ever knew and the song soothes the scars that the dwarf's long years of struggle have left upon his soul.
I would have had those days again if not for the halfling and the treason in my nephews' blood. No, I will have those days again and you will shine over my kingdom as the symbol of my might. “Won't you my darling?” Thorin croons softly to the Arkenstone and he would almost swear that it sparkles in answer to his words.
This jewel is as much his heart as it is the mountain's, the gem's glow pulsing with the beating in his chest, and it has not left Thorin's hands since he reclaimed it from the hobbit's filthy grasp. “He tainted you, didn't he? He sullied you with his common touch, but soon we will reclaim our place above them all and no other hands will ever defile you again.”
The dwarf lord laughs then, a rough and desperate cackle, losing himself to the fantasy of what must be soon to come. His burglar broken and bloody, his nephew kneeling in contrition at his feet and his kingdom bowing to their one and only lord. Perhaps Thorin will let Fíli live and save himself the trouble of breeding a successor, but the hobbit will be flayed and hung upon the walls. His corpse will serve as a warning against any who think to challenge his kingdom's power, and a greeting to his sister's younger child should he still live and breathe.
While Thorin does not wish to believe that his nephew could have survived the mountains, a small whisper in his heart cannot deny the truth of Fíli's craft. This knowledge floats upon the hatred no matter how the voices try to drown it and so the dwarf must be ready to face the traitor when he comes.
But even if Kíli lives now, he will not survive long if he dares to show his face again. I will bleed him dry and then behead him upon my battlements. Whatever his heir had taken from him, the seed of Fíli's betrayal began with his brother and that is a price which must be paid. Besides, his nephew is a soft-hearted fool, otherwise he would not have begged so prettily for his uncle to surrender, and once Kíli is dead, his heir will shatter soon enough.
After all, Thorin doesn't need him whole, he only needs him breathing, and a broken shell would never try to challenge him again. Erebor cannot prosper without her true sovereign on the throne and while his sister might balk at first, once she looks upon their homeland Dís will know it's worth the cost.
“Because it's worth everything. Isn't it?” His voice wavers almost plaintively as something within the dwarf cries out in denial of all that he has wrought. However, this spark is weak and dying and that regret is little more than dust upon the wind. Thorin does not need regrets; he needs a plan with which to conquer his enemies and the answer lies waiting just beyond his grasp.
The dwarf lord begins to pace again, grabbing a piece of dried venison from the shelves and biting it violently. Why can't he see the path that leads to victory? Why has his skill with words forsaken him when he could once capture undying loyalty with nothing but the strength of conviction in his heart?
But now this strength is failing him. It has been failing him for months, eroding away like water upon stone, and Thorin cannot staunch the bleeding no matter how he tries. And he has tried; in those rare moments when the fog lifted from his mind, the dwarf had tried to find himself again. He had tried and he has failed.
So Thorin could do no more than snarl in the face of Thranduil's scorn and he barely resisted the urge to lunge for the Master's throat. The dwarf lord has watched himself come slowly unraveled and he knows exactly whom to blame. It is the fault of his traitorous nephews for turning the Sigin-tarâg against him and conspiring together to steal his power and his Arkenstone.
And I will have my treasures back, no matter what it takes. If only I could think!
If only he had a moment's peace with which to plan, but the voices will not be silent; instead they are a cacophony of violence and revenge. Yes, their silver tongues tell Thorin to draw his sword and charge forth to kill those who are standing in his way. The dwarf could take them; he could take all of his former companions, beginning with the guard who keeps him trapped here like a rat in a cage. The thought is so tempting, to cut down his betrayers in blood and agony until he stands dripping upon his throne.
Those fools who call themselves his allies would see his true face then and they would have to bow before the red tide of his blade. Even his ungrateful relatives would know his might, they who dared to deny him aid but are sure to swarm his kingdom with greed burning in their eyes.
The dwarf lord wants to kill them all and yet Thorin knows that this is one compulsion that he must fight. He must not shed dwarven blood with his own hands, those traitors have no claim, and he holds to this truth even as the knowledge of his reasons disappears. But the dwarf knew once and that is enough to make him grit his teeth and roar.
“Silence!” He shouts and for one blessed moment there is nothing to be heard but the sound of his own breathing. One perfect second before everything comes rushing back: the voices, the song, stirring up his hatred and it is a wonder that he hears his guard at all.
“Thorin? My lord are you all right?” Someone asks and the dwarf focuses on these words to pull himself back from the brink. It sounds like Balin, one of the few who seemed to regret his nephew's actions, and perhaps his old friend will give him the advantage that he needs. Perhaps speaking with someone living will help to silence the ghosts within his head.
“Balin, is that you? Have you any news?” Thorin asks, pressing closer to the door so that he does not have to shout.
“Yes, it is I. But there are no tidings which you would wish to hear,” is the reply and a sudden frisson of panic shoots through the dwarf lord's chest. Fíli has not managed to ruin us already? I must get out of here.
“Tell me!” He demands, for a moment sounding like a king again. “I still have that right.”
There is a sigh on the other side of the door and Thorin knows that Balin must be thinking his words over, that annoyingly wise expression on his face. But then his friend continues and the dwarf lord is ready to forgive everything for the glimpse of the outside world he brings.
“I suppose you are correct and perhaps you will be able to aid us with the trial soon to come.” The other dwarf says quietly. “Things have actually been going rather well in these last days; Fíli has allied with Thranduil and Bard of Laketown for assistance with the rebuilding, in exchange for... unimportant things. The Master of Laketown was dealt with rather handily by... one of our companions and he will trouble Erebor no more.”
Thorin forces himself to stay silent during this recitation, knowing that speaking his true thoughts could chase his friend away. But even though the idea of his nephew ruling still makes the blood boil beneath his skin and the dwarf wonders about the odd pauses in Balin's speech, it is good to hear news of his kingdom once again.
However, whatever happiness this knowledge brings him is soon destroyed by the words that follow, for it is indeed information which Thorin does not wish to hear.
“Beorn and... Beorn arrived with a warning yesterday that the pale orc is leading an army against us, an unimaginable horde whose only goals are violence and destruction. Azog means to fulfill his promise and I do not know if we have the strength to turn him back.” The old dwarf tells him, voice heavy with despair.
“What of our allies? Dáin and the others of my kin?” Thorin asks, remembering the moment when he looked up at his enemy and realized that he would not win this fight. He cannot do that again, once had nearly broken him for the defeat of Azog was one of the few honors to his name. It cannot be a lie.
“Dáin is coming, he will arrive tonight. But our cousin did not know there was a war on the horizon when he first set out. So even with the elves and humans fighting at our side, we will be severely outnumbered.”
These are dire tidings and some part of the dwarf lord is worried for the fate of his kingdom, even if he cares little for the blood that will be spilled. However, what truly ensnares his mind is the thought that someone else could kill Azog while he was trapped in here. Someone might steal his claim to glory and if it is his cousin or his nephew, Thorin would never see his throne again.
That idea is completely unacceptable and the dwarf tries to make his voice conciliatory as he pleads with Balin to help him join the fight. “The pale orc is mine, let me be the one to strike him down.”
At first the older dwarf is unsure, torn between his loyalties to Thorin and to Fíli, but eventually the dwarf lord begins to wear him down. After all they have known each other for centuries and that bond runs deeper than any upstart youngling could hope to understand. So finally Balin agrees and the two of them work out a plan.
“I will volunteer to guard you on the morning of the battle and once everyone else has left, we will outfit you with armor fitting for a king. The two of us together may be able to carve a path to Azog, and it is my hope that defeating him will turn the tide; without a strong and vicious leader to keep his grunts in line, this army should tear itself apart.” The old dwarf says, before adding softly: “And should we fail, at least our names will be remembered with honor instead of infamy.”
My name, Balin, this is the one which matters. I have no intention of letting another cousin try to take the kill that should be mine. But if your life buys my way, then I swear that I will mourn you as such sacrifice deserves. Thorin thinks darkly as he mutters his agreement to the other's scheme.
It is hardly ideal, but it is better than any plan that the dwarf lord had come up with, and at least now there are foes that he can fight. No one will weep for the goblins who fall upon his blade and perhaps when the slaughter is over, the voices in his mind which cry for violence will at last be satisfied. If not, then there will always be more enemies and once Thorin has reclaimed his kingdom, he will have the power to search them out. He will hunt them down and torture them until they beg for death and their agony will feed the hungry maw within his heart.
But first the dwarf must survive the morrow. Not just survive but triumph over his greatest enemy and once the pale orc lies dead, his place will be restored. So he bids Balin a good evening before the changing of the guard and then curls up in a corner of his storeroom to rest until his moment comes.
And when he dreams, Thorin dreams of gold and blood.
Balin arrives early in the morning, waking his lord from a troubled sleep with word that Azog has been sighted on the plains. Now the armies of Erebor are scrambling for their positions because the goblins moved faster than they had hoped and the Lonely Mountain is silent once more.
So Thorin unblocks his door and steps out into the corridor, moving quickly through these abandoned halls. Being free fills the dwarf with a strange exuberance as the song sings of glory again, and he would have charged immediately into battle if not for Balin's quelling hand. But while he snarls at the touch, Thorin allows his old friend to lead him into the armory and stands silent as the other strips him down. By the time the dwarf has finished lecturing him on caution, all of Thorin's tattered gear has been replaced by the strongest weapons and armor ever forged in Erebor.
Only the Goblin Cleaver is not left by the wayside and its familiar weight is a comfort against his back. Before they leave the chamber, the dwarf tucks the Arkenstone carefully against his breast for the gemstone is the symbol of his righteousness and his enemies will have to pry it from his cold dead hands.
Then Balin gives Thorin his father's helm and leads him to the ramparts, where the two dwarves watch as the battle for Erebor is joined. From this distance, the goblins are a dark and shapeless mass and the dwarf lord feels a hint of pride in his people as the warriors stand firm against this endless tide.
But before the goblins reach their enemies, a wave of arrows arcs high above the field, and the creatures begin to fall. Their charge falters and breaks apart beneath this long-distance slaughter, the wall of flesh splitting into fragments as the dwarves and men move in. Only Azog seems untouchable and the pale orc strides forward without flinching, a trail of carnage in his wake. The archers try to shoot him down, his skin a glowing beacon to their eyes, but the monster knocks their arrows from the sky.
However, even Azog pauses when a roar echoes across the battlefield and Beorn rushes into the fray. The enormous bear towers above the enemy and he tears into them mercilessly, their screams carrying to Thorin's ears.
No one can stand against the skin-changer and the sight of the goblins scattering in terror should fill the dwarf lord with pleasure. But it fills him with disgust instead, because Fíli is going to win this battle without his aid and that cannot be allowed. His defeat of the pale orc is supposed to show his people that Mahal still favors him and thus win Thorin back his kingdom, but only if Beorn doesn't eat him first.
So the dwarf decides that he has had enough of watching his future slip away and sprints for the gates of Erebor. Balin follows him, trying to convince his lord that there is no need to join this battle now, and perhaps Thorin would listen if it were only victory that drove him.
But he will take no satisfaction from winning unless his hand strikes the final blow and the dwarf lord will have his share of bloodshed at any cost. So Thorin draws his blade as he steps out onto the plain and when the scent of battle hits him, he is lost completely to the frenzy in his veins. For with every foe that he cuts down, the Arkenstone pulses with joy against his chest and how could he end the slaughter now?
Soon there is nothing but the red haze across his vision and the song of death and vengeance in his ears. Nothing else but Azog, who stands wreathed in light before him, and Thorin will claim the monster's life or die in the attempt. In his single-minded focus, the dwarf barely notices the bodies that lay across his path, nor the trail of bloody footprints that he leaves behind. There is only his sword, which flashes out in a streak of red and silver to cleave his enemies in two, and his shield, with which Thorin roughly shoves the injured from his track.
By the time he reaches the pale orc, the sounds of battle have fallen silent, leaving only the wind and the moans of the dying to fill the empty air. Yet Azog still refuses to believe that he is beaten and a circle of corpses attests to the creature's deadly skill.
There is a small group of soldiers watching the orc warily, weapons drawn and ready as they wait just outside his range. None of them are brave enough to take the first step forward and Thorin notices with disgust that Fíli stands amongst their number. Is this the honor of the House of Durin now? To taunt our enemies from a distance and let archers strike them down?
The dwarf growls at the thought and the sound draws the attention of his nephew, who stares over at his uncle with wide eyes. “You're supposed to be in Erebor. What are you doing here? Balin!!”
As his old friend starts apologizing, Thorin shuts out the conversation and stalks forward, eyes locked with Azog's yellow stare. The orc grins at him, fierce and bloody, and the dwarf lord knows that his enemy is the only one who understands. This time they will fight until one of them is truly dead, and no soft-hearted cowards will be allowed to stop his plans.
So he shrugs off the hand that grasps his shoulder, sneering at the solder who urges him to wait until Beorn finishes with the warg pack and can come to his aid. There will be no more waiting because Thorin's moment has finally arrived and he charges toward Azog with a shout.
Mahal guide me, the dwarf prays as their weapons clash like thunder and then he has no time to think at all. His foe still moves like quicksilver despite the battle he has fought and it is everything Thorin can do to hold his own. For every blow of the orc's war mace shakes him to the bone and that wicked metal claw threatens to pull his sword from his hand.
There is screaming all around them, voices shouting for him to stop and soldiers crying out their warnings, but the only one he listens to is the one that screams for blood. So the dwarf lord ducks below Azog's swing and lunges forward, blade carving a red line upon the other's chest. This wound shines brightly against the pale orc's skin and for a moment everything goes silent at the proof that his enemy is mortal after all.
However, Thorin's surge of pride is interrupted by his foe's wild swing, and he has to throw himself to the ground to dodge that grasping claw. The mud and muck of battle coats his shining armor, but the dwarf hardly notices the added weight as he takes this chance to jab a dagger into Azog's thigh. His enemy stumbles backward, bellowing in pain, and Thorin rises with a vicious grin upon his lips and a smile in his heart. He gives the pale orc no time to recover and soon the monster is littered with a hundred weeping cuts.
Yet that final blow eludes him and as his frustration builds, the dwarf lord becomes more reckless. He begins to take foolish chances, risking everything on each attempted strike, and eventually, his luck must run out.
It is a little thing that fells him, a small stumble when Thorin should have dodged, and only the speed of panic saves him from decapitation. But the dwarf's sword goes flying and a moment later, Azog is standing over him with one clawed foot pressing on his chest.
“Now I shall have your life, dwarf lord, and fulfill my vow.” The pales orc growls as he raises his mace high. Thorin cannot understand how this could have happened, how Mahal could have forsaken him when vengeance was his right. Yet if he is going to die, he will die bravely, and so the dwarf keeps his eyes locked on Azog's grinning face when the mace begins to fall.
His aim is true and Thorin knows that he has only moments left to live, but then it is his foe's turn to lurch back in surprise. For there is an arrow in Azog's heart and his mace lands harmlessly by the dwarf's head as the orc collapses to the ground.
“Uncle! Are you all right?” A voice calls out and when he looks up, Kíli is rushing toward him, his bow nocked at his side. His nephew looks concerned, but Thorin has seen the evil behind that soft facade and such care can only be an act.
So the dwarf lord shoves himself to his feet and roars, “How dare you interfere?” How dare you steal my kill?
“How dare I-?” Kíli steps backward, eyes widening at his uncle's fury. But then they narrow with a fierce anger of his own and the young dwarf shouts back, “You were going to die you ungrateful bastard! Should I have let Azog slaughter you instead?”
“I would have preferred death over being rescued by a traitor such as you.” Thorin retorts, stalking toward his nephew. He can see Orcrist shining on the ground between them and the dwarf has a sudden urge to gut the silly fool.
It would be so easy for Kíli is hardly on his guard, and then at last his betrayer would trouble him no more. But no, I swore a vow, didn't I, that I would not spill dwarven blood upon my blade? There is a difference between dreaming of his nephew's death and causing it, but even as he balks, the voices whisper on seductively: That oath does not apply here, for you cast him out as he deserved. Remember what he's done to you, this traitor and his brother, and that is a cost which must be paid. He is an oathbreaker, the lowest of all scum, and he need not be counted among your kin. This nameless one is not even a dwarf, because no true dwarf would do what he has done.
Thorin finds himself agreeing with this judgment because his nephew has always been an odd one with his bow and love of open air, and now it seems so obvious that he is no true son of Durin after all. Kíli could only be some kind of halfbreed to stray so far from Mahal's plan and a mistake such as this must be erased. Indeed it is the dwarf lord's duty to guard the purity of Durin's line and whatever qualms he might have had are nothing to the hatred in his veins.
“Traitor. You will pay for your crimes.” He whispers and the Arkenstone screams its triumph as the dwarf finally accepts what he must do. Then Thorin moves like lightning, sweeping his blade from the field and thrusting it toward the traitor's heart.
The Goblin Cleaver strikes home with a meaty thunk of flesh and bone and for one frozen moment, Thorin's world narrows to the startled whites of Kíli's eyes. There is satisfaction here, in the blood running across his fingers and the pained gasps which fill his ears, and the dwarf smiles at his nephew with a vicious, feral glee.
Yet when the world begins again, it is not Kíli who crumples slowly to the ground.
No, it is his brother in whom Thorin's sword is lodged, Fíli's bright hair stained dark with dirt and blood. And the dwarf lord staggers backwards, his blade falling from nerveless fingers at the sight of his nephews tangled together in terror and agony.
For Kíli holds his brother desperately, hands trying to staunch the wound, and his eyes pierce his uncle like daggers as he screams out the halfling's name. There is such hate there, such bottomless hate, and for the first time since he heard the voices, Thorin feels a stab of guilt. It tears into him without warning and even the warmth of the Arkenstone cannot make him meet the watching eyes. Because the soldiers are judging him and they are finding the dwarf lord wanting, his every action called into question by those who should be kneeling at his feet.
Thorin presses one hand to his chest, trying to regain that feeling of certainty which had guided him this far. But Kíli's screaming blows aside the voices like tatters in the wind and the dwarf cannot find the song amidst the shame.
So he turns away, searching for an escape from the scene before him, but all he finds is agony instead. Because something slams into him with the pain of a thousand splintered hearts and when Thorin looks up, it is into Azog's feral gaze. Somehow the orc had dragged himself to his feet, bracing himself upright long enough to swing his war mace one final time.
Now the dwarf cannot breathe through the pressure in his chest and the edges of his vision begin to fade. The last thing that he sees before all sight fails him is Beorn ripping the orc's head from his shoulders, and the sound of Kíli weeping follows him into the dark.
Thorin wakes to silence and to pain.
His every breath is an agony that threatens to send him spiraling into unconsciousness again, but the suffering of his body is nothing compared to the horror which fills his mind. Because for the first time in months, the song has fallen silent and without it there to blind him, Thorin must finally face the truth of what he's done.
At first he tries to justify his actions, grasping at the evidence which had seemed so clear before, but there is one fact that the dwarf lord simply cannot shake. I killed my nephew, he thinks and how can he ever face the world again with Fíli's blood upon his hands? How can Thorin live with the knowledge that he is a kin-slayer when his nephews were the closest thing to children that he would ever have?
They should have let me die, he thinks, despair filling him as he remembers the grief on Kíli's face.
The dwarf screams his anguish then, or at least he tries to, for no more than a tortured gasp escapes his barren throat. However, someone stirs in his chamber at the noise, and Thorin is shocked from his recriminations by the sight which greets his eyes.
“Hello brother,” Ordak murmurs, grinning down at him with an unseemly glee, “I was wondering if you would ever wake.”
“Wha- ?” The dwarf barely begins his question before his words are lost in coughing, but his brother-in-law seems to read his mind easily enough.
“Your sister grew worried when your messages stopped coming, so I volunteered to search out your company. One dwarf alone can travel much faster than a group and I arrived only hours after Azog was taken down.” Ordak says and then his smile twists viciously. “Or at least, that's the story I told your allies to explain why I am here.”
There had always been something a little off about the other dwarf and in truth, Thorin has never understood why Dís married him after her first husband died. But weird or not, he had treated Ordak like family because his sister's happiness was worth more than his pride. Now though, now his brother-in-law is acting like a stranger, a stranger with cruel and savage eyes, and the dwarf lord feels a chill run down his spine.
“Of course, everything I just said is a complete and utter fabrication,” Ordak continues with that same twisted cheerfulness. “And I think you should know the truth before you die. You should know how completely I have destroyed your life.”
The dwarf sits down on the edge of Thorin's bed, wiping sweat off the other's face and smiling down at him with a facade of care. From a distance the scene would appear quite normal and only his words reveal the monster that he is inside. His words and the mad light in his eyes. “Though I must admit your actions surpassed my wildest dreams. I only planned to discredit you so that Dís and I could claim your kingdom and I assumed I would have to deal with your nephews myself. But instead you killed them for me so while I was initially going to make you suffer, perhaps you have earned a quick death with that.”
“Why would you do this?” Thorin whispers, horrified at the thought that he has been no more than a puppet in Ordak's schemes. How could you do this to me?
“Because you deserve it,” His brother-in-law replies. “All you Durins who think yourselves so much better than us common folk. Did you know that the Arkenstone should have been mine? I was the one who found it so many years ago, but your grandfather stole it from me without a second thought. He claimed it as the symbol of his kingdom and I swore then that I would have all that he loved.
However, before I could put my plans into motion, the dragon came and I watched with joy as Thrór's kingdom burned. But it wasn't enough; I wanted to see his line shattered completely and Azanulbizar gave me the means to reach my goal. For while you were busy avenging your grandfather's demise, there was no one to protect his corpse from grasping fingers. No one there to stop me from claiming your heritage and how could I resist such opportunity?”
With these words, Ordak pulls a shining silver ring out from underneath his tunic and Thorin's eyes widen in shock. It is his Thrór's ring of power, one of the seven gifted to the dwarf lords, and for decades he has believed it lost.
But it was not lost, it was stolen, the dwarf thinks, growling deep within his throat, and his brother-in-law seems to find his anger amusing. Indeed Ordak simply grins all the wider as he continues taunting Thorin with the record of his sins.
“This ring gives me the power to warp the minds of others and with it in my possession, it was so very simple to place myself next to your heart. Your sister was grieving for her husband, your father close to madness, and with the slightest effort they both fell into my hands. So I married her and sent Thráin into the wilderness, leaving only you and the brats to stand in my way. I could have killed you then, staged tragic accidents and claimed your people, but what vengeance is there in stealing a broken throne?
No, I wanted the shining kingdom of my memory and so I waited, I watched, and I planned. Dís has given me some trouble over the years since her stubborn mind keeps refusing my control, but you, you were easy to manipulate. So I made you disregard me and carved myself a position among those Sigin-tarâg who wished to see you fall. I was the spider who held the threads of discontent within your people and when the rumors of your quest began, I knew my time had come.”
Ordak leans in closer as though imparting a great secret and if the dwarf lord had a blade, both of them would die. For with every gloating whisper, his brother-in-law proves himself in need of killing and once Thorin had completed this last duty, he could finally end his shame.
Death is the only mercy now, the dwarf thinks as his despair threatens to swallow him. The moment I allowed this monster to lay with my sister and use me to kill her children, my honor was broken beyond repair. Thorin no longer wants to hear the rest of Ordak's scheming, but when he tries to turn his head away, the other dwarf just grins wider and forces him to watch.
“While you had the wizard with you, I could not risk bending your thoughts, but it is amazing what one can accomplish with naught but threats and gold. A few rumors, a little bribery and some warnings in the night were all it took to leave you without the allies that you sought. As for enemies, I traded the knowledge of your route to the pale orc, in exchange for the promise that he would not kill you until you had reclaimed Erebor.”
“You are truly mad,” Thorin whispers, mesmerized by the insanity in the other's eyes.
“Says the dwarf who stabbed his nephew,” Ordak retorts, before adding smugly, “Though I did have a hand in that. While I must admit Azog was too obsessed with his vengeance to perform as I had hoped, you dear brother, did not let me down.
My curse was only meant to increase your avarice, to make you reckless with greed and paranoia so that it would seem as though Thrór's madness had awakened in your blood. Your few companions were to keep you alive until the wizard took care of our little dragon problem and to witness the degradation of your mind. Thus no one would have thought it strange when you slipped over that last precipice and slaughtered the rest of those who stood between me and what was mine.
I tied my curse to the Arkenstone for I know well the power of its song, and this way my influence would grow stronger with every step you took. But I thought that I would have to force you to attack those whom you loved, so imagine my surprise when I arrived to discover my work nearly complete.”
Ordak has to stop then for he is laughing too hard to speak and his merriment makes Thorin ill. While the knowledge that he had been cursed should be a relief, there can be no comfort while he carries the weight of Fíli's death upon his soul. Even if the dwarf lord had been manipulated by magic, he should have found the strength to fight; Mahal accepts no excuses from his children when their lives are judged.
“So there you have it.” The other dwarf states cheerfully once he has finally regained his breath. “You know the truth and it is time for you to die. While Kíli still lives for the moment, your murder of his brother is a fine cause for suicide and I will have this kingdom under my control in a matter of days. I promise your funerals will be glorious and I will remember you fondly when I am fucking your sister and sitting on your throne.”
Ordak gives one last wicked cackle as he reaches over to grab a pillow and begins to lower it towards Thorin's face. Thus for the second time in recent memory, the dwarf lord sees his death approaching and while he would have preferred to take the bastard with him, he welcomes the end of his pain.
Yet once again this escape eludes him and before the cushion touches Thorin, his brother-in-law staggers forward with a gasp of pain. There is a red stain spreading across Ordak's tunic and as the dwarf lord watches in shock, his nephew appears behind the traitor, a dagger in his hands.
“How...?” The mad dwarf gasps, one hand fumbling for his weapon. But before he can draw it, his step-son shoves the knife in deeper and then twists it violently.
“You are not the only one with a magic ring, father, and your story made me suspicious. You have never been as good a liar as you thought.” Kíli sneers, yanking his dagger free and watching coldly as the bastard crumples to his knees. Then the young dwarf calmly cleans his weapon and turns to look at Thorin, who cannot comprehend this sudden reversal of his fate.
“You saved me again.” He says, his voice an anguished whisper as he asks, “Why?”
“Because death is too easy. I want you to live with the knowledge of your crimes.” His nephew tells him and Thorin has never seen such coldness in his eyes. But then Kíli's face softens slightly and the young dwarf adds, “Besides, while I will never forgive you for the pain you caused my brother, Fíli is not dead.”
At first the dwarf lord cannot understand what he has heard and is certain that there must be some mistake. His nephew could never have survived that blow, yet as Kíli continues his explanation, Thorin feels a growing doubt.
“Bilbo saved him. He and Beorn saved the both of you, working for hours to stop your bleeding and remove the shards of the Arkenstone that were embedded in your chest.” The young dwarf says, a hint of pride coloring his words. He smiles then, soft and fond, and at the sight of his joy, Thorin must believe that he speaks true. “Fíli is still unconscious but the healers assure me that he will recover fully once he wakes.”
“So what happens now?” The dwarf lord asks uncertainly, torn between the desire to see this miracle as absolution and the knowledge that it is not.
“Now?” His nephew shrugs. “Now I am going to find my hobbit so that I can return his ring and remember that there is still some joy in this world. And along the way I will send someone in to deal with that.” Kíli stares down at the corpse of his step-father in disgust and his uncle shivers when that flinty gaze is turned on him. “You need not fear for your crown either, because my brother has only ever wanted to do right by our people and I will testify to what I heard. However, you should also know that I will never live beneath you rule again. So if you are named King of Erebor, Bilbo and I will be saying our farewells.”
His voice is implacable and Thorin knows that he cannot hope to change his nephew's mind. Yet the dwarf lord also cannot resent Kíli's decision, no matter how much it hurts to watch him walk away and remember the bond that they once shared. All he can do is offer an apology, “I truly am sorry, nephew,” no matter how inadequate it seems for the pain that he has caused.
“I know, uncle. And perhaps someday I will care.” Kíli says quietly before slipping from the chamber and leaving Thorin to his regret.
Chapter 7: Aftermath