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This Long and Winding Road - Chapter 6

Title: This Long and Winding Road
Chapter 6: Ges
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.
Word Count: 3850 (34,426 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 2: Nu'
Chapter 3: Gem
Chapter 4: Ramekh
Chapter 5: Gamekh


Thorin's company reaches Mirkwood two days later and their first sight of the forest is far from comforting. The sunlight disappears into shadow only a few feet past its border and the dwarves do not relish a trek beneath those trees.

Yet the Elven Road is the only safe path through the forest and they do not have the time to walk around. So Thorin and his companions start unpacking Beorn's ponies while Gandalf scouts the way ahead. The wizard disappears for a few minutes and when he returns, he is as close to panic as the dwarves have ever seen. Gandalf shouts for his horse, taking the reins from Nori and leaping into the saddle with a billow of grey robes.

“But where are you going?” Fíli asks, grabbing the wizard's stirrup before he can ride away. “You were supposed to help us fight the dragon if he wakes up too soon!”

“And I will,” the wizard promises. “Wait for me on the overlook before the slopes of Erebor. Keep the map and key safe and do not enter that mountain without me. I will meet you there before Durin's Day arrives. We will win back your people's homeland, this I swear to you.”

With one last word of warning, Gandalf wheels his horse around and gallops to the north. Despite the wizard's promise, Fíli can't help wondering if they'll ever see Gandalf's face again. Anything that can make a wizard look so worried must be ill news indeed.

However, the dwarves must look to their own survival first. Their quest has not changed; their goal still lies on the other side of Mirkwood and the elves in that forest hate their guts. Thorin's company will need to tread carefully in order to avoid attention and it's not as though the Sigin-tarâg are known for their subtlety. Dwarvish boots are better suited to stomping round than tip-toes, but Fíli and his companions will simply have to do their best. Given the level of diplomacy that Thorin has exhibited thus far, getting caught by Thranduil may well be suicide.

So there is an edge of wariness about the dwarves when they walk into Mirkwood, the mottled dark closing in behind them like they've entered a different world. One that does not look kindly on their people; this is not the sort of place khazâd belong.

Despite their unease, the next few days pass peacefully. The company's steps are guided through the dark by shining elvish stone and indeed, Gandalf had promised that the Elven Road would keep them safe. But the cobblestones are slowly covered by leaves and rotting branches, by fungi and all manner of sick and dying things. The evil of Mirkwood is tenacious, a creeping sickness that even elvish magic cannot hold back entirely.

With every league that passes, the Elven Road grows dimmer or perhaps the light is simply disappearing bit by bit. Because the canopy is solid overhead and while it has only been a few days, Fíli feels as though he hasn't seen the sun in weeks.

Everything about this forest is twisted and unnatural, from the smallest stone to the strange insects in the trees. Indeed, Thorin's company is glad for the supplies that Beorn gave them because they find nothing edible on their march through Mirkwood; even the water smells like poison and the dwarves test it carefully before choking that muck down.

When Fíli and Kíli scout ahead on the third day, the princes discover that the Elven Road is flooded. All that remains is a few rotted posts where a bridge once stood. Thorin's company is forced to make its way across with the aid of vines and floating tree trunks, every step slick and treacherous.

“Careful, careful.”

“Grab my hand.”

“Watch your step, that log is rotten,” the dwarves call back and forth.

“I've got you; we're all right.”

“Come on, brother. Almost there.”

Their makeshift bridge is neither straight nor sturdy and the mood is tense until every member of the company has reached the other side.

Once back on solid ground, the dwarves take a few moments to regroup. They resettle their packs and wipe algae off their boots while Glóin and Balin search for the Elven Road; Thorin's company needs to find the path before setting off again.

“Thorin, look!”

Bilbo's urgent whisper draws all the dwarves' attention. He points toward the tree line and Fíli feels his breath catch when he turns to look. There is a great white stag standing on the riverbank, its horns stretching toward the sky and a strange wisdom glowing in its eyes.

That is no natural creature, the prince thinks with something close to awe. Fíli has heard legends of such spirits, living guardians of the world's most sacred places, but he never thought to see one here. He didn't think Mirkwood was the sort of place worth saving but perhaps there is some beauty in this forest after all.

Fíli doesn't speak for fear of scaring off the creature, wonder glowing brightly in his chest. However, the moment is shattered when Bilbo's voice rings out again. “Thorin, what are you doing?”

Kíli had set aside his bow and quiver to help Bofur with his pack and now his uncle has taken up the weapon, aiming an arrow straight at the white stag's heart. Apparently Thorin does not see the same beauty his sister-sons, he simply sees fresh meat. It has been some time since his companions ate a proper dwarvish feast and the dwarf lord would see them taken care of first before all things.

However, the white stag's calmness is deceptive and it leaps into motion as soon as Thorin lets the arrow fly. The projectile clatters harmlessly against a tree trunk as the spirit disappears and Fíli can't deny that he's relieved.

Killing such a creature would not make Arda better and indeed, Mirkwood seems much colder now that the stag has gone.

“Blast,” Thorin curses before handing the bow back to Kíli with a scowl. The dwarf lord orders his companions to their feet but doesn't actually wait for them to obey him before marching off into the forest, muttering about elves and wasted time. All the other dwarves can do is scramble off the ground and run after their leader as quickly as they can.

The dwarf lord is on a mission and by the time he realizes that his steps are falling on soft dirt instead of stone, it's much too late to turn around. The company has lost the path and lost the river. There are no signs to show them where they've been or where their road should lead.

Indeed, navigation is impossible with nothing but trees in all directions so the dwarves can only guess at east and stubbornly press on. Of course, Thorin being Thorin, he would have done that anyway.

Fíli marches through the trees until he starts to hear strange whispers in the distance, soft voices that he can't quite understand. But with every step, the words get a little clearer and a little more hypnotic. The voices sound like friends, like old comrades he's forgotten, and perhaps that's why the prince cannot just ignore the murmurs in his ears.

Every member of Thorin's company has started hearing voices, though each dwarrow is tormented by different whispers than the rest. The ghosts tell Bombur to run home to his family, warning of a danger that threatens all his kin. They tell Glóin that his wife is dying while tempting Bifur and Dori to explore the deeper wood. Nori and Ori urged to kill each other, one single death winning the heart of their amrâbulnas for good. A dagger to the throat would end the need for sharing and Dwalin too is goaded toward claiming what is his.

Only Thorin stands in the dwarrow's way. Thorin who upholds the law despite the pain that splits his people's hearts asunder; Thorin who can hear nothing but the Arkenstone right now. The song twines around his mind and freezes him with longing, leaving him wide open to Dwalin's searching eyes. The warrior can see a dozen weaknesses already and he's practically salivating as he imagines the rush of blood across his hands.

Dwalin isn't the only dwarf who hears Mirkwood cry for violence. Fíli wants to sink a blade into his uncle's back, a fitting end for the bastard who is trying to steal the princes' hobbit. Thorin dares to steal his sister-sons' amrâbulnas and now the dwarf must die.

Even Kíli, who despite his skills has never cared for battle, now has a feral smile dancing on his lips. The archer's blood sings for violence and he grins at his brother widely when he meets his brother's gaze. They should kill Thorin, kill anyone who dares to stop them from taking Bilbo now. Because the hobbit is theirs and it is time to claim him, to hold their burglar down and force him to acknowledge the bond between their souls. To tear Bilbo open until he screams or begs for more.

As soon as this thought crosses their minds, Fíli and Kíli snap back to their senses. The princes trade horrified glances as lust changes into nausea almost instantly. Forcing their amrâbulnas is unthinkable and the very idea of it makes their hearts cry out in shame.

Something is very wrong here – very, very wrong – and when the brothers look to their companions, they are not comforted. Because the other dwarves are staring into the distance fixedly, their eyes unfocused and their hands creeping toward their weapons inch by inch.

When Fíli and Kíli try to bring their companions back to reason, the other dwarves react with anger and the situation soon devolves into an open brawl. Nori throws the first punch and Fíli throws the second, Kíli and Dwalin stepping in to back up their amrâbulnâs. Soon the forest is ringing with grunts and violent curses, only the older prince's iron control keeping his daggers on his belt. Fíli aches to kill but instead he strikes out with fists and elbows, reveling in each punch and bruise upon his skin.

None of the dwarves are watching their surroundings and they don't realize that a greater danger is approaching until a swarm of massive spiders drops down from the trees. The creatures fall upon Thorin's company without mercy, encasing the dwarves in webbing before they can react.

The princes and their friends are trapped but the spiders do not knock their prey unconscious before dragging them away. The spiders prefer their meals alive and struggling, the scent of fear inflaming the monsters' appetites.

Fíli is afraid. He has always hated being helpless and his terror grows stronger when his faint link to Bilbo suddenly goes blank again. Their burglar has disappeared from Fíli's senses and the prince doesn't even know if the hobbit has been captured, whether he's free or trapped or about to be swallowed by some spider's gaping maw. Yet, in truth, it isn't Bilbo's death that Fíli truly dreads; the dwarf is terrified of the moment when he feels Kíli's life snuff out. That loss would destroy him utterly. For while his hobbit still refuses to accept their ashânumahâl, Fíli cannot remember a time when his little brother was not twined within his heart.

The prince starts to struggle against his bonds, fighting with the webbing that binds his legs and arms. He can hear Kíli shouting and the archer is so panicked, so frightened that Fíli's reassurance doesn't reach him – what little comfort that the older prince can give. Yet even as the archer's fear builds to a crescendo, Fíli hears a spider shriek and Kíli's panic turns into surprise.

Surprise and a hint of triumph from the third piece of their trio as the prince's connection to Bilbo snaps back into place. The dwarf has no idea what is causing that strange blankness – it's almost as though their hobbit simply stops existing – but he's too relieved to care.

“I've got you. Just hold on,” Bilbo says and then Fíli is falling.

He hits the ground awkwardly, struggling out of the spiders' webbing as quickly as he can. His companions are scattered around the clearing, the last few dwarves sinking to the ground as Bilbo cuts them free. Fíli glances into the canopy, hoping for a sign of the hobbit. But even though their burglar must be up there somewhere, the prince's eyes can't pierce the gloom so he just moves to help his brother to his feet.

“Bilbo really is full of surprises, isn't it?” Kíli murmurs as Fíli pulls him into a hug, the tightness of his arms matching the strength of his relief.

“Yes, he is,” the older prince agrees. “Speaking of our burglar; do you see him anywhere?”

“He killed the spider that was going to attack me. Right in the nick of time. But I haven't seen him since,” the archer tells his brother. “I think he's still up in the trees. What about the others? Is Thorin okay?”

Even if the dwarf lord is their rival in love, neither of the princes want to see their uncle harmed. So Kíli and Fíli are grateful to discover that the rest of their companions appear to be all right when they look around the clearing. The other dwarves are tired, grumpy, and covered in bits of webbing, but things could have been much worse and the flickers of emotion from Bilbo prove that he's still alive for now. However, before Fíli and Kíli can go looking for the hobbit, their enemies regroup.

Another dozen spiders charge the clearing but this time the dwarves are ready for them. Without the haze of Mirkwood's evil to dull their reactions, no beast can match the skill of Thorin's company. Nori ducks a spider's fang and Dwalin stabs the creature while Ori shoots a rock into another spider's eye. One of the beasts tries to attack Bombur but Fíli, Kíli, Bifur and Bofur tear its legs off. Then the older prince whips out a dagger and stabs the spider that's trying to jump Thorin from behind.

The dwarves slice through their enemies like molten steel through rock and the spiders that survive are quickly driven back into the trees. Thorin's company is on the edge of triumph when a horn rings out suddenly and a new player joins the fight.

A squad of elves declares its presence with a volley of arrows, the remaining spiders shrieking in pain as the missiles find their targets. The elves of Mirkwood show no mercy, their hands flashing like quicksilver until the last few creatures turn and flee. Then the warriors turn their bows on Thorin's company.

“Don't think that I won't kill you, dwarf,” their leader growls. “It would be my pleasure.”

“You! You're Thranduil's whelp. Legolas or something,” Thorin snarls back, his fingers tightening on the hilt of his blade. “I remember you.”

“And I remember you, Thorin Oakenshield,” Legolas replies. “My father will want to speak with you.”

The elf barks a command and his warriors start rounding up Thorin's companions in the center of the clearing. The wood elves disarm the dwarves and while Fíli and his kin protest stridently, none of them are crazy enough to attack their captors. Not with half a dozen twitchy looking archers holding arrows on them now.

One of the warriors shoves Fíli forward when he doesn't move fast enough. The elf smirks as the prince stumbles into Bombur and he really, really, really, wants to punch the bastard in the face. But his anger turns to panic when he hears his brother scream.

“Help! Fíli!”

The dwarf spins around just as Kíli is suddenly yanked into the trees. One of the spiders must have come back for seconds and the younger prince was easy prey once his weapons were taken by the elves.

“Kí! Hold on, Kíli! I'm coming!” Fíli shouts. He tries to run after his brother but his captors grab his arms, holding the prince in place as he struggles wildly. If Kíli dies here, if his amrâbulnas dies here, then there will never be peace with Mirkwood's elves as long as Fíli lives. He will see this forest burn in order to repay his losses, see the throne of Thranduil shattered for bringing harm to what is his.

Fury washes over Fíli like an avalanche and yet, the emotion is not solely his. The dwarf has a sudden flash of Bilbo somewhere in the trees, of the hobbit hating Mirkwood's spiders as he has never hated anything. No one is allowed to hurt Kíli – no one is allowed to take his precious – and their burglar's rage resonates inside of Fíli, fear and anger burning in his veins. The prince doesn't know which feelings are his and which belong to his amrâbulnâs, and in truth, he doesn't care. Fíli just screams out his brother's name again.

Kíli hears his shout and struggles harder, kicking at the spider desperately. The archer doesn't want to die here. He doesn't want to die in some dank forest without ever kissing Bilbo like he's dreamed. Because things will be different with both of his amrâbulnâs beside him and Kíli wants so desperately to finally feel complete. Someday the prince will tumble Fíli and Bilbo down onto a bed together, their love for each other blessed by lord and law alike, and that is a future well worth living for.

The archer kicks the spider again, his hands scrabbling for a rock with which to fight the creature off. However, all he feels is dirt and his odds aren’t looking good until an elfine suddenly leaps to his rescue. Kíli is so relieved that he could kiss her – metaphorically, of course. The prince is quite impressed by her blade work even if she refuses to give him a weapon of his own. He wouldn’t need rescuing if he had an actual sword.

But he still smiles at the elfine when the last spider has been slaughtered and she pulls him to his feet. Whatever the circumstances, Kíli still owes this elf his life.

“Careful, brother. Someone might think you’re smitten,” Fíli teases when the elfine leads Kíli back into the clearing. The older prince knows that his brother is simply thankful for the help but it's either tease or break down crying in relief.

“I am not!” Kíli protests loudly. His indignation has always been adorable and his expression puts an instant smile on his brother’s face. Indeed, Fíli isn't the only one who grins at the archer’s antics; he sees several of the elves hide chuckles and if the prince could barter Kíli's dimples toward their freedom, Thorin's company would be on its way in three seconds flat.

At least Bilbo seems to have escaped the roundup; the hobbit is nowhere to be seen as the elves lead their prisoners deeper into Mirkwood. Although their connection has gone dim again, Fíli doesn’t think that his amrâbulnas is injured and hopefully their burglar will be able to help the dwarves win free.

However, the prince and his companions have no chance to escape before reaching Thranduil's palace. When Legolas leads them through the gates, the dwarves are met by a twisting twilight gloom. Fíli thought that all elves lived in trees and sunlight but it seems that Thranduil’s people prefer the darkness and most of the elf king’s palace is carved from root and stone instead.

Several wood elves stop and stare as the dwarves are frog-marched through their kingdom, the elves’ expressions ranging from scorn to curiosity. Fíli returns these looks in kind; Mirkwood’s elves were always painted as villains in his uncle’s stories and so far, Thorin’s slant seems accurate.

Indeed, Legolas has been treating them as trespassers rather than guests and this shows no signs of changing now. The elves lead the dwarves down into the dungeons and then force them to remove their cloaks and armor, their captors annoyingly thorough when it comes to weaponry. Fíli lost half of his knives when the company was captured and his guard removes three more before shoving him inside his prison cell.

The prince still has one more dagger in his boot and he could try to take a hostage if an elf came close enough. But that would be a desperate gambit – one with slim chance of working – and none of the guards are stupid enough to stand right by his cell.

In fact, most of the dwarves are left to rot while Thorin is dragged before the elf king and that meeting does not go well at all.

When Thorin summarizes the conversation for his companions afterward, Balin sighs despondently and even Fíli has to a wince. Whatever he thinks of the elf king, telling Thranduil to die in a fire was not his uncle's finest moment and it will probably take drastic measures for the dwarves to win free now. But the prince searches every inch of his prison without discovering a weakness – not one that he can exploit with the tools he has on hand. So Fíli sends his brother a nudge when the flame-haired elfine from the forest walks by Kíli's cell.

Although this Tauriel is clearly loyal to her king, she seems curious about Thorin's company and she was one of the elves who hid a smile at Kíli's outrage earlier. Indeed, it doesn't take much for the archer to draw her into conversation and while she is probably too clever to give up Thranduil's secrets, it can't hurt to have a friend within these halls.

The dwarves will need an ally if they're going to get out of here before Durin's Day arrives. Even the smallest sympathy might make a big difference and listening to Kíli charm Tauriel makes Fíli chuckle quietly.

If his brother had talked to Bilbo like this then the hobbit would be love with them already but Kíli has never been as charming when he cares. The archer always tries too hard with the ones who really matter; that's why Thorin thinks the younger prince is something of a dolt.

Of course, Kíli has also left a trail of broken hearts behind him, dwarrowmaids and lads alike sighing with disappointment at his karashumrâb. Fíli's brother may not look like a proper dwarf but few people can resist that enthusiasm and everyone knows that the line of Durin often gains their true beards later on. Maids of men aren't any better – apparently they think him pretty – and with a bit of luck, elfines will prove susceptible to the archer's grins as well.

However, while Fíli eavesdrops on Tauriel and his brother's conversation with a fair bit of amusement, Kíli's other amrâbulnas is not so pleased at all.


Chapter 7: Haded