Title: Lessons
Summary: When famine strikes the Blue Mountain during a harsh winter Kili and Fili are taught a terrible lesson in suffering and desperation. Hurt!Kili, Protective!Fili
Rating: T (for violence)
Category: Angst, H/C
A/N: Own nothing. No copyright infringement intended. Just for funsies.

Fili flipped the fur collar of his coat up against the wind and sighed as snowflakes attached to his eyelashes.

"Do you really think we'll find anything in this weather?"

"Not if you keep talking and giving our position away," Kili replied, crouched low in the snow next to him, bow ready in his right hand as it had been all afternoon while they trekked through the forest. It was not often the younger dwarf found himself the less talkative but they were out hunting today, not for sport but to fill their empty plates and stomachs, and Kili took that responsibility more seriously than he did most other things in life.

"Our position being 'idiots dwarves who went out in a storm cause they were hungry'?" Fili asked, to which Kili smirked and looked up from the tracks he was studying.

"Yes, that position, now shush or I'll send you home with nothing to eat."

Winter had come early in Ered Luin, far too early, and the entire mountain was struggling to survive. The human farmers and traders they relied on for most of their food had been surprised by the sudden strike of winter and even more surprised when it dug in deep and fast, destroying valleys and fields of crops before they could be harvested all around the mountain. It had quickly caused a food shortage throughout the entire region felt especially hard among the dwarves, as most farmers had only enough to feed their own families after losing an entire harvest and precious little to sell, even to those who could pay. Even Kili and Fili, who were among the slimmest of the dwarves in the Blue Mountain, had tightened their belts several notches in the last weeks as food became scarce.

Kili's free hand was suddenly squeezing Fili's ankle to silently draw his attention. He looked down and then followed where his brother was pointing in the distance. Fili had to squint as he lowered himself down to a crouch but nodded enthusiastically in agreement with Kil when he saw the movement beyond the trees; it was definitely a stag. Kili silently pulled out an arrow and held up a hand telling Fili not to move while he crept forward. Fili had no problem with that though, hunting was Kili's specialty, it had been for the past several years since he insisted to Thorin that learning to hunt and use a bow would be more helpful to the family than having all three Sons of Durin trained at the forge when there was no work to be found on it. It had been a hard battle with Thorin on the matter, but this winter had proven Kili had made the right choice as their family and several of their neighbours had only been kept from starving thanks to Kili's advanced hunting skills. Whereas most dwarves knew the basics of hunting for small game while travelling, such as rabbit snares, Kili was the only dwarf in the mountain trained with a bow and able to take down huge animals such as boars, stags and bears, all game that was usually too fast for a dwarf to get close enough to kill with an ax or sword.

Fili smiled with pride as he watched Kili slink silently closer to the stag, his expression that of pure focus and concentration. When he got in a better position to see through the trees, Kili set his shoulders back and exhaled noticeably as he nocked his arrow and released his shot. The animal staggered half a step and then collapsed to the ground, the arrow pierced straight through its heart.

"Haha!" Both brothers exclaimed in unison. Fili jumped to his feet and hugged Kili tightly whose smile was wider than the tree he had been hiding behind.

"Excellent shot, brother!"

"You expected less?" Kili snarked. Fili slapped his shoulder and they both ran to their prize.

While Kili carefully tried to remove the arrow to see if it was salvageable, Fili took another moment to appreciate his brother's accuracy.

"This stag literally had no idea what hit it. It didn't even make it a foot after you shot it."

"If it had started to run I would have just chased it. This is the biggest I've ever shot, I think," Kili said as he wiped the blood from the arrow on the snow and deemed it reusable, having hit only muscle and no bone. Shafts weren't free after all.

"I think you're right," Fili agreed. "Shall we carry it together or take turns?"

That was why Fili was here after all, more pack mule than anything. He had no skill at hunting, having been trained in forge and sword, but Kili had shot a boar two weeks earlier that had been so fat he hadn't been able to carry it home alone. He went back for Fili's help but by the time they got to it wolves had devoured most of the carcass. Kili had been so angry he shot one of the beasts and turned it into the coat Fili was wearing.

"Let's take turns. You carry it halfway and I get to carry it into the house," Kili suggested, still beaming with pride.

"More than fair, brother," Fili said, leaning down to grab the animal's legs and sling it over his wide shoulders. He almost stumbled under the sudden weight and Kili gripped his arm to steady him.

"Definitely your biggest," he huffed as he adjusted the stag. "Wait until people see this. Should be the last we hear anyone giving you hard time about that bow."

"Good. Honestly, does everyone think I chose an Elvish weapon lightly?" Kili grumbled, his smile fading as he recalled the numerous taunts and jeers he had received from other dwarves in the village over the years, especially early in his training and before the hard winter had hit.

"You've proven them all wrong, a dozen times over," Fili said, trying to get his smile back. "And I'm proud of you, so is Ma and Uncle Thorin, don't forget that."

"Thanks Fee," Kili muttered, a blush spreading across his cheeks not caused by the considerable cold.

"No need for thanks, just move your feet. It's freezing out here, I want to get home," Fili said as a cold wind cut through the trees, emphasizing his point.

Kili nodded his agreement, slinging his bow and wrapping his arms around himself as he led the way. They were deep in the woods to the south of the village, farther than they usually went, but after three months of Kili hunting every day he had been finding big game harder to find close to home. Hopefully the cold would break soon and spring would come, along with an awakening of a lot more animals, but for now all the young dwarf could do was travel further out each day for food. It was dangerous in the dead of winter to go so far, but that was another reason that Fili now came with him, in case anything happened.

"Do you think we should eat it all or sell half of the meat?" Kili asked.

Fili shrugged as much as he could with a stag on his shoulders and said, "My empty stomach says eat it, but it's up to you, you killed it."

"I killed it for all of us," Kili mumbled, pulling his coat tighter. The temperature really was dropping quickly. It was too cloudy to see the sun but they both knew nightfall must be approaching.

"Thorin will know best what we need, you can let him decide."

Kili nodded, brown hair blowing in his face as he looked at his brother miserably. "Do you think we're halfway yet?"

"Why? You eager to carry this?"

"Maybe," Kili shrugged. "Is the body still warm?"

Fili laughed and turned to his brother, "No, but it does block the wind quite nicely."

"Give it here then, I'm freezing," Kili admitted.

They both stopped and Kili pulled off his bow and quiver, not wanting to damage them. With minimal bickering they found a way to shift the carcass onto Kili's shoulders that was only mildly awkward and resulted in Fili only getting hit in the face with a hoof once.

"Oh, that is nice," Kili exclaimed when he had the animal wrapped around his neck and shoulders, immediately taking the sting of the wind off his face.

"Just remember that you asked for it," Fili reminded him, rubbing his now free hands together before he picked up his brother's bow and arrows. "I don't think we were halfway yet."

"When we're halfway you have to carry me and the stag," Kili teased as they started forward again.

Fili's laugh was short-lived as they crested a small hill and he saw four dark shapes up ahead of them along the path. Kili noticed the change in his brother and looked up, his burdened shoulders sagging.

"Mahal. What do we do?" he asked Fili tightly.

"Nothing," Fili shook his head, though his hand moved to his sword pommel. "We ignore them and be on our way."

It was a task easier said than done but Kili nodded his agreement and they both kept walking, conscious not to break their stride as they approached the four dwarves ahead of them.

"What do we have here?" the first dwarf said with a leer as they approached, elbowing his friends. "Durin's Sons scrounging in the forest for scraps like the rest of us common folk."

Fili glared at the dwarf. His name was Nolin. He was about the same age as Kili and Fili, pushing his late forties, and the brothers had known him and the other three most of their lives as all their families lived in Ered Luin, trying to make a life in the new mountain, but the four of them had never been anything but trouble to Kili and Fili. There were two types of families in Ered Luin after all, those that believed the Line of Durin would restore the dwarves to their past glory some day and treated their family with honor and respect, and those who blamed the royal line for letting their kingdom fall and felt only hatred towards them. In thirty years Nolin and his friends had only ever shown the brothers hatred and torment, and there was no reason to believe today would be any different.

Even though Fili had said to do nothing, Kili still bristled at the insult and couldn't bite back his reply.

"And doing a much better job at it too," he shouted over the wind to Fili's dismay. It was clear the four stout dwarves had also been out hunting, they were outfitted with throwing axes, spears and ropes for traps, but unlike the brothers no animals hung from their belts, indicating it had been an unsuccessful day.

Nolin glared and stepped into their path, his black beard blowing in the wind as he looked them over. He sneered when he saw the bow on the eldest's shoulder.

"Taking up your brother's bad habits, Fili? Or are you also some bastard half-elf like your brother?"

The comment earned a laugh from Nolin's companions and a snarl from Kili but Fili just smiled.

"Actually Kili shot it, but every time one of his arrows puts food on our table I wish I had his skills. Now if you'll excuse us ..."

Fili brushed past a seething Nolin, with Kili a half-step behind, smiling with pride.

"But I'll be sure to think over what you said while I'm enjoying my dinner," Kili added as he passed by. He didn't make it far though as he was pulled back in his tracks when Nolin grabbed the antlers of the stag in a tight grip.

"Let. Go." Kili demanded, fire burning in his eyes as he tightened his grip on the animal around his shoulders.

Fili turned around and felt his anger rise as well when he saw Nolin touching their prize. "Nolin! You would dare!?"

There may have been divides of loyalty in Ered Luin but the Durin family was still respected, still honored by most, and the village had laws in any case. In these dark times stealing food was so desirable the punishment was raised to banishment or death if convicted, as so many were close to starving that the crime was almost a sure death sentence to any stolen from.

"We only want to talk," one of Nolin's friends, Ipir, chimed in.

"You think you're such a great hunter, then show us," Nolin challenged, his hand yanking at the stag's antler for emphasis, almost making Kili stumble. "Your brother can take this home. Pick that bow up and come hunt with us. Do something for your people for once."

Fili's hand was on his sword hilt and he was a moment from interfering when he saw his brother take a calming breath. Kili's anger softened in a heartbeat as he looked in Nolin's eyes and saw not just hatred but fear as well. They were all starving and this was the only way Nolin knew how to ask for help it seemed.

"It's late, it'll be dark soon and it's freezing," Kili said, amazing his brother with his calm and reasonable tone. "Let us be on our way. Maybe tomorrow."

It was not the answer Nolin wanted however.

"Durin scum! You think you're so much better than the rest of us!" he shouted and pushed down on the stag's antler, knocking Kili to the ground where he landed with a cry as his back hit the frozen rocks.

"You bastard!" Fili cried, lunging forward and punching Nolin across the jaw. There was no going back after that, as desperation, fear and anger overwhelmed them all, breaking out into chaos in the forest.

Now in full battle mode, Fili reached for his sword but before he could free it Ipir jumped on his back. The dwarf was two inches taller and a good weight heavier than Fili and the prince lost his footing on the ice, falling backwards, but landing better than Kili as Ipir went with him and took the brunt of the impact. It still meant Fili was on the ground though and outnumbered. He rolled off Ipir, pulling a knife free at the same time, but strong arms grabbed his shoulders before he could stand and threw him into a tree, knocking the wind out of his lungs and the knife from his hand. Fili huffed and tried to throw a punch, anything to defend himself, but both his wrists were held tight, a different opponent taking each in a grip normally meant for a forge hammer.

"Hold him! Tie his hands!" a voice shouted. Fili cried and pulled desperately but still he felt the rope they had brought for the animal traps being looped around his wrists as his hands were pulled behind him and tied around the back of the tree trunk.

"Get off me!" he demanded, kicking now, landing a blow to one dwarf's stomach that did him no good as the ropes on his wrist were already tied off by another, trapping him against the tree.

A few feet away, Kili had been winded by his fall for a moment but rolled to his feet as quickly as possible. He saw Nolin was recovering from Fili's punch and looked about to rush at the elder Durin, but Kili shouted and tackled the dwarf to the ground. Nolin was bigger and stronger than him, as most dwarves were, but Kili was quicker and mounted his opponent as soon as they landed, delivering heavy, relentless blows to Nolin's face. He had no weapons to speak of, he had brought only his bow to hunt with, but Kili had no problem with using his fists, shouting in rage as Nolin's face was quickly bloodied.

He looked up when he heard other shouts joined with his own, desperate shouts coming from his brother.

"Fili!" he yelled, jumping to his feet when he saw his brother being restrained against a tree by two dwarves while a third tied his hands. "Leave him alone!"

Kili's hands were empty but he looked at the ground and saw a hunting spear in his path that he scooped up as he ran. Reaching his brother he swung without warning, using the spear as a staff and smashing the wood end against a burly dwarf's head who was holding down Fili's left arm. The dwarf dropped to the ground but Fili was already tied and unable to come to his brother's aid, which meant he could only watch when Ipir swung at the younger brother with a meaty fist before Kili could make another swing with the spear. The young Durin stumbled back and the third dwarf who had tied Fili took the opportunity to rush in and bring a knee up to smash into Kili's face.

Kili fell to the ground hard, stunned and coughing, blood dripping from his nose, but the battle instinct Thorin and Dwalin had trained into him had him pushing himself onto his hands and knees, trying to stand. A hard kick to the ribs from Ipir stopped that plan and Kili fell again, harder, writhing and gasping for air.

"Get away from him, you bastards!" Fili shouted, tearing at the ropes around his wrists even as he felt his struggles make the cord pull tighter and bite into his flesh, drawing blood.

With the brothers both subdued now the three standing dwarves actually did as instructed, breathing heavily and looking around, seeming to only just realize what they had done.

Further along the path Nolin swore and rocked onto his feet, one eye swollen and red from Kili's assault and blood dripping down a nose that looked broken.

"You royal bastards!" he screamed as he stomped over and delivered a hard kick to Kili's back. Kili cried out briefly, arching in pain, but then the air was stolen from his lungs by a second kick to the stomach that sent him rolling and gasping.

"I'll kill you, you coward! Leave him alone!" Fili shouted, pulling and tearing at his restraints, tears of anger and pain threatening to fall as he was forced to watch his little brother beaten.

"What's that your royal highness?" Nolin scoffed, wiping the blood from his nose. "Are we suddenly worth your time and attention now?"

"You're worth nothing!" Fili shouted, practically foaming with rage. "Your lives are forfeit as of this moment! I will kill you with my bare hands!"

"An easy thing to say for someone well fed and dressed in new furs during desperate times. A disgrace of a royal line who has their elvish runt bring them food!" Nolin screamed, picking up Kili's dropped bow and smashing it across the prince's back when he tried to rise onto all fours.

"Leave him, please!" Fili cried, his anger shifting to desperation as he watched Kili struggling for breath in the snow. "This solves nothing! He did nothing to you!"

"He's done nothing for us, either," Ipir pointed out with a self-righteous huff.

"Liar!" Fili hissed. "We share all we can spare with the village. It is harsh times for all. Do you blame us for famine and winter now? Have you grown so foolish and desperate?"

Nolin threw the bow away and crossed the few steps to Fili, grabbing his fur collar and slamming him back against the tree he was tied to, which was fine with Fili if it meant the bastard's hands stayed away from his brother.

"Famine and winter throughout the village, and still the crownless king eats heartily! The line that saw our kingdom fall remains fat while we starve. Is that fair? Is that right?"

"We suffer the same as everyone!" Fili argued but this only incensed Nolin more.

"How dare you say such a thing! How dare you compare your suffering to ours! I will show you suffering."

The last was said with fire and rage that made Fili's blood run cold as Nolin shoved him hard against the tree then stalked back towards his brother.

"No! Nolin, please! Leave him alone!"

Kili was still gasping with pain and had made it up onto his elbows when he noticed the four sets of heavy dwarven boots moving into a tight circle around him. He had no strength to fight back but flipped back his hair and looked up at Nolin, holding out a placating hand.

"Wait ... I ..." Kili got no further before a heavy boot met his chin, knocking him onto his back with a thud and a cry. He cracked his eyes open and turned his head, momentarily mesmerized by the amazing contrast of blood on snow, but then the blows fell faster and harder, kicks to his legs, a stomp on his back, punches to his ribs, and he knew only breathlessness, pain and agony.

"Stop it! Stop, please! Leave him alone!" Fili shouted desperately, feeling each strike against his brother, his innocent, naive, kind-hearted brother who only ever wanted to help his family and those around him and deserved none of this hatred. With each blow Fili pulled harder at the ropes on his wrists, until he felt blood dripping down his hands but still they did not break. He continued to struggle, desperate to protect his brother, even if he had to tear the tree he was tied to out of the ground to do it.

Kili grunted with each kick and punch, never screaming, if only because his lungs never had enough air for it but eventually his body started to go lax, his arms dropped down, bruised and exhausted with no power to protect him and he barely had the strength to cry out. A hit between his shoulder blades should have made him scream but instead he lay sprawled on his stomach, face in the snow, wheezing with pain and barely holding on to consciousness.

"Kili! Kili!" his brother cried when the assault stopped, unable to see through the circle of dwarves whether his brother still lived.

"You want him? Here!" Nolin was panting from exertion but still sneered in Fili's direction before he picked Kili up by the hair and tossed him to land at his brother's feet. Kili rolled onto his back, coughing and face pinched with pain.

"Kili. I'll kill you for this Nolin, I swear!"

One of Kili's eyes was starting to swell shut and the other dripped with blood from a cut on his forehead, but still the battered Dwarf managed to look at his brother and offer a tight smile.

"S'fine ... I'm fine Fee," he muttered through bloody lips and a jaw clenched in agony.

"Fine are you?" Nolin asked with a laugh, stomping over and putting a boot under Kili's chin to make him look up at him. "You don't look fine to me. You look like a pathetic excuse for a dwarf and a prince."

Even flat on his back, Kili glared at the bigger dwarf and swallowed back the agony shooting through him to reply, "I'm fine because ... my uncle and brother are going to kill you ... and no one will care that you're dead."

Fili could see when his brother's words struck a nerve in Nolin as the dwarf's face grew red with anger and he lifted his boot off Kili's chest, aiming to bring it down again.

"No! Nolin don't, please!" Fili begged but it was too late, Nolin twisted a few inches away and brought his thick dwarven boot down directly onto Kili's hand, crushing it against the rocks underneath. Fili didn't know what was worse, the horrible sound of his brother's bones breaking or the scream it tore out of Kili's throat as he writhed and arched with pain, clutching at the ground with his free hand while he desperately tried to pull his arm free. This only caused Nolin's smirk to widen as he ground his foot down harder not satisfied until the archer's hand could break no further beneath his boot.

"Stop it! Stop please, you bastard, leave him alone!" Fili shouted, exhausted from screaming and having his heart ripped apart while watching his brother mercilessly beaten.

It wasn't Fili's pleas but Ipir's voice that eventually stopped the enraged dwarf though.

"Nolin," Ipir called, standing down the road with the others, the dead stag on his shoulders. "We should go. Come on."

Nolin seemed to consider it then nodded, wiping away more blood that had dripped down the broken nose Kili had given him.

"Still fine elfling?" he taunted cruelly, lifting his foot at last but Kili had no reply except to curl around his broken hand, gasping and shaking with pain.

"You had best enjoy your meal Nolin, because it is going to be your last, I promise you," Fili hissed. "You will suffer a quick death for this."

"Have you learned nothing Prince of Erebor?" Nolin came forward again to grab Fili's collar, pushing him back against the tree. "Suffering is not quick. It lasts for days, weeks, eating at your soul, destroying all joys, all peace in your heart until there is no rest, no escape from it. Until it drives you mad."

And Fili could see it, the madness in him, the pain that had driven him to these actions. He could not forgive it, not if he lived to 300, but he knew he wanted it nowhere near his brother.

"Then take your madness elsewhere, leave us be," he said.

To his surprise Nolin nodded his agreement and smiled. "I will, Son of Durin, I will leave you both here with one final lesson in suffering."

He released Fili's collar and strode back over to Kili.

"Nolin, leave him please. Whatever it is, I'll take his place, I'll suffer it, just don't hurt him!"

But Nolin would not be swayed. He kicked Kili onto his back, who grunted and tried to protect himself but Nolin ignored his struggles and reached down, tearing the fastenings of Kili's thick fur coat and then pulling it off him, kicking him onto his stomach to finish the job and ignoring his cries as his broken hand was jostled by the leather and fur sliding off of his arm.

"This lesson is for you only Fili, a lesson for the dwarf who may someday be King," Nolin sneered, throwing the coat aside and kneeling down behind Kili, pulling back his arms and tying his wrists together, then throwing the beaten dwarf to the ground. He looked at Fili, his smile suddenly sad. "True suffering isn't your own pain, it's watching the pain of those you love and knowing you can do nothing. Learn it well."

And with that Nolin was finished, picking up Kili's coat and moving back onto the path to join his companions, all of them eager to leave.

"Nolin! Nolin, wait! Get back here! Untie me! Nolin please," Fili shouted, begged. "He's going to die! Nolin!"

Fili's shouting became ragged screams as the four dwarves paid him no mind and disappeared down the path, uncaring that night was coming and the temperature had dropped swiftly, or that both Sons of Durin would die of the cold before morning, with Fili, still wrapped in his great fur coat, surviving hours longer than his brother and would be forced to watch Kili die in front of him throughout the night. The thought brought tears to Fili's eyes who kicked the tree and tore at the ropes on his wrists but neither would give.


The small voice brought his attention to the shivering body in front of him and Fili sank to his knees, leaning forward, anything to get closer to his brother.

"Kili? Kili, I'm here, I'm right here, I'm so sorry," he said, but then swallowed his guilt, knowing it would do them no good. "Kili, can you stand? Can you get up?"

Kili was curled into a tight ball, blood covering his face and shivering from cold and pain. He looked up at his brother with scared eyes and didn't move.

"I ... I don't know." His words were slurred and he was barely conscious.

"Kili you have to try."

"S'cold," he muttered miserably, turning his face into the snow in a desperate search for warmth.

"I know, I know Kili, I'm sorry but I can't get to you. You have to get up. I dropped my knife in the snow. It's just to your left. If you cut me free I'll get you home, I swear. Kili?"

Kili looked like he was trying to nod and started to move, pushing his forehead into the ground and slowly rolling up onto his knees.

"That's it Kili, get up, come on," Fili urged him. Kili pushed himself further, getting one foot underneath him and then the other. He was almost fully standing when a bitter wind picked up, cutting through the trees. Fili felt it even through his thick furs. Kili was nearly knocked over as the cold shot through his thin clothing, tensing his muscles and making him gasp.

"Hold on Kili, just hold on, you're almost there, please, just keep moving," Fili begged. Kili nodded again and a drop of blood fell from his chin to the snow. The next one froze halfway down his cheek.

"K ...keep moving," Kili muttered, repeating Fili's words.

"All right, you're doing great. Now, my knife's to your left about three feet, do you see it?" Fili asked when Kili had struggled all the way upright.

"Knife," Kili muttered, blinking heavily through swollen eyes and looking around his feet. Fili felt his heart clench, he was fairly certain his brother couldn't even see.

"To your left, just there," Fili said, able to see it easily and trying to keep his voice light and encouraging when all he wanted to do was scream in frustration.

"I ..." Fili wasn't sure if he could see it, but Kili took a step to his left and immediately lost his balance on the icy rocks, landing hard on his side, unable to brace himself with his hands tied behind him.


"No! No, Kili! Kili! Can you hear me?"

But Kili said nothing and instead curled into a ball, eyes clenched shut as he gasped and tried to shut out the cold and the pain that was attacking every inch of his body.

"Kili, you have to get up, please," Fili begged but there was nothing to indicate his brother could hear him.

"Please, please get up," Fili hung his head. "Please, I can't watch you die."

"Sorry," Kili breathed out, his lips were going blue and his body started to go slack. "I'm sorry."

"No, don't apologize, just get up. Kili get up!" Fili shouted, demanded, but Kili didn't even flinch, he just sunk deeper into the snow.

Fili could see his brother's body had stopped shivering and knew it was a bad sign but hope flared in him when Kili cracked open one eye and moved his lips again for a final time.

"Why?" he whispered and Fili knew he wasn't asking why he should get up, but was asking why, why any of it? Why had he been beaten and left to die? Why had famine struck their people? Why had their kingdom fallen to leave them like this? Why had any of it happened.

Fili's jaw quivered and he shook his head. "I don't know Kili. I don't know why."

Kili seemed to accept this though, nodding lightly as his eyes drifted shut.

"No! Kili no! Open your eyes! Dammit Kili, no! Open your eyes! Look at me, Kili, please, please open your eyes!" Fili was begging now, saying anything, screaming to Mahal, Durin and anyone else that would listen but Kili never moved, the wind picked up speed and the forest grew darker. Fili collapsed eventually, exhausted and tear stained, the tree at his back blocking the worst of the wind and the thick fur coat his brother had made for him keeping him warm as the sun set. He looked out into the darkness and knew his brother was dying and he couldn't even die with him.


Mmmm. All the angst. Hope you enjoyed.