This story hasn't been abandoned! I know it's been ages, but this time I actually have an excurse past "work was tough". Well, work is still tough but I got married two weeks ago and am in the middle of moving house, so the last few months have been so crazy I've barely had time to read, let alone write.
So again, sorry!
Thorin's voice was still ringing in Fili's ears.
He had spent years analysing every twitch, every minute change in tone of voice. Any hint that might tell him what his master was really thinking.
"I will be going hunting today"
I want my gear ready yesterday.
"Dorn tells me he saw the two of you lazing about near the forges"
I know where you are every second of the day.
Fili could still hear the voice, as clear as if it was in his head.
Those blasted elves! They know nothing of our customs, our heritage! What good are they to us? You two are almost as worthless as an elf!
A cool breeze meandered its way through the forest path; Fili hunched his shoulders more to try and keep warm. Even his newer clothes (courtesy of Ori) did little to keep out the chill.
He tried to focus on preparing for their destination – Rivendell.
Thorin had always spoken of the elves (though vary rarely called them that) with total and utter disgust.
You still haven't finished? What are you, elves?
Fili knew that Kili had always wanted to meet elves, when they were younger and Kili's archery was barely encouraged. To learn from and compete with master archers was a dream.
Fili couldn't remember what he used to think of elves. They might as well have been a dream, he had decided, because they were something that only existed in stories.
And did something hated by his master uncle mean good or bad for them?
I should kick you out of the mountain and leave you for the elves!
Coming to Rivendell was something of a dream come true for Bilbo Baggins. He had always loved hearing about the elves, even imagined visiting them when he was a fauntling. To be standing inside the gates was overwhelming. An elf had welcomed Gandalf at the gate, but quickly left the dwarf huddle and disappeared. Gandalf, of course, seemed totally at ease. The dwarves, on the other hand, were silent for the first time since Bilbo had met them.
Fili and Kili were as silent as ever. Fili hadn't stopped examining his shoes since they crossed the bridge coming in, but Bilbo liked to think that Kili at least was sneaking glances when he thought his brother wasn't looking. Or maybe it was when he thought Bilbo wasn't looking?
Bilbo felt his arm being tugged and looked up to see Gandalf beckoning him over. Blushing slightly at phasing out of the conversation – could he be forgiven for not totally understanding Lord Elrond's form of Sindarin? – he joined the two ancient ones.
"Bilbo," Gandalf said softly, conversationally, "Lord Elrond has informed me that Lindr recognised Fili and Kili."
Bilbo turned to the elf lord. He nodded gravely. "Lindr has rescued many slaves, master hobbit, and so knows the signs. Mithrandir has informed me that you have a good reason for wanting to bring your two slaves into Rivendell."
Bilbo almost reeled at the abrupt nature of Lord Elrond's enquiry. When he gathered himself, he resisted the urge to glare at the wizard – talk about throwing him in the deep end!
"Lord Elrond, together with the other dwarves we recently rescued these dwarves from their master. They were enslaved not for anything they themselves had done; we decided to bring them into our company for their own wellbeing. I am their master in name only, someone that they trust and someone that will care for them."
Patting himself on the back for his pretty words, Bilbo almost missed Gandalf's near-silent, proud chuckle.
I will have my revenge on you, Gandalf!
…Damn those dwarves and their contagious attitudes!
Meanwhile, Lord Elrond was smiling. "In the company of Mithrandir, I assumed as much. Forgive us for questioning you."
Bilbo spluttered his acceptance, all flowery speech lost in the moment.
These dwarves have ruined you Bilbo Baggins…
"I will tell you, that any creature will be treated equally while within these halls."
Bilbo smiled at Lord Elrond for the first time. "I will be happy to explain that to Fili and Kili, my Lord – they will have to accept it!"
Even if I have to blame their treatment on the oddness of elves, at least here I can give them a reason for treating them the way I wish!
The elf returned Bilbo's smile, but then turned serious again. "I will warn you, however: elven slaves that we have rescued in the past, though in different circumstances, have taken a long time to adjust to 'normal' life. Do not expect too much of your Fili and Kili."
"Different circumstances?" Gandalf asked out of nowhere.
Elrond raised one brow. "Did you think I wouldn't recognise the line of Durin? Fili and Kili look much like their grandfather. I assume that Thorin Oakenshield is somehow involved also."
Bilbo was floored. They hadn't planned for the elves to recognise anyone! He was ready to silence Gandalf, if only to give him some time to confer with Balin and the others before discussing anything with an outsider, but Gandalf only smiled grimly.
"It is not my story to tell."
Lord Elrond didn't reply, but instead gestured for the entire company to follow him further into Rivendell.
Bilbo was returning to his room in total contentment. The feast provided by the elves had been magnificent even by hobbit standards, and Balin had managed to contain the urge of some of the other dwarves to destroy tables and chairs in their joy at having real food (as well as some form of revenge for being forced to stay with elves, Bilbo suspected).
He was just coming into the corridor set aside for the dwarves when he heard a sudden yelp. Bilbo froze – where was the sound coming from.
It was definitely coming from this hall. Bilbo picked up his speed, stomach falling as he got closer and closer the room he was sharing with Fili and Kili.
"I won't again!"
They had left dinner early, and because Bilbo had noticed that they were especially uncomfortable with the elves he had encouraged them to go to sleep early.
Bilbo burst into the room.
Kili was crumpled on the floor, covering his head with his hands. He had removed his shirt and a new layer of red marks was forming. He was shaking slightly, and shifted his legs underneath him. He hadn't noticed Bilbo come in.
Fili started at the noise of the door opening. Bilbo almost stepped back at the outright hatred across his face. Fili was almost a dead match for Thorin – the scowl, the eyes like pitch.
And the belt in his hands.
He was standing over his brother, breathing heavily from exertion.
Kili still hadn't noticed.
"I promise I won't again, brother," he groaned, as if he was repeating a well-known refrain, "Please help me learn."
Fili scowled at Bilbo, and full of righteous anger he raised the belt again.
"Know your place, brother," he spat. "You and I are only good for serving our Master!"
Bilbo had started across the room, trying to come between Fili and Kili. He didn't have time to try and understand what was going on, only that everything was terribly, terribly wrong…
Sheer, white light.
The world seemed to stop.
Fili and Kili seemed to have frozen in place. Bilbo turned, feeling like he wasn't under his own control, squinting and made out two tall figures standing just inside the doorway.
Gandalf and Lord Elrond, both creating the pure light. In slow motion, Bilbo turned to face the brothers again.
Kili, on the ground. Why was he so… accepting of what was happening? And Fili – what had changed in him?
Suddenly time seemed to snap back into place and the light reached Fili and Kili, knocking Fili off his feet and pushing Kili away from his brother. Bilbo felt his body almost come back into itself and continued his rush towards the boys. Both were clearly unconscious. He spun around to face the others.
Gandalf was grave, but Lord Elrond was furious.
"What have you brought into my house, Bilbo Baggins! What corruption is this!"