Author's Note: Hi. I'm back. I am sorry it took so long. I went through depression last year and it took me a while to get back on track. I am going to fix this story up a bit eventually to improve it as well. For now, I'm going to try to keep writing and get it out there. Kili-muse says I'm a control freak and I need to learn to relax and trust him if I'm ever going to get better. That's going to take time. I hope that when I do, I can come back later on and we (my Muse and me) can work to fix this story up a bit to make it better again.

Warning: This chapter is rather horrific at the end. Discretion is advised if you are a sensitive reader. Technically, Thorin should be his own warning by now, but it's still up to you as to whether or not you want to read. Thank you all for supporting me so far.


Time passed, days and weeks blurring together in Sky's mind. The snows began to melt. She did her best to behave as expected of her, avoiding Beatrice like the plague and focusing only on pleasing Thorin. However, much to her relief, she saw almost nothing of the King for about a month. Her door was unlocked eventually and she was allowed to wander once more, though she rarely strayed further than the Royal Apartments. Almost every night now she would wake with sweat-stained sheets, unable to remember exactly what the nightmares were about, though she could take a good guess. The parts she always recalled involved his dark blue eyes and pain and screaming and blood. So much blood…

She trained with Kili every few days, after he agreed to her insistence that a foolproof cover up drill be devised in the event the younger prince had an unexpected visit from his uncle. When it came to the actual lessons, it didn't seem like she was improving, if Kili's continuous snark and overly-exaggerated resigned attitude were anything to go by. Yet not once so far had he made any mention of giving up. Sky decided to take that as a good sign. He wasn't exactly one to admit to having made an erroneous judgment. The thought that it was probably his way of dealing with her proving him wrong about her training ability kept her persevering.

The tedious time in between swordsmanship lessons and sexual sessions did eventually become unbearable, and ennui won out over her fear of running into Avaris and Zaarm again. She visited the library every day, spending hours poring over the Westron books she'd left on the table. Oddly enough, they hadn't been touched, though she wasn't complaining.

Through one of them, Sky discovered that much of what she knew of Middle Earth history had changed during the battle of the Last Alliance. Sauron had defeated the armies of Elves and Men, and the dark lord had returned to his kingdom in Mordor once victorious, simply allowing his army of evil creatures to run amok wherever they pleased throughout the land. The dwarves, fresh and at their full might, managed to drive Sauron's loose forces clear of their own lands and into Mirkwood and the Misty Mountain range to the West. Split and spread out in smaller packs as they were, the orcs still posed a challenge, but were easier to get rid of once leaderless and with no real purpose. 'Until recently, evidently,' Sky thought, remembering the orc army which had attacked the Mountain in what seemed like a lifetime ago now. The ring of power received no mention, nor did Smaug.The dragon had simply never turned up, though according to Balin, Thror had still suffered from gold sickness.

Sky flicked through the pages quicker, no longer reading, just looking for a part on the beginning of the hundred year war and dwarven occupation of Rhovanion. She noticed the tip of something peaking out between pages and opened the section to see what it was. And found what she had been looking for. Oddly enough, the chapter had been bookmarked with a feather, white as the melting snow on her balcony.

The chapter spoke of the treaty between the Men of Dale and the dwarves of Erebor being torn asunder, just as Balin had told her. But it explained the entire beginning in more gruesome, sobering detail than her comportment teacher had divulged. The tome was relatively new compared to the other books on her pile, probably only around fifty years old. She'd collected enough antique books over time in her own world to make a relatively accurate estimate of the age.

According to the author – whose name had strangely not been credited anywhere in the book – the first cause of unrest had been the sexual assault of a disguised dwarrowdam, on her way back to the Mountain after trading in the markets of Dale. Her attacker was of a rich family and a known criminal and serial rapist, who had recently been released due to what his judge had deemed 'insufficient evidence.' He had spied the dwarrowdam, who would have appeared to be a lone dwarf, on the road. Discovering otherwise had not swayed his decision; perhaps even reinforced it. He'd ambushed her, knocked her unconscious and proceeded to violate her. The victim's family and indeed the entire Mountain were outraged when they learned of it; she had taken the matter straight to the rulers of Erebor. King Thror and his council judged the Man guilty, and sent out parties to arrest him with the intention of condemning him to death in accordance with their laws. The offender returned to Dale, insisted he was not guilty and demanded protection, which he received. The dwarves of Erebor were incensed by this, though the council continued to attempt to resolve the problem diplomatically.

The final straw however, had come a few months later, when a mining operation belonging to Dale and worked by both Men and a small number of dwarves became the scene of a tragic accident. The Men had failed to properly shore up tunnels and neglected other important safety procedures, which the dwarves working with them had tried several times to point out to the foreman, though no changes were made. The dwarves – all of a lower class – continued to work there despite the dangers, as most had families to feed. Inevitably, the mine had collapsed, killing all inside. In an attempt to avoid further conflict, the leaders of Dale tried to cover up the nature of the incident by giving the excuse that deadly vapours seeping through the cracks in the area prevented safe investigation. But this meant the denial of the dwarves' right to recover the bodies. This was beyond belief for the grieving families and other dwarvish inhabitants of the Mountain. A small party tried to sneak in anyway, but were stopped by the Men put on guard at the site. An argument ensued and the Khazad warriors resorted to violence, resulting in the deaths of several Men. A few escaped and collected reinforcements. The dwarves, who had only just begun digging for their kin, had no chance. The already enraged Men slew all but one – whom they took prisoner – though they lost more of their own in the process. The anonymous author had made a footnote saying that the recount of the fight over the gravesite had been taken from the surviving dwarf, who was rescued not long after.

Thror took advantage of the rage spreading through his people, and lead his army against Dale. The Lord of the Iron Hills had joined him, and together they crushed the opposing army and took the City by force. Esgaroth fell soon after.

The author spoke of how Thorin had taken over from his grandfather during a rash of defeats resulting from Thror's mental decline. The young prince had incited new fervour from the Khazad, leading campaign after campaign with commendable success– though he often utilised levels of extreme violence looked upon with concern by those in authority under him. The writer of the volume most likely shared their thoughts, considering he or she – or they – had the courage to include it in the first place, though had clearly taken care to present it as purely the observations and opinions of the commanding officers. All of whom had coincidentally 'passed away' or died tragic deaths in what seemed to be suspicious circumstances. Not that the author had the courage to write that directly, but it was implied.

She only managed to get through two of the late officers' recorded statements before she had to close the book and choose another to read for a while. Perhaps once upon a time she could have read about such acts and remained detached from them as though they were fiction, but being the prisoner of the dwarf who had committed the gruesome deeds made them all too real. And made her think of Lasl. And that was one thing she would not do. Must not do.

Fili was right. Her self-centeredness and rash decisions had caused so much suffering. What Thorin had done to her that day in his chambers seemed like nothing compared to what could have and probably had been meted out to Lasl. Fili wouldn't have escaped his uncle's retribution either. And what of Leadawn and Pitha? Had they suffered because of her? Part of her knew exactly the kind of cruel psychological game the dwarf king was playing. Even if he hadn't harmed anyone, the idea that he might have and would again was easily enough to keep her in line. Her own terror of him did the rest.

Yet despite this, she still found the gall to practice swordsmanship right under his nose with his younger nephew. True, they had developed a plan for hiding their activities quickly if needed, but there was always a risk. She could only hope Kili knew his uncle well enough to avoid discovery. And why exactly was she spending so much time with her second worst enemy in the first place? Realistically it would probably take years for the training to pay off in a way that was useful to her, and she wouldn't be able to try anything without fear of others being on the receiving end of the repercussions. Still, it was better than doing nothing, and her hatred of the prince certainly did help fuel the fire in her to improve. Sky had surprised herself in looking forward to the day Kili could step into the ring with her. She really needed to whoop his ass, craved it almost as much as she did freedom. Kili apparently sensed it. A week ago, he had told her he was eagerly anticipating introducing her to 'a whole new world of sensation' once he was fully healed. He'd winked suggestively at the end, and she had given in to the overwhelming urge to flip him the bird, despite the sheer pointlessness of the action.

Too many thoughts whirling around and around and making little to no real sense. Or too frightening to spend much time straightening out. Sky dug the heels of her palms into her temples and rubbed them firmly with a groan.

"Miss Sky?" A tentative voice called. Sky looked up to see Ori standing nearby. 'Miss' was the way her maid and most other slaves addressed her. This night was getting stranger and stranger by the minute. "Master Ori?" She pushed her chair back and moved to kneel, though not as deeply as was required for the higher ranking dwarves. "Oh no, d-do not bother with all that, please," he sputtered, clearing his throat and nervously straightening the books in his arms. "I just came to tell you that I am closing the library for the night. O-or rather, early morning."

"Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was that late. I hope I haven't kept you, sir."

"N-no, no. I was very busy all night. I-I just did not want to, well… lock you in."

Some cynical part of her found his comment extremely amusing and she had to fight hard to keep from smirking.

"Thank you for remembering me, sir. I shall leave immediately."

"G-good night, Sky."

"Goodnight, sir."


The universe was conspiring against her, it seemed.

Despite her vow to behave exactly as expected and obey all the oppressive rules and regulations forced upon her, despite her best efforts to remain unobtrusive and under Thorin and every other dwarf's radar, of course it would so happen that the moment she started taking great pains to avoid seeking out trouble, it sought her out.

Sky was heading sleepily back to her chambers from the library when an angry voice and two pairs of running feet, one set louder than the other, floated down the hallway to her ears. She tried to ignore it, telling herself very firmly that it was absolutely none of her business, and turned to look anyway. A small figure rounded a nearby corner and dashed straight for her. She had only a moment to recognise with shock that it was Pitha, the little Heath Tribe girl enslaved alongside Leadawn, before the child had her arms tightly about Sky's waist and was sobbing into her dress. She embraced Pitha automatically, mumbling reassurances to her whilst attempting to sort through her confused thoughts. What was she doing in the upper levels? And where was Leadawn? Fili had suggested to Thorin they be taken to the kitchen, so she had simply assumed they were there.

Sky had no time to question Pitha about it however, as Zaarm came into view, panting and cursing loudly in Khuzdul– at least, Sky assumed they were curses. Pitha hid behind Sky, her small chubby hands clinging to the soft folds at the back of the older girl's dress. Zaarm stalked up to her, face almost as red as her hair with exertion and rage. Sky bowed quickly, feeling Pitha follow her down in an attempt to maintain her hiding place. Poor thing.

"What is the meaning of this?! Get out from behind there at once, you little imzêrtunz!"

Sky felt herself freeze in fear as Zaarm's hand shot out toward her, only to feel relief as it turned out the dwarrowdam had grabbed Pitha, not her. Then a rush of shame flooded over her. Was she doomed to fail at defending those under her protection at every turn? Pitha was screaming, crying and struggling against the angry dwarf woman, who dragged her with little effort behind her as she made to go back the way they had come. Sky had to do something. Anything. But her Shadow would be watching. She might be punished.

But poor Pitha…

Was this the kind of thing that went through Fili's head every time Sky was in danger and he risked Thorin's wrath himself by attempting to shield her? Were these the kinds of choices he had to make? Yet Fili was Thorin's heir. There were actions he could take and words he could use that she could not. What if she only made it worse? For both herself and Pitha.

Words he could use….

Fili was a sweet-talker. A silver tongue. A master manipulator. When something didn't go how he wanted, he could talk others into doing things his way by highlighting the parts of his plan that benefited them, and a number of other sneaky psychological tactics in order to achieve his own goals. She wouldn't be surprised if he even made them think it was their idea. Sky had seen him do this several times since she met him, one of them being when he'd convinced Thorin to take Leadawn and Pitha with them so she could know they were safe, rather than leave them to the terrible conditions she had witnessed in Dale. At first she had been angry and resentful. Then she'd realised that, whilst it was indeed to Thorin's advantage in keeping her more firmly entrapped, it was also the best thing Fili could have done for them and her. He had been helping her long before he rescued her in the library.

Sky couldn't take the same route Fili would, but she might be able to do something similar and just adapt it to her station. In all likelihood she'd just end up being punished herself, but she owed it to both Pitha and Fili to try. "My lady, please wait." Zaarm whirled to face the kneeling woman angrily. "How dare you? I never gave you permission to speak! If I could, I would take you to hand myself! As it is, I have a good mind to make a complaint against you to our esteemed ruler!"

"Oh no, my lady please! I mean no offence! I simply wanted to offer you my services, as someone with experience in the management of children of my race."

Zaarm scoffed loudly, "Are you implying I cannot manage my own slaves? Who do you think you are?" 'Someone who would pour glue into your ridiculous red mop the first chance she got whilst you slept, if she were the only one going to suffer for it.' Instead she replied, "Of course not, my lady. You seem exceptionally capable and I'm certain you have all of your slaves well in hand. I'm simply offering to assist. It is late, and I wouldn't want my lady losing any of her valuable sleep over punishing this girl when I could do it for her." The dwarrowdam was calming down now, actually listening and clearly mulling over what Sky had been saying. Sky took her chance to play her last card, praying it would be enough. "I beg of you to tell me what this dratted young urchin has done to displease you so. Perhaps my lady would honour me by allowing me to take care of the situation myself?"

Zaarm fussily straightened out her dress and felt her hair briefly as though to check it was still in its flamboyant style. Sky couldn't believe the fiery dam might actually sleep in it. The Khazad were a strange people. "Well…. I suppose you could. I do have so many places to be and important things to do tomorrow that you cannot even begin to comprehend, what with your simple little life and mind. Very well. Get on with it then. Just make sure it is back to do its duties and clean up the frightful mess it made before I rise again."

With that, she flounced back down the hall. Sky was struggling not to laugh at the frankly ludicrous spectacle Zaarm was making all the way until she passed out of view. Sky turned and embraced Pitha tightly, the little girl hugging her back just as fiercely. She was crying, the poor dear. Sky made soothing sounds and rubbed the child's shoulders in an effort to calm her. "I-I-I d-didn't m-m-mean to," Pitha sobbed, dashing a hand over her eyes and sniffling. "She p-placed it t-too close t-to the edge, a-and it f-fell off when I b-b-bumped it." Another wave of tears. "It's ok," Sky murmured, "I'm not really going to punish you. I just needed to get rid of her and dwarves love it when you butter them up. It's ok. Don't worry. It's ok." Slowly but surely, the weeping ebbed, until Pitha pulled away and wiped her nose on her sleeve with a little sniff.

"Now, can you tell me what happened, sweetie?"

Pitha recounted the sorry tale of a fancy vase being broken because Zaarm had carelessly placed it in a precarious position, then blamed Pitha entirely for the accident. The dam had chased the poor child around with a shard of the broken vessel until Pitha managed to flee Zaarm's chambers. She had received quite a fright and was afraid to return. Sky shook her head at Zaarm's cruelty, trying to think of some way to keep anything like it from happening again. Honestly there was very little either of them could do. Finally she said, "Look. You'll just have to be more careful from now on. Stay away from furniture unless you've been ordered to clean it, and pick up all the pieces before she wakes up. Be doubly obedient and bow and scrape a lot more the whole day and she'll probably have forgotten it all by lunchtime. And try to act like your bottom is very sore, as though I gave you a sound hiding, ok?" Pitha giggled and nodded. Tricking Zaarm was clearly going to be very satisfying for her. Sky couldn't blame her. She would certainly be watching out for Pitha whenever she could, now that she knew the little girl was actually within reach on the very same level as her. Leadawn was in the kitchens, as Sky had originally thought. Pitha had been turned away by the staff, who complained she was too small and would only get under their feet. So she had been sent up to serve Zaarm as the nobledam's chambermaid, though she shared her duties with an older servant who took care of the more dangerous and difficult tasks.

Pitha tried to dry her face, but Sky stopped her. "The teary streaks and puffiness will make the idea that I punished you more believable to them. It's quite late. You'd best get back in case she is waiting for you." She hated letting her go, but it was in both of their best interests. The little girl nodded and gave Sky another hug before hurrying back down the hall. Sky went to bed with a warm feeling in her heart that she hadn't felt in months. It was just a small thing, but her actions had made someone else's life a bit easier instead of worse for a change, even if it turned out to be only temporary. For once, she dreamt of Fili. He was smiling at her and laughing at something she'd said. The nightmare followed soon after, but when she woke, panting hard as usual, she remembered the dream preceding it and felt strangely comforted.


A few nights after, she found herself in Thorin's chambers again, though this time they were in the washroom. And his nephews were present also. She had only seen Fili briefly a few times over the past month, and never long enough or in private enough a setting to talk to him. Not that he would have anyway it seemed. He had made a point of coldly ignoring her from the moment she walked through the door. Kili was no longer using his crutch, but still moved slowly. He winked at her. She shot him a glare before casting her eyes down again quickly. Sky herself was crouched awkwardly in one corner by the benches, waiting for a command, any command at all. Her ankles were killing her.

A girl who looked to be in her teenage years scurried in, taking the Durins' clothes as they removed them and placed them in her arms. Kili pinched her arse as she left him, and she gasped and went beet red. Thorin and Kili laughed. Fili just stood quietly with his usual resigned air. Their uncle spoke gruffly in Khuzdul and all three stepped into the hot pool. It was much larger than her own; half a dozen of hers would have fit inside it. The shelves in the walls of the room were lined with all manner of bottles, crockery pots and big, thick towels. A stick of incense had been lit, and Sky found herself relaxing involuntarily as she breathed in the soothing scent.

Still she waited, and still she was not called upon. This was the longest she had ever had to hold the position. Thorin seemed content to soak and talk to his nephews in the dwarvish tongue. Kili chatted animatedly, and his uncle burst out in loud laughter once, in response to an apparently amusing anecdote. Fili's face only twitched slightly, though he made a visible effort to imitate a proper smile when his little brother looked his way. It lacked the warmth and beauty of the rare, genuine smiles she had seen from him. Either Thorin's presence dampened his ability to find the story funny, or he disapproved. Or perhaps he was just being his usual withdrawn self.

Was it usual? He hid further behind his perfected mask whenever Thorin was around. Something was very wrong with their relationship, she was sure of it. Every one of their interactions was off. Fili was usually respectful and courteous and Thorin remained civil and seemingly reasonable. Even out of the public eye. But that was exactly what made it feel so wrong. There was no affection, no familial recognition. Come to think of it, she could not remember a single time she had ever heard Fili call Thorin 'uncle.' He almost always addressed the King as 'Sire,' and occasionally the other honorifics used for male monarchs, no matter where they were or who they were in the presence of.

Kili was affectionate, happy and boisterous. Thorin looked at him with fondness, and their conversation and behaviour around each other was easy going and relaxed. The youngest Durin idolized both his uncle and his brother, and continuously sought their attention and approval. Fili loved him with all his heart, that much was obvious, and a light appeared in his eyes whenever he was around Kili. The difference between the way he was with Kili and how he interacted with Thorin was painfully clear.

Was it because he disagreed with the King's principles? He obviously did, and it was clear from that day in her chambers that they clashed over the concept of morality often. However, she thought it unlikely to be enough to drive such a wedge between them that Fili had all but openly disowned his uncle. Family was extremely important to the Khazad. It had to be far worse a betrayal than a difference of opinion, surely.

"Salrûna, come here."


Sky shuffled over to where Thorin lounged against the edge of the bath. He waved his hand at the wall. "Fetch me the items in the third-row compartment, second from the left. You may walk."

"Yes, your Majesty."

She rose and made her way gingerly around the edge to the shelves. And encountered a rather embarrassing problem. She worried at her lip as she thought what to do.

"In your own time, of course."

His tone was dangerously sarcastic. There was nothing for it.

"Permission to speak, your Grace?"


Kili cut in before she had a chance, crowing, "The poor mim-mushz is too short." Sky bit her tongue and kept her eyes resolutely on the space between her feet. She'd make him pay later, she vowed, somehow. Thorin let out an exasperated sound, then turned to face the door. "Girl!" he barked. For a confusing moment she thought he meant her, then the girl from before scurried in and prostrated herself. "Bring me the things from the usual shelf." She whispered a "Yes, my lord," moving quickly to where Sky stood. She was the same height as the King himself, and reached up with ease to gather the items he wanted, placing them by him with shaking hands.

"Now fetch us some wine."

"Yes, your Majesty."

"You. Help her," he grunted at Sky, and she scrambled to obey. The floor was dangerously slippery in places where water kept slopping out whenever Thorin leant back, in addition to the patches created by wet people regularly dripping water throughout the bathing chamber. She was glad she had left her moccasins outside the entrance. She had to pick her way carefully to avoid falling flat on her face. Kili would just love that. In the main room, the maid was trying to pick up a pitcher and three goblets without much success. Sky proffered her hands to take something, smiling in reassurance. The maid handed her the goblets and smiled back. "What's your name?" Sky whispered. "Esther," came the muttered reply. That was all they had time for.

"I am waiting!"

The two hapless girls hurried back wordlessly.

They had just entered the room, heads dutifully bowed and blood racing, when disaster struck.

Almost in slow motion, Sky saw Esther's feet lose their purchase on the slippery floor. The pitcher left the maid's hands and shattered on the stone. Pottery shards flew everywhere, and wine began spreading itself outwards from the puddle in the wreckage. There was a deadly silence as time stood still, and both humans stared dumbly at the spilt wine as though neither could quite understand what had happened.

Sky was the first to recover, dropping into the obeisance position. She looked briefly at Fili, half-expecting him to leap to Esther's rescue. However, he only sighed and closed his eyes, turning away like he couldn't bear to watch what they all knew would happen next. Kili just tipped his head back, expelling breath out through his nose in annoyance. Thorin was examining the broken pitcher the way one might some odd curiosity on a market stall. Esther looked confused. Sky knew what she was thinking. Why wasn't he flying into a rage? The poor maid was clearly new to the job, else she would know – as Sky knew – that if he had gotten angry immediately, she probably wouldn't have all that much to worry about in comparison to what was happening now. The way he was behaving currently was merely the calm before the storm. He was very angry indeed, and his calculative air confirmed Sky's worst expectations. That slow cock of the head meant he was meticulously taking in the crime, and forming some creative and terrible kind of retribution in his warped mind. She had seen it often enough to know that Esther was in seriously deep shit.

Sky was tired of watching other people suffer and not being able to do anything about it. In an ill-considered moment of rashness, she found herself blurting, "I'm so sorry, your Majesty! It was my fault. I tripped and pushed her. Please don't take it out on her!"

"Oh, pardon me. I completely forgot it is your place to judge who is guilty of what, and how they should be punished," he replied with a flippant air. Sky felt her heart plummet into the pit of her stomach in dread. "Is there anything else you would like to add? No? Good. Then hold your tongue," the dwarf King growled, water streaming down his powerful frame as he climbed out of the pool and started toward them. She heard a little gasp of fear from beside her, and saw Esther lying where she had fallen, paralysed with fright. Sky reached out and grabbed Esther's arm, pulling the maid back with a meaningful glance at the way she herself was crouching. Esther quickly copied her, bowing her head and clutching her quaking hands to her chest.

Thorin's large feet came into view, and Sky was reminded of the very first time she had seen him, in the war tent on the bloody battlefield he had made of the once beautiful Withered Heath. He ripped the beauty away from everything he touched, twisting and corrupting until there was nothing left but a shadow of the original thing, for him to control and use as he wished. How long before he took the last vestiges of her humanity from her? How long before she became like all his other puppets, scurrying to obey his every command for fear of some terrible consequence as a result of failure? Perhaps she already had.

"Sky, retrieve the pottery. Miss a single shard and I will grind it up and shove it down your throat."

"Yes, your Majesty." She went for the large bits first, grateful that it wasn't glass which would have been sharper and harder to find in the wine. If she felt around carefully, she could locate most of the smaller pieces without cutting herself. She could hear Thorin behind her speaking to Esther. "That wine comes from my personal cellars, brewed and distilled from the finest vineyards in Dale by the best vintners in Erebor. Now I ask you, is it right that such a fine drink be wasted on the floor of my wash room? Hmm?"

"No, your Majesty," Esther squeaked, body quaking and tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "I am so pleased you agree with me. It really should be enjoyed." He leaned in close to the maid's ear and murmured, "Lick it up. Every. Last. Drop."

Then the unthinkable happened.

Esther burst into tears and shook her head.

Sky felt sick with fear for her. "Do as he says, you idiot!" she hissed loudly, knowing they could all hear, but unable to stand by and do absolutely nothing whilst the foolish teen unwittingly courted death. Thorin, whose features had darkened immediately in response to the girl's refusal, turned on Sky. "Ah, yes. My perfectly behaved consort," he commented in a scathing, heavily sarcastic tone. "Perhaps you should set the example for her. Go on, show her how it is done."

"Yes, your Grace."

Sky swallowed in revulsion at the thought, but obeyed, leaning down and closing her eyes to reduce the number of senses involved in the disgusting procedure. As if the horrible liquid didn't taste bad enough, she still had to contend with the psychological aspect of her tongue touching a floor which probably only received any kind of washing when dirty bathwater was splashed all over it by bathers. Hairy, sweaty, dirty bathers. Stop. She'd make herself vomit and then Thorin would almost certainly make her eat that as well. It was all she could do to keep her stomach's contents where they belonged.

"There, you see? That is how a good slave responds to all orders. Sky will be rewarded for her model behaviour. As for you…"

Esther had no time to react as Thorin's meaty hand flashed down without warning, grasping her by the neck and slamming her face into the stone beneath her with incredible force. Perhaps if he had been a Man, the maid would have lived, albeit with a broken nose and most likely several other fractures of her facial bones. However, the average dwarf had three times the strength of a Man, and Thorin was heavily built, even for one of the Khazad.

Sky heard the sickening crunch and squish as Esther's skull gave way, briefly caught a glimpse of a scene that had the morbidly objective part of her mind making comparisons with memories of squashed mosquitos, and immediately turned her head to look at the space between the Durin brothers to avoid seeing any more. An expression of horror matching what she felt seemed to flicker across Kili's features for a second, though it was gone quickly. Then he closed his eyes and swallowed tightly. Fili was steadfastly attempting to bore a hole in the other wall with his gaze, a little muscle under his jaw twitching spasmodically.

Sky could only hope Esther had died immediately.

Thorin took one of the towels laid out on the nearby bench and cleaned his hands on it. It was all Sky could do just to keep from looking back at the young girl's remains. There was no way she could keep from throwing up if she saw that. If it had been in a movie, or even a photo in a medical textbook covering cadavers, she would have been able to remain detached. However, the proximity of the monster committing the atrocious deeds once again made it all too real. Had he done it simply because he could and thought the maid deserved it? Or did the cold blooded, brutal murder of Esther hold a double meaning?

I can and will kill you with little effort and no remorse, if you push me too far or begin to bore me.

Sky realised she had stopped licking up the wine and quickly bent, hoping fervently that Thorin hadn't noticed. Luckily, he ignored her and climbed back into the bath. "I'm going to need a new maid," he stated matter-of-factly. Kili chuckled in response, but it sounded forced and half-hearted. Fili stayed silent. Thorin left the room and she could hear him talking to one of the guards outside his chambers. His voice carried even at lower volumes. Then he returned and sank back into the bath. "Salrȗna, leave that and come here," Thorin ordered. Sky found herself wishing he'd just let her complete his previous command, revolting as it was. At least she wouldn't have had to go near him. Wishing never got anyone anywhere however, so she edged towards him as slowly as she dared. He ordered her to pick up the various bathing implements Ester had retrieved earlier and put them on the tray, which she found on one of the lower shelves. Fili requested to be dismissed, giving the excuse he had a meeting with the council to prepare for. Thorin denied him permission, stating rather gruffly that Fili would have plenty of time for it in the morning, and that he could leave only when Thorin said he may. Kili remained silent, leaning back in the bath with eyes closed, seemingly ignoring all that was going on. For the next half hour, Sky was kept shuffling around on her knees, presenting and holding the tray of items for each dwarf to utilise at will. Her stomach performed an extra little twist when she finally got to Fili, but he only took the hair wash before waving her away, for which she was grateful. Kili spoke in their tongue to Fili, and made a 'turn around' gesture with his hands, then took the vial from his brother's hand and washed his hair for him, chatting all the while.

Another servant, a young man this time, entered and helped Sky serve wine to the Durins. She met his eyes only once, over the swiftly congealing pool of blood marring the stone floor.

She could not have said which of them glanced away first.


Author's Note: I am planning to finish this story. I swear. And then overhaul it to make it better once it's done because I'm a perfectionist and I want to make it better. I want to get better as a writer. I have to write what I want to see because I don't see a lot of what I like to read in fanfiction. Upside, I learn to write better. :)

Feel free to continue reviewing and giving ideas/constructive criticism whenever you have it. I need all the help and outside experience I can get.

I got some help from a friend and finally finished the chapter I have been working on for over a year now. I suffered through several months of depression last year in which I failed a semester at Uni and then took a gap semester whilst I was working with the depression. I'm starting to recover now and I actually read a whole book recently which would have been impossible last year. (It was the annotated uncensored edition of Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture Of Dorian Gray.' I loved it. It was amazing.)
So I'm updating today. I hope you enjoy the chapter. Let me know what you think?

Khuzdul Translation:

Imzêrtunz– Pestilence

Mim-mushz – Mouse (small-rat)

Much gratitude to Dwarrowscholar (not a Fanfiction pen name by the way; look them up on the general internet) who spent so much time putting together an actual English-Khuzdul DICTIONARY, which is what I used here.