In this chapter, text that is in bold is Dwarvish.

Chapter 23:

Mara was falling, her scream tearing through the night air. She fell and fell, the wind whistling in her ears. Suddenly, she landed on a soft surface. She opened her eyes to find herself astride a great eagle. They sailed through the dark night, searching for the others. Finally, as the dawn broke out over the tree tops, they found the tall stone outcropping where the Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves were. AS she landed, Mara rolled of the eagles back in exhaustion. The eagle, who somehow seemed young to Mara, stood over a moment with look that clearly asked if she was okay.

"I'm alright, Mister Eagle—" A slightly indignant interrupted Mara. "—Sorry, Miss Eagle. Thanks for flying me here." She reached up and stroked the beak for a moment before the eagle gave her a little nod then flew off. Slowly, she rose. Her leg wound, which had not been fully healed when they left Rivendell, had reopened during her clambering among the trees, so she was slightly limping as she approached her father and cousins. They were in a tight knot, clinging to each other and crying, completely devastated over something. Everyone just stared at her like they were seeing a ghost. Unsure of what to do since she had never seen them like this before, she gently laid her hand on Thorin's shoulder, trying not to startle him.

"Adad! What's wrong?" she asked softly. Worry for them welled up in her, making her stomach churn.

Thorin whirled around to look up at her, he too gazing at her as if not believing what he was seeing. Surging to his feet, he engulfed her in a bone-crushing hug.

Taking deep breaths, Mara drank in his pine-forest scent. "Mara, oh, my Mara…" she heard him murmur into her hair "I thought I lost you."

"I'm here, Adad, I'm here," she soothed, pulling away just enough to press her forehead to his. This brought a smile to his lips. "Love you, Adad." Thorin murmured something in Khudzul that Mara couldn't understand, but she had idea of what it meant. Gently extricating herself from Thorin, she knelt and gave Fili a hug, who was grinning from ear to ear at this point. He only held her for a moment before he let go.

"Kili needs you, Mara."

"Is he okay?"

"He will be, now that you're here."

She turned to the last Durin, her heart breaking to see him sob like he was shattered.

"But why is he so upset?"

"We thought you died, Mara," Fili answered. "He thought it was his fault."

"Oh, Kili…" Tenderly, she gathered him up in to her arms, tears welling up in her eyes at his distress. She let his head rest on her shoulder and gently began running her fingers through his dark hair with one hand and her other arm went around his shoulders, her thumb rubbing back and forth in a soothing pattern. She began humming the lullaby he had liked so well. His unrelenting tears dampened her shoulder, but Mara did not care. She continued humming and combing her fingers through his hair. She finally felt him take a deep breath in an effort to calm himself, then freeze. Suddenly, he pushed himself back, his eyes wide and unbelieving. She smiled up at him, gently taking his face in her hands, her thumbs wiping away his tears. Hesitantly, as if he feared that she would disappear if he touched her, he raised a hand to cup her cheek.

"Mara?" he gasped, hardly daring to believe his eyes.

Leaning into his touch, "It's me, Kili," she answered. He immediately pulled her close, burying his face in the crook of her neck, this time, tears of joy flooding from his eyes.

"Shhh, It's okay, I'm here, Kee, I'm here," she whispered as a soothing mantra in his ear. "It's not your fault. I'm okay; I'm here."

"I th—thought…"

"I know. It's alright now."

Mara gently pulled away to press her forehead to Kili's. The moment their foreheads touched, something white-hot, like a flame, erupted in deep in Kili's chest. He could feel it pulling towards Mara. He stiffened and gasped in surprise, and felt Mara do the same.


Kili gazed down at her in wonder. He knew what it was; his mother had explained it to him years ago. The dwarves had no name for it, but when a dwarf found his One, the One Mahal had made especially for him, he would feel a sign, like a fire within. Dis had it was often felt when a couple were in a more intimate embrace, or sometimes their first kiss. He knew Mahal gave this sign to every Dwarrow who found his or her One, but he never dreamed it could be felt by a daughter of Men.

"It's okay, Mara," Kili could not stop the wide grin forming on his face.

"What is it?" she breathed.

"Mahal gives each of his children a sign of his One—"

"His One?"

"The One he will spend the rest of his life with—"

"No!" Mara jerked up and away from him. "We can't…it can't be me…" she trailed off in to inherent sobs. Thorin quickly took her into his arms.

"You felt it didn't you?" He looked to Kili.

"Yes, Uncle. So did Mara."

"Oh, little one," Thorin soothed. "Don't let your past keep you from happiness," He pulled her in the eye. "You can't punish yourself for what others have done!" He sighed. "You love him, do you not?"

"Yes, Adad." Somehow it was suddenly all very clear to her, and that was why it hurt so. The flame within her illuminated her dark lonely heart, and she…just knew…that she loved Kili—so much she could not even begin to explain it. But like a song for her world said, she loved him enough to let him go. Kili was prince, a brave and chivalrous warrior, and gentle, loving heart; he deserved to love someone who was whole, someone so much better that she.

Kili gently pulled her from Thorin and turned her to face him, his hands on her shoulders. "Mara, amaral, what are you not telling me?" Mara tearfully shook her head. "Mara, please!" Kili begged. "Tell me! I swear it will not change my heart for you."

Mara turned and walked away to the edge of the outcropping, her eyes fixed on something in the distance. "I'm not the innocent little maiden you think I am, Kili."

"What do you mean?" She could feel his eyes boring a hole into her back.

"My dad…he…he…" A sob broke from her lips, her old griefs surfacing. She hugged herself, unable to continue.

Kili knew it was something big—huge—and it was tormenting his One. Going to her, he very gently turned her to face him, and she did not resist. With a finger under her chin, he raised her face. Looking in her eyes so full of pain and shame, he felt his heart break for the second time that day. He so wanted to comfort her, to tell her he loved her more than anything in Middle Earth, to tell her that his heart ached with her pain.

When he raised her face, Mara met his eyes, and-oh!—such warmth, such tenderness was there that she could hardly breathe.

"I can't keep it from him," she thought to herself. Lowering her eyes, she took a deep, steadying breath. "I told you that my father was a drunk." Kili nodded. "I was his means of having the money to drink."

A cold dread clenched around Kili's heart. "How?" he breathed the question.

"He would sell me to his friends for…" Mara felt new tears silently slide down her face as shame and disgust at herself washed over her anew. "They used me, then cast me aside more times than I can remember; after a year, I stopped counting."

Kili felt his world crash around him. He tenderly held Mara, his beautiful, gentle, shy, little Mara, to his chest. "Oh, Mahal!" he moaned into her hair as he pressed her face into to the crook of his neck. "Oh Mara, Amaraline…" Anger and grief for her pains coursed through him. The thought of his One played with like a toy, then shoved aside when they were tired of her…unbearable. Was it not enough that Leonard Holbrook had beaten and cursed his own daughter? He had to sell her virtue for his own desires too?

"It's why I was hurt and weak when Adad found me," she whispered to his throat. "It had been very early morning for me, and I had just slipped away from one of the trysts my father had set up." Her tears soaked the shoulder of Kili's tunic. "I couldn't take it anymore, so let myself fall off the bridge and into the river. Then, I woke up at Bilbo's." She felt Fili come up behind her and hug her and Kili together so that she was between the brothers.

"I'm so sorry, little sister," he murmured into her ear, hugging them tightly.

"Oh, Fee, I can never be your sister," she murmured sadly.

Kili jerked away to look into her eyes. "Why not?"

"Have you heard nothing I've said?" she asked softly.

"I heard." He answered just as softly.

"Then you know that I'm nothing more than a used-up plaything of many men."

"And I know I love you, Mara," Kili replied earnestly. "Nothing can change that."

"Mara," Thorin approached. "Dwarves only love one time. Once their heart is decided and they find their One, there will never be another for them."

"Then unchoose me!" she shot back. She gently cupped his face in her hands. "Kili, you are a prince of a high, noble house. You should have—you deserve so much more," she begged

"I don't understand, why do you think this?

"Because—because…I love you, Kee." He could barely hear her words, but—oh-they made his heart soar and swell so much he was sure it would burst. Then she added "Because I love you, I want you have the best; I'm not the best."

"I love you, Mara. That makes you the best for me." Kili countered. "I don't care if the highest elf-king offered his fairest virgin daughter, you would still be my choice." Mara looked to Thorin and Fili as if for help in convincing Kili of her unworthiness, but they nodded in agreement with Kili.

She turned her eyes back to Kili. Such love shone in his face, in the way his handsome dark eyes roved her face, in the way he tucked an errant curl behind her ear. Her heart was so full; she never felt so light, such joy. She did know if she would float up through the clouds or simply explode from the overwhelming emotions coursing through her.

Not knowing what else to do she flung her arms around her One's neck. Kili leaned down, got a more sure hold on her waist, and straightened, spinning her around having swept her feet right off the ground. Laughter escaped his smiling lips, as he gently set her back on her feet. He bowed his head to rest it against hers as his hands softly held her face.

"I still think you are making a mistake, Kili," she sighed. "but I love you so."

"Finding your One is never a mistake, amaraline."


"Means 'my love'," Kili grinned as a blush blossomed on her pale face. Suddenly, Thorin brought all three his kin into a one big embrace. A huge, rare smile was on his face as he held nearly all his world in his arms. Giggles and chuckles escaped the little Durin clan, but the sweet, warm scene was wrecked by a certain meddling wizard.

"Well, now that that's settled, can we get a move now?" he grumpily remarked. All of the Company, who had respectfully turned their back on the private scene, had, however, heard it all. The Durins were meet with cheers and shouts of joy, and Mara was meet with looks of new-found consideration and respect. Never had they dreamed what their innocent, gentle, little Mara had been through so much.

"You're tougher than you look, lassie," Dwalin admitted, reluctant admiration shining in his eyes and he offered her a rare hug. "Ye best hope we never meet that father o' yours," he added with a dark smirk.

"Now, now, brother, none of that. It's not the time and place for threats," Balin tsked his brother. "I'm sorry for all your troubles, lass," he added, hugging her warmly.

"It's alright," she said. "If I hadn't gone through what I did, I don't know if I'd survive what I have on this quest."

"See now, Kili, ye've gotten a smart one, ye have," Bofur grinned. "That a very good outlook to have, Miss Mara."

"Indeed it is, Miss Mara," Bilbo concurred, pulling her to his side in a one-armed hug.

"I think we can all agree that sympathy and congratulations are in order, but you think we could do it on the move?" Gandalf quipped.

"Come, gather the weapons and supplies, such as they are," Thorin ordered. "The wizard is right, it's time to move on."

Kili quickly adjust the straps of his quiver and tucked his bow away. "Mara, this is for you," he murmured. He took off his back the small elvin sword she seen Thorin looking at in the troll cave. While it seemed small in the hands of Thorin and Kili, it was the perfect size for Mara. She carefully took it in her hands and ran her finger over the elven runes and vine pattern engraved on the sheath. "Thank you…amaral," she said shyly. Kili smiled and helped her sling the back sheath cross her body and adjust the straps to fit her correctly.

"Kili! Mara!" Fili called for them. Mara quickly grabbed Kili's hand and dashed forward to catch up with the others. Fili slung his arm around her shoulders. "Look up yonder," he said quiet pointing ahead. There, rising above the tree-tops was a lone, majestic peak.

"Is that it? Is that Erebor?"

"Yes, little sister, it is." Fili answered.

Mara smiled up at Fili, then turned to Kili. She glanced down at their clasped hands, then back up at him shyly. Kili grin widened as he adjusted his grip on her fingers so that he could interlace his thick dwarven fingers through her much more slender ones. Raising their hands, he pressed a kiss to the back of hers, causing Mara to blush. Thorin called for Fili.

"Don't have too much fun, lovebirds," Fili winked at the pair before catching up with his uncle.

"Fili!" Mara gasped, turning even redder at his implication. Kili was staring at his brother's back with a death glare that would have made Thorin proud if he had turned around to see it.

"Don't be too mad, Kee," Mara sighed. "You know brothers only tease their siblings because they love them."

"I guess so," he sighed, shaking his head with grin. He let go of her hand and began to put his arm around her, but stopped.

He looked down at her hesitantly. "May I?" he asked shyly, "or would it bring up bad memories?"

Mara was touched by his consideration. "Yes, you may." He gently slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her to side. Smiling bashfully, she reciprocated the action and wrapped her arm around his waist. His grin grew into one that would impress the Cheshire Cat, and he planted a kiss on the top of her head as she leaned into his side. Together, safe in each other's arms, they faced the next stage of their quest.

So, it's official for Kili and Mara! Remember reviews of love for us authors. ;) Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone! One thing I'm thankful for is the creativity of the human mind. Our imaginations are so strong and diverse, creating new beautiful worlds through the written word every day! It's what things like The Hobbit and fanfics possible!