Author's note: Hey all! Welcome back to a new chapter of Blessings and Curses. I just want to say thank you for your patience. I know it has been a while since I last worked on this story, but it has not been abandoned. This year I bit off a bit more than I could chew with schoolwork and labs but now that I'm home early because of the coronavirus closing down my school I expect I'll have a lot more time to write.
To those of you whose stories I follow, I'm still working to get caught up but I should be done soon. I just wanted to get this story out while the creative iron was still hot!
This chapter in particular was hard to write because I'm stitching a whole lot of POVs together, but I had a lot of fun finally getting down to the battle. Stay tuned, because in the next couple of chapters we'll be moving into new and uncharted territory!
Let me know what you think!
What would Thorin do?
Throughout his life, that had always been a question Fílli had asked himself. One day you will be king, and then you will understand, his uncle had once promised him, and to the blond heir, that day had always seemed impossibly far away. It always had been, but that didn't mean that Fíli hadn't tried to live up to it.
Everyone had always considered Kíli the instigator of their mischief when they were Dwarflings—and that much was true, Kíli had a mind for trouble in the same way a craft-bound Dwarf had a mind for their craft—but it was Fili who went along with it, Fili who devised his little brother's plan a step further (after all, Uncle Thorin wouldn't be afraid of climbing to reach the cookies on the highest shelf. Uncle Thorin wouldn't be afraid to go hunting for Trolls in the woods while they were supposed to be doing their lessons).
As they grew older, Fíli came to recognize the line between foolishness and admiration. But his fierce loyalty to their uncle remained, even as his relationship with Thorin shifted in a way that Thorin and Kili's had not. More and more frequently, their uncle began pulling him aside for private training, teaching him how to best to lead for when his time came.
Of course, he remained supportive of Kíli as well—even buying him his first bow, even though he'd spent the earlier night arguing with Dís about whether or not it was an appropriate weapon for his sister-son—but he placed emphasis on Fili's duty to their people.
In public, Thorin was typically Thorin, not Uncle. They were more than kin, he was the King in Exile and Fíli was The Heir. In most cases, Kíli remained… just Kíli. The bond between his brother and Thorn remained more of that between an uncle and nephew than between a king and his heir, a luxury that Fili no longer had. At the same time though, he had a privilege that Kíli never had.
While both he and Kíli had insisted on coming on the quest, Kíli had done it more in the spirit of adventure. He'd done so as well, but for him the quest significance also had a deeper significance. It was a way to prove to both himself and to Thorin that he could manage whatever challenges and hardships they faced.
Now though, he was on his own. Kíli was most likely outside their very halls—most likely having gone to the Elvenking. Was he even alive still? An uncomfortable knot twisted in his gut. Their uncle was gone as well, but in a very different way.
Any challenges he faced he would have to face alone.
When you are King, you will understand.
"If this is what it means to be king, then I don't want it," Fíli murmured quietly to himself. He looked up at the great wall that divided them from the battle, then out at the scattered Company, most of whom lingered nearby. Dwalin and Balin stood near the entryway to the throne room, speaking in low voices. Glóin continued uneasily sharpening his axe, glancing shiftily at the wall every so often. Sometime after Thorin left, Nori the thief had disappeared as well.
Without his uncle, they were a ragged, leaderless bunch; too far from home and too tired to do anything about it. Everything about it was wrong—and Fíli no longer knew what would make it right—but he knew that he had to try.
Nervously, he cleared his throat and began to speak.
Black blood spurted from the Orc's throat as the arrow hit its mark. Without hesitating, Kíli reached back and drew out another one from his quiver, knocking it into place. Uncle, Fili… Where are you? He drew back and fired, and yet another foe tumbled to the ground, dead or dying.
Kíli didn't care which.
The Orc army was overwhelming. Even with the combined strength of Dain and the Elvenking's armies, there were too many. Far too many. Only a few yards to his right, a black-haired Elf was shot down by a Goblin mercenary, his startled cry cut short. Kíli glanced at him, but his eyes, while open, stared up at the sky without seeing. He was dead.
That could have been me.
Needless to say, the Goblin mercenary met a quick end.
Where was the Company? Thorin Oakenshield does not care about an Elf, warned the voice of Thranduil, but Kíli stubbornly pushed it aside. No, he does care. Not about all Elves, but about me. All the same, despair crept into his heart. Why were they hiding? Dain and his Dwarves were here, fighting on Thorin's behalf, and they were dying!
Had they been abandoned after all?
At that moment, the low ringing—like that of a large gong, although it could hardly be heard over the clamor—sounded. Kíli turned, tense. Then, so suddenly that many standing nearby flinched or leapt back, the wall to Erebor crumbled. Bits and pieces of shattered stone flew out as larger portions of stone keeled over, forming an even wider bridge across the Mountain's narrow gateway. A cloud of thick, swirling dust rose up upon impact.
The dark-haired Elf blinked in surprise. The wall had been smashed through by a very large bell.
A moment later, the Company poured out. Their voices raised and their weapons raised, they charged the onslaught of Orcs, Fíli at the head of the formation. Kíli stared in disbelief. Where was their Uncle?
"Baruk Khazâd!" cried Fili, unsheathing the longest of his knives and plunging it into the nearest of the Orcs. The creature screeched as Fili struck again—this time, not at the arm but at the chest, and a cheer went up from the assembled Dwarves.
"Baruk Khazâd!" They cheered in turn.
A surge of pride raced through Kíli. Even if his brother couldn't see him from where he was, he raised his voice as well to join in the battle cry. "Khazâd ai-menu!"
Axes of the Dwarves. The Dwarves are upon you.
The throne room was empty, save for one Dwarf. Thorin stood alone, surveying the vast halls, the high-vaulted ceiling, the golden floors of the kingdom of Erebor. He swayed as though caught in a fever dream. I have been betrayed, he thought, the sounds of battle raging on above him, muffled and distant in the heart of the mountain. Treasure such as this, could not be counted in lives lost...
A sickness lies upon that treasure, Balin warned. A sickness that drove your grandfather mad—
Itkit! Thorin growled at the voice that wasn't there. Am I not your king? This gold is ours. Our gold... Gold beyond measure. I will not part with a single stone! The thought brought with it warmth, pride, so much so that it swelled into a blistering, stifling heat, but even then, the stubborn sound of his advisor's voice would not go away. To make things worse, it was joined by others.
You are changed, Thorin. Bilbo's voice echoed, and for the first time, the scalding heat inside him turned to nausea. The Dwarf I met back in Bag End would never have gone back on his word, would never have doubted the loyalty of his kin...
To not speak to me as though I were a lowly Dwarf Lord... As if I were still Thorin Oakenshield..
Another thought occurred to him as well. Distantly, but it was there.
I am Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thrór. I am not my grandfather. I am not my grandfather.
Dwalin's voice, heavy and choked with grief. They're dying out there, Thorin. Dain is surrounded...
I am not my grandfather. A bit more resolve this time.
Is this treasure truly worth more than your honor?
Bilbo! The Hobbit's voice echoed through his mind, soft, reasonable. Thorin latched onto it with all he was worth. He caught hold of Bilbo's gentle voice as it cut through the madness, guiding him back home.
I am not my grandfather.
This treasure will be your death, Gandalf warned, and Thorin felt the room start to spin.
I am not my grandfather.
Take back your homeland...
Uncle, you're hurting him!
Fíli! Thorin felt his heart clench up immediately. How could he have forgotten about his nephews?
He saw Fíli clearly, helping the thing, the abomination—no, Kíli to his feet. Kíli. His sister-son. The darkness rose again in his mind. Kíli, the Elf. Kíli, the traitor. Kíli kissing the she-Elf, forgetting all loyalty to his kin, helping the Hobbit hide the Arkenstone from them. His nephew, coming to him to help, and Thorin's hands wrapped around his throat.
Kíli's strangled gasps, his dark eyes wide with fear.
What have I done?
The heat left him, and Thorin felt his whole body grow cold. The room spun again, and this time Thorin rocked with it. He staggered to the ground, sank to his knees. He was slipping, falling, drowning in gold, while the voices swirling around him rose to an unbearable degree.
Take back your homeland... Be the King you were born to be...
I am not my grandfather, I am not my grandfather! Thorin gasped.
The heavy golden crown clattered to the ground.
"What's the plan, lad?" asked Dwalin.
"Still working on it," Fíli gritted out as he swung his sword and cleaved another Goblin in two. The foul creature fell with a shriek. Despite the Dwarves' hope returning as the Company charged out of Erebor, Fíli knew that it would take a lot more than that to turn the tide of the battle. All around him Dwarves and Men and Elves were locked in the throes of battle, and many of them laid dead on the ground. Fíli tried not to flinch as he stumbled over the body of a dark-haired Elf, heart stopping for a split second before he realized the Elf wasn't Kíli.
Kíli, where are you? His heart silently cried, knowing his brother was too far away to answer.
If only he hadn't gone to Thranduil. How was Fíli supposed to keep him safe now? It was hard enough to tell the members of the Company apart in battle, never mind the legion of tall, identically-dressed Elves with their bronzed armor and leaf-shaped helmets. Could any one of them could be Kíli?
No time to think about it now! He thought as an Orc twice his size pounced on him. It roared, swinging its mace, but Fíli was smaller and quicker, dropping his center of gravity low as he ducked to the side and struck his sword into its soft underbelly. Dwalin cleaved it from behind.
"Thank you," Fíli panted as the Orc toppled over. He, Dwalin, Balin, Glóin, and Bofur had managed to stay together, fighting as a group while they slowly slogged their way towards Ravenhill. Fíli didn't exactly know where they were going, but he knew they needed to get towards Dain if they were ever going to regroup.
Thorin should be the one leading them. His uncle would know what to do. Fíli had never felt more uncertain in his life. Despite his earlier cry rallying the Dwarves to battle, the loss of Kíli and Thorin hurt like a lost limb, leaving him shaky and off-kilter. I have to get to Dain.
But where was the temperamental Iron Hills Dwarf? Fíli hadn't seen him since the start of the battle.
A sudden shout from Ori startled him. "Look, over there!"
The remains of the Company looked up, over the sea of. Ravenhill loomed skeletally in the distance. From the top of it though, Fíli could just make out what had gotten Ori's attention; three flags hung tattered and ragged from the watchtower. But that wasn't what had gotten Ori's attention. Each of the flags were rigid in the wind. As they watched, the largest flag in the center of the three unfurled.
"Durin's beard!" Glóin exclaimed in sudden understanding. "Looks to be some sort of signal."
All of a sudden Fili knew what he had to do. There was no time to find Kíli or Dain or wait for Thorin. He was leader. Fíli turned to the assembled Dwarves.
"We have to get to the top of that tower."
"Fili!" Kíli called, although he knew he was too far away for Fili to hear him.
I must reach Fili. A new resolve hardened in his heart, renewed energy rushing into his limbs as he was propelled by something other than desperation. They came. All of them. Except for Uncle, a small voice added, but that didn't stop the giddy sense of triumph. They hadn't been abandoned after all. Thorin must have a good reason for not leading the charge. Maybe for some sort of diversion?
Kíli wasn't the only one heartened by the Company's arrival. The Iron Hills Dwarves seemed to gain strength as well, tearing and smashing at their enemies with fresh resolve, closing the gaps between them and falling back into formation.
They're rallying to Fili, he realized.
His lapse of attention nearly cost him his life.
Snarling, a massive Orc rushed him from the side. Kíli barely had time to duck its axe, the heavy blade barely missing its mark. He could feel the sudden whoosh as it cut through the empty air where his head had been only a split second before. However, although he managed to evade the blow, he didn't manage to evade the Orc itself.
He collided with its chest. Hard.
Both he and the Orc stumbled, Kíli falling as he tripped over his own feet in a useless attempt to regain his balance and the Orc staggering from the unexpectedness of the blow, growling curses at every deity on Arda to have encountered such a clumsy Elf. However, it still had the presence of mind to catch itself using the axe handle for balance and deliver the Elf a powerful kick in the ribs.
Kíli hit the ground with a pained grunt and very un-Elvish lack of grace, his bow knocked out of his hands. His ribs were on fire; his lungs struggled to draw in breath. He saw the Orc jerk the axe out of the soil, yellowed eyes burning twice as bright in the sockets of its leathery face.
"I think I will enjoy this very much, Elf." It leered, revealing crooked, too-sharp teeth.
Kíli twisted around frantically, reaching for his bow as the Orc raised its axe.
"Not today, ya bastard!" A voice cried, the words twisted and stretched the unmistakable lilt of the Iron Hills. The Orc slumped to the ground, an axe embedded in its skull. Kíli blinked at the sight of his unlikely Dwarvish rescuer.
Lord Dain of the Iron Hills stood before him, his armor riddled black with Orc blood and boar tusk woven into his flaming red beard. He yanked his axe out of the Orc's skull.
"Oi, whatcha starin' at, ya beardless sprite?" Kíli flinched as he realized the "beardless sprite" Dain was talking to was him. "Get back on your feet! We still got Orcs to kill! Now where the blazes is Fíli?"
Grabbing his bow, Kíli stumbled to his feet, not trusting himself to speak. Would Dain recognize him at all like this? He'd seen Dain once before, decades ago when the Dwarf Lord had made a rare trip to see Thorin and Dís in Ered Luin. Kíli had been only a young Dwarfling then, but Dain had made quite the impression on him with his big, booming voice and the ivory boar tusks braided into his magnificent red beard.
He decided to risk it.
"You saved my life," he said, but Dain brushed him away, grumbling.
"Oi! I don't need yer help, lad." He squinted at the former Dwarf uncertainly. "Lad? Lass?" He guessed again.
"Lad," Kíli replied, feeling his face burn with embarrassment. Apparently, he wasn't the only one bad at gendering Elves. But the last thing he wanted was Dain Ironfoot, his uncle's cousin and Lord of the Iron Hills, calling him lass.
"Good." Dain grunted, oblivious to the dark-haired Elf's embarrassment and the fact he was standing in front of one of Thorin's sister-sons. "Then I don't mind tellin' ya to sod off. I need ta find Fíli or Thorin. Last thing I need is ta play babysitter to some damn fool of an Elf."
Kíli bristled for a moment before the words slipped out of him quickly, almost automatically. "I need to find Fíli as well. It's very important."
Dain's glare immediately turned to one of suspicion. "Aye, an' what does a forest pixie like you want with one of Durin's folk? Yer only here for yer king an' yer gold!"
"No. I'm not," Kíli protested, almost immediately. "I don't care about Elvenking or the gold!" I just want my brother,something inside of him raged silently. I'm sorry, Fíli, I never should have left.
For a moment, he considered telling Dain everything. About their journey, about the transformation about Laketown. How he wasn't really an Elf, but Kíli the son of Dís stuck in an Elf's body; so Dain could stop calling him a pointy-eared sprite.
But as soon as the words rose in his throat, Kíli realized it would be no use. Dain was too stubborn. He would rather eat the elaborately-braided tusks in his own beard than believe one of Erebor's heirs had been turned into an Elf. Besides, Kíli wasn't ready to be rejected by one of his own kin. Not after Thorin, not after his own uncle—
I will not hide, not while others fight our battles for us! His resolve made up, Kíli turned back to the Iron Hills Dwarf.
"Please." He insisted. "You have to believe me. I'm only trying to help."
"I don't need yer help," Dain all but growled. He looked thunderous as swung his axe at the next Orc. "You, nor that fairy princess you call a king," he cried as the creature toppled over with a screech and a black spurt of blood. "We Dwarves were doin' just fine on our own—"
A blur of tawny-colored fur caught the corner of his eye.
"Look out!" Kíli cried, just as a riderless Warg barreled towards Dwarf. Dain raised his axe, but it was already too late; the Warg sprung at him with gaping red jaws. Kíli fired an arrow.
The Warg fell to the ground with a pained yelp, an arrow through its eye. The great beast shuddered as Dain stepped back from its body, and with a final twitch whimpered and moved no more. Kíli let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Dain looked down at the Warg then back at him, looking at Kíli with a little more surprise and a little less wariness than he had before. "Well, I suppose yer not entirely useless. Though ya still look like one good breeze would blow ya over."
Kíli raised his chin defiantly. "I'm not going anywhere. If you're trying to find Fíli then I'm coming with you." He pressed on before Dain could argue. "I have good eyes, and I know how to fight. I can get us there."
"If you know where 'there' is. I haven't seen him since the start of battle. And where the blazes is Thorin? He shoulda been leadin' charge!" Dain grimaced. "Wherever he is, I hope he has a plan."
He felt a fresh surge of worry for his cousin but pushed it down as he glowered up at the tall, beardless sprite. He was clearly very young for one of his people, with an earnestness in his eyes that Dain hadn't noticed before. This must be his first be his first battle. Dain grumbled under his breath as he picked his way across the battlefield, cursing to himself as he realized that the blasted sprite was still following him.
Nain's bearded ass, what had he done to deserve a tagalong Elf?