Chapter 1: Awakening

Kili shifted in his sleep, and a distant pain in his side threatened to fully wake him until he felt the furs of Fili's shoulder against his forehead. Scooting closer to his brother's side, he relaxed into his warmth and the pain faded. He was safe. It was time for sleeping, not for waking.

He awoke several more times, yet each time he sensed his brother and drifted off again. A quiet part of his mind whispered of the passage of time, but it wasn't until he heard his uncle speaking in the distance that he cracked his eyes open. What was Thorin doing in their camp?

Blinking against the harsh daylight, he licked his sore lips, discovering that they were dry and cracked and tasted of iron. One of his eyes didn't want to blink properly, as if it were swollen and bruised. He couldn't remember hitting it the previous day, nor getting kicked by his pony...

Where was his pony? Wait, this wasn't their camp at all. He was in a bed. In a house. And Thorin's voice was coming from the corner. He was singing quietly.

Kili moved to sit up only to freeze as pain jolted through his side, spreading across his ribs. Grunting, he relaxed back into the pillows. Something had definitely happened yesterday. Something he couldn't quite remember but…

"Kili?" Thorin asked.

Kili could hear footsteps approaching. Heavy boots. Like Fili's gait. But his brother was in bed beside him. Kili reached out his hand to where he'd felt Fili's shoulder, only to find a fur pillow. Widening his eyes, he searched the side of his bed, but his brother wasn't there.

He'd been tricked by pillows and bunched blankets blockading him in place. He tried to ask where his brother was but his mouth was so dry that he couldn't make any sound come out.

Thorin's smiling face appeared above him and his uncle clasped his right hand. "Kili, thank Durin. You had me so worried."

Kili furrowed his brow and swallowed hard, forcing sound into his voice. "Where's Fili?"

A shadow passed over Thorin's eyes before he leaned out of sight. "Here," his uncle said, holding a cup of water to his lips. "Drink."

Kili did as he was asked, and the water both soothed and shocked his system. Closing his eyes as he felt it make its way into his stomach, reinvigorating his limbs, he realized that he must've gone some time without it. None of this made any sense. He'd only slept for one night. Was he dreaming?

"Uncle," he began, his voice so hoarse that he hardly recognized it.

"I'm right here." Thorin squeezed his hand. "You're home. I found you in the Wilds."

The Wilds… yes, he and Fili had been out checking their snares, and setting several new ones. Their ponies were laden with game. Rabbits and a handful of quail, and even a badger. Fili wanted to catch another to make a nice pair of boots, so they had stayed. They had been roasting the quail for supper. Laughing and making merry. They must have gone to sleep after that, but why had he woken up here?

"Your mother is resting. She has kept a constant vigil."

Kili realized that he'd closed his eyes with the effort of remembering. Opening them, he studied his uncle. Yes, his left eye definitely didn't want to open very far, and his head was now throbbing in time with his side. What in Arda had happened to him?

"Did I fall from my pony?" he quietly asked.

Thorin studied him for some time, a guarded look falling over his features before he nodded. "You do not remember?"

Kili shook his head then winced at the pain it caused. He suddenly felt nauseous and regretted drinking the glass of water. "We were trapping," he said.

"Yes." Thorin sighed. "You were."

"What happened?"

Thorin didn't reply.

Kili opened his eyes once more, a cold sensation pooling in his stomach. His hand felt the bunched up blankets that he'd mistaken for his brother. "Where's Fili?"

Thorin's eyes followed Kili's hand then darted back to his face with a strained smile. "You must rest." Thorin rose.

"Where's my brother?" Kili asked again, his voice stronger this time. He struggled to sit up, only to have Thorin force him back down. Kili let out a groan as his side erupted in agony, sending the room spinning. He squeezed his eyes shut and by the time the spinning stopped enough to open them, he was chilled from a layer of sweat and Thorin was gone.

"Fili…" he whispered brokenly, leaning into the blankets and pillows once more, closing his eyes and pretending they were his brother. He was so exhausted and disoriented that the trick worked, and he was asleep within minutes.

Across the room, Thorin filled his pipe and watched his youngest nephew drift into a fitful sleep. He and his sister Dis had spent the better part of the last week nursing the lad through fever and unconsciousness from his injuries and blood loss. As the smoke curled around his face, he prayed that they had done enough to save him.

Fili's wrists were raw from struggling against his ropes. He narrowed his blue eyes as he watched his captors across the flames of their campfire. The orcs were roasting the last of his and Kili's rabbits and arguing over who got which bit.

One looked over its shoulder and spotted the fair-haired dwarf watching. Smiling, it lumbered over and gnashed its teeth. "Look, it wants it some meat," it barked in its native tongue. The other orcs snorted and coughed in laughter.

Fili raised his head haughtily, unable to understand what the creature said but knowing full well when a taunt was made.

"I ask again, scum," Fili growled. "What have you done with my brother?"

The orc peering at him smiled and shifted into the common tongue. "I already told you – we had a bit of fun."

Fili snarled and yanked against his bonds. "Tell me!"

The orc hissed and lunged closer. "He wasn't much sport, so we stuck him. And he squealed like a pig before his pathetic little light went out. Your dwarf-scum brother is dead."

Fili's eyes widened as all sense was torn from the world. With a tremendous bellow, he tore his bonds and lunged for the orc.

The surprised creature barely had a chance to react before it was being strangled and slammed against a rock. Fili ignored its pathetic wails. He was no longer in control of his own body and only distantly felt the clawed hands of the other orcs grabbing at him.

Clubs were pounded against his sides but all he could feel was the thud of the orc's skull against the rock and he slammed again and again until he felt it give, like the cracking of a thick egg.

Fili barely had a moment to savor the satisfaction of his kill before something collided with his head, sending him into darkness.

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