The muse and I do not own The Hobbit or anything related to it whatsoever.

The song lyrics included at the beginning of each chapter are from Beethoven's Midnight by the Transiberian Orchestra.



Fire had held a fascination for Kili for as long as he could remember. Fire was warmth and comfort; steaming mugs of cider and Mummy winding too many vividly colored blankets around him when blizzards coated the mountains with snow. Fire represented craftmanship; graceful swords, iron tools and delicate chains of gold. Fire was light and dance, stories woven among the jetting flames as he picked out the forms of heroes from long ago.

Recently fire had proved a form of salvation; flaring pine cones catapulted at the enemy and the screams of wargs as they tucked their tails between their legs and fled. Fire had become a wreath of glory surrounding his uncle, Thorin's fearless charge bolstering Kili's own spirit and giving him the courage to free himself from the entanglements of the fallen tree and join in the attack.

Fire turned into burning embers and wreaths of smoke, thwarting his vision and shadowing the form of the enemy until it was too late.

The weighted blow of a mace slammed between Kili's shoulders, hurling him several feet through the air. Though his bow and quiver took the brunt of the strike, splintering on impact, there was yet enough force to drive the breath from his lungs. The moment Kili hit the ground he crumpled in a heap, gaping listlessly as he struggled to draw in air. Tiny pinpricks of heat from scattered embers seared his face but the overwhelming need to breath occupied all his thoughts. Somewhere in the distance Fili was screaming his name, but Kili could not force a sound from his throat in reply.

Though it was mere seconds before his lungs recovered enough to prove capable of sustaining him again, hours seemed to pass before Kili could take a deep gasp of choking, soot filled air. He lifted his head and saw Fili running towards him, and for a moment all was well. He had been careless, perhaps with near fatal results, but he had survived to laugh in death's face once more. Fili would likely thwack him over the head for his stupidity after the battle, but until that moment they would fight together, back to back, each defending the other as was meant to be.

Fate had never decided with such flippancy as upon that night.

Fili's expression twisted in horror, echoing a wordless shout of warning at the peril looming behind his brother. Before Kili could grasp the significance a heavy boot slammed into the center of his shoulders, driving him into the earth. He let out a muffled yelp as his face was ground into the dust, smoldering pine needles and charred fir cones filling his vision.

Azog's laughter rang in his ears, dark and cruel. An icy chill flooded Kili as he realized how foolhardy he had been to let his guard down too soon. Cold steel caressed the back of his neck and with a sinking horror Kili remembered the flashing of light against metal as an orc's scimitar swung down to end Thorin's life. He knew with terrible, morbid certainty what was about take place, and he was helpless to prevent it.

In that moment a deep hatred Kili never knew existed ignited within his soul. It was as though the sparks drifting in the breeze had touched the muted embers of fury in his heart and set them alight, imploding in a cataclysm of wrath. His father had been murdered at the hands of this monster, and for all he knew his uncle also lay at death's door. If Kili was to join them then so be it, but he would not go down without a fight.

Lurching for his sword Kili grasped at empty air, his heart sinking as he realized it had flown from his grasp at one point during the tumolt. The razor edge of the Pale Orc's blade left his neck and Kili knew only seconds of his life remained. Determined not to end with a coward's defeat he grappled for a weapon - a knife, a broken branch, anything - and nearly whooped in delight when his hand settled on a broken arrow that had filtered from his smashed quiver. The iron tip glowed red hot from its resting place among a bed of coals, but Kili paid no heed to his singed fingers as he swung his arm back and drove the blazing point deep into the joint between Azog's foot and ankle.

The bellow of outrage which followed sent wargs and their riders skittering back in apprehension. Kili rolled out of the way as Azog spasmed above him, spewing out blasphemy in the orc tongue as his seething gaze rested on the mosquito that had caused him such discomfort. Kili's eyes widened and he scrambled backwards, fear overriding all rational thought as the Pale Orc advanced.

In the corner of his eye he could make out Fili thrashing against the ivory trap of a warg's jaw clamped around his leg, sword hacking in a frenzy to destroy the creature preventing him from running to his brother's aid. Their eyes met briefly and Kili recognized the terror in his brother's gaze, resolution overriding pain as he plunged his sword into the warg's eye and wrenched free of of its maw. Kili felt a burst of panic as he saw the blood coursing down his brother's leg, his own vulnerability forgotten in light of the gruesome wound.

Fili, no! He rolled to his knees even as Fili surged in his direction, the Pale Orc the furthest thing from his mind. Without warning Azog's boot caught him in the ribs, throwing him back to the ground inches from the glowing coals of a felled tree limb. For an instant his right hand rested on the burning embers and with a stifled gasp Kili flinched back. A cold, sadistic leer spread across Azog's face, and Kili's eyes widened as he guessed the orc's intentions. With a muted cry of horror he drew his hand away, only to have it stamped down upon the golden shafts of fire.

He was not certain whether Fili or himself was the first to scream.

For one brief instant Kili felt nothing, captivated by the amber stones glimmering against his skin. An incomprehensible sensation drowned him in a haze of crimson, his mind screaming at him to let go, to wrench away, to free himself of the bindings holding him down. A blinding white sheet of what he finally recognized as agony engulfed his entire hand, and he convulsed wildly against the restraint grinding his wrist into the earth, yanking his arm in an animalistic frenzy to evade the burning torment.

He could hear Fili screaming in the distance, heart wrending cries of anguish that tore into Kili's soul. Fili, no... Please, not Fili, too...! His own pain Kili could withstand so long he knew as Fili was alive and well. The mental image of his brother being torn to pieces by wargs or worse, enduring the same torment as he, cast Kili deeper into a pit of despair that no ray of tomorrow could break through.

Rivers of searing anguish coursed from his fingertips to his shoulder, waves of blackness crashing down in sync with his pounding heart. Kili had long abandoned all signs of coherency, his mind consumed by light and crackling flames and the nauseating odor of his own flesh burning. Though the searing agony had dulled in parts of his hand resting directly on the coals, the blurred tendrils of flame dancing along the his blistered skin seemed to mock him, taunting him with past illusions of safety and fortitude.

Fire was no longer a symbol of warmth and comfort and song. Fire was a ruthless adversary, silent and devastating, annihilating everything in its path. Fire was torture and screams and a cloying, sweet scent that drugged the air and sent Kili further into the recesses of unconsciousness. Fire held no allies, spared no mercy and favored no one. Fire was Azog's cruel laughter, the hoarse cries of his brother and ragged, torn whimpers Kili could not recognize as his own.

Suddenly the weight holding him immobile was lifted, hands roughly grasping his shoulders and pulling him away from the agonizing heat. Blackness overwhelmed his vision as his wounded hand was bundled into a piece of cloth, and someone ... Fili? ... was shouting in his ear, pleading with him to open his eyes, promising him that the Gandalf would make everything right again, begging him to please, just open his eyes for a moment!

Such small requests were beyond Kili's ability to grant. As the sensation of weightlessness carried him far from the throes of anguish and torment, he let go of the sound of his brother's voice and tumbled gratefully into the arms of darkness

The muse is evil and conniving and will only work for food. Feed the ravenous little thing so that it will remove its teeth from my computer screen and permit me to write the next chapter.

(Warning: Do not give the muse coffee. I am under the impression that this little guy is twice as rabid as the last one...)