AN: (There was some whining here about my perceived chapter inadequacies, but I took it down because, let's face it, no one likes a whiner.) On with the chapter! :)
If Kili's blood had run cold before, it was boiling now. He was scowling through the limbs of a oak, staring out across the goblin camp where his brother was being held on a low hill. The body of a goblin lookout was laid out at the foot of the tree, an arrow protruding from the ichor-crusted socket of one eye. Kili had shot for the brain to ensure an instant death; He couldn't afford any warning screams, as much as he would have liked to hear them coming from the throat of one of the scum that had taken Fili captive.
He shifted uncomfortably in his tree. After finding the camp, Kili had tethered Brassy a ways off so that no tell-tale nickers or whinnies would reach the ears of the goblins in the clearing. The lookout had been easy enough to spot, and Kili had taken him out while the creature sat busily questing about in one snot-encrusted nostril with the nock-end of a filthy arrow.
Fili was slumped over, unconscious and tied to a tree. Even though his brother's condition certainly wasn't ideal, Kili had been so relieved to see that he was alive that he had almost cried out with joy. A lone, relatively unimposing spearman stood guard beside him at the top of the hill, but the camp itself held a total of almost thirty goblins. Kili's heart sank as he counted. Thirty, filthy, murderous goblins between him and his brother, and what did he have? A horse, a deer, a few arrows, and a sword.
One among the goblins stood out in particular; He was massive, easily the largest goblin that Kili had ever laid eyes on. Taller than Gandalf and more powerfully built than Dwalin, the giant goblin seemed to be acting as overseer, walking about and stopping here and there to give orders or reprimands. There was an air of unquestionable menace about him, and Kili thought that he must be the one in charge.
A sudden shout from the spear-carrying goblin on the hill sent Kili scurrying down from the oak with his heart thudding in his chest, certain that he had been seen. When after a moment it became clear that he hadn't, he hunkered down in the bushes to think. There were far too many goblins for him to handle alone, but what might happen to Fili in the meantime if he went back for Thorin and the others? Once his brother woke up, he was sure to be questioned, and probably none too gently. Kili's jaw tightened at the thought.
The dead lookout was spread eagle beside him. Wrinkling his nose in disgust, Kili leaned over and yanked his arrow free from its skull, grunting in annoyance as the tip hung up briefly on a ridge of bone. His eyes fell on its motly leather quiver. He would likely need more arrows and here were a dozen, not counting the one that had been used for the goblin's nose-mining expedition, which Kili flatly refused to touch. They were all in such poor condition that he was half afraid that the wooden shafts would splinter the second he loosed one from his bow, but there was nothing else for it. They would have to do. He scooped them up and added them to his own.
He was startled from his calculations by a splashing sound to his immediate right, and he melted back into the trees with a surprised hiss. A hot, foul smell wafted up from some liquid that had been thrown out among the roots of a tree at the edge of the camp. Some had splattered almost on top of the body of the slain lookout, and through a gap in the brush Kili saw a goblin walking away from the boiling mess carrying an empty cooking pot. It had been a near miss and Kili's heart hammered wildly. If that's what's for supper, no wonder they're such a miserable lot, he thought as the putrid smell hit him again. Most of the goblins around the fires had been bickering, he remembered, and the entire camp had a lean, hungry look.
He risked another glance through the branches and saw that Fili was now awake and the giant goblin from the camp was standing over him. The guard had called for him when Fili woke, Kili realized.
There was a movement on the hill path, and nearing the summit was the smallest goblin that Kili had ever seen. As the new arrival approached, Kili watched with silent outrage as the giant forced his brother's head down to his chest in a shameful bow. Something happened that Kili couldn't quite make out, and he felt his face go hot with boiling rage as the giant aimed a heavy kick at Fili's ribs, sending him careening sideways until the ropes binding his wrists tightened and stopped him from falling.
I'll kill you, you filthy scum. Kili thought, righteous blood pounding in his head. I'll kill you for that, and very soon.
He never knew how he managed to stay quiet. The blinding rage that came over him at his brother's pained cry almost sent him bolting from the woods to rain down blows on any orc unfortunate enough to be in his path, and only the dim thought of getting Fili out alive kept him from what would have been a fatal mistake. That won't save him, he breathed, forcing himself to be still. If you want to save Fili, you have to think. He had to act now. His brother couldn't afford for him to waste any more time. But what could he do? There were so many of them...
He had to do something to reduce their numbers, he realized. Could he use Brassy to draw them off? No, a riderless pony randomly appearing in the woods would put even a goblin on alert. They would know that another dwarf must be nearby, and they would search him out. They might even use Fili to try to draw him out.
Think, think! he hissed in frustration. The small goblin was crouched down now, speaking to Fili, who had proudly struggled back into a sitting position. You have a pony, and you have a deer...
His eyes narrowed in what his brother would have recognized as his mischief-plotting expression as a hazy idea began to take shape. The hungry goblins, the putrid stew... It could work, he thought with a desperate optimism. It could just work.
He took off for Brassy at a dead run.
At that moment, unseen by Kili, Nettor had cut short his interrogation as Goliath began Fili's crash-course education in brutality.
The pony was tethered to his tree and still bearing the load of the great stag that Kili had, in his earlier panic upon finding the goblin tracks at the stream, foolishly left tied to his back. If the young dwarf had been thinking clearly, he would have cut the deer free and rode the pony hard to the camp, saving valuable time. But fate often takes pity on fools, and it was this mistake that now gave him his greatest hope.
Kili cut down the deer and set to work, slashing and sawing through tough sinews and hide. When he had finished his improvisational butchery, he left the stag's naked remains lying forgotten on the forest floor and approached Brassy holding the jagged, bloody skin and antlers.
After removing Brassy's saddle and carrying packs, Kili draped the skin across the pony's back and up over his head and neck, tying it securely to the harness to keep the huge rack from slipping askew. A few more knots beneath his belly held the rest of the hide firmly in place. Brassy laid his ears back at the scent of the blood that now covered him and danced with instinctual fear.
Kili stepped back to study his handiwork with a critical eye and found the overall effect quite macabre. Up close, it was exactly what it appeared to be; a badly skinned deer carcass lashed to a shaggy pony. But from a distance, he thought that it might pass muster well enough to fool a pack of ravenous goblins. Unmindful of the blood that stained his hands, Kili went to Brassy and stroked the faithful animal's muzzle. He knew that it could very well be the last time that he ever saw the poor creature.
"I'm sorry Brassy. I need you to run now. Run fast, run hard, and whatever you do, don't stop!" He gave the poor, startled pony a last regretful pat and then followed up with a hard, stinging slap on the rump. Brassy was shocked at such rough treatment from his usually gentle rider. The blow combined with the fresh smell of blood that covered him was too much, and, snorting with alarm, he dove into the trees, flying directly toward the goblin camp in the wood.
It seemed to Kili that everything began to happen very quickly.
Fili let out his unwilling scream as just as Brassy made his opening appearance as King-of-the-Forest, galloping along in full view on the outskirts of the camp.
Goliath raised his fist above Fili for one final blow.
Then the uproar began. Chaos reigned as goblins pushed and shoved to catch a glimpse of the glorious meal-on-hoof that had manifested almost on top of them. Some of the more industrious hunters ran for spears and bows, and fights broke out among those tending the cook-pots over who would get first choice of the meat. Brassy swung back around, and the tumultuous clamor doubled in its intensity as they realized that the stag would be trapped between them and the stream. The temptation was too much for their starving bellies to withstand.
Kili had returned, and was watching from the trees. His face was rigid with tension, and he trembled with righteous anger when he saw Goliath check his intended blow to join Nettor at the center of the upheaval that had broken out below. Slipping stealthily through the brush, he began to make his way around the camp toward the backside of Fili's hill. With every painfully slow step, he prayed that Brassy could lead enough of the goblins astray that he might have a fighting chance to free his brother.
Fifteen of the starving vermin grabbed their gear and charged out of camp after the panicked pony. That left fifteen in the camp, although it appeared that someone had done Kili the favor of beheading one already.
It will have to be enough, he thought, with grim determination.
The search party had hardly left the stream when they were met with a most astounding sight.
Alerted by a noise ahead in the woods, Thorin swiftly called the company to a halt. They stood stock-still, listening as a rapid pounding of hooves was followed by an unmistakable din that could only be the combined roar of a horde of goblins.
Without discussion, the seasoned warriors divided along the path and melted into the trees, weapons at the ready and terrible expressions on their faces. A minute stretched into a lifetime before the source of the disturbance made its appearance.
A stag was careening madly down the path straight for them, and for one second Thorin was sure that it must be the same that his lads had been hunting before remembering that Kili had already brought it down. The hidden dwarves received a second shock as the 'deer' passed through the midst of their ambush and they got a clear look at the creature.
It was a pony, Thorin thought wildly in the moment just before all hell broke loose and the goblins roared around the bend. It was Brassy under that thing, I know that it was.
The dwarf company leapt from behind their trees with a herald of battle cries, blades flashing as they swung in for the kill.
There had been no contest; The goblins had been caught completely off guard and were weak with hunger. Thorin's party had sliced through them like a scythe parting grass. The bodies of fallen goblins littered the ground. Not one had escaped.
Dwalin kicked aside a dented helmet and buried his axe in the head of a feebly moving goblin. Bifur's demented laugh as the goblin hissed its last, foul breath was oddly fitting.
"The damn things don' want to die," Dwalin complained, moving on to his next twitching victim. A whistling thud announced another swift end. "There. Fifteen's my final count, and good riddance to the filth." He spat at the ground.
Thorin was cleaning his axe blade on the ratty tunic of a fallen goblin when Bofur returned from the the creek leading none other than a mud-covered Brassy. The trembling pony was still dressed in his King-of-the-Forest garb, although his proud rack was leaning drunkenly. Thorin looked up in confusion.
"I knew that I saw him. Why in hell is he wearing that?" He poked at the antlers. The rope that was holding them finally gave way and they slipped from his head. Brassy shook his mane with obvious relief. Thorin was thoughtful as he stroked the pony's whiskered muzzle. "Kili, what're you up to, lad?" he questioned the air. Bofur shook his head. He was at as much of a loss to explain the pony's costume as Thorin.
Carrying an armful of spears and blades that he had salvaged from the goblin corpses, Dwalin stopped to join the others in their contemplation of Brassy's strange uniform. Always pragmatic, he shook his head. "There's no tellin' what that barmy lad's done now, we'd best plow on ahead to find out."
Thorin nodded, his mind whirling with a hundred different scenarios, none of them good. He looked up and froze. Mixed in with the goblin weapons that Dwalin carried was one of Fili's twin blades. Wordlessly, he stood and slipped the weapon gently from Dwalin's surprised hand. Bofur swallowed hard when he saw the easily recognizable cast lines that ran along its sides.
"Mount up," Thorin commanded grimly. If any harm had come to Kili or Fili, he wouldn't rest until the ground was saturated with the black blood of those responsible.
PS: Now I'm going back over to my other funny/fluffy little Kili/Fili story 'Ain't Nobody Who Can Sing Like Me'. Ah, fluff and humor... I loves me fluff. Check it out! (end of shameless self-promotion)