They were under attack. No one had expected it; no one had even imagined that orcs, let alone warg riders, would dare come so close to their home in the Blue Mountains.
Thorin killed several orcs with ease. He stabbed one through, then quickly drew out his blade and beheaded another that was charging towards him.
"Fili!" he shouted. "Protect your brother!"
Fili nodded seriously and readied his knives for attack. Thorin and Dwalin were taking care of most of it – Thorin taking down the orcs while Dwalin got the best of the wargs. It must have been a group of fifteen, maybe twenty orcs. They were outnumbered, but they were equipped with the strength and stubbornness that comes naturally to the Dwarves.
An orc slipped past Thorin and charged for Fili. His heart pounded, but he stood his ground. He quickly dropped one of his knives and reached back for a throwing axe. With one swift motion, he launched the axe straight from his hand into the orc's throat. It stopped dead and dropped to the ground. Fili looked to Thorin, who nodded to him before charging another orc atop a warg.
Fili looked back towards Kili, who was leaning against the rock wall behind them, his eyes wide with fear. They had only been taking him out for some practice with his bow when the orcs had attacked so unexpectedly. Fili knew that Thorin had not wanted Kili anywhere near battle at twelve years old, but now, that couldn't be helped. Fili was barely old enough for this himself at seventeen, but he felt the heavy responsibility of caring for his baby brother, and it had matured him more quickly than the reckless Kili. He looked behind to make sure Dwalin and Thorin had everything taken care of, then knelt down to Kili's level.
"Kili, you need to take up your bow," he said.
Kili gripped his bow tight in his arms and shook his head violently. "This is different than practice, Fili," he said, his voice small and trembling. "I can't do it – I can't."
Fili grabbed Kili's arms and pulled him to a standing position. "I'm here to protect you, but you need to be armed," he said. "If an orc gets too close, shoot them. You have good aim, Kili."
Kili swallowed hard and nodded, his eyes still wide. He pulled an arrow from his quiver and got his bow ready with trembling hands. Fili whirled around and readied his second throwing axe. Dwalin and Thorin had killed five orcs and wargs between them in the time he had been turned around. Fili counted the evil spawn left – seven. Four wargs and three orcs. One of the wargs turned his way and began to charge. Fili let loose his second throwing axe and missed. He reached back for his knives, but only one was there. He recalled with deep regret that he had dropped the other in favor of his axe. He flung his knife and it met its mark, sinking into the warg's neck. It roared ferociously and stumbled, but charged on, enraged. Panicking, Fili searched the ground for his other knife – there it was, ten feet away. Fili glanced back at Kili, who had backed himself into the wall, his bow forgotten at his side.
"Kili! Your bow!" he snapped. Kili tremblingly brought his bow up and launched an arrow. It hit the warg square in the eye; the warg yelped and turned in circles, trying to paw its eye and causing itself only further pain. Dwalin charged and killed the warg with one blow.
"Good, Kili!" Fili said proudly. He looked back at him and grinned, and Kili grinned back, quite proud of himself. "Now, get another arrow ready and stay here."
Kili nodded and notched an arrow into his bow, ready for another attack. Fili dashed off as fast as he could to collect his weapons. If only he had brought his sword…
"Fili!" came a scream from behind him.
Fili whirled around. An orc had slipped past him and was making its way quickly towards Kili. He had already launched three arrows into it, but it still came running.
Fili ran faster than he had ever run in his entire life. The orc reached Kili before he did and took a swing with its knife. Kili ducked out of the way and circled around behind it, releasing another arrow as he backed up. The orc turned and charged again, swinging its long knife wildly. Kili backed up, but tripped. The orc swung again and made contact with Kili's face, slicing him just above the brow. Kili cried out in pain and covered the wound with his hand. The orc raised its blade again as Kili screamed out for his brother.
Fili dove at the orc, his blood boiling with rage. They rolled, and Fili found himself underneath the orc, its stench overwhelming his senses. He tried to reach back for his freshly-acquired axe, but his arms were restricted by the weight of the filth on top of him.
"Thorin!" he cried, struggling underneath the orc. It had lost its knife in the tumble, but it grabbed a hold of Fili's throat and squeezed tight. Fili choked and violently tried to force it off of him, but it was stronger than he. His vision grew blurry, and the world swam before him.
He was suddenly met with the wet, warm spray of orc blood as its head sailed from its body. The claws on his throat loosened, and he retched, trying to regain his breath. His pulled in the sweet air with relief, closing his eyes for a moment and relaxing.
"Fili, are you all right?" came Kili's voice. He opened his eyes to find Kili's worried face over him. All was silent.
"I'll be all right," he gasped. "What about you?"
"I think I'm okay," Kili said. He touched the gash on his forehead, which still bled freely. "I don't think it's too deep."
"You did well, lad," said Thorin. Fili turned his head to his right; Thorin stood over him, and Dwalin stood behind, resting on his bloodstained axe. "You both did well." He reached out a hand, and Fili took it; he stood up but stumbled, still woozy from being so long without air in his lungs. Thorin steadied him with strong hands.
"I'm sorry, Thorin," he said breathlessly. "You told me to protect Kili, and I left him alone… I'm sorry, Uncle."
"You protected him well, Fili," Thorin said. "You gave him cause to be brave, and he was brave for your sake. You were there to save him, and I can ask no more than that." Kili straightened and looked up to Thorin, surprised but proud. "But Fili, you must keep track of your weapons better, and always keep one on you, do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," he said. He still felt ashamed. What would he tell his mother to explain the gash on Kili's face?
"Thank you for rescuing me," he said after a pause. "I'd be dead without you, Uncle."
At this, Thorin smiled. "It was not I that beheaded the orc, Fili. It was Kili."
Fili turned to look at his little brother with surprise.
"You?" he said.
Kili grinned proudly. "With his own knife," he said.
Fili placed a hand on Kili's shoulder and pulled him in close for a hug. He held him tightly; Kili gripped him fiercely and buried his face into Fili's chest.
"I'm proud of you, Kili," he said. "And I owe you my life."
"And I you," Kili said, pulling away finally.
"We should go before more of that filth arrives," Dwalin said. "And Kili needs that cut cleaned before it closes and gets infected."
"You're right, Dwalin," said Thorin. "Boys, collect your weapons." He tromped off to check the orcs for spoils.
Fili and Kili went around to pick up arrows and Fili's knives. They worked in silence, each caught up in their own thoughts.
The walk back to their home was solemn and silent. Kili walked close to Fili, close enough where he bumped into him several times. His thoughts were caught up in the realization that he could have lost his brother; in those moments before he had slain the orc, the terror of losing him forever had been so real. He never wanted to feel that way ever again.
They reached home just as the sun fell below the mountains. Thorin threw down his gear, and Dwalin followed suit. The boys dropped their gear into the pile as well.
"We're in luck," Thorin said. "Dis isn't here. Fili, quick, go clean your brother up."
The brothers made their way to the water basin. Kili sat on the floor, and Fili took a clean towel and dipped it in the water. He knelt down and gently wiped at the crusted blood that stuck to Kili's face. As he worked, he heard Kili sniffle and stopped.
"Does it hurt?" he asked, concerned.
"No, it's fine," said Kili. "It's not that."
"What is it, then?"
"It's just that – I thought I would lose you today, and I couldn't bear it," Kili said with a wavering voice. A fat tear dropped from the corner of his eye.
"Well then, I promise that I will always be there to protect you," Fili said softly.
"How can you promise that?" said Kili. Another tear rolled down his cheek.
"Because you're my brother, and I refuse to die as long as I have you to protect. Now, stop this crying. Be strong, Kili."
Kili breathed a hitched sigh and nodded, his lower lip quivering. Fili continued silently cleaning his brow.
Thorin watched his nephews from a distance and smiled softly. He could not be more proud.