The Past Becomes the Present
It had been a day since the three travellers had arrived, the sun had made a full circuit of the sky, and it was now hanging low behind dark clouds, waiting for the next moments to drag it closer to the horizon. Sleep had not come easily to the Chief of the Riders, but he had been able to rest a few hours, and he was much better for it, though it was clear that his mind was still troubled.
The plan had been concocted, their strength gathered, and now all that was left was to send messengers to the appropriate people, the riders having left earlier that day on their fastest horses, their mouths sealed with oaths of secrecy as they rode through the downpour that had blessed the skies, making visibility poor.
Watching the signs of the messengers disappear from the surface of the ground, the dust and dirt mixing together with the rain to create mud, Kíli wondered how things were going to play out in the end.
Sure, they had a plan. But plans could go astray. Everything rested on the shoulders of a select few, and he just happened to be one of them.
Sighing, the young dwarf pushed such thoughts from his mind and turned back into his room.
Fíli lay snoring in a heap on top of his bed, his boots and coat lay strewn across the floor, sitting where they had landed after being thrown across the room. The blond dwarf had decided that it would be a good idea to get a few more hours of rest in before they had to leave, and had bid his brother do the same.
He had tried. He really had. He spent at least an hour waiting for sleep to come to him, but Kíli found his mind was racing with too many thoughts to settle down.
They were going to war. Actual full out war. Not a small skirmish with bandits on the road, or hunts for criminals and dangerous animals, but an actual war.
It had been twenty years since his last battle. In fact, it was the only battle he'd ever been in, but it had driven fear into his heart ever since. Two full decades since his arrows had been used for more than just practice, self-preservation and survival, and he had hoped that his blade would never have seen use again, but that seemed impossible now, especially with the oath he had sworn.
The Battle of the Five Armies. That's what people called it. Poems had been written, stories had been told and songs sung of the siege of the Lonely Mountain. They spoke of the honour found there, the courage of those who had fought and the respect for those who had died. They made it out to be this glorious and amazing thing.
They didn't mention the blood curdling fear that sets in as the first flight of arrows are loosed, the screams of agony the dying cried as you walked over them, the chilling calm and numbness that seemed to take over after the first kill. No tale could ever be told that could make you hear the moans of the mourning. No poem could ever be spoken to describe of the stench of decaying bodies. No song could ever be sung that could make you feel the heart wrenching sorrow of losing someone who had been the world to you.
Kíli envied the ease with which his brother could sleep, his ability to keep the past in the past and put aside all worries and fears to ease his mind before losing himself to blissful unconsciousness never ceasing to amaze. He had no idea how Fíli did it, but he wouldn't ruin the older dwarf's slumber because he was unable to join him.
With a small shake of his head, the younger of the two pulled his boots on and made his way out the door and into the grand hall.
The fire had been relit to the centre of the room since he had returned, though it may have been that he hadn't noticed it before, but it held no interest for him. Nor did the few men sat at one of the tables, eating their evening meal and drinking their ales. Instead he just made his way to the slightly ajar door at the far end of the hall.
A chilling draft entered the building through the gap between the two doors, but no one had made to close it, though Kíli soon discovered that this was through no neglect or negligence; Thengel, Lord of the Mark, was stood watching the skies rain down on his lands, keeping himself under the protection of the extended roof, but only just. His eyes were searching through the almost impossible visibility for the return of the messengers that were more than likely still one their way to their destinations.
The meeting that had occurred during that morning had set things in motion that, once started, could not be stopped.
The conclusion was simple; if the Dunlendings wanted a war, then they would get one.
"You know," the dwarf said after a few moments, "no matter how hard you will them to return sooner, I don't think there is a single rider who could return from such a task in a few short hours."
Turning to face him, Thengel allowed a small smile to grace his features, but his eyes remained full of sorrow. "I had hoped that it would not come down to this."
Kíli nodded. "I don't think anyone in their right mind would wish war upon their people. It is a foul and evil thing."
For a moment, they both stood there in silence, watching the rain as it accumulated in the cracks in the stone and in puddles on the roads. Though the skies had abated a little from earlier, the end still seemed to remain out of reach.
"Where's your brother?" the King suddenly asked, pulling them both from their thoughts.
"Your brother," he repeated, "It is just… I rarely see the two of you apart, and I wondered where he was."
"Ah," Kíli replied, knowing that Thengel was probably trying to spark up a conversation, "He is resting at the moment, 'preserving his strength', or so he says." He couldn't help but laugh a little at his brother's words. They had never made any real sense to him, as he found he only became more tired with the more rest he took, but Fíli would always jump up ready as ever afterwards, so who was he to judge?
"So, why is it that you are not with him?"
Kíli paused, considering how to answer the question. "I… have a lot on my mind."
Thengel frowned. "I had not though you to be one to worry, my friend. You are always so…"
"I would say light-hearted."
The dwarf's lips curled into a light smile as his gaze moved to his feet. "My brother would agree with you… on most occasions. I'm afraid that there are some times where the past likes to creep up on me."
"The past?" the King asked, and Kíli could feel the man's gaze on him, though he refused to meet it.
Taking a deep breath, he looked out across the drenched land, his eyes blind to their beauty as memories flitted through his thoughts. "Sleep does not come easily after you have seen the carnage of battle, Lord Thengel. It is riddled with the screams of those you could not help, and the hollow eyes of the dead you left behind."
Blinking, he glanced at the man at his side, watching as shock and sympathy crossed his features.
"The battles they sing of in ballads are nothing but fairy tales," Kíli continued, returning his gaze to the rolling hills around the city walls, "Did you ever once hear of the aftermath in these songs? Maybe they don't sing of it because there is nothing there that could be proven fit for courageous tales of heroes. Though it's probably more likely that it was inappropriate to sing about death and decay in front of the young and impressionable youth."
For a moment, Thengel simply stared at his companion, dumbfounded at the sudden change in character that he was showing, but he soon regained his composure, coughing a little to clear his throat. "I had no idea you had experience in the field."
"Only the once," Kíli replied, "Fíli and I, we followed our Uncle to fulfil the quest to find a home for our people, but when we finally reached it, and the great beast that had been defiling our halls had been slain, a great battle was waged upon the doorstep of our halls, and the land became rank with blood and the rotting corpses of both friend and foe… our Uncle amongst them." He took another breath, stilling the nerves in his stomach. "I had never seen such carnage before, nor have I since.
"I was told afterwards that less than half of our allied forces survived that day, all with families to grieve them, some leaving their children orphaned, while others had only friends to remember their names. Those unnamed fallen; those are the true heroes of war."
Thengel could feel a shiver run up his spine as he listened to the dwarf, completely dumbstruck by the solemn and respectful tone he held for the fallen; it was not something he would have ever expected from him. Kíli had always been the mischief maker, his tricks and jokes causing playful anarchy and chaos wherever he went, a smile ever on his face. He was always the young and joyful dwarf who seemed to have known no misery or pain in his life.
The pained look on his face bore almost no resemblance to that care free character everyone had come to know and love.
But one thing puzzled the horse lord; there was only one battle that he could think of, that he knew of at least, which Kíli would have been old enough to remember, but surely he couldn't have fought there! He would have still been but a child by dwarven standards! However, the more he thought about it, the more he realised it couldn't have been anything else.
"You were in the Battle of the Five Armies, weren't you," he stated, knowing his declaration to be true.
Kíli remained silent for a moment before he nodded. "Aye, that I was."
"But you are not a dwarf of the Iron Hills. Your frame is too thin."
"That is also true."
Thengel had to think about the tales he had heard about that battle to try and discern how this dwarf could have been in that situation. He recalled the orcs and the dwarves, the elves of the woodland realm, the dwarves of the Iron Hills of the East and the Great Eagles of the High Peaks. But there had been a rather ambiguous group, known only as the Company of the great hero, Thorin Oakenshield. It was said that the Company had consisted of a dozen dwarves from the Western regions, the only ones whom had accepted the task they had been offered. Surely Kíli couldn't have been…
Eyes widening, Thengel almost spluttered as the final piece of information slotted itself into place in his mind.
"Thorin Oakenshield… It is said that he took his sister-sons with him when he travelled from the Blue Mountains…"
Kíli remained silent, doing nothing to deny the obvious assumption.
The king couldn't help but laugh. "All these years I thought I knew the two of you, but it would seem there was a lot more to you than you let on."
"Isn't that the case with everyone?" the dwarf retorted, a smile evident in his voice.
"True… Though I doubt many would be hiding a royal blood line in their past."
Kíli sniggered, his features returning to the familiar childish grin. "I think you'd be surprised."
AN - I am SO sorry for the lateness of this chapter! Unfortunately, I have been sick for the last few days, and I was away from my computer during the weekend due to family business, but I do hope you enjoyed this chapter! I enjoyed writing it, that's for sure :)
As for all of you who favourited, reviewed and/or followed this story, a huge thank you!... And a Bifur plushie!
Unfortunately (again), I will probably be delayed with the next chapter as well, as it is my birthday this Sunday (whoopie!) and will be spending quite a bit of time celebrating (aka, going to the cinema). However, the next chapter IS in the works, so it shouldn't be too long.
Until we meet again! #jumps off of balcony onto train#
PS. I'm a little high off of an energy rush at the moment. Just saw Django Unchained... sorry :P