Dís was not at all impressed when they arrived home; Thorin still scowling, Fili's face bleeding, and her youngest clinging to his brother's front like a monkey, sniffling into his shoulder.

"I let you out of my sight for five minutes," she sighed, ushering them in and closing the door behind them. Ori peeked out from behind her skirts. It seemed he'd run ahead to warn Dís of the trouble, and had been too scared to venture back outside. He tottered after the Durins anxiously as they moved into the sitting room.

Dís ducked into the kitchen to fetch water and a cloth, then took a seat on the lounge beside Fili. She inspected his face with a critical eye.

"It's not like you to go brawling, love," she said carefully, dabbing at the cut on his cheek. "What happened?"

"I'll tell you what happened," Thorin growled. "Some of those human brats-"

Dís glared at him. "If I want your input I'll ask for it, Thorin Oakenshield." Then, in a gentler voice, "Go on, Fili."

Fili picked silently at the hem of his tunic, avoiding his mother's gaze. Beside him, Kili's eyes were wide. At last, Fili opened his mouth to speak.

"No!" Kili wailed, his face crumpling into an expression of terrible anguish and fear. "You can't tell her Fee! We're all gonna get into so much trouble!"

Sighing, Dís put a hand on Kili's knee. "You're not going to get into trouble, silly goose. I'm not going to get angry."

The dwarfling shook his head adamantly, distressed that she wasn't understanding. "You'll get into trouble if we tell you, Mama. I-I promise it's nothing bad. I don't want you to get into trouble, a-an' I don't want us to get kicked out of our house, an'- an'-" He let out a heartbroken sob and buried himself in Fili's side.

Dís looked at her eldest in confusion. "Trouble from who?"

Fili hesitated, his arms around his little brother, then sighed and looked up at the adults. "The Men. He's scared we'll get in trouble if we go after the Men." Seeing Dís' expectant expression, he went on. "The ice didn't just…crack, yesterday." He shot a guilty look up at Thorin. "We were skating, and then some human children started throwing pebbles at us, telling us to-" He swallowed, fury bubbling back up to the surface. "Telling us to 'go back to our cave'. I got angry. I was going to go and try to scare them off, but they threw this huge rock at me. It… split the ice under Kee. That's how he feel in."

A frighteningly calm quality had settled over Dís. "These human children. Are they the ones that did this to you?" She gestured vaguely at his face.

"Well…" Fili trailed off awkwardly. "I- uh, saw one of them today. The one who'd told his friend to throw the big rock at me. I…attacked him." He winced, then looked up when his mother didn't immediately scold him.

Dís was silent for a good while, mulling over what Fili had just told her. Then, in a considering voice, she asked, "Did you hit him?"

"I got him a pretty good one in the eye," Fili said sheepishly.

"That's my boy," Dís muttered, patting Fili on the hand. Then she stood abruptly and turned to Thorin. "I'm going to go see if I can't find this human child's parents. You stay here and mind the little ones." Then she strode purposefully towards the door.

Kili launched himself at Dís. "Mama, you can't!" he cried, clinging to her skirts. "Please, Mama! We'll get into big trouble, just like Rana and her family, an' then we'll have to move away!"

"What are you talking about, love?" Dís asked exasperatedly, scooping Kili up and holding him comfortingly to her chest. She looked ready to go into battle, and didn't seem to appreciate someone interrupting her war march.

The dwarfling rubbed at his eyes with one sleeve, snuffling wretchedly. "My friend was being bullied by some human children, an' she went an' told her Pa, an' her Pa got real angry and went to find the human parents. 'cept the human parents got real mad too, an' they were more important than Rana's Pa, an' they got him in big trouble with the other humans somehow. An' then- an' then they sent Rana's family away, an' I never saw her again, an' that's what's gonna happen to us if you try to find the humans, Mama! The Men got more power than us! They'll send us far away and we'll never see Bofur or Bombur or Bifur again, or Ori and Dori, or the rest of the family, an' you can't Mama! You gotta promise that you won't, you gotta promise!" He broke off with a sob.

Dís had gone stock still. She turned slightly to look at Thorin, and saw that her brother's eyes were burning like blue fire.

"When was this?" he asked her in a ragged voice.

"This is the first I've heard of it," she murmured, stroking Kili's hair. "Fili?"

Her eldest looked just as shocked as them. "I'd never heard about it either. Ori, you?"

Little Ori, standing awkwardly in the corner, shook his head.

Fili hopped off the couch and came to stand beside his mother, reaching up to tap his little brother lightly on the knee. "Kee, where did you hear about this?" he asked gently.

There was a moment's silence, and then Kili turned his head and regarded Fili miserably through his fringe of dark hair. "I heard some Men at the markets talking about it," he mumbled. "Before that I thought Rana just moved away, but they were saying that they'd heard that a human had told the dwarves living beside the mill to leave." He looked up at Dís hopefully. "You're not gonna go after the humans now, are you, Mama?"

Thorin interrupted before Dís could figure out how best to tell her child she had every intention of finding the humans and giving them a very large and weighty piece of her mind, possibly several times, possibly fatally.

"Kili," Thorin rumbled, softening his voice and his eyes with an obvious degree of difficulty. "We can't just let the Men walk all over us like this."

The little dwarfling looked alarmed. "But Uncle Thorin-"

"We're dwarves," growled Thorin. Remembering himself, he cleared his throat and continued softly. "That alone would be enough to demand us to retaliate. The humans call us proud, and rightly so – we ought to be proud of our heritage, our culture, the great kingdoms we've carved from stone and the mighty deeds we've done. But we are also Durins." His eyes blazed with pride and pain and anger. "We trace our lineage back to the greatest of our race, greater than any of us will ever be. Are the descendants of Durin himself to let themselves be shamed?"

Kili blinked up at him, eyes very round. Dís shook her head at Thorin's theatrics, swallowing her own grief, remembering freezing cold winters and bare cupboards and her brothers always bent under the weight of fatigue.

"You understand, lad," Thorin said quietly. "We must fight back. Or we haven't the right to call ourselves Durin's sons."

Kili's brow furrowed, but he nodded solemnly. "You'll be careful, won't you, Uncle?" he asked.

"Of course, Kili," Thorin said, nodding just as solemnly. Then he frowned. "I'll have to find them first though, somehow."

"My brother can help with that!" Ori piped up.

Thorin jumped. He'd almost forgotten about the lad; he hadn't said a word since they first walked in. Recovering quickly, he turned to face the little dwarfling. "How's that, Ori?"

"Well, Dori knows pretty much everything there is to know about everything you'd ever want to know about – within the town, at least." Ori shifted nervously under the scrutiny of the entire Line of Durin. "He runs a teashop, you see. I think you visited last time you were here, Mister Oa- uh, Thorin. He hears all kinds of things when he's serving people tea."

"I'll warrant that's true," Dís said dryly, placing Kili down on the couch beside his brother. "It's our best bet, Thorin. If anyone can track down these Men, it's Master Dori."

"Alright then," said Thorin. "Ori will take me to see Dori. I might not be back before lunch. Don't bother waiting for me."

Dís folded her arms. "Oh no you don't, brother. I'm coming too."

"So are we!" Fili and Kili called in unison.

"Fine, fine," Thorin sighed. "But we're not staying for long, alright?"

"This is my household, Thorin Oakenshield," Dís reminded him imperiously, sweeping past him to grab her coat from the hallway. "We'll stay for as long as we want. You know, I've been meaning to stop for a chat."

Thorin groaned, knowing for certain now that they definitely would not be back before lunch.


Ohh, those dastardly humans! Thanks for reading you guys :) I decided to make this chapter nice and short so I could upload it before Christmas, rather than making you all wait another two weeks or something. As always, all comments are hugely appreciated! If you spot any mistakes please don't hesitate to let me know - I finished this in a bit of a rush.

(expect some Dori and perhaps some Nori next chapter?)

((also, Thorin's a really hard character to write when he says more than five words at a time))