It was his birthday today, and he was alone.

Kili sighed dismally and set his half empty tankard aside upon the battered oak table. Not even ale could cheer him this night. For the first time he had no one but himself to celebrate, and he had no one to blame but himself.

Mother had offered a small celebration for the two of them, of course, just as she had in the years before. By the third birthday in a row with no recognition from his brother nor Uncle, however - not until Dis coldly reminded them that they had missed a significant day - Kili had endured enough. The awkward conversations over supper, Mother's anxious fretting, and the shouting matches between her and Thorin the next day, followed soon by Fili practically falling over himself trying to apologize; it all began to wear on him until he almost wished he had no birthday that year.

This time, all Kili wanted was a quiet moment to himself. No supper held late should Thorin and Fili chance to arrive after all, no fretful glances from his Mother as evening drew near, and no vague hints of sympathy when he was disappointed once more. He did not mean to sulk over the matter - such an attitude was hardly befitting a prince, as Thorin would say - but for once Kili thought he deserved a chance to brood. It was his birthday, after all, and he had been neglected for the third year in a row.

It was not Fili's fault, nor Thorin's; he was quick to absolve their blame. The forges were a brutal task and all too often traders were as stubborn as the iron they demanded. Toil frequently carried late into the morning hours and one day drifted endlessly into another. It was only natural that one small occaion should be forgotten.

Still, it hurt more than Kili wanted to admit; to be alone.

An empty tankard slammed against the table close by, followed by the uproarous cheers of three trappers. If their boistrous shouts were any indication, they had either made a tidy fortune or they had a story rivetting enough to supply them with a generous number of rounds. Kili snorted in aversion and took another swallow of his own drink, determining to escape the din as soon as he was finished.

He must have made some significant indication of his contempt, as one of the trappers paused in his laughter and regarded the Dwarf shrewdly before taking a casual sip of his ale, watching over the brim of his tankard. He turned and elbowed his companion, whispering something which caused the mirth about the table to cease.

The baited silence was tangible and Kili immediately sensed that something had taken place. The few scattered customers were watching him intently, their eyes flickering every so often to the trappers who regarded him with singular gazes of belligerence, derision and cool contempt. Immediately Kili felt self-conscious, uncomfortable with the sudden attention rivetted on him. He scooted his tankard away and laid a few coins on the table before rising, no longer desiring the delusional comforts of the drink. Some inner intuition warned him to walk out now, while he had the chance, and Kili had no desire to incite trouble.

"Well now, so the high and mighty ... Prince of Erabor has decided us unfit of his presence." The belligerent trapper, a large, balding man who reeked of alchohol and swayed on his feet, laughed uproarously at his own words. "Bow to him as he leaves, youngen's; we have insulted royalty!"

Kili immedietly faltered in his steps. These Men knew nothing of his heritage, being mere travellers as they were, and yet the insult bore truth and it cut deeper than a blade. Against his own caution he whirled on his heel, his eyes flaring with injustice as one hand clenched into a fist at his side.

'Belligerent' only threw his head back and guaffed at the Dwarf's reaction, and 'Derision' chose that moment to join in. "Nay, hold your tongue, Neilan. This is no mere Dwarf - tis surely Thorin Oakenshield, the Coward Under the Mountain!" He would have said more had he not been overcome by his own chagrin.

Mocking laughter rang about him, and Kili wanted to shut his ears against the sound. His jaw was clenched and he trembled with pent up rage, desiring nothing more than to shatter the teeth of the scoffers. He might have ignored the offense directed against himself, but the insult to his kin and his King would not be tolerated.

'Contempt', the youngest and the only one who had not yet taken part in the criticism, continued to regard the Dwarf thoughtfully, his motives indiscernable. He drained his tankard and set it firmly on the table, rising smoothly to his feet and waiting for the laughter to die away.

"Yelon," he said calmly, "Do not be hasty with your words. You do not recognize whom you taunt."

Dissatisfied murmurs filled the room and the trapper's companions glared at him, despising the termination of their sport. 'Contempt' merely leaned back comfortably, hands sunk into his pockets in a relaxed stance, and smiled compassionately at Kili.

"You should not be so cruel to the half breed," he said kindly, his eyes dancing with ridicule. "Do you not realize that this one maintains the bearing of regality? It is a matter of pride to be descended of the Fair Elves ... Even if you can see that their womenfolk prove to have less defining features when their heritage is mingled with a lesser, contemptible race as the Dwarven dogs."

In the space of thirty seconds that it took for 'Contempt's' fellow travelers to recognize the compilation of insults strung into his words, Kili had launched himself upon the trapper with an inarticulate yell. The fury of his attack caught the Man off guard and threw him off his feet, Kili's fists slamming into his face with equal force as if he had been pounding an anvil at the forge.

Instantly the inn was in an uproar. Several onlookers shouted encouragement, others called for bets. One Man attempted to break up the fight, only to be shoved away by Yelon before the trapper and his friend dragged Kili away from their third companion. 'Contempt' scrambled to his feet and angrily blew his short, dark hair out of his eyes, wiping blood from his nose before driving his fist into Kili's jaw.

Immediately fights broke out among all who had gathered. One or two brawls concerned whether it was fair for three Men to gang up against one Dwarf, but most were to be blamed for drunken reasoning sparking tempers, while others still were purely for the sake of a fight. None of these distractions held any importance to Kili, who wrenched free of Yelon and Neilan's grasp and ducked under 'Contempt's' next blow, bowling into the Man's stomach and leaving him gasping for breath.

Not one to test his good fortune a second time, Kili slipped through the enraged throng, eluding inarticulate punches and ducking under a table at one point when a blacksmith tossed another merchant several feet through the air. The innkeeper was shouting for order, his bellowing unheeded in the pandemonium as Kili dodged past him into the liberty of the open air.

Free at last of the dingy, claustraphobic tavern, Kili took a deep sigh of the crisp, moist breeze and welcomed the dreary landscape and pouring rain that rapidly soaked through his coat and washed the blood from his split lip. Trudging through puddles murky from horse hooves and the tramping of hundreds of feet, he kicked a stone out of his path and watched in dulled interest as it pattered across the sludged road. Hunching deeper into his coat and shuddering as a chill began to set in, Kili set off towards home with slow footsteps and an equally heavy heart.

It was certainly a lousy birthday to top all the rest. He should have stayed home and read a book if nothing else; at least then he would have been warm and dry, his dignity intact and his stomach not churning as though his pride and heritage had been dragged through the dust.

The least he could have done was rearrange a few more of the trapper's teeth. It would have been little more than the tyrant deserved, and then Kili could have walked back with his head held high and his heart thrilled for the satisfaction of defending his kin. Thorin might even have had words of praise for his efforts, and it would have been worth a black eye and a bloody nose for that alone.

Visions of the remifying the past were only dreams slipping through his fingers, however, and Kili sighed in dejection and wrapped his coat tighter around his shoulders. He wished he had had the foresight to bring a hood. The rain had plastered his hair about his face and neck, water now trickling in streams under his collar, and he was beginning to shiver.

He was too caught up in his misery to hear footsteps sloshing through the mud behind him. Suddenly the bludgeoning end of a staff sent him careening onto his face, mud filling his vision as sardonic laughter resounded. Shouting in surprise and fury Kili pounded a fist into the mire, not caring about the droplets that splattered against him. He lurched to his feet to confront his attackers, swiping grime from his eyes with an equally filthy sleeve and glowering with all the hatred he could muster as the three trappers he had encountered before stared down at him.

"My apologies, your royal highness..." 'Contempt' said thickly, leaning heavily on the top of his rugged oak staff, his tongue darting out to tentatively feel the raw space where Kili had knocked out a tooth, "...Figuratively speaking, that is, considering we have the vertical advantage here..."

His voice held no humor, though his companions snickered. His eyes were cold and unforgiving, an inpenetrable shield of bronze which sought to pierce through the Dwarf which trembled in rage before him.

"We have unfinished business."

Kili did not wait for such "business" to be explained. Even had his pride allowed it he could not have escaped by speed alone, for although Dwarves were natural sprinters the terrain was poor and trappers had the advantage of endurance. They would catch up to him eventually, when he was too exhausted to put up a fight. Kili knew he would rather be defeated in battle when all odds spoke against him than to be cut down as a coward. He therefore threw himself forward without hesitation, not at 'Contempt' but the trapper standing beside him.

Not anticipating a 'rabid Dwarf' to attack so suddenly, Neilan only had a spare second for his eyes to widen comically behind bushy eyebrows before Kili slammed his shoulder into his gut, a startled 'oof!' his only capable sound of protest before he was wallowing back in the mud and cradling his stomach.

Yelon snatched for the Dwarf next, his hands clawing empty air as Kili ducked under his grasp and bowled into 'Contempt.' Both sprawled in the mud, resembling furless racoons with masks of sludge as they scrabbled for better footing. Neilan recovered just as Yelon lunged for Kili once more, the two sliding into one another and falling in an ungraceful tangle in the swiftly deteriorating road.

'Contempt' howled as Kili's boot caught his second front tooth and chipped the edge, his nose spurting blood as the Dwarf's foot glanced off and broke the cartiledge. He grappled for Kili's ankle and grabbed hold, squeezing his eyes shut as Kili floundered and splashed. Neilan was thrown off an irritated Yelon and he landed indignantly on top of Kili, whose free leg launched out and clipped 'Contempt's' temple, causing him to flinch away and curl into himself to protect his skull.

Neilan rolled away with a groan and Kili sloshed to his feet to break for freedom, only to yelp and choke on a mouthful of slush as Yelon leapt atop of him and ground his face into the mud. He struggled uselessly against the weight, even striving to bite his captors after Neilan grabbed his wrists and effectively pinned him.

"Hold 'im still," 'Contempt' muttered around his swollen jaw, brushing a finger against his bruising cheek and seething when it came away stained with blood. He wiped his hand agitatedly against his pant leg and slammed his boot into Kili's ribs, grimacing a smile when the Dwarf grunted, his face twisted in pain.

Kneeling beside the fallen Dwarf, 'Contempt positioned his staff across Kili's shoulders and flipped a dull bladed knife from his boot. Kili's eyes widened instantly and he whipped his head back, striking Neilan on the chin. The clack of the Man's jaw was echoed by a yowl of pain as he bit down hard on his own tongue, and with a foul oath the trapper backhanded his adversary.

"Impudent whelp!" he spat, the insult by far the tamest he had offered the Dwarf.

'Contempt' stayed his hand before he could cause further damage, and with a glower of malevolence Neilan readjusted his hold on Kili's wrists, tightening his grip until the Dwarf's fingers turned white. Kili winced in pain as the pressure involuntarily curled his hands into fists, the defiance in his eyes undiminished as his gaze seared into that of the youngest trapper.

"Hope you don't mind me borrowing some of this, Princess," 'Contempt' snorted, hiding a sense of wary uncertainty under a wry grin. He grabbed a handful of Kili's tangled hair and placed his knife close to the scalp, sawing dark strands away with deliberate tarrying.

Instantly Kili's thrashing grew wild, promises of vengeance and curses upon Mankind spewing from his mouth in fluent Khuzdul. 'Contempt's' mouth was set in a grim line, his eyes betraying neither the satisfaction nor hesitancy coursing through him as he grasped a second handful of the Dwarf's long hair and sheared it away.

The young man would not admit to the dread that flooded him for an instant as murderous coal black eyes locked on his own, and he disguised his apprehension under a renewed sense of purpose as he grasped the Dwarf's hand and deftly bound each wrist to the opposite end of his oaken staff using the torn strands of hair.

His objective was to humiliate the proud and haughty Dwarven race; to prove that they were little more than the "Warmongers of Men" they chose to despise. To cut the hair of a Dwarf was among the lowest forms of disgrace, and the thrill of his hideous scheme encompassed the terror he should have felt regarding the future wrath of the Dwarf's kin. He was young, however, and he was a fool. His attrocities were little more than a game to himself and his older cousins, and neither conscience nor fear could have forced him to back down at this point.

Kili squeezed his eyes shut for a moment as the dulled knife tore through his hair, fighting back tears of shame as he wondered what Thorin would say of him now. Surely he would voice his disappointment, for no sister's son of his should have allowed himself to be humiliated in such a deplorable manner.

The instant his wrists were securely bound, stretched out on either side of him by the rough ends of 'Contempt's' staff, Neilan and Yelon leapt to their feet with crows of laughter, jeering at his helpless state as 'Contempt' grabbed a handful of Kili's hair and ground his face deeper into the mud.

Suddenly the blows were everywhere, and he could do nothing to evade them. The heel of one boot stamped into his lower back, and before Kili could utter a gasp another rammed into his forehead, stars cascading before his eyes even as a third blow dug into his ribs.

Mud clogged his nostrils and flooded his mouth, panic overwhelming him as a second smashing hit to the ribs drove any remaining air from his lungs. He could not breath! Kili writhed like a trapped animal against the restraints, fearful for a moment that he would die then and there, his Uncle and brother to attend his funeral with mixed pity and derision; for what kind of warrior would drown in a puddle of rainwater in a conflict against three mere humans?

With a snide remark to his companions, 'Contempt' abruptly released the Dwarf and rose to his feet. Choking and gasping, Kili wrenched his face clear of the murky water and vomitted, his breath coming in harsh sobs as he greedily sucked in deep lunguls of air despite the knives of agony piercing his torso.

Abruptly he was flipped onto his back, 'Contempt's' chilling leer filling him with dread as the trapper knelt beside him and whispered,

"When you return to your family, Dwarf - if they will take back such weak, pitiful scum as you - you tell them this: That it was I, Keilan son of Droad, who was your bane."

With a sadistic grin the trapper straightened and wiped a hand across his face, flicking mud off of his fingers before lifting his foot high above the Dwarf.

In the instant before Keilan's boot slammed into his stomach and the world exploded in a mural of agony and screams he did not recognize as his own, Kili's blurred, fading vision latched onto the grey, overcast sky. He wondered that the dreary, darkened rains could appear so lovely and fitting upon this day.

Then he was consumed in a sea of anguish, and he welcomed gladly the arms of oblivion.

Darkness strove to conceal all beacons of hope in that bleak night, driving rains pounding into the landscape as clouds scorned the light of the full moon. In the sodden road a limp figure stirred, wheezing for air that refused to comply with bruised, starved lungs. Water lapped against his cheek, the small lake which surrounded him rising centimeter by centimeter as the night wore on. Coughing faintly, he turned his face away.

Rain showered his battered body like needles of ice, cold and stinging as it struck bruises and streaked blood from the gash on his cheek. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and imagined a warm fire and the comforts of home, and a single tear tracked a path across the grime on his face before it plopped dejectedly off the bridge of his nose.

It was his birthday today, and he was alone.

The Muse and Mini-muse are dead set on tormenting the heirs of Durin (again). The Mini-muse wrote this part, and the Original Muse gets its turn next with a chapter of Fili!Angst!

I think this is the Muses' conspiration of revenge against the hamster-sized muse Hermit, whom they believe is stealing the attention of their readers with his cute little mini-fic The Un-Elegant Desolation of Smaug. Hermit seems to be oblivious to their evil threats.

Please remember to feed the voracious Muses before they decide to feed Hermit to a dragon.