A/N: Hey everyone! This is a sequel to 'Family Tree', the title being the last three words of that story. 'Family Tree' isn't compulsory reading, but it might explain a few things in later chapters. Whilst writing this chapter I listened to 'Bring Him Home' from 'Les Misérables', which may give you an idea of the mood for this one. Writing this turned into a bit of an act of masochism, and I realise many of my readers will want to murder me, but I promise you it won't be nearly as bloody as Tolkien's version and there will be a happier ending!
Disclaimer: If I owned anything I would be able to pay off my student loan and would be writing to you from the Bahamas. Sadly, I am still in England and in debt.
"But I can still fight!" Kíli protested, though he gritted his teeth against the pain.
"Not without your sword hand you can't," Fíli countered. "And you know you can't use your bow either," he added, when Kíli opened his mouth to object further.
Kíli's bloodied right hand was clutched to his chest, staining his coat a dark, muddy red. Blood dribbled between his slashed fingers, branching out from his raw knuckles, and the brothers were leaving an ominous trail of rust-coloured footprints behind them, as if the ground itself had been sliced open. Light-headed and exhausted from blood loss, Kíli had his left arm slung over Fíli's shoulder, and the elder brother guided them towards the tents that had been set up by Dáin's army before the Front Gate.
Fíli sensed that the battle was finally drawing to a close. Mounds of bloodied, black bodies of goblins, and orcs, and wargs – some still jerking with their final death throes – were appearing in dark, stinking clusters across the plains. It was something no amount of training could prepare you for: the omnipresent, foul stench of death. The way it hangs in the air and infects everything. The goblins were retreating, being pursued by the Elvish forces, and Dáin's army and the men of Lake-town were engaging the lingering orcs and their wargs. If Azog had been defeated, news of it had not reached Fíli, and that thought alone tightened the knot in his stomach. But now he had to focus on delivering his injured brother safely from the battlefield.
They were nearing the main tent, occupied by Dáin's team of healers, when they heard a familiar voice calling to them. Bofur appeared at their side, with Bifur ambling along behind him.
"Lads! Got yourself in quite a mess there, Kíli," Bofur commented, nodding to Kíli's hand.
"It's just a scratch," Kíli replied sullenly, inwardly cursing his brother's ambidexterity.
Bofur raised an eyebrow. "And how about you, Fíli?" Another nod indicated the growing, deep red patch creeping across the left side of Fíli's jacket.
"It's Kíli's blood," Fíli said quickly, an edge in his voice.
Bofur's gaze lingered on Fíli, scrutinizing the blonde dwarf's closed features, but then he regained himself, remembering the more pressing matter: "Have either of you seen Thorin?"
"Not for a while," Fíli answered, a lump appearing in his throat… His heart began a frantic thump against his ribs as he tried to remember the last time he had seen Thorin on the battlefield.
"… That's what everyone else said," Bofur murmured, a dark shadow passing over the dwarf's usually bright eyes.
"Are the rest of our company accounted for?" Fíli asked, his mind racing.
"Aye… Well, all except Bilbo – Dori and Ori are looking for him."
"Bofur, take Kíli to the healers… I'll go and find Thorin," Fíli said, his voice low, assertive, and uncannily like his uncle's.
"Fíli…?" Kíli breathed, as Fíli swiftly pulled his brother's arm from his shoulder and almost seamlessly transferred him to Bofur's own, waiting shoulder.
"Take care of him," Fíli said quietly, reaching up to draw his sword from its sheath buckled to his back.
"You… You will come back?" Kíli asked, his eyes wide. He wore the same expression as the night of the stone giant separation, when the rock had split beneath their feet.
"Of course… And I'll have Thorin with me," Fíli said, placing a hand on Kíli's shoulder and managing a smile.
He nodded to Bofur and Bifur, and then turned, falchion raised, and headed back onto the battlefield.
"Thorin!" Fíli cried out once more, his voice hoarse, as he looked wildly around the desolate landscape, his eyes searching in vain for his uncle.
He had just waded across the river and now his boots were soaking. Stopping on the bank, the pain in his side welled up again with renewed vigour, and he choked back a cry. Doubling up, Fíli spat onto the ground at his feet… and blood speckled the dust. With a shivering hand, he put his fingers to his lips. Withdrawing them, he found they too were coated with blood. Kíli hadn't seen the arrow that had pierced his brother's side. Fíli had managed to tear it from his abdomen – though it felt like he had dragged his intestine out with it – and leave Kíli none the wiser. Then Kíli had almost lost his fingers to a goblin's serrated blade and Fíli had pushed his own injury from his mind.
"Thorin!" Fíli called out again, straightening up and wiping his hand on the fur of his jacket.
He was far away from the Front Gate now, and had found himself alone in a distant corner of the battlefield. Turning, he could hardly make out the white tents of Dáin's camp – they looked like flakes of snow settling at the Mountain's feet… And then he heard a roar. A roar like broken glass dragged across slate… Azog.
His alert ears following the terrible sound, Fíli twisted to the right and saw the sandy brow of a ridge which disappeared into a large ditch. Reaching behind, he drew his other sword and set off running. Narrowing his eyes, he thought he could see the pallid curve of the great Gundabad orc's head bobbing above the lip of the furrow.
Fíli skidded to a halt before the edge of the ditch and let out a cry. Thorin was lying in the dust below, his oak shield at his side and his sword long gone. His chest was carved into a bloodied cross-hatch of lacerations, the pool of red outlining his shape slowly turning black. His limbs lay at sickeningly odd angles and his face was mostly obscured by a thick coating of blood… But his eyes were still open, and at the sound of a familiar cry they darted up and widened in horror.
His uncle's eyes were screaming at him, but Fíli wouldn't run. Azog had obviously lured Thorin right to the edge of the battlefield, to engage him in single combat, and to ensure he would die alone… But Thorin wasn't alone. Raising a sword in each hand, Fíli leapt down into the ditch with a terrible cry and charged. Azog's mace, which had been poised to deliver its final blow to Thorin, now swung out to meet Fíli. Crossing his swords, Fíli blocked the blow, but it was still enough to send him staggering back, thoroughly winded, the wound in his side sending a flash of white-hot pain across his stomach.
Azog only gave a sinister, grating laugh, and stalked over to Thorin, waiting for Fíli to get his breath back. He was clearly trying to prolong the torture, and savour every moment of it. Azog was one to play with his food. He reached out with his great, dirtied foot and nudged Thorin's head.
"Don't touch him!" Fíli snarled, advancing on Azog, his blue eyes full of fire.
Azog's lip-less mouth was pulled into a smirk over his jagged teeth, and he made to strike Fíli again. Fíli dodged the mace's head as it came down heavily into the sand, sending up a cloud of dust. He tried to move into Azog's blind spot, but the Pale Orc was too fast for him and he had to drop onto the ground to avoid the mace's swing. Struggling to his feet, Fíli rolled to the side as Azog struck another blow, the mace falling where he had been lying only seconds before.
As Azog raised his mace once again, leaving his white torso exposed, Fíli's left arm shot out, the tip of his sword aiming for Azog's abdomen, but it was blocked by the grotesque, metal branch that served as the orc's left arm. Stunned, Fíli didn't have time to react before the sword was wrenched from his hand, the force of the movement twisting his body, and then the mace came down upon his back. Two of the mace's razor-sharp spikes ripped down either side of his spine, shredding the flesh there, and Fíli's pain passed beyond the bounds of screaming.
Landing on his stomach, with his face in the dust, the world went silent. His desperate fingers groped only air – both his swords had been dragged from their grasp. Lifting his head, Fíli's vision was edged with black, blue flecks of light flickering before him. Although his body felt like it was on fire, collapsing in on itself like a dying star, Fíli pulled himself up onto his elbows. One of his swords lay only a few feet away at Thorin's side, and he made to crawl towards it… But then Azog's foot came down upon his leg.
The crack sounded distant, as if it came from somewhere beyond the ditch. Fíli was in so much pain already it hardly occurred to him that his leg had just been broken… It was then that Thorin stirred. It was only a slight jerk of his hand accompanied by a soft groan, but it was enough to fuel Fíli's wrath. He could feel Azog leaning over him; his foul breath was almost at his neck. He couldn't reach his sword, but he could reach Thorin's oak shield. With an almighty roar, Fíli grabbed the shield and lurched around onto his back. As he did, he swung the shield in a wide arc and struck a blow to Azog's face hovering over him.
The Pale Orc staggered back with a shocked growl, his right eye bloodied. It bought Fíli enough time to lunge towards his fallen sword, still firmly gripping the shield in his other hand. As Azog moved towards him once more, mace raised, Fíli dragged himself upright and stabbed his sword straight into Azog's stomach. He then wrenched it away, tearing open the orc's abdomen, the blade sticky with black blood. With a horrifying sound, caught somewhere between a screech and a roar, Azog dropped his mace, his hand grappling at his bloodied midsection.
"You remember this, don't you, Azog?" Fíli growled, holding the shield aloft, pushing all his remaining strength into his voice which echoed around the ditch.
With a dying howl, Azog made one last lunge towards Fíli, but Fíli was ready for him. He sank his sword into the orc's stomach a second time, and before he withdrew it, his face dangerously close to Azog's, he said in a vicious whisper: "I am Fíli, son of Dís, of the line of Durin… And you will haunt my family no more!"
He ripped the blackened blade from Azog's stomach and struck the oak shield against his skull. It was the final blow. The white Gundabad orc collapsed into the dust, his face frozen in a look of terror, his eyes milky and vacant.
Fíli fell onto his back, one hand clutching his sword, the other Thorin's shield. The sky that stretched above him was a glaring, poisonous yellow. The black clouds, coloured by thunder, had been shredded by the sunset to reveal a blood-red smear on the western horizon. There were crows circling above them, their croaks grating against Fíli's ears. With a stab of panic, he realised he couldn't move… He couldn't feel his fingers and there was a coldness seeping into his bones. The world began to slowly darken, and there was so much pain sinking its barbed teeth into his body that he couldn't even begin to distinguish between his wounds.
A voice dragged him back from the brink, anchoring him to consciousness. "Th-Thorin…?" he choked, his throat was raw and his mouth tasted of blood. He tried desperately to turn his head towards his uncle, but his whole body had gone rigid, and he remained paralysed. "I… I can't move… Uncle… I can't…" he gasped, his voice rising in panic.
"Fíli… Listen to me… You must stay calm… You must… stay awake…" Thorin was slurring his words, each syllable making an awful, wet sound as it fought against the blood in his throat. His breathing had become desperate and laboured.
Fíli had no idea how to answer… His own breathing was becoming difficult; his lungs protested the exertion as his energy drained away, like the blood from his wounds, into the ground beneath him. It then occurred to Fíli that he was going to die. The thought materialised, dulled and half-formed, hovering on the edge of his mind… But then the realisation took shape, and with no fight left in him, the fear crept in… That was something else training could never prepare you for: dying was meant to be brave and noble, they never told you that when you're lying in your own blood on the battlefield, death will be slow, and you will be scared.
"Fíli…!" It was as if Thorin had sensed the black turn his nephew's thoughts had taken.
"Still here…" Fíli replied, his voice cracking and his eyes beginning to sting.
"I… I saw you…" Thorin panted. "And I need you to know…" His words were edged with a groan. "That I have never… been more proud of you…"
Fíli had little strength left to fight against the tears that welled up in his eyes. He tried to blink them away, but his vision remained blurred and the tears slid down his face, mingling with the blood, staining the ground beneath his head.
"The shield… Don't let them bury me with it…" Thorin continued. "… It's yours now…"
So Thorin knew he would never return from the battlefield alive. He would never sit upon the throne, and his place in Erebor would be in a cold, dark tomb at the root of the Mountain. Fíli knew this too would be his fate… He could already feel the cool, clammy hands of the grave upon him. "Thorin… I don't think…"
"Tell the Halfling… Tell Bilbo… I'm sorry…" Thorin spoke over him, pain lacing every word. "And tell your mother… and Kíli… I…" His voice broke, unable to continue, bordering on a cry.
Fíli listened dutifully, knowing what his uncle wanted to say, but only aware of the cruel irony of final words being passed on from one dying dwarf to another. But wasn't that what the dying did? Humour each other?
"Help will come…" Fíli whispered, though he didn't believe it.
"…Not for me… But for you…" came Thorin's strained reply.
"You… You promised you would never… ask me to leave your side again," Fíli stammered, each breath getting caught in his throat, the panic rising in him again.
"Aye…" Thorin's voice was so quiet Fíli had to strain his ears to hear it. "Forgive me… Fíli…"
Fíli could hardly see through his tears, and the pain was becoming unbearable. He tried to force his muscles into movement, tried desperately to twitch his hand towards Thorin's, to offer what little comfort he could… But he couldn't move, and the effort took its toll on him. He felt his grip on consciousness fading… The pain was receding as he seemed to be rising up out of his body… and then everything was moving backwards. He saw it all happening in front of his eyes, the visions flickering with light, as he retraced his steps across the battlefield to Kíli… his little brother, whom he would never see again… and it occurred to him he couldn't remember the last time he had heard Kíli laugh…
And then he was moving westwards, away from Erebor, through Lake-town, and the barrels were floating back up the river into Mirkwood… He passed through trees, and then mountain passages, and then Rivendell where Estel and Arwen's faces flashed briefly before his eyes… The pace quickened as he found himself at Bilbo's round, green door at Bag End, with Kíli at his side, and then back, back further to the halls of Ered Luin and into the distant realm of his childhood… Until he found himself in Thorin's arms, clutching his uncle's braids in his soft fists, as his golden-haired father appeared from the room clutching a tiny, wriggling bundle called Kíli…
But then oblivion never came.
With an agonising jolt, Fíli found himself once again lying in the ditch in the forsaken corner of the battlefield. The sky was burning and the crows had become terrifying black wraiths, big enough to be eagles…
"Thorin…?" Fíli murmured, his tongue feeling thick in his dry, bloodied mouth. "Thorin!" he cried out, when no answer came, the fear and the pain taking over. "…Thorin!"
But the world was silent.
A/N: I know Thorin dropped his shield in the film, and I'm not sure what Peter Jackson has planned for it, but I hope you don't mind my artistic licence. Please do review and let me know what you think!