Day One

When Thorin had asked Dain, as an honoured relative, to "take care of Bilbo Baggins", he had simply meant that he wanted Dain to look after Bilbo – to make certain that Bilbo had everything he needed, that Bilbo's future was secured – in case Thorin happened to succumb to his wounds and wouldn't thus be able to look after Bilbo's wellbeing himself. Unfortunately, under the circumstances, Dain interpreted the words as something completely different, and so, after leaving Thorin's tent, he sent three of his warriors to find the hobbit; Bilbo Baggins was to be "taken care of" for once and for good "by order of Thorin Oakenshield".

"Bring the halfling to my tent as soon as you have found him," Dain gave his orders. "To honour my cousin, I shall execute him myself. The hobbit shall die by my hand."

Birun and Hirin, sons of Gurin, and Jugor, son of Gudor, bowed and left, muttering about traitorous hobbits who certainly deserved the direst of consequences after daring to steal from the Durin's folk.

The three muttering warriors passed by Gandalf who was approaching Thorin's tent like an ominious thundercloud. Sighing to himself, Dain gave the wizard a respectful bow, pushing the halfling and Thorin's regretful order momentarily out of his mind.

"Tharkûn," said Dain, once the wizard was close enough to hear his words properly. "I have been led to believe that you have considerable powers – do what you can to save my cousin and you shall be generously rewarded."

"Dwarves!" Gandalf huffed and rapped Dain in the head with his shaft. "What I do, I do for reasons other than the rewards you can promise me, Dain Ironfoot, son of Nain, son of Gror. Make yourself useful and go find me my missing hobbit, while I do what I can for your cousin."

Had Gandalf known that Dain was planning on executing his missing hobbit, he probably would have done something more than simply rapped Dain's head with his shaft. But as it happened, Gandalf didn't know, and so he pushed pass Dain, grumbling in a language Dain didn't understand, swiped the flap aside, and entered the royal tent without waiting to be neither invited nor announced.

Dain didn't bother to search for the missing hobbit, as he had his best warriors up on the task already. Instead, he took his time to visit his kin, visit the young princes who were both gravely injured.

Even though Dain didn't exactly remember which one of the princes was the crown prince and which one was the spare, he came soon to the conclusion that the fairer one was the crown prince, Fili – the fairer one had a longer beard, while the beard of the darker one was barely more than a dwarfling's stubble, which meant that the fairer one was most likely the older one of the two. Both of them were very young and Dain couldn't understand why Thorin had allowed youths - barely more than children - to accompany him to such a dangerous, desperate quest. It angered him that the honoured cousin had done so, young ones were few as it was and their lives shouldn't have been wasted like this.

"Give the princes the best care you possibly can," Dain ordered the healers, noting with concern the way the precious blood of the line of Durin was wasted to the undeserving ground.

Kili – if that truly was the darker prince's name – was injured in the stomach. When Dain craned his neck, he saw guts, from all the blood that was spurting out of the wound, and something that he assumed was muscle tissue. The poor boy was gasping for breath and calling for his mother and uncle and asking after someone called "Fee", while his brother laid completely still and silent and deathly pale, barely breathing at all. The fairer prince had a spear sticking out of his shoulder which – Dain had to admit – looker rather gruesome, especially on such a young lad.

"If you cannot spare people and supplies to save them both," Dain sighed, resigned, rubbing his temples, "concentrate on the one that is more likely to survive and let the other one die. It doesn't really matter which one of them lives as long as at least one does."

"We'll do our best," said one of the healers, a black-bearded one, adjusting her glasses with one hand while reaching for more bandages with the other. She was leaning over Fili, apparently preparing to remove the spear. "If His Lordship is planning on staying in this tent to observe our work, he is welcome to do so, but I would humbly request that he would move his respectfully wide behind nearer to the entrance and keep it there, as that is the only place it wouldn't be in our way. Otherwise, I will personally see him out of my healing tent."

Dain almost smiled at the healer's words – he rather liked healers that dared to challenge him – and dragged a chair to the entrance where he had planned on sitting in the first place. The entrance was a good place to observe what was happening both inside and outside the tent, and so Dain didn't complain, nor did he reprimand the black-bearded healer from ordering him around (even though he did memorize her bulk and angular features, just for future references).

Just as the darker prince fell silent and one of the – apparently less experienced – healers began to swear in Khuzdul, Dain could suddenly see movement near his tent on the other side of the clearing on which all the dwarven tents had been pitched. Immediately, he moved the flap of the tent's entrance aside to see better: Hirin and Jugor had finally managed to find the halfling and were now leading him towards Dain's tent, just as ordered.

Dain stood up, stretching his numb limbs, before moving the chair closer to the desk, back to its original place.

"Well," he said, adjusting his belt, "what does it look like? Will either one of the princes live?"

"Too early to tell," squeaked the less experienced healer, wiping Kili's blood from his sweaty face with the back of his trembling hand. "They are both very badly injured."

"Yes, I had noticed," Dain said drily. "As I said: if one of them is doing better than the other, concentrate on him. Keep me informed about their condition, but more importantly, keep at least one of them alive, if at all possible."

With that, Dain left the healers to work in peace in order to behead Bilbo Baggins.

In all honesty, Dain did feel sorry for the halfling, as he had always had a secret soft spot for the simple-minded people, one of which Dain considered Bilbo Baggins to be. A simpleton – what else could a being like Baggins be, a soft little thing that stole the Arkenstone and then ran around a battlefield without any shoes on? Had the situation been different, Dain would have tried to reason with Thorin, asking him to reconsider the harsh penalty, pleading for the hobbit's apparent simplicity.

Reaching his tent, Dain entered, motioning for his warriors to follow on. Once inside and properly shielded from any curious looks, Dain turned to study the hobbit.

Bilbo Baggins had apparently been hit in the temple with something blunt during the battle. The shaft of an orc axe, most likely, but it was difficult to say for certain. There was bruising and blood on the left side of his face and the poor little thing looked even more confused and disoriented than he had the last time Dain had seen him. He appeared to have some trouble balancing and his squinted eyes kept wandering around the tent as if there was something wrong with his vision. The hobbit's hairy feet were dirty and covered with scratches, his clothes torn and bloody. All in all, Bilbo Baggins looked worn and weary but, regretfully, alive.

Dain had secretly hoped that the hobbit had perished in the battle. That way Dain wouldn't have had to execute him; the Lord of the Iron Hills was many things, but a killer of children, elders and simpletons he was not.

Except he was. Or was about to become one, at least.

"How are you feeling, Master Baggins?" Dain asked, deciding it was best to keep the halfling calm by chattering about this and that for as long as possible. No reason to scare the little one quite yet, was there.

"Uh, thank you for asking," the hobbit said, blinking furiously, while Dain went to fetch his execution axe from one of the chests. "I'm a bit... confused, to tell you the truth. I don't- I think I was hit in the head, but I fell unconscious and now everything's a bit... fuzzy. No. Not fuzzy, exactly. I mean that there are two of everything. Two of... everything. But I suppose that happens, sometimes..."

"Oh, yes, yes, that certainly happens," Dain agreed amiably. "At least it can happen when one has a concussion, like you probably do at the moment. Nasty things, concussions. But worry not, simple one, for soon it will all be better and you will feel nothing."

"Oh," said Bilbo. "Well, thank you."

Hirin, Birun and Jugor, surrounding the hobbit, exchanged displeased glances.

"I would like to remind you, my lord, that the hobbit stole from Thorin Oakenshield," Birun dared to say, having the good sense to speak in Khuzdul to prevent the hobbit from understanding and getting panicked. "He is a traitor and should be punished accordingly. He should be flogged in public, before you cut his throat and fill many bottles with his blood for all the Durin's folk to enjoy. He doesn't deserve a quick death."

"He is a simpleton," sighed Dain, using Khuzdul as well. "And as a simpleton, he should be shown at least some mercy. He cannot help being foolish, can he. I was told to take care of him and I have every intention to do just that, but I will be quick about it. I'm not going to make it any more painful for him than it has to be."

After some hesitation, Birun inclined his head respectfully, Hirin and Jugor following the suit.

"As you wish, my lord," he said, although he still looked noticeably discontent – Dain wasn't particularly bothered.

The hobbit didn't offer any resistant when he was taken back outside. He didn't resist at all when Jugor pushed him onto his knees on the dirty ground, apparently thinking that his new position was due to his own current lack of balance. He even apologized for stumbling, sounding embarrassed and painfully sincere. Dain felt a quick stab of guilt. It was wrong to use a simpleton's trust like this, merciful though it also may have been.

While the execution was being prepared – while a suitable block of wood was being located and collected, that was – the hobbit began to ask, rather timidly - but, nevertheless, with determination - after Thorin and the members of Thorin Oakenshield's Company. Had anyone been hurt in the battle, he wanted to know. Where were his friends? None of them had been injured, had they? He hadn't seen anyone he knew, but all his friends were still alive, weren't they? Weren't they, Lord Dain?

Lord Dain?

When he wasn't given any answers, the hobbit began to become agitated. And when the block was placed in front of him and Dain suddenly grasped him by the neck and forced his head against the wooden block, it seemed to finally dawn on the poor thing what was going on.

Sighing to himself, Dain watched as the hobbit's eyes grew large with understanding. It seemed that it was time to get started and to get the execution over with as soon as possible. As necessary as they usually were, executions were rarely anything Dain looked forward to.

"You, Bilbo Baggins, have betrayed Thorin Oakenshield," Dain declared and the hobbit, giving a little start, looked up at him from his uncomfortable position.

Dain forced himself to meet the gaze of the wide eyes, the eyes that stared up at him pleadingly, with desperation, with so many unuttered thoughts and questions.

"By stealing the Arkenstone, you betrayed Thorin Oakenshield and all those who are loyal to him. Now you must face the consequences of your actions. On the orders of Thorin Oakenshield, you shall be taken care of."

The hobbit let out a strangled noise.

"T-Thorin ordered you to k-kill me?" he asked in a choked voice, apparently too shocked to move, as he wasn't struggling one bit.

Giving a curt nod, Dain let go off the halfling's neck and lifted his execution axe in the air, throwing it back. He then said as soothingly as he could, "You won't feel a thing, little one. This axe is in excellent condition and I shall be very quick about it."

"Quick about what?" asked an authoritative voice from behind them and Dain, startled, twirled around, coming face to face with a grim-looking Balin, son of Fundin. Dain let the axe fall down to his side, as it simply wouldn't do to stand in such a threatening poise in front of one of Thorin's most trusted advicors.

"You gave me quite a start, Master Balin, son of Fundin," Dain admitted, letting out a forced chuckle.

The older dwarf didn't look amused at all, as he took a step closer to Dain – Hirin, Birun and Jugor stepped by Dain's side, giving Balin calculating looks, probably to assess the level of threat the angry-looking dwarf was posing to their lord.

"Quick about what, exactly, Dain of Iron Hills?" Balin repeated, something dark flashing in his eyes as his gaze took in the axe. "You are not planning on... doing anything rash with that execution axe, are you? I would suspect that Prince Thorin would get quite upset if you were to execute Master Baggins either on purpose or by accident."

"Actually," Dain said, a tad bit annoyed at being interrupted, as he truly would have liked to have been quick about the execution and hated to make the scared little hobbit to wait, "I am merely following orders of my cousin's: he specifically told me that I was to take care of the hobbit and that's exactly what I am doing. So if you don't mind..."

Dain began to turn around, but to his surprise, his arm was seized by a quick hand. Balin was grasping his arm tightly, firmly, ignoring the warning looks Hirin, Birun and Jugor were giving him.

"An execution," Balin said grimly, studying Dain's face with narrowed eyes, "was not what Prince Thorin had in his mind when he asked you to take care of Master Baggins, of his friend. He asked you, as his trusted relative, to make certain that Master Baggins would be well looked after, that he was given warm meals and a comfortable chamber. He didn't ask you to 'take care of Bilbo Baggins' in any way that could cause harm to the hobbit."

Dain and Balin stared at each other for quite a while. Then Dain blinked and frowned. Feeling quite awkward and embarrassed, he turned to look at the hobbit, clearing his throat.

But Bilbo Baggins was nowhere to be seen.

Bilbo Baggins had fled.