I do not own the Hobbit or anything related to Tolkein's works. (Though I am still trying to sneak out with my boys if I can find my way into Middle Earth somehow...)

Shoving his way to Ori's side, Nori clapped a hand protectively on his shoulder and spat curses at the one who threatened his brother.

'Start with the youngest...' The Goblin King's words rang in his head with chilling finality. Furtively Nori glanced towards Thorin, not daring to keep his eyes off the enemy as he waited expectantly for his King to forgoe the quest and save all their lives.

Thorin knew that all eyes were upon him, yet pride and revulsion towards the hulking mass of flesh that demanded his kingdom held his tongue. They were not broken; not yet. He would not falter at the first threat towards his Company. For all of them he would give his life willingly, just as they would for him, but words alone could not harm them. The threat seemed almost surreal to him, like a hornet zipping just out of the line of his vision; virtually harmless until it zoned in for the strike.

Reality engulfed him in the hoard of goblins that sprang upon the Company, breaking over them in a flood of screeches and grasping hands as the Dwarrow were individually separated. Instinctively Thorin backed away from the gnashing teeth and howling voices, standing before his nephews as though his presence alone could daunt the creatures of darkness. More goblins swarmed them from all sides, however, and Thorin shouted in rage when he heard Fili cry out in pain and horror.

Suddenly the goblins broke away, massing through the Company and dragging in their midst their intended prize. Despair shone in Fili's eyes as he ran past Thorin, blood trickling down his temple from the blow of a weighted club. Instantly Thorin grabbed his nephew's arm, causing Fili to skid in a half circle and slump against him. The blood drained from Fili's expression and he shouted in Khuzdul, prying at Thorin's grasp and glancing in trepidation towards the writhing mass of limbs and garish faces.

"Thorin, let me go!" Fili screamed, wrenching towards freedom with a strength Thorin had not known his nephew possessed. "Let me go to him! Kili! Kili!"

No physical blow could have dealt greater anguish. A weight like Aulë's hammer struck Thorin to the core and his face became as white as a tomb as he realized what Fili had implied. The fire of pride and honor died in his eyes, to be replaced with curdling fury and denial as the swarms of goblins parted.

Spread eagled before the Goblin King, Kili shook the tangled hair from his face and raised his eyes to seek his brother's. Fili cried out and struggled against Thorin's hold, only to be dragged back by Dwalin when Thorin listlessly relinquished his grip. No longer was the promise of torture and blood a surreal threat in Thorin's eyes. The situation was horrifically, deathly real to him, and he could not move to abate it.

Throwing his head back in cruel laughter, the Goblin King stepped behind Kili and wrapped one massive hand around his jaw, pressing his fingers against the young Dwarf's face and temples in a bruising grip. Tears of pain sprang to Kili's eyes and he stifled a whimper, cringing as the pressure built in his skull in sharp throbs. Shouts of horror turned to those of outrage, forcing the goblins to hold down their prisoners once more lest the small company attempt to single handedly rip the Goblin King limb from limb and tear Kili free of his grasp.

"Siiiii-lence!" the Goblin King ordered, a sickly leer spreading over his face as he recognized that he held the key to their cooperation. He tightened his grasp, eliciting a shrill yelp from his captive as bone grated under the pressure on his cheeks.

Chuckling in dark amusement as the commotion stilled, the Goblin King waved his other hand grandly as he stated in triumph, "Allow me to pose my question once more. What would Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, be doing skulking under my Mountain, when his own lies pillaged so far away?"

A moment of baited silence followed and the Goblin King impatiently dictated to his subjects, "Give him a minute to decide... then break him."

One minute...

One minute to make the gut-wrenching choice of what was most important to him. One minute to decide the course of a life.

It was not enough.

The jeers and howls of approval drowned out Thorin's shout of rage as he threw himself against the goblins holding him down. Foul oaths in Khuzdul sprang from his lips as he called the most vile calamities upon the wretched filth that threatened his sister's son. Beside him Fili hollered Kili's name, smashing his head back into one goblin's face as he screamed and screamed for his brother. Gloin went down in a tangle of limbs and Dwalin nearly broke free, only to be shoved onto his face by a renewed onslaught as fifteen more goblins forced him to the ground.

Forty-seven seconds...

A ragged call of dismay was wrenched from Thorin as he looked to his nephew, burning ice blue eyes meeting stricken coal dark as Kili sought his face for guidance in this hour of desperation. Trust, unfathomable trust, gleamed in his eyes as he waited for some signal or plan that would break him free of his tormentors.

Thirty-nine seconds...

The despair in Thorin's gaze shattered Kili's hope and Thorin recognized the light fading in his nephew's eyes as he realized there was no plan. For an instant he slumped in the goblins' hold, giving in to fear before the flames of rebellion lit his gaze and he raised his head, throwing back his shoulders and setting his jaw in one last act of defiance. He would not die a coward if he could help it. He did not know if he could stand under torture, but he was willing to die if that would ensure Thorin's dream of reclaiming Erabor.

Such loyalty Thorin knew he did not deserve. His sister's sons should never have been caught up in this nightmare.

Twenty-four seconds...

Panic flickered in Kili's gaze and he frantically sought Fili's assurance, panting against the stranglehold increasing at the base of his throat. Cerulean clashed with muted embers and Fili abruptly halted his struggles, hopelessness and terror flooding his expression as he recognized Kili's final message.

It's going to be okay.

I'm not scared as long as you're here with me.

I don't blame you for what is about to happen.

I know you would give your life for me if you had the choice, just as I am giving mine for you this moment.

I'm not afraid.

I love you.

"Thorin, do something!" Fili screamed, tearing his gaze away to look to Thorin with stricken eyes.

Fourteen seconds...

Kili's eyes flitted to Thorin's and the floor dropped beneath his feet as he saw the faith that shone undiminished in his nephew's gaze.

I trust you.

I know that whatever happens, you did what you could.

I'm not afraid to die.

I want you to go if you have the chance. Leave me here. Get Fili out and finish the quest.

Just don't ever forget me...

Tears sprang to Kili's eyes and Thorin knew how he would have pleaded had he been able to speak in this moment.

Take care of Fili and ... and tell Mom I love her...

Four seconds...

"Wait!" Thorin shouted, lifting his head and throwing his shoulders back one last time in an effort to dislodge the goblins bearing him down.

A flinch of surprise stayed the Goblin King's hand and he relaxed his grip for an instant. Quickly he recovered, sneering at Thorin as he grasped Kili's chin and yanked his head painfully to the side. "What is this? Changed your mind so quickly?"

Confusion and pain clouded Kili's gaze as he tried to look out of the corner of his eyes at Thorin. No... don't do it for me. I'm not worth all your lives. Get out while you have the chance!

He could not do it. Even if they could have escaped in this moment and arrived in Erabor on the morrow, Thorin could not sentence his sister's son to death. Not for all the gold and jewels; not for the Arkentstone itself.

Some treasures were far more important.

"I will tell what you need to know," Thorin said raggedly, his posture bowing in defeat. He did not dare look at the others, lest he see the condemnation he felt reflected in their eyes. They had come so far and sacrificed so much, and now he was willingly surrendering it to this vile being.

Only Fili would understand. Nothing was of more value to Thorin than what he had before him now. He could not lose them.

The pandemonium which followed was a haze in Thorin's mind, and even Ori's records could not cause him to remember the chaos which took place. A brilliant light sprang into the darkness, striking several goblins dead and forcing the others to flee before the wrath of Mithrandir. Like the shadows of fleeing spiders their captors melted away, screeching at the brightness and covering their sensitive eyes against the light.

Thorin did not register the swords that were thrown at their feet, nor the scimitar that nearly tore off his scalp before Dwalin dispatched of the goblin bearing towards him. All that Thorin saw was Kili lying huddled on the ground, motionless and scarcely seeming to breathe. On his hands and knees he crawled, ducking the flashing blades and blazing torches as he scrambled to his nephew's side.

Kili's lank, dark hair covered his face and for an instant Thorin was afraid his nephew was dead. With a croaked sob he pushed the tangled locks away, horror and anger rising within him at the darkening fingerprints that would form a wreath of terrible bruising later. A startled rasp was emitted and Kili cracked his eyes open, coughing slightly and grimacing as the movement irritated his swollen throat.

"Unc...?" he rasped, a slight smile breaking across his expression as he recognized Thorin's shadowy form.

Tears of relief threatened to slip free as Thorin grasped Kili's hand, pulling him upright and holding him close. Tremors coursed through Kili's frame, the shock and terror of the moment finally settling in as he clung to his guardian. One arm wrapped securely around his nephew's shoulders, the other clapped behind Kili's head, Thorin fought down the trembling which seized him as he realized how close he had come to losing his most precious treasure.

Fili slid to his knees beside them and Kili reached out for his brother, tears sparkling in both their eyes as they clasped one another's hands as though they would never let go.

I thought I had lost you!

I thought you had, too...

Don't ever do something stupid like that again!

Don't ever let go of me, Fee...

I love you...

...More than you could ever know.

Dori's war cry split the somber moment as the company formed a circle around them, protecting them from the rain of arrows and swords as the goblins attacked in full force. Bofur stumbled and Oin hissed as the razor thin blades slit past their defenses, the shallow wounds only the foreshadowing of worse injuries if they did not get out.

Reluctantly Thorin dragged himself to his feet, hoisting Kili up and supporting him until he nodded mutely that he could stand on his own. Fili grabbed his swords from the ground and spun on his heel, a mask of fury hardening his expression as he faced down those who had harmed his brother. Orcrist gleamed in Thorin's hand and he shouted the battle cry of his people, cleaving through the goblin hoards with Kili not far behind him.

One minute.

One minute was all he had been given to assure himself his nephew was alive and safe. To realize in chilling repulsion that he had nearly given up his greatest treasures for the phantom promises of gold.

One minute to vow that he would never allow either of them to be harmed again.

It was not enough.