Sword and Shield
He faced his opponent one last time.
He'd won. Thorin knew it in that second that Bolg, son of Azog, has won.
Rain lashed down upon the battle, washing the blood from his body. The sword sticking out of his chest was the only thing holding him up. His knees buckled, his feet slipping in the mud. The noise of the battle didn't seem so loud anymore. Blood rushed in his ears. The sword taken from the hoard inside Erebor slipped from his grasp, landing upwards in the mud. But before Bolg removed his own blade, he spat on the orc in front of him – a mist of red landed on Bolg's hand. That's when he realised that he wasn't going to walk away from this.
His vision blurred, and he turned his eyes towards the mountain. Home.
This war had only been started for gold. If it weren't for that mound, at least two of the armies wouldn't be here. But when he returned, when Erebor was finally his once again, the gold seemed... worthless. Fake. The Arkenstone, which he had so craved, which he had nearly thrown Master Baggins off the mountain for, did not live up to his recollections. He hoped that before it ended, he would have a chance to apologise to the hobbit. He thought back to the stone now, and wondered how he could risk all that he has fought for, for that.
Was it worth it after all?
The sword was finally wrenched from his body as Bolg turned away, and he fell to the ground, his knees slamming into the mud. His eyes fell shut as he landed face-down in the mud. But something kept him alive. Some small part of him was holding on – to what?
The cry suddenly jarred through his thoughts, stabbing through him more keenly than any knife.
No. No. Please, Mahal, no. NO!
If he had the strength, he would not have opened his eyes. He could not bear to watch what was about to happen.
"You will not touch him again!" his nephew screamed, standing between Thorin and those who sought to take his life. Thorin's heart sank as he realised that his nephew was entirely alone. He did not doubt his nephew's courage, nor his strength, but there was only so much that one person could do against such a horde.
Where was his brother?
His nephew danced before him in a lethal show. He slashed his sword – again, taken from Erebor – forwards, slamming it into another blade that moved up to meet him. He pushed the blade away, turning the shove into another swipe, which sent black blood spraying across him as he opened an orc's chest. The swipe turned into a parry, as he turned to block the seemingly endless blows from another orc, who would not let him make any offensive move.
But the dance was over almost as soon as it had begun. An orc suddenly grabbed his head, forcing it back, and drew a knife swiftly across his exposed neck. He gasped out in pain, the sword slipping from his grasp as his hands struggled in vain to stem the blood pouring down his neck.
But it wasn't over – not yet. He couldn't fail his uncle. He wasn't dead yet.
Thorin heard the guttural gasp, and opened his eyes just a fraction.
All he saw before him was his nephew fall to his knees, gasping for air. Dark hair plastered to his face by the rain, Kíli looked down at Thorin, and, seeing his eyes watching him, summoned up some last reserve of energy. Kíli hauled himself over to Thorin, falling across his uncle's back, in a final attempt to quite literally shield him from harm.
Thorin couldn't bear it. It should not be this way. He should be the one lying over Kíli. It was never meant to be like this, he couldn't allow his youngest nephew to die for him. Kíli could not die.
He moved, as if to jerk Kíli off of his back, but he didn't have the strength to lift himself. The weight of failure crushed him as he realised that he didn't even have the strength to protect his own nephew.
Kíli shifted with Thorin's uncomfortable jerk, rolling over onto his back. Physical pain shot through Thorin as he continually jostled the stab wound, but it was nothing – nothing – compared to the agony as he realised that these were likely the last movements of the youngest member of his line. Part of him wondered why Kíli was moving into such an uncomfortable position, back arched over Thorin. Perhaps it was pride – even in death he wanted to face his foes, rather than shy away like a coward. Perhaps he simply wanted to see the sky again, one last time.
"Thorin?" Kíli gasped, his breath guttural. "Did you think it would end like this?"
Kíli's breath came in shuddering gasps, as he fought to stay conscious. It had stopped raining, and Kíli focused on keeping his eyes open. A passing orc, seeing Kíli gasping for air, plunged a sword deep into Kíli's chest, sending a shock jarring through Thorin's body with the force of the blow, as Kíli was forced downwards. But the pain Kíli had expected didn't come. Darkness had gathered on the edge of his vision as he focused on the blanket of clouds above him. His final thought before the darkness finally took him was that he would never have to feel the pain of this world again.
Thorin felt Kíli's gasps slowly subside into nothing, and felt the air release itself from his youngest nephew's body. Thorin closed his eyes, and allowed tears to finally fall down his face, their paths made easier by the rain that slicked his skin, before they mingled with the mud.
He thought back to when he'd first made the plans for such a quest. Back to that night in Bree with Gandalf. Back to the look of horror on Bilbo Baggins' face when he'd explained that they were taking on a dragon. Everyone had counselled against such a quest, but there were always two endings in his mind – either they reclaim Erebor, and its halls would be restored to their former splendour, or they would meet their end with Smaug. In all his planning, it never once crossed his mind that it would end with a battle over gold. With him lying in the mud, his lungs slowly filling up with blood, with Kíli's dead body as his shield from further attack.
"No," Thorin finally breathed his answer, just as Fíli came rushing up the hill.
The cry Fíli let loose was something torn from the past. He'd heard that cry from a thousand others, at Azanulbizar, in the aftermath of Smaug's attack. It was a cry of pure, undiluted, unrestrained grief at the sight of his brother, lying with his neck slashed open, his glassy eyes staring unseeing at the sky, bent backwards over his uncle. It was something Thorin had hoped never to hear from Fíli.
Sobs wracked through Fíli's body as he lifted Kíli's limp form, all strength leaving him. Thorin heard him denying, bargaining, begging for his eyes to deceive him, because Kíli could not be dead, because that meant that he had failed his brother, he had broken his promise, and he would never again hear Kíli's voice, and he couldn't live without his little brother...
In that moment, Thorin forgot why he still held on to life.
If Mahal was listening to Fíli, then he had no pity. Fear gripped his heart as, for the first time in his life, he felt truly alone. He looked around at the battle raging around him. Fear turned into anger – a rage such as he had never known at the foul creatures that had stolen Kíli.
They will not see another dawn.
His hand closed around his own sword, and his other around Kíli's, and he plunged back into the fray. The strength that had left him at that sight of Kíli, bent backwards over Thorin, suddenly returned. Fuelled by rage, his movements were entirely aggressive. This was no dance like the fight of his brother: this was a display of the brutality that the line of Durin was capable of, finally unleashed. He did not defend himself, because what was he defending? What was he without Kíli? They were always together; without Kíli, was his body worth defending?
A stray scimitar slashed open his forearm, but Fíli completely ignored the pain – it was incomparable to what else he felt. Thorin did his best to watch, but the darkness was slowly taking over.
He heard the first arrow slam into Fíli's chest. Fíli simply gasped, but, like his brother, continued to fight until his last breath. Another arrow joined the first, but the fight carried on. A third arrow pierced his neck, and finally, finally the fight stopped. The swords never left his hands as he fell to the floor. He did not fight the darkness that threatened to take him as his uncle had; as Kíli had. He welcomed it.
Thorin finally opened his eyes again, and saw Fíli's body lying before him, his eyes shut and his mouth slightly open. His nephews had been so many things to him. As children, they had been his happiness. As they grew up, they had become his strength, as he swore to protect them. They had always been the reason why he still fought, why he never gave up hope. They had been his pride, as he had watched them change into what he'd hoped they would become. They had been his saviours, finally making him realise that there were more important things to him than gold and glorified glass. And now, before the gates of their home, they were his sword and shield, protecting him from what he ought to have protected them from. How had it all gone so wrong?
What was he holding on to? The mountain? Gold? Home? There was nowhere in all of Arda that he could call home now – not without Fíli and Kíli.
Was it worth it after all?
No. No, it was not.