Hello, my dears. Have you missed me?

Be forewarned, this chapter gets a bit dark. It is not recommended for those with a history of swooning and/or crying over fics.

It was hard for me to write, and I have neither of the aforementioned symptoms.

A/N: Tauriel is kind of a bitch in this particular story. She doesn't really serve a purpose as Kili's love interest, so...she gets to be a bitch.

"He is not well." Oh, Mahal. What had happened now? She gave an order to the guards in Elvish. They released me, and she drew me aside.

"He screams in darkness, but whether it is the darkness of the prison or of his own mind, I cannot tell."

"May I see him, lady?" I asked politely. "He suffers from injury. It may have affected his mind."

She spoke in a whisper, as we were not completely out of earshot of the others. "Not now. When the sky is dark, I will come for you." I noticed a key ring attached to her belt. She must have been a prison guard. But she had been willing enough to seek me out on Kili's behalf, so I decided to ask her one more question.

Keeping my voice low, I asked. "Are there any other dwarves here? We saw evidence that there might be. In the forest I saw the bodies of giant spiders. The area was littered with things that only a dwarf would carry. Were they captured by your scouts as well?"

Her eyes gave away a flicker of apprehension before she regained her composure. "There are no dwarves here besides you and your brother. The spiders come closer to our borders every day, and so they must be slain before they can reach them. Any travelers, dwarf, elf, or otherwise, would have been killed on sight if they did not know the way."

As she handed me over to the guards, I knew. She lied. The others were still here somewhere. It was just a matter of finding them.


Never trust an elf. Thorin had told me that countless times, and now I was beginning to see why. The prison guard was a liar. The others would not have all been killed by spiders, some of them must still be here. As I was dragged back to my cell, I noted how many others there were…and that they were all empty. Perhaps the surviving members of the Company had been released. Although I couldn't see how. Bargaining with Thranduil was no easy feat.

I did not hold her true to her word that she would come for me. Kili would be left alone, afraid in the darkness that clouded his mind, and I would be helpless to do anything. I was angrier with myself now than I had ever been. A fine mess I'd gotten us into. I had been trusted to be the responsible one and keep us both safe. We were initially thought too young, but I had fought for a place in the company. I was not going to miss out on the adventure of a lifetime, and neither was Kili. What an idiot I had been.

I stared at the cracks in the cell floor, head bent low, forearms resting on my knees. I was beginning to feel odd. The lack of natural light played tricks on my senses and I knew not whether it was day or night. Durin's day was already passed as far as I knew, for I had long ago lost track of the days in the forest of Mirkwood.

I was lonely. I was so used to nearly always having Kili by my side that his absence was strongly felt. Did elves feel? I wondered. They must not, if Thranduil and the guard woman were any indication. The whole of their existence seemed cold and calculated, every movement measured. She did not care anything about Kili. She was probably satisfied that she had worried me.

My heart sank to think of my brother all alone in whatever darkness tormented him. I could do nothing to help, which made it all the worse. Just when I thought she would never come, I heard soft footsteps and the jingle of keys. A light approached, and I saw her turning a key in the lock.

"Come, Dwarf." she said curtly. "If you wish to see your brother, now is your only chance."

"My name," I growled as I stepped out onto the narrow walkway, "is Fili."

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see the slight motion of her head bobbing back and forth in disapproval. "You dwarves are a curious sort," she said. "Not to be belittled, are you?"

I would have loved to say no. I would have loved to say anything, but I dared not anger her. She was willing to possibly risk her position to let me see Kili. I took it as a kindness.

By the light of her small lantern, she led me down endless narrow, winding corridors. I never would have been able to find Kili on my own in this place. Finally, she led me into a space that was more crypt than prison. An odor of damp, must, and decay pervaded the air. No light from any torch made its way here. It gave the effect of being buried alive. Every sound was swallowed by the thick walls. Poor Kili. He had always been afraid of the dark as a child, and even now at the age of seventy-seven he occasionally let his imagination run wild. Even for the short moments I'd been down here I noticed a tightening of my chest and a quickening of breath. Being down here for as long as he had must be torture on the senses. I began to wonder if I'd find him sane.

As the light glanced over an empty cell, I saw that it was not entirely empty. A skeleton lay splayed on the floor, its bony hand barely reaching through the bars. So this was where the exceedingly dignified, civilized elves left their prisoners to die.

Down a few more crumbling steps she led me, and made an abrupt turn to the right. The light showed a dank dead-end corridor. From a cell near the end came a groan.

"Kili?" I asked uncertainly. A feeble moan came in reply. "Kili!" I bolted to the end of the corridor, nearly tripping over my own feet. It had been far too long since I'd had any kind of food, and it was starting to show. I grabbed the bars of the nearest cell to steady myself. I hadn't realized how weak I had become. Panting, I dragged myself along by the bars of cells until I reached the end.

The elf followed behind with her light, and seemed to take pleasure in my distress as I gazed upon the conditions in which Kili was being held. The smell was repugnant—a mixture of bodily effluence spilled from the overflowing bucket which served as a chamber pot. Vomit splattered the floor. The walls were coated in some sort of growth. And upon a stone bench carved out from the wall lay the shivering, unresponsive wreck that was my brother. It took all my remaining strength not to cry out in rage.

"You said he was merely unwell, not that he was near death!" I cried, whirling around to face the guard, who looked—concerned.

"It was for his own safety that we put him here. His shouts could be heard in the Great Hall, and the King wished him executed."

"So this is the mercy of elves," I sneered. Or...not. Their method of executing a dwarf might be death by starvation-as prolonged as possible. Turning back to the cell, I called, "Kili? Can you hear me?"

He merely twitched in response.

"Will you open the door?" I asked as politely as I could. She shook her head, and pounded her fist on the bars, breaking the silence with a deafening echo.

"Dwarf!" she demanded. "Wake up!"

He groaned and tried to raise his head, succeeding only in falling off the bench.

"Kili, I've come to see you!" I said. When he saw me, he looked confused.

"Have I gone mad?" he wheezed. "Fili?"

"Yes, it's me! You're not mad! I'm here! Here, touch my hand." I stuck my fingers through the bars and he touched them gingerly before drawing back. In that moment, my heart sank. I never would have thought he'd fear me.

I felt the guard's hand lightly brush my shoulder as she turned away. As her footsteps receded, Kili's hand groped weakly in my direction. I clasped his hand in mine, and was worried to find it cold as ice. The lantern had been left for us, and it sat on the floor behind me. Kili averted his eyes from the bright light, and gazed at the floor.

"Fili…" he said weakly, slumping over. "I thought they'd killed you."

"I thought they'd killed you," I replied. "But here we are. It's going to be all right, Kili. We'll get out of here somehow. They can't keep us here forever." I thought back to the skeleton I'd passed on the way. Kili could not think that we had no chance. I wouldn't allow it. I promised myself in that moment that if they took me first, I would not scream. I would not risk him hearing me and knowing that his elder brother was dead and he would be left alone to meet what I could only imagine to be a slow and painful demise.

"You think so?" he gasped.

"Yes." I did not want to alarm him, and so I did not tell him that the gold ring I had taken from that creature held a strange power. So far it had yielded only empty promises, but it spoke of greatness, of the restoration of Erebor…and of our escape.

He smiled weakly. "You know, I thought I wanted to be on this quest more than anyone in the Company. Now all I want is to be back home, at the hearth, with a mug of ale. Far away from this forsaken place."

"I do too." I agreed. "That's good, Kili. Think of home. Think of the good things, of our memories. When we were children. Remember the time we climbed a tree at the edge of the river…"

"And we almost fell in?" he chuckled feebly. "I thought Thorin would have our heads!"

"Mother was so angry…but then she ended up making us honey candy. She was so glad we weren't harmed." I smiled. "Do you still have that rune stone she gave you?"

He dug in his pockets and brought it out to show me. "Return to me," he read.

"And we will. We'll return, Kili. Don't you forget it."

The guard's footsteps approached. The light moved around the walls as she picked up the lantern, and I knew I must leave. I knew before she'd brought me that my visit would not be a long one. Even so, it seemed like only a moment had passed.

"We must go," she said, in a more gentle tone that she had used before. I pretended not to notice the tears in Kili's eyes as I stood, and I hoped that he did not see those in mine.

As I retreated solemnly behind the elf, I prayed for our safety. Aulë, please, keep him safe. I will indenture myself to you for the rest of my life if only you set us free.


However heartfelt my prayers, I could not ignore a power of another sort. This one was insidious and sinister, but however I tried to ignore it, it was persistent. It came from the gold ring I carried in my pocket. The voice did not come from the ring—it manifested inside my head. It was the voice of my own thoughts, but the thoughts themselves were not mine. They belonged to another entity. They were almost certainly evil, but still I could not fight them. The voice promised a way out.

The voice promised a reunion with the Company, promised triumph, promised wealth. What more could I ask?

I saw somewhere that the runes on Kili's talisman mean "return to me." I don't know if this is true.

And now I'm sweating from my eyes... Dammit, Creativity DemonBeast!

Reviews= hugs for the Durin brothers.