Title: milis agus searbh

Summary: A retelling of the events in Desolation of Smaug, from the perspective of Bard's eldest daughter, whom may or may not have a particular fondness for reckless, brawny, and wounded young dwarves. After all, living in the shadow of a dragon-infested mountain, Sigrid should have suspected something of the sort. The bittersweet tale of young love's first sting; a three-shot novella

Rated: K+, for character death and mention of widespread death and destruction caused by a dragon

Disclaimer: I own neither The Hobbit, nor whatever other characters or situations the movie version decided to invent.

Author's Note: This is not a Kili/Tauriel because, as Tauriel is an immortal elf, moreover probably thousands of years old and Kili is a relatively young dwarf, I don't think that could ever realistically happen. I think the greatest feeling Tauriel might have had for Kili would be of the motherly/elder sisterly/protectively-kind. Kili probably had a shameless school-boy crush on her.

Contains hints of Legolas/Tauriel semi-unrequited love, Sigrid/Kili mutual affection, and tentative musings for what comes after Desolation of Smaug – out of semi-context from the book.

I apologize for any discrepancies in the plotline, dialog, or characters as I hadn't the movie available for reference. Please excuse any minor adaptions: details in a book-to-movie-to-fanfiction can sometimes be lost in the shuffle – or ignored deliberately.

There is always a first, apparently even for sappy, angst-riddled romance novels.

I hope someone enjoys this, please drop a line if you do.

The title is in Gaelic

milis agus searbh


Part One of Three – The Gathering of the Clouds:

"Da, why's there dwarves climbing out of ar' toilet?"

It was a valid question. Sigrid had always prided herself on being straight forward, blunt, and to the point. She only asked questions when she honestly wanted to know the answer, when that answer might be important.

Tilda peaked from around Sigrid's skirts. Bain rushed forward to help the next dwarf climb out of the plumbing, as the first dwarf shook water out of his boots with ill-grace.

"We need food, Sigrid," said her father, who was scuttling about in the room above them. It was not the answer Sigrid had been looking for, not an answer at all, really.

Another dwarf clomped down onto the floor, his heavy boots making sloshing sounds and whipping wet hair out of his eyes. Another dwarf followed him.

"How many are there?" said Tilda. Sigrid had not thought to ask that, as she would evidently see for herself after they all come up out of the toilet.

"Sigrid, Tilda," warned their father and Sigrid tore herself away, catching hold of Tilda as she went.

"Da," she said, grabbing a pot and hauling it over to the fire her father was tending, "What's happened?"

Her father straightened up and briefly met her eye. "Naught to worry about," he said, and went fiddling about the kitchen. His whole body breathed of secrecy, of lies and haste. Sigrid could tell from the way his eyes kept flitting to the window, the shutters of which had been bolted, that he was watching for something – guards, perhaps.

Sigrid felt her hands go cold as she fumbled with the tap, keeping her back to the stairway but hearing as more dwarves were brought up downstairs. She swallowed to clear her throat. Naught to worry about, but it had been a long time since Sigrid had allowed herself to wholly believe that.

She knew her father smuggled: food, wine, and sometimes money for the people of Lake-Town. She knew her father dealt in the shadows, worked in deceit and political turmoil. She knew it was only a matter of time before the Master decided he hadn't anything left to wait for and simply arrested him. But Sigrid had never heard or seen, or caught breath of whisper of her father smuggling in something as big as a dwarf – many dwarves – and she was worried.

Her mother was dead, Tilda a child, Bain too brave, and her father too reckless, so Sigrid worried.

There was the sound of clomping footsteps, snorting, jingling, sloshing wet clothes, and the scraping of boots upon the wooden floor and Sigrid turned from the fire to see the dwarves filing up the stairs and into the kitchen.

They lived in a house that was only one room, a stove against the wall, a bed against another, a table in the middle, one door, one window, and a staircase that lead to the toilet and the dock below them.

There were fourteen of them, Sigrid counted. They all collected about the table, looking grubby and out of place, almost ridiculously stocky against their father and even Bain. The last of them trailed up the staircase and Sigrid noticed that this dwarf must be very young, for he hadn't any beard, and Sigrid had never heard of a dwarf without a beard.

He was also shorter than all the rest and spoke with a higher voice – the others had gruff, rumbling voices – "Dreadful business. I'm not surprised if I've caught cold." The little dwarf sneezed and Tilda, who'd come up again to hide behind Sigrid's skirts, choked on a laugh.

The pot of water began to boil, water sloshed out and sizzled on the floor, reminding Sigrid to make haste. She fumblingly yanked drying fish off the twine they'd been strung on from the roof and began dressing them.

The dwarves behind her were making a racket, grumbling and shivering and relieving themselves of sopping wet cloaks, groaning as they sneaked heat from the fireplace. Sigrid's hand shook slightly as she ran her knife under the skin of the fish. She was sure she'd be able to hear the pounding of her heartbeat, had it not been for the noise the dwarves were making.

She thought uneasily of her father's warning, that the house was being watched, he was being watched, and wondered with a sick feeling in her stomach what would happen should the Master's guards be drawn to their house that night.

She slid the fish into the pot of water off her knife. The little dwarf was still sneezing.

"Tilda, gather something warm for our visitors." said their father's voice from a corner. Sigrid glanced to him. He was looked swarthy and bathed in shadows, grim. Visitors by necessity, Sigrid knew he meant, but certainly not by good-will.

"What are you?" Tilda chirped, having dashed away to the bed and gathered blankets. She was holding one out to the little dwarf.

"Tilda," Sigrid felt her little sister's name slip from her lips, an easy chiding, something casual, unthinking in such an unusual situation.

The little dwarf smiled as some of his comrades grunted in amusement. "I'm a Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins, at your service."

Tilda curtsied and said with little shame, "Wha's a Hobbit?"

Sigrid dropped her spoon and swept over to her sister. "Hush," she said as she walked, closing her hand on Tilda's shoulder and drawing her away.

A dwarf seated beside the Hobbit – whatever a Hobbit might be – guffawed more openly.

"We hav'na much food," Sigrid felt the words slip off her tongue, feeling hospitality and geniality called for something. Her eyes flitted again to her father, whose eye's glinted in the flickering light of the fire. She searched for something, approval or reassurance, but received not even recognition.

"I canna promise for the flavor but it will be hot," she continued. She took her place before the fire again, swirling the spoon in the pot. Her heart thumped beneath her breast.

"We've been living on the trail," one of the dwarves grunted behind her turned back. "It will be a mercy, whatever it is."

"I thank you for your hospitality," said another dwarf to her father, who did not reply.

"We'll be leaving soon."

"Ye'll have to wait for dark."

Sigrid doled out stew into bowls, plates, and mugs, calculating in her head as she went. Too many dwarves, fourteen too many, thirteen too many and one too many Hobbits – whatever that was.

She sent Tilda to the table with the stew and grabbed two steaming bowls herself. She squeezed between two dwarves to reach the table.

The dwarf to her right was seated with one leg extended. He had a bandage wrapped at his thigh, close to the knee, stained a washed out brown from a mix of water and blood.

"You're injured," said Sigrid, hearing her voice again and marveling at its stubbornness for not consulting her. The dwarf looked at her as if he had not realized she was there. Sigrid felt hot blood creep into her cheeks. They might have been dwarves, might have been only her size or even a bit shorter, but they were still all men amongst their kin, and she was but a young girl and want to mind her own business. "We've clean linin if it needs a' be dressed."

"Thank you," said the dwarf to her other side. She turned to him and saw his eyes were young looking and face smooth, very like the injured one but fairer. She wondered if they were brothers, wondered if all the dwarves were somehow related and thought again that there were too many, all impossible to tell apart.

Sigrid retreated back to the fire and continued to pass out the stew. She gave a mug to her father last and as she passed it to him his fingers caressed hers, his rough hand brushing the tips of her nails, briefly warm and reassuring.

She bustled Tilda over with her to the bed, where they could sit and be out of the way. Tilda bounced on the mattress, on her hands and knees and watched with wide-eyed wonder. Sigrid watched carefully, quietly, trying to sooth the nerves in her stomach. She wanted to grab hold of Bain too, and tuck him onto the bed instead of where he stood next to their father, looking far too brash and shrewd.

She was eldest. She was seventeen summers this past season. She knew she was supposed to make him mind, to tend him, to tell him to put more wood on the fire instead of goggling with such interest at the weather-worn dwarves, whom spoke in low voices about dark, dangerous things. Bain was only a child –

But he was not – was not a child, not anymore. He too was getting older, almost fourteen winters.

Sigrid's stomach was whirling, feeling tumultuous so that she had to breathe deeply. The air about her was musty and crowded, from the dwarves and other things, but mostly the dwarves.

She wished for darkness. She wanted them to leave.

Slowly the day passed. The sky outside was gray and heavy, overcast with a storm that had been hovering over them for a fortnight. The dwarves dispersed as they might in such closed quarters. Sigrid lingered in the corner with Tilda, keeping her sister close because she wanted to keep out of the way.

They asked for weapons, discarded the ones Sigrid's father gave them, and suggested storming the armory. Sigrid felt sweat bead by her hairline. She didn't care what the dwarves did, whether or not they were caught, as long as they kept her father out of it, kept she, her sister, and brother unharmed.

And then her father was rushing away, taking Bain aside, and leaving. Sigrid rose from her perch on the bed and slunk to the corner where Bain was.

"Where's he going?' she hissed.

"I dunno," Bain replied.

"Wha' did he tell ye?" said Sigrid, feeling a trickle of something almost like resentfulness fall into her gut. She was eldest. Bain was – was not yet a man, even if he was not quite a child.

"We canna let them leave. 'Til he gets back," Bain hissed back to her.

Let them leave. Nothing could be gained, everything lost by their staying. Sigrid wondered where her father had gone, what he was planning. She thought uneasily of the weapons the dwarves had requested, of the guarded armory, but shook off her misgivings because she knew her father was not that reckless – could not be.

"It's dark enough," grunted one of the dwarves.

"We still need weapons," said another.

"Where's the armory, lad?" asked another of Bain.

"My Da'll be back in a mo'. Wait until then. You'll need a guide –"

"This has bleeding taken long enough. We're losing time if we wait much longer."

"Please stay. He doesna want you to leave. T's dangerous. The Master's guards, his spies –"

"I reckon we're more than enough match for this Master, and whatever guards he has," grunted a dwarf darkly.

"Please no," said Bain. "Da'll be back soon. Please wait."

"Where's this Bard gone to, anyhow?" said one of the dwarves. "Probably to sell us out to the Master –"

"My Da wouldna think o' such a thing –" said Bain heatedly.

"Then why are you so anxious to keep us here?" said another dwarf. Too many dwarves. Let them leave. There wasn't any point of waiting. Let them rob the armory, let them be caught by the Master, let them go. "Probably planning an ambush, he is."

"Da wants ye to stay. 'Tisn't safe –"

"Please," said Sigrid's lips again. "Please. We dunna want ye caught. We wanna keep ye safe. Da'll be back in a mo', he will."

"Haven't got a moment, lass," said a dwarf, one of the two with a long white beard and kindly, crinkling eyes. "Come along. Reckon we've wasted enough time as it is."

"Please no," said Bain. Sigrid felt her hand move of its own accord and close on Bain's shoulder, higher than hers now. She had somehow not noticed how tall he had gotten until this moment.

Bain looked at her almost angrily, but the dwarves were filing back down the stairs, out of sight, out of mind, out of care. Sigrid felt her stomach ease in relief as the last of them retreated with a bow of appreciation.

Tilda flounced over to them and chirped, "Where'a they going?"

"Doesna matter, Tilda," said Sigrid, "Come now, help me clear up." And to Bain, "Naught you could have done a' stop 'um. Did all ye could and naught for Da to blame ye, that is."

Bain slinked into the shadows, looking wretched. Sigrid felt her stomach clench and reminded herself that he wasn't a man yet, no longer a child, but not quite a man. Still a boy, still her younger brother.

Her father returned minutes past. He looked anxious and excitable.

"Where are they?"

"There wasna' anything I could do," said Bain, and their father rushed off again. Sigrid felt her stomach twisting. It wasn't over, said something in her head, but she tried to sooth her unease. They were gone. The dwarves had left. Let their problems be their own, now.

Her father dashed about in a grim shadow. Something was troubling him. Rarely did he let his emotions show on his face, only when thing were truly dire could Sigrid tell that he was worried. Now was one of those times.

They were sending the dwarves out today. Tilda wanted to see them off, like the rest of the villagers, but their father told her it best to stay in. Sigrid chided her sister for silence, and come help her clean the fish.

There was a knock on the door. Sigrid's heart hammered in alarm against her ribs, mind flying to visions of the Master's guards, tricksters, troublemakers, spies. Her father opened the door that creaked on its hinges.

"Please, can you help us?" The voice was gruff and in foreign accent, startling and horrifyingly familiar. They'd supposed to have all been gone.

"No," said her father's voice, darker than she'd ever heard it before. "We've helped enough."

"Please," the voice beseeched. "Kili's sick. He's very sick."

The knife in Sigrid's hand slipped. She tore her fingers away just in time. No, they hadn't room, hadn't resources, hadn't means to care for a sick dwarf –

"Bring him in," said her father's voice. "Sigrid, we need medicine."

"We havena' got any medicine," said Sigrid. Her voice sounded tight and panicky in her own ears. Again she didn't know why she spoke. It wasn't her place.

"Do what you can, Sigrid," said her father, his voice perhaps vaguely reprimanding.

Sigrid glanced to the dwarves, four of them this time, one supported by the others, as they shuffled through the door.

"Lay him on the bed," said her father.

She recognized the dwarf they were carrying as the one with the wounded leg. His face was ashen gray, with fever or pain.

"Wha's wrong –" she started to ask and the dwarf with the lighter hair, who was perhaps the other's brother cut her off.

"It's his leg. Orc arrow." Sigrid felt bile rise in her throat but a strange sense of relief as well. Infection was easier – not catching, at least.

Sigrid busied herself gathering herbs and bits of dried plants into a bundle. After her mam had died it had been Sigrid to treat Tilda and Bain, their cuts and bruises and whatever minor injuries they had received playing with the other children, or Bain while working on the docks. Her hands trembled slightly as she tied the dried stems and leaves into a torn off shred of linin. She wetted in from the pump and bid Tilda start some water boiling.

She rushed to the bedside with the bundle and knelt. They'd laid the dwarf atop the blankets, unwound the bandage about his leg and tore apart his pant leg, revealing a gruesome looking wound beneath.

It was inflamed, partially scabbed over and tinged with black. The skin about the torn flesh looked gray, utterly colorless and worrisome. She stretched out her hand to put the packet on the wound but another of the dwarves intercepted it, one with dark, graying hair and crinkles about his eyes. He looked as though he might have been someone's father, far away in another world.

"Thank you, lass," he said, and placed the bundle to the wound himself. The dwarf – Kili, had they called him Kili? – writhed in pain and Sigrid felt her throat close in. She'd seen young men in pain before, accidents on the docks or ships. She'd never liked it. She hated to see people in pain, men especially because they were otherwise so sturdy, so impenetrable.

"It's better to be on hot," her voice came out on her breath. "But cold'll do for now. Water'll boil in a minute. Helps with infection."

She stood and began to walk away but was stopped by the dwarf moaning in pain.

"How long has a' been, since he…?"

"That'll do, Sigrid," warned her father from the corner.

"Not long," said the light-haired dwarf, whom was kneeling anxiously by the other's side, clasping the sick one's shoulder tightly in his fist.

"It'll need a' be cleaned," said Sigrid, words wrenched from her throat, conscious of her father's gaze on the back of her head. "Infection needs a' be drawn –"

"Doesn't look like an infection," muttered the dwarf who was holding the bundle to his leg. "Orc arrow, could mean poison."

Sigrid felt as if something hard had been sunk dully into her stomach. "He's a fever," she whispered. "I'll get ye something cool for 'is head."

She slipped down the stairs that led to the dock, bent over the water and drew some into a pale. She felt unusually unnerved, and couldn't put her finger on why. Perhaps it was, for all the Master's recognition, the dwarves still felt as though they were outlaws, that Sigrid's aide may have repercussions on her family, on her father.

She carried the bucket back up the stair and drew some out with another rag. She felt a kind of solace in her work, in mindless conformity to duty. There was not room for thinking when action was needed.

She crossed the room quickly and squeezed between the dwarves again that she might place the band on his forehead. She fought back the order to give him some space, he needed air, which had almost leapt to her tongue. She wondered if there was any other way she might address it.

The younger dwarf with the light hair wasn't doing anything constructive, nor was the older one with the ear-horn. The only one who seemed in possession of his wits was the fatherly like one, whom was still pressing the bundle to the wound.

"You know medicine?" she said softly to him.

"Aye, a bit, lass," he muttered back to her.

"Ye'll need space a' work," she said.

"Keep doing as you are. Bring me a bit of that water when it's hot enough."

"Willa," she said, and left to see how well the pot was on the fire.

Sigrid was jolted to the side. A hand flew out to brace herself against the wall, another to grab hold of Tilda.

"Da, wha' was that?"

"Was that the dragon?"

"Is the dragon going a' kill us?" Sigrid felt her stomach twist at the sound of Tilda's voice. She looked to her father, who was looking dark and grim, horribly set.

"No. I won't let him kill you. Bain, come with me." His father reached up to the bindings on the ceiling, pulling out an arrow.

"A black arrow!" said Tilda. The hand Sigrid had grabbed her sister's arm with flexed almost compulsively.

Her father and Bain were hustling out of the doorway and Sigrid felt her feet trip to follow them. She was suddenly out in the still, cold air of dusk and not entirely conscious of making the decision to leave. Lights were blinking in the houses around them, people were sticking their heads out of doors and windows, calling to neighbors in panic and agitation.

"Da," she said. "Wait."

"Stay with Tilda, Sigrid."

"No, Da, where are ye going?" she only asked questions that were important, that needed answers because those answers were important –

"Naught to worry about, Sigrid."

"Da, no, leave Bain."

"He'll be fine. Go into the house, Sigrid."

"He's too young. Leave him be. He's jus' a boy –"

"He'll be fine, Sigrid." Her father's voice had a horrible note of finality about it, a gentle keening that begged her to do as he bid, to obey him, to bide her time, not to worry –

"Da –"

"Naught to worry, Sigrid."

"Come back soon, Da."

"I will. Look after Tilda." He swept away into the wavering darkness, the half-light between day and dusk and overcast skies above them.

She would. She always did. She looked after Tilda, Bain, the infernal dwarves that had invaded their home because her father was too busy gallivanting about the town, thwarting authority and bringing Bain into it, whom wasn't a child anymore but not quite a man.

Sigrid watched the rest of her father and brother's shadows disappear before passing back into the house.

"Sigrid –" said Tilda, gesturing helplessly toward the bed in the corner, where the young dwarf was evidently getting worse, only half-conscious, writhing in a fever, and groaning in pain.

Sigrid rushed over, the patter of her footsteps mistaken for the flutter of her heart.

"Wha's wrong –"

"We have to get this fever down."

"I dunno what else to do." It was true. Sigrid knew barely anything about medicine, wounds from war or an Orc arrow. She wasn't a healer. She knelt beside the bedside again and fixed the cloth on his head, clamping her hand tightly over it so it wouldn't move for the thrashing of his head.

His eyes fluttered. A moan escaped his lips.

"Hush," she whispered, because it was something she might have done if it was Tilda or Bain in bed with sickness. "Ye'll be alright. Hush, now. Ye'll be fine."

"Get another wrapping for his leg," said the father-like dwarf.

Sigrid leapt back up from the floor and rushed over to the pot of boiling water, kept hot above the fire. She prepared another bundle, soaking it in the hot water and returned to the bedside.

"Have you any Athelas?"

"I's a weed. We feed it to the pigs."

The father-like dwarf suddenly dashed away, pressing the bundle of cloth and herbs into Sigrid's hand.

The young dwarf was writhing in pain. Sigrid swallowed to clear away the lump in her throat.

"Hold 'em still," she said, surprised that her voice was steady. She pressed the bundle to the wound, feeling heat radiate off his skin onto her fingers.

He yelled aloud. Sigrid felt her heart stutter. His hand whipped out at her, trying to bat away at the pain in his delirium. She caught his fist before it flew into her face, wrapping her fingers in his and easing his arm back to his side. His fingers seized around hers, squeezing her hand until it hurt.

"Don't you have anything for pain?"

"Ney," said Sigrid in answer to the light-haired dwarf, whose voice sounded desperate, beseeching. "I dunno what else to give him. I – hold this. I'll see what I can do." She passed the bundle to the silver-haired dwarf, eased her fingers from the young dwarf's grasp, and rose to search in the kitchen.

There was so little medicine available in Lake-Town. The Master rationed supplies, raised prices to preposterous heights and expected the villagers to live with it without complaint. Sigrid sorted through a cabinet and straightened up to find herself facing the window – the window through which there was a face.

The face was horribly disfigured, contorted and twisted in utter repulsiveness. Its jaws were open, bearing dark, dripping fangs. Its eyes glinted at her, leering, malicious, suggesting cruelty and will to cause pain.

Sigrid screamed as the panes shattered. The beast lunged at her. She ducked in mindless terror, forgetting where she was, what events had led to this moment, where was Tilda, Bain, her father.

Shouting, pounding feet, a disfigured roar, Sigrid leapt aside as she saw something shining and curved dart out at her from the muddle. She grabbed hold of the first thing her hand came into contact with, something hard and round and pelted it at the lunging beast. There was the sound of splintering wood. Sigrid dimly registered that they – whatever they were – had broken in the door.

There was a rush of frigid night air. Tilda shrieked. Sigrid saw the curved blade lash out at her stomach. She fell backwards and hit something hard. She thought disjointedly of other monsters and leapt away from it. She ducked for the space beneath the table, heard Tilda scream again and grabbed her sister as she fell, dragging her down to the floor with her.

She threw her arms over Tilda's head. She saw through the gap of table legs a panicked muddle of rushing dwarves, bottom halves of hulking beasts. They were under attack. The whole town, perhaps. Bain, her father, had the beasts gotten to them?

The young dwarf was yelling. Kili – Kili. She thought they'd said his name was Kili, though she couldn't think for why she remembered it now. She looked across the room, where one of the monsters had leapt onto the bed. Kili was struggling with it. They both felt to the floor. Kili was yelling. Sigrid was supposed to do something

There was a rush and a dull thunk and an arrow sunk itself into the monster's head. Black blood spattered the floor. More monsters seemed to be entering, the dwarves must have been putting up a fight because there were more crashes, more blood, more unearthly, guttural yelps as if from animals.

The table flew away from over their heads. Tilda screamed. Swords flashed. There was a flurry of arrows and someone grabbed Sigrid from behind.

She screamed and struggled, expected to feel cold steel against her throat, but a voice hissed into her ear, "Get out of the way." The voice was rich and gentle, a deep, throaty, and soothing tone that was unlike anything the dwarves had used, unlike the monsters.

Sigrid caught a glimpse of pale blond hair and a bow that twang and sung with almost manic insistency. Elves, shrieked something in her head, something not panicked but oddly triumphant. Her chest seized as she grabbed hold of Tilda and pressed her against the far wall, using her body to shield her younger sister.

Suddenly everything was oddly still. The monsters lay about on the floor, slain and bleeding lumps of dark flesh. Sigrid realized she was shaking. She could barely breath. She felt as if she was going to be sick.

There were two elves, tall, graceful, fair beyond imagination, beautiful, enchanting…. There very skin seemed to glow slightly in the half-darkness created by flickering firelight. A woman and a man, whom spoke in a liquid, flowing tongue that made Sigrid's heart leap for its verse.

The dwarves were gathering around Kili, who was moaning on his back on the floor, half-way covered by one of the dead beasts. Sigrid dimly noticed that Kili's face was dangerously white, that the wound on his leg was bleeding again.

The male elf was suddenly turning, as he went she caught a sight of his face, something that must have been wrought in stone for its perfection, high cheek bones, glistening blue eyes…. He was gone with a swing of his hair, drawing an arrow and fitting it to his bow as he left through the door.

Sigrid breathed deeply, a noise brought her back to the present and she realized the woman was bending over Kili, who'd been lifted onto the table by the other dwarves. The elf was muttering to herself and fingering the wound.

"Please help him," said one of the dwarfs. Sigrid couldn't tell which for she was suddenly assaulted with the thought that Kili was dying. He was dying

The elf rushed away. Sigrid's voice was caught in her throat. No. Come back. Help him. Don't let him die –

And then the elf was back, holing a sprig of green and leafy white flowers. She bent over the dwarf again, rubbing the leaves in her hands. She put the weed on the wound and Kili was yelling, writhing, tearing in pain.

Sigrid tripped forward to grab his shoulder. Hush, whispered her voice in her head. Hush, be still. Ye'll be alright. "Tilda," she choked and her sister ran forward to help too. Sigrid blinked and felt something hot run down her cheek. She didn't like this. She hated this. Make him stop yelling –

Slowly Kili began to quiet. Slowly his limbs went still. Sigrid faltered back, sure that it was too late, he was dead – and then his chest rose and fell, breath seeped from between his lips, and the air around them went still.

Sigrid backed away slowly, feeling with her hands behind her for something to steady herself with. The elf straighten up and shook her auburn hair out of her face. "He will be alright. Let him rest." And then the elf addressed herself directly to Sigrid, which Sigrid had not been expecting. "Bathe his wound regularly with Athelas. Try to sooth his fever." And then she too had swept from the room, drawing a dagger from its sheath at her waist.

Sigrid eased the beating of her heart and realized she'd already known that. Of course bathe his wound. She hadn't needed the elf to tell her that

"Are you alright?" said the father-like dwarf. Sigrid had not noticed him come back in.

"Yes," said Sigrid, forcing the word up her throat. Tilda promptly dissolved into tears. Sigrid faltered toward her sister. Her arms and legs didn't seem to move properly. She couldn't think. Her arms wound their way around Tilda's shoulders.

Hush, you're alright. Everything is fine. You're safe.

"What were they?" whispered the sounds from Sigrid's mouth, barely recognizing she could form cognitive words.

"Orcs. A party that's been searching for us."

"They've left after Thorin, no doubt."

"We apologize that they came here. Neither you nor your sister was hurt?"

"No," said Sigrid. She wasn't hurt. Tilda wasn't hurt. They were alright. They were safe. Kili was not going to die. She pressed Tilda's face into her breast, feeling her tears seep through her blouse. "The res' of the village –"

"Safe from what I can tell. They only came here."

"The elves –"

"Been tracking us," said the light-haired dwarf almost fiercely, "trying to lock us back up in their prisons."

"She saved your brother's life, Fili."

There was a rush of footsteps on the rock outside and before Sigrid had a chance to think of more monsters – more Orcs – Bain appeared in the open doorway. Sigrid realized the door had been splintered off its hinges and was lying in pieces on the floor.

"Wha's happened?" said Bain hastily. "Sigrid – what?"

"We're alrigh'," said Sigrid quickly. "Da –"

"Da's been arrested."

"Hush," said Sigrid as she pressed the damp cloth to Kili's forehead. He groaned, eyes fluttering. "You're alrigh'. Lie still."

"She…she cannot be here," his voice seeped from between his lips in a raspy whisper. "She is far away. She walks in starlight in another world. It was just a dream." His eyes were bleary. He was still feverish, delusional. Sigrid felt something in her chest go cold.

"She isna here. She's gone with her kinsman. Hush now. Sleep. You're alrigh'." His eyes closed again and breathing came in even waves.

A hand came out to touch the band across Kili's forehead, inches from Sigrid's fingertips.

Sigrid looked up to see the light-haired dwarf – Kili's brother. She couldn't remember his name.

"Thank you," said the dwarf, staring at Kili's face and not at hers. Sigrid felt her cheeks rush with warmth again. She was not accustomed to talking to young men. She did not know how she was supposed to present herself, what she was supposed to say.

"You're his brother?" were the words that came from her mouth. It was not a valid question, because she already knew the answer. Besides, the answer was of little consequence.

"Yes," said the dwarf.

"Are you," Sigrid began but the dwarf looked up at her and she stammered, "Are you all related– the lot of you…?"

"In one way or another, I suppose," said the dwarf. "Thorin is my and Kili's uncle, Balin his second cousin and Dwalin his brother –"

"What abou' the four o' you here? What are your names?"

"I'm Fili, this is Kili, the gray-haired one is Oin and the other is Bofur."

Sigrid nodded. Anna 'gain, slowly?

"Thank you for what your family has done. It is not fair, what we've asked of you."

"I woulda asked the same, had a' been my brother," said Sigrid. It was something she ordinarily would have only thought, never said aloud. She stared at Kili's face, because he was sleeping and not looking at her like Fili.

They had moved him back to the bed, after they'd dumped the Orc bodies off the dock and scrubbed the floor of blood.

"Your father?" said Fili.

"E's always getting' into trouble," said Sigrid. "He'll be alrigh'."

Bain was outside, tying together posts to use as a door, Bofur – if that was what the fatherly like dwarf was called – was helping him. Tilda was huddled by the fire buried in cloaks. The gray haired dwarf – Oin, Fili had called him – was sleeping in a chair, his head propped atop his arms, braced on the table.

Sigrid was still shaking, perhaps it was from the frigid air blowing from the gaping doorway. Perhaps not.

"I'll dress his wound again," said Sigrid.

"Let me," said Fili. "You can rest with your sister."

Sigrid smiled without knowing it. "I dunna think I can sleep," she said.

"Drink this," she whispered, gently raising his head with one hand and holding the cup of water to his lips with the other. "Slowly now."

Kili sipped the water and coughed weakly. His eyes slid shut again.

"That's it," said Sigrid, lowering his head back on the pillow. Beads of sweat trembled on his brow. His eyes were still unusually bright, his skin pale.

"Where's Fili?" he croaked. "The rest, where –?"

"Hush," Sigrid whispered. "Your brother's alrigh', so's the rest of 'em. Near morning, they're all sleeping. You try't too."

"What about you?"

"I'm not tired. Don' you worry."

"The elf – she was here – she was…so near…."

"Yes, she was here. She – she's left."

"Where – what happened? There were…Orcs…."

"They're gone. You're safe," unconsciously her hand reached out, looking for his fingers, wanting to touch him, to give him some kind of anchor, a binding…. Her hand stumbled to a stop.


"You're brother's alrigh'. Hush, now."

"Who're you?"

"Sigrid," she answered. "I'm here a' help. Try't sleep."

"You're – Thorin?"

"He – E's alrigh' too. Hush. Don' speak so'm. Ye need rest."

"Durin's Day… the dragon?"

"I – I dunno. 'Ts alrigh'."

"You – Sigrid…."

"Yes, I'm Sigrid. Sleep now. Shut your eyes." She ran her hand lightly over his forehead.

"He – your…alright…."

"Yes. W'all alrigh'."

His eyes drifted shut. Sigrid's hand slipped down his cheek and dropped back at her side. She slumped against the wall and eased the tension from her shoulders. They were all alright. Naught to worry about. Da, where are you? Naught to worry.

To be continued