If anytime in his life Fíli had wanted to just sit down and cry his heart out, this was that moment. There was so much anger, blame and excruciating worry crushing down on him that he wanted to scream at the top of his lungs and then fall into a river, unable to call out for a help he did not deserve. Kíli, his beloved baby brother, had gone missing. Dead, for all he knew. And it was all Fíli’s fault.
A neighbor of the Durin family had seen the youngest heir conversing in the darkness with a stranger female before taking off to Mahal knows where. The witness had pointed the search party, assembled and lead by Dwalin, down the Narendor road. The two runaways’ trail had ended in the worst of ways — a site of struggle, where alarming amounts of blood had been unsuccessfully covered up with gravel and pine needles.
The moment Dwalin had noticed the blood he had ordered one of his men to take Fíli home. The young dwarf had refused and elbowed his way past Dwalin to see what the old war veteran would not show him. The sight of the blood had shocked him. Before he could clear his mind of pictures of his brother, hurt and bleeding, he found himself where he was now, sitting in uncle Thorin’s armchair back home. His mother had brought him a hot drink which stood untouched beside him.
Fíli’s thoughts had twisted and turned over and over, trying to rationalize what he had seen. ”It might not be Kíli’s blood. It could be an animal, or maybe a traveler. Maybe Kíli is just out there with that woman, running away because he hates me.”
The last thought echoed in his head, chilling him. Fíli knew very well why Kíli had run away — he’d known it the moment his brother had left the stables the night before. Kíli had overheard him talk to Thorin, and most likely he’d heard what Thorin had said about the travelers. Fíli could not for his life understand how his little brother could be so offended by what their uncle said about that Dariah-woman, but it did not matter. Kíli had been offended, and now he was missing and possible injured, or worse...
Someone knocked on the front door, and in an instant Dís was there to open. Fíli could not see who it was, but he soon recognized the voice of Dwalin. The two talked with hushed voices, too low for Fíli to hear. Soon Dwalin entered the living room, a grim but pitiful look on his face. Behind him, Dís was clenching her hands, eyes blood-shot from holding back tears.
Dwalin carried something in his hand, hidden from view between his fingers. When he said nothing, Fíli steadied himself and rose form the chair.
”You found something?”
He was startled by the anxiety of his own voice, so strained and close to crying again. But Dwalin only sighed, his face aging with every passing second. He hunched over just slightly until he was at the same height as Fíli, and instantly Fíli knew how Kíli felt being shorter then everyone else.
”Fíli, my boy, we found this on the Narendor road.”
Dwalin opened his hand to Fíli and the young dwarf’s heart skipped a beat. There lay a silver locket, handcrafted into a crest of three merged squares. Blood had been wiped from its surface. Fíli’s hand went to the chain around his neck, where his own crest hung heavy. There was no doubt that the locket belonged to his brother. Kíli would never take it off willingly, for the necklaces had been given to them by their father, his last gift to them.
Dwalin did not answer immediately, although both knew what the answer was. Blood. Blood and the locket at the end of a trail which Kíli had been seen taken. And, of course, no Kíli.
Dwalin reached out for Fíli’s hand and put Kíli’s locket in his palm. ”Whatever happened to your brother, we will find whoever is responsible.”
”What about the other ones?” asked Dís, a deep anguish in her voice. She was
Although Fíli was still trying to wrap his head around what he had just learned, tears burning behind his eyes,
The grandfather-like side of Dwalin was put aside, and the old war veteran took command. ”Luckily, the circumstances surrounding Kíli’s disappearance are unique. However, we have found no sign of the other missing dwarves. I am afraid this is the exact same thing that happened in Narendor. We have already sent word after Thorin.”
”Does he know about Kíli?” asked Dís.
”Yes, we are obliged to tell everything we know. However, had it been up to me...”
Fíli had stopped listening after ”luckily”. It was lucky that no one else had suffered Kíli’s fate, but Kíli had. His hand clenched around the locket, feeling the cold metal steal his warmth. His heart pounded to the point of deafening him, causing him to sweat and shiver.
A loud knock on the door startled the three of them, but the visitor did not wait for anyone to open. A middle-aged dwarf, whom Fíli recognized from the search party, burst in, short on breath from riding across Ewardor.
”Dwalin, you need to come with me. You’ll want to see this.”
Fíli sat on his mount, staring blankly at the vast field that had housed the hundred wagons of the caravan, but now was completely empty. He looked to where Ric’s tent had stood, he saw the remains of the campfires and the enclosed pastures where horses had trampled the ground. His hand went to Kíli’s locket, now hanging against his chest along with his own.
”It could all just be a coincidence,” he said to himself, desperate to sort out this confusion. ”Maybe they just needed to move on, and had nothing to do with all this. Maybe Daliah came to say goodbye to Kíli and they were attacked—”
He stopped himself right there, because thinking about what had happened last night was too painful. He did not need the pictures his mind so mercilessly flooded him with.
Fíli had not noticed that another dwarf with braids standing out from the sides of his head had joined him on his own pony. Bofur gave a deep sigh to announce his presence, but he said nothing.
”I thought you’d be in custody still,” noted Fíli monotonously, just to say something.
”I thought you’d be out there looking for your brother,” replied Bofur. He immediately realized how hurtful the remark was and regretted it. ”I’m sorry, Fíli. I really am. Had it been my brother—”
”Well, it isn’t your brother, it’s mine,” Fíli snapped poisonously. His voice fell to barely a whisper. ”And he is gone because of me.”
”What was that?”
”He’s gone because of me,” he repeated, the fury his heart contained rising to the surface with every word. ”It’s my fault. I said those things to uncle. I made him feel bad! He ran away because of me and now he’s...!”
Bofur said nothing, even after Fíli had fallen silent. Worry pierced his heart when a light flickered to life in Fíli’s sapphire eyes. It was not the light of hope — it was a spark, as hot as forges, that he had never seen before. Before Bofur had the chance to say another word, Fíli lashed the reigns and steered his pony at full speed onto the field. Bofur called after him but the young heir would not listen. He rode straight up to Dwalin, standing by a pile of ash and firewood, and cut off his conversation with another commander.
”Dwalin, which way have they headed?”
”Young lad, I know you want to help, but—”
Fíli’s tone startled Dwalin and he frowned disapprovingly. For a long moment he tried to stare the young dwarf down, but Fíli would not budge. ”We do not have the numbers to try and follow them yet.”
”Tell me,” Fíli said shortly, demanding an answer. He put all of his determination into glaring back at Dwalin, whose own will was not easy to overpower. But in the end the ferocity in his honeydew eyes could not match the fury of a brother’s heart, and Dwalin gave way.
”Their tracks leads towards the Baranduin Road, but we do not know if they plan to cross the river or — where are you going!?”
Dwalin immediately realized the mistake he had just made. Without another word, Fíli turned his pony in the opposite direction and sped away from the field, his mind set on everything but what was being yelled at him from behind. He set off for home, his mind already settled, the decision already made.
He closed up on his house and was very relieved to see that Dís’ horse was missing from its paddock. He needed not worry her with this — she would only try and stop him. As he halted in front of the house and left his mount, he heard hooves behind him. Fíli turned around, expecting to face his mother, but found that Bofur had followed him there.
”What are you doing here?” he asked.
Bofur, short on breath from the hard riding, slid out of the saddle and approached Fíli with hands raised almost defensively. ”I know what you’re planning, lad. And it’s not going to end well.”
”He’s my responsibility,” Fíli replied. ”I will not leave him.”
He turned away from Bofur and walked towards the door, but the older dwarf ran passed him and stood like a wall between him and what he had come here for. Fíli clenched his fists so hard his fingers hurt trying to contain his rage. Bofur was trying his patience, whatever was allowed to exist next to his worry for Kíli. Bofur noticed this. He saw that spark again, flashing and sparkling in Fíli’s eyes. Bofur put his hands up again and put them on Fíli’s shoulders, hoping to reach through to him.
”Please, Fíli, believe me. I understand what you’re going through. I really do. I’ve known the two of you all your lives. But it will do nobody any good if you run off on your own. It’s won’t help Kíli.”
Looking into Bofur’s soothing eyes, hearing the honesty in his words, Fíli felt his body relax under the gentle touch. Part of him knew that Bofur was right. If it was true what everyone imagined — that the caravan had just been a cover and they were behind the disappearances in Narendor and Ewardor; that Daliah had tricked Kíli into trusting her and then betrayed him — then what could Fíli do if he went after them? He couldn’t fight them alone. He wasn’t the best tracker. He’d worry his mother, and in turn his uncle, for no reason...
... no... reason...?
”Just stay here, it’ll be best for everyone.”
Fíli’s thoughts went haywire when the full meaning behind the words became clear. ”Best for everyone. Best for us, maybe. Not best for Kíli!”
Fíli’s hands turned into fists again, every muscle in his body at the ready. He tried to walk past Bofur, but he would not let him.
”Don’t try and stop me, Bofur,” he warned him, implying that he could not succeed such an attempt.
”Fíli, you’re not thinking clearly.”
Fíli raised his fist and sent it flying straight at Bofur’s face. Unprepared and too close to defend himself, Bofur took the hit and fell backward into the gravel, hitting his head on the doorknob as he did. Then he remained on the ground, knocked out cold. There was blood coming from his nose, but his was still breathing. It took a few seconds for Fíli to realize what he had just done. He had never used violence in anger before, at least not like this. He stared down at the victim of his rage and saw the blood pouring from Bofur’s broken nose. But instead of feeling guilty or horror at what he had done, the blood only reminded him of Kíli.
Fíli stepped over Bofur and went into the house, making sure that nobody had seen the fight. Then he ran about the house, putting together a traveling bag with whatever supplies he could find in the kitchen and clothes from his and Kíli’s drawers. Last he went to the small forge in the backyard, putting as many daggers as he could fit into his belt, as well as one of his training swords. He was just about to leave when he saw another sword, much bigger and luxurious, hanging on the wall above the fireplace. It was Thorin’s sword, an heirloom from Erebor and battles which Fíli had only heard stories about.
Without further thought, Fíli threw his own sword aside and loosened the royal sword from the wall and put it in the sheath on his back. Then he put on his backpack and went back to the house to get the final thing.
He found it in the hall where his brother had left it — Kíli’s bow and quiver. At first he just looked at it, seeing before him the one thing that had helped him bring all of this upon Ewardor. A stray arrow. Maybe, just maybe, if he hadn’t failed shooting that arrow then the events of the passed week would have been different. The caravan might not have taken notice of Fíli and Kíli, and they may not have chosen to attack Kíli.
With Kíli’s quiver and Thorin’s sword on his back, the backpack secured to the saddle of his horse and the bow tight in his hand, Fíli mounted his pony. He took one last look at the house. For a split second he wondered if he was doing the right thing, as his eyes fell on Bofur’s immobile form on the doorstep. As if to assure himself of it, his hand once again went to the lockets around his neck.
All their lives had they been together. All his life had Fíli protected Kíli — why wouldn’t he now?
With that as a silent goodbye and a promise to come back, with his brother, Fíli set off. He’d take a path through the forest that connected to the Baranduin Road, rather than crossing the field and risk being seen and stopped by Dwalin. They’d be coming after him soon enough anyway, after Bofur woke up. He pushed his pony as much as he dared to get a head start and had soon entered the forests surrounding their part of the Blue Mountains.
Where the path was narrow, he took it slow, but preferred going as fast as possible. The sun was setting. Fíli would not start this search by going slowly when the caravan had already been on the road for a day. He had to catch up to them, and when he did he’d be ready.
A sound behind him startled Fíli’s pony and had it prancing into the air. Fíli held on with all his strength and managed to calm the animal down enough to see what had conjured the sound. There was another rider behind him, astride a bog horse rather than a pony. Armed with a sword and wearing partial armor, Fíli had a hard time recognizing his follower as a dwarf had it not been for his short frame. However, what shocked Fíli had nothing to do with his clothing — it was the face.
In the vague light of the setting sun that crept through the forest roof, this dwarf looked a lot like Kíli. Fíli knew of course that it was not him, but the resemblance was striking. Dark hair, although Kíli’s was even darker, that fell into his face and deep honey brown eyes. This dwarf was older than Kíli, though, considering the dark stubble on his chin — perhaps even older than Fíli.
After his pony settled down and the shock had done the same, Fíli spoke. ”If you’re here to bring me back you might just as well turn around now. I will not abandon my brother.”
The mysterious rider rode closer and locked his eyes with Fíli’s, quenching his determination with his own.
”My name is Elir, son of Drebur, and I am coming with you.”