For the first time in his young life the sensation of arched wood, beautifully carved and oiled, only felt wrong. His fingers found the thin, tense string, nocking an arrow in place, but he could not make himself draw it. He'd been given his target, and it wasn't a particularly challenging one. But as unwilling as his muscles were to lift the bow and give in to the order he'd been posed with, it could very well have been a living target. It could as well have been a dwarf standing there, someone of his own kin, chained to the wall only a few yards away instead of that circular wooded board with its painted circles. Should Kíli release an arrow and show his onlookers the skill he possessed, the consequences would be the same.
He would never kill for these people, nor show them how to do what they intended to do. He was a Durin, a proud heir of an honorable name and heritage. He wouldn't be broken so easily. His race would not be disparaged by his actions. Kíli's vision sank from the intended target and the arrow fell from the bow.
His hesitance did not go unnoticed by his captor.
A sound so deafening it scrambled his thoughts echoed through the chambers, quickly followed by a white-hot pain radiating from his lower back. Kíli's vision blurred as he sank to his knees, the bow falling from his grip onto the sandy ground. Tears sprang from his eyes although he fought to keep them back.
"You're an archer, Dwarf!"
The words were barely audible over the thumping of pain in Kíli's ears, but he knew better self-preservation than to give his captor another reason to gash his already shredded back with the spoked whip. He forced himself to look up into the penetrating eyes of the Human. He avoided looking at the small spots of red staining the rolled up whip.
"On your feet and show them what you can do," the Human commanded, then her tone changed into an appalling whisper. "You'll regret it if you don't."
Kíli grunted, but he didn't doubt that she was telling the truth. He'd spent enough time here, seen enough terror and bloodshed and cold-blooded torture to know that these Slavers would not think twice about mutilating him should he become more trouble than he was worth. Still, he was strong, or at least he wanted to think he was. He'd withstood their abuse up until now. He wished he could throw a daring comment at the Slaver, but his throat was still too sore to speak. Instead, he spat in his captor's face, and glared into them hateful eyes as imperturbably as he could manage.
The Human never even flinched at the repulsive action. Instead something lit up in the piercing gaze. "So, that's how you like to play, huh? Fine."
Kíli's hands were awkwardly tied behind his back and he was lifted up by the ropes so that his arms were bent the wrong way. It hurt so bad, but not a sound could escape his lips. He wouldn't give them that pleasure. As they carried him out of the chambers he prepared for the worst. He thought of all the pride he'd learned from his uncle, the kindness and love he'd known from his mother. He thought of his brother, of Fíli, who he could only hope was still out there somewhere, alive and looking for him. He'd be strong for them, and for his entire people. They would never break him…
… or so he hoped.