As Fili came closer to the battle the undistinguished roar turned into a miasma of different sounds: shouts, screams, the clashing and clanging of weapons, hoof beats, footsteps. He kept low to the ground and tried to catch glimpses of what was going on before him. He could see elves on horseback and on foot, he saw men and he saw dwarrow; he saw them fighting orcs, mounted on wargs and foot soldiers, and he could even see trolls.
He skirted the edge of the battle, always keeping an eye on his footing and the other on the battlefield in case the tides of war swept a group of fighting enemies his way.
He could see the entrance to the mountain now, and also that no one was guarding it. Crouching behind a few boulders, he cursed under his breath and then, on his belly, crept around them.
“Thorin,” he muttered. “Brother, where are you?”
Keeping low to the ground he hurried over to the next cluster of rocks, and from there on towards a large, fallen tree, covered with ancient moss and lichen.
Fili jumped in shock, then immediately spun around and ran down the slope towards the source of the dwarven battle cry. It nearly cost him his life when he so thoughtlessly sprang free of the undergrowth as he almost impaled himself on a dwarven battle lance.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The dwarf at the other end of the lance looked Fili up and down. “Friend or foe?”
“I am Fili, son of Dís, nephew of Thorin Oakenshield!” Fili dropped his bag. “I was part of the company that headed for Erebor, but I was injured and had to stay behind...and have caught up just to find myself in a battle without a weapon to my name.”
The dwarf, one of Daín’s troops wearing the armour of the Iron Hills, lowered his lance and cast a look over his shoulder. “We have a few gravely wounded men,” he said. “Go ask them. Some of them won’t be joining the fighting any more, but could be comforted that their arms still could.”
Fili nodded and hurried over to where a group of men sat huddled under a gnarled, windswept tree. One of them, a dwarf much the same age as Fili to judge by his beard, waved him over.
“I’ve overheard,” he said, his voice clouded by pain, as Fili had reached him. “Take my mail shirt; I won’t be doing any fighting today anymore.” Below the knee, his left leg was a bloodied mass of shattered bone and torn flesh. “Was a warg got me between his jaws. At least that one won’t be tasting any more dwarrow flesh.”
Fili nodded and helped the wounded
warrior out of his chainmail. It fit well, and the woollen tunic provided some
extra padding. The young dwarf offered Fili his sword, which Fili gravely
accepted, and his shield.
“I am more accustomed to fighting with two blades,” Fili said. “You wouldn’t...”
“Take Gusin’s,” the young dwarf replied and picked up the sword of the warrior beside him. “He won’t be needing his anymore.”
Fili took the weapon with another grave nod and bowed towards the dead warrior. “Gusin, your blade will yet drink more orcish blood. I shall honour it.” And to the young warrior, he added: “As I will honour yours. Give me your name, so I can return it to you after the battle.”
“I am Tosur, son of Tosil,” the young dwarf replied. “Now go and take all our blessings with you.”
gamut wargai-menu, Fili, son of Dís.”
The old veteran with the battle lance was at Fili’s side again. “Rurin, son of
Rusil, cannot stand idly by while others yet fight.”
“Tan gamut wargai-menu, Rurin, son of Rusil.” Fili saluted him with crossed blades, and the two of them trotted downwards, into the thick of the battle.
As soon as they reached the edge of the battlefield a group of four orcs on wargs attacked them, but these had been in the fight since sunrise and all of them were wounded. Since Fili was fresh and with his thoughts of finding his brother and uncle lashing him on, the two dwarves disposed of them without receiving major wounds themselves.
Catching his breath, Fili clambered up a
large boulder to look over the battlefield once more. A large cluster of
dwarves were circled by orcs not too far away, a large piece of ruined wall at
their back. Sunlight glinted on mail and he could hear a cry: “Khayum Thane! Du Bekar!”
“There!” He gestured at Rurin and jumped down from the boulder. “Hold on, brother!”
Yelling a war cry at the top of his lungs, Fili charged into the orcs from behind, only dimly aware that Rurin was following him. “Khayum Thane!” He screamed as he felled the first orc. “Du Bekar!”
Had they not had the element of surprise on their side, they all might yet have died that day. As it was, the orcs had not expected reinforcements and scattered as Fili and Rurin broke into their ranks, thus giving the enclosed dwarves the moment of reprise and space they needed to rally themselves. The circle first expanded and then exploded as the orcs were scattered even further by the dwarves they had been about to slaughter. Inside, Fili could see his brother, guarding a fallen man against the onslaught of two enemies.
“KILI!” He broke into a run and with a
scream of fury and anguish charged right into one of the orcs, beheading him
cleanly; just as behind him his brother fell down onto one knee. It was the
split second of panic when he caught eye of Kili’s predicament that the other
orc needed to retaliate.
Fili felt at least one of his barely healed ribs break again under the impact of the war mace and couldn’t even scream as he stumbled, the air having been cleanly knocked out of him. He barely managed to block another swing just in time to avoid having his skull caved in when something hissed past him and suddenly an arrow protruded from the orc’s left eye socket, still quivering.
As the orc slowly crumpled to the ground
Fili spun around again, forcing air into his tortured lungs.
Kili, bow still in hand, laboured onto his feet and his pale, blood-smeared face suddenly lit up, his eyes widening. “Fili! Mahal, what are you doing here?”
“Enjoying the scenery...”Fili’s grin died as he realised who it was that Kili had been protecting. “Uncle!”
Fili fell onto his knees beside Thorin
with a grunt of pain. “Thorin! NO!”
Thorin’s head fell to one side and his eyelids fluttered.
“He still lives,” Kili gasped. “We have to get him out of here!”
“No.” Fili shook his head as he looked at the broken blade protruding from Thorin’s abdomen. “We can’t.” He laboriously got onto his feet again and looked at his brother. “He needs a healer who knows what to do about that blade. If we move him, he’ll likely die.” He looked back at Thorin and only now registered the body of the pale orc beside him.
Kili swallowed. “But...”
“He still lives,” Fili said and hefted his blades. “And so do we. With luck, the tides of the battle won’t turn against us. We stay with him. We will not allow that filth Azog to take Thorin with him.” His face was grimly set and when he looked at his brother, that expression was mirrored in the other’s face.
As Kili shouldered his bow and picked up the sword he had dropped to shoot the arrow earlier, Fili caught side of Rurin pulling his lance free from the body of a fallen foe. He looked around, saw Fili and that he was guarding a fallen warrior, saluted him with his lance and trotted off after the other dwarves. Fili returned the salute and straightened up to stand guard over Thorin beside his brother, shoulder to shoulder.
The shadows grew longer and the light around them was changing colour when they suddenly heard Thorin speak, his voice hoarse with pain.
Both of them turned around, yet Fili
shook his head as he looked at his brother. Speak
to him, he gestured in Iglishmek. He
must not know I am here.
Kili almost flinched. “What?” No, he gestured. He needs to see you.
If he sees me he might give up because he knows his heir is back, Fili gestured back. Do not let him know I am here, and he will try to hold on, for Erebor.
Kili looked back and forth between his brother and his uncle and, with a heavy sigh, knelt down beside Thorin.
“Is...the battle.... lost?”
“I don’t think so, Uncle. While we were standing guard here we only fought a few groups of stragglers. They seemed to be in a hurry to get away from us.”
“Guard...? What are you...”
“You, uncle. We are guarding the King under the Mountain.” Kili closed a hand around Thorin’s. “So you better hold on or this battle will have been for nothing.”
Thorin stared into his nephew’s eyes and took a rasping, painful breath. “Erebor...”
“Yes.” Kili smiled at him with forced cheerfulness. “Yes. Your throne is waiting, your highness. Just hold on!”
Thorin closed his eyes again. “Have you heard...anything... about...”
“About my brother?” Kili cast a hasty glance over his shoulder. “No,” he continued firmly. “I’m sorry, uncle, but it’s you we need now, not Fili. It could be weeks yet before he returns...”
Thorin closed his eyes, bloody froth
bubbling on his lips with every laborious breath.
“Hold on, uncle,” Kili whispered. “Please, don’t leave us yet. Erebor needs you... and mother will skin me alive if she comes here and finds you in a tomb.”
Thorin whispered the name of his sister, the ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth for the tiniest of moments.
Horns blared in the distance. The sound
of other horns replied.
“Who is sounding retreat?” Thorin rasped, his eyes springing open again.
Suppressing grunts of pain, Fili climbed atop the crumbling wall and looked around. The sun was low, hanging fat and red over the horizon as if it, too, had been feeding on all the blood that had been shed that day. A dark, orange glow flowed over the landscape, summoning the impossibly long, black shadows of dusk that looked like fingers groping for the dead and wounded.
A single high-pitched keen of grief pierced the otherwise deafening silence and a few stragglers limped across the battlefield, looking like the souls of the dead who could not quite grasp the fact they were no longer living and tried to find their bodies to be able to go home.
“Is the battle over?” Kili called out to him, hovering over Thorin who had lost consciousness again. “Did we win?”
His eyes darting across the fields of battle littered with corpses, Fili shuddered. “I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone can claim victory over a battle like this, brother. But the fighting is over, it seems.”
Neither Fili nor Kili had moved from Thorin’s side when he had been brought to the healers’ tents; and after their own injuries had been taken care of, had waited at the entrance to the tent where Thorin was being treated until the elfish healer allowed them to come in.
“He is gravely wounded,” she said to them. “I did what I could for him. The only thing left to do is hope that he will be strong enough.” With that, she left the tent to take care of others that needed her, leaving Kili and Fili alone with Thorin in the tent. Both of them could hardly hold themselves upright, exhausted as they were.
Thorin was unconscious but alive, and in unspoken agreement the two brothers sat down on either side of the bedroll. They each took one of Thorin’s hands in theirs, and in silence they sat with him through the small hours of the night. Neither of them spoke a word in all that time, and only occasionally they would exchange a glance of resolve mixed with worry and tiredness.
But with sunrise, Thorin Oakenshield was still alive.
Remenu! Khayamu! – To Arms! To Victory!
Tan gamut wargai-menu – May a good death be upon you
Khayum Thane! – Victory for the King!