To Fight And Mourn
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Hobbit in any way shape or form.
Dwalin's blood was at war with itself, heated fury trying to boil him from the inside out as cold fear tried to freeze the liquid flowing through his limbs. He had already lost one of the three he had sworn to protect to the foul creatures he was fighting, lost sight of the other two in the midst of the frenzied battle, and lost the hobbit he had been fighting with to unconsciousness. It was all he could do to keep fighting, to reign in the worry and terror that threatened to overwhelm him and allow rage to take over.
As it was, the goblin spawn just kept coming.
Left then right. Forward then back. Over then under then over again. For every one fiend Dwalin fell there was always another to take their place, always another lusting for blood and screaming to kill, to murder.
A chortling, snarling mouth appear in the dwarf's vision, the grunting drawing the warrior's axe from the goblin whose skull he had cleaved in two to be buried in the disfigured chest of his latest foe. A frothing scream replaced the chortling and Dwalin twisted his body to deflect the stray blow that would have otherwise decapitated the one whom he was currently defending.
Bilbo had gone down before he had even realised, felled by a blow from Blog as the bald dwarf had been surrounded by no less than a dozen of the reinforcements for the enemy. The little hobbit had landed on his back and the moment Dwalin had cut his way through the ones that had surrounded him the warrior had experienced the smallest of reliefs once finding the company burglar alive, if not worse for wear.
He landed on the ground hard, instinctively rolling from his back to his side sticking one knee beneath him in an attempt to lift himself back up onto his feet and off the ground that had many times served to be the slaughter place for many warriors better than he. To be down was to be doomed and, unlike Bilbo, Dwalin had no one to protect him should he be unable to rise.
The goblin that had knocked the dwarf down too was making to rise. The muscles of its heavier upper half strained and bulged as large hands attached to twig-like arms pushed against the ground. Not weighed down by armor like its quarry was, the fiend was having more success in accomplishing what it endeavored to do.
Still winded and hunched over, Dwalin lifted his head only to inwardly curse at the five other goblins vaulting their way over the stonewalls. It was a race to get his other foot under control before they reached him along with their now standing comrade who had been the one to attack him.
"Come on, you bastards," the warrior muttered, straightening his body as his feet finally regained their purchase on the stony ground. With a enraged bellow the dwarf burst forward to meet his foe.
Dwalin struck the first of the goblins in the same time it took for him to swing his battle-axe in a vicious backhand blow. Blood spurted and the foul being hacked once then twice as it collapsed to its knees before landing on its front, dead. The second to face the battle-hardened dwarf's wrath fell in much the same way, the third goblin leaping into place after it presenting more of a challenge.
This time it was Dwalin who was faced with death, his head almost taken off by his opponent. Retreating several steps the warrior blocked another blow meant to severe his connection from life.
"Argh!" Dwalin cried out in both surprise and pain as one of the twisted blades from another goblin glanced off his shoulder, striking the metal and continuing on down the length of his unprotected lower arm. It was a shallow wound, but it hurt on an intensely physical level forcing the tattooed dwarf's left hand to be burdened with more of the axe's weight than the right.
Pivoting on his left foot, Dwalin swung around his weapon seeking out the neck of the one who had succeeded in drawing his blood. The offending goblin's head went flying, striking and dazing the closest of its comrades in its own still attached head before falling to the ground with a sickening plop.
Now he only had three foes left to kill, all of whom were now warily circling him like a predator did its more difficult prey. A streak of blackened grey came bearing down on the dwarf's right side and Dwalin turned to meet it with a well placed parry before following through with his own more lethal blow.
Two of the six goblins remained and Dwalin watched as they threw each other a look before once again advancing on their adversary. A roar was uncorked from deep within the bald warrior's chest and he again rushed forward, axe madly cleaving the air left to right in front of him.
He grinned in malicious pleasure as a horrific cry burst from the same goblin who was now torn open from throat to midway down the right side of his chest. Black liquid ran down Dwalin's face, thick and foul, but signifying the end to yet another enemy who would have taken glee out of the murder of one of his own.
"Face me, you coward," the bald warrior growled looking around for the last of the six goblins who had assailed him.
The fiend had disappeared as its last comrade fell, diving behind a pile of stone that it had long since abandoned as its hiding place by the time Dwalin had sprung around the rock's side. Now the tattooed dwarf was left to slowly scan his surroundings, searching for any sign of the goblin while the thunder of an approaching army drew closer and closer following in the wake of the first surge that had assaulted the ruins atop the pillar rock that rose from the earth.
It was while he was peering over the edge to check that the goblin had not fallen over the edge to his doom when Dwalin felt a pair of strong, sinewy arms wrap themselves around him for a second time. Caught by surprise and rendered off balance the dwarf went tumbling over the edge with the foul creature around his waist screaming in fear.
The pair hit a lower level of the ruins only several arm lengths beneath them, the momentum of their fall carrying them rolling over the edge and into open air once again.
Dwalin felt as though he was slipping out of his skin, air gushing under the rims of his eyelids and pushing his skin taught against his flesh. The sensation was much the same as when he had ridden with the rest of the company on the wooden platform down the rocky walls of Goblin Town, and then upon the majestic, feathered backs of the giant eagles. Only this time there was nothing between him and the ground, no platform to ride on or eagles to keep him from falling.
To say that he did not scream because he was not afraid would be more than a falsehood, it would be an outright lie. The dwarf did not scream as he plummeted to his apparent end because he could not, all sound he could have made was frozen inside the center of his throat just as the lake on the very top of the accursed rocky outcrop was frozen.
It only took several thumps of Dwalin's fast beating heart to reach the level ground, several thumps that each felt as long and drawn out as the one after it. Bracing himself for what would be a bone shattering impact the warrior closed his eyes so he did not have to witness his own brutal passing.
It was an ear shattering shriek that dragged the dwarf's eyes open once more, the noise cut off as the goblin succumbed to the injuries it sustained from both the fall and Dwalin landing atop it.
Almost void of breath himself, the bald warrior rolled off the goblin corpse that had broken his fall, thanking every higher power that he knew of for his luck.
He was shaking, that much was evident as he finally raised his hands to brace himself to rise and push himself back into the fray that was to no doubt take over where he had been defending only moments before, if the enemy had not already reached the place.
There was no doubt in Dwalin's mind that he needed to get back up to where he had been fighting, not only to attempt to get Bilbo to safety but also to try and fend off the enemy's reinforcements from joining the battle below and turning it into more of a massacre than it already was. In doing so, he could also start his search for he missing heirs of Durin and lend aid should they need it.
Mind made up, the tattooed dwarf stretched out his good arm to reclaim his battle axe, already balancing on one knee as he maneuvered his opposite foot beneath him. The lifeless goblin laid forgotten beside him, along with another being whom peacefully resided in the otherwise empty space, and as he stood it was this being that Dwalin's eyes alighted on.
The sight of the young lad laying there, eyes so obviously unseeing to the bloody world around him would have had the tattooed dwarf's stomach clenching in a sickened horror had it not been made of stronger stuff. One tear ran free from the corner of the warrior's eye. A second followed, then a third, then a forth, then an entire torrent as slow and steady as falling rain as Dwalin looked upon the broke form of Fili.
Stooping to hook his hands under the armpits of the fallen dwarf, the tattooed warrior rethought his decision and moved one arm to beneath the blonde's knees.
Lifting Fili as though he were still the child that the bald dwarf was merely carrying to bed after he had fallen asleep playing by his uncle's feet, Dwalin carefully placed the slumbering boy out of harm's way. If wargs were to come he would not see the blonde eaten just as he would not see Fili further mutilated by a battle he should have never been dragged into for all his fighting prowess, if only because of his youth.
"I'll find your brother and see you both home safe, laddie. I give you my word." The promise was not a hollow one, the words as sincere as they could come, and as Dwalin gently brushed his fingers over Fili's eyelids pushing them closed he allowed his shoulders to shake once in grief, allowed his mind one moment of doubt from despair.
What if he should find Kili in the same way, Thorin too joining the ranks of the dead? It was a thought that sent more fear flooding down Dwalin's spine than when Smaug had first attacked Erebor, than when in the dragon's vengeful attack on Laketown he had thought those of the company left behind dead.
There's still a chance- The warrior did not complete the thought, to do so seeming almost like a taboo.
Getting ahold of himself and his grief adorned state, Dwalin gave Fili one last regretful glance before taking up his axe from where he had placed it against the wall and making for one of the staircases just outside the room he had place Fili in. He took the stairs two at a time, the echoes of violent fighting bouncing around him off the surface of the passageways.
A loud cry of pain sent a flash of icy terror through every vein in Dwalin's body. It was high and feminine, a stranger's wordless shout for help, yet it chilled his blood never the less.
Instinctively moving towards the sound, the bald warrior willed his legs to go faster, be swifter in scaling the ruins of the building that had once stood atop the protruding rock that made up Ravenhill. His hair and beard streamed behind him, dragging the dwarf back. His breaths came in panting gasps, overtaxed and doing their best to rip his lungs out through his throat. His mind was a flurried torrent of scattered worry pierced through by single and driven thought, an almost in incent need to find somebody, anybody, alive.
There were bodies strewn around, mostly orcish in nature with several goblins adding to what Dwalin hopped was the growing number of the enemy's fallen. The tattooed dwarf fancied that the majority of them had been cut down by an avenging brother's blade, but did not dwell on the matter, not when the foul kindred of the dead around him might still be lurking in the shadows.
And lurk in the shadows they did.
There were not enough of the unnatural spawn to slow him down, but still enough to be an annoyance to Dwalin when his emotions were on edge enough already. Fear and anger furiously warred with each other, fighting for dominance as each intensified and grew in size. A honed battle instinct born from a base primal ambition to purely survive too floated in the waters that were flooding both the dwarf's heart and mind.
Battle-axe singing through the air its warped song of death ending in the split skull of an orc, the bald warrior continue in his relentless pursuit onwards and upwards through the ruins of Ravenhill towards the shout from before. The constant pounding of his feet became his heralding drumbeat, his heart jerked halfway up his throat with every step made in the steadfast pace.
As Dwalin drew nearer to the place where fighting was clearly taking place another shout echoed off the walls that still stood mostly whole and proud. Dwalin almost faltered, almost missed the next step ahead of him as the sound tore through him with all the rabid fervor of a warg.
"Kili!" What could crying out the boy's name possibly to do aid him against whatever had forced the pain ridden yell? No, only something purely physical would be able to save the young heir, to take away the pain that was so clearly laced in his calls for help.
What made it worse was that he was almost there, that Dwalin had only to bound up a flight of stairs with his eager legs and bloodied arm to reach the young dwarf in distress.
Hold on. I'm coming. Stay alive. The thoughts bounced around in the warrior's mind, the dwarf unable to make them heard by the one who needed to hear them. His increasingly heavier steps meant that Dwalin himself was barely able to hear the words inside his own mind. Blood roaring in his ears only helped to hinder his clarity of thought as the tattooed dwarf prayed he would arrive in time to save the youth.
The tattooed dwarf flew over the last step, his desperate leap carrying him partway across the platform. Turning into one archway that stood before him Dwalin cursed the silence that had fallen in the air, ripe with misery and pregnant with the smell of blood black as the darkest hour of night.
A shout ripped through the hopeless walls he had put up in his heart, the responding grunt cracking that wall with a sudden increase of fear. Neither was the voice that Dwalin had both hoped and dreaded would call out again, an ominous sign if any for the fate of the young dwarf he was trying vainly to reach.
The warrior rounded the last corner that obstructed him in time to see pale orc flesh and bright red hair disappear over the edge of the stone ground into the air below. The tattooed dwarf paid no heed to scuffle however, eyes only for the splayed limbs and tangled brown hair that were both familiar yet present in such an unfamiliar way.
Falling to his knees and reaching out a shaky hand Dwalin brushed his fingers against the forehead before him, fingers moving slowly down to mimic the same courtesy he had paid Fili's body and make it appear as though the youth had merely fallen asleep.
It did not make the pain or guilt any less, nor did it change the reality before him.
"Kili…." Life fled from the warrior's limbs like the coward it was, unable to bear being in the presence of such a brutal embodiment of death and leaving the dwarf it had had been holding up to sway precariously towards the ground before it was reigned back in.
Dwalin stared upon the regrettable sight, for a fleeting flicker of his eyelids forgetting to exhale the breath he had drawn in only moments before. He had been young, too young, and now he could never grow old, never know what Dwalin knew about aches in his back and pains in his limbs that only grew worse as fickle time passed by.
To lose one had been a nightmare, to lose both young brothers an unimaginable, tortuous agony. Dwalin could only hope that he would find the third and oldest surviving member of the Line of Durin alive, if not unharmed.
The grief-stricken warrior contemplated moving Kili's body as he had the lad's brother, looking around in an attempt to find the safest place to place the boy. A harsh grunt interrupted the process arrogantly thinking that it could attack the kneeling dwarf before it and survive. Maybe it could have, maybe it would have if the intended victim of the grunt's owner was not inwardly bellowing for blood and vengeance.
Dwalin stood with a speed that was almost as unnatural as it was terrifying. Blood was roaring in his ears again, but this time not from physical exertion. An uncharacteristically cruel smile curled up at the corners of the tattooed dwarf's mouth laughing at the fate that it knew would befall its enemy.
The blade that had been aiming for Dwalin's back was stopped short long before it reached its target. The distinct ring of metal meeting metal deafened the ears of the two who had brought the sound into existence. Both Dwalin and the orc assailing him paid no heed to the hindrance however, drawing their weapons apart almost immediately before bearing them down once again in a brutal unity.
The head of Dwalin's blade locked with the bent edge of his enemy's sword, the two becoming tangled and discarded in an instant. His battle-axe clattering to the floor, the tattooed dwarf drew his hunting knife and circled the orc before him keeping his body at all times in front of Kili as a living barrier serving to protect the dead.
Words were thrown into the air, harsh dialect that the dwarf they were aimed at imagined to be launching insults or mocking jeers or speaking of his adversary's impending doom. Whatever it was Dwalin did not care and as it was the words would never be finished being spoken. Fate had already decided as much.
Fingers sliding down the dwarf-wrought blade he held careful to avoid the sharped edges, Dwalin took in a breath shaky for so many more reasons than just one. Lips moving into an 'o' shape a steady gush of air full of anger and pain and terror not for oneself was released into the screaming world. The blade in the tattooed dwarf's hand was moved back and up, one final heft of the weapon telling the warrior everything he needed to know.
It was then that Dwalin threw the knife, the deadly object spinning in a silver arc of death. It met its mark well, easily slipping through the defences of the enemy's armor to pierce the vulnerable, vulnerable flesh and organs beneath.
Misery drowned out the sound of the orc falling to meet the ground, tears blurring the foul being's face that was so clearly frozen in shock. Memories from years ago flowed to the forefront of Dwalin's mind, two young faces beaming up at him eager to learn the same skill he had demonstrated so effortlessly before in the painful world of reality.
Fili had been the better student, not by much but just enough for Dwalin to realise that throwing knives had come to the blonde youth as easily as breathing air. Kili had not been deterred by his brother's success however, his fervent spirit unquenched in its drive to learn the task with his natural aptitude for aiming with accurate precision eventually making him as good as his brother.
He would miss that, their willingness to learn, their determination that was both so naïve and so clean. Dwalin would miss Kili's reckless grin and Fili's calm, perceptive gaze that had still held much of youth's careless mirth.
The memories were fading embers in two young forges that had long since been snuffed out and the silence that they left washed over Dwalin. The air, soundless in its mourning, caused the tattooed dwarf breathing it in to forget for the briefest of moments where he was and the danger that came with his surrounds.
It was the faint noise of fighting, metal abusing metal, that brought Dwalin back to the present. He whipped his head back and forth, peering down the hallway and over the edge of the ruin's floor for the ones responsible for dragging him out of what had been a trancelike state. The warrior was not alone as he had foolishly lead himself to believe.
And Dwalin would have believed that statement if not for the fact that he could find no one – orc or hobbit or dwarf – standing in the proximity of Kili's body along with him.
Brow furrowing the tattooed dwarf cocked his head to the side, listening again for almost nonexistent sounds of battling life. It was further away than he had initially thought, higher up than he would have believed leaving the bald warrior scrambling for a reasonable answer inside his own-
"Thorin." The word was hesitant, barely there for fear that it being said with a full and audible force would break the unlikely streak of luck Dwalin had stumbled upon.
Sparing a glance to where the youngest of the original company had fallen, Dwalin silently asked for forgiveness for abandoning the brown haired dwarf promising that he would return to place Kili with his brother. He hoped the lad would understand – in this fight he had to take care of the living before the dead, especially when the living included the sole surviving heir of Durin.
Hands groping for the handle of his fallen battle-axe, the tattooed dwarf freed the weapon from where it had been ensnared. Limbs shaking with something other than exertion the warrior used the sudden rush of an intensified need to both fight and flee from within him to power his first leap towards the stairs that lead ever upwards to where he wished to go.
This second flight through the ruins upon Ravenhill was much like the first Dwalin had experienced, only his breaths were gasping a little faster, his heart beating a little harder with the weight of his king's fate riding upon his shoulders. Sweat ran down the dwarf's face, but it was ignored as was the stinging coolness of the air against his raw eyes.
Once the warrior glanced away from his path and towards the battle below. He was surprised and greatly joyed to see the giant eagles that had aided the company in the early stages of their journey to Erebor were now aiding the united forces below of men, dwarf and elf. The enemy was being driven back, slaughtered on the swords and spears of those who gave chase. A great bear stampeded among the fouler of the creatures below, roaring as it extracted justice for the crimes committed to it and its kin long ago.
Tearing his eyes away from the sight Dwalin sent up a quick prayer that his brother was among those still standing and fighting in the crowds standing on the plain before Erebor's mighty shadow. Within that prayer was also a plea of mercy from him to the higher deities asking for a reprieve in the tragic disease that continually struck the family he had sworn to protect, and all the while the mighty warrior continued flying up crumbling stairs two by two, bolting down passageways with as much speed as he could muster dread lacing the flame of hope he held in his heart.
It did not take long to reach the top of the ruins and the frozen water beyond them, Dwalin's feet never once betraying him in their steady, rhythmic beat. Yet as he skirted the last wall and bore witness to the scene that tainted the ice before him it finally struck the warrior that it had fallen silent while he had still been running.
He was too late. Too late to save his king, to save his friend. Too late to witness his leader's passing or hear the last words uttered by the great Thorin Oakenshield.
A whistling sound blew past Dwalin's ringing ears, carried on the wind stirred up by the wings of the giant eagles swooping around and over Ravenhill. It was like the music at the beginning of a ballad that spoke of great deeds and tragic deaths, of unquenchable wrath and shattering hearts.
Three. All three had fallen leaving him and the hobbit alone on the forsaken rock that would forever mark the place where the last of Durin's line had fallen.
"Why?" The cry sprung unconsciously from Dwalin's lips, echoing in the silent air and startling Bilbo below him from where the hobbit sat hunched by Thorin's body. The anguish in the single word was irrefutable and unmistakable as it pierced through all the beings left alive on Ravenhill the same way an arrow tore through a warrior's still beating heart on the battlefield.
If the tears from seeing both Fili and Kili laid low had run dry, new ones sprung afresh in the face of his good friend's final fate. For so long Thorin had struggled against everything that had titled far out of his favor, struggling to lead his homeless people, mourn the tragedies in his family, and reclaim his stolen home.
The King Under the Mountain had been strong, surely too strong to be defeated by Azog the Defiler. He had broken from dragon sickness when his own grandfather could not, lead a company of fourteen through countless perils and survived, yet still he lay upon the red tinged ice unmoving, unseeing.
Fili and Kili had been too young to die, Thorin merely too weathered and beaten.
"I…I tried to…to save him, but-"
Dwalin broke the babbling hobbit off with a kind and sorrowful smile, unaware that he had walked from the embankment to where his king and friend had chosen to finally stop fighting and lay down to embrace an eternal rest.
"I'm sorry." Bilbo's voice was small against the vastness of the open space around them.
Dwalin turned his head to appraise the small being, the sad smile still twisting his mouth upwards. "He died in victory. There is nothing to be sorry for." The gruff words were a lie if anything. Contrary to what they said there was much to be sorry for – the lives lost, both young and old, as well as the king who would never again rule under the mountain he had fought so hard to reclaim.
"I'll…I'll fetch the others-"
"No." Once again Dwalin cut the hobbit off, his smile banished along with the near softness of his earlier words. "I will go. You stay and ensure no further harm befalls him." It would be better for his brother, for the rest of the company, to hear the news from him.
He took a breath to turn away when the hobbit's next words formed a question that nearly shattered his already wounded heart.
"What of Fili and Kili? Are they…they…?" The small and kindly being seemed unable to phrase his thoughts, of which still held hope even for the Thorin's blonde nephew despite having witnessed with his own eyes the brave dwarf's demise.
"Dead." It was harsh, but the only way that he could state what had happened without breaking down further. As it was, Bilbo could not hold back a small sob of disbelief.
"Enough!" Dwalin did not want meaningless apologies no matter how heartfelt they were. Apologies could not change the fact his worst fears had passed into reality, but perhaps they could ease the pain of himself and those around him. "I am sorry."
It was a testament to one Bilbo Baggins that he did not remark on the warrior's short temper and severe words. Rather he merely retook his position next to Thorin's lifeless body and gestured for Dwalin to go.
The last standing dwarf on Ravenhill started forward only to pause and turn back, eyes considering the hobbit before him. "I am glad you are alive." Glad that I am not alone on this forsaken rock. He doubted that the ghosts that lurked where he stood would ever cease haunting his dreams.
Unable to bear the presence of the ghosts Dwalin fled more than strode, was running from the blood soaked ruins rather than to tell the news to the rest of the dwarves who had made up the now broken company of Thorin Oakenshield.
The journey downwards took longer than it had when the warrior had charged up on the back of an armored ram, misery slowing his progress where before the thirst for blood had sped it up. It was too long a time for Dwalin to dwell on the 'what ifs' of the battle he had fought, the 'what ifs' that could have been born into life if he had not been too late, if he had run a little faster, if they had not sent both Fili and Kili to scout ahead in the first place.
That was the crux of his guilt, the root of the grief and anguish and pain the deaths of Durin's heirs had brought upon him. There was a tiny, tiny part of him that believed the fates of those he had lost could have been changed if a different path had been taken, a different road travelled towards the end of the one responsible for the most sorrow caused to the house of Durin.
The 'what ifs' were not just limited to what had transpired on top of Ravenhill however, and the closer Dwalin got to where the main battle had taken place the more fear churned inside his stomach. The tattooed dwarf did not think he had it in him to face another death among his kin and friends, did not think that he would ever be able to look upon Erebor again let alone walk within its hallways should his brother have left him for the halls of Mahal as well.
The fighting had long since stopped leaving only the survivors of the unexpected and brutal attack moving amongst the limbs of the many dead. As Dwalin came upon the battle field he halted in his tracks and lifted his eyes to the heavens praying for mercy for all those who had fallen to repel the evil that had descended upon them and Erebor.
There were whispered words and hearty, half mad laughs that echoed around the scene before the tattooed dwarf. Cries of relief were punctured by the wails of father mourning son, brother mourning brother in the bloodied, flesh filled wasteland that the ground before the mighty mountain holding famed dwarven halls had become. Healers ran here and there trying to determine who it was that needed the most help of the overwhelming numbers of the wounded.
Stepping into the living nightmare that brought back memories he would have rather forgotten, Dwalin stopped short in drawing in a full breath of air and quickly dispelled the faint taste of copper and the foul taste of orcish sludge from his mouth.
"Balin!" The name was met with no familiar cry. Closing his eyes Dwalin banished the more morbid thoughts of his brother's from his mind. "Balin, brother, where are you?"
Now moving amongst the others still standing the warrior inspected each body he passed – both living and dead – searching more for a familiar face than an orc who, by some unfortunate miracle, was still alive. Several times he put an end to an enemy's twitching and more than once was he forced to bellow for the healers to come to another downed warrior's aid all the while parting with reassuring words to the hapless dwarf, man or even elf who he had happened upon by chance.
Yet Dwalin could still find no sign of his brother.
The tattooed dwarf was sure that Balin had been in the foremost lines when he had departed for Ravenhill. The older dwarf had been fighting side by side with five of Dain's own warriors, holding his own against what had seemed like a near unconquerable enemy at the time. Yet the orcs had been conquered and they had won. At a cost.
"Balin!" This shout was more desperate than the last, begging the very air and earth to bring forth Dwalin's missing brother.
The tattooed dwarf was now boot deep in orc remains half of his attention focused on weaving between the vast array of weapons that rose proudly from the ground eager to taste more blood. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement to the left. Turning his head, the warrior tightened his grip on the battle-axe still in his hands, preparing to meet foe even as he hoped the being was a friend.
The movement came again, louder as the being stumbled across the littered ground. He drew in a breath and closed his eyes, finding his center and letting go of the air trapped within him with a mighty whoosh.
Before he could so much as lift a finger in his defence Dwalin felt arms weave their way around him for the third time. They squeezed hard, but not hard enough to be considered a threat, gentle more than anything else.
"Thank Durin you have returned, nadadith."
The warrior could feel Balin's relieved tremors shake against his body, his brother's quite gasps for air accurately conveying the vast amounts of worry the older dwarf had succumbed to.
"You're alive. You're alive," Balin said, the same phrase repeated over and over in a thankful awe.
Dwalin could only squeeze back in his own relief, the emotion washing over him like blood both red and black had washed over the stones far too recently. "Are you injured?"
Dwalin shook his head as he withdrew from Balin, looking over the older dwarf for injuries much like he was being looked over himself. "Nothing that can't be seen to later."
"You are bleeding," Balin said with no small amount of concern. The older dwarf eyed the dried patch of red that stained Dwalin's skin, reaching out a hand to brush across it.
Dwalin brushed off his brother's worry, both the physical and emotional aspects of it. "It has already stopped." Soon it would be just another scar to add to his collection, another permanent memory of those who had fallen whilst fighting alongside him.
"Still, it must be seen to," Balin said frowning. The older dwarf tore off a section of his tunic and proceeded to tie it around the wound before his brother could protest or fend him off.
Dwalin clenched his fists, Balin's words serving to trade relief for finding his older sibling alive and well for heartache and a reminder of who else needed seeing to, more so than he did, yet in a completely different nature.
Balin looked up and noticed the change to the warrior's demeanor. He finished tying the knot on the makeshift bandage and took the younger dwarf once again in his arms. "What ails you, nadadith?"
Safe, warm, protected in the embrace of his older brother Dwalin could barely hold himself together. "They're gone, all three of them."
The tattooed dwarf waited for Balin to respond, for the first of what would be a storm of tears to finish sliding off the smooth skin of his scalp. He had expected the silence, the confusion and the denial. He had even expected the question that now passed through his brother's lips, a question he had no doubt the older dwarf hoped would not give the answer he already knew to be true.
Dwalin closed his eyes, wanting so badly to keep ahold of his sibling, but pushing away from the older dwarf never the less as he gave the answer that had brought his worst fears to life. "Thorin." He paused, doing his best to chock in a breath past the blockage in his throat. "And Fili and Kili."
He listened as Balin drew in a breath, the tattooed dwarf not daring to open his eyes to face the grief of his brother that would easily match his own.
"Dwalin, you're alive!" Bofur's voice was unmistakable, the joyful tone out of place in the miserable air.
Opening his wet eyes to where two hands were extended as a sign of friendship, Dwalin could only stand and stare at Bofur and Bifur before him.
The more jolly of the two let his arms drop, dark eyebrows furrowing deeply beneath his ever-present hat. "What's wrong?"
"Thorin, Fili and Kili were killed in battle," Balin answered, each word halting and chocked.
"No…." Bofur wrung his hands in distress, his feet taking the dwarf a step back in denial of what he had been told.
"Inform the rest of the company, tell them that their bodies are still atop Ravenhill. I will need help bringing them down." Dwalin lifted one finger to point to the red stained peak where his kinsmen rested. The rawness of his eyes hurt, the bloodied dust blown into them by the newly forming breeze stinging.
"Aye." Bofur nodded, his unnaturally bright eyes flying briefly to meet Dwalin's then Balin's conveying his heartfelt sympathies before the toymaker turned with his cousin and walked back into the chaos to find the others of the company.
Dwalin and his brother watched them go.
"What of Dain?" Dwalin glanced sideways at his brother.
Balin sighed, a melancholy sound if there ever was one. "First let us retrieve the bodies, then we can inform Dain of what has occurred." The white bearded dwarf paused for a moment, closing his eyes as he drew in another shuddering breath. "Now let us start up this path and fetch our kin."
The two brothers walked in silence on the path Dwalin had charged up once before, side by side with those he had been proud to follow and defend. The youngest led while the oldest followed behind, one fearful of what he would see, the other already knowing what awaited them at the top of the bloody pillar of stone.
The pair remained silent even as they reached the place where the first body lay, Dwalin moving reverently to collect where Fili from where he had placed the lad before. The warrior brushed one hand somberly against the youth's forehead before bringing the young blonde out into the open where Balin waited. He gently laid the limp body down on the ground and stepped aside to allow his brother to fall to his knees beside the lad.
"You were so young."
Dwalin lifted his eyes solemnly skyward, heaving a heavy sigh as he placed his hand on Balin's shoulder. The warrior closed his ears off to his brother's mourning, instead focusing his hearing on the path they had come up listening for signs that the rest of the company had joined them atop Ravenhill.
It was Bofur who arrived first, Bombur and Bifur in tow, Gloin and Oin not far behind. The toymaker's face contorted into a mask of agony as though he had been the one pierced through the heart. Bombur uttered a low cry of disbelief a his eyes fell upon the sorry sight before them, Bifur growing stiff next to the round dwarf. A curse was loosed from Gloin, Oin merely shaking his head in the same way a healer accepted the fate of his patient whilst mourning at the lose of life all the same.
All five of the dwarves were standing however, appearing to bear no injuries aside from several bruises and shallow scratches. Nori, Dori and Ori bore no visible injuries either as they finally arrived to complete the dwarven part of the company.
Despite the situation and what they had lost, Dwalin felt a small sense of relief. The company would not be losing any more of its members today, would not suffer any further heartbreak.
That did not mean that their hearts weren't already broken beyond repair.
"I need help to bring his brother down," Dwalin said waiting for a response to come from the huddle of dwarves crowded around Fili's body.
Gloin was the first to lift his head from where it was bowed, but Bofur beat him to the words that was upon both their lips.
"I will go." There was a hard look in the toymaker's eyes, a wall that had been erected around the free flowing sorrow of the dwarf. Bofur did not seem to care that the tears streaming down his face had increased in force.
Dwalin nodded to the toymaker and turned to lead the way to where the youngest Durin rested. He trod up the stairs with his companion, both moving slower than their usual paces, each of which was respectively determined and cheerful.
There was none of Bofur's typical chatter, no ludicrous stories woven out of thin air, no jokes or banter slipping from between the dwarf's still lips. There was, however, humming, a slow and heart rendering tune that Dwalin did not recongise.
Chest heaving with something far deeper than exertion the tattooed dwarf felt his limbs grow heavy with weariness, the music conjured beside him as he and Bofur walked draining the warrior of something he could not name, something that left him without a shred of fight. Dwalin sought solace in the friendly hand that brushed up against his arm, returning the favor in kind to Bofur as they both sought to comfort each other in the light of the tragedy they faced.
"Kili…." The constant humming was replaced with a strangled gasp, Bofur's hand instinctively going up to the hat he wore to remove it once again in a sign of respect.
Dwalin stayed silent, bending down to grasp the young lad under the arms as warmth once again graced his own cheeks. He nodded once to Bofur as the latter took up Kili's legs, the pair hefting the youngest of the Durin's up with ease before carefully maneuvering him through the hallway and back down the stairs to where they had come from.
It was hard for Dwalin to avoid looking at the slack face of the head that bounced softly against his chest every few steps, hard for him to accept that the once lively dwarf and his brother were now gone for good. Yet it was the truth of the matter and the warrior could only close his eyes against the sounds of distraught disbelief that the rest of the company made as he and Bofur laid Kili down next to his brother.
"Not Kili as well."
"They were so young…."
"Where is Thorin?" Balin's voice drew Dwalin out of his reprieve, causing the younger dwarf to look down on his brother.
The tattooed dwarf gestured to the top of the ruins and the frozen ice beyond. "At the top with Bilbo." The warrior had almost forgotten about the hobbit just as he had almost forgotten the wizard who was now leaning over his staff and sadly staring at the two youngest members of the company.
No as of yet had asked him to explain just what had transpired atop of Ravenhill during the battle, and for that Dwalin was grateful. The warrior did not think that it was a tale he would be able to recall until he was once again within the halls of Erebor and separate from the company of the three he had sworn and failed to protect.
"Lead on then, brother." Once again it was Balin who brought him back to the present.
Reigning in his emotions and rubbing the last of his tears from his eyes, Dwalin nodded and waited for the others to finish paying their respects to the two brothers laying side by side and stand. He then began to move, leading the line of eleven up the ruined stairs to where one Bilbo Baggins waited with the body of the mighty Thorin Oakenshield.
Gandalf moved off at once, pausing for a moment as he bowed his head to the late king of Erebor before drawing the hobbit away leaving the dwarves to their own private mourning of their king. The seclusion did not stop Bilbo from casting apologetic looks to the rest of the company he had befriended as he passed.
Dwalin gave the small being a nod of both support and comfort, his brother going one step further and placing a briefly lingering hand on the hobbit's shoulder. Then the two dwarves moved on to where the leader they had followed for so long again and again into danger and greatness now laid at rest victorious and defeated all at the same time.
There were no words to be said, no cries of denial or shock to be uttered by Dwalin, Balin or any of the others slowly gathering around Thorin's body. There were only shared glances of regret and sorrow, small embraces of sympathy among brothers and friends.
It was by a silent, collective agreement that the ten dwarves avoided the stark patch of red ice, turning their backs on what had once been a formidable enemy who had succeeded at what they had all hoped would be impossible. It was Dwalin's opinion that the monster had truly met his match in Thorin Oakenshield however, the vibrant scarlet waterfall of frozen water marking the bitter victory that had been won.
And it was the victory the bards would remember, the triumph of king over orc passed down through the ages – a hero's ballad with a tragic ending.
Dwalin's breath caught in his throat, a terrible sobbing sound that came out gasping and half strangled. He had lost not just his king, but his friend as well, the one dwarf he had walked most of his life with. He had lost his kin, his cousin, someone he had given almost everything for and still would have given more if he had the chance.
A long stretch passed before anyone moved, before anyone dared to break the reverent silence that had spread its solemn cloak over Ravenhill. Balin was the first to raise his head, Oin and Gloin the next to shift their stances.
Dwalin himself remained still until he felt his brother's hand upon his arm soundlessly telling him that it was time to return to the battlefield below and Erebor beyond. One last glance at his dead king had the warrior resigning himself to what had to be done.
The company split apart with Bofur, Bombur and Ori moving to fetch Kili, and Bifur, Nori and Oin making their way to fetch Fili from where the two bothers lay together. Dwalin remained with Gloin to lift their fallen leader and carry him upon their shoulders with Balin and Dori heading the somber procession, Gandalf and Bilbo falling in behind.
Down the twisted path they went, twelve living and three dead. A wizard, a hobbit, and thirteen dwarves – the company's journey was at an end.
TRANSLATIONS: Nadadith – little/younger brother