Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 13

The door loomed before him, subtly mocking the burly warrior with its closed face, a face that presented so much hope. Taking a deep breath, Dwalin closed his eyes and stepped up to knock on the wood.

"Yes?" a voice asked, wavering slightly as the dwarf the voice belonged to beheld just who was on his doorstep. Dwalin swallowed once as he stared down at the woman who had answered.

"I am sorry," he began, twisting his fingers together. The female in front of him had begun to shake her head in denial.

"No, no, no. It cannot be. I won't believe it. No, no," she repeated as if the words could drown out the truth.

"I am sorry," Dwalin said again, raising his voice slightly to be heard, "But Lennon is dea-"

"No!" cried the woman before him, the redhead flinging herself onto the seasoned warrior, "No! Tell me it is not true. Tell me you have got it wrong."

"I am truly, truly sorry," Dwalin replied, slowly prying her clutching fingers off the fabric of his tunic, "But what I tell you is the truth. Lennon fell in the fight against to orcs."

"No, not my boy," the woman moaned, now a limp puddle by Dwalin's feet. The tall warrior bit his lip, unsure whether he should take his leave or help the female at his feet back inside. He was saved as another face came to the door, brought forth by the commotion.

"What's going on?" the brown haired dwarf demanded. It was the redhead on the floor that answered first.

"My son," she wailed, now grasping at the feet behind her, "My son is dead. Dead! He is too young…too young…."

"I will take it from here," the dwarf opposite Dwalin said, seeing the warrior's indecision. Dwalin nodded and turned away to give the pair some much needed privacy.

As he walked, thoughts of Dis flew through his head, thoughts involving her returning to find that she had only one son. If Kili were to pass from the world, Dwalin was unsure how Dis would react, though he had several ideas of which he could clearly visualise in his head.

The first of these was almost the same as the scene the seasoned warrior had just witness unfold. More often than not a mother would all but collapse as the news of their child's death was delivered to them, and it was more than likely Dis would be no different. Dwalin physically cringed as he imagined the thud of the female dwarf's knees colliding with wooden floorboards, shoulders shaking as she wailed in denial deafening all around her. A once proud woman reduced to nothing but a pool of salty tears.

Still, Dwalin knew Dis might act the complete opposite, not reacting at all save shedding a few lone tears just as the wife of Bergin had. Dwarves were a hardy race, the line of Durin more so than others. They were not prone to showing grief or sorrow, at least not where the public eye could view and judge them. Female she might be, but Dwalin could not fail to acknowledge that Dis was in fact descended from Durin himself. For all he knew, Kili's mother could merely stand strong and silent as she let the horror of losing her youngest wash over her, and in a way that would be a thousand times worse than if she screamed or begged.

There was however, one worse scenario that could take place, a scenario that would haunt Dwalin whether it came to be or not. Dis could lash out at him with nails flying and eyes blazing, much like Haram's mother had. When the seasoned warrior had delivered the news of the young dwarf's fall, the female dwarf had merely blinked before launching into a full scaled attack on him both verbally and physically.

"Why did you let my son die? Why did you not save him?"

Three shallow furrows still ran down his right cheek where he had failed to deflect the blow of the woman acting on a deep rooted grief. Whether he had actually meant to deflect the blow was another matter, for the woman's words had taken their toll on him, just as they always did when he was left to inform someone of the death of a loved one.

"He was under you charge, under your care. Had you done your job than he would be standing in your place, but you did not so he is not."

Dwalin knew it would break him if Dis ever turned on him like that. If Kili died, he would no doubt deserve it, but it would break him none the less. Fili too would lash out, not physically as that was not the blonde's way, he would not even lash out with words. Rather he would lash out with a cold and stony silence, not unlike the walls of the mountain that had been lost long ago. He would lash out with an icy fire strong enough to oppose his mother's own immensely hot one.

"I see you are back, brother," Balin's voice called as Dwalin opened the door to their house. The seasoned warrior sighed despondently.

"Informing the families of those who died is something I do not take much joy in doing," he said with a deep sense of weariness and regret. Balin looked up from where he had been spilling over a pile of papers.

"It is not a task any would find joy in," he replied, "And it is a task that is by no means easy either."

"You think I don't know that?" Dwalin snapped before glancing away from the concerned eyes of his brother, ashamed by hos outburst. He refused to look back up even as he felt a hand run gently over the scratches down his cheek.

"What happened?" Balin asked softly, bending around to peer into his brother's face. Dwalin sighed again, biting the inside of his cheek as he did so.

"Haram's mother did not take the news well," he said simply, emotion devoid of his voice but not his eyes. Balin reached up to give the warrior's shoulder a squeeze before guiding the younger dwarf to a chair.

"What happened?" the dwarf asked again, this time his words directed at something entirely different. Dwalin grunted.

"Did Guerin not tell you of what happened with the patrol?" he replied. Balin shook his head.

"I want to hear it from you."

"There is nothing more to tell," Dwalin shot back. His brother merely sat in front of him, waiting. It only took a moment for the seasoned warrior to give in.

"We were ambushed," he started bluntly, not one overly fond of talking, "We had been following the direction the orcs headed after they attacked the first patrol and they came out of nowhere to attack us. I was not paying attention as I should have and they got Thorin." At this Dwalin growled at himself, pushing one fist into his forehead. "I was stupid in letting myself get distracted, and it was only after the battle that I found him, by some miracle, unharmed. We assessed our loses and then returned here."

The warrior finished, both hands now clenched tightly in his lap, muscles in his arms tense and bulging. His shoulders were shaking, not with sorrow or grief, but with anger directed at himself. He had failed to protect his leader where he had sworn to do so with his life. It had all turned out for the best, yet Dwalin knew that it would have only taken one slipup on Thorin's part to give the story a vastly different ending. He had failed in protecting the line of Durin again, just as he had failed in protecting Kili and Frerin, Thror and even Thrain.

"Brooding again, brother?" Balin said with jest, pulling Dwalin out of the depression he had sunken into, "I believe you have been hanging around Thorin too much."

"No," Dwalin cut in, "No, I have just realised the consequences of my actions."

Balin regarded him with a concerned frown.

"How so?" he asked.

"I am no longer fit to watch over the line of Durin," Dwalin answered, pushing his chair away as he stood.

"Where do you think you're going?" Balin cried as the tattooed dwarf made for the door.

"To inform Thorin that I must step down from my position," Dwalin answered. His brother was up and in front of him faster than he could blink.

"You are not thinking straight," Balin said, his voice containing a tinge of anger, "Your mind has been addled by the events of this day and the days before. You need to rest."

"I am thinking perfectly fine," Dwalin retorted, "Had I been able to do my job Thorin would not have been placed in such immense danger. If I had been able to do my job, Kili would not have been set upon by a bear. If I had been able to do my job, Thror and Frerin would still be alive and Thrain here right now, but I was not able, never able and now look at the mess we are in."

"Dwalin!" Balin reprimanded, "Enough of this! I will not have that talk in this house."

"It is merely the truth," the younger of the two said.

"NO!" Balin yelled, "It is not the truth. You are blinded by grief and how you managed to place the guilt of every misfortune we have come across…. Truly brother, you amaze me sometimes. Now sit back down, or better yet, sleep. Take your rest. If need be I will have Oin drug you."

"Oin has his work cut out for him already," Dwalin said softly, ashamed at his brother's words, "He has no time for me."

"Then stop this nonsense and behave as you ought," Balin answered. To that, Dwalin had no reply.

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