Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 23

Walking home Dwalin had mused over Dis' reaction to hearing the news of her son and his involvement. The warrior had been taken by surprise that the female dwarf had decided to forgive and even thank him for his actions in regards to the bear attack. Despite his obvious guilt in the matter, Dis had forgiven him as had Thorin. This confused Dwalin to no end.

Do I not deserve to be blamed? Now Dwalin wasn't so sure.

The tattooed dwarf thought back to the incident that had started all the chaos, trying to make sense of everything swimming in his head. He had gone hunting with Kili, had suggested it to take the youth's mind off his brother's absence. They had been hunting a deer when Kili's pony had been spooked. It had thrown the dwarf and then the bear had attacked, and he had reacted.

I did everything I could, Dwalin thought as the memories ran through his head. What else could I have done?

The tattooed dwarf was at a loss for what to think. True Kili had been injured, but Dis had said he had awakened meaning the worst was over. Even if he had done something wrong it couldn't have been so bad if the young dwarf was recovering. There was another factor that Dwalin was forgetting however. Kili had asked to see him. The warrior had no idea whether that was a good thing or not. What was more Dis had said nothing of Fili or what state the young blonde was in.

As the warrior made it home, doubt began to settle in again and Dwalin found himself wondering if he should have done more, if he could have done more to protect his young charge. He knew he should have been keeping a better watch on the youth.

But Kili was awake.

He knew he should have killed the bear when he had the chance.

But Kili was awake. Wasn't that all that mattered?

Dwalin sat by the table, his eyebrows drawn in a dark frown as his mind battled itself. Dis had forgiven him, yet Kili wanted to see him and he had heard nothing of the youth's brother whatsoever. The dwarf knew that Fili at least would not forgive him for his part in the bear's attack. He knew the blonde wouldn't let him get off so easy.

But Kili was awake.

"What is this?" Balin's shocked voice rebounded around the room. Dwalin did not bother to lift his head.

"Dis came to visit me in the forge," the warrior said.

"And what did she say?" Balin asked, "That she forgave you? Or that she was grateful you saved Kili's life?"

This time Dwalin did raise his head. "How do you know that?"

"She said as much when she spoke to me," came the answer of his older brother, "And she said Kili was healing, so you have no reason, no right to be moping around."

Try me. Dwalin, however, was not suicidal.

"I do not understand why you are like this," Balin continued, "You have done nothing wrong."

"That does not mean it is true," Dwalin said bluntly, "I must have done something wrong for this to have happened, slipped up somewhere." Balin's look was not reassuring. The younger of the two dwarves suddenly had an urge to check that for certain no hands were wound tightly around his neck.

"Dwalin, listen to me," Balin said, his hands twisting through the empty air much to his brother's relief, "You need to stop blaming yourself. Kili is healing. Neither Dis nor Thorin blame you."

Dwalin shook his head. "Fili might. Kili might too."

"If they do I will shave my beard for fifty years," Balin replied.

Dwalin blinked and then grinned. "Don't think I won't hold you to that."

"You won't have to," came his brother's final reply.

Dwalin looked down, biting the inside of his cheek as Balin moved past him to his room. The warrior dwelled on the matter for another moment before allowing his eyebrows to smooth out again as his head began to hurt.

A matter for another time, he thought to himself as he pulled several papers towards him. The tattooed dwarf stared at them, trying to read his brother's writing. The runes however, wouldn't cooperate. Kili's face kept on appearing in front of his eyes, and when it wasn't Kili's it was Reade's or Lennon's or Haram's. Ghosts of the dead really did exist and they were taking over his mind.

Dwalin stood, sweeping the parchment to one side. He drifted across the room, passing where his Balin had closed his door, to where the warrior's own door stood open. The dwarf crashed into his bed, heaving a sigh as he closed his eyes.

"Argh!" The scream tore through the dwarf faster than the twisted blade of an orc.

Dwalin's eyes snapped open, their depths deeply distressed. A rough hand passed over them, the warrior's eyes blinking shut for a swift moment as he swept his fingers down to scratch his chin. His beard was tangled there, knotted from the breeze that had stirred up on his walk home. Grabbing a comb, Dwalin pulled his fingers free and began to work through the thick hair. Several pained grunts were elicited from him as the warrior tugged at a particularly stubborn knot.

"Argh!" Dwalin's cry mimicked the cry he had heard in his head before, only this time it was a cry of frustration.

"Here, let me do it," Balin said as he whisked into the room, much accustomed to his brother's rough habits with his hair. "How did it get like this in the first place?"

Dwalin drew his eyebrows together. "It was windy."

Balin just shook his head as he tore through the thick vines that were his brother's beard. "There, done."

Dwalin leaned back against his bed, running his fingers through his beard once more. The tattooed dwarf mumbled a gruff thanks. His brother simply smiled and walked back out of the room. Dwalin turned over onto his side, turning the corner of his mouth downward.

"Argh!" The scream tore through the dwarf faster than the twisted blade of an orc, and Dwalin could not help but balk in his mind at the bloody sight before him.


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