Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 24

Bofur plodded happily along humming to himself a tuneless tune. Kili was on the mend, and the day was beautiful despite the blowing wind around him tearing at him with its mischievous fingers. This only made the toymaker grin wider for his hat was pulled firmly over his head, safe from sprouting wings and flying away leaving his head as bare as the heads of the dolls he made.

"There once was a jolly miner who sang on his way to work,

La dee dee dee da da da he sang with a smirk.

Hello little bees in the flowers, hello trilling birds in the trees,

Hello to the sun and clouds, and the crisp morning breeze.

Hello to the drunk in the gutter, hello to the children in the streets,

Hello to the gambling brothers, the liars and the cheats.

What say you we grab a drink in the local tavern,

Fill our heads with age old ale then work in a cold dark cavern?"

The ending line of the song left his lips, leaving Bofur reminiscing about the time he had worked as a miner himself, hacking pockets of metal, precious and otherwise, from the rocky walls of the cave he disappeared into each day. He had followed his father's line of work into the said dark depths, even after his father had been crushed by a rock fall losing the use of one arm. When Bifur had been injured however, Bofur had decided to change his line of work to something less dangerous and so he began making toys. It was not a change he had minded however, seeing the smiles on the faces of children was more than enough for him.

"Down a hole we go, swinging hammers to and fro,

Digging metal in the cave to hoard and stow.

We will find silver, we find gold,

We find metal that can be sold.

And with every chip that we free,

It's another coin for you and me."

The tunes kept on coming, springing from Bofur's memories unbidden, but not unwelcome. The toymaker kept on his way to the destination in his head, barely stirring from his path save to offer a cheery greeting to those he passed. He joked of a miner who was afraid of the dark, and a drunkard that would down entire barrels in one go. Then he arrived, the door before him closed, yet welcoming all the same.

"My lady," the toymaker said as he took his hat off in greeting to the dwarf who answered the door.

"Dis," the female amended sternly before shaking her head. "Please, come in."

Bofur entered through the door and looked around. "How is he?"

"Still asleep I presume," Dis answered, closing the exit behind him before retreating back to where she had been patching up several shirts, "His brother is with him."

Bofur tweaked the corner of his mouth. "Aye, if I were Fili I would not want to leave his side either."

"We are just lucky Kili hasn't started complaining of being confined to his bed yet," Dis said good humoredly.

"It won't be long before he does by my reckoning," Bofur replied with a grin. The toymaker then looked around. "Where is Thorin?"

"Catching up with some of his duties I presume," came Dis' answer. She then turned to look at the door across from her. "Go right in. I am sure Fili will not mind."

Bofur frowned in confusion. "What?"

"You are here to see Kili are you not?" Dis answered. Bofur nodded his head and muttered a half embarrassed yes, allowing Dis to steer him towards the room her sons were in.

"Fili won't mind will he?" The toymaker had to ask knowing how he got when his own brother and cousin were sick.

Dis shook her head with a reassuring smile. "Not at all. You are considered almost an uncle to them, an unruly one mind you and some of the stories you tell them are far from appropriate."

The toymaker glanced at Dis a moment taking in what she had said. Then he pulled himself together.

"The inappropriate stories would be Dwalin's doing not mine," he said before encroaching upon the solitude the Fili and Kili had created.

When Bofur slide past the door, his view of the youngest Durin was obstructed by a head of blonde hair. Fili glanced over his shoulder towards the toymaker and offered a small nod of greeting before turning back to his slumbering brother.

"He will wake soon." The words pierced the air with carefully contained optimism.

Fili did not look up. "He needs the rest."

"Aye. That is true," Bofur acknowledged with a nod of his own, "Considering he will be trying to run, walk and fly all at the same time in the very near future against Oin's expressed wishes."

This elicited a small smile from the young dwarf beside the bed, the blonde's blue gaze still locked on his brother's form. "I think that uncle would tie him down before he had the chance to do any of those things, let alone all three of them at once."

"You might be right," Bofur chuckled softly before sobering up again. "I am sorry with what happened."

Fili shrugged. "It is not your fault."

Bofur did not respond, not knowing what to say. So instead he moved to lean against a wall, folding his arms over his ribs and letting out a deflating breath.

"Hakim was a dwarfish miner with a very funny fear,

This fear was something very big and something very queer.

Each day he would go down to mine to find some dirt and rocks,

And each day he would receive very many shocks."

The words were mumbled, barely audible in the air yet they drew the attention of the second youngest dwarf in the room. Bofur fell silent again at the blue eyed glance, yet was surprised when Fili shook his head slightly.

"You can keep going if you want," he said.

Bofur frowned. "You don't mind?"

"No," came Fili's response. Bofur drew in a breath and paused for a moment, before choosing to exhale words.

"You see in the rocky mines it was very deep and dark,

Light by candles and lanterns and the odd golden spark.

Hakim was deemed very brave by dwarfish measure,

But in the darkened mines he could find no pleasure.

He would hear sounds in the darkness of banging and shouts,

Not knowing they were merely dwarves searching for new routes.

So one day he took an axe and followed the strange noise,

Lost his footing in the black and fell down with much poise."

Fili smiled again and this time looked up to the toymaker. "I've always wondered whether that actually happened."

"It might have," Bofur replied with a grin, "Miners were well known to loose their way and walk off the edge of a path when I still worked as one."

"No, I mean a miner being afraid of the dark," Fili said.

Bofur shrugged. "I know I was when I first started out. My father had to drag me in the first day I was too work."

Fili raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Really?"

"I got over it eventually," Bofur said with a cheery grin, "But it took a while for me to go back in a second time. An entire month I think it was."

The blonde dwarf before him shook his head and glanced back down at his brother. "Who would have known you were afraid of the dark?"

"It happens," the toymaker replied good humoredly, glad to see the blonde smiling despite his obvious worry for his brother. The only problem was that Bofur wanted to see the same smile on Kili's face as well. "It must have been a shock to come home and find your brother like this."

"At least he was awake when I arrived," Fili replied, seeming not to want to dwell on the matter, "He is also healing."

I don't suppose one could ask for more. The thought echoed around Bofur's head like the sound of pickaxes in a mine.

"Why did he have to get into trouble at all?" Fili's words did not seem to address anyone in particular. "I knew. I knew that something would happen. Something always does when I'm not here to watch him."The blonde's words were getting more agitated with each passing moment.

"It's not your fault," Bofur cut in, unable to stand there any longer, "There was nothing you could have done, nothing anyone could have done."

"There should have been something that could have prevented me from returning home to a brother that is practically torn to shreds," Fili ranted.

"If there was do you not think that your uncle or I would have done it, that Dwalin would have done it when he took the lad hunting?" Bofur said, "I am sorry lad, but this is the way fate played out."

Fili bowed his head. "I suppose you are right."

"Right about what?" The question was so unexpected that it took a moment for both Bofur and Fili to realise where it had come from.

"Kili!" Nothing could disguise the joy in Fili's voice.

"Good to see your eyes open lad," Bofur smiled, his eyes looking warmly down on the youngest dwarf in the room.

"Bofur?" The question was a weak one, but it made the toymaker smile none the less.

"Aye laddie. It's me," he said as he leant forward to ruffle the youth's hair. Kili winced a smile in reply.

"Do you need more of the drink Oin gave you before?" Fili asked only to have his brother shake his head, Kili's eyes still locked on Bofur.

"Do you remember anything?" the toymaker asked. He watched as Kili frowned for a moment.

"No," the youth said as he scrunched his eyes in thought, "It's all…blurry, but I remember you saying something."

"You were out of it when Dwalin brought you in," Bofur informed the youth. He paused for a moment, watching Kili stare back at him. "I have tarried here long enough, so I will take my leave. Don't worry, you'll be up and about in the blink of an eye, or thereabouts." The words kept flowing from his mouth even as the toymaker retreated through the door.

Looking around Bofur spotted Dis in the corner, dozing in a chair with her stewing on her lap. He smiled slightly at the sight of the generally strong woman looking so gentle before backing out the door.

"You can stop by any time you like," a voice called behind him.

Bofur turned to face Dis who had not risen from her chair.

"I know Kili would enjoy your stories," the dwarfish woman continued, "Fili too."

"It would be my pleasure to share them," Bofur said, before swiping his hat off in an exaggerated farewell. "Until next time, my lady."

"It is Dis," the woman called after him, her words carried by the breeze in the air that had somehow managed to steal Bofur's hat from his head sending the toymaker chasing it down the street.

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