Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 27

The sun was shinning, the streets were crowded with those going about their business, and Bofur had never been more relieved in his life, save for the time when he had been informed Bifur would make it through. It now had been five days since Kili had been attacked by a bear and the lad was presumably healing well despite any pain he might be in.

It can only get better. Bofur hoped the thought would not prove to be a lie.

The toymaker squinted as he peered out his store window, the sun glaringly bright. His fingers picked away at the splinter he had been gifted with earlier by a bird he had been carving. His nose wrinkled in distain at the wood dust that floated in the air. He then puckered his lips and began to whistle a tuneless tune.

The dwarf felt reenergised after finally being able to sleep without being plagued by worries about whether or not Kili would make it another night. Bofur knew his cousin felt the same way too, if only because he had stopped pacing outside Bifur's door for the duration of the night. The large dwarf could become very irritable if aggravated, and once that happened no one could get any sleep.

"Wonderful," Bofur gasped softly as the slither of wood he had been working on finally worked its way out, popping into the open along with a few speckles of blood. "Now let's see if I can finish this bird."

To anyone else, the act of the toymaker talking to himself would have been cause for concern or a since of senility. To the toymaker himself, however, it was a normal, natural thing and the dwarf took no shame in the practice. Neither did his cousin, who was at the current point in time sitting beside him, judge him for it.

Thanking Bifur for passing him back the incomplete wooden bird, Bofur took up his knife and began to whittle away at the pine. This wood was soft, not as soft as the cotton he used to make the frocks of the dolls he sold, but softer than the wood he usually used. It smelt like the forest as well, tangy and crisp like the magnificent tree it had once been a part of. Now it was a crippled bird with an incomplete wing and tail.

The toymaker hoped that the small toy would bring happiness to one or more dwarflings. He hoped the same thing with all his toys, but Bofur had already had to rip three splinters from his fingers and Bifur had to help bandage his palm from when his knife slipped. The detail in the carving was far from what Bofur usually tried to achieve, each feather at the end of the right wing clearly visible, the eyes beady and almost alive.

Bifur had gone for lunch when Bofur finished the bird, smiling at his craftsmanship. Stretching, he set down his instruments and glanced outside.

"I guess it's about time I took a break," he said with a small grin as he closed the store door behind him. The toys on the shelves shuddered slightly at the force, appearing as though they were waving goodbye.

Whistling, the toymaker relished the warmth on his cheeks and the tip of his nose. He hated it when there was a cold wind in the air, because no matter how much he bundled on his cheeks and nose would also be exposed to the frigid air. It was also hard to be down when the sun was so very high up.

Bofur's tune took him right to the door of the place where another cheery sun was beginning to rise. Stilling his lips, the dwarf made himself known to those inside.

"Dwalin?" The toymaker could not mask his surprise at seeing the dwarfish warrior before him.

"Aye," Dwalin replied simply, his tone of voice even more surprising.

Bofur was afraid to ask. "Is every alright with the lad?"

As if in answer Oin strode across the room behind Dwalin to the out of sight kitchen, a determined look stretched across his face. The last hope that Bofur had was burned to an ashy husk almost immediately.

"What…?" the toymaker asked as he sagged limply against the empty air absently pushing his hat down onto his forehead, dumfounded. "What is it?"

Dwalin needed only one word to answer in his emotionless voice. "Bad infection."

Bofur merely shook his head in disbelief, still staggered from the news. "No. No…. Why? Why of all…. He was doing so…so…." The words refused to come out properly, the dwarf forcing out noiseless air rather than sound. The toymaker looked up to the warrior in front of him. "I thought… How did it come about? When did it…it happen?"

"You would have to ask Thorin or Dis," Dwalin answered flatly.

Bofur closed his eyes. "Durin's beard…. How are they taking it? How's Fili taking it?"

"Not well," Dwalin said gruffly, looking as though he was slowly being drawn back in to the sick room.

Bofur stood in the doorway, thinking. He desperately wanted to see the lad for himself, to see if what Dwalin had said was true, but with the dwarfling's family as well as Oin and Dwalin already in the house it would prove to be crowded. There was nothing that made Bofur more uncomfortable than a group of people pathetically waiting for news of a sick loved one. It was something that had developed when he had been waiting for news of Bifur with his brother and his brother's entire family and had not lost over the years. Many people usually meant that the chances of pulling through were slim.

"Give them my sympathies," the toymaker finally said to the warrior in front of him. Dwalin nodded his head in ascent before stepping back inside and closing the door all the while giving a mumbled farewell.

Bofur stood there a moment more, eyes downcast as greying clouds overtook the once shinning sun. Then he turned and walked back the way he had come, a bounce no longer evident in his step. The wooden bird he had been carrying hung limply in his hand, forgotten.

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