Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 38

Dwalin stabbed at the boot in his hand, cleaning out the dirt that was packed in it's bottom with the tip of his knife. He had been putting off the job for a while now, but when he had considered the fact there was nothing better for him to make use of his time with the warrior had forced himself to sit and do what needed to be done.

The confrontation near the woods the night before had left the tattooed dwarf to ponder his current take on the issue of Kili, an issue Dwalin's own brother seemed keen to allow him to ponder. No doubt the older dwarf was hoping he would come to the conclusion that he should visit the lad, but if he thought that he clearly did not know his brother.

The bulky dwarf let out a small grunt as his knife skidded across the sole of his boot, scraping a light line over the bland colour. He moved his fingertips further down away from the sole, the blade having come to close to the edges of his fingers for his liking. Then again a lot of things were going to close to the edge for his liking, Kili's life being one of them. Should the lad die Dwalin doubted if he would ever forgive himself.

But maybe Kili would forgive him instead.

Fili's words had sparked a small hope inside of the warrior, one he could not quench with fear or despair. The blonde dwarf had said that Kili would forgive him, and nobody knew Kili as well as his own brother did. What cause did the older of Thorin's two nephews have to lie in any case? None that Dwalin could think of and that in itself was a small comfort. Kili would forgive him. Perhaps. Yet that didn't mean the tattooed dwarf could remove himself from the ravenous pit a far stronger, more painful emotion than hope had built around him.

Dwalin knew without doubt that he had been responsible for what had happened. Besides the stone crushing and mind numbing guilt that came with this, it meant that there was no way the dwarf could ever be completely absolved from his mistakes. He should have been more vigilant, should not have frozen even if it were only for a moment of a moment. He could have prevented the attack by not taking the lad out with him in the first place, not before ensuring the area they would be hunting in was completely safe for the seventh time. There was nothing that could excuse these actions, even if the person they had caused harm to did.

Sighing to himself before filling up on the air around him yet again, Dwalin gave up on his boot and buried the knife in the first thin layer of wood on the table. His brother would not be happy, but the mark would barely stand tall over the length of the tip of his fingernail. It was nothing to worry over and it was just another wound to add to the already scarred face of the wood, wood that mimicked the scars on his own skin and each one was a story to tell.

There was the small line by his right thumb, white for the most part but purple in the cold. It was the earliest scar Dwalin could remember having, given to him by his own brother's rare stupidity. They had been mere dwarflings then, far younger than Kili was now. Balin had been showing his brother how to flick things with a knife when something had rattled the windows and Balin had dropped the weapon in surprise right above where Dwalin's thumb flowed into his hand. The edge of the blade had landed only a glancing blow, but the wound had allowed enough blood to flow from it to convince a young Dwalin he was dying.

Another, more solemn scar bore the memory of the day their father had passed on into the halls of Mahal, Dwalin having lost focus during sparing with another dwarf and landed himself in the care of a healer with a large gash running down the length of his upper arm.

Then there was his ear, or what was left of it, the other part lost somewhere in the grounds of Moria a long time ago. That day had been a black one, far blacker than the day where the sun had been blotted out by the fiery smoke of Smaug. Many good dwarves had died that day receiving a warrior's death reserved for the brave and the fearless. That day a ruler had fallen and another leader had risen in his place. That day was a king killer and a legend maker. That day was the day Dwalin had sworn to watch over the line of Durin and keep it safe no matter the personal cost to him.

Each scar from then onwards was a scar the dwarf had earned keeping true to his promise. Each scar was something to be proud of.

Kili would have his own scars to live with should he awaken, scars that would remind him of the horror that he had lived through. And those scars would be there because of Dwalin, a constant reminder of his mistake. The scars would never go away, and neither would the consequences of Dwalin's actions, the consequences of the attack. The lad would have nightmares no doubt, though ones far less horrific than the nightmares Dwalin had suffered after his first real battle and the nightmares that featured orcs and dragons slaying dwarfs like they were nothing.

"What's that knife doing in the table?" Balin's voice did not sound pleased.

Dwalin only rolled his shoulders backwards, both cracking as they swiveled in their joints.

"Well don't just sit there, get it out."

Letting his back hunch back over into a more relaxed position, Dwalin abided by his brother's words and reached one hand out to tug at the blade still embed in the table.

"Anyone would think you were raised by a wild animal."

"Not all of us are concerned about manners, brother," Dwalin replied.

"Well you should be," Balin told him, eyes narrowed in a reprimanding gaze.

Dwalin said nothing as he brother wandered past, giving one last withering look towards the younger dwarf before disappearing into his room that was filled with the various documents he poured over every night. The tattooed dwarf leaned back in his chair and flexed his fingers, staring at the blemish on his thumb for one last moment before replacing his knife back into the wood beside him.

The lad will grow used to the scars. Hopefully.

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