Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 41

The words seemed to be blurred on the parchment for a reason that was not entirely unknown to the dwarf holding it. His hands shook involuntarily, yet there was a calm steadiness to his breath, or at least there would have been if it were not caught in the warrior's throat.

Kili is awake.

The simple three worded messaged scrawled across the page in handwriting only slightly worse than Dwalin's own had the dwarf unconsciously straightening his spine and lifting his shoulders. Who the message was from was not hard to determine, for Balin would have told him in person if his older brother were to tell him about the news instead of forcing him to see the young lad for answers. Besides Balin had a key to their shared house and would not have had to resort to sliding the parchment under the door.

Thorin was also not responsible, the dwarfish leader having left on a patrol before the message was delivered. The lady Dis joined her letters together and wrote with a far lighter touch than had been used to write the sentence. That put her too out of suspicion, leaving only two possible choices.

Kili is awake.

Dwalin doubted Fili would have left his brother's side since the waking of the younger dwarf. Even if he had, the blonde dwarf would have spoken to him in person. That left only one name – Bofur.

The warrior smiled and shook his head.

Since Dwalin had come to know the cheerful toymaker he had learned that Bofur could not keep from medalling with a situation that he thought he could do something about. It was a trait that was both irritating and uncalled for and as Dwalin read the written words for a third time it was a trait that he was thankful for. Only now it presented him with a dilemma.

Kili was awake and judgment was imminent. The question was whether he faced that judgment like the warrior he was or wait until the judgment sought him out itself.

Looking back down at the parchment in his hands Dwalin sighed and closed his eyes. He knew he Bofur had not given him the message so that he knew that Kili was alive and healing, and that knowledge ruled out the second of his two options.

Glancing at the where a chunk of meat sat waiting by a knife and a cooking pot Dwalin rubbed his forehead. His brother would understand if the stew he had promised to make was not finished by the time he returned from whatever business it was he was conducting. The warrior was sure Balin would be overjoyed to hear the reason as to why he had not cooked dinner so much so that he would not worry about the broken promise. After all, the older dwarf had been pushing Dwalin to visit Kili for himself ever since he had managed to convince him not to hunt down the bear.

Mind made up the tattooed dwarf stood, a strange sense of queasiness forming in his stomach like it formed before a battle of which Dwalin was not sure he would return from. Closing his eyes and inhaling a breath that echoed through his chest the warrior closed his hand around the handle of the door and pulled, the force that ran through his arm causing the door to go flying towards him. Stepping out he released the air trapped within him and made for the place that housed the last of the line of Durin.

The sun of the late afternoon shone down on him enveloping his skin in a heated embrace similar to that of fires in the forge. The streets were busy, merchants trying to sell their wares, children chasing after dogs and folk in general moving to and from the markets, mines and forges. A large crowd was gathering around the road that led from the gates to the town and picking up on the excitement and astonishment in the air Dwalin paused a moment to view the spectacle.

The familiar faces that were being surrounded by curious eyes and poorly executed whispers were clearly just returning from a patrol. Thorin, whom the warrior knew had gone with the company of guards, was absent, most likely attending to certain duties back at the gates. Had he been present however, the dwarfish leader's demanding presence would have been engulfed by that of the dead creature the guards were doing their best to haul along the ground.

A vicious satisfaction crept up on Dwalin as he turned from the sight to continue on his way. The beast was dead and though he had not stuck the killing blow himself the warrior could sleep easier knowing that Kili had, in some way, been avenged. The joyous thoughts did not last for long though and soon the tall dwarf found himself again entertaining the same queasiness from before.

To say he was afraid would be a lie, but to say that he was utterly free from both nerves and fear would also fall far from the truth. Dwalin was a fighter however, and he would not be cowed by such thoughts, at least not outwardly. Inwardly the dwarf was doubting his decision with every footfall that drew him closer to the dreaded sickroom. He clenched and unclenched his fists, taking to counting the number of steps he had taken. Indeed the warrior had been so focused on his task that he almost failed to notice the large door that had suddenly loomed up before him.

In Dwalin's honest opinion, the wooden door had the look of a dragon that was preparing to eat him.

Kili is awake.

The warrior closed his eyes. No matter how much Dwalin wanted to run, he could not hide any longer nor could he delay what needed to happen. So he lifted his hand to knock and knock he did, the thud vibrating the wood it traveled through.

"Dwalin." Dis' voice was full of surprise as she opened the door.

The named dwarf gave a small nod in response.

"Please, come in," the lady in front of him urged, her strong arms ushering the burly warrior inside the door. Looking up to where Dwalin's eyes were Dis smiled. "I take it you are here to see Kili?"

Again the dwarf in question nodded, grunting slightly as he did so. Dwalin's eyes scanned the room unaware that he was beginning to hunch in on himself at the prospect of who he was about to face. He moved towards the door that the one whom he had come to see laid behind after an affirmation from Dis he would be disturbing nothing when he entered.

Dwalin stopped short at the wooden barrier, taking a moment to collect himself. He itched at his beard for a moment before attempting to straighten his shoulders. Then he reached out and grabbed the thing that would allow him access to the room just beyond him. Drawing in a breath the warrior tensed his muscles and pushed.

As Dwalin made his way through the door Fili swung his head around to meet the older dwarf's gaze. The blonde gave a reassuring smile before turning his blue eyes back to his brother who was allowing the last sounds of a dying laugh to escape his lips. The young dwarf too turned his head towards the interruption, face falling into a mask of impassiveness as he did so.

Dwalin froze as those brown eyes found him. They took a moment studying him in a sort of hidden confusion before drawing their conclusions about the dwarf before them. Slowly, ever so painstakingly slow, they smiled, a naïve innocence and less than naïve knowledge shinning in their depths. The warrior took in a sharp and silent breath as the youth's mouth opened and he heard Kili speak for the first time since the screaming.

"I forgive you."

Dwalin barely stopped himself from closing his eyes and deflating in relief. As it was, he could not stop himself from smiling in reply and nodding his head in a gesture of thanks to the younger dwarf. It was as if the great weight that had been slowly crushing him beneath layers of guilt and, fear, worry and shame was finally being lifted and the flame of despair had been at long last snuffed out.

I forgive you.

Those three words were all he had needed to hear.


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