Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 5

Dwalin watched as the door shut close behind the retreating form of the toymaker. The warrior's last words to Bofur hung in the air, the short phrase a binding promise to which Dwalin had made binding for both him and his brother.

We will.

"I need to speak to Thorin," Dwalin heard Balin say beside him. The tall warrior looked down on his older brother.

"I doubt you will be able to draw him away from Kili's side," Dwalin commented, a grim look upon his face.

"It would only be for a brief moment or two," Balin admonished, "And I need the documents for which I came here for yesterday. Thorin also needs to decide how he will inform both Fili and Dis on what has occurred to their youngest kin as well."

Dwalin rubbed his face with a hand for he had forgotten the issue of Kili's two remaining family members who were still in the dark about the bear attack. The pair were still not due back for a while and in that while anything could happen, something which Dwalin was increasingly fearful of. Again guilt flooded the tattooed dwarf's mind at having not protected his young charge better, but Dwalin quickly brushed the feeling aside, focusing back on his brother.

"You were always better at reasoning with him," Dwalin said gruffly, crossing his arms as he did so. Balin sent him a withering glance knowing that his younger sibling has purposely pushed the task of dragging Thorin away from his nephew's bedside on purpose.

"He needs a break from that room in any case," Balin muttered under his breath before directing his next words at his brother, "Don't go anywhere."

"Wasn't planning on it," Dwalin responded, his words going unheard as his brother disappeared into the room of the injured in order to draw Thorin out.

The seasoned warrior dropped heavily into a seat by the table which had so recently witnessed Dwalin's efforts to save the life of his friend's youngest nephew first hand. Dis would not be pleased that he had allowed such harm to come to her youngest son, she would be outraged even and rightly so. If Dwalin were in Dis' place, he would be livid with himself, but Dis was still travelling and would not be back to cast judgment for some time.

"I left the papers on the table," Thorin said, the dwarfish leader's words floating to Dwalin in the warrior's state of detachment from the world surrounding him.

"They are not there," Balin answered causing Dwalin to snap his head up.

"I left them on the table yesterday and have not touched them since," Thorin replied as Dwalin silently took in the sight before him and the conversation going on between his brother and his friend.

Both Balin and Thorin were crossing the room towards him from the doorway they had just exited, Dwalin's brother having somehow managed to wrangle Thorin out of the room. Balin was making to reply to Thorin's last statement when both dwarves froze, all words halting in their mouths as the pair stared ahead of them. Dwalin followed the gaze of the two dwarves to the table and then to the floor. He then turned back to his brother and Thorin, deciding to jump in before something snapped in either one or both of them at the pile of bloodied papers on the floor.

"We had to move them to make room," Dwalin explained a little sheepishly as he watched Thorin closely, the dwarfish leader's face frozen in a blank expression, all colour having faded rom his face.

Balin took two swift steps over to the stained red documents on the floor, sweeping up a few before shaking his head as eh realized he could not save the written work.

"Never mind," the white bearded dwarf said as he crumpled the sheets of paper in his hands, "I do not need them urgently as of yet."

Thorin did not seem to hear the old dwarf's words and Dwalin quickly guided his friend into a chair as the dark haired dwarf began to collapse in on himself.

"Tell me how it happened," Thorin said beseechingly to the tattooed dwarf as he dropped his head to his hands in despair. Dwalin looked to his brother for guidance, not wanting to depart the horrific incident to anyone, let alone Thorin, but Balin too looked curious and at an encouraging nod from the white bearded dwarf Dwalin took in a breath to begin his tale.

"There was a deer," the seasoned warrior said, mentally readying himself for the memories that would no doubt assault him as he parted with them, "Kili had his bow drawn, ready to shoot it. His pony caught scent of the bear which we could not see at the time and bucked, throwing the lad and causing him to loose his grip on the string of the bow. The arrow went flying into the bushes where the bear was lurking."

The faces of the two dwarves opposite Dwalin blanched stark white, both knowing that such a shot would have enraged the bear, and to enrage a bear was to have a death wish. A mass of almost unstoppable flesh, a single adult bear could tower over a man. To a dwarf, they were giants to be avoided at all costs.

"Kili was winded from landing on the ground and the pony had skimmed over his hand with a hoof," Dwalin continued, his voice now noticeably shaking as he unconsciously clenched his hands at the thought of the attack, "He…he barely had time to stand before the bear was upon him. It caught him in the chest with a paw, throwing him back where it proceeded to tear into Kili's arms which he had thrown up to protect his face. It happened so fast; by the time I had opened a large gash in the beast's flank your nephew was already lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood."

Dwalin was now speaking directly to Thorin as though trying to both put up a defence and apologise for his actions and the fact that he had let something so bad happen to the dwarfish leader's youngest kin.

"The bear retreated when it became clear that killing the boy would not be as easy as he had thought," the seasoned warrior said without the vicious relish that would have usually accompanied his words at the talk of defeating an enemy, and as soon as he had finished his last sentence, Dwalin let silence claim his tongue.

Thorin sat bolt upright in the chair he was seated in, every possible look of horror and dismay fighting for a place upon his face. Balin stood beside the dark haired dwarf, his own face unreadable as his eyes looked frozen in Dwalin's direction. Dwalin allowed his usually strong shoulders to crumple and sag, the guilt he had pushed away earlier now running rabid in his mind.

"I am sorry," he breathed softly, still speaking only to his old friend, "So sorry." This seemed to shock Thorin out of his state of incomprehension and a frown found its way onto the dwarfish leader's face.

"What are you sorry for?" he asked sounding genuinely confused. Dwalin avoided the dwarf's smoky blue eyes as Thorin tried to determine what it was exactly that the warrior was apologising for.

"Had I seen the bear, realized it was there…" Dwalin managed to get out, fumbling for words as he tried to find a way to explain his guilt, explain why exactly Thorin should be mad at him.

"It wasn't your fault, brother," Balin cut in before Dwalin could voice more of his apparent faults in handling the situation, "I have told you this before."

"I was supposed to be watching out for him," Dwalin argued, eyes still locked on the floor by his feet, "He was under my care and therefore my responsibility."

"You could not have anticipated a bear attack," Thorin spoke up in an effort to cut through his friend's self imposed misery, "And Kili has always been one to attract trouble. It is not your fault and nor do I blame you for what has happened."

"But-"

"I do not blame you," Thorin repeated, crouching opposite Dwalin and pressing his forehead to the warrior's.

"Dis will though," Dwalin muttered despondently.

"That remains to be seen," the tattooed dwarf's brother said sharply from above, "And on that note, it also remains to be seen whether or not Dis and Fili will be told of what has happened."

Thorin stood at this last part at the same time Dwalin raised his head. The three dwarves present knew that Kili's mother and brother needed to be informed of all that had befallen him, yet they were most likely travelling even as the thought entered Balin, Dwalin and Thorin's mind and so would be almost impossible to reach. As it was, it was still a decision Thorin had to make.

"They will be told once they return," the dark haired dwarf finally stated. Balin frowned and Dwalin closed his eyes for a brief moment, hoping his brother was not about to argue with Thorin's decision. There was enough drama going on in his life as it was without the need for his older brother and his friend to argue.

"You cannot just leave them in the dark about this," Balin insisted, his voice rising slightly with the passion of which laced his words.

"It would be impossible to reach them now," Thorin countered, his face darkening as his temper began to brush its fingers against his mind, "They would have left the village by now and have at least a four day journey ahead of them. How do you suppose I contact them?"

"Have someone ride out and meet them halfway," Balin suggested.

"And if they take a different rout?" Thorin asked, "No, they will be informed upon their return as soon as they set foot inside the gates."

"As you wish," Balin said, finally backing down much to Dwalin's relief.

The seasoned warrior was glad that the two had stopped arguing and he allowed himself to exhale the breath he had been holding silently. His brother's next words, however, sent a cold and dark chord ringing through the Dwalin's mind.

"It may be too late by then," Balin said softly. Thorin's head bowed low as an iron fist squeezed Dwalin's heart.

"I know," the dwarfish leader said, "I know."

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