Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 9

The forest look dark and foreboding from where Dwalin stood, as if it were eager to devour any who stepped foot within its wall of impassible trees. The seasoned warrior was sure that it had not looked that way only two days before, but now that the forest's floors were stained with dwarf's blood it would never appear the same.

"Ready to kill some orcish filth?" a voice asked beside him. Dwalin turned his head to look down at Gloin.

"I'm ready for this to be over," the taller dwarf growled, blinking as the light drizzle of rain began to pour down harder.

I'm ready for this all to be over. All he needs to do is wake.

"With luck you will be out of the rain soon enough," Gloin said testing the edge of his axe with one finger. Dwalin just grunted in response.

With luck, when I return to see how he is doing there will be good news.

The grim thoughts echoed in Dwalin's otherwise empty mind, suffocating him under waves of worry and fear, drowning him in an endless pool of despair and sheer tiredness, for Dwalin was tired. It was only the second day since the accident and he was tired, completely spent emotionally, and the tattooed dwarf knew he was not the only one. Thorin walked over to the group of assembled warriors, and in that instant the dwarfish leader's blue-grey gaze locked with Dwalin's. The same weariness that had engulfed Dwalin was reflected in Thorin's own eyes.

What if Thorin loses him? If we all lose him?

The thought was not a happy one.

"Move out," Thorin called from where he stood and the gathering of dwarves moved into the forest. Dwalin winced every step of the way, the bear attack still fresh in his mind.

Dark visions assaulted Dwalin as he brushed past the first tree, an immaterial mass of flesh and fur appearing before his eyes. The warrior hesitated, but only briefly, not long enough for anyone to notice. Well anyone except Thorin. Again the Dwalin found his gaze drawn towards that of his friend's and again words were not needed for each dwarf to understand the other's thoughts.

Dwalin shook his head, trying to clear it so he could perform the task that needed to be performed without getting injured or killed. Even if there were no orcs in the forest, the seasoned warrior had already been proved that it was still a very dangerous place to be.

"We were attacked nor far from here," came the voice of the dwarf who Dwalin had greeted that morning. He was still in the clothes covered in the blood of his comrade.

There had been so much blood….

"Be on guard," Thorin's voice said, one hand grasping the hilt of his sword but not drawing it. Dwalin mimicked this action with the axe on his back.

The tattooed dwarf's eyes scanned the area around him, well aware of the fact that Gloin was striding along beside him, the ginger bearded dwarf bristling in the anticipation of a good fight. It had been a while since any of the warriors in the village had a chance to stretch their stiffened legs.

Soon the group came to the area in which the attack had happened. Dark stains of saturated earth were scattered around, as were a few orcish bodies. Dwalin kicked one, ensuring the being was dead before looking over to Thorin for instructions. The dwarfish leader was conversing with one of the dwarves who had been on the patrol.

"Which direction did they go off in?"

"I'm not sure," came the answer to Thorin's question, "There was a lot of commotion."

The dwarf who had spoken shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"From where I'm standing, north," another dwarf answered, the black haired warrior's arms folded over his chest. He too was painted in blood, but it was only his arms that were so.

"Are you sure?" asked Thorin, not eager to waste time going on a wild goose chase when his youngest nephew had yet to wake back at his home.

"I am sure," the dwarf replied after a brief pause. His words did not ease Dwalin's tension. In a forest, surrounded by trees, it would be easy for them to be taken by surprise. Not a good thing since their potential enemy was a group of bloodthirsty orcs.

The group began to move again, their footsteps muffled by the other more natural sounds of the forest. Gloin stayed by Dwalin's side and Dwalin's eyes stayed fixed on his leader. He had failed one Durin already. He would not fail another.

Looking up at the sky, the seasoned warrior frowned. This was taking longer than he had expected, longer than he wanted it to take. Then again, Dwalin had not expected them to find the orcs as soon as they had set foot in the forest, though it would have been a nice notion had it been that way. The tattooed dwarf's thoughts then flew to Kili and Bofur, wondering how they both were faring, one more so than the other.

It was because he was not paying attention that Dwalin missed the orc hanging overhead.

A short cry rang out amongst the group of dwarves as Thorin was caught by surprise. The orc that had forced the dwarfish leader to the ground by jumping on his shoulders rolled away, drawing a crooked knife as it went. Several of the dwarves who had been standing by Thorin rushed to their leader's aid, but were waylaid as more orcs came out of the foliage and cut them off. They could do nothing as Durin's heir warded off the attacks of the orc who had surprised him.

Dwalin growled in frustration as he lost sight of Thorin in favor of cutting down the ugly face that had suddenly come out of nowhere. When he looked up again, Thorin and the orc he had been battling was gone.

"Damn it!" he cried, sinking his axe into the head of a charging orc.

I should have been watching more closely.

Dwalin shook his head. There was no time to berate himself now. That could be done later when he had found Thorin in one piece.

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