TRIGGER WARNING: Just a heads up, this chapter contains corporal punishment (most) possibly (nearly certainly) crossing the line into outright child abuse. I was more than a bit upset while writing this chapter and the material contained herein may be triggering for some readers. Skipping this chapter will not take too much from the story or make what follows unintelligible. If you do not think this is something you can handle, pm me and I will tell you of all the important developments that come out of it without any of the gory details.
Dís was startled by a knock on the door. It was far too earlier for her boys to be out of practice yet and at any rate they never knocked, they just came bursting through the door. Dusting her hands off on her apron before removing it, she walked to the front door.
"Hello?" she said opening it. The sight that met her made her blood run cold. Fíli was standing there, his face and clothing splattered with blood. More shocking even than that, was the death grip Dwalin had on his upper arm and the sternness of her cousin's features. That, and Kíli's shocked, pale face.
"Dwalin . . . Fíli . . . what?" she tried to form a coherent question but one wouldn't come.
"Dís," Dwalin said sadly.
"What . . . why is he . . . are you hurt?" she asked bending slightly to inspect him. It was only then that she noticed that his hands were bound behind his back. Anger at her cousin for binding her son warred with shock in her veins and left her feeling faint.
"It's not his, Dís," Dwalin said sharply. "It's Dorin's."
"Dorin? Forin's boy? But . . . "
"Fíli nearly killed him at practice today," Dwalin said squeezing Fíli's arm and causing the boy to flinch. "Don't know what started it, looked like a normal enough bout but when he went down and yielded, Fíli refused to stop. I thought he'd killed him by the time we pulled him off until the other lad groaned."
"No," Dís breathed, unable to believe that Fíli—her sweet little Fíli—could be capable of such a thing. "Fíli . . . why?" Rather than reply, Fíli looked at where the door met to floor. He couldn't stand to see the disappointment in his mother's eyes but he also could bear to tell her why he'd done it. He couldn't hurt her that way.
"He wouldn't tell me why he'd done it either," Dwalin said. "Won't even look at me."
"Fíli," she tried again, hating the waver she heard in her own voice. "Please. Please tell me." She felt as if someone had grabbed her heart from her chest when Fíli only turned his head further from her. She felt tears prickling her eyes at his refusal. She knew there was a reason he'd done it. There had to be.
"Dís," Dwalin said, pulling her attention to him. She jumped, having almost forgotten her cousin was there. "I . . . I have to tell Thorin now. You know what this means." Dís nodded her head, sniffing back tears.
"I understand," she said, her voice barely audible. "We . . . we'll wait here." Dwalin nodded and nudged Fíli through the door, Kíli following right on his heels. Dís managed to keep her composure until she shut the door, only the tremor in her hands revealing just how upset she was. As soon as the door was latched her facade fell. With a sob she grabbed Fíli's shoulders and pressed him against the wall, dropping to her knees in front of him.
"Fíli, look at me," she ordered. Fíli cringed. He didn't want to look at her. He could hear the tears in her words and didn't actually want to see them in her eyes. Not when they were his fault. But at the same time, he could ignore a direct order from his mother. With a sigh, he reluctantly slid his eyes over to meet hers.
"I know that you had a reason for it," she said steadily. "and you have to tell me. Tell me why you did it." He shook his head not trusting himself to speak. He was shocked when his mother shook him. She'd never been rough with him. Not like this.
"Damn it, Fíli," she sobbed. "Now is not the time for this. I understand that you're ashamed of what you've done but—"
"I'm not," Fíli said quietly. "I'm not ashamed and I'd do it again."
"No," she scoffed. "No you won't. And you will tell me why you did it. You have to." He said nothing but merely looked away from her once more. Knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere with him she turned to her youngest.
"Kíli," she pleaded, tears beginning to stream down her face at what Fíli was condemning himself to through his silence. "Please, Son . . . the two of you are never apart. You know why he did it, don't you? Please tell me." Kíli shifted uncomfortably, glancing from the broken form of his mother, who he'd never seen cry let alone beg, to his brother. He wanted to tell her what he knew, but a single, tiny shake of Fíli's head reminded him of his promise.
"I'm sorry, Mother," he breathed, unable to look at her while he lied. "I don't know anything about this." She gave several hysterical laughs before she could speak once more.
"Neither of you understand, do you?" she snapped, her face crumpling at their united front. "You don't know what this means. This is not a time for your secrets. Generally I don't care. Siblings have secrets from their parents. Mahal knows that your uncles and I had more than a few but now . . . you can't keep this a secret. You have to tell the truth. It's the only way out."
"Wha-what do you mean?" Kíli asked feeling himself go cold. He'd never seen his mother so frantic and it frightened him. If it was something that would shake his solid mother . . . he wasn't sure that he wanted to know.
"Your positions within our people afford you many privileges but there are things even the two of you can't do," she said simply. "This is one of them. This will be seen as attempted murder. Our laws have a punishment for that."
"But Uncle—" Kíli began only to be cut off by his mother.
"Can't overturn it," Dís snarled. "Even princes can't kill for no reason. Fíli, I know you had a reason. You have to explain it. You just . . . you have to. Please. I . . ."
"Fee," Kíli whispered, not liking the idea of his brother facing punishment for something that there was an explanation for that might clear him.
"No," Fíli replied, his tone hard. As were his eyes when they returned to his mother's. "I'm sorry, Mother. I can't do as you ask. I can't explain it. I won't. I'll take whatever the punishment is. I won't tell why I did it."
"You don't understand," Dís tried again. "You don't know what you're agreeing to. It—" She was cut off as the front door slammed open to admit Balin, Dwalin, Óin and Thorin. She shot to her feet and gripped her brother's upper arms, her touch nearly painful in her desperation.
"Please, Thorin, Brother, please," she begged, clinging to him. "Just . . . just give me a few more minutes. I . . . I know he'll tell me why he did it. He will. I just . . . please!"
"I can't, Dís," Thorin said, his tone sad his own eyes growing wet at the sight of his sister so distraught. "You know that. I wish I could but . . . take Kíli. Go visit Glóin and his wife. You . . . you don't need to be here for this."
"Please," she tried once more, her eyes filling with tears once more. "Please, Brother."
"Go, Dís," Thorin whispered. "Just . . . just go." She nodded, biting her lip to stifle her sobs as she turned to offer her hand to her youngest. She stopped at the door and turned back.
"Fíli," she said, her heart breaking as he still refused to look at her. "Please, just tell them. For me if not for yourself. I . . . don't make me see this. Even if you can't tell me; tell your uncle." He said nothing and with a final sob she slammed the door behind her, walking away quickly enough that Kíli had to jog beside her to keep up. She hated herself for abandoning her child at a time like this but she also knew that she wasn't strong enough to stay through what was to come.
Fíli flinched as he heard his mother slam the door. He'd never heard her slam a door before. Nor had he seen her cry. He hated what he was doing to her but the truth would not be any better. He flinched again at the sound of his uncle's voice. He's been on the receiving end of many lectures, but he'd never heard this tone before.
"Do you have any idea what you've done, lad?" Thorin rasped out more upset than he wanted to admit by the memory of his sister's pleading and the sight of his golden nephew bound in his own home. Fíli said nothing not trusting himself to speak without sobbing. Instead he swallowed and closed his eyes in an attempt to hide his tears. He wasn't sure what was going to happen next but he knew the moment his uncle had sent his mother and Kíli away that it wouldn't be good. He stiffened once more as he felt his uncle's hands come down on his shoulders forcing them into the wall once more.
"Answer me," Thorin ordered. "Do you know what you've done."
"I . . . I beat a classmate once he surrendered," Fíli replied. "I continued on when I should have stopped."
"No. You nearly killed him," Thorin growled. "And from what I've been told that was what you meant to do. This was no training accident. This was not a wrong answer on a test. This was not one of your foolish little mistakes. This was a crime, Fíli. Attempted murder in the eyes of the law. What do you have to say for yourself?" Fíli said nothing and Thorin released him angrily before beginning to pace in the entry swearing ferociously.
"You have one chance to avoid punishment," Thorin said, his eyes begging Fíli to take the chance.
"Wh-what is the punishment?" Fíli asked in a small voice. No one seemed to want to answer him. Eventually it was Balin that stepped forward and spoke.
"Attempted murder is a severe crime, Fíli," Balin said. "As such it carries a steep punishment. For an adult, the kin of the assaulted is permitted to administer one hundred lashes to the assaulter in the middle of the square with the instrument of his or her choice."
"And for a juvenile?" Fíli breathed.
"In the rare event that a juvenile attempts to murder another the punishment is much the same," Thorin snapped. "The count is still one hundred. The difference is that fifty of them are administered by the head of the family in private with only members of the council as witnesses and are to be below the waist. The remaining fifty are public and administered by the kin of the assaulted above the waist. There are also limitations on the instrument that may be used."
"And to avoid it?" Fíli asked, his voice sounding impossibly small.
"There must be a valid excuse for the assault," Thorin replied. "There are two opportunities to give this. You can tell me now and avoid any punishment if the reason is a good one or you can give it after the first fifty have been administered. This is a judicial punishment, not torture. Even if you give a reason in the middle, the sentence will be carried out. Do you understand? Once this begins the set will be delivered."
"I . . . I understand," Fíli said, steeling himself for what was to come. It would be unpleasant but he was sure that he could endure this. Better that then them knowing what had been said about his mother.
"Does that mean that you will tell me what happened?" Thorin asked.
"No," Fíli said, feeling bad as all of the elders sagged at his response. "I can't tell you."
"Fine," Thorin replied coldly gripping his arm and dragging him down the hall to his own bedroom. "Just remember you bring this on yourself." Fíli closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing as his boots and breaches were removed and he was bent over the edge of the bed, his uncle's large palm resting between his shoulder blades, pinning him to the bed.
"Last chance, lad," Thorin breathed into his ear. "Please don't force this on either of us. Just tell the truth."
"I can't," Fíli breathed.
"I hope your secret is worth it then," Thorin muttered standing and accepting the strap from Dwalin. "I truly hope it's worth it." Fíli braced himself for the first swat. It wasn't the first time he'd been spanked and he thought he knew what to expect. Nothing could have prepared him for it. What he didn't understand was that the council was there to ensure that the assaulter was punished by their kin. If a blow was seen to be too light by two out of three it did not count and would have to be repeated. Thorin was determined that this would not happen. He didn't want to have to strike his nephew more times than he was obligated to so instead he struck with more force than he wanted to. As it was, every blow that fell, every jolt of the small body beneath his hand, they all felt as if they were taking a piece of him. When Fíli began crying out it was everything he could do to continue and when the lad began to beg . . . it was only the knowledge that pausing would make the blows that followed more painful that drove him on. By the time he delivered the final stroke, there were tears sliding down his own cheeks.
With it delivered, he dropped the strap and unbound his nephew's hands before pulling Fíli against his chest and allowing the boy to cling to him while he sobbed. The other three filed out of the room, having done their legal obligation by witnessing the punishment. They had no desire to witness Thorin comforting the lad. That was far too private.
"Why can't you just tell me, lad," Thorin breathed into Fíli's sweaty hair. "Why did you make me do that to you? What could be so bad that you would force your mother to watch as another does the same?" Fíli froze, seeming not even to breathe.
"She'll have to w-watch?" Fíli managed to ask around his sobs.
"Aye, lad," Thorin replied. "As will Kíli. I could send them away for this part but it is central to the punishment. Just as your victim's mother has to watch him suffer, so must yours."
"Borin wasn't a victim," Fíli muttered. "He deserved everything I did and more."
"Why?" Thorin asked. "What did he do?" With a sigh Fíli decided that his secret was not worth it. Not if his mother would be punished along with him.
"You can't tell Mother," he begged. "I'll tell you if you promise not to tell her."'
"I can do that," Thorin agreed. "The council will have to be told but your mother does not. Nor does Kíli."
"Kíli knows," Fíli said. "Most of it anyway. The other day when we went to the market Borin and his cousins came out of the alley. There were some words exchanged and Borin grabbed Kíli. He . . . he called him a mongrel. Said that Mother had sex with an elf and that's where Kíli came from."
"Those are harsh words, lad, but not worth killing him over," Thorin said feeling anger burn in his own veins at what the lad had dared to say about Dís and Kíli. Even if Dís had taken a second lover after her husband—which she hadn't—it would never have been an elf.
"That's not the end of it," Fíli argued. "Today, when we were sparring, He called Kíli a mongrel again and . . . he threatened to break Kíli's arm once he defeated me. I . . . I couldn't let him do that, Uncle. I couldn't let him touch Kíli. I had to stop him." Thorin nodded, trying to keep his own face impassive despite the rage he felt. He couldn't believe another dwarfling would plot such a thing against one of his heirs but he also knew that Fíli was no liar. As did the council. And as hard as it was to believe, that was an explanation that made more sense of the situation and one that the council would most likely accept. Defense of kin permitted many actions that were otherwise prohibited.
"There's just one more thing I must know," Thorin said pulling back to look into his nephew's red-rimmed eyes. "Why did you not tell Dwalin what Borin had threatened to do. He never would have allowed them to spar if you had." Fíli blinked at him in surprise. It was clear to Thorin that the thought of doing so had never even occurred to his nephew.
"I . . . I didn't think of it," Fíli said, his eyes going distant. "When he threatened Kíli . . . I don't remember thinking at all. I just . . . I knew I had to stop him. You understand, don't you, Uncle?" Thorin nodded and said nothing else before he stood and helped Fíli under the blankets.
"I will have your dinner brought to you when the time comes," Thorin said. "Do . . . do you want to see your brother. They should be back shortly."
"I . . . I'd rather not," Fíli replied. "I don't want him to see this. He knows what was said in the market. He'll only blame himself. Can you . . . can you—"
"I can tell him that it is part of your punishment," Thorin said, realizing that Fíli didn't want his brother to know that he didn't want him in there. "You'll have tonight to yourself. You're banned from class for at least a week. I will need to speak with Dwalin to learn just how long." Fíli nodded, not sure if he could attend class even if he wasn't banned. "I won't be able to keep your mother out but I can keep what was said from her. I understand now why you did not want her to know. Be that as it may, you still should have told me. It wouldn't have taken all of this for me to agree not to tell her."
"I'll remember that next time," Fíli replied looking up at his uncle without lifting his head.
"There'd better not be a next time, lad," his uncle said before walking from the room and closing the door behind him.
Thorin was sitting at the table when Dís and Kíli returned home. Dís took one look at her brother's face and knew what had happened.
"He wouldn't tell you, would he?" she whispered, sinking into the chair across from Thorin. "I'm going to have to—"
"He told me, Dís," Thorin cut her off.
"Why'd he do it?" she breathed, knowing that Fíli had to have had a reason and wanting to know what it was for her own peace of mind.
"I promised that I would not tell you," Thorin replied shaking his head. "I won't break that promise. Just take comfort in the fact that it was a good reason and the council agrees."
"So it's over?" she asked, her eyes alight with hope. "There will be no more fall-out?"
"Not exactly," he said, regretting his word choice the moment they left his lips as his sister paled. "Nothing like that, Sister," he promised reaching for her hand. "He is simply banned from training for a week and I've confined him to his room for the night. Alone."
"Then where am I supposed to sleep?" Kíli asked, reluctant to draw attention to himself but wondering it all the same. He wanted to see his brother, and didn't want to sleep alone in the main room. He'd never slept alone and wasn't sure that he was able to do so.
"You'll sleep with me," Thorin said simply, his tone one that even Kíli knew not to argue with. "Your brother is to be left in peace so he can think about what he's done."
"He's not even coming to supper?" Kíli asked.
"No, little one," Thorin said, not wanting to tell Kíli that it was probably kinder for Fíli to not attempt to sit at the table, "but he will not go without. I will take him a plate when the time comes."
"No," Dís cut in. "I will."
"Dís," Thorin sighed, trying to figure out how to tell her that Fíli was probably in no mood to receive visitors without telling Kíli what had been done to his brother.
"Don't you dare 'Dís' me, Thorin," she said, glaring at him. "I will see my son." Thorin said nothing but nodded. He knew that she would not like what she saw, but there was no way that he could keep her from it.
"Do as you will," he said instead. She snorted and he took it to mean what it did; that she would do as she pleased, and there was nothing he could do about it. And, despite all the foolish things he'd done in his life, even he wasn't foolish enough to stand between his sister and something she wanted.
Fíli was lying on the bed, attempting to ignore the pain in his backside when he heard a quiet knock on the door. He closed his eye and evened his breathing hoping that whoever had come would believe him to be asleep and leave. He was disappointed when he heard the steps cross the floor and the sound of something being set the bedside table before a hand stroked back his hair and a weight descended on the edge of his bed.
"I know you're not asleep," his mother said, still stroking his hair. "But you do not have to talk to me. I only ask that you listen." There was a pause and he heard her swallow.
"I don't understand why you did what you did today," she said, her voice abnormally thick. "I don't understand why you attacked that lad the way you did, or why you wouldn't tell me why you did. There is no way that this is better than telling me the truth would have been, Fíli. No matter why you did it, it wouldn't have made me love you any less. It couldn't have." She paused and pressed a kiss to his forehead before she stood and made her way towards the door.
"There's food on the table if you're hungry," she muttered. "I wish you would have confided in me, Fíli. I could have saved you this pain. I hate seeing you this way, Son. I love you too much to see you suffer, I only wish you understood what that means. Nothing you could ever do would make me stop loving you. Nothing you could tell me . . . even if you had killed that lad . . ." she trailed off with a sigh.
"Don't let that food get cold. It'll taste better hot," she said before closing the door and walking away.
Fíli waited a bit to make sure that she was truly gone before he forced himself upright and pulled the bowl towards him, eating mechanically as his mother's words bounced around his skull. No matter what she had said, he knew that there was no such love as she was describing. Love was earned, not given. And if she knew that he'd lost his temper over an insult and childish threat rather than seeking assistance . . . there was no way she would love him. He could hear how much his actions had upset her and if she knew that there had been another way . . . no, love could not cover such short-comings. No. If he wanted her love, his behavior would have to be above reproach from here on out.