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A Road from the Garden

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Orcs kept trying to take Thorin’s body. Kili shot them. He shot them over and over again. More came. The whole battle boiled down to the single field right in the center, where orcs tried to take Thorin away and dwarves tried to bear him into the mountain for healing.

Kili hoped it was healing. The dwarves were able to take Thrain from the field. Carrying him in state to a place where his body would not be ruined by stamping soldiers was honorable, but Kili did not want that for Thorin. He did not want that for Fili.

Amâd clung to Fili’s body, even as others lifted him up on a white stretcher. She wept. All of Erebor could hear her weeping. So all of Erebor heard Oin’s gruff, “He lives.”

With new hope, Kili shot the orcs who tried for Thorin’s body. All of them. Sometimes his arrow struck in tandem with another, and Tauriel or Legolas would apologize. It was not much cause for apology. No one was going to run out of arrows in Erebor. Dwarves too young or otherwise unsuited for battle refilled buckets of arrows at the feet of the archers. The only limitation faced by the archers was time and the possibility of fatigue, but Kili would never tire. He would never flag. Not while the orcs were so focused on capturing Thorin’s body. Most of the archers focused with the same determination, desperate to keep the swarm away from Thorin. It was, just barely, enough.

On the field below, Balin, Dwalin, Dori, Gloin, and Bifur formed into a wall between the leader of their Company and the orcs. With the archers filling in as mortar, dead orcs piled before them. The dwarves simply stood atop their defeated foes, holding the line. Finally, Nori and Ori were able to get Thorin onto a stretcher, dashing away.

A screaming howl went up from the orcs, who lost all sense. They did not seem to see the dwarves who stood in their way. Throwing themselves toward Thorin’s retreating body, they were cut down easily, yet the massive crush of their numbers might easily have born down the dwarves anyway without the great bear which joined the line. It crashed through the orcs in a monstrous, bloody manner. Kili had never been so grateful to see a wild creature in all his life.

“Are animals part of the elven army?” he asked Tauriel, hoping to come off as flippant. Likely, she’d seen many retaining walls built from the bodies of dead orcs in her time, and was therefore unmoved by the carnage below.

“No. The eagles are of Manwë, and we are blessed to be thus visited. Yet I know not whence came that bear. He is larger than any I have ever seen.”

“I sent him a wedding invitation.” Bilbo’s voice was a dazed whisper. Kili could not look at him, could not possibly see whatever expression lay upon his brother’s brow.

“Ah!” Kili managed a clever shot, pinning an orc by the throat to the chest of the orc behind it. Two for the price of one was always a good deal. “Your friend Beorn! I will be delighted to meet him. Shame he missed the wedding, but I’m sure Thorin will want to throw another party once we all win this battle.”

“Thorin is—”

“Safe in the mountain,” Kili said forcefully. “Oin will fix him up, right as raspberries.” He put an arrow through the eye of an orc trying to flank Dwalin.

“I have to go.”

Kili shot an orc through the throat. He wanted to go with his brother. Bilbo clearly needed the support. Yet he could do nothing down below. On the wall, he might make a real difference in the battle. By remaining at his post, he might protect all the injured brought into the mountain. Keeping them safe was important. It could turn the tide of war.

“I will go with you,” said King Thranduil. “Long decades have I been friends with the Dragonslayer. If I do not have the gifts of the line of Luthien, I am yet a king. It may be that healing him lies within my power.”

“Thank you.” Bilbo’s voice broke. “Please—”

He said nothing further.

Kili pinned the foot of the orc fighting Balin to the ground, giving the tough old warrior a chance to finish the job. He put two neat arrows into Dori’s opponent. Then, he put down his bow. Just for half an hour. He put an arm around his brother. Bilbo was shaking.

“I’ll see you there. Our friends have this well in hand.”

Tellingly, Bilbo didn’t argue. The hobbit just folded into his brother’s embrace as they followed the elven king down from the battlements. Bilbo felt small in Kili’s arms. Terribly small. Once they were inside the mountain, with the cries and clamor of battle shut out by thick stone, the hobbit’s trembling became more pronounced. Thranduil left them behind. Others rushed past in the broad corridors of the mountain, bringing arrows and water to the archers, bearing great loads that Kili did not recognize.

Down near the gates of the mountain was a vast, well organized room full of cots upon which injured soldiers lay. Healers passed among them working diligently. Kili did not see his family, nor King Thrandui. Fortunately, he and Bilbo were recognized at once and a tall young woman from Dale directed them to a different, smaller room off to one side.

“Thank you, Princess Sigrid,” Bilbo murmured, still half buried against Kili’s chest. “Your father fights well. Tales of his valor beyond the gates have surely reached you already, and his renown this day will live in memory forever.”

“So long as he lives as well,” she said with a wan smile. “I care not for his valor.”

Only then did Kili see past the streaks of blood on her face and clothes to recognize the proper woman with whom he shared a dance at Bilbo’s wedding.

Bilbo made a pained noise.

“Sorry!” cried Sigrid. “King Thorin lives yet. I am sure he lives.”

“Thanks,” Kili said, pulling his brother along toward the private room indicated. The sooner Bilbo saw Thorin breathing, the better.

Three cots were set within the room, but only two had occupants. Upon the first lay Thorin, pale and unmoving, with the elven king chanting over him as two other healers fussed above the second patient. Kili was astonished to see Dis lying there, almost as pale as Thorin.

“Amâd was not hurt in the battle,” he said. “She triumphed.”

The dwarf fussing over her looked up. “They say it is called Black Breath, Prince Kili. Any who struck to wound the nazgûl or breathed in that dark smoke which surrounded him have fallen thus.”

At once, Kili went to her side, taking her cold hand. Because she wore no armor, he could see the rise and fall of her belly, but she did not squeeze his hand. She did not react to his presence at all. “And Fili?”

“Still in the surgery. Evil magic is the least of concerns with him, after such a grievous blow.”

“Fear not,” said the other healer. “One of the elves in King Thranduil’s retinue was the Greenwood’s finest surgeon. She shall mend his body, if any can.”

Suddenly, a warm, homely smell filled the clean room, casting Kili back to the fields of the Shire where he played with baby Bilbo at their mother’s feet. Between Thranduil’s hands were bruised, nearly crushed leaves. The Baggins recognized kingsfoil when he saw it, though he considered it a weed. Had the scent always been so lovely?

“Wake, Dragonslayer,” the elf king commanded. “Your people need you.”

Thorin opened his eyes. “Bilbo?”

“Your husband is here.”

Like an oak leaf in autumn, Bilbo drifted toward Thorin’s bedside, almost swaying as he stepped, stopped, and seemed to float. “Thorin? Thorin, I’m here.”

Reaching for his hand, Thorin smiled. “I have not kept my promises to you.”

“But you will,” Bilbo said. “When all of this is over. When the danger is gone. I shall have my garden, and you your crown. Never doubt it.”

“Yes,” said Thorin. “When the danger is gone.” Then his eyes rolled shut once more.

Bilbo looked frantically up at the elven king, but Thranduil only smiled.

“Rest is needed now. Even an elf could not rise immediately after such a hurt. Let your heart rest as well, new prince. See how the pallor of poison is gone from his cheeks?”

In truth, it was so. Thorin’s skin was a healthy golden color. He no longer looked hurt, only asleep. Moving from one royal dwarf to the next, Thranduil proceeded to treat Dis with the same kingsfoil he had used upon her brother. It worked to the same effect. Her eyes pinched and squeezed. She spasmed and gasped in the throes of some nightmare.

“Wake, Princess,” commanded the elven king. “Thy enemy lies defeated, but thy kingdom remains in peril!”

She did not wake.

Thranduil beckoned Kili forward. “Call to her,” he said. “She has spent so long in darkness already. Stubborn dwarves will not heed elven voices. Let her hear her son instead.”

Not quite knowing what to do, Kili took her hand once more. “Amâd? Amâd, it’s me. Kili. Please wake up.”

And so she did. Her eyes fluttered open to focus on Kili’s face. “Fili?”

“He’s still with the doctors,” Kili reported dutifully. “But he’ll be fine. He’s Fili. Tougher than smoked mutton, our Fili.”

She smiled. A hand came up unexpectedly to cup Kili’s cheek. “Even if he is not,” Dis said, “I will not leave you. When I lost you, I left him. That mistake I’ll not make again. No matter what the voices in the darkness say. I do not belong to them.”

Before he could answer, she too returned to slumber.

Thranduil turned to one of the healers. “Show me to your surgery,” he commanded. “I will do what I can for the prince.”

Both healers hastened to obey, leaving Bilbo and Kili alone with the sleeping dwarves.

Kili didn’t know what to do.

Bilbo stood over Thorin, seemingly oblivious to the world. Dabbing a handkerchief to his husband’s brow, the hobbit smoothed the dwarf’s beard with gentle hands and arrange his hair softly against the white pillow. The scene was far more intimate and embarrassing than witnessing a kiss.

“You should go back to your friend,” Bilbo said softly, not looking away from Thorin’s face. “You were safe enough on the wall. The orcs cannot shoot so high. We are lucky they had no time to plan or prepare for this attack. Surely they would have siege towers and giants, were that the case.”

“Will you be alright?”

“What is her name? The elf with the lovely hair. I’m not sure we were properly introduced at the wedding. If we were, I’ve forgotten. Everything is happening so quickly. It’s all just a blur.”

“Tauriel.” For want of anything better to say, Kili added, “We were supposed to go walking out today.”

Sure enough, Bilbo looked up for that. “Walking out? With someone who I haven’t met!”

Kili’s face went quite hot and he looked down at his Amâd. “I’m older than you are. I can go walking out with anyone I please.”

“What possible reason could you have to bar me from meeting someone you’re sweet on? There must be something wrong with her.”

“No,” Kili cried. “Nothing like that. It’s only that you were so busy with the wedding. When we met in the Greenwood, you were not there. It’s no different than me not knowing your friend Beorn, really. As you say, everything seems to be happening all at once.” Kili blushed even more. He absolutely was old enough to go walking out as he pleased without regard to anyone else’s opinions on the matter. Even so, he added, “Amâd gave me her blessing.”

“Oh?” Bilbo calmed a little.

Fishing the gilded map from his pocket was a little tricky with all of his armor, but Kili managed. Presenting it to his brother, he said, “She even gave me this, so that we could walk together without any locals to guide us.”

Bilbo looked at the pretty map for a long while. Not only was the gold leaf quite lovely, but the details were incredible. Little etchings tracked every hill and creek around the mountain for miles, going west to the Greenwood and all the way south down the River Running.

“Isn’t it nice?” Kili asked, feeling terribly stupid.

“Beautiful,” Bilbo agreed. “Will you lend it to me? You must go back to the battlements with your Tauriel, to shoot your arrows and protect the mountain, but I should like to look at this. It will take my mind off things.”

It seemed impossible that Kili’s face might redden further, but it did so. “She is not my Tauriel.”

Bilbo actually smiled, meeting his brother’s eyes. “Not yet. But she’s a fool if she allows that state of affairs to persist one moment longer than propriety dictates.”

“Thorin is going to be fine.”

“Yes. He is. I look forward to meeting this Tauriel properly. The four of us can have tea.”

“I’ll introduce you,” Kili said firmly, because he was not remotely embarrassed by the proposition. All his life, Bilbo had only ever been a help to him when he was making a new acquaintance. Introducing him to Tauriel could only aid Kili’s prospects. “After the battle.”

For some reason, Bilbo hesitated. “When the danger has passed,” he agreed.

Kili moved to the door, still looking at his brother. Every minute he did not return to his archery felt like a gift he was giving the invading army. Each orc not felled by one of his arrows would have the opportunity to kill a dwarf. Yet tears streaked his brother’s cheeks, and fetching him tea seemed almost as wise as fending off their attackers.

“We’re here, in Erebor,” he said. “Happily ever after is right around the corner, you know.”

Letting the map in his hand fall to one side, Bilbo stroked Thorin’s beard once more. “I know.”