Disclaimer: Okay, this counts for the other two chapters as well. *clears throat* I do not, nor shall I EVER own these characters or this book. *sobs* Not even in my dreams.
A/N: This is a three shot. I hope you like it. Oh, also, in this Thorin's been wondering for two years with the 12 dwarves. Gandalf didn't put them together, they were already friends and decided to stick together once Smaug destroyed their home. Not sure if I'll be putting Bilbo in here or not. Probably will. *shrugs* We'll see.
Warnings: Descriptions of torture, but nothing R rated.
"Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."
― Anne Lamott
They would've missed the orcs encampment if Ori hadn't stumbled over a rock and fallen down the bluff's edge, breaking through the carefully placed foliage of branches at the bottom. As it was, Ori did trip and they did find the orcs. The skirmish that ensued was both swift and merciless. None of the dark creatures escaped their justice, not even the Uruk'hai that led them. Their swords dripped wet with the blood of their enemy by the end and Thorin's heart sang at the sight of the destruction they'd wrought.
Three years they'd been roaming these lands, outcast by the dragon, Smaug, when he attacked their home in the Lonely Mountain. One by one, former allies had turned their heads and blocked their ears to the dwarves' pleas for aid. With no gold or numbers to back them, the dwarves lost the support so willingly given them all those years ago. Thorin ground his teeth at the thought. He needed no weak humans or elves to help him regain his honor and home.
"Thorin!" From across the sylvan glade, Balin gestured for him to come. The old adviser stood next to the jagged entrance of a small cave. Littered about him were the corpses of orcs and goblins, yet Balin held his axe with a steady hand. Thorin smiled at the sight. Age could not withhold the strength of those arms.
He strode swiftly over and grabbed his comrade's shoulder firmly. "What found you, my friend?"
At this, the grey beard dwarf's bushy eyebrows furrowing together and he indicated towards the cave entrance before them. "They were guarding this."
Thorin stiffened and peered into the inky blackness within. "Orcs do not guard something lightly."
"Think you a weapon of some sort in here?"
"I cannot say for certain, but even if it be only a sword of iron I would not leave it here." Balin shuddered and Thorin could not fault him for it.
The orcs they faced were better trained than their foul cousins in the north. They were still not a challenge for a dwarf, of course. Yet they were also enough of an annoyance to signal a change in the beasts. Someone had been training these things. Perhaps the Uruk'hai that lay beheaded on the grass. Perhaps a greater evil.
"What say you?" Balin asked.
Thorin straightened his back and rolled his shoulders, loosening the tension that'd built up within them. "We cannot leave without first ascertaining what lies within these nadirs."
"Very well." Balin hefted his mace up and turned to the others. "Dwalin, Gloin, you're with us. The rest of you pile those bodies up and burn them, else we'll be having wolves for companions tonight."
Thorin didn't stay to see if they obeyed the order. He'd chosen Balin as his second in command for a reason. To remain would only signal his reluctance in trusting the elder dwarf. They could ill afford that and for this reason, and this alone, Thorin marched into the cave without a backward glance.
Inside was damp and smelled heavily of days old gore and sweat. Thorin gripped his long-hefted battle axe and moved deeper in. In the dim light, he could just make out the outlines of a table to the right. A small tapping echoed and Thorin whirled to face the new danger. Suddenly, bright light flared in his eyes. He glared at Gloin, then at the fire flickering on torch the dwarf clasped.
"I'll not be caught off guard." Gloin said, his gaze steady. "Orcs and goblins can see in the dark, we cannot. And this cave's not deep enough for them to ambush us properly. We have the advantage now."
In the newly acquired light, Thorin got a better view of the horrors this cave possessed. Numerous instruments of torture littered the floor and hung from hooks on the walls, evidence that the orcs had been here for a while. Thorin repressed a shiver. The wicked looking tools were wiped clean. Blood splattered the stone about them, but the instruments themselves were spotless and sharp. Someone had gone to great lengths to make sure these things would last a long, long time.
Hs imagination didn't need to go far to guess why. To be held for any length of time by these foil creatures was a fate that would haunt even the strongest of dwarf's dreams. For the orcs delighted in playing with their meals before eating them. Few survived long enough to be rescued from their clutches. And those that did were but mere shadows of their former selves. Thorin feared what they might find inside this cave's depths.
Then something else caught his attention as well and a chill burrowed through his soul. In the far corner to the left, a long slab of smooth stone shone with bright red. "That blood is new."
"Not even a day old," Balin breathed, pity in his aged eyes.
Dwalin pushed past them and marched around the corner, his two axes ready at his side. "Wait here."
Not a minute passed before the dwarf appeared again. "You better come, Balin. This one's bad."
The old dwarf rushed by, dragging Gloin with him, and Thorin surged forward to follow them, but Dwalin flung out an arm. Thorin raised an eyebrow at the impertinent action. While it was true that he encouraged his kin to dispense of his royal title – one could never be sure where enemies might overhear –, even they remembered the respect owed him. He might be king under the mountain in name only, but he was still king.
"Dwalin." His words were both a question and a reprimand.
And just like that, Thorin's world stopped. Thranduil. A thousand things sprang forth. Why was the elvish king here? How? Where were his kin? The elves, as a whole, seemed to be faithful when it came to their own. How long had Thranduil been here? This glade was far from his darkened forests and his kin would not have let him go easily.
Yet, why should he care about one such as Thranduil? Thorin's hands curled into tight fists. The elf had abandoned them in their hour of need. He'd sat on his white elk with his pristine soldiers and watched as Smaug breathed death upon them, as if he had the right to pass judgment from his lofty throne.
"Let me pass," he commanded.
Dwalin seemed to consider something and then stepped back with a differential bow of his head. "My King."
Girding himself with his anger, Thorin rounded the corner and found Balin reaching up to unchain the elf's wrist from thick shackles while Gloin held the elf around the waist gingerly. Thorin's fury rose to new heights. "Hold."
Balin paused, his fingers just touching the first fetter. His face slackened and his old eyes offered apprehension. "Thorin, we cannot leave him to–"
"I said, hold," Thorin stressed.
"Thorin, at least let me –" Balin tried, but Thorin would have none of it.
This was another enemy, not some ally to be coddled. Thorin drew himself up and hardened his mind against Balin's imploring gaze. "Remember your place!"
He motioned the two back with a swift jerk of his hand and after a moment they complied. The iron chains rattled against each other and without Gloin to hold him up, Thranduil's wrists once again slipped deep into his shackles. A soft moan escaped those chapped lips as gravity pulled and the elf's bowed head stirred up a little, though his eyes remained shut in unconsciousness. Thorin moved closer to study the elf before him.
Stripped to the waist, Thranduil hung by his wrists, the chains attached above his head to a ring welded to the cave's roof. Multiple dried rivulets of dark blood ran down his pale arms, evidence that he'd struggled against the binds that held him. Some of the bloody streaks appeared to be weeks old while new ones trickled down, no doubt agitated by Gloin moving him. Different shades of bruising peppered Thranduil's face, the left side of his cheek nothing but a ruin of burnt flesh hanging by strings of twisted skin. His nose seemed to be broken in three places.
His once golden hair was sullied with both blood and dirt, cut short to just below his pointed ears. Deep gashes crisscrossed his chest so many times that Thorin could not discern any unmarred skin in sight, though the blood could be hiding it. His breeches resembled rags more than anything else and the tips of his bare feet brushed the dirt floor. The finishing touches of the sight were the prominent bones pushing against the ashen skin, making Thranduil resemble a living corpse.
They'd starved him.
Thorin took a strangled breath in and Balin stepped closer, laying a hand on Thorin's axe and it was then that Thorin noticed he'd raised it in a threatening manner against the wounded elf. How telling that even his subconscious mind knew who the enemy was in this room and urged his hand to destroy it.
Balin firmly pushed the axe down. "We cannot leave him here."
Thorin bristled. "He left us to the dragon."
"And would you stooped to such petty things as revenge against a wounded man?" Balin waved a hand, gesturing to the overall carnage that was Thranduil. "Are we to be no better than these orcs? No better than the humans of Lake Town? No, I say let us rise above, be better than they who spurned us."
"You would have me aid him, knowing he would not do so in return?"
"Aye," Balin said, shoulders back and head held high. "I would."
It chaffed at Thorin, rubbed raw the still open wounds the elf king's betrayal had inflicted on him. He'd trusted their elven allies and they'd left them to die alone as the ash from their home drifted on the wind. And now Balin asked him to just throw aside that treachery and treat the elf king as one of their own. No, he would not. He could not.
"I will not help someone who deserves nothing less than what he received," Thorin said.
Balin bolted forward, grabbing his shoulder. "Thorin, please, reconsider. He's no threat to us like this. I cannot…I will not…do not ask me to leave him like this, Thorin."
Thorin jerked his shoulder out of Balin's grip and turned away. The ache for his home in the mountains, the hurt of their wonderings washed over him and he nearly ordered Balin to abandon the elf to his slow death. And then he made the mistake of glancing towards Thranduil. Such a wretched picture of woe the elf painted for him, hanging there with the last strands of his life. He stared at Balin's entreating eyes and stifled a growl. "I will not come between those who think otherwise. Do as you see fit."
Balin gave a nod of thanks. "Dwalin, I shall have need of your strength as well."
The veteran slid his axes smoothly into their sheaths on his back. Thorin didn't stay to watch. If Balin wished to fix this, so be it, but he had better things to do. He stormed out the tunnel and into the sunlit glade. His nephew, Fili, stood by the entrance and startled as Thorin emerged.
"U-Uncle!" Fili drew himself together. "Bad news, I take it."
Thorin growled, too furious at Balin to even voice his displeasure. The others noticed his return and ventured near, worry mixed with curiosity darting across their faces. Thorin knew that anger would join as soon as they found out the cave's inhabitant and Balin's intent.
Fili paled. "Are they dead?"
Oh, how Thorin wished. "No."
"Then, why –"
Thorin threw his axe down, its thick blade burying deep into the soft earth. "It seems we're adopting an elf."
Chapter 2 should be up sometime soon. Please, review and tell me what you think...or even what you hope for the next chapter. And yes, I did go there with Thranduil's hair. The elves in my AU are able to grow it back, so he won't be short haired forever. Also, I felt it was something the orcs and Uruk'hai would do to an elf.