All of Middle Earth dreamed. Yet the nightly shades of Men, Elves and Hobbits, come and gone without any bearing on their lives, held special meaning for the khazâd, for they were blessed by Mahal.
They tied those destined for each other together, guiding them on coinciding paths towards their fated meeting. They were a source of great comfort but also torment, as not every longing was meant to be realized.
Some ended in tragedy, the call of a stranger's voice silenced, the world seen through his or her eyes turning gray and dark.
Some never dreamed at all.
It was all the warning he got before the door to his bed-chamber crashed open and a familiar weight landed square on his stomach, pinning him to the thin straw mattress.
Fíli groaned and tried to twist away, but tangled sheets and a sharp tug on his braid stopped him. “Kíli,” he ground out, sounding remarkably like their uncle, “what in Mahal's name do you think you're doing?”
He squinted up into the dark and a sliver of moonlight illuminated Kíli's face, creeping in through a crack in the window's shutter. He was pale, eyes wild, - and grinning like a loon.
“Nadadith?” Fíli was instantly alert and tense with worry. “What is it? What happened?”
“Fíli, I dreamed.“ Kíli leaned down to gently bump their foreheads together. “My One was born tonight.”
There was a moment of blank silence, interrupted only by the noises of drunken Men that passed the forge, and then Fíli laughed and pulled Kíli into a smothering hug.
There was a haze of colors, come and gone with the slow blink of a newborn's eyes, its tiny body swaddled in blankets and cradled in the crook of its mother's arm. She was warm and soft, and smelled sweet.
The babe made a sound, a garbled coo, and its chubby hand rose to try and catch a ray of sunlight.
Kíli smiled in his sleep, sharing in a feeling of all-encompassing contentment, love and safety.
The ceremony was simple, despite its importance.
Their mother had lid the candles and said the old prayers, and now Kíli sat on a low stool, for once not squirming, while Thorin wove his hair together in the complex pattern of a new braid.
They shared one, that signified them as heir's to the line of Durin, traced their bloodline back through the generations, but now Kíli wore a mark of his own for all to see. Fíli didn't mind. Having the longing was indeed special, but it had no bearing on their brother bond, that ran deep and true as stone.
Fíli watched from the kitchen table, nibbling on stale bread, tucked comfortably against his mother's side. “Uncle looks proud,” he noted, swallowing the last bite.
“He is,” Dís answered in a whisper, close enough that her beard tickled him. “It is a good portent, that one of Durin's line has received Mahal's blessing.”
Fíli nodded, thinking of dragons and gold-sickness and other things young dwarflings had no business knowing. That had, of course, only ever served to kindle his curiosity, with Kíli a willing accomplice.
“Portent for what?”
Dís frowned a little, lips pressed tightly together as she weighted her words. “What may or may not come to pass in the future.”
Rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see, dotted with flowers in full bloom and fields that rippled golden in a warm breeze. The sky was blue, tinged with the first hints of evening.
“Just one more,” an indistinct voice muttered, breathless after a quick run. Blades of grass were a relief against scraped knees, their fleeting touch cool and moist. “One more.”
Restless wandering shaped many years to come, until they made their home in Ered Luin; gone its rough-hewn and icy caverns.
In the newly founded Dwarven kingdom Fíli and Kíli matured, learned a craft of their choosing, and picked their weapons to master, educated in turn by Dwalin, Balin and Thorin.
Here, the vague notion for a courting gift took shape, slowly but surely, in the hours free of obligations.
Kíli had scorned the idea of using metals and precious gems, picked cherry wood and carving tools instead. With single-minded determination and remarkable patience he mastered a material that did not call to him, facing each failed attempt with good humor.
Fíli, for his part, simply hoped that his brother would have any fingers left by the time he was done.
Fíli found him sitting outside the mountain, close to a brook that glistened in the sun. Chisel, knife and sandstone lay discarded in the grass, as did an empty cup of varnish.
“Here,” Kíli said solemnly, and offered him a small locket for inspection.
Fíli sat down beside him, cradling the item in his palm, turning it here and there with a gentle nudge of his fingertip. It was chestnut-shaped, the color rich and warm to match, with a delicate silver chain attached.
“Open it,” Kíli pushed, too happy to keep up the facade of proper restraint.
Fíli did, and discovered inside a map of Middle Earth, framed by an intricate pattern of flowers. The Blue Mountains were easily recognizable, as were Bree, Mirkwood, and Erebor beyond.
“It's beautiful,” Fíli said, voice hushed with awe, tracing marks and lines, forests and roads, the waves of the great wide sea. “Truly, I'm impressed, brother.”
Kíli ducked his head to hide a blush. “Thank you.”
“I gather your One wants to see the world as much as you do.”
“Perhaps even more so.” Kíli's expression, soft with the memory of last night's dream, gave way to frustration. “Can't we grow up faster?”
Kíli wrinkled his nose. “You sound like uncle!”
Fíli stuck out his tongue and closed the locket, its tiny hinge expertly hidden, and Kíli slipped it into a silken pouch mother had made for him some time last winter. The cord tied securely, he tucked it away, close to his heart.
“Oh, and see?” Kíli said, holding up his hands and wriggling his fingers. “Still intact.”
“A great wonder indeed,” Fíli teased, starting thus a merry trade of insults and jabs.
Soon they wrestled on the ground, flailing limbs and rolling bodies, only stopping when their lungs burned with exertion and laughter.
A thin red trail led through the snow, drops scattered on endless white. There were lights up ahead, warm pinpricks of safety, all but lost in the distance. A howl rose to the moon, all moist breath and bloodied teeth.
“Don't look back!”
Kíli was putting on his armor when Fíli stepped into his quarters, fingers lacking all grace as they fumbled with straps and buckles. He had come to breakfast grim-faced and pale this morning, with a gleam in his eyes that had Fíli worried.
He would have had words with him sooner, but Fíli had duties of his own. Their people chafed under the hardships of a Fell Winter, now that the stores ran low.
“Nadadith?” Fíli turned him around and gave his shoulders a gentle squeeze, feeling leather and tension. “Tell me.”
Kíli sighed, bumping their foreheads together, and the vambraces he had struggled with fell to the carpet with a soft noise.
“Something happened to - “ He stopped short, struggling with a name that must have sat on the tip of his tongue, cursing when it slipped his mind. “He was attacked. Fíli, he needs me. He's afraid and hurt. And I - ”
“Calm, brother.” Fíli tightened his grip, knowing he had to make him see reason, no matter that his heart ached for him. “The roads are impassable, and rushing off blindly, with no destination in mind, will accomplish nothing.”
Kíli reared back as if slapped. “Then what else would you have me do?”
“Wait,” Fíli said bluntly, “until your next dream. It will either lead you to your One or let you know that this is a trial he must face on his own.”
Minutes passed in silence, but finally, the muscles in Kíli's jaw stopped working and he nodded. “You are right,” he said, his laugh bitter and mirthless. “I wouldn't even know where to begin. There are so many hills beyond our mountain.”
“I am sorry.”
Kíli left without another word, taking his bow and quiver with him.
One more arrow was released, piercing the heart of the practice target with deadly accuracy. The impact sent bits of straw and jute flying. Soon, Kíli's helpless anger would tear the puppet apart.
Fíli left the shadowed tunnel and joined his mother on the balcony. It overlooked the archery range, lit with a multitude of torches, now that the light shafts were buried in snow; her hair gleamed golden, one shade darker than his own.
“What happened?” Dís asked, letting go of the braid she had worried. “Never have I seen him in such a state.”
“His One was injured,” Fíli replied, watching as Kíli threw away his empty quiver with a curse and reached for the next. “I do not know the details.”
“I see,” Dís said darkly, knowing only too well the pain of such uncertainty. “May this night bring my child a kinder dream.”
They kept watch together. Fíli's eyes only left his brother when the rustling of cloth and the touch of a calloused hand startled him. He leaned into her warm palm. Such gestures of affection had become rare, now that he was of age.
“I am grateful.” A faint smile graced Dís' lips, chasing away the weight of years. “I know it is only thanks to you that Kíli is not lost in a snowstorm right now.”
“I am my brother's keeper,” Fíli said, only half in jest.
“Aye. As he is yours.”
The round table was heavily burdened with china, tea and a fine selection of scones, cakes and biscuits, all set on white doilies, with a flower-patterned cloth underneath. The smell was sweet, the steam from the pot spicy, and the taste a credit to the host.
“Life goes on, my lad,” a female voice said, stern but also kind. “You'll see.”
The whole kingdom of Ered Luin was abuzz with rumors that Thorin had met a Wizard by the name of Gandalf, while passing through Bree, who had offered his aid in a quest to reclaim Erebor.
There was talk about a dead dragon, a burglar to be hired, and the Arkenstone, lost in a sea of gold. Of a home to be and revenge, Elven treachery, and those that had died in auburn flames, never to be forgotten.
Naturally, Fíli and Kíli were excited beyond words, for there was no young khazâd who did not dream of adventure, to leave the mountain behind, and distinguish himself as a warrior.
Messengers were sent to the Iron Hills and an invitation to speak before the Great Council arrived.
Approached by Thorin to join his Company, Fíli and Kíli gave their oaths freely. Not for gold and future glory, but out of loyalty to their king, and love for the one who had raised them.
The hill was overgrown with grass and moss and white-petaled flowers. Its gently rounded crest lay in the shade of a great tree, rustling and creaking in the wind. The smial housed inside was framed by a garden, full of vegetables, herbs and a patch of pipe-weed.
A well-kept path wound its way up towards a door, perfectly round and green...
There was a peaceful quality to the Shire, filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and the laughter of fauntlings, as if nothing vile had ever touched these lands and gentle people.
They had set out early. Kíli's patience had worn thin, and Gandalf had agreed to let them go first to meet their host for the night, to 'soften the blow.' He had said it with a twinkle in his eyes, as if that made the comment any less conspicuous.
Fíli chuckled, watching his brother twist and turn to take it all in as they passed the farms at the outskirts of Hobbiton and the closing bustle of its market, getting ever closer to their destination.
“Don't trip over your own feet.”
“There's a pottery around the next corner,” Kíli said, voice rising with hope. “The door is blue, and sparrows nest right above it.”
“Really? How would you know?” Fíli raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Shouldn't you leave this kind of thing to Oín?”
Kíli's laugh was pure joy. “I dreamed it.”
And with that, hand closed tight around the silken pouch he wore around his neck, Kíli broke into a run, down the path in a spatter of mud and up the slope towards the highest hill.
Fíli hurried after him, the smell of fired clay in the kiln and twitter of birds following in his wake.
“Excuse me, but... Do I know you?”