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As the Snowflakes Cover My Fallen Brothers

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"Bilbo was right."

These are words Dwalin had never expected to come out of his mouth - he never thought, never even dreamed of taking anyone's side other than Thorin's. The very notion is treason.

Yet here he is, like all the others, taking his turn at trying to get his King to see reason.

"You cannot see what you have become."

The words are dragged out of his throat, fighting to uphold his vow of loyalty: an instinct born in him since before he understood its meaning. But he is fighting for Thorin's life, trying to shake off the effect of the treasure that has Thorin so ensnared. Even as his gut tells him it is a lie, he knows his words to be true: Thorin has become like the greedy Men of tales, willing to forsake everything - the lives of his company, of his nephews, the fate of his entire people - that he might not have to give up his newly-acquired wealth.

Dwalin is the one Thorin used to go to whenever he witnessed his grandfather's descent into madness. Dwalin is the one Thorin made promise to never let him become that. And here Dwalin is, doing his best to fulfill that promise, and feeling like a traitor for it - for letting it go so far, and for the look Thorin gives him now. It is suspicious and cold - something Thorin has never been around Dwalin - but there is a hint of heartbreak, as if his friend feels betrayed.

Then Thorin's glare is distant and icy. "Do not question me, Dwalin. Erebor has no room for traitors."

Dwalin knows that if he were anything less than the King's captain and best friend, he would have been thrown out of the mountain immediately, like Bilbo. Thorin is being lenient, all things considered, and Dwalin walks away, head bowed dejectedly, and fights to keep the tears from falling. Warriors do not cry.

The second Kili disappears over the edge, Dwalin hefts his hammer. Thorin, still boiling from his confrontation with his youngest nephew, pierces Dwalin with his stare.

"And where do you think you're going?"

Dwalin raises his head in a challenge. "To protect your sister's son." Kili and Fili, having grown up in Ered Luin, had trained with shoddy weapons - better than Man-made ones, but absolute crap in comparison with the magnificence of Ereboran craft. The lad is not used to such a fine weapon - he could hurt himself, or make himself vulnerable. No, he needs a trained warrior to watch over him.

Dwalin is, admittedly, proud of Kili for standing up to his uncle. He had caught Fili's overt gesture, and knows that between the two of them, the Company will not stand by while Orcs threaten the people of the North. So he turns at the wall to see many of the Company fidgeting and avoiding the gazes of the two headstrong Dwarves.

Ori steps forward first, gaining another notch of respect in Dwalin's mind. "Bilbo's my friend, too," he says quietly, and of course where Ori goes, Dori and Nori are sure to follow. Bifur tags along behind the brothers Ri, and his cousins follow behind. The rest take tiny steps towards where Dwalin stands, and Thorin has no choice but to acquiesce.

"Very well," the King says, eyes glinting ever-so-slightly, and twelve Dwarves drop onto the battlefield and charge into the fray.

He is not meant to be separated from Thorin, or from Fili and Kili. But his stubborn friend had continued cutting through the ranks, allowing the Orcs to close behind him and surround him. So great is Thorin's desire to defeat Azog that he allowed himself no room for escape, which is suicide for even the most skilled of fighters.

Even knowing this, Dwalin does not expect what comes next. He never sees them fall, does not hear anything over the roar of battle, but he knows where Azog had fallen and goes to find Thorin, who is no doubt triumphing over the Pale Orc's death.

Instead, he finds two young princes, wounds littering their armor, their chainmail, the skin on their faces and hands. Blood is splashed over their bodies, red and black mixing to mat their hair and disguise their features. But it is them. There can be no doubt, as much as Dwalin wishes, that it is them.

He drops to his knees, weapon falling out of his hands. "No..." he whispers, stroking Fili's hair, cupping Kili's face. "No..."

Balin comes up beside him and bows his head. "Oh, lads," he murmurs, that all-too-familiar, broken tone breaking his brother's mask.

Dwalin knows, too, that Thorin is gone; if he were alive, he would be here with his sister-sons. One cannot survive without the other two. And as he bows his head, the tears finally fall.

After a few seconds of knocking, the heavy oak door opens to reveal the stern face of Princess Dis. Her expression softens slightly upon seeing Dwalin, becomes confused when none of her family members are visible, and settles on slightly suspicious when her eyes rest on the tall, red-headed Elf standing behind and to the side of Dwalin.

The she-Elf captain had insisted on coming herself, and after many discussions among the Company, Dwalin had reluctantly agreed. Lady Tauriel had not been a bad travelling companion, all things considered - handy in a fight (of which there were a few), accepted by the Elves of Rivendell (which was necessary after the Dwarves' last disastrous visit), and quiet. She will not be returning to the Greenwood, either, but will instead take one of the ships West. There is only one thing left for her to do.

Dis asks no questions as she lets them in, perhaps realizing she will have her answers, perhaps afraid of what they are. Dwalin begins with the good news.

"Erebor is won; the dragon Smaug is no more," Dwalin says. But at what cost? He wonders, and is silent for several seconds, gathering his thoughts.

Dis slams her fist on the table and looks at Dwalin with suspiciously bright eyes, silently demanding the answer to her unasked question. Her eyes flicker briefly to the Elf in her house, mistrust still marring her features. Dwalin opens his mouth, but finds that words will not come. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lady Tauriel lean forward and bring her hand on the table.

"Princess Dis," Tauriel says softly, her hand clasped around an object. Dis' sharp gaze - so like her brother's - turns to the Elf, but still she says nothing. Tauriel reveals the runestone in her hand, extending her fingers so that Dis can take it. "Your son asked me to give this to the event that he could not."

Dis stares at the runestone blankly, and Dwalin's heart breaks again, knowing that she knows not only Kili's fate, but Fili's and Thorin's as well. With shaking fingers, she reaches out and grasps the stone, finally losing her steady demeanor. She hunches in on herself, sobbing brokenly, and Dwalin moves his chair so that he can tentatively wrap an arm around her. But she pushes him away, eyes blazing as tears stream down her face.

"Why didn't you save them?" she demands. "Why weren't you there to protect them?"

He looks at her, overwhelming grief and guilt shattering his entire being, and cannot answer.