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Strength to Fight when Dark Days Come

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The strongest.

That is what he is known as - what he has always been known as. The strongest Dwarf in all of Ered Luin (perhaps all of Middle Earth). He hears the whispers, catches stares out of the corner of his eye. He doesn't look it, they mutter. Of course he doesn't - he is a merchant, trading out teas and wines and sometimes fabrics, when they come in. He sits behind a stand and fusses over the proper placement of his merchandise. He dresses as best he can with the money he has left over from Ori's scribe lessons and managing a house. He is fastidious about his hair and persnickety about mud. Of course he doesn't look like the strongest Dwarf in Ered Luin. But he is.

He has always hated the notice he receives, the attention paid to him by people he could swear he has never seen in his life. Words spread, and quickly. Look for the strong one, the one with the silver hair and that gorgeous silver hair, all put up for everyone to see. But wait 'til you see him fight - wait 'til you see him in the arena.

Propriety keeps him from cutting his hair, not to mention pride. His mother had instilled manners in him, claiming that there was no better business strategy than attractiveness. His mother, Mahal rest her soul, had been right, and Dori wishes will all his heart that she had not. But the business is prospering, by Ered Luin standards, and for Dori to mask his looks is to destroy Ori's hope of becoming the Royal Scribe, and his own private hope of getting Nori off the streets.

In the markets, he has some shelter - the cart stand shadows his face and removes him from the immediate view of passersby. No, it is in the arena - that accursed place he cannot avoid - where he feels the stares most powerfully. He trains with anyone willing to take him on, usually more than one Dwarf at a time. He is lethal in the ring, honing his skills to protect his brother(s), and all he wishes is that no one would watch him. But every time he swings the heaviest hammer available with ease, he can hear muted gasps. Every time he removes a layer to keep from overheating, or feels sweat congregate on his brow and oft-bared arms, the sounds of gasps and murmurs of appreciation - pure, sexual appreciation - assault his ears, and he wishes for all the world that he could block out the noise of the crowd without blocking out the noise of his opponents.

Occasionally - very rarely - someone will proposition him. These Dwarves, usually men, smell like ale and grin lewdly, and Dori's eyes flare with anger, and yet embarrassment at the same time. But though he may wish to throw these rats far, far away from him, just to show how much he appreciates their offers, such action may be seen as in invitation, or interest. Instead, he throws a bloody, dirty, sweat-soaked rag on their faces (which cannot be construed as interest in any way whatsoever) and walks away without a glance in their direction.

It becomes useful, occasionally - his strength. He used to use it when his brothers were younger and fighting with each other. )That is, Nori would try to steal something from Ori, and Ori would try to get it back. Usually Ori received far worse injury from these scuffles). He had used it to threaten and, if need be, fight off the cruel children that would bully Ori when Nori was not around to protect him. He had used it when Nori had been accused of stealing (which, of course, Dori did not believe); the guard captain had not stood a chance against Dori's superior strength. It had only been later, when Dori learned that Nori was guilty of the crime, that Dori had handed his younger brother over to Dwalin Fundinsson personally. Theft is not tolerated in the Ri household, no sir, no ma'am.

He had used it when ramming his weapon up a troll's ass, and when he had climbed a tree to flee the hideous Orcs. He had used it to grasp tightly onto Gandalf's staff, worry for his brother in the forefront of his mind, and fear that either Gandalf or Ori's hands would slip. Eventually, it is Dori's hands that, slickened with sweat, lose their grip on his lifeline, and he falls with shame in his heart, only to find himself choking on feathers not a few seconds later.

He uses it in a battle, terrible and horrifying. He has never seen a fight on such a scale, had not been among the Dwarves of Erebor when King Thror lost his life at Moria. The chaos makes him afraid - not for himself, of course. Never for himself.

He should have used his strength on Ori, tied him to a chair to make him stay behind and asked someone to feed him while Dori was away. He should have used his strength to keep the Company - his family - away from the carnage that is laid out before his eyes.

He had not used it, however, and now he must make up for it here, on the battlefield. And he succeeds, for the most part. He shields Ori and Nori, as well as the others, when he can. He swings his chains with trained precision, never missing his target; all those years of holding back, of trying to keep from seriously injuring his arena opponents, are now released, and Orc bone is crushed mercilessly beneath his wrath. And then the battle is over, and his brothers are alive, and the time for physical strength has passed.

They had known the outcome for several hours, now - the news of Thorin's, Fili's, and Kili's deaths. Dori finally finds his youngest brother curled up on a rock overlooking the cluster of lights that mark where the tents are. The winter wind bites through their layers, and Ori is huddling over his ever-present notebook and quill, staring at nothing, the tears freezing on his face even as they fall. Dori keeps quiet as he sits next to him and wraps an arm around Ori's shoulders. Ori leans in and rests against Dori, his trembling gradually slowing though still present as he warms up. Quiet sobs break from his mouth as Dori looks out at the corpse-littered landscape, strange and half-hidden by the rapidly growing twilight.

Dori squeezes lightly, ever-conscious of his strength. He wishes he could squeeze tighter and tighter, and with every squeeze, Ori's sorrow would diminish until there would be nothing left but peace and contentment. He wishes he could protect Ori from the pain within. But his strength is no use here - not in matters of the heart - and Dori would gladly give his over-trained muscles away if only to banish his brother's sorrow and grief. As it is, he can only shield Ori from the cold winter air as snow lightly falls and covers the desolate, lonely world.