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Not So Innocent Anymore

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So what if he does not do everything Dori asks? He is not a child (well, technically, he is). And besides, Dori is boring and strict, making him stay close to the cart and never letting him explore. Ori wants to be free - he wants to go out and see the world. He wants to follow the birds and see where they land. He wants to lie in the grass and see the fish swim in the stream. At the very least, he wants to look at the beautiful quills in the stall down the street, and imagine, if only for a moment, that one of them is his.

But Dori wants him "safe" and "where I can see you", and so Ori is forced to wait in the cart, or worse, at home, while Dori sells his wares to big, loud people. People are no fun, and Ori wants nothing more than to see the real world - the hills and valleys and rivers and mountains that he has so far only seen in tomes.

So, at the first opportunity, Ori slips away from the stand and wanders the market. He stares for a good long while at the quills in one stand, then follows his nose to the freshly baked goods. The woman at the stand sees him and gives him a small pastry with a smile, which he thanks her for and begins sucking on dutifully.

The sound of clanging draws his attention to the forge, where a shirtless blacksmith beats the lump of metal as if it had personally slighted him. Unnerved by the loud noises, he slowly moves away and focuses his attention on another stand. Coming closer, he sees well-crafted toys lining the shells and counter of the table. The hatted Dwarf manning it is leaning back in his chair and carving something, tiny shavings falling out of sight. Just as the Dwarf turns his head to look at Ori, the Dwarfling can hear Dori call his name.

He spins around, eyes catching Dori's familiar head of silver hair moving through the crowd. A light pressure on his shoulder makes him whip his head back to the hatted Dwarf, whose hand is outstretched with a tiny, detailed bird in it. The Dwarf presses it into his hand with a finger to his lips, and Ori tucks the toy away out of sight just before Dori bustles over to him and scolds him fiercely for leaving. Hanging over his bigger brother's shoulder, Ori cranes his head to look back at the hatted Dwarf, giving him a slight wave and a smile. The Dwarf's curled moustache twitches as he smiles back and returns the wave, before resuming his carving.

Ori is grounded for a month after that, but he could not care less. Unbeknownst to Dori, a small wooden bird has become his favorite playmate; and often, when he dares, a model for drawing with the ash in the fireplace.

He wants to listen to Dori's instructions; he really does. The deal had been simple: he could have scribe lessons if he agreed not to wander off or to go somewhere without Dori's permission. And so far he had kept with that agreement...but Fili and Kili want to take him to the lake, and it is a beautiful day, and he might be able to draw some things, and he is definitely old enough to have more freedom than Dori gives him. So, with the intent on coming back before Dori gets home, he agrees to let the mischievous Durin brothers show him the lake.

It is magnificent. Ori spends the afternoon with his stuffy boots off and his toes dipped into the water. He does not dare get in the water, lest he return home suspiciously wet, and thankfully Fili and Kili understand enough to the point where they do not try to drag him in (they, too, would get in trouble, as Thorin had told them they could only let Ori come if his brother said so). Instead, he draws everything - the mountains, the long, swaying grass, the birds chirping as they fly above, the crystal-clear reflection of the sky in the water at his feet. It is a glorious day - so glorious, in fact, that he loses track of the time until the sun is beginning to set and Dori is most definitely home by now.

Dori scolds him fiercely and even confiscates his notebook (not knowing that Ori has another one, recently purchased, and tucked away beneath his cot). All in all, Ori cannot quite regret enjoying himself a little. After all, what is Dori so worried about? The world is a wonderful place, full of bright, joyful colors and wonderful people, and Ori wishes he could see it all.

Ori wishes he had never left home.

Mahal knows he had argued with both Dori and Nori - one point on which the two brothers actually agreed - to come. He had fought, almost kicking and screaming, and threatened to follow behind them. Oh, he had known of the dangers - Orcs, dragons, blah, blah, blah. All very distant terrors in his mind; bedtime stories used to frighten children.

He had been so innocent - so naïve. How could he have thought their actions would have no consequences? What made him believe that evil only existed in fairytales? Because he had never seen it with his own eyes? Well, he had seen it now.

He sits, huddled, on the rock. Snow swirls around him as he stares down out the rows of warm lights cast by lanterns in the tents below. The sky is mostly dark, the evidence of battle masked by snow and the coming of night. Part of him - a very small part, the part in him that is a scribe - wants to draw the scene below him; to show the mountain's shadow against the dark gray twilight, the misshapen lumps that make up the dead, and the swath of small lights gathered below like gleaming flickers of hope. It is all very poetic, his mind tells him - beautiful in a way that can only be expressed with color, not words.

His heart tells him another story. The darkness seems to encroach, dimming the lights one by one, until his vision narrows to one tent, one tent that in reality could hold anyone, dead or living, but in his mind holds two specific people.

Had they not been romping through the fields by their home in Ered Luin only a day ago? Had Thorin not just scolded them for getting caught in the snow? What happened to the lives, to the bright lights that had shone through their mortal bodies so obviously that the blindest of Men could see it? How had such powerful souls, such enormous energy, disappeared so quickly?

How did the scribes of old do it, Ori wonders. How did they stand at the edge of battle and watch their brothers fall? How did they then put into such elegant words the ugly reality of war? How had they not merely screamed to the world? Ori is a scribe - the Royal Scribe, by Thorin's promise - and he cannot find the words. There are no words, in any language, to describe the anguish that burns his chest and engulfs his whole body in fiery hell.

But someday, he must. Someday he will awake from this frozen horror, this numbing grief and shock. And then he will write a story - a story worthy of the great Kings of old; a story worthy of Thorin Oakenshield, and of Fili, and Kili.