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Keeping Watch Over Durin's Sons

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If you ask Thorin Oakenshield, he will praise Bofur until his voice runs hoarse (and then continue silently as the sun sets and rises and rabbits multiply several times over and at least one harvest season passes). The moral of this story, of course, is: do not ask. Ask Dis, perhaps, who will give you a much more concise version of Thorin's monologue.

You could ask Bofur, though he would pass it off as nothing (which it most certainly is not). The hatted miner would merely tell you that he had been doing what any Dwarf would have done; and perhaps that is true, but in the end, it was Bofur that had done it.

You want to hear the tale? Very well. Sit, please, take a scone. It is a tale of true bravery.

Bofur swings around, his braids flying as he catches another Orc upside the head with his mattock. Fire burns in several of the houses, and he wishes that more Dwarves lived in the mountain.

He stands with his back to the thick oak door that protects the village's children and pregnant women. Bifur is there as well, swinging his double-edged axe with ease of practice as his eyes dart about, seeking enemies. The cousins shield the door, and the people within, together, weapons catching the orange light of the fire.

They catch a break, and Bofur allows himself to relax for a few moments before the next wave of Orcs - part of a large band that had decided to prey on the all but defenseless village - comes. "Is everyone in there?" he asks Bifur.

Bifur shakes his head. "The Lady Dis is not," he replies, looking grim. Bofur puts one foot forward, his eyes darting between the door and the direction of Lady Dis' house. The heavily pregnant Dwarrowdam may be safer where she is, closer to the woods, but on the other hand, may have very little defense.

"Go, cousin," Bifur growls. "I have it here."

"Bofur nods, hefts his mattock, and begins jogging in the direction of Lady Dis' and her husband's house. Looping around to avoid Orcs that swarm the village center, he finds a barricade set up with several Dwarves defending it. Among these are Prince Thorin and Dis' husband.

"Is the Lady Dis alrigh'?" He shouts above the din of the fire. Kilan whips his head to face him, worry and panic in his eyes.

"She's in labor," Prince Thorin answers, raising his trademark oak shield as arrows rain down. Bofur ducks behind a burning cart, realizing that Orc archers have taken to the rooftops.

"Shouldn' ya be with her then?" he directs his question at Kilan, who only looks longingly in the direction of his house even as he raises his own shield against the deadly missiles. Bofur realizes that he can't get to the house - he is trapped fighting in the village.

"Right," Bofur nods to himself, hoisting his mattock. "Don't worry, Yer Highness - I'll make sure she's safe." He takes off at a run, dodging into the trees to avoid being shot in the back. Within minutes, he finds himself in front of the (thankfully) stone house, and barges through the front door without hesitation.

He quickly runs through the rooms before hearing a particularly pained grunt from one of them. As he enters that room, he automatically blocks something coming his way - a weighted staff, he realizes, wielded by Ered Luin's healer, Oin.

Bofur realizes he must look a fright; his hair is singed, his clothes and skin are covered in soot and black Orc blood. Even Dis, it seems, has halted her labor to stare at him.

"It's alright, m'Lady," Bofur assures her breathlessly. He holds his mattock in both hands, prepared in case something comes through the window. "I jus' spoke with yer husband. I'm here to keep you safe."

Oin grunts and opens his mouth, but a crash sounds from the front of the house. Bofur is out of the birthing room and charging down the hallway in the blink of an eye, mattock raised and eyes fierce. The Orc does not even register his presence before its head is bashed in. More come, though, and Bofur twirls his mattock with more skill than he has ever demonstrated before. He does not notice the clips to his head and arms, nor does he count the number of bodies that pile up to form a barricade behind him. He does register the moment at which a babe's piercing cry cuts through the sound of clashing metal, and with dark satisfaction, removes the head of one final Orc.

Fire is still visible in the north, and Bofur stands, legs apart, back straight, mattock in both hands, and watches the land around him. He nods briefly when Oin sticks his head out to inform him of the child's gender - a boy - but otherwise does not move from his position until the dawn breaks and two Dwarves appear through the trees. Both are ragged, sooty, and bloody, but alive and bearing, it seems, only minor injuries.

Kilan's eyes widen as he takes in the sight of the corpses lying behind Bofur. His eyes quickly move to the miner's face, and Bofur allows a twitch of his moustache to break his solid features, stepping aside to allow Kilan to enter his home.

Prince Thorin stops in front of Bofur and, to the miner's great shock, bows his head low in deep respect. "You have saved the life of my sister, and the life of my..."

"Nephew," Bofur speaks for the first time in many hours. An unexpected smile, teeth and all, appears on the prince's face, radically transforming his features. "My nephew," he breathes, eyes flickering to the door. "We are forever in your debt." He claps Bofur on the shoulder, and Bofur returns the gesture. Then Thorin moves to go into the house, and Bofur hefts his mattock before heading back home - to, he will soon learn, another, different kind of battle.

A good tale, is it not? Well, Bofur would disagree with you now. He is ashamed, you see - ashamed that he was not there at their last, protecting them as he had done for all those years. So if you see him, remind him of the good he has done. Remind him that, without him, Fili and Kili would never have even lived. Tell him that you think he is a hero - he may voice his disagreement, but every word brings him one step closer to believing it himself.

It is up to you, my dear, to remind him of his worth; I'm afraid he lost respect for himself a long time ago. Do not worry - it will not be hard to find him. He has two braids that curl up at the end, and a moustache that does the same. He often works in the mines, but also visits his cousin's toy shop once in a while. And he wears this ratty old hat with flaps up at the ears - the very same one that an eager, golden-haired prince bought for him one fine Yule morning, a long, long time ago.