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For want of an arrow...

These two scenes follow the one I posted two weeks back, a continuation of the divergent events that open this AU. (That is, Legolas puts a couple of arrows into Bolg that in the canon storyline went into orcs attacking Thorin, and left his post to aid Tauriel a minute or two earlier.)

As is typical with UFFs, this hasn't been beta's yet, so C&C on both plot & grammar would be accepted with good grace.



Now he is facing fifty or sixty orcs, and rather than Thorin guarding his back he has only the halfling; his friend, his king, is off by himself in the ruins, searching for Kili, or maybe Azog. Dwalin can't think about that now, though. Orcs are strong and vicious but not terribly smart, and that they keep filtering over the wall in ones and twos (instead of rushing him in an easily-assembled pair of five-person wedge formations) is the only thing keeping him from being overrun. That, and the fact that Bilbo has a surprisingly good throwing arm and a keen sense of timing; rocks keep hitting his opponents in the eye at critical moments.

They've started coming in from the path to his right as well now, and Dwalin is a flurry of axe and anger as he tries to keep any from getting by.

“DWALIN! KILI!” Thorin's hoarse shout comes echoing through the mist. Dwalin starts backing up towards the direction of the call, leading his opponents on. He hopes Bilbo has sense enough to keep pace with him; hard on the heels of that thought comes the realization that he hasn't seen any rocks flying by for the last minute or so.

He risks a glance over his shoulder and spies the halfling sprawled in the snow, bloodied and unmoving. Outrage and sorrow fill his heart, and he makes them fuel for his attacks, just like he did with the feelings that overtook him while witnessing Fili's murder.

An orc runs at him with a cleaver, and Dwalin takes off its hand and then its head. The orc's weapon lands at his feet, and he scoops it up before vaulting over the last stairwell and onto the ice. Out in the mist, Thorin is facing off against four orcs; several more are lumbering towards the fight. He doesn't see Kili anywhere. Dwalin spares a moment to wish the lad good hunting, and then puts his head back in the battle.

Dwalin takes the legs off the first orc he catches up to, and stomps past its flailing body without stopping. The next one turns at the sound of the legless orc's shrieks, and he closes with it.

This one has some smarts to go with its bulk, and it's faster than Dwalin expects- but not fast enough. The fight is scramble of blocks and brutal jabs that ends with Dwalin putting his borrowed cleaver through the orc's throat. He rips it free in a gout of black blood, and looks to his king.

Thorin has killed one of his opponents, but another has already arrived to take its place. With so many orcs surrounding him, he's on the defensive, hardly able to manage an attack between blocks, and these orcs seem better than most about staying out of each other's way. Just as Dwalin thinks that, Thorin ducks a swing from a mace that winds up in the face of the orc moving in behind him. There's only two more between them, and he summons a burst of speed.


The pair hear him coming and turn, readying their weapons against him; one bears a spiked iron club, the other a billhook. Dwalin holds his labrys high and the cleaver low and prepares to engage both at the same time.

A huge, pale form drops in front of them, and he has a split-second to react to the new target.

Azog!

Dwalin doesn't check his speed; he increases it, throwing himself at their adversary's torso. Azog expects the axe to be the focus of the attack, and his misdirected attention allows Dwalin to takes a stripe of flesh off his leg with the cleaver. The move puts him in position to circle it back up to block a strike from the giant mace- but the scavenged weapon fractures on impact.

Dung-forged waste of metal!

The other two orcs have drawn close, and Dwalin flings the broken cleaver at the nearer of the two; it lodges in the beast's shoulder. The dwarven warrior plants his feet in the ground and grips his war-axe with both hands, preparing to take on all three opponents at once.

Azog, however, isn't willing to share this fight. He snarls at the duo as they come abreast of him, and gestures in Thorin's direction; they turn and head back that way. The pale orc yells after them in black speech, and the semi-circle around his king draw back slightly, holding formation as the last two arrive. Dwalin is just close enough to hear how labored Thorin's breathing is, to briefly catch his eye.

There are now six orcs surrounding him.

But the group doesn't attack; instead they keep just out of range, treating Thorin to taunting jabs and defensive posturing. The one with the billhook calls over to Azog, who nods approvingly in reply.

A sick feeling grows deep in Dwalin's gut, beneath his rage. There's only one reason Azog would order his warriors to do such a thing. Azog isn't standing in the way of Dwalin coming to Thorin's assistance- Azog's troops are in the way of Thorin coming to his.

He means to make an exemplar out of our fight.

Dwalin tightens his hold on the labrys. Its weight is comparable to the twin axes stripped from him in Mirkwood- the weapons he'd always expected to die bearing. This one will have to do in their stead... He narrows his eyes. ...A hundred years from now, perhaps. NOT. TODAY! He sucks in a breath.

“Khazâd ai-mênu!” Dwalin yells as he launches forward. His axe meets Azog's mace with a ear-breaking shang! He rips the weapon back to block a stab from the pale orc's sword-arm and swears that the axe puts a notch in the blade. Dwalin dodges out of the way of the next furious blow, and swings at Azog as he stumbles past; the blow lands but it's the orc's armor that cracks, not his back.

Dwalin presses his advantage, swinging again and again and again, forcing Azog off the river and back into the ruins. More often than not he aims for the orc's upper arm, hoping to take off the horrible prosthesis much as Thorin did the original arm, but Azog seems to have a sensitivity to such attacks and Dwalin fails at all of them. Nonetheless, the dwarf is winning ground step by step...until Azog breaks his pattern and hammers his mace down at Dwalin's face. He raises the labrys in time to intercept the blow, but the force of it sends him to one knee- and while he rebounds readily, his momentum has been lost. Dwalin needs a new tactic.

He gauges his opponents movement and swings his axe, not at Azog's arm but at the place where Azog's mace is about to be. Specifically, his grip on it. Dwalin's aim is slightly off; he only manages to clip one of the orc's fingers instead of sinking the blade into the middle of the hand. Still, the force is enough to send the weapon flying free, freckled with orc blood. It makes a loud tok as it ricochets off the remains of a wall, and a serious of smaller sounds as it bounces down the mountain- a lovely bit of percussion to back Azog's growl of pain.

Dwalin wrenches himself back in time to avoid a swipe from Azog's sword-arm, but is left too off-balance to avoid a backfist from the orc's bleeding hand. It sends the dwarf warrior tumbling into the ruins, and he comes close to following Azog's mace over the side. Had the attack occurred fifteen feet further back, where most of the stones had already fallen away, he likely would have.

Somewhere behind him, he hears Thorin roar, and one of the orcs give a snarling laugh in reply. But the sound is cut short by a thick, wet sound. Dwalin grins, the pain of his split lip barely registering; the blood in his mouth tastes sweet.

Azog's bounds over to him, blade thrusting down. The dwarf rolls out of range and comes up punching at Azog with the head of his labrys instead of swinging it. It hits the orc in the gut, doubling him over somewhat; Dwalin tries a follow-up to Azog's throat but is blocked by his blade. Their weapons interlock, and then the orc brings his arm sharply down, the edges of the split steel sliding along the handle of Dwalin's axe.

Dwalin lets go of the labrys and twists away before Azog succeeds in what Dwalin himself failed to do earlier: slice his opponent's hands off of his weapon. The move sends the tip of Azog's blade gouging the snow near Dwalin's feet.

He wraps his hands together and swings his fist into the pale orc's ear; Azog retaliates with a kick that knocks Dwalin over the embankment and onto the frozen river, thirty yards upstream from where Thorin is still being held at bay. Azog jumps down after him, so Dwalin is caught between the orc and the riverbank. The dwarf barely manages to twist out of range of Azog's next attack; the blade gouges the wall behind him, sending bits of stone flying. It gives Dwalin an idea.

He keeps close to the wall, timing his dodges carefully so that Azog's thrusting strikes come closer to him than his swinging ones, edging closer to the river's raised bank and the ruins at its shore. Azog stabs at him in a wicked triad- belly, head, heart. Each time his sword-arm plunges past Dwalin and into the stone at his back it brings the blade one step closer to shattering.

They are both surprised when Azog's next blow doesn't rebound from the wall. The huge orc tries to pull his arm back, even yanks at it with his free hand, but to no avail; the blade is well and truly imbedded in the bedrock. Unless he tears his own flesh free of the implanted weapon- unless he disarms himself!- Azog is stuck in place.

Dwalin spits, grins, and goes to fetch the nearest blade he can find.

There's a clinking sound behind him, like the rattling of a chain, and then a crunching noise. Dwalin halts mid-step, pivoting back to face Azog. There's a blur





*

Tauriel vaults another corpse on the staircase, ignoring her pains, trying to find her way through the ruins. Until a few moments ago she'd had the distant sound of fighting to guide her, even heard voices calling out, but it's gone distressingly quiet. She's trying to balance moving quickly and moving soundlessly over snow-covered rock, senses stretched to their limit for any sign of enemies – or allies. She moves into a cave-like tunnel, the glare of snow bright at its far end, and slips through like a whisper.

There's a body laying at the mouth of the tunnel, and as she draws close Tauriel realizes it isn't an orc or a goblin. Wary of what might be lurking outside, she covers the last few yards in stealth, and crouches down next to the corpse.

It is Fili, and Tauriel knows before she touches him that all life has already fled his body. His eyes stare blindly past her, and with a silent prayer to Aule, she reaches out to close them. She notices footprints in the snow, and centuries of reading tracks makes the story all too clear; another dwarf stood here, ran from here, up the steps...back towards the direction she'd come from.

Kili.

A scream whips her attention forward once more; she hears the word “NO!” roared in anguish, and then the name “AZOG!” in rage. Over the next outcropping of rock she spies her goal. Thorin Oakenshield is in a stand-off with three orcs; on the other side of the frozen river, another orc, huge and pale-skinned, is standing over the body of fallen dwarf. As both she and Thorin watch, Azog raises his sword- no, not a sword, but a blade grafted onto his flesh in place of a missing arm! - and skewers the body at his feet. Tauriel flinches at the impact, although the body does not. Dead, then, before the strike. That was only done for the sake of watching Thorin suffer. From the look of the dwarf lord, it was working.

Azog draws his arm back, the corpse first rising with the blade and then slowly sliding off of it, falling back to the red-frosted ground. “Did I not say you'd only live long enough to watch them all die?” The orc calls over to Thorin. He snaps his blade-arm out to one side, shedding blood and bits of viscera.

Thorin flings himself in Azog's direction, but the orc soldiers keep themselves in his path, forcing him to fight for every step forward. Azog, still an arrow's flight away, laughs...and then slowly starts to amble forward, idly swinging an improvised flail: a huge chunk of masonry at the end of a long, heavy chain.

She thinks of Thranduil, coldly turning from the plight of the mortal races, and Kili, begging her to save his king with what may well have been his dying breath. This day may be the death of her, but Tauriel would rather die fighting than live having abandoned another soul.

There's a fist sized rock just to the left of her hand, and the injured elf uses it to announce her presence to the face of the nearest orc. Luck or skill- or perhaps both- allow Thorin to take immediate advantage of the distraction, stepping inside its guard and running it through- and then pivoting so the dying creature takes a pair of blows meant for him. Wrenching his sword free, the dwarf staggers backward.

Azog has closed over half the distance, and while Thorin and the remaining orcs are too engaged with each other to look around for the source of the projectile, the pale orc is not. He spots her readily enough, but continues to head towards the would-be king, snapping out an order to his soldiers that Tauriel can only assume is “Go kill that elf!” They peel away from their engagement with Thorin and head in her direction.

Thorin doesn't bother to see where his two erstwhile opponents are going, his attention solely on the beast approaching him. Tauriel can't spare an eye to keep watch on the dwarf, either. Fatigue is creeping up on her, and the injury inside her belly is sapping both her focus and her strength. The orcs are moving to flank her, and she cannot risk another bout of close combat in her weakened state. She slinks back, drawing them away from the battle on the river, and readies herself for their attack. The sword feels strange in her hands; fighting with her bow or her daggers has become as natural to her as breathing, but the heft and movement of the single, longer, weightier blade is foreign to her.

It's mostly dodge and evade on her part until she's forced to raise her sword in a block and the orc's weapon slices in twain upon it, startling them all. Tauriel attempts to use the moment to her advantage, but winds up taking a blow to the hip from the orc's shortened club. It sends her tumbling into the other one, who hisses and lurches backwards for a better angle at which to bring it's spear-like blade down on her. Tauriel ducks between the orc's legs, slicing deeply into its calf as she passes, and drawing the sword up the back of its body as she stands. Armor and flesh both part like cheese beneath her blade, and the orc falls nervelessly forward. The other orc steps forward to snap up its comrade's weapon, discarding the broken club.

They edge around each other, Tauriel and the orc, each seeking an opening. She supposes it would be too much to ask that this final opponent be as slow and stupid as the ones she faced earlier, but then, it makes sense that the only orc to survive this long would be one of the smarter, better fighters. For all she knows, she's facing one of their commanders.

There's a terrible scream behind them, low and drawn-out and surging with pain. Both she and the orc turn toward the sound. Thorin is on his knees, body hunched over, clutching at the right side of his body. He doesn't appear to have a weapon in view, let alone in hand. Azog is standing over him but making no move to finish him off.

Tauriel and her opponent shift their focus back to each other in the same moment. He sneers at her, showing a mouthful of broken teeth, and moves to stand between her and the scene on the ice. She doesn't have time to win a fight against him and get to Thorin before it is too late; Azog's sadism is the only reason the dwarf lord isn't already dead. Even now the orc is gloating, laughing as he leans over to pick up the masonry chunk at the end of his chain. He makes a show of how heavy it is before he lifts it above his head.

He's going to kill him by inches, Tauriel realizes. Crush him to death one limb at a time.

She does the only thing she can think of: lunge forward, and fling her sword towards Thorin, low and level with the frozen river. It spins like a leaf in the wind until it touches down, then slides in long loops across the ice. Tauriel may be lacking her usual strength but her aim is still true; the blade skitters to a stop at the dwarf lord's side.

There's a glaive sweeping towards her that requires her attention, so she doesn't see if Thorin is able to pick up the blade before Azog's blow falls. Tauriel dives under the swing and rolls to her feet, the motion sending searing pains through her abdomen. It checks her step, causing her to double over even before she's properly standing, so the orc's next swing goes over her head instead of through it.

She needs a new weapon, a way to kill this soldier and any that come after him. The river below is littered with orc corpses and their armaments- she has to get to one. The orc she's facing, unfortunately, has discerned her predicament- for every move she makes towards a body, it puts itself in her path. It speaks fearful volumes about her condition that she is so easily outmaneuvered. On her third attempt, the orc snatches an axe out of the hand of a still-twitching soldier to keep it from her grasp. It twirls both its weapons, leering, and starts to close on her. Tauriel risks a glance over her shoulder, hoping against the odds that she'll see someone coming to her aid, and not the orc leader headed her way.

Thorin is on the ground, barely moving – but Azog is on the ground as well, and he's not moving at all; the hilt of the elven sword protrudes from the armor covering his chest. With no allies in sight, it is her best- perhaps only- shot at survival.

She turns, grabs the last weapons she has – the arrows in her sheath – and lunges forward to stab them into her opponent's thighs. He squawks, and Tauriel takes off.

She can make it; she may be limping but she can hear the orc behind her is limping just as badly. If she can reclaim her sword, she can finish him off- she is sure of it. She may even have enough energy left for some minor healing before she passes out. She only has to go twenty more feet, fifteen-

Something collides with the back of her skull and sends her flying. The ice rushes up to meet her face but everything goes dark before it reaches her, and instead of the harsh landing she expects, Tauriel just keeps

falling

falling

falling

*

*

*


I'm pretty sure that in the extended edition of Five Armies we're going to to see cut scenes of Dwalin fighting Azog and disarming him of that mace before being thrown over the side of Ravenhill. It would explain why Azog didn't have the mace and had to use a scavenged weapon during his fight with Thorin, and why we didn't see Dwalin anywhere during that fight or after Bilbo woke up: Dwalin was climbing back up the side of the mountain during Thorin and Azog's face-off. The above scenes paraphrase THAT theory of events.
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