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Chapter 1

The boar turned its head and snuffled. Its large brown ears twitched, but the beast gave no sign that it was alarmed. It began rooting in the soil again with its long tusks. The sun was setting, and the shadow of the great Blue Mountains was beginning to creep over the forest.

This was by far the most enormous boar Kili had ever seen, and after tracking it for hours he was determined to bring it down. He took care to stay upwind from the creature in case it ran off again after catching his scent, and there were not enough daylight hours left to hunt it again. He knocked an arrow, confident in the powerful bowstring. Kili was an excellent marksman for a dwarf, and rarely missed his target. He drew back and fired.

The arrow pierced the boar in the left shoulder, just above its vital organs. It squealed loudly and reared, and Kili leapt out, knife in hand. Roaring, eyes rolling wildly, the boar swung its great head and turned to fend off its attacker. Kili struck for its throat, but as he did so, a tusk caught him in the thigh, and he cried out. The wound nearly brought him to the ground. He was close enough to view the old scars on its back, and realized that this beast was a veteran fighter. He sturdied himself through his pain. The boar thrashed its head, bloodied tusk gleaming. Kili dodged backward and struck again, but he tripped. The boar readied to charge, and Kili began to fear the strength of this animal. He thought of his uncle, and his brother, and how outlandish it would be to end up in stone from the likes of a pig. Determined once more, he scrambled to his feet –

- Only to be thrown to the ground again, forcefully. A hooded figure dropped from the tree above, landed next to the boar, and proceeded to thrust a blade deep under its foreleg, quickly and cleanly. The boar grunted, swayed, and stooped to its knees. The strange figure withdrew their dagger, and the boar quietly breathed its last. The stranger placed their hand on the animal’s head and muttered something, then wiped their blade on its fur.

Kili was on his feet by now, and was keeping his bow knocked in caution. He noted two gently curved daggers of unknown make, yet the person was of dwarf size, and had now turned to acknowledge him.

“Who are you?” Kili said.

“Is that how you thank your rescuers where you come from?” said the hood. The voice was young, smooth, and notably female.

“That was my kill.”

“Yet you did not kill it. In fact, the beast proved equally deadly to you as your arrow did to it.”

Kili had no response to that. His leg was bleeding as it throbbed, and even if it was his boar, he would not be able to carry it nor subdue this stranger at present. “I demand you answer my question,” he replied.

“Demand? Hah. In that case, I am called Cellan.” The stranger removed her hood and bowed. She was indeed a young dwarf, potentially of the old Blacklock line, with long dark hair, blue eyes, and a short nose.

“Very well. I am – “

“I know who you are. You are Kili, sister-son to Thorin Oakenshield, the ruler of Durin’s Folk ,” she interrupted.

“Your tongue is sharp but your words are true,” Kili replied. “I will make you a proposal. If you will help me carry this beast to my camp, a quarter of the meat shall be yours as reward.”

“A quarter? Does the approval of an exiled prince make up for the rest? I am at your service, Master Dwarf, though first I suggest you tend to your wound.”

Kili was becoming more interested in this stranger – whose clothing was not of Khazad make, he saw - along with being a she-dwarf. He took out a linen from his pack and tightened it around his thigh, which was throbbing more and more. The she-dwarf Cellan was tying a stick to the front and back legs of the boar to aid in the carrying.

“I am ready,” he said to her. He took one end of the stick and lifted, his leg trembling. She noticed his struggling.

“We will not get far tonight, unless your camp is behind that bush,” she said. “The night is already upon us.”

“I will camp here, in that case,” said Kili. It was not a bad spot, and the trees provided good shelter.

“Then I will tend to the meat, if you will tend to a fire,” she said.

“Will you not be on your way?” he asked.

“This is my camp, as it is my kill, and you require my aid,” said Cellan. She proceeded to walk over to a tree, and began to climb it nimbly. She dropped down two bags of supplies and a bedroll, and later jumped down herself, landing with bent knees and one fist to the forest floor.

“Your camp is a tree? And why are you out here at all?” Kili was now more than curious how a dwarf became so good at tree-climbing.

“A tree is protected from ground-view,” she looked at him, “and I am here because this is my camp. In fact, I should ask why you, a noble dwarf, has been away from his home for the past day and a half. Surely it is not to bring back sweet-pork for his people.”

“My lady dwarf should watch her words.” Kili frowned at the fact that she knew how long he’d been away. “You know enough about me.”

“And you know little of the ways of a ranger, the first way being that who your mother is or what you call yourself is not of any consequence when you are in the wilds. The second way would be how to hunt a proper sized animal, and the third is how to move silently, which I suggest you learn if you wish to travel anonymously.”

Kili frowned again.

“Do not fear, master dwarf, for as long as you are in my company I will not prove threat to you. Now, how about that fire?”

It was some time before Cellan had prepared the boar meat for better transport. Kili made a fire and was roasting a rabbit she gave to him. They were both unusually silent for dwarves, though Kili was no less hungry. The ranger dwarf seemed private in general, and Kili had not much to say after she had hurt his pride.

When the meat was finished cooking, she brought out some strange spices for flavor. Kili was suspicious, but ate all the same, and to his delight found the meat absolutely delicious. “What flavoring is this that can turn such scrawny rabbit into a meal fit for kings?” He asked her.

“It is from the realm of the Shire ,” she said. “The finest spices and pipes come from there.”

“And how would a she-dwarf know so much of other realms?”

She did not reply. Kili had noticed she spoke a different tone than the common dwarf, but he did not recognize it. “I’d like to know why they teach womenfolk to hunt where you are from,” he said playfully.

Cellan laughed at that. “Ranging is not taught, but learned by anyone willing or able.”

Now it was Kili’s turn to laugh. “You are a ranger, then? A Protector of the North ?” He smirked.

The look she gave him ended his mirth. She traced a slender, un-dwarflike finger along the edge of the curved dagger in her lap. Her fingernails were bloody from cleaning the boar. “I protect no one unless I deem it fit. You are an exception, as one who has run away from home and gotten himself hurt in the process.”

“I did not run away!”

“Then why in Middle-Earth are you out here alone, Master Kili, when I assume your great importance would be so missed amongst your people?”

Kili did not wish to tell her, for she would probably find it amusing, and he did not think he had the wits to match. She spoke true, for he had by all definition run away.

“I am here because I desire to be here, alone, with plenty of boar meat to return home with. If I ever do.” Kili sighed. “ But I am grateful to you for this. If you will help me get back home, you will be rewarded.”

“I seek no reward, but I will aid you further. And if you will not tell me the reason for your being here, I will tell you mine. I have information that may be of interest to your uncle,” she told him.

“What sort of information?”

“The kind kings would like to know about, if they care anything about the forces of darkness.”

“I cannot get you an audience with Thorin, as he has left on urgent business. If this information is truly important, you may speak with the steward.”

After supper, she gave him some spiced wine to ease his throbbing leg, and he slept like a stone through the night. It was late morning when she woke him. They packed up, and Kili found himself a walking stick, though his leg seemed to be healing nicely, as well as having the bandage changed with a strange ointment. They brought only the best of the boar meat since it was too much to carry, and Cellan promised to give him some of that spice once he was home.

The warm sun danced through the trees and glinted off of Cellan’s black hair. She wore it together in a long braid down her back. She was tall for a dwarf maiden, but too lean. Her strength seemed to compensate.

A quail crossed their path, and Kili shot it with his bow. The more he brought back from his venture, the less trouble he would get, he thought.

“That is a fine bow,” said Cellan. It was very fine, made of strong ironwood and intricately carved.

“It was a gift from my uncle,” he said.

“I can see you deserved it. You shoot well.”

“Not well enough to take down a boar,” said Kili.

“That boar had survived many hunters past.”

Kili knew what his uncle would say about his trying to hunt a boar that size alone. You are headstrong and eager to prove yourself, but I cannot allow you to endanger yourself and others. In fact, his uncle did say that, on Kili’s seventy-fourth birthday, two days ago.

“After you killed the boar yesterday, you said something. Like a spell,” Kili mused.

“I thanked him for giving his life for our nourishment,” she said to him.

“What, like the elves do?” Kili did not much like elves (though he had never met one), since Thorin did not like elves. Most of his race preferred mountain cave quarry and to forest and fancy magic, and thought the elves odd and untrustworthy.

She did not reply, but held up a hand to halt. Kili stopped and listened, but did not know why. He tapped an arrow, and she nodded. He stood bow at the ready.

Cellan removed her pack and drew her daggers. Kili heard something like the sound of hooves just off the path. Just then, a great shape burst out of the brush, a shape with teeth and huge paws, not a horse at all but nearly as big. It was a warg, and Kili fired an arrow as it stood growling at them. It missed, but grazed the warg’s ear, causing it to howl in rage. It bore down on Kili, and once again he was on his back. He held up his walking stick across him with both hands to hold off the snapping jaws, but the enormous teeth snapped the branch in two. Before it lunged for his face, Cellan came up from behind and plunged her dagger into the beast’s head. It collapsed on top of Kili, with blood and drool dripping onto his face.

As Kili struggled to get out from under the carcass, Cellan spun around and had engaged the warg’s rider in combat. It was an orc-creature, the first Kili had ever seen, armed with a crude sword.

“Huarg!” It shouted, twisted face made even more gruesome. It slashed at Cellan, and she rolled to the side. As she did, she slashed the back of the orc’s leg, and it dropped to one knee. She grabbed its head and pulled backwards, slitting its throat from behind.

She ran over to help Kili up. “We must be off!” she said, “a lone scout it may have been, but that is doubtful amongst orcs!”

They hurried and began to run, Kili limping as fast as he could. His leg was hurting badly now, and they were still far from safety. It was at least two miles until they reached the patrol borders, and even further to the city gate.

After some time, they heard howls and shouts from the distance, and clashing steel. King Thorin ensured the dwarves and their walls were strong enough for an entire orc army, but Kili feared for the guards if the orcs caught them unawares. At last they came upon the road, and there was a dwarf patrol there, along with a number of dead wargs and their riders. One of the guards loosed an arrow at the two coming out from the forest path, missing Cellan by a few inches. “HOLD!” shouted the patrol leader.

“KILI! I’m Kili!” He shouted.

“Master Kili!”

“Kili!”

The leader came to them “Kili! We have been out searching for you.” It was Gloin, a warrior of the Hall. He and another dwarf eyed Cellan, but did not ask questions.

“He is wounded,” Cellan told them. At that, Kili dropped to the ground. All that running had inflamed his injured leg.

“What a surprise.” Gloin hoisted Kili onto a guard’s back. “Another dwarf has been wounded in the attack, which Kili should probably see to,” Gloin said.

Kili saw that it was his brother, Fili, who was the wounded dwarf. There was an orc arrow sticking out of his shoulder. “Fili!”

“I’m all right, little brother.” Normally, Kili would hate being called that, as they were only a few years apart, and still both younglings as far as dwarves go.

“Fili, I am so sorry.”

“I am sorry for upsetting you so,” said Fili. He tapped the arrow in his shoulder and grimaced, but managed a weak smile for his younger brother.

“If you two are finished, we must make for the Hall,” said Gloin, “and another patrol must be sent to hunt the orcs that escaped.”

Kili looked round the area. There were four dead orcs and five dead wargs. Fili and he were the only wounded. A small relief that Fili was not killed because of my stupidity, he thought, and that the strange dwarf-ranger could come to my aid.

End of Chapter 1
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