Once Upon a Time, as many stories of love, hardship, wicked kings and dragons, and overcoming obstacles begin and so too shall this one, there was a dwarf king. He began his reign as a good king, beloved by many for his fairness and for bringing great wealth to his people. He was Thror, King Under the Mountain, Lord of Silver Fountains, Ruler of Erebor. His people, and the people who lived near and benefited from the wealth of the mountain, sang his praises.
But privately, among those who knew him best, there was worry. After the loss of his wife, his One, he grew possessive and harsh, spending more time with the dead queen’s jewels than among his people. A statue was built in her honor, golden and perfect, dotted with the most precious gems that could be found.
He looked upon it often, its golden glint all his eyes could see and its weightless countenance the only comfort his aching heart could be touched by. He didn't sleep as he should and would not eat or bathe for days when his gaze was upon the statue. It was his obsession and his curse; he neither loved nor cared for anything but the cold beauty of his queen’s statue.
But it was not perfect, not yet, and he ordered his miners to dig deeper, to seek more, to find him what he needed to honor his dear One. And so the Arkenstone, a jewel like no other, came to his hands. It glowed with a light all its own, ribbons of color like veins of ore and gems spiraling beneath its white exterior, and all could feel its power.
He would craft a crown for his statue and put the jewel at her brow.
And he would descend deeper into his madness after. He spoke to the statue, or perhaps the gem, for long hours and seemed to take to ruling based on that which the statue told him. Those who knew this feared the stone and its power but would not speak against their king. His oldest grandson watched it all, silent in his dismay.
Outwardly he seemed powerful and flawless, making His people rich beyond measure. When he spoke leading his people to take back Khazad-dûm they answered his call, armies from the other mountains gathering and marching with him. There would be a long fierce battle with the orcs (and allegedly with the aid of a wizard or two to banish the horrors that laid in the deep but the truth of this is not something any but Thror could speak to and by the end Thror could speak to no one.) None knew that the reason was not to reclaim a lost homeland but greed; he was not satisfied with what the Lonely Mountain could provide and craved more, spurred forward by the whispers of the stone that sounded so like his lost queen. Should she not wear a crown of mithril it crooned to him, should he not be King of many mountains, should his legacy not be greater than any dwarf in this age? Should his bloodline, the line of Durin the Deathless, not stand above all else.
The sweet words blinded him to danger, to the cost, and the dream of victory clouded the eyes of all else.
Many were lost in the battles that would follow, including the king, but the ultimate victory would be sung of for generations. Fundin, son of Farin, was granted lordship of Khazad-dûm and Thrain, son of Thror, would take the throne of Erebor.
And it is here the story takes a darker turn. The Arkenstone would call to Thrain not in the voice of his mother but of his father and it would speak of traitors to his line, of those who would see them ended if they were not careful. He would pry the Arkenstone from his mother's statue and place it on a chain to wear near his heart always, declaring it symbolized his right to absolute rule and with that, and his father's ring, he would fall into madness, worse than that of his father.
For Thrain there would be no great deeds born of his insanity, only paranoia, confusion, and an insatiable need for more. Greed and rage turned him into a specter of himself, made him look upon his own children and see not love but betrayal. They would lead the line to ruin from the inside if he allowed them, undo all the things done by their ancestors; his children would be the fall of the Line of Durin. Or so the stone and the influence of the ring told him. He withdrew from all around him, ruling through his advisor Smaug, and refusing to hear any but the strange, golden eyed dwarf who had found his way into the king’s confidence
He became cold and cruel before the eyes of his children and they despaired for him.
It was Dis, daughter of Thrain, who would strike out for the Blue Mountains, unable to look upon the wretched thing her father had become. She would gather the scattered dwarf clans that lived there, bring them together, and become the Lady of the Blue Mountains, still subject to her father's rule but mostly left alone. There were no great riches there, many of the old mines filled by the sea and those that weren't offering copper, bauxite, some common gems, and little else, so Thrain cared not for much beyond receiving his tribute yearly.
All who came were welcome unconditionally and all loved their lady. When she married and when she bore her sons the celebrations were ones for the ages, stretching for months. When tragedy came, two babes who became stone in her womb and her husband, Narfi, killed by wargs during an orc raid, the mountain grieved with her, mourning black the standard for nearly a decade. When her sons, Fili and Kili, grew and found mischief it was under the fond eyes of many.
When the Fell Winter came and the hobbits asked for aid Lady Dis answered the call. Dwarrows marched into the Shire as their rivers froze and battled back the white wolves along side the rangers. She saw food, though scarce for her own people in those harsh times, delivered in whatever amounts they could spare. She opened the mountain to those willing to make the trip. When the winter passed and the thaw came she oversaw rebuilding of bridges and buildings, worked in the flooded fields though such things were not what they excelled in, and never did they ask for anything in return or accept any payment.
The dwarrows spoke often of the fairness and goodness of their lady who acted only because it was the right thing to do.
A relationship between the races was born. Dwarrow already passed through on the great road often, sold their wares on occasion, but now they came during the fall to set up their stalls in the market and stayed through the winter to provide protection in a world growing ever darker. They traded, food once the Shire was back to its usual form and stone and metalwork from the dwarrows. Within a decade a handful of the small villages had cottages on their outskirts, built above the ground in stone and wood, as shelters for the dwarrows who passed through, worked the market, or watched the borders.
It was perhaps inevitable that as a closeness formed between the people that in some cases love would bloom and, to the shock of many, children followed. Some of the small cottages became permanent homes to couples and their small dwobbits, as they were to be called, and some hobbits found their way to Ered Luin to stay. While not all were pleased with such relationships and the fruit that came of them, on both sides, most at least grudgingly accepted it. Lady Dis declared all children of mixed parentage would receive full rights as a dwarf and, in a rare show of interest beyond his treasure room, Thrain supported this.
This would prove to be grave foreshadowing for 30 years after the Fell Winter a strange sickness came to the dwarrows of all the mountains. Children died in their cradles and dams in their beds, no one able to do more than make the sick comfortable. For the dwarrow, who have always had much fewer dams than males and rarely were gifted with children because of it, there could be no greater pain. The three mountains were struck low by the tragedy.
Lady Dis would take ill as well and though she would survive (Ered Luin in general would suffer less than its sister mountains) she would be greatly diminished for a time, physically weaker than she'd been in many years. When her brother, Thorin, offered to house her sons in Erebor while she recovered she agreed. Fili and Kili were a handful at the best of times and after the sickness it was hard to have the energy for them and governorship. Besides, she reasoned as she watched her son's ride away, Fili was Thorin’s heir. She couldn't keep him with her, away from the Lonely Mountain and Thrain, forever and so nor could she keep Kili, who would sooner die than be separated from his brother.
And yet she felt a darkness in her heart and it took everything she had to not call her boys back to her side.
Fili and Kili stayed in Erebor for three years, learning under their uncle Thorin's watchful eye. But his were not the only eyes on them, merely the kindest and most sane. Where Thorin looked at his nephews and saw a future for his people free from madness Thrain looked upon them, when he could be bothered to leave the treasury, and saw the end of his line. He saw their eyes full of love for only each other, the fleeting touches and soft smiles, heard whispers of many nights where only one bed was slept in and of sheets the princes insisted on washing themselves.
Frerin was useless to him, mind shattered, Thorin would never have children if left to his own devices, rejecting the many Dams who'd come to him in favor of lying with other males, and Dis had given birth to a pair of kinfuckers, the worst of the three in doing so. Their line of Durin would end with his nephews and their unnatural lust; he could see their fate every time he closed his eyes. They would bring shame and destruction and see their noble line rot from the inside out, doing what no outsider have been able to do.
All the work he had done, amassing wealth and building power, would surely pass into the hands of another line. He could see it perfectly in his fevered dreams, Dain or one of the sons of Fundin, standing amongst his gold, sitting on his throne, the raven crown at their brow, Arkenstone around their neck, his father's ring in their finger.
Never had an image felt so real or sickened him so.
So he acted, or perhaps it was Smaug who acted in his name, and here the story truly begins.
Dear Fortinbras Took,
Honorable Thain of the Shire
I do hope this letter finds you and your people well. Lady Dis informs us that the Shire once again has had a most bountiful harvest season and that peace graces your lands even in these darker times; this news pleases us greatly.
I shall, henceforth, be blunt in my address. You have traded and be friendly with Lady Dis and the territory she holds in the name of our King, Thrain son of Thror, for many years and for that we are grateful. As such I assume you are aware of the sickness that ravaged our homes, striking at the most precious and rare among us, so recently and of the tragic consequences we are left to suffer through. Often have dwarrows been brought low and ever have we endured but in this our king feels we cannot do so alone.
So, to this end, we ask for that which is both a simple thing and not so simple at all, for it is a delicate manner and we do not wish for it to be seen wrong. We are aware it is possible for the union of our kinds to bear fruit and, as such, we would ask for various bachelors in good standing, vetted by king and council, be allowed to come to the Shire to seek wives. The situation will be as it has been in past years, with dwarrows offering their services as needed and protecting the borders
I would stress that we do not seek arranged marriages or for any to be forced into something they do not want. Rather we wish that those who are of open enough mind to consider such a relationship be willing to make themselves known (to avoid any issue of unwanted attentions or assumptions made that should not be and to ensure the good relationship between our peoples can continue as it has, unhindered by unpleasantness.) and strike up friendships that could, perhaps, become more. I understand this seems unusual, and that it is perhaps unseemly, but the matter of courting between different peoples is often complex and stopped before it can take it’s first step because of misunderstanding or fear and, in all truth, this letter is more to stop that. All dwarrows shall know they have the full support of their king, and that all hobbits who tie themselves to a dwarrow will be given full rights under our laws to land and inheritance as will their children.
All of that said I’m sure you can see where this is both a simple matter, in that it involves nothing that has not happened before and calls for little action on the part of yourself, but also complicated in its way. I hope that this will be the first of many letters between us so we may better understand each other.
Royal Advisor to the King Under the Mountain