Once upon a time a Prince was born to the Line of Durin. For his people he was named Thorin, and there was much rejoicing in the land, or at the very least, in the Lonely Mountain.
Now it came to pass that Thorin was raised as his father was raised, and as his grandfather before him. He learned the history of his people, and the master skills of his race. He learned pride and discipline, and honed the iron strength of his will in the forges of his grandfather’s court.
Aged twenty three, Thorin was sent as emissary to the Spring Rites of the Elvenking.
Thranduil, Lord of Greenwood the Great, was wise and fair, and his arrogance made him a temptation too rare to be ignored.
Thorin sat at the king’s table and tasted from his plate, but the food was too cold, composed as it was entirely of leaves and fresh berries. The next night he was given wine in the king’s quarters, but he felt uncomfortable for the chairs were carved for a much taller figure and in consequence were too large. The following night, he consented to share the king’s bed, but while he enjoyed the pleasures they shared, the bed when they were done was too soft.
He rose in the morning with regret and bittersweetness, and Thranduil needed no words to understand that this would proceed no further.
He was gracious in his rejection, as an elf should be, and Thorin was glad to return to his mountain.
The years passed, and a fire drake came down from the North, bringing change and exile with him. Thorin fled with the rest of his kin and decades were spent to found a new settlement.
War came and went and there were no victories worth the death and devastation that followed the Line of Durin.
Some small comforts there were, however, and those loyal few who kept their places beside him were numbered amongst them. The most constant of them all was Dwalin, son of Fundin, once bodyguard and now friend.
Together they had fought in the War of Orcs and Dwarves. Together they had mourned the fallen. Together also they had returned to the Ered Luin, and when Thorin required aid to train his sister-sons, he could think of no one more suited than his most trusted warrior. For Dwalin was a worthy dwarf, strong and forthright.
One Durin’s Day they shared the night in a tavern in a town of Men, alone in their festivities save for each other.
Thorin shared the celebration, but drank only part of the ale Dwalin brought him, for the fumes rose in his blood and they were too hot. As the night progressed he grew restless, for his experience of the world had left him over-cautious in the press of strangers and the inn was too small. The night drew to its close when they were thrown out after the inevitable fight, after which he found the hay in the loft above the stables was old and dry, and the boards too hard beneath his back as Dwalin pressed him down.
The morning brought only heavy heads and dry mouths, and he bowed his head in sorrow, for he had hoped it would bring him joy.
Dwalin seemed not to consider the matter as seriously as he did, and after some hesitation, Thorin smiled in bittersweet resignation and accepted that love would play no part in this friendship. They shared a quest, and there it ended.
Reports of the dragon waned and wandered. News came fast or slow, dependent on the seasons and the signs in the wind.
Yet Thorin son of Thrain never forgot his lost kingdom, and he was fortunate to meet a wizard. This wizard gave him a map.
Thorin did not trust Tall Folk, but the map and healthy caution turned his tongue towards abrupt civility. This measure of respect bought him more guidance than he dared hope for, and within months Erebor seemed suddenly within reach once more.
Aged one hundred and ninety two he set out upon the final journey that would seal his fate.
He put aside the hot steel he once hammered in the forges of Men. He turned his hand away from plough shares and horseshoes, from the eating utensils and rivets and chased loving cups for newlyweds, and once more he took up his axe and his sword.
The first leg of his journey was undertaken alone, but he barely felt the solitude. His concerns and fears were companions enough upon the road, and the chatter of doubt in his mind was especially loud on his return from the meeting with the seven clans.
No one would come, and in his preoccupation he lost his way twice in the dark in the unfamiliar terrain of neat fences and narrow laneways. Twisting and curving through hillocks and barrows, with the smell of greenery and all the buzzing sounds of small living things that masked the muffled shouts of a dwarvish revelry in full song.
He was tired and sore, contemptuous of his vulnerability and fearful of his future. When he found the wizard’s mark upon a green door he wanted only a space upon the floor to sleep and a company who would not demand answers and promises he could not give.
He was not expecting his vaunted burglar to be a gentle-hobbit with no prior experience. The hobbit himself seemed as loathe to go on the journey as Thorin was to take him.
There should have been an end to the matter.
That night, however, Thorin, by privilege of the royal blood in his veins, was given a bedroom for himself. It was no dwarf chamber but it was comfortable, and the rounded walls of panelled earth closed gently over a bed that was not too hard and not too soft.
Weeks later he watched the hobbit smile and make merry with the elves of the Hidden Valley in the face of his disapproval, only to have Master Baggins turn to him where they sat at table and politely offer him a bowl of something he had created from the dishes laid before them, still barely touched.
Under Elrond of Rivendell’s amused eye, he grudgingly acquiesced on the grounds that Bilbo was one of his Company, and that it behoved him to accept this reminder that Bilbo owed him first loyalty, elf-struck or not.
It surprised him to find the concoction was some sort of broth, and that it slipped down his throat easily, neither too hot nor too cold as it filled his belly and warmed him through.
Weeks from that, he stood upon the Carrock as the sun rose, and his hobbit was haloed in the golden morning. Thorin found himself still alive to breathe and see and feel, with Erebor once more on the horizon, and he had never been more wrong than he had been in this.
When his arms closed around Bilbo in impulse and thanks, he found his burglar neither too small nor too large, but just right. A suspicion that was amply borne out by the experience of waking to another sunrise two days later, after the first night they spent locked together in the shadows, and he found his heart finally at peace.