Far over the Misty Mountains, through the dark forest of Mirkwood and over the Long Lake and the town of Esgaroth lay a single, solitary peak. Its single finger reached so high that the tip was shrouded in cloud, and its shadow lay long and cold over the great city of Dale. Once upon a time, Dale was a flourishing town, full of life and love and laughter. Once upon a time, the mountain was kind.
For within the Lonely Mountain lay an empire. A Dwarven stronghold, the greatest in all of Middle-Earth. Within the mountain lay the kingdom of Erebor.
At first, the days were light and merry, the great wealth of the Mountain drawing many towards it. The great Elvenking Thranduil himself, who had seen many a beautiful thing, bowed his head to the King Under the Mountain, for he was in possession of something, a jewel, one of almost divine beauty. The Arkenstone of Thrain, the King's Jewel, the Heart of the Mountain. It has many a name, and if ever you saw it, you would know why all of Middle-Earth paid homage to the Dwarf King. It was shrouded in a gauzy aura of starlight, and within, like a beating heart, lay a dazzling array of color. The Arkenstone was the pinnacle of the Mountain, the summit of the peak. It was why Erebor was the greatest fortress. It was why the one who carried it had power that would otherwise be unattainable.
And it was why the King went mad.
Thror's love of gold had grown like vines, choking him slowly. He was driven by an intense desire, one so great that it brought about his downfall. The Mountain began to turn sinister as Thror lost his mind, refusing to part with any gold he possessed. He grew fierce and jealous, and did not even recognize his son Thrain, or his grandson Thorin. Slowly, the days turned bitter and dark, the evil of the stone corrupting all within the Mountain. Thror fell, clutched in the sickness of the gold, as did Thrain, who went mad with grief. And the young dwarf prince, Thorin, had the weight of the world on his shoulders. But he was of the line of Durin, and he endured. He ruled Erebor, and he was King Under the Mountain.
But his rule was marred with the brutality that he held it with. He ruled Erebor with an iron fist, and while he did not succumb to the sickness, he held the Arkenstone, and to him, it made him a god. He cut off trade with Dale and Esgaroth, shunning the elves and sealing himself in a fortress of stone. The King of Dale, Bard, pleaded with Thorin, to consider the lives of the people, but he scorned him, and would not listen. Esgaroth fell, and while Bard held Dale together, he could not stop the tide of evil that flowed from the Mountain. Thranduil retreated deep into Mirkwood and had not been seen for nigh on a century. The doors of Erebor were closed, and rarely ever opened. Nobody saw not hide nor hair of Thorin Oakenshield for many a year. All that was known of him was that he was cruel, and corrupted, and deadly as a honed blade. He dwelled deep in the Lonely Mountain with his sister Dis and her sons, Fili and Kili, and opened the gates for no one.
Everyone hated the King, and none more than Bard, Lord of Dale. After all, it was because of Thorin that he had a whole city to feed, and each winter dawned colder than the last. He was robbed of everything, and yet he remained stoic for his people. But he was afraid of Thorin, afraid of his razor blade smile and cold blue eyes, afraid of how close his fortress lay to his city. Afraid of what he might do, for a madman can never be predicted, and a madman with power such as this...
The Elvenking, on the other hand, closed off his borders, erected impenetrable walls between all others and himself, and cared not for the fate of other lands. He was a regal elf, with beauty so ethereal that it put starlight to shame. He ruled with his son, Legolas, by his side, and, much like Thorin, never opened the doors of his realm.
And within the Mountain, beyond the gates of stone, was the throne of the King, with the Arkenstone gleaming atop it, and when King Thorin sat upon his throne, its aura surrounded him like a halo, as if he really were a god.
But the gods have not always been kind.
And Thorin Oakenshield made sure that everybody who gazed upon his realm would never, ever forget that.