Dwalin had to force himself not to tighten his grip on his axe. Dáin was family, he reminded himself, so he should not attack him, not even when he was arguing to be named regent until either Thorin, Fíli or Kíli woke up, never mind that the healers were confident that they would wake up any moment now and that Balin, as Thorin’s advisor, was more than qualified to take care of everything until then. Balin was arguing just that, with most of the Company standing behind him in support.
“As Lord of the Iron Hills and Thorin’s cousin, I’m the highest ranking dwarf, so I should act as regent,” Dáin argued.
“I think not, considering you have no idea of all that has been happening here, as you refused to aid my brother until he had retaken the mountain,” a female voice cut in. Everyone turned, surprised, to see Princess Dís standing in the tent opening. “I will be taking care of what needs to be done until my brother is ready to be crowned.”
Dáin was momentarily thrown but quickly rallied. “Cousin, I’m surprised to see you so soon. I was given to understand that you had remained behind in the Blue Mountains, so you would not be aware of what all that has happened either.”
“It is true that I did not travel with my brother but instead followed with a host of scribes, accountants and architects to join them when he send word that the mountain was secured, in order to start rebuilding. Which is why I had my spymaster join him and keep me informed,” Dís replied. She smirked when one of the Dáin’s guard froze and his gaze darted around the tent. “I see one of your men knows my spymaster.”
“Your spymaster?” Dáin echoed.
Dwalin wanted to ask the same. One of the Company was their spymaster?
“Nori, son of Ysora,” Dís said.
Dáin looked at Dori and Ori. True, the line of Dúrin had never openly acknowledged them as family though it was well known that they descended from an illegitimate daughter of Náin II but he could easily identify, not least of all because of the attractive looks of the Ri family. “He is certainly young and inexperienced yet and may have missed something.”
“He has served my family faithfully as spymaster since the Battle of Azanulbizar. What’s more, he is a Sentinel of the Line of Dúrin, second is strength only to my brother. He did not miss anything,” Dís rebuked sharply.
The thief? Dwalin couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Nori was the spymaster? Had been the spymaster for decades? In the battle on Ravenhill, he had seen proof that Nori was a Sentinel when the other had attacked Azog in a protective rage to protect Fíli but had not thought it more than a Sentinel’s instinct to protect, especially to protect one of their pride hardly old enough to count as an adult.
“Then where is he now?” Dáin questioned.
“Representing the race of dwarfs, especially the Line of Dúrin, in a quest to destroy the One Ring of power.”
We have left the Shire, with the Hobbit Gandalf has picked as our burglar. Contrary to what we expected, Gandalf seems to have actually managed to find a Hobbit willing to accompany us. What’s more, the Hobbit, a Bilbo Baggins, is Thorin’s Guide. Though, knowing your brother, you won’t be surprised to hear that he managed to insult his Guide at once upon meeting him.
By the way, who thought it a good idea to let Thorin go to the Shire on his own? He managed to get lost twice that he noticed and admitted to.
Nori watched the army set out, led by Thror to regain Khazad-dûm. It went against his very instincts as a Sentinel, especially one with all five senses like him, to remain behind. Though it was not like he had a choice. Had he been born centuries earlier, he would have been guaranteed a high ranking position in the army. When Thror had been struck by the goldsickness, however, he had changed the law so that anyone wanting to serve, even a Sentinel, had to pay for it. His family hardly had enough not to starve, never mind pay his way into the army. And even if he did have the money, he doubted the officers in charge of the army would take kindly to a bastard with questionable parentage.
He tensed when he felt eyes on him but relaxed when he realized that it was Nolir, the spymaster and his master. His knew that Dori didn’t like it (and neither did he, to tell the truth) but in his youth he, like many others, had begun to steal in order to keep them from starving. His senses had quickly made him rather successful and for years no one had got close to catching him. He had to admit that he’d been getting cocky, at least until he’d found the spymaster waiting for him in his hideaway one day.
He’d frozen upon seeing him. Nolir was spoken off with fear and respect by everyone on the wrong side of the law. There were rumours that he might be the spymaster, though no one knew for sure, as the identity of the spymaster was only known to the spouse of the current ruler or of the one next in line to the throne.
Nolir regarded him in turn. “You are younger than I expected,” he’d finally said. “Nori, was it?”
Nori had remained silent, not knowing how to reply yet knowing better than to try and run.
“I believe I can guess why you’re stealing,” Nolir had continued. “You can continue as you are, as long as you aren’t a threat to the Line of Dúrin or are caught by the guards. Or...”
“Or you can work for me.”
And so Nori had started working for the spymaster. Officially and in the eyes of everyone else, he was just another thief. In truth everything since then had been either on order of the spymaster or was just a carefully spread rumour to establish his reputation.
Once again his senses had come in handy and he’d quickly risen in rank. Nolir had been impressed enough that he’d finally started training him to be the next spymaster.
Sometimes it was hard, knowing that even his brother believed him to be a criminal.
“It’s a choice you have to make,” Nolir had told him seriously when he’d made the offer. “The spymaster has to put the good of the Line of Dúrin before everything else, so we are not supposed to have any attachments. We are not allowed to take a spouse or acknowledge any children we might have. With the rules as they are, even if you were to find your guide, you won’t be allowed to bond with him. You can remain as my assistant, that way the rules are not as strict, but I think you would make a good spymaster.”
“I’ll do it.”
His position was also the reason that he had to stay behind now. Nolir was going with the army, to serve as another line of protection for the king and princes, while Nori as his successor was to remain to guard Princess Dís and her son, the future of the Line of Dúrin.
Watching the army depart, Nori prayed that they would be successful, that they would manage to regain Khazad-dûm. It was no secret that Ered Luin would not be enough to sustain them in the long term. He also hoped that the losses they’d inevitably suffer wouldn’t be too heavy. He especially hoped for the safe return of Nolir and... and Dwalin. Dwalin, the guard he’d encountered a few times now when carrying out his duties. Dwalin, his One and Guide. Dwalin, acting as Prince Thorin’s Guide.
It had been hard on Nori when he had realized just who the guard who almost captured him was. No matter Nolir’s warning, it had still come as a shock how painful it was to know that he could have no future with his One, not when he wasn’t allowed to serve as spymaster and bond with his One, not when accepting his One would mean leaving the prince without a guide. Not when his One, a guard, believed him to be a criminal.
“Let me speak to Prince Thrain when we return from the war,” Nolir had told him when they were preparing for the campaign. “We’re in the unusual situation that the heir is also the one I report to, since both his and Thrór’s wives are dead and Dís is too young. He can perhaps be convinced to allow the spymaster to court their One, to allow them to acknowledge their family. You’d still have to wait for prince Thorin to find his guide, of course, but at least you’d have hope.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I want you to have a chance at happiness. I want you to be able to have the family I know you wish for. I want to be able to...” Nolir stopped himself.
Nori swallowed. He had a suspicion, had had it for years now, what Nolir couldn’t say. “When you return.”
You will need to stop in Rivendell to sooth some ruffled feathers. Gandalf arranged for us to stop here against Thorin’s will. The following encounter with Elrond went as badly as you imagine.
I came across some information here that Gandalf failed to mention or consider. Elrond seems to have some connection to both Isildur and the sons of Feanor, judging from some objects on display. Asking for his help to get a line known for their weakness for gold to regain a dragon hoard including a stone sometimes compared to a Silmaril was spectacularly bad idea on Gandalf’s part, I’d say.
Nori instantly dropped what he was doing when he saw the raven he’d been sending back and forth with Nolir appear. He carefully freed the small scrap of parchment to read the message. To his surprise, he found that it was not in Nolir’s handwriting but had been written by one of Nolir’s helpers who had accompanied him.
‘We failed. Thrór, Frerin and Víli dead. Thráin lost. Thórin leading army back.
‘Nolir dead. You’re spymaster.’
For a long, long moment he just stared, unable, unwilling to believe what he was seeing. Dead. So many dead. Half the royal family, gone.
He closed his eyes, allowing himself just once to call up the sense memory of him, allowing himself to grieve for...
Dìs had just got her Fíli to fall asleep and sat down to catch her breath. She really hoped Víli got back before the birth of their next child. She looked up when she noticed movement.
A young, red-haired dwarrow was standing in her rooms, looking barely old enough to be considered of age. She was about to reach for her knife but the sad look in his eyes stopped her.
He bowed low. “Princess Dís, I am Nori, the spymaster.” He swallowed hard, opened his mouth and closed it without saying a word. Another deep breath. “I am reporting to you, to bring you news from the army.”
Dís frowned. The spymaster? This youngling was the spymaster? And why would he report to her? Didn’t the spymaster still report to...? She froze.
“They failed to reclaim Khazad-dûm. Our army is returning back here, led by your brother Thorin.” Nori paused. “King Thrór has fallen. Prince Frerin has fallen. Prince Thráin is lost, presumed dead.” He briefly glanced at Dís heavily pregnant belly. “Víli has fallen.”