Chapter 1: Gratitude
You said this stupid, stubborn boy makes you glad. He asks you for help today.
The elders are coming. They will be here soon. Stand by my shoulder and guide me. Help me to act the right way with them.
Mother pretends not to be nervous, but I know that the future worries her. She asked me for one of your hair ornaments to wear for courage. We decided to divide them up, and everyone took one. We will all be brave now, with your help.
Fenja sang yesterday in the kitchen, which she would only do for you, so I think you must have talked to her, too. In one night, you comforted all of us.
Thank you for loving me even when I am bone-headed.
Thank you for loving Kíli and mending what was broken.
Thank you for telling us your secret.
You make me glad.
Chapter 2: Joy
I love you so much! And you love me, too. I wasn’t sure but now I am.
I fell yesterday but I’m going to be better today. I want to be strong for Mim. We are promised now, did you know that? Please bless us, Uncle. I am so happy.
Uncle, guess what? We’re going to live on Himling! I wish we could go today, but we’re about to have visitors. Please let them be our friends, and please keep me from falling in front of them and making a mess and worrying everybody.
Mim and I made an oath— we are going to raise a stone for you. Mother is going to help us with the pattern and Ori is going to help us with the words. It’s to thank you for Himling and so that you know we will always love you and never, ever forget you.
What else? Oh! You talked to Bilbo! I know because he wrote to us. He thought it was a dream. But you also talked to me and Mim so I know it’s true and it can happen.
I bless and bless and bless you!
Chapter 3: Favor
Remember the pine cones I hoarded as a little girl? Each with a name and a part to play in the great pine cone kin-saga? And how at least once a week you sat ever so patiently to hear Nan’ith tell it ALL OVER AGAIN from start to finish, plus all the new bits since last time? Well.
Things are moving quickly. I’m sure you know everything, but I need to say it so that I remember it, no mistakes or tangled thoughts. It helps to have a good listener— so, my dear, good, PATIENT Nadad, go find yourself a cloud, sit down on it, and listen.
First: Himling. I know you told me to talk to Tharkûn first, but who knows how quickly we may need to send the boys over? So I copied your map (don’t give me that look) and sent men at once. They found the land-taking stone, as well as the old fort. There’s a tiny watchhouse on the southwest headland— a one-room hovel, but it’s got a hearth, and it only needs a few roof slates to make it winter-tight. The boys can stay there while they rebuild.
(Both of them insist they saw a light on Himling. We all know who that was, don’t we. Yes? Yes.)
Now: our visitors. We must be careful not to let slip our plans; at the same time, we need to be friendly and get along. So far as that goes, I worry about Kíli. Fíli has your skill, but Kíli only has your scowl; he can no more conceal his true feelings than a raven can hide itself in the snow. It's a terrible thing to say of one's child, but I wish we could send him away while the elders are here. Mahal forgive me, but it's the truth.
Ninur alone knows our secret, but it seems he's not traveling with this group. I trust and pray he's still coming. If he started out from Balbûnzudnu, it stands to reason he would arrive separately— perhaps even on the same day! Don't you think?
We’ve already started fires to heat the northwest caverns, but I hope our guests bring warm clothes. Things I hope our guests don’t bring: head colds, bad attitudes, plans to take advantage of the hunting. The boys forbid it. I know that breaks with custom, but I won't have Kíli made ill again.
Thank you for talking to him. Fíli says it was the first time in months he didn't cry at prayer, and he hasn't since.
They’re happy, Thorin. And if they are, we are. Yes? Yes.
You have kept your oaths to us all and sat through my endless gab. You probably think you've earned yourself a nice rest. But the truth is that outside of Fenja, you were always by far the best person to spill to. So keep that cloud close by, Nadad. I may have need to bend your ear again, and soon.
Chapter 4: Penance
Ganin, you ninny! Did you really think Fenja didn’t like you? You pleased two people I love, and you helped make two others whom I love even more. Why wouldn’t I adore you just for that?
I’m simply furious, but if you want to make it up to me, I ask only this: have a care for your sons. You understand why I say it, don’t you? You know what’s at stake.
Everyone’s in such a knot over Erebor. I never liked it, but then, that’s why I liked you: you weren’t from there. Had you lived, Thorin would have made his kingdom right here and never left it. No one ever said which Mountain there had to be a King Under! They tried Khazad-dûm, they tried Erebor— everywhere but Khagal’abad. Why not Khagal’abad? And now it’s too late; there’s no saying Oh, why don’t we stay? when everyone’s yelling Off to Erebor, ta-ra, ta-ra!
(By the by, I’m not blaming you for dying, Ganin. I just wish you hadn’t. Not for Dís or Thorin or your sons or the kingdom. Just for yourself. You were a sweet lad. Too bad none of us knew what to make of you.)
Look. The Crown’s spoilt, covered with Thorin’s blood, and the boys want nothing to do with it. Help them, Ganin. Talk to Thorin and Frerin; talk to Thráin and Thrór. Between the lot of you, you should be able to get through to Ironfoot. If he wants Erebor, he can have it with Fenja’s blessing.
Do this, Ganin, and I’ll bless you a thousand times more.
Chapter 5: Trial
I know you make all folk the way you want them, but why did you make these people so stupid?
Up the Lhûn valley they came skipping, friendly as tame rabbits. Purses open, paying double the price for half the value at every trinket-stand along the way. No sentries, no soldiers; hardly a pocket-knife for self-defense— but what would be the point of putting weapons in their hands? None of them have ever seen an orc, so none could tell you what one looks like. If an orc stood right in front of them, they’d smile and make introductions. This is what you’ve given me to deal with.
And their daughters! Good-looking girls without a lick of common sense, let loose by parents who seem blind to their antics. The love notes! The tokens! You know I like Nori, but I’ve had to check his pockets at the end of every day, and not for pilfered coin purses.
There is only one girl who hasn’t fallen for his tricks. When he tries to chat her up, she walks in the opposite direction. When he's too forward with the others, she appears from thin air like an Elven witch and steers them away. What wit she possesses, you must have given her— because her folk have none to spare.
Now, you know me. I’m no great admirer of the elders. It was because of them that Thorin left for Erebor with only a dozen Khazâd and a Shire-turd. Their meddling turned every mountain against him; only Dáin was ornery enough to defy them, but by then it was too late. So I have no use for the elders— but Mahal, now I half pity them. They didn’t ask to take on this pack of hill-bumpkins, and now we’re all stuck.
If Thorin saw them, he’d choke. If Dwalin saw them, he’d choke them. When Fenja sees… o Mahal, you’d do well to just dump them over a cliff and save them the agony. Instead you give them to good old Bhurin and make them MY agony.
What should I do with them?
What did I ever do to YOU?
Chapter 6: Ally
We don’t speak much, I know. I’m just saying I hope Ori is well, and Fíli and Kíli and Dís and all them.
If I meet Dori again, I’ll tell him I regret my last words. That’s nothing new. He’ll forgive and be kind, and I’ll slip loose and run my mouth again. You know how it is. I love him, but he crowds me. I also love Ori, but every time I steal him from home, I dump him on our friends first chance and run.
And so we go. Someday I’ll change. That’s what I tell us.
I don’t confess this to you because I think these strangers are going to stab me in my sleep. They’d never be able to find the handle end of the knife on their own. No, I worry more about the elders. Why is Ninur not with them? What’s afoot? I can’t winkle so much as a cough out of them. They know not to trust me. I wonder why.
All this makes me glad of the girl named Jera. The elders flap their jaws freely around her because they think she’s just another backwater princess. Oh, the fools, the fools!
At first I thought she despised me— after all, I was laying it on pretty thick with her friends. How her black eyes bit at me! But as soon as she figured it out, everything became very easy. Mahal, you created this girl for spycraft! She sees and hears everything; she knows what bits and pieces have a use, and she brings them straight to me. We talk it over like an old married couple. We’ve even worked out our own signals for when there’s something new to chew on.
It’s all very professional, you understand. We do it for the sake of the Durins. It is a net we cast; we both have our hands on it— can we help it if every so often those hands touch?
Believe me, I have no silly designs. None whatsoever.
I think I’m getting tired of the road, is all.
Again, I know we don't speak much, you and I— and yet you seem to have favored me despite my neglect of you. How often have you saved my skin? Time after time. But now it's not me in need, Mahal. Something is happening. Something to do with Fíli and the Crown. Something secret.
And though I certainly can keep one – eh, Mahal? - you know Nori doesn't like secrets.
Chapter 7: Oath
O my Maker,
You created each of us for an express purpose. You bade me to scribe, Nori to spy, and Dori to carve stone and spin wool. To Dwalin you gave iron to forge and wield; to Óin and Glóin, sons to raise and teach. We do what you designed us for, and none disputes your reason for making us as we are. We please you by pursuing the craft for which you fashioned us.
You fashioned Fíli for Kíli, and Kíli for Fíli. Each is the other's craft. They please you by pleasing one another.
To everyone who knows them, the brothers together form a thing of beauty. We look upon them as we would a marvelous ikon of gold and mithril: with admiration, wonder and joy. Will that joy come to peril once all learn of your plan for them?
I may not fully fathom why you welded Fíli to Kíli, but so it must be; it's not for me to question. But everyone knows kin do not marry. The uproar when cousins court is bad enough, and they do not even share parents! For a sister and brother to pledge themselves is unthinkable. What, then, of two brothers?
My Maker, you have granted me a glimpse of deeper mysteries; for this I am humbled and thankful. Only I worry for my friends, good Mahal. They reject a mighty destiny for something unknown, a life for which they may be shunned, harmed, even hunted. So I beg of you this: create a new craft for me. Give me strength and skill to protect Fíli and Kíli from danger. Grant me whatever tools I need to plead their case and fight for their cause.
If it be my pen, guide my hand.
If it be my sling, give me stones.