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Interludes of My Still Beating Heart

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A Dragon Comes to Erebor

The Royal birthing chamber was alight with activity. Dwarven births were a celebration from the moment of the first pangs, and family was always a part of such things. A royal birth held all the joy of a regular birth, but also carried an exalted celebration for the future of the house.

The royal House of Durin would receive a new babe this day. Haldis daughter of Harda, married to Thrain, son of Thror, had gone into labour in the early morning hours before the first bells chimed the hour to break repast. Her confinement was about to come to an end, for which she was immensely grateful.

She was ushered with all pomp and circumstance into the Royal birthing chamber and set upon a soft bed of furs and downy comforts. She was dressed by her maidens in waiting in one of her finest white dressing gowns. Her hair and beard were brushed and combed by her sister and clasped into place so they would not unwind during the birth itself.

The court awaited the princess outside her chamber until she was ready to receive them.She bit her lip as dull pressure spread across her abdomen and her belly contracted sharply. Her hair and fingers were adorned with gems: fire opal for cheerfulness and enthusiasm, garnet for creativity, stamina, and a powerful mind, moonstone for fertility, intuition, love, and luck, and black tourmaline for protection.

She had chosen the gems personally, her way to honour her newborn child. Once they were older, the gems would be recut and refashioned into items just for them; their first bead, a clasp for a cloak, a comb, and several rings. With the final piece secured, Haldis gave a firm nod to open the doors.

Thrain reached her first and took her hand as another pain stole her breath. Followed by Thror, his advisors, Fundin and Nali. The rest filled the audience seats at the outer edge of the room, close enough to say they were witness to a birth, but out from under the feet of the midwives and Haldis’ maids.

“You are stunning, my treasure,” Thrain whispered and kissed the tips of her fingers.

“Oh you flatterer, you’re just hoping I do not curse you to Mahal himself for putting me in this state,” she said as a contraction eased. She pressed her hand to his chin and smiled. “Fear not, husband, very soon you shall have an Heir.”

The first stage continued apace as contractions alternated with periods of rest. The midwives and maids hurried about the room in a chaos that only they could recognize as order. As labour progressed and her pains increased, squires drew in a set of curtains that closed the audience chamber from the rest of the birth.

It offered little in the way of privacy, but ensured that only the closest of advisors and kin would see the princess in such a compromising position. Haldis cared not. ‘Let them gawk,’ she thought fiercely.

Another pain ripped through her and she let out a cry. It took some moments of heavy breathing for the pain to ease. She did not get any rest though as fingers slid along her sex, one of the midwives betwixt her legs again.

“You are open, my lady. On the next pain, we start to push.”

Haldis managed a nod and sank back into the pillows once more. Thrain never moved, never wavered in his place by her side. Another pain started across her belly, a deep long ache that settled deep into her pelvis. With a groan, Haldis pushed, sweat pooled on her brow and fell into her eyes and she let out a cry as the pressure became too much and was suddenly gone.

She gasped and clung to her husband and sister. Too soon and another contraction tore into her and she pushed against it, bearing down and heaving an heir into the world.

A squalling cry pierced the air and Haldis let out a thankful prayer to Mahal for giving them this gift. She opened her eyes and looked to the midwife. “Well, how do they fair?”

“Healthy and whole, my lady.” The midwife uttered as she swaddled the tiny child the royal colours. Before she could hand the babe to Haldis, Thror took hold of the babe.

“A grandson then!” He proclaimed. “Have you a name chosen for him yet?”

“T-Thorin, father.” Thrain said and looked between Haldis and their child.

“Excellent. You are hereby named Thorin II, Son of Thrain, Son of Thror, and Heir to the line of Durin. So shall it be.” Thror kissed Thorin’s small forehead and presented the child to those in audience.

Haldis watched through tired eyes and she grasped her husband’s hand tight. He kissed her forehead, though he said nothing. It was some moments later before she was finally given the chance to hold her own child, and only because they started crying in earnest for food.

Eventually the audience dispersed and finally the king. Only Haldis and Thrain were left with their child as they sucked heartily.

“Thrain.”

“I know, ghivashel,” he whispered and cupped his hand gently behind their child’s head.

“Even royal children are given the right to choose, Thrain. Why has your father deemed it necessary to throw out thousands of years of progress? What is he getting at?” She might have been tired, bone weary after the birth,but there was anger and it heated a fire in her belly and heart and it would not be quenched until she had answers. Her child should be given the right to choose. The right to be whom and what they are.

Thrain looked tired suddenly, as if there was weight that pressed on his shoulders. She had seen it before, but only in brief glimpses. This, this was more than a glimpse, more than a simple look. “I wish I had the answer, my wife. For now though, we must follow his edicts. Our child is a son. And succession will fall to him after I am gone.”

“And if our child states otherwise?”

“You did say you wanted more than one child, yes? Perhaps Thorin will be lucky and we’ll give Thror several heirs to choose from.”

Haldis sighed and clutched Thorin to her breast. “So, our child’s hopes and dreams are to be tied to the possibility of siblings?” She closed her eyes and sent a prayer to Mahal. “I will do as the king commands. Though I like it not.” She spat. “But know this husband, should Thorin choose a different path, I will not let anyone come between them and their destiny. Not you, not me, and certainly not-“ A hand came over her mouth and Thrain hissed harshly.

“You speak another word and it is treason. I know your heart, amrâlimê. I would not ask you to go against it, but keep it in your heart, and not where walls can hear.”

*

The official naming ceremony occurred just three days after the birth. The throne room was a riot of people and noise. Homage was to be paid to the new heir of Durin. Elves from the Greenwood and Imladris, men from Rohan and Gondor, even two wizards were in attendance. Dwarrow from all over Arda were present with representatives from the seven clans.

The noise echoed throughout the chamber, and Thorin yelled against her chest. She shushed her child and rocked them gently as the crowd settled and silence descended on the room.

The king, her father in law, stepped from the dais and addressed the crowd. She didn’t listen to him, refused to listen to him proclaim her child a boy and heir. This whole thing was a travesty, a mockery of thousands of years of dwarven achievement and tradition. Naming ceremonies were held after the child came of age, when they would choose their own name and own path.

Rarely were they held any early than a child’s tenth birthday. But this, her babe was practically still wet from birth, and here she was standing where all could see her shame as she handed her child over to the king. She wanted to scream, call out against this whole thing. She lifted her foot a bare inch and Thrain grasped her hand tight, their rings pinching at skin.

Neither spoke, not a word was whispered between them, nor did she take a breath. She revealed nothing of the tumultuous storm that raged in her breast. Fine, she would keep her peace, she would swallow this indignity, and she would give her child the best she could. But Mahal help the king, should he slip but one inch.

“With this child, with this son of my son, we usher in a new age for our people. In front of all assembled here, Dwarves, Elves, and Men, I hereby name you, Thorin II, son of Thrain, Son of Thror, Heir to the Kingdom of Erebor, Duke of the Crystal Hills, and Lord of Silver Fountains. May your skill never waver, and may Mahal bless the path you walk.”

Gems were bestowed on the babe, garnets, opals, citrine, and diamonds, among many others. Among them, rest a pale red stone that glittered with a light all its own. Unlike the others that were set in gold or silver or mithril, this was on a simple leather cord. It was uncut; only the barest polish smoothing the edge. Haldis knew of these stones. Had seen them all her life, her sister wore one on her wrist, and it shone with a faint golden hue. Her sister was given it in her tenth year after she told everyone in the family she was to be a girl from now on.

Now her child wore one, and not of their choosing. Haldis took a deep breath and greeted the assembled guests. She did all that was required of her as princess, and mother of the new heir. She smiled and laughed at their jokes and she accepted gifts and well wishes until late in the evening.

It was only after she closed the door to her private apartments, after the servants and her maids left for the night, and she was alone with her child that she wept. She held her little one to her breast and whispered thick apologies as tears slid down her cheeks.

*

Thorin was four when she delivered another child. Another healthy child that Thrain once again claimed as a son of Durin. Another child that wore a red stone against their skin, years too early. Haldis had long since buried her grief over the decisions that were taken from her, taken from her children.

But the anger, the white hot rage that set her breast afire and left her gasping at night when the shadows hid her pain, that had changed. It cooled, it settled deep into her bones and hardened to fine mithril. It fueled her days and interactions with the court. She became known as the glittering princess. Made of ice and stone, not fire. There was not a fire that could warm Princess Haldis.

She wrapped herself in that the cloak of cold and protected her children from all else. It was accepted practice that a mother could be free of guild duties until such time as the children were old enough. But Haldis grew tired of court life and returned to the Mithril Guild three weeks following Frerin’s birth.

Thorin and Frerin joined her in the halls of the Smiths: played and slept and bothered the other dwarrow as was their right. They were not treated as princes within the guild halls. They were treated as any other child of the guild would be treated. Frerin was passed around and adored, and Thorin was doted on.

In the private halls of the Mithril smiths, Haldis taught her children their heritage, the stories of the past, sung the ballads of their forebears while she hammered silver steel into gorgeous rings, stunning circlets. The metal was one of her favourites and it always sang to her.

All too soon, Thorin was taken into the halls of learning and taught by scholars and scribes of the royal house. They put a sword in his hand, and dressed him in the clothing of a prince and he stopped being her child. He became a prince of Erebor, but remained the jewel of her heart.

She birthed a third and final child in the winter of 2760. This time, Thror did not grace the audience chamber, nor did he make any proclamations. The gold sickness was winning. She could see it, even during confinement with only her husband and children as visitors she could feel the change in the kingdom. The anxiety among the servants, and the royal guards.

It was a horrible thing, an awful horrible thing to suffer. In the haze of post labour, as she fed her newborn child and blessed them with their secret name and whispered stories of the great ones as they supped, a small, vindictive part of her rejoiced.

*

Thorin loved the Guild Halls. Each one was a glittering declaration of the love of craft and skill. The Mithril Guild Halls held many memories from childhood. Fond ones of his mother singing as she worked the metal into such wonderful shapes. Her voice as pure and clear as the silversteel she worked with. She glittered to him, shone with a light he could never hope to capture.

Sometimes he would sit and listen to her sing and tell stories, only to fall asleep and wake up in her arms as she carried him and Frerin as if they weighed nothing. Other times he would race through the guild hall and find places to hide and secret entrances and exits to go exploring further and further.

One of his explorations lead him along a winding path up and up and up until he felt the cold rush of wind and the smell of something fresh on the air. He stepped out of the path and gasped as the floor fell away from the Cliffside and the ceiling expanded way beyond his head, so high and dark it seemed to go on forever.

It shone and twinkled and he wondered if they were diamonds or perhaps crystal. They glittered though and were very pretty. Some lights were closer and they winked in and out and he chased them around the slope for a long time never quite catching one.

Only when his breaths came in great heaving gusts did he slow down and stop to flop on the rocky floor. He laid there and looked up at the glittering ceiling and tried to count the diamonds. But he was still only young and could only count so high and he had to start over again.

And then a tiny flickering light landed on his nose. He held his breath and tried not to move an inch. Whatever it was, it was magical and he had to show his mother. Ever so carefully he caught the dancing light and clutched it in his hands and ran as fast as he could through the sloping path.

He kept looking to make sure the light didn’t go out and it flickered rapidly and bounced between his hands.

“Amad!”

“Thorin! Where have you been?”

Thorin stopped in his tracks. He’d never heard his mother sound like that, and there were so many guards around her. Amad picked him up and squeezed him so tight he felt the air leave his lungs and he squeaked against her neck. “You had the entire mountain in an uproar. You can’t go running off like that. I didn’t know where you were.”

“I found something I wanted to show you, amad. I’m sorry.” He wriggled in her arms and held out his hands. The little glow light flickered in his palm, blinked then took to the air again. “OH! Hurry! Catch it, it’s for amad!”

“You brought me a lightning bug? How did you get outside the mountain, Thorin?”

He pointed behind him, back where he came. “I took one of the paths. It was all twisty and rather small in places, but big enough for me. I found a huge room with twinkling diamonds in the ceiling and all those glow lights around. I wanted to give you one, but now it’s gone.” He furrowed his brow and looked up at amad. “I’ll have to get you another one. They’re very pretty, yes?”

It was then that he learned about the sky, and the stars, and that he would not be allowed to go back to his cave anymore. He was sent off to the royal scholars and was made to learn his letters and the histories, the elvish languages, which were slick and slippery and hard to understand, much like the elves he’d seen.

At the age of six he was taken to the practice yard and given a sword. Practice was ruthlessly difficult and Thorin was quite positive he’d never get the hang of it.

His personal guard was a large and terrifying dwarf by the name of Dwalin. He was a newer guard, and Thorin was to be his job. He also carried around two large axes and a sword at his hip and Thorin was quite sure older dwarf could teach him better than the stuffy old masters.

“Please Dwalin.” Thorin and his bodyguard stood up on the ramparts that looked out above the front gates of the city. A bright spring sun shone and glittered against the pillars.

“No.”

“Please. I can give you a title.”

Dwalin snorted. “You’re six. They’re not going to listen to a whelp like you. The answer is, no.” Dwalin bent down so that he was eye to eye with Thorin and Thorin gulped. “Besides, we’re cousins. I have a title all my own. I don’t need a spoiled princeling handing them out for fun.”

Thorin groaned and kicked Dwalin in the shin. Tried to at least. The elder dwarf was quite fast and had him on the ground and seeing stars before he could connect. He let out a grunt as air rushed from his lungs, and he blinked and stared up at the ceiling until the stars disappeared.

Thorin hopped up and bounced on the balls of his feet. “You have to show me how to do that.”

“Really now, and what would you do with it?”

“Easy, trip Frerin.”

“Oh, so you want to trip your younger brother.”

“Yes, among other things.”

Dwalin bent his knee to look Thorin in the eye, and the dwarfling gulped as he aborted a move to back away from his bodyguard.

“You realize, I’m a younger brother. And younger brothers should stick together. Perhaps I should go and teach Frerin a thing or two…”

Thorin let out an indignant squeak and quickly covered his mouth. “Please. I can’t keep getting my ass handed to me in front of everyone. The others won’t stop laughing.” He felt his cheeks heat up at the admission and slumped against one of the pillars. “I’m not supposed to be laughed at.”

Dwalin leaned on the rampart wall that looked out over the southern edge of the city and the wilderness beyond. “You’re a prince, Thorin. You’re going to be king someday. You might expect to be held in high regard, but make no mistake, people will still laugh. It’s not your job to be perfect in all things you do, every time you do them. It is your duty to apply yourself to everything you do, to show that you may make mistakes and falter like the rest of us, but you will not give up, even when they laugh, even when the world is against you.”

Thorin refused to look up at Dwalin. That was not what he had heard from the scholars. Not even what he’d heard from his grandfather. He felt a sharp tug at his ear and he looked over to Dwalin. “So they can laugh at me, I get it.”

“No, ye don’t get it,” Dwalin said. “Your hardest job is going to be getting back up when you falter. Because in your case there will be many more people wanting you to fail. Wanting to see you collapse under all the pressure that being prince and king will bring to you. That want to see that Durin’s line has finally run its course. So long as you keep getting back up, you’ll never fail, Thorin. Not ever. So aye, I’ll train ye, but you’re not going to like it. Not a bit.”

*

At fourteen, Thorin was given further responsibilities including attending court with his father and grandfather. He was to spend most of the morning listening to meetings with guild lords and masters and advisors and diplomats from Dale and the Greenwood. He was not allowed to speak, only listen, and it was dreadfully boring at times. But if he didn’t pay attention, Dwalin would trounce him in the practice yard after.

His bodyguard had taken it upon himself to become the most obnoxious dwarf, Thorin had ever met. He trained him with ax and sword, even spear and quarterstaff and archery – though Thorin admitted he was rubbish with a bow. The weapons training was not enough though; Dwalin was with him during all of his meetings with the council and took it upon himself to drill him about the meetings and his opinions on the matters of state. All the while beating him with the flat of a sword, or putting him through his paces with this weapon or that.

Hand to hand combat and political discussions became the bedrock of their afternoons. Every time Thorin thought he had won, either in physical combat or their discussions, Dwalin would fight dirty, or suggest an opinion he hadn’t thought about, or dismissed as ridiculous. Dwalin came across as a brute and foot soldier. Thorin watched him interact with the other guards and the weapon masters and he rarely offered an opinion that differed from the others. Or he’d be crude, intentionally so with his fellow guardsman, laughing, too big and too loud. But with Thorin he showed a quick and agile mind, sharper than the edge he kept on his axes. He was sarcastic, and dry, and there was never a word or phrase out of place.

Thorin often found himself contemplating mining rights from the floors of practice grounds as he tried to drag air into his lungs. He had to learn to think fast, not only to answer the rapid-fire questions that Dwalin pelted him with, but also to anticipate the other dwarf’s moves lest he be hit with a sword, or dumped on the ground.

It was difficult, horribly difficult work, and it never ended. But he never complained, never balked at the duties he was expected to perform. As he neared his fifteenth birthday he was avidly being sought by the Guilds. His mother’s mithril guild was chief amongst them,though any guild would have considered themselves blessed to count a Prince in their number.

Thorin didn’t have the patience for gold and the softer metals. Harder materials, iron, steel, even mithril--he could work with ease. Thorin had picked up his father’s affinity for gem cutting and all his people were carvers of one kind or another.

It was important for him to choose a Guild to belong to, to add his mark to the world. All dwarrow children were taught the basics from the time they could hold a hammer. Now though, with his fifteenth year coming upon him it was time to decide where his strengths lay.

Craft was highly prized and no dwarrow was expected to make that decision without careful thought. Some knew from the minute they picked up an instrument, be it a hammer or a knife or a quill. For others, it took them years to really find something that spoke to them. Thorin’s gifts were of a practical nature and he took to smithing weapons with unrepressed glee.

After he joined the Weapons Guild, Thorin spent early mornings and late nights by the forge to practice and hone his abilities. Between those sessions, he would attend meetings with his father, visit with his grandfather in court, and then train more with his mentor Dwalin. In many ways his life felt not his own, more a series of duties to be performed. Thorin’s life was a war, a battle between duty and desire. His was a life of requirement, necessity. What kept him going, kept him moving forward, was the slow, hard won progress he made in the practice ring, the guild hall. More important than all that, was the look of regard he saw in his grandfather and father when they looked upon him.

*

As he grew, he spent more time with his father and grandfather, learning the affairs of state. Thorin could not help but swell with pride each time his father or grandfather looked at him, weighed his words, or took his suggestions. He was a young dwarf, not even old enough to grow a beard properly, he did not expect either his father or grandfather to take his opinions to heart. But they considered them nonetheless. His father asked him questions, drew out his opinions and used every opportunity as a chance to teach Thorin to become more confident in those decisions.

His grandfather did as well for a time. But those times were getting fewer and farther between. Thorin found his grandfather in the treasure room more than the hall of kings,counting coins or gems or just marvelling at the hoard of gold and wealth that filled the vast chamber.

Thorin worried.

He shared his concerns with his mother, and her face grew so cold he flinched, worried he’d angered her. In an instant he was in her arms as she held him tightly. The part of him that wished to be taken seriously as an adult warred with the still childlike part of him that needed this contact. She didn’t say anything, but later that night, Thorin could hear his parents arguing loudly in the family’s private apartments.

Thorin feared that whatever was said would get his mother in trouble, and he really wasn’t sure how Thror would handle such an issue. His grandfather’s moods were so fickle now as to be changed wildly by the barest shift of gold in the treasure room.

He didn’t have long to contemplate. His duties kept him entirely too busy, and when nothing came of it, he put it out of his mind. Summer was approaching, and the Midsummer festival was all that any of the dwarrow could talk about. It was high time for a celebration too. The mountain had been closed off for years but Thror, in one of his more magnanimous moods, had decreed that the doors would be open for the festival.

Thorin was excited. He would be exempt from his duties for a couple of days to enjoy the festivities. He had also promised to take Dis and Frerin to Dale to take part in some of their games and see their market.

The morning of the festival dawned bright and hot. Even in the mountain the air stirred little, and while the chill of the deep caves helped temper the heat inside, the closer one got to the outside the hotter it became.

Dis was ten and never had Thorin met a dwarrow who knew their own mind so well or spoke so loudly on the subject. At the age of three she had trounced her brothers in a game of marbles, declaring that she was the queen of all and they would do well to bow down to her might. Her brothers had learned very quickly that it was better to stay on ‘queen’ Dis’ good side than argue with her.

She was dressed in a purple robe, the morning of the midsummer festival, and her hair was braided most fetchingly. He tugged on one braid as he sat down to breakfast. “Very cute, namadith,” he said and kissed her temple. “You’re the picture of a queen.”

“Hey! I don’t pull your braids, nadad,” she said and giggled. “Your excuse for a beard tickles!”

He growled and picked Dis up and over his shoulder. “Insulting my beard? I should leave you here. See if I take time out of my one day off to take my ungrateful sister anywhere.”

“No! No-No! Please nadad, you promised!” She beat her tiny fists against his shoulders while he laughed. “All right, all right. All hail the grand king Thorin, may his beard be so long he steps on it. Happy?”

Thorin set her back on her feet, and pressed his forehead to hers. “Good enough.” He said with an unrepentant grin. “No, go get your things, you can’t just go in that, pretty as it is. The wind will be high on the mountain today and it will be cold when we return.”

Dis grabbed two hanks of hair on either side of his face and rubbed her nose against his. “Okay. Don’t leave without me!” She darted off through the apartment to her room.

“You spoil her.” Frerin said from the doorway.

“And you don’t?”

“You never used to spoil me like that.”

“I was four when you were born. And yes I did spoil you. Mother said if put any more gems in your crib you would choke.”

“Ah, so that’s why I shit diamonds.”

Thorin rolled his eyes and elbowed Frerin in the ribs. A scuffle broke out between them and they ended up on the floor, wrestling. Thorin nailed Frerin several times, and Frerin gave back as good as he got. They only stopped at the sound of an imperious cough.

Thorin stilled and looked up expecting their mother. Only to see Dis standing at the doorway, dressed and ready to go travelling. “Are you two quite finished?”

They broke apart and Thorin hopped to his feet, helping Frerin to his. They both sketched a decent bow and followed after her, their personal guard in line behind them.

“What’s the matter? You look pensive.” Thorin asked. “That’s usually my look.”

“Brooding. Your look is brooding. I’m thoughtful. It’s the hair, nadad.” Frerin said a flashed a grin. It didn’t make it to his grey eyes though.

“Okay, thoughtful. Spill it.”

Frerin sighed and Thorin cast a glance at him. Frerin was as carefree as they came, and for him not to have a joke waiting or a quip about Thorin being too serious was something to be worried about.

“I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about today.”

“A bad feeling? What kind?”

Frerin shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, blond braids danced and the beads clinked against one another. “I can’t explain it. It feels hot, too hot. My dreams have been restless of late. Forge fires out of control one minute, stone cold forges the next. Last nights was the worst, and I can’t remember anything of it except the fear.

“Brother, I don’t think we should be leaving the mountain today.”

Thorin halted and looked fully at his brother. “Have you spoken to anyone else about this? Perhaps you should consult one of the seers. Portentous dreams are not something to ignore.” Thorin said.

He grasped Frerin’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “I would take your warnings to heart brother, except that I fear our sister’s rage more than I fear the unknown. There are seers aplenty in Dale, we’ll stop at the first one we find.”

“Are you two coming?”

Frerin nodded, but the pensive frown didn’t leave his face. “If you say so, nadad.”

They reached the Hall of Kings, the main entrance to the dwarven city. It was truly a testament to the craft and ingenuity of the dwarrow. Thorin would walk through the Hall of Kings and feel the weight of the ages that preceded him. Each carving carried memory and story. This Hall, this entrance, was the shining pinnacle of dwarrow achievement, more so than the throne room, or even their ancient home in Khazad Dum. Erebor and it’s glimmering, glittering entrance spoke to something deep within him. He shared a heartbeat with the mountain, and could feel it best in this chamber.

The walls canted high, as far as the eye could see, and then climbed still higher. It was one of the largest single rooms and was lined with tapestries depicting the heroic deeds of his people in centuries past. Today the front doors were open and stalls were set up for an open air market. The main market was several levels below, but this one in the Hall was open to both dwarves and men. There were crafting and smithing stalls set up side by side with the stalls from the men from Dale. Produce and fresh milk, huge rounds of cheese and links of sausage were on offer, next to stunning pieces of jewelry and masterwork swords and daggers. It was a cacophony of sound and a riot of smells.

Thorin reached out and pulled Dis back toward him before she wandered off into the crowd and out of his sight. Before she could utter a protest he shot her a look. “Stay close, I’ll not lose you in here. Otherwise we’ll never get to Dale.” Dis pouted but held her tongue.

Taking pity, he went down on bent knee and she hopped up onto his back settling onto his shoulders. When he stood she let out a whoop of delight and stared out at the crowd.

“If I stand on your shoulders nadad, together we’d be as tall as one of the Men.”

“Perhaps, but you could also fall, and then you’d be trampled by dwarrow and men alike.”

“Oh namad, spare us that. Poor Thorin would have to defend you and then we’d have to go to war with the Men. All because our silly sister decided she wished to be tall.”

They passed through the crowd easily as dwarrow made way for them. One of the tables had an array of hair combs, delicately carved in jade, some in mithril, and still others in silver or gold. Thorin stopped and picked up the jade piece, paid for it and handed it up to his sister.

“Thorin! It’s beautiful!” She crowed and squirmed on his shoulders he let out a grunt as one of her booted feet connected with his ribs and he had to grab hold of her legs to keep from toppling over.

“Keep it up and I’ll set you down again.” He said, though there was no heat in his words.

Frerin opened his mouth to say something, but a blast of wind from the upper levels drowned out all sound. Tapestries whipped up in a frenzy and heat filled the hall. Thorin lifted Dis from his shoulders. “Keep her safe. I’ll see what’s going on.”

“No, Thorin you promised!”

“I know, namad. And I intend to keep my promise. I will be back before you can get Frerin to buy you a matching comb.” He kissed the top of her head and darted through the crowd to the furthest wall.

Behind a tapestry, there lay a recessed door. The doors were mainly used by the guards for quick access to upper levels without being jammed by the crowd. Thorin took the stairs two at a time and reached the battlements as another blast of wind came blistering across the mountain.

He looked out over the rampart but couldn’t see anything. But the wind, the heat, the sound. It all meant one thing. The history books all spoke of it.

“Balin!” He called when he noticed the elder dwarf with the guard. “Get everyone inside. Shut the gates! Do it now!”

“What is it?”

“Dragon.” Thorin said and ran back into the hall. From the balcony above he saw the crowd, so far below. He caught sight of his brother and sister, of Dwalin and the other guards. He wouldn’t reach them in time. But maybe his warning could.

His yell echoed through the hall and panic reigned down below as dwarves ran hither and yon. His last sight of his sister was Dwalin pushing them back away from the main rush of the crowd that sought further entrance into the city.

A whistle sounded behind him and the air rushed away. It felt as if it were being sucked from the very city. Thorin yelled and grabbed for Balin, dragging him behind the stone pillar as fire erupted across the ramparts.

The rest of the attack was made of chaos and noise and panic, as he led dwarves older than his father against the massive bulk of the fire drake. It was all fear, and the sinking knowledge they had to leave, they would not--could not--survive if they stayed.

It was smoke and too little air as he raced through the city and deeper into the treasure room to find his grandfather. To find the king. In a last ditch effort he opened the main ceiling, opening the wealth of Erebor to the eyes and greed of the dragon. Thorin grabbed his grandfather from the treasure hall; dragged him up the flights of stairs and through the mountain, ushering other dwarrow to follow them.

Some did, others continued deeper into the mines. They went off to their deaths, and he cried out for them to rally to him. But fear gripped them all and they heard him not. Thror clawed at Thorin’s grip, pulling away and fighting to get back to the treasure room and his gold.

“Udad, we have to leave.” Thorin cried to no avail as Thror continued to fight him. “E'intihifi'astû, uzbade. We have to go.”

For the briefest of moments the colour in Thror’s eyes shifted and they lost their golden hue. Thror stopped fighting and with a final tug, Thorin dragged him through the palace and out of the mountain.

Thorin didn’t remember much from those terrible events. He remembered heat and smoke, ash and dust. He remembered watching in misery and disbelief as their last hope turned and walked away, leaving them to die in fire.

He also remembered Dis’ arms tight around his neck, her sobbing cries against his shoulder and her tiny trembling form as she fell asleep, shivering with cold. Night had fallen, and they were without home, without anything. That first night after the dragon fire, was the coldest in his memory.