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The Owl's Wisdom vs the Horse's Freedom

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Chapter One


Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, was twenty-four years of age when the dragon Smaug attacked his home, the Lonely Mountain, within which lay the dwarven city of Erebor. He had witnessed the descent into gold madness of his grandfather, the king, and the warnings given to him by the elven king, Thranduil. He knew his history and lore and worried the elves were correct. Then on that day in 2770 TA, he discovered he was correct, and witnessed firsthand the wrath of a gold-mad dragon when it finds a hoard.

Thorin saw it attack, up close and personal as he led fellow dwarrows to the defense of the city. And as he was knocked aside by the drake and, for a brief while, partially buried under the rubble left in its wake, Thorin could suddenly feel its avarice and desire. He lay there, basking in the overwhelming emotions Smaug carried with him, until the dragon was out of sight.

As soon as the drake was gone, Thorin shook himself free of the near trance that had grasped him and dug himself out of the rubble. He stumbled to his feet, and as he made his way toward the treasury, where he knew he would find his grandfather, he was bombarded with emotions not his own.

Fear, agony, despair, grief, horror, terror, pain, and ahead of the incredibly young dwarf, the pull of greed, of avarice, of selfishness, that permeated the treasury, and the near overwhelming feeling of the dragon’s rapacious love of gold and treasure.

Thorin rescued his grandfather Thror, physically dragging the old dwarf from the piles of gold being shifted by Smaug, even as the king struggled to return to the hoard. But, instinctively, the young dwarf, though still very much a child by his people’s standards, knew what to do to gain the cooperation needed from the gold-mad king so he did not die, buried in the gold. He pushed with something inside of him recently set free and with this power in his voice, he spoke a single word, “ Come!

The power of that command overcame the mind, and the madness within it, of the dwarven king and he was docile as he allowed his grandson to lead him to safety. While on the way to the main gates, leaving the dragon behind, Thorin set off signals to echo deep into the mountain, alerting the miners and others there of the danger so they could head to whatever safety they could find through the tunnels and exits of the mountain.

When Thorin emerged into the daylight of plain before the mountain, he was nearly sent to his knees by the flood of emotions from so many dwarrow refugees. They surged toward him and the king, physically and mentally. Thorin was battered and bruised but again instinct came to his aid.

The Guide deep inside, so recently awakened and freed of the walls that had held it, rose and pushed out with its power. Thorin spoke, his powerful Voice rolling over his people, “ Be calm. The dragon is fully occupied with the treasure. We must away from here before he regains interest in the world outside the mountain. Those who are uninjured, care for those who need aid. We must make our way to the Greenwood. Be as swift as possible, but careful and safe. Let no one be left behind for the drake to find.

As the dwarrows obeyed the young prince, his father and several of the king’s advisors came to help the young dwarf with his grandfather, freeing him to aid others where he could. And the oh-so-young, oh-so-new Guide did just that. He bandaged wounds, helped to reunite families, comforted terrified children, and discovered his greatest and most important duty: forty-six newly awakened Sentinels and the lack of any other Guides.

Thorin knew what Sentinels and Guides were, of course. He had even been starting to realize he was now a Guide. But he had never met either one before. The dwarven Sentinels tended to be deep miners, using their senses to find gold and silver and mithril and other useful minerals. Their Guides worked alongside them deep in the furthest mines of the mountain.

But not a single one of the Sentinels surrounding him on the plains beyond the ruined human city of Dale were miners. They were craftsmen, merchants, servants, and soldiers. Thorin stretched himself out and with a wrench of great effort for the exhausted youngster, he enclosed the Sentinels in a mental shield which buffered the overwhelming input to their senses and calmed them from the feral state most of them were on the verge of.

For almost two full days, Thorin kept the shield up, until the Sentinels could work on their own shields and keep their senses low. And as he allowed the shield to fall, his body followed after it, into the unconsciousness that had increasingly beckoned since the escape from Erebor.

Though his body craved sleep, Thorin’s Gifts only allowed him to remain in that resting state for three hours before waking him to one of the Sentinels in a crisis. The dwarf had zoned when he had looked back at the mountain. He had lost himself in the sight of the lone peak and Thorin was the only one who could reach him.

Once awake, Thorin would not allow himself the luxury of further sleep. The refugees were nearly to the edge of the Greenwood and he knew the elves would be there, ready to aid them, as per their treaties.

As Thorin stumbled forward, searching for his father and grandfather in the large group of shambling dwarrows, he saw a glint upon a nearby hill. He shaded his eyes and saw an army, an army of elves. For the first time since he’d sighted the dragon, the youngling smiled. He raised his arm, beckoning for their aid. The unmistakable sight of King Thranduil on his elk coming to the front of the army cheered Thorin.

Thorin reached out with his Gift, desperate to get the elven king’s attention, and regretted it immediately. His internal shields were open and as he connected with the golden-haired king on his majestic mount, Thorin was overcome with waves of terror and remembered pain and sorrow. Then, as Thranduil met Thorin’s eyes across the distance, he felt the deep sense of protectiveness within the elf. He watched as the head of the elk was turned away and the king led his army back down the hill, away from the homeless and battered dwarrow. And as he left, a spear of deep guilt flooded down the link Thorin had inadvertently forged.

Thorin fell to his knees as he realized the elves would not live up to their obligations. Thranduil was abandoning the dwarves, formerly of Erebor, to whatever fate they might find in their new, wandering world.





The years passed and Thorin learned to have full conscious control over his Gifts. He watched as each of the Sentinels that had come online with the attack by Smaug on Erebor found their Guides, as the refugees wandered and they bonded, leaving him alone. New Sentinels came online as some of the others stayed behind with their newfound Guides. Or as they reached an age of maturity.

Then his grandfather, still deep in the gold sickness that he had suffered for so long, led an attack on the ancestral mountain home of the Durin line, Moria. He was slaughtered by the orc, Azog, and the dwarves went to war against the orcs. The war lasted for nine years and wakened the Gifts of many Sentinels. Some found bonds, while others relied on Thorin and the small handful of unbonded Guides like him in the settlement.

One of the newly awakened Sentinels, called to awareness by the death of King Thror, was Thorin’s younger brother, Frerin. They were close in age and before the fall of Erebor had been somewhat close in emotion. After the Wandering Years began and Thorin came online, however, Frerin began to resent his older brother and the way so many adults looked to him over even King Thror or their father, Prince Thrain.

Thorin felt Frerin’s jealousy and resentment, the emotions stabbing him, as his shields were always thinner around those his Guide thought he should be able to trust: his family, his brother, his little sister, Dis, his cousins, Dwalin and Balin, Oin and Gloin. So, though a very strong Guide, Thorin was still a very young dwarf in the way his people considered things, and rather than confront his brother and try to work things out, he drew away from him, causing more resentment and widening, not bridging, the gap formed when Thorin had come online.

Until he felt Frerin come online as a Sentinel when word came of the fate of Thror. Thorin felt drawn to help him, compelled to assist. He knew Frerin was not his Sentinel, but he was something. Possibly due to their close blood relation, or possibly just as Mahal’s way of helping the brothers to bridge the gap in their relationship.

Thorin and Frerin spent the years of the war working together, as Frerin never found his One True Guide. The younger dwarf quickly came to rely on his older brother and understand the burden Thorin had shouldered, and his jealousy and resentment fell away within months, leaving behind pride, contentment, and true, deep, brotherly love.

Then came the penultimate battle of the nine year war before the East Gate of Moria, at Azanulbizar. And it was a fierce and bloody battle, indeed. Many fell on both sides, including nearly the entire group of Sentinels who had come online since the fall of their home, chief among them Frerin. Thorin tried to get to him, to save him, but was unable to manage and could only watch in horror as his brother, only forty-eight years of age, fell to an orc’s blade.

In the end, none of the bonded Sentinel and Guide pairs survived, and only three of the twenty-six unbonded Sentinels made it through the battle relatively intact. Thorin was the only unbonded Guide to do so. And it had been a close run thing, as he nearly lost his head to the orc lord Azog, the killer of his grandfather, who had sworn to end the Durin line. His defense of himself and temporary defeat of the orc led to his being given a secondary name, Oakenshield and he took the branch that had saved his life and made it into an arm guard shield which he carried from that point on. And as for Azog, Thorin’s cousin, Dain, slew him, taking his head as Azog had taken former King Thror’s to start the bloody decade.

The dwarves won the war, chasing the orcs back into their holes, but the final battle at Azanulbizar had been so bloody and costly even for them, they did not have the strength of numbers to retake Moria and they were forced to resume their wandering, searching for a new home even as they grieved for their losses.

Finally, when Thorin was fifty-six, in the year 2802 TA, the wandering dwarves settled in the Blue Mountains and began to eke out a living there, led by King Thrain II. It was a hard existence and many dwarves had to continue wandering as blacksmiths and jewelers and tinkers to make enough money for their families to live. Thorin, too, did his part, becoming a wandering blacksmith in the lands of Men, always hoping to one day find the other part of him, his Sentinel.

As time passed, Thorin despaired. He feared the One meant for him had perished before they could meet, in the attack on Erebor or in the War of Orcs and Dwarves. If his One hadn’t come online before dying, Thorin would have never felt the draw.

Thorin wandered, working, resenting the Men who treated him as a lowly servant or worse, sending most of his earnings back to the Blue Mountains to sustain his sister and father. Then in 2840, Thrain began to fall into madness, different from Thror’s obsession and yet, not so far it was unrecognizable to those who saw him. He dwelt unceasingly upon the lost treasure of Erebor and began wandering, attempting to find a way to get to it. At first, he would send word of his progress, but within five years, reports trickled to nothing. No one heard from him or of him again.

Thorin returned to the Blue Mountains and took up the mantle of caring for his people, the duty his father and grandfather had so badly failed at. He watched his sister, Dis, be courted by her One and welcomed his sister-sons into the world as they were born. He grieved with her when her husband was lost in a mining accident. He watched the two dwarflings, Kili and Fili, grow, and lost hope of ever finding his Sentinel. He named Fili his heir.