Disclaimer: This is a fan work meant only to celebrate the genius of J.R.R. Tolkien
Prince Thorin II of Erebor woke from a true nightmare. A shadow haunted the marble halls of his mountain city, extinguishing its golden lights and filling the hearts of his folk with sickness. Then there was all-engulfing fire. And then darkness. And screaming.
Thorin sat up straight in his bed, flinging aside his cover of fur. He breathed heavily with the raw memory of a dream that was not merely a dream. A shadow had indeed crept into Erebor, the shadow of greed, and nothing good could follow when a king cared more for treasures than for his people. He had been troubled for a while by his grandfather’s growing love of gold, both in sleep and in wakefulness. It was not the first time that he dreamed of ruin and despair.
Thorin sighed deeply, allowing for his heartbeat to wane. Then, he got out of bed and tended to his morning routine of washing and dressing. It usually settled his nerves enough to begin a new day.
As he finished braiding his hair, a few knocks sounded through his bedroom door.
“Morning, Yer Highness! May I come in?” The voice belonged to Dwalin, his cousin, sparring partner and, most of all, trusted friend.
“Yes, of course,” answered Thorin, from the bathroom, then checked his image in the mirror. On that particular morning, it was proving more difficult to hide the traces of a nightmare that had a chance of coming true. He still did not look like himself, at least not like a proud heir of Durin. Yet, he knew that he was safe with Dwalin. He did not have to put up any brave fronts for him.
Thorin secured his last braid with a silver cuff and walked out into his bedroom, where his friend was waiting.
Dwalin greeted him with a smile, then began frowning. “You all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Thorin, trying to return the smile. “Had a bad dream, nothing more.”
“Ah, well, I have something that might cheer you up,” said Dwalin with a cheeky grin. One of his arms was bent behind his back, conspicuously.
Thorin approached him with raised eyebrows. He could not remember any occasion for gift giving falling on that day. He could certainly remember that his birthday was much later in the year. He had also not asked for anything specific. But, by the self-satisfied expression on his cousin’s face, it had to be something good for a change, which was welcome.
“Ready?” asked Dwalin, not letting go of the grin.
Thorin nodded with a heartier smile, and Dwalin brought his hand slowly to the front. Thorin glanced down at it and watched as his friend’s unfolding fist revealed a dagger in a golden scabbard, masterfully carved with Dwarven patterns and a string of runes. Thorin did not have to read the runes to know what they said. He raised a pair of hardly believing eyes to Dwalin.
“This is -” he began, but words just didn’t come out.
“Aye, the Dagger of Durin,” confirmed Dwalin. “It’s just a replica, of course, but a darn good one. I had it made for you.”
Thorin stared speechless at the dagger still residing in Dwalin’s palm. It was his favorite heirloom of his great house. The dagger had kept his ancestor, Durin the Deathless, alive, safe and well fed on his lonely journey through the wilderness until he had come to the lake of Kheled-zâram and founded Khazad-dûm, the greatest city of the Dwarves, in the mountains upon its shores. Yet, it had been an immaterial heirloom, until then. It had been lost over the lengthening years, and Thorin had only seen it in drawings or heard of it in songs.
“I took the liberty of adding your seal to the handle,” offered Dwalin, shoving the dagger a bit into the prince’s arms.
Thorin looked back to his friend, mesmerized. He had completely forgotten his dark dream and the stifling gloom that it had cast over his heart. He didn’t even think to ask why he was being given a present in the first place.
“Well, don’t just stand there,” scolded Dwalin, affectionately. “Take it. See how you like it.”
Thorin snapped out of his reverie, finally. He had to keep his hands from shaking as he lifted them to collect his gift. “Thank you,” he said, almost in a whisper.
“You’re welcome,” replied Dwalin, sounding very pleased.
Thorin lowered his right hand over the dagger as if he half expected it to vanish under his touch. It didn’t, however. It remained solid as he curled his fingers around it and perceived the definite weight of iron. He studied it for a while. The handle did have his four-petal seal engraved just above the cross-guard. It was his as much as it was his first father’s. With a good grip, he extracted the dagger slowly from its sheath, relishing the emergence of a shining new blade. On the length of the fuller another string of runes spelled out its legendary name, King’s Keeper. According to records, the name had been etched into the blade once Durin had become King of Durin’s Folk. The dagger had remained faithfully at his side for his entire long reign. It was believed to have been forged by Aulë himself, granting Durin with his unusually enduring life force.
“May it keep you safe,” said Dwalin, planting a firm hand on Thorin’s shoulder. “You’ll make a fine king someday.”
Thorin smiled at him, but then looked back down, putting the dagger back into its scabbard.
“Have I said something wrong?”
Thorin swayed his head. “I fear for us, Dwalin. Something is coming. I do not know what, and when, but I can feel it in my bones. I fear that our days of peace and plenty might be numbered.”
“I know your concerns, Thorin,” said Dwalin. “That is why I did this. I thought it might restore some of your assurance. Whatever comes, we’ll face it together.”
Thorin looked up at him and nodded, somewhat consoled by the utter confidence gleaming in his friend’s eyes. He began to say something, but he was interrupted by the sound of his bedroom door being thrown open. He turned, startled.
Bruni, a Dwarf from the Royal Guard, was standing breathless in its threshold. “My Lord, a great wind is coming. Lord Balin thinks it’s a hurricane. He bids you come quickly to the gate,” said the Dwarf.
Thorin looked back to Dwalin, who returned his worried gaze. He put the dagger on his nightstand, then walked swiftly towards the bearer of worrying news.
“And, My Lord,” continued Bruni, “some of our people are still in Dale. We should send for them until it is too late.”
Thorin thought that it might already be too late, but he did not say it. “Any women and children among them?” he asked instead.
“Yes, My Lord, my wife and my daughter, too.”
Thorin sighed. “Send a detail. Get them to the Mountain quickly.”
Thorin and Dwalin followed Bruni out on the terrace above the Great Door of Erebor. Thorin looked out into the distance at the darkening sky and the pines bending violently on the slopes of the Mountain. This was no hurricane. It was his nightmare coming to pass. Balin rushed to his side, his luxurious beard flying in the wind.
“Balin, sound the alarm,” growled Thorin. “Call out the guard! Do it now!”
“What is it?” asked Balin.
Livia Miron is a hired writing gun in the IT industry and a creative writer in real life. She is a long-time Star Trek fan, a devout Middle-earther and a recent Star Wars convert. Currently, her passion for writing is driving her deeper and deeper into the mithril-laden mines of Hobbit fan fiction. Livia lives in Romania and is proud of her heritage, but she is also an incurable Anglophile.