I looked at my sister son, Kili, and how he had turned into a fine Dwarven warrior. Dis would be extremely proud when she finally joined us in Moria after her long journey. How he barely contained the joy of seeing his mother again I cannot say. But as we walked the ancient carved halls of our homeland, he asked me an odd question. "Uncle, how did come to love Bella Baggins?"

"Unexpectedly," I admitted. "Why do you ask?'

"Because I think I have found My One, if she will have me?"

"The Elvin woman, Tauriel?" I chuckled. Kili had always been one to be taken by a pretty face. As far as elves went, she wasn't uncomely. Far be it for me to say that loving one outside of our kind is wrong because it would have been the worst form of hypocrisy. Like Uncle, like sister son. "You fancy her?"

"I love her and want her to be my wife," Kili's eyes gleamed with the passion burning within his heart. "But, I don't know how to tell her."

"Does she not know?"

"We dance about like mice around cheese," he shook his head in exasperation. "We banter with words and battle with wits, but I've never been able to muster the courage to tell her my heart's true feelings. I'm worried that she'll soon betroth herself to the Legless Wonder."

I chuckled at the purposeful insult made toward Thranduil's son, heir to the throne of Mirkwood. It would be a good match, Kili and Tauriel. If any could harness the wanderings of my sister son's wild ways, it would be the fiery presence of Tauriel, captain of the guard of Mirkwood.

"Let me tell you how I knew that Bella was the one to complete me," I began my tale with my first revelation from many years past. . .

"Where did you go to, if I may ask?" I strode forward, wanting to get answers from the unpredictable wizard.

"To look ahead," Gandalf hedged with a cheerful note in his voice.

"What brought you back?" I pressed, wanting to hold the old conjurer accountable for his actions.

"Looking behind," Gandalf admitted. "You were lucky this night that you didn't become the appetizer of some very hungry trolls. Nasty business. Still, they're all in one piece. You and your company were fortunate."

"No thanks to your burglar," I said. Bella Baggins tended to disappear and reappear at the most convenient times. . .for her. Why she left the warmth and security of her little home in the shire was beyond me. Soft and spoiled, she wasn't meant for the traveling life and never let me forget it. "She is more trouble than she is worth."

"She had the nous to play for time," Gandalf's stern voice and disapproving tone made me feel as if I were young lad in school once more being chastised by a disapproving schoolmaster. "None of the rest of you thought of that."

My eyes fell to the ground as I realized the truth of the old wizard's words and that I grudgingly concurred. Had it not been for Bella's quick wit, my company and I would now be in the stomach of three full Mountain Trolls. Of my volition, I nodded in agreement. "Yes, I suppose you are right. She has some merit, more that I thought."

"More that you thought, Thorin Oakenshield?" Gandalf's brows rose in surprise. "She saved your life and those in your company and you say she has some merit? Were it not for her, the bellies of those trolls would be heavy with a feast of dwarf."

"Agreed," I muttered, still vexed by the fact that the old man dressed me down as one might do an errant child.

Looking back at that moment, I believe that is the first glimmer of revelation, of changing feeling I had in this lonely heart. Until that point, my life was fueled by the single-minded passion of my people reclaiming our homeland. Fired by obsession for restoration of honor and reclamation of what was rightfully that of the Dwarven people, I was blinded to anything else nor would I have listened to wisdom of what was obvious to all but me: I had found my Kala within a nervous, vexing little hobbit.

Looking back across the years so long in passing, I remember the day I lost my life only to reclaim it. It was the last day of Autumn, Durin's Day, and it was one prophesied in the portents read by Oin. He predicted that the Key would unlock the way to the Lonely Mountain, but I took his words at their value rather than looked for hidden meanings. I think he, nor any other in our company, saw that sometimes words have two meanings. Ascending that ledge in that morning after the battle with Azog was an ascendance to the Stairway leading to Heaven because that was the day that I found my myself no longer a mountain. I remember the battle of that night all too well, Kili...let me tell you what truly happened...

Hanging on to dear life to the large evergreen that held in its branches the lives of my company and kin, I grew weary of Azog's hunt to end our existence. With Orcist in hand, I drew myself to my feet, walking forward with determination flowing through my veins to gain vengeance for the line of Durin. This night, I silently vowed, would be the last one Azog would ever see.

I felt Bella's eyes upon me as I strode past her, her fear was nearly palatable and drawing me into it's web. I refused to end this quest or not get my revenge simply for the heart of one hobbit. My grandfather, Thror, had experienced a dishonorable death at the hands of the defiler and my father, Thrain, had been driven mad. Now, let his abomination taste the vengeance of my blade and feel the wrath from the heir of the line of Durin.

Our eyes locked and I saw Azog's come alight with anticipation as I made my toward him. My anger stoked by his glee exploded into rage, my walk turned into a full charge as the voices of my ancestors demanded retribution for his actions against them. Running through embers and flame, I bounded toward the pale Orc mounted upon his Warg. The fires surrounding us matched my desire for revenge and this night wouldn't pass until my ancestors and I knew satisfaction.

I brought up the oaken branch that had served me well in the past and raised Orcist with each step. I watched Azog open his arms wide as if greeting a long-lost friend, his pointed teeth grinning in hopes of ending my life. He welcomed this confrontation and kicked the warg in the ribs, meeting me on that mountain. His mount jumped from the ledge above me, knocking me to the ground as he soared past me. The hard granite beneath me did nothing to cushion my fall.

I struggled to my feet, ready to meet the Orc in battle. The pain of the fall slammed through ever fiber of my being, but I wanted justice and pain was of no consequence at that moment. Yet, it slowed me to not be able to dodge the blow of Azog's battle mace as he raced past me. I fell back against the ground, stunned by blow of his weapon and the cold stone slamming against my back. I heard Balin cry, "No!"

Then I heard the guttural roar of Azog's battle cry as he turned around his beast and again charged to deliver the death-blow. I was certain that I would be in the halls of my fathers before the night's end, drinking mead and reuniting with those whom I'd lost in my youth. I felt the warg's teeth dig into my torso, it's bite sinking deep into my ribs and stomach, and I bellowed in pain. I didn't want my last moments of life on Middle Earth to be in the maw of the mangy beast doing its master's bidding.

The thick pine smoke burned my eyes, the fire singed my skin and the fowl stench of warg filled my senses. The breaking of bone filled my ears as my body and soul began to separate from one another. As a warrior, I was taught from a young age by my father not to give into the pain of wounds in battle, but the roar filling the air was my own because my broken body screamed for an end.

The warg shook me as though I were a child's toy before tossing me several feet through the air. I managed to land a solid blow against the side of the beast's head before I landed soundly against solid rock. In that moment, I thought Azog was a mere coward, letting his pet do his dirty work for him rather than facing me in battle. Then again, no Orc possesses honor. That is a Dwarvin trait.

Next, I felt the cold touch of Orcish iron against my throat and I made my peace with this life, unable to reach my sword. I would die as my grandfather had, but I knew I died with honor. Somewhere nearby, I heard the sound of a sword being drawn from its sheath; what I did not expect to see with my last breath of life was a troublesome little halfling give a battle cry worthy of a warrior maiden.

Bella, my beloved Bella, amazed me again with the courage only a hobbit possesses. Pure in her fury, she tackled the Orc looming above me ready to take my head. Shocked, I could only turn my head in their direction as they rolled on the ground. I remained helpless and broken, unable to help my little hobbit as she battled an enemy three times her size without fear. It please me to know that she would be the vision I'd take into the next life, though it saddened me that she would soon join me. In the halls of my fathers, she would be a welcome addition, a spritely Valkyrie renowned for dying a warrior's death.

The passion and fury Bella possessed caught the Azog's minion unaware, dodging his blows with the quick surety of hobbit agility. Soon, she sat astride him grasping Sting in both hands before she plunged it deep into his chest, her roar of rage filling the night air. She was not trouble, but a blessing from Mahal and I prayed that he take my life in lieu of hers as tribute.

I found myself sitting at the right hand of my grandfather, Thror, hearing his gruff voice bid me a warrior's welcome. I saw his arm extended to me in greeting and I clasped his forearm, then locked in a powerful embrace of the warrior. I was about to greet him when I heard a faint whisper call my name.


I paid little attention and tried to greet Thror, but no sound came from my lips. My eyes widened in confusion as I felt myself pulled away from him. I heard nothing, but I saw the look of sadness flare in his eyes as he grew distant from me. I had paid with my life to restore honor to the line of Durin and now I wasn't allowed reunion with my kin? Why would Mahal deny me this one thing?

The power of Mahal works through the hands of his prophets and wizards.

"Thorin, return to us," came the quiet voice to my ears. I heard the whispers of a language akin to ancient Dwarvish fill my mind and a bright light blocked by a hand passing over my face. I felt a heaviness in my limbs and cool, mountain air flow on my skin.

My vision blurred when I opened my eyes and I blinked to clear them. There, stooping over me was Gandalf the Grey, a faint smile tugged at his lips. The last thing I remembered were brown ringlets glowing by firelight and a fierce battle cry as Bella burying her sword in an Orc's chest. I had not seen her by my side in death's vision and I feared the worst.

"Bella? Where is Bella?" I demanded, my voice no more than a hoarse growl. It felt tight and dry, in need of drink to soothe its burning.

"Do not worry, Thorin Oakenshield." Gandalf assured me. "Bella is well. She's quite safe."

"Where is she?" I insisted, commanding my body to rise to its feet. I felt Dwalin and Kili take me under each arm, hoisting me upright until I stood alone. I saw the little hobbit looking at me with wide brown eyes with such warmth and gladness greeted me that I thought my heart might burst. It nearly broke because there was not enough room within it to contain the emotion I felt being reflected in my burglar's eyes.

The realization that I loved a vexing, prudish hobbit turned heroine was tainted by the anger I felt at her reckless actions of attacking a creature three times her sizes and one hundred times as dangerous. How dare she put herself in harm's way so foolishly? Had Mahal hit her upside the head with a boulder to make her put away any good sense she possessed? Anger burned within me as gold melts within a forge, pure and hot.

"You!" I bellowed, glowering at the defiant woman standing before me. "What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed!"

Her eyes looked at me, wide with disbelief and sadness at my harsh words.

"Did I not say that you would be a burden?" All I wanted to do at that moment was take that meddlesome hobbit in hand and wring her pretty little neck. At the same time, I wanted her body against mine and love her for the rest of her foolish, reckless life. I watched her step back from me in fear and my heart wrenched at the thought that I would do harm to her. In that moment, all fury melted away into something more wonderful than all the gold of Erebor.

"I'm s-sorry," she stammered.

"Sorry?" I bellowed, "Did I not say that you would not survive in the Wild? That you have no had no place amongst us?"

I watched her eyes look away, the sadness in them drowning in my outrage. My heart shattered in that moment, the bitterness washed aside by the joy of seeing my Bella, my Kala, alive and well before me. She was the one who completed me, my One, or in the Dwarven tongue, Kala. She was Mahal's blessing to me and my beloved. I gave in to what my heart had fought for a long time; the love I felt for this brave little hobbit who had slipped into my life and utterly changed it.

I drew her into my arms, holding her closely to me as I had long wanted to do, but suppressed the urge beneath disdain and obsession for a quest. "I have never been so wrong in all my life."

I heard a cheering behind us as I held Bella close to my heart. I whispered, "Men lananubukhs menu. Menu zirup men, men Kala."

"I don't understand," she whispered against my check.

"In the language of my people, it means 'I love you. You complete me, My One."

I held her long and fast against me, then drew back to look at her. Bella's sable eyes revealed her astonishment as I brought my lips to hers, tasting her sweetness and feeling the warmth of love and life in that first kiss. I knew another must never pass without righting the wrongs that hung between us. "But, I am sorry I doubted you."

"No, I would have doubted me, too," she replied in that self-effacing way that slipped past the hardness of my stone heart. "I'm not a hero or a warrior or even a burglar."

"You are all of those things and more," I corrected her. How could she not see herself as she truly was, beautiful and brave as any Dwarven maid? I promised Mahal that I would never make the mistake again of underestimating my Bella or hiding behind denial of my heart. Now, with my Kala at my side, it was a sign Mahal gave to let me know that the quest would soon be complete. My eyes glanced upon my hobbit once more before I noticed a wonderful sight in the distance.

With the morning sun to our east, I looked to the south atop the ledge where we all stood. Bella stood at my side, her hand firmly in mine, as I gazed at the sight before us. I stood in awe of it's distant majesty.

"Erebor," Gandalf said with quiet awe. "the Lonely Mountain, the last of the great Dwarf kingdoms of Middle-Earth."

I turned to the little burglar beside me, cupping her check with my other hand. The love in my heart at that moment threatened to burst forth from my chest. I turned to my company and kind behind us, motioning toward the mountain. I squeezed her hand, looking down into loving brown eyes that captured my heart.

"Our home." I took it as a sign.

I saw Kili's eyes bright with powerful emotion. "That was beautiful, Uncle."

"Go find Tauriel before you lose her," I told him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Whether you live in Mirkwood or bring her under the mountain, it matters not. Find your love in her as Mahal has blessed you and never let her go."

"I won't!" Kili gave me a quick clasp on the shoulder before he bolted, intending to find the other half of his heart. "Thank you, Thorin."

I looked skyward toward the top of the mountain. "Thank you, Mahal."

Not necessarily the end...