Your ninth Spring is spent in constant arguments with the King. "You are pushing your people too hard, my King," you are pacing in front of him in his study. "Do you not possess enough gold already? You are urging further excavations, but there is no need in them. Erebor is striving, what else do you require?" He is leaning back in his chair, parchments and schematics piling on his desk. You see indignation boiling up in him, but by now he knows better than antagonizing you directly. "If my ancestors had not pursued such, as you say, unnecessary excavations, we would not possess the wealth we have now," his tone is dark. "What is the point in accumulating the wealth if the price for it is so high? You had several casualties in the mines just this past month." He rises and looks out into the night through the window. You two are now residing in larger chambers, still located on the higher levels of the mountain. To please you the King has surrendered the splendour of the Lower Halls for the sake of sunshine and fresh wind coming through large, stained glass windows. Though, you suspect that the youth spent on the road has made him less fond of underground dwelling as well.
"What are you looking for, my King? You will not find mithril under Erebor, if that is what you are hoping for." He grumbles something in Khuzdul under his breath. "How much more gems and golden chalices do you need to be content?" You halt and feel tears pooling in your eyes. He turns sharply, noticing the tremble in your voice. You take a deep breath and reign your emotions. "Is what you have not enough?"
You realize that that what has been troubling you the past months. The King seems possessed, consumed with constant hunger for magnifying his wealth, the halls of Erebor never before so full of treasure. And it pains your heart. In your feminine vanity you have hoped that now, in his new full life, the lust for gold he carries as any of his race and even more so as one from the line of Durin would be tamer. His people reside in luxury and safety of the Lonely Mountain, his Kingdom strong and stable, he is loved and respected, and above all, you hoped having an heir to his throne would pacify him. Thror is a healthy tot, a miniature replica of his father. He is completely Dwarven in his appearance, his development only slightly faster than those of the Dwarven younglings. He is sturdy, stubborn and resilient. What does your King desire that he does not possess?
The King returns to his desk. "I will address the safety of mine labour. I understand your concern, and I am grateful for your consultation." After years of marriage you know that a polite answer and not a heated dispute is a sign that you were neither heard nor taken seriously. You huff and stride out of his study.
You are still indignant, unbraiding your intricate do before the sleep. You let the maid go, not in the mood for any presence in your room, and you are brushing your hair, when a loud rumble rolls through the mountain, shaking the walls and the floor. A sequence of thunderous explosions follows, and you jump on your feet. You dash to the passage leading to the nursery chambers and are met by the frightened nursemaid. She is holding the prince, sleepy and disoriented. You pick him up and press the small warm body into you. "What is it, my queen? Is it a dragon?" "Of course not, go take prince's belongings, some clothes and toys, and return to my chambers."
You carry your son to your sleeping chambers, when a disheveled servant rushes in, "I was sent by the King, there has been a calamity in the forges. He was inquiring of you and the prince. He ordered you to stay in the royal rooms." "Tell him we are unscarthed, and the prince is in our chambers." The servant nods and disappears. The nurse comes back and you pass the already sleeping boy to her.
You rush to your wardrobe and change into a simpler robe. The healer's sack is in your study and you pick it up. "Stay here, Froia. I'll send some servants to assist you, if need arises send for me." She seems to want to say something, but you are already rushing through the passages leading to the lower halls.
The castle is full of running, screaming people, the base of mountain emanating a low roar and violent tremours running through the stone. You are passing the ground floors, and the lower you go, the more devastating the picture you see becomes. The dead and the injured are carried out of the staircases leading down, thicker and thicker smoke rising through the open stairways. You encounter a healer, and he shouts that they are setting up an infirmary in the Northern chambers on the ground level. You can hardly hear him through the clamour and rumble of the raging fire underneath the mountain. You nod and head there.
Hours go by, more and more casualties are brought in. The fire still has not subsided, more and more halls are being devoured, and they are talking about sealing the lower levels. At some point you send a servant to the nursery, and he comes back letting you know that the prince is well and asleep seemingly undisturbed by the explosions. You breath out and continue work. You hear some people asking the servant after the prince, and for a second you smile. For all Erebor Thror is the apple of the eye, the most treasured jewel.
More time flies by, and you feel that you are losing your strength. The morning comes unnoticed, and around noon you feel your knees trembling. A healer comes to you and brings water and a piece of bread and cheese. You have but a minute to eat, and then you return to the injured.
"Have they not yet sealed the low passages?" You hear a healer asking a Dwarf soldier accompanying a stretcher. "The King thinks there are more wounded down there." "The fire will spread on the other halls!" "There are no more people in the halls above the mines, just the forges and treasury. Everyone was moved on the higher floors." "But the gold…" He is sacrificing halls to save more people. You step closer to the talking Dwarves and the soldier bows. "My Queen." "Where is the King?" "In the lower halls, they are trying to reign the fire." You nod, but it is not the time for worrying. You have work to do.
By the end of the day the stream of wounded stops, and you finally sit down. You are hiding your face in your palms when you feel someone tapping your shoulder. It is a servant from the royal halls. "My Queen, the prince has been inquiring of you. He asks permission to come down." You shake you head, too tired to talk. The servant nods understandingly and leaves.
You jerk out of sleep and understand that you feel asleep on a cot, sitting against a wall. You look around, healers are still working, but the frenzy has subsided. You get up and beckon the chief healer. "I am going to the lower halls, Master Groim." "My Queen," the elderly Dwarf looks at you, worried but understanding, "They strongly advise against it. The passages have just been sealed, the smoke down there is still very thick, and the stone walls and the floor are probably still scalded." What he omits is that you have much weaker lungs and overall constitution than a Dwarf, that are believed to be created by Mahal, the Smith of Powers to withstand flame and heat. "I appreciate your concern, Master Dwarf. I assure you I will be careful."
The bottom halls are mostly deserted, blood, ash and soot cover the floor, and it is indeed hard to breath here. On your way you meet some familiar faces, the last of rescuers treading up to the ground floors, no one dares to stop you. At the last turn before the entrance to the sealed halls you meet Balin. The old warrior is leaning on a wall, tears drawing dirty streaks on his grimy face. You step closer and pull him in tight embrace. "All those halls, my Queen, all those people…" You close your eyes to stop your own tears. "Where is he?" "At the very end of the passage, by the blockade." You nod and move away from the Dwarf. He grabs your hand. "You cannot go there, the walls are too hot." "I will be alright." "But..." "These are my walls, Master Dwarf, my mountain. I will not be hurt." You take a wet cloth you brought from the infirmary out of your pocket and start walking.
The air is scorching, painful in your lungs, you are pressing the cloth to your nose and mouth. You sway and try to support yourself placing your hand on the wall. It burns your palm, blisters surely appearing on your skin. The King is sitting on the floor, his head dropped low, arms on his bent knees. You touch his shoulder, and he lifts his eyes. They are hollow, tears running down his cheeks, jaws clenched. "Thror?" "He is in our chambers, he hardly understood what happened." A shudder runs through the King's body. "It is all my fault," his voice is a raspy whisper. "I ruined all. The fire, the mines, the forges, all my fault… They were overworked, the forges did not withstand... You were right..." You sink on the floor in front of him. You are not consoling or reassuring. There will be time for that later. His face contorts in pain. "I wanted to be the most exalted of the Dwarven Kings, the one who brought splendour and enormous wealth to his Kingdom..." His voice is shaking from self-hatred. "Thror would be so proud..." You place your hand on his shoulder, and he drops his head again. "I ruined it all… I should have listened to you..."
You cup his face and make him look into your eyes. "It is your fault, my King," he flinches as if you hit him, "but people followed you because such is the nature of Dwarves. They followed you, and worked in the mines and the forges day and night, and brought more gold to their families, and praised their King, and proclaimed these years the Apex of Erebor. Because they are Dwarves, and so are you. Such is Erebor." His tears are running again, and now you do not restrain yours. "And now the Dwarves of Erebor will endure and regain their strength. And so shall you. For your son and your people."
Something shifts in his eyes, and he pulls you into him, with a pained groan. You are kneeling in front of him, his arms crashing you, tremours running through his body. You stay like that for a long time. And then you slightly push him away from your body. You have but a few seconds left. "Thorin, we need to go up..." He shakes his head. "Just a bit more..." "I can't," he jerks his head up. You take a shuddering breath and lose consciousness.
The fire rages in the sealed passages for another week, ruthless and terrifying. The renovations start after a month, and it takes almost three years to return the former splendour to the lower passages. And although the forges and mines return to their work only three months after the fire, people do not forget the fury of the mountain, more awe and reverence is felt towards it than ever before. The scars from the burns on your palms and knees never disappear completely. They serve as the reminder to the King that the real wealth cannot be mined or forged.