Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are copyrighted by Warner Brothers and the J.R.R. Tolkien estate. No infringement of these copyrights intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. I write this fan fiction only for love of the The Hobbit and not for profit.

"The Mountain shall reveal her secrets,
As the moon shall shine and burn,
Erebor welcomes home her children
As Erebor's Key does turn!"

Thorin silently nodded, placing the key in the keyhole, then turned it to the right. He put his hands upon the granite, feeling the stone give lightly beneath his palms. He gave one forceful shove and the heavy weight of the mountain moved, opening the door long hidden.

As the heavy stone submitted to Thorin's will, I watched him stare is silent reverence into the darkness. What I considered an empty mountain was what my husband considered a homeland returned to its people. Rarely was Thorin speechless or humble as he was in that moment when he first set foot once more within Erebor.

The entire company remained silent as they stared in awe and I didn't know what to do so I kept my mouth shut.

"Erebor, we are home." Thorin quiet timbre echoed on the inner walls of the entrance as he greeted his Mother Mountain. Balin's eyes show with tears of gladness as he trembled with the power of being within the mountain after 60 years of exile. I knew him to be charming and keen, but to see our elder sage so vulnerable and heartfelt tugged painfully at my heartstrings. Thorin turned to his oldest friend, laying a comforting hand on Balin's shoulder in a rare gesture of emotion.

Thorin stepped inside followed by Balin, slow and observant of the power and magic within Erebor. This was something that I couldn't share with my Beloved and this was for him and the company, not me. The cool air brushed against my skin as I entered the mountain for the first time and the smell of the fresh dampness filled my nostrils. It wasn't a musty dampness, but a clean scent that one smells upon coming to a clear lake or after spring rain.

I watched my husband embrace the stone, holding it to him as a son adores his mother. "I know these halls and stone, Balin. Do you remember it, chambers filled with golden light? Silver reflections dancing off the forge's flames?"

I heard a quiet sob escape Balin who made no attempt to wipe away his heart captured in his tears. "Oh, I remember."

I came to stand beside Balin who gave me a smile and a nod. Finally remembering to purchase a handkerchiefs in Lake Town, I took one from my waistcoat pocket and dabbed his eyes, then pressed the hanky into his hand. I gave his trembling hand a quick squeeze and said nothing because I knew anything I said would shatter this beautiful, solemn moment Balin nodded to me in silent thanks, squeezing my hand in return. Though it wasn't my home, I felt the love and magic flowing through the mountain via the Dwarrows standing around me.

I saw Glóin staring upward at a three-dimensional carving, geometric in its design. It was a throne with a great gem at its apex with rays bursting from it in all directions. Across the top of the relief, I saw runes embedded within the granite. While I had learned a few words in Khuzdul, this was a dialect I didn't recognize.

Glóin came up beside me, never tearing his gaze from the carving. I leaned over and whispered, "Gloin, what is that?"

"That, Mistress Durinson," he murmured, pointing at the image of above us, "is the throne of Erebor crowned by the Arkenstone, the very Heart of the Mountain and the King's Jewel."

"What do the runes say?" I asked.

"Herein lies the Seventh Kingdom of Durin's Folk," he translated. "May the Heart of the Mountain unite Dwarves in defense of this home."

"Our home," Balin said as he wiped away his tears. "Your home now, too, Bella."

"Ah," I said, the gravity of the situation sinking into my brain as I took in everything around me.
"The throne of the King and your husband," he looked to the relief. "And you are its Queen."

"And what is that above it, that King's Jewel?" I longed to be able to be tall enough to run my fingers along the carving, to feel its rough smoothness beneath my fingertips. Was this how the Company felt when they looked at it, longing to lose themselves in this stone womb that beckoned us inward?

"The Arkenstone, Lass."

"The Arkenstone," I repeated. "Hmm." I studied the King's Jewel more within the dim light coming through the entrance. Shaped like an egg, I wondered how large it was in reality. "What is it?"

"That, my good wife," Thorin's voice drew me from my curiosity, "is why you are here."

"Excuse me?" I asked, breaking the solemnity of the moment, pointing to the oval representation in the carving. "I'm here for that?"

"Balin," a stern expression crossed Thorin's face once he heard my question. "Explain to our burglar what the Arkenstone is and why she is here."

"At once, Thorin," Balin bowed quickly. He motioned me away from the others. "I still know these caverns as well as the back of my sword. Come with me, Lass, we've much to discuss."

I looked at Thorin who stood there in silent worship of a rock heap and I followed the most salient one of the group. While I, too, had felt the allure of the Mountain, I found myself quite over it when I saw how it enthralled my husband's mind, pushing out all else. It was a mountain, not a god. I prayed to Yavanna to save me from the perplexities of Dwarves.

As we ventured deeper into the mountain away from the company, I expected darkness to surround us and jagged stalactites to hang above us. Instead of narrow crevices to pass through, I found ornate carvings embellishing the high cavern ceilings and expert masonry giving us wide passageways through which to walk.

"You want me to find a rock?" I finally asked him. "There are thousands of gems, I imagine, Balin, in the treasury. Why, by the Valar, is this one so important?"

"Not any mere 'rock' as you call it, Bella, but a large, white jewel," Balin gently corrected me, making me feel contrite at being so snarky in this kind Dwarrow's presence. I admitted to myself that I was jealous of a mountain because it held my husband's attention in a way I never could. I was envious of a pile of rock and that realization was a blow to my Took pride and my Baggins sensibilities.

"I see."

"There is only one Arkenstone, Bella, make no mistake, and you'll know it when you see it." Balin explained. As he walked ahead of me, I saw the old Dwarrow's shoulders slump and heard a heavy sigh escape him.

"Balin, what's wrong?" With the loss of my parents in the Fell Winter in years past, I'd come to think of this wise old Dwarrow as what Thorin had called a 'Father-friend.' It was a term that fit Balin well in my eyes.

"I'm not sure what you'll find deep within the mountain, Lass," he looked at me, a sadness in his eyes that replaced the recent joy shining in them. "I don't know what you'll find below and you are like a daughter to me. I want no harm coming to you, Lass. You needn't go now if you don't wish it and there is no shame in returning to the company. Nori is a master thief and he'd do as well within the treasury to find the stone and give it to Thorin. Now, as his wife, surely he won't require this of you."

"Oh, Balin," I felt a lump grow in my throat that matched the expanse of fondness for him.

"Bella, you can stay here. Let me talk to Thorin. He can send Nori-" he began.

"No, absolutely not. I'm doing it." I declared. "I promised I would do this and I think I must try. As the consort to the King and for the love of Thorin, there isn't another option. Come Mt. Doom or high water, I'll find that rock and personally place in that hands of my husband."

Balin shook his head and chuckled.

"What?" I asked, not understanding what he found humorous.

"You never cease to amaze me, Bella," his smile beamed in the darkness of the passage. "The courage of Hobbits and your constant feistiness. You are a fair match, indeed, to meet Thorin's stubbornness and Mahal help him if he makes a misstep."

"Thank you, I think."

He pointed into the darkness of the passage. "There is the way to where your journey begins, Mistress Burglar, may Mahal be with you and the Mountain protect you."

I gingerly stepped forward to begin my part of the quest to obtain an unseen gem for a king who's mind was memorized by something within that mountain.

"Oh, Bella?" Balin called after me.

I looked over my shoulder. "Yes?"

"If, indeed there is still a dragon gracing our fair halls in the depths, try not to wake it up. I doubt you'd be more than a morsel for him."

"Happiness and joy," I muttered as I began my portion of the quest. What had I gotten myself into?

To Be Continued. . .