A/N: Hello and welcome to my newest story! This is a sequel to my Hobbit story "To Seek the Pale Enchanted Gold" (you don't have to have read it to understand this one though) and so could be seen as a bit of an AU. As Lord of the Rings is so huge (and I'm not as familiar with it as I am with The Hobbit) I'm quite nervous about this one. It will be mainly pulled from the movie versions, along with some deleted scenes, though I do plan on using some things from the books. I also do not plan on it being anywhere near as long as the originals. :) I enjoy and welcome all reviews, knowing what readers think is actually quite helpful, just keep in mind I am not a Tolkien scholar, just a fan. :) I always listen to music from Brunuhville as I'm writing and editing; his stuff just fits so perfectly. Anything written in bold italics is either Khuzdul or Sindarin and the translations can be found at the end of each chapter. I do plan on posting a new chapter about every week or two but sometimes life gets in the way.
All credit belongs to Tolkien and Peter Jackson for the wonderful world and the faces I picture as I write. Only the OCs are my creation.
Change happens in many ways. Sometimes it can hit in the blink of an eye, taking everyone by surprise. Other times it can sneak in so quietly that no one is aware anything has changed until all of a sudden, everyone realizes that everything is different but yet no one can say how it happened. Then there are those times that there are hints, rumors that something is changing, that something is not quite the way it had always been. Some people ignore those whispers until it is too late. Others, however, hear them and heed them, preparing themselves for when they have to fight against that change.
Though much had changed over the past eighty years or so, the view from the balcony over the Main Gate of Erebor was the same: the green valley, still scarred from the battle so many years before; the gleaming city, proud center of trade once again; the Long Lake further behind it. A cool wind blew down from the mountains, sweeping over the forest, rattling through the streets of Dale, and racing across the valley until it hit the unmoving stone face of the Lonely Mountain. It's force caused hair and cloaks to flap wildly but their owners stood firm. Fall was still a good month or so away but it seemed an early, hard winter would be right on its heels. Those on the balcony of the mountain, however, were not thinking about the weather. Their attention was focused on the sole black rider slowly approaching. They knew who had sent him, they had sensed the change slowly creeping from the south for decades and they had been preparing. The king stood proudly with his wife by his side and his three grown children arranged behind him. With the armed guard flanking them and the archers on the upper balconies they presented a formidable barrier. Not that the rider had any plan to attack and they knew it. It was to show they were not intimidated by him or his Master; they had seen him before and knew what he would say. The king stared down at the rider, waiting.
And the hissed message was indeed the same, the seemingly innocent request and slimy promises filtering up to them. His wife could understand the creature perfectly and relayed the few bits he had trouble deciphering from that voice of evil.
And his answer was the same. "We have not yet made a decision on this matter. More time is required."
That was not what the messenger had wanted to hear. He hissed a few threats but quickly wheeled his horse around and galloped back towards the south. When he was long out of sight and the darkness he brought with him had dissipated, the two monarchs faced each other with mirroring expressions of concern.
"We have to do something, Thorin. Sauron is not going to give up in this. If he doesn't get what he wants from us he will find another way." He sighed deeply.
"I had hoped to stall for longer but I know you're right, Rhae. Bilbo must be warned." He took her hand and motioned to the three standing behind them. "Come. I believe it's time for a meeting. Rhoin, summon the Elders along with the others. Tell them to be in my study in an hour."
Thorin stared at the Council, seeing the uncertainty in some of their eyes. His gaze roved over the few members of his original Company - Gloin with a deep frown on his face, Bofur and Nori's usually mischievous countenances serious, Dwalin and Kíli standing to the side with arms crossed - then his wife and three children. They, along with the Elders, were all waiting to see what he had to say.
"I wish Balin were here. His advice would be welcome," Thorin muttered, running a hand through his silver hair.
"All the more reason to go to Rivendell. Lord Elrond may have some news." She had a bad feeling in her heart when it came to the colony Balin had established in Moria; it had been so long since they'd heard from them. She knew what those ancient dwarves had unearthed in the mines. "And they must be warned that Sauron knows Bilbo has the Ring." Even though Rhae was fully aware that Bilbo had no idea what he had in his possession she wished she knew when their old burglar had gotten his hands on something as evil as the One Ring. If the Nazgul got to the Shire before a warning could be sent the hobbits didn't stand a chance.
"I have not traveled over the mountains since the quest - "
"You will not be going, Thorin. The King Under the Mountain cannot leave right now, not with this threat looming over us," she interrupted. There were some raised eyebrows but the Elders remained silent. After eight decades as queen Rhae's manner, especially when it came to speaking her mind, were well known. Even if they disagreed they wouldn't have said much, knowing how much Thorin valued his wife's council and she was usually the only one that could get him to see reason. If it escalated into an argument that was all the more reason to stay out of it. As it was they whole-heartedly agreed with her in this.
"The Queen is right, your Majesty. Besides the threat now facing Erebor we cannot risk your own life," Gloin said. The dwarf glanced at the woman by Thorin's side, knowing what she would suggest next. "We also cannot risk our queen's life." When she frowned Gloin could only chuckle. She knew exactly what he meant: she was too old to take such a journey and though she chafed under the thought Rhae couldn't deny the truth in it.
"Then who shall it be? It will take at least two or three months to get there," Gravir, one of the Elders that had come from Ered Luin, asked.
"It should be a member of the royal family that meets with the elves. There is a better chance of our plea being taken more seriously if it comes from one of them," another of the Elders, Malv, put forward.
"Lord Elrond will not brush aside our concerns," Rhae replied, just managing to keep from rolling her eyes. Of all the dwarves that had returned to Erebor the ones that still had problems trusting the elves were the older citizens from Ered Luin. It was a battle of wills she still had to fight on occasion. Durin sat up straighter and opened his mouth to speak but was cut off before he could utter a word.
"I will go." All eyes swung to the young woman standing just to the left of the queen's chair.
"No." Thorin's voice was sharp.
"Why not? I am just as capable as Durin or Rhoin. Rho has a new baby, he doesn't need to leave Sala right now, and Durin, as your heir, cannot be risked. I am the only logical choice."
"You are my daughter."
"And that makes a difference how?"
Thorin stared at her. With her hands on her hips and eyes blazing in challenge she reminded him of Rhae and that moment so many years before when his future wife had stared him down on the road outside Bree. The Dunedain blood ran strong in her, stronger than it did in his other two children. The chamber was silent and he wished this had not been brought up in front of others. Well he knew his daughter's stubbornness (she came by it honestly) and would prefer to have had this argument in their private home. He glanced over at Rhae, meeting her gaze, and stifled the sigh that wanted to escape when he saw what was in her eyes.
"This meeting is adjourned. I will inform you of my decision shortly. Nothing that we have discussed here is to be spoken of beyond those doors. Gloin, Dwalin, Kíli, please join us in my study." The Elders hurried out as quickly as they could, knowing a family argument was most likely and none of them wanted to be caught in the crossfire of Durin tempers. A few of them had made that mistake a few times in the past and it was not an experience they cared to repeat. They trusted their king to make the best decision for Erebor.
Rhae sensed her daughter's frustration and laid a hand on her shoulder as they followed Thorin. Though her heart had sunk a bit she was not surprised at Shae's volunteering. Out of all their children their daughter was most like her. The three had always been an interesting combination of Dunedain and dwarf. Durin, born not long after the Battle of the Five Armies looked just like his father though he had apparently gotten his height from his Dunedain blood as he was a few inches taller than Thorin. His personality was steady, for the most part, though he wasn't immune from explosions of temper or the desire to raise mischief. He had learned well the responsibilities and skills befitting the heir to Erebor from Thorin, Balin, and Dwalin and she had no doubt he would make a fine king when his time came. Though he occasionally had a bit of wanderlust, he was content to remain within their lands. He was almost a perfect mix of their two races. Rhoin seemed to have inherited nothing from her except her lighter coloring. He was all dwarf in his appearance and personality. He was happiest when he was working in the forges and, unlike his brother, had no interest in battles or weaponry - though he was as fierce as Durin in a fight. Rho had no desire to travel at all and had never been able to understand his little sister's yearning to see what lay beyond the Long Lake. Now that he had a child of his own Rhae doubted he would ever leave the Lonely Mountain. Then there was Shaella, their youngest, a welcome blessing after the loss of an unborn child. Shae, who had her father's coloring and temper and her wanderlust. She had been the child eager to learn all she could about the other races in Middle Earth and had mastered Sindarin. She had been the one to insist on being taught how to use a bow (and she was quite good with it, too). Rhae knew her daughter ached to have an adventure of her own, had even mentioned going west to find the Rangers, and while she understood she hated the thought of her daughter facing such evil.
"Shae, you cannot be serious."
"Of course I am, adad. As I pointed out I am the logical choice. You and Durin cannot take such a risk. While I'm sure mother would go I know you won't let her travel that far. Rho has Sala and the baby to see to and I know he'd rather remain in Erebor anyway."
"Nathith, it is quite a journey to Rivendell and the way is not safe."
"I wasn't proposing to go alone. I'm sure you'd want to send at least a couple of the Elders with me, along with a few soldiers for good measure."
Thorin fisted his hands by his side and threw a pleading glance at Rhae. She gave him a sympathetic smile. This wouldn't be easy for him, he treasured Shae, but he knew as she did that their daughter would find a way to travel, with or without their approval. And she was right in her reasoning. As much as she'd love to see Rivendell again she was too old to travel that far and the others couldn't risk leaving the mountain at such a time.
"Shae is right, Thorin."
"What?!" he stared at her incredulously though she could see the resignation in his eyes.
"Best to send her with plenty of protection rather than her slipping off and following them on her own." She held back a laugh as his eyes swung to Shae who some how managed to stare back innocently.
"As much as it pains me to say it, adad, Shae is right," Durin spoke up, frowning at his sister. "She's just hard headed and impulsive enough to run off after who ever you send."
"I'm standing right here," Shae replied, trying to appear insulted but barely able to contain her growing excitement.
"Send a couple of the Elders with her and plenty of soldiers. They should be able to keep her out of trouble." Rhoin almost choked in his attempt to conceal his laugh as he saw the mutinous look his little sister shot at their older sibling.
Thorin's gaze swept his family, seeing the same answer on all their faces. He did not want to let his little girl out of Erebor, did not want her put in danger, but he knew he was beaten. They were all correct, even if he wouldn't admit it out loud. His attention finally settled on Dwalin. His friend knew what he was thinking without a word spoken.
"I'll send a squad of my best and strongest soldiers, ones I know can be trusted around the princess." He gave Shae a quick wink and she grinned. Dwalin had helped train her, he knew her skills with a sword.
"Gimli and I will go with her, Thorin. I'm not so old that I've forgotten the way over the Misty Mountains. Besides, as Oin went with Balin to Moria, I am anxious to hear any news about him - even if it does come from the elves."
Durin nodded as his father did. He knew none of the soldiers would try anything with Gimli around. Not that he thought any of their men would act so dishonorably with the Princess of Erebor but if they got their hands on any ale they might shoot their mouths off inappropriately. Of course, if any of them were foolish enough to try something he was sure Shae would relieve them of some rather vital body parts.
"Very well. Rhae and I will decide who else will make this journey. In the mean time, Dwalin have your men ready to travel within two days."
"Two days?" Shae gasped.
"Aye, my dear. This matter cannot wait a moment longer." Rhae told her. "I have felt the stirrings of darkness steadily increasing since the battle. I only hope we have not waited too late."
"Then I will begin making my preparations as well." She gave her parents a respectful bow. "Akhminruki astû, adad, amad." Her brothers followed her leaving Thorin and Rhae with Dwalin, Gloin, and Kíli.
"I promise she'll come to no harm," Gloin said, meeting Thorin's eye.
"Thank you, old friend. I do not doubt you will keep her safe. I just know her stubborn nature and fear what she'll try to throw herself into."
"She's not some weak, dainty female. She's smart and has Rhae's Ranger instincts. I think she'll be fine," Kíli spoke up.
"You can't hold the lass back forever, Thorin," Dwalin replied. He held up a hand at his friend's glare. "I look on her almost as my own and I would never agree to anything that would harm her but she is much like her mother - proud and adventurous." Rhae gave the old warrior a fond smile. Their friendship had grown deep over the years and he always took care of her and her children.
"She is well trained, thanks to you, amrâlimê," she said, placing a hand over his on the table. He picked it up, kissing it gently.
"And she has your intelligence, your skill at languages and politics," he praised, his eyes smiling at her proudly.
"Shae will be just fine. How could she not be strong enough to make such a journey? After all, she has Durin and Dunedain blood in her veins," Gloin pointed out.
"It is indeed a formidable mix," Thorin agreed, kissing Rhae's fingers again.
"Are you sure about this, namadith?"
She looked up from her bag, glancing between her brothers. They hadn't left her side and while it was slightly touching it was also slightly annoying. She couldn't be angry at them, though. They had been by her side since she was born, always protecting her.
"Very sure, Durin. The two of you are my closest friends. You know how much I want to see the world. I am not ignorant. I know that as a king's daughter I will be expected to marry, though thankfully adad had promised not to force me into a union against my wishes. I know once that happens I will have lost any chance of seeing what lies beyond the borders of Thranduil's kingdom. I can't pass up the only opportunity I may ever get."
"I don't understand why you want to travel all over the place but I do know I don't want to deal with your temper for the next six months if you don't go," Rhoin said. Durin frowned at him but sighed with a shrug.
"I would not try to stop you, Shae. I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were heading into. We've grown up on the stories of amad and adad's journey over the Misty Mountains, the danger they faced."
"Aye, but I'm not being tracked by an orc wanting to stick my head on a pike."
"No, but you know what's lurking, what's growing in the south. Amad had made no secret of it and now you're heading to ask the elves about something the Dark Lord covets, something that we actually know the location of." Rho gave her a pointed look. "All manner of foul things hide in the dark places of the world."
"I know that, Rho, but none of you can risk going. This may be my last chance to do something meaningful." She gave them a smile. "Your concern is touching, though."
"Well, at least I know you can use those swords of yours. I spent enough time in the training rings with you," Durin proclaimed with a smirk.
She laughed. "My skill is all thanks to adad and Dwalin. You only taught me how to scare the raven master and sneak snacks from Bombur."
"That's hard to do!" he protested and they all shared a laugh. The three quickly sobered, though.
"Be careful, Shae. Don't go looking for trouble," Rho insisted, patting her shoulder.
"I'll be fine. Besides, I'll have Gimli with me."
Durin rolled his eyes. "I hope you haven't forgotten all amad's lessons in diplomacy. They may just come in handy with him around."
It was a small crowd gathered in the pre-dawn darkness two days later. The ones leaving for Rivendell were finishing their farewells. Gloin and Gimli were already mounted, as were the soldiers accompanying them. Thorin and Rhae were giving a few last minute instructions to Malv and Humlin, the two Elders chosen to join them. As Shae stood with her brothers she couldn't help but roll her eyes. She knew why those two had been picked. They were the ones that were closest to her mother, usually taking Rhae's side in issues. She also knew they had a healthy fear of crossing Thorin. They would do anything to please their monarchs. They were, in her parents' eyes, the perfect chaperons: willing to keep her reined in and most likely over protective.
"Try not to cause your companions too much grief," Durin told her with a grin.
"I would never do such a thing." They laughed, knowing she was the biggest trouble maker of them all.
"Send word occasionally. I'm interested in hearing if Rivendell is as bad as Dori and Dwalin always say it is."
"You could've volunteered," Shae told her brother, casting a sly glance at Rho as she finished strapping her packs to her horse.
"Well, I'm not that interested," was his quick reply. He then pulled her into a tight hug. "Be careful, namadith."
Then it was Durin's turn to embrace her. "See some of the world for me," he whispered in her ear. She nodded as their parents approached, knowing that deep down he would love to take such a journey.
"I'm sending Maec with you so you can send messages whenever you feel the need. Keep us updated with your progress and what happens in Rivendell."
"Thank you, adad." She eyed the large raven sitting on the wall near by, knowing it was listening to their conversation.
Her mother hugged her tightly but Shae knew that out of everyone, she was the only one who understood her need to see more of their world. She just felt there was a reason she was supposed to go west and was eager to discover why.
"Belan will be just as thrilled to travel as you, my dear," she said, running a hand through the black horse's mane. He was a descendant of her own Tâlagor and she'd chosen him specifically for Shae a couple years earlier.
"I will give Lord Elrond your greetings ... and thank you amadel."
"I look forward to the tales you'll have to tell when you return." Rhae met her eyes and Shae could've sworn her mother knew something she didn't. "Trust your heart and your instincts, nâthuê kurdu." A quick kiss on the forehead and they turned to Thorin.
He embraced her tightly. "Always be on your guard. You will be in charge but make sure to heed the advice of others." He ran a hand down one of the braids hanging by her face then pressed his forehead to hers. "I'm very proud of you, ghivashel. Stay safe, mizimith." She swung up onto her horse and Thorin gripped her hand a moment longer.
Taking a deep breath he turned to the gathered crowd. "Dayamu khuzan ai-menu. Mahal tadnani astû, sanzigil tamkhihi astû. We look forward to word of your meetings with distant friends."
With a confident smile at her parents Shae spurred Belan to the head of the group and lead them out the Main Gate. She turned around once to give her family a wave then turned her face to the south and whatever adventures awaited her.
"She won't come home, will she?" Durin asked as he moved to stand next to his mother, his eyes sad.
"Oh, she'll come home but not for long and she will be quite changed," Rhae answered, wrapping an arm around Thorin's waist as he silently watched his daughter ride away.
adad - father
nathith - young daughter
akhminruki astû - thank you so much
amad - mother
amrâlimê - my love
namadith - little sister
amadel - mother of all mothers
nâthuê kurdu - daughter of my heart
ghivashel - treasure of all treasures
mizimith - jewel that is young
dayamu khuzan ai-menu - blessings of the ancestors upon you
Mahal tadnani astû, sanzigil tamkhihi astû - Mahal guide you and mithril find you (good luck, farewell)