My heartfelt gratitude goes out to both Docmon and Nieriel Raina for their fantastic insight and meticulous beta work. Both are amazing! Many thanks!


Thorin Stonehelm, King under the Mountain, was pleased.

Pleased as he had not been in many months. His stomach was full, his mind was relaxed, and his thoughts had an agreeable haze about them that suggested he had drunk his fill. But even more welcome than this was the fact that his people also seemed pleased. Better than that, they seemed…alive.

Mugs clinked together. Laughter rose from every table. Loud voices filled the cavernous banquet hall, competing in song and boastful tales. Roaring flames and torches cast the halls in a welcoming light akin to the comfort and warmth of the forge, and sitting back with a goblet of mulled wine, Thorin reflected that a forge was exactly what this feast had become: A forge of friends and kin as they renewed old ties and celebrated the fall harvest, the summer of peace, the great victory at winter's end, and the return of Glóin's son, who had earned honor and fame throughout the lands.

The dwarves needed this. Thorin had been aware of that, but up until now, he had not known just how much the dwarves needed this. Thinking back on the past year, Thorin realized it had been some time since they had truly celebrated. Oh, they had rejoiced when they forced Rhûn to abandon the siege of the Lonely Mountain, but their victory had been tainted by the loss of kin and king. They had cheered when news reached them that Sauron had fallen, but they had been too occupied with reconstruction to properly rejoice. And every heart had swelled with pride when the emissaries sent to King Elessar's crowning returned with tidings that Gimli had won praise and renown in a harrowing Quest to destroy Sauron's One Ring, but he whom they wished to honor still tarried in the southern lands. And thus they had put their energy into their labors, toiling as only dwarves can in an effort to repair the destruction that had marred the Long Lake, Dale, and the Lonely Mountain. But though their efforts were satisfying and the results appreciated, the dwarves desired something more. Specifically, they desired something that involved copious amounts of food, drink, and song. So when Gimli returned home that October morning, preparations immediately began for a feast that made the most of the autumn bounty.

A sudden roar filled the hall, drawing Thorin from his thoughts. Looking up, he saw that their guest of honor now stood on unsteady legs, his tankard held high in tribute to all who had defended the Lonely Mountain during the long siege. Every dwarf toasted him in return, and a clamor broke out as several called for a tale from his adventures.

"It is late for tales," Gimli protested, laughing. "And I have had too much drink!"

"That will only improve the telling!" someone shouted.

"Would you have me tell you, Nori, that I personally stormed Barad-dûr at the head of an army of hobbits?" Gimli retorted, shaking his head. "Nay, my friends. For the grandeur of this welcome, I am ever at the service of you and your families, but I beg you to delay all calls for service until the morrow! I have had a long journey."

There was laughter in response, and several dwarves rose and thumped Gimli on the back, wishing him well and a good night's rest. Gimli thanked one and all as he lurched and tottered toward the hallways that would take him to the residences, waving his father back when Glóin rose to help him. As he did so, he passed by Thorin's seat and stumbled against it, reaching out to right himself. With a laugh, Thorin turned and put a steadying hand on Gimli's arm. "Have you need of an escort, old friend?" he teased.

Gimli smiled back, but his eyes were suddenly sharp and he ducked his head down next to Thorin's. "I must speak with you alone, kinsman," he hissed. "One hour from now in the council chambers." And before Thorin could say or do aught, Gimli's face relaxed into a pleasant, drunken grin and he straightened. "Nay, I will be well enough," he assured Thorin, his voice ringing loudly over the din. "But I must leave now or I will find myself in Bombur's company!"

Laughter rose again—for Bombur had fallen asleep at the tables—but Thorin's merriment was gone, shock taking its place. For a moment, he was unsure of what had happened. Did his eyes see truly? Was Gimli merely feigning drunkenness? Thorin frowned, the noise of the banquet chamber dimming as he struggled to make sense of what had occurred. Clearly Gimli had lied to Nori. Drink did not taint his thoughts, and so Thorin could only assume that there was something in Gimli's adventures that he did not wish to share. And it now occurred to Thorin that Gimli had avoided any discussion of his travels during the short time that he had been home. If asked about a specific event, he would comment on it and hint at his own involvement, but then he would turn the conversation to other things or give some excuse as to why his listeners should wait until a better time to hear the tale.

His thoughts now too dark to remain in the banquet chamber, Thorin soon made his own excuses and left the feasting. He considered retiring to his rooms for a time, but he found himself instead moving toward the council chambers. He opted not to fight his feet. If any sought Thorin at this late hour, they would probably not think to look in these passages, and so he would be free to hear whatever it was that caused Gimli to both deceive and evade his kin.

The heavy door to the council chambers opened soundlessly at Thorin's touch, swinging easily inward. The long hall before him was dark and silent, and Thorin immediately set about lighting the wall sconces. Once the shadows had been chased into the corners, Thorin took his place in the King's Seat at the head of the great wooden table. He still felt somewhat uneasy claiming this particular chair. Whenever he saw it, his thoughts were drawn to memories of his father. Leaning forward on the table, Thorin sighed deeply and rubbed his brow. It was well that he had come here ahead of Gimli. The mantel of kingship was heavier than Thorin had ever anticipated, and he needed a few moments to forge his composure and set aside his grief for his father. Schooling his thoughts, he reminded himself that Dáin Ironfoot slept and was at peace. Gimli, on the other hand, was not at peace, and that was where Thorin needed to concentrate his attention.

With a deep breath, he smoothed down his beard, sat back in his chair, and firmly turned his thoughts to his kinsman. Thorin and Gimli were old traveling companions, often accompanying the trade wains to lands as close as the Iron Hills and as distant as the Blue Mountains. The senior by thirteen years, Thorin had taken on the role of an older brother for Gimli, and rarely would one be seen without the other on these journeys. Thorin felt he knew Gimli as well as any dwarf did, but try as he might, he could not fathom Gimli's actions this evening.

Gimli had a quick mind, a love of puzzles, and a flair for the dramatic. It was not unusual for him to craft a secret and then watch as others tried—and often failed—to unravel whatever mystery he had concocted. But Gimli was playing no game this night. His eyes had been too shadowed and his whispered demand too forceful. In fact, for the first time, Thorin had felt as though he was the younger of the pair. During that brief moment when his speech rang clear, Gimli had looked so weary. As though he had seen too much and traveled too far, and Thorin silently groaned within himself. The War had caused so much sorrow already, but it seemed that Gimli was about to add to that.

Such were Thorin's thoughts when the door opened a short time later and Gimli entered. He had a travel pack slung over his shoulder, and he seemed to look everywhere except at Thorin as he walked toward the King's Seat. Eventually stopping beside Glóin's chair near the head of the table, he cast his eyes about the room and announced, "We need more light."

Thorin's brow wrinkled at that. "Dark for dark business," he said. "Or so my father used to claim."

"Mine still claims that," Gimli said, kneeling next to the great hearth and easily coaxing a flame into life. "But there are places in this world where darkness does not yield to light, and I have no wish to remember them." Brushing his hands off on his breeches, he stood and moved back to the table. He made no move to sit, though, and much to Thorin's surprise, he seemed to be casting about for what to say. "It was not my intent to interrupt the celebration," Gimli began slowly, "nor was it my intent to approach you in such an abrupt fashion. But this matter cannot wait any longer. And there is no good way to say this other than to simply say it, so I shall: Ten months ago, during the journey to destroy the Ring, I passed through Khazad-dûm."

Thorin stared, certain he had not heard correctly. "You passed where?"

Gimli met his stare evenly, a flicker of grief in his eyes. "Through Khazad-dûm."

Feeling as though someone had struck him with his own hammer, Thorin's breath caught in his chest, and he had to swallow a lump that formed in the back of his throat. He opened his mouth to speak and found himself curiously bereft of words. Of all the things he had thought to hear from Gimli upon his return from the War in the South, he had not expected word of Khazad-dûm. Feeling the weight of the silence that now smothered the council chambers, Thorin finally managed to ask, "What news of our kindred there?"

The grief in Gimli's eyes grew, and his hands twisted the straps of his travel pack. "They are dead. They held the mines for only a few years."

Silence again. The news was not surprising. For decades, the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain feared that those who went to reclaim Khazad-dûm had met with some dire fate. But it was one thing to fear. It was another to have such fears confirmed.

"You are certain?" Thorin asked, his voice husky.

"I wish I was not," Gimli whispered, and he dug into his pack and pulled forth what looked to be the remnants of a book. It was black and sooty, the pages burned, torn, and blotted with what Thorin feared might be blood. Gently, Gimli set this book on the council table. "My company found this in the Chamber of Mazarbul. It is all we could salvage, for we were set upon by many goblins and driven from the mines."

"What possessed you to enter the mines?" Thorin demanded, overcome with a sudden—albeit belated —fear for Gimli's safety. "Dáin forbade any to even approach Khazad-dûm, much less enter it!"

"It was the only way our Fellowship could cross the Misty Mountains," Gimli answered softly, seemingly unaffected by Thorin's anger. "The High Pass was too far north and the Gap of Rohan too near Isengard. We attempted the trail that leads over the shoulder of Barazinbar, but the mountain would not allow our passage. We were forced to turn back, and by then, the enemy pursued with crows and wargs. We had no other choice."

Thorin sighed, feeling his anger drain as he remembered the siege the Lonely Mountain had endured and the decisions that had been made under terrible duress. If Gimli said there had been no other choice, Thorin would trust him. In any case, his anger with Gimli was misguided, for his true grief lay with those who never escaped the mines. His hands trembling, Thorin reached out and drew the book near. "This tells of what befell them?"

"Some of it," Gimli said. "There is much damage to the record, but the end, in particular, is very clear."

Afraid that the pages would crumble if disturbed, Thorin gingerly opened the book and skimmed over the passages, noting the painstaking care of the runes drawn on the first pages and the frantic elven letters that flowed over the last pages. "Ori's hand," he murmured.

"Yes," Gimli confirmed. "He wrote well and quickly."

Not quite ready to read the tale himself, Thorin carefully moved the book to one side and turned back to Gimli. "Why am I only now learning that your company ventured into Khazad-dûm? You could have sent tidings. Or you could have informed the emissaries that I sent to King Elessar's coronation."

"At my request, those of my company who survived the War said nothing of Khazad-dûm once the War had ended," Gimli explained. "When the minstrels and lore masters asked after our journey, we told them that we had gone forth from Rivendell, crossed the mountains, and sailed south along the Anduin. That was enough to satisfy, for they craved the details that involved Gondor, Rohan, and Nargûn. So when your emissaries arrived, the journey into Khazad-dûm was unmentioned and unsung. This is a matter for the dwarves, and I wished to deliver the tidings of Khazad-dûm myself."

"Then deliver those tidings," Thorin directed, steeling himself to hear the report. Perhaps he would bear it better if it came from Gimli and not from one of those now lost. "Speak of your travels there."

And Gimli spoke. He spoke of the decision to dare the mines and of the reluctance of the company. He spoke of the battle with the wargs that forced the decision and the journey to the Doors of Durin. He spoke of the runes on the walls and the riddle that beset them ere Tharkûn unraveled the answer. Curiously, he smiled when noting that it was an elven word that opened the doors, but his smile vanished as he recalled the terrible creature that stole upon them from the water. And then he spoke of darkness. Of living shadows. Of the night that flowed beneath the mountains. But he also spoke of leaping archways. Of pillared halls. Of snaking passages so vast and so intricate that he could not even begin to fathom their secrets. And as he listened, Thorin felt a longing wake within his heart. A longing for a home and a heritage that he had seen only in his deepest dreams. From a memory that was not his own, he could hear the sharp ring of many anvils and the throaty roar of many bellows. And as Gimli's tale continued, Thorin's longing grew.

Gimli spoke of a broken well and a dropped stone. He spoke of hammers in the depths. He spoke of stopping to rest in a massive hall, and here he paused, his eyes distant. "I sang there," he said, his voice no louder than a whisper. "I sang in that hall where the stars looked down into the mountain. I sang a song of the younger days, when Durin woke and walked in the time before the sun and the moon. I sang of our fathers and the glory of Khazad-dûm, and I sang of their fall and the sunken crown in the waters of Kheled-zâram. And I heard an answer. I heard the stone of the pillars echo my words, and I heard the rock beneath my feet take up its own song." He looked down, his jaw tight. "But the song went no further than that single hall. The rest of Khazad-dûm would not hear me."

And with that, he plunged into the rest of his tale, speaking of the Chamber of Mazarbul. Of the book he had found. Of the tomb he had guarded. Of the goblins he had fought. He spoke of a harried flight down many steps and a frantic race across the Bridge to the First Hall. He spoke of Tharkûn stopping upon that bridge. He spoke of the elf putting a name to the horror that had haunted dwarven nightmares for generations.

"A Balrog, Legolas called it," Gimli whispered, and he shuddered. "A demon of Morgoth, as old as Sauron, cloaked in marred and blackened flame. My axe fell from my hands. I could not hold it. I could hold nothing! I could only watch in horror. Durin's Bane! The very creature that sundered us from Durin's Throne! None of us could hope to oppose it. Yet Gandalf…" Gimli trailed off, and the use of the wizard's mannish name reminded Thorin that Gimli had endured this terror bereft of kin and family. He had born this grief alone and only now allowed others to see the cost. "Gandalf did," he continued, his voice thick. "Gandalf opposed it. And Gandalf stood alone."

The tale now continued with faltering and whispered words. Gimli spoke of the terrible battle. Of the clash of red sword against white. Of the two men who eventually ran back to the Bridge, their younger race knowing too little of the horror that beset them. Of the crack of the Bridge breaking. Of their desperate flight through the First Hall and out the Great Gates.

And then Gimli stopped. He took a deep breath, his shoulders rounded as though a great burden lay upon them, and he leaned forward, bracing himself upon the council table. "Balin was slain by an orc when he went to look in Kheled-zâram. His tomb lies buried in the mountain, but he will lie undisturbed until the world is young again. Óin was slain by the Watcher at the West-gate. I must guess that he lies beneath the water there. That little I can tell you of the Heirs who went to reclaim the mines." He dropped his eyes, studying the table. "The Book of Mazarbul speaks of many others: Flói, Frár, Lóni, and Náli, to name a few. If you wish it and if I am able, I will give you further particulars."

Thorin slowly shook his head, unwilling to press Gimli further. Ten months may have passed since Gimli ventured into Khazad-dûm, but he still grieved for what he had seen. "No," Thorin told him. "The morrow will be soon enough. 'Dark for dark business' is well and good, but in this, you are right. Some business is too dark for night's shadows."

The relief on Gimli's face was plain, but now his eyes filled with determination. "I thank you for the reprieve," Gimli said, pulling a chair back from the table and taking a seat. "But I fear that I have more to tell you. Or rather, I have counsel I would give, if you will receive it."

Studying Gimli's features in the firelight, Thorin frowned, once again feeling as though Gimli was no longer the younger dwarf. He seemed to have aged at least a century during his travels. "Your counsel is always welcome," Thorin said, "but it will be just as welcome in the morning. I judge that at least some of your words at the feast were no deception: you are weary and you have had a long journey. You need sleep."

"No, this must be discussed now," Gimli said. "In Dáin's absence, there are things that I must make clear." He closed his eyes and shook his head, his hands clasped before him. "I mean no disrespect to you, kinsman, but now more than ever do I wish that Dáin was still King under the Mountain."

Startled by that sentiment, Thorin took note of Gimli's haggard features and resisted the urge to take offense. "You found me an efficient enough leader during the years that we commanded the wains," he chided gently.

"It is no reflection on your leadership," Gimli said, opening his eyes. "I simply wish for your father's backing in what I have to say next. For Dáin saw the darkness within Khazad-dûm. Until recently, he was the only dwarf to do so and live."

"And now you alone can make that claim," Thorin said slowly. He leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his beard. "By your speech, I judge that you agree with my father regarding Khazad-dûm: You believe we should let it alone."

"I do not believe," Gimli corrected. "I know we should let it alone. But when the Mountain learns the fate of our kin and when they consider how Sauron was overthrown, they may wish to finish what Balin began: They may wish to return to Khazad-dûm."

"You do not think we should even attempt to retake the mines?"


The answer, short and final, made Thorin bristle. By nature, he was not a dwarf to leave any possibility unexplored. Nor was it easy to forget the swelling sense of pride and heritage that had fueled his heart when Gimli spoke of the mines. "You said that both Tharkûn and the Balrog fell from the Bridge. But the emissaries who attended Elessar's coronation tell me that Tharkûn was present," Thorin pointed out. "It would seem that he defeated his foe and that Durin's Bane no longer guards Khazad-dûm."

Gimli's brow furrowed and he tapped his fingers absently against the table, an old habit that Thorin recognized as a sign of tension. "Gandalf…Tharkûn…whatever you wish to call him, he was indeed victorious. And he told me of his victory. But in the course of that telling, he spoke of evils other than the Balrog: nameless creatures that gnaw at the foundations beneath Khazad-dûm. Even if we drive the countless orcs from their nests, Khazad-dûm has shafts that go too far and wells that plunge too deep. The Balrog might be gone, but if we return, we will only rouse something else. Possibly something worse! Dáin had the right of it when he decreed that none should approach Khazad-dûm, not even to learn the fate of Balin's party. For Dáin saw Khazad-dûm as it really is—Moria. The Black Pit. And now that I have seen it, I must agree with that name, though it twists my iron to do so. We cannot return, Thorin! There are too few of us left to attempt such a thing, and I would not see our work corrupted yet again."

Thorin pressed his lips together, troubled by the fear in Gimli's tone. "You know what the others will say, particularly the Heirs. They will say that Khazad-dûm is our home. That the Lonely Mountain is a realm in Exile. That we must return and reclaim, and that this seems to be the season for reclamation. Mahal's hammer, even I feel a longing to return to Khazad-dûm!" Thorin turned his eyes toward the Book of Mazarbul, its pages fluttering slightly as warm drafts circulated from the hearth. "They will say that if we do not act now, we shall be as these records: tattered, broken, faded—"

"And here," Gimli interrupted, his voice low but sharp. "We shall still be here. Like these records. They survived. The dwarves who wrote them did not."

Thorin sat back and ran his fingers over the smooth wood of the council table. His father had commissioned this table to honor the memory of the Heir who had led the Quest to free the Lonely Mountain—Thorin Oakenshield. But even as Dáin had honored the legacy of Durin's House, he had denied its traditions; the council table was supposed to be a single stone slab hewn from the wall of the council chamber itself, a symbol of unity and permanence. And Dáin had continued to deny tradition whenever he felt there was a more practical approach. The issue of returning to Khazad-dûm, in particular, had been a source of contention between Dáin and the other Heirs, and Gimli seemed to be following in Dáin's footsteps. A practical dwarf himself, Thorin knew he should defer to their wisdom and leave it at that. As the only two dwarves in recent history to see the darkness within Khazad-dûm and live to tell of it, Dáin and Gimli had knowledge that others should heed. But now that he bore the mantel of kingship over Durin's lineage, it was not easy for Thorin to shun heritage. "Tell me, Gimli," he murmured, still running his hands across the oak and wondering how his father had refused the call of birthright, "what would you wish for the dwarves? Is it better to sleep in stone, having given our lives in defense of the legacy and glory of our fathers? Or is it better to linger and wear away, eroding with time until we are but an echo of those who came before?"

Not meeting Thorin's eyes, Gimli folded his arms across his chest, his beard bristling out as his arms tightened before he spoke. "Earlier, you spoke of the emissaries that you sent to the crowning of King Elessar. When they returned, did they speak of Sauron's downfall? Did they recount to you what happened?"

"They did," Thorin answered, wondering what this had to do with the fate of the dwarves. "Under oath of secrecy, Glóin related the beginnings of the tale when he returned from Rivendell. The emissaries told us openly of the fate of the One Ring."

"Did they make mention of the battle that took place before the Morannon?"

"Yes," Thorin said slowly, searching his memory. "They said that King Elessar led all he could gather to the gates of Nargûn in a bid to draw the armies of Sauron forth. They said that you took part in this gamble that allowed the hobbits Frodo and Samwise to reach Mount Doom."

Gimli glanced at Thorin for a moment, and his eyes were dark. "And what of before the battle? Did they speak of Barad-dûr's Lieutenant, who parlayed with us?"

Thorin felt a chill creep down his spine. "No. They did not speak of him."

Gimli nodded and turned away, his movements restless. "I would have been surprised if they had, for we did not reveal the results of that parlay to anyone. At first, it was too terrible to speak of. Afterwards, it did not matter." Apparently unable to contain his restlessness, Gimli stood and began to pace. "When we approached the gates of Nargûn, Aragorn—you know him as King Elessar—and a small company went forth to issue demands. I was in that company as a representative of the dwarves. A messenger came forth to hear us and to give Sauron's demands. This messenger called himself the Mouth of Sauron, and he held the keys of Barad-dûr. He brought with him tokens. Tokens that made our hearts quail. He unveiled to us a mithril coat such as Frodo wore, a gift from Thorin Oakenshield to Bilbo. He unveiled a sword of the West, such as Samwise carried. There was also a cloak of hobbit size and elven make, like unto what both Frodo and Sam wore." Gimli's pace stopped and he rubbed his face, his voice pained. "There they were. Evidence of our defeat. Of our loss. Of the doom that was soon to overtake us all! And yet…" He shook his head, his narrowed eyes turning to Thorin. "It did not escape my attention that there was but one elven cloak. And but one sword. Our enemy had contrived to capture only one of the hobbits, not both. One of the two lived. One of the two walked free. And thus, I still found hope."

"It would have been only an inkling of hope," Thorin said quietly. "Little wonder that you did not share these tidings with your armies."

"Little wonder," Gimli agreed. "But nevertheless, I hoped. My companions hoped. We went to war with hope. And because of that hope, we now live! Sauron is gone! Barad-dûr is no more! As faint and as tattered and as faded as our hope was, it was enough. So in answer to your question, I say it is better to live. Better to wear away but remain, for in that remainder, hope can spring anew. It takes but a few to maintain our language. Our traditions. Our heritage. If that makes us no better than these records, then so be it! But I prefer a living record over a lost memory inscribed on fading parchment!"

Thorin fisted his beard, moved by Gimli's words. "Do you believe that hope can indeed spring anew for dwarves? That we will not fade?"

"Yes and no," Gimli said. "I believe that there is much hope, but I also believe that we will fade. I do not see that it can be prevented. Yet we need not disappear completely. Not if we choose wisely. Therefore, let the records of our day show that we chose to endure. That we put our trust in our future and that we looked forward to hope!" He paused, and a smile quirked his lips. "I learned that from the elves. Even more than dwarves, elves yearn for that which is gone. Our hearts stir with echoes of our heritage, but for the elves, their own memories speak of their ancient halls. And the elves who have learned to endure such memories are the elves who look forward and see hope. They see what will come once more when the world is made young."

And there it was again—that curious feeling that Gimli had aged far more than Thorin during their months apart. There was a look about him that had not been there when he and his father left for Rivendell over a year ago. Something had changed. Something deep and foundational. Something that Thorin could not understand. But though he might not understand his kinsman, he understood his argument. And it was convincing. "Your reasoning is sound," Thorin said. "It usually is, though in this instance, you make your case with strange words. Still, I am persuaded. When we tell the Heirs and the Mountain of Khazad-dûm, I will uphold my father's decree, though there will be many who disagree."

"We are also Heirs," Gimli reminded him, and now a sparkle of mirth flashed across his face. "And despite your misspent youth leading trade wains, you are King under the Mountain."

"The King still needs the support of the other Heirs," Thorin answered, though he found himself smiling in return.

"True," Gimli sighed, staring into the hearth and his mirth seemed to vanish. "Well, for what it may be worth, you have my support. And together, we must make the others understand. We cannot return to Khazad-dûm. It would be the last thing Durin's line ever attempted!"

Thorin studied Gimli closely, and though there was still a sense that Gimli felt older, beneath it all, Thorin heard the voice a weary traveler who longed for sleep. And in that weary traveler, Thorin found an echo of the younger dwarf he used to know. "You have convinced me, Gimli," he said, his voice gentle but firm. "You need say nothing more tonight. Tomorrow, I will call upon your strength to convince others, but until then, I would have you rest. As I observed earlier, you are in need of sleep."

"Sleep," Gimli murmured, seeming to speak to himself. "I have traveled for so long with one who needs so little that I wonder if I shall be able to sleep more than a few hours!"

"I think you will surprise yourself," Thorin said, hearing even more of the younger dwarf who had once looked to him as an older brother. "Go now. Rest."

Gimli nodded and moved away, making it all the way to the door before realizing that Thorin was not following. "You are staying here?" he asked, turning back.

"For a brief time," Thorin said, reaching for the Book of Mazarbul. "I believe I should indulge in some reading ere I take myself to bed."

Gimli frowned. "It is grim reading."

"I doubt it not," Thorin said, carefully setting the book before him. "But if I am to draw hope from the future, I must know what we are avoiding from the past."

There was a pause, and then, "If you wish it, I will stay with you."

"You bore this grief alone for ten months," Thorin said. "I can bear it for a single night. You need sleep more than I need company. Go, my friend."

And as a testament to his weariness, Gimli gave no further argument. Conceding to Thorin, he murmured a quiet word of farewell before disappearing into the dark hallway beyond. Alone, Thorin looked down at the burned pages of the Book of Mazarbul and mustered his courage. His father had never spoken of his own experience with Khazad-dûm, but others had. They said that after Dáin slew Azog on the steps of the mines, he had returned to the dwarves gray of face and full of fear. And as a mere stripling, he had openly defied Thráin, the rightful king, and refused to join any attempt to reclaim Khazad-dûm. Now, Thorin would need his father's strength to do the same once his people learned that Durin's Bane was no more. And he would need not only Gimli's account of the mines, but also the words that their kin had left behind. To that end, Thorin began to read, willing the record to speak for itself. For the dwarves would trust in their lineage, even if they trusted in nothing else.


Barazinbar – Caradhras or the Redhorn

Khazad-dûm – The Dwarrowdelf or Dwarf Mansions AKA Moria

Kheled-zâram - Mirrormere

Mazarbul – Records

Nargûn – Mordor

Tharkûn – Gandalf