SPOILERS for The Hobbit, from this point on. If you haven't already read that book and don't want to know the plot, please STOP READING NOW.
AN: I have not set out to write high fiction here, this story is wish fulfilment and my desire to correct what happened to Thorin. I feel that he was under used until the final chapters and just as he is redeemed, he dies.
Tolkien fans will probably not like this but hopefully Thorin and Richard Armitage fangirls will!
Synopsis: After waking up under the Lonely Mountain (AKA Erebor) Thorin is confused as to why he is still alive. He seeks out a bookish dwarf to help him find answers and she tells him of an ancient prophecy that may hold the answers he seeks. Their journey to find the prophecy will be fraught with dangers but just maybe they will manage to find love amid the chaos too.
When Rori was summoned to the kings chamber, it is safe to say that she was more than a little apprehensive, fearing that her father had told on her and that she was about to be punished a second time for her supposed transgressions.
Still, she was a dwarf and most certainly not a coward so she drew herself up to her full height, such as it was, and marched into the kings chamber, stopping before Thorin and bowing low in deference, for Thorin was no ordinary king.
"Ai-menu duzhuk, Uzbad," she said, which roughly translated from Khuzdul, the dwarf language, means, "I am at your service, my lord."
Thorin was taken aback at the sight of the small dwarf for she had no beard, which was indeed unusual among dwarves.
"Rise," he told her and as she stood up he saw that she was indeed bearded but it was exceptionally short, hardly more than stubble really, and blonde like her hair so that she seemed at first glance not to have a beard.
Rori stood under his watchful gaze, doing her best not to cower or look weak but she was terrified of what might be about to happen.
Thorin wanted to know what had happened for her to lose her beard but he had more pressing matters at hand, he could ask later. Besides, he did not want to remind her of the shame that had brought about her shave, it would not help them in this discussion.
"I have been told that you are bookish," Thorin said.
The last of Rori's courage failed her and she bowed her head.
"Yes, my Lord."
"Look at me," Thorin commanded and though she really would rather ride an Orc, she did as he said and met his gaze.
"What do you know of the Orcrist?" he demanded.
Rori was rather taken aback at the change in topic and frowned as she thought back to the many mentions that she had read in her books.
"It was made by elves many years ago and was lost following the fall of Gondolin, until you recovered it, of course." She was gaining confidence as she spoke since history was something she enjoyed.
"That is all you know about it?"
"I know a little of the runes carved into the hilt, such as those which name it, but many books disagree on what exactly is carved there so without examining it for myself, I cannot tell you any more."
"But if you had the sword you could translate them?"
Rori's new found courage deserted her again and she hung her head.
"I might be able to translate some from memory, my lord, but unfortunately the tomes I might have used to aid my translation have been lost to me."
"Lost!" Thorin boomed, clearly unhappy with that answer. "How did you lose them?"
"I did not lose them, exactly, but they were taken from me by my father and burned."
"Why?" Thorin sounded genuinely shocked.
"My family is not wealthy, my Lord, and I was offered the chance at a good marriage. Unfortunately I know the man in question to be cold-hearted and cruel and despite my fathers pleadings, I refused. Part of my punishment was to watch as he burned my books."
Thorin had never heard of such a thing.
"Did he also make you shave your beard?"
"When did this happen?" Thorin asked.
"Two days ago."
"And you are certain that the books are lost?"
"Absolutely certain, I saw them burn with my own eyes." Rori couldn't stand the idea of letting the king down so she summoned all her courage once again and looked up. "But I will translate what I can for you, my Lord, even though I have no books. And perhaps I might be able to replace or borrow books which will help me."
Thorin nodded to Bifur, who came up to Rori and bid her to follow him. He kept his eyes averted from her bare face so as not remind her of her disgrace. Unfortunately that only made her more self-conscious, not less. They went down a short corridor off the main chamber and they entered a small room with only two chairs and table in it. Resting on the table was the Orcrist.
"Might I have some paper?" she asked Bifur.
"Yes, of course," he replied, quickly backing out of the room. He found it hard to believe her family would have shamed her so severely simply for refusing a suitor and believed that there must be more to the story. He was glad to leave her behind while he sought out the paper and writing implements.
Even by dwarf standards, Cori was a very unattractive, he had small bead eyes set too close together, thin lips and a simpering air about him. As he was brought before the king, he bowed even lower than his daughter, his forehead almost touching the ground.
"How may I be of service, my Lord."
"You are father of Rori, correct?" Thorin asked, not bothering to tell this man to rise.
"I am, sire."
"And you burned her books and made her shave her beard off, is that correct?"
Cori suddenly felt a little frightened. He had over reacted when he had shaved Rori's beard, such an act was so shameful that it was very very rarely used as punishment. Refusing a husband was not even a punishable offence, many female dwarves remained single their whole lives, but Cori was sick and tired of his daughter's headstrong ways.
A union with Mar would have made the family rich; indeed Mar had promised Cori a great deal of gold if he could persuade his daughter into marriage. The thought of so much treasure slipping through his fingers had angered him and he had hoped that after losing her beard she would be much more inclined to marry Mar, who had agreed that even with no beard, he would still marry Rori. Indeed his eyes had taken on a malevolent glint as he considered her being so shamed.
"Why?" asked Thorin, pulling Cori out of his thoughts.
Cori finally looked up from his bowed position and slowly stood up, mainly to give himself time to think of an acceptable answer.
"She shamed her family," he finally said.
"Refusing a suitor is hardly shameful," Thorin scoffed. "Indeed I would call any woman who refused Mar very wise indeed."
"It's not just that," Cori hurried on. "She always has her nose in a book rather than good honest labour."
"I was under the impression she was a smith," Thorin said, growing tired of this man's lies.
"S-s-she is," he stammered. "Though she only forges horseshoes."
"Horses will always need shoes," Thorin noted. "I will grant you that reading is an uncommon pastime among our kind but she earns her living honestly, is considered strong and robust despite her short stature and how she spends her free time should be none of your business."
"She is my daughter and-"
"Who is of age!" Thorin yelled. "She no longer lives with you and is free to make her own choices."
"Yes, sire," Cori said, finally realising that he could not win this argument.
"Then why did you do it?"
"I was offered a lot of gold if she would marry Mar and..."
"Greed," Thorin said under his breath. He realised that he too had been obsessed with possessions at one time and understood the desire, but he couldn't ever imagine selling a loved one for treasure. "I understand that you also burned her books."
"Yes." Although it wasn't a question, Cori felt compelled to answer.
"All of them?" Thorin asked.
This irritated Thorin beyond words. He already had people scouring the mountain and the town of Dale below them looking for replacement books but the fact that this man had made him resort to such measures needlessly was galling.
"I will ask your daughter if she wants compensation for her unnecessary humiliation but in the mean time, I believe I shall make her punishment yours."
"I don't understand," Cori said. Did Thorin mean that Rori would decide his punishment?
"I mean we are going to take your beard!" Thorin answered and with a quick hand gesture, Cori was dragged from the chamber, pleading with anyone who could hear, begging them not to take his beard.
Thorin listened to his cries and he did feel pity for the man, for no respectable dwarf deserved that punishment. Then again, Rori hadn't deserved it either and it seemed only fair that her father be subject to the same fate.
Rori had been well looked after all day with people regularly bringing her food and water but none of them met her gaze. They would look at her face when they thought she wouldn't notice, curiosity is normal after all, but as soon as she glanced up the other dwarves always looked away.
She was expecting it to be more food when the door opened again but no tray was placed before her so she turned and looked at the visitor. None other than Thorin stood there so she she quickly stood up and bowed.
"Have you made any progress?" he asked, looking her straight in the eye.
"Some. I believe I have translated one quarter of the writing but the others are not known to me."
"I have men out now, looking for books that you might use."
"Thank you, sir."
"What does the quarter you translated mean?" he asked, approaching the desk.
Rori turned back to her work and Thorin sat in the spare chair opposite her.
"The markings are all beautifully preserved," she began then held up a sheet of paper and pointed to a symbol. "This one, right at the end of the hilt is the name of the sword, orcrist. This one here says 'it was forged by' but I am unable to translatable next rune, which I assume is the name of the elf who forged it. These say how it was forged, the methods used but this symbol here, it's meaning can change depending on the next rune, which I don't know."
"So you know nothing about it then?" he sounded disappointed.
"Perhaps if you would tell me what specificity you are looking for, I might have better luck."
Thorin considered her for a long moment.
"If I do tell you anything, you will need to give me your bond that you will not speak of it to anyone else."
"Of course," she said as though it went without saying. "You have my word."
Thorin still didn't answer immediately but when he did his voice was hesitant, a quality she would never have attributed to the king.
"I should be dead," he told her. "In fact I was dead. When I woke up the sword was glowing red, along with the crystal. It did something to me, brought me back to life."
Rori frowned. Everyone knew the story of the kings heroic rise from the dead, further proof (if it was necessary) of his majesty but she had never considered things from his point of view. Of course it would be upsetting because he didn't understand it.
"Are you sure that you were dead and not just unconscious? Perhaps in a coma?" she asked as kindly as she could. She didn't want to sound like she was questioning him, even though she was in fact questioning him.
"I am," he sounded certain. "I remember... somewhere else. Somewhere majestic. Since I woke up I can only remember glimpses but they are magnificent. I suppose that kind of knowledge is forbidden to the living."
Rori wondered if perhaps it had been a dream but she daren't question him any further.
"I have found no symbols relating to either life or death so far," she said. "But..."
"But?" he prompted when she had been silent for a while.
"I am trying to remember," she said. "My grandfather was bookish, like me, and I remember he lent be a book of prophecies once. I think one of them spoke of a king who would live a second life but I cannot remember many of the details."
"Does your grandfather still have this book?" Thorin asked.
"I don't know. My father did not like my mothers family and we left them when I was still young and joined the dwarves living in the Iron Hills."
"Where is your grandfather now?"
"I cannot say for certain but he used to live in the Blue Mountains."
"That is quite a journey," Thorin said thoughtfully.
"It may not even relate to dwarves, my Lord," Rori told him. "Your story reminded me of the prophecy but without knowing more details it would be foolish to undertake such a journey."
Thorin raised his chin, silently asking if she was calling him foolish.
"Please, my Lord, give me some time to examine and translate the runes on your sword and I will do my best to remember more details of the prophecy. With more information, I will undertake a visit to my grandfather if you believe it is warranted but..."
"To take such a decision now would be hasty," Thorin finished for her as she had hoped.
Just then there came a knock at the door and Dori entered followed by five other dwarves, each carrying an armful of books.
"We have found as many as we can," Dori informed Thorin. "The men from Dale have yet to return."
Rori kept her head down as they piled the books up against the wall because she was sick of everyone looking away from her and her naked face. The dwarves left, though Dori hesitated until Thorin gestured for him to leave also. Thorin then faced Rori.
"Why do you bow your head when they enter?" he asked. "You have done nothing wrong."
"No, my Lord, but it is assumed that I have to warrant such a punishment and it is just easier not to look at their faces."
"You look at me," he said.
Rori looked up at him again and smiled slightly.
"Because I do not see judgement on your face, and you do not look away because I have caught you staring."
In truth he did stare sometimes but as king that was his right and he was not ashamed of it. Indeed he found her visage fascinating. Sometimes when she was nervous she bit her bottom lip, an action that would most likely not be visible were she still bearded.
Thorin stood up, bringing their conversation to an abrupt halt.
"You will be given rooms within my quarters, fed, watered and amply remunerated for your time and trouble. You will remain here until we have an answer or until you hit a dead end. Goodnight, Rori."
He turned to leave but Rori's voice halted him once more.
"What?" he asked rather tersely.
"I- I have no clean clothes or belongings and someone... I mean, I would appreciate it if someone could tell my employer that I won't be able to work for a while."
Thorin realised that he should have thought of that and nodded. "It will be taken care of."
"Thank you, my Lord."
"And call me Thorin. If we are to live in proximity, such formality is unnecessary."
"Thank you, my-" she smiled. "I mean, Thorin."
Thorin scowled in reply and left.
Rori looked after him for a moment wondering what his expression had meant, then shook off her confusion and set about sorting the books.
They had seemingly brought all the books they could find, regardless of the type. There were children's stories, cook books and even a few personal diaries. There was very little that was useful to her task since dwarves are not known for their interest in history or the books of other races. There were a handful that might be useful though.
A little later Bifur and at least two dozen other dwarves entered with the books borrowed from the town of Dale. Among these she still found many books that clearly weren't related to her task but she also found a few more that looked like they might be very helpful. Among that haul were the books of men, elves, hobbits and even a few volumes on evil creatures, such as the Orcs and the necromancer.
Rori found such books hard to come across among her own people and hoped that, although they were not useful to her task, she might still have a chance to read them before they were returned to their owners.
Finally she left the room and found Bifur waiting outside for her. He showed her to her room, which was just next door to the room she had been using, then he left, telling her to call if she should need anything.
She was surprised to see that the entire contents of her home seemed to have been crammed into this small room and she smiled. Obviously not knowing what to bring, they had opted to bring everything, save for furniture. It took some hunting but she finally found what she needed and put those items to one side. Dinner was brought to her a little later on and she felt tired before she even began eating. By the time she finished it was all she could do to crawl into bed and sleep.
The next day the books she didn't need were removed and returned to their owners and she got to work. She divided her time between translating the writing on the sword and searching for information on the arkenstone. She repeated this pattern every day for the next two weeks.
She expected Thorin to come and see her, as he had that first day but he didn't return. Rori decided not to request his presence until she had something to tell him, which after thirteen days she finally did.
She did little other than work and sleep during that time, not so much because she was working for the king because she was sure that he wouldn't begrudge her time off, rather she was hooked on solving the puzzle and unwilling to leave her task for too long until she had an answer.
Sometimes the singing in the great hall would reach her and she would pause in her work to listen for a while but she soon returned to her task. At the beginning of the second week she heard a lone voice singing and playing what sounded like a harp. The tune was mournful and solemn but the singers voice captivated her and she decided to venture out of her rooms so as to hear better.
As she approached the great hall she slowed her pace and tried to be stealthy. She assumed it was someone performing for Thorin and didn't want to distract the singer and and risk upsetting her king.
What she saw when she peered around the corner however, was Thorin. He sat all alone in the great hall, his gold harp between his legs as he played. She could see his face in profile as he sang and she felt her breath catch in her throat as she watched him, for he looked magnificent. Without an audience to perform for, he was singing for pleasure and singing from the heart. Despite his strength and undoubted prowess, there was a vulnerability shining from him that turned him from a great leader and a mighty king, into a man. A man she felt drawn to like she had no other.
The tune drew to a close and Rori ducked back into the corridor before she could be seen and crept back to her room. She got back to work but was distracted for the rest of the day by what she had seen. She told herself she was being silly for no man who had made it to nearly 200 without taking a wife was likely to take one now and even if he were inclined to, Rori was from a simple family who had neither riches nor particularly great skill. If Thorin were to choose a wife, he would surely be drawn more to the daughters of one of the wealthy or warrior families.
Not to mention that Rori had no beard. It was slowly growing back but she felt very self conscious without it and even less attractive than she had before. Her mother called her pretty, but then all mothers thought that about their children.
Her father on the other hand, told her that she was a runt who looked like the hind end of an Orc and that she would never find a husband. Even though her blonde hair, which was unusual colouring for a dwarf, often drew stares, she had heard his words so any times that she believed them. People looked at her because she was different, not because she was pretty.
Added to that was the shameful fact that she enjoyed books above all else. Playing her flute was a close second and caring for animals came third but nothing warmed her heart more than immersing herself in a good book.
Her trade, blacksmith, was nothing special, at least not among dwarves, many of whom were capable of much more intricate work but shoe smithing paid the bills and allowed her to work with horses and ponies, which was her favourite aspect of the job.
She became harder on her self over the next few days, forcing her attention back to her work whenever her mind began to wonder but being denied that freedom, her mind filled her head with images of Thorin while she slept instead.
She awoke one morning from a dream that seemed familiar and so although she had dreamed about Thorin again, she allowed herself a few moments today to remember the dream.
She had seen Thorin in battle, charging forth from the mountain side, then she had seen him lying in state beneath the mountain, cold and alone. She saw the stone and the sword begin to glow, slowly growing so bright that the whole chamber was bathed in blood red light. Then she saw his chest begin to rise and fall as the light slowly faded away and Thorin opened his eyes.
Next the scene changed again and now she was in an unfamiliar cave with him. There was a great shadow, stealing the light even from the cave entrance. Thorin was doing his best to hold the shadow at bay with the orcrist, seemingly able to repel it's magic with the glowing blade. She also noticed that hilt of the sword was different, for where it met the blade, the arkenstone had been mounted and shone a bright white, the same as the sword's blade.
She had woken then, sweating and wondering where that last scene had come from; her over active imagination or something more? It felt familiar, though it was not a memory she associated either with herself or her king. When trying to remember proved fruitless she closed her eyes and tried to remember the dream, to relive it.
Then it came to her. The king who was given second life! The prophecy she remembered foretold of that king fighting off a savage attack on his people by a Maia. Sauron was the most well known Maia in Middle Earth but she was fairly certain that the prophecy called the Maia 'unnamed'.
Nevertheless she was now certain that the prophecy was about Thorin. She wished she could remember it all but alas she still did not have the detail she needed. She couldn't even remember the name of the book she had read it in, only that it was bound in black leather and looked to be older than her grandfather.
Rori dressed quickly and when Gloin brought her breakfast, she asked him to fetch Thorin for her.
Thorin was breakfasting with Dain when Gloin found him.
One thing about dwarves is that they are usually loyal to a fault and so despite Thorin's return to life (and as a consequence, taking Dain's newly acquired throne from him) Dain had been happy to stand aside. Probably helped by the fact that Thorin had no children and so Dain was still next in line for the throne.
Nevertheless, the lack of animosity between them meant that Thorin trusted Dain with both his life and his kingdom. It is fair to say that Thorin had been unsettled by his return to the living and Dain had helped him greatly by acting as lieutenant and helping to get the mountain back into a habitable condition, much as he had been doing before Thorin woke up.
Thorin still did his duty as king but in the months since his return, he had been happy for Dain to take more responsibility than he might once have. In the two weeks that Thorin had been away (first dead, then digging himself out of the mountain when he awoke) Dain had proved himself a popular and fair leader and he had a charisma and a way with people that Thorin mostly lacked (except for on the battle field but that is another story).
Dain had been allowed to carve his own suite of rooms off the main hall and he and Thorin spent much time together.
Which is why, when Thorin heard Rori's tale, he had no trouble at all in leaving his kingdom in Dain's hands while he travelled to his old kingdom in the Blue Mountains, in search of Rori's grandfather.
Though I am making the decision sound rather hasty when in reality it took two days for Thorin to decide to undertake the journey.
Once Rori had told him the additional details that she had remembered, Thorin had sent men around the mountain, knocking on every door and asking if anyone knew Ris Taleteller, Rori's grandfather. Many dwarves from the Blue Mountains had returned to their home in the Lonely Mountain, once the dragon who had displaced them had been killed, but it soon became clear that Ris was not one of them.
Many spoke fondly of a very elderly dwarf who was now too old to undertake the journey and wanted to die in his own home rather that on an arduous journey. Most of his children had also remained there with him. They painted a picture of a warm and welcoming man who liked nothing more than sharing one of his stories with his friends, hence his name. Unlike Rori, while his penchant for books was considered unusual, no one had ever thought less of him because of it.
Thorin first thought of going alone to the Blue Mountains, but Rori told him that she did not know the name of the book and would have to search her grandfathers entire collection for it, and Thorin realised that he would need her assistance.
Rori assured him that she could go alone but Thorin wouldn't hear of it. You might not think it of a warrior race, but dwarves are actually very chivalrous and protective of female dwarves. It was bad enough a female dwarf being see by non-dwarves but a beardless one travelling alone? Unthinkable!
Knowing that the trek would likely take a long time, Thorin considered taking others with them but Rori pointed out that the fewer of them there were, the faster they could travel.
Thorin didn't much like the idea of spending weeks in Rori's company but this task was of vital importance and he could not charge it to anyone but himself.
Knowing that she would likely be gone for a while, Rori visited her friends and her parents to say goodbye before they left. She was shocked to see her father with even less beard that she had but all she received in answer to her question of "What happened?" was a punch. Hurt (more mentally than physically) she left the house, unable to properly say goodbye to either parent. Her mother, Rei, was a good woman but unlike most dwarves, she had always been inclined to timidity.
Rori thought that she heard her mother try to follow her as she left, but then she heard her father begin yelling and knew that it was pointless to wait. Rei always gave in to what her father wanted.
When she got back to the castle she went straight to her room and finished what little packing she had left. She was interrupted a few minutes later as Thorin knocked on her open door to get her attention.
"I'm nearly ready," she assured him.
Instead of replying he simply looked at her.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, for his silence and scrutiny were beginning to unnerve her. She worried that he was about to tell her that she couldn't accompany him, but it had been over seventy years since she had seen her grandfather and she would not be left behind as this was likely to be her only chance. Of course she didn't much like the idea of arguing with her king but she would do what ever was necessary, including disobeying him, for a chance to see her grandfather again.
"Dwarf women do not often travel," he said slowly, almost reluctantly.
"I know but-"
Thorin held his hand up to silence her.
"Normally when it is unavoidable, they would dress as men and become indistinguishable to the untrained eye. Without a full beard however, I fear there is no way that anyone with eyes could mistake you for a male."
Rori wanted to argue but she could tell that Thorin wasn't finished yet, but he looked hesitant. Was he sorry to be telling her that she must remain behind? He didn't seem like the type to care how she felt, as long as she obeyed his orders.
"You are short for a dwarf and..." he paused.
Rori thought that he was trying to say that she was weak. She might be short but she was not weak!
"It has been suggested that perhaps you might pass for a hobbit." He looked away for a moment then seemed to gather himself together again and looked her in the eye. "I realise of course, that would only be possible if you continued to shave your beard."
Hope flared in her heart again. He wasn't telling her that she couldn't come, only that she would have to dress like a hobbit. She didn't much relish the idea of shaving every day, she was looking forward to her beard being long enough to plat again, but she would do what ever was necessary to accompany him to the Blue Mountains and if shaving was the only way, she would do it.
"I understand," she said. "I will be happy to remove the beard, such as it is, I only ask that we wait until we have left Erebor before I shave. I do not much relish the looks of disdain that I will receive if I remove it now."
"Of course," Thorin smiled and even looked a little relieved. It was odd to see him smile since she wasn't used to it but it made him look very handsome. "You are certain that you are willing to do this?"
"I am. My grandfather is the only other person I have met who is like me in his love of books and language. I would ride there naked if it meant that I could see him again."
Was she imagining it, or did Thorin blush beneath his beard at her statement.
"Let us hope that doesn't become necessary," he said, but with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "I have heard of a new tribe of goblins that have a penchant for stealing the clothes of travellers."
Rori laughed with him, pleased that he felt familiar enough in her presence to make jokes.
"We have found some hobbit-like apparel in Dale for you to wear," he continued when the laughter died. "Though you don't need to change before we leave."
"When you have finished, bring your bags to the entrance, our horses are waiting there for us."
She nodded her understanding and Thorin left. Rori placed the final few items in her bags then followed him. As she passed the room that she had been using to study the orcrist she spotted the books which lined the far wall and sighed. She would love to take a few volumes with her but firstly, it was impractical to ask the horses to carry too much weight when speed was of the essence and secondly, they weren't her books to take. This would be the first time in her life that she wouldn't be able to read for any length of time and she was very sorry for that fact.
Still, she reminded herself of what awaited her at the other end of her journey, seeing her grandfather, and walked away from the temptation.