Chapter Nine

Thorin and Rori's first child, Tori, was born fifteen months after their official marriage ceremony, probably conceived that very night. The people were thrilled to welcome another female dwarf into the world.

Eleven years later they were slightly perplexed to welcome another girl, Thain, to the world and ten tears after that, positively shocked when Rori and Thorin had a third girl, Roain. Three female children in a row was positively unheard of! When Rori gave birth to a fourth girl, Raia, eleven years later, everyone took it as a sign. Of what exactly, they weren't sure but this must mean something, the people said as they celebrated.

Thorin was more than a little puzzled by it himself but Rori had a theory that offered some reason behind the coincidence. She theorised that when he chose to return to his mortal life he upset the plans that destiny might have had, namely that Dain would succeed him. Having four female children ensured that the throne would still pass to Dain.

The longer Thorin considered this, the more he thought that she might have a point. He used to believe that you forged your own destiny but he had seen enough strange and bizarre coincidences in his time, not to mention things like Gandalf's foresight, which made him believe that perhaps there was a larger plan in motion.

Thorin and Rori were well liked leaders and considered fair and just by those they ruled. The dwarves in the Lonely Mountain thrived under his rule but as the millennium approached, both Rori and Thorin grew a little more sombre with each passing year.

Rori had completed her translation of the prophecy long ago and realised that her dream about Thorin facing a Maia had been wrong. She had often wondered if her dream had perhaps been prophetic but now she had her answer; no. Her mind had created those images, trying to remind her of what she had forgotten. Since at that time she didn't know the nature of the attack, she had focused on Sauron as the enemy, hence the association with the maia. Still, discovering his true foe did little to sooth her nerves since he would be facing a Ringwraith, who were among the most feared creatures in Middle Earth and could kill merely with their poisonous breath.

What worried her most though, was that the prophecy didn't say anything about whether Thorin would survive.

In the year 2996 Thorin turned 250 but unlike most dwarves of that kind of age, he hadn't grown old in the past ten years, indeed the only signs of age he had were a few more grey hairs, but Rori worried that he would start ageing soon and not be at his best when the conflict finally came.

At first they could see no way to attach the Arkenstone to the Orcrist. Trusted sword-smiths and jewellers had taken a look at the sword, but they too could find no way of merging the gem with the sword. Some suggested melting the hilt down and reforging it to include the stone but Rori vetoed that idea and Thorin stood behind her.

She read book after book, searching for an answer but it took 45 years before she found what she was looking for. By that time almost everyone in middle earth knew of the dwarf queen's obsession with elven sword smithing, but only a few were privy to the reason behind it. One who was, having been confided in by Gandalf, was Elrond. At Galdalf's request, he began his own search through the ancient elvish manuscripts and texts, searching for reference to the Orcrist. Finally he found the original diaries of the smith who forged the sword, which he sent under armed guard to Erebor, as a gift to the king.

Rori's ancient elvish had been much improved since she had first found the prophecy, but she took her time translating the diaries, needing to be certain.

What they hadn't counted on was magic. Only the blood of the swords rightful owner could open the hilt to encompass the Orcrist, thereby ensuring that even if he did get hold of the sword and stone, Sauron would be unable to join them.

And there was the brilliance of the plan. If Thorin never joined the sword and stone, Sauron could never use them but in order to weaken and hopefully defeat the Ringwraith that Sauron would send, the sword and stone would need to be joined.

The stone that Gandalf had given them on their wedding day rested on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, where it could be easily seen but was out of reach of inquisitive hands (not that their children were badly behaved but all dwarf children were known to be boisterous at times).

As time went on, Rori became almost obsessed with the stone, glancing at it every few minutes and feeling more and more unsettled if she had to stay away from it for any length of time.

Thorin took the decision to move the stone and housed it with the rest of his gold, where it would have a constant guard who could watch for any changes in the stone. Truth be told, Thorin was uncomfortable with how much reliance they were both putting on the stone to warn them of danger.

Rori was furious with him for not consulting her before he moved it but although it took two days, she did eventually come round and apologised for hitting him in the middle of a council meeting. To his credit, he hadn't hit her back and accepted her apology when she finally made it.

That evening, after some rather athletic make-up sex, they lay in bed together, each lost in their own thoughts.

"What would you like to do when this is over," Thorin asked, breaking the silence.

Rori had never given that much thought before, she was too focused on the confrontation and Thorin's possible death to wonder what might happen after. She almost felt as though she was jinxing them by making plans but now that he had put the idea in her head, she knew exactly what her dream was.

"Travel," she said. "I've read so much about foreign lands, now I think that I'd like to actually experience them."

Thorin smiled, liking that idea.

"And you?" she asked.

Thorin sighed. He might not be ageing yet but he was still old and the burden of ruling, combined with the prophecy, had been weighing heavily on him for the past fifty years and had taken their toll on his spirit. He hadn't come to any firm conclusions about what he would do if he survived but he felt that he had done his duty. The idea of travelling with Rori was most appealing. Besides, Dain had waited long enough to ascend to the throne, it was surely his time.

"I think I'd like that too," he said. "We can take the girls with us, show them some of the world.

Rori held him tighter and prayed that they got that chance.

III

As predicted, the stone had turned lighter a few times since Gandalf had given it to them but never lighter than a grey shade. The dangers turned out to be varied, form Thorin's hunting party being attacked by orcs, to him being struck down with Dwarven Fever.

In 2997 the stone grew lighter once again. It was now too close to the turn of the century for Thorin not to think that this was the Ringwraith that they had been expecting.

Thorin had long since decided that when this day came, he would venture to the top of the mountain where his people would be relatively safe from any encounter. The mountain would also be evacuated, the dwarves being sent to the town of Dale below.

They had argued for years over whether Rori would accompany him, or evacuate with their children and the other dwarves. Thorin wanted her safe with the others, obviously.

Even Rori herself was torn between being a good wife and a good mother. She could not bear it if Thorin died and she had not tried to help him but equally, she did not like the thought that her presence and only average fighting skills could prove a distraction to him during the battle. She also didn't want her children to end up orphans. Dain had offered to raise the children and Rori trusted him to do an excellent job, but she wanted to be there for them, to make sure that they received all the love that she had to give.

At 55, Tori was the eldest. She took after her father in temperament and mannerisms but her mother in looks.

Thain was the image of her father and though she took more after her mother, she had inherited Thorin's stubborn streak (though Thorin insisted that it was Rori's stubborn streak!).

Roain had also inherited her fathers looks but the the bookish gene as well. While the others were out play fighting, exploring caves and the like, Roain more often than not had her head in a book. Her favourite place was the library and Rori did her best to encourage the child, and protect her from any teasing that she might be subject to. Thanks to the queens proclivities, being bookish was quite popular now and so she endured little in the way of bullying.

Raia was the youngest and easily the most precocious of the bunch. At just 25 she was still very headstrong and any mischief that the children got into was usually masterminded by her. She was the apple of Thorin's eye and Rori knew that she would feel the loss of her father more keenly than the others.

They all loved him, of course, and would miss him dreadfully if anything did happen to him, so when they were ordered to evacuate, there were many tears, decelerations of love and more than a few offers to accompany him.

Finally Dain ushered them out of their fathers room and Rori was left facing Thorin. He took a step towards her but she stepped back.

"No," she shook her head. "I will not say goodbye to you." Her eyes were shining with tears and for a moment she was unable to speak.

Thorin waited patiently, his own emotions in danger of overwhelming him.

"I love you far too much to let you go and If I say goodbye, you might feel that you can give up but I don't care how hard it is or how long it takes, you will come back to me, do you understand?"

Thorin nodded. If anyone could change the outcome of this by sheer force of will, he was certain that it was Rori. Now if only he believed in that.

"Then I won't say goodbye," he agreed. "But every dwarf going off to do battle deserved a good luck kiss, don't they?"

Rori nodded and looked almost relieved as she stepped into his embrace, resting her head on his chest and marvelling how she could feel so safe in his embrace, when she knew what dangers were to come. Finally she looked up at him and reached up on her toes to kiss him. It was so charged with emotion that it felt like their first kiss all over again. How long ago that felt now, and yet it was not nearly long enough for Rori's liking.

The kiss ended and they stood with their foreheads touching until finally Rori stepped back, said a silent wish then opened her hand and blew the dust in her palm over Thorin.

"Here," she pressed a small drawstring purse into his hand. "It's the rest of my fairy dust," she explained. "Wish what you want the dust to do then throw it."

"What did you wish for?" he asked.

"For it to protect you," she answered simply. "Good luck," she said, her voice cracking as she took another step away. "We have the rest of our lives together, remember that, okay?"

"I will," he assured her, his own voice thick with emotion.

Rori ran forward and kissed him once more, then bolted from the room lest she break down in front of him. Her children were waiting for her in the main hall and she gathered them up and together they headed down the mountain to the town of Dale.

III

Thorin headed to his gold room to check the stone. It was almost see through now, which meant that the Ringwraith couldn't be very far away.

He picked up the Arkenstone and then headed for the top of the mountain. A wide path had been cut in the mountain side, allowing the Ringwraith easy access to the top of the mountain, where a platform had been carved out of the rock, on which Thorin could face his foe. When Rori had discovered that Ringwraiths had poisonous breath, Thorin had decided that it was best to face the creature outside, where it's poison would quickly disperse on the wind.

Rori had explained many times how to join the Arkenstone to the Orcrist but he wanted to leave it to the very last moment since once joined, the sword became a formidable weapon; one that he didn't want to fall into the wrong hands.

Ringwraiths are men who were corrupted by the rings of power and over time, their physical forms literally faded away into nothing. Usually only those who could see wraiths could see Ringwraiths but they normally wore long black hooded cloaks to give them some physical presence, as did this one, who was currently riding a large black horse towards the mountain, from the direction of Mirkwood.

Thorin took the Orcrist in his left hand and used it to lightly score his right palm, causing a line of blood to appear. He transferred the sword to his right hand and immediately it began to glow. The lower end of the hilt, closest to the sword appeared to melt and a large hollow circle appeared there, which Thorin placed the Arkenstone into. The metal closed around the stone, trapping it within the hilt.

Rori had explained that as well as activating the magic in the sword, his blood would create a connection with Thorin, so that the sword became more of an extension to his arm rather than a weapon that he was wielding. It almost felt weightless now, just as you are unaware of the weight of your own arm as you move it.

Thorin moved to the edge of the mountain to look for the wraith, which was following the path that had been cut into the mountain side for it. It was moving much faster than any normal horse and rider ought to and Thorin stepped back in to the centre of the plateau as he prepared for their arrival.

The horse reared up as it reached the platform and the Ringwraith let out a terrifying shriek. Thorin stood firm, taking courage from the sword he held. Most weapons were useless against Ringwraiths, only those forged by the elves in the first age could harm them, which thankfully included the Orcrist.

Similarly the Ringwraiths couldn't affect the physical world and needed to wield special weapons given to them by Sauron. The black horses which they rode were also specially trained by him.

As the horse's front hooves touched down, it sprinted forward, galloping towards Throrin. The Arkenstone glowed brighter as Thorin drew the sword back and blocked the blow from the Ringwraiths sword. The horse and rider passed him, then turned back to charge again.

On the third pass, at the last minute, Thorin rolled forward, dodging the ringwraiths sword, his own blade slicing into the black beasts hind leg. The horse reared and screamed, dismounting his rider and galloping to the edge of the mountain. He appeared to fall but moments later Thorin heard hoof beats galloping away, so presumably the horse had righted itself and was following the path back down.

Thorin didn't mind it's escape since the horse on it's own meant no one any harm; the danger came from it's rider.

The ringwraith got to it's feet and let out another piercing scream as flames erupted around it. It was pissed! Thankfully Dwarves can tolerate great extremes in temperature but they are far from flame proof, so Thorin knew that he had to be careful.

The Ringwraith came at Thorin again and they fought, their swords meeting with almighty crashes that reverberated around and down the mountain.

Down below, Rori, who was waiting in Bard's house with her children, drew them closer to her breast and covered the ears of the youngest two, trying in vain to protect them from the ugly sounds.

Even though the fight was more equal now that the creature had been dismounted, Thorin was still much smaller than his opponent, but he was also stronger and being smaller meant that he was more agile on his feet. He landed a few blows on the ringwraith but since he couldn't see it's physical form, he couldn't tell if he had caused it serious harm or not.

He also suffered his own wounds, though his chainmail had so far prevented serious injury. He gained the upper hand briefly, forcing the ringwraith back towards the edge of the mountain. He could literally feel the power of his sword coursing through his body, which filled him with hubris. He felt invincible.

Cornered, the Ringwraith came out fighting. His blade slicing through the air and into Thorin's side and although he just managed to block it, reducing the force, he was forced off his feet, crashing back to the ground near the centre of the platform.

The Ringwraith waisted no time in pressing home it's advantage and ran forward, the tip of it's blade poised to pierce through Thorin's heart.

Thorin was winded from the fall and his reflexes were dulled as a result. He saw the Ringwraith coming towards him in a fiery ball of rage, then time seemed to slow for a moment. His vision blurred and he saw Rori when she had been yelling at him just before they married, her face flushed and her chest heaving. He saw Tori as she was placed into his arms for the first time, her face pink and her skin still wrinkled. He saw Thain sitting on his lap, making a very poor job of platting his beard while he tried to have a discussion with her mother. He saw Roain grinning with pleasure and throwing herself into his arms after he had given her a rare first edition book of sonnets by a man named JP Plumber for her birthday. Finally he saw Raia, making him laugh while he was trying to chastise her, completely ruining the dressing down that he was about to give her.

Then his vision cleared and he saw the Ringwraiths blade moving closer and he thought about saying goodbye to his beautiful girls.

"NO!"

Seemingly of it's own volition and with his hand just along for the ride, the Orcrist rose off the ground and slammed into the Ringwraiths sword, shattering it into a million pieces. Thorin jumped to his feet and his sword sliced back and forth through the Ringwraith. He felt the flesh on his hand burn, smelt his beard and hair catch on fire but he pressed forward, slicing back and forth until the ringwraith let out a final inhuman scream as it's disguise, the cloak, was destroyed like the sword before it, rendering Ringwraith's ability to affect the world around him void. Now invisible and with no more power than a puff of smoke, the Ringwraith had little choice but to give up and return to it's master, Sauron.

Thorin patted out the fire in his hair and beard and took a few deep breaths as he looked down to the shredded cloak which lay before him. Scattered around it were also a shards of the wraiths sword. It was over.

Battered, bloody and burned, Thorin made his way down the mountain, eager to see his family once more. Thankfully they were also making their way to him, somehow realising that the confrontation was over. He saw them, and many others behind them, heading up the path towards him and he smiled in relief; then his vision grew dark at the edges and he fell to his knees before passing out completely.

III

Rori winced with each item of clothing that she removed, for although Thorin's chainmail had prevented too much blood from being drawn, the blows that he had sustained had left his skin an ugly patchwork of black and purple. She undressed him as gently as she could but she knew that time was of the essence. Every time she took his pulse it was weaker than before but even without that, instinctively she knew that he was dying; she could feel it with every fibre of her being.

She suspected that he had broken ribs, a broken arm, internal bleeding and judging from his breathing, possibly a punctured lung. As she disrobed him she had found the purse of fairy dust that she had given him secured to his belt, unused. She kept the bag and now poured it's contents into the palm of her hand.

"Heal him," she begged, then sprinkling the dust all over his body, but mainly on his torso where his worst injuries seemed to be concentrated.

With that done she set about cleaning his abrasions. As I said earlier, there wasn't much blood which was highly unusual. The chainmail had chaffed the top layers of skin off in places where the enemies sword had impacted it but there were no cuts from the Ringwraith's blade. Dwarven chainmail was good, the best in middle earth in fact, but it was not infallible and against such a formidable opponent, it shouldn't have protected him as well as it had.

She wondered if perhaps the earlier fairy dust she had asked to protect him had helped. When Thorin was recovered (there was no 'if' about it) she would find a way to contact Gandalf and ask him to pass her sincere thanks onto Morgana.

When she had finished cleaning the wounds, she dressed him in a black nightshirt (fearing that his bruises would show through white material) then told her children that they could see their father. While the girls crowded around the bed, Dain drew her aside to talk privately.

"How is he?"

"It's bad," she admitted. "His pulse is weak, his body is black and blue and-" she stopped there before she lost control of her emotions.

"There is always hope," Dain said kindly. He didn't know about Morgana and her gifts to Rori, but then Rori wasn't even sure that the dust would work, she just hoped that it would.

"I know."

"Where is the sword now?" Dain asked.

"It's safe," she assured him.

Dain trusted her and was happy to leave it at that.

"I'll give you some time," he said, knowing that this was a family moment. He left the chamber and Rori joined her children by the bed.

"Will he be all right?" Raia asked, tears shining in her young eyes.

"I don't know," Rori admitted.

"I can make a healing broth," Roain offered, preferring action to waiting. "There are lot's of healing recipes in the library."

"That's a good idea," Rori told her. "He'll need it when he wakes up."

"I'll help," Thain added.

"Me too," Tori said.

"And me," chorused Raia.

Rori smiled. Roain's sisters didn't often share her love of books so it was good to see them standing behind her now; standing together.

"Thank you," Rori smiled as her tears began to fall. "I'm sorry," she wiped at her eyes.

Raia hugged her mother, her own tears finally falling and in within a few moments, all five of them had crowded together in one huge hug, all sobbing and offering what comfort they could to each other.

"What is that blasted noise?"

They all turned, shocked to see Thorin awake.

"I thought someone was murdering a cat." His voice was weak and gravelly.

"I see you're feeling better," Rori smiled through her tears.

Thorin smiled and reached his hand out for hers but his grip was feeble.

"For a moment there, I thought that I'd lost you," Rori admitted.

"You didn't think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?"

The girls laughed and Rori reached out with her free hand to stroked his cheek.

She allowed the girls to stay for a few minutes longer, then reminded them of the broth they wanted to make and ushered them from the room. Thorin needed his rest and her children, god love them, did not create a calm and relaxing atmosphere. She closed the door behind them and returned to Thorin. She picked up his wrist and took his pulse again, pleased to note that it was stronger.

"How long was I out?" Thorin asked.

"Less than an hour," she answered.

"What happened?" he asked, knowing that he was in no fit state to be recovering after only an hour.

"I used the faerie dust," she admitted. "You owe her a big fruit basket," she teased, knowing that was a common gift that men liked to give.

Thorin smiled.

"Try to sleep now, you still need to rest," she said.

Thorin nodded but grabbed her wrist as she made to get off the bed. His grip was still very weak but stronger than it had been a few minutes ago.

"Stay with me," he said. "You know I sleep better with you around."

Rori worried about hurting him so although she got into the bed, she didn't rest against him as she normally would. Thorin wasn't having that and slipped an arm under her; he didn't have the strength to pull her to him but Rori knew what he wanted and settled against him, her head resting on his shoulder. She watched the rhythmic rise and fall chest, proof that he was alive, and it soothed her. She had been so tense for the last few hours, worried about him, worried for her daughters and running on adrenalin, that she soon found herself being lulled into a peaceful slumber.

When she awoke an hour later, Thorin was still sound asleep so she slipped from the bed and went to check on the girls. She found them in the kitchen being indulged by Cook. Cook was doing his best to oversee the banquet this evening as well as helping the girls out so that the broth they made was edible (unlike Rori, they had always been cooked for and hadn't learned the finer points of running a household). Cook had a sharp tongue on him but everyone knew that he loved the girls like they were his own.

"How is he?" Cook asked when he saw Rori.

"He's sleeping but I think he will be fine in time."

"Oh!" Cook clutched his breast. "Thank the stars."

"I didn't realise there would be a feast this evening," Rori said, worried that Thorin would be disturbed.

"Don't worry, 'tis the men in Dale hosting it, but we can't turn up empty handed now, can we?"

"No," Rori smiled and approached her children.

"Miss Raia!" Cook yelled. "If I see you chop another carrot before it's peeled, I will have your hide for my new tunic! Do you think peel will help your Pa recover?"

Raia only smiled, knowing that his words were just bluster but nevertheless she stopped chopping and began peeling the remaining carrots.

"I can't stay long," Rori said as she stood at the end of the table her children were working at. "Your father is resting but I don't want to leave him for too long."

"This should be ready in another hour or so," Roain said. "Shall we bring some then?"

"Let's see how he feels first, If he's up to it, I'm sure he'd like you to join him."

"That should give you another incentive to make it edible," Cook called over, pointedly. Very little that was said in his kitchen escaped him.

"There's gifts been coming for him," Tori said. "What should we do with them?"

"Leave them for now. He'll go through them when he's strong enough."

"You get back, Ma," Thain said. "Send someone when he wakes up and we'll bring dinner to you."

Rori returned to Thorin then and found him sitting up in bed.

"Don't exert yourself!" she cried, rushing over to him.

"I'm fine, woman."

"Fine? I've seen better looking wargs!" her worry was making her sharper than she might have wished, scolding him like he was a naughty child rather than the king of an empire.

As she tried to fuss with his sheets he caught her hands.

"Darling, please, I'm fine. Don't fret so."

His grip was a lot stronger than he had been earlier and she sat on the bed and began unbuttoning his nightshirt.

"Oh my!" she breathed, running her fingertips lightly over his chest.

The earlier black and purple bruises were now more shades of green and yellow. He was healing incredible quickly, faster than she dared to hope. Still, she was determined that he look after himself and not hinder the healing process.

"How are the girls?" he asked.

"Fine, now that they know that you are okay," she smiled. "I should warn you though, they're making your dinner."

Thorin smiled, remembering when they'd tried to make breakfast in bed for their parents on their 50th anniversary. Everything was either burned to a crisp or so under done as to be almost raw.

"Don't worry, cook is supervising this venture, he wouldn't let anything leave the kitchen that wasn't perfect."

"And the people?"

"There were no injuries," she said. "A few children will have nightmares for a while after hearing the Ringwraith's screams but if that is the worst of it, we can count ourselves lucky. I haven't seen Dain in a while but he was handling things when we brought you in."

"Indeed," he smiled and opened his arms to her and she fell into his embrace.

"I was so worried," she said.

"Hush, I am fine now."

"Yes." She pulled away and looked into his eyes, brushing a strand of his hair back behind his ear.

"I've been thinking," Thorin said. "I want to abdicate the throne, I want to take you and the girls and leave the mountain for a while."

"You've had a tough day," she smiled indulgently. "Don't make decisions like this now."

"I thought that was what you wanted?" he frowned.

"It is a dream," she confirmed, "but if it remains a dream I won't be upset. I love my life. I will always love my life as long as you are part of it and you don't need to make any grand gestures; you have already won my heart."

"I don't say this for you, though I admit your idea is appealing." He sighed. "I am old, Rori. I have been lucky in that I have not started ageing unduly but I don't know how much longer that will last. I was born to rule but I believe that I have done my duty. It is time to pass the throne onto Dain, who deserves it and has waited patiently, and forge a life for us and our family."

"We could still stay here," she said.

"We could," he conformed. "And perhaps we will return here but you know that the Orcrist is now a formidable weapon. If it remains here, our people will never be safe."

"What did you have in mind?" Rori asked.

"I have no firm plans," he said. "I thought that we might drop it in the middle of a deep ocean, or throw it into the heart of a volcano. Perhaps Gandalf might know what is best to do with such a weapon but whatever is best, we must ensure that it happens, we can't entrust it to others."

"You really have thought about this."

"I have. My life to date has been about doing my duty, now I want to carve out something for myself."

"I agree." Rori nodded.

"Then help me get dressed," he said. "There must be a celebration, I will announce it tonight."

"No!" Rori said firmly, placing a hand on his chest so that he couldn't get out of bed. "I will bring Dain to you and you can make plans but you will not get out of bed until tomorrow morning at the earliest, do you hear me?"

"But I feel fine-"

"Well I don't!" she snapped, instantly regretting it. "I'm sorry, but if you could have seen the state you were in... Please, just for once do as you are told?"

Thorin saw the tears shining in his wife's eyes and realised that he had been selfish, thinking only of himself and his desire to start his new life.

"I'm sorry," he smiled. "There will be time enough to tell others, tonight is for us, our family. I can tell the girls, right?"

"Yes," she smiled, wiping her tears away. "Though we might have a hard time convincing Roain to leave her books and travel."

"You will not need convincing?" he asked.

"No. I would follow you to the ends of the earth if you asked."

"But I thought you wanted to travel?"

"I do want to," she assured him. "But I would be happy anywhere with you."

Thorin smiled.

"Maybe we can retire to a little shack on the coast," he said. "I can learn to fish and you can read your books."

"I think I might like to write my own book," she confessed. Over the years she had transcribed some of her grandfathers older and faded books into new volumes but she had a lot of her own tales to tell now and if they went travelling, she would have even more.

"I think that is a very good idea," he said.

They told the girls their plan over dinner that evening (which Thorin remained in his bed for) and they were thrilled by the idea. Like most young dwarves, they were overconfident and ready for adventure. Roain was the most reticent but Rori stressed that she could see for herself the places that she had only read about, and urged her to think of the other books that she could discover while they travelled. That seemed to satisfy her.

The next morning, Thorin dressed and (still promising to take things easy) called Dain to his quarters and told him.

Dain was shocked. He had begun to feel that the throne would never be his, and if that was to be then he could live with it but as Rori had female child after female child, he began to hope again. Now it seemed that the wait was over and though still alive and kicking, Thorin was giving him what he wanted.

"But-"

"No buts," Thorin interrupted. "The throne should have been yours upon my first death. Now it seems that I have escaped death once again but it is time to pass that responsibility to you. Rori believes it is your destiny to rule our people and given the evidence, I cannot disagree. You are a fine dwarf, Dain, and I thank you for your loyalty over the years. You will be an inspiring king."

Dain bowed his head, slightly awed by this gesture. Having just single handily defeated a Ringwraith, Thorin was almost a god to his people now and could have ruled them for an eternity without dissent. For Thorin to give up that power and hand it to him was truly remarkable.

"I will do my best to honour your legacy."

"Just be true to yourself, that is all I ask," Thorin said, for no king could rule effectively while in someone else's shadow. "Our family will also be leaving for a while, possibly a long while."

"Leaving?" Dain looked up.

"We must safely dispose of the sword," he explained. "Then we will see what we want to do. The girls are coming with us."

"Will you be coming back?"

"I cannot say. I have already outlived my lifespan so I don't know how long I have left, but I am not abandoning you. Even if I can't return, my family will, and I will ask the ravens to bring us news of you and life here in the mountain."

Dain nodded.

"Rori insists that I rest for a few days so I would like you to organise a feast for Friday evening, at which time I will announce my intentions and pass the crown onto you."

"Are you sure?" Dain asked.

"I am, though I would ask that you keep this to yourself until we officially announce it. You and I can use the time to work out the details." Dain nodded then left soon afterwards. He couldn't quite believe it yet.

III

Twenty days after Thorin had fought the ringwraith, he and his family set out from the Lonely Mountain. They left before dawn while the town was still asleep, not wanting a large send off. It was safest if as few people as possible knew where they were going. They headed east towards the Misty Mountains.

Thorin looked over to Rori and smiled. She was dressed in hobbit attire once more, though her current outfit had been made for her and while they resembled hobbit clothes, they were made from dwarf materials and much more practical. Still, she looked like a hobbit, which brought back some very welcome memories for him.

The first leg of their journey would take them on a similar path to their last quest to the Blue Mountains but they would then travel by boat from the south of the Blue Mountains, out into the Gulf of Lune and then on into the Great Sea. Gandalf had come for a visit just in time to see Dain crowned king (he always seemed to know when he was needed) and advised Thorin that the sword would be safe if dropped into the depths of the sea.

From there they were undecided. They could come ashore again anywhere that they wanted to and Thorin liked not knowing. He had known his future for so long, not only had he felt the weight of the prophecy bearing down on him but even before that, his destiny as king had been ever present in his mind since he was a young boy. Now however, now his future was completely open and he liked that freedom.

He probably wouldn't want to live like that forever, he was old enough to realise that people rarely changed on a fundamental level but for the moment at least, he was happy not to know what his future held.

The End

AN: I have tried my best to fit this story within the existing cannon, hence no male heirs and Dain Ironfoot still taking the throne (albeit it a few years later). Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.