A/N: So, wonderful readers, there is it, the end of it... or not!
I thank you again for all reviews, tips and support, I'm enthralled to see how wide this story has spread, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I apologize for my many mistakes and mispellings, as English is not my first language.
He took in a deep breath and opened his eyes a slit. It was too clear around, though he could no figure out where the sun might be. It was not cold, it was not warm, and he was not hungry. Everything was comfortable, more than he had been comfortable for a long time. He noticed his shoulder and other wounds didn't bother him anymore, either. He was tired, tough, and closed his eyes to sleep a bit more.
He woke up with the feeling of being observed, and sat up at once, startled. He could not see his observer, and begun to search the place, warily. It was not as full of light as before, and he felt the place he was sleeping on was not as smooth, although his muscles felt perfectly rested.
It was a large stone room, and he didn't figure out what kind of place was that. He saw two hearths, one on each side of the room, the closest one meant for comfort, with its golden flames licking... what? That was not wood, at least didn't look like wood. It looked more like... stones. Burning stones. Now he was sure he had seen everything in this world.
The heat of the fire made him feel thirsty and then saw a water flagon on a table nearby, and a mug he was sure he didn't see there before. He poured some water in the mug, warily, but the water didn't make anything unexpected. It was crystal clear, no smell, and he decided to take a probing sip. Water. Plain water, refreshing, tasteless, water. He drank it down in small sips, exploring the place with slow steps. Somehow, he knew he didn't have to haste.
There were tools on the wall, and scattered on a workbench were several pieces of handiwork in different stages of completeness. Most of them he could not understand, but some were quite what he was used to make himself. He felt a sting in his heart thinking how long it had been since he used a forge last time. It felt worse when he remembered when it actually was. He sighed and shook his head, sad. There was nothing he could do now. Only wait.
He left the water mug on the workbench when he noticed a particularly known object on the other side of the room, close to the forge hearth, and went for it. There was an anvil, and an unfinished war axe waiting to be worked on, the metal glowing red, begging to be hammered, shaped into what it was meant to become. If he was left in that room for any reason at all, this might well be the reason. That axe was calling for him, and he yearned for the heat of the forge, the weight of the hammer in his hand, the sound of metal against metal reverberating through his whole body. He smiled to himself when he took the axe with a tong and lifted the hammer to hit it where it should. His hand fell down with all the weight of the hammer and of his own will on the axe head.
The pain hit him at the same moment, making him release the tools and throwing him seven feet away from the anvil. Biting his lip to hold back a groan, he sat up and rubbed his chest where the pain hit him. It was not even sore to the touch, making it all more incomprehensible. He was scrambling to his feet when a shadow moved to be between him and the fire.
"You should not play with tools that are not meant for you, child, even if you feel inclined to fix things as soon as you may. I'm glad to see you are so willing to make things right, tough, as last time it took you absurdly long to take this step."
He looked at the one who spoke to him, wide eyed. He never heard that voice before, not outside his dreams, and he knew to whom it belonged.
The newcomer took the tools from where they'd fell and put them back into place; then he took the unfinished war axe, the metal still glowing red, with his bare hands and put it back on the forge to heat up again; then he straightened his tough leather apron with his hands and turned back to him.
"Yes, that is it. Now, close your mouth before you start dribbling, it's not like we never met."
The owner of the place beckoned him to a chair at the table where the water flagon was and made himself comfortable, filling a mug that wasn't there untilthat moment. The flagon poured red wine.
"Now, where are we? Aye, you have done a good job, child. Fulfilled what you swore, that's it."
He got dizzy, and held his head down until he felt better. Comprehension of where he was, and in front of whom, overwhelmed him.
"My Lord, I..."
"Hush, hush, child, I know, I know... Now, stand up, take a chair, we have much to talk, and no hurry. No need for apologies and kneeling stuff, not here, child."
Then he remembered everything. He had taken his people out of Erebor, and moved to the Gray Mountains. It had been a mistake, a decision made out of pride, and his people paid dearly for it. Dain I, the son of his grandson, was slain by a great cold-drake because of that decision, and Frór, Dain's second son also. But the firstborn, Thrór, moved his people back to Erebor, making the right decision. He wanted to help him, to compensate for having moved his people out of Erebor so long ago, and begged to go back and help to restore the glory of the halls of his people, that had been lost in great measure because of him. He promised. And he went.
"I... I didn't know that it was a plan to mend things I've done wrong before. I... I just loved Erebor fiercely, and when it was taken by Smaug... I just had to take it back."
"So, there was none as fit as you to do this deed, don't you think so?" He poured himself more wine, and from the same flagon poured more water for the one who had just arrived from Middle-Earth. "You cannot retain the memory of before when you're down there, like when you are here, else you would get crazy. One life is enough for one to deal in just a lifetime. Now, here, we can talk about the whole story and take some decisions about your future."
"I understand, my Lord."
"So, let us see what has been left behind..."
A whole year went by, and eventually things settled as they would have to. Iris was studying furiously, and begun to take charge of the medicinal plants growth in the yard; she was also applying for a nursing technician course and had already made a first aid course and a fire brigade course too.
Lily lost the year in college while copping her grief, but once she uplifted her head there was nothing that could stop her from achieving her goals. She was alive, and decided that she would live, not only survive, and make her best, although she went in Ellen's former 'out of business' mode.
Wolfram sat at the library certain morning, reading the newspaper, when through the open window an owl came in, a parchment tied to its talon. It found a place right in front of him to land down on the table, crooking his golden eyes to the man. Slowly and carefully, he reached for the bird and untied the silken ribbon with the parchment. The owl waited for a minute and flew away, silent as it came.
"Yes, a picture can tell more than a thousand words!" He said, looking at the open parchment; but there was another one, and words, too, lots of them.
I hope the owl has found you, Dumbledore swore it would be easy for the bird to reach you once he could track the energy of Lily's sword, as it was made here in Middle-Earth. Next time, if you are able, provide one or two mice as reward for the owl and you'll be sure it will find you when needed.
It took me years of negotiation to open this communication channel, so, please help to keep it open. There is a non-changing Gate between the Forbidden Forest in Hogwarts and Mirkwood. This means no mind blockage too, but if you ever send me a single word about the future it will not only be censored but all my efforts to negotiate this channel will be thrown into the recycle bin. I have not been able to negotiate the use of this Gate for personal use, yet, for the same reason. Next year wait for the owl with your letter already written, bind it in the bird's leg and it will reach me. Now, I'll try to condense last seven years happenings, else the owl will not be able to carry the parchment!
Bilbo went back to the Shire, accompanied by Gandalf, who would send word to Dís and the dwarves in the Blue Mountains to come and re-people Erebor. It seems Bilbo's people thought he was dead and made a mess with his things, he had to re-buy most of his own belongings and it took him years to prove he was alive. When Dís came with her people Bilbo came along to attend to our wedding, and it snowed food and rained drink for three days. It was almost a year after the Battle of Five Armies, so even if in sorrow for not having Thorin and Fili here, we were able to feast. Of course me and Kili didn't show our noses out of home in the second day of feasting, as this is the dwarven tradition, but be sure Dís and the Company provided that no guest has been unattended. I asked to have some of our world traditions present in the wedding, so my dress was white, but as I am counted as a warrior I had to wear some armor to show it, so I used silver vambraces and a light mithril full plate corselet. I had Tauriel and Arwen as my maidens at the wedding, as I had no family women here.
Dís is a sweetie, stubborn like Thorin Oakenshield; she was very saddened by the loss of both her brother and her first born son to war, but glad to have Kili left; when our son was born she was in state of grace, as it was the first time in seventy nine years that her family was growing instead of dwindling. I am really blessed to have Dís here, she was so reassuring to me when the baby was born, as I panicked because he was so tiny, but she calmed me explaining he was not tiny, he just was a dwarf! Well, let me introduce you our youngling, we thought it would only be fair to pay homage to Kili's uncle in his name, so Durin's line has already another Thorin. By the way, Knee is how we use to call little Thorin to differentiate him from Thorin Oakenshield; you should see Kili's worry when the baby was born, because he had absolutely no experience with babies, and Kili kept mumbling 'Why does my son look like a knee?' until Dís whacked his head explaining he looked exactly that way when he was born. We already have another one on the way, our upcoming one will be Lyn, if a girl, after Balin and Dwalin's sister, and if a dark-haired boy he will be Frérin, after Dís other brother, and if a blond then he will be Fili, for the deceased one.
Kili managed to grow a short beard already, it is no more that itchy stumbles, he even looks a bit more grown up. He has been quite a grown up king, too, having managed definite peace with the Mirkwood elves, and the "you can never trust an elf" quote became a joke. Dealings with Long-Lake have always been good, especially after the Master flew away with most of the gold that was sent to rebuild the town; seemingly he died of hunger in the Waste, deserted by his companions. Then the people chose another Master, more interested in his people's needs than in his own, and he works together with Bard in Dale, as twin cities. Dale was rebuilt even fairer than it was of old, or at least so do sing the ones who knew it before Smaug came. These seven first years have been of much cleansing and rebuilding, but they were worthy the effort.
To make it short, as the parchment is ending, people have given us nicknames due to what happened in the Battle, like Thorin had his Oakenshield nickname due to what happened in the Battle of Azanulbizar; Bombur and Bofur have found their Jewels, so we may have more younglings among the Company members in the next years. As Durin's people has decreased so much in the last two hundred years, we are making an effort to increase the birth rate amongst Erebor dwarves leading by example.
Love for ever,
Ellen Dwarvenheart, Fundinul"
In the other parchment there was a fine drawing of a sturdy short bearded dwarf, standing proudly holding in his arms a small boy with braids in his locks, and beside a chair where a longhaired elf sat smiling, her belly bulging with a midway term pregnancy. One acquainted to Anghertas runes would be able to read under the drawing:
"Erebor, Durin's Day of the seventh year of the reign of Kili Elvenblood, son of Dís, King Under the Mountain"
Why you should not skip the next... story!
I'm working on a sequel to this story, it called "Send me an Owl", and actually this Epilogue is its Prologue. It is being updated weekly. The first few chapters are mostly letters from Wolfram, Ellen, Iris and Bilbo, plus some Tales from Mahal's Forge, giving sequence to the story of the deceased dwarf that meets his Maker. These letter let you know how Erebor is being reconstructed and how the people are faring both in Earth and Middle-Earth. From chapter 9 on we follow Bilbo and some of his cousins traveling to Erebor, where to the Earth family is going in the next opening of the Gate in Mirror Lake. You can expect romance, humor, angst, adventure, Kíli's children, ravens and cookies, and a long expected wedding. But don't expect the goblins will find it amusing to have the Goblin King's Bane back to their world, and you don't know what the orcs are planning...