A/N: Syxx on Ao3 and I had a lovely, long-winded conversation about what would happen if the Company reconvened in the afterlife. She had the brilliant idea that the dwarrows would miss their hobbit so much that they'd go out and try to find him in the afterlife. Then she was awesome enough to let me use the conversation as a jumping off point for this story.
"In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!" -JRR Tolkien, LotR
The Halls of Mandos lay far in the north west of Valinor and housed the spirits of the fallen of Arda. Its antechamber was a small clean room, with marble columns and three wooden doors that entered into three large chambers, each seemingly cozy while at the same time managing to stretch out to accommodate entire legions of souls. This was the magic of The Halls- hosting the spirits of the fallen in a way both personal and profound. To the right was a room for the elves, whose spirits waited in stasis to be reborn. The center door led into the realm of men and hobbits, where they sat in silent contemplation until their time of western release. The door on the left opened to where Mahal, also called Aulë the Maker, had carved his own Wing from the very stones of existence. It was the last great resting place of the dwarrows, who would feast with their ancestors until the End of All came and Mahal called upon them to reforge Arda.
TA 2941. Fíli and Kíli, the young heirs of Erebor, stood in the doorway with their shoulders pressed tightly. As in everything the boys had faced their deaths together. The Battle of Five Armies had not been kind to the Line of Durin. An arrow had taken Kíli in the chest and an orc blade had found Fíli not a moment later. But here in the antechamber of the Halls of Mandos they bore no signs of their struggles- gore and wounds wiped clean away. They fidgeted with the pale tunics and breeches they were dressed in, fingers itching for weapons they no longer bore. Kíli elbowed his brother in the ribs and Fíli laughed in return. The brothers smiled at each other and strode through the door. In the realm of their ancestors they were greeted warmly by an uncle and grandfather they had never known.
Time was intangible, slipping through their fingers like water and surrounding them with the buoyant headiness of eternity. The brothers learned the stories of their ancestors first hand and shared their own too-brief stories in return. And all the while they kept their eyes on the door, waiting for the beloved uncle they knew would be joining them.
TA 2941. Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, was reunited with his sister-sons a day later as the first frost settled on Erebor. He walked through the doorway with his head low, his heart heavy with the grief of his mistakes. "I'm so sorry", he whispered before the boys were on him, clinging to their uncle with the same fierce loyalty that had led them to their deaths.
"It's all right, Uncle," Fíli promised. "We don't blame you."
"We tried to save you," Kíli added softly. "We wanted to make you proud."
Thorin pulled both boys into a tight embrace, trying not to think about the years they would never have. "I am proud of you both. I have always been proud..."
The smiles they gave him were bright and genuine. Together the last of the Line of Durin took their place in the Halls of Waiting, not as a king and his heirs, but as family.
Hours passed, or maybe days, but the candles in the Halls never burned low and the fires were never banked. Time passed and one by one the other members of the Company joined Thorin and his sister-sons in the Halls of Mandos.
TA 2994. Balin, Lord of Moria, had ruled his kingdom for five years before his fall. The portents had been read long before they had set out to Moria and he had known their chances were not good, but there was no choice. He had not been able to bear the grief of living in the mountain while his king was buried beneath it. His colony of dwarrows had taken most of the upper halls of Moria and Balin was hopeful that the signs had been wrong. He had gone out the eastern gates alone and into the valley of Azanulbizar to look into the kheled-zâram with hopes that the mirror-lake would show his reflection. He never made it to the shoreline. Balin had just enough time to register the croaking laughter of the goblin archer before he found himself in the antechamber of the Halls. He sighed in irritation before walking through the door.
"Thorin." It pleased Balin to see his old friend startle at his name.
"Balin!" The King Under the Mountain and the Lord of Moria stared at each other for a long moment before embracing. "You look much the same. How long as it been?"
"Just over fifty years, lad," Balin said, stroking his beard absently. "Fíli and Kíli are here?"
"Yes, they're off with my brother Frerin, but should return to me soon." Thorin frowned. "Even in death they are unfailingly loyal."
"Those who still live feel the same way. We were bound together on that quest and it's not something you forget." Balin smiled. "Now, let's claim a table for the Company and I will tell you all about Moria..."
So, Thorin and Balin took seats at a scarred wooden table just inside the doors. Fíli and Kíli rejoined them and the dwarrows drank toasts to their ancestors as time flowed by, much like ale from a stein.
TA 2994. Oin had fallen as the orcs tried to take back Moria, though it was no orc that felled him. He had taken a small group of dwarrows to the West-gate -the Doors of Durin- to try and find a means of escape, but the Watcher in the Water had been disturbed. One minute the black water had been stagnant and smooth, the next a large tentacle had shot out and drug Oin into the cold darkness. Standing in the doorway to Mahal's Wing, he thought it a rather fitting way to die. His entire life had been devoted to healing- to pulling people back from the hands of death, and now death had finally decided to pull back.
"My Lord Balin." Oin inclined his head, pleased to note his hearing had been gifted back to him. "Why am I not surprised to find you feasting with the King Under the Mountain."
"Oin!" Balin's forehead creased in concern. "What news from Moria?"
"We rescued your body and entombed it within the hall of records, but the goblins have come and taken the lower levels and barred the bridge. Supplies are running low, as is hope."
"And what of Ori and the others?" Balin asked quietly. "Will they hold?"
Oin shook his head sadly. "The Watcher is awake and there is no way out."
Time moved strangely in the Halls. It ebbed and flowed with no discernible pattern, days running freely together like watercolor ink. The dwarrows ate and drank and sang, but mostly they waited.
TA 2994. Ori was the last dwarf to fall in Moria. He had held the Chambers of Mazarbul for as long as he was able, but in the end orcs took him against Balin's tomb. He was not the child who had gone on the quest for Erebor- his beard had grown out long and he had made a name for himself independent of his brothers. Even still, he had worn fraying mittens underneath his gauntlets as he wrote his final breaths. The end comes soon. We hear drums, drums in the deep. They are coming. Ori rushed straight through the door of the Halls of Waiting, searching frantically for his friends.
"They have taken back Moria," He gasped, and Balin and Oin were at his side in an instant.
"The Colony is lost then?" Balin asked with heavy eyes.
"It is," Ori said as his fingers twitched in an old habit, as if longing to write in the book his mortal body still clutched. "I was the last."
The dwarrows of Moria stood silently together in their grief.
A month, a year, ten years, twenty. It was twenty-five years before another member of the Company joined them.
TA 3019. Nori had used his wealth from the re-claiming of Erebor to turn his life around, shying away from thievery and taking a mostly respectable job gathering intelligence for the kingdom. But there was a part of him that had never forgotten the adrenalin rush of battle or the thrill of pulling off the perfect heist. When Sauron had sent the Easterlings to attack Dale, Nori had immediately volunteered to march with Dáin. The battle had been a solid wall of close-quarters fighting and two days in Nori took a glaive to the side. The following night he had passed into the Halls. Standing in the antechamber Nori pressed a hand against his side and made a pleased sound. The last day of his life had been lived in immense pain and he was glad for it to be over with. He glanced at his reflection in a marble pillar and smoothed back his carefully coiffed, if graying, hair. Walking in to the Mahal's Wing, Nori saw his younger brother sitting at the feasting table with several other members of the Company.
With a sharp grin he crept behind Ori and placed his hands over the younger dwarf's eyes. "Guess who!"
"Ah! What?" Ori shrieked. "Nori? Is that you?"
Dropping his hands, the former thief smiled. "Right you are, little one."
Ori turned and threw his arms around his brother. "It's good to see you! What happened?"
"There was a huge battle against the Easterlings in Dale. We won, but the cost was high." Nori glanced downward. "Just before I left word came in that Dáin had fallen."
"A battle in Dale? Why would the Easterlings attack Dale?" Ori asked with a frown.
"You remember that magic ring that Bilbo had? Well, you'll never guess what happened..."
And so the Company learned of the Fellowship and the quest to destroy the One Ring. Time trickled onward and the third age passed quietly into the fourth.
FoA 3. Bifur stood at the door and peered in curiously. The ax in his forehead had finally taken his life, migrating deeper into his skull and causing a hemorrhage ninety-five years after the initial injury. Life had not been kind to the toymaker- not even his claim to Erebor's gold could buy a cure for the rages and blackouts that grew more and more frequent as he aged. Still, he had lived 262 years, a long lifetime for a dwarf. Bifur raised a hand to his forehead and felt the rough knot of flesh where the ax had rested for so many years. Death had not cured his scars, but the ax blade was gone and his thoughts were mercifully clear. With a slight grin he stepped through the door.
"Bifur!" Kíli called out with a laugh. "It's good to see you!"
Walking over to their table Bifur opened his mouth, expecting to hear a garbled Khuzdul greeting, but instead westron words filled the silence. "It's good to see you as well!"
Fíli blinked, then smiled brightly, "And good to hear you, apparently."
"Yes, well, I suppose death does have its merits." Bifur replied, enjoying the feel of the words rolling off his tongue. "Toss me a mug?"
Most days passed in an instant while other moments drug out for eons. It was difficult to tell how much time had passed except when someone new appeared at the doorway and offered their tale.
FoA 15. Gloin frowned as he looked at the door into Mahal's Wing. 253 years was a respectable age for a dwarf and the life he had left behind was full of honor and love. Still, he would rather face the aches and pains of old age with his wife at his side than pass quietly into the Halls while he napped. At least he would have news to share with the other members of the Company. And it would be good to see his brother again. With a new resolve Gloin walked through the door and greeted his kin.
"Brother!" Oin called from his place at the table. "I have saved you a seat. It has been far too many years."
"Forty-two in all and I have missed you for each of them," Gloin said, clasping his brother's shoulder and taking his seat. "Though, I'll admit that I didn't know how you had passed until my Gimli returned from his quest."
"The One Ring! Was it destroyed?" Nori asked.
"Aye, that it was. And only a handful of days after you fell." Gloin regarded the former thief sadly. "Your brother was beside himself. You fell in Dale and scant months later we learned the truth about Moria from the Book of Mazarbul."
"My journal survived?" Ori's eyes took on some of their former brightness. "Does that mean Moria is ours again?"
"Moria is still held by the goblins, but the One Ring is destroyed and the world is safe enough."
Thorin frowned. "Our people will one day take back what is rightfully ours, of that I have no doubt. Any news on the other members of our Company?"
"The remaining dwarrows are well enough." Gloin regarded Thorin silently for several minutes. "Bilbo sailed West into the Blessed Realm of Valinor some fifteen years past. I know not his fate."
Plates that never emptied. Cups that never ran dry. Music filtering quietly through the background noise. Time sailed on, twisting and turning about until days were indivisible from years. Lifetimes came and went and still the Company waited.
FoA 23. Bombur had left behind a dozen children and a loving wife when he entered the Halls. The wealth of Erebor had set him well and he grew to be quite respected and admired. He had also grown larger- needing six dwarrows to lift him to the table at supper time. Though many would say his heart had finally given out under the weight of his body, Bombur knew it had simply burst because it was so full of joy. He was sad to leave his family behind, but knew they would someday join him. In the meantime, he tottered through the door to reunite with his friends.
"Bombur! You've grown even more round!" Bifur exclaimed with a chuckle.
"Cousin!" Bombur replied. "Death seems to have repaired your head!"
They laughed and Bombur joined the Company at their table, gladly accepting the plate that was thrown to him.
Another year past, lost amidst the feasting and drinking and storytelling. If there was happiness to be found after death, it was found here.
FoA 24. Dori neither remembered nor rightly cared precisely how he had died. He spared one brief moment to get his bearings in the antechamber before rushing through the door, looking for the brothers he knew would be waiting there.
"Ori! Nori!" Propriety be damned, Dori ignored the rest of the Company and threw himself at his brothers. "Mahal help me, I've missed you two!"
"It's about time, Dori!" Nori said, shooting his brother a switchblade grin.
"Hush and let me look at you. It's been far too long." He smoothed a hand over Nori's trademark hair before turning to the youngest brother. "Oh, Ori. I'm so terribly sorry!"
"Sorry? For what?" The scribe asked curiously.
"For letting you go to Moria. For not going with you. For not knowing..." Dori broke off with a loud sob. "Over thirty years with no news, but I never stopped hoping. Then Gimli came home with your book..."
"It's all right, Dori. We're together again." Ori smiled gently. "And I'm glad you didn't come with me. It would have been so much worse if I had to watch you fall before..."
Nori cut in, "None of that matters now. This should be a happy reunion."
Dori nodded and wiped his eyes. "You're right. And it will be."
Time passed, as time does, in years and breathes and memories. Family members came and went, sharing stories and fond reflections and asking after loved ones still breathing. Sometimes a member of the Company would leave to reconnect with other kin, but they always came back. The Company was bound together by the common threads of their quest, and that fellowship extended long after death.
FoA 26. Bofur was very confused to find himself in the antechamber of the Halls of Waiting. One minute he had been crushing the skull of an orc during a night raid, the next here he was. Bofur reached a hand to his head and grumbled over his missing hat. He'd had to replace the blasted thing several times over his long life and wasn't keen to loose it. Without the hat his head felt lighter- his hair had long since turned silver and thinned slightly at the crown. Bofur didn't need to look at his reflection in the marble columns to know his face was creased with age lines and scars. Cracking the door he heard the raucous sounds of laughter and his the voices of his friends.
"I see you lads have started the party without me." He teased, sprawling into a seat.
"Bofur!" Came the resounding cheer from the table.
"A warm hearth, good company, and endless feasting?" Bofur grinned, the lines around his eyes crinkling deeply. "Had I know what was waiting I would have come sooner!"
The Company's table changed subtlety over time, shifting to accommodate everyone. If anyone had bothered to look at it with a discernible eye, they would have realized the similarities it bore to another table they once feasted together at. A table in a hobbit hole over 170 years before, when they were younger and filled with hope.
FoA 91. Dwalin stood outside of Mahal's Wing and refused to open the door. He had outlived everyone- his friends, his brother, his kin. 340 years was remarkable for a dwarf, but Dwalin considered it a curse. He had failed to protect Thorin on their quest- failed to defend the king and his heirs. For 171 years Dwalin had carried that guilt. When Balin and the others had left for Moria, he stayed behind to protect the kingdom that Thorin had worked so hard to reclaim. Balin had not returned and Dwalin carried that guilt for 118 years. He had never married, never moved away from the mountain. He had fought every chance he got- volunteering for battles and patrols with the hope that Mahal would finally grant him peace. Instead, Dwalin had lived with his guilt for 65 years after the last of his friends passed into the Halls. When death had finally come for him, Dwalin was ready. But now, even death felt like a punishment. There was honor to be had dying in battle, but none for a warrior who aged and aged and slipped silently away in the night. On the other side of the door was his friends, his family, his king. But Dwalin didn't deserve to open it. Why had he lived so many years while others had died much too soon? This must be his final punishment- to face his friends and accept his fault. Squaring his shoulders, Dwalin pushed open the door.
"Dwalin." The voice was Thorin's and it was followed by complete silence.
The warrior stared at his king, who looked so young and unchanged. Dwalin knew he himself must be almost unrecognizable. Time had taken the rest of his hair and whitened his beard. Tattoos now crisscrossed his entire body, telling the deeds of each of his friends, as well as his own failings.
"Aren't you going to join us, brother?" Balin asked, breaking Dwalin from his thoughts.
"I..." He frowned. "I failed so many times, is it my punishment to be offered a place that I don't deserve?"
"Failed?" Balin raised a brow. "What did you fail at?"
"Protecting you. Protecting Thorin. The boys."
Thorin stood and walked to Dwalin's side. "You did everything you could. You've always been the fiercest and most loyal among us."
"But I lived while you did not."
"There is no shame in living, my friend." Thorin clasped Dwalin's arm. "Now come, join us. I'm sure you have stories to share."
Dwalin moved hesitantly to the table and took his place at Thorin's side. "What stories would you have me tell?"
"All of them," Thorin said with a laugh. "We are all together now and have nothing but time."
So, Dwalin told them everything and slowly his guilt gave way to peace.
Finally, after 171 years, the Company was reassembled. All except one.
"I miss our burglar." Kíli rubbed a hand over his chin. He hadn't lived long enough to grow a proper beard, a fact that vexed him even in death.
"I'm sure he's long dead by now," Bofur pointed out. "Any idea where hobbits end up?"
Balin frowned. "Not with us, certainly, and I'm fairly sure it's not with the elves either."
"It seems they are probably waiting with the spirits of man," Gloin concurred.
"Can we go see him?" Kíli asked hopefully.
Nori snorted. "I don't think that's how it works."
"Has anyone tried?" Fíli nudged his brother with a smirk.
"Not so far as I know," Balin said. "But there are few dwarrows who had kin outside our race."
Thorin stood up decisively. "Perhaps we should take on one final adventure- to find our hobbit."
"Do you think we can?" Kíli's smile was wide and hopeful.
"We're already dead, what is the worst that can happen?" Thorin shrugged. "We won't know until we try."
"Then we're with you, lad," Balin said, echoing a long-ago sentiment.
If ever anyone had tried to exit the Halls of Waiting before, their story was never told. And in truth, most of the dwarrows in the Company expected their plan not to work at all. But when Thorin reached for the handle, the door pulled open easily and they walked unhindered into the antechamber. It was a tight fit for all thirteen dwarrows in the tiny room, but they made do.
"So, Bilbo should be in the center room, with the men," Bofur muttered, half to himself.
"And what do we do if there are guards?" Dori questioned. "We've no weapons."
Nori rolled his eyes. "It's not like they can hurt us."
"There is no way of knowing what lays beyond the door," Thorin said. "We press on and keep together."
"Business as usual then." Dwalin smirked and shoved the center door open.
The Chamber of Waiting for men and hobbits was sterile and sparse. Where Mahal's Wing was furnished with feasting tables and roaring fires and laughter, this room had only row upon row of marble benches. On the benches sat the men and hobbits of Arda, staring silently into the never-ending distance as they contemplated their lives. On either side of the door stood guards holding ceremonial spears and wearing full ethereal armor. Walking amongst the rows of benches were dozens of celestial hosts, each carrying a large book of deeds.
"Well, this is peaceful..." Bifur commented dryly.
"Peaceful?" Kíli scoffed. "It's horrible here. Let's find Bilbo so we can leave."
Thorin stepped into the room and began to make his way towards the rows of benches, searching for their missing burglar. As the other dwarrows moved to follow their leader, the guards raised their spears and blocked the way. Thorin stopped and made to turn back towards his friends.
"Keep going, lad," Balin urged. "Go find him and bring him home."
The King Under the Mountain nodded and look a deep breath.
There was no telling how long Thorin walked. Days, years, decades. Time raced around him, pulling him forward and pushing him backward with no rhyme or reason. Whether Thorin looked into ten faces or ten thousand he could not say, but after a time he found the one face he was searching for. It was older, craggy and wrinkled by the hands of time, but he would recognize the piercing eyes anywhere.
"Bilbo." The name echoed too-loudly in the silence of the chamber.
"Thorin?" The hobbit blinked slowly, as if coming out of a dream. "Is it really you?"
"It is." Thorin smiled. "Our Company is whole again, save for our burglar."
"You and the boys died." Bilbo ran a hand through his white curls in distress. "I kept living, but I was so old, Thorin, and my magic ring caused so much trouble..."
"It's all right, my friend. All is well now." Thorin placed a comforting hand on the hobbit's shoulder.
Bilbo sighed. "I always thought eternity would be an endless adventure, but I was wrong. It's nothing but sitting and waiting and I am so very tired. I'd give anything to be back at my table in Bag End."
"Mahal's Wing is very different from this. Our Company has a table with endless food and drink, where we share stories and camaraderie."
"Oh, I do wish my own fate was so pleasant." Bilbo smiled sadly. "I miss my friends. I miss you."
"It may not be Bag End, but you are welcome to a place at our table," Thorin stated. "You will always be part of our Company."
Bilbo's smile turned bright. "And am I able to join you? We're different races, is there a way?"
"We are dwarrows, Master Baggins. Where there is no way, we make our own."
Thorin reached down and lifted Bilbo into his arms. No one stopped him as he carried the hobbit past the hosts and guards, into the wing of Mahal the Maker.
"This is our hobbit. He belongs with us."
Not even the gods could find reason to disagree.
A/N: I took a LOT of creative liberties here. We don't really know what the Halls of Mandos are like, but we do know that elves, men, and dwarves are kept separately. There is a school of thought that hobbits are in the dwarf wing- I'm obviously ignoring that (and a lot of other theories for that matter). It's fairly safe to assume that the spirits in the halls have no actual bodies... but that makes for a boring story, so here we are. Please feel free to debate dwarven afterlife with me- I totally geek out on this stuff.
Fíli, Kíli, Thorin, Balin, and Oin are totally cannon- dates, ages, means of deaths. Ori's year and death are cannon. Dwalin and Gloin have cannon years and ages. Everything else is my educated guesses, based off of lore and whatnot, but still mainly fiction.