Disclaimer: I don't own anything - Tolkien gets all the credit.

A/N: I'm glad you all like the story's progression – Here's another chapter for you :) I've "fast forwarded" time since the last chapter, so I hope no one gets lost! As always, please review!


Chapter Fifteen

With Spring fast approaching, the campaign for lordship seemed assured. Following the debacle at Thorin's memorial feast, Dwalin became known as Thorin's Champion – a title he bore with pride. The merchant class that had seemed so unwilling at first to welcome him now viewed him with reluctant admiration – Honor was, after all, a dearly valued aspect of dwarven life. By contrast, Gormr's outburst reflected very poorly on the Dourhand.

The many Longbeards about to partake in the long trek to Erebor were busy preparing for their journey as Dwalin tried desperately to retain as many warriors as he could. It would be difficult to defend a city with only clothiers and toymakers. As it stood, only a quarter of the experienced defenders currently guarding the gates would remain.

"This is a disaster," Dwalin muttered with distain as he considered the immediate future.

"There are young ones eager to prove their worth. We should begin training them immediately." Vim and Dwalin sat in the main council chambers of the uzbads, a list of those leaving Ered Luin spread out on the table before them. "I'm sad to see Gimli go. He shows a great deal of promise."

Dwalin nodded with a small smile – Gloin's son was still young, but his ferocity on the training grounds was impressive. "Aye, but there are others. We'll need to turn this lot of tinkers into soldiers if we're to maintain the city."

With five entrances and a maze of smaller access and mine tunnels, Thorin's Halls require dozens of warriors every minute of every day to maintain a secured perimeter – within a few days, only a few dozen would remain at all.

"I'll set up a training schedule with Pin and see how many merchant's sons we can turn into warriors. We'll see it done, Dwalin."

Dwalin rubbed his hands roughly over his face and nodded again. It was times like this that he felt his age weighing upon him. If he had been presented with this challenge fifty years ago, perhaps he'd have felt less weary. Now, however, age and a mix of responsibilities unfamiliar to him felt overwhelming at best – insurmountable at worst.

Placing his large fists back on the table, Dwalin saw a diagram peeking out from below the lists of names – the plans for the expansion of his chambers in the upper hall. Creating a more suitable home for Posey had been delayed time and time again by the needs of the city. His wife didn't mind, he knew, but if his suspicions were right the chambers need to be finished before the end of summer. "I've other matters to attend to now. Report to me once ye've got a plan for the training."

Dwalin had assumed that Vim would leave him, but when his shield-brother failed to move, Dwalin noticed that Vim had a wide smile on his face. "Are ye finally going to tend to the matters of ye're home, then?"

Dwalin frowned. "What do ye mean by that?"

"Ye've put ye'r family in the background for weeks now. I'd wondered when ye'd realize it."

"Background?" Frown worsening, Dwalin thought to the look on his wife's face as he'd left their chambers earlier that morning. She'd been feeling ill and had remained in her chambers rather than meet with the other ladies over the past few days… Feeling certain over the cause of the illness, Dwalin had thought little more of it – In hindsight, however… "I'll retire for the evening," Dwalin said abruptly, taking the plans for their chambers and walking swiftly from the room.


Horrid. That summed up the feeling Posey had born over the past week. At first, she'd hidden it. Then, after days and days of feeling as though her elevensies were about to rejoin to the world, she'd simply grown tired of it. Sifna had told her that a healer's opinion might be necessary – But Posey was half a Took, and Took's didn't let a little cold get the better of them… she'd feel better in a few days – Right?

"Ugh." Head slamming back into the pillow behind her, Posey tried to find a more comfortable position on the bed. Sitting, laying down, standing… nothing brought her any relief. The dwarves journeying to Erebor, including her now dear friend Sifna, would be leaving within a week – this bout of illness couldn't have been more inconvenient.

As the slow minutes ticked by, Posey idly weaved a bit of silver wire in her hands, her eyes locked on the flames in the small hearth. Life was about to change – in more ways than one. With half of the mountain leaving, the city would seem empty – Dwalin assured her that Dwarves from neighboring regions would desire the protection that the hall offered - after a few years, their numbers would recover… but Posey could sense that Dwalin had worries that he didn't share with her.

But, to Posey, the greater change would be that of her husband. The stress of lordship was already taking a toll on him, even though the title had yet to be officially given. Once he was was officially lord, what then? Oh dear. He'd never admit weakness – she'd have to keep a close eye on him.

As if summoned by her very thoughts, her husband's large form came thundering into their chambers with the loud crack of the door slamming against the wall. Screeching in surprise, Posey lifted her head and glared as he continued toward her, "Dwalin! You're insistence on scaring me to death has got to stop!"

"I've not thrown ye to the wayside, taerin."

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Ye'r not in the background."

"What?"

"Are ye not listening to me?"

Posey shook her head in confusion. "I'm completely lost."

"Aye, I'd say ye were. Should I start over?"

Almost with a laugh, Posey struggled to sit up as Dwalin reached the bedside next to her. "Yes, I think starting over might help a great deal. What are you talking about? The wayside?"

Instead of answering, Dwalin pulled a folded bit of parchment from his belt and handed it to her. "Open it," he demanded

Glancing at her husband with a frown, Posey quickly unfolded the parchment and saw what looked to be a small map – it reminded her of the blueprint of Bag End that she and Bilbo had hanging in the hall by the sitting room. Several square and octagonal shapes were connected around a circular space, small lines and Khuzdûl writing littered throughout. "Is this what I think it is?"

"It's the plans for our new home. Gartul tells me that he'll get started on the excavations in a fortnight." Gartul, one the architects that had worked with Thorin on the restoration of the upper halls in decades past, was renowned for his knowledge of rock density and structural design… at least, that's what Posey thought – one couldn't be sure for a complete understanding when half of the words spoken around you are in a language you don't understand.

Dwalin pointed out the kitchens, bedchambers, bathing areas, and even a small sitting room that he'd designed for her particular use. "Ye'll be able to read and do ye'r wire weaving in there. Gartul is adding gold beams in the ceiling to make candlelight reflect more like sunlight."

You thoughtful brute. Posey's eyes watered quite suddenly – Dwalin had mentioned that he'd looked into expanding his chambers but she'd had no idea that he'd made so much progress. The idea that he'd thought enough of her to design a special room just for her? "Oh, dear. I'm going to cry."

"Ye already are."

Crying and laughing at the same time, Posey threw herself gracelessly toward her husband, hugging him around his broad shoulders and shoving her face in the bristly hair of his bread. "It's wonderful!" Though her voice was distorted, Dwalin's returning embrace told her that she'd been heard. "This was just what I needed! I've been feeling so sick today."

"Still?"

"I didn't even have afternoon tea I've felt so ill. I thought it was a cold at first, but now I'm wondering if perhaps the meat we ate for dinner wasn't cooked all the way through." Not seeing the smile growing on Dwalin's face for her position at his neck, Posey continued, "Are you feeling alright? Well, I suppose dwarven stomachs are heartier than hobbits... Oh dear, I must be ill – I'm talking about stomachs!"

"Ye don't think there's any other reason ye could be ill?"

"I've thought and thought about it and nothing comes to mind. Do you think it's from lack of sunlight? It occurred to me yesterday that I haven't been outside in almost two weeks."

"Ye're sure ye can't think of anything else?"

Posey grimaced and looked up into Dwalin's face. "Why? Has anyone come down with something? You dwarves don't have obscure mountain illnesses, do you?"

"Taerin, sometimes I forgot how naïve ye are."

"Pardon me?" Indignantly, Posey drew away from him, crossing her arms over her chest. "Then tell, oh experienced one! Why am I ill?"

"How long have ye been in the mountain, or azgal?"

Posey didn't appreciate his tone. "Almost three months. What does that have to do with anything?"

Dwalin chuckled and pulled her back to him, smoothing down her bed-rumpled hair, "Calm yerself, taerin, and let me make my point." Giving him what she thought to be her most vicious glare, Posey motioned for him to carry on. "Ye've been in Ered Luin for three months. Ye've been my true wife for three months." He was speaking slowly, allowing Posey to nod with each proclamation. "But there's one thing that ye haven't done in three months that ye should have – three times. Do ye know what that is?"

"This isn't a riddle, is it? Bilbo was always better at those than me."

"It's no riddle. Just think about it."

Taking a deep breath, Posey thought back to the past three months – three amazing and wonderful months – trying to see what it was that she hadn't done. "So I'm to have done this thing each month?"

"Aye."

"This is ridiculous! What am I supposed to do each month? You'll need to—" Posey's heart dropped. Was she truly that stupid? "Oh, dear."

"Have ye figured it out?"

Her breathing was heavy, her heart racing – Was she really, truly, that oblivious? "Do you think it's really possible?"

"Given that ye've developed a rather keen attraction to me and act on it quite regularly, I'd say so." Smug, insufferable ass.

He was laughing, putting his hands around her face and drawing her up to put his large forehead against her much smaller one. "We're having a wee bairn, lass."

Posey couldn't help herself - "A wee bairn? You sound like my grandmother."

"Taerin, don't forget I'm probably as old as ye'r grandmother."

"So I'm married to an old man? Will you become feeble and senile soon?"

"Feeble? I'll show you feeble!" Knocking her backward onto the bed, Dwalin kissed away any reply she might have had - Neither ventured out of their bedchamber for some time after that.


Walking along the main hall, saying farewell to many dear friends, Dwalin couldn't help but feel like this was a new beginning – For him, for Posey, for Ered Luin. Hundreds of Longbeards were making their way in a slow procession down the mountain, heading to the Great East Road where they would begin the first part of the journey to Erebor.

From his position, Dwalin could see Dis and Posey wishing farewell to others just inside the main gate – A great victory had been achieved when Dis had openly proclaimed her intentions to remain in Ered Luin. Dozen warriors who had guarded the royal family changed their plans and opted to remain close to the princess who they'd protected for almost 200 years.

Even with these new additions, though, Dwalin would be hard pressed to maintain watch rotations. Already they would be at less than half of what had been the 'minimal' guard at the main gate, and even less in the seldom used mine tunnels and access vents. This had, of course, been rubbed in his face on a number of occasions from those still loyal to Gormr – the coward still proclaimed that he would be the better leader, though his supporters were becoming harder and harder to find.

Presently, Dwalin couldn't see Gormr standing with the remaining uzbads as they watched the departing dwarves. In fact, he hadn't seen the Dourhand for several days. Gormr's disappearing acts were more and more common now – Though Vim had yet to establish the reason behind the disappearances, Dwalin had insisted that they remain on their guard where Gormr was concerned.

Shaking the thoughts off, Dwalin walked slowly across the hall to join his wife and the princess. It would take all day for the hall to clear of travelers and they would remain the entire day, wishing each and every dwarf farewell. Dwalin thought back to his own journey to Erebor – a quest that not many had supported – but one which offered all of these dwarves a chance to return to their homeland.

For Dwalin, though, the quest of Erebor and the company of Thorin Oakenshield held a much dearer meaning now. Yes, it was the final journey with his king – But it had also brought him to his wife. With a child almost certain in their future, Dwalin could never regret the past. Not even the loss of his closest friend. The days ahead were certain to be the greatest of his life.

… He had never been so wrong.


Translations:

Uzbads: Lords

Khuzdûl: the Dwarven language

Or azgal: My treasure.

Taerin: My love

A/N: I've been drinking some champagne… so I hope you liked it and I didn't miss many type-o's! Lol! I personally hate cliffhangers, but I thought this one would be fun - Please review! I'd love to hear what you think might be coming! :)