The Fallen Colony

“It is now many years ago,” said Glóin, “that a shadow of disquiet fell upon our people. Whence it came we did not first perceive. Words began to be whispered in secret: it was said that we were hemmed in a narrow place, and that greater wealth and splendour would be found in a wider world. Some spoke of Moria: the mighty works of our fathers that are called in our own tongue Khazad-dûm, and they declared that now at last we had the power and numbers to return…”

March 19, 2989, the Third Age
Erebor, the Lonely Mountain

The air of Erebor was pervaded with disquieted energy. The nervousness in the air was almost tangible, and clusters of dwarves could be seen at every bend of the tunnels, whispering together.

The dwarf captain Burin stumped by a cluster of the younger dwarves, scowling at them through his thick black beard. The whispers of malcontent had been going on for weeks, and he was beginning to wonder if there was more to them than hot air. At first he had dismissed them as the grumblings of foolish young ones, but as they continued, even some of the older dwarves began to notice the truth in them. Erebor is not the greatest of our lands, said the whisperers. Have you forgotten the great mansions of Khazad-dûm, the Dwarrowdelf of our forefathers?

Turning another corner, he was bowled over by a dwarf hurrying by. The grey-bearded fellow stopped to apologize and help him up, and Burin realized that it was Óin. “Where are you headed?” he asked, brushing his tunic off.

“I’m meeting with a few of the older dwarves,” said Óin in reply. “We need to take counsel about–”

Burin groaned. “Don’t tell me that you’ve been taken in by all of this whispering. It’s doing nothing for us but making us want to believe the impossible.” He turned to go.

“It is possible,” said Óin, causing Burin to stop in his tracks.

“What did you say?”

“It is possible,” repeated Óin. “The Battle of Five Armies caused our kindred to join together in one place, and now we are a mighty army. If we were to attempt to retake Moria, I know that we could!”

Burin was amazed at the older dwarf’s fervor. “Do you mind if I come? I would like to know more about this idea you have.”

“Of course,” said Óin. “Come along, then.”

His mind in a whirl of possibilities, Burin followed Óin down the hallway. Óin took several turns through the twisting passages of Erebor, finally halting in front of an ornate door. Knocking thrice, he pushed it open and walked in.

Balin stood at the head of a huge table. Around it sat almost fifty dwarves, among them almost every one of Dáin’s advisors. As the pair walked in, he looked up. “Óin! You’re late.” His smile could clearly be seen through his white beard.

“Apologies,” replied Óin, returning the smile. “I’ve been recruiting.” Balin chuckled and motioned for the newest arrivals to take their seats.

Burin sat down alongside Frerin, his direct superior in the Mountain Guard and a veteran of the fearful battle of Azanulbizar. To his left were Flói and Frár. Frár was an experienced warrior from the Iron Hills, who had fought in Dáin’s guard during the Battle of Five Armies. Flói was his son, one of the younger, more impetuous dwarves. He had been one of the first to suggest the expedition to Moria, and had been training endlessly for the past twelve years in the hopes that he could lead the vanguard of the Dwarven army.

To Frerin’s left were Lóni and Náli, two of Flói’s closest friends. Both of them were formidable fighters, but were very different in their combat. Lóni fought like a berserker, recklessly throwing himself into any fray with no thought to defense. His massive battle-axe had been the end of many an orc. Náli, on the other hand, was a cautious fighter. Rather than the hand-axes preferred by most dwarves, he wielded a sword and a tower shield. He complemented Lóni perfectly; cautious enough to defend his companion’s back against the enemy but fierce enough to hold his own.

Dáin himself was at the head of the table, flanked by the companions of Thorin. All save Bombur (who was at feast) were present, and listening intently to Balin. Dori and Nori were arguing quietly with one another, waving their arms in irritation. Ori’s entire attention was fixed on Balin, but Balin’s brother Dwalin was shaking his head disapprovingly. Bifur and Bofur seemed to share his opinion.

Balin resumed his speech as the pair assumed their seats. “Since the Battle of Five Armies, the goblins have been rebuilding their strength. Fortunately for us, they have not yet regained their former power. Two parts of the goblin warriors of the North perished on that day, and the time of their recovery is the time to strike!” He pounded a mailed fist on the table for emphasis.

“Your plan seems to have little to do with military strategy, and more with personal pride, Lord Balin,” said Nori, irritated. “How does Erebor benefit from regaining an old fortress long devoid of riches?”

“Bringing Moria back under our rule will inspire every kindred of dwarves!” said Balin heatedly. “Give them a cause to rally to, and all of dwarf-kind will form a mighty army to retake our ancestral home. The time is ripe.”

“We do not have the power to retake those halls,” said Dáin in a final tone of voice. “A shadow still stalks these halls. You forget that I too fought in Azanulbizar, where my father fell to Azog’s blade. I slew the goblin in the very gateway of Moria. Yet when I came down from the Gate, I was as one that has witnessed great fear. Only I have looked through the shadow of the Gate. Beyond the shadow it waits for us still: Durin’s Bane. The world must change and some other power than ours must come before Durin’s folk walk again in Moria.”

“Do you not see?” asked Balin vehemently. “We are the power that must change the fate of Moria. We now have the strength to retake it.”

“If the entire army of the Seven Kindreds could not defeat the shadow there, why do you believe we can?” asked Frerin. “There is nothing for us there, save death.” Burin felt a dull anger towards the captain: although he was pragmatic, he had no concept whatsoever of hope.

“This council is adjourned,” said Dáin finally, avoiding meeting Balin’s incensed glance. He rose and made as if to go.

“My King,” said Balin. Dáin turned reluctantly. “My King,” he repeated, “no matter how many times you refuse to grant us leave to go, we will depart nonetheless.

Dáin glared at him fiercely. “Is this truly necessary, old friend?”

Balin nodded, and the King Under the Mountain sighed. “Very well. I do not give leave willingly, but you are free to depart nonetheless.”

Balin bowed respectfully. “I thank you, sire. When next you see me, I shall be the Lord of Moria,” he proclaimed boldly. He beckoned to Ori and Óin. “Come; we must gather our people together and prepare for the journey ahead.” He swept out the door, leaving the rest of the council muttering behind him.

“Will you join us, Burin?” asked Óin as the pair went into the hallway. Burin thought for a moment. Since he had heard of the great mines, he had always wished to see them, and restore them to their former glory.

“Yes,” he said at last. “I shall.”

“At last, however, Balin listened to the whispers, and resolved to go; and though Dáin did not give leave willingly, he took with him Ori and Óin and many of our folk, and they went away south…”

April 12, 2989, the Third Age
Erebor, the Lonely Mountain

It was late afternoon when the great front gates of Erebor creaked ponderously open. Burin blinked owlishly in the sudden sunlight as he waved the supply wagons onward. It had taken almost a month for Balin’s group to prepare for their journey, and the logistics required to support such a huge group were massively important. Over a thousand Dwarves of Erebor had rallied to Balin’s cause once he made his intentions publicly known, and several hundred more had filtered in from the Iron Hills and Grey Mountains over the course of the month. As a high-ranking military officer, Burin was put in charge of seeing them well-armed. The blacksmiths worked tirelessly day and night, forging mail of steel rings and draining the old stores of weapons and armor.

At the head of the procession, Balin looked magnificent in black-and-gold galvorn plate armor, and his shield, bearing the war axe coat of arms of the Moria liberation force, glittered in the sun. Behind him marched column after column of dwarf warriors, wearing chainmail and steel caps under leather surcoats. Each had a shield slung across his back and a sword at his side, and all carried either axes or the two-handed mattocks favored by the dwarves of the Iron Hills. Even further back were the great supply wains, bearing everything from raw metals, mining equipment, mason’s tools, and mortars to bread, flour, and dried meats.

Dáin stood impassively at the gate, watching the group leave. Beside him, Dwalin looked out disapprovingly. Ori was arguing vehemently with his brothers, gesturing out towards the army. After a moment Nori threw up his hands in disgust and stomped back inside. Dori shrugged apologetically before following him.

Burin heard the tramp of heavy boots behind him and saw Frerin watching him. “Well, I’m not surprised,” remarked the guard captain. “I knew there was more ahead of you than patrolling the hallways.”

Despite his dislike for the other dwarf, Burin felt reluctant to leave him. “Will you aid us in retaking Moria?” he appealed. Frerin shook his head.

“I’m too old for such nonsense. You’ll only get yourselves killed.” He returned to the shadow of the gates and, reluctantly, Burin turned his back on the mountain he had called home. New horizons awaited him.

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