“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
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
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.
“We drove the orcs out from the great gate and guard room—we slew many in the bright sun in the dale.”
November 3, 2989, the Third Age
Azanulbizar, the Dimrill Dale
The clashing of weapons echoed off the rocky slopes of the Dimrill Dale as the vanguard of the dwarf-host advanced towards the great gates of Moria. Balin, Ori, Óin, Burin, and twoscore of their finest warriors were forging a path towards the gates, while the rest guarded the supply wagons. Frár, Flói, Lóni, and Náli flanked their leaders, shields held high as they strove to gain the higher ground held by the orc archers. An arrow whizzed by Burin’s helmet, so close that his beard fluttered in the breeze created by it. He hefted his shield higher and was rewarded for his vigilance as an arrow pinged off of it. Although they were under heavy fire, none of the dwarf warriors had fallen yet.
Harsh yells from the gateway heralded the arrival of the goblin foot soldiers. Wielding everything from jagged scimitars to spikes of rock, they threw themselves at the dwarves in mindless frenzy. However, their fragile wooden shields and poor weapons were no match for the dwarves’ armor and axes. An enemy spear shattered on Burin’s breastplate as he hacked down at one of the goblins, decapitating the creature easily. More arrows fell among them, but only the goblins swarming over them were hit. Hearing the cries of onset from behind him, Burin knew that the majority of the goblin swordsmen had bypassed Balin’s guard and engaged the Dwarven lines behind them.
“They’re surrounding us!” bellowed Balin, chopping through a spear shaft and slashing its wielder in half with a mighty blow of his massive axe. “Circle up, dwarves!” His guards rushed to obey, hacking through goblins as they rushed to defensive positions. Although most had taken wounds, none were dead yet.
The clouds that had formerly been covering the sky began, slowly, to part. The sun-fearing goblins cringed away from the light, letting down their guard long enough for the dwarves to begin cutting their way further towards the gate. A company of the warriors of the Grey Mountains under the command of Lord Grór charged through the goblin ranks, forming a wedge formation behind Balin’s guard. Like a shining arrowhead, they cut a wide swath through the goblin ranks, presenting a solid wall of shields to the front.
A loud drumming issued from the gate of Moria, and the goblins suddenly rallied. Balin’s forces found themselves being pushed back as a group of heavily armored orcs poured out of the gate. Their leader, an orc over a head taller than the rest, brandished a huge spear and shield, urging his troops forward at the Dwarven lines. Several of Grór’s troops fell to the bodyguards, creating several gaps in the shield-wall. More arrows hissed in, taking advantage of the holes, and more dwarves fell.
“We need to reach their captain!” bellowed Frár, engaging one of the bodyguards. The orc attempted to use its superior height to gain the upper hand, aiming a powerful downward stroke at the dwarf with his steel scimitar. Frár raised his shield, deflecting the blow, and slashed at the orc’s shins with his short sword. It fell, howling, and Náli finished it off with a quick stab.
“If we can slay him, the others will lose hope,” Flói shouted. He swung his axe mightily, caving in the breastplate of the orc before him. The force of the blow crushed the orc’s lungs, and it fell dead without a sound.
Although Balin’s guard was holding their own, Grór’s troops were beginning to waver. They were tiring quickly, and their swords were unable to pierce the thick armor of the captain’s bodyguard. As more of them fell, their courage wavered. Balin cursed as the right flank crumbled.
“To me!” Balin bellowed, echoing the words of Thorin at the Battle of Five Armies. “To me, o my kinsfolk!”
“Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!” With fearsome war-cries, Lord Farin and the dwarves of the Iron Hills waded in, their heavy mattocks rising and falling. The sharp picks easily punctured the crude orc armor, sending the captain’s bodyguard streaming back up towards the stairs. The captain howled in frustration and, gathering what remained of his guards around him, attacked. The archers on the heights loosed a redoubled volley of arrows, striking and wounding many of the dwarf warriors.
Balin saw the captain’s force approaching and shouted to his warriors. “Now, dwarves! We shall not cease this fight until they have been driven from the halls of our ancestors. Strike, now!” With a roar of onset, the two forces met. Despite the strength and experience of the orcs, Balin’s guard had the mastery. Burin saw Lóni swing his axe, slaying two with one blow of the massive blade. Náli blocked a pair of blades on his tower shield and stabbed an orc in the throat. Frár and Flói fought side-by-side like demons, consumed by wrath.
In the midst of the chaotic defeat of his guards, the goblin captain charged. His spear glimmered in the sunlight as it sought a gap in Balin’s guard. The old dwarf sidestepped a thrust and swung his axe, but the orc ducked under the blow and stabbed again. Although the blow glanced off of his armor, Balin was knocked off balance and fell. The orc raised its spear for a killing blow, bloodlust in its eyes. Flói, seeing his leader’s peril, knocked the blow aside with his shield and bulled into the orc, knocking it backwards. With a blinding flurry of blows, Flói hacked the spear in half and sliced deeply into the orc’s arm. His axe lodged in the orc’s armor and, unable to use it anymore, the doughty dwarf drew his shortsword and hurled himself at the captain. The confident sneer vanished from the captain’s face as he realized he was outmatched. His will finally broke, and he fled. But Flói was quicker: crossing the space between them with a single leap, he drove his sword down between the orc’s shoulder blades. Seeing the death of their captain, the orcs fled.
Flói brandished his crimsoned sword in triumph, shouting “Victory!” in a great voice. He turned to Balin’s guard, beckoning eagerly with his free hand. “Charge!” he yelled, caught up in the spirit of war. He was practically laughing with exhilaration as he turned to pursue the retreating orcs.
But as he led the dwarves in a headlong rush, there were some orcs that held firm. An orc archer, among his company high on the mountainside, loosed an arrow. It was aimed with skill, or guided by fate; for as Flói dashed forward it struck him in the throat. He fell with a strangled cry as the other dwarves, heedless of his fall, pursued the routing goblins through the very gates of Moria.
Burin heard Frár’s anguished cry and saw the dwarf’s son in a bloody heap upon the threshold of the mines. He halted alongside the inconsolable warrior, listening to the sob in Frár’s voice as he spoke.
“It was always his dream to enter Moria… to perish steps away from achieving this was cruel indeed. Ah, my son… my son…” Weeping, Frár bent over the body of his only child, lamenting the cruel fate that had torn his very heart away.
“Flói was killed by an arrow. He slew the great orc chieftain. We buried Flói under the grass near Kheled-zâram, the Mirror-mere.”
I bet you know how this is going to end, too...
Edited by ithilienranger732, 27 May 2009 - 12:50 AM.