Warnings: not exactly happy, but not as angsty as you'd think
Word Count: 1050
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit there would be even more minor characters.
Summary: These thirteen are the last and so the company of Thorin Oakenshield is going home to die.
Durin's Folk had never been numerous and their population dwindles quickly once the Lonely Mountain falls. Too many sons and daughters lose their lives to hardship; too many parents cannot keep their children fed.
Their leader does his best but Thorin Oakenshield cannot protect his people from the dangers of the world. He tries – Mahal knows he tries – but working his fingers to the bone barely slows the rising tide. Year after year more of his kinsfolk perish than are born to hopeful parents and even the dwarf lord's closest family is unable to escape ill luck and regicide.
Thorin is forced to raise his sister-sons after their mother falls to bandits and he watches their future perish with the last dwarrowdam. There will be no more children, no new generations to fill his empty mountain halls.
However, the dwarf lord does not allow himself to sink into despair. Thorin works even harder to keep his people fed and tries to show his sister-sons what it means to be khazâd. He teaches Fíli and Kíli the old traditions that his father taught before him and while he knows this fight is hopeless, Thorin can’t do otherwise. Doomed or not, Mahal’s children will hold their heads up high
The dwarf lord is almost two hundred when the wizard finds him. By then Thorin is weary in body and in spirit, more than ready to enter the long slow twilight of his years. The dwarrow’s exhaustion is the only thing that stops him from bursting into hysterical laughter when the wizard sits down at his table and urges him to take back Erebor.
This Gandalf wants Thorin Oakenshield to reclaim the Lonely Mountain – Thorin and what army? There are no dwarrows left.
But the wizard doesn't know that, the dwarf lord realizes as Gandalf’s lays out his crazy plan. He doesn't know that Khazad-dûm is dust and the last bastion in the Iron Hills was destroyed by goblins years ago. My people kept our secrets even as they fell.
Thorin should send the wizard away; he should tell Gandalf where to take his foolish hopes and empty promises. But the longer that the wizard talks, the more the dwarf lord misses home. If Thorin is to die, if Mahal's children are to disappear from Middle Earth, then he would like to see Azsâlul'abad once more. He wants to walk amongst the stones that he knew as a child; he wants to show his sister-sons their people's legacy. Fíli and Kíli should know that their ancestors built kingdoms to be proud of; kingdoms that will survive long after old age claims their lives.
So the dwarrow does not tell Gandalf that his mission is a pipe dream. He doesn't tell the wizard that his plan is doomed to fail. Instead, Thorin nods along like Gandalf isn’t crazy, though he scoffs aloud when the wizard offers to find a burglar.
“I don't need a thief,” the dwarf lord tells him. “If you wish to help my people, then find a storyteller. Find someone who is prepared to chronicle our journey and then return to tell his people what Durin's Folk have done. Give me that and I will give you all the dwarves of Erebor.”
With the wizard's promise given, Thorin leaves to find his kindred and ask them for their help. Although he could order the other dwarrows to come with him, his people are long past kings and princes. For there are only thirteen of Mahal's' children still amongst the living and he considers them his family whether linked by blood or not. They are linked by death and loneliness, by the warmth of huddled figures beneath Khagolabbad.
The Blue Mountains should have been a new start for Thorin’s people but all they hold is sorrow. Half-finished stonework speaks of loss and failure and even if he dies here, this will never be his home. Indeed, the dwarf lord's kin do not require any great deliberation after he lays out his proposal. They simply glance at each other for a moment before Balin speaks their choice.
“All right, Thorin. Let's go home.”
“Are you certain?” the dwarrow asks, looking at the youngest members of their company. Although Ori and his sister-sons may not have a future, they can still have full lives ahead of them if they are not slain too soon.
“If we go, we go together. We're with you to the end,” Fíli tells him plainly. Ori and Kíli chorus their agreement, the two most cheerful dwarves now deadly serious.
Every one of Thorin's kin is prepared to fight and die to see their leader’s dream fulfilled. Indeed, the dwarf lord knows that several of his companions would probably welcome death at this point. Balin is old and tired, Bifur far too lonely, and Glóin has never truly recovered from losing his wife and unborn child many years ago.
My sister-sons are right, Thorin thinks, looking at his companions. Best we live or die together before we go to Mahal's halls.
Being the last amongst thirteen is burden enough already. No one should have to bear the sorrow of being one alone. The dwarf lord loves his companions too much to see them bury friends and brothers and so he makes a solemn vow.
Whatever happens on this journey, he will not allow himself to falter while his kinsmen still draw breath. If any dwarrow must be the last of Mahal's' children, Thorin will take that load upon himself. He will bury his kinsmen amongst the rocks with honor before he lets his own sword fall.
The dwarf lord does not expect to win this. Facing off against a dragon is truly suicide. But it will also be a story to remember – a story to be passed down through generations if Gandalf keeps his promise – and that makes all the difference now. Durin's Folk have come to the end of their existence. Their only choice is whether to fade into oblivion or pass through the veil with honor and Thorin intends to die with glory in his heart. For as long as there are people who still remember Mahal's children, the dwarves of Azsâlul'abad will never truly die.