Birth of a Legend Part Three
Thrain watched as his sons prepared for battle. Thorin was braiding his hair and Thrain was reminded again how much he looked like his mother. The hair as inky black as the night sky and the intense, serious, cobalt coloured eyes were all gifts from her. His height was a mystery; he was tall for a dwarf – at least a head taller than most other dwarves As his hands pulled his hair into a single braid that hung to the centre of his back, Thrain realised for the first time how regal his son looked. There was something about the tilt of his head and the thrust of his chin and the intensity of his gaze that indicated that, young as he was, that this dwarf was enormously important. Fifty-three, is that all? Thrain thought. At times he seemed much older, so much more serious than his brother Frerin. If Thorin took after his mother then Frerin favoured his father’s side of the family. In fact, in this light, he was almost the image of his grandfather, Thror. Nowhere near as serious as his brother, he was one of the few people who could coax Thorin into a lighter mood.
Pride surged through him at the sight of them side by side, preparing for battle. They were testing the weight and balance of their weapon, thrusting and parrying at an imaginary foe, spinning and twirling with both axe and sword. He smiled softly. He envied their youth. They stood so confident and sure of their abilities, so agile and alert. Age had not stiffened their limbs or faded their eyesight.
“Father, are you alright?” Frerin asked, causing Thorin to stop swinging his axe.
“Yes, just reminding myself how blessed I am to have two sons who will once more walk into battle beside me. Come here, both of you. I wish to speak with you before we enter Azanulbizar.”
The two brothers looked at each other, puzzled by the father’s behaviour.
“As the years advance, I’m constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have you both and, of course, your sister Dis. If anything should happen to me in battle, I know that I would leave our people in your safe hands, Thorin, and that you will have a trusted friend in Frerin to offer wise council in times of unrest.”
“Sire, nothing will happen to you. You are a fine warrior,” Thorin said quietly.
“Ah, my son, thank you for your words, but I envy you and your brother your youth and vitality. When a dwarf reaches my age he has to accept that his joints are more stiffened, his movement less agile and his sight less keen. It is a puzzlement why the enemy never seems to age in the same way.” The old dwarf smiled wryly.
“The battle we are about to fight will bring to an end my quest to avenge my father’s death. If I should die this day, Thorin, I charge you to complete the other quest I swore to undertake – leading our people back to the Misty Mountains – home.”
“You’ll be doing that…”
“Your word, Thorin, I need your word that you will carry out my wish… no matter what,” Thrain interrupted his son.
“I promise, Sire,” Thorin said, kneeling before his father.
Thrain reached over and took his son’s hands in his, examining them closely.
“So strong,” he murmured. “And you will be a strong leader. Of that I have no doubt.”
“Thank you, father.”
“And beloved Frerin, swear you will remain at you brother’s side when he returns as King Under the Mountain, which one day he surely will.”
“Of course, father. Somebody has to keep him out of trouble.”
Thorin smiled at his brother.
“By your leave, father, I think I should walk amongst our company of men this evening. They are apprehensive tonight; my presence may ease some of the tension,” Thorin said.
“Not only strong but wise as well. Of course you have my permission to walk among the men,” Thrain replied.
The weather was grim. A bitterly cold wind swept down the valley, slicing through the men who sat huddled around small, meagre campfires, their hands wrapped around broth-filled beakers in an attempt to warm them. The rain, that had fallen all the previous day, continued unabated, soaking the clothing and freezing the body down to the bones.
Thorin wandered from campfire to campfire, glad of his fur- lined cloak and sturdy boots. It was a relief to hear only a few grumbles. He’d feared that this was going to be one battle too many for the loyal dwarves. All the previous battles had been fought in the mines and caves under the hills, places where the dwarves excelled at fighting. This battle, as he’d pointed out to his father, would be different – harder.