- Dark Themes
- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Fix It
Aside from Thorin, no one in the Company gave even the slightest indication that they opposed Fili’s rule. They all seemed to accept it without hesitation or question.
It was strange for Bilbo, who came from a place without kings, where people gave their loyalty to individuals rather than to titles. Throughout their journey, Bilbo had watched each and every dwarrow follow Thorin’s lead in much the same way. Their unwavering loyalty to Thorin had been awe-inspiring to witness; it wasn’t something that was ever seen in the Shire. In so many ways, it had been seeing the loyalty he inspired in the other dwarrows that had first convinced Bilbo that Thorin had been deserving of Bilbo’s loyalty, at a time when Thorin hadn’t particularly deserved it. So, as much as Bilbo liked Fili –loved Fili, even- and even though it had been Bilbo’s idea in the first place for Fili to claim the crown, it was disconcerting to see them pivot so easily and direct all of that unwavering loyalty to Fili instead.
Fili ordered them to prepare the Mountain for outsiders, and so they did. Oin announced he would be converting the Great Hall, where the King Under the Mountain had traditionally held court, into a medical wing, as it was large and easy to get to from the main gates. Dori agreed to scout Erebor for suitable rooms to house everyone in, while Balin agreed to secure the Treasury. Curious as to how Balin intended to do that, considering the sheer size of the Treasury and the depth of the gold, Bilbo stayed with Balin while the others all left to attend their Fili-appointed duties.
As it turned out, what Bilbo had taken for elaborate archways were in fact seven sets of open doors. When Balin pushed the great stone doors shut, which seemed to take an enormous amount of effort, they sealed seamlessly shut. Bilbo followed Balin from door-to-door, scooping up gold by the armful in some places and pushing it deeper into the Treasury to get the doors to shut, but shut they did.
“We didn’t have time to get them closed when the dragon came,” Balin explained. “The focus for most dwarrow was evacuating as many from the mountain as we could. Especially the children.”
“Magic doors,” Bilbo huffed. First the secret door into Erebor, and then the magic door that was keeping Thorin secured down in the prison levels, and now this. “You dwarrow certainly like your secret magic doors, don’t you?”
Balin chuckled, “Aye. These are nothing like the Gates of Moria, mind you. Twice as tall as these, but light as a feather to open if you know the secret to them. It’s been my life’s dream to see those great doors, to see the halls of my forefathers.”
Balin went quiet, as all the dwarrow did whenever they spoke of Moria, the great kingdom lost to them, but only for a moment. He visibly shook himself free of his thoughts and looked back to Bilbo.
“Those doors were built with the assistance of the elves, back when our people had stronger alliances to one another than we do now. The secret word to open them is even elvish. These are purely of dwarven construction, created by Durin the Second. The only way to open them now that they’ve been shut is by the blood of Durin’s line, willingly given.”
Bilbo inspected the last set of doors, running his finger along where the seam should be. There was only smooth, unbroken stone beneath his touch. “The blood of Durin’s line,” Bilbo repeated, “That’s most of the Company, isn’t it?”
“Aye, and Lord Dain. When Thorin asked for volunteers for this journey, most of his direct kin answered. Dain’s refusal was an insult, but it was one Thorin couldn’t call him on. Dain claimed that someone of Durin’s line needed to be able to try for Erebor again, if Thorin failed. That we couldn’t afford to lose every member of our line.”
“But it wouldn’t have been every member,” Bilbo said with a frown, “Gloin has children, hasn’t he? He speaks of them often enough.”
“He has a son and a daughter, and Oin has several children himself, though older. Even Nori’s fathered a few. It was cowardice on Dain’s part, and we all knew it.”
“Nori? I didn’t know he was of Durin’s line.”
Balin blanched and looked away from Bilbo. His shoulders hunched and he lowered his voice to a shamed whisper. “We don’t… We don’t speak of it.”
“Come now, Balin,” Nori said, appearing at the end of the hall as if summoned by his name. Bilbo jumped at his sudden arrival and briefly wondered if perhaps he was not the only one in possession of a magic ring that could turn oneself invisible, for Nori was extremely good at appearing someplace without any warning. “Everyone knows the story. No one speak of it, and yet everyone always seems to know it. We shouldn’t leave Master Baggins in suspense.”
Bilbo shifted, nervous. “I don’t… Forget I asked.”
Balin shook his head, just once, and then took a deep breath. He began to explain, though it appeared to be the very last thing he wanted to do. “Dori, Nori, and Ori all have different fathers, but they share the same mother, a dwarrowdam by the name of Tori. Tori was the illegitimate daughter of King Thror, making her Thorin’s aunt, and the three brothers Ri Thorin’s first cousins. By rights, they should come after Fili and Kili in the line of succession, and before Lord Dain.”
“My grandmother, the Lady Shari, was considered the most beautiful dwarrowdam in Erebor.” Nori said, “And King Thror liked beautiful things. When he turned his attention onto her, she couldn’t very well refuse him. He was King. The problem, of course, was that King Thror was already married, and his marriage had been a very profitable one. Lady Daedrin had been very well dowered. If Thror admitted to adultery, under laws set down by Durin himself, his wife would have been able to take her dowry and leave, and Thror would have been forced to pay her an equal amount for tarnishing her reputation.
“So,” Nori continued, and his voice dropped to something dark and terrible, “When Lady Shari presented her daughter, their daughter, to King Thror, he couldn’t very well admit the kid was, in fact, his. So, instead, he called her a liar, accused her of attempting to steal from the crown, and had her executed for treason.”
Bilbo’s mouth dropped open. “But she didn’t do any of those things!”
“No,” Balin agreed, “She did not. But Thror couldn’t admit otherwise without losing a lot of his gold, and even then nothing mattered to Thror as much as his gold. He put her to death and didn’t allow her body to be returned to stone. It was dishonorable and a crime in and of itself. I do not believe Thror was greeted in the Halls of Mahal with any sort of good will from our Maker. To make matters worse, Tori -his daughter- was only days old when Shari was put to death. No clan dared take her in out of fear of Thror, and so she was sent to live with those that are without clans.”
“Criminals,” Nori explained. “Thieves, smugglers, murderers. She was badly abused, in every way you can imagine, from the time that she was very young. She wasn’t even of age yet when she had Dori. Just sixty. She escaped Erebor during the burning, and birthed me in the middle of a blizzard on the way to the Blue Mountains. She thought life there would be different, better for her. All of us dwarrow were all penniless vagabonds by that point, after all, but Thror wasn’t done with Amad. She was like her mother, you see. Beautiful beyond all reason. Its where Dori gets it, and I’ve been known to turn a few heads myself.”
Bilbo didn’t really understand that, but he’d heard the dwarrow all agree several times before that Dori was considered the most aesthetically pleasing of them all. Thorin, apparently, didn’t grow a nice enough beard by dwarrow standards.
“Amad was even considered beautiful by Men, so Thror would send her to make money in the towns of men. They found her exotic and they would pay her well, but all her money went back into the hands of Thror. Everyone’s gold went to Thror first, and he rarely distributed enough for people to eat on. Amad had herself and two children to feed, and she never quite managed it. She died of chidbirth. She was just too weak to survive it a third time. She wasn’t the only dwarrowdam to die in those earlier years, either. If Thorin hadn’t told me that he’d seen it himself when Azog killed Thror, I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear he’d been taken out by a dwarven blade to the back during the battle. I’ve always half wanted to thank the orc, personally.”
“She was his daughter. How could he be so, so dispicable?” Bilbo asked, outraged and heart-sick all at once. He didn’t have it in him to even comprehend that level of cruelty. “How could Thorin have followed him?”
“Thror was king,” Balin said, “Once crowned, a dwarven king is king until death. Their word is law. It is that simple.”
“That’s terrible! And foolish!”
“Aye,” Nori agreed, “But the world is often terrible and foolish. Dori believed Thorin would be a good king. Now, though,” Nori trailed off.
“Now Thorin is gold-mad, and Fili is king.” Balin finished. “Even if Thorin were to recover, he could never take the throne from Fili. Not without killing him, or at the very least exiling him.”
“Thorin made me and mine promises. It’s why I followed him, and I expect Fili to honor ’em. Thorin said he’d recognize Amad as born to the line of Durin, all official, and he swore to properly dower Ori. Then we get to Erebor, and he put his hands on her. I know it wasn’t sexual, but I could gut him for it. Still might.”
“Dower Ori?” Bilbo repeated, choosing to ignore that last bit. “Ori’s a woman? But he’s got a beard!”
Balin shrugged, “Most dwarrowdam do, lad. Lady Dis has quite the fine beard, in fact. Much nicer than her brother’s.”
“It’s fairly commonplace for dwarrowdams to present as male when not within the safety of a dwarven settlement. As I said, Men find them particularily alluring. Ori didn’t want Gandalf to know her gender, which is why we hid it from you as well.”
“Gandalf isn’t a Man!” Bilbo protested, outraged on the wizard’s behalf.
“It was Ori’s decision,” Nori said. “She’s very young and vulnerable, and presenting as male during the journey offered her a measure of protection we couldn’t deny her. We wouldn’t have brought her along at all if not for the fact that she’s simply safer with Dori and I around. We might be considered disgraced and our linage isn’t recognized, but it is well known. Ori would be considered a soft target for most, an easy way to gain access to the line of Durin. Lady Dis offered to watch her, but the Company needed a scribe anyway. I don’t think Dori would have been able to leave her behind, honestly. Dori looks at her more like a daughter than a sister; he’s raised her since the day she was born.”
“I couldn’t imagine it,” Bilbo said. “One of the reasons I never married was because I have no desire to have my own children, and that’s considered almost sacrilege in the Shire. But, I lost my parents when I was very young and it… damaged me. I couldn’t father children knowing how uncertain my own future was. I couldn’t bear even the thought of leaving them alone and unprotected in this world.”
“Children are precious.” Balin agreed, “They’re so rare among our people. But no dwarrow or dwarrowdam would ever be pressured to have children. Raising children is a serious undertaking that many are ill-prepared to endure. I would have liked to have had a little one, personally, but it wasn’t in Mahal’s plans for me.”
Nori made a noise of disagreement, “Now don’t get me wrong, I like kids. They’re mischievous and get into trouble and are honest to a fault in the most hilarious of ways. But I like kids best when I can return them to their proper parents when their more disgusting or annoying habits decide to rear their ugly heads, which is more often than not. Dori did most of Ori’s raising, but let me tell you, the day she got her first bleeding was a mess for all involved and I’d rather never repeat the experience.”
Footsteps down the hall drew everyone’s attention, as Kili rounded the corner. “There you are! Fili’s decided to go ahead and open the gates if the Treasury is secure. Dori says we need the Men and Elves’ help getting quarters set up, or its going to take ages and we don’t have that sort of time before the orcs get here. Even the places that aren’t full of dragon shit are filthy from sitting empty.”
Bilbo’s nose wrinkled. So far, he’d managed to avoid all the dragon shit, which Smaug had kept well away from the Treasury, but he suspected that luck was about to run out.
“Fee wants us to provide a united front when we open the gates.” Kili added, “Gandalf will be the first one through, followed by the Elf-King and then Bard, who is leading the Men. Gandalf has already made several demands to see you, Bilbo.”
“Well, I want to see him, too. I’ve got words to be had with the old coot! He shows up at my door with a bunch of uninvited guests, speaking of all-important quests, then he drags us across mountains, only to just abandon us to fend for ourselves against elves and freezing rivers and giant dragons! Oh, yes, I have words for him.”
And, with that, Bilbo marched off towards the gates and a certain waiting wizard, with three dwarrow snickering behind him the entire way.