For the first time in over a hundred years, dwarves again stood within sight of the Chamber of Awakening. Without a word passing between them--they had done this so many times now that orders were unnecessary--the warriors stopped short of the door. Vestri and Iari went from one to another lighting torches until the corridor filled with the distinctive loud hiss of the flares as they burned. Aurvang smiled; after a century of war, the orcs had reason to know and fear the sound of dwarf-made torches. He and his army had spent decades fighting the goblins down half the length of the Misty Mountains, and nearly a year in retaking Gundabad itself, chamber by bloody chamber. Now, finally, they had reached the core of the mountain.
As the light-blindness passed, Aurvang could see the huge stone doors of the Chamber, inscribed with runes that told of the creation of the Dwarves and the first awakening of Durin the Deathless in this very place. The orcs no doubt thought the doors would hold as well now as they had when the mountain fell to the goblin horde, but this chamber was never intended to keep dwarves out. He laid his hand reverently on the runes and spoke the words that every child was taught. The doors swung open and the dwarves rushed in.
The final skirmish in the war to retake Mount Gundabad was surprisingly brief. Only a handful of orcs had survived to hole up in the innermost chamber. Aurvang had expected stiffer resistance, but perhaps the orcs saw this as just another room and had not prepared any special defense. When the last orc fell, the dwarves could only stand and stare at each other for a moment. The war had gone on so long that Aurvang could not quite believe that Gundabad was finally theirs again. Then the moment passed, and all of them at once turned to see the place most revered by the Khazad.
It was a shambles. It even smelled like one; some of the orc carcasses on the floor had clearly been there for days or even weeks, and some of them appeared to have been butchered. Aurvang had been raised on tales of the exquisite carvings that decorated the walls of the Chamber, but the goblins had smashed them with their hammers and nothing larger than his palm remained of the reliefs. The furnishings were gone, even the ones cut from the living rock of the mountain. Aurvang drew a shaky breath. They had expected as much. It was a harsh blow to lose most of what remained of Durin's own workmanship, but Mahal made dwarves strong to endure blows to the soul as well as to the body. They could and would clean away the filth and build a new setting for the birthplace of their people. Durin's carvings were gone and their people no longer had the skill to duplicate some of the wonders made in the time before the Sun, but there were still masters of stone and metal craft among them who could create works of such skill that they appeared magical to other races. And there was still one thing that even orcs would not have destroyed, no matter how evil and twisted they were. They did not know the meaning of the stone, or that it and stones like it were the mark that distinguished a simple mine from a true city of the Dwarves. The orcs cared nothing for that, but the gem was valuable beyond all reckoning when considered only as a jewel. They cared nothing for beauty, but orcs understood greed perfectly well.
He looked for the alcove where the stone should be. There it was with the pedestal before it, right where his father's tales had said he would find it but.... Aurvang sprang across the rubble. In the light of the torches, the floor around it sparkled, but what he sought was gone, cut from the lesser gems that formed its base and carried off as tribute. A looted dwarf-made chisel still lay at the foot of the pedestal, but a little coarse grit was all that was left to show of the shining gem that Durin wrought to honor Mahal in long darkness before the rising of the Sun. He reached towards the pedestal, barely remarking the tiny click.
"It's a trap!" shouted Skafid, seizing his arm and flinging him away from the alcove. He landed in an awkward heap just as the alcove exploded.
His ears still rang with the sound as he got back to his feet. Through the swirling dust, he could see his warriors were likewise climbing up from the floor. Most were rubbing their ears and a few had new cuts from flying shards of stone, but no one seemed to have any serious injuries from the blast. He stared into the murk that obscured the alcove. The explosion had not been large compared to some that they had seen during the war, but if it had been skilfully placed...
Through the thinning haze, the broken pedestal appeared. Behind it was only rubble. The place where Durin awoke was gone.
He looked up and saw his shock and desolation mirrored on the faces of his warriors. A hundred years of war for nothing. The Chamber of Awakening had been destroyed and the heart of the mountain, the sign of the Dwarves' respect for their maker and of his love and support for them, was gone. His axe fell from his numb hands. How could they return to a home that no longer had a heart?
Notes: The idea of a jewel as the figurative heart of a dwarven city is an extrapolation from the Arkenstone in The Hobbit. However beautiful the stone may have been, Thorin's determination to find it and keep it at the expense of everything else made me wonder if it might have had a deeper significance than monetary value alone.
Gundabad as the awakening place of Durin and the designated meeting place of many lineages of dwarves comes from The History of Middle-earth (The Peoples of Middle-earth, Chapter 10, "Of Dwarves and Men"). In The Hobbit, the mountain is only mentioned as a stronghold of the goblins.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.