1. Beneath a Bitter Rain
Glóin stood beside his king, surveying the valley before them. His new king, for Dáin Ironfoot now slept entombed under-mountain, and his son Thorin Stonehelm wore his crown. The battle was won against all odds, and for the moment at least utter ruin seemed averted. The orcs had broken against Erebor's walls like a great tidal wave upon the beach. Aye, they had lost many fine warriors besides Dáin, but their gates had held. Their treasures were safe, and their forges stood waiting for their masters' return.
But what of Dale? Their fortress – Glóin used the term generously – had been no match for the orcs' battering-ram, and while some of Dale's proud women had survived, many had not. The men... the crows wheeled low in the sky, circling the carrion-piles, and there were not enough hale men left to give them graves set apart. Their fields were burning even now, and so soon after planting; Glóin could see the far-off glint of flames against the sky. Did their neighbors even have seed in reserve? Were there enough strong backs to plant those fields once more?
"We must help them," Glóin said.
Thorin turned to face him, and though Glóin studied his face, he could not guess his lord's thoughts on the matter. Stonehelm, indeed! He stood there for a long moment, his lips pressed tightly together. "They are not our kin," Thorin said at last. "They have no blood-claim on us, no matter how distant the reckoning. How often have their forefathers insulted ours, calling us bastard creatures of a lesser maker?"
"Dwarves have long memories," Glóin answered, "but less so with men. Old age claims their bones more quickly than it does ours. I would be very much surprised to find one of those men suffering tonight who ever made such a claim."
Thorin grimaced. "They did not come to our aid after Azanulbizar, when it was our childen who were starving in the wilds."
"That is your living memory," Glóin said, "not theirs. And your father did not open his coffers after Smaug razed Laketown."
That earned Glóin a raised eyebrow, and he knew that he had pressed beyond the boundaries allowed by kingly courtesy. "A treasure-lust had seized Oakenshield that day," Thorin said. "Father, too."
Bracing himself, Glóin looked his king square in the eye. "And what shall be your excuse?"
Thorin's eyes flared dangerously, as Glóin had expected, but much to Glóin's surprise the fire dimmed before Thorin said his first angry word. Thorin's gaze traveled across the land, taking it all in. "I need no excuse," he said in a stern but measured tone. "Do not forget which of us is king, and which is responsible for our people's well-being come winter. Dale sells us our grain; how will we fare when their markets stand empty? We must save our stores and tighten our belts against a lean year."
Glóin had not considered that. "A fair point, Thorin." Then, thinking better of the lack of title – for, though Thorin had been a friend far longer than he had been Glóin's king, Glóin would not risk so much for a lapse in courtesy – he corrected himself: "My king. But I said not one word of sharing that which cannot be replaced. Surely we can offer some assistance that will not impoverish our own folk?"
Thorin waved his hand dismissively. "They are not without resources, and the Elvenking will help them as he ever has. They know their own needs best. Let them see to their own crying babes, and we shall see to ours." Then Thorin's eyes narrowed, as if a sudden thought had occurred to him. "Why do you press this so hard, Glóin Gróinsson? You have no greater love for the folk of Dale than do I."
"No," Glóin admitted, "and in years past I would have thought as you do. But I now have a son far from home, and Mahal alone knows what trouble has found him in all this war. If Sauron's fist can strike with such strength even here, what must he have done along his own border?" Glóin held out his hands, palms up, in the ancient sign of supplication. "Care for kith and kin works well enough when they are all near at hand. But I cannot see to Gimli. I ask only to attempt what I hope some other son's father might do in those southern lands."
Thorin did not answer him, instead craning his head up so he looked at the sky. Glóin thought he glimpsed a change, slight enough that it would have been lost to anyone but a dwarf. Thorin's eyes softened by some small degree, and his grasp on his belt eased, almost (but not quite) imperceptibly. "Send word to Dale," he said at last. "Call the refugees to Erebor, if you must." Returning his gaze to Glóin, he continued, "I see storm clouds on the wind. If Dale's fields are burning, her peoples' roofs will fare no better. We can offer them shelter from the rain for a month, with little enough cost."
He grumbled to himself, then added gruffly, almost as an afterthought: "After that, we shall see."
When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I'll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!
(from "Treebeard," The Lord of the Rings)
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.