1. Ever Ever On
"So what do we do now?"
The words hung accusingly in the air between us.
Not a one of us spoke.
We couldn't- the air was thick with the stench of smoke and blood and fear and death.
To open our mouths would have been to taste it all over again.
I closed my eyes, trying to block out the images, but it was useless.
To have come so far and yet to have fallen at the final hurdle…
The tears fell unbidden, and I hoped no-one saw.
Was this really how our quest ended- not with fanfare and fame, but with requiem and regret?
This was not fair.
Not fair at all.
Opening my eyes, I saw that my comrades wept as well.
Brushing one hand savagely across my eyes, I hardened my heart.
There and then, I swore a silent oath on all my ancestors that I would never weep again.
"I am going home."
My voice rang out in the cold night air, and the others looked at me.
Dwalin was first to speak- my poor, sweet, silly brother. I nodded.
He cocked his head to one side, looked at me askance, though he surely must have known what I meant.
"But Balin, home is… home has…"
I shook my head.
"No longer can I call these lands home, brother mine. Too much has passed here; too much hate and hurt and horror."
The others nodded- after all, were we not now ten where had once been twelve? I took a breath and continued.
"Never again shall I look upon this place without remembering how we were wronged here, so never again shall I look upon it."
Bombur was first to realise what I meant- fat, foolish, faithful Bombur.
I should have known.
"Balin, you don't mean to… you can't mean to!"
I nodded, and turned my gaze from the Lonely Mountain.
"It is madness! The thing… the beast… it will still be there, Balin!"
"Then it shall have to be dealt with, it and all its armies."
I hefted my axe to my shoulder.
"Come with me or come with me not; I intend to retake what was ours or die trying."
Some looked away. Others could not even look at me but stared instead at the ground. Only Glóin met my gaze.
"I wish you well in your adventure, then. I would join you, were it not for…"
His sentence trailed away like the last light of day, and I nodded.
"Very well. I shall do this thing alone."
Turning on my heel, I made to walk, but a hand clapped onto my shoulder before I was gone but one step. I turned, knowing before I did who it would be.
"My brother has a wife and son, but I have no such handicap. If you should have me in your company…"
I nodded, and smiled, and clapped a hand onto Óin's shoulder in return.
"I should be glad to."
With not a second glance back, we walked away from our old friends, our old lives, our old home.
If any final tears were shed, then they were never spoken of…
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.