Thorin Oakenshield does not leave the treasury, save for food or sleep. He is not truly mad (not yet), but it is swiftly becoming clear to his nephews that it will not be long. Fíli has heard tales of dragon sickness, of its strange and mesmerizing hold, but he had never truly realized its strength. The gold does not sing to him as it does to his uncle, but even Fíli cannot deny the heady, intoxicating rush that nearly knocks him over each time that he steps into the treasury.
He wants to tell Thorin that he does not care for Erebor's wealth, that he would trade the vast piles of coins and gems for their simple life in Ered Luin in a heartbeat. The grandeur of the mountain cannot replace the home that he holds in his heart.
Kíli at least, seems to be unaffected, and Fíli is glad to see his brother cheerfully keeping up a steady stream of chatter with Bilbo as they search halfheartedly for the Arkenstone. Bilbo had tried to implore Thorin to abandon the search after fruitless days of combing through the treasury, and Kíli had chimed in with his support. Fíli had also attempted to defend their plea, but Thorin's expression had stilled whatever argument he had prepared. It was a strange glare, one that held no recognition of the nephew before him.
For the first time since the quest began, he feels truly afraid, and Fíli hopes with all his heart that something or someone will save Thorin from himself.
Thorin cannot remember the last time he slept, for he stays among the glittering piles of gold long after the others have retired. His thoughts have not been clear since he set foot inside the mountain; it is as if he is in a stupor. Yet, somehow he cannot find the will to tear himself from the treasury. His memories of Thrór's stronghold have not disappointed him, and he spends hours marveling at the many objects—jewel encrusted goblets, gilded tapestries, a golden harp—that he does not remember seeing before. It is all his, this wealth beneath the mountain. No longer will his people have to suffer the torments and humiliations of the meager work they earn in the villages of men. No longer will th—
His thoughts break off as his eyes catch on a figure that stands not but three steps in front of him. It is Thrór, a small frown upon his face and adorned in the armor that that he had worn in the Battle of Azanulbizar.
"This is a trick of the light," Thorin murmurs to himself. "Be gone, spirit!"
Thrór's frown deepens as he regards his grandson. "Peace, Thorin. This is no trick, but a warning."
Thorin shakes his head and when he speaks, he hears the trembling of his voice. "I watched you fall!"
"If you would but let me speak, I will tell you the reason for my coming."
"Father went mad after you died," Thorin mumbles dazedly. "I must be mad, to see you here in this place."
At this, his grandfather smiles, the beads in his great beard shifting and clinking together. "You very nearly are," he tells Thorin gently. "Mahal has sent me to aid you in correcting your path."
"This is not the sickness you fell to, Grandfather! I am simply enjoying the wealth of our people!" Thorin's voice breaks as he finishes this last protest. I am not my grandfather. I am not my grandfather. I am not my grandfather.
"There is hope, Thorin. Tonight, you will be visited three times and given the chance to overcome this curse. I would have you cured, my boy, if only to see you saved from my fate."
Before Thorin can respond, his grandfather vanishes, and he is left wondering if perhaps it was indeed a hallucination. He shakes his head and decides to scour the piles once more, when the torches that lie scattered about the treasury, go out. Thorin is plunged into darkness with a shout of surprise, but the torches flicker to life just as quickly as they were extinguished.
Before him stands a mirror, plainly set in a wooden frame, reflecting the glittering light from the piles of gold.
A voice echoes around the chamber, though Thorin cannot see who it belongs to. "Approach, Thorin son of Thrain."
Warily, Thorin steps closer to the mirror. Its surface ripples like liquid silver as he grips the frame and glances around for the source of the voice.
"Look," the voice commands, and Thorin looks.
He gasps as the surface expands, revealing a small room laden with rich draperies of red and gold.
"These were my quarters in Erebor," he whispers. "They were destroyed in Smaug's fire."
The image sharpens, and Thorin can see three small dwarflings upon a bed.
"Thorin, Thorin! Finish the story! What happened to the orc?"
The voice catches Thorin by surprise, for it has been decades since he has heard it. "How can this be?" he asks hoarsely.
"Look," the voice commands again, and Thorin reverts his attention back to the mirror. He sees himself surrounded by Frerin and Dís, who gaze up at Thorin with wide eyes.
"And then Father swept the orc off its feet, and killed it with one blow! He won the battle, and became known as a great sword master. "Though," Thorin adds with a grin, "his eye suffered the worst because of it."
Thorin watches the scene with a throbbing heart, the grief that he had buried with his brother's death, resurfacing. Frerin leaps up upon the bed, holding his small hand above his head like a sword.
"Someday, I'm going to be a better sword master than Father! I'll be able to beat anyone, even Thorin!"
Dís gasps, feigning surprise. "Even better than Thorin?"
Thorin swallows hard as he watches himself respond to his brother's challenge. He laughs, and rises to raise his own imaginary sword towards his brother. "I will protect you from harm, Brother."
His brother cheers, and brandishes his sword at imaginary orcs. "To victory!"
The image vanishes as quickly as it appeared, the surface of the mirror fading to a dull obsidian. Thorin turns away, and attempts to locate the voice that had spoken to him.
"What purpose does this serve?" he asks hoarsely.
Frerin never lets him forget their promise, teasing him each time they spar. His brother is dead before he hits the ground, and his eyes are wide with shock and accusation. (too young too young too young to be in battle) Thorin does not stop fighting until there are no orcs on which to avenge his brother, until he is forced to gaze upon Frerin's prone and crumpled form. It is only then that he allows himself to fall to his knees.
Thorin is jerked out of his reverie. The mirror no longer shows his old quarters of Erebor, but its corridors. The stone walls are faded and stained with time, and Thorin surmises that he must be in present time. His eyes trace the scattered forms of his sleeping company, before settling on his nephews.
"Do not call out to him, Kíli. He is mad," he hears Fíli say flatly. "Thorin will listen to no one."
Kíli glances around to check to see if the company is asleep. "Do you think we will starve in here?" he whispers. "Bilbo told me that there isn't much cram left."
At this, Thorin starts. For the first time in many days, he sees how greatly his sickness has obscured his vision. Kíli's cheeks are thinner and paler than he remembers them, and there are dark circles beneath Fíli's eyes that he cannot recall since he has last spoken to his nephew. Perhaps this is part of Thrór's message, Thorin thinks, and he refocuses his attention in time to hear Fíli's firm response to his brother.
"You will not die, Brother. I will guard you from death."
Kíli smiles and settles himself into his bed roll, before turning back to face Fíli. "And I, you," he tells him quietly.
Thorin shakes his head and gazes away from the image. "They truly believe that I would forfeit their lives for Erebor," he whispers.
"Look," the voice commands.
The scene has changed. Instead of the stone walls of his kingdom, Thorin sees a huddle of patched tents, the remains of Laketown flickering in the distance. As one of the tents' flaps lifts, Thorin recognizes Bard striding towards the shore of the lake. A small girl hurries after him and comes to stand by his side. She tugs on her father's sleeve and hesitates, as if afraid to interrupt his reverie.
"Are we going to die, Da?"
Bard turns towards his daughter, the lines of his face wrinkling with fatigue and unspoken strain. "No, Tilda. The mountain king will give us aid."
Thorin feels a twinge of guilt. He remembers those months of wandering, the grief, the fear.
The girl looks down at her feet. "I'm scared," she whispers.
"It is natural to be afraid. I am frightened too."
Tilda's eyes widen with surprise, as Bard smiles down at her and takes her hand.
"We must trust in our friends. Now, come. Let us go and find your brother. No doubt he is prowling without us for supper."
Tilda giggles as Bard sweeps her into his arms, swinging her around before setting her down.
The scene fades into darkness, and Thorin gazes upward again. He cannot reconcile the images that the mirror has shown him. He has always sworn the he would resist the dragon sickness if he should ever recover Erebor. How can he have been so blinded as to neglect his own kin, to neglect the plight of a people upon whom he released a fire breathing dragon?
Thorin reverts his gaze again, and rubs his eyes. I will fix this, he insists to himself. There is time. The damage is still reparab—
He does not have the ability to finish his thought, for the mirror has refocused, and this time he cannot stop himself from crying out. The pale orc is sneering with triumph, nudging his foot against Thorin's prone form. Thorin does not have time to ponder the meaning of this image, before his nephew staggers into view.
"You will not touch him again!" Fíli roars, and Thorin watches in fear as his nephew twirls his twin swords, facing down the orc with a ferocity that he would be proud of, if only this wasn't his future.
He watches as his nephew whirls and ducks beneath the orc's lumbering gait, and Thorin cannot tear his gaze away, willing with all his strength that Fíli will not falter.
The scene suddenly shifts again, and something breaks inside of Thorin. Azog is roaring, Fíli, a string less puppet cast aside at his feet. Thorin's heart is tearing, tearing. It cannot be. Not Dís' brave lion, the son he might have had if he had been granted a son. He is only a boy, Thorin thinks in horror.
The wail rips Thorin's heart, and it reminds him of his own cry when he had watched his brother fall. He grips the mirror's frame with shaking hands, for knows what will come next.
"No, Kíli," he whispers.
And Thorin watches in grief as his second nephew falls, open to Azog's attacks, his eyes blinded in fury and despair as he defends the last of his kin. Thorin rips himself away from the mirror and staggers backward, searching for something, anything to save him from these images.
"Mahal, I cannot bear to watch this," he begs. "Take me from this place!"
"Thorin! Thorin, stop this madness! Wake up!"
(Something is pinning him down, he needs to get up, he needs to tell them, how will he face them) The voice stills Thorin, and he is half afraid that this is the afterlife.
He seizes struggling for a moment, and opens his eyes to half of the company peering down at him. Fíli grips his shoulder, his brother hovering nearby.
He cannot speak, he cannot think. (they were dead they were dead they were dead, dead by his actions)
"Thorin?" Fíli asks uncertainly. "What happened to you? You were shouting, and we could not wake you for several minutes."
It is then that Thorin turns to fully face his nephew, and Fíli flinches when he sees the panic in his uncle's eyes. He presses his hand harder against Thorin's shoulder.
Thorin swallows hard. (He cannot do this, he cannot tell them that it is his fault, all his fault.) "You died, both of you," he chokes out, glancing first at Fíli, then at Kíli.
He expects anger, confusion, questions, but his nephews are quiet. Fíli is frowning, but he does not release his grip, and Kíli moves to grasp his uncle's arm, concern lingering in his face.
"I assure you, Uncle, that we are both alive. It was nothing but a dream or a hallucination," he says firmly.
Fíli gives him a brief smile, watching him warily.
"No," Thorin gasps, struggling to stand. "Azog was there, I was in my old quarters…" He trails off in silence, uncomfortably aware of how he must sound. But there is no time. He reminds himself what he must do and meets Fíli's eyes, bracing himself for his nephew's ire.
"Forgive me," he says softly. "I was too blind to see it. You must believe me, I never intended to neglect the cries of the people of Laketown, or even of you." He gestures to the company and gazes at Dwalin, who bows his head in acknowledgement of his king.
Fíli smiles and raises his eyebrows at his brother, who is practically bouncing on the balls of his feet in happiness.
"There is nothing to forgive, Thorin," he says warmly. "You are here, your mind is well. We have wished for nothing else, Mahal has saved us."
"I am sorry it had to come to this." Thorin gazes at the ground before meeting his nephew's gaze steadily. "To think that I had caused your deaths, if you and your brother had fallen, I would never forg—"
"It will be all right, Uncle."
Fíli moves to grasp his shoulder, and Thorin cannot help but smile.
Yes, Thorin thinks, perhaps it will.
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