Saturday, April 6, 2013

K01 - An old bear and a young buck

April 4th FA 15, Erebor.

Things were busy in Erebor, the Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain.  The King, Thorin III, had been persuaded that now was the time for Dwarves to return to Khazad Dum.  Peace reigned across Middle Earth, Durin’s Bane was vanquished, and Thorin was looking for new conquests.  

Khazek walked the ramparts on the western spur, looking down on the road that led from the main gate southward to Dale and the Long Lake.  He often walked out here - surrounded by his kin, yet out under the sky he loved so much.

As he leaned on the wall, gazing down on the industry that was the plain below, he became aware that he was not alone.  Of course, there were guards all around, but he sensed someone’s regard focussed on him specifically.  He turned to his left.  There, also leaning on the wall, was the King’s uncle, Bain Stonetongue.  The old bear.  But he was not watching the activities below.  His one pale-blue eye was fixed on the young ranger.

“Beautiful day for a walk outside, wouldn’t you say, Bain?” The young Dwarf clearly addressing the respected Dwarf without the usual titles or ceremony. But that was Khazek’s way. “So Khazad-dum. The King is ready to re-visit that endeavor. I am sure you have many thoughts on that subject. I have heard how supportive you were of the first expedition there, in the years before my birth. My father tells few stories of those days, though he did mention you from time to time.”

The greybeard nodded slowly.  “So he is, Khazek, so he is.  And he wants you at his side.”  He He grumbles.  “Perhaps things will go differently this time.”  He looks the young Dwarf up and down.  “The King wants to lead this.  He wants you at his side.  How do you feel about that?”

“I am at the King’s service. What he wills I shall do.” Khazek smiles. He knows that most of the older Dwarves do not appreciate him being at the King’s Court, but that is the King’s wish. Khazek had served proudly under Thorin III during the War of the Ring, fighting off wave upon wave of Easterling invaders. Not that he liked boasting, but Khazek knew that a big reason for the Dwarves victory was due to the intelligence he brought to his commanders from his many scouting missions. He risked life and limb for Thorin when Dain II was the King and he would continue to do so now. “I trust the King, as I know he trusts me. We have fought together, shared an unbreakable bond. That said, I think it is unwise that the King accompanies the expedition to the Halls of Moria. We don’t know what is there. I have carried the news of a King’s death before. I do not wish to carry that same burden again.” Khazek looks off into the distant sky to the east. “And I will tell the King so. His duty is here, in Erebor. His job is to select the right Dwarves for the job, tells us what to do, and then expect us to carry out his commands. His job is not to slog through the mud for 2 months just to climb into a tomb. Too many Dwarves have taken their final rest in Moria, Aule has seen to that. I will tell my King, my friend, these same words. Let him choose his proxy, you perhaps, and send us on our merry adventure. What has come to change your mind about Moria, Stonetongue? What is different now?”

Bain also looked out, far to the east.  “Perhaps it is that I recognize that this will happen, whether I wish it or not.  Destiny is taking a hand in the lives of me and my kin.  Thorin could be the father of the greatest of the Dwarven Kings of this age.”  He spits over the wall.  “Or he could die on an Orc’s spear, far from these halls.”

“But he has made up his mind, at least in the big picture.  There will be a return to Khazad Dum.  My job is to help it succeed if it can, and mitigate the disaster if it fails.”  

“But I sought you out to hear what you have told me.  Your years wandering by starlight under the open sky has given you keen sight.  The King must stay here, in Erebor.  You have the right of it in that.  Perhaps we two can halt at least that part of the avalanche.”

Khazek ponders this for a moment. He knows Bain by reputation as well as by personally, though their few meetings were brief and in many years past. He is aware that Bain is Lord Chancellor of not only Thorin III, but of Dain II, before him. He is known and respected by most.  That Bain is here talking to him, that Bain was waiting for him here, means the old Dwarf has some angle, some plan, and intends Khazek to be a part of it. “So if the King stays, who then, does he choose to lead the mission? Not me, of course. Nor do I think my father or uncle have the ambition or ability to undertake such a grand endeavour, though all know that uncle Kalin has spoken out much in support of a return to Khazad-dum. My father and his father, Oin, were with Balin and company in their bid to re-take the mines the last time. My grandfather perished there, you know, as did many others. Many others may not return this time as well.” The young Dwarf is quiet for some time, lost in thought.

“You mention the prophecy. The rebirth of Durin. If it is so, if the King is to bear the reincarnation of Durin, then how can we let him leave the Halls? He must stay here. We must convince him of that!” Khazek gets himself a bit excited and worked up. Some guards from down the way look to see what is going on, then turn back to their guard duty, diligently watching the horizon in all directions for signs of trouble.

Bain smiles at the passion of youth.  “I just wanted to make sure that you and I were thinking along the same lines.  There are times when the King would rather hear unpleasant truths from someone other than myself.”  He chuckled.  “And you do make a point of speaking your mind.”

“But you are probably thinking that I am planning to use you in some way to sway things in the council.  I would prefer to think of us as allies in this venture.  I am talking to you for the same reason you scout out a potential battlefield.  It is good to know the lay of the land, before the battle begins.  I will be ‘scouting’ out the others, hoping to glean what I might of their thoughts and goals for this venture.  Some, such as your uncle Kalin, I believe I already know.  

Allies. Khazek mulled over this last statement by Bain and let the old Dwarf continue.

“There are folk who are looking only at this venture and how to make it succeed.  That is different, I think, from wanting Thorin to succeed.  You and I want the latter over the former, do we not?”

Khazek nodded, slowly.

“So, we need to talk to those who want the former.  Farin has been pushing for this newest attempt at Khazad Dum almost since he returned from the Balin expedition.  I perceive, though, that he still resents the hand I played in the failure of that effort,  He is brave and a good leader. If he and I were to bury the battle axe, if you will, it might give us a better position to argue for Thorin staying behind, at least until we have established a stable colony there.”

Bain spies a raven perched on a gnarled branch down below the wall.  He reaches into his cloak and pulls out small silver coin and let it glimmer in the nearby light, which he tosses down to the bird.  “Hmmm.  Befriended a raven once many years ago.  Even taught it to speak.  I fear I’ve outlived it, though.”

He shakes his head, then turns back to Khazek.  “I’m going to working in one of the libraries for the rest of the day.  The Forests of the Night.  Do you know it?”  Khazek did indeed.  “If you could do an old Dwarf a favor - seek out Farin, and bring him there.  I think it is time we had a talk.”

He turns back to tossing crumbs to the raven.  Khazek gets the impression that Bain thinks this conversation is over.

Khazek nods to the older Dwarf, already respecting him more and more. This sounded like a good plan. If the King did not accompany the mission, at least he could have two Dwarves he could trust in charge. Given the differences between the two Dwarves in question, the tension would no doubt prove to be positive, as both would temper the other, forcing the best choices in any given situation.

Khaz trotted off to locate Farin to pass along Bain’s invitation to meet in the Forests of the Night library.  He had heard that Fundin’s kin were staying in the Upper West Halls. He knew of Farin, he was a Warchanter and being Balin’s son, one of the commanders of the previous attempt to resettle Moria. He knew his father and uncle Kalin both knew Farin, though Khaz had never met the Dwarf. Farin was a Grey Mountain Dwarf, like he was, of ages past, though Khaz had never seen them. Khazek knew that normally the King held no love for Grey Mountain Dwarves, but Farin had proven himself many times to be loyal to the crown. Bain and Farin would make a good team to lead this expedition. He hoped the son of Balin would agree with him, and more importantly, that the King would as well.

Unfortunately, Khazek was unable to gain audience with Farin, so instead, Khaz followed up on his initial plan to try to catch up with the king alone. After much fast-talking with the Kings guards and advisors, they young Dwarf is able to get to the King. The two embrace and say their greetings, but the King has to hurry off to another engagement right away. Khazek quickly expresses his concern that the King is to accompany the expedition to Khazad-dum and with ease, the King bats it back at him, citing prophecy, leadership and spirituality. With that the King bids Khazek farewell and says he looks forward to seeing him at the Council later. Dejected, Khaz wanders off to find something to drink. No harm in having a few drinks to steel his nerves before the big council meeting and feast later that evening.

Play by post contributed by +Jason Woollard  and +Arne Jamtgaard 

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