[personal profile] martasfic
[ar] NiRi,[fm] 350x100,[pl] Moria,[rc] Dwarves

[ar] NiRi,CUSTOMIZED


Title: Lake of Fire
Fandom: The Hobbit (Tolkien)
Characters: Balin, Thorin, Thror
Prompt: BMEM09 Day 20
Word Count: 1268
Rating: Teen for violence, dark themes
Summary: "So the rumour of the wealth of Erebor spread abroad and reached the ears of the dragons, and at last Smaug the Golden, greatest of the dragons of his day, arose and without warning came against King Thrór and descended on the Mountain in flames."

*********************************

Balin stood frozen to the spot. He had been looking over his shoulder at a raven and so he saw the dragon coming. It was brilliant in the mid-day sun, a fiercer red than any forge-fire he had ever seen, beautiful as it was horrible.

For it was horrible indeed, there was no doubt of that. It flew down from the North with a great gush of wind – how had Balin not heard that a mile off? – and his fiery breath descended in a majestic arc so that and devoured whatever it touched. Time seemed to stand still in one interminable moment, and then came the crash, and the crumble of rock breaking against rock, and Thorin’s guttural cry seemed to echo all around him. But how could it? There were no cave walls for it to bounce off of. Balin couldn’t explain it, but there it was: he would have sworn there were a thousand Thorins all around him.

There was just the one, though, and he was running off toward the Mountain with his axe in his hand. It was not a battle-axe for the two young dwarves had been out hiking without hoping for any real danger – just an old half-blunt tool that Thorin used more as a walking-stick than anything else. Yet it was all Thorin had, and Balin vaguely registered the blood-lust in his friend’s eyes. Some part of his mind clamoured that he should go after Thorin, for what if his friend actually caught the dragon, but his feet would not move. The whole world seemed to be spinning around him and Balin was sure he would have lost his feet if not for the rock. Even here among the trees there was good rock, something to anchor a dwarf and keep him standing.

The dragon flew overhead and Balin looked up without fully realizing what he did. The sun gleamed against the scales of the dragon’s neck, and Balin couldn’t help thinking how strangely beautiful it was: a grotesque curlicue mocking the architecture of the elf-king’s hall. The curve of the dragon’s neck gave rise to another arc of red and yellow, and all about him the trees were burning.

Still Balin could not move. He would have burned, burned til he was nothing more than ashes and bones, if not for Thorin. Thorin’s cries grew closer and closer, and almost before Balin realized it Thorin was pulling at his arm, dragging him far away from the flames.

***********************

Some time later, Balin sat on a fallen log by a fire. He held out his hands so the low flames warmed his knuckles. This was not one started by the dragon’s breath, which gave some comfort; Thorin had started it himself.

That in itself was noteworthy. Thorin Oakenshield was usually all for tramping through the woods until it came time to gather timber or haul water. But not today. Balin looked off in the direction he knew Thorin had gone searching for a stream and shook his head in disbelief. This hardly seemed the same dwarf he had set out with that morning.

No dwarf could properly be called soft, but Thorin was as close as any came. Today, though, Thorin had pulled through better than Balin had. Much better, if Balin was honest. It had been Thorin who dragged Balin to safety and filled Balin’s mug. In their lesser adventures, it had always been Balin who saw to such things, and for once he was glad to have Thorin take the lead. Still, it was unnerving.

In the distance Balin heard heavy footsteps coming through the woods. So Thorin was coming back? But it was not just Thorin. The sound of steel-toed boots against rocky paths reached his ears: cli-tack-uh, cli-tack-uh, too much noise for one pair of boots alone.

Two cloaked figures broke through the tree-line, and Balin recognized the silver hood of their king. Thror King Under Mountain leaned on his grandson’s arm for support and limped noticeably, but he was there. How, by Mahal’s fire, was he here? And there were more: a scarlet hood, and a forest-green one, and perhaps half a dozen others, most marked by the silver tassel of the king’s household.

Was this all? Balin looked hopefully at the one dwarf without a tassel, but when the blue hood came off it was only Bokûn, a dwarf Balin knew of but didn’t know well. He was known for his taste in mushrooms and would sometimes scour the woods on the leeward side of the mountain, where such treats could sometimes be found; Balin guessed he had escaped that way.

But what of the rest? What of his own father, and the rest of his house? Why should so many of the king’s line escape the fire, and so few of his, and none at all of so many others? A jealousy washed over Balin, and he felt his cheeks burn. For a while he did not dare look up but instead stared into the low-burning fire; but that was no good. He saw gates burning, and great handiworks consumed by flame. Where there had been stores of finished mail ready to sell, there was now only molten metal, and the stone pillars were all black –

A hand on his shoulder pulled him out of his dark thoughts. It was Thrain – so Thorin’s father survives as well, he thought, but stopped himself before he travelled too far down that path. He took one gulping breath to calm himself before looking up into the other’s eyes.

Neither dwarf said a word, but the truth was plain on Thrain’s face: no more survivors would escape the Mountain. “The fire burns low,” Balin said gruffly; or thought he said, for the words seemed to tumble upon each other. He looked at the flames again, then across the low flames to the crowd of silver tassels. “I’ll go find some wood.”

Thrain nodded in understanding. “Do not wander far,” he said gruffly, and mercifully kept a firm hand on Thorin to keep him from following.

For a while Balin’s feet carried him without requiring thought from him. After some time he looked down and saw that he was carrying a few small limbs, though he couldn’t say when he’d picked them up. Something about that one detail, the weight of the wood, brought the rest of his world into sharp focus. The pine-needles brushing against his face felt needle-sharp, and the crunch of dead leaves underfoot raked against his ear. And that burning smell on the wind; how could he have ever missed that?

Climbing to the top of the hill, Balin looked out, and saw. Fire burned everywhere, all along the shores. Even the far-off lake seemed to be burning. At first that made little sense, and then it all became too clear. The towns of men were burning: Dale by the mountain, and Laketown on the water beyond. And the men of those towns, they were burning as well. How could Erebor fare better?

At that, Balin wept.



***********************

Canon After-Note:

“The first we heard of it was a noise like a hurricane coming from the North, and the pine-trees on the Mountain creaking and cracking in the wind. Some of the dwarves who happened to be outside (I was one luckily—a fine adventurous lad in those days, always wandering about, and it saved my life that day)—well, from a good way off we saw the dragon settle on our mountain in a spout of flame. Then he came down the slopes and when he reached the woods they all went up in fire.” (Thorin, in “An Unexpected Party,” The Hobbit)


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