The Legacy of the Mountain

This is by no means a tale of love, romance and trust which is so easily –and foolishly- thrown away. Instead is a tale of courage, defiance, a war to change a nation and a legacy that will be passed on through the dwarvish dynasty for centuries to come.

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3. Downfall. Decimation. Disintegration.

When Esrëndal opened her eyes she was unsure of two things; where she was, or if she had even opened them at all. The normally well-lit bedchamber was shrouded in an eerie veil of black and she could not make out her surroundings, let alone her hands of which she held mere inches from her face. Her bed, usually comfy and inviting was stiff, hard and none too warm.

Everything was how it shouldn’t be. Instead of listening to the scurrying pitter-patter of stubby dwarf feet as they headed for the dining hall, she heard absolutely nothing – not the loud snores of those who occupied the bedchambers around her, not their usual booming laughs that seemed to bounce off every surface of the mountain’s interior. Nothing.

You could only imagine her alarm! Esrëndal pushed the woolen blankets from her body and swung her legs around the side of the bed. Groping blindly around in the darkness, she felt her way along the smooth stone wall towards the doorway. Out into the hallway she went, and still could find nothing at all; no trace of a chortling dwarf on the way to a hearty breakfast – no sign of movement at all. Not even the torches were lit!

Fumbling blindly down the hallways, Esrëndal managed to guide her way through the twisting labyrinth of corridors inside the mountain until they began to widen, leading towards the Dining Hall – that was a particularly difficult fete, even for a half-eleven of whose vision one would normally expect to be next to perfect.

The rocky corridors  began to widen and Esrëndal found that, the closer she got to the dining hall, the more a pale light – one that started off faint, barely noticeable, now enough to dully silhouette the iron torches that clung to the otherwise bare walls.

As Esrëndal expected, the dining hall was completely empty – completely devoid of any dwarf.
Where could the possibly have gone? A furious growl echoed around the empty hall and Esrëndal froze immediately, her keen eyes darting in all directions. As expected, she found nothing – no trace of horrid beasts of where the growl could have come. But that didn’t stop the frightened elf from picturing what terrible creature it could have come from.

Soundlessly, she crept through the dining hall, moving her bare, frozen feet one at a time, her body hunched close to the ground in a pitiful attempt to minimalize her visibility to the angry creature that lurked somewhere nearby.

 Another vicious growl echoed throughout the empty dining hall and this time, Esrëndal was able to work out where it was coming from.  Whatever it was that had slunk its way into the heart of Erebor was hiding in the shadows behind Thror’s grand throne.

For all Esrëndal knew, whatever it was could very well be watching her as she crept closer still and, she was completely unarmed. As the frightened elf closed the distance between her and the throne, she seized up several steak knives that lay on the long oaken table, drawing them into her sleeve. With any luck, the movement had been so subtle that whatever was lurking in the shadows of the King’s great throne did not see what she had cleverly concealed. Well, that was what Esrëndal liked to think, anyway. And she was right. Whatever it was hadn’t seen what she had just done.

The sharp knife glittered in the pale light as she extended it around the side of the throne, her body pressed up hard against it – her breathing rugged. Nothing had seized her hand and dragged her around the side of the throne, so she assumed that it was safe. The beast hadn’t seen her. This would give her the advantage.

Summoning up what –very little- courage she had left, Esrëndal trust herself away from the safety of the throne and out into the dim light – her keen eyes immediately scanning the area, knife at the ready.

“Esrëndal?” the King under the Mountain asked, bewildered. It was he who had let a growl rip forth from his throat. It was he who had concealed himself behind his throne. His gnarled face buried in his stubby, fat hands. Resting in his lap lay the Arkenstone, small clouds of emerald and eerie purple swirled around inside of it.

The Arkenstone, many had noticed (but dared not speak of!) was poisoning him; his mind had become corrupted. There was a time where Thror cared about his miners; tinkers; toymakers; the output of goods. Now, all he cared about was precious metals and jewels – the Arkenstone, his ultimate prize and seldom left his sight.

 The dwarf King had looked up upon the arrival of the half-elven scribe, his eyes full of wonder and puzzlement. “Good gracious,” said he, “what in the world are you doing out here in your nightdress, girl?”

Quickly, poor Esrëndal looked down at her attire and flushed with embarrassment. She had been so alarmed by the eerie quietness of the morning that she had rushed right out of her room without so much as a dressing own! And now, she was standing in front of the King in nothing but her knitted nightwear, holding-

“And why in the world are you carrying a knife? Do you plan to kill me?”

“You know perfectly well I would never!” Esrëndal replied, and, in her alarm she released the knife from her grasp. It fell to the floor with a loud clank and slid forward along the smooth stone surface.

Thror’s beady black eyes followed the knife (a Dwarvish steak knife is known to be razor sharp and could easily slice through the skull of an Ox with ease, so you could only imagine how much of a threat it posed, especially to one of great power such as the King under the Mountain) as it came to rest, blade side first, against his hardened leather boot.

“Esrëndal,” said he after a few short moments of silence, “what business do you have outside of your bedchamber during times such as these?”
Thror’s tone was low; serious. This startled the elf and she took half a step back, her bare feet numb with the cold of the stone floor.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

Thror exhaled, annoyed. “You know that I do not like to repeat myself, elf,” said the King. “I explained my reasons to all last night during supper.”

And it was true; Thror had indeed ordered every dwarf inside of Erebor to stay inside his own bedchamber. Esrëndal, however, was not at supper and did not know any better. Instead, she had locked herself away in the library to sort through more reports of the dragon rumored to be drawing nearer to Erebor.

“It’s for your own protection lass,” Thror said when Esrëndal had finished pardoning herself.
“Smaug is a greedy, relentless, powerful worm. I’m not sure how far away the beast is, but he’s coming.”

Esrëndal shook her head; her long, wavy blonde hair fell in front of her knitted night dress.
A fire drake from the south –Smaug- was indeed headed North, however how far away he was, nobody could tell, really.

“It could take months before Smaug arrives at Erebor,” said she, none too politely, which, in the presence of a King caused her to pause for a moment. When Thror said nothing of her rude manner, she continued, “and in that time, we mustn’t go into hiding. We could use this time to prepare! To defend!”

Thror lifted his head warily and surveyed the half-elven from under his big, bushy, silver eyebrows.

“Are you any good with a sword then, lass?” he asked doubtfully, although he could have already guessed the answer. A great battle against a fire drake was no place for a lady, be they bearded or not.

Esrëndal’s determination faltered and she furrowed her brows as she looked down at the cowering King.

“No,” she said after a while. “I am not a skilled swordsman at all, nor am I any good with a battleaxe or mace.”

“Then what good would you do if we marched into battle against the worm then, girl?” roared Thror, throwing his hands into the air in exasperation. “We don’t have any chance. We’re better off remaining within the mountain – Smaug is not going to be able to break his way in!”

Esrëndal dropped her gaze for a moment as she took in what the King under the Mountain had just said before quietly, she murmured; “I am good with a bow.”

At this, Thror fell silent; his beady black eyes glittered in the dim light of the dining hall.
“A bow?” he asked at last, doubtfully, and Esrëndal nodded.

“I was born a long time ago in the northern most parts of, well, Murkwood as it is known as today. The elves who reside there are wonderfully skilled archers, and as such, I, too, know how to use a bow.”

The half-elven took a small step backwards and bowed her head to the King in politeness; to let him know that she would fight aside him. Thror, however, gave the poor determined girl quite the opposite of what she was expecting. His fat lips curled upwards into a bemused smile, the top brushing on the underside of his obscured nose.

“A bow won’t do you much good against a dragon, lass,” he roared. “Now go on, back to yer bedchamber– and stay there! Don’t forget to put some clothes if you feel like sneaking out again!”

Esrëndal let out a disheartened sigh as she made her way slowly through the winding rock tunnels towards the bedchambers; her feet were heavy and numb with cold. While Thror was her king – and a very good one at that! – he was an absolute coward. The elf knew why her King was so worried; why he held tight to the idea that Smaug could not break through the side of the mountain and into the kingdom. He was terrified. But, terrified for what? His people – more or less; that was second nature. But what Thror was more concerned about was his treasures of metal and gemstone. Things that one could not use to defend themselves (save for paying off bandits and those nasty thieves to the south) against something, especially a powerful young fire drake such as Smaug.

Parting the heavy wooden doors of her wardrobe once more, Esrëndal decided on a pair of thick, woolen britches of an earthy tone and a light cream tunic. If her duties were not required, then she may as well spend the day being comfortable. As she fastened the laces on her soft leather boots, the elf frowned.

Thror was hiding; he was scared of Smaug, the great and powerful worm of the south. If he didn’t think about the threat that was quickly moving upwards through Rhovanlon and towards Erebor – incinerating all that crossed its path- then it wasn’t actually happening.

The bile began to bubble up in Esrëndal stomach as a new thought dawned upon her.  She was willing to bet all of the King’s treasure that he had ne’er alerted those who dwell in Dale of Smaug’s  presence .

In seconds, the elf was on her feet and had already crossed the rather long, stone bedchamber. No; he hadn’t sent word to Dale. They were completely in the dark and had no chance of fighting back against what would soon burn their great city to the ground. She had to warn them; she had to get out of Erebor!

 

 

*

 

There was only one road leading to Dale, and that began at the entrance of Erebor. After having stealthily made her way through the twisting hallways of Erebor and silently creeping past the guards, Esrendal let out a small sigh as the strong wind wrapped its way around her body, tangling her hair.
Sure, Dwarves were accustomed to spending prolonged periods of time underground; no sun, or air.
Elves, be that half or not preferred the alternative, relishing in the suns warm rays.

The souls of her soft leather boots padded quietly against the uneven stone road, the howling wind rippling its way through the long brown grass on either side of the road. The scattered trees that lined the plains’ trunks creaked, their leaves ripped from the trunks and carried off into the sky.

Clouds of a menacing dark blue hung low over the plains and, as the elf glanced behind her, she was startled to discover that she could see no higher up the Lonely Mountain than where the great doors of Erebor arched. The clouds were moving quickly, too as the fierce wind pushed them along.

Cupping one hand over her brow to stop dirt and tree debris from obscuring her vision, Esrëndal squinted at the road ahead of her. She was about a half mile from Dale, and if she quickened her pace, she would be there just before eleven.

Hurrying forward as fast as one could against howling winds, she lowered her head, her sharp eyes fixed onto the unevenly paved road.

A fierce snarl was carried on the wind towards the Lonely Mountain and immediately Esrëndal froze, her keen eyes fixed on the large city of Dale that spread out in the distance. Watchtowers shuddered and crumbled as something very large – very powerful – hurled through them. Clouds of thick black smoke rose slowly up into the air, turning the sky to night.

A dark red glow quickly illuminated the city of Dale; the shrieks of those who could not escape Smaug’s unrelenting destruction pierced the air – louder than the crashing of flaming blocks of molten rock as the cities’ walls and watchtowers crumbled around them.

Esrëndal let out a small choke as she felt her heart tear in two. She was right – Thror hadn’t warned the city of Dale of Smaug’s presence and she was too late. The great Fire Drake of the South was far closer than they could have ever imagined. If only she had left earlier – lives may have been spared.

But what if the King of Erebor himself did not know how close really Smaug was?  While she was willing to bet that every dwarf in Erebor could hear the shrieks of the townsfolk of Dale and the Dragon’s snarls, she knew that they would need every sword they could get.
Pivoting quickly, Esrëndal tore off in the direction she had just come and in the space of several minutes, she had reached the great front gate of Erebor.

Her tiny fists slammed against the unmoving door and she let out a panicked cry.
Esrëndal’s hunch was in fact correct – the terror unfolding in the city of Dale did not go unnoticed by the Dwarves of Erebor; they had sealed the gate and the elf could only guess how well reinforced it was. There was no way she could get in.


Shooting a quick glance over her shoulder at the burning remains of Dale, the breath caught in the elfs’ throat.  Smaug had made short work of the great Human city – it was not his goal. What could he simply gain from burning one city to the ground? It was too easy.  A kingdom enclosed within a mountain, however…

A dark shadow in the sky, concealed behind masses of thick black smoke moved steadily towards Erebor – towards where the elf stood, unarmed; unprepared and completely alone.

The elfs first thought was that she was going to die outside the doors of where she had lived for many years; her home. Her second thought, however, was to move off the main road.
Hurrying quickly around some particularly large boulders, Esrendal found a small crevice several dozen yards away from the main gate, one that nothing larger than a badger could fit. Getting down on all fours, she scrambled into it and pressed up against the hard rock.

It cut into her milky white skin but she did not care. Closing her eyes, Esrendal waited to feel Smaug’s warm breath on her as he attempted to claw her out of her hiding place. Or worse, she will be incinerated where she was. Esrëndal thought for sure the great Fire Drake had seen her clambering around the boulders.

When no searing pain came to the elf she opened her eyes and ventured bravely to the corner of the crevice, peering out, and immediately, she had wished she had not.

The mountain trembled with Smaug’s might as he broke through the great doors of Erebor, his long, heavily spiked tail disappearing into the mountain was the only glimpse of him that Esrëndal saw – the thick red scaled glittering in the fires light.


Esrëndal  could hear the panic and mayhem through the walls of rock – exceptional hearing at a time like this was not something one would be proud of – and she sank down to the rugged ground, tiny rocks puncturing her palms as she did so.

There, hidden within a small crevice the elf sat silently, listening to the shrieks and agonised wails of her friends from within.

A deep voice was carried on the wind towards her – one that she could recognise.

“Help us!” they called.

“Thorin,” Esrëndal murmured, scrambling to the corner of her crevice once more. There, up on the bridge which lead from the side gate, no more than four hundred yards away, stood the young Dwarvish prince who was helping the King limp from the Mountain – tinkers, toymakers and other Dwarvish folk scampered this way and that along the bridge trying to place as much distance between themselves and their once was home.

Thorin, unlike the rest of the Dwarves who fled the burning mountain looked in another direction – his free arm waving about as a signal. As Esrendal followed his gaze she let out a quiet gasp.

Above the bridge where the terrified Dwarves were escaping was a large plateau. Thranduil, the Elvenking sat atop his stag, his archers behind him awaiting the signal to defend. Instead, Thranduil surveyed the commotion below him for a few more short moments before his stag turned and the elves of the Woodland Realm left the frantic Dwarves.

“No,” Esrëndal breathed stumbling forward out of the crevice. Why wasn’t Thranduil helping? Why wasn’t her kin doing anything to assist the Dwarves? “Wait! Wait!”

The Mountain gave another violent shudder and Esrëndal fell backwards once more onto the hard, rocky ground. It wasn’t safe to leave just yet, she decided. Smaug was too near this side of the mountain for her to escape and one wrong move and he would have broken through the side of the mountain and ensnared her in his iron jaws!
 

 Quietly she waited. Patiently. Silently. Until the light of the moon shone dimly through the thick layer of smoke. It was then that the elf crept silently out of her crevice towards the rocky plateau and great bridge that dwarves had escaped along just a few hours previous.

Pushing her way through the long grass and clambering back onto the road, Esrëndal  followed the tracks of the wandering Dwarves to where they would soon tire and rest.

Behind her, she left a broken kingdom – a massacre she could have prevented. The torched remains of what she had grown to call her home for many years.

The great kingdom of Erebor had fallen. 

 

 

 

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