DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN THE HOBBIT
Thorin felt old. Much much older than his two hundred and twenty five years. He reached under his outer coat and fingered the Arkenstone. The gem felt hot and smooth against his touch.
"Thorin OakenShield," he muttered, "King Under the Mountain and Keeper of the Arkenstone." At one time the newly amended title filled him with a fierce burning pride but now every time he heard it or said it to himself, the gen seemed to weigh heavy on his body and the slender gold chain that hung around his neck seemed to cut into his skin. He stared out unseeingly over the lands that lay before Erebor; one hand still on the Arkenstone, while the other absently rubbed the scar that lay long and puckered on his left thigh where the Goblin blade had struck into his flesh. It was that blow that had rendered him incapacitated for several long minutes while Fili and Kili stood before him braving arrows in their bodies and felt the bite of their enemies' steel while trying to protect him. He never forgot the cold fear that gripped him when his nephews fell before him on the battle field. And every day he thanked Mahal for the stubbornness that ran in his bloodlines that made his two beloved heirs fight for life and claim it.
Heavy foot steps interrupted his thought and he smiled to himself as the footsteps grew closer to where he was.
"Dwalin ShieldBrother," he greeted just as the dwarf came through the doorway.
"Thorin King," Dwalin greeted in return. Thorin smiled again at the use of the title. Dwalin always called him 'Thorin King,' and not 'King Thorin.' It was the gruff warrior's way of telling Thorin that Thorin would always be his friend and brother first before Thorin was his King.
Thorin turned his head slightly to the side to see Dwalin standing with one hand on his axe. Dwalin acknowledged the subtle signal and visibly relaxed; coming to stand next to Thorin. He leaned over, placing his forearms on the battlements and gazing out over the land.
"So," Dwalin began, "How are ye?"
"Tired," Thorin replied, "And old."
Dwalin laughed softly and the two lapsed into a comfortable silence. This was their special place. A tiny battlement at the highest point on the mountain that over looked the vast front plains that lay before the doors of Erebor. Once a week they met here and shed their titles and formalities and returned to plain Thorin and Dwalin; childhood friends and brothers. Many happy, painful and bittersweet memories were held in that place. It was here that Dwalin held Thorin many a night while Thorin raged against the gold sickness. Many a night they sat and smoked and talked about what might have been and shed tears at old regrets. Many a night their voices were raised against each other as each thrashed out their differences and grew their lifelong friendship into one that was now stronger than mithril.
"How have you been?" Thorin asked finally.
"Tired," Dwalin replied smirking, "and old." Thorin reached over and punched Dwalin in the arm.
"Don't lie to me," he said grinning, "You are fitter and stronger than when we left for the quest." Dwalin grabbed Thorin around the neck and ruffled his hair. Thorin yelped and tried to squirm away from him but Dwalin held him firmly and Thorin could not escape.
"See what I mean," Thorin said huffily trying to smooth out his hair. Dwalin laughed and returned to leaning back over the battlements.
"I am training your warriors," Dwalin said shrugging, "Of course I have to remain fit. You are ruling a kingdom, that sort of thing ages a Dwarf."
Thorin stopped fiddling with his hair and leaned to rest his arms next to Dwalin.
"It does," Thorin said, "I feel drained out Dwalin. I…I think it's time now."
Dwalin glanced sharply at him.
"Are ye sure?" the taller dwarf asked. Thorin nodded. He pulled at the slender chain and slipped the Arkenstone out from under his coat. The Heart of the Mountain gleamed bright in the sunlight. Thorin glanced at Dwalin out of the corner of his eye then chided himself. That old habit of suspecting people of wanting to take the Arkenstone from him still haunted him even after he had gotten over his god sickness. Dwalin glanced once at the gem and then looked at Thorin.
Thorin turned to look at him full in the face. He saw in Dwalin's deep brown eyes; trust, respect and love. He knew that Dwalin would support him in whatever path of life that he chose and wherever he led; his ShieldBrother would follow.
"Yes," Thorin said softly, "I am sure. It is time for a new King Under the Mountain." AS he said the words it was as if a great weight was lifted off his shoulders. The Arkenstone seemed to gleam brighter in the light. But even brighter than the gem were the tears of in Dwalin's eyes and the warmth of his embrace made Thorin feel more at home than he had felt in many a long year.