(Para leer capítulos anteriores, pulsa en 'The Hope of the North' en la sección 'Cajones', en la columna de la derecha)
Dáin’s companions looked at each other with amazement, but something told them that it would be wise to obey and leave the room. At the end of the day, King Dáin was as venerable as he was venerated. At 250 years old, he looked as fit and straight as any of his subjects half his years. However, he had been known to play the card of his age before when the matters at hand had grown too tiresome for him and wanted to be left alone. However, this did not mean that the matters at hand would not be dealt with. He said he would take counsel with himself and doubtless he would. Besides, that last look in his eyes, still lingering there, promised new developments in the morning. The three dwarven lords abandoned the room, and Dáin was left wondering how it was possible that his mind had decided to tell the others about his idea, but his mouth had gainsayed it. Could it be that wisdom at his age meant that his brain would only get in the way of true counsel if it worked too much?
Anyway, an early night was far from his mind for the moment. Where were we? The Smaug expedition, yes, and Bilbo the halfling. Who was left in Erebor of those? Balin was in Khazad-dum trying to restore that magnificent kingdom, although no news had been heard of them for a long time, which was disquieting. Ori and Oin had gone with him. Fili and Kili and fallen fighting against the Orcs at the Battle of Five Armies. But the remaining seven of Thorin’s companions were still living in Erebor. Of those seven, two were of his own line, the House of Durin.
He stood up, approached one of the columns in the enormous chamber, put his mouth by the capital and spoke in a normal voice, as if someone was there to listen. ‘Oi! Come here.’ Immediately a crack appeared in the wall opposite where Dáin was, a good thirty yards away. Through it came a young dwarf of about seventy years of age. No matter how well known to the old ruler, the tricks of dwarven craft before his days never ceased to amaze him. That was no wizardry, or elven magic, no cumbersome mannish devices either. Just plain old stonework. No-one could hear anything that was spoken in that chamber from outside if they were well inside it, in the middle of the room, but he only had to stand by one of the multiple columns decorating the hall, and the sound would travel to the next room as clear and crisp as the waters of Kheled-zaram. A little tweak in the arrangement of seats so that the guests were closer to the walls and the columns, and he or anyone of his design could learn many useful things indeed without being seen.
‘Oi, I need you to find me Masters Glóin and Dwalin as soon as possible, and bring them here. The matter is very urgent. Go.’ The younger dwarf went in again and closed the hidden door noiselessly. Then, an almost imperceptible thud followed, and the crack in the wall disappeared. ‘Amazing.’
Anyway, he put ancient masonry out of his mind and returned to his thoughts. This was a big test of his quality, indeed. It could be the single most important decision he had ever had to make. He only hoped his wisdom was not too diminished already. The biggest hindrance he faced was that, in this matter, he could not act like the king with undisputed authority that the usually was. The allegiance of the whole kingdom was his to command, and anyone, from the first lord to the last servant, would obey him unflinchingly in any matter he deemed necessary for the good of the realm. But no-one, not even the king, could meddle in the way in which a dwarven lord went about managing and protecting his own private hoard or recovering a possession that was rightfully his. And if he was sure that at a simple whisper Fróin, Himli and Gimfur would send themselves and their whole families to face a horde of dragons without blinking, he could also be assured that putting a foot wrong in this case would earn him, even from his own family, an eternal enmity (was there any other type of enmity, anyway?). And to compound the whole mess, Dáin was also a Ringowner himself, representing Erebor, while Gimfur represented the Ered Luin and Balin would stand for Khazad-dum if his great works begun there went well. And finally, Dáin just did not have the time now for treasure hunts, with disquieting rumours coming from the Men of the East.
Dáin found himself pacing furiously while he waited for his two kinsmen. Whoever that confounded Black Rider was, he had put him in a fine pickle indeed! At least, all this had happened during one of the infrequent visits of Gimfur’s people, so he could be consulted readily. Dáin stopped walking, struck by this sudden thought. The Black Rider and Gimfur! A coincidence? Surely not!