(Para leer capítulos anteriores, pulsa en 'The Hope of the North', en la columna de la derecha)
Oi left the room and the heavy door closed without a noise behind Dwalin, Glóin and Fróin. Dáin went towards them. 'Come in, my dear friends, welcome.' Dwalin and Glóin obeyed, their faces smiling at the prospect of spending some time with their ruler and friend. However, there was some stiffness in their manner that did not come with a dwarvish nature or with the number of autumns they had seen pass. The occasion was unusual and they all knew it. 'Here, take a seat. No, not at the table. By the fireplace in the corner it will be nicer. One can tell winter is approaching, can't one?' Glóin chuckled, breaking the icy mood, and took his cloak off. 'I, for one, think it's a great idea. I love this land to the marrow of my bones, but come October I can always use some extra warmth. I always like a good fire.' He rubbed his hands standing by the fireplace. 'The north is too cold for me. Don't they have mountains to mine in the south too, Dwalin?' Dwalin looked somewhat uncomfortable. 'They do, Master Glóin. But I doubt they are worthier of our attentions than our Kingdom under the Mountain.' 'Oh, but more sun and light would be a blessing indeed. Even the Northmen moved down south to raise their horses in sunnier plains. Nice bit of business they did, if you ask me. And I bet that they and the Dúnedain, whom they got their land from are sitting right above some unexplored wonders.' The others sat down. Dwalin did not answer and just shook his head. Glóin tried to cheer him up. 'What, friend? Have you lost your spirit of adventure? Our halls under this mountain are a true wonder, but, by my beard, the day the dwarves have to live all their lives underground will be a sad one indeed. May my eyes never see that. I need fresh air from time to time. And my son Gimli is like this too. Speaking of which, we have to find him something to do, my lord. He prowls around all day, impatient like one of those beasts the Men of Dale are so fond of catching and putting in cages.' He stopped rubbing his hands and took his seat. 'Ahh, much better. My, I would bet even Khazad-dum is nicer than this at this time of the year.' Dáin stared at him with incredulity, and Dwalin's face went from uneasiness at the topic to strong annoyance. 'Don't you ever know when to stop, Glóin?' The tension returned. Glóin was dismayed at his own foolishness. He swallowed hard. 'Excuse me, Dwalin, I am an old fool indeed. I had forgotten about Balin. No, well, I don't mean 'forgotten', of course your brother is sorely missed, I mean he just wasn't in my mind at the moment, it's only that...' Dwalin interrupted before he could make it worse. 'That will do, Glóin. Hardly a moment passes by that I don't think about him anyway. Your words haven't made it worse, my friend, don't worry about me, but until tidings of Balin come to us, for me Khazad-dum is not the Mansion of the Dwarves, but 'Moria', the Black Pit, as the Elves call it. I still think it was foolishness to let that shadow of disquiet make him and others think that greater wealth and splendour would be found in a wider world. Lord Dáin, you were not willing to let him go, and in that you demonstrated your wisdom. I can only hope that in these nigh on thirty years Balin has been gone, his own wisdom has increased too. I am grateful for your attempt to make this moment less awkward, Glóin, but our lord has summoned us for something extremely important, if I am not mistaken.'
They all looked at Dáin. All this time, meanwhile, Fróin, on his part, had been just moving his eyes from one figure to the other as if afraid of missing something important if he blinked. What was his uncle's great plan? There was one, to be sure, if he knew Dáin at all, but Glóin and Dwalin were not military leaders anymore, so why call them? Their job now was purely administrative: they were sent in embassies to represent the kingdom, in particular to Dale and Mirkwood, where they had acquaintances going back to the days of the Battle of Five Armies. But surely the help of other peoples was not going to be sought in this matter of the Dwarven Rings! That was purely a Dwarvish matter! In Fróin's mind, summons had been sent, speeches had been made and troops were already moving. What role were these two old and venerable lords destined for, then? Dáin's voice shook him from his thoughts. 'Master Dwalin is right. Time is of the essence, my dear friends, and I need some answers about a matter of your expertise. An important decision has to be made, and your counsel will be deemed decisive.' Fróin exhaled noisily and folded his arms. Fortunately for him, he did not roll his eyes as he had been about to, because Dáin looked at him precisely in that moment. Then the king turned towards the other two again. That was Dáin's way of dealing with people: instead of making them relax and be at ease, first he made them aware of just how important the matter was with an introduction like that. He just had that way of presenting matters for deliberation that built up extra pressure on proceedings. Fróin had seen many meetings with him made particularly charged because of that. No doubt he did it to know if the people being talked to were up to the task, and this way weed the faint-hearted from the capable, but things became so tiring after a while. Everyone was on their toes already in this matter. More tension was not needed. Dwalin and Glóin looked at each other and nodded with their heads, mouths slightly open in anticipation. 'What matter is that, sire?' 'It is quite appropriate that Master Glóin was referring just now to your youthful adventures. For it is about them that I need information. You know what I talk about. Hobbits. Halflings. Shirelings. Whatever you call them. Are you aware of what happened earlier tonight?' Glóin stared at the floor. Dwalin was more resolute. 'Master Glóin was with you at the time, sire, but I have heard nothing but rumours. Apparently you told everyone present not to tell any tales until you had taken counsel, and Glóin has obeyed to the letter. Others might have not been so careful, though. A Black Rider appeared at the Gate and called you to talk about a matter concerning the Rings of our forefathers. That's all I know. I have not heard anywhere about hobbits being involved in the conversation. But... I believe that Moria was actually mentioned?' 'Indeed it was.' 'Then I fail to see how these matters might have a connection with the hobbits. Anyway, I will be glad to find in my old head any details that can be of help. But first I must know, sire. Did that horseman mention anything relating to our kin there?' 'No, Master Dwalin. That Rider did not come from Khazad-dum. It came from Mordor, from the Lord Sauron the Great, as he said.' Glóin looked up, angry. 'The maker of the Rings himself, can you believe it? What does he want with us? He is the one who has something that belongs to us! We should be the ones knocking at his door.' Dáin stared at him intently. 'That, my friend, is what this conversation is about.' Fróin clenched his fists in approval. That was more like it! The more he thought about it, the more he was of Himli's mind: something needed to be done. Gimfur was too calm about it. The dwarves were still strong and could take on anyone!