(Para leer la historia desde el principio, pulsar en 'The Hope of the North' a la derecha de la página)
The loud knocks on the door were so unexpected that the four dwarves stayed in their seats for a few moments in silence, stunned. A new blow on the door shook them out of their state. Fróin thought to himself that if anyone was foolish enough to bang his fists against the king’s door, they either wanted their days shortened or they had a very good reason. A look at Dáin’s face confirmed that Fróin was not the only one to feel that way. Dáin looked at him and nodded curtly. Fróin stood up to open the door.
He had just unfastened the bolt, when someone pushed it from the outside unceremoniously, and then shoved Fróin out of the way too. It was Himli. The Ringowner was a big dwarf in his own right, but now his bulk was aggrandised by what he was wearing: a gala armour set, full of ornaments, which was meant to be worn only on exceptional occasions. It was similar to a battle armour, but with magnificent details added on the shoulders, helmet, gauntlets and boots. Obviously, such resplendent gear was not only very expensive, but also very heavy, and although it could be worn in battle if absolutely necessary, that would have been both a hindrance to its wearer and a waste of exquisite craftsmanship. Its most salient feature was that the encrustings in the armour were all done in stone: not precious stones or jewels, but heavy stone quarried by the hard labour of the dwarves, not valuable in bartering price, but made worthy by the graft and sweat it had cost. However, they were not any old stones just picked up from the floor: each of the pieces encrusted all along the arms and shoulders had earned its place on the ensemble for a reason. Some had made it all the way from the Blue Mountains thanks to Gimfur’s people. There was also red laen from the Greenwood dating from the days before it became the Mirkwood. In the centre of the breastplate there was the first stone ever broken by Balin’s folk in their new delvings in Khazad-dum, expressly sent back by a messenger to tell all of Erebor that the Mansion of the Dwarves had been re-entered. And finally, the visor and nose-piece were made from one of the rocks turned into crystal by the fire of Smaug the Golden, a crystal harder than his own scales.
That suit was not worn idly. For long it had lain well kept awaiting the day when Balin would claim that his mastery of the proudest of the dwarf-delves was complete. In it, the heir of Balin’s house was expected to show the pride of his heritage, and Himli certainly looked the part. Two more details contributed to make Himli’s appearance even more awe-inspiring: one was the fiery expression in his face, and the other a great two-bladed battle-ax, which he was carrying crossed in front of him, holding it with both hands. Once inside the room, he began walking towards Dáin’s table with a calculated, slow, stately pace suited to the armour he was wearing.
Behind him came Gimfur, the other Ringowner. He had not changed his clothes, and the expression on his face differed from Himli’s. First he gazed towards Fróin, inquiring with a look if he was all right, and almost asking for an apology. Then, when Fróin gestured that he was fine, Gimfur followed Himli into the room, and stood behind him. His countenance was also firm and serious, but not menacing. Rather, he seemed to be concerned, on his toes, keeping an eye on what Himli did. Fróin walked back towards the table after Himli and Gimfur, unsure of what to do, as he was not supposed to interfere with two important lords like them. At the table, Dwalin and Glóin stood up as they saw Himli approach. Dáin, sitting at the far end of the table, facing the door, as he always did, remained in his chair and sat back, his eyes fixed on Himli’s. Himli finally reached the table, stood by Fróin’s empty chair for a few seconds, staring at Dáin, and then he put down his ax onto the table with a heavy thud. ‘I think we have a right to know what’s being discussed here... my lord.’
That wasn’t exactly apologetic, but the ‘my lord’ at the end seemed to dispel some of the questions that everyone had in their minds about Himli’s intentions. However, there was no mistaking the object of wearing that suit of armour, so Fróin stood by him, to his right, as close as he could be without looking inappropriate, in case something happened. Meanwhile, Gimfur, standing behind Himli, to his left, kept his eyes on him most of the time, except to shoot occasional brief glances at everyone else’s faces. He kept his hands free and his arms hanging at his sides, as if ready for something.
Dáin leaned forward and put a hand on the table. ‘The decision on what anyone should know in my kingdom has always been my prerogative, master Himli. You will be told what you need to know when I deem it necessary.’ Himli almost stepped on Dáin’s sentence. ‘The matter under discussion here involves a prized possession of my house! I think I can spare you the trouble of sending for me and the time to inform me, by listening to the proceedings myself. Master Gimfur is of the same mind.’ Now it was Dwalin who raised his voice: ‘‘My house’? What do you mean by that? How dare you?’ Dwalin approached Himli and stood face to face with him. ‘Is this how you honour your proud heritage? By sizing for you names and possessions you don’t have a right to yet? Your father is the head of your house, and he is in Khazad-dum trying to build an empire that you and your brothers can feel proud of!’ Himli turned to him. ‘Proud? I do feel proud about that glorious undertaking. But my heart is divided. If I am Balin’s faithful kinsman and subject, I am also the son he left behind. He is working for the glory of his folk, or maybe that of all the Children of Mahal, but I very much doubt if he ever thinks of someone he hasn't seen for so long.’ ‘He left you here for your safety! He didn’t leave you behind so that you could greedily grab what you want from him when you well please! I won’t allow it, Himli.’ Himli looked towards Dáin, as if expecting him to intervene. The king took a deep breath. ‘Master Dwalin, your brother-son is not here now at my request,’ and now Himli looked away, ‘but earlier today I did call on him to discuss the matter of the Rings, together with Gimfur. In the regrettable absence of Balin, it was my decision to choose him to represent Khazad-dum.’ Dwalin looked at Dáin, astonished. ‘And why, if I may ask?’ ‘You must know why already, Dwalin. Whether Balin is still alive and well or not, his hoard, including the Ring, will pass on to his sons after him, not to his brother. Himli has already been looking after Balin’s possessions in Erebor, and quite capably, as you yourself have remarked more than once.’ ‘But why wasn’t I called with him? Was I going to be left in the dark then?’ ‘You weren’t, Dwalin. I have just been discussing the matter with you too, until we were interrupted.’ ‘No, we haven’t! We haven’t mentioned Balin’s hoard, or the Rings at all, except by my own intervention. We’ve been only talking about hobbits. I fail to see how that’s related to the Rings!’
Dáin stood up and put both fists onto the table. He looked at each of the others, taking his time. Just as he had anticipated, all the deference and obedience towards him as king was left aside when house-hoards were mentioned, and he could be addressed as a nosy intruder rather than as an overlord. Anyway, he still had the power to make decisions, and he had just made one. The matter couldn’t be allowed to get out of hand. In any case, the events were upholding that decision rather than complicate it. ‘Fróin, please get two more chairs. And let’s move the table closer to the fire on the corner.’ Glóin was only too eager to obey this. He was famous for being able to make a fire out of almost anything. Rumours said that he had become so good at that because he couldn’t stand the cold. He wouldn’t deny it, but a dwarf doesn’t like to have his weaknesses pointed out to him. He and Gimfur moved the table with not a little effort. However, he didn’t know what the real reason behind Dáin’s request was: the king didn’t want Oi to miss a single word of what was going to be said now. Fróin brought the other two chairs, and everyone sat, except for Himli. ‘I think I’ll stand, my lord.’ Dáin stared at him with annoyance. ‘Master Himli, you are beginning to descend from rude to downright offensive! I have let you into the discussion now. What is the reason for this attitude?’ Himli lowered his gaze, embarrassed. ‘No, my lord, it’s not lack of respect. I’d willingly sit, but... I can’t with this armour on me.’