"Now, let us say that one of the miner's happens to find a diamond mine, but a portion of the diamonds found are in another miner's field. They want to settle this peacefully, so one miner offers the other a herd of goats, but the other argues that goats are not valuable in this season. They come to you to settle the dispute. What is your answer? ."
The young prince ran a hand over his face, pretending to think. He scratched the back of his head, tapped the feather quill against his nose, but still nothing came out of his mouth. He knew the answer, of course, but he was tired of speaking of livestock. He had been stuck in this stuffy, book-filled room for almost three hours now.
"Come now, lad, we just went over this!" Balin, the king's adviser and current teacher to his son Thorin, stared at him from across the wooden table. Multiple texts were open, and pages of notes were scattered all around.
"My apologies, Balin. But this is so..."
"I know. But you must know these procedures if you are to be king one day." Balin stood up and walked to the hearth, placing another log onto the fire. The flames grew, warming his face.
"Are these the only things a king must provide for? What good does it if the people cannot solve certain problems on their own."
Balin didn't answer right away, but instead stared at the fire. Images of the current king, Thror, flashed through his head. How he had been turning other races away and ignoring the plights of his own people. He thought of the gold. The folly. A sense of dread came upon him.
"Thorin, do you know what makes a good king?"
"Of course, Balin."
Balin braced himself to hear what Thorin would say. Would he say strength? Power? Gold? He watched the prince play with the feathers on the end of the quill, his heart speeding up.
"Honor." Thorin stated ,"That will carry throughout all the lands, proving to other kingdoms that we are to be trusted. Bravery. A king will fight til’ his last breath for his people and home. And respect. If a king is good, then the people will respect him."
A heavy weight lifted from Balin's shoulders. Perhaps, just perhaps, this young prince would see the truth and guide his people the right way. The king's adviser turned around, only to be met with an empty desk with papers littered all over it.
"Oh my," Balin sighed, picking up one of the sheets. Music and weapon designs littered the sides of the history notes. Despite the situation, Balin smiled at the young prince's actions.
"I suppose we are done for the day."
Thorin dashed down the ancient hallway, his hair and cloak flying behind him. He passed all of his grandfather and father's empty council rooms, he passed the library, he even shot past his chambers. He almost didn't see the maid that was directly in his path.
"Your Highness!" she shrieked out, barely holding onto a basket of linens.
"My apologies!" he called out behind him, not even looking back. He climbed staircase after staircase, until he finally arrived at a dead end. Checking to see no one was behind him, Thorin slipped into an almost invisible crevice and found himself in a dim hallway. He placed his right hand on the wall and let the old stone guide him forward. The rock was cool against the skin of his palm, and the only sound was his boots thumping against the ground. At exactly thirty-four steps, the tunnel ended.
Arriving at his destination, he pushed open the heavy stone door. A cool breeze gently brushed against his face. Thorin walked onto the hidden balcony that overlooked the front gate of Erebor.
Thorin looked out into the valley, a wide smile on his lips. He watched the people crossing the bridge into his home and the birds that flew across the sky. The wind tousled his hair, bumping the metal beads against his cheeks. He pulled his ring off, examined it for a moment, then held it up to the sun. The sapphire gem glinted in the light, bathing the walls around him in blue.
'What do we have here?'
Thorin blinked, and slowly turned his head to the stone banister. Standing atop it was a medium sized black bird, with obsidian eyes staring right into Thorin’s. It tilted it's head at the young prince. Thorin copied it. The bird hopped closer.
"I must have been studying too long," Thorin chuckled, moving towards the raven. "I imagined you spoke for a moment."
'Because I did.'
Thorin stared at the raven, his eyes widening. "You...you can speak Westron?"
The bird shook its head. 'Well, I suppose if you can hear me, then yes. Or perhaps you know our tongue?'
“I do not believe I was gifted with immediate fluency...”
‘Believe what you wish to believe.’
"Then I find this very interesting."
'And why is that?'
"Because,” Thorin stated, a sly grin growing on his face. “If you are speaking to me with this sort of ease, then that would have to mean that you are intelligent enough to know Westron."
The bird puffed up his feathers and haughtily replied, 'I'll have you know that my kind are extremely intelligent! More than what you dwarves are with you're wingless bodies and small-'
Thorin's hearty laugh cut the raven off. "Who-," he paused to breathe, "Who are you?"
The crow seemed to sniff at that. 'Well, I never! I am Roäc, son of Carc.'
"Oh! The bird that sits next to the king?"
'Yes. Did you overhear that from your lord, you peasant?'
"No...I have seen Carc myself."
'So, quite the clever sneak, are you?'
The young prince laughed again, this time not as loud. "I like you, Roäc. You are a funny raven. No, your father and my father are always discussing events."
The bird tilted his head and fell silent as he examined the young dwarf. The dark hair, the blue eyes, and the almost obvious royal crest on his shirt. Yes, this was the son of the king.
‘Hmm, you are much different that what I had pictured you.’ Roäc stated, hopping closer to Thorin.
"What do you mean?" Thorin asked.
'Well for starters, I imagined you would have had at least some hair by now. And you are so tiny!' The bird puffed up with pride at his clever jab.
Thorin's jaw dropped. "Really? That's all you could come up with?" His laughter bounced against the mountain's stone once again. "While I admit my beard isn't quite as full as I'd like it to be, I am already growing past what my father and grandfather were at their age."
'Hmm, and I suppose you find that fortunate?'
"It does seem to help."
They spoke and jabbed at each other until the sun began to disappear over the distant horizon. They discussed jewels, music, and all the different aspects of the mountain. Roac recalled some of his journeys across the world, while Thorin told the tales of hunting and weapons training. Finally, while staring out into the valley, Thorin let out a deep sigh.
'What troubles you now?’ Roäc asked, his voice laced with concern.
"My grandfather," Thorin admitted. "Something is happening to him. Ever since the hoard of gold has been growing, something has changed within him. I...I fear the most for him and the future of this kingdom."
'Do you fear what the people may think of you when it is your turn to rule?'
"I," Thorin hesitated, his brows furrowing. "I do not think so. I am more concerned of what happens to my family. However, I cannot ignore the consequences of what a bad ruling before me will bring."
'What will you do if you fall into the same pit that your grandfather has, hmm?'
Thorin stood tall, mouth set in a firm line and his eyes hardened.
"I will not allow that."
Roäc tilted his head. 'You will be a good king. You will see, Prince Thorin.'
Thorin turned his head to his new friend. "I hope to be." He gave the bird a sly glance. "And now, I assume you will be there to nag me always?"
The bird sniffed, but hopped onto Thorin's shoulder.
'I suppose. Because if I don't, no one else in the mountain will.'