Few in latter days would live to remember such things, but it is true that, in their own halls, Durin’s folk were a people more full of joy than sorrow; while Belegost and Khazad-dum and Erebor all fell, those great cities were notable not for their tragedies, but for their long and storied histories, scribed and sung and engraved in the very stone itself.
Balin had given over his life and his studies to the maintenance of Erebor’s history in the midst of the Exile. He had been barely seven years of age when the Mountain was taken, and even then had had some small sense of the stone. Dwalin, born in the beginning of the Exile, only had tales and song to tell him of the home they all had lost, that they would someday seek to reclaim.
After all, they were Durin’s folk , direct descendents of Náin II, and thus it would be their right and their duty at least to try.
No dwarf could be a finer king to lead them in that duty, either, than Thorin, son of Thráin, Dwalin knew, and that was why, when Thorin called, Dwalin always came, though it was not the only reason.
Dwalin could still recall the first time he witnessed Thorin at war, and it still sent shivers up his spine to think on it. One of the few beautiful things that had ever come out of the Battle of Azanulbizar was the sight of Thorin gaining the name Oakenshield; while death had haunted every movement of the battle, and grief defined its aftermath, the warrior in Dwalin still returned, now and then, to the pure sight of him, blood streaked in his beard, shield shattered, and yet he bore no desperation in his eyes.
In that horrible moment, his brother dead beside him, Thorin had shown no fear.
That had been the moment Dwalin realized he would follow Thorin anywhere, even beyond the duty he bore to their noble line, beyond kingship and distant kinship both.
He did not, even now, in the depths of a dark and lonely winter, regret that realization. He merely pulled his hood down over his eyes, stepping into the light of a Mannish inn. Everything was, of course, slightly over-large — Dwalin was larger than some dwarves, of course, but shorter than almost all men — but Dwalin was used to that, for in Exile, he often had little other choice.
Bree, for a town of Men, at least had enough local Halflings that there was a decent chance of him finding a bed too small as too large, but then, of course, there were other matters to be dealt with before he could find himself in any bed.
He approached the bar, lifting himself onto a stool with surprising — to the Men around him, anyway — grace, his blue beard glittering in the candlelight. “Pint of ale, if it please ye,” Dwalin requested of the barkeep, who nodded, touching the brim of his hat before turning away to find a mug.
Dwalin waited, first for his drink, and then for Thorin.
King Thorin, given his father’s disappearance. That, still, was something to wrap his head around. Thorin, king at last, but a king without a hall, and Dwalin —
Well, what did that make Dwalin? Only time could tell.
He was halfway through his mug when the bell jangled at the door, snow chasing a silhouette inside. It was Thorin, clad as ever he was, as though nothing had changed since the last time the two of them had met like this.
Thorin’s eyes met his, the grey of them not the grey of iron or the silver of steel or mithril, but the smooth, pale grey of a sunless sky. Dwalin nodded, just a touch, and Thorin came toward him, slinging himself onto the stool beside Dwalin’s. They were of a height with one another, but Thorin wore his with majesty, even in Exile.
Dwalin gave him a little bit of a smile. “Wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“I have need of you, Dwalin,” Thorin murmured. “The time has come.”
Time to reclaim Erebor. The dream of their whole lives — and, for Dwalin, it had always been simply that: a dream. Born in Exile, he had no memory of the Mountain, only knowledge of his brother and father’s sorrow to lose it.
It was an emptiness that Dwalin could not truly understand, not the way they did. Not the way Thorin did.
He caught Thorin’s elbow. “Then you will have me. I am as ever at your service.”
Thorin nodded. “I have need of more than that.”
“I know, and you will have that , too.” He may not have known what to call this thing that had arisen between them, but he knew that forever, his heart would be given only to his king.
“Good.” Thorin clasped his arm. “Let us get a room and rest. Tomorrow, we will have much to prepare.”
Dwalin nodded. He dropped to land his feet upon the floor, still clasping Thorin’s arm, drawing him near for a moment to whisper, “I find I have need of you, as well,” into Thorin’s ear.
Thorin’s mouth pulled into a wicked little smile, fierce and fey, and yes, this was that other reason Dwalin would follow where Thorin lead: he could do no less for the dwarrow he loved, and it was in moments like this, Dwalin loved him most.
It did not take long to obtain a room, and it bore a single bed, Man-sized — to save gold, Thorin had told the innkeeper — and Dwalin felt need beginning to rumble in his chest as the door closed behind them. He cast off his cloak and hood and set aside his weapons against the door. “Thorin,” he said, testing the word in his mouth, “it has been too long.”
Thorin smirked, setting down his satchel and casting away his own cloak. “It has. When last we were alone, I was not yet King.”
“Has it given you an ego?” Dwalin teased, crossing the little space between them, palming the back of Thorin’s head to keep him close. “I may have to do something about that, if it has.”
Thorin laughed, laying his forehead against Dwalin’s. “More a weariness than an ego,” he confessed. “But you may yet remedy that , anyway.” He tugged gently at Dwalin’s beard. “But before that, I have a gift for you.”
“Oh?” Dwalin said. “What might it be?”
“Let go of me, and I can show you,” Thorin pointed out, slipping away to his bag. From it, he pulled something Dwalin could not quite see. “Light a candle, would you?”
Dwalin went to the table beside the bed and lit the candle in the lamp that sat there. It wasn’t a feeble flame, but Thorin and his gift still lingered at the edge of its power, piquing Dwalin’s curiosity.
Thorin stepped forward, flicking his wrists to reveal the gift: a hooded cloak of heavy green wool, detailed with, from the way it glittered in the low light of the candle, golden thread. The embroidery was subtle, though, and unlikely enough to draw attention in the wilds and on the roads of the world, making it safe and useful to wear even now. Only close examination would reveal its true value and beauty.
Dwalin swallowed; this was a kingly gift, given the circumstances, and part of him hesitated to reach out and touch it.
“Do you like it?” Thorin asked.
“Very much,” Dwalin replied, drawing closer. “Where did you…?”
Thorin let out a blustering sigh. “An elf came to my smithy, and overpaid for a horseshoe.” He ran his thumb across the edging. “My sister helped me with the embroidery, but I crafted the thread.”
“You made this?” Dwalin asked, stunned by the meaning of such a gift.
Thorin nodded. “Yes. When last we were together, your cloak was worn. I wanted you to have a better one, especially with the journey ahead of us.”
“Thank you,” Dwalin murmured, reaching out and taking the cloak into his hands. “It’s a magnificent gift.”
“Then it is worthy of its recipient,” Thorin said, drawing a blush to Dwalin’s cheeks. “May it keep you warm in the days ahead.”
Dwalin cradled the cloak to his chest with one hand, the other coming out to pull Thorin to him again. “It will, as will the knowledge that you crafted it.” He curled his fingers in Thorin’s hair and smiled. “I will wear it proudly.”
While it may not outwardly mark him as Thorin’s, they both would know its meaning, and, as Thorin leaned in and kissed his mouth, Dwalin could not help but think that was more than enough.
In the morning, they would be gone, and he would wrap himself in this cloak, and, even when things became dark, Dwalin knew the memory of tonight would sustain him. Thorin’s hands on him, the bristle of his beard against his skin — all those memories, too, would be wrapped in this cloak.
And that , more than gold, made the green cloak worth treasuring.