“What am I supposed to do about this?” Thorin demanded, jerking a frustrated hand at the message that laid before him, “It seems that I can no longer do anything without the risk of my head being cut off! How will I ever live another day whilst evil constantly seeks my death?” The wizard looked down at the message, considering the Dwarf King’s concerns heavily; even if Erebor was to be reclaimed in time, the message would certainly grow into something much larger than bounty as long as Sauron’s intentions remain on the Lonely Mountain, Thorin may have to live in hiding forever, as well as any of his kin! As he thought this, he was quickly dismayed by the likely possibility that Thorin would refuse to hide for the rest of his life, it was hard enough already to convince him to add a Hobbit to his plans.
“I would die for the future of my people,” Thorin suddenly proclaimed in a low, confident voice, “To assure that Erebor does not fall again, I would fight until I fall.”
Gandalf could not help but admire Thorin Oakenshield’s words, they were of course the words of a King after all, but he was troubled because he had greater intentions with Thorin that he had hoped to have used far after the reclaim of the Mountain. Thorin, thus far, was the only Dwarf that he had ever truly dealt with, and he already sounded much more reasonable than he had expected. Gandalf sighed, pushed his own plate aside, and rested his elbows on the table, “As that would be a very noble and selfless act, I tell you again: You are the rightful heir to the throne of Durin, no one else,” he told the Dwarf sternly, “I have heard of your many accomplishments. In these parts, there is much talk of peace and prosperity in the Blue Mountains that glowed soon after you took its throne. You should be the one to sit at Erebor’s throne, revive it to what it once was, call upon all Dwarves to take up their oath, and make the presence of Durin’s Folk known to the world again...I believe both your father and your grandfather would agree with me.”
Thorin frowned at the reference of his father and grandfather but held off making a comment of it. He looked down grimly at the message again, “What would you have me do? Hide for the rest of my life? I am no coward,” he argued. Gandalf thought hard on how he could spare this Dwarf’s life in order to keep the eyes of evil from glancing ever at the Mountain, while also maintaining good connections with Dwarves through this respected King. He suddenly came up with an idea; it was drastic, but plausible.
“I believe, then, I have come up with a compromise,” he said, smiling through his long, grey beard.
Thorin furrowed his brows in puzzlement, what is a compromise between life and death? Gandalf took back the message and looked at the Dwarf sternly in the eyes, “You can be dead in the common eyes and to the eyes of evil while still being alive,” he said. Thorin frowned and was not visibly frustrated by having to decipher everything the wizard said, “Speak plainly,” he demanded, “One cannot be dead to some and alive to others.”
“I am saying that should there be an attack on the Mountain the moment your party enters there, you must falsify your death in order to end this hunt on your kin and your kingdom. There will be an open funeral to announce to the world that you have passed, a new name will symbolically take on the throne, but you will be alive to your kin and you will still be their King!”
Thorin stayed quiet and sat back in his chair. He tried to analyze what it would mean to him and his kin. Was it selfish to not truly die for his kin? Or was it selfish to die the very moment he takes the throne and reclaims Erebor after vowing to restore it and open its gates to its people once again? There is no honour in falsifying death, he believed, that was plain cowardly. He shook his head and glared down at his mug of ale, “I cannot,” he mumbled, “I have my honour, my duty. I would truly give my blood for the freedom of my people and you wish to rob me of that by making me spare myself?” Gandalf frowned sensing something morbid between his words, “Your people would rather see you alive than dead. The question now is: do you?” Now the discussion had become personal. Any other time, Thorin would have been outraged at the insinuation, but on this day he had just been drained of hope from his futile search for his father. He took a few minutes to recall to Gandalf all whom he had lost and how dark his life has been; living alone, suffering, with his burdens and lamenting the memories he lost. “I am unhappy,” he finally admitted, “And I fear that when I take the throne of Erebor, I will be unhappy there as well.” Gandalf smiled in understanding, which Thorin did not like and thus scowled back.
“Erebor will open new doors, new paths for you. Your grandfather and father longed to reclaim that throne, now you are the only one who can. Your duty is to make sure that their peril, and the peril of Erebor's people, has not been in vain.”
The Dwarf King thought on it more, now enticed by what the wizard said. It was a long time between any of them spoke another word until Thorin finally broke the silence, “Alright, I will follow your plan,” he said, much to Gandalf’s relief, “What do you want me to do?”
“I remember from the days of Moria that there was a substance called Mithril?”
“Aye, my kin made armour with it. Few of those pieces are still around in the Blue Mountains.”
“Excellent! I would have you bring one of those with you and that you wear it in battle.”
Thorin hesitated, then muttered, “What of my nephews? I am bringing them along and I told my sister that I would keep them safe.”
“Very well, then! Bring three!”
Fortunately, the meeting had ended on a good note. The plan in the end was this: The Mithril shirts would be worn on the journey to Erebor and would remain worn. Should orcs march towards the Mountain and war break out between Dwarves and orcs, Thorin and his nephews would continue to wear the shirts. If any of them were to be stabbed, they would have to pretend to die and wait to be retrieved. The funeral would happen, and the successor would take the throne (Thorin said he would speak to his cousin on this). But beforehand, all Dwarves would be told the truth. Afterwards, there would be a secret coronation for Thorin where he and his people would have to take an oath to never give out his name outside the Mountain. For if that happened, Sauron’s forces would surely return. Eventually, by Gandalf’s discretion, other realms in the North such as Dale and Mirkwood would be permitted to know the truth as well.
When Gandalf left the Prancing Pony, Thorin immediately began to think about this Quest and what had to be done for it. He knew a good handful of companions that he could ask to join his company, some who would need persuasion, of course. His mind then wandered back to the Hobbit that Gandalf had mentioned. He was not fond of the idea at all, being responsible for the life of someone he did not know nor trust, especially because Hobbits were not skilled in fighting nor venturing far from their villages and thus proved no service to him or his kin. But Gandalf was adamant, and he gave a valid reason for bringing the Hobbit along and Thorin had to incumbently comply. Now how on earth was he going to keep a Hobbit safe? If anything happened to him, Gandalf would probably have his beard for it.
Perhaps he should bring an extra Mithril shirt.