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Thanks and hugs to Cairistiona for beta-reading.
Balin and his company.
Gimli sighed, remembering that day thirty years ago when Balin had led the company to reclaim Khazad-dum. They set off with their heads held high brave, unwavering, adventurous. Some of the residents of Erebor including the king Dain beheld Balin's attempt with fear. They thought that Balin would face too many obstacles, too many enemies... including the most dreadful one, the horror they did not name. But in spite of that, even the most suspicious ones could not repress hope hope that Moria would cease to be the black pit and that it would become Khazad-dum again the most magnificent kingdom of dwarves.
Balin and his company.
Those were the words that for quite a while no one in Erebor or Iron Hills had uttered aloud. They awoke sorrow, fear and worry.
In the beginning they received good news from Balin. But the success was short-lived only five years. And then silence. For almost twenty-five years the people of the Lonely Mountain haven't received any message from Khazad-dum from neither Balin, nor anyone else from his group. The silence was ominous, and as it went on, it spoke for itself. All the dwarves were aware of the possible outcome.
Possible outcome?, wandered Gimli. The most probable one, his reason replied. Twenty-five years. Twenty-five. That is a lot of time.
But at the same time, the lack of news meant that the worst news wasnt confirmed either, and until it wasn't, they hoped.
Maybe they are all right, thought Gimli. His heart didn't want to accept the worst alternative.
He spent the last two weeks with the Fellowship chosen in Rivendell, travelling with the Ring-bearer. Every step towards the south was a step closer to Khazad-dum, and at the same time a step towards the possible revealing of the truth: confirmation that his compatriots are dead... or discovery that they are well after all, in spite of all odds.
Maybe they are alive and fight and create. The hope in his heart was weak... but it didn't die out.
Sitting alone during a short break, Gimli knew this was the moment of decision. The Fellowship had arrived in the area where they had to choose: either to go towards the Pass of Caradhras, or to search for the entrance into Khazad-dum. The only remaining alternative led to the south all the way to the Gap of Rohan. But besides the fact that that particular route was too long, it passed too close to Isengard and Saruman; that alternative was out of the question.
The dwarf sighed. He wanted to pass through Khazad-dum and find Balin so much.
Maybe they are simply to busy to send a messenger. Now, as close to the entrance into Khazad-dum as he had ever been in his life, a hope and fear grew inside him at the same time.
It is impossible that they are so busy that they couldn't send at least one messenger for twenty-five years, reason replied to the previous thought. Gimli shook his head, feeling sad. Somewhere deep inside he knew the truth... but he didn't want to accept it. He desperately searched for arguments.
Maybe they are well, but still there is some reason why they can't contact us.
Maybe the eastern gate is buried, and they don't want to use western entrance because that would mean the messenger would have to face the danger of crossing the mountains. Or the western gate is also unreachable for some reason.
It was quite implausible it was a mere clinging to the last straw... but his hope still lived.
"Gandalf, we could pass through Khazad-dum," he finally said. The thought of being so close to his kin and not trying to find them was unbearable. He had to put forth the suggestion.
It wasn't accepted. It was decided they would go over the mountain.
He wasn't surprised.
All the tunnels and halls have been full of orcs for a long time, and besides that, our forefathers awoke the nameless fear deep in the mountain, reason reminded him. The odds of Balin and his company succeeding were never good.
He was aware of that, but he couldn't accept it. He didn't want to accept it.
If were alive, they would contact us.
But maybe, just maybe, they are not lost.
As the Fellowship went on and started its way towards Caradhras, the dwarf frowned. Inside him the argument between reason and heart went on, repeated over and over. But he knew he wouldn't give up nor stop believing. And then he decided.
One day. One day when all this is behind us, I'll come back. And I'll look for Balin.
Because no matter how ill-omened the facts seemed pointing at only one possible outcome, no matter how much time passed since the last news, he knew that his hope that Balin and the others were alive would never die.
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