17 Royal blood

Arya was sitting in front of the fireplace with a blanket over her shoulders, watching the flames dance. Had they succeeded in their mission, soon the inhabitants of Esgaroth would have known nothing but dragon fire, and she wouldn't have been able to help them from inside the Mountain.

"Arya? Are you all right?"

The flow of those thoughts was interrupted by Bilbo who, like her, was warming himself in front of the hearth, while looking at her worriedly.

"Mh? Oh, yes sure, don't worry Bilbo."

She replied with a smile, and then shift her attention back to the crackling flames in the fireplace.

"No, I know something's going on. So, what is it?"

The hobbit continued, forcing her to turn back in his direction.

"It's nothing Bilbo, really. I was just thinking about what lies ahead."

"You mean the dragon?"

Arya nodded with a dark expression on her face, an expression that her friend had never seen before: she really seemed very worried.

"What makes you think it's still there? According to what Balin says, no one has seen it for 60 years. "

The halfling then asked her.

"That's exactly what makes me think it is there: if it had gone out, it would have been seen."

The girl explained quietly. Bilbo found no objection to those words, so silence fell again between them.

"The sun is setting."

Oin announced a few moments later, standing by the window.

"Gather your things, let's go!"

Thorin ordered in an authoritative tone. All members of the company started immediately to mobilise, even if they didn't have much to take.

"No, stop! You can't leave now! There are spies guarding the house! At least wait for my father to come back! "

Bain, the son of Bard, tried to stop them, standing still in front of the door, but it was all in vain.

"Move away lad, we've already held back too long!"

Dwalin roared out, before roughly taking him by the shoulder and moving him from the entrance. Realising that dwarves could not be reasoned with, Sigrid decided to approach Arya.

"I don't think leaving now is a good idea, you risk getting caught."

The woman looked at her uneasily.

"I agree, but when Thorin sets his mind to something nobody can change it, and we're really running out of time."

She explained seriously.

"Thank you for everything you have done for us and, please, forgive us if we have caused you any problems."

She then added, smiling at her. Sigrid returned the smile and let her follow her companions out of the house.

Night had fallen when, finally, the company managed to find the city's armory. Taking advantage of the cover of the dark and trying to make as little noise as possible, Thorin, along with Bilbo, Nori, Kili and Bofur, climbed up to reach a window on the right side of the building, while the other dwarves remained on guard with the girl. The thieves began to recover as many weapons as they could and entrusted them to Kili, who was in charge of taking them out. The young dwarf, however, due to the injury to his knee, succumbed to the weight of the axes and swords, falling down the stairs. The loud and sudden noise drew the attention of the guards who, having caught them red-handed, arrested them and brought them in the presence of the Master.

Therefore, the fifteen companions found themselves being dragged into an open space at the foot of a wide staircase, which led to the palace of the Governor of Laketown. All the inhabitants had gathered around them: the rumors about their presence had spread quickly and people had begun to find hope in the old legends about the Mountain and its immense treasures.

"What is the meaning of this?"

The Master asked nervously, throwing open the doors of the building and going outside, immediately followed by Alfrid. The two didn't bother to go down the stairs, however, so that they could still maintain a position of superiority.

"We caught 'em stealing weapons, Sire."

Braga, the captain of the guards, explained, pointing to Thorin and his companions.

"Ah! Enemies of the state, huh?"

The Governor then continued with bravado.

"A desperate bunch of mercenaries, if ever there was, Sire."

The lackey accused them angrily.

"Hold your tongue!"

Dwalin silenced him, taking two steps towards the center of the clearing.

"You do not know to whom you speak. This is no common criminal. This is Thorin. Son of Thrain, son of Thror!"

The dwarf continued solemnly, pointing to his King.

"We are the dwarves of Erebor. We have come to reclaim our homeland."

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Thorin proclaimed proudly, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. The Master stared at him in disbelief and opened his mouth to speak, but not a breath escaped those lips.

"I remember this town in the great days of old. Fleets of boats lay at harbor, filled with silks and fine gems. This was no forsaken town on a lake. This was the center of all trade in the north! I would see those days return. I would relight the great forges of the dwarves and send wealth and riches flowing once more from the halls of Erebor!"

The young King concluded, moving to the center of the square and turning his back on the governor to address the people. His words imbued with hope, the pride in his bearing and the confidence in his voice convinced the inhabitants of Laketown, who began to cheer him.

"Death! That is what you'll bring upon us."

Shouted suddenly a man in the crowd.

"Dragon fire and ruin. If you awaken that beast, it will destroy us all."

Bard had made his way through the guards and, standing now still in front of Thorin, looked the dwarf straight in the eye.

"You can listen to this naysayer, but I promise you this; if we succeed all will share in the wealth of the mountain."

Thorin said calmly, addressing once again the inhabitants of Laketown. His words were sincere.

"You will have enough gold to rebuild Esgaroth ten times over!"

He then exclaimed, thus obtaining the consensus of all citizens.

"Why should we take you at your word?"

Alfrid intervened inquisitively, calling for silence.

"We know nothing about you. Who here can vouch for your character? "

The lackey continued in a haughty tone.

"Me."

The hobbit unexpectedly declared, taking a step forward.

"I'll vouch for him! I have traveled far with these dwarves through great danger and..."

The Master burst out laughing, interrupting Bilbo's speech and receiving some dirty looks from the company in exchange.

"How much could a halfling's word be worth?"

He asked boldly.

"How much is the word of someone with royal blood worth, instead?!"

Arya then replied with pride, advancing towards the staircase and showing the Ring of Barahir.

"I know that ring! It is a relic of the Dúnedain! You...you are Isildur's heir!"

He exclaimed, astonished.

"My name is Arya. I am the daughter of Arathorn, the last King of the Dúnedain."

The young woman spoke confidently, never shifting her gaze from the face of the man who, from the top of the staircase, observed her in shock, with wide eyes and an open mouth. The inhabitants of Laketown, around them, began to murmur, recalling old battles, ancient kings and queens, stories of the past. Rumors, inn tales whispered among the people of the North, said that the two sons of Arathorn, the last descendants of the House of Isildur, weren't buried with him.

"So, how much is my word worth?"

She asked again.

"I will be glad to accept your word, My Lady."

The man announced in a trembling voice. The amazement in his eyes was the same as in the eyes of the dwarves and the hobbit, who stared at the young woman as a thousand questions began to form in their minds. Why hadn't she said it right away? Why had she kept her identity hidden from her friends? Why hadn't she said anything to the one she loved? Fili needed answers and, like him, all his companions.

"As a matter of fact, Sire..."

"Shut up, Alfrid!"

The lackey had recognized the girl as Bard's fake apprentice, but was immediately silenced by his superior, who had suddenly regained his resolve.

"Thank you."

Thorin murmured to his friend, smiling at her and placing a hand on her forearm. He knew what it meant to lose everything, to risk his life every day because of his name, to have a price on his head, he could understand why the girl had kept her identity hidden: she was protecting herself, and she was risking a lot to help them in that moment.

Arya smiled back at him.

"All of you, listen to me!"

Bard ferociously intimated to the people, who had once again begun to rejoice, hoping for a rich alliance between Esgaroth and the dwarves of Erebor.

"You must listen! Have you forgotten what happened to Dale? Have you forgotten those who died in the firestorm? And for what purpose? The blind ambition of a Mountain King, so riven by greed, he could not see beyond his own desire!"

The harsh words of the bargeman were true, and they brought uncertainty and doubt to gradually build up in people's minds.

"Now. Now. We must not, any of us, be too quick to lay blame. Let us not forget, that it was Girion, Lord of Dale, your ancestor, who failed to kill the beast."

The Master then intervened, in an attempt to restore order among the crowd, which began to fidget, terrified by the idea that events could repeat themselves.

"It's true, Sire. We all know the story. Arrow after arrow, he shot. Each one missing its mark."

Alfrid asserted, in his usual way of superiority over the bargeman.

Thorin and Arya turned surprised to Bard, but he didn't let himself be beaten down by the accusations and walked menacingly towards the dwarf.

"You have no right. No right to enter that mountain."

He murmured sternly, looking him straight in the eye.

"I have the only right."

Thorin replied proudly, then turned his back on him and spoke to the Lord of Laketown.

"I speak to the Master of the men of the lake. Will you see the prophecy fulfilled? Will you share in the great wealth of our people? What say you?"

The dwarf asked him.

"I say unto you...welcome! Welcome and rise! Welcome, King Under the Mountain!"

The Governor announced spreading his arms, while the crowd began to cheer and cheer the new arrivals again.

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