Tensions continued to rise today as dwarves, elves and men fight over the treasure of the dead dragon Smaug. Slain by the lake-man Bard, Smaug’s demise has created a geopolitical vacuum that threatens to tear apart the north-East region of Middle-Earth. The region is home to all three of the major races of Middle-Earth; elves from Mirkwood, men from Esgaroth, and dwarves from the Lonely Mountain have long lived beside one another in precarious peace.
After a long exile from their home in the Lonely Mountain, an exile forced upon them by Smaug, a group of thirteen dwarves have returned home under the leadership of Thorin Oakenshield, rightful King under the Mountain. The dwarves were successful in their return to the Mountain, mainly due to the diplomatic wrangling of one Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit in the employ of the dwarves, and the heroics of Bard, of the line of Girion, and inhabitant of Esgaroth.
Upon hearing of the return of the dwarves to the Lonely Mountain, Bard has demanded that he and his people receive gold and jewels in return for their role in slaying the dragon. “I am by right descent the heir of Girion of Dale,” he said to Oakenshield, under parley at the Gate of the Mountain, “and in your hoard is mingled much of the wealth of his halls and towns, which old Smaug stole. Is not that a matter of which we may speak?” Bard has been joined in his claims by King Thranduil and the elves of Mirkwood, long time allies of the men of Esgaroth and oft-bitter enemy of the dwarves. Men and elves have even begun a military build-up in the region, laying troops in wait outside the Lonely Mountain.
So far, the demands have fallen on deaf ears. Oakenshield, a fierce and stubborn military man, has refused to negotiate under what he calls “the threat of force.” Firing back at Bard, the proud King stated that, “while an armed host lies before our doors, we look on you as foes and thieves.” Nor will he negotiate with Thranduil, who recently imprisoned the dwarven king and his company for crossing without permission into Elvish lands. Oakenshield’s inflammatory talk has rallied his troops, and quelled moderates. It has also enraged the opponents outside his walls. As they lay siege to the Mountain, diplomatic talks have fallen to a standstill.
The sudden collapse in the region has many observers worried. Many feel that the tension in the region will draw into battle the dwarves of the Iron Hills, which lie directly east of the Lonely Mountain. This fear may indeed already be a reality, as Dain, son of Nain, leader of the dwarves of the Iron Hills and relative to Oakenshield, has received calls for military aid from his cousin.
There is a large amount of domestic pressure in the Iron Hills to aid Oakenshield’s cause, due in no small part to the fact that so many of the Iron Hills inhabitants are immigrants from the Lonely Mountain. It seems reasonable to assume that within a matter of days Iron Hill troops will be mobilized and march towards the Mountain. The move will certainly result in a full-scale escalation of the conflict, leading to an out-and-out war between the two sides.
Gandalf the Grey, representative of the White Council, is also worried about the possibility of war in the region. His own attempts at diplomatic negotiations have been rejected by Oakenshield. In fact, Oakenshield has thrown out both Gandalf and Mr. Baggins from the Mountain, claiming that they are spies for the other side. Tracked down outside the gates of the Lonely Mountain, Gandalf said, “Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of [us].” Only the wise know what these ominous words foretell.
*originally written in 2002