Shock thunders through me. Here I was blindly putting my faith in the honor of my people and I've gone and completely forgotten about the dark side of Dwarven Nature. Dominoes begin to fall in my mind as I consider the implications of just how far this thing reaches. I am deeply shaken. Hard practicality takes over. I've seen this before. It's just like any disease, rotting and persistent. Sometimes you have to cut it out and sometimes you have to just treat the symptoms until you can find the cure at a later date. Fight, or Flight. But these are thinking men, afflicted with a disease of spirit. And Baldir taught me that there is a third way to deal with men so afflicted. I don't know if he's involved in this plot but the advice is no less valuable for my doubt. And I've got to trust somebody. Besides, I think, it's the only card I have left to play here.
So I step slowly away from Thorin, glaring about me at the Defenders, and place myself between the boys and the Master Defender. I stand firm and look him square in the eye. "Thorin, do not do this thing. Whatever my opinions about these humans, if you attack me, you attack the very honor of your clan. And if you want to attack these humans, Master Defender, make no mistake, you will have to go through me." I pause long enough for effect but not long enough to give him time to pull steel. I can see it in the grim set of his features that I'm a long way off from winning him over. "But it doesn't have to be that way. Thorin Defender, I swear an Oath to you, by the Blood and Sweat of my Fathers, that if you allow us to go in peace, I will never speak of this to any Human. Moreover, I Swear that I shall look after the tongues of these boys behind me. Should their tongues grow loose, I will cut them free with my own hands and deliver the offending appendage unto you." I can hear someone behind me shuffle, probably Mattrim, and someone else wisely quiet him down, probably Eadmund. I do not break my stare with Thorin, for to do so would show that I'm willing to break my Oath. Even as I hear the creaking leather of the Defender's Gloves as they tighten their grip about their weapons, I do not break my stare. Thorin knows I am vulnerable in this. Narrow, focused gaze. Open stance. It's a tactically weak position and, therefore, a gift of trust. It is the only honorable way to deliver an Oath.
I can see that I've reached something inside him. Though his craggy features are as hard as stone, his eyes soften the barest fraction. He is at least honorable enough to allow me to deliver final words. A delusion on my part? Baldir says to beware projection. But he also says that doubt murders the spirit and taints all effort. If I cannot judge him true, I must rely on the truth in my own words. "These humans are in exile, Thorin. They face destruction by the hands of their own Lords. They will say nothing, do nothing, for they cannot even approach their homes. And, even if we succeed in restoring them, the All-Father knows they will keep silent, both in the face of my Oath and out of respect for the life they have been granted. You know I speak true. The choice is yours." I cannot tell if I have reached him or if I have merely delayed the inevitable but, in my time with the Ambassadors, I have learned that there is a time to stop talking. It is a point at which all further discussion muddies the waters and confuses the issue. Intentions become clouded, words ring false and are robbed of their sincerity, and due consideration fails to occur. An incredibly tense moment stretches as the older Dwarf weighs my words and considers his choice. I wish I could say I find peace in this moment, which may be among my very last, but I don't.