8. The Hall of Standards
"Balin! Balin, come quickly!"
"What is it, Bór?"
"Ori and Óin have sent a message to tell you to come to the second level – they've found something you should see."
Balin left the Chamber of Mazarbul and hurried down the Great Staircase with the young mapmaker at his heels. Only twenty days ago had they re-entered Khazad-dûm, but already they had found so many rich and ancient things that their sense of marvels was beginning to fade. If Ori and Óin thought that Balin should see their discovery immediately, it must be something truly wondrous.
They reached the landing of the second level above the Gates and followed the distant glimmer of Ori's lantern to an arch midway down the first passage. Balin stepped inside first, and halted so suddenly that Bór ran into him from behind. For a moment both of them held their breath at the sight.
Mirror-polished black walls threw back bright gleams from a dozen carved and gilded poles, the standards of great lords of Khazad-dûm's past. More than twice dwarf-height they stood in proud and silent array, as they had since the Second Age, bearing the emblems and devices of Durin's heirs.
"Good work, lads," Balin told Ori and Óin, and clapped them on the backs. "May your beards grow long indeed! Be sure to mark this down, Bór – we've found the Hall of Standards, the Fifth Hall of the Eastern end on the second level."
"But why are they still here?" Bór asked. "Surely there was time to carry them out, before Khazad-dûm was abandoned?"
Balin cuffed the back of his head. "Idiot! What are they teaching you young fellows in the Iron Mountains these days? When the Dwarves raise a standard in our halls, we use quickset to see that it stays put. It may be left behind to be won back later, it may be cut down by our enemies, but it will never be moved."
"What we have, we hold," Óin murmured, and Balin gave him another approving slap.
"Aye! Just as Durin said, cousin."
Slowly Balin paced down the long line of standards, admiring the shining craftsmanship. The Orcs, with their ignorance of any wealth less subtle than a heap of gold, had not disturbed this hall much. Some of the lower carvings were hacked and scarred, and a few of the largest jewels had been gouged out of their settings, but high above finely detailed hammers and anvils carved from solid jade remained, and the jet eyes of gilded ravens still glittered down at him.
He came to the end, where an empty floor socket waited to receive another pole. In his mind's eye he could already see a tall new standard set there, blazing with fresh gilt – his standard. Balin, Lord of Khazad-dûm.
He closed his eyes and gave thanks to Mahal for his good fortune.
Mahal is the name Dwarves use for Aulë, the Vala who created their ancestors.
The idea of ravens as having great significance for Dwarves is borrowed ([cough] stolen [cough]) from Anglachel's story "The Lions of Khazad-dûm."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.