Rock and Hawk: 5. Earth and Water

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5. Earth and Water

Nothing under heaven is softer or weaker than water,
      and yet nothing is better
            for attacking what is hard and strong,
                  because of its immutability.

--Tao Te Ching, chapter 43

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"Is she sane," Thyrnir asked in low-voiced Khuzdul, "living here alone, so near the sea?"

The two of them were sitting on a rock slab near the edge of the long-stranded beach terrace, looking out over the plain.  Veylin puffed on the youngster's pipe.  It was good to be out of that den and see the lie of the land at last.  Rekk and Oddi had helped carry him here before setting off for the moor; they were crossing the plain now, following the leisurely wingbeats of Craec.  The day was dawning fair, and his heart was lighter for the company of his nephew and the knowledge that the hunt was afoot, even if he was not.

"Men are strange," he replied in the same tongue.  Saelon had not yet risen, which was unusual, but the mead had been strong.  It would not gentle her mood if she slipped out in her soft-footed way and heard such blunt talk.  "It is hard to be sure.  As for the sea—"  Its restless crawl and ceaseless muttering against the steadfast rim of the earth was not pleasant, and he knew it disturbed him less than the others.  "—she is Dúnedain, and it calls to the alloy of Elf in her blood, I think."

"I had forgotten that."  Thyrnir reached out and Veylin passed the pipe back.  "But still—a woman alone?  Unprotected?  From what you say, the boy was no guardian, but a fosterling.  Certainly she defended him, not the other way around."

Veylin considered the tidy dooryard, with its fenced garden, skeps of bees, and the stand of ripe corn further along the terrace.  "She seems to have fared well 'til now.  This is not the work of a single year, or even a few, though she will not say how long she has dwelt here."

"I grant that she is able, even masterful, but why would she live so far from her kin?"

That was the question.  In this troubled world, solitude was a poor defense.  She was fortunate that they were folk of honor, and not outlaws or enemies.  "I wonder myself.  Skilled and generous as she is, they must be fools not to keep her close.  Unless," he reflected, "they consider her over-masterful.  You have seen how Men treat their women."

Thyrnir snorted.  "With such meek dams, how can they be other than weak?"

"This one," Veylin warned, "has marrow in her bones."

"Of that there is no doubt.  But it's of little matter.  As soon as we have seen to father and Vestri, we will carry you home.  I wonder where the nearest timber is."  Thyrnir looked over the treeless slopes with a frown.  "A litter will take something larger than these small trees can supply."

"Ask before you set your axe to any," Veylin counseled, "and pass the pipe again.  Saelon believes the fiends shun rowans."

Thyrnir smiled dismissively.  "A little tree, good only for small things.  The berries are of more value than the wood.  She may keep such a pale—we won't get you home on rowan."

Veylin gazed into the bowl of the pipe, then drew on it thoughtfully.  "I am not sure I want to be carried home."

Thyrnir raised his fiery brows.  "Are you so taken with this reckless madwoman?"

Too far away for a good cuff, Veylin snatched up a pebble and flicked it at him.  "Impudent beardling," he growled.  "You know where my heart is given."

"You found—?" Thyrnir began, then turned his head at the scrape of foot on stone, leather being drawn back from the doorway.  "Good morning, lady," he greeted Saelon in the Common Speech.

Her look of perplexity and concern passed when her gaze fell on him, and Veylin smiled around the pipestem.  Let her learn not to be so sure of him.  "Ah," she breathed, eyes narrowed, as if contemplating a rebuke.  If so, she kept it behind her teeth.  "Good morning, masters.  Where are your companions?"

"They have gone to the moor," Thyrnir told her, "to seek what slew our kin."

"With what guide?" she asked, with a puzzled frown.

"Craec knows the place."

"Of course; I had forgotten.  Have you broken your fast?"

"Yes."

For a moment she seemed at a loss, with naught to do for them, then said, "Good," in a brisk voice, and turned back into the cave.

Thyrnir glanced at him, brows lifted in curiosity and amusement.  She has tended me constantly these days, Veylin shaped in iglishmêkLook kindly on her.

I do.  Oddi may have been over-generous with the mead, however.

If she was the worse for drink, she hid it well.  She reappeared shortly with a bundle of cloth in one hand and made for the burn; when she returned, her hair was neatly dressed and she wore a finer shawl.  Yet neither that nor the gold woven among her dark tresses hid the mark of Rekk's hand on her naked face.  "Would you like me to tend your leg?" she asked.  "If your nephew has not treated such a wound before, I can show him how."

"If you would."  Veylin matched her formality, welcoming the loss of forced intimacy.  She would not have another workman spoil her efforts.  "I have been a burden on you too long."

We may have spoilt them already, Thyrnir signed.  Twice mended is seldom straight.

Saelon did not contradict him, but knelt to unwrap his leg.  Against the dun mottling of fading bruises, the reopened wound on his shin was livid in the clear light of day.  Plainly and without pity she described the nature of the damage to Thyrnir—the torn sinew at the knee, the gravity of the broken bone having been exposed so long—then took him into the cave to show him such herb-lore as she considered necessary.

Left alone, Veylin turned his attention to the landscape, admiring the great boss of darkened schist that anchored the bay to the south, the lower headland on the north clawed with dykes, and the fair cliffs between them.  This was a wide bay for this part of the coast, its plain perhaps seven hundred paces across and half as deep, the rich green turf showing that blown sand had buried the floor deep.  Dunes marched, a shifting, untrustworthy wall, between it and the hammer of the waves—the Lord of Waters beating ceaselessly on Mahal's anvil, grinding good rock to dust.

The power of water to cut and shape stone was often a wonder and delight, but here it was starkly overwhelming.  Sitting nearly sixty paces above it gave little comfort when the cliff behind bore all the marks of the sea's working.  Perhaps there was something in Saelon's belief that evil would avoid the shore: Mahal and the Lord of Waters were friends, yet only the desire to rescue gems from the wreck gave him the will to suffer the quiescent menace.  How could she be other than stout-hearted, staring that in the face every day?

Saelon and Thyrnir came out again; she carried her laden packbasket to a larger cave a little ways north of hers, while his nephew joined him, hands full of linen and moss and salve.  "She makes it seem a child's task," Thyrnir said, setting them down on the slab, "but it's the simplicity of polished craft.  You fell into good hands."

"You did not trust my judgment on that?"

"I am happier to have judged for myself," the youngster met him halfway.  "We can make better work of this brace, though."

"Before you find more opportunities for carpentry," Veylin suggested, "you might see if there is another place we could house.  I have been too much underfoot, and it is not right that we should be always in her face."  He looked towards the larger cave.  "What is that like?"

"A sound little cavern," Thyrnir allowed, most of his attention on Veylin's shin, fingers delicately probing the damage, bringing it a fraction straighter.  "Unfortunately, she has long used it to stable her beasts."

Veylin grunted as bone met bone, turning away to consider the rest of the cliff.  "There must be others.  Something smaller will do, for a few days."

"As soon as I have given these splints some shape, I will see what I can find."

Once leg and shoulder had been tended, the two of them sat companionably in the sun, Thyrnir shaving the wood smooth and fitting it to his leg, Veylin patiently grinding the nick out of his axe blade with his nephew's whetstone.  It was not the mar falling against a stone would leave, and given Saelon's tale of a severed hand, he salved his impotent frustration with the thought that he had given the creature that wound.  A hand was a sorer loss than a leg.

Though the bone that would chip this steel must rival a troll's.  His thoughts turned to Rekk and Oddi, and he hoped Saelon's guess that the thing was a night-stalker was good.  Might this be some new breed of troll, loosed by the Enemy to further devil the West, crossed with some beast so rank it overwhelmed the stone-tang of troll-blood?

When they had slain it, they might get answers.

Saelon went about her work as if they were not there: milking her ewes; hauling the heather of his sickbed out of her cave and sweeping the flags vigorously clean.  The peat-ash she spread on her garden, pausing to pluck some weeds from among the young kail plants.  Thyrnir, having fitted the reworked brace onto Veylin's leg with leather straps for greater security, wandered down along the southern end of the cliff, studying the face and the tumble at its foot.  Now, as the woman finished spreading her blankets over the whitethorns to air, he approached her.  "Lady, is there a spade I might borrow?"

"Certainly," she replied, although she looked puzzled.  "For what?"

"There is another cave a bit further along the cliff, though the mouth is mostly buried.  I would clear it, so we might be a little further off and less trouble."

She considered this.  "How long might you stay?"

"A few more days, no more," he assured her.

Saelon favored him with her half-smile.  "I think I can bear with you for a few more days.  There is no need to put yourself to the trouble."

"You are kind," Thyrnir told her with a short bow.  "But we would prefer it."

Her look turned cool.  "As you will.  You will find the spade, and such other tools as I have, in the larger cave, on the right hand.  Use what you need.  All I ask is that you leave them as you found them."

"Of course."

Leaving with her packbasket soon after on some errand, Saelon was spared his nephew's opinion of her meager store of tools, and the spade in particular.  It served, however, and by the time she returned, bent under a load of peats, Thyrnir had broke through into the void behind.

Veylin raised a hand in welcome as she looked around her deserted dooryard, then shouted towards the dark hole at the top of the steeply sloping spoil, "Is it good?"

The youngster crawled back out, shaking the chalky dust from his hood.  "Passable.  Bigger than I suspected, and the roof is solid.  There is more to clear than I thought, though."

"An undignified scramble," Veylin judged, eyeing the opening, "but it might be safer so.  I would be glad of more than a few sticks between us and what may walk in the night."

"We can scramble, but what of you?  Ah, thank you, lady," Thyrnir said, as Saelon came over with a stoup and offered him a cup of water.  He looked at the blade of her spade before setting it aside.  "I will have to carve you a new spade before we leave, unless you have a bit of spare iron I could shoe this one with."

She considered as he drank.  "The only metal I have to spare is a knife whose temper I spoilt, but if you are willing to do a bit of smithing, I would rather have it rehardened than turned into a spade shoe.  I only have the two knives."

"I cannot help you there," Thyrnir replied.  "A hammer and a flat stone will make a spade shoe, but peat will not give enough heat to quench and temper a blade; nor even wood, without good bellows.  No matter.  Once this is done, I will be making a litter so we can carry Veylin home.  If you tell me where I can find suitable timber, I will replace your spade as well."

"There is always good wood down on the shore," Saelon replied.  "How large a piece of timber?"

"The shore?" Thyrnir echoed, with obvious distaste.  "Where is the next nearest?"

Saelon's expression turned dubious.  "You would want what?  Oak?"

"Or ash."

"There is no ash hereabouts.  The nearest oakwood is not quite a league to the southeast, in the shelter of the hills.  A long way to carry timber, especially since Gaernath took the garron."

"The oakwood will better suit my purposes," he declared.

She was unconvinced, eyes hooded like a hackled hawk.  "Do you mislike the sea?"

"All Dwarves mislike the sea," Thyrnir answered shortly.

"I thought only evil things shunned the sea."

"Is that why you feel secure," Thyrnir scoffed, "behind your flimsy wattle wall?"

"Saelon," Veylin exclaimed, alarmed to see them suddenly turn flint and steel, "few Men can long bear a mountain's weight over their head, but is such unease a mark of malice?"  He gestured towards the ocean, more oppressive by far.  "Do none of your own folk fear it?  For I hear you are Dúnedain, and Númenor was drowned deep."

From her stillness, he knew he had hit some mark.  "Your pardon, masters," she asked after a moment, meeting Thyrnir's sullen gaze.  "I told you," she reminded him, "that I do not know Dwarves."

"And that your anger was only blunted," he added.  Handing back the cup, he picked up the spade and went back to digging.

"Leave him," Veylin advised, as she hesitated, as if contemplating a reply.

Saelon came over and sat beside him, offering the cup and stoup.  "Truly," she asked, after he had drunk, "you are troubled by the sea?"

"Truly.  Do you not find it . . . disquieting?"

She gazed out at the boundless expanse of heaving water.  "It is the only place I am not disquieted."

The serenity that came over her scratched and bruised face could not be gainsaid.  "Is that why you are so far from your kin?"

"One reason."  Rising, she went back along the foot of the cliff to her own tasks.

Veylin watched her go and shook his head.  A strange woman, almost as close as a Dwarf.  There was a puzzle here, but a darker riddle demanded his attention now.  As Thyrnir had said, she was of little matter beside their duty to the dead and the ache for vengeance.  When he had returned home, he would give thought to the best way to repay her for her care of him.  In the meantime, keeping her and the others from bitter misunderstanding would be no trifle.

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The setting sun cast a golden glow on the cliffs as Rekk and Oddi returned, toiling up the track more heavily burdened than they had left.  Thyrnir left the burnside, where he had been washing up, and joined them, taking a pair of packs from Rekk.  Even from where he sat, on a rough stone seat outside the new delf, Veylin recognized them—his pack and Thekk's, left under the rock ledge where they had camped.  Craec soared up ahead of them, rising all the way to the top of the cliff before perching.

That did not bode well for their mood.

"What did you find, aside from the packs?" Veylin asked flatly when they joined him.  Although he had had Gaernath's tale, enough to fire any heart, he wished to hear it confirmed and get some hope of vengeance.

"The cairn," Oddi answered, shrugging off his double burden, his own pack and Vestri's.  "It was as the boy told you.  He built it high, capped with white quartz.  No one could miss it."

"What is this?"  Rekk stared at the passage Thyrnir had finally shoveled down to rock not long before.

"Veylin thought we should trespass on Saelon's hospitality less," Thyrnir explained.  "There is a decent cave behind the spoil.  I've laid heather for beds, and a fire to drive out the damp."

"It will be good not to have her always about," Rekk approved.  Oddi had already stepped into the cave for a look.

"Was there any trail to follow?" Veylin demanded.

"Too much time has passed."  Rekk's anger had settled, like a bonfire falling into a bed of red-hot embers.  "Scraps of cloth are all that remain.  The rains washed away whatever spoor was left.  If there was a hand or paw, birds and beasts have devoured it."

"A rough job," Oddi commented, coming back out.

"All I had was an unshod spade," Thyrnir told him.

"Is it to hand?  I don't like the slope on the inner face."

"Your son's slayer walks the world," Rekk pointed out, irritated by their lack of attention, "and you would putter with a spade?"

Oddi slowly turned his head, more than matching Rekk's glare.  "My axe is sharp, but there is no trail.  Tomorrow I will find a fit place to lay my son.  I do not want to start that day by digging myself out of an ill-cut scrape."

Thyrnir folded his arms and jerked his beard along the cliff-face.  "The spade was borrowed from Saelon.  You can ask for the loan of it."

"Never mind," Oddi said dismissively, walking over to his pack for the mattock.  "You may be happier with wood than with iron—"

"You two had taken all the digging tools."

"How were we to know you would want them?  You were to nurse Veylin, while we saw to the dead."

"He needs little care.  My father has been slain, and I am left with a beardling's tasks—"

"I didn't ask you to dig this hole.  You could have left Veylin in that woman's care if your heart burnt so hot."

"Leave my uncle in the care of a stranger, not even a Dwarf?"  Thyrnir was outraged.

"Are you saying he does not grieve for his father?" Rekk growled, jealous of his brother's honor.

Forget Saelon; there were quarrels enough among themselves.  "Will you all stop bickering over trifles . . . and me?" Veylin began.  "Let—"

"Easy for you to say," Oddi cut him short.  "The dead were no kin of yours.  Your heart does not burn as ours do."

"My heart does not burn?!" Veylin exploded, slapping his braced leg.  "This creature has crippled me, so I must be a burden on my kin all my days.  You think I want Thyrnir to have to choose between honoring his father and caring for me?"

"You are the one who brought them to this forsaken place."

"Are you saying I led them to their deaths?"

In the perilous pause that hung between them, Saelon's voice rang.  "Masters!  I am sure you are weary and vexed after your laborious day.  Here is ale to slake your thirst and tempers."  She set a pail and two cups down where she stood, still some paces off.  "If you would sup, the board will be laid by the time you have drunk."

They all stared after her as she walked off, it being easier than looking at each other.

"You should have dug further off," Oddi told Thyrnir.

"You may dig where you like," Thyrnir replied.

Rekk walked over and collected the pail, bringing it back to Oddi's side and filling a cup.  "Drink," he told him, holding out the cup.  "Do not argue with the youngster because you can no longer argue with your son.  You know his heart was set on this journey of Veylin's.  He was following his craft, as do we all.  Take it and drink!" he urged, when Oddi remained louring and still.  "You have seen how monstrous this thing is.  We must be patient, and take counsel with each other."

For several long breaths more, Oddi remained unmoved; then he bent enough to take the cup and drink, though he did not speak.

Rekk took the cup to Thyrnir next.  "Drink," he said, and his eyes were bleak.  "When you have seen your father, you will understand why he is so angry."

After his nephew, Rekk brought the ale to Veylin.  "My brother was dear to you," Rekk acknowledged.  "Help me avenge him."

"As if he had been my own brother," Veylin assured him, and took the cup.  The ale was light, hardly bitter at all; unsatisfying for such a pledge, but soothing to a tight throat.

Rekk drained the dregs, then handed cups and pail to Oddi.  "Come, Thyrnir; let's get Veylin to table.  We may be more like civilized folk and less like wargs once we've had our meat."

The board had been set up at their end of the dooryard; far enough back, Veylin noticed, to give no sight of the sea.  It was laid for four, and though a pot of steaming stew sat at one end of the table and a rack of alder-grilled trout—still piping hot—at the other, Saelon was nowhere to be seen.  He was glad for it.  They were all raw enough, without further exposing their flayed feelings to a stranger.

They ate without unnecessary talk, making short work of the fish before settling down to the rich stewed goose.  Simply as it was served, it was a dish good enough for a lord's feast: the strong flavor of the goose artfully complemented by tart berries and mild new hazelnuts.  One would have to have the heart and maw of a dragon not to be mollified by such a meal.

Pushing away his bowl, Rekk drew out his pipe and began filling it.  "For someone so poor, she keeps a good table.  No wonder you look on her so kindly," he commented to Veylin.

"I wish she had been feeding me this well," Veylin grumbled mildly.  "What have you lot done to deserve such fare?"

"Yes, what?" Thyrnir wanted to know, frowning.  "We have injured her, and yet she is generous.  Is she trying to burden us with obligation?"

"I have been open-handed already.  She will get no more from me," Oddi said, pouring himself more ale.

"Or me."  Rekk rose and went to the cave, coming back with his pipe lit and a lamp against the darkening sky.

"I think you do her an injustice," Veylin told them, after turning it over in his mind.  "She is poor, but proud, and would rather give than receive, I guess.  She was not eager to accept your gold and silver last night."

Rekk grunted in a reflective way.  "Very proud," he agreed, and pointed his pipestem at Thyrnir.  "You spoke slightingly to her when we met, and she was curt in return, though she can be courteous when she chooses."

"She is a woman of few words, and those to the point," Veylin said.  "Not unlike yourself."

He blew a disdainful stream of smoke.  "I have been noisy tonight, but someone had to talk sense to you all.  If you like," he turned to Thyrnir, "I will stay with Veylin tomorrow.  You are Thekk's son.  You and Oddi should decide where they will lie."

Thyrnir sat for a long time, turning his cup in his hands.  "Thank you," he finally replied, "but I will remain here.  I am the best carpenter, and without a litter, Veylin cannot be there when we lay them down for their long sleep.  And," he huffed in irritation, "I must go nearly a league for the timber.  That will take most of the morning.  There is no stock of nails, and I do not have the tools I need for proper joinery."

"Why must you go so far for timber?" Oddi asked.

"That is the nearest oak."

"Does Saelon know it?"

"We came near to quarrelling about it."

Oddi nodded towards the track.  "What is this, then?"

Thyrnir turned to look; Veylin twisted as far as he dared and craned his neck.  Saelon was plodding doggedly up the narrow path, dragging a leg-thick log.  When Veylin glanced back, his nephew's expression was set, brows low.  Across from him, Oddi raised his brows and gave a minute shake of his head, then left the table, heading back for the newly opened cave.  So there were only the three of them when she reached the dooryard, blowing like an old pony, and dropped her burden.

"What is this?" Thyrnir asked her.

She tucked a stray wisp of hair back behind her ear.  "Seasoned oak."

"I had said that the oakwood would be better for my purposes."

"If so, I have uses of my own for this."  She pushed the log a little further out of the way with a foot.  "But if it will serve, you are welcome to it.  It is foolish to travel needlessly, especially now."

"You pile favors on me that I am unwilling to repay," Thyrnir told her, his tone surly.

Saelon straightened, folding her arms across her breast and looking down on him from her greater height.  "Let us understand one another," she said, equally blunt.  "The only thing I want that is in your power to give is the death of this raug.  You will pursue that for your own satisfaction, but as you have seen—" she turned a grim face on Rekk "—it will not be easy to accomplish.  Therefore I will aid you as I can."

"Even if we have driven your kinsman to his death?" Thyrnir persisted.

Her mouth set to a hard line.  "If such evil befalls, we will see.  Driving is not slaying, however, and Master Oddi has paid his guilt-price."

"In a few days we will be gone, without killing this thing.  Of what use will your aid to us be?"

"Who can tell?  If you would reap, you must sow."

Thyrnir's expression was dissatisfied, but apparently he could think of no apt reply.  "Rekk, will you help me carry Veylin to the cave?  I must see to his leg."

"Leave me for a while," Veylin countered, as they rose.  Rekk cocked an eyebrow, but moved off as if unconcerned at the flick of a finger.  Thyrnir hung by his seat a moment longer, until Veylin met his eyes.  "Bring my pack," he added, brusque.  When they were well away, he turned to regard the woman, still standing like a spear.  "I think," he said, "you may be nearly as stiff-necked as a Dwarf."

Her eyes narrowed.  "Is that meant to be a compliment?"

"Perhaps not," he admitted.  "But I respect you for it.  You said that there is a knife you would have mended.  May I see it?"

Bowing her head, she turned and went into her cave.  With admirable timing, his nephew returned with his pack and set it beside him.  Thank you, Veylin signed.  Leave her to me.  He was gone again by the time Saelon came back through the doorway.

She paused as she approached, then sat down on the seat across the board before passing him the knife.  He drew it from its sheath and turned it over in his hands in the light of the lamp.  A simple thing, such as a village smith might make for daily need at chore and board.  The iron was poor, the ore probably from a bog and smelted in a small clamp; its temper could never have been good.  He tried it on the edge of the board and shook his head at the result.  "You are not careless," he said.  "How did you come to spoil it?"

Saelon reached for the cup and drank before answering.  "Burning the raug-filth from your shoulder."

His hand went to the wound below his collarbone, rubbing its deep ache.  She continued to stare into the ale, somber and elsewhere in thought, so he looked down on the blade again, noting how much of the bone handle had been calcined by heat.  Grim work; he reproached himself for thinking her hopes of saving his leg came from mere squeamishness.  "And yesterday," he asked.  "The wrench to my leg.  Was that also a cruel kindness?"

The face she raised from the cup was bleak and resigned, deeply sad.  "Cruel.  I feared you would take it so.  You think I would revenge myself so.  On you, who was also injured by their heedlessness."  Wearily, she laid her hands on the board, pushing herself to her feet.

Veylin lunged across the board, catching one slim wrist as she turned to leave.  "Stay," he urged.

"To what end?"

"We are talking at cross-purposes.  I would not have you leave me in this bitter mood."

She took her seat again, but in duty rather than hope.  "What would you say?"

Releasing her, he refilled the cup and offered it to her.  "Kindness, I said as well.  Do not think I misprize it, even if it is alloyed with something baser.  I do not say yours is," he added quickly, "although I do not understand how it could not be, under the circumstances.  The thought of that flame-headed child astray is as sore as my shoulder."

Saelon accepted the cup, but did not drink.  "You were not to blame."

"You are just," Veylin commended, bowing.  "We are not used to finding such discrimination in others."

"There is too little justice in the world," she agreed, so gravely that he guessed she spoke from other experience.

"Too true.  That is why my nephew mistrusts yours."

She shook her head regretfully.  "He bears little blame, but I have spoken harshly to him."

That was an ill they would have to settle between them.  "With all that has passed, it would be surprising if you did not feel the need to bite.  But I am glad to hear you may require some pardon," he said, reaching out to take the ale she had not drunk.  "I was beginning to fear your nobility would run my debt so high it could never be paid."

Anger sparked in her eyes, and for a moment, he thought he had dared too much; then one corner of her mouth curved into that wry half-smile, though her gaze remained piercing.  "Alas, that I cannot refound the fortunes of my house through my courtesy.  Mother said as much."  It was the first glimmer of humor he had seen from her since the others arrived.

Veylin snorted, and set the cup between them.  "Do not expect too much," he warned.  "I am no dwarven king, and even they are not so rich as they once were."  He thought of Durin's Heir, laboring over iron at his forge down south.  "This, though," he picked up the ruined knife and slid it into the shadows at the far end of the board.  "I can better that."  Turning to his pack, he opened it and took out what lay on top—cloak, blanket, traveling rations, clean shirt and trews—until he reached his spare knife.  "It is a trifle, in the balance with my life," he confessed, handing it over, "but take it as surety of more to come."

She drew it from its sheath, handling it with a respect that Veylin found reassuring.  It would have been difficult to injure yourself seriously with the other; with this one, you might take a finger and feel it too late.  "I have rarely seen a better," she told him, after testing its edge by shaving a few hairs from her arm.

"Take the whetstone as well," he judged, bending back to his pack.  "Yours will have little bite on the steel."

"Thank you," she said, as he passed her the bar of good grit.

He bowed.  "I am glad I have something you value.  You may have to wait long for the death we both desire."

She raised the cup in both hands.  "May it come soon," she prayed, and drank deep.

* † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † * † *

Notes

Tao Te Ching: this is from a translation of the Ma-wang-tui manuscripts (Mair 1990), which are some five centuries older than the previous standard text.  The chapter numbering differs from the standard text as well; in previous texts, this was chapter 78.

Khuzdul: the secret language of the Dwarves.

Skep: a bee-hive made of coiled straw.

Pale: fence of upright posts, palisade; as in "beyond the pale."

Iglishmêk: dwarven gesture-language.  See HoME XI: War of the Jewels, p. 395:

They possessed in fact a secondary tengwesta of gestures, concurrent with their spoken language, which they began to learn almost as soon as they began learning to speak.  . . .  Not for communication at a distance, for the Dwarves were short-sighted, but for secrecy and for exclusion of strangers.

The component sign-elements of any such code were often so slight and swift that they could hardly be detected, still less interpreted by uninitiated onlookers.  As the Eldar eventually discovered in their dealings with the Naugrim, they could speak with their voices but at the same time by "gesture" convey to their own folk modifications of what was being said.  Or they could stand silent considering some proposition, and yet confer among themselves meanwhile.

Mahal: the Dwarves' name for Aulë.

Lord of Waters: Ulmo.  Given the importance Dwarves place on true names, I doubt they would refer to and perhaps even think of the Valar by their right names.  (If anyone can point me to examples where they do so in Tolkien's writings, please do.)  Peoples who go to lengths to conceal their "true names" believe that command of a name gives power over the object (a presumptuous thought where the Valar are concerned) and that "naming calls."

Pace: I have estimated that a dwarven pace is about 22 inches, a bit less than six-tenths of a ranga, or Númenorean yard (38 inches).  This is not quite proportional to their height, but the Men of the West are notoriously long-legged.

Kail (Brassica oleracea acephala): a winter-hardy non-heading cabbage.

Spade shoe: a rim of iron put on a wooden spade; this was the usual type of spade well into the 18th century AD.

Delf: excavation; see "Dwarrowdelf" as a translation of Khazad-dûm.

Alder (Alder glutinosa): a small tree, commonly found along water; its leaves and bark produce dye; the wood is water-resistant and attractive enough for furniture-making ("Scotch mahogany"); and it produces excellent charcoal.

Grit: in British geological terminology, a rough-textured sandstone suitable for grinding is called a grit or gritstone.


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.

Story Information

Author: Adaneth

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/26/11

Original Post: 09/22/06

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Comments

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Rock and Hawk

Gilnaur - 30 Oct 06 - 9:26 AM

Ch. 5: Earth and Water

Very nice.

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Playlists Featuring the Story

The Dûnhebaid Cycle - 5 stories - Owner: Adaneth
Dúnedain and Dwarves--and oh, yes, some Elves--on the northwest shore of Middle-Earth, not quite a century before adventures first befall Bilbo. Rampant Subcreation and Niggling in the margins. The ever-lengthening saga, in order.
Included because: Dûnhebaid I: hammering out an unlikely friendship between a Dwarf and a Dúnadaneth.

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