1. In the Shelter of Destroyed Dreams
Gimli felt dawn's fingers rouse him from sleep. He lay there, still as a stone, wisps of a dream clouding his thoughts. He hadn't slept so soundly in ages— not since he'd left the Lonely Mountain with Glóin so many months ago. But here, in Khazad-dûm itself, he'd slept as though he were chiselled from the hewn rock.
What on Mahal's beard had he been dreaming about? He almost never dreamed. Usually dreams were a bad omen. He took a deep breath, drawing in the air filled with ghostly scents of his ancestors: woodsy smoke from cheery fires, the tang of leather, pungent oil from lamps overhead, and of course, the earthy fug of tobacco from hundreds of pipes. A second deep breath was far less fanciful. Stale, bitter air, chill with foreboding.
"I'm hungry," a light voice complained in the bedroll next to him.
"Hush, Pippin. We'll have breakfast once the others wake up."
"But it won't be a proper breakfast," the hobbit insisted. "I do hope we come across those Dwarvish relations Gimli talked about. If they're at all hospitable—"
"You keep those thoughts to yourself," Merry whispered sternly.
"Because we haven't met any Dwarves here yet. None alive. Even Gandalf hasn't said anything about expecting to meet any of these relations of Gimli's."
There was a silence, heavy with resignation.
"What do you think Dwarves eat for breakfast?" Pippin murmured.
Gimli shifted and the hobbits fell quiet. He got up and after adjusting his helmet, walked away from the small huddle of bedrolls, trying not to stride too heavily in his boots. His eyes were adapted to the dark, and that combined with a shaft of light from high in the ceiling meant he could get a true feel for the grandeur that this inner sanctuary of Khazad-dûm must have had. His heart was heavy as he laid a gloved hand against one of the solid pillars, wide as an ancient oak. Gandalf had mentioned mithril; he felt its call too, of course. It pulsed in the blood of any Dwarf who had been fortunate enough to be in a proper mine. Some stayed closer to the surface, but Gimli couldn't fathom that. He'd been at his most comfortable in Rivendell on those few occasions when he'd gone to the Elves' subterranean forges to take care of his weapons. This great hall was a sanctuary… A cold breeze caused gooseflesh to rise on his arms. Even for him, however, Moria might now be a death trap.
His stomach rumbled. Sighing, he patted the smooth surface of the pillar and walked back to the company, now stirring as a group. Aragorn and Gandalf conferred about breaking their fast while Gimli lit his pipe. Being at long last in Khazad-dûm, now ringing with bleak silence, caused sorrow to lodge firmly in his heart. It didn't help that he was here in the company of Men, hobbits, a wizard, and even an Elf. What would his father say to him right now, were he here?
"Gimli, I think we can risk a small fire. Do you agree? Your sensibilities about this realm are unique."
Startled, he glanced around. Aragorn stood nearby, his gaze questioning.
"I don't see why not. It's a shame we can't use one of the great fireplaces, but they are far too large for our group and would give us away on the surface. Shall I scout for some tinder?"
"I would be grateful."
"I'll help!" Pippin offered cheerfully. "Anything to warm up something for our breakfast."
"Stop thinking with your stomach," Merry warned, and a smile traipsed across Gimli's lips, well hidden by his beard.
"Come, Peregrin," Gimli said, puffing on his pipe. He tried not to think about how little tobacco he had left. "We Dwarves are a hearty race but I, too, am getting complaints from my stomach."
The young hobbit smiled shyly and adjusted his fur-lined cape. "Dried jerky and apples aren't anything like what we'd have at home, but almost anything sounds good right now."
Gimli nodded and chewed on his pipe stem. "When you return, you can eat until you have a respectable belly." He proudly patted his own girth. "Like me."
"The firewood?" Aragorn prodded, and Gimli made an affirmative noise.
"Stick close to me," Gimli said, and Peregrin appeared only too happy to oblige. "We may yet see a friendly Dwarvish face, though it will not be in here. The Great Hall has been abandoned."
Pippin leaned down and retrieved what proved to be two legs of a rotted chair.
"What do you think happened?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"I don't know," Gimli replied gruffly. "But don't let your imagination get the better of you. We haven't run into anyone or anything, and we're only a day's walk to the eastern gate. Enjoy the security of Moria while you can."
Pippin gave him a dubious look, opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it. His lips closed, pursed together. They spent the next several minutes choosing their kindling. It bruised Gimli's pride to be gathering up parts of what had been sturdy benches and chairs, literally broken dreams left to moulder, sheltered and protected in the grandest Dwarvish excavation of the Third Age.
"We have enough," he said to Pippin. "We'll not stay long around a fire. I can tell Gandalf wants to move on as soon as possible."
"I do, too." Pippin was vehement. "Nothing against you, or your relatives," he went on hurriedly, dropping part of his bundle as he tried to keep up with Gimli's strides.
Gimli merely grunted. He passed Legolas, who was gazing with longing at the faint beam of light coming from the distant reaches of the ceiling. The Elf's obvious discomfort pleased him. Frodo had awakened when he and Pippin returned with their firewood. Boromir gave himself the task of building the small fire, obviously feeling a need to do something useful. Gimli was content to let him do it; he didn't want to be the one setting the bits of chairs, tables and benches alight. He went to his bedroll, beginning the quick business of repacking. He sensed that Pippin was hovering near him— doubtless he'd annoyed Merry.
"Porridge, baked ham, eggs, and strong coffee," he said, and then looked up, seeing the expected confusion on the young hobbit's face.
"Dwarves' breakfast. I was awake when I heard you wonder aloud what we eat for our morning meal. We of the Lonely Mountain trade with the Men of Laketown. A Dwarf would steal food before trying to grow it himself. There's not a drop of farming blood in our bodies."
For the second time that morning, Pippin started to speak and then changed his mind. Then he changed it back.
"I don't understand Dwarves," he stated. "But I'm glad you're with us."
Gimli was grateful that no one in their assembly seemed to be able to read his expressions. He preferred that they not know how protectively fond he'd become of the youngest traveller in their band.
"You should be," he growled, and was treated to an increasingly rare, but genuine smile that lit up Pippin's face. "Now go and make sure there's a piece of jerky for me."
Pippin scampered off. Gimli put together the rest of his few belongings and gripped the handle of his axe for reassurance. Their time in Moria had been too uneventful, once they'd gotten past the lake monster, anyway; his growing sense of foreboding would no longer submit to being shunted away. For now, however, their small company was intact. He sent a short thought of thanks to Mahal, and walked over the join the group for their meagre meal.
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.