2. Seeking Empoyment
Talliya, like her mother before her, was a lifelong resident of the town of Weatherton, which lay just two days east of the Weather Hills. It was a small community whose prosperity came from the quarry and the rich forests by the foot hills. Life was simple and everyone knew everyone's business. That was the main reason Talliya's family's cottage and small farm remained on the outskirts of town. Da liked his privacy!
Mama had met Tallia's father at a summer festival in a neighboring town. He was working at the quarry. According to her father, he was only seasonal help and planned to move on along before winter. However, the moment they met, Da was smitten with the farmer's daughter; Mama had her doubts. Many in town had reservations about the match also and voice their opinions quite loudly; however, Da wore down her and her parents' defenses during frequent visits to the farm. The two courted—albeit briefly—so Mama could get a proper wedding planned. Da did not understand the need to wait but indulged his beloved. They were married soon after the harvest. Having no place of their own at the time, the newly weds lived at Mama's parents. Talliya was born less than two years later. Da however, did not like living in town—too many critical eyes cast his way. So, when the elders passed they sold the small home and began to build a new on, the only home Talliya knew.
Mama took ill with a fever and died nearly twenty years ago; Talliya was only nine. Her Da raised her as best he could on his own. He had no family that he spoke of and did not wish to take her away to some strange land. So, they stayed in Weatherton. But it had not been an easy life for either of them. Da was respected for his work, but that was about it. Many in the town were still bothered that Mama married an outlander so friendships were few. Talliya's Da became the most important person in her life and the two were rarely apart.
Da taught her about life and hard work and legends of the past. Under the loving, devoted eye of her father, Talliya grew from a happy child to a lovely young woman. Her eyes shown like emeralds and her hair fell in waves the color of deep rich aged copper. She had rosy apple cheeks and smile that could lighten the darkest room. When she blossomed from maid to maidenhood, many young men—including the quarry master's son—ignored her less than popular parentage and came to all. However, the relationships did not last. Either they clashed with her father or, if the relationship advanced beyond an innocent kiss (this happened only once or twice) the young men were bothered by her more paternal traits. As such, stories began to spread and the suitors stopped coming. Talliya would often hope a stranger would come along who would see her for who she was and would not be troubled by her…well, her oddities. Unfortunately, few travelers past that way. So, her youth fled and she grew to womanhood; Talliya accepted her lot, ignored her loneliness, and devoted herself to her father.
They were happy in their little part of the world until five winters ago. Her Da was coming home from a trip to the quarry when a pair of wargs attacked him. He slew one but was badly wounded and fell beneath the jaws of the other. Now, Talliya lived alone, doing sewing for others to help supplement what her father had left her.
While they had lived quite comfortably, without his income, things were getting tight. She was forced to take care of the cottage and land herself as she could not really afford to hire help. Anyway, every time she hired help, that 'help' attempted to help themselves to more than their share! Then, very quickly found reason to leave. She grew tired of the foolishness and stopped looking for assistance. She was quite capable of taking care of things herself! So she thought.
The upkeep was piling up and the woman found it hard to do many of the more arduous tasks. A wall was crumbling, a hayloft was about to drop, the root cellar Da started was still half dug. Often the Miller's wife asked why she did not just sell the property and move to a small room above the general store. Talliya merely smiled and replied that she could not leave the memories. And it was true, they were all she had left. Both her Mama and Da were buried out there and well, it was her home and she would find a way to work it.
So it was that Talliya found herself in town, collecting her grain and speaking to the quarry master about stones for her wall when a rather formidable, grim-looking dwarf approached the workhouse. It was unusual to see a dwarf in these parts and all eyes turned to stare; several passing women let out a collective gasp, which cause Talliya to roll her eyes. The dwarf was tall for his race and that unusual trait was accented by the rather demure stature of most of the town's people. The folk were not of Dunedin or Rohirrim blood. They were just plain average people and a large dwarf made them uncomfortable. Of course, the twin axes strapped to his broad back and the massive knuckle shields on both hands did not help soften his look. His face bore the telltale signs of battle and there could be little doubt that despite his size this dwarf could take down a legion of orcs single handedly. The quarry master eyed the stranger skeptically then excused himself. Talliya busied herself with looking at the various rock available as the males spoke. She tried heard not to listen, but her feet took her in that direction and she could not help over hearing…
"Master dwarf," the quarry master said coolly, standing tall and puffing out his chest.
"I am skilled with stone, have you work?" the dwarf asked trying to keep the growl from his voice.
"You'll find no work here. Go back to the Blue Hills with the rest of your kind. We don't want trouble here and some how trouble seems to follow the likes of you."
Talliya could see the dwarf bristle but to her surprise, he let the insult go. Instead he gave a curt nod and turned away. The quarry master watched until he was certain the dwarf was leaving. Soon the gentleman was back at Talliya's side.
"Now, about that stone. I can…"
Talliya cut him off. "I am so sorry, but I really need to go." The man looked at here oddly. "I will have to get back with you on this. I just remembered I need to finish your wife's dress; I told her I would have it the next time I came to town." With that she turned abruptly and hurried off. The woman moved as quickly as she could without drawing too much attention. She needed to catch that dwarf! She finally caught up to him at the livery.
Dwalin entered the livery. He'd best be moving on if there was no work here. It was clear he was not welcome in this town, not that that surprised him. Times were hard all around and work, especially for an outsider, was hard to come by. Dwalin could have tried the blacksmith or mill, but judging by the man's less than amicable reception the dwarf figured he'd find nothing. Perhaps the man was right and he should just return home.
Talliya crossed the road and hurried after the Dwarf. She hoped there would not be too many people about. She stopped at the barn door. "Excuse me, Master Dwarf?"
Dwalin gave his usual noncommittal grunt, continuing to fasten his packs to his pony.
"Forgive me, but I overheard your conversation with the quarry master," the woman continued, unperturbed.
This got the dwarf's attention and he turned, his normal stern expression softened a fraction as his grey eyes met the warm gaze of the woman. She stood at a respectful distance but when he turned, she stepped closer.
"I have work if you are interested," she stated. She laced her fingers at her skirt.
Dwalin crossed his arms across his powerful chest and looked the woman over. She was not a young lass by men's standards for sure, but neither was she old. She held herself with confidence and seemed quite at ease, speaking as if he was just another man.
But he was not a man; he was a dwarf! And despite his unusual height for one of his kind, it was impossible to mistake him for anything else. His head was bald save a thick mane of sable hair that ran from the behind his ears to the middle of his broad back. He had a uniquely clipped beard and long mustache that trailed down either side of his mouth. Dwarvish runes of protection riddled much of his exposed skin. He was stoutly built with a wide forehead and deep-set eyes and a most grim countenance. His arms and face both bore battle scars. Most avoided him and if he were honest, it was his appearance more than anything that hurt his chances at finding work. He was a warrior through and through, although like all dwarves, he held more than a small amount of skill—especially with stone. That is why he sought out the quarry master. Unfortunately, that led nowhere; now this woman offered him what others would not. It made the dwarf wonder.
"What will your husband think?" the dwarf asked gruffly.
"I have none," the woman answered, keeping her chin up.
"Then you should offer it to your own kind," he growled turning back to his pony.
Talliya bristled, but held back her comment for a moment. What she deemed as her own kind was her business! Instead, she continued calmly, "I offer it to whom I choose. I cannot pay what the blacksmith or quarry master could, but you will not need to spend coin on lodging or food for either you or your mount. I have a stone wall that needs repair, a root cellar that was begun but never finished and I would see both done before the snows. I can't give you more than a few coins a week for your effort but like I said, room and board…" she trailed off, looking at Dwalin expectantly. She really needed help with the work and truthfully, none in town were willing to do it for what she offered. Anyway, with a dwarf she knew it would be done right the first time. She waited.
Dwalin stopped what he was doing. He liked this woman; she had spirit. She had an open mind. The tall dwarf turned and eyed the woman before giving what might have been called a smile. "Dwalin, at your service," he said with a bow. His deep timber resonated through her.
Talliya returned the gesture. "Talliya at yours, Master Dwarf. If you will give me but a moment I will collect my things from the mill and come by with my wagon."
They agreed to meet at the edge of town. Dwalin needed to pay the livery for his pony's feed and as Talliya mentioned, she needed to finish business with the miller. That gave Dwalin a moment to think on his good fortune. It had been some time since he slept with a roof over his head. He had come to town hoping to find enough work to afford such a luxury for a few nights. Travel was beginning to wear him down. He knew his bed was most likely with his mount but if it was warm and dry, it was better than a crude cave.
"Well, my friend," he said patting his pony's neck, "seems our luck has changed."
Talliya loaded the grain and flour into her small wagon. She knew it was a gamble taking a stranger into her home, but she trusted in what she knew about dwarves and their sense of honor. Anyway, she had been brought up to help those in need—especially a dwarf. The woman understood the town's reluctance to give him work. It was not just that jobs were few; he was quite an intimidating figure and foolish stories, used to frighten children into complying often featured mysterious, dangerous, dwarves.
This dwarf—Dwalin she reminded herself—was indeed tall; almost as tall than she (of course, she was quite short). He carried a pair of battle axes that men twice his size would not be able to wield. He bore visible scares and the dirt of many miles stained his cloak. For whatever reason, dwarves made the town's people extremely ill at ease. It had always been that way and it bothered Talia to no end. People feared what they did not understand; but, Tallia had been taught differently. She understood. Dwalin did not frighten her.
Guiding her mare through the streets, she met her new boarder. "The day is growing late and I do not wish to travel after dark so we had best get moving, Master Dwalin," she said as she approached.
The dwarf pulled himself into the saddle. "Lead on."
The two unlikely companions began their journey to the homestead.
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.