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Inglor and Haleth arrived at the western doors of Moria in the middle of the morning. After years of housing orcs, trolls and worse, Khazad-dûm was being reclaimed by its rightful owners. The gate stream bubbled and flowed in its bed, once more clean and free of corruption. A large company of dwarves was camped outside the Gates. They seemed to be attempting to rebuild Durin's Door.
If the dwarves were surprised to see them, they gave no sign of it. The elf and the woman were led to Frar, who welcomed them politely. Surprisingly, Inglor was very well versed in the etiquette of dwarves. Haleth guessed that he must have studied it during their stay in Rivendell.
After many introductions, bows and at your services, they were ushered to the tent that served as Frar's office. The place looked like a library that had been ransacked by a windstorm. Every available flat surface was covered in plans and drawings. Notes were stacked in neat piles on the floor. Frar swept the papers from the largest table and invited his guests to be seated while he ordered food and beer. A dwarf in a deep blue hood immediately scooped up the discarded parchments, arranged them into yet another stack and, with some difficultly, found a place for them on the floor.
Inglor folded himself into the chair, his knees almost to his ears. Haleth fared a little better. In spite of being somewhat cramped, she found it pleasant to have her feet flat on the floor rather than swinging in the empty air.
The elf and dwarf exchanged pleasantries. Haleth began to worry that they would spend the next weeks with polite nothings when Frar, who was far quicker than he let on, dismissed his assistants.
"You came for the palantir," he said when others were gone.
Dwarves were known for being blunt, but this was exceptional.
"Yes," Inglor shifted in his chair.
"It's gone," said Frar. "I sent it to Thorin, King Under Mountain.
"Guarded, of course," he said at their facial expressions. "It was causing too much trouble here with the lads. Far too distracting."
"How, exactly, was it causing trouble?" Haleth wondered. She knew a little about the Seeing Stones. They could be used to communicate over great distances but there had to be a second stone in use for the message to be received.
Frar looked uncomfortable. "Nothing," he said quickly.
"How could nothing be distracting?" Haleth wondered.
The dwarf grunted and looked to Inglor for help.
"I do not believe our host wishes to discuss this," said Inglor, his voice unusually firm.
Frar aimed a pinched, grateful smile in the elf's direction while Haleth's jaw dropped in shock. Inglor, who never picked up any of the nuances of human communication, could apparently read those of dwarves with perfect ease. Was it possible that he was not as naive as he behaved?
"Thank-you for your time," Inglor said, prying himself out of the chair. "We are off to visit the King Under Mountain. Come along, Haleth."
Too surprised to argue, she followed.
"Why didn't you let Frar answer the question?" she demanded of Inglor's back.
"Answering the question would have embarrassed him," Inglor said over his shoulder. "It is not wise to embarrass a dwarf. Such things rankle and they have very long memories."
It occurred to Haleth that Inglor had never worried about embarrassing her. Maybe he felt that she had a poor memory. Either that or her embarrassment was not worthy of his notice. She felt a strong urge to throw something hard and sharp at the back of his unsuspecting head.
"Calm, calm," she whispered a chant from the Book of Calming Thoughts through her clenched teeth. "I am a calm, sheltered oasis in a storm. The storm shall pass and I shall not be drawn into it."
"But it could have been important," she said when they stopped on a wide ledge to rest the horses.
"It was no concern of ours." Inglor was sitting on a rock, the wind playfully tossing his golden hair.
"How can you be so sure of that?" she asked suspiciously.
"Trust me." He flashed his lethal grin.
She glared at him doubtfully and let the subject drop. She was too busy reciting the Second Chant from the Book of Calming Thoughts to continue.
"I wonder if there are any spiders left in Mirkwood?” she asked.
“I should imagine Thranduil and Celeborn’s folk have dealt with most of them,” he replied. “And the forest is called Eryn Lasgalen now.”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Haleth shrugged, barely registering the change in name.
“No,” said Inglor, shaking his head. “We shall take the route north of the forest.”
"Really?" she asked, surprised.
"Yes," he answered calmly.
"Because it is likely the way the dwarves went."
"It's also twice as long," she pointed out. "Besides, I don't think we really want to catch up with the dwarves in the wild and demand the palantir. They would be understandably reluctant to part with it in an equitable, reasonable and mutually satisfying manner."
Inglor looked at her quizzically, his head cocked to one side.
"They wouldn't just give it to us without a fight," she translated. "Even you are no match for a group of determined dwarves."
"I know what you meant," he said lightly. "I just wondered when you used such formal language. You are beginning to sound like an elf."
Haleth's mouth opened to protest and abruptly snapped closed. Her lips twisted into an ironic grin.
"I see no reason for me to sit here and allow you to insult me," she said grandly, rising to her feet. "When I can walk and be insulted. Let’s be on our way."
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