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The first paragraph is a quote from the book (FotR, The Bridge of Khazad-dum).
Thanks to Cairistiona for beta-reading. *hugs&kiss*
"We will take this book, the Book of Mazarbul, and look at it more closely later. You had better keep it, Gimli, and take it back to Dαin, if you get a chance. It will interest him, though it will grieve him deeply."
Gimli remembered Gandalf's words as if they were spoken yesterday, and not several months ago.
But right now, he was the one who was grieved. Otherwise, he felt great for most of the time these were days of happiness. Sauron was destroyed forever, Aragorn would be crowned and the new age of Middle-earth would start. Elves from the north arrived to Minas Tirith those from Rivendell, as well as from Lothlorien. He saw the Lady of the Golden Wood again. Yes, this was a nice and happy time.
But from the north also came the news those from his homeland. The dwarves of Erebor and men of Dale finally overcame the orcs, but victory was achieved at the cost of many lives, and King Dain was among them. He would never see the Book of Mazarbul nor would he find out details about the fate of Balin's company.
Yet, Gimli made one promise to himself: the Book would come to Erebor. In fact, the promise was made all those months ago, when he had stood next to Balin's grave and when Gandalf had spoken those words. When after the battle on Amon Hen they had to pursue the Uruks, Gimli left behind all the things he didn't need. More precisely, almost all. The book was definitely not something he needed in those days; quite on the contrary, it was a burden. But leaving it behind was out of the question. He took it and carried it all the way through Rohan. Finally, that mission came to its end and the hobbits were saved; but after that, he presumed that even more difficult and complicated circumstances would come, when he would have no chance of carrying the book. When he arrived at Edoras, he briefly explained to Lady Eowyn the story of the book and asked her to keep it for him in the castle until some better moment, when he would be able to return for it. She gladly fulfilled his request.
And the better moment came when King Theoden's funeral procession set off from Minas Tirith to Rohan. He collected the book on that occasion, and after the funeral it was time to go to Erebor.
He had plans for so many things: to help rebuild Minas Tirith; to visit Fangorn for the love of that wood elf who became so dear to his heart in spite of all the differences between them; to visit Aglarond caves and found the new kingdom there. It seemed to him that there wouldn't be one single boring moment in the next thirty or so years, and he didn't know what to start first. He'd have to think about his plans very thoroughly.
But the book and one more important thing he had do to came before all those long-term plans, which would wait a little.
Several weeks later he finally saw a familiar sight: one single mountain rising from a seemingly endless plain. A home.
The mountain was the same as before, as were the halls, tunnels and the mines. And yet, everything was different. There was no more shadow nor peril. So much happened that it felt as if he had been absent not for a year, but for one whole age of Arda. He had seen and experienced so much, and he wasn't the same dwarf who had gone to Rivendell this time last year. Back then, leaving towards the elf-town, he thought he was going just for a short journey as one of the representatives on the council, after which he'd come back home.
Just a short journey and just the council. Had anyone ever in the whole history of Middle-earth been so wrong?
Now, upon his return, a lot of folk came to hear the news and already on the very first day he had many meetings with friends and acquaintances, and he even had an audience with the king: Thorin III, Dain's son and heir. But when he finally managed to retreat to his home late that evening, it was not yet time to rest or sleep. There was one more thing he had to do, and regardless the late hour, he didn't want to delay it for tomorrow. He believed that the person he had to see deserved to hear the news at once.
He knew well in which cave was the house of the old dwarf and went towards it. Little alleys and passages, lit by torches and oil-lamps, were quite empty and silent. When he neared his destination, he saw the light from inside the window. He knocked, and when the answer from the inside came, he entered.
He found himself in a chamber that was kitchen, dining and living room all at once. It was lit by just one small lamp, so the light was dim. Right of the door there was a fireplace, table and two armchairs, and on the left there were a couch and an armchair, and another small table next to them. On that side several shelves filled with books were affixed to the wall, and there was also a painting. It depicted the bridge of Khazad-dum.
Hair and beard of the dwarf laying on the couch were almost completely white, and his face was wrinkled. He is older than my father, Gimli reminded himself, and is almost two hundred and fifty. He bowed with respect.
"Good evening, master Dwalin," said Gimli.
"Good evening, young one," replied the old dwarf.
Gimli hid his smile. He probably says that to all who are younger than two hundred. His father sometimes did the same.
"Here, take the armchair," showed Dwalin and slowly rose from laying to a sitting position. "Do you want some wine? Or something stronger?"
"No, no such thing is necessary." Gimli shook his head. "I didn't come because of that. I came to see you." He stopped, hesitating. This probably wouldn't be easy for Dwalin. "And to show you something."
He sat in the armchair, put the bundle on the table and carefully unwrapped it. Dwalin observed the tattered book for a few moments, and Gimli saw his expression change as he slowly began to understand what it was. Dwalin then rose and took the candle-stick and Gimli noticed that his movements were slower than they once were. He lit several candles and brought the candle-stick on the table. Then he sat and leaned over the book, and slowly started to turn the pages, one by one.
Dwalin read in silence, not commenting, and Gimli didn't interrupt. He had read the whole book from cover to cover except for those pages that were too damaged during his travel to Erebor, in the evenings before going to sleep. Dwalin stopped here and there and read some paragraphs; then he occasionally skipped some pages; then he again read some pages, and so on. He was still in the beginning, but soon reactions appeared on his face. Now and then he smiled, then frowned, and some pages obviously made him sad; that was especially visible as he neared the end of the book the tragic end of Balin and his company. But there was one emotion on his face and in his eyes the entire time, and Gimli recognized it unmistakably.
Whenever he listened father's stories about the quest of Erebor, he heard Gloin say how close Balin and Dwalin had been.
Finally, Dwalin came to the end. He closed the book, sighed and leaned back. He looked devastated.
"I should've gone with him," white-haired dwarf said in the end.
Gimli slowly nodded, understanding Dwalin's wish. He was sure he would feel the same in his place. Yet, he wanted to comfort him somehow.
"I am sure that for each decision in its time and circumstances there are good reasons," he said.
But Dwalin shook his head.
"The reasons were wrong. 'We have a good home here. Thorin gave us Erebor kingdom back and we must be satisfied here,'" he said in a bitter, mocking tone. "Yes, reclaiming Erebor was a great thing, but Khazad-dum is something special. Coming back to that place is something every dwarf dreams of. And I was a coward thirty years ago."
Hearing that, Gimli could only laugh.
"No member of Thorin's company company which, despite the fact that there were only thirteen of them, still bravely set off to face the dragon can't and shouldn't be called a coward," he said seriously, fully convinced in his words. He then looked in Dwalin's eyes for a few moments. "You know, I was through many battles and difficult moments during the last few months. The worst that happened was that cursed mountain full of the dead..." He stopped for a moment and shook his head, as if the movement would chase away the images he didn't want to remember. Then he collected himself and went on. "I won't talk about it now. Maybe I'll explain some other time," he added, seeing the question in Dwalin's eyes. "But the second worst thing was not the siege in which enemies' numbers surpassed our own tenfold, nor the moments in that gruesome wasteland of Morannon when I thought the end had come. It was the darkness of Moria."
He looked somewhere in the distance for a few moments, and when he turned his head towards Dwalin again, he saw pain in his eyes.
"Yes, it is true, unfortunately," Gimli went on with a sigh. "I hoped until the last moment. But when I saw everything... I realized. It is no longer Khazad-dum. It is Moria. The Black Chasm. That comprehension... it was a heavy blow."
Yes, just like Dwalin said a little while ago, every dwarf dreamed of Khazad-dum. Many more days after the Fellowship passed through Moria, Gimli thought about it. Every night, before falling asleep, he recalled the tunnels and halls with yearning and wondered if the dwarves could somehow try again. His heart wanted it so much. But his head realized what his heart refused to accept.
No. They couldn't reclaim Moria. Not now. And not for a long time.
"Still, regardless of how dark it became, I wish I had gone... to be with my brother. And to see Khazad-dum," said the old dwarf. There was a shadow of sorrow on his face. "And this way... they are lost to me. Never again on Arda will I see my brother, nor will I see our old home." He fell silent and put his hand on the book. He regarded it for a long time, and then finally a hint of a smile appeared on his face. "But I am thankful for this, my young friend. Very, very thankful. By reading this book, I'll be as close to them as I can be. And I'll hear my brother's voice again."
The look on Dwalin's face told Gimli that he, too, hoped for a miracle and good news until the very last moment, but that he knew the truth somewhere deep inside him.
"Now I just took a quick glance. In the following days I'll read everything thoroughly. Each word, each line, each page. I want to experience and feel all they did. And then..."
"And then?" asked Gimli, curious.
"I'll give it to the King. It should be displayed next to other important items of our history," said Dwalin.
Gimli nodded and smiled. He thought it to be a good decision.
"I talked to the King today and told him what I had seen in Moria," said Gimli. "I told him about the fate of Balin's company. But I didn't tell him about this book. It felt right to give it to you first." He gave the old dwarf a bow of respect.
"Thank you. It means so much to this old dwarf," said Dwalin, moved. Watching his expression, Gimli was so glad that he had kept the book and brought if first to Dwalin. All those moments in Rohan, when the book was nothing more than additional burden he had to carry, now became unimportant in comparison with this moment and Dwalin's gratitude.
Then he thought that Dwalin looked very tired; it was very late, after all. He wanted to talk to Dwalin more he wanted to tell him about the idea that had crossed his mind but it could wait. Now he would go and let him rest.
Gimli rose to his feet. He was sad because of the lives lost, because of loss of their old home but he was also imbued with that good feeling that appears when one does something right.
"Good night, master Dwalin. We'll see each other soon again."
"Good night, Gimli. I'm looking forward to that."
If you are wondering what is it that Gimli has in mind (hinted in sentences "But the book and another important thing he had do to came before all those long-term plans" and "He wanted to talk to Dwalin more he wanted to tell him the idea that had crossed his mind but it could wait), the answer is in my story "The last visit to Moria".
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