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Personal diary of King Durin VII
The second day of the journey through the plain went well, too, just as I expected. After all, there are almost no things that could remain hidden here and surprise us unlike the forest. Still, I won't leave anything to chance, so I'll continue to send scouts ahead.
They will have an additional task tomorrow. A little further to the south there is a human settlement, so I'll send scouts to announce our arrival. I want to hear the latest news from this area, and that will also be a good opportunity for trade and replenishment of our food reserves.
We are now more than halfway through our journey. While walking, almost all the time I watch towards the distance in the west, where the Misty Mountains rise. The mountains are still very far away they are still only a blurred outline. But I continue to observe it and I yearn for the moment when I'll see the Three Peaks. And especially the highest and the most special one Zirakzigil.
I do not envy the elves for their immortality, or some of their other characteristics. I would never switch places with any of them. But this is the first and the only time in my life when I'd give everything to be like them in at least one thing. I would like to have elvish eye-sight so that I can see much better and further I so want to see the mountains above our ancient home.
About a week more, and we'll be below the Eastern Gates of Khazad-dûm. I do not think that it will be easy. I know there will be a lot of casualties, and I wish I could change that. But there is no stopping. All who fall will be avenged, and their spirits will continue to live with us. It will be a sacrifice today, for the glory and wellbeing of our people tomorrow.
They reached the small town in late afternoon, while it was still day. It was very much alike to those around the Long Lake, Halldis concluded. Almost all the houses were small, and only a few in the centre were a little bigger. Many people held livestock in the barns next to their houses, while wheat and corn grew in the surrounding fields.
As the night was falling, the villagers lit many lamps and torches. Although they had only several hours at their disposition, it turned out that they had prepared very well after receiving the news of the great company of dwarves. A little outside of the settlement they set up numerous benches with different goods, mostly drinks and dry way-food. Many dwarves were pleased to discover that barrels of beer were prepared too as well as some stronger liquors. There were also many grills around, promising delicious suppers for the guests.
Glorrim went to search for smithing equipment; as he said, he didn't intend to buy anything now to avoid carrying additional weight, but he wanted to know if there were quality merchandize here, for his future needs. Halldis and Tyra went to find food and drink.
Watching the huge crowd, Halldis thought that tonight absolutely no one of the villagers had stayed at home. All around there were men, women, old and young. Of course, not all of them came because of the trade; many came out of curiosity, to see the dwarves, and to break the monotony of everyday life. She surmised that this day would be a topic of conversations in many boring winter evenings.
"By Mahal's name, it is so good to eat roasted meat after all these days of dry food," said Halldis with a wide smile, after eating the last bite.
"I couldn't agree more," said Tyra merrily. She had already finished her steak. "Now, if we could only come closer to some of the beer-barrels..."
But it was clear it wouldn't be easy because all around it was very crowded and especially at locations where drinks were sold.
"This is probably the biggest event in the social life of the town in quite a long period," laughed Halldis. "Perhaps we could try our luck a little further, out of the centre..."
They headed towards the edge of the big improvised fair, and stood in one queue. The owner, a sturdy man with a big stomach, briskly filled the mugs while the girl of ten or twelve years of age, or even fifteen Halldis couldn't tell for sure because she rarely saw human children and couldn't judge well took the money and returned the change. Behind father and daughter and the barrels, one more small head was peering out. Having noticed the movement, Halldis looked in that direction and noticed the little girl who then disappeared behind the barrel. Then she peered again, this time observing a little longer before hiding again. The next time Halldis smiled to her, and she got a shy smile in return. Finally, the girl stepped forward and remained there.
Well, this one surely can't be older than seven, Halldis was sure of her estimate despite her lack of experience. The thing was, the little one was quite shorter than she was, and at least that was a sure sign that she was very young. This night, obviously, even the youngest ones didn't have to go to bed early. Halldis smiled again, and that seemed to have given the girl some courage. She came closer to her and Tyra.
"You have the nice hair colour," said the girl with her tiny voice and smiled shyly.
"Oh, thank you! I am glad to hear that you like it," replied Halldis delightedly. And when she said it, the eyes of the child widened in shock.
"You have a female voice!" exclaimed the little one.
Halldis started to laugh, and Tyra did too.
"That is because I am a woman!" said Halldis, even more joyfully than a few moments ago.
"But... you have a beard!" The girl's voice showed that she still couldn't believe and that she thought that what she saw was some sort of magic.
Halldis, however, couldn't stop laughing. On one occasion, she had heard an offensive comment about dwarvish women's beards of women in Lake-town. But the words of this girl were not malicious at all; here, it was only about childish sincerity and nothing more. She stooped towards the little one.
"Do you want to hear the secret?" she asked in a low, conspirative voice.
The eyes of the girl shone and in a moment she was all tense, in expectation. "Aha," she said and nodded briskly several times.
"Have you ever heard that we dwarves are a little shorter than you humans?" asked Halldis, and the little one confirmed with another nod. "You see, now I'm going to reveal something else to you," she continued, adjusting her voice for talking to a young child. "The height is not the only difference. Your friends might never know about it, but you will find out now. One more difference between dwarves and humans is that dwarvish women have beards. It is normal for us, just like it is normal that your women don't have it." She paused, and then smiled again to the girl and winked. "There. You know now."
The girl giggled, and then lowered her gaze to Halldis' beard. It seemed that she considered it a very interesting and exotic addition on a woman. She lifted her hand, then stopped in half-movement, but it was clear that she was very curious.
"Can I touch your beard?" she asked shyly, obviously not able to restrain herself.
In some other situation, and from someone older, the question would perhaps have insulted her. But as there was nothing more than innocent curiosity in the eyes of the girl, Halldis nodded. A moment later, a small hand gently touched her beard.
"It is real!" the girl exclaimed, as if only now she believed what she saw. Then she giggled again and tilted her little head. "I like it."
"I am glad. And I like you," said Halldis.
Then Tyra stooped towards the girl. "I'll tell you a secret too," she said, but instead of continuing, she looked at the girl, waiting for her to come to conclusion by herself.
"I know what you want to say! You are a girl too!" squeaked the little girl, and joyfully applauded to herself as a sign of acknowledgement when Tyra nodded.
While talking to the girl, they slowly moved forwards and it was now their turn to take the beer. They took their mugs and paid, and Halldis turned to the little one again.
"We will now go our way, and I wish you a good time. I hope that your friends are near and that you'll have fun this merry night. And you can tell them that two dwarf girls are also your friends from now on," she said with a warm smile and nodded.
The face of the girl shone.
"Yes! I'll tell them!" she exclaimed with a wide smile and turned and run away no doubt, to tell her friends about her new special acquaintances right away.
"Well, that was interesting," commented Halldis in the end, watching in the direction where the little girl disappeared.
"It surely was," Tyra agreed with a smile. "And she is not malicious, so it turned out funny."
Halldis nodded, knowing that Tyra had some bad experiences with insulting comments too.
"I actually think that most of the people in Lake-town aren't bad," continued Halldis as they slowly walked around, sipping their drinks. "But there are always idiots."
"Why do they think that they can comment our looks?" said Tyra angrily. "Are they stupid enough to think that they are attractive to us tall and hairless as they are?!?! And as for not being bad well, they are good on the surface because they benefit from trading with us."
"Oh come on, it's not that we also don't benefit from trading with them," laughed Halldis.
As they walked on, she looked around. But there were so many people around, mingling and moving in all possible directions, so she was aware that the probability to see the one she wanted to see was very small.
However, a little later they spotted a group consisting of several youngsters of both people, very loud and in a great mood. The dwarves in the group were Darri and his friends, and with them Lotti. Halldis and Tyra stopped and looked at them.
And continued to look. Several minutes passed, during which one round of the game occurred.
"It'll be funny to watch their hangover tomorrow morning," said Tyra, amused.
"And not just in the morning, but for the bigger part of the day," added Halldis.
The group laughed. The girls were close enough to see that the first "losers", who would soon fall out of the game, were not so stabile on their feet any more. It was a beer drinking contest.
"Males," said Tyra lifting her eyebrows and giving them a look she would give a not so clever child.
"They are ridiculous," said Halldis and giggled. "Do you think the elves act the same?" she asked merrily.
"Well, rumours have it that the cellars in the royal palace are full of wine barrels... so I think that the answer is affirmative," laughed Tyra.
More loud laughter echoed from the direction of the group.
In that moment Lotti noticed them, so he ran to them. In a not so straight line, noticed Halldis.
"Girls! Come and join us! We are winning!" he shouted when he approached them. There was a wide smile on his face, and his eyes were quite unfocused.
"You just go on," Tyra waved her hand, dismissing the idea. "I'm sure you'll make it even without us."
He observed her for a moment, and then his smile widened even more. And his gaze became even more bleary.
"Then cheer for us!" he exclaimed and ran back to the merry group.
"Who can drink more?" The loud shout was heard, and the answer was a noise in which it was impossible to say who shouted what. "Let's go, one, two, three!!!"
On "three" they all lifted their newly filled mugs and drained them.
"The last one standing is a winner!" someone exclaimed.
Halldis and Tyra looked them again, and then looked at each other.
"Males," they said, rolled their eyes and shrugged.
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