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Halldis couldn't help herself – she was thinking about the evening ahead of her during the whole day. As the journey continued and as she was getting to know Darri better, he attracted her more and more. He was so much more interesting than anybody she had met so far and she enjoyed their conversations and moments together. And he is very handsome, she added in her thoughts. Thinking about his invitation made her smile often during that day.
I'd like to go for a walk with him... to listen to him speak... to watch those light-brown eyes... Her heart beat very quickly. I wish... She imagined the touch of his hand... and lips. Suddenly, many butterflies woke in her stomach. I wish he kissed me.
During lunch-break, she told Tyra about Darri's invitation, and her friend was thrilled with the news. And in a second, she came up with a great plan.
"This evening I'll say that I don't feel very well and that I won't go to our meeting," she said with a conspiratorial smile. "I'll ask Lotti to stay with me, to be my company. You go alone, so that you are alone when you'll have to go back. If that is not the ideal situation for him to offer to escort you back, I don't know what is." She smiled merrily. "So that way you two will have the chance to be alone for a while."
"Oh, you are the best," said Halldis, touched.
"I'd do everything for you. My sister."
"Sister." She hugged her friend.
When they stopped in the evening, Halldis had a feeling that the ordinary evening routine – setting the camp, refreshment, supper – lasted at least twice longer than usually. Or even thrice, she thought. But finally the time to leave arrived, and the first part of Tyra's plan came to fulfilment; truth be told, Lotti wanted to visit his new friends, but after Tyra's persuasion, he gave it up for tonight.
If only the second part fulfilled too, thought Halldis while walking towards Darri and his company.
Personal diary of King Durin VII
Today was the day. Bundushathûr. Barazinbar. And finally, the most special one. Zirakzigil. They are still very far and it was difficult to discern them. But I finally saw them.
I don't know when it last happened that it was difficult for me to find words for my diary. The emotions are too intense. We are close to the kingdom established by my distant ancestor – the very first of all the dwarves. I have the impression that I feel the same as he did when he had first laid eyes on the Mountains of Khazad-dûm. Thrill. Awe. Love. Passion. Admiration.
My distant forefather, I want you to know that Durin's Tower will stand again on the top of Zirakzigil.
In the moment she set eyes on him, Halldis got excited and had to restrain herself not to start smiling from ear to ear. Don't behave like a little girl who has seen a candy. And don't go running towards him.
The wide smile Darri directed her way as a sign of welcome didn't help her efforts at all, but she managed to keep a normal facial expression – or at least she hoped so. She greeted the whole company and sat with them.
The conversation was more or less a small talk – about the weather, travelling through the forest and about the party in that little town two days ago. She wasn't very concentrated on the talk; most of the time, she was aware only of Darri's closeness and his gaze. When their hands touched by chance in one moment, she shivered.
After some time she smiled to them and said that she'd leave. She wished them a good night, and as she was rising to her feet, her eyes remained on Darri a little longer than on the others. Well, this is the moment, she thought, and a big hammer pounded inside her chest... although it was only her heart.
"I'll go with you, so that you don’t go back alone," he said, seemingly nonchalantly. He nodded his friends, and then rose and started walking next to her.
"Are you tired?" She heard him ask and lifted her head towards him. He watched her seriously.
No I am not! I could talk to you for hours more!, she wanted to exclaim. But somehow she managed to stay calm on the outside.
"No," she replied with a soft smile.
"Then you don't mind going for a walk?" asked Darri, and she nodded.
She didn't ask him where he was going, she just followed. They walked among sleeping bags, fires, groups and individuals lying or sitting around. She soon discovered – with both nervousness and delight at the same time – that he was looking for the way out of the camp. And soon they were in the open space, while their compatriots remained behind them.
The fires and torches were now behind their backs, so it was darker here. Still, it wasn't difficult to find the way. The moon almost full was a big help, as well as the terrain itself – being in the plain, there were no obstacles. Halldis looked around. They were in the middle of the vast black expanse, completely flat – except in the west. There, under the moonlight, she noticed the mountains. They were still far away, but she could see the peaks of the Misty Mountains rising above the plain.
Darri stopped and sat, and she settled next to him. It was quite dark, but she managed to discern his face. His blond hair now looked even fairer under the moonshine. She noticed he had looked at all sides, and finally at the sky.
"Before we started this journey, I thought I'd never be able to get used to open space," he said. "Particularly bad were those first two nights in the forest. Everything bothered me. But now, even though I couldn't live on the surface for a long time, I can say that outside world is not so bad after all. I've seen and experienced a lot of beautiful things."
He sounded pensive, and for a moment, she wondered if he was talking to herself or just thinking out loud. But then he turned to her.
"If I'll travel back to Erebor on some occasion, I will surely look for that man-bear you told me about," he said with a smile. "And you? What would you do the same, and what differently, if you travelled that route again?"
Halldis smiled. It wasn't difficult to answer.
"I would contact Grimbar too, but I surely wouldn't wander around alone!" she exclaimed. "No, I am not afraid of the waters in the forest. You remember what I told you about that stream – it was actually a wonderful experience." She paused, and saw him nodding in the dark. "I think that the forest possesses some sort of magic, but I am not scared of it; I think it is not hostile towards us. But when you wander alone, you can fall into all sorts of troubles with forest animals – as I learned the harder way."
"Here in the plain everything is safer, yes," said Darri, and looked at her. "You said you travelled with your brother. And what about your parents? Did they stay? Was it difficult for you because of splitting the family?" he asked.
She had thought about it ever since her parents said they'd stay in Erebor – which actually happened right after the King's announcement.
"Yes, they stayed, as well as my oldest brother. And although they wouldn't admit it out loud, it was clear that mother and father were happy that at least one member of the family had stayed," Halldis said. She hesitated a little, and then she continued. "I think they hoped that I'd stay too. I was born in their later years, after their sons were already grown up. You know, I had a chance to get a glimpse of upbringing of some of my friends, and I realized that mine had been somewhat different. The differences I'm talking about were just little things, but I'd say that they pampered me in some way. I think that you can easily imagine the situation: an older couple got a girl whom they could spoil, after they had already raised the two heirs."
When she said that, she became aware that she had brought up private matters – something that she normally talked about only with Tyra. And yet, she felt like she could open up in front of Darri – just as it had already happened before. What was so special about him?
"I've been thinking for a long time what to do," she continued. "On one hand, Erebor presents something familiar, and therefore safe, while changes – even those for the better – often cause anxiety. But Khazad-dûm is our greatest kingdom ever. The possibility of living in renewed Khazad-dûm outweighed everything else, and I couldn't resist it. That was crucial for my decision, in spite of all the risks." Halldis looked at him. Now that her eyes got accustomed to darkness, she could even discern the lines of his face. He observed her, and suddenly she wanted to trace his face with her hand, to touch his cheek and beard. The butterflies woke up again, and she took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "Surely you felt the same?" she asked afterwards.
"Hey, I'm a miner," Darri reminded her cheerfully. "I jumped on the very mention of reclaiming Khazad-dûm. I didn't have to think a single moment."
"I understand," said Halldis, and then wandered into other thoughts. "I can't deny that I am also a little frightened..." Yes, she was afraid – of many things. Of change. War. Loss. Many of those she knew would fight. And die. Glorrim. Cousins. Friends.
"Only the crazy don't fear anything," said Darri. "But I believe our King. And I believe that this is the right moment for fulfilling the prophecy."
Their people had been reinvigorated during the last few centuries. There were many of them and they represented a big force, and Halldis slowly nodded. "I think so too. Despite the danger, I am glad that I came on this quest."
"I am glad you came, too."
She shuddered and lifted her head, and although it was dark, she felt his gaze. His voice was low and serious, and she felt he was sincere. She didn't manage to find the answer. She just watched him in hope. Was it possible that he felt the same...?
"And I am glad I found you." Now, the voice was even softer.
She was suddenly breathless – and even more when his hand lifted and caressed her hair. She just sat motionless and watched as he stooped a little bit towards her... and a little more... and more... and finally his face was so very close to hers. Their foreheads touched and she closed her eyes. Her heart beat strongly as never before. And then his lips found hers, and her whole being fluttered.
"I am happy too," she whispered.
He pulled her close and she hugged him back, laying her head on his shoulder.
"I am happy," she repeated.
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