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Reclaiming Khazad-dm  by Ellynn

Personal diary of King Durin VII
Day 21st of the Ninth month, Year 672, Fourth Age of Middle-earth

It is night-time; the new day has just begun. We entered our home in the afternoon, and now it could be one or two hours past midnight. In the beginning of the night we conquered the Third Hall, in which I'm now writing these lines.

While I write this, the battles for the tunnels and other caves continue. The new fighters keep coming from the outside the fresh troops that haven't even fought yet, and they replace those who became tired.

A little while ago I received the news that the whole Seventh Level is in our hands. Only one big hall is there the Twenty-first and also, other caves are only few. Going upwards, each next level is somewhat smaller. It will take a lot more time, effort and blood to conquer the First Level. However, although the Seventh is not big, I don't want to say that their success is insignificant. To have one whole level in our hands is a big thing. It means less orcs and less space for them.

Yes, there will be more blood and more lives lost. According to the newest report, from a quarter of an hour ago, we lost seventy-eight soldiers, and more are wounded. Seventy-eight lives ended, and behind them remain those who grieve.

I grieve for all of them. All those who fell and all those who will yet fall will never be forgotten.

Twenty-one days ago I wrote the last entry in my diary in Erebor. This is the first one I write in Khazad-dm. The first of many, I hope.

D.

-x-x-x-

"We won't be able to win them. They very good and better armoured, curse them."

"I know. I seen. And their steel's better than our. And there's a lot o' them."

"We gonna hold on for a while. But we'll lose cave by cave."

"Yes. In just few hours they already won a lot."

"And what we gonna do now?"

Pause.

"We stay and we fight as much as we can. And we try to kill as many o' them as we can."

"We gonna lose."

"Yes we are. But we gonna buy time."

"Eh?"

"Send females and children to start runnin' right now through the tunnel to the west."

"What? How?"

"While we fight, they get time to escape."

Pause.

"A-ha. You know what? Your idea so good. But where are they go then?"

"They go north. There are some clever females among them. They can lead the others. Far north at Angmar there are some nicey caves. There is so few hoomans, and there is no filthy elfses at all. There they gonna live in peace and nobody gonna touch them."

"You sure? We thinked that nobody will attack us here, and see now!"

"And nobody attacked us, for a long time. And there in the north they be fine for a long time too. It is wilderness and they gonna have a lot of game to catch and eat. They be fine there."

Another pause.

"Ah. I hope they be."

"Oh c'mon, yes they will be. Tell them to go. And we go fighting those cursed dwarfses."

Grinning.

"We go fight. We go kill them!"

-x-x-x-

It was day, but suddenly everything around her started to darken. She lifted the gaze towards the sky and discovered that the sun was fading more and more, until it disappeared completely. She was in the darkness and she could barely discern her surroundings. The green meadow she walked on became black. She looked around herself, and fear gripped her heart. What to do now? She was alone, and it looked like this blackness would devour her.

The camp! She thought she should try to return to the camp; that way, perhaps, she'd be saved. She wasn't far away and remembered the way, so she hoped she'd be able to find it. While walking through the dark, suddenly the wind rose icy and strong, and it pierced to the very bones. She shivered, even more when she heard the wolves howling loudly, gruesomely, and quite close. She started running, but she couldn't see well and all she achieved was to stumble and fall. She cut her palms on the sharp rocks and pain spread through her hands. But the howling made her get up immediately and keep fleeing. Something in that sound wasn't right; she realized these were not ordinary wolves, whose howling she had heard once. In that moment she remembered the stories she had listened as a child about the special variety called wargs, and which were used by the orcs. Her heart beat faster in fear and she continued to run.

Then she noticed barely visible reddish light, and with relief she thought it should be the fire in their camp. Just a little more and she'd be there, and she'd be safe. She ran as fast as she could. The light became stronger and soon she was in the camp. There were a few persons lying around the fire.

"Wake up!" she shouted, but her voice was weak the run left her breathless. Everyone was still sleeping. For a few moments she was catching her breath, trying to gather some strength. "Alert!!! Wake up!!!" she shouted again, this time louder. "Wargs! Orcs!!!" She saw no orcs, though, but the old proverb said where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls.*

But no matter how loud she yelled, the bodies on the ground remained motionless. With growing fright she came close and discovered the reason. They were all dead. Slain. Cut by the swords of the orcs. Glorrim. Tyra. Lotti. Darri. And everybody else.

"Noooo!!!" she screamed.

Halldis started and opened her eyes, and then arose and sat on her sleeping bag. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She breathed hard, and her upset heart beat very quickly. The dream seemed very real, and the worst thing was that she hadn't been able to tell herself "It was only a dream". Because, although the circumstances in the dream differed from those in reality, her loved ones would find themselves or some of them already had been in perilous situations, in battle with the orcs, and she didn't know if they were all right.

She wiped her tears, but didn't lie down again. She was wide awake, and besides, going to sleep again was out of the question. She had absolutely no desire to have another bad dream. She looked around. It was very dark, there were only just a few fires, and everyone slept. She couldn't tell what time it was; her knowledge of the sky in different seasons and different times of night was very poor, because she almost never observed the sky. She simply never needed to know those things.

But she didn't have to be an expert on the stars to know that the night wouldn't last long. The beginning of summer was very near, and now the days were the longest; she was sure the dawn was not very far away. She got up and packed her things. Well, she would go up the mountain with other women tomorrow morning anyway, so why not now? The moon shone in the east; it was wanning, but it was still lit more than a half. She judged it would give her enough light to enable her to climb.

She quickly ate a little bit of way-bread and then left. It turned out that the way really wasn't difficult: the path next to Kibil-nla was wide, and even if there had been no moonlight helping her, it would be enough to follow the river to arrive to the target destination. The path was covered in grass, and next to it, on the opposite side of the river, grew different trees. Everything was pretty quiet. Except for the rustling of the grass beneath her feet, the only sound she heard was the slight murmur of the river.

She crossed a part of her route in the dark, and then the sky in the east, changing from black to blue, announced the arrival of the dawn. As Halldis climbed, she observed the sky. It became lighter blue, and several thin little clouds in the east changed their colour from pink to golden, and finally, just before the sun came, to white. Being the inhabitant of the underground, sunrise was the sight she had seen on rare occasions only a few times in her life, actually. So now she unconsciously slowed down and looked back, towards the east, enjoying the spectacle in the sky.

In the moment when the path in front of her flattened, the sun was already above horizon. Halldis looked at the wide, shallow valley in front of her. Even the very superficial look discovered that there were less than the five thousand dwarves who had left the rear camp a day ago. Just above the valley she noticed a dark opening on the slopes the Eastern Gates. She saw the soldiers going out of it and going down towards the camp certainly those who got their break while others were going in.

May Mahal watch over you, she sent a thought, primarily thinking of those she loved, but of all the others as well. Then her gaze was captured by Kheled-zram. Dark-blue almost black the surface was completely calm and she thought it looked like the passage into some other world. Although she came here to help, she couldn't resist and set off to the lake first. She walked towards it as if under some spell, not taking her eyes off it.

Arriving to the shore, she halted and continued to stare. The window into the night, was her first thought. It felt as if standing in her own world, on Arda, and watching through some magic window into some other, distant and different world full of shiny stars.

She stood like that for a while, and despite all her fears, the lake made her feel calm. She lifted her head and looked around, and looked towards the Eastern Gates again. Watching the entrance, she slowly nodded and her lips curved into a smile. Our home.

Then she blinked and took a deep breath. Yes, the lake was beautiful and she had a feeling she could watch it for hours, but there were things to do. She had to be useful.

On the slopes around the Eastern Gates she saw several big tents, and many dwarves walked around them. She observed a few more moments, and saw two figures with stretchers going towards the biggest tent.

Field-hospital. Her target. She nodded with determination and headed that way.

She walked through the camp in a zigzag, hoping that she'd run into a family member or a friend or Darri. But she didn't see any of them, so she continued to go towards the tents. At some point she turned around to cast one more glance on Kheled-zram, and then her attention was drawn to the activity on the meadow on the opposite, further side of the lake. Earlier, she was so fascinated with the surface and the stars on it that she hadn't noticed anything else. But now she saw several dwarves walking around the meadow and digging, and several more going that way carrying the stretchers.

But the hospital is here, on this side, she thought with discomfort. Something inside her guessed the truth, but still she turned to the nearest dwarf passing by.

"What is that?" she asked and pointed her hand that way to show what she was talking about.

"There is the old graveyard of our ancestors," he answered. "All who die now will also be buried there."

"By Mahal's mercy, I hope there won't be many," she muttered, and continued to walk.

Reaching the hospital, she observed the tents. Some were closed on all four sides, and some were very simple, consisting only of four wooden props on which canvas was placed as a roof. Halldis immediately noticed that there were a lot of wounded and that the healers were very busy. She saw one older healer going between two tents and approached her.

"I am Halldis daughter of Kuddal," she introduced herself. "I came to help."

The dwarfess with circles around her eyes, who obviously didn't sleep that night, observed her for a few moments.

"You are a healer too?" she asked wearily.

"I'm afraid not," Halldis shook her head, "but I can do all other things. I can carry bandages and towels that you healers need, bring food and water, I can cook and wash... anything you need."

The healer looked at her in shock.

"We were told we'd get help for all the things you said. But..." she stopped and blinked in disbelief. "Just one person?"

"Oh, no, of course not!" exclaimed Halldis. "More women who at first stayed in the lower camp will come here today. They will probably be here in a few hours. I simply woke up very early, when it was still night, so I came before everyone else. The others are probably on their way now."

"Oh, that's better news," responded the older woman. "I am Anfrid, the healer. Come with me."

Halldis followed her, and her working day began.

-x-x-x-

* "True!" said Aragorn, loosening his sword in its sheath. "But where the warg howls, there also the orc prowls." (FotR, A Journey in the Dark)





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