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Storm Clouds

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Dwalin wasn’t one to pray to Mahal much. She loved their Maker and she worshiped him, but she did not pray on all the holidays. There never was a need, and she never felt like she should.

There was only one time of the year when Dwalin did pray as the traditions called for, silently, never telling anyone about it. When spring turned to summer, and everyone had a quiet prayer to thank Mahal for their creation, to honour him and their ancestors, their families, both living and those who’d come after. It was quiet, and some Dwarves prayed for the good of these things at any time.

Dwalin would go about her day as always, she’d work over anyone who’d go against her in sparring, not keeping back one bit and let some more experienced teachers tell her opponents what they’d done wrong to fail. Then she’d train on her own, focusing on nothing but her axes. The first year she did it, she had tried to use her hands, beat up bags of straw, and similar things. It wasn’t that much more satisfying, and it didn’t help her focus on just the weapons either.

She’d be alone that day; she couldn’t face Balin who sometimes looked at her with suspicion or worry, or her mother, who’d see right through her.

She’d lock herself into the bathroom, would wash herself with warm and cool water and rags, not staring into the polished mirror at all, ignoring the image of the warrior with her scars and tattoos. Dwalin never wore braids or decorations, but she would tie her hair up with a simple leather band, just for today.

When she was done and dressed, Dwalin would just go up to her room, and sit on her bed. Her empty, empty bed.

Nori had never been in in, had never been in Dwalin’s house, or anywhere near the city, as far as she knew. Still, when Dwalin closed her eyes, she could imagine that he belonged here, that it had been this place where Nori had curled up against her, where she’d held him, and he held their boy, and all was good.

Dwalin would close her eyes, and she’d focus on only this. It barely even hurt when she was tired, and her muscles ached. It was just so close to be true in her mind. Maybe Mahal would hear her and look out for her if she just focused hard enough.

Year after year she imagined Nori, his beard growing longer and his beautiful braid wrapped around her hand, imagined his grin, the mischievous glint in his eye and how his smile grew softer. She also imagined the boy sitting between them. In her mind he grew year after year.

First he was a baby, though he couldn’t be anymore at that point. Later he was a tall boy, lean like his father, but sometimes Dwalin would watch him in her mind, and his broad back reminded her of Fundin, and how he’d grow to be just like the grandfather he never knew. In her mind her boy had long hair, just like Nori’s, but growing darker with age, barely braided.

Sometimes the boy snuggled up against Nori, sometimes Dwalin could nearly feel his weight against her chest as he leaned back to use her as a rest, sometimes she heard laughter and him saying that he was too old for this, but never did she see his face. He never turned, no matter how much she hoped for it.

All Dwalin could do was hold him, or pet his head and compliment the clumsy child’s braids he’d made for himself. Sometimes she wanted to call him by name, and the words got stuck in her mouth. She didn’t think in names after the first time it had made her curl up in herself and stare into nothing until it was dark.

She became better at it after a few times. It helped to control her moments of weakness, nobody would find anything strange about Dwalin’s behaviour on all other days.

When the sun outside the mountains, and the lamps went on, Dwalin would pray.

She’d pray that Nori was still out there somewhere, that he’d never been caught by anyone. She prayed that their child was safe, that Nori had him, and cared for him, and that both of them were happy, and healthy at least. She prayed that Nori would find her, that she’d come across him on some wandering.

Most of all Dwalin prayed for her son. The boy who was just a baby in her mind, or a faceless young Dwarf with no name. She had nothing of him, didn’t even know whether…

“I know I made mistakes,” Dwalin would finish when she couldn’t sit still anymore. “And even if I’d never see him again, protect the boy, keep him safe. Let me find him, let me see that he’s well. I don’t care about what else happens, help him.”

Some people spoke of how mothers knew of how their children were, how healthy they were. Dwalin had heard of it, how mothers knew when their children were in danger, or how they sensed these things.

It was wargshit. Dwalin never felt more than a numbness, guilt and the uncertainty gnawing at her from the inside when she let it. She wanted her son to be safe, and that would be enough, perhaps. But Dwalin wanted to know and see him, even if she never spoke to the boy, she wanted to see him and make sure…

There was only one time of the year in which Dwalin would pray, and curse and plead for their Maker to help her and protect her child. She’d allow herself these few moments of weakness, and afterwards she’d untie her braids and get on with her life, the despair and longing locked away where it wouldn’t touch her anymore.