Even the winds roared differently around the Blue Mountains than they sang about Erebor' s peak. The young princes of Durin's line would be lullabyed with grumbling moans like giants' quarrels, not the sharp, high, clear notes she knew from her infancy, a raven's cry stretched long and keen. Tonight Dís settled her children with a storm arguing itself to pieces outside the halls, and sneaking in corners to chill the fingers.
Kíli whined about his weekly bath, spitting soapsuds at Fíli and splashing Dís's shawl before she could dodge, leaving it clammy around her shoulders. Fíli retaliated by snapping a towel at Kíli's toes while she dried his hair. Kíli kicked his sib, Fíli tackled him, and both of them went down in a scrapping pile.
"Enough!" she roared, scruffing them both, pulling them apart, and shaking them. "Dwarflings who quarrel at bedtime must need some time to think quietly in their beds instead of a tale of heroes past."
"Nooooo," Kíli wailed.
"Story, Amad! We'll be good," Fíli promised.
Arms crossed, boot-toe tapping, she watched them narrow-eyed for a moment before relenting. "Very well. Nightshirts on and bums in beds in the next ten minutes with no squawking or teasing each other and you'll have a new story of Durin the Deathless."
Kíli squeaked with excitement and Fíli shushed him and both of them scurried to pull on their nightshirts. Leaping into their beds, they rolled themselves into their blankets like sausages in pastry, gazing up expectantly.
Dís draped her shawl to dry over the clothes press and settled in by the fire with a spare blanket, wrapping herself against the chill.
"Now, you know from the stories that the Seven Fathers were divided by Mahal and set to wake in different places, each with their partners beside them." Two little heads nodded agreement. "It might be nobody mentioned that Mahal made thirteen dwarves."
Fíli counted that out quickly, borrowing their brother's fingers to finish the sum. "But Amad, that's not seven pairs, it's only six and a half." They frowned ferociously. "Did the Maker count wrong?"
Dís grinned at that. "The Maker knew that Durin had a more wandering heart than his kin and would find his other half himself."
"But-" Kíli said.
"Hush, my onyx, my topaz, listen to the tale."
Long ago, when the world was new and all the shining gems still growing beneath the earth, Durin slept beneath the great Mount Gundabad, placed there by his Maker Mahal. He was lonely and sad, even sleeping, for he had no companion beside him like his siblings, and it was long and long until the time was set for him to wake.
"But he did, though," Fíli said. "Balin said he was our great... great something grandfather and you can't have babies if you're asleep, they'd get too hungry. And maybe eat you up like bears," they added speculatively.
"Do you want the story or no?" Dís asked
"Sorry." Fíli clamped both hands over their mouth and settled again.
Wake he did, to the warm dark of a cavern, but he had nothing to build with, nor steel and flint to spark a fire, nor food and water, nor anyone to make a home with. He plunged his hand into the rock and pulled some iron out and shaped a rough hammer out of it so he could build, but he still didn't have what he needed to make fire or food or family, so Durin started out to find a new home where he could find all those things.
Gundabad, far to the north and east of here, was a beautiful mountain, so Durin was sorry to leave it, even though he had been so lonely there. He walked South down the slopes until he came to a valley with a river. Stopping for a big drink, and then a bath-
The story paused for a moment for Kíli to giggle at the thought of a great warrior dwarf having to take a bath.
"Just like Thorin and Dwalin do after they've been out traveling and working," Dís pointed out. "It's not only amads who think baths are good."
Durin took his bath and combed his hair and braided it up neat and tight for his journey. He slung his hammer over his shoulders and walked down the river valley, enjoying the new things he saw around him. There were soft growing things, and calling birds, and animals stopping to drink at the river. When the river grew bigger the farther he went, Durin saw fishes in the water. Tall trees grew off to the East, but he kept going South, with a range of fine tall mountains to the West and the river beside him.
The farther he went, the more colorful everything grew, and flowers blue as sapphire, red as ruby, and white as mithril brushed his legs. Bushes with leaves likes sprays of emeralds in silver fed him on berries, and when he stopped for a drink again, he found some soft chalk by the riverbank. He plunged his hand into the rock again and pulled out a chunk of flint. With that and his hammer, he made a fire to warm him. That night, Durin caught a fish and cooked it for his supper and it was the nicest thing he'd had since he woke. He had walked a long way that day, so he curled up by his fire and went to sleep.
When he woke up again, he had another fish for breakfast. There was no sun or moon yet, so Durin wandered South in peaceful darkness, striding through grey shadows cast by the stars. A few days into his trip, when he had just about got used to having the noise of the river and the animals of the valley for company, Durin heard a new sound.
Someone was singing, in a little sweet voice.
"Who was there to sing, though? All the other dwarves were way away," Fíli protested. "Was it an elf? Were there men yet? I thought the men hadn't been made yet."
"Patience and you'll learn, topaz."
Durin was curious too, since he had seen nothing living but the plants and animals since he woke. He followed the sound through the bushes and into a bunch of trees, where he saw a short person, sitting and singing in a patch of green plants just beginning to poke out of the earth. The person had dark, curly hair and a light brown, cheerful face, and no beard at all, the poor thing. Even so, Durin thought this was quite the most charming little creature he had ever seen. So he offered a greeting, very politely and properly, and was about to bow, when the small person leapt up with a shriek of fright.
The creature had been singing loud enough not to hear as Durin approached and so, when he appeared all of a sudden and so much larger - for the singer stood perhaps shoulder high to him - why the person took fright as if he'd been a tree-monster or an orc. Durin saw that he'd scared the poor little singer, so he crouched down at once and set his hammer on the ground between them, offering empty hands to show he meant no harm.
The person stared and shivered, but seemed to see that Durin had not meant to frighten. Putting out one tiny hand, it touched the hammer and then offered its own hand in wary friendship.
Durin gave greeting again, and the little singer shrugged in confusion and responded in a wondering voice, with words that were nothing like Khuzdul at all. Durin likewise gestured his lack of understanding. The creature smiled and nodded in what seemed to be rueful amusement. Then offering a hand again, the singer made a very nice curtsey and drew Durin to his feet. Chattering cheerfully and gesturing to the plants that grew around them, the creature showed the tending of them that had absorbed all attention when Durin approached. Durin gave grave consideration and listened kindly, even though he could not make out much of the meaning.
Soon enough, by signs and careful repetition, Durin communicated his name and his direction. The creature returned “Campion” and by trial and error, they showed each other the things that they valued, Campion the different kinds of plants, named each in turn, and Durin the few things he had created so far and the building of a fire. They shared a supper together, of roasted fish and green things, and admired the great jewelled sweep of stars in the sky, before murmuring themselves quietly to sleep near the warmth of the coals.
The next waking, Durin found that he enjoyed the company so well, even with the confusion of not sharing a language, that he asked, by gesture and smiles, for Campion to accompany him on his journey. It was pleasant to have another thinking creature at his side and Campion was a merry companion. After a little thought and a gesture to him to stay for a moment, Campion ran off into the trees, skirt flicking around bare ankles.
“Why hadn’t Campion any socks?”
“Because it wasn’t cold out, dearest.”
Soon, the bright little creature was back, carrying a bag. Stuffing it full of the best of the green growing things, and tucking a few more into pockets, Campion came up and tucked a hand into Durin’s. Quite taken with feeling at this trust and eager companionship, Durin bowed over the hand, then set off down the riverbank once more. The journey was slower, but easier, with Campion along. Very patiently, Campion shared words to match each thing they came upon, including, with a laugh - “Holbytlan” and “Holbyt-lass” with a gesture to the skirt. Durin realized, after few moments and more gestures, that was meant to say her people were called “Holbytlan” and that she was a dam of her kind, which seemed an odd thing to share so quick to such a stranger, but she was of a different kind than dwarves and to her it must have been right and polite to do so.
“Lass?” he asked, looking for the other words that went with it.
“Lass,” she confirmed, pointing to herself. “Lad?” She pointed at him.
He waited a moment for other words, but she seemed to have none. He shrugged and nodded. “Lad. Khazâd-lad.”
“Khazâd,” she repeated, tasting the word. It seemed to suit. She nodded satisfaction and walked on.
“Why hadn’t she any words for alloy or shadow-folk? Did her holbytlan not have them?” Fíli asked, troubled.
“I do not know, my topaz. Perhaps not, or perhaps none with beards, or none who dressed like Durin. Campion was a very different sort of creature than dwarves and perhaps her Maker only made things in twos instead of more, like Mahal.”
They traveled on together most cheerfully until they reached a joining of waters, the new stream leading toward the mountains to the West. Durin turned there, telling Campion excitedly of the importance of a waterway to a good delving. She followed, picking green things as they went and adding them to the meat he roasted for their meals, making everything taste even better. She explained as they went, talking of growing things and new foods, and even though they understood only a few words of each other’s speech, Durin began to love the bright care she took in the world and the interest she fixed upon him. She enjoyed his company and his person, listening with as much fierce concentration to his words as he to hers one moment, then at the next pushing and hanging on to his arms, bursting forth with laughter and appreciation at his strength and immovability when she could not budge him an inch. Sometimes they shared songs as they walked, and matched the beat to the tread of their feet, and her voice was pure as gold and gave him joy, and she in turn watched him hot-eyed when his voice rang out low and strong.
Durin reached the source of the new water, Kheled-zâram, and saw it for the first time, mirroring the sky like a thousand chips of diamond and swirls of mithril. When he looked in, the stars shone in the deep water, reflecting above his head.
“Like a crown!” Kíli crowed in excitement.
“That’s right,” Dís said. “You’ve been listening to your lessons!”
“He saw the stars like a crown, so he knew that this was the place that he was to rule, so there Durin built the great halls of Khazad-dûm,” Fíli recited.
“Exactly so, my gems.”
He was so struck by it, moved to tears of wonder by the beauty and glory of it that he sat a full day, contemplating the sight. Campion worried over him, but eventually saw that he was not hurt or sad, and went about her own explorations, returning now and again to see that he was still well and safe.
Many and many a tale speaks of the great wonders and works that Durin built there, beneath the mountains, the halls of stone and beautiful ornamentation that he created in the years after, but this is a different tale. The only thing you need to know this time is that the first thing he built was a forge to make the better tools he would need for it, and the first stone he hewed was waterways to supply the halls from the clear waters of Kheled-zâram. For the second things he hewed were a cozy little set of rooms for Campion, and the second thing he created after the new tools were a little set of jeweled beads for her dark curls. For so lovely were her joy and bright her spirit, that Durin could not see a time when he wished to be without her. They spoke still haltingly to each other, but had grown so in understanding that they two knew each other as well as any two dwarves could wish. And so she wove him a wreath of blue and white flowers and he braided the beads into her hair, and they were wedded between the stone and the sky.
Sooner than ever Durin would have thought, Campion was busy with the creation of a child, and soon delivered a fine strong baby, smaller of feature than Durin, but with all the look of the Longbeard line in the face already. Soon enough, Durin made his little daughter her first little boots and hammer, and though she grew taller and broader than her mother ever did, with a precious little curling beard, she was deeply devoted to both her parents and loved all the things they did. And soon enough, Campion was busy with the making of her younger sibling.
Then, while Campion was with child her second time, a thing happened that was very odd. Durin, giving her every good thing she wished to ease her labor, was worried to see her grown sad and restless even as the world warmed and the plants regained their green.
They talked together and she told him that she wished to return to her people for a time, to share all that she had done and learned with them and to be among more plants and growing things instead of under comfortable stone. Durin was sad for it, but set at once to the supplying of the journey.
The three of them travelled together, slower than before, with their daughter between them and Campion still burdened with the new little one.
“It would be dangerous away from the mountain though,” Fíli said. “What if there were wolves or orcs or dragons, too many for Durin to fight? And you haven’t said what weapon Campion used, so she could help.”
“The holbytlan were not fighters, but she could throw stones well, and though she would not have her family hurt, she needed to see her people."
“No weapon but rocks?”
“None at all, but she could knock a bird from the sky or hit a wolf’s eye from as far away as you like.”
They travelled through the days and camped through the nights, with Campion and Durin trading watches. He took two to every one of hers, that she might rest from carrying the babe. The journey went easily despite their worry, and soon enough they reached the same place where Durin and Campion first met.
There, they met with great fuss and distress. A crowd gathered of small, curly-haired folk, a few bearded, but most not, dressed in bright clothing and crying out in words Durin now understood for their long-gone sister. The holbytlan had missed Campion and were much amazed by her new husband and babe, petting the child and exclaiming at the great bulge of Campion’s stomach. They had been mourning and missing her, and Durin was regarded with deep suspicion. Even so, they welcomed the travellers, fed them generously, and settled them in a little hole-dwelling by the river. Durin did not think to be welcome, despite Campion’s assurances, so he kept to himself, caring for his wife and daughter.
But he made himself useful in little ways: creating spades and digging tools for the gardens, weaving wire and wood to keep out rabbits, and - knowing how much Campion enjoyed music - making pipes and whistles.
Slowly the holbytlan became accustomed to such a large, strong creature as a dwarf in their midst, and began to welcome him into their doings. He watched all amazement as Campion and a sister of hers set a big woven-rush boat into the river, then hopped inside and paddled across to pick roots from the opposite bank. Her brothers dove in the deep middle and pulled up baskets of mussels for a stew. Many cousins persuaded and cajoled Durin’s daughter, convincing her at last to try paddling in the water and despite her father’s worry, she took to it like a little duck.
The summer was long and happy, ending with the birth of Campion’s second babe, but with the autumn coming, the family returned again to the mountain to prepare for the winter cold and the protection of their home against any who would threaten it. Durin and Campion and their two little ones went back to continue the work of building what would become the greatest kingdom of the dwarves.
“And then what, Amad? Was there orcs?”
“And then they lived together and Campion had a prodigious number of babies, being a very hardy worker in that craft.”
Sometimes there were wolves or other dangers, and many times there was peace. More dwarves joined them to help build and make Khazad-dûm great and strong. Some of Campion’s children went to live with their amad’s folk, and some stayed with their adad’s. But they all lived very happy for a long time. Campion visited the holbytlan nearly every summer as long as she lived, sometimes with her family, sometimes alone, and when she was gone Durin missed her greatly. Durin, called the Deathless, outlived his holbyt-lass and many of his children, but he always had loving family around him ever after.
So, from waking cold, alone, sad, and with nothing of the goodness of home, Durin found a love and built a home and a family. And so he lived, and so should we all be so lucky.
Fíli and Kíli were very sleepy blanket sausages, and the wind had died to a low croon. Dís kissed her children’s cheeks and gave them a good squeeze and went to her own bed, to curl around Víli’s exhausted form. Her spouse had taken over the dog-watches while Dwalin was away and it was a trial to all four of their family. But though they shared little time right now, she could love Víli in their sleep and look forward to the returning winter that would reunite their hours. Durin had borne Campion’s summer sojourns, she would bear these smaller partings.