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Durin's Beloved

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Amarthandis. The name meant either fated or doomed bride. Depending on who you asked she was either or both. Not that there were many you could ask about her. She was a relative unknown, as far as history was concerned, all record of her name and doings burned long ago ere the first age was ended. Among her descendants, there were those who would shudder at the very idea that she was their ancestor. Others might just slay anyone who would even think to utter such heresy.

Yet such was the case.

Amarthandis, Elven maiden of the Nelyar, later known as the Teleri, counted in among them that became the Sindar. She was among those hundred and forty-four who awoke at the shores of Cuiviénen long ago. The very first of the First Born, waking as fully grown with no parents to speak of save for perhaps Ilúvatar Himself.

Amarthandis, first Queen of Khazad-dûm, in whose hands forever would rest the heart of Durin the Deathless. Durin who had woken alone in contrast to all the other Dwarven forefathers. He who had wandered from his waking in Gundabad to settle in Khazad-dûm, founding his kingdom there. They had met at the banks of the Silverlode, for in those days he had wandered much. He had no people to govern yet in the early years of his waking, more concerned with mapping the mountain and building his own home. She, too, was not content to stay in one place. Often she ventured far afield, leagues upon leagues from Beleriand of which now only Lindon remains.

Their first meeting was not one plucked from any great tale of romance. They were no Thingol and Melian, no Beren and Lúthien. No instant love struck them as they met underneath a canopy of leaves. They startled each other exceedingly, as a matter of fact, for she moved light and soundless as all the rest of her kin and he had been sleeping on a grassy spot by the bank, content to rest in his solitude under the endless starlight before the Sun and Moon were placed in the heavens.

So it was that the future Queen of Khazad-dûm met her husband to be by quite literally stumbling over him. Her foot caught on what she first thought to be a large rock and she fell with an inelegant shriek, her dark braided locks falling about her. Almost at the same moment the thing she had tripped over moved and Durin sprung to his feet with a cry of alarm, reaching for the sword he carried at his hip.

For a long moment, neither of them spoke or moved, both regarding each other with shocked curiosity. He was unlike anyone she had ever seen before, having never interacted with anyone other than her kin. He seemed so very short to her but strong and broad in a way unlike to any Elf. His long, dark beard, braided with simple clasps of silver, was perhaps the strangest thing about him to her eyes for she had never seen such a thing before. Yet she could not help but notice his eyes, clear and blue yet there seemed to be a light to them that the dim light of the stars would not fully show her.

He, too, had never seen her like before. Unnaturally long and thin she seemed to him, like a newborn faun stumbling over her legs as she tried to walk. Her beardless face and hairless arms were strange to him, for though Mahal had not made a match for him he had seen Dwarrowdams before, briefly, and this creature with her spindly limbs and bare face was nothing like any of them. Yet he could not help but notice how the starlight shone on her dark skin and how her dark hair, bound in countless braids, cascaded over her shoulders.

Then the long silence was broken by a laugh. Hastily stifled and a little nervous, but a laugh still. Amarthandis pressed a hand over her mouth to hide the grin that spread over her cheeks but it was too late. Durin relaxed and let out a hearty laugh of his own as he sat back down on the grass.

His first words to her were met with blank confusion, as were hers to him for they did not speak the same tongue. This being before the Waking of Men they had no other to fall back on either and so they taught each other as best they could.

Their talk became a mishmash of gesturing, Sindarin, and Khuzdul and they sat for long hours attempting to understand one and other. It came to them belatedly after much had already passed between them that they still did not know what to call each other.

“You’ll have to forgive me,” Durin said in hesitant Sindarin aided here and there by Khuzdul. “I’ve never really met anyone before.”

“Never?” she asked, her shock apparent.

“Eh, depends on your definition of meeting someone I suppose.” He shrugged easily. “I have memories, long ago before I went to sleep beneath the stone, to wait for your lot to wake up. I met my Maker then, and the others of my kin. Seven Dwarrows and six Dams. Never could figure the maths on that one but I suppose he knows best.

“Still, it’s not what I’d call meeting someone, exactly. I know their names as well as I know my own. I have since our making.”

Amarthandis laughed again, a high clear sound when she wasn’t trying to hide it.

“Well then clearly it is I who has erred here, for I have met people before. I am called Amarthandis of Doriath, though I am far from there now as you can see.”

“Durin, at your service. I would say King of Khazad-dûm but I make a poor King with no people to govern and Khazad-dûm is yet only an aesthetically pleasing cave.” He shot her a rueful smile.

“I suppose you have to start somewhere,” she allowed. He laughed again, a merry sound so deep it seemed to her to be rising from the mountain itself.

“Aye, I suppose,” he said, laughter still in his voice. “So where do you go from here? Back to Doriath? Onwards?”

She considered that for a moment. “If I may be so bold I would not mind a look at this aesthetically pleasing cave of yours,” she said, a spark of merry mischief in her eyes. Durin snorted.

“I may be able to organize something,” he returned easily, his own eyes shining with mirth.

“I look forward to it, your Majesty,” she teased lightly, springing to her feet in one fluid motion. “My camp is a little way down the river, I will wait for you there.”

She did not wait long. She had scarcely time to take a brief rest before he returned, a bright smile on his bearded face, to show her his home. They walked together through Nanduhirion, which he called Azanulbizar, and entered the mountain through a door cunningly hidden in the rock yet finely crafted once it opened.

She felt a moment of hesitation as the darkness of the mountain loomed in front of her. It felt heavy above her head and she would not see the stars there. She turned her eyes to Durin and he smiled at her. It eased her spirits and she followed him gladly into the mountain.

What she found there stole the very breath from her lungs. She stared out over a cavern, the grey rock cut through by shining streaks of ore, silver in colour, the like of which she had never before seen. She thought for a moment that it might indeed be silver but it was a clearer, purer thing than the metal she knew. She recognized now that the clasps in his beard were not silver as she had thought but this metal, whatever it be.

She could see the openings of tunnels further into the mountain. A work had already been begun there to craft it from an intricate cave system into a great city beneath the ground. She could see it in her mind's eye already, lit by lamps and ringing with music and merry voices.

“You undersold your home quite magnificently, my friend,” she breathed. She could not bear to tear her eyes from it to look at him as she spoke. He hummed.

“Perhaps I did.” There was a smile in his voice. She turned to him and found her breath once again stolen from her for in the light of the torch he had placed on the wall she saw what the starlight would not show her.

His eyes.

They shone like nothing she had ever seen the like of. She might have likened them to stars but it seemed not quite right. There was no word, yet, for what his eyes looked like in the light beneath the mountain. There would not be such a word until the Elves took mithril and fashioned from it ithildin.

“Ah, yes. They are quite the sight, so I’ve been told,” he said in a merry voice. She shook her head, a fond huff escaping her.

“Quite a sight indeed, they are beyond description! Do all your kin have eyes like yours? If so I wonder how you have not run afoul of hunters wishing to pluck them from your skulls and fashion them into jewels!” She placed her hands on her hips, incredulous wonder written on her every feature.

Durin laughed.

“No, not all. Indeed I am the only one whose eyes shine like this.”

She blew out a long, slow breath. “You are a wonder,” she said, an unmistakable fondness in her voice. “I think I shall find it quite hard to continue my journey from here.”

She turned her eyes again towards the cavern before her. Tools were scattered about, a small table covered in maps and plans stood in the far corner, serving as a study for the moment. It would take long years for it to take shape into something like the vision her mind could already see and she found herself loath to leave Durin alone to its construction.

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“Do you have a forge?” she asked.

“Do I have a forge?” he scoffed. “Of course I have a forge, where do you think I made these?” He gestured to the clasps in his beard and the metal of his belt.

“Show me?”

“Gladly, right this way if you please. Watch your step, I cleared out as much as I could but when there’s work of this kind going on there are inevitably stone shards and tools left around.”

She nodded and followed him in silence through long and winding tunnels until at last, they came into a wide and spacious cavern so large that she could not see the ceiling in the dark. The single forge within it lay cold at the moment, the cavern it was in nothing to what it would one day be. The great forges of Khazad-dûm would be legend one day. For now, the single one that stood before her merely served its purpose.

She hummed thoughtfully, walking in quick steps around it.

“This is the first thing I have seen in all my time here which is familiar to me,” she said softly, picking up one of the tools that lay beside it and handling it with the obvious skill of one learned in its usage. “Would you allow me to use it? I have not crafted anything in what feels now an uncountably long time.”

The brightness of Durin’s grin nearly outshone his eyes. “Gladly! If you do not mind that I keep you company while you work. I can bear solitude well, but I have lacked for good conversation since I woke. Perhaps someday we may even abandon this mishmash of language we now speak.”

She laughed merrily. “And what will we speak then, Majesty? Shall it be your language only which echoes under the mountain?”

“Nay, I do not think so. Yours is not so bad to listen to, after all.” He grinned at her. She gave him the exaggeratedly offended gasp he had been looking for and once again they fell into laughter.

Durin had to wonder as he watched Amarthandis wipe the sweat from her brow, her sleeves rolled up to her shoulders and his apron tied around her waist if this was what the others of his kin felt when they had woken already with their intended at their side.

She was beautiful, in an odd sort of way, and the look of fierce concentration on her face melted some part of his heart he had hitherto been unaware of. He knew she was most likely ignorant of his presence in the room, so strong was her focus on fashioning the thing she was making. She had already expressed to him her delight at working with sanzigil. Indeed it mirrored his own for he had been quite taken with the metal himself when he had first discovered it.

With a groan, Amarthandis stretched and set her tools aside, the large hairclip, fashioned more for decoration than for any true use, which she had been working on finished at last. Made of pure sanzigil and fashioned into the shape of a tree with many delicately flowering branches her work was a marvel to behold, as nearly flawless as any creature could want.

“It is wonderfully strong, this…” she struggled for a moment. “Mithril, I suppose I could call it in Sindarin, though it does it no justice.”

“Sanzigil, that is its name in Khuzdul.”

“Sanzigil…” she tested the name on her tongue, a contemplative look on her face. “It is an odd language you speak, but it seems perfect for you.”

“It should,” Durin chuckled. “It was fashioned for us by Mahal himself.”

She frowned. “You have mentioned him before, but I do not know this name. He is a Vala?” Durin nodded.

“Your people know him as Aulë.”

“Ah. Yes, that does make sense.” She cast her eyes about the workroom, a small smile on her face. “Truly I can find no fault in his work.” She turned her smile to him and the spark in her eyes set his heart ablaze.

Surely, surely this must be what the others had felt for if it was not he would no longer know what to do with himself.

“It isn’t your style, precisely-” she continued- “but I want you to keep this.” She held out the hairclip to him. He took it carefully, turning it over in his hands.

“It is beautiful,” he said. “You are certain you want to give it away?”

“Absolutely,” she said. Her dark eyes shone with an unspoken affection, a thing they neither of them could bring themselves yet to name.

“Then I shall treasure it.”

It came to her with a sudden shock as notes of music reached her ears that she had never heard him sing before. She had not even known if he could. But she knew now, oh she knew.

The song that drifted out of the cavern where he was working was simple, just a short thing to hum while his hands were occupied with some idle repetitive task. It was his voice which lent it its true power. Deep as the mountains, shaking her to her very core.

If a simple work song could do this what would something more serious wake in her, she wondered. There was a small fear behind that question but her want to know far overshadowed it. Quietly as she could she stepped into the cavern to watch him, bent over his task and singing merrily to himself.

She had never thought she would feel a call to anything save her wandering and her craft. Now she wondered if her urge to roam might not have been an urge to find him. To come here and stay, for she found quite suddenly that she could not bear the thought of leaving while he yet lived and toiled beneath the mountain.

“I did not know you could sing,” she said softly. She spoke in fluent Khuzdul now, almost more frequently than she spoke Sindarin. He paused in his work and looked up, far too used to her silent moving to be truly surprised by her presence.

“I have not had much time for music lately,” he said. It sounded almost like an apology. She frowned. Her people were musical, yes, and she had told him as much but surely he did not blame himself for her recent lack of it.

“That can be rectified easily enough,” she said gently. “Come, you have worked enough for now. Sing something for me?”

He laughed softly. “How could I possibly deny such a request?”

He took her offered hand and let her pull him away to his finished rooms where she settled on a carved bench and he stood before her. He had no song ready in his mind to sing, had done no real serious composing, yet he found the words he needed came to him with ease.

There was no history to sing of yet, so he sang of the mountain. Of her peaks and her deep chasms and the treasures she held. Of how she had stood tall and proud, near unchanging in the world since her formation, of her cool springs and the fire that flowed deep beneath her. He sang and Amarthandis listened.

His voice, deep and melodic, stirred in her chest something she dared not name. Like a spell, it settled over her and took root in her heart and would never again be moved even as the world grew old and died and was remade anew.

Durin, before he ever was Durin the Deathless, before he ever died and was reborn, before the great Khazad-dûm was more than a couple of half-finished chambers, was the first of his kin ever to stand wringing his hands, wondering how to go about asking someone to agree to a courtship.

His words, he found, had failed him here. He had drafter and scrapped several pieces about the nature of Dwarven love and how much he adored her and that he, for his part, would be hers for the rest of his days. So he turned back to the one gift his Maker had built into his bones, stronger than any other. He turned to creation. He would make her a gift and hope it was enough to say what his words could not.

It was not finished yet, merely a sketch of an idea. The best way he could conceive of to win her favour. He would fashion for her first a necklace of sapphire set in mithril to hang just below her collarbone. To go with the necklace he would make for her a set of tools, like to his own, but sized to fit her hands for he had watched her frustration with the ones he had.

Later, if he was so fortunate, he would make for her a crown of mithril to rest light upon her head when finally the work was complete and Khazad-dûm was more than just the dream of a single Dwarrow toiling alone. Should she chose to stay, for as long as Mahal would grant him time on the earth, he would make for her a forge to stand beside his own, more suited to her height so she would not have to bend as she now did to work.

What a Queen she would make should she accept him. The others of his kin may find her odd at first, as he had, but they could not argue with him in this. Mahal had made him no match, so surely he was free to choose his own. If only he had known at the moment of their meeting what she would come to mean to him. But if someone had told him so then he would likely have thought them completely mad, so strange and thin a creature as she was. It had been but a single year by the count of the Sun yet the time seemed to him both infinitely longer and much shorter.

“You’re getting ahead of yourself, she still has to accept you,” he chided himself gently as he began collecting his materials. He thought she might, hoped she would, for she had not left Azanulbizar in all the time since their meeting. She spent time outside the mountain, finding it hard to spend much time away from her beloved stars, but ever she stayed close, her camp practically on his front doorstep.

She was there now, wandering through the grass by Kheled-zâram and singing softly to herself. He had watched her for a time until he had become convinced that she would not come into the mountain again for a little while at least. This gift, in particular, he did not want her silent movement to reveal before it was done.

It would come in two parts, one practical, one beautiful. The finest of his works yet. A set of tools made for her hands, and a mithril necklace to glitter on her breast. Neither particularly complex, but both finely crafted. All of his skill he would pour into their forging and hope that it would show in the final result.

It took him almost a month to complete the gifts. He had nearly lost count of how many times he had started over. The setting for the sapphire needed to be perfect, the gem’s cut beyond reproach. The tools needed to be perfectly weighted made to endure for long years before they even began to show any signs of wear. He had scrapped what felt like hundreds of false starts but finally, he was done.

He found her outside, sitting by Kheled-zâram and staring pensively into the endless sky above her.

“You should build a balcony,” she said without moving her gaze. He did not even know she had heard him approach, though of course, she had. “Or some other such place where the sky may be viewed from within the mountain.”

“I think I can manage that,” he said, taking a seat beside her. She glanced sideways at him and her eyes fixed on the satchel he was carrying.

“Going somewhere?” she asked.

“No, I do not think I shall ever again leave these mountains. They are the home that I found and I have grown quite fond of them.”

She smiled softly, eyes sparkling with curiosity. “So what is it you carry, then?”

“Ah… well…” Durin faltered for a moment. “A gift. Gifts. For you, if you will have them.”

She frowned. “I do not understand, why should I not accept gifts from you?”

“You should keep them either way this goes, for I made them for you and I think you will appreciate them even if you cannot-” he stopped and cleared his throat. “I, uh. Well. I was hoping…” he cut himself off and laid down in the grass with a groan, covering his face with his hands. “Mahal why me?” he muttered quietly, though she heard it and she laughed gently. There was an intelligent spark of mischievous understanding in her eyes.

“I cannot imagine the first Elf who had to court someone was all too elegant about it, either, though I was not awake yet to witness it,” she said. “Yes, of course, I accept.”

He sat up quickly. “Truly?”

“I don’t know, let’s see these gifts of your first,” she teased. He laughed his deep, thundering laugh but produced them none the less.

First, he handed her the tools. Her eyes glittered when she unwrapped them, holding each in turn up to inspect them and weighing them in her hands. The smile on her face was answer enough but still, she said;

“If I didn’t love you before…” she shook her head and laid the tools back in their wrapping. “How did you make them so perfect for my hands?”

“I am not unobservant, you know,” he said, his tone teasing rather than hurt.

He hesitated for a moment before bringing out the second package. Much smaller than the first, and lighter. She took it gingerly from his hands and began to unwrap it. She had not fully uncovered the thing when she gasped. The package slipped from her finger and fell into her lap as she uncovered the rest of the necklace with trembling fingers.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, barely even a whisper, as she lifted it out of its wrapping to inspect it more closely. “I have never seen work like this…” she turned it over in her hands, inspecting it carefully.

With quick and nimble hands she loosened the clasp and hung it about her neck. It settled just as he thought it would, hanging just below her collarbone, rising and falling ever so slightly with every breath she took.

“I believe,” she said, reaching out to touch his cheek, “this is the part where you kiss me.”

He did not need to be told twice.

“There is one thing I have yet to tell you.”

Durin’s voice was light as he spoke, his hands steady in her hair as he wove new braids into the mass of soft, curling darkness that bounced down her back. More decorative, this time, unlike the style she had worn to protect it during her wanderings before she met him. Among them one in particular was special, mirroring the one he carried in his own hair. A bonding braid, he had called it, and so it would go on to be, a tradition among Dwarves for countless years to come. Still, she heard the underlying tension, felt slight up-tick in his heartbeat as if it were her own.

“Should I be worried?” she asked. He huffed.

“No, it is I who should be worried. I do not know how you will take this.” He sighed as he tied off the last braid and let his hands fall from her hair.

She turned to him, a worried frown on her face. “I cannot think of anything you could tell me which would sway my opinion of you,” she said carefully.

“Aye well decide that when I’ve said my piece, will you?”

“Alright, though I still doubt it will change my mind,” she said and gestured for him to proceed.

“Dwarves have two names. A use-name and one which is secret which we tell to no one save those closest to us. I said I knew the names of my kin? I know their use-names only, their dark-names are hidden from all save Mahal until such time that they chose to reveal them.”

She blinked at him, her head tilted slightly to the side as if she was seeing him for the first time again. “How do you get these secret names? Are they of your own choosing?”

“No, they were given to us by Mahal when he made us.”

Her sharp intake of breath startled him but her eyes were alight in wonder. “A gift from one of the Valar… It is no wonder you keep them close!”

He laughed, the weight of worry lifting off his chest in an instant. “Yes, indeed. Yet I would give you mine, now, for you have become more dear to me than any treasure found beneath the earth.”

“If you’re certain…” she said hesitantly. He took her face in his hands and kissed her softly.

“I am certain,” he said. “My name is Zê’ra Akhùthuzh.”

Minui ah Uireb…” she breathed. He chuckled.

“Yes, you know Khuzdul, this has been established,” he teased. She rolled her eyes fondly and leaned down again to kiss him.

“Zê’ra Akhùthuzh…” Her voice speaking his most sacred name send a small shock through him. She tapped a finger against his arm in quiet thought. “I do not know why but I feel it suits you well, melleth nín.”

“I was the first made of my kin,” he said quietly. “I think I asked my Maker about that second part before we all went to sleep beneath the stone, but my memory of that time is vague at best. Though I know that if I asked he did not answer me.”

“I’m sure you will know, in time.”

“That seems to be the crux of it, doesn’t it? Time.” He shook his head. “Ah, but I will wonder over these mysteries at some other point. There is still work to be done.”

He rose to his feet, pulling her up along with him with a great sigh. She smiled down at him and gathered her hair, loose and braided alike, and tied it off at her neck to keep it out of their way as they worked.

Much happened in the first years of their marriage. Durin worked quickly, more quickly and with more precision than any of his line who would follow him, yet still, he could not even begin to finish the work, even with Amarthandis’ sharp mind and clever hands at his side. They did not yet put much thought to children, for they did not wish to bring any into the world before they had the proper means to care for them.

So they worked, and the years wound on, soon reaching forty by the later count of the sun. They had several rooms already done, then, and a forge fit for Amarthandis’ height to stand beside Durin’s own. Also, they had the beginnings of a great hall and marketplace and had mapped out where the living sections should stretch and where more public life should start.

Durin had chosen a place for the throne-room and audience chamber, though that of all things came the very last in their plans, for they would have no true need of them for many long years.

Khazad-dûm was beginning to resemble something of a city already by the time they brought their first child into the world. For a while, Durin had worried they might be too different, that Mahal could not grant him a child that was in half a child of Ilúvatar. Yet he worried needlessly.

Amarthandis’ first pregnancy went smoothly as they could wish and soon they welcomed her into the world, their first daughter. Dark of hair and complexion, taking most of her colouring from her mother yet it was obvious from the first time they held her, even as a babe, that she took after her father in build. Amarthandis had sighed softly to herself when she ran a delicate finger over her daughter’s large, rounded ears. She did not let herself dwell on dark thoughts, then, but it kindled a mournfull suspicion in her heart.

They named her Dís and they loved her dearly. Not long after she was joined by a brother, and then another, and more until their children numbered seven. One girl, five boys, and one who found they fit neither descriptor to their satisfaction.

So Dís and her brothers Ámundur, Dorvari, Álvur, Dorin, and Aurin, and her littlest sibling Thrárin grew and the mountain filled with the noise of children and the work paused as Durin and Amarthandis focused their efforts instead on raising and teaching their children.

All seven of them grew to be taller than their father, though not by much, and none of them had the pointed ears or slender build of their mother. Further Amarthandis would not think but in her heart of hearts, she knew already that they did not share her immortal life. They were only the children of Ilúvatar by half if even that. Their souls, she suspected, were Mahal’s work entirely.

The work started anew when their children grew old enough to help them. Having seven extra pairs of hands and eyes helped immensely and the city grew from more a small village to what could perhaps be called a town.

They had only just begun to work on the gates beyond the thin bridge of the great hall when someone else found them.

He was a Dwarrow, strong and broad with dark brown hair who introduced himself as Regar, the seventh child and second son of Telphor. He had chosen to wander about the land to seek new knowledge for his family and the Firebeards who were their neighbours. Durin welcomed him with much joy and their children badgered him with endless questions.

He did not stay long, moving on with his journey ever on and towards the East.

His coming and going were like the first light drops of rain that herald a great downpour. Soon more Dwarrows came, children of the other twelve. Some stayed and their numbers swelled and soon their eldest daughter was wed and they began in seriousness to consider a coronation.

The throne-room still stood empty most days, the crowns Durin had fashioned for them lay tucked away in their quarters. A date was set soon after their first grandchild was born and the coronation only drew more curious folk to their doors. No longer only the children of the other twelve but their grandchildren as well. Trade opened up between the Mountain and the Elves. Mithril was precious and in high demand and Khazad-dûm flourished.

The years wore on and their grandchildren had children while their children began to bend under the weight of time and Amarthandis noticed as if for the first time, that though he had changed somewhat since their first meeting Durin now looked younger than any of their children.

He noticed, too, and he cried bitterly into her shoulder within the privacy of their rooms. She held him tight but could think of no words to comfort him, for there was no comfort to be had. She had feared this for herself but she had never once even considered Durin might have to share in such grief. Happy as she was to have him still at her side for a moment as he howled and cursed his Maker’s name she wished him a lifespan matching the rest of his people.

It was far worse when finally one of their children did leave them. Thrárin, first as they were last. They died peacefully in their bed but it was of little comfort to either of them. Durin locked himself away in his private forge for days thereafter and would see no one save Amarthandis.

“How do you stand it?” he choked between bitter tears.

She shook her head, her own eyes swimming with tears. “I have never had to, before.”

They had more children, eventually, long years after all of their first seven were gone from the world. Seven again. Four sons and three who shrugged or shook their heads at the concept of gender. No daughters.

They grew up knowing their great-great nieces and nephews as playmates, their siblings already long since gone to the grave. It was an odd thing for Durin and Amarthandis to watch, a melancholy mingled with the joy of watching their youthful play.

Khazad-dûm only grew in splendour and might around them and Durin ruled with wisdom and fairness. In Doriath, a great building began, a joint effort between Elves and Dwarves.

Time wore on and around them their children aged and died yet again, and yet again they mourned their loss, the grief no less for having been felt before.

A script was made by an Elven minstrel and adapted to suit Khuzdul. Durin took it and began inscribing their family tree on a wall in the joint area of their family quarters, so empty now once more. His hands shook and his eyes blurred so he had to pause as he carved the names of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who had already left them.

Amarthandis took his shaking hands gently in hers and kissed them and she wished again that this burden had not been his to bear.

Morgoth was overthrown. The Sun and Moon rose in the sky for the first time. Men awoke and a little clever River-folk began to be talked of by more well-travelled Dwarves. Tensions grew between Elves and Dwarves and finally, Durin began to show some sign of age.

Their final children were born when he was already getting on in years, though he was so ancient by Dwarven standards that seemed a ridiculous thing to say. Seven again. Always seven, it seemed. Two daughters and one son and four who were otherwise aligned.

“I hope you’ll forgive me for hoping I don’t outlive them this time,” Durin said softly one night as they watched their children play. Amarthandis sighed softly and kissed his old brow.

“There is nothing to forgive, gabshel,” she said quietly. He smiled at her and squeezed her hand and her heart ached to remember his smile in earlier years before the weight of so much grief had laid itself over his heart. She knew she did not smile much anymore, either. Ice cold, indifferent Elven Queen she knew they thought her now. They dared not speak only because she had been there before them. Because she had been at his side before any of them even breathed.

He got his wish, in the end. Their children were ageing but none yet dead when he breathed his last.

Amarthandis left the mountain that very same night and of his final words to her, she would say nothing to anyone, not even her children. The crown of Khazad-dûm passed to their eldest living child, Havdís, the first Reigning Queen of Khazad-dûm from whose line would spring such legendary Dwarrows as Thorin Oakenshield and Gimli, son of Glóin.

Amarthandis wandered for some years afterwards, watching the world in her sorrow as she made her way towards the sea. Her grief weighed her down and her road became long and tiring but at last, she arrived and she, one of the hundred and forty-four, Elven Queen of Khazad-dûm, gazed her last upon the shores of Arda as a ship brought her away to a land beyond the sea which she had never before seen.