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A Slingshot for a Scribe

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15th Wedmath, 2911

The day I turned forty and entered dwarvern puberty, I asked my mother to tell me how she had met my father and what she knew about him. He has always been a mystery to me. All I know is that he is absent from my life and as a result, I know nothing at all about him.

It was on that day when I missed his absence most of all. Who was he? Why wasn't he here? I could see that the questions I asked upset mother, but I needed to know the answers to them, and I had many. I had asked her before of course, but she always brushed the questions aside because they were painful for her to answer. Was he even alive? That I do not know.

Of course, the tale she told me went beyond her own personal history and involved many people that I didn’t expect to be a part of the tale, but that’s how stories go, isn’t it?
 
I suppose I should write a little something about myself before I get started on that. I am Ori, the youngest of three brothers. Dori is the eldest and looks after me almost as much as mother does. Nori is the one in the middle. He is always getting himself into trouble with the law and brings shame on us all. He and Dori never see eye to eye, but that is a tale for another time, I think, but I will say this. He was absent that day as well, for he had once again got himself into trouble and Mr Dwalin was out hunting for him. Dwalin always scares me because he always looks like he's about to punch someone and whenever he visits us when a petty crime has occurred, Dori is bombarded with dozens of awkward questions. Amad has long since ceased to answer them because they stress her so.

Our mother is called Skafid. She’s not the best of mothers, or so that is what a lot of people will say. That will become clear as you read my journal.
 
One day, I hope to become King Thorin’s royal scribe, like Balin is now, but because of my family background, most people laugh at me when I tell them that. They say it will never happen because of Nori and because of my mother, but Balin is kind enough to let me read books in the library. The King’s nephews and young Gimli can usually be found in there, much to their reluctance, because they are being taught what is needed to run a kingdom. They would much rather be out in the training yard getting lessons from Mr Dwalin instead. I don’t know why they don’t like their lessons in the library. I would give anything in Middle-earth to learn what they are being taught. Much of the time I feel invisible and only Balin really encourages me with my interests. It is surprising that Balin does this because he is Mr Dwalin's brother, and Mr Dwalin glares at me every time he sees me in the library.

Of the King's nephews, Kili is my friend. He has more free time to mess around than Fili does. Not everyone likes Kili's choice of playmate of course, but there aren't any other boys that he can play with, other than his brother and Gimli, of course. Dwarven children are rare. Earlier in the day, we sneaked some honey cakes from the kitchens and ate them in the stable outside the cottage Kili lives in with his mother, brother and uncle. Kili told me that I should make some wishes because it is my birthday, but I should keep them secret, or they wouldn't come true. I just think he was trying to cheer me up because the day hadn't been a nice one.

This is what I wished for:

That Adad would come home.
That Nori would come home and stop getting into trouble.
And finally, Balin would accept me as an apprentice.

Dori gave me this journal for my birthday to write and draw in. I don't know how he managed to scrape together the money for it because we are always broke, but he must have found a way. Amad gave me a knitted jumper, the wool of which makes me itch all the time, but that doesn't bother me because she made it. She is always knitting something: scarves, gloves, blankets, jumpers...
 
I really missed Nori that day. He should have been with us, but I wasn't angry with him, just sad that he was there.

I asked the question when we were alone in the living room of our cottage, coals burning in the fire, me sat on the cold bare floor and Amad's lap full of her knitting - a jumper she was making for Dori. She sighed and looked at me with a sad expression, but she decided that it was time that I knew the truth and began to tell me the tale.

I decided to write down the story what my mother told me. Perhaps if I do a good job of it, and show it to Balin, he will allow me to be his apprentice. One can hope, I suppose.
 

This is what she told me. I hope that I can do the tale the justice that it deserves.

Chapter Text

26th Wedmath, 2911

I’ve not had a lot of time to write recently, much to my regret. I was interrupted with my last entry because we had a visit from Mr Dwalin. My birthday was kind of ruined! Mother has been ill with worry over Nori. Mr Dwalin is still after him for some misdemeanor or something and Dori is out looking for him and has been gone for days. I have been busy helping her around the house and I’ve not even had time to play with Kili or visit the library so I can talk to Mr Balin. Amad wishes that he take up some honest work, like mining or tool making in the forges, but he never sticks to it. Even when a foreman is kind enough to give him a job on their team of miners, he always manages to mess it up somehow, either by stealing from one of the other workers, trying to sell mining tools used by the team, or getting into a fight with someone. When he’s not working or trying to avoid Mr Dwalin, he’s in the Cabbage gambling. He once gambled away all the money Dori had earned in one week, so Amad had to beg and borrow from other dwarrowdams to put enough food on the table that week. There is the mead hall where we can eat, but we don’t like going there because of Amad’s past and Nori’s stealing. I would really like to know what happened to make people dislike us, other than Nori’s thievery of course. Something must have happened a long time ago and Amad has yet to tell me everything and it is a difficult task getting her to talk about. I hope to get time to write in my journal soon.

Chapter Text

1st, Halimath 2911

Nori is still absent, and Mr Dwalin has given up trying to track him down, for now, which is a relief. Dori has returned, unable to find a trace of him. I know that Nori is troublesome, but I don’t want anything to happen to him. He is my brother, after all. I’ve not had chance to write in my diary properly as yet because I’ve been helping Amad with things. She’s still very worried about Nori. I was passing the training grounds where on this particular day Mr Dwalin was putting Fili and Kili through their paces, practicing with an axe. He was currently training Fili, while Kili watched. Curiosity over came me and went to sit beside Kili on the boulder he was sat on. Kili grinned at me.

"Hello Ori," he said.

"What’s happening?" I asked, hoping that Mr Dwalin wouldn’t notice me sat there, at least for a while.

"Uncle decided that Fili and I need to learn how to use an axe and asked Dwalin to teach us. It’s better than the lessons with Balin, anyway…more interesting for a start. You should learn."

I nod, a bit eager for it. Perhaps I should have asked Amad first? She might not want me to learn, but I didn’t want to go to ask her in case she said no. She can be a bit over protective of me at times. Is that because I am the youngest, or because she doesn’t want me going the same path as Nori? I don’t know, so I waited until Mr Dwalin and Fili took a break, before approaching Mr Dwalin to ask.

I was nervous, of course, because of the dealings he had with Nori, and it took a lot of courage as I stood there before him, asking rather awkwardly if he could teach me sword play. He just laughed, “Now, is this a joke, lad?”

 

Kili, of course, tried to persuade him to let me join them, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Frustrated, he said that he didn’t want to learn how to use an axe if I couldn’t learn the same. Mr Dwalin then called an end to the lesson and marched Kili off to see his Uncle. I hoped I’d not got Kili in trouble. The whole scenario seemed unfair to me, but I can only assume that it is Nori which is the problem, as always.

Chapter Text

2nd Halimath 2911

This isn't fair. Kili's not allowed to come out because of what he did yesterday and is being forced to have extra lessons writing lessons with Mr Balin. That wouldn't be so bad, accept I'm not allowed to go in there today. I decided to take a walk…Perhaps I'll meet some other dwarflings to play with but I've not met any. There's only me, Fili, Kili and Gimli, but Gimli is even younger than I am and I hardly get to see him. Fili is not allowed to play because he has lessons himself.

I decide to take a walk in the woods. There are ripe blackberries growing on the brambles and I figure that Amad would like it if I brought some home so that she can make a pie. I begin to fill my hat with them. It is only when I was halfway through that I realise some of the juice from them has stained my hat purple. Amad isn't going to like that, because she'll have to wash it now. But perhaps if I continue to pick a lot of the berries so that she can make several pies, she'll be more forgiving of me. It is when my hat is almost full that I hear a rustling in the bushes behind me. I freeze, wondering if it is one of the wild boar that Dori is always warning me about. He doesn't like it when I come out here alone. Or maybe it's a wolf come to eat me!

I shouldn't have worried though, when I hear a "Psst," coming from the bushes and then my name. "Ori!"

I turn around and almost drop the hat when I see Nori. I grin broadly when I see him. My brother…

"Are you coming home, Nori?"

Nori shakes his head. "Ah can't, lad. Dwalin's still after mi. Ah'm sorry ah missed yer birthday."

I put the hat down on a rock nearby and hug my brother. I have missed him and I was on the verge of tears when he said that he wasn't coming home. Why not? He should be home. It's where he belongs. Nori returns the hug. "Don't cry, lad. If ah went 'ome, Dwalin would arrest me an' put me in jail. At least ought 'ere, ah ken help mam an' Dori look after thee."

He hands me a sack and I look inside. I find food, quite a lot of it. Cheese, ham, bread, a fowl, a bag of flour, nuts, apples and a jar of honey. "Oh, ah've got summat fo' thee, as well…" he pulled a slingshot from his pocket and gave it to me, beaming. "Ah know it's late, but…'appy birthday, Ori."

I take it from him quite happily and that's when we hear shouting. "Ah've gotta go, Ori." He pats me on the shoulder and before I could open my mouth to be him to stay, he was gone, disappearing into the woods. I was still looking at the slingshot when a pair of hunting hounds ran up to me and started sniffing around my feet. A few moments later, Mr Dwalin and Gloin appeared, each carrying a deer on his shoulders. It was clear that they had been hunting. Mr Dwalin laughed when he saw my hat full of blackberries. I didn't see what was so funny about. They didn't like the idea of me wandering the woods alone and made me go back home with them.

Amad was angry when we got home. She thought I'd got into trouble being brought home by Mr Dwalin. I suspect I would have been, if he knew I'd been speaking to Nori only moments before they arrived. When she learnt that I wasn't in trouble, she soon forgot her anger and when they were gone, she cheered up even more when I gave her the sack of food. She would be able to feed us all properly this evening, though she wasn't entirely happy about the state of my hat.

Chapter Text

3rd Halimath, 2911

Amad was delighted with the food that I bought, but was suspicious of how I had got it. She thought that I had stolen it. One of her greatest fears is that I will become like Nori, a thief and an outcast. When I was sure that Dwalin and Gloin had gone, I told her about seeing Nori and, although she was angry that he had not come home, she was relieved that he was alright. She cooked the fowl and peeled some vegetables to go with it. I don't like green food, never had and I watched the boiling carrots with disdain.

"Ori, you can't eat chips all the time. It's not healthy for you," she said, when she saw the look on my face.

We didn't have any potatoes, which is what I preferred. Sometimes all we had to eat was cabbage and sprouts, mainly because they were over looked by the other dwarves and they were all my mother can afford. Dwarves aren't fond of green food in general, but I despised it more than most, because it was a reminder that Adad wasn't here, and because our family had it harder than a lot of the others. Of course, everyone found life in Ered Luin difficult, even the king and his family. Food of any kind was always scarce, but for Amad, Dori, Nori and I it was harder because Adad wasn't here and because people had a tendency to treat our family with suspicion because of Nori's actions.

The fowl was ready by the time that Dori came home from the mines. Grey hair was already appearing in some places, and I suspected that it was due to the worry that Nori's stealing caused. He was happy with the fowl, but not so when he knew where it had came from, because he was sure that Nori had stolen it. I don't think I really cared to be honest. I was just hungry. It was the first proper meal we'd had in days. Until then it had just been scraps of bread with fat from cooking spread between them, and I must admit that was something I hated worse than the cabbage and sprouts….

Of course, all of that was yesterday. Dori has gone off to work again, and Amad made him some ham and cheese sandwiches.

"Today," she said, "I'm going to make a pie with those blackberries you picked yesterday, and you can help me."

I nodded. It was raining heavily today and I don't think she would have allowed me to go out. I wondered about Kili, what he was doing this day. Probably miserable at home, I expect….

While she worked on the pastry, with rain pattering on the leaded window pane of the kitchen, she told me about the day the dragon came to the Mountain.

"You asked me, on your birthday, what had happened regarding your father and I did promise that I would tell you what happened. It will take some time for me to tell it."

The story she told me went beyond our own history and involved many people that I didn't expect to be a part of the tale, but that is how stories go, isn't it?

It began, as tales involving our people always seem to do, with the loss of Erebor and this is the first part of the tale which she told me.

"In the market place, a young dark haired boy, roughly of nine years old, was playing Hnefetafl with his sister, who was of a similar age. His name was Hreidmar." I interrupted her at that point, asking if the lad she was talking about was my father.

"Dear Mahal, no, he's not your father, but he was a good friend of his," she looked at me, sadly. "But I have not heard anything of him for a long time, or his wife, but that is a tale for another time, young one."

She continued the story from where she left off, describing his sister. "Her name was Bild," and she smiled fondly at this.

"Bild?" I asked. "Lady Dis' friend?"

Amad nodded, and told me to stop asking questions or she would never get to the part involving Smaug…. I apologised. I do have a curious nature, which is probably a good thing for a would be scribe to have, but I can get carried away with it sometimes.

"Now…where was I? Oh yes…Bild. She had long, unruly red hair, which no matter how much her mother tried to untangle it, it always seemed determined to remain untidy. Her face was painted in the manner of the Murkhinh, or Shield Ladies of Erebor, of which her mother Veig was one. You see, Ori, in those days, it wasn't just our men who were warriors, there were many amongst our women too, who were extremely skilled at what they did. But as you know, our women are few in number and one of the reasons for this is that many of the Murkhinh died fighting Smaug so that the children and Royal line could escape, but enough of that….

"She carried a wooden sword, crafted by her father, Nidi, just like her dark haired brother. The only feminine look she allowed herself was a string of multi-coloured glass, wooden and bone beads that hung around her neck. Her family were not high born and as such she wasn't adorned with the gems and precious metals of our lords and ladies, but she had a bearing, even at that young age, of one destined for greatness amongst our people."

I nod, for the lady in question had almost become our queen. The king loves the lady, but she chose his brother instead, but before they could wed, he went to the Halls of Mahal and I understood now why Amad had opened up her tale of history with talk of Bild and her brother, Hreidmar.

"Nidi and Veig were on duty at the time, as they were both soldiers in the guard, Veig attached to the Murkhinh and Nidi guarding the walls. They were in the care of their aunt, I believe, who was attending her stall when the call of "DRAGON!" was sounded.

"Lord Fundin and his wife, along with young Balin, were in the market place as well and saw the two children as they played. Their aunt was killed by falling masonry when Smaug used his tail to bring down a wall. It was Lord Fundin who's quick actions saved Bild and her brother.

"Survivors of the attack gathered together outside the mountain to regroup and all the dwarflings, common and highborn alike were gathered together in one place. That was where I first met Bild and her brother. As you know, you are distant kin to our king, and, you, Nori and I are descendants of King Oin. Dori is a descendant of both King Oin and King Nain I because his father was a descendant of King Nain I. I will tell you about him at another time, but none of us have a chance of sitting on the throne, so although the blood of a king runs in our veins, we may as well be commoners."

"That doesn't bother me, Amad," I said, as I shrugged.

"Well, it took a while for all the survivors to regroup. The king, his family and heirs were safe, but I could not find my parents. Veig and Nidi had died fighting the dragon, as had a lot of other folk. Bild and Hreidmar were luckier than I, for Fundin found a relative of theirs, an uncle, called Hanar, who agreed to care for them. Fundin's wife felt sorry for me and persuaded her husband to take me in and I stayed with them, as did Bild and her brother until their uncle was found."

She stopped then, contemplating I think, on the loss of her parents, by grandparents…. This explained some things, why Balin liked me visiting the library, but I was still puzzled about why Dwalin seemed to dislike me so much. Was it me, or was it just Nori? Amad still hadn't told me anything about my father, which I was disappointed about. When would she do it?

She finished preparing the blackberry pie and put it into the oven to cook. The thought of eating that pie later did sort of push away some of the disappointment I felt at not having got around to talk of my father. I hoped that she would tell me soon.

Chapter Text

10th Halimath, 2911

The seasons are changing. Leaves are turning from green to reds, oranges, yellows and browns. There is a chill in the air during the day and frosts lie on the ground at night and in the early mornings now. Summer is over. Dori is laid up at home with a fever, which is another sign of the changing seasons. He hasn't been able to work all week. As a consequence, we have no money to buy food, because no work means no pay. To make things worse, if you can consider it to be worse…I'm not sure in that regard… Nori, well, the problem there is that he has been caught finally by Mr Dwalin, and is now in jail for whatever it was he did. I can't remember. He will be released, but he will have to wait until spring for that. He will not be with us for Durin's Day, or Yule…

It's raining heavily today and I go out to the market place to see what I can - er borrow? If Nori can do it, then so can I.

Once I get there, I walk around to see which stalls should be my target. There is a book stall, selling volumes that are filled with information and stories, as well as blank journals and inks and pens. I spend a lot of time pouring over that, but I'm here for food and that's that… The prices are way out of our range, even if Dori had been well and we had money. This journal was the result of Dori saving up over many months…

The other stall which grabbed my attention was one selling musical instruments. Dori and Nori are flutists and I looked on at the flutes that the peddler had for sale. I bet that Nori could have pilfered one of them and no one would have noticed. It was so tempting, but I decided that it was too risky. Something like that would be too easily and too quickly missed, and I would get caught or have to bring my - er - borrowing spree to an early end and I would go home with nothing.

After some wandering around the stalls, I take some cheese and eggs off the cheese seller's stall when the proprietor wasn't looking. I freeze for a moment, wondering if anyone saw me take them, but with the rain, everyone walks with their head bowed down to keep the raindrops from getting into their eyes unless they are talking to one of the stall keepers. No one saw. There was no cry of thief! This boosted my confidence a little bit. My mind turned back to the book stall and the flutes, but I still thought going after something like that was too risky…and if I got caught stealing food, I think people are more inclined to be sympathetic, given that everyone must have been hungry enough to want to steal food at some point.

The butcher's stall catches my eye next. Wouldn't it be great to take home one of those hams? Or a beef joint? But that is too greedy, I tell myself. Instead, I turn my attention to another, more modest prize. The butcher's stall has some nice sausages and bacon, so in they go into my bag while the stall keeper is distracted talking to a dwarrowdam with a crying baby who was buying a ham from him. I considered taking a fowl, but I thought a missing bird would be noticed too quickly, like the flutes and the books and I decided not to.

I wander around, stopping at a stall which sells fancy scarves and shawls. I wondered if Amad would like them, but I decide not to risk it. Food first… But her birthday is coming up…. Perhaps another day when it's not so important that I get food.

My eyes light up when I see a stall of vegetables, because they had potatoes! This would take some time and, under the cover of rain, I go around the back of the stall and sneak under the hide which the grocer has erected as a wind break. I find myself next to a sack of potatoes and I kneel down, hoping not to be noticed. Every so often, I sneak a potato in my bag and planned on doing so until it was full. What I hadn't counted on was my boots being visible outside the protection of the hide, and a sharp eyed passerby spotted them peeking out.

"Hey, Ba, what do you make of that?" I head a deep voice say. Of course, I had no idea that the speaker meant my boots….

A moment later, the hide was being lifted and a pair of heavy hands held me by the shoulders as I was sneaking a potato into my bag. I crane my neck and glance upwards to find that I was face to face with the stern face of the king. Everything happened so quickly that I didn't even have time to put up any resistance as he gently but firmly pulls me to my feet and walks me around to face the grocer in disgrace. Balin, who was with the king, looks at me with disappointment written on his face when he joins us.

"Now, what were you doing, lad?" the king asks.

I look at the king, then at the grocer. I open my mouth to speak, but I'm so nervous that no words are forthcoming. I study my wrists instead.

The king.

Of all the people to catch me, I get caught stealing potatoes by the king. I tremble, wondering what he will do to me.

"Let's see the bag, boy," the grocer holds out his hands for it.

I am too bewildered to do anything and, sighing with disappointment, Balin takes my bag from me and hands it to the grocer. The grocer takes the bag from him, thanking him with a nod, and begins to empty it, first of the potatoes, and then the sausages, bacon, cheese and eggs, which are cracked, their contents making the bottom of my bag sticky.

"Is all this stuff stolen, boy?"

Still unable to speak, I nod my head.

"Thorin, what is going on here?"

A turn around to see a very regal looking lady approaching us, with Fili and Kili in tow. I feel even more ashamed now that my friend knows what I have done. Will he ever want to talk to me? Now that regal looking lady was the mother of Fili and Kili and the sister of the king, though she carried herself more like a queen than a princess.

"Is that Skafid's boy?" she looks down on me.

"Balin and I caught him, stealing potatoes and it appears that he's been taking food from other stalls too."

"That child's a menace, just like his brother," the grocer says, glaring down at me.

"I’m sure there is a good reason for it," Dis said. "Thorin, in times past, it would have been us doing what this boy has done, when we were forced from our home, and if circumstances had been different, it could so easily have been one of my sons doing this deed."

She gets me to admit the troubles at home and Kili hugs me. I must admit that I am happy to see my friend, even if the events leading up to it weren't so…joyful. Dis convinces her brother to let her deal with the situation and she offers to pay for the potatoes herself. I still don't get any sympathy from the grocer, but business is business and he allows her to pay.

"I will take the boy home, Thorin. We need to speak to his mother, and to stop him from walking the same path as Nori."

The king silently nods his agreement.

She then makes me go around to the other stalls that I have stolen food from, admit what I had done and apologise. She pays them too. When we were on our way from the market place, I asked her why she had done that for me. And she told me that she couldn't, in good conscience, allow me to go hungry.

Chapter Text

12th Solmath

Amad is furious with me for trying to steal. King Thorin and Dis brought me home after the situation had been settled. I thought that the problem was over, but it wasn't. Amad suspected I'd been up to something as soon as she answered the door. She didn't normally get visits by the King - she was far more used to visits by Dwalin, inquiring about Nori. She invited them for a cup of tea, the only thing we had in the house, apart from the items that Dis had paid for. It seemed strange, seeing the most prosperous of our people in the home of one of the most deprived. I brought out my word-game set, and invited Fili and Kili to play. Kili was a bit more enthusiastic about the game, since he is my best friend, and happy to do anything I wanted to do, even if it wasn't something he normally did by choice. Fili, I could tell didn't really care about the game, but played along because there wasn't much to do. My word game is old, something Dori had hand-made for me years ago for one of my birthdays, - we couldn't afford to buy one - but I love it because it put me on the path of my interest in scribing, and made by my brother. Kili had a set where the rune pieces had been carved out of agate, and the board a thin slab of marble.

The king, in that calm tone of his, told her what had happened while he shared the tea with Amad and the princess. Dis expressed her concerns about me, but tried to reassure her that no real harm had been done. I don't think it worked, mind. They finished their tea, and allowed us to finish our game. I won, and Kili came second, and Fili, last, but that was because he really didn't want to play it rather than him not being very good at it. They left and once they had disappeared down the path, Amad told me to stay in the kitchen while she went to Dori's room to check up on him. She wasn't gone long, and she carried one of Dori's belts in her hand.

"Remove your trousers, lad," she said, calmly. I gulped, and obeyed, knowing what was going to come next. I'd been spanked before, but not since I was little, and this is the first time that she had ever picked up a belt or a cane to beat me with. "Move those chairs out of the way and bend over the table."

I did so, and I could hear the disappointment and hurt in her voice. She struck me, hard, with the belt. It stung, and brought tears to my eyes. A cry involuntary escaped out of my mouth.

"Does tha wan' t'end up like thi brother, a thief?" she asked, and she whipped me with the belt across my buttocks again, harder. "A disgrace t' yer family?"

I felt the belt strike me again, and I tried holding back my tears, but I couldn't. They just flowed freely. She ignored my tears, and continued, whipping me a couple of more times, before voicing more of her disappointment.

"Yer brother worries me sick with all his thieving, and ah don't want thi goin' dawn t' same path," her voice betrayed her distress and despair at my behaviour. There came a point when she could no longer talk, but dealt out my punishment. I felt the belt strike me time after time. There came a point when I could no longer feel it, but I knew she was still striking me because I heard the crack of leather. She stopped, finally. I think she flogged me with the belt twenty times, but I lost count. She ordered me to go to my room, and I've been here ever since. Boy, it hurts! I know that after she sent me away, she broke down and cried. I won't ever try stealing again, not because I fear her belting me again with Dori's belt, but because she really was upset at what I'd done, and I felt a deep shame and guilt for hurting her. I sobbed for a long time because of the pain, and my guilt. I am sure that Dori heard me.

Sometime later, she'd pulled herself together and cooked something, which she brought to me, plate of chips. I ate them, but it made me feel miserable because they reminded me of my indiscretions. The next day, Dori came to see me having learned what I'd tried to do. We had a talk. He told me about how Amad had tried everything to keep Nori on the straight and narrow when he was my age, and that Nori was no stranger to feeling Dori's belt as Amad whipped him. But had done no good. Dori's belt had been replaced by Dwalin's whip - thievery was something that dwarves had little tolerance for because the action held great dishonour and it ruined the livelihood of hard working dwarrows, and as well as jail time, flogging was part of the punishment. Amad had chosen to take Dori's belt to me because she wanted me to know how it felt. The only reason the king had not ordered it was because of my age.

"Naw, lad, tha may be impressed wi' Nori, when 'e ken seemingly get away wi' stuff, but it's a bad life," Dori pointed to my journal. "That is tha way out o' poverty, mi lad, if ye don't wan' t' join me in t' mines, or take up arms to be in service to the king and his family. Promise me that ye'll stick t' that."

I nodded, and promised him, and it is a promise I intend to keep. Dori's speech took a lot out of him because he was still ill, and he did warn me that next time I did something like this, that it wouldn't just be Amad punishing me - he'd do it, too. It is hard to sit down, even now, and I am laid on my stomach while I am writing this, and my hand-writing is not that brilliant.

Chapter Text

15th Halimath, 2911

I've caught Dori's illness. He's almost recovered now and will be back at work soon, but I am miserable. I feel sick all the time, have a headache, and I'm always either feeling too hot, or too cold. Mr Balin came round yesterday, to talk to Amad about what happened at the market the other day. He and Lady Dis are concerned about me. While he was here, he said that Fili and Kili had come down with this illness too. It seems to be something that is going around. He wanted to discuss with Amad about tutoring me one day a week, when he wasn't tutoring the young princes, or dealing with issues that come about in the day to day ruling of Ered Luin. I am looking forward to it, that I now will be doing this on a weekly basis and not on and off as I normally do, but I cannot help but feel like it is not enough. I cannot concentrate any more to write, so I shall it at this.

Chapter Text

21st Halimath, 2911

My illness has almost gone away, but Amad said that I should rest for a few more days to make sure that I am fully recovered. I don't like the idea of Nori being in jail and I miss him more than I did before when he was hiding. At least then when I went out for my walks in the woods, there was a chance that I would come across him, but not now. Amad and Dori go to see him sometimes, but they don't want me to go. It is too grim a place they say. Mr Balin brought a book around for me to read yesterday and now that I am on the mend, I am passing the time reading that. I do long to go out for a while, but I feel too weak to do that. I guess Amad is right that I should rest. And cold, icey rain is pattering against the window frame. Summer is only a memory now and only the dark months lie ahead of us.

Chapter Text

1st Winterfilth, 2911

I've finally recovered from my fever and today is my first day at the library. I could have come sooner, but Amad is such a fuss pot. She wouldn't let me go out of the house until she was sure that I was completely well again. To say that I am excited is an understatement. Amad makes me wear the best clothes which I have, which are still poor in comparison to those closer to the king, but surely it doesn't matter, does it? Everyone has a hard life in the Blue Mountains.

I was so excited that I could barely sleep the night before and I do not feel tired at all this morning. I go out early, before even Dori has gone off to work in the mines, with my hair newly braided. I arrive at the library before Balin, and I spend my time looking through the many shelves of books that he has there, mainly ones on military lore, but there are others. The ones I am interested in are languages and there is one on translating Khuzdul into Sindarin which I find on the shelves. I take the book off the shelf, open it and thumb through the pages, the delightful scent of ink and parchment reaching my nostrils.

I didn't notice her of course… Why would I? I was too absorbed in the book. But as I was making my way to the desk to sit down and read it, not paying any attention at all to where I was going, or who was around, I bumped into a dwarf lass, knocking the books she was carrying out of her hands and on to the floor.

I swallowed nervously when it registered what had happened.

"I am sorry, my lady. Please excuse me, for I didn't know that you were there."

I looked at her and was struck by her youthful beauty. She was about my age, her long dark hair worked into an intricate plait down her back. I smiled at her nervously, and offered her my hand in greeting. She was slender and unlike the burly dwarrowdams that I am used to, appeared to me that a strong gust of wind would blow her away. She took my hand in hers and I noticed that her hand was stained with ink, as were the cuffs of her crushed blue velvet surcoat.

"There is no need for you to apologize. I should have been looking where I was going," she murmured, awkwardly.

I shook my head and stammered. "T, the, the, the fault is all mine, my lady."

I felt like a clot in front of her. She was obviously some fine lady, or would be, someday and I am the brother of a thief, the son of an unmarried dam, and would never amount to anything, really.

"May I pick up your books?" I try to sound gracious, but I'm as nervous as a mouse confronted by a hungry cat and stumbled over my words like a nincompoop.

She nods, probably more to humour me than needing my help. I pass her my book to hold, while I bend down and pick up hers, managing to drop them several times in the process. While I am down there, I notice that she is wearing trousers, not a skirt, the long surcoat that she is wearing giving the impression that she is wearing a dress from a distance and feel myself blush as taking such close notice of her.

"I'm sorry," I say, dropping the books gain. This is not going well at all……

She smiles. "It is alright." She passes my book back to me and gathers the books up herself, with a grace that I could never match.

"What is your name, young scribe?" she asks, after retrieving them and expertly balancing the books.

"Ori," I replied, forgetting to ask hers in my awkwardness.

"I am Lofnheid," she smiled brightly. "I work here with Balin. I must be going now. It is nice to meet you, Ori. Perhaps we shall see each other around."

"Of course," I answered, and I felt like I should say more. "That, that is a beautiful name, for a beautiful lady." I stammered terribly. Kili, in such situations, is always so smooth and cool, where I sound like a dunce. I watched her walk away.

I almost jumped out of my skin when I felt Balin place a hand on my shoulder.

"Oh, there you are, Ori, my boy! I was just looking for you. Now, if you will come with me to my office, we can begin your first lesson."

I nodded, but my mind was on the young dwarrowdam I'd just met.

Chapter Text

2nd Winterfilth, 2911

It is with disappointment that I now must wait a week before my next day with Balin. I enjoyed my time there and learnt a lot, but it is not enough, is it? I do find myself thinking about the dwarrowdam I met. Who is she, exactly? I wasn't even aware that there were any dwarrowdams my age in Ered Luin. I know of the young princes of course, and I've met Gimli, but a dwarrowdam? I must find out more about her, but not today.

Today I'm practicing with my slingshot. Perhaps if I become a good enough shot with it, I'll be able to catch the mountain hares or grouse with it for dinner. Perhaps then Nori wouldn't get into trouble so much for stealing things.

It takes longer than I thought to gather the round stones by the mountain stream, and by the time I have collected enough of them, darkness is rolling in. It is quite late when I get back home again and both Amad and Dori aren't pleased with my lateness. They don't like me staying out after dark in the cold months as they fear that something could happen to me.

Chapter Text

3rd Winterfilth

It is Amad's birthday and I am going into the market place to buy a present to surprise her. I would have done this sooner, if it hadn't been for my illness, and the whipping she gave me. I have tried to forget about it, but there are times when I cannot get it off my mind. I think that she regrets it now, as she'd done it when she was distressed. I am nervous about setting foot in the marketplace on my own after what happened. What if all the stall holders there think I am there to steal? It is frightening, and after knowing what happens to thieves, by law, what if some angry stallholder decides to take things into their own hands and beat me just for being there? I am very frightened of Dwalin, because the duty of punishing those who've broken laws go to him, and I know that he doesn't like me because of Nori's deeds. 2Instead of going to the market, I go to the house where the king lives with his sister and her sons, to see if Kili has free time. I know that he is probably in lessons, but it is worth a try and I have not seen him since that day in the market. It is cold and sleeting this day - perhaps his amad won't allow him to come out because of the cold? I am wearing my woolen scarf, hat, gloves and an old, tattered fur coat made from boar skin that once belonged to Dori. It barely keeps out the cold. When I get there, he is in the paddock, practicing in his riding skills under the tutelage of a flame-haired dwarrowdam. I have seen her around before - she is a close friend of Lady Dis, and I see that she is working in the small forge outside the house. Kili waves to me, and gallops the pony to the fence so that he can meet me.

"Now, slow down, Master Kili!" the flame-haired dwarrowdam said, "Lest ye fall off and break your neck!" At this call, Lady Dis finishes hammering the metal and puts the tongs and hammer aside, worried that something had happened to her son.

"Ori!" she smiled. "What brings you here, today?"

Kili dismounted and grinned at me, before turning to his mother. "Mam, is it alright if I finish my riding lesson early today? I've not seen my frined in ages."

The dwarrowdam nodded. "Aye, but don't forget you've got chores to do later, my boy. It's your job now to clean muck out the stables."

Kili nodded - how could he forget? "I won't forget, Mam."

I was a little nervous about asking, but I gathered the courage to pipe up. "Princess, is it alright if Kili comes with me to the market today? I want to buy a present for my Amad's birthday."

She nodded. "Aye, of course! But don't be too long. It gets dark early these days, and Kili, I don't want you wandering around around in the dark." She reached into her pocket and gave Kili a handful of silver coins, ten in all. I looked at them, somewhat envious, because all I had were a few coppers. Kili was also wearing better clothes than I - and I wondered, if at times, he was embarrassed that I was his friend.

"We won't, Mam. I need to muck out the ponies, so I won't be long!" he beamed, and, side by side, we walked to the market, through mud, and icy puddles.

On the way, I told him what had happened that day after he and his family had left our house, and he looked at me with sympathy. "You remember that day when you wanted to train with me, and Dwalin wouldn't let you?"

I nodded. I couldn't forget it. "What happened?"

"Uncle Thorin spanked me, with my mam watching. He wasn't gentle, either. He said that I should have more respect for Mr Dwalin, and that when I was with him, or Mr Balin, that I should obey them like I would him, or Mam, but he's never took a belt to me. He did to Fili, once, but that's because he's older than me. He doesn't spank us, ofthen, though - it's only when we've done something really bad. When Fili was beaten, it was because he'd been careless with his pony, he'd been jumping him over obsticles in the forest, and the pony had fallen, and broken his leg. Mr Dwalin had to put the pony down. I guess he deserved it, but Fili was more upset about the death of his pony and the beating Uncle gave him," Kili's face grew grim. "Mam and Uncle were angry because Fili could have killed himself."

I winced that the thought of being whipped by the king - he is a strong dwarf, more so than my mother, and it must have hurt him more than I got. I hugged myself into my coat as a gust of icy wind cut through me. "The thing is, I was only trying to help Amad... I didn't realise all I was doing was hurting her, Kili. This is why this present must be extra special." I felt hollow, as I knew that 'special' really didn't mean much when all you had were a few copper coins.

Kili, Mahal bless him, only tried to brighten up my mood. "Then we shall do our best."

When we reached the market place, we did garner a few glares, or rather, I did, but when the merchants saw that I was in the company of the young prince, they made no trouble. I was relieved, somewhat. It was nice walking thorugh the market with my friend. Kili bought us some cough drops which we shared from the sweet seller, a jolly grey haired dwarf with a long, braided beard. We stopped to look at the toy stall ran by Bofur. Almost all of Kili and Fili's toys had been made by him, and Kili bought a set of toy wargs for himself, and an eagle for me. The wargs cost two silvers and the eagle one, but we had not found anything suitable for Amad. It was frustrating. We stayed away from the stalls selling jewellery, knowing that we didn't have enough money and instead looked around the clothing stalls. Then, I saw it, a lynx fur shawl. That would do... But my coppers would never cover the price - they didn't come close. So Kili paid with the remaining silver coins he had. It was a kind gesture from a friend, and I do appreciate it, but I wanted to use my money to buy the present.

By this time, it was later than we thought, and darkness had begun to descend. I said that I would help him muck out the ponies, as I didn't want to get him into trouble. It was hard work, mucking them out - there were three ponies in all - the biggest two belonged to Dis and the king, and the smaller one was Kili's. Kili told me they had yet to replace the one which had been lost. Ever since Kili's 40th birthday, he had been given the task of caring for the ponies, as his Uncle had decided that he was old enough to take some responsibility. We had only just finished by the time the king came home, and I was sent on my way. I had enjoyed spending the day with my best friend, and Amad, though she hadn't fully forgiven me for my attempt as stealing, was happy with her shawl, but the fact that Kili had paid for it, instead of myself, tasted like ash in my mouth. There must be a way I can do things for myself...

Chapter Text

4th Winterfilth

Now that Autumn is well underway, people's thoughts turn to Durin's Day, and the new year. I am determined to calculate when it will be and I've started following the phases of the moon. The moon last night was a quarter full, and given the fact that we are in Winterfilth, we are currently in the lunar cycle which comes before the one which heralds the coming of Durin's Day. So that means we still have a month and three quarters to go. I'm unsure if my reckoning is correct, but it is the job of a scribe to be able to calculate such things. They are important for our festivals and time-keeping. Using the hobbit calendar to keep track of things has only come about since we moved into Ered Luin - I think the practice was picked up when we passed through the Shire on our way to settle here, and we do have contact with them in the southern dwarven settlements of the Blue Mountains. We have recently passed the Autumn Equinox and the drawing in of the nights are even more noticeable now than they were before. I quite like it, for I can sit out on the door step and look at the stars in the evening, but with the darkness comes the cold, and I go back inside when I cannot stand it any longer. I'm going to see if we have a star chart in the library the next time I am there to see if I can recognise the patterns in the sky. Alright, it's a bit of a ramble, but I do have a curious mind and want to understand these things.

Chapter Text

15th Winterfilth

I’ve not written in my journal for a while… Why? I ran out of ink and we’ve not had the spare funds for me to buy any more. It’s made me unhappy, not being able to write and at the last lesson I had with Mr Balin, he asked me why I was so glum. He thought that it related to Nori being in the slammer, but although it does upset me, I’ve got kind of used it. I shouldn’t though, should I? Should anyone get used to their brother being a thief and getting into trouble for it. I told him the problem. You would expect that he would have just given me a bottle, but he didn’t. He copied out some ink recipes instead and showed me how to make them. After jewels and gold, inks are one of the most expensive things to come by. It explains why there aren’t many scholars amongst dwarves in my situation and I always, always feel like I am being held back and it frustrates me. But this is good… once I become good at making inks, perhaps I can sell them. This would really help Amad, who is making money right now from selling her knitting. Many dwarves want scarves and jumpers and blankets in the cold weather that is coming. Mr Balin also showed me how to make dyes and he gave me a list of colours which scholars would like to make, but haven’t found a way of making them yet. So… this is intriguing for me. If I become proficient at making these things, we will no longer be poor and, perhaps when Nori is released, he will no longer feel the need to steal and get himself into trouble.

Chapter Text

20th Winterfilth

I have not been successful in making any of the dyes and inks so far other than black because many of the other inks need ingredients which cannot be found at this time of the year. I shall have to wait until the spring to experiment with the others. This is an annoyance because I was hoping to make some dyes for my mother’s wool which she is spinning to make winter clothing, so all of her work will be the natural colours of the sheep and goats from which wool was gathered, such as white, black, brown and grey. There is a breed of sheep dwarves keep in the lower valleys of Ered Luin which have these colours. It is a shame because she is a talented knitter and blue dyed clothing is sort after by the king and his family. I can make black inks because all I need to do is burn wood to make charcoal, which I can mix with hawthorn gum, egg yolk and honey to create the base and adding water when I need to use it. I have made my first batch of it and I am glad at how successful it has been, though Dori and Amad haven't liked my use of egg yolk and honey in it. I do wonder if I could make it without that, but I do not know. They say that I am wasting food! It does seem to be the least valuable of all the inks, which isn’t surprising because most manuscripts which I have found in the library use it. Other common colours are green, blue, yellow, and red, but they must be more difficult to make because they are used sparingly, in borders and at the start of manuscripts. From what I have studied, being able to draw is just as much a skill of a scribe as the ability to write beautiful passages, and many of the manuscripts are adorned by geometric knot-work borders which is also found in clothing, wood-work, stone-work and metal-work. It’s quite exciting!

Chapter Text

Durin's Day

It is here at last - Durin’s Day! I got up early to find that we had a light dusting of snow on the ground. Winter is here at last. Amad is making me wear these woolly mittens, hat and scarf. I don’t mind, but I shall be spending much of the day in the company of other dwarflings, and I want to dress more like the king’s nephews do, but it’s warm, I guess. Dori is having the day off from work in the mines and it’s nice being able to spend some of the morning with him. He has quite a nice hand himself when it comes to scribing, but with my father not being around, he wasn’t able to develop it and really had no choice but to work in the mines. As much as I love Nori, we couldn’t rely on him for anything because he was always in trouble, and I felt his absence keenly this day. Dori and Amad spent the morning baking in the kitchen. There will be a great feast in the mead hall this evening and all the dwarves contribute something, even those like us. I wanted to help, but I kept getting in their way, so they sent me off to the mead hall. It was ice cold when I set out and I can now see the wisdom Amad had when she made me wear the mittens, hat and scarf. The hat and the scarf are made of brown wool, and the mittens are a bright purple, the last of the purple wool she had from her stash from last year, so I guess I really shouldn’t complain about them. I clutched a sketch book that Balin had given to me the last time he gave me a lesson. I told him that I would like to be able to draw the geometric patterns I’ve seen in the books and he gave me that and some thin pieces of charcoal to practice drawing. He is always very kind and encouraging.

Snow started to fall, a bit heavier than the previous dusting and I wondered, as I walked through it, if it would be too deep later. The winter can be bad in the mountains, and although we do pull together to help each other, there is always a shortage of something. We do a lot of trade with the hobbits of the Shire and during their harvest, Balin and Lady Dis work tirelessly to make sure that we have food which can be stored for the winter from them. Last year, we had a shortage of flour, the year before that, a shortage of hay for the ponies. You get the picture. For now, we seem to be well stocked.

When I got to the market place, I passed the inn called The Cabbage. It is run by a human. Although there aren’t that many, we do get tall folk living here and passing through, but Dwalin watches them carefully because some are brigands, coming to rob the mines, though really, I wonder what they can rob us of. The mines, from what Dori tells me, only yield coal, iron and the occasional seam of agate, quartz and this blue gem called bleujenn, and they are after gold, silver, mithril and diamonds! Nori, when he’s not in trouble, can be found in there gambling (usually trying to cheat, of course…) and is sometimes the cause of the trouble he gets into. He won’t be found in there today. As I passed, I noticed a rough character walking towards the door of the inn. He was carrying a sack and I could see that something wriggled inside it. None of the other dwarves that were about were taking notice - they were all busy preparing for the celebration later this evening, when we all gathered in the mead hall. He threw the sack into the rubbish heap one side of the inn and disappeared inside. Curious, I went over to investigate the sack, and opened it. Inside, I found a very young litter of puppies. They would die of cold if I left them out there, so I picked them up and went in search of Lady Dis. I know that she would help. She was kind to me before.

I walked up the steps of the mead hall, carefully, because someone had spilled some water on them earlier and it had since turned to ice, making the steps very slippery. I found her, in conversation with Dwalin. I hung back, to wait for him to leave. Dwalin, though never cruel, frightened me. He always looked at me suspisously and that had to be because of Nori, and when he was around, I always feared that he would have me locked up, just for being around! I waited, and waited. It seemed to take ages before he finally took his leave, and I felt safe to approach the lady.

I ran over to her, carrying the sack and I dropped my sketch book on the floor. She saw and kindly picked it up for me.

“You are in a state, Ori. What’s the matter?” she asked me.

I opened the sack and showed her. She led me off to a small sitting room she kept for herself when she wanted to take a break from helping the king, or when it was too cold for her to be in her forge, as it was today. Fili was sat at the small desk, working through some mathematical problems that Balin had given him to solve, and Kili was sat on the floor by the fireplace, making a bow. Fili put down his quill when we came in and Kili forgot about the bow he was making when he saw what we had. There were three of them, all very weak. A forth, the smallest, had already died, and Lady Dis sent for the assistance of Oin.

While they waited, Kili looked hopefully up at his mother. “Mam, can we keep one of them?”

I could see that Fili also had the same idea and I must admit, that it had been my first thought too, after I’d seen them and thought that they needed help.

The dwarrowdam sighed, not wanting to disappoint her sons. “We shall see.” When Oin arrived, we were ushered out and told to go help Bombur in the kitchens. I didn’t want to leave, as I wanted to know what happened to the puppies, but I would have to save my curiosity for later. I did forget them for a while, when I saw that Lofnheid was there. She was making a cake and I offered to help her. I’ve not seen her since that day in the library. I promised to show her my sketches later, when we were at the feast. I learned that she had an older sister that day, Lyngheid, who didn’t seem that pleased to be in the kitchen baking. Fili and Kili decided to make nuisances of themselves, by randomly flicking balls of pastry around, and throwing nuts at each other, until the head dwarrowdam got angry with them and Kili was made to sweap the floor and Fili made to wash dishes. There was some complaining from the boys, but the king happened to hear them when he visited briefly with Balin to get some ale and that soon shut them up. It was after midday that Lady Dis entered the kitchen, and we helped her make some pies. Kili wanted to know what had happened to the puppies. They were in Oin’s care, now, and Lofnheid’s eyes lit up at the mention of them. If they survived, it seemed that there would be no problems in finding them homes.