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Reclaiming Khazad-dûm  by Ellynn

Halldis was – again – the last to wake up in the whole group consisting of her brother, cousins and friends. While washing her face, she heard them talking about last night's battle; of course, the news spread through the whole company.

"I woke up and it seemed to me that I could hear something in the distance, but I wasn't sure," said Tyra. "But even before I could think more of it, I fell asleep again."

"I didn't hear anything," commented Glorrim.

"Neither did I," added Lotti, one of their friends, and the others said the same.

While they talked, Halldis checked hers and her brother's water supplies; last night they realized that they didn't have much more. Of course, the supplies status this morning was the same as when they went to sleep. Or, more precisely, not the same, and not in a positive way: the amount of water they had now was even smaller because a part of it was used for refreshment. They only had a little water left.

"No, I didn't magically discover some bottle that slipped my attention last night," she mumbled. "We didn't split our supplies by days very well. By the end of this day we'll run out of water."

They could expect that they'd walk out of the forest by the end of the day, but the Anduin didn't flow next to The Wood; there was almost the whole day of the journey between the forest and the river. Still, she knew that their current problem wasn't insurmountable and that they wouldn't have to wait all the way to the Anduin to get water. When entering the forest, the King ordered taking water from the Celduin for emergency cases, so several big barrels were loaded on carts carrying things for communal needs, like spare food, medicaments and similar.

"Then a trip to the supply carts is required," said Glorrim, whose thoughts obviously followed the same way as hers. He turned to her. "Of course, the one to go is the one who slept longest, because that one has most energy for walking," he teased her.

Halldis stuck her tongue out at him as she sometimes did as a child, but right after that she smiled to him and got up. She picked empty bottles and headed towards the front part of the camp. She looked up; the sky was blue and promised a nice, clear day. And probably very warm, she thought. The nights in the forest were cold and damp. Now it was still quite chilly so she wore a jacket over her short-sleeved tunic; during the day, most often it was enough to wear just a tunic.

She assumed that in the second part of their quest the days would be even warmer. She didn't like summer heat, so walking under hot sun wasn't her favourite way to spend time. But she knew that this was the best time of the year for such a journey. Summer would start in about two weeks and days were now longest, and it was necessary to use all the convenient circumstances they could.

As she walked, she looked around. Almost everyone was awake and it was quite lively on the road. Some were already prepared to continue the journey, while some had their breakfast. When she neared the carts with barrels, she discovered that several persons already waited in the queue and she smiled. Very good, we are not the only fools who made poor calculations, she thought gleefully and felt a little better because of that discovery. Sharing water went quickly, so she was soon on the way back.

She was about half way there when she noticed a familiar figure next to the road, on the very edge of the forest. She had only seen him twice, very briefly, and moreover, now he she was looking at his back, but she immediately recognized him. That combination of height and fair-hair was unique. Darri.

She didn't understand why, but she slowed her pace. Should I approach him and have a word?, a thought flashed – a thought she also didn't understand. It was not that they were good friends; actually, they were not friends at all, but mere acquaintances. Besides, it seemed that he was immersed in conversation to an older grey-haired dwarf next to him, and it surely wouldn't be polite to interrupt. But still, she slowed so much that she almost stopped and, looking towards him, she realized that she'd be glad to talk to him.

As she was passing behind him, he turned around by chance and looked towards the road. When he saw her a smile appeared on his face, and Halldis realized she was smiling too. Then she quickly lowered her head, a little confused. When she lifted it again, she realized he had  waved farewell to the older dwarf and started walking towards her.

"Good morning," said Darri when he approached her, still smiling.

"And to you too," replied Haldis and looked towards the blue sky. "Well, the morning really is beautiful."

"I agree. And the night was good for us too. You have surely heard the news?" he asked, and she nodded. Darri's glance then swept over her loaded back-pack. "Fresh supplies?"

"Yes, uhm, I went to take water for me and my brother," she answered.

"You travel with your brother?" he asked.

Halldis looked at him and it seemed that he was really interested. She watched his light-brown eyes for a few moments, and then blinked and recollected herself.

"Yes. There are several cousins with us too, and several friends. Our parents stayed in Erebor; they are a bit elderly, so they dared not to go... and our oldest brother stayed too." She paused, and then decided to ask the same question. "And you?"

"Parents, brother and I," he replied. "And cousins and friends too, just as in your case."

She nodded, and pondered. She tilted her head a little and looked somewhere in the distance. "I somehow feel safer with all of them. This quest is a big step for our whole people, and even bigger for individuals. We go into the unknown... and having family and friends around instils safety and comfort."

She fell silent, suddenly confused. She was usually more restrained; what made her open her mind so much to a stranger?

She had no answer.

"It is interesting," Darri said, and she returned her attention to him. "Last night I also thought about how this journey was a huge change for us. Our old world remains behind, and a completely new one is in front." He stopped, and his expression became thoughtful. "I saw the elves last night."

Her eyes widened. Really, that was not an everyday experience. In fact, that was too mildly put; for the majority, not just that it didn't happen every day or year, but never in their whole lives.

"And, what are they like?" she asked quickly. She belonged to that majority and wanted to know more now.

He looked towards the forest and she saw he was thinking. She curiously awaited the answer... and she couldn't tear her gaze away from his expressive face.

"Like a beautiful gem you discover in a rock, new and totally unknown till that moment, and you realize you have discovered a whole new world... and at the same time you realize that it was here long before you and that it is ancient. And that it is different from all the jewels you have known so far... but that only now, when you discovered it too, you have the whole picture of the world surrounding you."

"Oh," she sighed, remaining speechless. She didn't expect something like this. Though, if she had to say what she had expected, she actually wouldn't know what to say. Maybe a description of their look, a notion passed through her head. But in fact, it is not important at all, she thought in the very next moment. What she heard right now was a much better depiction; these words told her all she needed to know about the elves.

And they told her a lot about Darri, too.

"I think I understand," she said and slowly nodded, and a pensive smile appeared on her face. Their gazes met, and in his eyes she saw the reflection of what she had experienced herself. "Well, looks like we both had a chance to get a very special insight into the forest world," she said in a low voice. "I feel very privileged and honoured."

He nodded without a word, and they looked at each other for several more moments. Watching him, while those last words still echoed between them, she felt as if she was inside some spell again and that she wasn't alone in it, but together with Darri. But then the loud voices of a few passing dwarves startled her and recalled her back to reality. She almost jumped, roused from her thoughts, and simultaneously she felt something like sorrow – for the spell was now broken.

Having looked around her, she realized that almost everyone was ready and that they would leave soon. That reminded her that she had to hurry back to Glorrim and their company.

"Err... I must go. I have to reach my brother and the others and get ready..." she said somewhat confusedly, searching for the best way to end the conversation. At the same time, she was sad that this talk was coming to its end.

"Yes, I understand. In fact, I should go too," nodded Darri, still watching her.

"Uhm, I mean, bye..." muttered Halldis. She stood hesitantly one more moment, and then she started to turn around. And she almost made her first step when a call stopped her.

"Halldis?"

She turned to him.

"Maybe you could... well, maybe you and your friends could come to spend some time with my company... you know what people say – the more, the merrier... Maybe this evening? Or tomorrow?"

She stood and watched him. And smiled.

"Yes. We could."

After those words she finally moved. She walked as fast as possible to arrive in time... but she didn't mind the burden on her back, nor the fact that she lost her breath in the hurry. She saw Darri. She'd see him again. And she felt great.

And she wondered just how those three facts were connected.

-x-x-x-

End-note:

In her review to the previous chapter, Shirebound said she found Durin's thoughts about the number of the orcs intriguing. If anyone else wonders why Durin thinks that way, you can read my reply to her review. ;)





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