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~ 15 months later / October, Year 673 of the Fourth Age of Middle-earth ~
It is Durin's Day, and the new year begins.
This is the second Durin's Day since we have settled in Khazad-dûm. Even the first year was good, although the start was not easy. After cleaning the space, which had lasted several weeks, we slowly moved into the new homes and started the new life. The mining enterprise is going great and we have developed good trade with the Rohirrim, Gondorians and Beornings.
I expect that the second year will be even better than the first. The deposits of gold, jewels and truesilver are still plentiful, and we'll be able to exploit them for many more generations. The father of our people was really generous when creating this part of Arda.
I fulfilled my promises. The ancient decorations in the halls, the bridge, the Eastern Gates, Durin's Stone next the lake – they are all renewed. And yesterday – just in the right moment, exactly as it was planned – the reconstruction of Durin's Tower was finished. I stand on the top of the tower, on the pinnacle of Zirakzigil, just as he stood more than eight thousand years ago, and I look around.
Towards the north and south a magnificent mountain range rises, and more than a hundred miles towards the west and east – as far as my eyes can see – huge green plains stretch. It is a beautiful day; everything is bathed in the sun.
I close my eyes and put my hands on the stony wall of the tower. My spirit merges with the spirit of the stone and descends through the mountain, to its foundations, and even further – through the depths beneath all Three Peaks. I feel every stair of the Endless Stairs, every tunnel, every gem, every rock – down to the very last and smallest little stone of our home. And I can sense: they are happy, because our people touches and handles them again.
I open my eyes and I am on the surface again, standing on the tower. But suddenly everything is different. Like on some other occasions before, I don't see things only through my eyes, but also through the eyes of the kings before me. I see and feel what they had experienced.
There is no sun. The sky is black and full of stars. The world is young. I feel joy because of the underground in front of me, impatient to discover its secrets. The rocks beneath my feet are still intact and hardly wait for the touch of the dwarves.
Beautiful moments are passing; pickaxes and hammers are singing. Countless days and nights go by.
Difficult moments come. The enemies are here. Shadow and Flame awakens; darkness spreads. The pain of losing the home is deeper than the pain of any wound caused by the sword.
But in the end, the light prevails.
Another blink, and everything is in its place. I am in the Fourth Age again, on the top of Zirakzigil. The sun is in the sky, and the renewed tower is under my feet. Beautiful, as in the past. I'll soon go down and join my people. There will be a great celebration today. Durin's Day.
My destiny is fulfilled. Our people are in the place that belongs to us – and to which we belong. When my day comes to go to Mahal's Halls, I'll be peaceful and calm.
In the valley below the Eastern Gates, much lower than the top of Zirakzigil and the tower where their King stood, Halldis and Darri were sitting on the shore of Kheled-zâram. Just as Halldis predicted more than a year ago, the look at its starry surface delighted her again and again, no matter how many times she had already been here.
The life in Khazad-dûm was good. It took a while before everything was cleared, but once they settled in, all of them started to work with passion greater than they had ever shown in Erebor; everyone wanted to turn Khazad-dûm into the place of beauty, wellbeing and song as soon as possible. It had always been special for them – their greatest and oldest kingdom – and Halldis had a feeling that the place itself moved them to give their maximum. Time slowly healed their wounds, and all businesses were blooming; Halldis was so full of orders that she barely managed to fulfil them all in time.
Little by little, she and Darri discovered all the corners of their home. When they had free time, they roamed through the halls and tunnels and admired the decorations, runes, pillars and all the creations of the ancient artisans.
Khazad-dûm was not as beautiful as she had imagined, she concluded in the end. It was so much more beautiful.
Another reason – the very big reason – for which the past year was great for her was Darri. They spent all their free moments together: they were going for many long walks, they talked and discovered mutual interests. Every moment with him was magical.
"Today the stars on the surface are even brighter than usually, do you agree?" asked Darri.
Tilting her head, Halldis paid attention and beheld the water, and finally nodded.
"Maybe it is because it's Durin's Day," she offered an explanation. "Today everything is more beautiful than usually."
As always on Durin's Day, there would be a great celebration of their new year; in fact, the festivity had already started, and it would last until dawn. But Darri invited her to go to the lake first, in the early afternoon. "It is a pity not to take advantage of such a beautiful sunny day," he had said. Of course, she merrily accepted.
"There's the crown in the middle... and the bird there... and the hunter over there..." Darri commented the groups of the stars reflecting on the surface, at the same time pointing his finger towards them. "I really think that the stars on the lake are more beautiful than those in the sky."
"So do I," she nodded in agreement.
"And there is the ring too... do you see it?" he asked with a smile.
Halldis looked at the surface again, quite confused. This was the first time she had heard of that constellation.
"No, I don't. Where...?" she said, frowning, then turned her head towards him and looked at him questioningly. She met his cheerful eyes and a wide smile.
"The ring. It is here," he replied and extended his hand.
She then realized there was a small box on his outstretched palm. He opened it, and she saw the golden ring in it. Her eyes opened wide.
"Halldis daughter of Brirvin, will you marry me?" he asked seriously.
Her heart started pounding so fast and excited as never before in her life. She watched him for just one moment, and then spread her arms and threw herself onto him, hugging him tight.
"Oh, Darri, yes! Yes!" she exclaimed.
Her soul fluttered, and her eyes filled with happy tears. She was overjoyed. She was the happiest dwarfess on Arda.
A day of happiness and merriment. In the free Khazad-dûm, home of the dwarves. A beautiful day.
Just as all the days would be beautiful. From now to eternity.
~ The End ~
One more time – a huge thank you to Curiouswombat. I couldn't make this without you. *hugs*
And thank you to all of you who reviewed the story throughout this journey. I cannot express how much your support meant to me. *hugs*
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