Marigold's Tale Challenge 37 - Not Since the Days of the Last King by Elemmírë
Feb. 5th, 2007
01:55 pm - Not Since the Days of the Last King by Elemmírë
Not Since the Days of the Last King
Summary: An ancient Dwarven custom is revealed at the court of King Elessar
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings does not belong to me, nor am I making any profit off either its story or characters.
Author's Note: Written for Marigold's Tale Challenge 37, the theme of which was to write a hobbity story that involves any character or characters learning about a different culture that begins with an assigned starter sentence. My sentence was: "Well, that's an eye-opener and no mistake."
Actions of the Dwarves during the time of the War of the Ring: In March of 3019, an army of Easterlings allied to Sauron attacked the Lonely Mountain and Dale. Dain and King Brand grandson of Bard, led their people in the Battle of Dale which lasted three days. On March 17, Brand was slain, and Dain stood over Brand's body wielding his axe until he too was killed. The Dwarves and the Men of Dale took refuge inside the Lonely Mountain until news of the victory in the south reached them and they came forth to drive the Easterlings away for good. Then Dain's son Thorin Stonehelm became King under the Mountain. Then, on March 27, Thorin and Bard of Dale led their people forth from the Mountain and drove the enemy away. ~Appendix A of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King "Durin's Folk," genealogical table & Appendix B "The Tale of Years,"
Together the Elf and the Dwarf entered Minas Tirith, and folk that saw them pass marvelled to see such companions .....but Gimli stalked beside him, stroking his beard and staring about him.
'There is some good stone-work here,' he said as he looked at the wall; 'but also some that is less good, and the streets could be better contrived. When Aragorn comes into his own, I shall offer him the service of stonewrights of the Mountain, and we will make this a town to be proud of.' ~J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 'The Last Debate'
The Citadel, Minas Tirith
Two days following the marriage of Aragorn son of Arathorn to Arwen Undómiel ...
"Well, that's an eye-opener and no mistake," Merry mumbled quietly. Frodo and Sam nodded their curly heads in mute agreement--most of their stay in the White City had been an eye-opener of sorts as far as they were concerned. The three hobbits, along with the rest of the Fellowship, sat in positions of honor beside the now-betrothed King and Queen unable to find the words to describe what had just unfolded before them.
* * * * *
Gandalf's House in the Sixth Circle
The day before ...
The house the Fellowship shared (save Aragorn) was unusually quiet late that morning when Gandalf arrived breathless from ... somewhere. As it was the day after the royal wedding, Merry and Pippin were dismissed from serving their respective duties and were instead engaging themselves in swordplay/training with Faramir and his men. Legolas and Sam were busying themselves with the cleaning, repair, and replanting of the Royal Garden. This left Frodo to sleep in as late as his wearied body and mind desired and for Gimli to see to heating up the breakfast the hobbits had left for their dear cousin and friend.
It was in the kitchen where Gandalf found the two. "It has come to my attention of news from the North, concerning an army of Easterlings loyal to Sauron which he sent forth to conquer first Erebor, then the rest of Eriador ... including Rivendell," he began without preamble.
Frodo and Gimli listened with rapt attention as the wizard spoke of the attack on Dale and the Lonely Mountain. The Ringbearer who was so often lost in his own inner struggles of late tried as best he could to comfort Gimli, the loyal dwarf who had honor-bound himself to the quest to destroy the One Ring. Gimli accepted the little one's hug and words of solace as he himself wiped away his tears over the deaths of King Dáin and King Brand with the end of his beard.
The old wizard sat down at the kitchen table with a heavy sigh. 'I grieved at the fall of Thorin,' said Gandalf; 'and now we hear that Dáin has fallen, fighting in Dale again, even while we fought here. I should call that a heavy loss, if it was not a wonder rather that in his great age he could still wield his axe as mightily as they say he did, standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell.
'Yet things might have gone far otherwise and far worse. When you think of the great Battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valour of Durin's Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here only to ruin and ash. But that has been averted--because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.' *
Frodo especially tried to take consolation in Gandalf's words, but it was difficult as he stared guiltily at the missing ring finger of his right hand. 'There just as easily could have been no King or Queen because of me either,' he thought. 'A chance meeting indeed! All of Middle-earth would have been in ruin because of what I claimed at the end.'
Gimli, seeing where the Ringbearer's attention was now focused and able to take a pretty good gander at what the little one was thinking, placed his burly hand over the slim, maimed one of the hobbit. "Tis not your fault, Frodo Baggins. King Dáin and King Brand died honorably in battle as have many others in the choice to protect their own freedom from the enslavement of Sauron and his minions. Whether you had carried the Ring or not, t'would not matter for they would have died either way in the very same manner--protecting their people, their families, and those they loved from his evil."
"Gimli is right, Frodo," Gandalf affirmed sternly, hoping the hobbit would accept the dwarf's words in his heart as well as his mind. He took a piece of bread from a plate on the table and spread it liberally with creamed cheese and fresh strawberry jam. "Now, not even the King is aware of this yet, nor will I disturb him for such on this day he spends with his long-awaited Queen and bride. Nay, a party of Dwarves from the Lonely Mountain shall arrive in Minas Tirith this afternoon as sent by their new king. Tomorrow they will seek an audience with our esteemed king and you, Gimli, shall have a chance to make good upon your offer."
* * * * *
Back at the Citadel ...
Frodo sat uneasily at Aragorn's right side with Sam, Merry (in his Rohan garb), Legolas, Gimli, and Prince Faramir alongside. Frodo disliked sitting on the King's court when Aragorn received foreign embassies and dignitaries as it made him very uncomfortable and increasingly self-conscious to be gaped and stared at. Sam did not generally care for such either, but Aragorn had asked them special to come and sit this morning.
Today however, Lady Arwen as Queen, sat at her husband's side for the first time as they together presided over the court. They were not sitting atop the thrones once used by the kings of old, for neither of them liked the overly long staircase that gave the distinct impression of looking down and ruling over the subjects. Aragorn was hoping to do away with such a tall set of stairs in lieu of more manageable ones and yet retain the historical thrones at the same time.
At Queen Arwen's side sat Gandalf, Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn, and Prince Imrahil. All watched when the great black doors swung open and Pippin, honored guard of the Citadel with Troll's Bane at his side and clad in the silver and sable tabard depicting the Seven Stars and White Tree of Gondor, entered the throne room. His bare hobbit feet making nary a sound on the cool floor, Pippin walked to a spot in front of Aragorn and Arwen.
"My Lord," Pippin declared in a loud voice for all to hear, "may I announce Fundin the Second, son of Dwalin of the Lonely Mountain, and company. He is sent as ambassador by Thorin Stonehelm, King of the Lonely Mountain." The youngest member of the Fellowship then took his place standing at attention near the entrance to the room.
In marched a party of seven battle-weary, yet proud dwarfs. They walked in single file and were arrayed in mail and clothing, much like Gimi's own. Each had a helm on their head and their long, thick brown beards were very intricately braided. All carried a battle axe in one meaty hand and a hammer in the other.
As they walked, they banged the free end of their axe handles onto the stone floor, creating an almost ominous rhythm that echoed off the walls as they entered into the presence of the King and Queen. Bang ... boom boom .... Bang ... boom boom ....
Standing at his place beside the doors, Pippin tried not to shudder as he was reminded of the orcs' drums deep in Moria.
Upon reaching the middle of the room, the seven dwarves fanned out in a U-shape, coming to a silent halt before the King and his court. Aragorn and the rest (save Gandalf) were quite surprised when Gimli rose from his chair to join them, standing at the center of the circle with his own axe and hammer.
The Dwarves bowed, then the two rearmost forming the curve of the 'U' began beating a steady beat on the floor with their axe handles. At the start of the next refrain, three more dwarves (including Gimli) joined in, creating a counter beat. Soon, the last two dwarves standing at the ends of the formation joined in by tapping hammer to axe, producing a metal clanging sound that was not unpleasant to even the most sensitive ears of the Elves and Hobbits present.
Suddenly, the Dwarves began to move with their music, every other one turning their stocky bodies with a grace no outsider would ever have thought possible of their race. As they turned, axe and hammer were brought overhead and struck together hard to make a long resonating note.
Places were exchanged in the configuration and new patterns of movement and sound were formed. The Dwarves told a story with their music and dance ... and although it was a tale of history many in the room knew of, it was a telling that all non-Dwarven folk (save Gandalf) had not seen in hundreds of years, if at all. King Arvedui was the last to ever behold the ancient dance. Yet Aragorn somehow knew what was playing out before him and his honored court, and in his heart he felt tremendous honor to bear witness to such a private and ancient custom from a normally private, yet proud race. He watched the Dwarves' story unfold.
Gandalf gave a knowing smile as he took in the expressions of those seated around him. The hobbits sat in captivated awe, yet were appreciative, as were the King and Queen. Galadriel gave a smile in Gimli's direction, nearly causing him to falter and turning his already ruddy cheeks nearly as red as the Gondorian wine he'd consumed during the recent wedding banquet. Faramir's gaze was wistful as it was wont to be these days, undoubtedly yearning for the Lady Éowyn's return. Gandalf had to bite back a laugh at bemused expression on Lord Elrond's stately face coupled with that of Legolas' astonished and dazed bewilderment.
Each rotation of movement grew more intricate than the last and the sound doubled in its intensity by the end to where sparks where flying from the struck metal. The Dwarves had made a circle in representation of the One Ring, their hammers and axes moving and clanging to represent the struggles and war surrounding it, before turning their backs to the circle and the rhythmic beating stopped. Suddenly, all eight hammers and axes stuck together all at once as Sauron was defeated, causing such a loud noise as to make the hobbits jump in their seats and the Elves cringe.
As the harsh clang resounded throughout the otherwise silent hall, the Dwarves knelt to the stone and marble floor as one with their heads bent and beady eyes falling to look pointedly at Frodo and Sam. One by one, each Dwarf stood up and with axe and hammer crossed upon his chest, gave a very deep bow to the Ringbearer and his servant before moving off. At the end of the long and intricate dance, the Dwarves each stood in the same position from where they had started--the seven from Erebor standing in a half-circle to represent the seven stars of Gondor, with Gimli standing at its center to symbolize the White Tree. They all bowed once more and set their axes on the floor to symbolize peace with the new king of Gondor. Aragorn bowed his head in return and the Dwarves followed suit by extending their hammers outward.
With bidding from Gandalf, Aragorn rose from his seat and approached Fundin II. "Thank you for that display of one of the most ancient of Dwarven customs," he acknowledged. "I have read your king's dispatch given to me this morning by Gandalf the White and upon return to your land, I wish the following to be expressed. I, Aragorn Elessar Envinyatar of the House Telcontar hereby accept Thorin Stonehelm as King of the Mountain and of all Dwarves.
"Following the sovereign traditions of old, The Lonely Mountain of Erebor shall remain an independent realm and free from my governing. As King of North and South reunited and as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, I offer all Dwarves and the lands they claim my protection from here ever after."
All the dwarves, including Gimli, followed Fundin's lead and bowed deeply in homage to the new king. "It is our honor to be under your protection, King of Gondor and Arnor united," Fundin said. "And let it be said that if you ever require the protection of the Dwarves, it is hereby given." He then turned to the one dwarf who had pledged his axe to the Fellowship. "Go ahead if you please, Master Gimli."
Gimli stepped forth from his axe on the floor, his hammer held as offering to the king. He cleared his throat. "King Elessar, as you know, we dwarves are a proud people well-versed in the art of stonework and masonry. It is with the greatest honor that I ask you to please accept the offer of the stonewrights from the Lonely Mountain to help rebuild your city and make it beautiful again as it once was in the days of old before Evil took the land."
Aragorn then grasped the proffered hammers of Gimli. "I am also very thankful for the offer of your peoples' help in restoring the White City and I accept it. The work of the Dwarven stonewrights is legendary throughout all of Middle-earth. Those of the Mountain and any such willing, will be most welcome here and shall find themselves in special accord with the people of Gondor and its King and Queen."
At that proclamation, Faramir came forth and bowed to the contingent of Dwarves as well. "The people of Gondor would be most appreciative for any assistance you may give in helping us to rebuild, Master Dwarves."
"As ambassador selected by the King of my people," Fundin replied, "I am authorized to ask that in turn may the old trade routes between our people be reopened and may we find safe haven in Gondor for any seeking refuge or shelter?"
Aragorn bowed his head to all the Dwarves assembled. "You have my word and I look forward to establishing trade with Durin's Folk. Go now, and enjoy the hospitality of Gondor. May it and the peace between our peoples never waver."
As the contingent of Dwarves picked up their axes from the floor and were shown out of the room by Faramir, the Lady of the Golden Wood approached Gimli.
"The old dance of your people was a thing of beauty to watch, Gimli son of Glóin," Galadriel said in her deep voice, her starlit eyes and pale lips belying her mischievousness. "I am glad to see that such a custom has not faded in the absence of the king."
"Um ........" here Gimli turned an even deeper shade of red than he had previously. "Thank you, My Lady."
Just then, Pippin came running over to them from his post by the doors. "Gimli, I didn't know you could dance! And all those times on the journey when we hobbits longed for some real music!"
"Aye," Merry agreed, as he folded his arms and leaned companionably against his younger cousin. "You've been holding out on us, my friend."
Gimli growled, unable to do otherwise, flustered as he was. He turned when Frodo approached him quietly. "I envy you in a way, Gimli," he said, looking up into the dwarf's dark eyes. "For you will lead your people back here to this city one day soon and help to make it glorious once more. I wish I could stay here, but I must return home. The Shire is calling me ... and I must see Bilbo once more." Here Frodo's voice faltered and the hobbit looked decidedly away.
It was then that Gimli knew in the deepest of his heart that once the hobbits parted ways with the Fellowship, he would never see Frodo Baggins again. He would see the others some day, of that he was certain, but never again would he look upon the courageous little hobbit who dared to accomplish what no other would even attempt. He could see it in the large blue eyes--the spirit and soul of the Ringbearer was failing and his body would be quick to follow. Gimli made a silent promise to himself right then and there to live as fully as he may in the sacrifice made by the Ringbearer and vowed to make Aragorn's city the most beautiful and strongest as ever was.
After the fall of Sauron, Gimli brought south a part of the Dwarf-folk of Erebor and he became Lord of the Glittering Caves. He and his people did great works in Gondor and Rohan. For Minas Tirith they forged the gates of mithril and steel to replace those broken by the Witch-king. ~J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Appendix A
* Taken directly from J.RR. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Appendix A. The section begins as thus before Gandalf's words to Frodo and Gimli: In the late summer of that year (2941) Gandalf had at last prevailed upon Saruman and the White Council to attack Dol Goldur, and Sauron retreated and went to Mordor, there to be secure, as he thought, from all his enemies. So it was that when the War came at last the main assault was turned southwards; yet even so with his far-stretched right hand Sauron might have done great evil in the North, if King Dáin and King Brand had not stood in his path. Even as Gandalf said afterwards to Frodo and Gimli, when they dwelt together for a time in Minas Tirith. Not long before news had come to Gondor of events far away.