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Shadow and Fire

A Dwarvish tale of Moria


Dwarves keep their language secret and their lives hidden from outsiders. Sometimes, even among themselves, there comes one yet more guarded.

In the great City of the Dwarrowdelf lived a Dwarf of a more than usually suspicious nature. His soul shrank under the gaze of others and withered even more when they looked away.

He began to avoid the other Dwarves. He worked when they slept and dug his tunnels as far away from others as possible. Each day, his soul grew smaller and harder.

He found a new vein of mithril, and wishing to keep it secret and safe for himself, he took devious routes to and from his digging. He hid the ore and rubble in abandoned mine-shafts, "Just to keep them from prying," he thought.

Sometimes the other Dwarves asked him to join them in mining or in feasting. "No," he said each time, thinking, "They just want to find my vein of true-silver."

When they left without pressing him, he thought, "If they really cared, they would ask me again," and his soul shriveled a little more.

They ceased asking, at the last. "I see they truly don't care for me; they don't ask me to accompany them," he said to himself. His soul dwindled yet again.

He spent all his waking hours in his secret tunnel. He followed the vein as it twisted ever downward. Dreams of smoke and flame running toward him along the mithril accompanied his sleep. He imagined the others, the ones who had rejected him, engulfed in flame. "They would be well served," he thought.

One day, the sound of his pick on the rock changed. He knew he approached a large cavity. Though it meant, perhaps, the end of his vein of true-silver, his heart beat faster at the thought of opening up a new cavern, or even series of caverns. "Then I would get my due," he thought. His mind filled with visions of the other Dwarves envious of his fortune in expanding their City yet again. Somehow, though, heat and smoke wreathed through the vision.

At last the tip of his pick slipped into a tiny hole. He enlarged it with care, and peered through. Instead of utter blackness, he saw a dull glow and heard a slow rhythmic thud. He pulled away more shards of rock, and in his haste and lack of care, one large piece tumbled inward, clattering ever louder down the side of the chamber.

The glow brightened and turned toward him. It rose up. Its cloak of shadow filled the cavern. He thought to retreat, but his limbs shook with fear and failed him. He fell to the ground as the thing beyond reached up and broke away the edges of the hole. It came closer and he pressed himself to the ground and hid his eyes for very terror. It said, or perhaps he only thought it said, "Thou! Thou puny thing! Hast thou released me, then, after ages in this prison?"

The Dwarf's tiny soul shrank to nothing and winked out. The Spirit of Shadow and Fire strode out over his body, through the tunnel and away up into the City of the Dwarves.


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