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10
The Heart of the Mountain

A tale of Dwarves, set in Erebor.


~~~

Long, long ago, when dragons still roamed the North, the Dwarves founded the Kingdom Under the Mountain. Gamil, he who would become the greatest jeweler of Erebor, traveled to the new realm with Gil, his sister.

Gamil served the King Under the Mountain. At times he would dig in the mines in search of gems. These he then cut and shaped and set in fair metal work of silver or gold.

On the eve of the Feast Day of Mahal, while seeking gems deep below the Mountain's peak, the light of his lantern winked off something in the tunnel wall. He saw there the surface of a water-clear crystal. For many weeks he worked tap by tap--a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day. Finally he freed from the rock a stone of adamant of such size he could scarce wrap his hand 'round it.

He carried it to the chambers he shared with Gil, to show her the wonderful stone, yet unshaped.

Together, they knew, they could make a thing of wondrous beauty, which would charm all who beheld it. They spoke long together ere ever they began to work.

First, Gamil studied the stone. He looked at it in bright light and dim. He examined it by light of lamp and candle. He even left the halls of rock to gaze at it by Star and Moon and Sun.

At last, with trembling heart but steady hands, he took the first small flake from the stone.

Gil left their chambers to study with the Wise Women, who dwelt apart. She learned to walk wakeful the pathways of sleep, and of runes inscribed and spells chanted. While her brother took pains to carve the stone, she grew in mastery of the magic of the Dwarves.

Gamil did not neglect his other work. He took an apprentice; he made ornaments great and small, for the King and his Council.

He knew the stone demanded naught but the best from him. Thus he touched it but rarely, only when his strength was full, his hand sure and his mind clear. And so, over the months and years, the stone took shape.

When at last he had fashioned the final facet, he rested, and called on his sister to bring her wisdom to the stone. Gil, too, studied the stone, sitting before it for hours, contemplating it with eyes and with mind and with heart.

Under her counsel, he devised a cunning array of mirrors and prisms. Together, they positioned them to catch and bend the light from the well in the side of the Mountain above their chambers.

Now, indeed, he must turn his other work over to his apprentice, Balon, for this endeavor would require all his thought. Balon was nothing loth to act the part of master, though he wondered ever what work Gamil wrought, for Gamil had kept secret all knowledge of the stone of adamant.

Gamil took a disk of pure silver. He hammered it and rolled it out smooth and fine as paper. Then Gil brought out a quill of copper. She wrote spells upon the silver, till it was covered with runes.

At midnight, on the night of the full Moon, they set the stone in the device of prisms. Around it they wrapped the silver paper. Gil chanted softly. The light of the Moon came down the well, past the mirrors and through the prisms. It fell full upon the silver. While she spoke, the moonlit silver sank into the stone, as a raindrop sinks into the river. The Moon passed away from the shaft and all went dark, save for the faint, new glow from the stone.

Gil dropped weary to the floor. Gamil took the stone from its cradle, and locked it away.

Again, Gamil took a disk of pure gold, and hammered it thin as tissue. Again, Gil wrote upon it, now with a quill of silver. They waited until Midsummer, then, at the height of the year, at midday, they again set the gold-wrapped stone in the device. The full force of the Sun poured down the light-shaft, multiplied by the mirrors and prisms. The golden tissue, full of the light of the Sun, melted into the stone.

When the Sun had passed from the shaft, and the dazzle left their eyes, they saw the stone glowed with golden light.

Now they waited until the dark of the year. Gamil took a nugget of pure mithril. He hammered the mithril until it was wafer-thin, tissue-thin, thin enough to see through. Gil used a quill of gold to write her spells on it. She worked with care, for the metal was as delicate as cobweb.

On the night of Midwinter, a night of no Moon, they placed the stone again under the prisms, cloaked in the enchanted mithril. All the longest night, Gil paced and chanted, as the stars wheeled above spilling their light down the shaft into the stone. As dawn broke, Gil swooned and could not be woken.

Gamil, distraught over his sister, ordered Balon to summon the healer. Though Balon had but a glimpse through the door of pale gold light from the network of mirror, lust for the shining thing filled his heart. The healer took Gil to their chambers, with Gamil following anxiously.

Balon tried the door, but Gamil had locked it behind the healer. For many days, Gil lay in a trance. Gamil feared to remove the stone until Gil awoke, though he returned daily to gaze upon it. Balon spied on his master, watching as he went from the workroom to Gil's side. Each time he saw the light glowing from within, he coveted it yet more.

At last, one day the healer called to Gamil that Gil had awakened. He sped to her, neglecting, in his joy, to lock the door behind him. Balon, peering at him in secret, saw at last his chance. He crept into the chamber and stole away the stone from its cradle.

When Gamil returned and found the stone gone, his heart near broke. He knew his apprentice had taken it while Gil recovered and he attended her.

He went at once to the King, to accuse his apprentice before the Council. The King sent for Balon, and within his chambers the guards found the stone. They brought both to the King.

"Oh, King," said Balon, "my master lies. I found this stone, and fashioned it thus. He saw my work, and being jealous that I have surpassed him in craft mastery, he wishes to take it for his own."

The King questioned many Dwarves, but found none who could say which of them, master or apprentice, spoke the truth. Indeed, Gamil and Gil had kept their secret well.

The King took thought on how to discover who had the right of it. He spoke with his advisors and read in the scrolls of Mahal. He pondered the dispute all night, and in the morning, he summoned his Council and Gamil and Balon.

"I have made my decision," he said. "As none can tell who rightly demands this artifact, let it be divided between the two claimants. The jewelers shall break it, and shall give half to Gamil and half to Balon.

"I will grant you," said the King, "one night and one day to consider this. Then you must return, and if both agree, my decision will stand."

"That is fair," said Balon. "You may break it in half, half for him and half for me."

"No," cried Gamil. "I need no thought for this. Rather let him have it whole than destroy the years-long work of my heart!"

The King smiled. "Then you shall have the whole. For what true craftmaster could bear to see his creation so blithely despoiled? I see that you are the true maker of this marvel."

Then Gamil threw himself before the King in thanks. He took back the wonderful adamant stone, and went immediately to find Gil. When he brought it to her, it was as though the light of Sun, Moon and Stars filled the room. She gazed long upon it, the end of many years of work that had so nearly been destroyed.

"What shall we do with it?" Gamil asked his sister. "I would not keep such light in a strongbox, yet all now know of it, and it will not be safe here without guard."

"It seems we have made it for all the Kingdom Under the Mountain," she said. "Let us give it to the King, and it will be the greatest treasure of all."

So they gave it to the King, and it became the most precious part of his regalia; he would call no Council and greet no ambassador without it at his right hand. The King found that by its light, he could read hearts and minds more clearly, and all praised his wisdom and knowledge. But he knew the truth of it, and gave honor and the King's favor to Gamil and Gil.

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