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7
Negotiations

Day 7--Belegost: overcoming prejudice
Day 9--Nargothrond: considering betrayal
Finrod Felagund, Dwarves of Belegost


~~~

Negotiations


“Lord Olcharin,” began Berdgard, who had the duty of door warden, if Olcharin remembered correctly. “Lord Olcharin, Duvri sent me here to fetch you.”

Olcharin glared at the other Dwarf, and turned back to the wall of the passageway that led to the newest delvings. Others might be content with rough-hewn walls when passing from the levels where their folk dwelt to where they sought for minerals, jewels, or ore; but Olcharin preferred to see all smoothed and pleasing to both the eye and the touch. He set his chisel against the stone, adjusted its angle, and gave a sharp tap, and an offending lump obligingly fell before the stroke. Two more strokes, and he was pleased with what he had wrought. He rubbed the surface and gave a satisfied nod before turning to face Berdgard. “What is it?” he asked.

Berdgard rubbed his hands together uncertainly. “We have a visitor,” he said. “Yes—a visitor. A visitor.”

Olcharin realized his curiosity was being piqued. “Well,” he said gruffly, “out with it, then! What sort of visitor is it that has you so out of countenance?”

Berdgard took a deep breath and explained, “Well, it’s an Elf.”

Moments later Olcharin was stalking off to the chamber where visitors and petitioners from outside Belegost were generally received. What on earth did an Elf wish with him that could not be dealt with by one of those Dwarves who crafted fine armor or jewelry? He was a fair enough artisan, but Olcharin’s greatest love was the delving—the search for veins of whatever ore or stone that was wanted at the moment; the breaking apart of the matrix to reveal a jewel of great value; the change of scent to the earth as one came near a deposit of iron, and the feeling when the tip of his pick struck not bedrock but, instead, the hollow over a bed of crystals. He might be the Lord of Belegost, but he was first and foremost a delver, one who ever dreamt of opening new diggings, or of creating passageways between here and there.

He wasn’t certain as to how he was to deal with an Elf. Uncanny creatures, Elves, with their great height and grace, their own hearts attuned not so much to the earth as to that which sprang from it. Or, at least that was as he understood the way of such creatures. Trees and stars—those were the first things toward which their attention turned. What did such creatures want with Mahal’s children?

Duvri lingered near the door to the reception chamber. Olcharin fixed his chamberlain with a stern stare. “And why did you send for me and not for Narvi or Dombur?” he demanded in low tones.

Duvri shrugged, glancing behind him at the still closed door. “He doesn’t wish the services of those who craft armor or ornaments,” he explained. “He asked to speak with the one who has the greatest affinity with delving.”

Olcharin was startled at this. “But what does an Elf want with a delver?”

Shaking his head, Duvri pursed his lips. “I don’t know, my Lord Olcharin.”

“Did you offer him refreshments?”

“Yes—ale and cakes.”

“Should be enough for now.”

“Shall I see more brought for you?”

Olcharin thought a moment, and shrugged. “Doubt I shall be with him long.”

Duvri looked thoughtful. “Well, if you’re with him more than a quarter of a candle mark, I’ll send some in for you.”

“Good enough, I suppose,” Olcharin said, turning his attention toward the door. He straightened himself, and nodded.

Duvri pulled the door open, announcing, “Olcharin son of Darvin, Lord of Belegost,” as his ruler stepped into the room.

Their visitor rose politely as Olcharin entered, and the Dwarf found himself wishing the Elf had remained seated. Never had he seen so tall a creature. Nor was he dressed as did the Elves who dwelt in the surrounding region. No simple greens and browns for this Elf—he was dressed in robes of blue the shade of aquamarine accented with tourmaline. His hair at the temples had been worked into complex braids into which emerald, garnet, and sapphire beads had been threaded, and a circlet of strands of silver, gold, and mithril worked together bound his brows. And his eyes….

Never had Olcharin seen such brilliance in the gaze of any creature, as if this one had looked so long into the source of pure Light that said Light had filled him.

Well, at least now he knew precisely what had so unnerved Berdgard!

The Elf was bowing deeply to Olcharin. “My lord, it is good of you to leave your own work so as to speak with me. I am called Findaráto Arafinwion, although here I am perhaps better known as Finrod, Lord of Minas Tirith.”

Not certain he could easily wrap his tongue around that first name, Olcharin gave an abbreviated nod. “My Lord Finrod. And why did you come here at this time? I am told you expressed no interest in the products of our forges or workshops. And, please—sit!”

Finrod lowered himself back into his seat with marked grace for one so tall to sit so low. “I thank you for your courtesy,” he replied as Olcharin settled himself into his own chair. His bright eyes were examining his host closely, which Olcharin found somewhat uncomfortable. “As you know, the Black Enemy has been doing his best to increase his armies, and the day will come when he will assault these lands again. A message has come to me from Lord Ulmo that I will do well to find a new dwelling place for my people, one far more easily defended than my current keep in the Pass of Sirion. I have found a place that is suitable, beneath the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth, where the River Ringwil meets the Narog.”

Olcharin grunted. “Rough lands there—not truly suitable for building.”

“I do not intend to build.”

The Dwarf was caught by the simplicity of the Elf’s statement, as he realized Finrod’s plans. “You would delve beneath the mountains there?”

Finrod’s shrug was as casually elegant as the inclination of his fair head. “Even so. By delving his halls beneath the hills of Doriath has Elú Thingol protected his people for many yeni. Many have gathered to me and call me their Lord and King. But my citadel of Minas Tirith is not large enough to house all in safety.”

“And why did you come here—to me?”

For the first time Finrod smiled, and that smile moved Olcharin in a manner such as he’d never known previously. “You are indeed the children of Aulë, or Mahal, as you know him. To you and your people are opened all the ways of the earth itself. We are the children of the stars, and although we formerly of the Noldor are as great craftsmen in our own right as are you, we have not the experience to easily open passages through solid stone, nor to choose which stone pillars to leave and which to smooth away when taking a natural cavern and making of it a great hall.

“I will grant you an equal share of all jewels and ore as might be found as we craft our city beneath the mountains, and my own people shall labor beside you and at your direction. We offer you trading rights and our friendship, an alliance that benefits both your people and ours. For we find we grow more foodstuffs than we can consume ourselves and would gladly offer it to you and yours that it does not go to waste….”

Olcharin found himself listening as Finrod laid out his plans; and when the Elf produced a map of the mountains with outlines indicating where natural caverns had been found, he became even more intrigued. “We think to set great doors here, approached by a narrow path above the river canyon, a path that can be easily defended,” Finrod explained.

“You could put a bridge here and make it easy to bring in wains of grain and other goods.” The Dwarf pointed to the place where the proposed doors looked out over the Narog.

But his guest was shaking his head emphatically. “And make it easier for Morgoth’s orcs to approach my very doorstep? No, I think not.”

Once more the Dwarf felt his heart warming toward the Elf. Caution must not take second place to expediency, he knew. A wise individual this Finrod was proving.

Duvri joined them, and soon others were called to join the conference. A meal was brought and then cleared away, and still the talks went on. At last, when the illumination provided by light shafts dimmed and torches and lamps were lit, all leaned back in their chairs, nursing great massy cups of the finest wine Olcharin had in his cellars. “Then, shall we drink to it?” the Lord of Belegost asked their guest.

“Indeed!” The Elf rose once more to his considerable height, raising his cup. “To Nargothrond that shall be!” All took deep gulps from their cups. Finrod then added, “And to the people of Belegost—to whom we shall ever be indebted.” And again he bowed deeply with a respect that Olcharin sensed was not feigned.

After Berdgard had been dispatched to lead the Elf to one of the guest chambers designed to house those of larger stature than Dwarves, and the rest of those gathered began to scatter to their own abodes within Belegost, Duvri remained at Olcharin’s side. “A most interesting challenge he offers us. I hope that we do not find ourselves betrayed by these creatures in the end, however.”

Olcharin snorted. “Perhaps some Elves will prove untrue, but I sense this is not the way of this—Findaráto Arafinwion, or Finrod Delver of Caves or however he chooses to name himself. Nay, I think we may accept his word as he has given it. No traitor to himself or any other do I find him.”

“And an equal share in whatever ore and jewels that might be found in the delving? It should prove quite profitable.” Duvri suddenly turned his attention fully toward his Lord. “And you will reserve the right of first choice, will you not?”

Olcharin laughed. “But of course! After all, he approached us as the petitioner. Nay, I’d not betray our own folk in that way.”

Both smiling with satisfaction, the two Dwarves at last quitted the room, abandoning it to those who wanted only to finish their own work so they might retire to their well-deserved rest. Yes, it should prove most profitable to ally themselves with the likes of this Finrod, both in goods and friendship.

Olcharin smiled as he trudged with satisfaction toward his own chambers. And to think he’d thought the Elf uncanny when he’d met him!

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