The Dûnhebaid Cycle
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Fair Folk and Foul: 7. Sound and Fury
The daughter of debate, that eke discord did sow.
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Sitting unregarded in the corner, Dírmaen watched a sodden and muddy Gaernath make his way to Saelon's side, bending to whisper in her ear when she looked up, her face set like one hiding anger or pain. Whatever he said, she gave the boy one of her lean smiles and squeezed his arm as if in thanks before turning back to Partalan, who stood beside her with a fine old helm in his hands. Gaernath had been here when Halpan arrived with his burden of ill news. Where had he been since?
Wherever he had gone, his message did not lighten Saelon's dour expression.
There was no time to try and speak to him now. The council was about to start, and Dírmaen was not certain of his welcome. After the simple supper of fish and gardenstuff, Saelon had politely asked Elrond's sons to leave, and Meagvir had accompanied them. The children, save for babes at breast, were also banished, bedded down in the big cave under the care of Handin and Gormal. The little ones had been troubled enough, Saelon insisted; they did not need to see their elders shouting at each other. Having become acquainted with these folk and their griefs, real and imagined, over the last two months, Dírmaen thought it would likely come to that.
Saelon took the helm from Partalan, tucking it into the crook of one arm, and stepped up onto a bench before what served as a high table. Looking out over the near three dozen people clumped loosely by families, she waited for them to be silent . . . but finally fixed her hawk's glare on Sorcha, who let her muttering to Eapag trail insolently away rather than be seen as daunted. "I have gathered you all here," Saelon said simply, "so we can decide what we wish to do."
"We are to leave," Urwen declared dismissively. "The sons of Elrond have said so. You would gainsay Elven lords?" she challenged, voice tart with scorn.
"Yes, if they are ill-advised. Wise they may be, but they are not our Chieftain, neither Arathorn nor Argonui. They do not know us, or this country—and little more of the raugs than Aniel, here." She looked to her cousin. "Is that not true, Halpan?"
"It is true," he allowed reluctantly. He did not stand with his brother's wife and his sister, but near the door, distancing himself from both Saelon and Urwen. Left to himself, Dírmaen suspected he would have found a dark, lonely place to hide in his guilty shame. "Still, they were the Chieftain's brothers-in-arms, and have more experience in slaying fell things than any Man."
"That did not save the Chieftain, or clear the raugs from Srathen Brethil," Saelon replied, with no mercy for Halpan's flayed feelings. "My brother—" she hitched the helm up a little "—charged me to look after you all, and I have done the best I can. I have fed you, and housed you, and tried to settle your quarrels. Many of you have long wanted to be gone, to kin across the Lune or back to your homes, waiting here for the peril of the raugs to pass. But that peril remains, and now that the Chieftain has been slain in Srathen Brethil, there is little hope of returning thither.
"That is why the lords Elladan and Elrohir have come. They are willing to escort those who desire to seek a new life in the east. Who," she asked, "is prepared to go? Now, without corn? Some of you have kin who will welcome you; many do not, and they could well face another lean winter, dependent on the kindness of strangers for roof and bread. Therefore I would know your thought: how many wish to stay, and how many to go?"
Gazing at them solemnly, she declared, "You all know where my heart lies. This place has been my home for a score of years, and I do not wish to leave it. Yet I must be with you, if I am to fulfill Halladan's charge to keep you for Halmir. So, if more of you would leave than stay, I will go likewise. On a matter so grave, all who would should speak—Dúnedain or cottar, freeman or servant. Urwen, I know you have much to say. Begin!"
"Who has not heard what I have to say?" Urwen asked, resentment and contempt compounded. "Not that any give heed. How much longer will you delude yourselves? This land belongs to the Elves, and they wish us gone. Srathen Brethil is cursed, a place of death. There is no returning thither." There was shuffling among them; Dírmaen had heard the uneasy whispers rumoring the woman's foresight. "The realm of Men is across the Lune. How many more must die before you recognize it? If we had gone home with Râdbaran, the Chieftain would not be dead. The Chieftain!" she cried, and her voice grew shrill and wild. "All because of your timid folly! Who save Saelon could wish to live here, eating cold, slimy things from the sea that drowned us of old? The desolate end of the world, far from kin and friends! Why do you delay? Pack your goods and let us flee from this place as quickly as we may!"
"Nay," Maelchon disagreed, his deep voice pitched to soothe. "Not so hasty. Are we to leave the finest crop of bere I have ever seen to rot in the field? Of course you wish to seek your kin; a widow, with five children, must seek succor. Count yourself fortunate that you have kin who will welcome you. I do not. At least," he grinned wryly, "not so near and dear that they would welcome my great brood on their threshold. And why should they, when I can provide for them here? Weed from the sea is indifferent fare, 'tis true, but in a month we will have bread and ale to our heart's content.
"All this talk of raugs or fiends or whatever they are is above me," he admitted. "I am a husbandman. Crops and beasts are what I know, and if you give me good fields and good pasture, I will burden no man. My fathers all kept our land in freehold, but now it is lost to me. Where am I to get more? This," he gestured vaguely towards the lea outside, "is fine land: the soil is sweet and light, the weather mild with ample rain. Just look at the bere in that field! How can a man walk away from that, for whatever fag-end of stony clay he might get by becoming a bondsman? Or the back-breaking labor of clearing an assart? Elvish land this may be—it is fair enough in its own way, though I thought they liked trees—but I do not see them dwelling here. If they are not using it, surely they would be glad to take land-rent from those who would?"
"Who can tell with such uncanny folk?" Mais grumbled. Dírmaen craned his neck to look past those standing between him and the young freeman, trying to see whether his posture was arrogant or sullen. Mais swung between one and the other as frequently as the wind veered, depending on the tempers of his womenfolk: the timid, doe-eyed young wife; the red-headed sister, warm-blooded as such women were said to be; and the pretty, conniving widow of his father, hardly older than the other two. Sullen, it seemed.
"Come," Maelchon replied, trying to put heart into the young man, "can they be stranger than the Dwarves? They have proved good neighbors." He gazed pointedly around the hall.
"We have not seen them since spring. All they care about is the crop, and their share of it."
Maelchon laughed. "And future crops as well. You have never traded with them, that is clear. Their work may be dear, but most give full value. Do you think one of Arain's coulters would have cut the turf so easily? With such soil and dwarf-made tools, we could be very comfortable here in a few years' time. The Dwarves will trade for whatever produce we do not need."
"Unless the Elves take it all for land-rent," Mais pointed out.
"Maybes and might bes. If you insist on worrying, remember this: if we leave before harvest, we will cheat the Dwarves of their fee. They do not often hand over goods without payment. It was a kindness," Maelchon recognized, "but if you want to see the harshness they are known for, turn your back on them. Where do you mean to live, that they will not find you? Their trade takes them across Eriador and beyond, and they all seem akin."
That made Mais pause. "Then let us make over the whole crop to them, as it stands. That will more than repay them."
"Dwarves reap?" Maelchon scoffed. "Have you ever heard of such a thing? As soon expect Elves to plough! No," he declared, stolidly as an ox planting his feet, "me and mine will stay, at least until after the harvest. If we must go, then let us ask the Elves for leave to stay until the beginning of spring, so we need carry little more than our seedcorn."
There was more debate about the crop and its fate as the cottars weighed in, encouraged by Saelon's nod. Their labor, too, had gone into it. Finean was of Maelchon's mind. The greybeard Airil grumbled at length about the inconvenience and tiresomeness of all this stravaiging about, while his grandson fretted about the risks of the move to his wife and infant son. Mais countered that his wife missed the mother's care and advice she should expect for her first babe, and that they wished to seek for Eapag's kin among those who had fled east from Srathen Brethil.
Dírmaen settled back against the wall as the speculation about whose kin had gone where and how much aid they might expect from them, given their past kindnesses to them—or lack thereof—began to grow heated.
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One of his pony's hooves slipped as Veylin urged it up the muddy track, but the sure-footed beast caught itself with a snort and kept climbing. When it heaved them onto the level cliff-shelf, however, Saelon's dooryard was deserted.
Save for three tall men who had just stepped out of her old cave, two of them alike as castings from the same mold, keen-eyed as Elves but their breadth of shoulder revealing the alloy of Man. The third, a Dúnadan grizzled as a badger, gaped at him as the last rays of the setting sun behind his right shoulder flashed off his fire opals and topazes, and set his gold and amber aglow.
The two did not gape, but stepped forward while the others rode up behind him, bowing with their hands at their breasts. "Elladan—"
"—at your service. We are the sons of Elrond," Elladan added, as if there could be cause for doubt.
"Veylin, Vali's son, at yours and your family's," he replied, bowing over his mount's neck. "I am a chieftain of the Firebeards." Hearing who had come—no mere Men of the Star—he had delayed long enough to dress as befit his consequence, but now he wondered if that had been a misjudgment. Where were Saelon and her people?
"Our father," Elladan told him, "is a friend of the Longbeards."
That was almost gracious; a welcome surprise. "And you, one hears, are the bane of our foes the Orcs. Not that we left many behind us after Azanulbizar."
"Our hunting was poor for many years afterwards," Elrohir agreed, "but their numbers are increasing again. Were you in the host at Azanulbizar?"
That bitter, bitter day. "Aye. Rekk, Ekki's son, here, as well."
They both bowed to Rekk, who returned the courtesy, eyes narrowed. It was not often that Elves knew the proper names, still less used them, yet these were the sons of one ancient ally of the Longbeards and the grandsons of another. At least they ought to get a hearing.
"The Lady Saelon is a friend of yours, we hear."
"Yes," Veylin acknowledged. "Where is she?"
"In their hall, holding closed council with her people."
Good; she would need to be sure of their support to defy these two. In the meantime, it had bought them time to get here, and would give him a chance to hold his own council with the sons of Elrond. "Have you come to remove them across the Lune?"
"That was our intent," Elladan allowed. "They are debating whether they should all go."
"They have the choice?"
The three of them looked at the seven mounted Dwarves. Veylin wondered if helms and hauberks might have been better than gold and gems. That was fine mail the Elves were wearing; Longbeard work, no doubt. "Of course," Elrohir assured him, with a shade of a smile. "Will you come into this cave and wait with us, until their council is finished? We would like to hear your part in the matter of the raugs. You have heard that the Chieftain of the Dúnedain was slain in Srathen Brethil?"
"Ill news," Veylin said. "Such always travels fast." There was no point in denying it. Their timely arrival would reveal much to two so wise as their father's sons must be: the nearness of his halls, that some here knew where to find him at need.
That they had felt there was need. Saelon would have told him a foray against the fiends was planned—if she had known of it. Again, this neglect of her and her folk, in a matter that touched them so near. Him and his as well. "Yes, we will wait with you. And speak of the fiends."
Dismounting, he put as dignified a face on his lameness as he could. Rekk, Vitr and Vitnir, and Thyrnir followed him to Saelon's cave; Oski and Ingi took charge of the ponies. Within, they completed the introductions as Meagvir offered around a little flower wine. As Veylin cautiously sipped it—poor, thin stuff, but inoffensive—Elrohir said, "We have heard that you were attacked by one of these fell creatures that infest Srathen Brethil."
"I was, with my companions, who did not survive: Rekk's brother, who was Thyrnir's father; and one of my following, whose father also greatly desires vengeance."
"We regret that your folk were not with us in Srathen Brethil," Elladan said. His sincerity was not surprising, given what had befallen. "Arathorn told us that no one knew where to find your halls, this side of the mountains."
"Word sent to Sulûnduban would have found us. Or even here." Veylin set the cup aside.
"Lady Saelon knows where to find you." It was not a question.
"She, too, has lost a brother to these fiends, and other kin. We have made a pact between us, against them."
"Why did she not tell us?" Meagvir asked, looking baffled.
Veylin stared at him from under lowered brows. "Did you take her into your counsel?"
The sons of Elrond had turned their keen eyes on the Man. "Râdbaran told her he wished to speak with you."
"If you have been here since Nórui," Veylin chuffed, "you must know that simply telling Saelon what you wish does not ensure her compliance." Were these Men fools, dealing with her so?
"Why would we seek her counsel on the raugs?" Meagvir protested. "She has never seen one. She knows nothing of the hunt, or of arms." As Dwarves and Elves gazed fixedly on him, he concluded, as if it explained all, "She is a woman."
"Is she the leader of these folk," Rekk demanded, irritated as the talk strayed from the fiends, "or is she not? You expect her to bear the burden but will not grant her authority?"
"You do not understand," Meagvir said shortly. He might as well have added, because you have no womenfolk.
"No, I do not," Rekk rumbled. "But I begin to see why she turned her back on you all."
"What do you mean?" Elrohir asked, as if he would damp what might become a quarrel.
"Do you know nothing of her?" Veylin replied brusquely, growing impatient himself. "She has dwelt here for a score of years, for the sake of the sea—and because her folk did not know how to value her. Not until they needed her shrewdness and mettle to preserve them. Some scorn her still, after all she had done for them! I marvel at her forbearance."
"A Dwarf's idea of forbearance—" Elladan gave them a dry smile "—is different from that of other folk. She has a bitter, reproachful tongue."
"That it can be sharp, I know," he granted. "Though not without cause. If her temper is spoilt, blame the puling of these feeble folk and the condescension of Rangers." Veylin met Meagvir's glare willingly. "Even the best iron can only bear so much hammering, without quenching. And you propose to take her from the sea?"
Elladan set his hands together and regarded Veylin fixedly over them. "That is twice that you," he emphasized, "have made much of her liking for the sea. I find that strange."
"That Dwarves would speak of the sea?"
"That Dwarves would be so near the sea," the other commented, cocking an eyebrow.
Rekk snorted, but held his tongue when Veylin turned a fierce scowl on him. They were not here to talk about their doings; these two were not of Lindon. "We may have little liking for it," Veylin told them curtly, "but even a Dwarf can see it speaks to her."
Well they might look thoughtful, if tales of their ancestry were true. It was the Man who shook his head. "Sea-mad, some of her folk say. Besotted, at any rate."
A brisk rap on the doorframe, and Oski thrust aside the drape, firmly pushing a boy into the chamber before him. "Your pardon," Oski said with a short bow, "but this child's brother has gone missing. We have helped him search along the cliff, and cannot find him."
It was the older of the two Dúnedain boys under his hand, and his look of worried distress was growing as he stared at them. "Hanadan?" Veylin asked. "The rascal has probably slipped into the hall."
"I . . . I do not think so, Master Veylin," Handin managed to contradict him, and turned his anxious gaze towards the sons of Elrond. "He said he would not go east with us."
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Arguments about kinship past, Dírmaen had found, were indissolubly wed to strong feelings about future relations. This discussion was swiftly approaching the point where insult was inevitable.
"Where is my sister to find a husband?" Mais wanted to know. "Or my brothers wives?"
It was not that there were not enough men or women, even of suitable age, but of their kind.
The greybeard, with the fearlessness of age, demanded, "What is wrong with the lads and lasses here? We know your sister doesn't object to a landless man—" a dig at her trysts with the absent Tarain "—and she could have her pick among the youngsters, since Bereth is too high for them. Or is it that Bereth has spurned Deonaid in her turn?"
Dírmaen considered Mais's second brother with surprise. He would not have thought the boy bold enough to try for one of the Dúnedain, but he was flushed as red as his hair and Bereth looked like a furious cat, so it must be true.
"Presumptuous ploughboys." Urwen looked on them with aloof scorn. "Mais plays the lordling here, in the absence of his betters; Deonaid thinks to turn our distress to his advantage; and Gaernath would be Saelon's protector. Stay here if you cherish such ambitions. You would be lucky to remain freemen across the Lune, even if you succeeded in finding your kin, faithless folk who abandoned their lord."
Gràinne chortled. "It's not his sister's pride that breaks his peace, no, but that chit of his father's, who misses sitting soft and easy by the fire, with maidservants to do her bidding. There are no men here who will keep her so, and she wishes a wider hunting ground."
"Let her go," Canand, Mais's drover, spoke up, "and seek her fortune elsewhere. There is fine pasture here, and you can rebuild our fortunes if you stay, as Maelchon says. She is no kin of yours."
An old and trusted servant of the family had spoken against Lis before all. Mais did not chastise him, only looked more sullen and irresolute, and no one else took her part. Saelon looked down on her with something that might have been pity.
"Yes, let her go with Urwen and the other soft-handed women," Fransag said, with a contempt as great as Urwen's. "We have no fat old men here for her to pet and please."
Murdag smirked. "That is harsh, Fransag. She doesn't like their age and fatness, but their wealth."
Tearlag gave a coarse laugh. "Perhaps she should try a Dwarf, then. She was always petting Gede's beard, but the Dwarves have nicer ones."
"If you think so, you cuddle them!" Lis spat. "Testy runts. A man I want, aye, one to protect me from slander such as this!" It should have been hard not to pity the young widow, scorned by high and low alike, without so much as a babe to bond her to these people. Yet Lis had in some measure earned this with her own barbs of malice, attempting to endear herself to folk by scathing whomsoever displeased them. As with, "But only Saelon is cold enough to turn to sea and stone."
Amid a collective gasp and murmur—awe at her insolence, a kind of anticipation for what might follow—Saelon stepped down from the bench and handed her brother's helm to a livid Partalan, staying him with a gesture. Walking up to pretty little woman, she fixed her with that falcon glare and said, perilously soft in the sudden hush, "I think you had best explain that last, Lis, lest people misunderstand you."
"Well, what is this?" she demanded, flinging up a hand to snatch at the gold in Saelon's dark hair. "Your lover's favor, or the chain that locked your mouth after they dishonored you?"
Saelon struck, an openhanded blow that drove Lis back against Deonaid. "Do you fear," she asked, fierce, caustically curious, "that you will poison yourself if you do not spit out such venom?"
A child's gasp beside him, where no one should be—Dírmaen tore his eyes from the two women and saw Handin in the doorway, wide-eyed. Reaching up, the Ranger dragged the boy down beside him. "What are you doing here?" he demanded. There was no need to keep his voice low. Mais had, belatedly, leapt to Lis's defense, only to collide with Partalan, who growled a warning Dírmaen could not hear over the rising hubbub.
"Hanadan has run away," Handin replied miserably. "We cannot find him."
"Run away? Are you sure?" That child was impossible: fearless, into everything. "Have you and Gormal looked everywhere?"
Saelon had climbed back up onto the bench, and was calling for peace, but she might as well have stood on her rock and cried out to the sea in storm. Aniel had joined Partalan, facing Mais and Deonaid and Bred, baying like one of his deep-throated hounds, Gaernath at his side. Halpan was shouldering his way through the crowd towards them. Urwen stood at her chamber door, laughing. Staring at her distastefully, Fransag had gathered Rian up with Gràinne and was shooing them towards her own chamber.
"The Dwarves have helped look, and Meagvir and the Elven lords, too. They told me to tell everyone."
"Dwarves?" Dírmaen looked from Saelon to the mud-splattered Gaernath. Halpan had thrust himself between the boy and his brothers; accusations of disloyalty were flying.
"Veylin's people have come," Handin said matter-of-factly. "My brother likes the Dwarves, but Ingi says they haven't seen him. If he had been near," he murmured, "he would have gone to them."
If the child liked them, he would have. If the sons of Elrond could not find him on this narrow shelf, he was astray in the dark . . . and even if raugs did not come so near the sea, it was still perilous for a seven-year-old to be abroad alone in the night. Clasping Handin's shoulder, Dírmaen drew him up as he stood, and, pitching his voice as if for battle, thundered, "SILENCE!"
He got it. Every head turned towards him, stunned into brief stillness. "Hanadan has run away," he told them sternly. "We must get up a hunt."
"How long ago?" Saelon demanded: pragmatic as always, wasting no time on doubt or denial.
A piercing wail near-split their ears—Urwen, staring with wide, horrified eyes, threw up her hands and collapsed like a stricken doe, keening as if her child's dead body lay before her. Now they all stood petrified with dread, looking on the hysterical woman is if she was an omen.
If the rumors were true, she might be.
Urwen continued her wordless wail of loss, knocking her head against the stone floor as she rocked. Saelon threw a wild look at Bereth, who was shrinking away, hands pressed to her mouth; then at Eithel, who had started crying in counterpoint to her mother. When no one else dared, Saelon stepped forward. "Urwen," she murmured, kneeling down beside the crumpled woman and laying a hand tentatively on her shoulder, "sshh, do not give way like this. Most likely he has just—"
"Get away from me!" Urwen shrieked, uncoiling like a lunging adder and backhanding Saelon hard enough to fling her away. "You did this! You taught him to love the sea! More than his mother!" And she began to keen again, rocking back and forth, her gaze blind.
One of the sons of Elrond—there was the other beside him; when had they come in?—slipped through the stupefied crowd, offering a hand to Saelon, who was clutching her face and eyeing Urwen with bleak dismay. Having set her on her feet, he cautiously approached the grief-stricken woman.
Someone short and glittering like frozen firelight pushed between Dírmaen and the other son of Elrond, heading for Saelon. Everyone suddenly found they had something more interesting than Urwen to look at.
"Saelon," the Dwarf said gruffly, looking up at her, "are you hurt?"
Dírmaen had never seen a Dwarf so richly dressed: his broad golden belt was set with gems like shards of flame, and there were more on the chain around his neck, bright against his fox-colored hair and beard. Saelon herself was staring. "No," she said, fingering her jaw. "She is not Rekk."
And there was Rekk, whom Dírmaen had last seen in Srathen Brethil, wearing not a hauberk but what now seemed a modest belt of gold. "I should say not," he sniffed, but he was grinning. "If you must be dauntless, Lady," he told Saelon, "you will have to learn to be more guarded."
"Hanadan has run away?" she asked the dwarf-lord.
"So his brother says, and he is not on the cliff-shelf. Where would he have gone?" He sounded as if he knew the child and was concerned. . . and why not? The child was an endearing scamp, and Handin said he liked the Dwarves.
"Hanadan?" Saelon shook her head: weary, distracted. "There is no telling. Aniel, might your hounds be of use?"
"They are not trained to track boy," the huntsman said, almost apologetically, "but they will do better than us in the dark. Let Teig and I take them along the river to the moor, and we'll see if we can flush him from the coverts."
"I once saw him at the base of the other cliff, exploring the small caves there," a third Dwarf told her, one with a beard as fiery red as Gaernath's hair. How many had come to her summons? "We can make quicker work of them than your folk."
"Thank you, Thyrnir," Saelon sighed. "Though you all look too splendid for such work."
"Dwarves too splendid for caves?" the begemmed one snorted, glowering at her. "Have these folk finally sent your wits entirely astray?"
"If not, it is not for lack of trying. Partalan and," she looked at those who had gathered around, "Halpan, will you search the machair and northern headland?"
"Of course." Halpan's guilt-ridden diffidence seemed forgotten.
"Shall Dírmaen and I take the clifftop and tower headland?" Meagvir offered.
"Please," she said.
"How may I help, Lady?" Elladan—or Elrohir—asked.
She considered him for a moment. "However you think best, lord. You know your own skill." Taking a deep breath, which shook a little, she added, heartfelt, "Thank you."
As he bowed his head, Gaernath asked plaintively, "Is there nothing I can do?"
"Yes," Saelon told him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "You can come down to the shore with me."
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Freehold: a hereditary right to land; a free man would pay some kind of rent or tribute to their lord (paying for the protection of specialist warriors), but would not have to perform labor services—their time was their own.
"soil is sweet": a "sweet" soil is one whose pH is a little basic, rather than acidic (or "sour"), usually on calcium-rich substrates like limestone. It is easier for most plants to take up nutrients when the soil is not acidic, and therefore they tend to grow better on sweet soils. Most British highland soils are highly acidic, formed on glacial till (more descriptively known as boulder clay); but West Highland machair soils are aeolian (windblown) sands, often with a significant proportion of tiny shell fragments, which keeps them sweet. When manured with seaweed, these soils could be highly productive.
Assart: a clearing in a forest, specifically one cleared for new farmland.
Coulter: an iron blade set on the front of a plow; it cuts the soil vertically, while the plowshare cuts it horizontally and turns it to make the furrow. Here, where they were "sod-busting," a good, sharp coulter would have saved a lot of sweat on the part of man and beast . . . and allowed them to plough more land with the same effort.
Topaz: traditionally, any yellow or golden-brown gemstone.
Amber: fossilized pine resin, yellow-orange to brown in color; easily carved, with electrostatic properties.
Chieftain of the Firebeards: Veylin is what a Man would call a dwarf-lord, but among Dwarves authority is based on patrilineal kinship and seniority (HoME XII: The Peoples of Middle-Earth, p. 285). Since Gaelic clann literally means "children," Dwarves truly are clannish. In Highland usage, a chief was often considered the head of the whole name or clan, while chieftains led one branch. Veylin is the head of a collateral branch of the Firebeards, off the "royal" line.
Azanulbizar: the Khuzdul or Dwarvish name of Dimrill Dale, where the great and terrible battle that ended the War of Dwarves and Orcs was fought in 2799.
"one ancient ally of the Longbeards and . . . another": The "History of Galadriel and Celeborn" in Unfinished Tales provides some details of the relations between Elrond, Galadriel, and the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm in the Second Age. When Sauron persuaded Celebrimbor to rebel against Galadriel and Celeborn in Eregion, Galadriel and her children (but not Celeborn) fled to Lórinand (later Lórien) through Khazad-dûm. Some centuries later (S.A. 1697), enraged by the loss of the Three, Sauron sent his army against Elrond, whose forces would have been overwhelmed if Durin had not sent Dwarves, accompanied by Elves of Lórinand, to attack Sauron's host in the rear. "Ever afterwards Moria had Sauron's hate, and all Orcs were commanded to harry Dwarves whenever they might."
It was not for mere kindness that Elrond's folk mended Thorin and Company's clothes and hopes, and Elrond helped decipher their map. Not only could Galadriel speak Khuzdul place-names well enough to enchant Gimli (for it was not the sight of her that kindled his admiration), but it should be remembered that her brother Finrod is the only Elf widely known by a Khuzdul name: Felagund, from felak-gundu, "cave-hewer." Since Dwarves of Belegost delved Menegroth, and Finrod had Thingol's assistance in the planning of Nargothrond, one suspects that Belegost masons worked for Finrod as well. Is Veylin heir to the gemsmiths who made the Nauglamír?
Quenching: iron and steel become brittle when forged, as the crystals fracture; to toughen the metal, you have to anneal or temper it—reheat it at a lower temperature to partially melt the crystals and then cool it (quenching) so they reform. This is where the art of ironsmithing comes in: the temperature (judged by the color of the hot metal) and how quickly the metal cools (varied by using different liquids, usually water- or oil-based) determines which forms of iron crystals you get, and therefore the quality of the metal.
"their ancestry": Ulmo himself appeared to their great-grandfather Tuor and sent him to Gondolin.
Stravaig: Scots, to roam or wander aimlessly.
Drover: a cattleherd.
Adder (Viperus berus): a mildly venomous snake found in Britain, including the Scottish Highlands.
Coverts: in this sense, a thicket providing cover to game.
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