8. Declarations... Perhaps Philosophizing
I watched as Men and Elven folk alike would hesitate to touch the work, wary that their reflection would alter the cast. It is a sacred moment the first time a new forged piece is held in hands other than those who wrought it. In truth, the life of forged metal changes with each hand that holds it.
As a smith, father traveled. He went out into the light, seeking inspiration for the designs he worked. He occasionally hired himself out for building in the cities of Men, more often for an Elven project. As his son, I traveled with him. Briefly.
I have listened to others speak of their discomfort in our cities. They miss the sunlight, the warmth and free air, the sounds of birds and insects. They feel trapped under the weight of the rock around them; frequently fear it... as if being on top of the land would cause less harm to a body than being under it, should it ever actually collapse.
They do not see the infinite gradations in my world - perhaps it is not a lack of imagination that makes it so. Perhaps they are incapable, as I am incapable of seeing the beauty of theirs. Learning to adapt my eyesight to sunlight would bear a price; while I would be able to discern more than the mere silhouette of objects in daylight and would see more of the colors that have been described to me, I would never again behold the nuances that I do now.
My stars are the torch reflections in the mica, in the crystals, and never do I have to wait for night to behold them. My air wends its way down the chimneys, gathering to it the scents of soil and shale, bedrock and limestone distilled to a potent, full-bodied blend. My lakes are warm and mineral rich; bathing in them eases sore muscles and rejuvenates the body. My home has a stillness that promises infinite patience and the solace of permanence.
There is a peace in the silence that is lost above; I am completely exposed and find neither safety nor comfort. This is hard to admit, but I suffer from motion sickness... everything moves outside, the grass, the leaves, other living creatures, clouds; I constantly feel ill. And the smells... Ach, above ground is best left to those who were born for it.
Elves, tall and lithe as their beloved trees and masts, appear as light and open as the sky. Their strength comes from their ability to bend with the changing winds. Their blood is as sap, sweet and constantly rising toward the sun. Men are forged by their ties to one another; perhaps it is their gift of an afterlife that binds them more to each other than to the world around them. I am Dwarf. My blood is magma, my bones and muscle forged from the very rock that all life draws nourishment from. I am at home in the mountain because I am of the mountain. I was made to live here, to recognize the overwhelming beauty of the foundation of the world. And one day I shall be subsumed within it once again.
So, I returned to the life that best suited me. My family jokes with me, saying that even for a dwarf I am close-minded. In deed I do appear to be, but the reality is that I understand there are as many ways of seeing beauty in the world as there are folk in it, even appreciate and am comforted by that truth. I simply find my beauty in the rock.
If they were ever disappointed that my skill lay not with the forge but with the pick, they hid it well. There is as much an art to mining as there is to smithing and stone cutting, and it requires talent as well as skill.
Each ore, each rock, each gemstone has its own taste and scent. But, they can be subtle and tricky; it takes sensitivity and patience to track them. This is my talent. I had it long before I gained the skill. Now I work on improving my knowledge; learning which rock surrounds which ore, which gemstone. I practice the swing of my pick and the tap of my hammers and the kiss of my brushes. My fingertips now recognize weights and textures. I am a miner.
Many of my folk live in the sunlight and are happy to do so. I do not wish for you to misconstrue. It is simply that I understand the choice and made mine... made it freely, even wisely.
-- Chris Smith August 2003
Written for the Crossover challenge at Henneth Annun.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.