Dís hummed softly as she sorted through piles of beads. She loved the feel of them falling through her hands, like cold water flowing through her fingers. The colored glass beads glinted in the lamplight, and the gold and silver beads flashed and glimmered their brilliance.
Her mother had been teaching her bead embroidery and she was becoming quite good at it. She had always been adept with needle and thread, even at a young age, and it was natural to turn her hand to a craft that made good use of her skill now that she was a bit older. It gave her great pleasure to see her father and brothers decked in tunics and collars that her mother had embroidered for them, and now her own designs were beginning to catch their attention, and they were requesting more from her than just her small, neat stitches in mending. Dís was filled with ideas and plans for patterns using beads and precious stones brought from the mines, or purchased in Dale, brought from afar by travelers.
Her long-time friend Balin had also noticed her skill, and as a result, he had been the happy recipient of decorative belts and an embroidered sheathe for a dagger. He had taken to bringing her stones with unusual patterns and polished gems that could be worked into some of her more fanciful patterns.
I wonder if Balin will bring me something special when he returns from trading with the river men? she mused as she neatly separated gold beads from silver. He always seems to know what will please me, even more than my brothers do at times. He has such a good eye for color, and the stones he finds are always so unusual! But I like them, and the stories that go with them!
She smiled to herself as she thought of Balin. They had been friends ever since she could remember. As a close companion of her brother Thorin, he had often been in her company, and their friendship and affection had grown. He was like another brother to her in many ways, and she loved and trusted him as such. As a small child, Dís had played with Balin and her brothers, exploring the vast halls of the Kingdom under the Mountain and listening to their tales of the dwarvish crafts they were learning and of their travels in the world outside. As they had grown older, her brothers and Balin had been out and about for longer periods of time, while Dís settled in to the life of a young Dwarf learning her own craft as well as the arts that would stand her in good stead as a future wife and mother. But they still treasured time spent with her, and made certain she knew that well.
A figure filled the doorway and her mother entered the room.
"Your brothers have returned from their trading journey to Dale and beyond," she announced.
Dís clapped her hands. "I was just thinking of them," she cried, delighted. "And Balin is with them, too? It seems like they were gone such a long time! I do hope they brought something nice for me!"
Her mother smiled and shook her head. "Do you doubt it? Tell me, my dear -- when have they ever neglected to bring you a treasure from their travels? I am quite certain there is something special for you. You had best go see for yourself, they are waiting in the outer chamber. You may leave your craft work now and go greet them. And yes, Balin is with them."
When each traveler had been affectionately embraced and happy greetings had been exchanged, Dís looked squarely at her eldest brother with a mock-stern look in her eye.
"Tell me everything that happened on your journey!" she demanded. "I want to know what you saw and who you met, all the details."
"I will let Balin speak of those things," Thorin replied with a laugh. "He is much better at weaving such tales than I."
"So he is," Dís nodded, smiling at Balin. "His telling is almost as good as being there and seeing it myself." She looked at her brothers and her friend thoughtfully. "But that makes me wonder... will I ever see these places you travel to with my own eyes?"
Thorin looked alarmed at the unexpected question.
"Nay, Sister! Do not wish for such a thing! You know it is not fitting for you to venture out among strangers who do not treasure you as we do. Only in the direst need can you leave our halls -- and may such a need never arise!"
Dís laughed and patted Thorin's arm. "I love how you worry about me!" she said happily. "Do not fear, Brother! I was just thinking aloud, Brother. I know well my value as a daughter and a sister! I would never do anything to place myself at risk or to dishonor your esteem and protection of me. Besides, I truly have no desire to venture outside." Her eyes sparkled mischievously. "Not as long as you bring me stories of your adventures and tokens of your travels, that is! Show me! What have you brought me this time?"
Thorin sighed heavily. "She may be still young, but she knows how to lord her position over us!" he grumbled to the others; but he was smiling with affection as he said it. "Come, let us show our treasured sister the gifts we have brought her!"
Dís squealed with delight over the bolt of bright cloth Thorin produced, soft and smooth against her cheek. She laughed happily at Frerin's offering of colored ribbons of silk and gold thread for her hair. But Balin's gift caused her to gasp in awe and astonishment as he laid it in her hand.
"What is this?" she cried, gazing upon a large polished stone, glowing with shades of dark and light brown with veins of bright blue swirling like water on the surface. "It's so beautiful!"
"'Tis an opal from the South," Balin replied, pleased at the effect his present had produced. "It has passed through many hands since it left its original home, so I cannot tell you whence it first came, alas! But as soon as I saw it, I knew it had journeyed this far north to rest in your hand! See how the blue flows across the surface of the stone like a stream? And the browns are so rich and varied, like the earth itself. It is nicely shaped, as well, and since it is flat on this one side, I thought at once that it would work well as the centerpiece for one of your beaded embroidery creations."
Dís nodded wordlessly, her fingers stroking the smooth surface of the stone. Her inner eye was already beginning to see a pattern of beads of brown, gold and blue woven around the jewel, accenting and highlighting its beauty. It would be a joy to work with such a piece! Once again, Balin had brought her a special treasure; not only something she valued in and of itself for its beauty, but also a treasure that called to her to make of it something even more beautiful. How well he knew her!
"Thank you, Thorin, Frerin, Balin!" she cried, embracing each one in turn. "Your gifts are such wonderful treasures, I'm so very happy! And now you must do as Thorin suggested, Balin, and tell me everything you can remember of your journey. Perhaps you do not know the tale of where this marvelous stone came from originally, but you can tell me about the trader you bartered with to gain it. Did he have other such wares that were as beautiful? Did others recognize the value of the stone and seek to outbid you? What was the market like where you found it? Tell me everything, everything, leave nothing out...."