25th Ringare. in prayer for atonement.
It has been many days since I left the path of wisdom. I had almost forgotten. The expression of shock and anger on the face of Erethor when he saw the plight of the cream horse, slaughtered and roasted for the sport of brigands and thieves. The taste of the hot meat, its grease running down my chin, as I stole a meal of what should have been forbidden flesh. The taste of guilt, the realisation of how I had failed my companions. It has been many days, days in which I should have atoned for my failings, days in which I should have sought deeds to dedicate to The Maker. The great spider that fell in the caverns, I should have dedicated the destruction of such evil, such a foe of our people, to Aule, and called his name as it fell.
Now Aule speaks to me by his distance, by the loss of his presence. He is displeased, and I must fight to regain his respect. Twice today I have come close to death. Twice today my spirit has begun upon its journey to His great hall, to answer in the highest court, and yet there is hardly a scratch upon me, and the only foe we met lies dead and burned.
This morning I was unaware of my predicament, so confident had I become, relying upon the ever watchful eye of The Maker. His eye that is now turning from me. To undergo hardship, and to endure pain and loss is as nothing, and I would suffer it gladly if I knew that I did His bidding, and yet to be apart from His grace is unbearable.
The morning was fine and we breakfasted well and smoked with Cillis, discussing Anuminas and the library there. Later Hearon arrived with a number of stout Dunnish labourers and he took us through the city to the site of Tharbad's great library, now a tumbled ruin of broken rock. We hoped that there may still be tomes hidden beneath us in the wreckage, volumes that may help with our urgent quest. Although not the first to reach the site, I borrowed a pick and, after asking Master Hearon's advice began to clear rubble with enthusiasm. Alas I revelled in my strength and freedom, and the feel of a pick in my hands, with no thought of The Maker who hewed us from the very rocks, and gave us the knowledge and skill to work the stone. My voice rose in a digging song, one in the common tongue that the Dunlanders could understand and join with, yet I now know that it is prayers to Aule that I should have sung, and those in Khuzdul.
Not all was without merit. I located the top of a stair flight, and Moth assured us that beneath our feet was an open area. She spoke true, for shortly afterwards I must have weakened the structure by moving a particularly recalcitrant stone, and the rocks and I fell into the void together. I was unharmed and found that I stood in a small square room from which the steps led up. My eyes began to adjust to the dim light as Erethor came down the steps, hurrying, presumably to ensure my safety and himself fell, cracking his nose upon the rock. I should have insisted upon aiding him at once, calling upon Aule's healing power to fix the break, and thus I would have been forewarned that I did not now stand in the Grace of Aule as once I did. However, Erethor can be stubborn and so ministrations were postponed. Moth, Yawinawin and Master Hearon joined us carefully, bringing a lit torch with them, and in the light I reclaimed the pick that had aided my short sharp journey.
On the opposite wall to the stairs lay a door. It was locked. Erethor carries the great key of the Library of Anuminas with him, and he brought it out in the vain hope that it would aid. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly it was far to large for the lock. I had noticed evidence of scratches around the lock that indicated that it had been both unlocked and locked without use of a key. This is a skill known only to the deceitful, to rogues and thieves, and did not bode well. Hearon left us in order to locate tools that might help us, and then Moth stepped up and placed her gloveless hands upon the door to take a vision from it. After she recovered she informed us that she had seen hooded folk pass through the doorway with sacks and baggage, and reappear without. She also mentioned that she had seen clearly how the lock had been sprung. Without further ado she poked and prodded at the lock and the door swung inwards.
I have seen Moth do many strange and wondrous things, and this evening I saw another, but as to whether one can dream of a task performed by others, and suddenly be proficient at it, of that I have doubts. What further secrets does this lady have hidden? Should I be wary of giving trust? Nay, my life has been in her hands today. I will trust as Aule demands, and her secrets will be told when it is time.
Beyond the door lay a passage, the walls and roof of good stonework, but flooded in places where subsidence and slipping had affected the floor. This can be common in building situated in marshy ground, and close to a river, where there has been insufficient work on the foundations. I went into the dark waters first. Being the shortest of the party, if I could cross safely then all could follow. It was here that I should have taken note of the warnings. I stood up to my chest in water, anathema to the Khazad, and I felt a small creature slip beneath my armour, beneath the water. I reached for it and drew it from the water, and without any real intention, but maybe unnerved by the encounter crushed the life from it. It had been an eel, harmless and uncaring of the ways of man or dwarf. As it died its sharp teeth met in the flesh of my hand cutting through the seam of my gauntlet. When the Gods speak it is wise to listen. I have passed though fire and battle unscathed, here to take a grievous wound from a dying fish drawn from its murky pool. I did not listen. I walked on and met a second door. The others joined me, Erethor managing to retain the torch even when losing his footing.
This door was also was locked, and Moth, deliberately or no, failed to open it. Indeed, she managed to break the lock in the process. Where minds are at a loss, bodies must suffice, and I forced the tip of the pick between door and frame and levered the way open cracking wood as I did so. I remember Erethor saying something about being able to remove the obstacle when we stood before the first door. I wonder now what he had in mind. There were three ways beyond the door, two of which were closed with fallen debris, one was clear as far as a third door, and became impassable further. The roof appeared sound and we move to what turned out to be the final door of our underground venture.
Erethor seemed to meditate and concentrate for long minutes before pushing open the door. Behind lay a room, dark and dank, scattered with the remains of rotted parchment and vellum, and split across by a fast flowing underground stream. There appeared to be books on the far side of the room, beyond the light of the torch. The water was clearly too deep to wade through, and Erethor stripped off his armour as he prepared to swim across.
And then there was a movement in the darkness, as if rats were scurrying under the torn and broken books, but there were no rats, just the books themselves, caked together with mud and grime, that rose from the corner, a being of parchment and leather and clay that launched itself at us across the gulf. Erethor, ill prepared for battle grabbed his bow, but the string snapped as he was about to release the shaft. Mayhaps there are other Gods displeased by out actions. We spoke of the creature after the battle. A library may hold books that contain powerful words. If such words are left to moulder together for centuries, who is to say that they will not grow angry.
The book creature was upon us, and the space confined. I discarded the pick and met it with warhammer, though my shield had been left at the Kings house. The creature rained down blows on Erethor who sought to defend himself by wielding the recovered pick, though I could see he was having little success. The creature was strong and there was little to tell how effective my blows were. Moth was shouting at me from behind and I eventually understood through the battle rage that she was offering the torch, that we should fight it with fire. I turned to take the torch and as I did so the creature was struck a fatal blow and fell, to rise no more. I did not see the blow land, but it was a shaft from Yawinawin's bow that slew the beast, a mighty shot it seems. Erethor, who by this time had been knocked from his feet, had been talking, as if to himself. The words appeared to be those he uses when lighting a fire in difficult conditions. It is clearly some charm or work of magic from his time with the Elves, for the creature's remains now sprang to life with flame, consuming them where they lay. Moth again burnt her fingers, this time foolishly trying to save a page of two from the conflagration.
When all was safe we made our way across, some by jumping others swimming, tethered by rope, and we searched for any books still legible. I believe that three were found, though Moth and Yawinawin have been closeted with them for some time this afternoon. I felt good. I had come through yet another battle unscathed, our attacker was destroyed, we were victorious. Wisdom says that pride comes before a fall, and so it was to be. By the time we were ready to leave Hearon had returned with wooden planks to make a rudimentary bridge. All crossed easily except for myself. My feet slipped from under me, my balance was lost, and I plunged into the waters. I tried to move my arms as I have seen others do, to stay afloat, but I am a Dwarf, and to us water of any depth is but another grave. I knew that my God, Aule had deserted me. I had been lax, my prayers few, and often when there was a need to be fulfilled, a foe to fight, a comrade to heal. I had strayed and had done little to make amends, and now he was to call me to his halls. And then, as I started to sink further and be caught by the current, I saw faces and a staff offered. I reached out and grabbed the wood, and my friends hauled me to safety from the waters cold clasp. It was Moth's quick thinking and peasant's weapon that had saved my life.
I made my way back toward the surface, Erethor following me. I felt subdued. I had been made aware in those few moments, as I approached death in the river's cold embrace, that I had deeds to atone for and that I had to re-earn the respect of Aule, The Maker of my people. But sometimes the lesson must be reinforced, driven home. As I made my way back through the water filled corridor I again lost my footing, finding an area of floor that had given way, and I sank beneath the surface yet again, this time into waters dark and stagnant. Erethor noticed and gallantly jumped forward to drag me from the depths, and so my life was saved twice in a matter of minutes by my friends and comrades. Aule bless them, for they deserve it far more than I. They have known me a scant few weeks, and yet they risk themselves for my sake. No man, or dwarf, could ask anything more of another.
I was bidden to come on this quest, to use my warrior skills to protect people I knew little about, and at first had little love for. They have fought for me and by me, they have stood up for me. We have broken bread and supped ale together, and in this short time we have shared much. It is Aule who brought us together. It is He who has led us upon the same path, and I pray that it is his bidding that they do in saving me from the waters, my lesson learnt. I have said the words before, but now I swear it before Aule, The Maker, and by Durin the Ever-King. Whilst I have strength within me and whilst I may travel with them, I will protect Erethor, Moth and Yawinawin with my body and with my very spirit. By life or death, no harm or hindrance will they suffer that is within my capacity to prevent.
Erethor brought me back to the Kings House, and here I have scrubbed the green from my armour, and prayed to Aule. Here I have bathed, seeing the scars that I carry, remembering each, and sung my thanks to Aule. Here I have sat and prayed for the chance of atonement. This evening I encountered Erethor downstairs, and I offered to ask Aule to heal his broken nose. He agreed. I took my time, praying deeply, calling, and calling for the power to flow through me to heal, and mend my companion. And it came, eventually, and Erethor was as he was. But I knew I was not as I had been. That Aule was distant, and the warmth and power that he grants me had been long in coming. I pray that he gives me the opportunity to make amends.
There was one more thing that happened today that I must cite. It was exceeding strange. Yawinawin called us to Moths room, apparently Moth had something important to show us. We were warned that it may be a shock. Upon entering the room we saw a grey haired and bearded old man, and yet he had the body of a girl, dressed in Moths clothing. It spoke with Moths voice. It seems that Moth had used magic to change her visage to that of a man she had seen in a vision, a man of great power who had persuaded Moth's mentor to send her upon this quest. Erethor recognised him immediately as Gandalf. And yet Gandalf left these shores 10 years ago, when Moth was but a child. It is yet another quandary. We told Yawinawin the details of our quest as should have already been done. Aule brought us together. There must be trust. There will be trust.