Daeruth and Sorontar were studying in the secret library, the mountain seemed unquiet as a far rumbling could be randomly heard all the time they were pulling books from their places looking at the titles or first pages and either setting aside for further inspection or replacing if the book proved unhelpful, moving onto the next bookcase Daeruth began pulling books again while Sorontar perused any that she set on the desk that he should delve into, anything mentioning gems, the odd khuzdul language or a cradle was
seperated and a tidy pile had gathered on the desk before Sorontar, pulling the next book Daeruth noticed the rumbling was getting closer but still deep within the mountain, she paused briefly and began thinking... 'what if... hmm', Daeruth looked at the book she was holding, another book on jewelcraft 'hmm...' she absently added the book to the pile for Sorontar's inspection. Sorontar turned as Daeruth added the book to the pile 'Aren't you done collating yet?' finding silence as his answer Sorontar returned to
the stack of tomes before him determined to plough through them. Daeruth slowly pulled the next book on the shelf thinking and listening all the while, as the book left the shelf the rumbling began, she glanced at the cover 'another' jewelcrafting book! , Daeruth
turned to Sorontar unable to keep the grin from her face "I found it!" she laughed aloud, a lilting musical laugh as she looked at Sorontar who glowered at her "What?!" Daeruth replied smiling "Just wait, you'll see!" Sorontar huffed and returned to the book he
was reading through, Daeruth pulled the final book on the shelf expecting something to happen and gave a stifled yelp as the bookcase suddenly whipped round on an axis and tipped her into darkness behind the bookcase. Daeruth groped toward the bookcase on her side but try as she might could find no way to activate the bookcase mechanism again. Daeruth felt along the rough hewn walls in the darkness taking careful steps and suddenly pitched forward to hurtle down a trapdoor with a scream, thankfully the drop wasn't sheer and the chute was smooth stone and not the stuff that would've cut her to ribbons as she hit the floor with a "Ooof!". The floor was wet beneath her and water dripped from above her, she cursed as she stood and brushed herself down, water was fine in a bath but not when her good robe was getting wet! moving a few steps forward she hit a wall and cursed again. Daeruth reached to her pouch for her flint and tinder but it was gone, probably when she fell down that trapdoor. Daeruth groped along the wall following it in a random direction thankfully it wasn't an old well as she had originally thought and her sense of anxiety lessened somewhat, although she was alone, lost, unarmed and in the stifling dark with no idea of where she was, this tunnel must go somewhere and who would've made a sliding tunnel to lead nowhere?, if only she had a light! as she felt along the walls Daeruth thought there must be chambers or caverns as periodically there were gaps in the wall though she couldn't be truly sure.
Daeruth sank to the floor leaning against the wall and sighed, it could take forever to discover the way out even if there was one she closed her eyes though in the dark it seemed rather pointless and meditated a little on her predicament. 'what was that?' she
turned her face a little 'yes!' a breath of wind no more than a butterflies wing sweep but it was there, she stood hand against the rough wall and turned her head toward the touch of air and took a step toward it, waving her hand around in front she felt the draught
slightly more, taking another step away from the wall she caught her slipper on a growing stalagmite and pitched forward, falling to the floor with a cry, she groped forward on hands and knees feeling her way and after wiping tears from her eyes, she saw a puddle of luminescent water and beyond it 'a bootprint?' creeping forward on her hands and knees she followed the trail of prints through the silent darkness. Looking ahead she noted the all encompassing darkness had relented into a night gloom and she could see a little ahead, she nodded at that realising she must be coming to a lit area or the tunnel systems entrance, standing she brushed herself down and realised she was filthy (for her) and had spots of the luminous liquid on her robe, she would return and collect a sample of the stuff, after numbering her hurts, by which she counted herself lucky she moved a little quicker through the tunnels now following the prints, air draught and increasing light.
Daeruth came to an intersection, looking down both ways with the luminous prints leading mostly down the left hand tunnel, she decided to follow them and further along the tunnel widened into a stone hewed passageway, confident she would now find her way out Daeruth walked along the dim lit passageway believing these halls were once part of the Belegost network or Gabilgathol in the Khuzdul language or Mickleburg in Westron, Daeruth smiled, though much was changed and she knew not which part she was in she was confident now of her survival, obviously the bootprints were of descendants of the Broadbeam clan and she expected to find some of her own handiwork here somewhere of the reflective mirrors she had made with the dwarven smiths. Arriving at a well worn staircase she ascended and was presented with a well lit hall though empty and silent, the prints had disappeared on the stair though she needed
them no longer, Daeruth walked cautiously through the empty halls as whoever had made those prints would be still around and she didn't want any unfortunate encounters, after traipsing through the empty passageways with still no signs of life Daeruth wondered if she should return to the intersection and head the other way when she heard an echoing clang through the halls. Daeruth's hand went to her missing sword in reflex, then cursing herself moved cautiously along the wall, she sniffed.. could she smell food?, she followed the smell and peeped around a doorway seeing a cauldron on the stone floor emptied of it's contents of liquid possibly soup all over the floor, glancing further into the room showed a bed with a mound in it possibly a dwarf, the shape moved and she heard a wracking cough as the dwarf coughed wetly, Daeruth not wishing to startle the dwarf made a few stamping noises with her feet before entering the bare
room. The dwarf turned in his bed and said in khuzdul " I burned my hand and spilled the soup brother... you are not Graedir!" Daeruth gave the
Iglishmek sign for peace and said in accented khuzdul of her own "Sorry to disturb you old master, I'm seeking the way out, are you of the clan Broadbeam?"
The dwarf gave another hacking cough "Here lass help me up and we can talk a bit" Daeruth aided the ancient looking dwarf and propped him up on several tattered cushions while he coughed, spluttered and wheezed. Daeruth salvaged what was left in the cauldron and filled a stone bowl for the dwarf with the thin soup, handing the bowl to the dwarf he took it and drank holding the bowl with both hands and the bowl chattering against his teeth. The dwarf set the half empty bowl on his lap coughed again and looked at Daeruth "What's an elf maid doing down here?" Daeruth wondered how much to say to the ancient dwarrow but decided to tell the old dwarf about where she had come from
and what they were searching for and telling him her name while she was about it. the dwarf in turn said his name was Hvergelmir and he and his brother were the last of the dwarves of a small house from the Broadbeam clan and these halls were much deeper than Daeruth had ever supposed, and he knew of what she spoke regarding the cauldron or Ambumahu* . Hvergelmir also recognised the name of Daeruth that had been passed down from the first age and said she had been well remembered for her efforts before the ibshêg'ukhzar'uzghel* and breaking of the mountains.
Hvergelmir offered to ask Graedir to lead Daeruth to where the pieces lay when he returned and Daeruth nodded her thanks to the old dwarf.
Hvergelmir gave a racking cough and lay back his head and sighed, "I go now to the halls of Mahal, find Graedir and tell him Hvergelmir sends you to the demelImhdum" *.
Upon those words a gasp was heard behind them as Graedir entered the chamber and knelt before Hvergelmir with tears in his eyes, taking the other dwarfs hand.
Daeruth stood giving the dwarves some privacy and busied herself with sopping up the remains of the spilt soup with a piece of her robe, the robe was ruined so she may as well make use of it.
Graedir stood wiping his eyes and said gruffly "I am bound for the halls myself, master Hvergelmir was but a hand older than I am, I shall do as he bid and that shall be my last act!"
Daeruth looked at the griefstricken dwarf and nodded solemnly, the dwarf hobbled and shuffled down the way Daeruth had come, down past the intersection she had turned at and seemingly through a maze of confusing darkness, if not for the slow speed and shuffling of the dwarrow's feet she could've easily become lost in the maze of passages. The dwarf stopped suddenly and Daeruth almost walked into the back of him silently cursing again. In the darkness she heard a click and a vaguely familiar rumbling of stone close by, a dimly lit hidden chamber was revealed and the pair proceeded onward into the light, the opened chamber revealed a large stone plinth covered in the strange runes with a huge black linked chain that must measure at least thirty feet or so connected to what only could be the arms of the Cauldron, Daeruth was awestruck "They're huge! how am I to return with this?"
Graedir shrugged "Not my problem girl, I have upheld what brother Hvergelmir asked me, if you're truly meant to take the chain you'll find a way."
Graedir turned and left Daeruth to puzzle the problem on her own.
* khuzdul/neo khuzdul c/o the Dwarrow Scholar dictionary*