When the Stone Awoke by Zdenka

Story Notes:

Written for the Innumerable Stars Exchange 2016.

1. Chapter 1 by Zdenka

Chapter 1 by Zdenka

Aulë walked through the mountains, holding the Eldest of Dwarves in his arms. His steps were slow, for he was grieved at heart at the thought of being parted from his Children for so long, until the unknown time when they might wake once more in Middle-earth. But at last he came to a great peak in the far north, one that he had shaped himself with especial care. This mountain had no name, since none of the speaking peoples had yet seen it; but in later times it would be called Mount Gundabad, and all the Dwarves held it sacred.

To this place Aulë came. He descended through the stone, until he reached the mountain’s heart. There he laid Durin down on his rocky bed, to sleep and dream through the Ages until the time of his waking. Still he lingered, reluctant to depart. As Aulë stood beside Durin’s sleeping form, with the weight of the mountain above him, he sang a song to his sleeping child in the language he had made for them. His deep voice resounded through the hollow chamber, until the very stone resonated with it; and even when he had gone, leaving Durin to the darkness and silence, the stone remembered.

The years and centuries passed over the mountain and weathered it; metal flowed molten far below, and the rock shifted in the imperceptibly slow movements of the earth’s depths. But the stone remembered Aulë’s word, and the chamber where Durin slept remained inviolate.

At last, Durin woke. He lay in the friendly darkness for a long time, sifting dream and memory; and then he arose and went upward by hidden ways, until he came to Middle-earth beneath the stars. As he went, he sang the song which he had heard in his dreaming. Far and long he wandered, southward through the Misty Mountains; and in time he came to the clear waters of Kheled-zâram beneath the three mountain peaks and saw the crown of stars reflected there above his head.

In the empty chamber beneath the mountain, the stone remembered. There had been a song, and now there was not. The source of that song had gone away southward. The thoughts of stone are long and slow, and it cannot be guessed how long it remained, the memory of that song still rumbling through the earth. But at last the stone thought that it should arise and follow; and the stone arose.

It had no image of what it should look like except for Durin, who had rested within it for so long; and so the stone made itself a rough image of his form, head and limbs and a stocky body, but much greater in size. And not only one, but a second and a third, and then a dozen. They found that having limbs, they could walk, and having a head they had eyes and a mouth also, so that they could see and make noises, and this pleased them.

They looked downward first, to see the mountain they had arisen from, and the rugged grey slopes of stone pleased them also. Then they looked upward, at the dark sky filled with stars. It seemed to them another mountain; but they could not find how to climb it, and at last they gave up the attempt. Thought passed slowly between them, from one to another, and they remembered they had meant to go south (though the names of north and south meant nothing to them). Southward they went.

By the time they reached what would later be called the High Pass, they had forgotten what they were looking for; but this did not trouble them, since they had found so many other things. Wind, that blew past them with a great rushing noise, and birds, and evergreen trees that grew high in the mountains where they were, and boulders that they could toss about; and a tremendous thunderstorm with pouring rain and lightning, which was the best of all. Being stone, they could not be chilled by rain or harmed by lightning, but they loved the different sounds of the rain on rock and earth and leaves, and the way the lighting flashed in the sky. The thunder seemed like a great voice calling out to them, and they shouted in reply, enjoying the way their own deep voices echoed through the mountains.

Their slow stone-thoughts passed between them again, and they thought that it was a good place and they would settle there. They still liked to wander and explore, and sometimes one would go back northward for a time or venture as far south as the pass of Barazinbar, that the Elves called Caradhras; but mainly they are to be found in the northern reaches of the Misty Mountains.

For the stone giants are still there, though it is better not to go looking for them. They cannot see well with their eyes of stone, especially creatures who are much smaller than them, and they might step on you by accident or pick you up instead of a boulder that they meant to toss. They would not mean to hurt you, and they would be very sorry afterwards, but it is better not to chance it. When the weather is fine, they often come out to feel the sunlight on their stone backs and shoulders. They stand very still, communing with the stone of the mountain, and you might even pass by them without noticing them. But when it is stormy, they run about beneath the lightning flashes, laughing and shouting to each other; and in the voice of the thunder they seem to hear an echo of that first song which woke them from the stone.

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