Author's Note--This is a brief piece written as an acceptance to a challenge on the Henneth-Annun Writers Group. A series of vignettes were listed--one person, one scene--one to three pages. This was not the person I expected to write about!
My axe was notched. I told Aragorn and Legolas that it had been damaged on the iron collar around an orc neck, but I dissembled. I had forged that axe myself, and the iron collar was never made that could have notched the edge I put upon it. So after the battle I went looking for the last orc I killed, for I suspected that the collar he was wearing was dwarf-work plundered from one of my kindred in Moria or other places, and if it was, then it was my business to retrieve it, and no concern of theirs. But the warriors of the Mark had already begun to gather the bodies to dispose of them, and I could not find him.
My axe was notched, and the wound to it pained me worse than the blow to my head. A warrior Dwarf is judged by how he maintains his weapons and armor, and though there is certainly no shame in battle damage, custom dictates that one should repair that damage as soon as possible. Aragorn tended the wound upon my head, and bade me rest, and though I ached with battle and the lack of sleep I found that I could not. So I sought out Gamling, telling him of my plight, and he showed me to a small forge that stood ready in the Deep, to repair arms and armor, or shoe horses. Already there were swords left leaning against the door, and mail shirts piled close by against the smith's return. But he was out with the work crews, trying to devise a way that the breaches that had been blasted into the walls could be repaired.
My axe was notched, but as I looked about me I could see that there were tools and charcoal, and a good anvil and hammer, and a quenching barrel. Add some time, and sweat and I had the means to fix my weapon. So I built up the fire, and while I waited for it to get hot enough, laid aside the cloak that was the Lady's gift, and shrugged out of my corselet and inspected it. No harm had befallen it, and the rings I'd forged myself shone bright beneath the orc-blood staining them. I then took off the padded coat that lay beneath, and the shirt beneath that, and went in search of an apron. The smith's was too long by far, but I found one belonging to a prentice or the bellows-boy that would serve. I put it on, and worked the bellows a bit, making the fire even hotter, then took up my weapon to assess the damage.
My axe was notched, but the piece of the edge had not been cracked off as I had first feared, but merely forced back against the harder metal of the head. Some hard hammer-work, and then some sharpening would see it almost good as new. So I buried the head in the coals, and began working the bellows, and waited. True dwarf-steel it was, and would need to be white hot for the working, a temperature that would have melted the man-made swords that waited for repair. It was going to take a while, but the heat of the forge drove back the cold of the morning air, and I was comfortable enough. More than comfortable--I was quite at home. The whoosh of the bellows, the hiss of the coals, the smell of heating metal--these I had not known for some months, and I savored them. Let Men seek ease after battle in wine and women, let Elves seek it in song and feasting....or whatever other strange things Elves do after a good fight. Give a battle-weary Dwarf a forge and something to fix or make, and he will feel immediately refreshed.
My axe was notched, and the edge almost heated cherry red, when Legolas found me. He slipped into the forge silently behind my back, and when I turned around was perched upon a barrel of horse-shoe nails like some sort of strange owl, his hair and eyes glowing redly in the light of the forge. Elf, studying Dwarf in its native habitat. Which was something I certainly was not going to put up with. I hate being gawked at while I work.
"None of that," I growled at him. "If you are here, then you will be useful. You can be my bellows boy." He blinked in surprise, and made a graceful gesture towards my head.
"You have taken hurt, Gimli, and should rest." I snorted.
"Pah! Nothing but a scratch, I told you. And besides, I am resting." He gave me a doubtful look, but argued not. Rather easy-going for an elf, was the Prince of Mirkwood. He must have taken after his mother. I showed him the bellows and how often to pump them, then demanded the knives from off his back. In a warrior's ultimate show of trust, he surrendered them, though he tensed a bit when I took them to the grinding wheel. He had kept a fairly keen edge on them, but while I waited for the axe to heat, I put a better one on with wheel and whetstone. When I gave them back, he ran a finger along the edge of one, and raised his brows, and thanked me sincerely. His mother must have been polite and soft-spoken as well.
My axe was notched, but the edge was finally hot enough to work. I put on the smith's gloves, and pulled it from the coals, and Legolas grimaced at the size of the dent in it.
"Can you actually repair that?" I nodded, and took up the hammer.
"Aye, but it will take a lot of hammering." And I started to do just that. Legolas, who had leaned close to investigate, jumped back swiftly when the sparks began to fly, and watched from a safer distance.
"I have never seen you work before," he commented, "Or indeed, any dwarf."
"No way you would," was my reply. "Even those who are dwarf-friends, and welcome in our halls do not see our forges." I meant it as a statement of fact, not an insult, and he could read me well enough by now to take it as that.
"Are you a great craftsman, Gimli?"
"Nay, I am only a very ordinary smith. Any dwarf worth the stone he sprang from can make his own armor and axe. What I am good at is prospecting for new mines, and opening them. And killing orcs, of course. Forty-two at a time." Silvery elven laughter floated over the clangor of the forge. While such noises tend to give elves and men the headache, I found them soothing to my aching skull, and as my arms remembered the proper rhythm of the hammer, the last of the battle tightness left my body.
My axe was notched, but not for long. The smith's hammer was of a size and weight to suit me well and as I wielded it, the metal was beaten and reformed into its proper shape. One last ringing strike, and I thrust it into the quenching barrel. The water hissed and steamed.
"I have cousins in the North who temper their blades in ice," I told Legolas, after indicating he could resume his seat upon the barrel. "And there are tales of black smiths who quench blades in the entrails of an enemy." Legolas grimaced, but answered with a similar tale that he had heard, and thus we passed the time while the axe cooled, talking of extraordinary craftsmen and their works. The talk continued as I ground the new edge upon the wheel, and then finished it with the stone. It shone a gleaming crescent of proper silver death when I was done, and when I pulled a hair from my beard and severed it by simply touching the edge, Legolas clapped his hands in glee.
My axe had been notched, but it was whole once more. And that was just as well, I told myself, with the way things had gone so far. I had drifted down rivers, ridden horses, run for leagues--in short, been forced to travel in every undwarvish way possible. I had met hobbits and elves, orcs and cave-trolls, Balrogs and wizards. With Gandalf involved, I could very well find myself flying through the air or riding Mumaks next. Why, we were going to ride to meet a treacherous wizard that very evening! Horses again......And I was suddenly very, very weary. I donned my shirt and cloak once more, and Legolas took up my armor and padding. I clapped him on the back in thanks, slung my axe upon my shoulder, and left the fire to die without looking back.