Special thanks go to the author of the wonderful site The Dwarrow Scholar, without which this fanfic would have never become what it is. That was some fine, well written research material, and an incredible fun to learn all those things. Plus, the dictionaries! To make a long story short: âkminrûk zu, thank you!

Just a few words about the fanfic itself: there will be no grand adventures, no retaking the Erebor with the company or whatnot. There will be tales, and tales within tales, and the majority of the story takes place in the Blue Mountains, so again, no adventures, but more like everyday life.

Also, some basic Silmarillion knowledge might come in handy, namely the Valaquenta.

There will be some Khuzdul words used, but they're either explained outright or the phrase is somehow repeated in the neighbouring sentence. Some will not be explained outright, but please don't look them up anywhere as not to spoil yourselves the story.

Will be updated weekly. After that prolonged introduction to the story... Enjoy the read!

. . .


. . .

- 1 -

The sun was setting behind the ragged peaks of Ered Luin, painting rocks and snow with gold and red, lighting the mountains up with fire. The little town was still buzzing quietly with life, traders and merchants slowly packing up their fares, chatting animatedly, exchanging jokes and laughs, and already planning the evening at the small nearby inn, the only one in the whole area. Years had not stood idle here, Acwyn thought, remembering when there had been no inn in the town, because the town had barely been a town at the time. Following the example of the other traders, she was slowly gathering her herbs back into various wrappings and glass jars.

"Do you know any tales?" A maybe thirteen-year-old girl was standing at the tiny stall, curiously looking over the collection of herbs, then glancing up at the elderly woman's attire, which was not quite covered by her woollen travelling cloak.

"Why would I?" Acwyn smiled, feeling a rush of affability towards the girl, so full of life and sparkling curiosity, reminding her so much of another girl, so far away and so many years ago. Do you know which herbs bring calm sleep, Master Radagast? And which can help in cold? And which can cure the fever? And...

"Your clothes show you're not from here," observed the girl thoughtfully, absently tugging at one of her fair braids. "But you plait you hair like women here do. So either you're a traveller, and should know some tales from other realms, or you hail from Ered Luin, and..."

"And?" Acwyn encouraged, putting the last of her herbs into a worn bag.

"Nothing. There are no tales here. There are rumours of old dwarven cities, but no tales. It's a boring place to live." The girl pursed her lips and huffed, apparently frustrated by the lack of adventures in her young life.

"There's a dwarven realm right in the neighbourhood." Acwyn laughed briefly. "I wouldn't call it boring."

"They just make weapons and armour, and bits of jewellery when then can put their hands on some silver. I doubt there's anything interesting at all in Thorin's Halls." The girl noticed a change in the elderly woman's face and mistook it for lack of understanding. "That's what they call their realm," she explained. "Thorin's Halls. Their king's name."

Acwyn nodded slowly, a soft smile passing her lips. "Yes, I know that." Thorin's Halls. Thorintûmhu. Ah, how they laughed at her countless attempts to get the name pronounced right.

"Oh. So you hail from here?"

She shook her head. "I've lived here for some time, long ago."

The girl's eyes gleamed with hope. "Do you know any tales? Any? Just one? Please?"

Acwyn laughed again, decided against ruffling the girl's hair, for surely she deemed herself a young lady, not a child, and would take offense. "I might've just remembered one. Tell you what: come see me in the evening, by the healer's house, and I'll give you one tale."

"Tilly!" shouted a woman's voice. "Tilly! Where's that girl gone... Ah, here you are." A slender woman, her hair fair with silver streaks, quickly strode over and grasped the girl's hand. Then she looked at Acwyn. "I'm sorry, ma'am, did she bother you? She just keeps pestering all the newcomers for tales of foreign lands, I keep telling her she shouldn't but still she does, and..."

Acwyn raised her hands, palms towards the woman. "It's all right. It's all right to be curious about the world." She gave the girl a stern look. "But not all right to go talk to every stranger, and I hope you'll try to remember that." She glanced back towards the mother, searching her memory. Ah, yes. Joy, daughter of Bell. She had been the one to welcome little Joy into the world, and now that tiny child was all grown up and a mother herself. "I promised her a tale, by the healer's fire, if that's all right with you," she said friendly.

"Oh." Joy seemed surprised. "Very well."

"So I'll see you both in the evening."

. . .

The town had grown and changed, and so had the neighbouring dwarven realm by the looks of it, and yet the healer's fire remained as it had been. Not a place, not a time, more of a custom. Once, when there had been no inn here, she used to sometimes offer traveller's supper, bed and breakfast, for which they had often paid with tales and songs shared by a fire. And hence it had been born: the healer's fire. There was another healer in the town, and an inn had grown by the road, and yet people still gathered by the healer's little house, around a creaking fire, and there were merry shouts and excited whispers and much laughter.

The healer was expected to be assisting to a birth, so she left, leaving the house in the care of the townsfolk, and Acwyn, a sister by trade. Earlier, they have met and talked briefly, and the healer had introduced herself as Hazel, daughter of Holly – another of the children Acwyn had welcomed into the world. She had her mother's eyes and a heavy braid of dark hair, and an easy smile. She had also mentioned the previous healer, Sage, from whom she learned her trade, and Acwyn smiled at the memory. She remembered Sage as a girl, then a young woman, friendly, curious and compassionate, and it had been no wonder both the herb and healing lore had come naturally to her. She was saddened by the news of Sage's far too early passing, but laughed at hearing that when illness had finally gripped Sage, Sage had welcomed it like another curiosity of the world and had jested it had been just another adventure.

Now Acwyn was sitting beside the fire, beside what used to be her house, waiting for the few townsfolk and travellers, and surprisingly also one or two dwarves, to gather. The townsfolk were mostly children and mothers, as most of the fathers would choose the tavern for the evening, to listen to tales of the trading routes, to learn if there was unrest anywhere and if the roads were safe to travel.

Slowly, the talks around the fire quietened, and there was only the creaking of the wood, and, if one could listen carefully, it would probably be possible to hear the children around holding their breaths, though one would have to be at least as perceptive as Radagast to be able to achieve that feat. Even the peaks of Ered Luin seemed to be drawn by the silence of the tale to be told, looking to be closer to the little town now in the dark of night.

"Can you begin now?" asked Tilly, her eyes gleaming with excitement and the reflections of flames.

"Yes, dearie."

"You're that herbalist from Mirkwood, aren't you?" asked a moustached man, holding a little, maybe five-year-old girl in his arms.

"Just a humble trader," she answered, and it was not quite a lie, for right here and now a trader she was. "My name is Acwyn, and yes, I do hail from Mirkwood."

"Does the name mean something?" inquired Tilly, before her mother managed to shush her.

"Most of the names of the ladies of Mirkwood mean 'joy'," Acwyn explained.

"Seems the women are the joy of your folk," another man remarked, and everyone laughed.

"Not only their folk, but every folk," ventured a stout, round-faced young woman, and everyone laughed again, even louder.

"Peace, peace, let her speak," said the moustached man, settling his daughter on the ground so that she could come closer.

"Should I begin the tale now?" Acwyn asked.

"Name, name first!" shouted Tilly, and that was followed by a few merrily echoed 'Name! Name!' around the fire.

"Very well," acquiesced Acwyn. "In Mirkwood, I live in my father's house, and as it was built by a great ancient oak, I was named Acwyn, which in the Common Speech is 'Oak-joy'," she explained. And which had been a laughing matter for her ever since her once-kinsmen had called her that because of where her father's house stood, but she said none of this aloud. "Should I now begin the tale?" she asked again.

"Tale! Tale!" sounded around the fire.

"Then a tale I shall give." Acwyn paused, leaning towards the fire slowly, and heard some of the younger children draw excited breath, and saw the eyes around the fire gleaming in anticipation. "This will be no legend, and no tales of heroics. But there will be battles, though maybe not where you would expect them and not ones you would expect, and there will be an exiled prince and an exiled princess, and many other elements a proper tale should have. There will even be a dragon mentioned, however briefly." And then, reaching into her pocket and briefly touching her fingers to a mithril bead hidden there, she began her tale.