DISCLAIMER: Professor Tolkien's wonderful characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.

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Part 1: The Secret of Khazad-Dûm

"That's an eye-opener, and no mistake," breathed Sam, awestruck.

"Indeed," agreed Legolas. "The height of these columns rivals those of any structures created by Men or Elves." He eyed Gimli curiously. "How did your people manage it? The scaffolding for each column alone must have meant a long and perilous climb."

Gimli had just grunted, and Gandalf had quickly changed the subject. Gimli had no intention of revealing the most closely guarded secret of his people to an Elf.

But young Peregrin… There had been that one night, on the long journey south, when Gimli had eased out of his concealing upper garments (for just a moment, mind you, and in a well-hidden place), and had looked up to see Pippin staring at him, eyes wide as saucers, before the young hobbit scuttled away with a startled squeak. Gimli had been even more careful after that, even after realizing that Peregrin had not told anyone what he had seen. How the talkative, irrepressible youngster was managing it, Gimli could not imagine, but the lad seemed to understand that he was guardian of a great secret.

The Dwarf knew that he owed the young hobbit a great debt; he only hoped that one day he would get a chance to repay him.

TBC