A Rose Among Thorns

Dimvin looked at the shield in his hands with disgust.

"Thombur is going to threaten to shave off your beard," he said glumly to himself. "He may really do it this time."

In the flickering light of the candles in his workroom, he gazed viciously at the awkward hunk of silver he'd created. How was it, he wondered for the thousandth time, that he had to suffer the indignity of being a Dwarf who was hopeless with metal?

"Oh! Dimwit!" a voice cheerfully rang from the corridor. "What's that?"

"None of your business, Vram."

Dimvin glared at him from the sanctuary of his workroom while the auburn-haired Dwarf leaned against his doorframe.

"Oh, don't be so serious about everything."

"Quit calling me Dimwit, then! I really don't appreciate it," Dimvin growled, putting the shield on a stand near his workbench.

"It's a joke!" Vram's eyes sparkled, his toothy grin evident through an impressive beard, especially given his young age.

"It's not funny."

"Don't get your mail in knots. You know, that doesn't look too… awful."

Dimvin rolled his eyes. "Thanks so much."

"No, honestly. It's a lot sturdier looking than the helmet you were working on before."

"Look, Vram, I don't need your sympathy, and I certainly don't want your commentary. What do you want?" he snapped.

"I was sent to come and get you. Gimli and Brum want us to have axe practice with them."

"Oh! I'd be happy to come."

"I thought you would be," Vram said kindly. "I'll see you at the practice field."

"I'll be there in a few minutes."

Dimvin put on his helmet and tidied up his tools before hefting his axe. He might be an aberration in regards to not being a competent miner or metalworker, but he was quite skilled with his weaponry. He'd heard in snatches of conversation that the ravens were talking with the elders, and that was a portent of an imminent war. The thought was exhilarating. Dimvin had no fear of introducing his axe blade to the necks of orcs, trolls, or whatever else felt the need to bother his kindred of the Lonely Mountain.

"Glad you could make it," Brum said once Dimvin tromped out to the flat practice ground.

"Any time. Gives me a chance to get rid of my frustration," Dimvin said candidly.

"Is that shield still giving you trouble?" Gimli asked, incredulous. "You've been working on it for weeks now."

"I'm not discussing my work with you," Dimvin said in a low voice. "I'm here to remind you that you can't better me, no matter how strong you think you are."

Gimli only grunted in response and pulled his axe out of its holder on his belt. The next couple of hours went by in a blur as the four Dwarves battled each other, sweat flying and blades crashing. Dimvin did have the satisfaction of Gimli finally giving way to him, which more than made up for the notches in his blade.

"Good fighting," he panted once they'd all finished their skirmishes.

"You too," Gimli replied, wiping his brow with the hem of his undershirt. "Are you going to the forge?"

"Yes. Your Gormgloine bit into my axe more than once," Dimvin observed as he unlaced his gloves.

"She's a fierce axe," Gimli said proudly, tightening his grip on the handle.

Dimvin asked him about his father Glóin, who'd gone off with a small band of Dwarves to defeat Smaug.

"No news," Gimli said, shaking his head. "But I'm not surprised."

"Are you worried about him?"

"Of course not!" Gimli looked insulted. "He's one of the strongest and most clever Dwarves there is. Gandalf even said so."

After that there wasn't a whole lot to say. They both took off their vests and shirts in the forge and Dimvin felt his gaze travel to the wide tattoo that graced Gimli's bicep. He'd been initiated into the guild of silversmiths, and Vram had been his sponsor. Dimvin, however, had arms absent any decoration. He had a sponsor, but he'd not been deemed worthy of joining the silversmith guild. He would have to work much, much harder before he could hope to have the ceremony of inking.

As soon as he'd finished grinding his blade so that the edges were once again razor sharp, he put his shirt and vest back on, keenly aware of his shortcomings.

After dinner he went to a semi-secret room up an infrequently used corridor, his heart lightening as he approached. He was at a disadvantage, not a natural at skills which all Dwarves should have been born with, but he had another talent which he literally cultivated in private: he could grow anything. This room had two big windows and in summer especially, he was able to keep a thriving herb garden. The cooks didn't mind; they were grateful for the seasonings as the folk of Laketown seemed to prefer their food to be exceptionally bland.

"How are you doing?" he cooed to the basil plants, running his callused fingers along their grey-green leaves. "You're looking so beautiful."

He retrieved his watering can and went to one of the interior fountains to fill it up, then returned to his true sanctuary, to the place where he felt at home and competent. Either in this space or the small garden he'd planted, he was able at last to be at peace.

"Dimwit my beard," he groused to the delicate lilac blossoms. "If something happened to our trade with Laketown, if it weren't for somebody like me, we'd probably starve to death. Vram should think on that before calling me names. And I'm the fastest with an axe in our battalion."

He puttered around for an hour or so, speaking tenderly to the herbs and few flowers that he kept for their beautiful colors, bright and gemlike.

Two days later, the alarm went up.

"War!" Dimvin said, so surprised at the clanging bells that his chisel fell out of his hand and clattered to his bench. Running purely on instinct, he fled up the corridors, passing other Dwarves storming past him to retrieve axes, mail, shields, helmets and daggers. Dimvin rushed to his plant haven, saw a yellow rosebud in perfect form, and cut it with his knife. He tucked it into his vest pocket, now fully prepared to go into battle.

"Mahal protect me," he muttered under his breath, sheathing his small dagger and running to join his fellow Dwarves as they raced to face their enemies.

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