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Author: Scribe of Mirrormere
Title: A Ready Home and Office
Rating: General
Theme: Back Garden of a Dream
Elements: A cave or tunnel
Author's Notes: Includes a female Kíli. This also combines with the B2MEM 2017’s challenge that I didn’t get around to doing until now. The prompt for that was: "That's the advantage of insomnia. People who go to bed early always complain that the night is too short, but for those of us who stay up all night, it can feel as long as a lifetime. You get a lot done." (Banana Yoshimoto. Purple Path)
Summary: Kíli catches Bifur working well into the night while the other dwarves are deep asleep.
Word Count: 1,074


What stirred Kíli from her slumber was nature’s call, but having to worm her way out from between a dozen sleeping dwarves, all far larger than herself, and sneak down deeper into the dark tunnel proved to be a skill that required all of her talents picked up from sneaking about her childhood home in the Blue Mountains. The fact that they all slept in a cave that picked up the tiniest drop did not help, as well as the fact that some of the men around her, she had previously learned, were light sleepers. But she needed to go, and so pushed herself, fighting against both the constraints of dwarf around her, the threats of the cave, and the fighting urge inside her.

She located a comfortable spot far from any peeking eyes if a dwarf happened to stir awake, and did her business after much wrestling about with her nightclothes — There are more layers on us dwarves than a damn onion! she muttered grumpily to herself. When she was done, she slowly made her way to join her herd.

And that was when she noticed the firelight reflected off the wall near the mouth. For an instance she was reminded of her brother Fíli and her going on adventures and lodging upon the open mouths of caves with nothing but a fire lit as they gazed out over the lakes and forests, exchanging tall tales and jokes and plenty of good hot food cooked over the fire.

That memory stirred warmth inside her so she took a step closer. But it was not her brother who she could enjoy annoying for a few moments before heading back to sleep.

It was Bifur. And he was hard at work as if in the middle of daytime. In her earlier urgency to get deeper into the tunnel, Kíli must have missed him. But he sat there with his carving tools about, his sharp beady eyes focusing on a piece of wood in his hands. Some completed products lay by his knee: toy warriors of dwarves, men, and a few elves. The curvature of the cave allowed the firelight to focus most of its light onto his hands, illuminating the delicate woodwork as he whittled away.

“What are you doing?” Kíli asked, astounded, as she got near enough to speak without fear of waking the others. “You’ve been up on your feet all day traveling down hills and strange lands, and trudging under heavy rains and mud, and here you are — what’s this? — making toys?”

“That’s correct,” Bifur said gruffly without breaking eye contact with the toy in his hand. “While the rest of you sleep, I find this the best time for me to focus on making my toy soldiers.”

“But why? Aren’t you tired?”

“A dwarf is only ever tired if he lets himself become so.”

Kíli paused for a moment. Bastard’s got a point. We dwarves are the most hardy of all speaking beings of Middle-earth!

She settled down across from him, cross-legged but taking care not to let her frame obscure the light from his work.

“An hour or two of rest is often well enough for me,” Bifur continued. “After that I find no reason to waste the night away. Those who sleep the moment the sun sinks below their feet often find themselves running out of time. Meanwhile, my days are longer than my beard. I make enough toys to sell on our journeys and never run out. If we must bargain with gold at any moment, we shall not find ourselves at a shortage.”

Kíli nodded, grinning at his cunning. You can learn from that, she thought to herself.

“And caves are often taken for granted,” Bifur added.

“Oh?” Now that piqued Kíli interest wholeheartedly. She leaned forward.

“It’s a ready home and office,” Bifur said. “When fire claimed the house where I aboded with my cousins, caves were all we had for a time. No one owns caves. No doors to seal anyone out. All are welcome in. You are free to do anything. Yet most just come in and sleep. It’s what my cousins did, like they are now. Drunk themselves to a stupor and just passed out there like the pair of dimwitted trolls that they are.” He motioned with a tilt of his head towards Bofur and Bombur snoring loudly among the crowd; they weren’t hard to miss.

“But I would stay up. I was the eldest, and the task of rescuing us from homelessness appeared to have fallen on my shoulders. Oh, it wasn’t that they didn’t worry. We all worked in the mines, but after our shifts they came back to the caves and slept. I settled myself at the mouth as I am doing now, and worked on these here toys.”

Kíli picked one up. Bifur must have made a dozen tonight, but the craftsmanship on it was finely detailed and beautiful as though the doll was perfected over weeks and months. This was the result of a dwarf’s practice over many years, one whose entire future rested on producing hundreds of these toys.

“I made so many. The first batch were unsightly. I was tired and untrained. But I kept making them until I could sell a simple doll for one bronze coin. Guaranteed us a little extra with our broth at dinnertime, but I preferred to save it. I made more. The higher the quality, the more I charged. I was able to afford us new clothes, better equipment. It was not long before we could afford a new place and moved out of our cave. But by then, I was already known as a toymaker that it became my profession. I stopped relying on mining as my sole income.

“And it all came about while taking shelter in a cave. You cannot say a cave is never a good home or office or that amazing things don’t come out of it.”

“No, you can’t,” Kíli agreed, smiling. She studied the other dolls about, marveling at how detailed they were. Sleep had long since abandoned her. Looking about her, taking in the warm light of the firelight and remembering those moments with her brother joking and watching the stars glimmer over surface of the lakes. There was another memory she wanted to create here.

She grabbed for an small slab of wood.

“Teach me how to whittle.”

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
blslarner
May. 16th, 2017 07:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, but this is perfect, and the most proper answer to the challenge I can imagine! Bless the old Dwarf for teaching the young one a new trick!
lignota
May. 17th, 2017 12:07 am (UTC)
I like this! I like Bifur's dedication to his craft and to making full use of his time and the resources he has.
hhimring
May. 19th, 2017 08:01 am (UTC)
I like this!
The way you describe Kili's thoughts and this glimpse of Bifur's back story, working so hard...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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