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Thermae by Alquien

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Durin was well pleased with the work that was being done in Imladris. Dwarves did not like to work outside of their realms for it often necessitated leaving their families behind, but Elrond had specifically asked him to help with the design and building of his new home. Durin cared little for Elves but Elrond was well-versed in Dwarven court etiquette, as befitted the herald of Gil-galad; thus, Durin had agreed -- but only with his father's full approval.

"It is well to keep friendly relations with elves, my son. They may be valuable allies in the days to come."

So an agreement was negotiated, a price settled on (a more than fair price, Durin had to admit) and a small work crew had set up residence in the hidden valley.

The construction was progressing well, and it was only when they started on the baths that problems started.

Elves had a fanatical love of bathing, so great care had been taken to search and find the hot springs that would feed the baths. The bathing area was well under way when the first Dwarves became ill. It was odd but Durin had ignored it. Even the fittest dwarf could have a rare day or so of sickness. But as more and more dwarves had become strangely ill after working at the baths, Durin realized the rash of illnesses could mean only one thing: Mahal was displeased with their choice of bathing site, and wished for them to abandon it.

"Brothers, it is clear that we must stop work here. I will tell Elrond we are choosing another site." He looked around the chamber with a sigh. It was lovely, and he hated to abandon it. But Mahal had made his wishes clear, and he would never think to disagree with such a clear edict. "Secure the area, so that none will be injured should they come here."

"Do you wish it to be sealed, Durin?"

"No, we will only secure it. I will ask Elrond if he wishes it sealed."

~~~*~~~

"Excuse me, Lord Elrond."

Elrond looked up from the papers on his desk, noticing the young scribe standing patiently in the doorway.

"Yes, Erestor?"

"The Dwarves leader, Durin, wishes to speak with you. He says there is a problem."

Elrond frowned. The agreement and plans for the Dwarves work in Imladris had been long settled and only remained to be finished. As far as he knew, there had been no quarrels.

"Please show him in." At Durin's entrance, Elrond rose from his desk and walked toward him, bowing in greeting.

"Durin, please. sit down. I am told there is a problem with the work."

"Yes, there is. Elrond, we must build the baths elsewhere. The site we have started is no good."

"But why? I thought all was agreed."

"It was. But my foremen are moving the site as we speak. The new site will do just as well, and we will not charge anything extra for it." Durin's words were polite but the look in his eye was determined. "The abandoned site is being made safe. We would not wish any to come to harm."

"I see." Elrond did not see but it was clear to him that Durin would not be swayed by any arguments. "Very well then. It will be as you say."

"I thought you might wish to see it before anything more was done. If you wish, we will seal it."

"I will let you know after I inspect it, Durin. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention."

~~~

Later that afternoon, Elrond inspected the abandoned bath. He had expected to see a roughly hewn chamber that needed a great deal of work. Instead, he found a nearly finished room, noticing the skilled craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail -- whatever had caused the Dwarves to stop work had been no mere whim. But why *had* they stopped? He doubted if Durin would tell him anything more; it would have to remain a mystery. Elrond knelt down and dipped his fingers in the water, smiling at the just-right temperature. He was tempted to strip for a quick bath himself but he could already hear the bell for the evening meal. Elrond rose and dried his fingers on his tunic before turning to leave.

The chamber would remain, he decided. Perhaps it could be used for private, intimate gatherings once things were settled. Closing the ironwork gate, Elrond left.

xxxEndxxx
Chapter end notes:
Note 1: thermae (Greek, adjective: thermos, hot) refers to 'hot' springs.

Note 2: Durin is Durin IV; this is set before the Dwarves were forced to flee Khazad-dm in T.A. 1980. According to my understanding, Durin IV is possibly the king who led the Dwarves from Khazad-dm to fight against Sauron with the Last Alliance at the end of the Second Age. [If this is in error, please inform me.]

Note 3: This bath was abandoned by the Dwarves – who made all of the other bathing chambers – due to the presence of ethylene gas, which is semi-toxic to them but not to Elves. The Elves, however, are unaware of the gas, and the ethylene gas affects Elves in much the same manner as it does Men: think of the Oracle at Delphi.

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