This is a story I've been working on that's set in the Middle Earth setting of JRR Tolkien and is set in the Fourth Age after the defeat of Sauron. It isn’t yet complete but I thought I'd post up the bits I've written so far though parts of it probably need improvement. To make it easier to read I’ve decided to post each chapter in it’s own post.
Kila stood and stared not quite able to believe her good fortune. Crouched on the trail just ahead of her there was a large rabbit. On moment she’d been walking along the path then by pure chance and quite unexpectedly the animal had just popped out in front of her. Well she certainly wasn't going to complain about it. She quickly fitted an arrow to her bowstring then raised the bow up in front of her. She gazed along the shaft of the arrow and carefully took aim before letting loose the shot. Leaving her bow the arrow flew through the air and struck the rabbit square in the middle of its body. As she saw the creature drop to the ground she allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction.
Caught off guard she immediately turned to her left where the voice had come from and saw a man dressed in brown leaning against a tree. She immediately recognised him as Garron, one of the human rangers who occasionally came to visit the mountain home of her people. "Thanks" she replied. "I wasn't really expecting to get one this near the hold."
The other chuckled as he walked towards her. "Well they all count."
"Yeah I guess you are right" she replied.
Together they walked up the path to the dead rabbit. She retrieved her arrow from the body and wiped the head on a tuft of grass before picking up the rabbit itself and dropping it into a bag she carried which also contained another one she’d caught earlier. "So are you staying at the hold tonight" she asked. She looked up at him as she spoke, up quite a long way in fact since he was a full-sized human and she herself was just a dwarf.
"Aye recon I might" the other replied with a smile. "See if I can trade a bit of news about the wider world for a free supper."
At the mention of the wider world Kila's mind immediately filled with thought of exploration and dreams that had not yet been fulfilled. She also thought of her father who had left the mountains where they lived to seek his fortune when she was very young but had never returned. All she knew was that he had set out for the distant realm of Erebor in the east. "Uh well it's nearly sunset so I guess I should probably be heading back to the hold myself" she said.
As the sun set ahead of them the pair made their way back along the trail toward Kila's hold. The area she lived in was commonly called The Blue Mountains or sometimes The Mountains of Lune. It bordered with the renewed Kingdom of Arnor to the east while to the west lay the elf realm of Lindon which was now largely depopulated save a few havens by the shore of the sea. In ages gone by Kila's people had built great cities beneath the mountains but these had been destroyed long ago and the few holds they lived in nowadays were tiny by comparison.
Before long they had reached the gate of the hold. Like many others in the area it had started out as a series of natural caves which the dwarves and then dug out and shaped to suit their own purposes over the millenia. Kila's hold housed a group of perhaps about fifty dwarves though more dwarves lived in other caves nearby. Below them all were a series of tunnels where the dwarves mined coal and other materials of value such as iron, tin and copper.
Standing by the gate was a single dwarf watchman of elderly years who gave them a nod as they entered. Once inside they passed through an entrance chamber and then on into a great cavern that served as the main hall of the hold. Garron headed off to find the head of the clan and request hospitality while Kila herself headed over toward the hold kitchens where several of the dwarves were busy preparing food for that night's meal. Among them was her aunt who just as Kila entered the chamber was busy carrying a pot of water to the stove. Her own mother had died when she was very young and then after her father had gone away so from that point on her aunt had effectively raised her. "Hey auntie I brought you a couple of fresh rabbits" she said.
The older dwarf-woman turned toward her with a smile. "Excellent that's just what we need to complete the meal" she said. "You can help us out by getting them skinned and ready."
Kila moved to comply. The kitchen was quite cramped and busy but eventually she managed to find a spare area of work-space at a table in the corner. She stowed her bow and quiver safely in the corner then tipped the dead rabbits out of her bag and set to work on them.
Outside the kitchens the great hall of the hold was soon filling up with dwarves in preparation for the night's meal. The thane and his immediate family took their seats on a slightly raised table at the end of the hall while other dwarves took seats along two long rows of tables that stood end to end. Kila stayed in the kitchen a while longer to help out her aunt with the final preparations. She could have excused herself and gone to find a seat but the fact was she didn't really have many close friends in the hold to talk to and so preferred to stay in the kitchens til the food was ready. When they were not doing work the other dwarf women her age seemed to spend all the time braiding their beards or talking about males and neither activity particularly appealed to her. She might have gone to look for Garron but she imagined that by now he'd probably be sat somewhere conversing with the more senior dwarves in which case her own presence would only be an intrusion.
Finally the meal was ready. She helped carry some of the bowls and plates out to the tables and then once everything had been served up she took a seat at the table beside her aunt and some of the other cooks. On the table there was an assortment of cooked meats including roast mutton and rabbit stew as well as dressings of herbs and root vegetables with bread and cheese also available. She saw Garron down the other end of the table talking to a couple of clan elders. She reached out for a jug in the middle of the table and poured herself a cup of mead then helped herself to some of the stew. As the meal progressed the dwarves at her end of the table chatted among themselves though Kila herself mostly remained quiet.
After the meal several dwarves brought out their instruments and the hall was filled with the sound of music. Although they played well these were all songs Kila had heard many times before. While everyone else was distracted she rose from her seat and quietly slipped out of the hall. She headed through the outer chambers and then out the gate. She knew that the gates of the hold would eventually be shut for the night though not yet for another hour or so meaning she had a little time to sit outside and take some air.
Once outside she wandered a little way from the gate to a place where it was quiet and then sat herself down on a comfortably sized rock. The valley around her was quiet and she had a clear view of the sky above where the evening stars shone brightly. The earlier meeting with Garron made her think once more about her father and whether he was still alive. It had been over twenty years since he had left and since then he neither returned to the hold nor sent back any word. She wished she knew what had become of him. Ever since she was young she had promised herself that one day when she was older she would leave the hold to go in search of him. She gazed up at the constellations above her and wondered if perhaps right now he was outside somewhere else looking up at the same stars.
Over the next few days Kila was increasingly restless as she found that she couldn’t stop from thinking about what might have happened to her father nor get him out of her mind. She was now approaching her fortieth birthday which from the way dwarves aged meant that she was now on the cusp of adulthood. She decided that if she was going to look for him as she’d always wanted then really there was no reason to wait any longer. If she encountered any trouble along the way she was confident that she would know how to handle herself. The main difficulty as she saw it would be telling her aunt she was going, after all ever since she was a babe the older dwarf-woman had practically been her mother.
With her mind made up about going she began discreetly collecting and packing items she thought she might need for the journey. Finally she decided to give her aunt the news. She broke the news as her aunt was washing a bowl of clothes in the small set of rooms they shared. As she anticipated the older dwarf-woman was worried about her going off on her own but Kila assured her that she knew how to look after herself. After that she didn't see a need to unduly postone her departure. She allowed herself three days to properly say her goodbyes to her aunt and the few others she knew then when the sun rose on the fourth day she gave her aunt a final farewell and set out. As well as a knapsack with some supplies she also took with her a small axe for protection incase she ran into any trouble. The sun was shining brightly as she set off from the hold to begin her journey.