All that glitters by sian22

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"I have looked the last upon that which was fairest. Henceforward I will call nothing fair, unless it be her gift."

"There is good rock here."

Gimli, son of Gloin, on Helm's deep and the edge of Aglarond. TTT, JRR

Of course it was the Elf who saw it first.

It was the colour. Green. A dark and softly glowing green so like the shaded underside of Mirkwood's canopy that Legolas let out a heartfelt sigh.

They had seen many varied shades that day: the periwinkle of the great blue butterfly that followed them for a while; the myriad tiny magenta faces of firewitch, blooming in tufted cushions that softened the jagged darker slate; the creamy white of marble, kissed by twining ribbons of saffron and dawn-rose that danced in fluted and twisted dreaming spires and folds so life-like they almost seemed to flow. Even a darker, heavy cream of the skeleton they had passed (heads bowed, lips moving in silent prayer); a Man, who knew how old, for Aglarond had been used by Men of Numenor in ages past.

Until that point, Gimli had been more focused upon the sound and scent, following the melody of water and tang of fresher air. Hall upon pillared hall had been filled with the tinkling chime of water, wending its way ever downward to rest in dark, knowing pools that caught the sparkle of gems and stones and shining ores that hung like coloured stars upon the marble's fair draped cloak. And over all a hint of spicy clove, and thyme and marjoram from the plants that thrived in the galleries nearest the sunlit upper halls.

"My friend…look!" Legolas raised one pale hand and pointed farther down the cleft. They had left the worked spaces far behind, following the natural gallery worn by Ulmo's water since the Music first began.

The dwarf raised his eyes from a band of pyrite on the nearer wall (pretty and golden, but they had little need of iron) and what he saw at first he did not understand. A dark green band ran across the creamy marble, ten feet thick, darker at the edge and brighter near the core. A practiced eye noted the sharp, fine-grained margin and pockets of heavy, fat, bladed crystals.

"A dyke. It is a dyke, lad. A layer of lava from far below ground that cut its way across the mountain many long ages past."

Legolas shook his head. Lava underground. Many were the mysteries of the One. He was quite thankful it had happened long ago. Smoking mountains, be they dragon-spawned or Eru's work, felt just wrong.

"I never noticed such in Moria. Is it common?"

Gimli fingered one dark crystal in growing wonder. It was nigh big as his fist. "Not so very common, but a good sign. Those in Moria were long tapped out. To find more would be a boon indeed."

He tried to prudently quell the sense of excitement that grew within his breast. It was good sign, where crystals grew so large so did precious stones and ore, but not always.

"Come..let us follow it. There could be more to find."

Together the two friends picked their way along the polished face, tracing with eager fingers the bigger crystals that glowed viridian against the gleaming white. They continued so for many minutes and it seemed to the Elf that they saw little change in this feature but his sturdy friend was clearly looking for something that Eldar eyes did not espy.

Each bigger crystal was exclaimed over and once a small shining needle, no bigger than an ant, held the dwarf's attention for a while. The quietly muttered words;hexagonal, striated, slight, meant nothing to the elf.

He smiled and waited patiently for his friend to enlighten him. Clearly the words were not pleasing, for the stout, strong fingers discarded the silvery crystal to the floor.

Engrossed in his exploration Gimli moved farther on, Legolas trailing in amusement just behind. He had never seen his friend quite so intent, so lost to the world around. Clearly there was potential. Of course to find something useful was what would excite his little friend. The elf, by contrast, was happy to just admire the beauty of the earth.

At first, when the centre of the layer changed, Legolas thought nothing of it, the shining white in the middle of the green looked but little different from the polished marble of the wall. Could a piece of the marble have fallen, for all the world like a branch with the Anduin, into the river of the lava? Yet as his eyes held the image longer he noticed the shape, the texture was not the same.

Gimli had seen it too.

"Great Mahal!" The oath that slipped the Dwarf's lips was low but filled with such reverence that his friend almost held his breath.

What Legolas first took for white marble was not cream white, but silver. A gleaming silver so bright and shining it nearly glowed. What little light there was reflected again and again from millions of tiny, mirrored, metal surfaces arrayed like fronds upon a branch. Each 'leaf' was a shining plate of metal, bladed or cubed, crossed with its neighbour and as delicate as the clear arabesques of crystal water caught in snowflakes in winter time. The shining band ran as far as Legolas could see into the darker cleft.

Once more, hushed and eager words were whispered as his friend peered closely at the form. Isometric, penetration, twins. These, it seemed, were good.

Quickly, his excitement now palpable, Gimli shrugged off his leather pack and with shaking fingers pulled out his tools, a small knife and tiny hammer and a tile of white porcelain. He plucked carefully one crystal from the face and weighed it in his hand. It was surprisingly heavy for such a delicate little piece. There was no tarnish on the metal nor any mark.

Legolas watched the testing curiously. The cube was sniffed and scratched and pounded lightly. It dinted a little bit and scratched, but with some force. At last, the Dwarf dragged the silver form across the tile. It left a mark, silver-white, just visible against the brighter white.

A heavy sigh greeted this development and when Gimli showed the mark to Legolas his face was suffused with awe.

"What is it?" asked the Elf, amused that he had to ask. The dwarf was so excited he had quite forgotten to explain.

"A white streak. It is Mithril! Mithril! Oh my lad, only the rarest of Mahal's great works. Most precious metal of them all. Hardest to find. The most dense and malleable of the bones of Arda."

As he ran a hand along the frond-like crystals, Gimli was positively vibrating with emotion. "I have never heard of such a lode as this. So thick, so long, the crystals so very large. Surely this is the fairest sight I have ever seen!"

Legolas laughed. "Fairest! My friend, I remember an oath you made that by this you are foresworn." Imagine, comparing a piece of metal to the Lady of Light.

"Then I shall say the fairest underground. I would not be forsworn." Gimli turned eyes wet with unshed tears of joy upon his friend. "Legolas, you do not understand. There is more Mithril here than I have ever heard tell of. Always it has been used sparingly, though there is nothing stronger, more malleable and noble. Made into precious arms, nuggets strung out into thin, strong wire for mail. Ever and again reforged. To have so much, I would have never dared to imagine it."

The dwarf's eyes shone. They followed the gleaming band but it was clear they saw also something else.

"Now, now we can do something truly great. We can forge the strongest gates the new Age will ever know for a fair City that will stand proudly and at peace another thousand years."



Chapter End Notes:

A/N: I have modeled mithril after platinum... a dense, malleable, less ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silver-white transition metal. A noble metal resistant to corrosion, it does not oxidize. Alloys with iron and extremely heavy it can be found in gabbro, a black to green mafic rock that forms layered intrusions. The blue butterfly and firewitch, or Cheddar pink dianthus, are found in Cheddar gorge, possibly Tolkien's inspiration for Aglarond. There was also a 9,000 year old skeleton.


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