Nothing of Note

by Primula

42: Mapping

Bilbo was bent over a map, carefully penning in some trees in green ink when there was a sound outside that made him pause and look up inquisitively, listening. He couldn't place it at first, what was different about it but something made him drop his quill into the ink bottle and hastily wipe the ink off his fingers. Leaving the map in the midst of the others, he edged around the cluttered table and went to the window to look out.

The summer sun was bright enough to make him squint, but when he heard the distant voices again and saw the style of wagon that was approaching along the lane, he was so excited he leaned part way out of the open window, one hand buried in the sweetpeas that cascaded from his windowbox as he waved his other vigorously. He turned and jogged to his pantry to pull out a pair of pies, slid them onto his parlour table, added a good half of a yellow cake from that morning that was handy, topped off the water in the kettle and swung it over the kitchen fire to heat then jogged to the door.

It was already ajar to let in the cool breezes, the sunlight streaming over his green door made it hot to the touch as he pushed it open and went out so quickly he nearly missed his footing on his own steps.

To mountains far, to mountains blue
Across the lands we come to you,
Our tools are sharp, our hands are strong
Unto the mountains we belong.

Deep dwarvish voices broke off and the one in the fore hailed the hobbit that had tumbled from the Hill so hastily.

"Halloo! Bilbo Baggins?"

"Yes! Yes, speaking!" Bilbo was delighted. Five dwarves and a sturdily built dwarven wagon creaked up to his gate, pulled by a dusty grey mule stout enough for two, another trailing behind on a lead.  As soon as he managed to come to a stop from his rapid descent of his steps, he bowed courteously. "At your service!"

The dwarves bowed back. "Likewise, To you and to your family," they mumblingly chorused.

The first one bowed again more deeply. "Mr. Baggins, we bring you greetings from the Erebor and a gift from Balin of the Lonely Mountain..."

"Balin! Oh, how wonderful!" Bilbo clasped his hands. If he were a child he would have capered. "Yes, I had his letter last week. I can't tell you how marvelous it is to have you here. You will be staying for tea? And for supper?"

The speaker seemed slightly taken aback at his enthusiasm. "And for supper."

"Of course! Of course. There's plenty for all. Do come in - oh, wait. There's stabling for your mules at the Inn just down and round a bit. If you would like..."

"The wagon stays here with us."

"Of course," he knew Dwarves tended to be suspicious about leaving their belongings out of sight. "If you would like to unhitch them, I'll send a lad to take just the mules to the stables. Do come in, out of the sun and have a bit to eat!"

The apparent leader of the group bowed to him thankfully and then followed him up the steps while the others maneuvered the wagon into the sideyard and unhitched. Bilbo settled the dwarf at the parlour table with a large slice of pie and a mug of beer, then trotted back out to hail a curious Daddy Twofoot who was nearby.

"Mr. Twofoot! Can you please have Halfred or whatever Gamgee is about sent up here quickly? I need an errand run right away."

Daddy Twofoot nodded and reluctantly turned away from the spectacle of dwarves to go to the Gamgee residence. He need not have bothered, for he wasn't halfway there when Samwise met him at a dead run. Bilbo could see a brief message conveyed, as Dad pointed his direction; Sam nodded and continued running.

Bilbo would have rather had the older brother to deal with the mules, but decided Sam would have to do. Soon the lad was on his way to the Inn looking very small indeed with two large grey mules following along in docile single file behind him. Looking terribly curious and proud, he carefully clutched a coin for the stablemaster. No doubt bursting at the seams to tell the others in town about the dwarves, thought Bilbo. He soon forgot about Sam, turning his attention back to his guests.

The other four dwarves had finished up and were politely waiting for him to lead them up the steps.

"Welcome, welcome. This way, come in, yes, please do come in."

They each hung a light cloak on a peg, went into the parlour and settled themselves in the chairs. It was time for introductions, Bilbo knew, and as host he was expected to start it off.

"As you have said, my name is Bilbo Baggins, welcome to my home. Please, make yourselves comfortable."

The leader of the dwarves stood up, one hand smoothing his thick brown beard. "Bagin, at your service."

"Excuse me? I'm not sure I heard you right."

"Bagin, of Lonely Mountain."

"Bagin. I see. Thank you, Bagin. It was only your name seemed...familiar."

The dwarf grunted in his beard with a sound of mild mirth. "'Twas not on purpose, Mr. Baggins, but I assure you Balin found humor in it as well."

The second dwarf stood, his dark beard bobbing as he spoke. "Dwadul, at your service. And this is my brother..."

The third one had stood almost in tandem with him. "Twadul, at your service, Mr. Baggins."

"Twadul?"

"Yes."

"Good heavens. Is that really your name?"

There was a mildly annoyed noise."Why do you ask?"

Bilbo suddenly realized he had said that comment out loud. He scrambled to smooth it over. "Oh...nothing really of note, I suppose. No disrespect, of course. It is a very serviceable set of names, I am sure. Very respectable. Suits you."  He turned to the other two to quickly move on.

"Grumblin." offered the next one briefly. Bagin gave him a nudge with his elbow. He bobbed a brief half-bow. "At your service."

"Ümlat," offered the last more cheerfully. "At your service, and that of your family. Your hospitality is greatly appreciated by all of us." His reddish beard was slightly shorter than the others, and his mannerisms younger. Bilbo couldn't help but remember Fili, and Kili, a bittersweet memory. Introductions done, all of the dwarves seated themselves again and took up generous helpings of pie as Bilbo brought drinks.

"We've many miles yet to go," said Bagin. He had been looking around the room curiously as he ate. "You've many maps."

Bilbo smiled. "That I have. It is an especial interest of mine. I've found most of the maps available in the Shire to be lacking in several features and have been filling them in as I'm able, as well as adding in and correcting a few errors in other maps I've had from Men and... other people. Some of them need translation also... More cake?"

"Yes, thank you." Bagin helped himself to a large portion. "I would interested in seeing what you have of the Blue Mountains."

"Not nearly enough. It's an area that I was rather hoping you would be able to help me with, in fact."

He raised his eyebrows. "It is near your own land. Do your maps not show them?"

Bilbo shook his head. "I can see you do not know much of Hobbits," he said wryly. "While I love my own folk dearly, they have a certain blindness to the world beyond their own borders. Most maps in the Shire do not bother to show anything outside the four Farthings of our land. Hobbits do not travel much, nor have any desire to do so."

"Yet you travel. I have heard of your bravery at Erebor, which is many leagues from here."

"I am considered most... unusual among my own folk. Here, let me show you..." he turned and flipped through a stack near the window then carefully slipped a thick scroll out from the bottom. "Ah, here it is."  He unrolled it on the table, weighing down the edge with plates.

"The Blue Mountains," observed Bagin, tracing along the ridges with a calloused finger. "Not very detailed, but fairly accurate."

"Thank you. I am hoping more detail can be added if you or any of your companions are familiar with them, or corrections made if needed."

"Familiar?" laughed Bagin. "I should say so! While Ümlat and myself are from Erebor, Grumblin, Dwadul and Twadul all hail from the Blue Mountains and are just returning home." 

At the sound of their names, the others had their attention drawn from their own conversation and food to come see the map in question. They made assorted noises that left Bilbo unsure of what they thought of it. 

Twadul stabbed a finger at a place on the map. "There should be a deep gully marked here. More of a canyon, really. Good springwater to be had there. And over here, Dwadul, he hasn't your ridge at all."

His brother leaned over to see. "A grievous omission, Master Hobbit. Whatever should my wife say if I did not correct it? She is most proud of that ridge, and keeps a fine home within it."

Bilbo smiled. "Well, we shall have to correct it without delay then! If you would be so kind as to lightly sketch it in, I will ink it in this very week."

He watched as the dwarf very carefully sketched in the missing ridge with great concentration. "Has it been long since you were home?"

"Too long," he replied, finishing the sketch. His hand lingered on the faint ridge. "Too long. My Zîm is strong, and well able to care for herself, but I miss her."

"And Zadîm." added Twadul.

"Yes, Zadîm," said Dwadul a bit wistfully. "My son. He was just getting his baby beard when I left. He'll be walking by now, and swinging his first hammer before long... Have you any children, Mr. Baggins?"

Bilbo shook his head. "No, no children. No wife."

"Who will carry on your family line for you, then?  Have you brothers?"

"No, no brothers either."

"You will not live forever. You should give thought to an heir."

Bilbo smiled. "It is kind of you to be concerned, but do not waste your worries on me. In fact, I've very recently chosen an heir for my home and goods, so all is well."

He meant it too. He hadn't realized what a burden that situation had been until it was lifting away.  He knew inherited lines meant much more to Dwarves than to Hobbits. Hobbits loved to know who was related to whom, but they each had their own lives to live. Dwarves tended to take on the concerns of the previous Dwarf, so that the matters of a family would continue over hundreds and hundreds of years.

He considered their viewpoint and added "I haven't any longstanding debts or grievances to pass on, so yes, it is well."

They nodded. "An inheritance without grievance is greatly to be desired," said Bagin. "Which reminds me, we have finished this repast for now. Time to bring in your gift!"

"I'm not done." said Grumblin as he reached for his plate.

"A maker of such maps not to be looked down upon." Bagin said sternly. Grumblin muttered something under his breath, took a buttered roll with him and made no more protest. The five of them headed down to the wagon, followed by Bilbo.