Nothing of Note

by Primula

 44: Treasure Seeking

The fire had died down to coals by the time Bilbo wearily went to his bed. Both guest rooms now held two dwarves apiece, and Ümlat snored lightly from the very comfortable couch in the parlour. Bilbo knew it was comfortable having spent many a night there himself when he was too deeply into a project to bother sleeping in a bed. The normally quiet smial droned with a muted cacophony of snores, each on a different tone. Knowing that Dwarves tended to snore more loudly when they were fatigued made him slightly more sympathetic than he would have been otherwise, but he still had to put his pillow over his head before he could make any attempt at falling asleep himself.

Underneath the warm muffling of his pillow he reviewed the day and considered the next; he had heard what news was worth hearing, and the maps he had been working on were much improved. The dwarves had been glad to help him and interested as long as it involved mountains, though not forthcoming about the locations of their mines of course. It was very satisfying to have made so much progress on them all in one evening after the long weeks and months of relatively fruitless research.

He shifted the pillow, bending it to create a little tunnel to breathe through while still covering his ears. The copy of his Blue Mountain map they were taking with them had likewise been greatly improved; all in all, a successful visit. And then there was the fountain, a wonder in itself. They had laughed at the way he kept interrupting conversations to turn the crank and watch the water anew, but he could see they were enjoying it too. 

It was too stuffy. He turned his head to anchor one pillow end and flung an arm up to hold down the other end, framing his head in a U.  It had been a fine evening. While he did not look forward to having to wash all of the dishes they had been generating, it was a small price to pay for the companionship... his thoughts wandered over to mentally reviewing the contents of his pantry and considering what to make for breakfast. Pillow firmly in place, he fell asleep.


He was laying on the ground, and a Troll's hideous voice was speaking somewhere in the dark. They must have pulled him from the safety of the bushes and stuffed him in a sack, and he couldn't get out! He struggled to free himself.  Roasting and mashing, the Troll was speaking of. Where were the others? He could hear the sound of their voices nearby, but not their words -  they must have been captured too! He clawed at the muffling, stifling bag. If only he had a knife! Where was Gandalf?!


Gasping, he awoke rather suddenly to find sunlight outside and a deep voice singing in his bathing room across the way.  Fighting off the pillow that lay across his face, he pitched it onto the floor, blearily sat up and swung his feet out over the edge. It had been a very long time since such dreams had haunted his sleep. The dwarves must have brought it back to his mind, with their deep music and their maps. He scrubbed the weariness from his face.

There were Dwarven voices in his kitchen. Not trusting others loose in his kitchen and pantry, he quickly dressed and tossed the offending pillow back into its rightful place.  He need not have worried - Dwadul and Grumblin had already set the table with freshly washed dishes and were stirring a generous pan of eggs, half-cooked.

Ümlat came stamping in from the back with more wood for the oven.  "Good morning, Mr. Baggins! Sleep well? Oh, no, that's quite all right. We'll do the cooking, you provided the food.  Sit down. After weeks of travel, a real kitchen to work in is a luxury!"

Bilbo sat as instructed. "Fine thank you. And yes, I understand about the kitchen! I well remember camp cooking..." turning to adjust his chair, he noted their packs ready to go and stacked by the door. "Are you heading out already then?"

Dwadul put a generously heaped plate of scrambled eggs and buttered toast down in front of him. "Already went a bit out of our way coming here and need to make up the time. Twadul's gone for the mules, so once breakfast is done" - he bobbed a small bow - "I fear we shall have to bid you farewell."

"I regret it! You've been generous and courteous company. I have missed hearing good Dwarven music in the evenings."

Bagin came into the kitchen from the bath, the fresh dampness of his hair and beard darkening to the waist the short tunic he wore over thick breeches. He picked up his belt from where it lay on top of his pack and cinched it round. "Music?" he asked. "You shall have to visit our halls someday, Mr. Baggins, and there you shall hear some real music."

"I've heard it," said Bilbo, filling his plate. "in small measure. The great halls echoed so. Dain's dwarves were all singing together, before I left Lonely Mountain. It was a sound unlike any other and I remember it well."

He took a bite of toast and eggs, his mind drawn far away from the sunny kitchen, into the deep places; that strangely warm darkness, still faintly reeking of dragon. The sound had swirled around him, filled with their love of beautiful things and of gold, a melancholy, of the enduring ties of generations of Dwarves back to the very beginning, songs of retribution attained at last, of justice and the laying of old vows to rest. He shivered slightly and reached for his tea to chase away the echoes.

Bagin sat opposite him, his own plate already half emptied. "You all right?" he mumbled around his food. "You look like a staring jelly."

Bilbo shook away the last threads of the song. "I suppose I must have. Terribly sorry. Just remembering." He hummed a stanza of the remembered tune, then sang one of the lines.

"Mmmf." replied his companion, his eyebrows going up. He swallowed and took a swig of the tea to clear his throat. "Shouldn't think on such things in daylight." he said firmly.  "Songs of that sort intended for night. That's what they were written for." 

Twadul came in from preparing the wagon and leaned over the table to scoop up eggs between two slices of toast, which he then ate noisily as he went down the hall to wash up, his brother following with the steaming kettle.

In the awkward pause that followed, Grumblin silently went to the other room to finish packing the provisions Bilbo had given them. Ümlat began washing up the dishes, speaking over his shoulder. "The hobbit didn't mean anything by it, Bagin. He isn't even a Dwarf."

Bagin smoothed his beard with his hand and nodded without comment.

Bilbo looked from one to the other. "Please accept my apologies if I've offended. I had no idea it was something only meant for a certain time or place."

"No, no..." Bagin paused a moment, thinking. "Do you have...seasons, Mr. Baggins?" He looked at the hobbit who began to open his mouth. "Not seasons of the year, not seasons of plants and such, but certain times that are revered among your people?"

Bilbo gave it some thought. "We have holidays, of sorts, and small events, birthdays and harvest times. But my people lack a sense of... history. I know yours have many such remembrances of things from the past."

Bagin seemed to be considering his own beard, where it draped down his chest. "Yes."

"Like Durin's Day."

The dwarf gave a small grunt of mild surprise hearing it from him. "Music is the heart of our remembrance. The beat of the tools, the feel of the rock, the treasures of the earth - these are all in our music." He stopped, apparently remembering he was speaking to someone who was not a Dwarf.

Ümlat hadn't found that Dwarvish reservation and secretiveness quite so ingrained yet. He continued over by the sink. "We remember those before us, our family line, our heritage this way. Perhaps your people need such music, to help them remember and learn. Every song has a time, a season. The dark music..." Bagin caught his eye and he suddenly trailed off. He clattered plates in the sink noisily, suddenly very industrious in his washing.

Bilbo wasn't offended, knowing it was the way of Dwarves to keep their own council close. He had been surprised to learn has much as he had. He also knew enough to pretend he hadn't been listening closely and wouldn't really remember it. He vaguely changed the subject dissembling a lack of understanding.

"Hm. Well, the seasons here certainly go by quickly enough, I can hardly remember whether or not I put up applesauce last Autumn, or who helped me with the woodpile last Winter. And here it is Summer beginning already and I feel as if I've only just planted for Spring."

He pretended to turn his attention to his eggs again, carefully watching the dwarves through his lashes. They took the bait and relaxed considerably, exchanged small nods with one another in a secretive fashion and turned back to breakfasting themselves.



After his guests had said their farewells and departed towards the distant mountains, Bilbo finished straightening up, started a couple of loaves baking to replenish his pantry and pondered. He went to the now empty-seeming parlour and gave the copper crank on the fountain a few turns, watching as the little stone thrush poured clear water out beside the tiny Esgaroth once more. The sun caught the ripples of the water, sending a lace of intertwining light around the ceiling and far wall of the room.

He watched the play of light and darkness, musing. A time for remembering. Seasons. Treasures. Times for bringing hidden things to light.... He reached for a paper to jot down an idea for a poem.

The bell rang and he frowned at being interrupted from his reverie, but he answered it. The lawyer, Mr. Banks, stood upon his front step with a paper packet in his hand.

"Mr. Baggins?  You instructed I was to come as soon as it was ready. Is this a suitable, hm, time?"

Suddenly excited Bilbo said "Yes! Yes, please come in. Is that the Will then?"

Mr. Egnog Banks came into the parlour and paused at the sight of the little fountain. Bilbo pushed past him and led the way to the table. "Here, let me just move these out of the way."  The maps were hastily stacked to the side. He patted the empty space impatiently, causing the lawyer to snap out of his gaping over the rippling water and place his packet on the table. Bilbo smiled at him.

"It's a fountain, a gift from a good friend. Quite remarkable, isn't it?"

"Hm. Yes. Very." Mr. Banks pulled his eyes away from the thrush and opened the packet. "Now here is your Will. This is your own copy to keep in a, hm, safe place. The other copy is now filed at Michel Delving, or will be within a day or so. All this one requires is the, hm, witnessing signatures, and the final seal."

Bilbo looked over the papers carefully. "Very well. Witnesses it is. I shall start in on that this very afternoon."

"When they are all collected, I will affix the remaining seal. In the meantime I require, hm, accommodations."

"I understand. You may tell the Innkeeper to charge it to myself. It may take a few days..."

"I am prepared to stay for as long as my presence is, hm, required."

Yes, thought Bilbo, I'll bet you are, seeing as you're staying on my tab. He thanked the lawyer and saw him out the door and on his way with a signed letter from Bilbo authorizing his charges at the Inn. The Will, thick and official-looking, lay on the table waiting for it's signatures. Now that it was a reality, he was feeling a little excited about it. He considered the longish list of potential witnesses he had drawn up. Most of them were crossed out now for various reasons, but there were still enough to suit. Well, no time like the present to start it off. He picked an easy one, heading out the door to #3 right away.

Once the Gaffer's unpracticed mark was in place, he sent out a notice inviting two of the others potential witnesses to tea the following day, and made a fruitless walk to another smial where no one was home. He left his calling card on the door, and walked back to Bag End to compose a letter to Frodo. What would he say?  He didn't want the news to be in a letter, he wanted to tell him himself, face to face.

He had a bit of a early supper, then seated himself at his desk and adjusted the lamp. He smoothed out a piece of his very best paper, with the color bits of dried flowers and herbs embedded in it.

My dear Frodo,

He paused, tapping the quill against the desk until he noticed he was spattering his weskit with tiny dots of ink. Considering, he tried to think of what wouldn't be saying too much.

As we spoke of during my recent visit, I am pleased to be able to invite you to stay with me at Bag End this next month, if you can be spared from Brandy Hall.

He paused again. It sounded so brief and so dry with all of the excitement of the Will wrung out of it. What could he say that would make it of interest without giving everything away?

I've had some interesting visitors, and a gift given to me that I look forward to sharing with you. I think you will find it enjoyable.

He pondered again, looking at the brief lines. This was quite pathetic. Maybe he should just start over. No, it would have to do.

Enclosed, you will find a sum to cover your travel expenses. I look forward to your arrival with the greatest pleasure. Please remember to bring your map book - there are some new features that we may be able to add while you are here.

Like Bag End, he thought.

Yours with affection,

    Bilbo

He waited for the ink to dry, then carefully folded it up, enclosed it in a fat envelope with the travel monies and sealed it. Weighing it in his hand thoughtfully, he considered the treasure he himself was seeking, and wondered what the dwarves would have thought of that analogy.  He felt they would have approved. He took his hat from the peg nearest his front door and headed to the Post.