Stone of Erebor
Chapter 1: The Bells of Dale
It was the middle of Spring already, Bilbo noted, and along the slopes
of the Mountain the trees had filled out with leaves, those that were
not already evergreen. The
first budding of the bright greens fading into the darker
tones of coming summer, the sun bright among the
upper reaches. He breathed deeply of the morning air, cold and
fresh off the
waters and wondered why he had waited so long to make this trip.
Two years ago he had been in the Shire, the sleepy, comfortable Shire.
Looking back on it now he felt as if it were he that had been asleep,
truly awakening when he passed beyond those safe boundaries for
good, his feet taking him gradually back to the east and south.
Not that he'd been in
any danger, not with the Dwarves with him. They'd had a merry
time of it for the most part and their adversities had
only been the common sort that any traveler might encounter.
Nothing too uncomfortable, nothing too unexpected. Rivendell had been
lovely as he recalled, only moreso, warming his heart and lighting his
eyes so that he had been quick to accept the
offer of a home there. But he hadn't quite finished his
journeying yet. He smiled at the memory of it; Rivendell. Ah, it
was an anomaly in his memories,
really. Most things were not as nice as he recalled so it had been a
to find something was even better.
And now here he was at long last. Back to the Lonely Mountain;
Erebor, it had been named on the older maps. He had enjoyed a warm and
well-fed wintering thanks to the
hospitality of Elrond's household, and his interesting but (mostly)
over the Misty Mountains - not too mention through the lands of the
(another small adventure of its own), but now he was back at the
home of so many of his strongest memories. The home of the height
of his younger adventuring days. And what a place it had
turned out to
He had to admit the last time he'd seen this vale it had hardly been
at its best. The town had been a ruin, with everyone two days journey
off in the other direction near the remains of the ruined Laketown. The
mountain had been a
lifeless desolation of ash and death with hardly a scrap of green upon
it, everything had smelled of smoke and worse things he did not care to
dwell upon. They had all been weary, mourning, relieved at the ending
of the battles.
No, this - this was night and day. This was a
miraculous turn-around, or so it seemed to him. It was the way of
such things that seem to spring out of the ground at you if you
have not been around to watch the tedious hours (or years) that made it
He paused and looked back down the hill they had just climbed, the
stones of their
path as smooth and perfect as only close association with Dwarves could
make them. The Men's town spread out below, bright and fresh in
the morning light. They had climbed until they were now almost on the
level with the tallest bell-tower. No wonder he needed to pause
to catch his breath.
The bell-towers were the especial pride of Dale; tall and stately
ornate, built to outshine their ill-fated predecessors. During
his stay in the town his host had been nothing less than
King Bain himself and Bilbo had enjoyed a very comfortable stay.
He had gotten to tour every point of interest they could show him,
whether he was truly interested or not, and waxed enthusiastic about
every simple detail of older days. Though Bain was getting
older and only now recovering from an illness, Prince
Brand had been a ready and enthusiastic host filled with energy and
purpose. Brand laughed heartily over Bilbo's admiration of his
bowmanship, so proud of his lineage from the mighty Bard; he had been
eager to ply
Bilbo with endless questions about what Bard had been like and about
surrounding lands and their histories as far as Bilbo could recall. Of
the Shire he had asked only a little... perhaps it was simply too far
away to seem real to him, Bilbo thought. Certainly that was the fate of
Dale among the Hobbits.
Not that he had lacked for attention! All of the Men were curious about
him, having heard of but never seen hobbits, and especially having
heard of him in particular connection with their own fortunes in Dale.
hear whatever tales he felt like imparting, even the most
trivial. He had truly enjoyed the pampering and attention for a
while; the open, empty lands he had crossed had renewed his taste for
socializing and he was ever at home when spinning a tale before a warm
fire. Yes, he had been weary from the miles it had taken to reach
his goal, weary as he did not remember being before. He wanted to
be able to greet his old friends with cheer, not tottering in on his
last breath. A few days of good rest and good meals we needed to set
it all right, and he finally felt ready to meet them at last.
Those fifty-odd extra years must be catching up with me, he thought
and shrugged his shoulders to loosen them. The road was not too
steep, and the pack wasn't really
that heavy, but he was strangely nervous.
Now. Now it was time to finish the journey. Now to the
mountain. The mountain. His Dwarven companions had
on ahead days ago while he took his ease in Dale, but King Bain had
sent along a pair of young men for escorts. He felt no
concerns. The dragon was gone, after all, and what was to fear
It was only a day's walk up the mountain-side with its trees
growing thick and green upon the slopes once more. He craned
his head up at the height of them. Had it really been that long, that
long since the Desolation had stripped these hills of
their covering? He felt old again, just looking at them, yet also
rejuvenated. His eyes had seen 113 Springs, but as he
walked upon these slopes he began to feel as if it were only 50
again. Time slipped backwards except for the getting out
of breath a little easier than he recalled.
The hours of the day passed pleasantly through a late snack and a
The wide path was smooth and pleasant under his feet, well-kept and
oft-traveled. Men and dwarves alike he passed, and on one
occasion, a pair of each kind walking together. In spite of a
rocky beginning to their relationship, it appeared the Mountain and the
Town had gotten along well then. He couldn't help but puff out
his chest a little at the thought.
The water, now far below, was winking with late sunlight between the
trees as they topped the main rise and turned along a slight ridge
toward the mountain's peak. His escort had not had much to say to
him and left to his own thoughts and memories the time had gone
quickly. He was surprised to find they were already taking
another turn to the left that brought their path onto the main road
into Lonely Mountain. The River Running swirled and rushed
alongside them, clean and fresh, hasting its way downward to the
Far above him the sides of the mountain rose up in a majesty made
overwhelming by its nearness. He
gasped with admiration to see the many terraces that now lifted up the
sides, water cascading over the edges of some into many-leveled,
perfectly balanced pools below, others cascading with the green
vegetation of their crops. He had noted that the old watch towers
had been restored but had not seen the new towers that had been built
until now, and his eyes were round at the thought of the work that had
those fortifications. They were not only functional but beautiful
in their design, as if they had grown up from the mountainside they
stood upon. Now that they were there, it was hard to imagine that
they had not always been there, they seemed so much a part of what
"ought to be."
How proud they must be, he thought, to have brought so much beauty out
of that ruin... Distant specks that he knew to be birds circled the
towers' peaks. How pleasant to think that old Roäc's
could still be among them.
The road that they walked followed along the River, and was set with
many colors of stones paved in pleasing patterns, all perfectly set and
smoothed. He reached out a hand and trailed it along the low wall
that prevented any sudden tumbles into the icy waters below. It
was so smooth as to almost be silky, with the warmth of the sun on its
surface and the cold of the stone beneath. Like the dwarves
themselves could be at times...
His mind full of memories, he looked up at the approaching entrance
half expecting to see the crude rock wall that a handful of
gold-smitten dwarves had built against an army. Armies.
shivered slightly, surprised at his own reaction; he thought he
had left those reactions behind long ago. But being dangled over
edge, the sharp rocks and merciless water below him, the strength
of Thorin's rage behind the grip that held him and shook him was not
one he cared to
recall - yet there it was in a sudden clarity. How glad he was
that Gandalf had been there...
Somewhere far in the distance, he could hear the bells of Dale singing
briefly for the end of the day. A golden, spring day.
He shook the mood off. Well. Thorin was regretfully gone and his wall
was also, though that was for the better. The entrance stood
clear and clean, elaborate metal
gates wide open to the late afternoon's breezes, the half-lit shapes of
dwarves moving about within the slanting shadows of the carven pillars.
He had returned.