Stone of Erebor
Chapter 14: Something Fishy
They reassembled in Glóin’s rooms once again, except for Bombur
had stated that he wasn’t inclined to move from the lower dining area
he had parked himself in. Closing the doors and gathering near
the fireplace they waited eagerly in spite of some of the news already
being guessed; that there was no discovery, or even any sign of the
missing stone. Those who waited still held out some hope there
might have been at least a clue to make all the risk worthwhile.
“We have good news and bad news,” began Glóin. They murmured
around him and he quieted them with a gesture. “The good news
first. No, it isn’t what we hoped, but remember, we knew our chances of
finding it so lightly hidden were slight when we began.”
“Yet we needed to know it was not there,” interjected Dwalin to quell
“Yes,” Glóin nodded. “We did. But you are leaping to the end of
our tale; I think we should begin where we left our hobbit with Dori at
the head of the last staircase. And we thank you once again, Bilbo, for
your guidance.” They all nodded to the hobbit who was trying to hoist
himself up onto a padded stool by the fire without tipping it.
He settled himself carefully and smoothed his jacket. “Yes, do tell. I
can’t say anything of interest happened to those of us up above, so if
anyone has any
adventuring to tell of, it’s you.”
“Perhaps,” Glóin replied, then shifted his stance, speaking out
as a storyteller might.
“I’m sure you remember that the stairs were dark, though that is little
barrier to us. Only a single guard stood on duty at the time we
arrived, even as Dím had said. When we heard his signal the
guard was already in the far room where Dím had lured him.”
“Lured him?” asked Nori. “How?”
“What signal did he give?” asked Dori. “Had he told you of this,
“There are three doors, great treasury doors in this part of the hall,
just as he had described for me. Dím was there before us
and had opened the one farthest away from the staircase…” began Dwalin
then subsided to allow Glóin to continue.
Glóin nodded. “The one we wanted was the one with the gems, and
thankfully it was the first one we tried. I really do not know what we
would have done if it hadn’t been. There was a most terrible
crash, the sound of many golden vessels and chains tumbling to the
ground, beads also. I can tell you it startled us right enough! We
would have been ready to give up and run if Dím hadn’t already
told Dwalin that he would be signaling us by calling to the guard to
pull him from his post. It was his voice we heard after the
“He called to the guard to help him, that he was trapped under the
treasures or whatever had fallen, and needed aid setting it aright.”
Added Dwalin. “We had to hope it was planned and not a true mishap.”
“That was touch and go,” admitted Glóin. “We decided to chance
it. By the time we reached the hall the guard was in the far room and
we could hear him speaking with Dím, none too courteously
either. Dwalin was able to reach the door and release it. Thus we
slipped into the gem treasury without being seen.”
“How could you possibly search all of it?” asked Bilbo, who pictured a
huge room stacked with boxes of gems. “Wouldn’t it be too much? And
wouldn’t they all be, well, locked up in their chests and such?”
“No, not at all,” said Dori and the others made sounds of agreement.
“For such a wealth as Dáin holds, the room is the treasure
chest,” explained Dwalin. “Within his own treasury, who would want them
locked into boxes? How else can anyone truly feel the gems, the gold,
the smooth weight of them warming to your hand, to be surrounded in
beauty, all open for the touching….”
He trailed off, a half-rapturous look on his face. Looking
around, Bilbo found all of his companions had gone into the same
half-dreamy state. It reminded him of the looks he would see back
home, right after the first big meal of early strawberries and cream
had been served out, when even the corners were filled with the
sweetest of fruits. Sheer bliss.
“Have you all got treasuries like that, then?” he asked curiously.
Immediately all the walls slammed into place and their looks went from
blissful to reflexively furtive before they came to themselves
again. It confirmed his question without words: yes, they did. He
did not pursue it.
“Our treasuries, a Dwarf’s own treasury, whether generous or small, is
a very… private place,”
“It’s all right. Forget I asked! Do go on – so the gems were all out
for the looking over. Did you see anything promising at all? And
how did you get back out?”
“The Arkenstone is unmistakable…” There were murmurs of agreement all
around at this. “And we are all very familiar with gems. We each took a
the room and worked our way towards the middle. It was difficult
going, for we needed silence and gems do not always whisper when they
“We could hear the guard, too,” said Dwalin. “Talking to Dím.
Dím was most insistent that everything that had fallen be put
back exactly the way they had been, implying that the guard would have
to answer for it if it weren’t. And what a clatter he was making!”
“Cleverly done, it was,” agreed Glóin. “About the time we
were finishing up we heard him sending the guard up the stairs to
fetch the inventory list for the room, claiming he had hurt his ankle
in the fall and couldn’t get it himself. We decided that this was
our chance to get back out, whether it was intended to be or not…”
“It left Dím in charge of the guarding, if only for a handful of
minutes,” clarified Dwalin.
“And so you were able to slip out?” asked Bofur.
Glóin waved his hand. “You see us standing here before you,
you? We had to be quick. Dwalin waited until we were sure the
guard’s footsteps were nearing the top of the steps, but just as we
were about to open the door, it opened itself and there was Dím.
He urged us out and around the corner before the guard’s return.
No sign of a limp on that ankle either.” Glóin seemed to
find this very clever. “We ran of course, as quietly as we
could. I assume he went back to his post to moan about his poor
“And you didn’t… take anything, did you?” asked Bilbo. His
imagination had pulled him to that dim interior, a room of gems of
every color and size, heaped and sparking all around. He couldn’t help
but wonder if they might not take a small souvenir.
“Not the smallest bead!” said Dwalin seriously, and Glóin nodded
firmly at his side. “You needn’t fear for the guard, Mr. Baggins. He is
“The guard?” said Bilbo, slightly confused. “I wasn’t even thinking of
him. What does he have to do with it?”
Their eyebrows went up. Bofur said “Dáin would know if
anything were missing, as would any of us if a part of our treasure
were gone. And the guards that allowed such a thing to happen
would be severely punished, dishonored. Perhaps even lives could
be forfeit if it were on their watch that something truly valuable went
astray because of their negligence.”
“Oh, I say! I had no idea,” said Bilbo. “None at all. That seems rather
harsh, doesn’t it?”
“What happens to the guards who fail in their duties in the Shire?”
Bilbo thought about this for a moment. “I have no idea. I can’t think
of anything remotely like it! Perhaps they might have a farmer’s
dogs chase them if they stray into someone else’s field, or lose the
feather from their cap. It’s really quite different.”
“Yes,” Dwalin nodded. “Quite different.”
“So now it makes sense to me why he would leave his post to go get an
inventory list,” continued Bilbo. “I wondered a bit at that one. ”
“So we were successful, and yet we were unsuccessful,” concluded
“Is that the bad news?” asked Bofur.
“No, I’m afraid there’s other bad news. Worse, to my mind,” said Dwalin.
They were interrupted by the jangling of a small silver bell.
Glóin went to the servants doors and unlocked them, allowing
four servants to carry in an early luncheon. The servants
laid out the dishes and plates upon the table and withdrew,
bowing. The others gathered around the laden table as he
locked it behind them again.
“If we continue with these private meetings much more I’m afraid my
servants will become used to it and not want to wait upon me properly,”
he smiled as he joined them. “What did you order brought in,
“Simple things,” said Bifur. “Bofur is paying for the fish, I merely
took up the side-dishes.”
“And I paid for the pie,” volunteered Nori. “It’s only apple, but it’s
“Well enough. No standing on ceremony here, help yourselves,”
said Glóin, taking up a plate.
Bilbo didn’t have to be nudged again. He eagerly reached for a plate
and accepted a large helping of hot poached white fish from Bofur, who
was lifting out the portions on a large silver fork. After
dubiously poking at a heap of the side-dish that appeared to be of a
mushy pea mixture, he
topped it off by reaching into the basket for a handful of rolls. The
butter seemed to be missing but at least there was plenty of jam, a
fruit ground up with sweet herbs he found interesting. He was
tasting a spoonful of it when all thoughts of the rest of his meal were
swept away by...
“Baked mushrooms!” he exulted. Bifur smiled as his small friend
abandoned the jam to scoop up as many of the fragrant fungi as seemed
polite. Bilbo hoped the others wouldn’t be in the mood for them
that day; he even managed to greedily calculate how many he didn’t have
to share thanks to Bombur’s absence as he did so.
“So,” Bofur prompted Dwalin as he neatly sliced his portion of fish,
“What is this bad news you have?”
Dwalin shook his head. “I can’t help but wonder if we’ve placed our
trust in the wrong person.”
“What do you mean?” “Why?” came the voices from around the table.
He held up a hand. “No, no betrayal was made, at least not that we know
of. We just had a few misgivings. Perhaps it is nothing,
“What sort of misgivings? About this Dím?” asked Bofur.
“Why would you doubt him? Did he give you reason to?” asked Bilbo at
the same time.
“When he came to us, to tell us it was safe to go out, he asked if we
had found the gem we were looking for.”
“And?” asked Nori, passing the rolls across the table.
Glóin nodded. “It was a problem because we had never told him
what we were seeking.”
There was a general murmuring and frowning.
Bilbo looked at them and shrugged. “Well, the room you were going into
was the one for gems, wasn’t it? He would be able to guess from
that, wouldn’t he?”
Dwalin did not appear comforted. “Yes, it was the one for gems, but
then why did he clear the way for that particular room for us without
ever being told it was the one we would be wanting?”
“Then he must have guessed from your wanting to see Ûrd’s
workroom,” Bilbo said. He went back to spreading jam. “After all, he was the jewelsmith. You’re
being too suspicious.” He
finished his roll and reached for another scoop of the mushy
peas. They were surprisingly good in spite of their appearance.
Glóin grumpily stabbed at his fish. “There’s no such thing as
too careful. As my father always said, listen with one ear, be
suspicious with the other.”
“Yes,” agreed Bofur. “The one who holds your secrets spends your
“My father said a coin unguarded is a coin unsaved,” offered Nori.
“Caution is the father of a well-filled chest,” nodded Bifur.
“Beware of Elves with their tongue of silver, for soon they will have
fingers of gold!” added Dwalin.
“But Dím isn’t an Elf,” said Bilbo.
“Of course he isn’t. What does that have to do with it?” replied Dwalin
impatiently. “The point of it is we need to be careful, or suspicious
if you prefer. Suppose he knows the King has it and is
deliberately trying to make us to give up our search?”
“After all,” said Glóin, “Why would he go to such lengths to
help us in the first place?”
Bilbo shook his head. “Look, he said the King would be gone until
afternoon and it appears that
was true. If he wanted to get us into
trouble wouldn’t that have been the perfect time to do it? He
didn’t!” He waved his fork in a general circle at all of them. “And
didn’t all of you declare him officially trustworthy or something?”
“That was yesterday,” grumbled Dwalin. “It’s today that I’m worried
“It’s only good for a day?” Bilbo threw up his hands with exasperation
at their suspicious nature. “How do you live like this?”
“He did swear that he would not betray us to Dáin …” pointed out
Dori uncomfortably. “Maybe we are being a bit harsh…”
“No. I do not think we can be harsh enough, if it is harshness to
question and to test.” Said Dwalin. “Which I do not think it is.
We still do not have our answer, of why he would risk his own honor at
“He was almost in awe of us,” said Dori more softly. “He regarded us as
heroes of the realm, for defeating the dragon. And what else
could he do to help us? Would you expect him to go walking up to
Dáin and just ask him where it is? I think he served us
They all nodded at this, stroking their beards.
“I don’t think he would do anything to risk us,” Nori agreed. “If only
all the younger ones had been taught as well…” They murmured and
nodded over their plates.
Bilbo nodded along with them. Dwarves are naturally a little
self-centered and inclined to flattery but in this case he thought
they were right. Perhaps he was guilty of a bit of pride as well,
he had to admit that to himself, but he had been a part of that
heroic history, hadn’t he? Never mind that he’d missed all the
fighting during the battle…
Slightly mollified, they allowed their talk to turn from their
unfounded worries to smaller things; the price of foodstuffs going up,
the lack of good hired help for spring cleaning, which blend of metals
were the strongest for axes versus hammers and picks and the merits of
each. Bilbo’s attention wandered back to his plate.
All too soon, the mushrooms were gone; at least there was still
some of the pie left though someone had broken the crust off all
around the edges. He took one of the less mangled pieces and nibbled at
it. It had been a very satisfying luncheon. He wondered what the rest
of the day would hold and what would be for dinner.
They all retired to Glóin’s sitting room once again as the
servants returned to clear the meal, and were in the middle of a
discussion on whether to go out to show Bilbo their new fortifications
or whether to stay in and show him their newly improved glass-blower’s
forge when a servant came to Glóin and bowed, a paper and an
envelope in his hand.
Glóin took them and dismissed him, turning the envelope over in
his hand. He looked up at them suddenly with a look of shock that
silenced all conversation.
“This is addressed to you, Dwalin… and it has Balin’s seal!”