Stone of Erebor
Chapter 20: Circling
“How soon can you find a matching stone for the box?” asked Bilbo in a
whisper. “The sooner we can get this done, the better for all.”
“Or nearly all,” nodded Dím, following Bilbo’s glance back at
his sleeping uncle. He paused in thought and leaned closer, speaking so
softly Bilbo had to strain to understand him. “It must be exactly the
same in both weight and size or he will realize something is amiss.”
“Do you have something that will work?”
He hesitated, running his hands over his knees and didn't reply.
“Or can you get something…”
Dím grimaced slightly then gave a decisive nod of his head.
“I’ll try my best.”
“That will have to suffice,” whispered Bilbo.
"But how will I disguise it, once it is out of its box?"
The hobbit considered. "Make it look like something everyday. That
spice box was quite a stroke of inspiration, really. Maybe
something round, like a cheese."
"A cheese?" Dím gave him an odd look. "To take something so
valuable and make it into a cheese…how do you think of such things?"
"Well, I suppose to my people cheese is valuable," Bilbo shrugged. He
looked around the darkened room out of habit searching for a mantle
clock. He didn't see one. “Now, it’s getting quite late I
expect. So late that it is getting early and I’ll be missed if
I’m gone much longer.”
“You need to go,” Dím agreed. “The King will be returning late
this morning and I must be there to help minister to him. I’ll
get what I can done tonight, while there are still a few hours.”
“Don’t you need to sleep? Oh, nevermind. You’re young. I used to
do that too, but now it just makes me yawn until I feel my head will
topple right off." He rubbed at his eyes. "The King has you
helping him quite a lot, doesn’t he?”
“Yes,” Dím said seriously. “And it is an honor. I respect
him greatly, and am grateful that I have been given the position I
have… I just hope I’ll be able to keep it.”
“You still don’t trust me, do you? Of course you’ll be able to keep it.
We’ll manage this.”
“Will we? I may only hope…” The dwarf tipped his mug up and drained the
last of the tea.
Bilbo tried to turn him away from his worries. “How did you get to be
in that position anyway? How were you chosen for it?”
The dwarf looked thoughtful and a bit sad. “I was an assistant for my
uncle when I was younger, in happier days. My father was a miner
of gems, his brother the one who made the filigrees to hold them.
What fine and beautiful works they made together…. Alas, nearly all was
sold or traded long ago so I cannot even show them to you. Aftrer
my father was gone, I was the one who helped select the gemstones to be
shaped, what shapes they needed to be and how many, for my uncle’s
settings. With time I learned to arrange them also, on vases, chests
and lamps, then on clothing, belts and even beards.”
He paused. Bilbo nudged him to continue. “And the King liked
Dím looked up at him from the empty mug he had been staring
into. “Yes. Yes, we gained his notice. My family has… had…. honor and
were well spoken of as craftsmen…” He trailed off. There
was a silence, with only the soft wheezing breath of Mizûl in the
“Well,” said Bilbo softly, as he stood up and carefully sett his cup
down. “I need to be off. And you need to send me some sort
of signal to let me know when you’ve gotten the…” He glanced over at
the sleeper again. “ The…it ready, so I can try to get away to meet
you. What would work?” He tapped his chin, thinking. “I’m afraid
my Companions are a little unsure about you right now. An
innocent signal…. Maybe if you were simply to send back something I had
mislaid? To Glóin’s chambers?”
“Something you’d mislaid?” said Dím, confused.
“Something I’d lost. Maybe in the King’s dressing room.”
“But you didn’t lose anything,” Dím insisted.
“Aha, but maybe I did… Besides my pride, I mean. Maybe I
lost...” He glanced around for something sharp and lifted a small
trimming knife from the supplies on the sideboard. With it, he
snicked off one of his beloved buttons and handed it to the bemused
dwarf. “…lost this.”
Dím weighed the button in his hand. “It’s brass.”
“Yes. Not gold, but I promise you that
is something I would want
returned and my friends will know it. Don’t bring it yourself,
just send someone along with it. And don’t really lose it,
“I won’t,” he promised, turning the small circle over in his hands
again. He considered it closely then tucked it firmly into one of his
Bilbo awoke to the sound of low voices talking outside the sleeping
chamber: Glóin’s voice, and Gimli’s perhaps. He squinted
up towards the window; it was barely dawn. Slowly sitting up, he
scrubbed his hands over his face and waited for his sleep-fogged
thoughts to solidify. Oh yes. It had been very, very late
before he had managed to creep in to his bed, and he did not even quite
remember his head reaching the pillow. He had never even changed
to his bedclothes… He looked down at his rumpled condition and
tried to smooth out the worst of the wrinkles, both from the clothing
and from himself. He couldn’t have slept above three hours. He
yawned widely, trying to stifle it with a palm.
No use. The curtain was nudged back and part of a white beard, a nose
and a single bright eye peered in at him. The curtain pulled further
back and the rest of Glóin appeared.
“You’re awake early.”
Bilbo rubbed at gritty eyes. “I feel as if I were up rather late…”
“I didn’t sleep well either,” nodded Glóin. “We are all
troubled by these events, I deem.”
“Oh yes. Tossing and turning,” agreed Bilbo, slipping down from the
bed. He ran a hand over his rumpled shirt self-consciously.
“Bless me, if I didn’t go and fall asleep still dressed.”
Glóin didn’t seem to notice, continuing his own thoughts.
“Dwalin should be here soon and we would like your counsel as well, if
you will join us?”
“Oh, of course. Will there be…”
“Breakfast?” The dwarf smiled. “Yes indeed. Dwalin said you wouldn’t
leave your bed otherwise.”
Bilbo put his fists to his hips. “I was
going to ask if any of the
others would be there. Did you really think I wouldn’t come unless you
fed me?” He raised his eyebrows self-righteously and waited for an
Glóin’s smile just broadened. “Of course! I’m too old for you to
be fooling me anymore. You wanted to know whether there would be cakes,
you may as well admit it.”
“Honey? Or nut?”
“Both. And tea besides.”
Dwalin was picking at the small golden mound of eggs that lay on his
plate. Across from him, Bilbo reached for the serving spoon to
add another mound of eggs to his own and looked around for the promised
honey cakes. Glóin pulled a piece of bread off a toasting
fork and waved it in the air to cool it while absently passing them
across the table with his other hand before Bilbo even asked. The
hobbit had thus far managed to hold his tongue as the other two had
hashed and rehashed the situation regarding the apparently forged
letter and their unsuccessful attempt to confront the forger.
“If,” Dwalin said to his eggs. “If we could somehow get Mizûl to
speak sensibly, if only for a while. He must know something …”
“Do you think that’s what drove him to madness?” asked Glóin
pensively. Bilbo looked up from his own eggs momentarily startled
at this near miss with the truth.
“Knowing he’d committed forgery?” Dwalin said. He lifted a forkful of
eggs to his mouth. “Umhm.” He swallowed and took a sip of
tea. “That or knowing his own kin had?”
Glóin shook his head. “I don’t think the lad was a part of
it. At least not knowingly. What I fear is that the stone is lost
to us, hidden away or carried away, and the only one who knows
something of its fate is likewise being carried away from us by age.”
Dwalin pushed his plate to the side, half-eaten. “There is where we
differ. I do think that lad knows something, even if it is only as a
witness to his uncle’s doddering confessions.”
“But that is a family matter. We cannot ask that he reveal such
things.” Glóin picked up the butter knife and rather forcefully
applied it to his toast.
“Can’t we? In this case I think it concerns us also, very closely. We
need to visit him again, as soon as possible. Mizûl, I
mean. Or summon him to us perhaps… I would hear what his ravings
“We have no right!” Glóin returned, waving the butter knife for
emphasis. “If it were myself, would you have Gimli forced to
reveal my secrets to some stranger of another line? Or yours? That is
what you are proposing!”
“This is the Arkenstone!”
“I know it’s the Arkenstone!
Dwalin shook his head impatiently. “We need to talk to the
others. We need to have this forger and his nephew brought here,
where we are the ones in control. Both of them. Bring them
where we can all see and hear. We cannot risk the Arkenstone being lost
to us; too many of our great treasures have already gone that way.”
“He seemed frail… but…” Glóin began with waning conviction.
“If the lad could get it out of him then, make him tell where he’s
hidden it,” Dwalin continued. “We could act upon it.”
Goaded by curiosity, Bilbo spoke up. “What happens to treasures that
are left behind? That is, buried or hidden away? Surely there are
times when someone is lost in battle or other misfortune waylays them
and they have no one to tell?”
Glóin and Dwalin both shook their heads regretfully. “Then
they are simply lost,” Glóin answered. “Though every once in a
long while they may be found again, by later mining or delving where
they lay, by chance discovery. When Dwarves hide something it is
not easily found.”
Or so you think, thought
Bilbo, reflecting on how ill-hid the stone
had been in its spice box.
Glóin crunched his toast and brushed the crumbs away as he
chewed. “There have been times recorded in our history when it happened
far too often. It is grievous how many works of beauty we once knew
have been lost to us this way. Fine tools and weapons also.
Still, what can we do? No one could be expected to have to give
up their secrets if they have no wish to. Some, maybe even most,
would sooner die than tell such a thing.”
"Die?" Bilbo blinked at him. It was not all that hard to believe though
it sounded harsh when spoken. "And yet you would try to take his
secrets from him?"
Dwalin frowned. "Do not think we are being cruel, Mr. Baggins. We
do not wish to cause hardship or grief for the old smith or his kin…"
"Still," Bilbo replied carefully, "only yesterday you said you wanted
to break his fingers with his own tools, if I recall rightly, and other
horrid things besides. Granted you did not know whom it was you were
thinking of at the time but I hope you understand why I find your claim
of clemency a bit hard to believe just now. "
Dwalin came to his feet so quickly his chair thumped against the wall
behind him, narrowly missing the hearth. He stabbed a finger at the
startled hobbit. "You cannot understand what this means to us, to all
of us!" he announced. "It must be done. The sooner the better."
"Dwalin…" Glóin stood also, reaching out a hand.
"Glóin, you know how…"
Bilbo slid off the chair to the floor intending to look up at them from
across the table in a steadfast and authoritative manner. At least that
was what he had meant, but for his unaccountable catching on the leg of
the chair and his undignified stumble to his knees on the floor.
There was abrupt silence as the two dwarves saw their companion bob up,
tilt and suddenly disappear with a thump.
His eyes, topped by his forehead and curly grey hair popped back
up. There was a pause.
Dwalin cleared his throat. "Are you all right, Mr. Baggins?"
Bilbo climbed to his feet, brushing at his knees. "Except for my
dignity, yes. Quite. How about… we all sit back down?"
Glóin gave Dwalin a long look and silently handed him his chair
before settling back into his own.
"We should be sending for him later this day, is that much agreed?"
Dawlin continued in a more subdued manner. "The sooner the better."
"I think we need to let the others have their say first, but yes,"
Glóin turned to Bilbo. "I promise you, we are a just people. No
punishment shall be meted out until we are certain of his forgery."
"You sound certain of it already."
"Well, who else could it be?" demanded Dwalin impatiently. "For the
sake of my brother and for Thorin himself we must see justice served!"
"Give me some time," said Bilbo.
"What?" They both looked at him, confused.
"Give me some time, I say," Bilbo repeated slow and clear. "I think I
know what has happened."
"What happened? demanded Dwalin. "To what? The stone, the
letter?" cried Glóin at the same time.
"Both with the stone and the letter," he continued in carefully
measured tones. He held up a hand to stop their
exclamations. "I need you to trust me. Trust me, and hold off on
your justice and punishments until I can see this through."
"See what through?" they asked. "Where is it? Did you see it?"
"No, I haven't seen it, but…"
"How did you find it? Or have you?" "When? Why didn't you tell us
"By chance. Recently. Because…"
"You should have told us!" "You knew something and…"
"Yes. I did. I was afraid you would…"
"And you ask us to trust you?" "Are you hiding it, then?"
"What? No! I don't have it. But I hope I can…"
"You are a burglar, aren't
you?" "Where is it? Who has it? Is
"No! I can't say yet. Yes! Now calm down!"
"Can't say yet? Why not?" "Calm down?!"
"What's happening here?" asked a new voice.
They turned to find Bofur looking as if he weren't sure whether he
should enter the room or not. Nori stood behind him, eyebrows
raised high on furrowed brow.
"Our burglar is turning against us!" said Dwalin bitterly. "Ask him
what he found and didn't tell us of." he pointed an accusing finger at
Bilbo. "Ask him! He hides it from us!"
"I am not…!" began Bilbo, drowned out by Glóin's own correction
as he all but forced Dwalin down into his chair.
"He is not turning against us! Rein in your temper before you make
false accusations yourself, son of Fundin!"
Bofur looked at them blankly. "What was hidden?" Nori turned to
Bifur who had come in behind them and said something in a low voice.
Dwalin glowered at Glóin but did not try to rise.
Glóin turned to the others. "It seems our good Mr. Baggins
believes he has found both our forger and the stone… though he will not
tell us whom or where."
Amid the exclamations that came from the others Bilbo drew a deep
breath trying to find some patience. He had been afraid of
exactly this sort of reaction, plus he found himself trembling slightly
from that moment of anger that Dwalin had directed so venomously
towards him. He knew his friend would regret those words once he
calmed, but it was hard to face anyone when they were in such a mood,
much less a powerful Dwarf who he thought had only been kept from
impetuously throttling him by the width of the table between
them. He placed his hands on the edge of the table to steady
"If you'll all just listen to me…" he started.
This was interrupted by a renewed hubbub of talking as Dori tentatively
entered and the others all tried to bring him up to date on their
hobbit's apparent surprising and secretive doings.
"As I was saying…" he tried again.
"Listen!" "What did he say?" "He's talking, be quiet!" "He found
"All of you be quiet!" Bifur said loudly. "I want to hear."
A welcome silence settled in, except for a low muttering that came from
Dwalin's direction where he was still trying to speak to Glóin
about it, though Glóin was no longer listening.
"If you'll just bear me out, all will become clear in time." Bilbo
began. "I have two purposes in why I've chosen to proceed as I am
proceeding. First of all, yes I think I know what happened with
that confounded letter. Wait! Wait. As I said, all in due
time. Secondly, yes I think, and I emphasize that I think I
know what has happened with the Arkenstone as well. Stop.
Stop… I can see you are all just bursting to ask about it, but I must
ask something terribly difficult of all of you. I must ask
you to give me some time."
"Time?" asked Dori from the rear.
"Yes. I do not want your pronouncements, judgments or punishments
being brought into this matter, at least not yet. Preferably not
at all, but I realize that is a decision that will ultimately be up to
you among your own kind. I have reason to believe it would be
best to set aside those aspects here, and just keep to one thing: that
our promise to Thorin Oakenshield would be kept." Here he
had to hold up his hands and again shush them as they all drew
breath. He was feeling more confident by the minute and much more
"I need you to trust me, as you always have. When have I ever let
you down or deceived you? Wait, strike that. When have I
ever done so recently?"
This brought slight smiles.
"In truth, I truly do need you to trust me. I will do my utmost
to see this through, for the honor of my own family line as well as for
"You speak of the honor of the Company, yet you will not confide in
us," said Dwalin.
"Then you intend to keep this thief and forger hidden from justice?"
"I want your word not to judge until all is known. Will you grant me
that much?" They frowned, brows furrowed. He could see more
than one of them drawing breath to speak. He planted his feet
firmly and faced them with all the serious authority a small
hobbit could muster among dwarves. "By the honor of my line, of yours,
by the honor of Thorin's line and even of the Men of Dale I ask this."
"The Dale-men?" spluttered Dwalin.
"Bard himself was the one who spoke that promise," Bilbo reminded him.
"Even Gandalf himself witnessed it. If you do not deal with this
honorably you can be sure some word of it would reach him one day."
"Gandalf?" said Glóin, perplexed at the wizard's name being
added to the stew.
"How would it ever reach him?" Bofur asked. "Not that we're saying it's
a bluff, of course," he hastily added.
“I’ll find him and tell him myself, if that’s what it takes to
keep your honor on the level." Bilbo held his hands out to them all.
"If ever I truly knew you or if ever our friendship was anything more
than happenstance, listen to me in this. I will take care of
There was a long pause.
"And you will let us know about it as soon as possible?" asked
"You will ask for help if you need it?" asked Dori.
"You dare to call on a wizard to answer?" asked Dwalin.
Bilbo smiled slightly at Dwalin. "I will not need to, for all of
you are honorable and patient and trusting, of course. I truly
never meant for this to turn into such a difficult pass. Will you aid
me and not thwart me, then?"
"What do you need to do?" asked Nori.
"Wait, mostly," Bilbo said, grateful to turn to a gentler face than
Dwalin's. "And have you not worrying or searching for me if I am
missing for a brief time! Of course, if I'm gone more than
a couple days please do come find me - In that case I probably would be lost."
They all began talking again, but now it was low and between one
Dori and Nori had made their way over to Dwalin and aside from a brief
somewhat heated exchange in that corner, the consensus was soon agreed
upon. Bilbo had their respect and (grudging, temporary) trust, at
least for a time. It was not wholehearted or cheerily
given, but still it was given and for that he was grateful. He
had feared he would have to be far more underhanded or secretive about
all of it. They were good fellows really, all of them. Even
grumpy old Dwalin.
Now, he thought as he reached for his lukewarm tea, now his waiting