Stone of Erebor
Chapter 22: Returning
With the handle of the heavy lunch basket firmly clasped in
Dím's hands, the two of them hesitantly entered the halls.
It was now drawing on well past mid-day into afternoon, and as they
slipped along hallways and down steps, Bilbo could smell the late
dwarven luncheons that had been cooked here and there, roasting meat
and spicy soups wafting past teasingly until he half-wished that the
'cheese' they were carrying really was one.
From what he could remember, they were nearly to the point where they
would be able to turn from the main thoroughfare and he began to
relax. "This isn't so bad now, is it?" he murmured in
Dim gave him a half-smile in spite of his nervousness and gestured
ahead to a doorway that opened up on their right about a dozen paces
down. "Just there," he said softly. "We can…"
A deep voice suddenly interrupted, calling out from somewhere
behind. "Where are you going with that creature?"
Dim and Bilbo both spun around, the dwarf trying to not appear guilty,
Bilbo with a mixture of surprise and righteous indignation. He
had no doubt which of them was being referred to.
"Creature?" he spluttered.
Ignoring Bilbo's rejoinder, Ûrd, the Master Jeweler of
Dáin's realm strode towards them giving Dim a polite nod. "Not
to intrude, of course… Dim, isn't it? Dímûl's son, weren't
you? Yes. Well. I do hope you realize what you are in the company
of? I would not be concerned except seeing as this particular
holebit was seeking entrance to my own worktables…"
"Hobbit," corrected Bilbo. "And I was not trying to…"
"… I feel I must at least inquire as to what he is doing away from his
approved escort of esteemed Companions." He paused to give Bilbo an
unfriendly look then caught Dím's reluctant eyes again and
lowered his voice conspiratorially, as if it made a difference.
"There is no telling what some foreigners will do to lay ahold of our
treasures, you realize. It would be unwise to allow yourself caught up
"I…" Dim faltered.
"Now just a minute. He was escorting me as a favor by my most
esteemed Companions, and with the blessing of your own King," Bilbo
said as firmly as he could manage.
"I was," nodded Dim, glad to follow Bilbo's lead. "And I am honored to
do that service on their behalf, have no fears for myself or our
treasures, Master Ûrd ." In spite of his smooth voice, the basket
swung, betraying the trembling of his hands.
Bilbo, who had been wracking his brain for the puffed-up titles he had
invented for himself during their last meeting, suddenly inserted
himself between the Jeweler and Dim, blocking the basket from his view.
"As the Master Mathom-Wielder of the Shire from Underhill, I was sent
in the keeping of your chief jewel-dresser by Dáin himself," he
interrupted pompously. "Seeing as you yourself had refused to entertain
me earlier, a discourtesy, I might note, that I have kept from the
King's ears thus far but may not be inclined to do so a second time in
light of these ill words. I had thought the servants of the King
Under the Mountain, much less the Masters of Trades would have more
gracious tongues for their august friends."
"Friends?" The Jewel Master raised his brows.
Dim tried picking up a few of the threads Bilbo was scattering about.
"Of course…the people of the Shire are friends with our Kingdom," he
nodded. "And Mr. Baggins is most esteemed even among them.
It is no wonder that the King should want his thoughts upon these
"You are only the jewel-dresser.
I am the Master. Why was
I not asked?"
Bilbo thought fast. "He must have realized how you were occupied
Dim promptly echoed his lead. "The King must realize that the gem sets
for Midsummer you have been designing are taking so many of your hours,
he would not have wanted to burden you with something so…"
"It was most thoughtful," Bilbo nodded, "Not surprising, seeing as you
are in such good standing with the King. I am sure my thoughts on
the matter are only preliminaries to your own much more authoritative
"For what?" asked Ûrd, looking both confused and doubtful.
"We are on our way to the gemworks," offered Dim. "Our guest is
to give his expert and most learned opinion on the quality of the
stones we retrieved from our newer veins, and perhaps…"
"I can provide some guidance in light of my own experiences in other
lands," finished Bilbo when Dim hesitated.
The elderly jeweler raised one hand to briefly twist at the point of
his beard, suspicion still lurking in his eyes though not as strongly
as before. "It would only take less than an hour for a viewing of the open gemworks," he commented. "Why
do you carry a meal with you?"
"Hobbits are a noble but hungry folk," said Bilbo.
"So I have been told," Ûrd said dryly. Dím looked
down at Bilbo as if wondering what his diminutive conspirator was
"It is by the enduring courtesy of my current
escort that I am
supplied with sustenance, a small provision for our walk to help keep
up my strength. I look forward to a greater meal upon my safe
return to my Companions, who are in full support of my services being
used to further the wealth of this kingdom."
Ûrd considered this. "If this is what you need for a mere walk,
your folk must need to store many provisions to travel."
"Oh yes!" Bilbo replied with a small bow, warming to the subject.
"Waggons full. That's part of why they rarely leave their
homes. They can get positively famished on a short jaunt to the
Post. I have heard tales of certain stronger races - if you take
my meaning - gaining good gold in exchange for the lending of their
strength in carrying all of the food it takes just to get a family of
Hobbits over the mountains." He hoped this wasn't laying it on
too thick, though the thought of it rather tickled his own imagination
now that he had it there.
"Now if you will pardon us, we need to be on our way," interjected Dim
with another small bow. "I must have him back to his Companions
within the expected time, you understand. And I am sure you have
many other pressing matters to attend to."
"Oh. Yes, I understand. Of course," replied Ûrd. He didn't
look as if he did, but he stepped back and after a moment turned back
the direction he had come from. He glanced back at them as they
turned together and walked down the hallway. Dim marched right
past the doorway he had indicated before, so Bilbo went with him.
It was only after several minutes of walking that they slowed and dared
a communal glance backwards themselves. Ûrd was no where in
"Phew," Bilbo said quietly. "Do we double back or is there another
way? Do you think he would hide or try to follow us?"
"We'll have to double back," Dím whispered. "I don't think
he would, but let's stop here a moment to be sure he's really
gone. That was a close one."
"I'll say. It's not the first time I've met him."
"That was obvious," Dím said wryly, and then suddenly smiled
down at him. "Come on."
Bilbo was tremendously grateful when they finally left behind the upper
halls with its suspicious inhabitants and scents of cooking to descend
below the living levels. Dim pushed past the thick, musty hanging
he vaguely remembered, the one that kept the chill of the lower halls
from the homes just above them, and they entered darker, lesser used
streets of this dwarven-city.
The sudden quiet seemed loud to him, the only sounds being the
trickling of water into the small wells that dotted the passageways of
this mountain, a tiny thread of silver sound in the colder, darkened
air. Dím's breathing echoed around the hall, or perhaps it was
his own; in unspoken agreement they had both begun to hurry their
pace. Dím paused to light the candle in a tiny
iron lantern that Bilbo carried; he had added at the last minute when
he realized that his companion might not be bothering with a bit of
light, but he very much wanted some. No delay held them
until they reached a branch in the hallway where Dim hesitated a long
moment (it seemed much longer to Bilbo than it truly was) and then
turned to the left. The hobbit found even this small hesitation
reason enough to mull over the many dark and mysterious ways the two of
them could falter or be lost in these halls to either wander on forever
or to come out in the middle of Dáin's bedroom. It was
testament to his rather frazzled state of mind that the latter did not
seem all that farfetched.
His imagination on musings of this sort was strong enough that it was
with great relief that he saw his guide pause to pull on a door that
slid along dusty tracks, leading to a dark hallway with a
stillness and a stale feel to it. He remembered this door, and
that boost of certainty held him for perhaps ten paces in peace until
his imaginings returned to query what would happen if there were more
than one door just like that one, and they had the wrong one.
What if it led to some other set of tombs, and they stumbled upon
mourners for some more recently deceased dwarf… or something darker?
"There," said Dim. He ran his fingers briefly over a single rune
carved in the wall beside them, a confirmation that they were very
near. It was the first time he had spoken since they had
descended into these darkened paths, and Bilbo, his runaway train of
thought broken, literally startled. His small jump jostled the
basket in Dím's hand making both of them reflexively grab at it,
hugging it between them as if their very lives depended upon it.
"Eh…sorry," muttered Bilbo. Dim shrugged in an almost embarrassed way
himself, grunted and began walking again, leaving Bilbo to follow along
So quick and furtive were their steps and so focused on walking quietly
that they overshot what they were looking for. "Wait,” Dim said,
peering at the smooth door coming up before them. He held
the tiny lamp up to the carvings on the doorposts. "This can't be
right. There are two dwarves entombed here."
"Fili and Kili," nodded Bilbo in sudden understanding. "Thorin's
kin; they saved his life, or tried to. He died of his wounds
after, but they were slain on the battlefield itself, they fell
fighting right beside him, shielding him …" He trailed off.
"Were you there with them?"
"No, no; I am no warrior. But they were good friends. To
tell the truth, I was watching from a hilltop when I was struck
senseless. I'm afraid I missed a good lot of it - not too heroic,
was it? Probably just as well. Fighting is such an ugly
thing to watch or to be in, for all the songs written about it."
"They perished in glorious honor, then," said Dim, reading the runes on
"If you count that glory," sighed Bilbo. "It was honorable, anyway.
Let's go back."
The smooth doorway to Thorin's tomb was if anything, more elaborately
framed than he recalled. Their single flame made the shadows of
the carvings tremble and bob, alternately shadowed and shining with
touches of bright metals and gemstones.
"My uncle opened it before, I cannot and what is more, I do not want to
know how to open it, lest temptation take me someday the same way it
has taken my kin." Dim said, looking down as his companion.
"I understand," said Bilbo.
Dim set the precious lunch-basket down on the floor and turned his
back, covering his eyes firmly.
"Here, said Bilbo. He drew off his waistcoat and wrapped it over
the hunched dwarf's head, covering his face. "Just in case," he
"Thank you…" came Dím's muffled voice.
Bilbo stepped up to the doorway, running his hands over the carvings
that wound their way up the doorposts and peering up at the ones that
adorned the lintel. In spite of their mutual haste to have it
'over and done with' there was a reverence and stillness about this
place, about the carvings themselves that called out to be seen, to be
read, to be pondered upon and not merely brushed past as
decoration. Bilbo's fingers slid over the key carving, the
shape of a crown. He briefly caressed its shape with thought,
then suddenly pressed in upon it. It gave way easier than he had
feared. There was a shifting sound and the door released.
Dim was suddenly beside him again, wordlessly handing back his
As the door opened, Bilbo reached for the basket but it was already
back in Dím's nervous hands. It swung, bumping him as they
tentatively went in. He thought it strange that now that they
were finally here and so close to their goal all he could think of was
the scent of that apple in the basket, laying there withered, bruised
but yet sweet beside the stone.
The tomb sparkled about them, the smooth walls and peaceful symmetry
bringing a visual hush to his heart. He stopped and gazed once
more upon the sepulcher in the center of the room with its 'oaken'
shield wrought so cleverly in stone. Off to the side, Dím
was lighting one of the elaborate silver lamps from the small lantern
they had brought.
"Mizûl made this, my kinsman…" he said softly, running his hands
over the silver tracings. "His crafting was so fine. I will never have
such skill. He made that filigree over there also, the one along
"I had no idea," said Bilbo without thought. He knew that for
proper manners he really ought to stop and take a proper look at the
lamps, or examine that filigree and make an admiring remark or
two. Instead he found his feet taking him up to the stone box in
the center, reaching out to almost touch that hard, cold edge where it
would open. All of his thoughts were for Thorin now, being drawn
far away from Dím or his kin, or their troubles.
"I suppose we should open it first," he added, not even aware that he
had interrupted Dím's soft monologue about this uncle's other
past accomplishments. The dwarf stopped mid-sentence and after a
moment joined him where he stood pushing at the heavy lid of the box,
drawing a short prying bar from his belt where he had carried it
The oaken-colored stone of the great shield shone brown and gold,
chocolate and black as they slowly shifted the lid, or rather as Dim
slowly shifted it. Bilbo's felt his own feeble pushes were
unlikely help, but as the young dwarf grunted and strained, he shoved
too, offering what verbal encouragement he could along with his small
strength. It finally shifted and they paused to catch their
breath. Thorin was once more open to their viewing, the lamplight
shining on him nearly to his waist. As before, he looked unperturbed,
dignified and silent despite all of the unusual activity going on
around him. Somehow it was fitting.
Dim bent and pushed aside the brown cloth within the basket, lifting
the heavy, waxen gemstone up in his hands delicately, as if it would
shatter from a breath.
Taking a small cheese-knife from the basket, he paused a moment, then
decisively scored the surface. Cracking the humble wax, the
stiffened cheesecloth was slowly pulled away from the silky-smooth
stone it had concealed. The inimitable beauty of the Arkenstone shone
forth, like pure moonlight stabbing through a break in a cloud-darkened
night. He rubbed away the traces of wax with a forge-roughened
thumb, polishing it to a sheen even beyond what was necessary. A
long minute passed, and then another and still he was polishing that
mesmerizing beauty. Bilbo began to be concerned; he edged a
little nearer. Another minute passed.
"I….I don't think I can do this," said the young dwarf, his voice
sounded harsh, as if he had to struggle to force it out. His eyes
remained fixed on the silvery globe in his hands, slowly turning
"Let me," Bilbo said, reaching out. He understood. Oh, how
he understood. He moved slowly, tentatively placed one fingertip
onto Dím's hand, knowing better than to ever get between a Dwarf
and their treasure, even at a time like this. Dím's eyes were
half-lidded now, as if in sleep, but there was no somnolescence about
that lidded gaze. He stopped turning the gem, took a deep,
shuddering breath, then slowly managed to release his hold, allowing
Bilbo to take it.
Bilbo received its weight, flashing in the small light of the lamp,
warm from touch and cool at the same time; soft as mist and solid as
steel. He cupped it in both hands as the dwarf trembled and
turned away his face, swiping at his eyes with an impatient hand.
"Perhaps he will accept it back better if it is one of his own
Companions who restores it," he said gruffly.
Bilbo looked up from the glowing gem to the edge of the stone casket
and realized he would need his hands to help pull himself up if he was
to reach Thorin where he lay. Glancing back at Dim, he saw the
dwarf turned away. It wouldn't be fair to make him hold it
He looked down at the stone, trying to gauge its size and then tried
fitting the Arkenstone into his pocket, but it was too big.
Putting it under his arm almost worked, but the perfect roundness of it
made it impossible to hold it there long enough without it threatening
to suddenly squirt out. He took out his pocket-handkerchief and
briefly tried making a sling for it, hoping that he could then clutch
the bundle in his teeth, but the handkerchief wouldn't quite meet
Frustrated, he finally had to unceremoniously plop the Stone up over
the ledge, hearing it clunk down onto some part of Thorin's armor, and
only then remembered the obviously useful basket they had brought with
them, wincing at his own forgetfulness.
Hopefully the armor had kept it from, well, making a dent in Thorin.
Too late to correct it now. He reached up and pulled himself
higher, balancing on the shallow decorative edge that ran around the
circumference of the box. The stone lay by Thorin's right side,
apparently having hit the side of his breastplate before rolling
off. Bilbo was relieved at the lack of damage to both Thorin and
the Stone. He had to reach over the edge and gingerly fish around
by Thorin's side to scoop the gem back into his hands, an uncomfortable
moment that made him mutter apologies to Thorin, feeling as if he were
invading his privacy.
It was considered one last time, the silver fire of the lamplight
running along it, setting all of the flecks of moonlight and starlight
inside afire. The Heart of the Mountain. Thorin had been
the one with the dream, the will and the determination to bring life
back to this place. And he had succeeded. It was fitting
that he, also the Heart in his own way should remain its keeper.
This mountain was where both of them had found their beginning, and
where both should rest.
He took the stone and, unable to think of a proper Dwarven blessing,
inwardly said an Elven one. He would think about whether that
mattered or not later on; for now, it seemed right. The
Arkenstone nestled back into the rounded space between Thorin's
withered hands as if it had never left them, and Bilbo finally released
the breath he had not realized he was holding.
There it was. His friend had his treasure; the promises of the
Dale, of Bilbo himself, were honorable once more. He wondered if
somehow, someplace outside the world old Thorin even knew whether that
gem remained with him. If anyone would know the difference, it
would be Thorin.
He looked back down at his other friend, the one that was yet
living. Dím's chestnut head was bowed down, facing half
towards the delicate silver lamp that burned in the alcove, as if he
had not the strength to turn all the way away from where that Stone of
"Well, that's done," Bilbo said, taking refuge in being brief and
businesslike in the face of the poor dwarf's emotion as well as his
own. He jumped back down to the floor. "It's over. Come
now, help me get this lid back into place."
The way back seemed longer than the going had been, perhaps because
both of them were a bit overwrought and weary from interrupted sleep
the past days. They had little reckoning of how much time has
passed since they had set out, though Bilbo knew it had been long
enough that even his consuming the remaining contents of the lunch
basket was not quite enough to stave off hunger. It had to be
nearing supper-time, he thought, and wondered if any of his friends had
decided to go hunting for him in spite of their promise not to.
They probably had.
At least it was over and done with now - he could report to them with
good news and a fairly clear conscience. His only concern now was
that he would have to talk them into showing mercy towards the elderly
smith who lay under Dím's care, he would have to find a way to
make them refrain from all of the vengeful things they had spoken
of. Surely they would understand…
They had only just entered the hall that led to Mizûl's rooms,
having managed to find their way back without event or trouble, and
both of them had been starting to relax when his thoughts were
interrupted by an odd clunking sound somewhere ahead, followed by
Dím giving a gasp beside him. Immediately
alerted, Bilbo saw there was nothing in front of them, so he spun about
to see what might have been behind them, only to almost be knocked off
his feet by his companion running for the door at the end of the
hall. He staggered and followed, still not knowing what had
happened to cause this sudden panic.
"Uncle!" cried Dím, pushing his way into the darkened rooms.