Stone of Erebor

by Primula

Chapter 23: Harvest

By the time Bilbo managed to follow, Dím had pushed the door open and was already across the dark room, kneeling beside Mizûl on the bedside floor.  The elderly smith lay awkwardly curled on the floor-rug, his breath rattling and wheezing sporadically in his throat. The long strip of cloth that had been wrapped around the replacement stone straggled from his sprawled hands.  The spice box lay open and empty on the rumpled bed just above his head.  Bilbo automatically began to swing the door shut behind him, stumbling over something on the floor.  It rolled away from his foot;  a globe of humble marble, exactly the size the Arkenstone had been.

"He opened it…" choked Dím, chaffing the cold hands he held.  "How, I don't know.  I left it locked.  He should have been sleeping."

"Should I get help? Who do I call for?" asked Bilbo, alarmed at the ashen face of the old dwarf and his obvious frailty. 

"No one…"whispered Dím.  "I don’t think it would be of any use now…" 

Bilbo could think of no words to say.  Numbly he bent and picked up the marble sphere, a great weariness seeming to settle on his shoulders.  He had never intended for it to lead to this. He stood hesitantly for a moment, then sat on the edge of the chair by the yet-warm brazier, turning the stone in his hands.  "Can I get anything…some water…?"

The young dwarf hunched over, tugging one of the blankets the rest of the way down from the bedding to pull it crookedly over his uncle's shoulders, but did not answer.  Bilbo wondered if he should call for help anyway, or even if he should just leave, leave them alone.   The old dwarf's worn wooden mallet lay nearby.  On impulse, Bilbo got up and fetched it, placing it in his grasp. 

The fingers weakly clutched at it once, before the handle rolled down the palms, back to the rug.  Dím touched it briefly, but did not try to replace it in that faltering grasp.  Instead he just held his elderly kin to him, smoothing the tangles of his beard away from his face and whispered to him, almost crooning something in dwarvish, again and again.  As Bilbo stood there helplessly, they both heard the strange rattling in the throat, saw the old hands and legs jerking briefly as if in protest of the spirit's departure.  The old smith's eyes opened briefly, without recognition, then rolled and closed.  After a long moment there was one more shallow breath, then his breath faded away.

Dím was still for a long moment in that silence, knowing - the only movement where he still absently chaffed one of the limp hands.  "He has gone away then, gone with his treasure," the youth said in a low voice.  "Gone away on his journey at last.  When he sees my father, I hope he will understand why I had to take it, to put it back, that he will still speak well of me to our ancestors."  He lapsed back into whispers of Dwarvish, then looked up at Bilbo as if for reassurance. 

"We had to put it back," he said.

"Yes," Bilbo agreed gently. "We did."

"I'm glad we did," Dím continued, stroking his hand over the gray-white hair and beard, straightening tangles from it. "It was well, for now I have hope that he was able to face our family with honor, not as a thief."

"Not as a thief…" Bilbo echoed, unsure what to say.  The smith's death had come rather as a shock; they both had known that the substitute stone would be discovered sooner or later, dwarves in general were too astute about such things, but he never *really* expected that the shock of it would be fatal, or that it would happen so soon.  The fact that Dim did not seem to find it all that surprising was an eye-opener on how deeply it had been affecting him. 

"I do not blame, I do not look for vengeance," Dim was saying in a monotone, rocking back and forth.   "I forfeit all vengeance to the line of he who was wronged, though it was only in his dotage that he fell…"

Bilbo was wrung by a surge of pity for the lad. "Now, no need of worry on that part.  It's over and done with, we've set it right."  He awkwardly patted Dím's shoulder where he still sat, cradling Mizûl's body.

Dim slowly released the still form to the sleeping rugs beneath it, and pulled the blanket up over the still face.  He raised his eyes, glancing over Bilbo and focusing on the darkness of the wall somewhere beyond him.

"When the kin of Thorin Oakenshield ask, you may tell them that justice was served.  Justice was served.  He was slain by one of the King's own servants… his own kin have seen to that." Dím's voice broke as he bowed his head.  

"Is there someone who can help?" asked Bilbo, not for the first time.  He was feeling utterly at a loss.  "A, er…," he hesitated, unsure of Dwarven burial procedures and who aided them.

"No, I will care for him. His kin will care for him as is proper." He met Bilbo's eyes then, speaking in a strangely conversational tone, quickly, as if it would ward off the unreality of what was happening. "We have a family tomb, though perhaps you did not know it.  Or perhaps you would think we would not deserve such a thing, but we do have one…" He looked back down at the still form and grimaced. "The resting place of our forefathers lies back in the Iron Mountains, far, far from here.  Those mines are now abandoned anyway.. and now we own one here.  It is nearly empty, of course.  None rest there but my father, Dímûl.  Now his brother will lie beside him."  He was silent for a long moment, raising his glinting eyes to the rack of tools that hung upon the wall, now barely visible in the dimness of the dying brazier fire.   "One day I may lay there myself, hopefully in more honor than those who have gone before me."

“I believe you will," said Bilbo with sincerity. 

The smith's life had seemed to pass away along with his treasure, and he shivered at the thought, realizing his hand had strayed to his pocket out of long habit, as if to be sure his own treasure was safe and with him.  He rubbed his hands together until the feeling passed.