Stone of Erebor
Chapter 4: Untimely Taken
Bilbo followed the lead of the dwarves down several flights of steps,
alternating with cool hallways and sloping passages. Most had at least
a few lamps burning, but as they continued on these became
fewer and farther between. The dwarves gave this little thought,
but the hobbit among them began to be a little concerned for the safety
of his own toes being stubbed in the darkness.
Not that he minded tunnels so much, nor even darkness when he was
someplace cozy and familiar, but bumbling along over thresholds and
down steps when he hadn't the faintest notion of where they were bound
was a bit uncomfortable. At least it was a generally tidy place, the
rubble he recalled from before had long since been cleared away...
still, he began to wish he had had the presence of mind to bring along
one of the candles from the dining table when he heard they were going
to a tomb.
Reaching another lower level, they went along a well-lit hall that had
several doorways in it, the murmuring of dwarven voices heard here and
there, and the faint scent of various foods, a hint of smoke and
other comfortable scents of daily living drifting by. He had the
impression each doorway concealed private homes, like smials for
Dwarves, and his curiosity was greatly piqued. He slowed down
very briefly by one that was partly open, to try to peek within.
He couldn't see much, just a bit of firelit wall and something on the
floor... he daren't really stop and stare for fear of offending his
friends with his curiosity, but how he wished he could have nudged that
door further open. Maybe there was a bit of the Burglar still in
him someplace after all.
The hall angled to one side, then they turned left and pushed past a
thick hanging that lay across an opening to keep the chill away from
the homes. A pipe ran from somewhere above, and clear water
trickled into a small well by the entrance. It felt moist and cooler as
they passed it and Bilbo shivered slightly at the unwelcome reduction
in both light and warmth. He walked closer to the others, finding it
warmer in a bunch. Dwalin led them without pause down a dark
flight of stairs. Bilbo's eyes were still dazzled from the lamps of the
hallway as they started down so that he nearly stumbled into his
"Will there be any lamps, er, down there?" he ventured to ask.
Dori, who had been walking along with him for most of the way
considered this. "I doubt it. Why keep a lamp burning where there are
none to see it?" They came out into another level passage where
only one lamp could be seen burning some ways down.
"Then pardon me, but shouldn't we be taking one along with us to see
"Good thinking, master Hobbit." said Bofur, just ahead of him. "Here,
let's take one of these." As they came up on the hall lamp he
reached out a hand and casually lifted it from its hook as they passed;
taking it along, he peered at it critically. "Plenty of light left in
this one," he said. "It'll do."
"Whose lamp is it?" asked Bilbo, thinking they may have just swiped
someone's front porch light.
" Dáin's, I suppose." said Bofur with a shrug.
"Much of the common items are considered the property of the King.
Isn't this how it is seen in your land?"
"We don't have a King, and our lamps are our own. But that's not the
point. We'll be putting it back when we return, won't we?"
"Don't have a King?" said Dori with surprise. "What do you have, then?"
"A Mayor," said Bilbo. "Among other things. He doesn't much resemble a
Bofur pursed his lips. "You didn't let him scare you now, did you?"
"Scare me?" the hobbit trotted a bit faster to keep up with the dwarf.
He liked being near the light.
" Dáin, I mean. His thinking you a thief."
"Well, I admit it's made me concerned that nothing goes missing while I
am around, I must say. He didn't seem to trust me too
much." The old dwarf glanced down at him as they paused for a
door to be opened.
"I don't think he completely trusts anybody," said Bofur. "He has too
much gold at stake."
"And you don't?" said Bilbo with a smile.
"You wouldn't burgle me, would you?"
"Just for old time's sake?"
Bofur turned to the others around him. "Look at this, our hobbit wants
to burgle my gold from me already."
Bilbo laughed. "Never, my friend. I've had far too much of the stuff to
lug around myself. I've no interest in having to carry any more weight
than I have to, I assure you. I'm getting old!"
"Aren't we all," commented Dori. "But gold still feels sweet to me.
What a terrible loss that you hobbits suffer, to not even want gold in
your old age."
Dwalin tugged opened the door with a muttering about dust being in the
tracks and it needing to be fixed. They all filed through it.
This hall was still cool, but dry.
"Ah, I would gladly sleep in a bed of gold, like a dragon!" said Nori,
who had been bringing up the rear behind Dori. "Come to think of
it, I already do." he laughed.
Bilbo noticed another change in the air here. It felt... well, not
exactly musty or stale, but unused, if that made sense.
Unbreathed, he thought. As if it needed a good opening of a window
for a while to let the breeze blow through. He tried to think
about Nori's golden bed instead of dark, forgotten passages back in the
They turned again and started down yet another set of steps. How far
down could they go? He was beginning to wonder.
"Sounds uncomfortable," he said. "if you haven't a dragon's tough skin."
"What does? Oh, my bed?" smiled Nori. "Most comfortable! I had it
specially made, best goldsmiths..."
Bilbo decided to deliberately misunderstand, to amuse them. "Not only
made of gold though, surely. I know Dwarves are a tough race, but..."
As he expected, Nori and Dori both chuckled at this. "No, not only of
gold," amended Nori, "but silver and gems as well."
"And blankets," offered his brother in a loud whisper. "A great pile of
them. He's not as tough as he likes to make out he is. Now myself, on
the other hand..."
Nori gave Dori a strong nudge, making Dori bounce off of the passage
wall and return the favor, nearly sandwiching the hobbit between
them. Bilbo gave an oof.
"Are you abusing our hobbit back there?" Glóin called back with
good humor. "Been a long time since we've had to separate the two of
you. Thought you'd outgrown it."
"Nori started it."
"No, Dori did. You aren't too squashed, are you Mr. Baggins?"
He managed to give a weak laugh to reassure them, though it had rather
knocked the wind from his lungs for a moment. "I'm all right. How much
farther have we to go?"
"We're nearly there," said Dwalin. "See that mark?"
Bilbo looked curiously at the runic symbol on wall they were passing.
It was only vaguely familiar... "Ah. I've seen this in some of the epic
stories, the ones about great heroes that... well, had, er, died..."
"Well done," said Dwalin approvingly. "A near enough guess. It
indicates the tomb of a Dwarf of great stature. Thorin, in this
"Great stature? Really. Well, if any Dwarf I've known should have such
an honor, I suppose it would be him. Is this the door, then?"
They had slowed, then stopped before a smoothly sealed doorway in the
rock wall. The lintel was carved with patterns of dwarves, tools,
towers and mountains. The door was carved with runes, some of it
precious metals; though he could only see part of it over the shoulders
of his taller companions. Bofur lifted the lamp up - this made
the shadows of the carvings move and slide about, giving them an eerie,
lifelike quality. The cheer of the Company began to settle into a
quietness and respect more suited to visiting a gravesite.
"Yes," said Dwalin. " The next one down is for Fili and Kili, who were
laid together, housed next to their Uncle as was fitting... Haven't
been here for years... let's see now... Now look away, Master Hobbit,
we can't share our door-opening with you, you understand I hope."
"I understand," said Bilbo. "Family secrets and all that" Not
that I haven't opened your doors before, he thought. He
his toes. But something inside him wouldn't quite let him keep his gaze
there. He heard Dwalin shifting a piece of rock, and surreptitiously
took a sneaking glance through his bangs. Between his companions'
shoulders he could see one of the carvings pushing back into the
wall. He quickly looked down again. A carving of a crown.
Most suitable... what a shame Thorin'd never really gotten to be King
after all the work he had done to get there.
The door began to swing open, and as one they all glanced at their
erstwhile retired Burglar. His gaze was firmly fixed on his furry feet.
There were nods of approval. Glóin spoke.
"You may look now. Come. Let us go and pay our respects to Thorin, King
under the Mountain."
There was a strongly murmured assent that made Bilbo wonder at their
feelings about Dáin being in his place, but any fledgling
thoughts on Dwarven politics were promptly scattered away by the sight
of the cool, slightly stuffy sepulcher he now entered.
The walls were smooth and blue-toned, mostly, and a pleasing pattern of
rough-hewn stone had been laid along them, stone filled with some sort
of quartz so the rough surfaces shone and glittered in the lamplight as
a contrast to the smooth ones. More runes ran along the wall, creating
a band of writing all the way around the room, telling of Thorin
Oakenshield and his great exploits presumably. Bilbo could only
decipher a little of it.
What a shame he was so untimely taken, he and Fili and Kili also.
for such a brief time...what a sad time it all was, really. I
wonder if they've written him any laments. It would make a fine tale
for a lament...
The room was larger than Bilbo had thought it would be so they were all
able to fit around the central stone coffer, with space to spare.
The flooring under his feet was smooth gold-shot marble, and the
slightly arched ceiling above glittered as well, with what he did not
know. A pair of tall, elaborate lamps stood in an alcove to one
side. Bofur lit them with the small lamp they had carried.
He tentatively peered up at the great marble box that held the remains
of his Company's erstwhile leader, it stood slightly higher than his
chin. A graven image of Thorin was what he had half-expected,
remembering the tomb of Bard he had been shown in Dale. Instead, he saw
a great shield that appeared to be made of oak though it was cunningly
wrought of an oaken-colored stone. Even the woodgrain could be seen, as
if it lay there simply waiting the battle call, set aside by some
forgetful warrior of the past. The surface it lay on was
elaborate in its patterning, set with precious gems, a pleasing
contrast with the simplicity of the shield. He could see along the edge
where the main body of the stone and the shield-lid fit together.
The dwarves were all murmuring with low notes, he wasn't sure what.
Greetings? Regrets? Some traditional verse? He was strangely
fascinated with it all and saddened at the same time. It was a
beautiful tomb, and it had been so long ago... yet...
He looked a little closer at the places where the top fit to the main
box. Being shorter than the others it was closer to his eye
level. Something odd....
"Something isn't right," said Dwalin.
There were furrowed brows, and noises of concern all around. "I agree,"
said Glóin. There, see. On the floor. The dust has been
"And this," said Dwalin, indicating the great shield. He bent and eyed
it closely. "Slight smudges. As if someone's hands had..."
"Opened it!" squeaked Bilbo.
"What?" they cried, "what do you mean? What is it?"
Dwalin and Bifur were already bending down to see what the hobbit was
pointing at. A crack plainly showed where the two parts did not quite
meet, as if it had been lifted and then set down crookedly. It was a
very small difference but in the perfection of the rest of the room,
it showed up like a farmer's furrow on fallow ground.
"This is terrible! Terrible!" cried Dwalin, pulling at his beard with
distress. "Why would anyone open Thorin's tomb?"
Bilbo's eyes were very round as he spoke what all of them already knew
in their hearts:
"To steal the Arkenstone."