Stone of Erebor
Chapter 6: High and Low
Sometime in the night Bilbo was dimly aware of someone quietly entering
the chamber he slept in, passing through with a rustle and a creak of
leather. There was a shuffling of cloth and silence. He fell back
asleep until whomever it was began to snore softly.
He bleared up at the slice of sky that now could be seen through its
single narrow window, high up. It looked early, a spring dawn
trailing a touch of lavender and peach through the blue. The air
was slightly chilly and he was reluctant to rise from the thick
blankets that he had burrowed down into. After thinking about it for a
few moments he sat up and, pulling the blankets with him, peered over
the edge of them to view his roommate.
An alcove was set into the wall opposite with its drapery kicked aside
and a young dwarf lay on his back on a second bed there, only partly
covered with a blanket. Seeing as he had apparently fallen asleep while
still in his leather work clothes, this made little difference. He was
snoring lightly with the occasional snort through his reddish beard;
his dangling arm twitched.
A faint tang of smoke rose from the thick apron that lay in a heap
beside him, all dotted and smudged with the evidence of sparking fires.
This must be Glóin's son, Bilbo thought. He realized he
had forgotten to ask what his name was.
Not wishing to wake him, he slipped out of bed with hobbit-quietness
and gathered up the pack that had been left beside him, seeking a place
where he could freshen up for the day and hopefully find some
breakfast. The heavy drape that lay across the door opening
pushed aside easily and he found himself in a pleasant sort of
rug-scattered sitting room. There was a mirror, a basin and, to his
delight, a small hand-pump that easily brought him a bit of cold
washing-water. He laved his face and hands and ran a comb through his
lightly greying curls. They did seem to be a bit greyer every
year now, ever since he'd left the Shire. Who would've thought
traveling would be so aging?
In the mirror he glimpsed a servant peering in at the other door. He
smiled a greeting. "Hullo! Good morning. Is there any
breakfast to be had?"
"Yes, master Hobbit," nodded the servant, who was obviously trying to
hide his curiosity about this odd guest. "I was sent to see if you
might be awake. This way, if you please."
They breakfasted in the same hall as the night before, the Company
slowly trickling in. None of them were too talkative but it
could hardly be expected after the late night and their dampening
news. Bombur was already there, installed at the end of the
table near the fire with two empty plates beside him; with his fork and
knife he was starting in on a third. Glóin nodded at the hobbit
in greeting and pulled Bilbo's own chair with the extra cushion out
from the table for him.
There were many things to consider, but to Bilbo (and apparently the
Dwarves as well) breakfast came first. Bilbo took his place among
the others and hoped very much for something warm and filling to help
them all face what promised to be a difficult day. He visualized
golden hot cakes and rich butter, plenty of it, when the servants came
in with the platters of food.
He had visualized them so strongly that when a silver plate of kippered
fish was set before him instead, eyes and all, he had to take a moment
to adjust to the sight. A small tub of something brown that
smelled strongly of malt and treacle sat beside it. He wasn't even sure
what it was, and if he was supposed to put it on the fish or spoon it
up or what. He opted to leave it be, hoping better things would come,
and picked at the fish. It had pickles with it. He tried to not make
any impolite faces at Dwarven tastes as he poked it with his
fork. At least there was tea, even if it was oddly dark and
The morning improved greatly to his sight as a tall stack of hot,
flat potato-cakes made their appearance next, along with a chunky
applesauce to dip them in. Ah, much better. The applesauce was thick
with cloves and cinnamon, southern spices that he knew the dwarves
loved in quantity. He dipped a cake and licked a sweet drip of
applesauce off of his finger. Perhaps they did know how to cook
It was only after most of the dishes had been cleared away and the
servants were gone that they began to speak of Thorin, of the missing
stone and how they should try to recover it, if possible. The
servants had offered moist cloths for their hands and beards before
withdrawing from the room and Bilbo was so occupied with scrubbing his
face he missed some of the opening comments.
He came up from the cloth rather tousled and damp to find Dori giving
him a mildly amused look. "I don't think I've ever seen someone
bathe with napkins," he commented.
"Napkins?" said Bilbo. "They smell wonderful, don't they?"
"Scented oil is added. Gives gloss to the beard, you know."
Bilbo set down his towel... napkin... and gave an embarrassed smile. "I
see. Well, it shall just have to gloss me all over, I suppose," he
said. "What's our plan, then, and what happens first, do we know yet?"
"Not yet," said Dori unhappily, turning his attention to the others.
Dwalin and Glóin had their heads close together, murmuring. The
company were all looking very serious as Bifur related to Bombur their
unhappy discovery of the previous night. Bombur's rounded
countenance was alternating red and white as he listened, angered and
They were of mixed mind as to what was to be done and much talk was
generated that accomplished little but repetition and indignant noise.
Bilbo listened for a while, as they spoke yet again of whether or not
to tell Dáin, and how could it ever have happened, he finally
decided to speak up.
"Excuse me," he said. They continued, so he repeated himself a little
louder. "Excuse me!"
Seven beards swung as heads turned to consider him.
"Everyone be quiet now, our Mr. Baggins has something to say," said
Dwalin, stating the obvious.
Bilbo nodded thanks to him. "Who would know the way to open the tomb?"
Their eyebrows raised at this common-sense query. "Why, the
topmost officials... Dáin of course, and perhaps two or three
others," said Dwalin. "And though I know it is a fear we all carry, we
may not cast any shadow of suspicion upon our King as long as there is
any other option, of course."
"Of course..." murmured the others, glancing around the room for anyone
"There's ourselves," added Dori.
"But it wasn't one of us," said Bofur. "None of us would ever consider
such a thing."
There was a rumble of assent. "There would also be the ones who worked
on the tomb, the sculptors and artisans," said Nori thoughtfully.
"Though there were not a large number of them."
"I can't imagine any of them daring..." began Bombur.
"Are any of them still living, that worked on it?" interjected Bilbo.
"The crafters and such, I mean?"
"Some of our own number worked on it," offered Dwalin. "Myself, and
Nori here. And Balin..." he paused and looked slightly pained.
"But Balin has gone away for now," said Bilbo, trying to keep the
subject going. "And this was recent enough that the dust was still
disturbed. Nori, can you tell us how many of the crafters are still
here at the Mountain?"
Nori furrowed his brow with thought and tugged his beard lightly. "I'm
trying to remember... there's Linór...."
"Yes, he was there, though I don't recall seeing him for some time,"
agreed Dwalin, coming back out of his own thoughts. "And Malin helped
also. He worked on the alcoves, remember?" He turned to Bilbo. "Malin
is a kinsman of mine and Balin's, and therefore of Thorin also. Quiet,
"Surely not Malin..." began Dori, hushed by a hand motion from
"I fear we mustn't think it impossible of any," Glóin said.
"It's beauty could turn even the wisest head." He gestured for them to
" Mizûl," said Nori. "He was there. He did the metalwork, finest
work I've seen in many a day."
" Mizûl?" said Glóin with surprise. "He instructs at the
northern forge. My son Gimli has been taking lessons there. I'm sure we
could speak with him easily enough."
" Mizûl, Malin, Linór..." counted Nori on his fingers,
mumbling. He snapped them. "Ûrd!" he said, "He was there
too. I remember his work on the lamps, and the doorway also."
" Ûrd?" said Dori, wrinkling his face with distaste. "Never did
like that fellow, though he was very skilled. Isn't he serving
"Yes, he's the Chief Jeweler for the King," nodded Glóin. "Been
so for several years if I recall. He helped craft the shield for
Thorin's tomb as well. I can't imagine him ever taking anything like
"But if he is a jeweler," put in Bilbo. "Wouldn't that mean he
might be tempted by such a jewel? I don't know him, of course..."
"Just as well," said Dori.
" Mizûl, Malin, Linór, Ûrd," Nori ticked off on his
hands and squinted with the effort of remembering. He shook his head.
"Is that all, then?" asked Bilbo. "There weren't any others who would
have been able to open it?"
"I don't think so," said Dwalin, "and I believe our Burglar is on the
"Former Burglar," corrected Bilbo. "I'm not stealing anything, I
"Former Burglar then," smiled Dwalin. "This gives us the direction we
need. We have four dwarves that we need to talk to, or at least to look
around their quarters if at all possible. I will speak with Malin
myself. He is my kin and will not find anything unusual in my
"I shall seek out Linór," said Nori. "We used to meet on
occasion, though it's been many a season since we tooled leather
together. I think my inquiring should not go ill."
"Dori, will you speak to Ûrd?" asked Dwalin.
"Why me?" grumbled Dori. "Just because he's my neighbor doesn't mean I
enjoy speaking with him."
"Because he's your neighbor," said Nori. "Go borrow some lamp-oil from
him or something."
"I will seek out Mizûl," interrupted Glóin. "And I can
take our hobbit with me. I would think touring a guest to the
forge where my son is working to show off his apprentice efforts would
not be seen as unusual."
"A forge?" said Bilbo. "Well, that's something I haven't seen. Not a
working one, I mean. It will help me feel that I'm being of some use as
"You are of much use, Mr. Baggins," said Dwalin with a slight bow.
"Never think you are not. You've aided us greatly already in helping
us start our search."
"Now if we may only find our missing stone!" said Nori fervently. "Or
Thorin's stone, rather." The others agreed.
Thus it was that by late in the morning, less than a day after his
arrival, Bilbo found himself on his way deep into the mountain to see
the mystery of Dwarven forges. He followed along with Glóin
diamond belt glittered even in the slightest glow of the lamps.
Behind them, the bright hall with its table awaited their return
presided over by Bombur, who had claimed the right to assure a
strengthening meal for them upon their return.