Stone of Erebor
Chapter 7: Forging Ahead
The way to the northernmost forge seemed very long to Bilbo whose
slightly shorter legs were aching with keeping up. Glóin
seemed preoccupied, stumping on ahead at the same steady
pace, down stairs, down ramps and along level halls, and Bilbo
sometimes had to break into a trot to stay abreast of him.
Occasionally they would pass other dwarves who would pause and stare
at him or whisper together and nod. It was not unexpected;
he was part and parcel of the events that had re-founded this kingdom,
and the tales had gotten round in the years. He wondered what he
was like in their tales after so many retellings - surely not the hero
in any way. He knew enough about Dwarves to know they would never
cast the heroic part of any tale with someone of another race.
Perhaps I am the scapegoat, he thought, remembering the way
Dáin had been quick to assume anything gone missing should be
pegged on himself. After all, a burglar would be the worst
nightmare of many a dwarf. Someone who would come in the night to steal
away their treasures, the shadow of a gold-seeking dragon in miniature.
This mental juxtapositioning of himself with a phantom dragon would
have made him chuckle, if he had had the breath for it.
Or the rascal who goes along with the heroes. After all, I'm not
that I'm completely harmless, he thought. There are the bones
of a real
dragon in the waters down there because of me...
Glóin slowed down, glancing at his smaller companion. "Forgive
me, have I been traveling too fast for you, Bilbo?"
"No, no. Not at all," he lied. "The sooner we get there, the better.
Then we can..." he trailed off as he realized there were other dwarves
nearby who might overhear. "...see the forge!" he finished. "I've
always thought the Dwarves were so very clever with their metalworking.
It will be a rare treat to get to watch a few in action, so to speak."
Glóin glanced over at the others, and nodded to show he
understood. "Why yes. You shall be most impressed, of that I am
certain. This will only be our apprentice class. The masters cannot
have a non-dwarven audience, you understand."
"But of course," replied Bilbo as they began moving forward again. "I
expected no less. I am sure it will still be far beyond anything my own
people can do."
He had only half-believed this last part, the Shire-pride in him was
deeply rooted enough that it was difficult for him to think the Shire's
blacksmiths and metalworkers were truly surpassed by mere
apprentices. There were a few very good craftsmen in the Shire...
They passed through a wide doorway with metal-bound doors that lay open
to either side and all of his prideful thoughts stopped.
"Here we are," said Glóin. "The Northern Forge."
Passing hesitatingly through the opening, Bilbo followed his friend
across the wide, sandy floor. The hall that contained it was
overwhelmingly huge, and he found himself craning his head back trying
to see the flame-lit ceiling far above. Sand crunched under his feet,
scattered across the smooth stone flooring, steam hissed, tools banged
and screeched. Waves of heat wafted past along with strangely scented
smoke, acrid with metal, coal and other things he didn't recognize that
made him want to cough.
Great blackened oak and iron racks of tools stood at hand: tongs and
pliers, files and hammers of every shape, length and size plus many
other tools that he didn't even know the names for. There was a
roaring, not only the main forge but some smaller ones as well, bellows
pumping, metal clanging and the deep voices of dwarves mixed all
throughout. Some of them were singing, but as they seemed to be singing
to themselves as they worked rather than together, the effect was a
humming of mixed notes that swirled among the smoke and sparks to
create an almost magical, dreamlike effect. As if it were not quite
real. The unreality of it seemed very strange, considering how
loud it all was.
So the Elves are not the only ones who can weave a spell with their
music and sound he thought. I've often thought so. And oh my.
It was sufficiently amazing he completely forgot about why they had
come for a few minutes. The last time he has seen a Dwarven forge
it had also been here at the Mountain. But then it had been silent and
dark, strewn with wreckage, something noted only in passing shadow as
they sought the upper halls beyond it. This was a living,
breathing forge, and the rhythm and strength of it mesmerized him.
"Perhaps the apprentices really do surpass us..." he whispered to
Glóin was pleased with the effect it had. "Wonderful, isn't it?"
he said loudly, having to lean closer to Bilbo to be sure of being
heard. "It isn't our largest, but it's nicely proportioned and works
beautifully. See the anvils? We've our best collection of them
here, that one over there was made by my great-grandfather. The family
mark is still on it. Smaug had little use for anvils, thankfully.
We've a fine mandrel with his mark on it too, nearly as tall as you
are. Here, put this on."
He led Bilbo to a rack standing to one side all hung with leather
aprons, odd mitts, visors and strange, slit-eyed masks.
Glóin chose a smallish apron for him and helped him put it on,
then chose one for himself. "Keeps any stray sparks from burning
your clothing," he explained. "I don't think we shall need
visors. Just be sure you stay clear of the wheels, where the
"I have no intention of going any nearer than I must!" said Bilbo,
trying to tighten the waist strings on his and still wondering what a
mandrel was. "Though it does look very pretty from a distance. Reminds
me of Gandalf's fireworks."
"Gandalf! Ah, now there's someone who understands the beauty of fire,
and what it can do. What I wouldn't give to see him be taught a bit of
metal-working. Though he'd probably just make some wizardly thing none
of us could understand." Glóin laughed. "Or a pipe. Come this
way. Mizûl's class should be over at that forge there, not
this big one. Gimli can't wait to get to use the larger forge,
you should hear him. He'll be passing the test for that one soon
enough, if he's practiced."
"Practiced on what?" asked Bilbo as he walked, admiring the way the
sparks came up in different colors from different pieces of metal the
students were working with.
"He was forming the common tools, to sell to the Men. Now he's working
with axes mostly. He's got to use his own weapon soon, instead of
always borrowing mine. There he is."
"Mizûl?" Bilbo asked, craning his neck.
"No, Gimli. Did you meet him this morning?"
"Yes and no. He was asleep."
The young dwarf Glóin was gesturing to looked familiar, though
Bilbo noticed he now had his red beard tightly braided and tucked to
the sides, to keep it from being singed. It seemed all the students
did, now that he looked around. Very sensible. He glanced down at
his own feet and decided the length of the heavy apron he had on should
protect his own carefully brushed foothair, or so he hoped. Unlike his
head, his feet had not gone grey much at all and he was pleased with
how they looked.
As they approached, Gimli set down the file he had been using, brushed
the metal shavings from his gloves and came to meet them.
"Gimli!" called Glóin over the noise. "I want you to meet our
esteemed guest, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, a former member of my Company
lately come to visit from his own lands."
Gimli bowed as best he could in the stiff apron he wore and gave Bilbo
something almost like a salute with his gloved hand. "At your
service, Mr. Baggins. I am most honored. Forgive me that I was not able
to greet you last night, I had trouble with one of my... Oh, Father! It
worked! You must see this, see how the tooling came out now with that
new hammer to strike it in. The balance is still a bit off, but I think
I can correct it, with a little more filing, the metal has behaved most
excellently...." He gestured to Glóin to follow him back
to the workbench.
"Ever has he wanted to show me everything he does, since he was small,"
smiled Glóin to Bilbo. "Just a moment!" he added to Gimli.
"Where is your instructor?"
"Orin is helping the youth with their hammering, over there." Gimli
shouted back, gesturing towards a small cluster of dwarves to one side.
Glóin shook his head as he reached his son's side. "No, not
Orin. Mizûl! Where is Mizûl? I would like to speak with
"Mizûl?" said Gimli, looking surprised. "He has not been
instructing for nigh on two months now. Hadn't you heard? Orin took
over for him, seeing as he already carried most of the work as it
was. Orin's been quite strict, but..."
"Where is he then? What occurred?" asked Glóin a bit sharply.
"He wasn't injured, was he?"
"No, Father. He wasn't injured, he just... His thoughts have greatly
wandered and you know he was often given to forgetting many things, but
it grew worse, Father. I am told he was kept on for some time out of
respect, and because of his great knowledge of the skills, but it was
no longer safe to have him about the tools. A youth was nearly
injured. He no longer seemed to see them, or to remember what he had
"Mizûl..." breathed Glóin. "Ah, has age taken yet another
of us? What a merciless master time is, Mr. Baggins.... Well, let
us see what my son has made and then we shall work our way back to tell
With a gesture to Bilbo, he followed Gimli back to the workbench.
The hobbit padded along after him. The table was heavily made, the once
golden oak now blackened and scorched from long living near hot metals,
and it was a bit tall. Bilbo considered the deeply scored surface
and gave a slight jump as a large, shining axe-head was lifted up near
"See?" rumbled the younger dwarf, a leather-encased finger tracing
along one side of it. "And here?"
"Hrmmm." nodded Glóin. Bilbo wondered what they were
seeing that he was not. The one side looked identical to the other, to
him. He did like the cut-outs in the middle of it though..
"How very clever!" he said, "Having some bits of it taken out like
that. Must make it much lighter to carry."
"Eh?" both dwarves said in unison, looking at him with surprise. They
looked at one another and smiled, as adults will smile when children
are precocious. Bilbo suddenly felt like an idiot.
"Yes," said Glóin, in good humor. "That is one of the reasons we
sometimes make them that way. Fine work, my son. You are nearly
ready for your testing-piece, I think. Ask Orin what his thoughts are
on that ridge there, though. It could be a hiding a flaw." He
clapped Gimli on the shoulder. "We will take our leave now, but I
shall see you in the evening?"
"Perhaps. I've still much to do. It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr.
Baggins, ever at your service, and your family's'."
"Yours also," responded Bilbo with a small bow. "Though I highly doubt
any of my family shall ever be underfoot for you, I appreciate the
"Oh, Gimli," said Glóin. "Do you have any idea of where I might
find Mizûl? Or who might know of him?"
The dwarf was looking at his axe-head critically. "I am sorry, Father,
but I do not know. I only heard of the matter after it was done."
"I see." Glóin nodded, and turned away. Bilbo followed,
with a parting wave to Gimli, though the dwarf didn't seem to see it.
They went along the perimeter of the work area to finish the purported
'tour,' and Bilbo once again found himself agog over the array of tools
and other odd pieces that surrounded them. There were tubs of
sands in many colors, tongs of every size, some done up
fancifully as wolves with teeth in the jaws. Wheels whirled and
sparked, racks of pliers, planes, rasps, vices, chisels, punches and
hammers went by. Every now and then there would be a great hiss
and steam would rise up from one of the tubs that held water, ever
refreshed by the springs from the River Running.
He passed a strange contraption that baffled him greatly. It
looked rather like a drying rack for pipeweed, if some giant child had
come along and wadded it up. He looked quizzically at
Glóin, who smiled.
"It's a treadle hammer," he said. "And a good one too. You push on the
treadle, there, to strike a blow. Most excellent when thinning metal
"There's so many things here I don't even know the names of. I must
admit, it's a little overwhelming."
"Do you wish to learn more?" Glóin looked at him curiously. "I
don't know if it would be permitted, but I'm sure Gimli could teach you
"No, no," he laughed, waving his hands in protest. "I admit I'm as
curious as I've ever been, and flattered that you should offer, but
this is an area I shall happily leave to you Dwarves. The only
iron I am interested in is shaped like a frying pan at the moment.
Shouldn't we be heading back soon to tell the others, and for luncheon?"
"Luncheon?" said Glóin as he untied his apron and tugged it off.
"If I hadn't spent so much time with you before, I would wonder if you
weren't still a youth from your appetite." He reached over to
take the apron that Bilbo handed him and hung both of them back on the
"It's been many a year since anyone accused me of being anything like a
youth," replied Bilbo. "And if aging means eating less for dwarves, I
must say your own supper last night belies the whiteness of your beard."
"A good point. And I'm sure we will find something for you, if only
among Bombur's leftovers." They exited the hall, Glóin waving at
a couple dwarves as they went.
"He has leftovers?" said Bilbo.
"Another good point," agreed Glóin. He veered off to one side
and ducked into an adjoining doorway. "Just a moment," he called back
over his shoulder.
Bilbo waited, curious. There was a sound of rummaging, and
Glóin reappeared with a large bun in each hand. "They keep
provisions here, for the youngsters who are working at the forges," he
explained. "I hope it isn't too strongly spiced for you."
"Spiced?" said Bilbo, "Doubtful, and even if it is, I am still grateful
to have it. My thanks. They won't be upset to find you've taken their
"No, no. There's plenty. Here." He handed Bilbo one of the buns, and
took a hearty bite from the other as he led the way back.
Bilbo tentatively bit into the heavy, brown bun. It was flavored
with something... onion, he thought. And there was a pungent spiced
venison sausage filling inside it, rather a pleasant surprise. He
took another bite and had to quietly blow his breath over his tongue a
bit. There was something in the sausage that warmed his throat and the
fumes from the spices rose to his eyes, making them water. He
took another bite anyway.
Glóin was already close to finishing his. He glanced down at his
companion's countenance and chortled slightly. "Too spicy?"
"No," lied Bilbo. "Not at all. Though it is strong." He wasn't
about to let any Dwarf one-up him when it came to food. If they could
eat it, so could he. Shire pride and all that.
"Strong spices are good," said Glóin. "They let us know we are
Back in the hall they met with Bifur, Bofur and Bombur, who had ordered
tea, split-pea soup, more pungent sausages and cardamom loaves to be
brought in for them, 'to pass an anxious time more enjoyably.'
Anxious or not, Bombur was soon well into his portion though the others
paced more often than they ate.
It was Nori who returned next. His news of the stonecrafter
Linór that was both for good and ill.
"He's gone, " he said. "I inquired of several others before I was able
to find out more. His cousin told me that he had left the Mountain some
eight years hence, seeking after his brother who was a part of Balin
and Ori's company. He hasn't been heard of since. They presume
him lost, I fear."
"Terrible news, that even more have gone off on that fool's journey,"
said Glóin, "as if we hadn't already lost enough."
"But it was his brother," said Bilbo.
"And Óin is mine,' said Glóin bleakly. "Yet I follow him
not. Say no more, Nori. I haven't the heart to hear it."
Nori nodded, and a silence settled on them as they sat watching the
fire on the hearth, occupied with their own thoughts.
"Well," said Bilbo, breaking the silence. "There is one good thing that
has come of Nori's news. It means this fellow, Linór, was
not the one we are looking for. If he's been gone eight years that's
too long a time. The stone was taken much more recently than that."
"True," said Bombur and Bofur at the same time.
"Maybe Dori or Dwalin will have better news for us," said Bifur
Dori returned not long after, frustrated and aggravated. The jeweler,
Ûrd, had not been inclined to be helpful. He had not only kept
Dori from being able to see into his home at all, he had complained
vociferously about filing a complaint to force Dori to take up other
quarters farther away from him.
"He can't really make you move, can he?" said Bilbo, horrified at the
thought of having a neighbor like that.
Dori gave him a half-smile. "No, you needn't fear for me Master Hobbit,
I can hold my own. But it does mean I found out nothing to help us in
our search. Let us hope Dwalin has found something of use."
By the time Dwalin returned to them the soup and sausages were long
gone. He waved away their offers to order more brought for him.
"Many thanks, but I was given hospitality by Malin. Forgive my delay,
it had been much too long since we had seen one another and it
pleasured him to speak with me; I left as soon as I reasonably
"But of course," said Bilbo, who understood the importance of visiting
for a while with relatives and old friends - in the Shire there was
little else that superseded it. "What did you find out?"
"Nothing that would show he is involved in this, nothing at all. He has
kept to his own business and when I hinted about the tomb, he showed no
interest, no change in voice nor manner. I finally spoke openly about
having visited Thorin's resting place and all he thought was that it
was an honorable way to show respect. Nothing more. I knew him
more closely when we were younger, and he was always trustworthy, not
given to looking beyond his own small horde of coin. I must conclude
that he is innocent of this... this treacherous theft that has
The others related their findings once again now that all were
assembled, but their discussion on it was relatively brief.
"We have found three of our four to be innocent," concluded Dwalin.
"With Linór no longer present at the Mountain, Malin above
suspicion and Mizûl unable to carry out his own duties much less
perform a skilled theft, we are left with only one."
"Yes," rumbled Bombur. "This jeweler needs to be looked at again."
" Ûrd is unpleasant, but that doesn't mean he is a thief," said
Dori. "Though I do agree we need to see his quarters, or at least his
"His workbench!" said Bifur with sudden horror. "He wouldn't have...!"
There was a wave of consternation and protest that washed over the
group as the unthinkable was voiced. Bilbo more carefully considered
it. "It would be a way to hide it, if he were to change it's appearance
"No!" said Dwalin and thumped the table for emphasis. "No dwarf would
ever consider such a thing. The stone is perfection itself, they would
not dream of dividing it. They would sooner cut off their own arms than
harm the Arkenstone!"
"So you say," said Bilbo. "But it should be considered."
"What would a Hobbit know of such matters?" grumbled Nori. "You cannot
understand how... how unspeakable such an action would be..."
"Perhaps not," replied Bilbo. "But it was unspeakable that anyone would
rob the resting place of a former King also. And I know changing things
can hide them. Whomever took this will need to hide it, because there
isn't anything else like it. Now. I have an idea. If this Ûrd
will not allow neighbors or visitors to drop in, there may be another
way to gain entrance. Glóin took me along when we went to
find Mizûl because it was seen as acceptable that he would be
touring a guest. Would it make sense then for someone to take me
to tour the jewel-making room of the Kingdom? He wouldn't stop an
official tour, would he?"
"He might try," said Dori doubtfully, "but it would have a chance."
"There's no way Dáin will allow Bilbo into his jewels," said
Bifur. "He all but accused him of being a thief when he arrived and he
hadn't even done anything then."
"And what have I done now?" asked Bilbo.
"Well... nothing. But if you start nosing around the jewels he's bound
to be nervous," Bifur replied.
"Who said we need to ask him?" said Dwalin suddenly. "By all means, let
us tour our hobbit. Ûrd doesn't need to be told if Dáin
ordered it or not. Dori?"
"I don't think I would be the right choice as I was just there today.
My returning would seem too unusual."
"I concur," said Nori. "Dori never visits him as it is. Twice in one
"I'll go," volunteered Bifur.
"I also," said Bofur. "We were the ones who presented him to the King
yesterday. It would seem right to the King's servants then that we
would be escorting him on a tour."
"Well thought out," commended Dwalin. "It's only midday. Let's not
waste any time. Mr. Baggins?"
"Just let me finish," said Bilbo, who was tackling a bowl of soup that
Bombur had dished out for him. "And we'll be on our way."