WITH THE GREAT HALL OF HIS ANCESTRAL MANSION under his control and the intruders herded into one corner and showing no more will to fight, Thorfinn ordered their weapons to be seized.
“And armour,” added Fjiar. “This one had mail on under his shirt.” Indeed both the big gaunt greybeard twins both wore hidden corselets of mail.
“You’re on my property,” Thorfinn announced to Foron’s group. “We’ll have your weapons and armour and anything else of value from you, and you can call that a ransom and leave on your sworn oath not to come back.” With that he strode out of the hall to collect the war-gear he had never had time to don, leaving Toleðr the swordsmith, Bofur the alchemist and Tóki the toymaker to see to collecting the ransom whilst Fjiar the Firebeard brandished his two axes, discouraging the captives from second thoughts.
Meanwhile Yngwi was leading Gymir and their captive back along the gallery above in the direction of the way out, when the hapless dwarf crumpled to the floor. A deep wound in the back of his leg was bleeding copiously.
Yngwi immediately cast his shield aside and knelt to press on the wound and try to staunch the flow.
“How did he get this?” asked.
“He must have got it as we scuffled in the dark,” said Gymir, “and been bleeding all this time.”
The bright blood gushing through Yngwi’s fingers prevented him from getting a purchase and he decided it was hopeless. Gymir took over, undoing the dwarf’s belt and whipping off his leather jack, then looping the belt round the thigh just above the wound. He drew it tight and the flow of blood subsided, then tighter still and after a few moments it stopped.
“He’ll live,” rumbled Gymir, but with no concern in his voice.
The pair rolled the captive-turned patient onto Yngwi’s shield for a stretcher and carried them down the stairs from the gallery to the rubble-filled entrance chamber.
The leader in this misadventure, the merchant Foron son of Jídli, was the one who had first surrendered and offered to buy his way out of the situation. He was not ungenerous, handing over his purse of coin and a jewelled knife, and promising more on his return to the main city – not ‘on his honour’ but ‘on his reputation as a respected citizen of the Kingdom Under the Mountain’.
The grey-bearded twins who were his bodyguards showed surly ill-grace but Foron told them to cooperate. He addressed them by name as Dwîm and Dwîma, and as they stripped off their tattered shirts and yielded up the unbreached mail corselets, Toleðr frowned and gave a covert flicker of his fingers. Those could be traditional outer names, I suppose, but they could just as well be Khuzdul inner names! What sort of dwarf makes normal use of their inner name?
Of the victors only Thorfinn himself had armour so these were a real prize. But none shared the almost undwarvishly rangy build of these grim twins and the corselets would have to be let out before any could wear them, and let out some more if they were to fit over a padded coat.
There was some bumbling around the hall whilst Thorfinn retrieved his armour. Yngwi composed an idle song about Toki and shared it with them all, finding the hall to fill very pleasingly with the song. Bofur retrieved three arrows from the table, grumbling as he did so and muttering that there’d better be some left in the other archer’s quiver to replace those he’d lost. Fjiar eyed the intruders’ lantern where it sat behind the large table, and noted fresh stone dust and damage to the masonry of the wall just there, clearly inflicted by these renegade workdwarves. Foron’s attempt to have them pry out the stonework for whatever strange reason was pronounced by Mêgrim the former mason’s apprentice to be a task of many days. Close inspection of the damaged section proved it to have constructed using carefully chiselled ‘double-tongue’ blocks in the old style that was rarely used in these late times. A block could be loosened only by chipping it to rock dust.
Thorfinn appeared back in the entrance of the hall, resplendent in his coat of scales. They learned from their captives that there were more workdwarves in the servants’ quarters and suggested to Foron that he should keep paying for the miners as part of his ransom, but that now they would be working for him. The miners were gathered up by Tóki and Gymir, accompanying Foron, and it transpired that they had no loyalty to Foron and would be equally happy to work for someone else as long as their got their pay. Thorfinn set Mêgrim as the foreman of the band of stoneworkers, with instructions not to attack any more walls, but to use such their skills and the strength of their backs to set the mansion of the Dathrins back in order.
FORON WAS ALLOWED TO LEAVE after all the combatants had sworn reluctant oaths never to return. The wounded archer was carried away on an improvised stretcher by two of the hired dwarves. The episode seemed concluded, and Thorfinn’s thought turned at last to the original reason for coming here.
“We are here in search of maps, or any other clue to the location of the vault of my forefathers,” he announced.
The search was protracted, and punctuated by pauses to eat the cold provisions they’d brought, though Gymir said the kitchen was in reasonable order and could be used if their stay were to be a long one. Intrigued by the use of beaten copper mirrors and sections of wall in which blocks of glass took the place of stone,
Tóki was delighted to spot a dead but intact lightstone mounted high on the wall of the Great Hall above the high table, and some time was spent in dwarfhandling the large table up against the wall to allow Tóki to clamber up there and attempt his art, but the whole exercise proved futile.
Eventually, the searches of the other areas of the mansion unsurprisingly yielding nothing, everyone came back yet again to the Study. Though they had no more found anything here than anywhere else, it seemed the likeliest room to search at greater length.
Thorfinn had reverently claimed his ancestors’ helm from its stand in pride of place on the mantel over the impressive fireplace (and lent Fjiar the common helmet he had used thus far). They pored over the age-crisped papers, ledgers and scrolls that lay about the study just as they had been left on the fateful day of the Coming of Smaug, reasoning that the fleeing dwarves’ last concerns might have been for their vault and the treasures it contained. But they learned nothing but dreary details of the House’s running of the mines in the Northern Spur of the Lonely Mountain.
They searched through the scrolls and ledgers neatly stowed in cupboards but found nothing of any greater interest. They moved the furniture out and tapped repeatedly over every inch of wall. Eventually everyone’s increasingly weary gazes kept returning to the dominant feature of the room, the fireplace itself.
The centrepiece was very striking, with its smooth-carved representations of ideal dwarves and of the Lonely Mountain itself.
Many false ideas, chiefly to do with reflecting rays of light, were explored before Bofur drew everyone’s attention to the incongruously sharp definition of the low-relief depiction of the gem in the central dwarf’s headband circlet, achieved by a geometrical seven-pointed star. It was clearly solid stone, not even the thinnest joint separating it from the rest of the solid slab, but Bofur explained that the door magic of the dwarves in the days of the founding of the Kingdom Under the Mountain could meld stone to appear seamless, or apply glamours to it to beguile the eye. But this gem did not press in; it did not turn. Further grunts and sighs were heaved.
Bofur persisted. “So some device must have served as a key—”
“Which was probably lost two centuries ago,” groaned Thorfinn.
Then he realized Bofur was now regarding him, agog.
“What?” demanded Thorfinn.
“Your pendant, there; in plain sight since we first met. It’s a seven-pointed star!”
Sure enough, the family heirloom that Thorfinn had worn since his mother gave it to him in his teens, the silver Star of Bavern the Loremaster who fell in Khazad-dûm, fitted perfectly over the stone gem on the fireplace. Stone and silver both flared with a sharp bright white light, their shapes combining to resemble the pattern of facets on a brilliant-cut adamant. Planes of light shone out, painting a pattern momentarily on the far wall and leaving the shape in all the dwarves’ eyes for long moments after it equally suddenly went out.
The scrape of stone on stone announced the opening of a small hatch-like door in a corner of the room.
A SHORT PASSAGE RAN from the back of the narrow doorway. It turned, and formed a balcony overlooking a dark space below, but high on their right was a glimmer of light.
“The light-stone!” cried Tóki.
The light now shining in the Great Hall was filtering faintly through the clear crystal of the dead light-stone mounted in the wall above the high table. The secret space lay directly behind that, and when it worked, the light-stone would have illuminated both. The workdwarves of Foron’s party, however they had discerned it, had been slowly chipping at exactly the right place to gain access to this chamber – if Thorfinn’s Company had not caught up with them first.
As they brought up lanterns, they made out the fortified counting-room of the Dathrins. From the balcony a wooden stair led down two sides of the chamber, to a space with a large table surrounded by many chests. Upon one wall were a picture and a runic inscription.
: THE SHIELD WALL OF BAVERN : THEY FELL IN KHAZAD-DÛM THAT THE TREASURE ENTRUSTED TO THEIR HOUSE SHOULD REMAIN TO THE KHAZAD EVEN AS SO MUCH ELSE WAS MUST NEEDS HIDDEN SECRET AND SAFE :
They had no keys for any of the chests, but Thorfinn turned to Tóki, and the toymaker bent his craft to the task of opening the locks. With much effort and the breaking of several small tools, he opened two of the chests. The first contained a wallet of aged promissory notes, several small sacks of silver coin and a casket containing a small sack of gold. The other proved to be a book-locker containing the ledgers of the family’s own wealth, where those in the office had all related to the businesses they ran.
When Tóki admitted defeat on the two remaining chests, Gymir son of Snorri stepped forth and self-consciously produced from an inner pocket a set of tools that looked suspiciously like they existed for the sole purpose of opening locks. Several glances were shot askance at Thorfinn, but he only nodded his curt approval. Gymir got open a decorative, brass-faced chest, the contents of which included a leather-bound book telling the history of the House of Dathrin and a silk-wrapped slab of marble incised with gold-inlaid runes.
IN THIS THIRD YEAR OF THE KINGDOM UNDER THE MOUNTAIN OF DURIN’S FOLK, KING THRAIN SON OF NAIN SON OF DURIN VI DOES HEREBY GRANT TO DATHRIN SON OF BAVERN AND HIS HEIRS IN PERPETUITY THE TITLE OF LORD WARDEN OF THE DEEPS OF THE NORTH SPUR OF THE MOUNTAIN. FOR HIS SERVICES TO DURIN’S FOLK IN THE ORDERLY KEEPING OF THIS DOMAIN, HE SHALL HOLD ONE FOURTH PART OF THE WEALTH GARNERED BY THE KHAZAD…
But even Gymir and Tóki working together were unable to defeat the lock on the final chest, the smallest, wrought entirely of steel plate. Ultimately, though most of the dwarves were not party to the details, Gymir brokered a deal whereby the respected whitebeard master craftsman, Jerezh Locksmith, came clandestinely –and with oaths of secrecy sworn by them all – to gain them access to the contents of the strongbox.
After an hour’s effort with several clamps holding a total of four tools selected from a toolkit larger than the strongbox itself (which made Gymir’s red eyes bulge with envy), the lock clicked open. Jerezh gathered them round and solemnly demonstrated why his services came so dear. The lock could be opened with just three tools, but as he did so, four steels needles fully two feet long shot out from concealed housings disguised as rivets on the faceplate securing the lockplate to the box. Jerezh Locksmith told Gymir and Tóki that in matters of their forebears’ security, a little learning is a dangerous thing.
Most of the space in the strongbox was taken up with the mechanism for this lethal trap, but in the space that remained was the most previous treasure of all. Under a cloth bag containing promissory notes received and already honoured was a dagger for use in the very last pinch, which was worked of the finest steel. A purse of cut gems were mostly semi-precious stones, but contained a ½” sapphire with a single rune etched on its face: the D for Dathrin.
There was a “hand” of keys, a six-limbed armature bearing four key-rings that promised to open no end of locks in the Dathrin’s domain, and finally a largish flat wooden case held a sceptre-like ward-key. It had an ornate handle and a caged-crystal finial, but the main feature was a recessed bind-rune cast in a hexagonal plate. Bofur identified this before Jerezh Locksmith could even speak. “A wand key! Such keys are not mechanical in nature, but operate entirely by magicks now lost."
But what did it open?
Nothing here in the counting-room responded to it, nor did anything anywhere in the Hall of the Dathrins (barring those utterly collapsed spaces which remained inaccessible). Thorfinn was certain that the counting-room held only ready funds, and they were yet to find the vault containing the chief wealth of his House.
THORFINN HIMSELD WAS OCCUPIED for most of the next several days in securing an audience with his cousin, King Dain Ironfoot, to confirm him as the heir of the House of Dathrin and rightful Lord Warden of the Deeps of the North Spur of The Mountain. As the workdwarves originally hired by Foron son of Jidli continued to make the Hall of Dathrin sound and habitable again, Thorfinn’s other followers spent much time supposedly ‘closeted in the study’, and in fact poring over their findings in the secret counting-room.
They had a frustrating time pursuing Thorfinn’s assertion that ‘there must be a clue somewhere’, and his insistence that his house hearkened back through Dathrin and Bavern to Khazad-dûm, where it had famously been the practice to hide vaults in the remotest of tunnels. In his absence it was said more than once that the greatest security is in not telling anyone and not leaving any clue, in which case the location of the vault was lost with the death of Thorfinn’s grandsire in the Destruction of Smaug. But the promised share of the possible proceeds kept them at the task.
The Devotion of the Dathrins
It was Toleðr who found a passage in one of the many books in the outer office that seemed curiously out of keeping with the rest of the volume. The Devotion of the Dathrins began with a lengthy saga in the style of the traditional lore-masters, describing the works of Mahal the Maker in the fashioning of Middle-earth for the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar. This was followed by another work, relatively brief, describing Mahal’s making of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, Ilúvatar’s gifting of their souls, and a short history of the Ages leading to their arrival in the Lonely Mountain.
Then came the curious passage which attracted Toleðr’s eye, a set of more individual stanzas, with a far less sophisticated metre. “Does this not sound,” the beardling asked excitedly, “like a promise of wealth in natural caverns deep in the Mountain, followed by directions… of some sort?”
: In the ages of the Deeps of Time, ere the Eldest Days,
Mahal riddled The Mountain Lone with ancient hidden ways :
: Though dwarves may delve to seek rich lodes,
the finest paths are Mahal’s Roads :
: Not hewn from rock by Durin’s Sons,
these tunnels flow where firestone’s run :
: To behold the gifts that Mahal gave,
seek you in the furthest caves :
: The oldest drift from Dathrin’s time
holds more of worth than all the mine :
: Travel through the braided ways
until you come to lodestone’s maze :
: Here you’ll find you’ll come undone,
unless you use the force of stone :
: Pass The Guardsmen standing by
and skirt around the Empty Pie :
: Augers’ well runs high with water
but keep good faith and never falter :
: Find the treasure above all others
where life is given us by dwarf-mothers :
There at last in inky night
the dwarves’ reward will come to sight :
The Devotion ended in a laudatory passage describing the wonder of gold, jewels, treasures of shining mirrored glory, and how only the Dwarves are capable of beholding Mahal’s creations in the reverence they deserve.