- No Beta
“Wait!” The assembled company turned towards Ori at his unexpected outburst. “Sorry, but shouldn’t the king and his nephews be properly attired for the reclaiming of their mountain?”
“Aye they should lad but it’s better that we get in the mountain and claim it before others turn up, than worry about such things now,” Balin soothed his apprentice.
“I don’t understand,” Bilbo admitted after seeing the growing discomfort on the companies faces as they looked up the mountain where the hidden doorway which they had all trekked and fought so hard to reach stood.
“It’s a Dwarrow custom that when you enter a home you go in as you intend to remain as a friend as a foe, king or guest,” Balin explained. “I think our attitude will be enough,” he hedged to his kinsmen.
“We look like vagabonds and thieves sneaking in” Dori fretted, “It will set a bad precedence we could be cursed by such an entry, no great number of beads or stones upon our brows as we should have.”
“It has such importance?” Bilbo asked wondering if this was another of those Dwarrow things which got lost in translation. Did that mean if he entered as a burglar, he would in their eyes always be considered one? And what did it say about their entry to his home? They had been polite to start with before the revelry began. But from what he’d come to know of Dwarrow that was a likely good sign. They hadn’t behaved in such a relaxed manner at Rivendale or Beorn’s homestead.
“It does,” Thorin said with a frown as he stared at the doorway, interrupting Bilbo’s musing on his hospitality.
“The stone sings and it knows,” Oin muttered.
“And the quality of clothes matter to stones?” Bilbo asked feeling more lost than he had in the woods.
“Not the quality but the trappings, the signs of respect and customs, you know. The stones know each other, they know if they are placed in beads and finery,” Gloin added when Oin didn’t seem inclined to explain further.
“So, you’re saying the stones of the mountain will know if the king is wearing a crown of gems or not and may not accept him if he isn’t?” Bilbo tried to clarify.
“Oh, it will know he’s king, but it will remember such a thing and not think kindly of him and less riches will be found within the halls because of the deemed insult,” Balin answered.
“Stones care about such things?” Bilbo worried remembering how many he had carelessly and rather gleefully chucked stones out of his garden over the years, maybe that’s why he had always had one digging into his back when camping, an act of geological revenge.
“Not the stones so much as our maker who made the stones and us, could be seen as hubris as if we had forgotten where we came from and where we will return,” Balin explained.
This was the most he’d ever heard from the Dwarrow about their customs and religion. They were notoriously secretive and dedicated to their customs. The fact they were explaining now told Bilbo how serious the situation was more than any words could.
“It matters not we need to take the mountain before any others arrive, the blasted dragon isn’t subtle and enough people know we have come this way to question if the dragon is gone. The Elves won’t be far away you can take my word on that, seeking after riches which aren’t theirs and uncaring about the suffering of others. The mountain will have riches enough and the comfort of being free from the overgrown worm may make the stone more obliging,” Thorin said, but Bilbo could hear the uncertainty in his voice.
“It’s a gamble Thorin,” Dwalin murmured perhaps not wanting to be heard questioning their leader by the others. It was only Bilbo’s proximity to Thorin that allowed him to overhear.
“So was this whole quest and here we are,” Thorin replied equally quietly. And wasn’t that heartening that they had made it so far against odds.
“Can’t we make them a crown to wear,” Bilbo asked the group rather than focus on what he had just heard.
“No it would take too long to craft one and the mountain and we are too vulnerable, not to mention the fires of the forges would draw eyes from far and wide. Best we just enter.” Thorin spoke for the group but the rest were nodding their agreement.
The company moved closer to the doors and Bilbo walked with increased care trying not to kick stones or cause them to fall down the mountain in worry of what they would think or do in retaliation.
“Stop worrying about the gravel,” Fili muttered in his ear as he fell back to walk with Bilbo.
“But it sings, doesn’t it?”
“It does and it doesn’t mind tumbling down the mountain, odd stuff mountain scree,” Fili said with a shrug.
Looking back down at his feet Bilbo nudged a small bit of gravel down the slope watching it slide down taking other pieces with it till they came to a stop tangled in a tuft of mountain grass and were unable to slide further.
“Is it strange hearing the moods of stones?”
“No, we’ve always heard it and its background noise like birds in the trees I suppose,” Fili replied while looking up and watching the ravens fly towards the mountain once more.
“Or plants,” Bilbo blurted out. “Knowing which ones want to go where and if they need more space or feed. And if you ignore them you won’t get a harvest or a just a weak one.”
“I guess. Never heard a plant before though.”
“Or me a rock,” Biblo agreed. “Wait!” he suddenly shouted unconsciously echoing Ori from earlier.
“What, Master Hobbit,” demanded Thorin as the company turned to face him.
“We can make a crown,” Bilbo exclaimed excitedly looking back down the hill to where the scree had slid a smile growing as he thought his idea through.
“We have already discussed this, it is not possible,” Thorin said turning away in dismissal.
“But we could, we don’t even need a forge,” Bilbo explained grinning.
“We don’t have the material or tools to cold forge,” Thorin pointed out to Bilbo turning back to face him once more.
“No, we don’t, or I assume we don’t, I have no idea about that sort of thing. But I’m not talking about metal crowns, but ones made from plants with stones woven in.”
“I don’t see how that’ll hold, but if it could be done it’s worth considering,” Balin mused. It was as good a response as Bilbo had hoped for, he was after all new to the whole concept.
“Won’t it also cause problems, what with plants being our lord’s wife’s domain,” pipped up Kili who had up till then been rather subdued.
“No, I don’t think it will Yavanna is wife to our Lord, no stone song would see it badly. In fact, if I recall Durin the first once wore a golden crown of woven stems and was blessed with a fertile line and prosperous halls ever after,” Balin mused while stroking his beard and looking at the grass speculatively.
“So, we make them out of the grass. Let’s do this,” Kili announced looking more animated than he had since the whole stone issue had been brought up. Putting down his pack Kili headed down the slope towards the grasses which Bilbo had been looking at earlier.
“Wait,” Thorin called after his nephew, echoing the word of the day. “Do you agree with this plant Master Baggins. During my time in the towns of men I heard that flowers have meanings like our gems, it would not do to insult Mahal or his wife through poor choice of undergrowth.”
“True they do have meanings,” Bilbo glanced around at the mountainside and smiled. “But there are none here that will give insult no matter how they are joined.”
“Glad to hear that Mister Baggins but how do we join them?” Fili asked looking like he was moments from running down the hill to join his brother.
“You plait them,” Bilbo replied simply. “Adding in new stems when you’re drawing to the ends of the first ones. In some cases, you make small slits in the stems and thread others through like making a chain I suppose.”
“Like our braids, this isn’t a Hobbit secret is it Mister Baggins?” Ori asked shuffling forward notebook in hand ready to record this moment in the chronicle of their journey.
“No it’s not a secret but a Hobbit tradition, we make them as faunts and wear them as tweens when courting and to most dances. It’s a way to keep the little ones busy, to communicate without words across the dancefloor and to show off the skill of one’s gardening.”
“In that case let us start gathering what is needed. All of you shall wear them too as Lords of the mountain, my brothers in arms,” Thorin decreed before carefully bending and picking a small daisy. The rest of the company soon joining in, calling Bilbo over to check their chosen flowers.
“Why are you not gathering material for yourself?” Bilbo startled at the quiet question from behind.
“I’m not a Dwarrow I didn’t think that…” he trailed off unsure of what he didn’t think.
“We would not have got this far without your courage and knowledge you are as worthy as any other in this company to wear a crown of a Dwarrow lord,” Thorin said quietly but with conviction.
“Thank you,” Bilbo watched the others gather plants with uncertain hands. “Make sure you leave plenty of stem it makes them easier to work,” Bilbo called as he set out gathering the material for his own crown.
Once a collection of stems and stones had been gathered and gems carefully unpacked, Bilbo called the company over to him. “Now remember it’s best not to share the stems, or make the crowns for others.” The assembled Dwarrow gave him confused looks even as they carefully ensured their piles were separate. “Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter, just that such a thing is only done during courting in the Shire.”
“We shall respect your traditions,” Balin promised. “Now show us what to do lad.”
They sat before the entrance to the mountain and worked the plants into circlets and crowns with varying degrees of success if the swearing was anything to go by. While giving advice and answering questions Bilbo made his own, only stepping in to demonstrate techniques when asked and in turn attempting to add a Dwarrow twist to his otherwise very hobbity effort.
“Like this,” Bilbo felt the flower crown lifted out of his grasp, although it was hardly a flower crown being made mostly from foliage and watched Thorin braid the stems together in a distinctly un-hobbity manner. The braid was thicker and more intricate than those favoured by Hobbits with the small pieces of the gravel he had been inspired by twisted securely in.
“There,” Thorin smiled and Bilbo felt the crown placed upon his head. “It suits you well Master Hobbit, better I think that the rest of us.”
Bilbo blushed, there was no way that Thorin had misunderstood his earlier comments, or forgotten… Did Thorin wish to court him?
To distract himself and calm his blushes Bilbo studied the efforts of the group who were thankfully still working hard and hadn’t noticed his and Thorin’s interactions, or at least they were pretending they hadn’t. Some of them were wonky or unbalanced but there was a charm to them and the craftsmanship of the Dwarrow stood out even in a new medium.
“I think they look well upon us all,” Thorin declared having also assessed their efforts. “And now with no more delay let us claim a mountain.”