Title: Smaug's Lament
Theme: The Jewels of June
Author's Notes: Imagines that Bilbo took the Arkenstone when he first escaped Smaug's lair.
Summary: Frodo ponders on a legacy of the past.
Word Count: 1393
Frodo loved messing about with Bilbo's things. Ever since the year the dear old hobbit had vanished mysteriously, Frodo had found solace rummaging through his boxes of odd assortments, findings from journeys and mementos of long ago deeds. Ever since he was a child, he had loved being shown these strange artifacts and hearing their stories. Some were rare and valuable; old weapons, talismans and ornaments of rich exotic craft. Some were simply bits of things Bilbo had collected, odd-coloured pebbles, bright hollow bird's eggs, feathers and fossils and bones. Drawings, so many, by Bilbo's own hand, of the places he'd been to or dreamt. Faded maps with names like adventure. Letters from family. Letters from afar with runic writing. A pipe from Gandalf that blew starlings in smoke. Carvings of unnameable beasts. Writings in many languages, and many letters, written, never posted. An eye glass that pulled the moon close enough to touch. A bee in amber. A lock of dark hair.
Frodo had spent a satisfying hour in Bilbo's second-best study, sorting and communing with some well-loved things. It made his ache for Bilbo increase, but the things spoke of him like an old friend and brought him near to Frodo's full heart. He could almost hear Bilbo's gravelly voice, reciting the oft-repeated stories.
"Careful with that knife, Frodo lad. It's still sharp. The times it saved my life when it was hanging by a whisker! Did I ever tell you about the Bogmen of the Maurius Marshes? I'm sure I did."
Frodo picked up the treasure he was saving for last. A solid oaken box, chased in gold leaf and silver inlay, a strange rune on top. He lifted the clasp and took out a green velvet pouch. Loosening its silken cord, he slid the cool object into his hand and looked at it.
It was just as marvellous as he remembered, shot with starlight and moonbeams in its waterine heart, girdled in worked mithril. Its cold indifference to the touch was offset by its haunting beauty, which ravished the gaze with the soft interplay of colours as it was tilted in the light, glinting with the irridescence of butterfly wings. Now whispering of the cold green skydance of the winter aurora, now simmering with the orange ghost of disturbed embers, it was the perfect union of fire and ice.
Sam came in whistling, looking as sound and ripe as a pippin and smelling of fresh grass. 'It's a grand day outside. What are you doing in here?'
Frodo went over to him and held out the opal. It glinted and winked in the sunlight, strangely pure yet with a ghostly lustre at its heart. He placed the jewel into Sam's hand, letting him feel the weight of it.
'Stars and trumpets!' murmured Sam, holding it carefully. 'One of Mr Bilbo's things?'
'Mmm. Beauty, isn't it? You'd never know by looking at it where it comes from.'
'Take a guess.'
Sam wrinkled his sun-freckled nose. 'Elves?'
'Fair guess. It's a beautifully-worked setting, pure mithril, glows in moonlight. Try again.'
Sam puzzled at it. 'Dwarves?'
'Less likely. No facets. It's smooth as a duck's egg.'
'It's not, is it?'
'An egg? No. But you're getting closer.'
Sam's eyes grew big and round. 'It's not the ... the' he lost his words.
'The Arkenstone? No Sam, that's much bigger and the drawings are very different. Besides, you know where it lies.'
'Right, I forgot.' Sam shrugged and handed it back with both hands. 'I give up.'
Frodo held it up to the light, which streamed behind the stone in the backless, cameo-like setting, causing a million myriad sparkles to flare in the depths of the stone and casting its milky radiance in soft winking lights upon the walls.
'It's a Dragon's Tear.'
'A what?' Sam gaped open-mouthed, then recovered. 'Nah! It can't be. That's just a grand-sounding name.'
Frodo shook his head. 'No, it's the real deal. Bilbo told me all about it. It's one of Smaug's of course. Bilbo saw them fall. Great molten drops that rained from his eyes and solidified into stone before they hit the ground. He saw that much before he ran. They found great heaps of them, afterward, covering the cave floor to the height of a hobbit. He had cried all night, bewailing the loss of his treasure, the Arkenstone. It was his Lament. Then he rained down his vengence on the townspeople. Bilbo thought he wanted to die, to cure the pain. The war was his way of doing it, and of getting even at the same time.'
Sam whistled. 'Well, that's a nogginspinner! I never knew dragons could do that. Cry hard tears, I mean. Are they worth summat?'
'A fortune. This one was put into a setting for Bilbo by a craftsman of Laketown. He used to wear it to all the feasts the Laketown people gave in his honour. He said just one of the tearstones let the townspeople trade for all their faraway goods for a year. There can't be many jewels rarer.' He paused, sadly. 'Now that Dragons are no more.'
Sam looked up, alerted by his change in tone. 'You sound sad about that.'
'I am. Aren't you?'
Sam paused, clearly thinking about how to put it kindly. 'No,' he settled for directness. 'It'd be nice to see'us one, but I wouldn't fancy being toasted to a crisp, thank you very much. They're awful big and you can't get rid of them. Not unless you're Mr Gandalf and even he had help.'
'Well, I feel sorry for him anyway.'
'Sorry for Smaug? With all the murderin' he done?'
'No, not for that, of course. But he was the last of his kind and ... as far as he saw it, a great injustice was done to him.'
'It was Thrór's kingdom he invaded, but Smaug was an Ancient. He probably remembered the mountain when it was an anthill. I don't think he could help himself from invading, when he scented that treasure, anymore than a jackdaw can help stealing another bird's nest. It's in his nature. And besides, he suffered terribly when ... when it was gone.'
Bilbo's voice, soft with awe and cracked with pity.
"His rage shook the roots of the Mountain. It spewed out upon the sky with gobs of blazing fire and stinking ash. Terrible, terrible, it was. But before that, oh before that, he wailed. How he wailed, Frodo! Throughout that valley of terror, all night long you could hear it, a great echoing grief too vast for imagining. He had nursed it all so long in the dark, you see. So many long ages of Men, alone, steeped in gloating avarice. How can you measure a lust that grew so long and deep? That sunk its glittering roots down into him, comforting him in his secret madness. Why, to take it was to do more than rip the living heart of the creature. It must have shattered the very atoms of the world."
Feeling a shiver, Frodo looked up into Sam's direct green gaze. 'Wouldn't you feel some compassion, even for an enemy, supposing they were dashed all to misfortune?'
Sam controlled a sigh, closed Frodo's fist around the jewel and with his other hand tilted his friend's chin up. He gave him a tolerant look, raising his eyebrows pedantically.
'No! Somebody sticks it to you, you stick it to them, good and proper. Someone does you a bad turn, you bop them one, fair, square and no messing. Teaches them a lesson. Just like Smaug learned his lesson, as well he should. He got what he deserved, or wished for, have that as you may. You just look out for yourself, my lad. And never turn your back on a thief, be he hobbit or no. Come on, let's put this to bed.'
He winked and retrieved the jewel from Frodo and replaced it in its soft pouch and wooden case, putting it away in the desk drawer. Watching Sam's movements always made Frodo feel calmer, as though nothing could ever be truly wrong with a world that had a Sam in it.
Sam turned to him with a cheek-splitting grin and mischevious look. 'You want someone watching out for you, you do. Come to think of it, I'm not doing much for an hour or two. Fancy a swim down the watering 'ole?'
'That sounds like a splendid idea,' smiled Frodo.
But as he let himself be led from the room, he cast a glance back to the drawer that hid its terrible secret and wished that somewhere, far away from the Shire, there might yet be Dragons.
~ End ~