‘So, tell me about that Halfling, Bilbo. I hardly had a look at him after the battle, and that was nigh on eighty years ago. Besides, he was unconscious most of the time.’ Dwalin and Glóin looked at each other, as if asking permission to start. Not that they needed a second invitation to recount their tale, a thousand times told. Finally Glóin seemed to think that he was in debt with Dwalin for his tactlessness, and he ceded him the word. ‘I will tell you what I remember, my lord. But didn’t you send your own son to attend some momentous celebration in the Shire a few years back? Surely you can find more recent news from him.’ ‘Yes, that is true. Thorin attended Bilbo’s birthday party, at which some remarkable events occurred, if I remember correctly. But I will ask him in due course. However, it’s not the later period in his life that I’m interested about. Tell me all that you remember about him during the Quest of Erebor.’ ‘Well, I was the first of our party to arrive at his house. He was a little stiff perhaps, but he seemed a kindly enough chap, for his own people at last. Nice cakes, he had, although it’s a shame they prefer to wash them down with tea instead of beer.’ He and Glóin both chuckled at the recollection. ‘Nice day we had there too. We played some music with Old Gandalf, remember that, eh? Hahaha. Anyway, Bilbo didn’t look like much at first. He seemed to be quite worried at the prospect of going out into the world without his pocket-handkerchief. I had to lend him my spare hooded cloak just to calm him down! They were too large for him, and he looked rather comic. I was quite impatient about him, I think. For most of the trip he didn’t seem to be doing us any benefit to take him along. Although you liked him even less, friend Glóin.’ ‘Absolutely. As soon as I clapped eyes on the little fellow bobbing and puffing on the mat of his house, I had my doubts. He looked more like a grocer than a burglar! Yet maybe I think I was the one who changed his mind the most about him. After all was finished, when he told us all ‘may your beards never grow thin’ I almost wanted to embrace the rascal. If they don’t look much, those Hobbits, they learn quick, I’ll give them that. Even the Elves seemed to think that too.’ ‘Oh, the Elves, that’s right. They did their bit too all right.’ ‘You know what I remember the most about them? That silly song they made up in which your name was mentioned. Remember it?’ ‘Oh, yes! Flattering in a way, although I didn’t think that at the time.’ The two dwarves looked at each other and began singing:
‘O! Where are you going With beards all a-wagging? No knowing, no knowing What brings Mister Baggins, And Balin and Dwalin down into the valley in June ha! ha!’
Then they burst out laughing, patting each other in the back and arms, while Dáin and Fróin looked at them astonished. Fróin was positively embarrassed, while Dáin looked severely at his kinsmen, fists clenched. ‘Now then!’ The tone of his voice made the laughter disappear into thin air. ‘This is not being very helpful, is it?’ He put a hand to his brow, scratching his forehead furiously for a few seconds. ‘All right, listen: I know all the particulars of your journey already, songs and all. But that is not what I want now. I do not need entertainment tonight. What I want to hear from you is very simple: was this Hobbit a reliable burglar, or treasure-hunter, or whatever you want to call him, was he genuinely good at his trade, or was all just dumb luck? I need to know.’ Dwalin composed himself and thought for a few moments. ‘All in all, sire, I would say he was good, yes. His ways and overall composure don’t go with what us dwarves are used to see, but maybe it’s there where the deception lies. In particular, those hobbits have a talent for not being seen if they wish. I doubt that he ever burgled for a living, before or after our Quest, but he undoubtedly has a knack for it.’ Glóin concurred. ‘I agree, my lord. I would even add that the less you came to think of him, the more he surprised you at the end. However, the luck part you also mentioned also applies. He could get lost seemingly at will, but if he has a knack for disappearing, he also has a lucky edge. Not immediately, it would seem, but in the end all seemed to come together nicely for him.’ Dáin sat there, eyes narrowed, taking all this in. ‘Hrmmm. Lucky, is he, eh? That’s always good. My father, when he wanted to appoint a new commander of troops, would always ask the people who knew the candidate about the qualities he had for the job, and then the last question would always be: ‘is he lucky?’. I don’t know if he based his decisions on that, but things didn’t go badly for him. Not a bad thing having fortune on your side. Well, thanks for your assistance, dear friends.’ Glóin seemed quite relieved now. ‘Oh, not at all, sire. We’re just glad to be of help. But may I ask why all the interest in Bilbo? Do you want something stolen? Hahaha.’ Dwalin began laughing with him too, but Fróin started in his chair and opened his eyes and mouth in incredulity. What?? No, that couldn’t be the plan that... Suddenly, a loud banging on the door shook him even more.