Bilbo grumbled under his breath. He was so tired of Thorin yelling at the company to find that cursed Arkenstone. He was starting to seriously regret ever coming on the quest. Thorin had seriously lost his mind, and he wasn't talking about the possible gold sickness. Thorin had utterly lost his mind, if he thought that 12 dwarves and a hobbit (because his broodiness wasn't searching, just bossing everyone around) could find anything in this mess, let alone a small jewel. Bilbo had originally blamed the dragon for the mess but seeing the other dwarves calmly sifting through the gold, he was starting to wonder.
He supposed that the gold and jewels were pretty enough, but the chaos was driving him up the wall. How did dwarves ever find anything if this is how they stored things?
It was on the third day when Bilbo finally had enough. Enough of Thorin bellowing, enough of being ignored by the company, enough of the madness that they could find anything in this chaos. Finishing up breakfast, he headed to the treasury. Ignoring Thorin and the other dwarves, he made his way to the far corner of the treasury. The one corner where you could almost see the floor if you squinted. Rolling up his sleeves, he got to work.
* * *
It was Bofur that found him first. "Hey lad, what are you doing over here all by yourself? Ye could be buried if yer not careful."
Bilbo grumbled, "This place is a disgrace. I'm working on fixing it. You can either lend me a hand or go away and leave me in peace."
Bofur opened his mouth only to shut it with a click as he truly took in his surroundings. Bilbo was standing in a cleared space, about five feet by seven feet. There were several closed chests stacked neatly against the wall and several more open ones scattered through the cleared area. Clearing his throat, Bofur tried again, "What are you doing, lad?"
Bilbo snorted, "I'm organizing this place, what does it look like? Really, how does Thorin expect us to find anything in this place, let alone a single stone. Have you dwarves never heard of organization before? Or are you trying to say that this place was organized and Smaug undid it all, because I don't believe it for a second."
Bofur scratched his head. "Well, I can't say for sure, never got to see the treasury, seeing as I was just a simple miner. But you're right that things are a bit scrambled at the moment."
Bilbo muttered something highly uncomplimentary under his breath, but kept working. Bofur said, "What can I do to help?"
Bilbo thought it over for a second before he nodded happily. "You're a miner, so you're good with stones, right?"
Bofur nodded, "I'm a fair hand, yes."
"Good. Precious stones go in that chest, semi precious go in that one, jewelry in the third, and any beads go in the fourth. I'll take care of the rest."
Bofur got started on his assigned task, but he was amazed at how fast Bilbo worked, counting coins and filling chests. In the time it took Bofur to fill a single chest, Bilbo had filled five chests with gold and stacked them neatly with the others. If he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he never would've believed it. By the time the next dwarf stumbled over into their corner, the cleared area had doubled in size.
They had just stopped for a quick break and something that Bilbo insisted was called second breakfast, although it was hard tack and jerky the same as all their other meals. It was then that Dwalin appeared over the nearest hill of treasure, mumbling something under his breath in Khuzdul that Bilbo couldn't make out. Seeing them, he grunted, "There you lot are. What are you doing hiding way back here?"
Bilbo sniffed. "We're not hiding, we're looking for the Arkenstone."
Dwalin surveyed the progress with satisfaction. "Looks like you're doing more than that. Mind if I help out? If I have to hear his broodiness yell at us one more time today, I may just throttle 'em and let Fili be king."
Bilbo smirked at him. "Don't think that hasn't crossed my mind. I mean, really, how does he expect us to find anything in this mess? I could really use help with the armor and weapons. If you could just sort it into two piles, useful and decorative, I'd much appreciate it. We're just doing broad sorting right now and we'll fine tune it later."
Dwalin nodded, "Aye, I can do that."
Rising, Bilbo dusted off his hands and got back to work. Like Bofur before him, Dwalin was dumbfounded by how quickly Bilbo worked, separating bronze, silver, and gold coins, counting and placing them neatly in chests before stacking them in the neatly growing piles. The hobbit hummed absently as he worked, his hands almost seeming to blur as he worked. He never paused, but was in constant motion and the dwarves could almost see the pile shrinking as they watched. When he ran into an item that one of them were sorting, he simply placed it into a pile for them and continued what he was doing.
Bifur showed up next and Bilbo just directed him to help Bofur, not bothering to stop what he was doing. Bifur joined in cheerfully enough, humming a work song that the others quickly picked up. It was the sound of singing that drew Nori in. He was tasked with sorting out all the odds and ends that didn't fall into the predefined categories, like the statues and vases. Bilbo marveled that any vases had survived Smaug's occupation, but as Nori pointed out, it was treasure and dragons were notorious for watching over their hoards and making sure that nothing was damaged. He added cheekily, "Except for thieves that is."
Bilbo sighed as he realized that all of the treasure still reeked of the dragon. They'd have to air it out somehow, but that was a problem for another day. After only a brief pause for elvensies, yet again hardtack and jerky, he took a moment to survey the treasury. Although his cleared space was now about twenty feet by twenty, thanks to the dwarves assistance, there was still so much more treasury to go.
Bombur chose that moment to wander by. Remembering that Bofur had mentioned that his brother was an architect in addition to a cook, Bilbo gleefully snagged him. He set him to assessing the safety of the walls and floor of the area he had cleared, as well as a couple of pillars nearby that looked kinda dangerous. He also asked him to see if he could calculate which treasure heaps were more likely to collapse than others so they would know which ones they had to be careful on and which ones they could go faster on. Just relieved to not be yelled at again, the ginger dwarf happily did as he was asked.
Having a defined purpose and visible results was lifting all of the dwarves spirits and their speed improved as the morning wore out and afternoon started. It was the sound of singing that drew Fili over, trailed as usual by Kili. Both of their faces brightened when they saw the progress that was being made. Fili clapped Bilbo before going over and joining Dwalin, while Kili gravitated over to Nori and the oddities that he was finding.
With nearly two-thirds of the company pulled into Bilbo's project now and having visible proof of progress, they were all in good humor as they worked. Here, in their ancestral home, the dwarves usual reserve loosened and they started regaling Bilbo with stories about Erebor and the people that had lived there before the dragon came. They also shared some of their more famous legends and stories of the Khazad.
Bilbo soaked in every word, even though he never paused or slowed in his task, fascinated with this glimpse into dwarven culture and even the company members themselves. He made them stop for lunch, even though the dwarves were reluctant to stop, but Bilbo knew that he would need his strength for the next long run until tea. Nori chose that time to disappear, reappearing right as they were about to start with both Dori and Ori in tow.
He was pleased to see them, grinning widely at them. Nori just winked at him before going back to his previous task. Turning to the remaining Ri brothers, Bilbo said politely, "Master Dori, are you available to help out?"
Dori looked around, decidedly pleased at how well organized the corner where they were working in. Although corner was a bit of a misnomer by now, it was almost the same amount of space as that off Bag End. "I am, Master Bilbo. What would you have me do?"
Bilbo said slowly, "I hate to take advantage of this, but as you are the strongest dwarf in the company, could you help us relocate the rubble to a different corner of the treasury. We should have enough space by now if we start piling it by that mound that is almost gone, we shouldn't have to move it a second time until the actual renovation and repairs of the treasury."
Dori smiled at him, "No trouble at all, Master Bilbo, an excellent idea indeed. If you'll excuse me." The mithril haired dwarf made his way over to Dwalin and they talked for a brief moment before the guard agreed cheerfully to help.
A small voice piped up, reminding Bilbo of the scribe's presence, "Should I help with the rubble as well, Mister Bilbo?"
Bilbo shook his head and grinned at the younger dwarf, "Nay, lad. I've a different task for you. As a scribe, I'm sure that you had to learn about the great treasures and craftsman of Erebor, right?" Ori nodded, unsure where this was going. "Would it be possible for you to sort out Erebor's treasures from those belonging to Dale? Not the money or uncut jewels of course, but worked jewelry, odds and ends, weaponry, etc."
Ori brightened at that, the happiest expression on the poor lad's face that Bilbo had seen for many a day, "Oh yes, I can do that. Balin had me learn all about the different craftsmen and their marks."
He started off and Bilbo stopped him with a hand to his arm, something occurring to him. Bilbo spoke quietly so that the others couldn't hear, "While we were in Mirkwood, Thranduil kept going on about these gems, you wouldn't happen to know..."
Ori answered just as quietly, his voice and demeanor filled with confidence, "They were called the gems of starlight. Thranduil ordered them for his wife, but events happened and other than one piece, the rest were never delivered. Of course, they were lost in the fall of Erebor as well."
Bilbo fidgeted before finally speaking, "Keep an eye out for them, quietly, of course. If you do find them, just tuck them into a small chest in with the Dale stuff. Hopefully we won't need it, but it never hurts to be prepared. And something tells me that we're going to need this, although I pray to Yavanna that we don't need it."
Ori nodded, his face serious, "Will do, Mister Bilbo, you can count on me."
Bilbo clapped him on the shoulder and grinned at him, "Good lad. Off you go now."
They spent the rest of the day working hard without stopping for tea (as much as it pained Bilbo, they were right in the middle of a pile that could topple at any moment and they couldn't stop), all the way through to supper time. Bilbo called a halt for the day, pleased with the progress that they had made. They had tidied several piles and cleared about a sixth of the treasury. The dwarves grumbled about stopping work, to which Bilbo cheekily replied that if they wanted to keep working so bad, they could help him set up a functioning kitchen, cause he refused to eat another dry and cold meal.
That perked the company right back up and they happily headed off to find a kitchen that would suit their hobbit's fastidious needs. They found one that would suit in the guards quarters and quickly got it fixed up and working. Bilbo and Bombur started cooking happily and the dwarves took the time to start repairing their gear as best they could, their time on the road having wreaked havoc on their supplies and gear.
As a matter of fact, it was a much more relaxed atmosphere than any time that they'd spent in Erebor up to this point. Unfortunately, their supplies were still super limited, so it didn't take long for the meal to be ready and he was calling everyone to come eat. They were halfway through when Thorin came storming in, Balin, Gloin, and Oin trailing helplessly behind him. He roared, "What are you lot doing in here lazing about? You should be in the treasury searching for the Arkenstone!"
The company started to rise guiltily and Bilbo stood, motioning them firmly to sit back down. Planting his hands on the table, he said firmly, "No."
Thorin raised an eyebrow, his expression filled with surprise, "Excuse me, Master Baggins?"
"No, we are not going to go and search for the Arkenstone any more today. Instead, you are going to sit down and have dinner with the rest of us like a civilized being. There is no rush, we had to reach the door by Durin's Day, which we did. You needed the Arkenstone to raise an army to evict Smaug. Well, the dragon is gone, so there's that problem solved."
Thorin growled, although the dwarves behind him quietly joined those already at the table, "The Arkenstone is the symbol of my divine right to rule."
Bilbo rolled his eyes at that, "You've been ruling just fine without it for decades, another few days without it is nothing. Not to mention that the treasury is a mess and finding anything in there right now is nigh on impossible. But you need a meal and a rest. You haven't done either since we first entered Erebor. Thorin! We have crossed half of Arda with all sorts of nasty things trying to eat and/or kill us. Let's take the time and celebrate the fact that we really got Erebor back. Admit it, none of you actually thought that we would make it this far! So celebrate with your kin and friends over this success. The rest will sort itself out with time. Now, sit and eat and I don't want to hear another word about the Arkenstone until at least tomorrow."
Thorin grumbled but did as Bilbo bid, much to the other dwarves astonishment. The rest of the evening passed merrily, the dwarves singing and celebrating. At one point, Nori slipped away along with Ori and returned with a couple of casks of well-aged dwarven ale. It was a good evening, a hard won one, and Bilbo would take it gratefully. Compared to hobbit feasts, it was shabby indeed, but given all the trials that they'd had to go through and the friendships that they'd forged made it the finest event that Bilbo had ever been to.
* * *
Thorin was back to his old self the next day, pacing relentlessly through the treasury in search of the Arkenstone. Bilbo ignored him, continuing to sort as swiftly through the treasury as he could. In the end, it took five days to get it completely sorted, although the Arkenstone was not found. Bilbo privately was not surprised at that, considering that it was hidden in a pocket of a vest tucked in the very bottom of his pack.
One the third day, Ori found the items that Bilbo had requested him to find and Bilbo huffed a quiet sigh of relief at the news. He wasn't sure why he was uneasy, but there was something in the air, something that told him that he would need all the bargaining power that he could get his hands on. Thanking Ori, he sent him on his way to continue gathering the Dale items.
On the fifth day, when they reached the final pile in the treasury, one of the ravens brought news of the advancing armies and Bilbo internally cursed his hint of Tookish foresight. Looking at Thorin raging over the lack of the Arkenstone, Balin's weariness, Dwalin's stoniness, and the fear and uncertainty on the princes' faces, Bilbo sighed. It looked like it was up to him to sort this mess out. It was a good thing that hobbits liked problems, riddles, and order. Thorin was going to owe him the world's biggest feast for all of this, when all was said and done.
He sighed again before a reluctant smile crept onto his face as he shook his head. The things one did for family.