The last time we saw Freryn, he was surrounded by goblins, and inebriated beyond repair. Exactly how he got out of that scrape he could not remember, but when he came to, he was in the snow by the frozen river, his weapons gone. A few yards away lay a severed goblin hand.
The sickly green hand was a poor trade for the axe Lord Dwalin had given him in gratitude for his services. But with the goblin vermin long gone, there was nothing to be done about it. At least Freryn could find a replacement for what he lost. Good luck to the goblin!
The Master of Smiths laughed when he inquired how much it would cost to forge a suitable substitute. Unfortunately, procuring a weapon of equal quality would require gold.
Since coming to Thorin’s Hall, he had amassed a very meager fortune making and selling armour, but it was not a lucrative trade, what with his patrons being at relative peace with their neighbors.
Despite current prosperity in the Vale of Thrain, after several generations of poverty, the inhabitants were wary of frivolous embellishment. He found it dull work turning out pieces concerned only with function, and rarely with form. But there was nothing to be done if buyers were unwilling to loosen their purse ties for more intricate armour.
So it came as a shock to the frugal dwarves of the Blue Mountains when news that a great cache of gold had been discovered in the hills nearby. Many scoffed, saying they would never have missed such a vein after a hundred years of mining the area.
But even the naysayers packed up their gear and trekked to the rumored source of riches. Freryn possessed more hope than most. Erosion by wind and water could often uncover an area which did not look promising before, and he saw no reason to doubt the reports. Some folk were showing off coins newly minted from the ore which had been found, and testing proved they were made of nothing less than the real deal!
A feeling of excitement pervaded the site, and as Freryn drew close, he caught the sounds of a bard singing of fortune and despair. Leave it to a minstrel to turn everything into a tragedy. Rolling his eyes, he pushed past those who were trying to sell him “lucky” dowsing gems, and trained cave-claw diggers (as if it were possible to domesticate those beasts!) He hoped this rush for gold was not just a marketing ruse. Some of his people had picked up annoying habits since trading with the men of Bree, and a willingness to take advantage of their own folk’s naivety was one of these. Besides, he already had a lucky talisman; he saved the goblin hand (as a reminder to seek retribution for his lost axe), and had shoved the dried horror into his pack before leaving.
The site was packed, not only with dwarves, but with men and elves, and even a hobbit or two. It was obvious some of these would-be miners had never before swung a pick. Blocking out the griping and groaning of people hitting their toes, or getting bitten by their cave-claws, Freryn surveyed the geology, trying to remember all the tricks he learned long ago. He had been convinced the old miners he once knew could smell gold, but they had laughed at him, saying success came with practice and hard work—and once in a while, by the mysterious help of a dowsing gem.
Used improperly, a dowsing gem was nothing more than superstitious foolishness, but with the most delicate touch and skill, it could, occasionally, incline itself toward precious metal.
Unfortunately, after hours of trying this technique, Freryn realized he no longer had the ability. Grumbling to himself, and impatient with people who could not control their bloody cave-claws (he was forced to leave more than one area due to a claw claiming the spot for its own nest), he sought a more remote location.
Having climbed a short rise, he heard a helpful critic shout from below “Won’t find a thing that way, friend! I already broke two picks on the blasted ground there.” Admittedly, the site did not look very likely, but after nearly being trampled by an escaped pack-goat, he was in danger of planting a pick in someone’s head. Better to release his frustration in a less harmful activity, even if it proved fruitless. Without bothering to dowse, he began digging.
Before long, his pick struck something harder than the rocky ground, and a flash of red caught his eye. It proved to be a ruby of great worth in itself, and was a good sign for the location. Luck of the goblin hand, perhaps?
He continued to dig the area, every so often taking samples to a nearby stream to check for the flecks of gold that should collect near the bottom of the pan. The third sample had a noticeable concentration of the ore, and he tried to remain calm while clambering back to the main site to record his find with the foreman.
Taking the rune-stone the foreman gave him, he hurried back to mark his claim. The etched rock was a sign his fellow dwarves would respect, though he was not sure about the rest of these know-nothing men and elves wandering everywhere. They would be fools indeed to disrupt a dwarf’s claim to gold, and he would hound them into the Undying Lands if they tampered with it (which would be more work than it was worth, but hopefully the threat would suffice).
Discovering gold was only the beginning of the battle. Extraction of the ore would take great effort, for which he would need to hire workers. The gem’s value would cover most of those costs.
Though pleased with his fortune, Freryn could not help but wonder if Thorin’s old Company would ever have gone on their fateful journey had they known such wealth was lying at their feet. At least Dwalin’s people would profit from it now.