Fourth part of the Journey of Freryn. Previous episodes can be found here:
Freryn’s mining claim proved very profitable, and he was able to replace the axe he lost with twin weapons of comparable quality, as well as purchase a large lot of rare ore. With all his crafting efforts going toward making armor for sale, he had been neglecting his own gear. Turning again to the anvil, he worked tirelessly to shape links of the strongest steel. The finished mail coat would serve him well on the journey he was planning. For too long he had been in the grip of a complacency inspired by the relative peace of Ered Luin, but wanderlust was finally beginning to chip away at inertia.
Having made up his mind to leave the Halls, he sought audience with Lord Dwalin. Dwalin had asked nothing of him since Freryn helped with the Dourhand uprising months ago, and he assumed the Steward had all but forgotten he was there. Still, it would not do to disappear without his leave.
As he approached the dais, he grew uncharacteristically nervous. Standing at the peak of the imposing throne room, the old dwarf looked down on him with a sharp eye that belied his years. Dwalin really was an amiable fellow one on one, but there was something in his glance that made Freryn think he was displeased. He remembered too late that the axe Dwalin bestowed on him was conspicuously missing. He should have chosen to forgo all weapons rather than make its absence noticeable by wearing two imposters!
Bowing, he made mental modifications to the speech he had planned. Before he could get far, Dwalin cut him off, “I was wondering when you would shake the moss from your boots and be off, Freryn, son of Dáin. You have done little here but get rich off my land, and lose my gift to you.” Freryn tried hard not to look away from the accusatory stare, while Dwalin added scathingly, “I would have expected more from the son of a king. Even a second son should have at least a spark of the original fire!”
Freryn had not expected the Steward to be angry enough to drag his status into the light. For better or worse, being the younger son of the current King under the Mountain mattered little to him. He had not begun life as a prince, and he was unlikely to end it as a king.
Fortunately, Dwalin left him no chance to sputter an excuse, “Nevermind that. I understand things happen. Even Thorin lost Orcrist, though that was the least of his worries at the time. Yet if he couldn’t hang onto that worthy weapon, why should I expect you to do any better with my meager axe?” Freryn could no longer meet his eyes, and stared down at the intersection of polished stones between them, trying to think how to respond without further aggravating the situation. When he looked up again, Dwalin stood in front of him, a slight smile dulling the sharpness of his words. Freryn was relieved, but kept his features contrite, while Dwalin continued, “This time I will give you something you cannot lose so readily: A task.”
The task was not too difficult, or at least did not appear so. He was to speak with a Ranger named Langlas, at an inn east of Gondamon. After discharging that duty he would be free to continue on his way.
Never did he stay long enough in one place to allow the roots to crack the rock, as they said in his homeland. This had the unfortunate effect of making him appear like an aimless wanderer. A wanderer he might be, but hardly aimless. Or not entirely aimless…he had plenty of worthy exploits, and just because none of them were planned did not mean they were frivolous activities. He could not understand why so many dwarves felt life was not worth living if you could not foretell exactly what you were going to do one day to the next. Why bother to wake up if it was all the same?
The night before he was to set out, he dreamed of the grey lands of his youth, the beauty of which was mostly hidden beneath the rock. Almost a lifetime of men had passed since he had walked those hills, and he felt an unexpected longing for them creeping back. Before long, the dream shifted focus, and a reeking smoke choked the air. The sun, which had seemed normal enough, suddenly became a ball of burning pitch. Under this sickly sky walked a nameless beast, such as he had only heard tales of. The creature loomed above him, and he found himself able to do naught but stare at it.