‘Sam, beware!’ Frewen's arm shot out and grasped the hobbit's elbow.
Sam froze; his right foot hovered over the lip of the landing he found himself standing on. Heaving a few deep breaths, he backed up until he felt the reassurance of cool rock.
'My thanks.' Sam whistled a sigh. The hobbit hadn't expected to be facing an open space after stepping through the entrance and the stone door shutting behind him.
He glanced about the structure; the illumination came from lanterns set into the wall. There were stone stairs coiling down and an iron chimney ran up from the floor below, ending in the boulder's ceiling.
'Frewen?' A voice called up from the bottom.
The young dwarf leaned over the edge. 'I've returned with the bracelet bearer, Father.'
'Bring him to me.' The answer trumpeted up.
Sam followed Frewen but slowed, distracted by delicate amber sculptures of menfolk, trees, animals, all Middle Earth life ensconced in little alcoves dotted about. Light reflecting off the rare stone bathed the cavern in soft orange light.
‘Master Sam,’ Frewen called the hobbit away from the silent narrations of the gems. ‘My father awaits.’
'Oh, right you are, Frewen.' Sam hurried to catch up with her.
It wasn't long before he reached the bottom with the young dwarf. The scent of scrumptious food hung heavy and promised to sate his growling hunger.
‘I say, I hate to be more of a burden, but may I share your meal?' Sam asked. 'It has been quite some hours since lunch.'
'Of...' Frewen began but was cut off.
'Not until I see the bracelet.' The same gruff voice from before interrupted.
'Yes, Father.' Frewen lowered her head like a scolded child and led Sam towards the other side of the chamber.
Obscured by the open fire pit, an elderly dwarf wrapped in furs sat in a leather chair. Thinning silver hair draped about his head like branches of a weeping willow. He regarded the hobbit with a crow's glare.
Frewen stepped forward. ‘May I present Sam Gamgee of Hobbiton.'
Sam bowed before his host. The old dwarf returned the courtesy with a nod.
'Sam, this is my father, Baldrin.'
The old dwarf waved him over. The hobbit dragged a heavy wooden seat with his good hand.
'I'll be back.' Frewen hurried away down an adjoining tunnel.
Baldrin continued to stare at the hobbit. Sam wiggled in his chair, uncomfortable under the dwarf's scrutiny.
'Show me the item.' He rasped.
Sam reached into his pack and handed the silver band to the elderly dwarf. Baldrin turned the bracelet over in his thick callused hands. He shut his eyes and held it above his left hand, dropping it spinning. The band didn't deviate and remained centred in Baldrin's palm.
'What are you doing?'
'I'm listening to the mithril's song. Now shush!' His brow furrowed in concentration. 'This bracelet is very old; its melody is from the Second Age.'
Sam strained to listen, but couldn't hear the music from the whirling band. 'What else does it sing?'
'It spins a song of love, an elf and a dwarf. But there is also tragedy?' Baldrin wavered to the ethereal tune.
Frewen appeared carrying a tray. On it were bandages, and a steaming bowl, the scent of lemon and herbs refreshing the thick air. Sam's heart sank when he noticed she hadn't brought any food. She kneeled before Sam, and examined his broken fingers. He winced at her touch, the wounds still tender, and she started cleaning them with the citrus and herbal water. The old dwarf's words dragged his attention back.
'The evil spirit you met is the elf maiden known as Delina; her name is cut into this bracelet's flesh. Her dwarf lover was Kân.' He put his ear closer to the spinning band. 'In Erebor's heart they crafted twin bracelets from forbidden knowledge. Their need and desire for each other was so great, and in their hearts, worth the price.'
Frewen lifted her head up from her cleaning. 'Need for what, Father?'
Baldrin voice cracked. 'Its song is so sad. Kân and Delina desired to spend eternity together, and the charms would have allowed that. You fools, was it really worth it?'
'What happened?' Sam prodded.
'Tis the saddest part of the tale. The Silvan elves hunted her down and returned her to Mirkwood. The elf maiden was trialled and summarily executed for her blasphemy.'
Sam was drawn further into the story. 'And Kân? What became of him?'
'He gave her bracelet to his kin for safe keeping and set out to find her body. I can only assume Kân thought to return her to life with the power of the bracelets.' Baldrin shook his head opening his eyes. His hand closed over the band, ceasing its song. 'If it could make him live forever, he was of the belief it would bring her back too. '
Sam got up and paced the floor in thought, the throbbing of his fingers forgotten. 'If Kân gave it to a family member then it must have somehow been forgotten, and become part of Mr Bilbo's treasure when he returned from the lonely mountain.'
'And so the cycle continues.' The old dwarf shook his head and held the bracelet out to Sam. 'You are now its beneficiary.'
Sam sat back down, the bracelet feeling heavier. 'I must give it to her then. That's the only way to save Dimple.'
'Fool hobbit!' Baldrin slapped Sam over the side of the head. 'Middle Earth can ill afford a Dark Queen. Her heart has been charred by hate, and after so many ages, all she desires now is revenge. No, you must go to Erebor and give it to the dwarves and they will destroy it to end the curse.'
'I can't abandon my friend.'
The dwarf patted Sam's hand. 'I'm so sorry, Master Hobbit, but you'll have to let him die to spare Middle Earth from her return.'