King Bard contemplated his youngest son. It was becoming clear the boy would not become the diplomat he had hoped he’d be. The restlessness in him when forced to sit for his lessons went far beyond the usual boyish distaste for sitting still for any length of time. The only time he seemed truly happy and at peace was when he was carving or working with his hands. No, he would not be able to send the boy to Lake-town as he had hoped. Another path must be found for his son. He turned to his Steward.
“Send for Baird.”
Following the Steward to his father’s office, Baird’s mind raced as he tried to remember what he had done wrong this time. He hadn’t been late to his lessons for at least a week, nor had he been disrespectful to the tutor. Although, he thought, frowning, he had questioned the man rather sharply regarding the Battle of the Last Alliance and perhaps the man had complained – again. Or, maybe… no, he shook his head. His sister would never tell how she had found him in the stables carving small horses when he was supposed to be mucking out the stalls.
As soon as Baird raised his head from his respectful bow, Bard began explaining the future he now saw for his son. While he, and the rest of the family, would miss the young man, he truly believed it would be best if Baird was sent away to fully develop the skills and talents he had. Bard ignored the fact that his son lost all the color in his cheeks at that point and simply continued to explain. He noted Baird’s indifference to his lessons and anything having to do with the governance of Dale, unlike his older brother, Bain.
Send him away? Baird’s stomach lurched at his father’s words and he paid little heed to anything else he was saying. Why? He was not as diligent with his studies as he should be, but to send him away seemed too harsh a punishment. Perhaps if he promised – once again - to apply himself as his father demanded, he would be allowed to stay. But, no, he was the son of the King and he would not beg. He lifted his chin proudly. Something his father said captured his attention and he blinked in surprise as he asked,
Bard ruthlessly suppressed the sigh from escaping his lips; years of practice with irritating council members and surly merchants enabled him to keep his displeasure from appearing on his face.
“Were you listening at all?” he asked in what he hoped was a neutral tone.
“You said you were sending me away.” Hurt filled the boy’s eyes as he spoke.
Ah, there was the trouble then. “What I said, Baird, was that I plan to apprentice you to the dwarves, to Dain if he’ll have you, so that you can become a toymaker. I believe you’d make a good one.”
A toymaker? Father is going to allow me to become a toymaker? Baird stared at his father in disbelief. How did he know that that was what he’d dreamed about; that walking through the streets of Dale and seeing the shops of the toymakers stirred his heart in ways that he couldn’t put into words. And, to be apprenticed to the dwarves, to work in the Lonely Mountain and to learn their secrets was an incredible gift. He had been to the entrance of their caves and had longed to go inside. He frowned as a thought occurred to him.
Watching the emotions flying across Baird’s face, Bard just sat back and waited for the boy’s questions. It didn’t take long.
“But will the dwarves take me? They haven’t had a Man as an apprentice since before Smaug destroyed the Mountain.”
“Dain and I have been discussing it and we feel it’s time to renew that tradition. I only today decided you should be the first,” he admitted.
“This seems a fitting occupation for you and one where you will represent me well, if in a different way than what I had planned for your life.”
Baird simply nodded, speechless now in his joy. His mind raced with questions but those could wait until later, and he turned, planning to run and share his good fortune with his brother and younger sisters. But the half stern, half amused look from his father reminded Baird of his manners and he gave a proper and deeply respectful bow to his father before leaving the room. Once in the hall, though, he had no such courtly reservations and he sprinted to the family quarters of the palace, joyfully shouting out his news and startling the servants that he passed.
Pulling out a piece of parchment as he listened to the fading sounds of his son, Bard could only shake his head in wry amusement. While he had known Baird did not enjoy the lessons he was forced to endure - though he did well at them – never had he thought that his son so disliked them that sending him away to live with dwarves could bring him such happiness. With a grimace, he stared down at the parchment, his pen twirling idly in his fingers as he thought.
Now, he just needed to convince Dain to accept an apprentice.
Author Notes: I’m placing this roughly fifteen – twenty years after the death of Smaug. I could not find anything that said whether or not Bard had any other children besides his son Bain, who followed him as king, but I took the liberty of giving him some. The toy trade in Dale did flourish again after the town was re-built, in fact Bilbo ordered many toys from Dale for his farewell party. It was also true that before Smaug destroyed the Lonely Mountain that dwarves had taken on some men as apprentices.