Economic imperialism does Middle-earth, round 2. Because Himring set my brain on fire.
The Bladesmiths’ Guild was the kingdom’s guild: they forged arms for the great houses and scions of ancient lines. They armed Dúrin’s people by the king’s decree. They fed the Dwarves of Erebor: foreign kings and houses paid well for their work in gold and in food.
A great honor, to be a bladesmith, and every Dwarf knew the need of such deadly steel: dragons were ever a threat, and thievery. Even a king could be crooked: who could forget Thingol?
So the bladesmiths forged, proudly, and fed the king’s coffers with blades and taxes, for the keeping of Erebor.
In the Dark
Brísi had come to the mountain a young man, still an apprentice, and carrying all his trade on his back to follow Thrór and his master to lands free of cold-drakes. The refugees filled the empty, ancient halls of Erebor with new life.
Then Brísi burrowed throughout the mountain, and for nigh on one hundred and fifty years, he labored ‘til he sweat craft: he could smell gold, they said, and sink a shaft surer than an elvish archer.
Even Thrór will listen, then, to his warning: No mine gives wealth everlasting. Take thought therefore, whence else wealth may come.
The Great Council
King Thrór called his council, summoning the grand guildmasters and heads of merchant houses.
The council chamber greeted them with golden light and winking jewels. The King’s steward, Fundin, bade them sit, and began: We come to discuss our people’s future…
In council, Fundin laid out: the emptying of the mines. Ever deeper, ever harder they must dig – for less.
Not this year, or next, but eventually, the mines would fail. Erebor is isolated. Gold buys Dale’s food, iron from Grór. Without these, can Erebor survive?
Them some counseled force, but the merchants say: Blood is dearest: trade dearer first!
Darrí took his caravan east, to Dorwinion, with its confluence of folk. A little of everything in the Men of Dorwinion, for they were the middle of many lands, and with rich earth such as few could boast.
It made that middle lie hard to bear, with so many envious neighbors.
And so his hosts were gracious: Dwarven steel was peerless, the Bladesmiths’ Guild matchless in craft: blades did not break, nor rust bite so swift or deep; edges stayed keen.
Twelve gold per blade, Angaiden of Dorwinion offered.
Twenty-five, said Darrí. Shock. Surprise. Twenty-five? But Darrí stood his ground.
Under Guild and the Girdle
And so the kingdom’s merchant houses did hard business, sent the steeliest to bring home gold. No more gifts, unless to bait the hook. They’re not yet hard up, but they’ll lay away against that day.
But no one must know – that, too, could bring disaster. Against change – against grievance – Dwarves must hold. Masters and mothers teach the young, and so they are taught: the honor-price for sweat and skill – first, last, always… and higher. ‘Tis close enough to tradition. As for what’s poor, masters send the slower hence, with instruction: Bring back gold enough, there’s another chance for you.
For the Keeping of the Kingdom
And yet, how when trade’s not enough? What then? Some counselors whisper that after all fear is their due – others should respect their might. In a world of limits, gold comes to those who take it. Dwarves understand this, build deep and strong because they understand.
There are other treasure mountains, in other kingdoms. Erebor has armies, they tell the King – if they will but use them…
One day, blood must be spent. But not today: the King’s son is skeptical, his grandson… hostile.
But no matter. The rule of gold is that of power – they must bend in time.
Notes: This may read as AU to some, given the whole "wealthy Erebor," etc. But of course, would anyone expect Thorin to say anything about this to anyone? ;-D (I love that found text pretense! It's so fun!)