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Property Rights: 1. Property Rights
Dwarves were dangerous and unreasonable when the gold lust took them. Look what they had done to Fram, thought Bard, keeping a close eye on the huddle of glowering dwarves. Fram's courage and skill had saved them from the great dragon, Scatha, but they were so mad with greed for the treasure that they slew the very man who made it possible for them to live in peace. Dwarves did not value great deeds or bravery, only gold and gems. There was no sense in it, and he must remember that in dealing with Thorin.
He ran his hand down the curve of his bow. These dwarves would not catch him off-guard. It would not do to make enemies of them unnecessarily, but as long as they were ensnared by the dragon's treasure, it was simple wisdom to guard against an attack. Once they were taught to curb their avarice, though, he still hoped that they would regain their senses and become the strong, useful allies that his ancestors had known.
He could not back down, not when the homes and stores of Esgaroth were in ruins and winter close at hand. The dragon's hoard would bring rafts of goods down the Forest River and pack trains up from Dorwinion as quickly as could be. His people needed all the speed that lavish amounts of gold could buy, and even so, help would come too late for some. The elves shared what they had but they had come equipped for a treasure hunt, not a relief mission.
Any siege would eventually end in defeat for the dwarves, but it would take time that he did not have to spare. Perhaps King Thranduil would advance him the supplies and gold in exchange for a share of the treasure. In these straights, he could not afford to protest even if the elvenking demanded three quarters of the dragon's hoard in exchange. Esgaroth needed food and shelter immediately.
He lifted his chin and addressed the leader of the dwarves. "I am Bard, and by my hand was the dragon slain and your treasure delivered…"
Men could not be trusted to consider anyone's rights but their own. Only look what Fram had done, thought Thorin. In return for slaying the dragon, Scatha, he looted the entire hoard without a thought for the rights of those whose property the worm had stolen, refusing to release even heirlooms of unquestioned provenance. To Men, a few moments of glory in battle were worth more than a lifetime of meticulous labor and careful stewardship.
The Dwarves who had gone to Fram's court to beg for the return of their own property were turned away with scornful words and a travesty of a necklace. It had been more than his people could bear then, and it was more than they could bear now. Men did not care who rightfully owned stolen goods. They were like young children with a toy; the strongest and the quickest seize the prize and the rest go away empty-handed. Well, if that was how this Bard thought it ought to be done, then Thorin would not let anyone within sight of the treasure until they admitted that the Dwarves had won this race. His people could be generous after he secured their rights to their own property but he would not allow it before.
He could not keep his anger from showing on his face as he said, "It is in my mind to ask what share of their inheritance you would have paid to our kindred, had you found the hoard unguarded and us slain."
"A just question," replied Bard, "But you are not dead, and we are not robbers."
Thorin ground his teeth. What a skilful little sidestep that was! Smaug's hoard would have gone the way of Scatha's, and it still might do if he did not force this insolent bowman to acknowledge the justice of their claim. Twice stolen did not make rightful ownership, and any Man or Elf who thought otherwise would soon learn differently. "I will not parley…."
1. "Of his son, Fram, they tell that he slew Scatha, the great dragon of Ered Mithrin, and the land had peace from the long-worms afterwards. Thus Fram won great wealth, but was at feud with the Dwarves, who claimed the hoard of Scatha. Fram would not yield them a penny, and sent to them instead the teeth of Scatha made into a necklace, saying, 'Jewels such as these you will not match in your treasuries, for they are hard to come by.' Some say that the Dwarves slew Fram for this insult."
The Return of the King, Appendix A "The House of Eorl"
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