Dis arrives in Erebor
The caravan from the Blue Mountains was due to arrive that afternoon. A messenger had been sent from the caravan to Erebor with a personal letter for the King from Lady Dis. She asked for a private greeting and to make sure both of her sons were there. Thorin didn't know what had happened. He didn't know if Mailli had died or not, but he assumed that if Dis wanted a private meeting, the worst had come to pass. She did not want Fili to find out about his wife in front of the entire caravan. Thorin steeled himself. This was not going to be easy.
Fili and Kili dressed in their finest to greet their mother. They paced the floor of the small greeting room where they were asked to wait. Thorin joined them with the news that the caravan had just arrived. Balin and Dwalin went to greet Dis and personally escort her to the private greeting room where her brother and sons waited. When the door opened and Dis stepped in, a tidal wave of emotions enveloped the family. They were elated to see Dis, but they saw immediately that she was alone, save for a small bundle in her arms.
“Mother!” Fili and Kili went to her and swallowed her in a hug. When they pulled back, she looked into the face of her oldest son and saw the concern in his eyes.
Dis had rehearsed in her mind what she would say, but when it came to it, her practiced speech failed her.
"Fili, this is your daughter, Milly." She opened the bundle to reveal a small infant of no more than three months of age. Kili grinned at the infant. Fili frowned.
"Mailli? Where is she?" Fili asked.
"I'm sorry, my son. Mailli died in childbirth."
Fili fell to his knees. A loud sob of anguish filled the room. Kili was at his brother's side in an instant. He cried softly as he held Fili. Thorin went to his sister and held her. They all cried. When the baby's cries joined theirs, everyone stopped to stare at the infant.
Fili looked at the face of his daughter for the first time. She had his pale blue eyes and sported a tuft of blond hair on the top of her head. He thought her a beautiful baby, but he couldn't come to grips with it being his daughter. He didn't even know Mailli had been pregnant. He wondered if Mailli had known when he left.
"Fili?" Dis spoke over the baby's cries. "Would you like to hold your daughter?"
Fili sat down in one of the room's chairs. Dis passed the bundle to him and he held it awkwardly. He didn't know what to do with the crying babe. Dis produced a milk bladder from a pocket of her travelling cloak and gave the bladder to Fili, who stuck it clumsily at the baby's mouth.
Thorin chuckled. He leaned down to Fili. "Hold her like this, it's easier." He helped Fili adjust his hold on the baby and milk bladder until they were both in a more comfortable position. Kili sat next to his brother and stroked the baby's head. The baby noisily sucked at the milk. Tears fell from Fili's face and landed on his daughter’s head and blanket.
"Mailli picked out the name," Dis told them. "She was very sick through the entire pregnancy. To be honest, I was surprised she held out as long as she did. Every ounce of her life energy went to birthing Milly. She smiled when she found out it was a girl, then she was gone."
"I never should have left," Fili said. His voice broke Dis's heart.
"Nonsense. She missed you terribly, Fili. But, she made it very clear to me that she knew you had done the right thing, going with Thorin on the quest. She was so proud of you and boasted to anyone who would listen about her great husband who was out reclaiming his people's homeland with the king." Fili gave a weak smile.
"Mother?" he spoke up. "Thank you for taking care of Mailli and bringing Milly safely to me, but would you mind caring for her a while longer? I need some time alone. Soon I will ask you to bring Milly to me, but for now," he choked, unable to finish he request.
"Of course, Fili," Dis took the child back from Fili. He ran out of the room, tears streaming down his face.
"Stay with him, Kili" Thorin mumbled.
Kili kissed his mother's cheek. "It's good to see you, Mother," he said and then left. He looked up and down the hall, but he could not see his brother. He asked a passing guard who said he had seen Fili head for the royal living quarters. Kili took off running. He found Fili standing outside the home he had so lovingly fixed up for his wife. Kili laid a hand on Fili's shoulder.
"I can't go in there. It was meant for her. For us. Mailli and I. I can't go in without her."
"Then don't. Come to my room," Kili gently led Fili away from the door and down the hall to his living quarters. Fili collapsed onto Kili's bed. His body shook with sobs. Kili stoked the fire in the room before going to his brother. At first Fili slapped at Kili's hands as Kili tried to embrace his brother, but Kili was stronger than his heart-broken brother and pulled Fili into his arms. They sat together on the bed and cried for many hours until sleep took them both.
* * * * * * * *
I hope that I get to deliver this letter to you in person once I arrive in Erebor, but in case I don't make it, I have some things I wanted to tell you.
First things first, I'm expecting! I didn't know when you left. In fact, I believe it was our last night we had together that put me in this condition. And I am so happy. The babe grows and I talk to it all the time. I tell it stories about you and us and the fun we'll have when we are all together again. I'm trying to be optimistic, but the truth is, my love, I am very ill. I am afraid you would be so ashamed of me seeing me as I am. My body is weak and carrying a babe has not been easy for me. I have been forced to stay in bed for months now. I had to move out of our home and I now live with your mother. I sleep in your old bed and it still smells of you. Sometimes, when I am most lonely, I close my eyes and take a deep breath and I can pretend you are near. I miss you so much.
I am so very proud of you, though. It is a great thing you are doing for your people. Whatever happens, never have regrets for making this journey. However it ends, it was the right thing for you to do. I miss you, yes, but I am proud of you.
I had to stop writing my letter for a few days. I am embarrassed to say that the simple task of writing wore me out and I had to sleep for a while. I am sorry I am so weak. If by some miracle I survive childbirth, I'm afraid I will never be able to have more children. And that makes me sad because we wanted to have many. I hope this one is a boy. A son, in the line of Durin, and an heir for you.
I will love you forever. You have made me so happy and I am honored to bear your child. I am happy to give my life for the babe, so never be upset by this. My heart is with you and I hope that one day we will be reunited. Give my love to our child. My dear, wonderful Fili, I love you.
Yours forever, Mailli
Fili had found the letter among his daughter's things. He had read the letter so many times now, he had it memorized. His heart ached to think that Mailli had been afraid he would be ashamed of her because her body was ill. He never would have felt like that and if he had known it would have been that way for her, he would have been content to never have children if it meant a lifetime with his wife. But there was no way of knowing and there was nothing he could do or could have done about it.
She said she was happy to give her life for their child and he believed it. Mailli was an exceptional person, but it didn't make losing her any less difficult.
Thorin had temporarily released Fili from all his duties so he could mourn and get to know his infant daughter. Fili was trying hard to learn how to take care of Milly, but instead of teaching him, Dis mostly just took care of Milly herself. He decided that he would just have to ask her to leave and let him learn on his own.
It was not going well. Milly never slept. She cried a lot. She spit up all of her food, it seemed. Fili had no idea what he was doing.
Instead of moving into the large apartment he had built for Mailli, he and Milly moved into a small spare one. It had two bedrooms and almost no kitchen to speak of. It was several halls away from the rest of the family. Fili hardly ever left. Kili would visit every evening and Thorin would come over from time to time, but most of the time, Fili was left alone. He was exhausted and lonely.