Sigrid and the princess
Sigrid was lost. The semi-dark halls that made up the maze that was Erebor all looked alike to her. She kept walking, figuring at some point, she would meet up with someone who could show her the way back.
She had come at the wishes of her father as an ambassador from Dale. She attended her meetings, met countless important dwarves, and did her best in all things to make her father proud. She would be returning home in the morning and she was looking forward to it. She missed her sister and there was so much to tell her.
An odd noise stopped her walking. She turned her head, listening for the sound. It sounded like someone crying. She walked quietly, trying to find the source of the sound and finally turned down a hall to see someone sitting on the floor, their head buried in their knees, and deep sobs shaking their shoulders. She could also hear a baby's cry, but it was farther in the distance.
As she walked closer, she could make out more detail of the dwarf in front of her. Blond, wavy hair, pulled back with the insignia of the prince.
"Prince Fili?" Sigrid whispered.
His head jerked up, but he did not look at her.
"It’s me, Sigrid, daughter of Bard. Are you alright?" She squatted down and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. She could feel him shaking. "Can I help you?"
Fili sobbed again, but after several moments, he lifted his eyes to look at her. They were red. His face was swollen with crying and his hair was plastered to his wet cheeks. Sigrid wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around him and comfort him. She didn't know what was so upsetting, but she wanted hold him and tell him everything would be alright.
"She won't stop crying," Fili finally choked out.
Sigrid could hear the baby's cries. They were coming from the other side of the door Fili was sitting up against. She had heard rumors that the Prince's wife had died in childbirth and suddenly Sigrid understood why the prince was sitting in the hallway. Fili was grieving the loss of his wife, while trying to deal with a baby he had never seen before. All of this was piled on top of his duties as a prince. And, if the nightmares her Da and brother still had about the Battle of the Five Armies were torturing the Prince's sleep, she knew he must be exhausted to the point of insanity.
"Will you allow me, Prince? I have some experience with babies. My Ma died after my sister was born. I've raised my sister since she was a day old." Sigrid was surprised by the look in Fili's eyes. They were a mix of relief and madness. He nodded at her. Sigrid squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, stood and opened the door. The wails from the little baby tore at Sigrid's heart. She found the baby lying in her cot. She had squirmed in her crying fury and had lodged herself right up alongside the edge of her cot.
Sigrid picked up the wailing child and held her close to her chest. "There, there," Sigrid whispered into the baby's ear. She took the blanket from the cot and wrapped it around the baby. She began to walk around the room, gently bouncing the baby in her arms. The baby wouldn't stop crying, but Sigrid didn't expect the baby to stop right away. Once babies got themselves worked up like this, it could take them a long time to wind down. Sigrid felt the baby's changing rag. It was soiled. She looked around the room and found a stack of changing rags. She laid the baby back into its cot. It wailed louder.
She went out to the main living area of the apartment. Fili was sitting on a chair, his head in his hands.
"Excuse me, Prince Fili?" she walked up to him.
"You can't get her to stop either?" he looked devastated.
"I've hardly tried yet," she smiled sadly. "Don't worry, I'll calm her down, but it will take a little while. She's worked herself up into a right state. I was wondering if you can help me find a few things?"
Sigrid smiled kindly. "Where do you wash her? Is there a tub?"
Fili got up and showed Sigrid their washroom. A small tub sat overturned on the floor. She could see towels, soaps and oils.
"Alright, now, where are her clothes and how do you feed her?"
"Her clothes are in her room. There is a small wardrobe. As for her food, there is a dwarrowdam who is wet nursing her," Fili answered.
Sigrid debated what to do next, but knew that if she was truly going to help Fili and his daughter, she would have to give the prince some orders. "Fili?" He turned his red eyes to her. "What is your daughter's name?"
"Milly? That's pretty. Now, I need you to do a few things for me. Alright?" He gave her a glare before relaxing and nodding in agreement. "Good. Milly's hungry. Would you go to her wet nurse and ask if it is possible to send up a full milk bladder?" Fili nodded. "And after you do that, I want you to go somewhere else and take a break."
"You need some sleep, Prince. Is there somewhere you can go to get rest? Your brother or your mother's home?"
Fili nodded again. He didn't seem to have the energy to do much else. "Kili's."
"Fine. Have the milk bladder sent up and then go to Kili's home for some sleep. I will stay with Milly until you come back. Don't worry about how long it takes. If you need a full night's sleep, get a full night's sleep. I'll take care of Milly."
"I can't ask you to do that," Fili started.
"You're not asking. I'm offering. No, I'm ordering you Prince Fili, go get some sleep and don't worry about anything."
Fili took a few moments to realize what he was being offered. He blinked back his tears. "I'll have the milk sent up. If you need me, I'll be a Kili's."
"Sleep well," Sigrid said.
Fili walked out leaving Sigrid alone with the screaming baby. Sigrid went back to the washroom and filled the tub with warm water. She looked at the soaps and oils that were lined up along the shelf and found what she wanted. She dropped a few drops of the lavender oil into the tub and then went to collect the baby.
Milly's face was beet red and streaked with tears. Sigrid took the baby to the washroom and removed all the baby's clothes. Supporting the infant's head and back in one of her hands, Sigrid laid the baby into the tub. Milly's arms flailed as she touched the water and let out another piercing scream. Sigrid hummed quietly and poured handfuls of warm water over the baby's belly and the back of her head. The scent of the oil wafted up into Sigrid's nose. The baby's screams calmed somewhat. When the water started to cool, Sigrid lifted Milly out and wrapped her in a fluffy towel. She patted her dry and then rubbed a little more of the lavender oil onto the baby's skin.
There was a knock at the door. Sigrid re-wrapped Milly, and cradled her to her chest, then went to answer the door. A large dwarrowdam stood there.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm Sigrid. I'm a friend of Prince Fili's and I'm taking care of the baby so he can get some much needed rest."
The dwarf looked suspicious. "The prince came to me and asked me to send up a milk bladder. He didn't say someone else would be here caring for the baby."
"Prince Fili's exhausted. He's gone to get some sleep."
"You know anything about taking care of babies?" the dwarf asked.
"Yes, I do. I raised my sister from infancy after my mother died. Don't worry. The young princess will be well cared for."
The dwarf handed Sigrid the full milk bladder. "I'll bring over another one in a couple of hours." With that the dwarrowdam turned and left. Sigrid sighed in relief.
The baby was still crying although the cries were not the same heart-wrenching wails of earlier. Sigrid dressed Milly in a fresh changing rag and a soft sleeping dress. She rewrapped the baby in her blanket. The baby looked exhausted. Sigrid was sure that if she stopped crying, Milly would fall asleep instantly. She sat down in a soft chair and arranged Milly in her arms. The milk bladder was placed to Milly's lips and she greedily latched on and sucked at the warm milk. Finally the cries stopped and a quiet settled in the room.
She stroked the baby's head and began to hum a lullaby. It was only a matter of minutes before Milly fell asleep. Milk dribbled down her cheek. She hiccupped a couple of times, but soon her breathing fell into the regular sleeping pattern. Sigrid set the milk bladder aside and cuddled the baby closer to her chest. It had been many years since Tilda had been this small. Well, Tilda had actually never been that small. Sigrid was amazed at the tiny size of the dwarf infant. She wondered if all dwarf babies were so tiny.
She didn't want to lay the baby in her cot yet, so Sigrid sat there, in the comfortable chair, cuddling the tiny princess. She felt so terrible for Fili, being thrust into fatherhood so abruptly and without anyone to share it with. She wondered why his mother was not helping more. Perhaps she didn't want to help. Perhaps Fili told her he didn't need any help.
The baby started to squirm. Sigrid hadn't meant to fall asleep, but the room was so peaceful, the chair so comfortable and the baby in her arms so sweet and warm, Sigrid must have dozed off. The baby started to cry again and Sigrid put the milk bladder back to the tiny mouth. Milly ate her fill.
The tiny babe needed changing again and Sigrid saw to her needs, changing her with all the efficiency of a big sister with many years of practice.
Holding Milly in her arms, Sigrid wandered the Prince's apartment, speaking quietly to the babe. She felt a little awkward looking at Fili's belongings, but she only looked at the things that were left out. The apartment was a little messy. Sigrid smiled. She would tidy up things before Fili returned. He had a large bookshelf that was full of dusty books. Most of them were in the dwarven language that Sigrid could never hope to read, but quite a few were in the common language. A knock at the door startled Sigrid.
The wet nurse was back with another full bladder. Sigrid traded her the empty one. The dwarrowdam seemed satisfied to see the child quiet and alert in Sigrid's arms. She promised to be back a few hours later and left. Sigrid set the milk bladder down. She didn't need it yet, but it wouldn't be long before Milly would be ready for her next meal. There was another knock at the door. Sigrid worried for a moment of who it might be now, and was certainly not expecting the visitor at the door.
"Prince Kili," Sigrid curtsied slightly at the prince. She opened the door further and allowed him to walk in.
"Sigrid, right?" he asked.
"You can't imagine my surprise when I came home this evening and found my brother passed out in my bed," Kili smiled kindly, but there was worry in his eyes.
"You didn't wake him, did you?" Sigrid asked.
"I almost did, but no. I figured he had good reason to be there and judging by the way he was sprawled across my bed, still wearing his boots, he must have been tired." Kili looked at the baby wrapped in her blanket in Sigrid's arms. "May I?" he asked, holding his arms open.
Sigrid passed Milly into Kili's arms. Her own arms ached a bit. It had been a long time since she had held a baby for so long and her arms were cramping.
Kili snuggled Milly close and he cooed at her. "So, after seeing my brother, I had to go find out what happened to his daughter. I thought I would find my mother. How did you end up here?"
Sigrid felt nervous under Kili's intense gaze. "Well, sir, I was lost in the halls and I heard someone crying. I found Prince Fili, on the floor just outside his door in the hall. He said that Milly would not stop crying. He was exhausted. Beyond exhausted. I offered to help. I've raised my sister since she was born. I know how to care for infants."
"Poor Fili," Kili sat down in the soft chair Sigrid had enjoyed while holding Milly. "This hasn't been easy for him."
"Would you tell me what happened? I've heard rumors, but I would like to know more truth than rumor." Sigrid wondered for a moment if she might have overstepped her bounds, questioning the royal family about their personal life.
Kili stared at her for several moments before nodding his head and sighing. "Fili and Mailli had only been married a year when we left on our quest to reclaim Erebor. Mailli stayed behind with our mother in the Ered Luin. We didn't know when we left, but Mailli was pregnant. She might not have even known when we left. I don't know. Anyway, Mailli died in childbirth. Mother was there and has cared for Milly since. Fili only discovered all of this a few weeks ago when Mother's caravan arrived from the Blue Mountains. He lost his wife and gained an infant daughter on the same day. He's refused any help from us, insisting that he could take care of his daughter on his own."
"But it's alright to ask for help," Sigrid said.
Kili nodded. "Yes, but Fili wouldn't. He said this was his responsibility and no one else's. Thorin has taken all of Fili's duties away for right now, allowing Fili time to get use to his life with a baby, but he'll have to return to his duties soon. To do that, he needs sleep and I've been able to tell for weeks he wasn't getting much. I had no idea how broken he was until now." Kili's eyes became moist with tears but he sniffed the tears back. "Thank you for helping him. He must have been desperate to be willing to accept help."
"Well, I'm not family. He doesn't have to put up a brave front for my sake. And yes, I think he was desperate."
Milly started to fuss. "I think she's wet." Kili held out the baby at arm's length.
"Come on, Uncle Kili," Sigrid smiled. "Time to learn how to change her."
"What?" Kili was shocked. Sigrid laughed. "Yes, you need to learn."
Kili learned quickly and when Milly was dry again, he passed the baby back to Sigrid. "How long are you going to stay here?" he asked.
"As long as Fili needs me too. I told him I would stay until he returned. If he needs a few days to sleep and recover, I'm alright with that."
"What about food for yourself?"
"Yes, I was starting to get hungry," Sigrid admitted. "What can I do?"
"Well, you are welcome to come to the dining halls at meal times or if you would prefer, I can send up some food for you," Kili answered.
"Would you?" Sigrid asked. "I wouldn't mind going to the dining halls, but I only ended up here by accident. I don't think I could find my way."
"And, I think I just want to keep Milly in her home, where we have quick access to her things. I don't want to get her worked up again like she was earlier."
"I understand. Don't worry, I'll send up some food for you and I'll check on you again in the morning, if that's alright." Kili went to the door.
"I would appreciate it," Sigrid told him.
"Thanks for helping out Fili like this. I've been so worried about him."
"It's my pleasure, Prince Kili," Sigrid smiled.
Kili smiled back and left. Milly was starting to fuss again, so Sigrid settled back into the chair and fed the baby. This time, when Milly fell asleep, Sigrid laid her down in her cot, tucking her blanket up around her. She tiptoed out of the room and stretched her arms and back. Then she went about straightening up the room and swept the floor. She collected Milly's soiled clothes and took them to the wash room. She filled up the clothes washing tub and worked at washing Milly's changing rags. She wondered if Fili ever washed Milly's clothes or the tub was just in here because it was part of the washroom. Somehow she doubted the Prince did his own laundry.
The food Kili sent up was delicious and filled her empty stomach. Sigrid was starting to feel very tired. She knew to get sleep while she could because it wouldn't be long before Milly would wake again. She made herself a little bed on the couch and lay down. It wasn't long before there was a knock at the door and the dwarrowdam was there with another full milk bladder.
It was a long night. Milly woke many times. Sigrid wondered if this was the way the baby had always been or if this restlessness had only started after coming to Erebor. Babies, she knew, were sensitive creatures, who could feel their parent's stress. She took a guess that Milly was feeling Fili's grief and stress, and was acting out in return. It was not Milly's fault. It wasn't even Fili's fault.
The hours went slowly by, and Sigrid managed a little sleep, but only when she and Milly slept cuddled up alongside each other on Fili's bed.
Having been in the mountain for several days and living in rooms with no windows, Sigrid had lost track of time. She wasn’t sure if it was truly night anymore or if morning had finally arrived. But when the dwarrowdam arrived with another milk bladder, Sigrid asked and was told that was indeed, morning.
It wasn’t long after the dam brought up the milk that Kili returned.
"How's Fili doing?" Sigrid asked.
"He still hadn't woken when I left. He must have really been tired." Kili took his niece from Sigrid's arms. He cooed at his her and kissed her head.
Sigrid enjoyed watching Kili with Milly. "Is she a normal size for a dwarfling?"
"Yes, at least I think so. I really wouldn't know, actually. I've never spent much time around babies."
Sigrid wouldn't have guessed that, he seemed such a natural. "You're doing very well with her."
Kili smiled. "Yes, well, I know how to hold her and I like to talk to her, but that's all I can do."
"You can practice changing her," Sigrid smiled.
Kili looked ready to protest, but he smiled, nodded and went to Milly's room. Sigrid watched him to make sure it was done correctly, but he managed it all on his own. "Being an uncle is great. I wish I could be uncle to more. I would have liked a nephew to play with and teach to shoot a bow, but I'm very happy with this little princess."
Sigrid smiled sadly.
"Hello?" a voice called out from the other room.
Kili grinned at Milly, "It's Dada, let's go say hi."
They left Milly’s room. Kili was still carrying the baby. Sigrid looked at the blond prince. His eyes were back to their normal color, although there were some dark circles around them. His hair was wet from a bath. He looked very shy, which surprised Sigrid.
"What are you doing here this morning?" Fili asked his brother.
"Oh, just came to say good morning to my beautiful niece." He kissed the baby's head again.
"Don't you have things to go do today?" Fili asked. He needed to talk to Sigrid, alone.
Kili sighed and gave his brother a small smile. "Sadly, yes, I do." He handed the baby back to Sigrid. "It's good to see you back in the land of the living, brother. Bye Sigrid." Kili smiled and left the chambers.
“Did you sleep well, Prince Fili?” she asked.
“Very well, thank you.” He paused for a few moments. "Sigrid," Fili looked at his shoes. Sigrid thought he looked like a little boy who had gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I am happy to help."
He sat down, wearily into a chair, rubbing his hands over his eyes. "I didn't know I had a daughter until a few weeks ago. Mother helped me the first few days, but I thought it was my duty to take care of my child, so I asked Mother to go. But I can't do it. I failed my daughter."
"Oh, no, Fili, don't say that. You haven't failed."
"I couldn't take care of her."
"All new parents need a little help in the beginning. It's alright. I cared for my sister since she was born, but I didn't do it alone. I had Da and Bain's help."
Sigrid got the overwhelming feeling again to hug Fili. She place Milly in her cot and stepped toward Fili. He could only reject her. She held out her arms and gently drew him close to her. Surprisingly he didn't fight her, like she thought he might. He leaned into her body, wrapping his arms around her waist like a child, and cried. Sigrid held him. She wanted to stroke his hair and whisper comforting words into his ear, like she would Tilda after a nightmare, but she stopped herself, remembering this was a fully grown dwarf prince, not a child to be coddled.
He didn't let go. He was starved for a warm embrace. He missed his Mailli so much. Never would she hug him again. Never would he kiss her again. Never would they sit together by the fire and talk late into the night. It wasn't fair how she had been snatched away from him so early in their life together.
When he did finally pull away, he smiled sheepishly at Sigrid. "Forgive me," he said.
"There's nothing to forgive. Would you like me to make you some tea?" Fili nodded his head and sat down in the chair. There was a small cooking area in the apartment for simple things like heating water and preparing small meals. She had discovered the few food items Fili kept while she cleaned yesterday. He didn't have much as he ate most of his meals in the dining halls or had them brought up to him.
Sigrid took a cup of steaming tea to the prince. He gratefully accepted it and sipped at it. "You cleaned!" he startled.
"Yes, I'm sorry if that was too presumptuous of me. It was just sweeping up and picking up things from off the floor. I didn't dig around into your personal belongings, I promise."
Fili looked at her with wide eyes. "Thank you."
Milly choose this moment to cry. Fili immediately tensed up and looked on the verge of crying himself.