The group spent the rest of the afternoon in the Room of the Prince. They watched as Milly toddled about from her father, to her uncle, to her nurse. She played with anything and everything she could get her hands on. There was lots of pleasant talk, mostly about Milly, family updates and the upcoming wedding. Sigrid asked Kili if he and the elf, Tauriel, were still discussing trade routes.
Kili laughed, but looked a little sad, explaining he had not seen Tauriel since the summer picnic, either. They did have written correspondence, but it was much longer in between letters since her home in the Greenwood was so much further away.
Fili felt bad for his brother. He knew he wouldn't have done well if he and Sigrid hadn't been able to exchange their letters weekly.
Dinner was a festive, but formal affair. Thorin welcomed everyone and expressed his pleasure in seeing his nephew soon to be married to such a fine woman as Lady Sigrid. Toasts were made and good food was eaten. Fili and Sigrid would sneak in a kiss when they could, but mostly they just held hands under the table.
The next day was a whirlwind of activities. First Sigrid was taken to the seamstress shop where she was measured head to toe. She later told Fili she didn't think there wasn't a part of her body that they didn't measure. They had also drawn up many sketches of wedding dresses and Sigrid looked through them all, discussing which designs she liked the best. They made her promise to return the following day for the first fitting. Sigrid was amazed that they would be able to produce anything so fast that there would be a fitting so quickly.
Sigrid also spent a few hours with Dis, learning how to do a courtship braid. Sigrid was terrified about getting this wrong and being rejected by the court of dwarves, but Dis told her it was nothing to worry about. She pulled out a small jewelry box and set it in front of Sigrid.
"You will need a bead to put into Fili's hair. The bead is just as important as the braid." Dis opened the box and pulled out a silver bead. She handed it to Sigrid, who looked the bead over. It had intricate carvings inlaid into it. "This is the bead I gave to Fili's father when we courted."
Sigrid looked into Dis's eyes. They were wet with tears, but Dis smiled. "I want you to have it, for Fili."
"Thank you," Sigrid whispered. She leaned over and hugged Dis. Dinner that night was family only, Thorin, Dis, Fili, Milly, Kili, Bard and Sigrid. Fili explained how he had arranged for the courting ceremony to be held at sunset the following day. It was soon, but he wanted to get it done and over with so Sigrid would officially be his intended.
It was a bitter-sweet time for Fili. He had done this not too many years ago with his lovely Mailli. He missed her, but now he had been just as long without her as he had been with her. Their time had been too short. He had resigned himself to live the rest of his long life without love. Who could have guessed that a human girl could make him smile again and remind him how nice it was to be loved. He was lucky to find Sigrid and he knew it.
He just wished he could skip it all and marry Sigrid, but as a prince, traditions could not be ignored. He hoped Mailli would approve of his marriage to Sigrid and to have Sigrid be mother to their daughter. Getting through this was going to be very difficult. He loved Sigrid, very much, but every ceremony, every tradition, reminded him of Mailli.
Fili and Sigrid sat together at the dinner table long after everyone else had left. Kili remained with them to act as chaperone. Fili was glad to have his brother. It was still hard to talk with Sigrid, hold her hand and even kiss her with his brother close by, but he'd rather his brother than anyone else. Kili knew how to become very interested in the cracks in the floor when Fili and Sigrid needed a few moments to share a kiss.
"Are you alright, Fili?" Sigrid asked after a while.
"Yes, of course."
"Are you? You've had a bit of a faraway look in your eye most of the evening."
Kili looked at his brother and nodded. "She's right."
Fili sighed. "I'm sorry, Sigrid. I try not to think about it, but with all of this, she keeps coming back to my mind."
"You mean Mailli?" Sigrid asked. She was not angry with him. Her words were frank, but compassionate.
Fili nodded. "I can't help but remember doing all of this not so long ago. What, three years ago, now?"
"You miss her a lot, don't you?" Kili asked quietly.
"Kili! What a question to ask in front of Sigrid," Fili reprimanded his brother.
"It's alright, Fili," Sigrid laid a hand on Fili's knee. "I know that I am to be your second wife and I know that you loved Mailli and had she survived, you would still be married to her, love her and be completely devoted to her. Never pretend like she didn't exist just to spare my feelings. She is your daughter's mother. A daughter that I'm being very honored to be allowed into her life, to help you raise her. I will treat her as my own, but I know that she is from someone else you loved."
"Sigrid," Fili sighed. "You are too good. Yes, I miss Mailli and I wish she had never died, but she did and I've got to go on living and I've got to raise our daughter. But, life has been good to me and I have found someone who loves me and my daughter. Someone whom I love, too. But I will be honest. Marriage is hard and there is quite a bit of adjusting to do after marriage. You've got to learn to live with someone else. I've made the adjustments once and I'm afraid that for a while, at first, all of this is going to remind me of Mailli and you might be living in a bit of her shadow. But, I'm going to try very, very hard and start everything anew. You just might need to be patient with me."
"Of course, dearest. And you must be patient with me. I have not been married before. I don't know what married life is like and it will take time for me to learn and adjust, too."
"As long as we are working together, all will be well," Fili leaned into Sigrid and kissed her.
This time Kili did not look away. He watched them with an odd expression.
"I'm not sure whether to be bothered by your earnest feelings for each other or awed by them," Kili gave a small smile, but it quickly faded. "I want to love Tauriel like you two love each other, but that doesn’t seem like it will be the case."
Sigrid put her arm around Kili's shoulder and pulled him close to her. "I'm sorry, Kili. Can you invite Tauriel to our wedding? Any opportunity to see her is welcomed, right? And you can dance with her at the feast after the marriage."
Kili grinned. "I already have the invitation written out for her. I'm just waiting for you two to decide on a date. As soon as you do, I'm sending the letter."
Fili laughed. "Well decide on that tomorrow. By tomorrow night, your invitation can be on its way to your lovely elf."
The following day was just as busy. Fili had his duties to attend as well as his part of the wedding arrangements. Tradition didn't allow him to see Sigrid after breakfast until the courting ceremony that night.
He and Kili helped each other get ready for the night. They would wear their matching formal clothes, Fili's in blue, Kili's in green. Kili put on a pout about getting dressed up for no reason. It wasn't his courting ceremony, after all. But Fili asked he do this for him, to support him, because he was feeling quite nervous.
When they walked into the throne room together, everyone stood and bowed. Then, when it was time, Thorin stood before them all. He was in his most formal clothes and crown, except for his cape. It was the cape with the Durin crest embroidered into it, signifying his position as head of the household and head of the line of Durin. When it came time for the wedding, his cape would be different. It would be the cape of the king. But tonight, he title was head of house. Fili was always aware that he would be king one day, but he knew in his heart that he could never be as confident in that role as Thorin. Thorin was every inch a king. His confidence in his position radiated off of him.
"It is not often," Thorin's deep voice rumbled throughout the throne room, "that we have a courting ceremony among the royal line. It has been a very long time since the last and it might be a very long time until the next."
Fili felt Kili slouch beside him. Kili was seeing his uncle had no plans on allowing Kili to marry Tauriel anytime soon.
"Be strong, Kili," Fili whispered to his brother. He felt Kili squeeze his elbow in reassurance.
Thorin continued to speak before the dwarven council, special guests, and family of those involved. "Would the intended please enter?"
A side door was opened and Sigrid walked out, accompanied by Bard. She wore her yellow gown and emerald necklace with her hair braided in a traditional dwarven style. Her eyes were sparkling. Behind her, to everyone's amazement was Tauriel, with Thranduil at her side. Tauriel wore a deep green gown and her red hair was done in long, braids and curls. She looked like she was floating rather than walking.
Everyone gasped, but none as loud as Kili. Fili could feel his brother shaking next to him.
"She is here to support Sigrid?" Kili whispered into his brother's ear.
"No. She is here for you, my brother," Fili smiled.
The two women stood before Thorin. Bard spoke first, as his daughter would be intended to the crown prince.
"I am Lord Bard of Dale and I present my daughter, Sigrid, to you and your kin to become the intended of Crown Prince Fili of Erebor."
Thorin bowed to Sigrid and Bard. He turned to look at Thranduil. There was still some distrust and dislike between the two. It could be seen in their eyes, but they had agreed to put aside their personal feelings to allow for the happiness of their kin.
"I am King Thranduil of the Greenwood Silvan elves. I present to you and your kin, Tauriel, to become the intended of Prince Kili of Erebor."
Thorin looked at the two women before him and smiled. "They are acceptable to me and my kin." He waved a hand to his nephews. Only Fili approached. He stood in front of Sigrid. Dis took her place next to her brother. Thorin continued, "I present now to you, Crown Prince Fili, son of Dis and Prince Kili, son of Dis, my sister's sons." Kili looked up at his uncle, hesitating a moment before standing in front of Tauriel.
"They are acceptable to us," Bard and Thranduil said at the same time. There was a round of applause from the gathered audience, which included Thorin's entire company who resided in Erebor.
"Now the couples will exchange courting gifts to signify their promise," Thorin announced.
Kili looked panicked. He didn't know this was coming, so he hadn't prepared. Fili winked at Sigrid before approaching his brother.
"Don't worry Kili," he said, laying a hand on his brother's shoulder. He passed a box to Kili. "If it isn't to your or her liking, you can change it later. This is for ceremonial show." Fili went back to Sigrid. Being crown prince, he had to go first. "Sigrid, as way of a courting gift, I present you with this."
He held out a metal box of similar size as the one he gave to Kili to Sigrid. The box was polished silver and had intricate carvings of a vine of flowers that wove its way around the entire box.
"Did you make this?" Sigrid quietly asked.
"I did. It is a treasure box. A place for you to put special things," Fili said.
"It's absolutely beautiful," she ran her finger along the vine on the lid of the box.
"Open it," Fili said.
Sigrid opened the box. It was lined with blue velvet and inside laid a small delicate silver chain with an emerald in the middle. Fili lifted the necklace out.
"Now you have three. One to represent each member of our family; you, me and Milly." Fili reached up to Sigrid's neck and attached the necklace, which hung perfectly with the other two chains she was wearing.
"Thank you," she sniffed.
"Do you accept?" Fili asked, with a touch of concern.
"Oh, yes," Sigrid had quite forgotten the traditional procedure. "I accept your gift, Prince Fili."
He smiled and relaxed a bit. She turned to her father, who passed her a simply carved wooden box. She handed the box to Fili. "Here is my courting gift to you."
Fili opened the box and pulled out the shirt that was neatly folded in it. The white fabric was soft, but sturdy. The shirt itself was simple enough, long sleeved with a neckline that opened from the neck halfway down to chest length, but attached by crisscrossing laces. What made the shirt so amazing was the embroidered hems around the base of the shirt, the neckline and the base of the sleeves. It was Fili's sigil, but in a deep blue, never-ending pattern all the way around.
"This is incredible," he whispered.
"There's more," she said, looking at the box again.
Fili placed his shirt over his arm and reached into the box to pull out a beautiful tiny dress, made of the same material, only embroidered with flowers.
"For Milly," Sigrid explained, as if the small dress wasn't enough of an explanation.
"You made a gift for my daughter as well?"
"This family is more than just you and me," Sigrid reached up to her neck and touched the three emerald stones that hung there.
He wiped away at a tear that had appeared in the corner of his eye. Then he cleared his throat and spoke clearly, "Thank you, Lady Sigrid. Your gifts are accepted."
There was a round of cheers from the crowd, but they quickly quieted down as Kili and Tauriel had their gifts to exchange.
Kili stepped forward. "Tauriel," he whispered. He looked at the box in his hands and then he looked to Fili. Fili nodded and his unspoken thoughts were expressed to his brother. Trust me. "Tauriel, this is my courting gift to you." He held out the box. She opened it and pulled out from the green velvet lined insides, two identical daggers. Their sharp, well-polished blades reflected the light and their handles were a darker metal, carved and shaped to fit her hands. They were fantastic work, but Kili could see they were unfinished. He looked to his brother, who nodded again.
Tauriel held the knives, feeling their weight and balance. "These are fine blades. I accept your gift." Thranduil pulled from his cloak a long, cylindrical container and handed it to Tauriel. She turned and presented it to Kili.
"Prince Kili, here is my courting gift to you."
Kili removed the lid from the unusual container, and turned it sideways. Out slid four arrows. They were perfectly made, with golden feathers, and a dwarven style tip. Kili's eyes were wide.
"You made these?" he asked.
"I did," she smiled.
"I, I accept your gift. Thank you."
Again cheers filled the room. Fili's cheers for his brother were the loudest.
"As the gifts of courting have been exchanged and accepted, they will now place courting braids into their intended's hair," Thorin announced.
Four stools were brought to the front. Sigrid and Fili sat facing each other. Tauriel sat on a stool, but Kili stood, which kept him at Tauriel's eye level. First the dwarves put in the courtship braid into the ladies hair. Thorin passed Kili a silver bead for him to use. Fili kept his eyes locked onto Sigrid's the entire time as his fingers made quick work of the braid alongside her head, just behind her ear. When he was done, he kissed the bead just before he clipped it into her hair.
Then it was time for the ladies to braid the prince's hair. Sigrid was nervous. While Fili had been able to braid her hair without really watching what he was doing, Sigrid had to look at his hair and her fingers, making sure she was getting it in properly. It was slightly messy, but Fili was smiling, so she didn't worry about it too much. She pulled out the bead Dis had given her. She held it up for him to see before she kissed it and clipped it into his golden hair.
Fili leaned into Sigrid and placed his forehead against hers. "Thank you, Sigrid, my love."
"My dearest," she whispered back.
Thorin held out his hands to the two ladies, who took his hands in theirs. He pulled them both close. As he was standing on a step, he was taller than Sigrid, but still shorter than Tauriel. However, he looked larger than life. "My dears, I am very happy you will be joining our family. I could not be more pleased for my nephews, whom I have always looked to as sons. Now, I will look to you as daughters and I could not be more content. What do you say to a double wedding on Durin's Day?"
"Really?" Kili spoke up.
"I know it's soon, but why wait?" Thorin smiled.
"Why indeed?" Tauriel said. She took Kili's hand in hers. Their height difference, while it could be almost comical, did not exist in their eyes. They were betrothed and very much in love.
"I think that would be wonderful," Sigrid said.
"Thank you, Uncle," Fili said. He looked up to Thorin in every way and had always had the greatest of respect for him, but he also loved his uncle very much and no more than he did at this moment.
There was another great feast that night. The two couples sat near each other, holding hands with their newly betrothed.
"I'm sorry about the secrecy, Kili, but we thought it would be more fun," Fili said.
"I'm not complaining about the outcome, but I wish I had known about it. The gift you gave me for Tauriel is wonderful, and it's what I would have picked for her, but I would have liked to made it myself," Kili said.
"You don't have to use them. They are a substitute until you craft your own, but if you want them, they are unfinished, just waiting for you to personalize them," Fili patted his brother's back.
"I love them," Tauriel said. "I would accept a lump of raw ore from you if it were your gift. Anything that makes me yours and you, mine." She leaned down and kissed Kili's cheek. There were some calls from the crowd and banging of goblets on the table at the kiss. Fili and Kili exchanged identical grins, grabbed their ladies by the shoulders and pulled them into deep kisses. The room went wild.
"Boys!" Thorin called out. They broke off their kisses and grinned mischievously at Thorin, who was smiling at them fondly.
Over the next several days, Sigrid went in for more dress fittings. The seamstresses were a little worked up that the wedding was so close and Sigrid wouldn't be there for several of those weeks so she could have proper fittings for her dress. Sigrid promised them that no matter how well or ill it fit, she would be happy, but she would be back a week before the wedding and would come in everyday for a fitting if that's what it took.
Before Sigrid was to leave and return to Dale until the wedding week, Fili managed to pull her away from the rest of the group.
"Before you go. I've got something to show you." He took her by the hand and led her down a hall she had not been before. He stopped in front of a door. "If you like, this can be our home when we marry."
He unlocked the door and pushed it open. The room was dark, the air was slightly stale and a layer of dust covered the room, but it was neat. Sigrid walked in and Fili held out a torch. The room was lightly furnished, but what furnishings there were, were finely crafted. The first room was a large sitting room. Attached was a small kitchen, a large bedroom, several small empty rooms and a large washroom.
"This is a lovely home," Sigrid said.
"I must be honest," Fili said. "I had it made for Mailli, when I thought she was coming here. After I found out she had died, I could not live here and I took the apartment I currently live in with Milly. But, if you like it, or want it, we could make it our home."
"I understand if you do not want it. We can have another apartment made for us. I am not trying to push you into Mailli's shadow. But, I made this with the idea of living here, with my wife, raising our children and you are to be my wife and we'll raise Milly and any other children, if we are blessed with them."
"Fili, it is a beautiful home and I am happy to accept it. Thank you for sharing it with me."
"My lovely Sigrid, I want to share everything I have with you." He leaned into her and gave her a deep, gentle kiss. "It will be ready for you when we marry."
"A month. How can I survive that long?" Sigrid sighed before Fili kissed her again.