Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 14

It was late that evening when Dís entered the complex of rooms that were Fili’s halls; she found him sitting in an ancient armchair that was covered with a large pelt, next to a fireplace that was cold and only filled with ashes. The temperature this deep in the mountain was cold even in summer, and the room was chilly and damp. She hastily put the tray with food she was carrying onto the nearest table and, shaking her head, she swiftly walked over to the fireplace where she hiked up her skirts and crouched down to get a fire going.

It was at that moment that the still form inhibiting the armchair came to life.
“Here, Amad, let me do this. You shouldn’t grovel around like a servant lighting other people’s fires.”

Dís looked up at her son with her lips a narrow line, yet straightened up again as he left his armchair to remove the ashes and rekindle the fire.
When he stood up again Dís stepped directly before him and placed a hand on his cheek to force him to look at her.

“You did not have to do this,” she said with a sad shake of her head.
Fili shrugged. “Apparently, according to Thorin, I deserved it, and even more.”
“What Thorin said,” Dís gave back angrily. “He says – and does – a lot of things one moment only to regret them afterwards. He’s of Durin’s line for sure, just like you. Stubborn as the bones of the mountains, the lot of you!”
Since Fili did not answer she took a deep breath, but that did not dispel the anger from her voice.
“I suppose you have no idea what it is for me, a woman of Durin’s line, I gather? To stand helplessly by and be forced to watch countless times as her manfolk come to grievous harm because of that cursed stubbornness and pride! If I had a coin for every time I had to bite back an oath at you cursed stubborn men I could have bought Erebor back from the dragon!”

Fili crossed his arms as he waited for his mother to finish and then spoke in a low voice. “Is that why you came here? To make sure I wouldn’t freeze to death so you could properly give me a piece of your mind?”
“No.” Dís took another deep, trembling breath, and when she looked back at her son, the anger was almost gone from her eyes, replaced by a deep sadness. “I came to bring you food. Although if it helps, I gave your rock-head of an uncle the same piece of mind just before I came here.” She crossed her arms so tightly she seemed to hug herself. “But mainly I came because I wanted to let you know that I...”

She turned to stare at the flames for a while, and Fili stepped beside her.
“I saw you part from your son,” she went on, her voice husky. “And it tore my heart out. I came to tell you that I could have him brought back and put him into fosterage here, that way you could at least watch him grow up.”
“And take him away from his mother?” Fili narrowed his eyes. “I gather she wouldn’t be welcome here after what transpired today. Or could she come, too, and be forced to watch her child grow up with strangers and call another woman mother?”

“I would never take the child against her will,” Dís said sternly. “I thought you knew me better than that.”
“I guess I should.” Fili shook his head. “I’m sorry. But what I don’t understand is why it matters so much to you.”

Dís stared at her son for a moment, and then shook her head again. “Why it matters? Fili, you are my son, how could I just stand back and watch you suffer without at least trying to help? Apart from that, it is my grandson we are talking about.”
“I somehow managed to forget that,” Fili said a little crestfallen. “Of course he is your blood kin too.”
“And he is my brother’s as well, although he skilfully chooses to ignore this. He only sees what he calls impure blood and ignores that...” She broke off and bit her lower lip. “You know, I should not be talking about this, but I shall do it anyway.”

She then turned to face her son, and Fili lifted his head to look at her.
“Suffice to say that Thrain, your grandfather, was not the epitome of virtue as your uncle likes to remember him. I know for sure of two half-brothers we had, even if everyone pretended not to know. Thrain had taken a liking to these two bastards of his, had them fostered by quite important families, and thus made sure they would have a good name, rank and standing amongst his people.”
Fili narrowed his eyes. “But if everyone knew, wasn’t there a lot of gossip?”
Dís displayed narrow smile. “It was scandalous. Of course there was talk, but since half of the bastards’ blood was still Durin’s, no one talked too loud.”
Fili looked back into the flames. “Did uncle know?”
“Of course he did.” Dís snorted softly under her breath. “He used to pretend they didn’t exist.”

“Maybe that is the reason he was so livid,” Fili said after a moment. “Because he wanted to be better, and wanted his heir to be better than that, too. Only... he wasn’t.”
“Fili.” Dís placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thorin, like you, fails to see the difference. The difference between a young, unmarried man sowing wild oats, and a mature, married warrior siring children on another women than his wife.”
“Does it really matter? Does it really matter if a man is married or not when he sires children on a woman he is not married to?”
“Does it make a...” Dís exhaled softly. “Try to look at it this way. You did something indecent. Thrain committed adultery. Is that not difference enough?”

“Maybe.” Fili shrugged uncomfortably. “He still wanted to give me the full punishment, at least for a moment.”
“Mahal save me.” His mother shook her head. “See, this is what I meant when I talked about saying things and then regretting them. That stubbornness and pride that does not bend nor give an inch. And when two such minds collide all that is left for me is to pick up the pieces afterwards.” She swallowed hard. “Literally sometimes.”
“I’m sorry, Amad.”

“Yes, you are, aren’t you, dashatê. You made a mistake, and you are sorry, but you cannot undo what happened. You have been properly chastised, and that should be an end to it. What Thorin said he should do to you was utterly out of place and disproportionate to your fault. The worst kind of oath breaker is punished that way, and in my life I have never witnessed such. I believe your uncle was thinking more of his father than of you.”
Fili lifted one eyebrow.
“The fact is that he regrets what he said and what ultimately, his words made you do. The only problem is that his Mahal-damned stubborn pride will keep him from ever admitting as much to you.”
“Has he admitted it to you?”
“No.” Dís smiled a knowing little smile. “But I have known him all my life.”

Fili shrugged and went down into a crouch to put another log into the fire. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” He asked in a low voice after straightening up again. “Because somehow, it doesn’t.”
“No, I know that. I just had hopes it might take the edge off it. And even though I talked until my tongue was sore, you are still under... well, I guess you could call it arrest.”
“Maybe it’s better that way. At least no one will see me like this.”
“Maybe it truly is. And see, there we are again. I know it doesn’t feel that way, but by keeping you behind locked doors until your beard has re-grown he is sparing you the shame. I guess it is his way of trying to care for you.”

Shaking his head, Fili sat down into his armchair again and stretched out his legs. “You have given me a lot to think about, Amad.”
“And I guess this is you letting me know in a kind way that you would rather be alone now?” Dís asked gently and put a hand on his shoulder. With a small move she then dropped something into his lap and, mildly puzzled, Fili closed his fingers around it before looking up at her with a small, crooked smile. “I don’t know how you do this... this reading of my mind.”
At that, Dís had to laugh. “Oh dashatê, it is a trait every mother develops. Especially if she is mother to boys like you and your brother. Without it, I would never have gotten you through childhood and adolescence.”

With that, she pressed a motherly kiss onto the top of Fili’s head and left him to stare into the fire, his fingers closed around the beads that had adorned his braids.

Several weeks passed Fili by in his confinement and the only one to visit him was his mother to bring him food; and more often as not she took the food of the previous meal away untouched. He was usually just sitting in the armchair by the hearth, just like this time around when the door opened. Only, it wasn’t his mother.

Fili lifted his head and got out of the chair. “Kili? Back already?”

Kili was still dirty and grimy from the road, his boots and shins crusted in mud and his cloak wet from the rain, but both brothers ignored this as they embraced. Kili slapped his brother’s back once before he stepped back with an assessing look.

“Mother told me what happened,” he said. “Seems like the worst is over.”
“Regarding what he wanted to do I’ve gotten off lightly,” Fili interrupted him rather sharply. “And I’d rather not think about it.”
“Sorry.” Kili tilted his head with a frown. “I just can’t...”
“Drop it.” Fili shook his head and crossed his arms, then turned to stare at the fire. “In a week utmost I’ll be able to show my face again and then I’d rather not think about it anymore. And talk about it even less.”

Kili looked away for a moment, and then at his brother again, his frown deepening. “I’ll take the chance then as we’re talking about it now, brother. Thorin had no right to say the things he said and...”
“And what?” Fili looked up at his brother.
“And I wanted to let you know that, had I been there, he wouldn’t have gotten away with it just like that.”
A dry and lifeless chuckle escaped Fili’s lips. “And what do you think you could have done to stop him?”
“To stop him, nothing.”Kili replied. “But as sure as granite is hard, I swear I would have made him regret it. He can’t do something like this to you, Fili. I’m your brother; I would not have let you go alone through something like that.”

Fili met his brother’s eyes that were looking back in fierce resolve. “Don’t talk like that,” he whispered hoarsely. “Don’t even think it.”
Kili very slowly shook his head. “I mean it.”
Swallowing heavily, Fili held his brother’s unflinching gaze. “Kili, no. You have no part in this... this is my shame, for me alone to bear.”
Kili shook his head again. “Not alone. Not if I can help it.”

With a shake of his own head Fili stepped forth and the brothers embraced again, and did not let go of each other for a long time.

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