Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 15

Sparsely populated as Erebor still was, feeding the slowly growing population had not yet been difficult; even if no one lived in the luxury remembered by those few old ones able to think as far back. But with the successful harvest having been brought in from the fertile plains around the lake two years in a row, the dwarrow finally had enough grain to spare to start their own brewing again.

Dark Mountain Ale it was called; and within a surprisingly short time a tavern had been established on the first level right between the Halls of the Warriors and the Galleries of the Craftsmen. Bofur was quite proud of his new business; he had, as one of the Company, used his newly acquired wealth to build the first establishment of that sort in Erebor as he had been, in his own words, ‘tired to the tips of his beard’ of coalmining.

As it was usually in the Dragon and Burglar she could find her sons if she couldn’t find them anywhere else, Dís entered the tavern to be greeted heartily by the landlord, followed by a flick of his thumb into the direction of the farthest corner where Fili and Kili sat at a round board, drinking ale and deeply engaged in a game of bâkhza.

Fili just put one of his warriors down again, making his brother mutter a very choice curse when Dís approached their table.
“Do your kiss your mother with that mouth?” She asked gently.
Kili almost fell out of his chair, much to his brother’s mirth, and blushed. “Uh... Oh. Hello, Amad. I didn’t see you coming.”
“I gathered as much.” There was unmasked amusement in her eyes, despite her stern voice. “Where did you learn such foul words?”
Kili opened his mouth, but his mother forestalled him with a smile. “As if I didn’t know what coming of age and being among warriors does to a mother’s efforts of raising a decent man. Be that as it may, in fact I came to speak to you, Fili.”

Fili looked up with a nod and finished his ale. “I gather this is not an environment to your liking?”
“Indeed not.” Dís was serious again. “But I believe it will not take as long, so your brother could maybe get himself another ale for company while he waits for your return.”
Fili gave his brother a nod, paired with a small smile. “Find you here?”
Kili leaned back into his chair and crossed his legs at the ankles. “I’m not going anywhere.”

As they headed for the Halls of the King, Dís cast a look at her son every now and then, but even though Fili did give her a questioning look upon discovering it, she did not speak before they had reached her personal quarters and she had closed the door behind them.

Dís stood with her hands clasped and looked at the far wall. “You are probably wondering why a talk that I said would not take very long would require so much privacy.”
“I do.” Fili said, stepping around his mother to look at her. “Honestly, you look like the bearer of ill news.”
“And I most likely am.” Dís turned to face him. “And I wanted to tell you in privacy because... because I fear how you may react.”

Fili pressed his lips together and slowly crossed his arms.
“Thorin came to me this morning, telling me we had to talk about you.”
At that, Fili closed his eyes. “I think I know where this is going.” He muttered.
“He said he had given you enough time, and that by now, you should be ready to face your royal duties.”
Fili opened his eyes again. “I gather he was a little more specific?”
“He was.” Dís suppressed a sigh.
“And who is she?”Fili asked then, his face betraying no emotion.
“She is the daughter of Daín’s highest ranking Master of Arms. Ysona, daughter of Glerin, son of Glaran.

“Glerin, son of Glaran? The warrior who slew one of the trolls in the battle for Erebor?”
“The very same.”

Fili weighed his head. “It seems like Daín is thinking very highly of Thorin’s reign.”
Dís snorted under her breath. “He is thinking highly of Erebor’s treasures and naught else. Glerin is his cousin; all Daín wants is to have a strong foothold through family ties so he can claim Right of Blood should Thror’s line ever fail.”
“And Thorin is not going to let that happen, of course.”
“No.” Dís looked up at her son, a deep frown on her face.
“Do you know that woman?”
“No,”Dís said again. “I tried to gather at least some rumours, to no avail.”

Fili looked past her and shrugged. “Well I guess it matters little how she looks or what she is like. We only need her for her womb, after all.”
“Fili!” Dís clenched her fists. “Are you listening to yourself?”
He frowned. “My apologies for hurting your feelings, amad. I guess you were in no...”
“You are not hurting my feelings with your words! You hurt me with being so... so utterly cold about this!”

Fili crossed his arms. “What would you rather I’d do? Throw a fit of rage and try punching holes into the walls? Or weep like a little girl over a dead sparrow?”
After a moment of cold silence, Dís shook her head with a sigh that was closer to a sob. “No. I don’t know what I would have you rather do. Anything but this... this deadness.”
Fili didn’t reply.
Dashatê.” Her voice was soft and gentle as she put a hand on his shoulder. “Sometimes you seem like a man made of stone. I haven’t seen your laughter or rage, or even anger, ever since...”
“Ever since?” Fili leaned forward so their faces were only inches apart and made no effort to hide the sharp lines between his brows nor those around the corners of his mouth. “Ever since I had to cut my own heart out over two years ago. I’m still waiting for it to grow back.” Then he straightened up and turned to go, yet addressed his mother over his shoulder as he was about to open the door.

“It’s better this way. You can let Thorin know that I will be off for the Iron Hills tomorrow to start courting Lady Ysona, daughter of Glerin. There is no need to delay this any further.”

He left his mother’s quarters, and Dís slowly sank into a chair after he had closed the door. She stared at her hands with a pale and empty face, and a single tear trickled down her cheek.

When Kili saw his brother coming he quickly removed his feet from the chair and sat up, looking questioningly at his brother. Yet Fili’s face betrayed no feeling whatsoever as he slowly sat down and then stared at the board.

“Your move, Kili,” he said after a while.
Kili frowned at his brother, but the latter kept on ignoring him. With an angry sigh Kili finally gave in, threw his dice and made his move.
Fili kept staring at the figures in front of him.
“Well?” Kili leaned forward. “Your move, brother.”
After throwing the dice, Fili slowly reached for one of his axmen. “He’s going to marry me off,” he said all of a sudden.
Kili blinked twice before replying. “Are you... no, you aren’t kidding me, are you?”
“Wish I was.” Fili brought down his axe-man and pursed his lips. “Some distant relation of Daín’s, mother told me. I’m leaving for the Iron Hills tomorrow to start courting her.”

Kili picked up the dice and closed his fingers around them. “Alone?”
At that, Fili finally looked at his brother again, the ghost of a smile on his face. “I was hoping not to, actually.”
“I certainly won’t have anyone tell me to stay behind,” Kili replied with a grin that didn’t look very humorous.
“And I was hoping you’d say that,” his brother replied. “We’ll leave at dawn.”

Kili nodded and threw the dice. He stared at the numbers for a while before shaking his head. “I don’t believe this.”
Fili’s lips twitched as he took his turn and moved his warrior. “Bâkhza.”

With a lopsided smile, Kili toppled his warrior. “You lucky bastard.”
“Am I, now.” Fili was still staring at the board.
“Sorry... I didn’t mean...”
“No.” Fili shook his head. “I’m sorry.” Then he got up and patted his brother’s cheek. “See you tomorrow at the gates.”

Kili stared at his brother’s back as Fili left the tavern and shook his head before knocking back his ale.

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