Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 17

Fili and Kili had braved the road to the Iron Hills twice more in cold and disheartening autumn weather until they had finally received the answer from Daín that Fili wanted to hear. Twice he had brought Ysona gifts and kind words, and had observed her and her family as best as he could. He still was not sure what was wrong about it all, but as he got to know her a little better, he realised that while she was very young, she was no child at heart any more, at least.

Now midwinter was approaching, and the preparations for the Midwinter celebration and the subsequent wedding were well underway. A wedding at midwinter, the darkest, shortest day of winter, would not be under a good star, so it would take place three days after midwinter when the shortest day lay well behind them.

Dís knocked and entered Fili’s halls when he bade her enter, and found him sitting on a foot bench at the hearth, bare-chested and barefoot and struggling with a comb and his still moist hair.

Amad.” He looked up at her. “What can I do for you?”
Dís put the garments she had been carrying onto the armchair and smiled. “It looks more like I could do something for you” she said and took the comb from Fili’s fingers. “I came to bring you the garments for your wedding so you can try them on one last time. And to tell you that the guests from the Iron Hills have been seen by the lookout and are expected to arrive within the hour.”

Fili nodded and bore the motherly attention to his unwilling hair with stoic patience.

“I am very keen on meeting her,” Dís said after a while as she sifted a strand of his hair through her fingers. “From what you told me you seem to be somewhat fond of her, despite her age.”
“When I finally could convince her she need not be afraid of me,” Fili replied after a deep breath. “I feared she would be a chattering and giggling nuisance, but when I allowed myself to look past her age, I found her quite easy to talk to. I guess we both had our reservations we needed to overcome.”
Dís swiftly braided her son’s hair with nimble fingers, despite not having done this for him for many years.

“That you managed it is a good sign, if you ask me. A lot of marriages start with a good deal less.”
“And only very few with more, I gather,” Fili replied slowly.
“Not in the royal line.” Dís lowered her hands and her voice softened. “That I was allowed to marry your father is only due to the dark exile we have suffered. Had I still been a princess of Erebor, I would never have been able to choose, and surely not him, a soldier of no rank to speak of.” She turned away and ran her fingers through the fur collar of the tunic that was part of Fili’s wedding garments.

Fili now got up and gave his mother a thoughtful look. “Amad?”

Dís shook her head with a sigh. “Would that you had been able to choose as well...” she whispered.

“It was not meant to be.” Fili picked up the tunic and traced a part of the intricate decoration made of embroidery and embossing. “This is what I have been born and bred for, mother. Still in exile and a prince in naught but the name I could have had the woman I chose, but if this means that the dark exile has ended for good, then it is a sacrifice I am more than willing to make. I shall not risk the future of our people for the sake of my own desire.”
His mother turned around, eyes brimming with tears. “Dashatê. Thanu men.” Her voice was thick with the tears she would not allow herself to shed as she placed a hand on Fili’s cheek.

“You would have done the same, wouldn’t you?” Fili took her hand and placed a kiss onto her knuckles. “You’d have married Smaug himself if it had saved our people.”
“Without a moment’s hesitation,” Dís whispered. “And I would do anything if only I could see you laugh again.”
A sad smile tugged at his lips. “Someday, maybe. It is as it has to be, and you know this. Maybe my children will make me remember how to feel joy.”

With that, he turned away from her to put on his shirt. Dís took the time to get her composure under control again so that when Fili faced her again, she could go about trying on his garments as if nothing could ever make her cry again.

All of Erebor had gathered to welcome the guests from the Iron Hills who arrived torn by wind and covered in snow, all together wet and cold and yet in good spirits. Everyone hurried inside and the welcome drinks were offered in the entry hall at the bottom of the stairs where braziers were glowing at every yard to get the chill out of the air.

“Damn good to be out of that weather!” Glerin boomed as he rubbed his hands while he held them over the glowing coals. “Cold enough out there to freeze your vulnerables to the saddle!”
“Glerin!” His wife hissed, and the young man beside him barked out laughter.
His daughter, standing nearby, lowered her eyes with reddening cheeks.

Dís leaned closer to Thorin. “Fili was right,” She whispered. “She is more of a child than a woman.”
Thorin nodded slowly without taking his eyes of his soon-to-be extended family. “And I sincerely hope her father had not much part in her upbringing,” he added drily.
His sister suppressed a chuckle. “He reminds me a little of grandfather Thror.”

Before Thorin could reply to that, Glerin had spotted his future son-in-law and hollered at him at the top of his lungs. “Son, come over here and give us a proper greeting, where are your manners!”
Fili hurried to his side and offered a profound apology, a selected and polite greeting and a flourish of compliments to Ysona and her mother.
Glerin seemed pacified.

Dís and Thorin exchanged a baffled look.
“Where did my boy to speak like that?”
Thorin crossed his arms. “I guess that, against all expectations, my lessons did not vanish into the void after all.”
“That’s as maybe, but...” Dís frowned. “Is it necessary that the marked prince should grovel before this... atrocity of a man?”
“No. But he is not grovelling yet, he was just being overly polite.” Thorin pressed his lips together and after a moment’s thought, he added: “But this is where it ends. Another one of those scenes, and I’ll have a word with him.”
“No. Glerin.”

Dís’ frown had not disappeared. “I cannot imagine he is used to being reprimanded.”
“I guess he had never dealings with royalty before. Daín is the Lord of the Iron Hills. I am King under the Mountain, and Fili is the marked prince. He’d better learn the difference.”
“Who is this young man beside him?”

“His son Glegnar, if I am not mistaken. Last time I saw him he was still riding his father’s knees.”
Dís nodded and both of them straightened up as Fili approached them with Ysona, her hand lying on his as they came to halt and bowed.

“My King, may I present you Lady Ysona, daughter of Glerin, son of Glaran.”
Ysona bowed her head again. “Thanu men. Danakhbilis uzbadnâtha.”
Thorin inclined his head. “Azbadu Ysona.”
Dís sought Ysona’s eyes and gave her a smile as warm and welcoming as she could muster. “Welcome to Erebor, Ysona. You must be tired after the journey in that weather. Why don’t you and your mother come with me, so I can show you where you will be lodging?”
“I would be very grateful, Danakhbilis uzbadnâtha

“Please.” Dís chuckled gently as she took Ysona’s arm and led her away. “Enough of the ritual formalities. Lady Dís is entirely appropriate now.”
Ysona bowed her head again.

Thorin exhaled softly through his nose. Fili turned his head to follow his gaze.
Glerin and his son were laughing about some joke and the ale was spilling out of their mugs while Ysona’s mother was visibly only too happy to go with Dís and her daughter.

“She sure didn’t get her bearings from her father,” Thorin said. “She seems well-bread and gentle.”
Fili nodded slowly. “She is, despite her family ties. Her father and brother are clodhopping brutes and her mother is a nattering hag.”
Thorin pressed his lips tightly together. “A fine addition to the family.”
“Hopefully they will not visit too often. They seem not overly fond of Ysona.”
“That may change when she is part of the royal family.”
“I fear the same.”

Fili and Thorin exchanged a wary glance.

“If Glerin gives you any more trouble like the one just before...” Thorin said a after a moment “...then leave him to me. He may be your future father-in-law, but you outrank him by far. He’d do well to remember that, and I shall be all too happy to remind him.”
Fili inclined his head. “Thank you, uncle. That man grates on my nerves like a shard of glass.”
Thorin’s eyes quickly darted past Fili and back at his face. “Brace yourself, here he comes.”

Having reached them, Glerin grinned at Thorin out of the shrubbery on his face. Thorin had never seen such an unkempt, careless mess on a dwarrows face unless in dire circumstances and despised such neglect.
“Glerin, son of...” Fili began, but Glerin interrupted him.
“Ah, the King! Good to see you again, Thorin! How does the day greet you?”

Thorin lifted his eyebrows and cast a passing glance at Glerin’s outstretched hand.
The grin crawled back into the beard as if to hide. “What? We’ve been together on the battlefield and we are family, Khagam-banh!”
Thorin tilted his head. “Family we will be, after your daughter and my nephew have exchanged their oaths.” The stress on the word nephew was unmistakable. “Apart from that, I suggest you refrain from any further ungraceful public embarrassment of yourself and your family for the sake of your daughter’s reputation.”
Glerin cast Thorin a grim look and crossed his arms. “Are you quite finished then?”
“Father...” The young warrior having accompanied him was indeed his son, and he spoke through gritted teeth. “He is the King!”
“I see your son has more sense than you, Glerin. If I were to vulgarly familiarize myself with every man who had stood on the battlefield beside me, I would have no respect regarding my rank and would not deserve any.”

“All right then, my King.” Glerin glared at him from under his billowing eyebrows. “So you want to have every upright warrior grovelling before you.”
“There is a difference between grovelling and showing a certain measure of respect,” Thorin said. “Regrettably you do not seem to know the difference.”
“I am not sure I want to let my jewel of a daughter marry into such a...”

“And I am sure there are quite a few other families with unmarried daughters of a significantly high enough rank if you chose to withdraw your agreement and take your daughter home a shamed woman. Although I would not wish it upon her and neither on my nephew.”

Glerin harrumphed, but said nothing more.
“Welcome to Erebor, Glerin, son of Glaran,” Thorin said with a benevolent smile.

Thanu men: My King

Danakhbilis uzbadnâtha: Emerald Princess

Khagam-banh: lit. Common father, meaning the father of my son- or daughter-in-law

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