Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 26

Two weeks went by where Fili pampered Ysona through her morning sickness and undressed her each night in wonder to note the changes of her body, watching as her breasts changed shape and grew and her nipples changed colour from pink to purple.

Ysona glowed with happiness, despite her morning sickness, and Fili’slightened mood had a soothing effect on his strained relationship with Thorin. Some of the easiness returned to their conversations that were no longer only stiff and formal.

Shortly after midwinter carpenters came to make furniture for the nursery.

Later that day Fili and Ysona appraised the progress, but as they left the room, Fili noticed Ysona press a hand on her belly with a frown.

“Ysona? Are you unwell? Are you sick?”
She shook her head. “No, I just feel a little sore. I think I should just go to bed and rest.”

Fili tried not to act like a worried mother-hen, but he had to admit that he felt helpless and did not like it. This was Ysona’s burden, and whatever happened, he could not help her.

Ysona slept restless that night and had still minor pains in her abdomen the next morning, but a midwife in the Halls of Healing assured them that things like these were quite common in early pregnancy and nothing to worry about, and neither should she be worried about light bleeding.

But as the days passed, a shadow closed in on Ysona, as she became more and more tired and of course, more worried. Her pains persisted, sometime only a mild stitching, but sometimes so intense that she doubled over from it.

Dís had by now realised that something was not quite right, but she and Fili guessed it probably had to do with her being kept so weak for so long. They made her lay in bed and brought her food, but the pain did not go away.

Summoned by Dís, the midwife had another look at Ysona, and this time, she examined Ysona with a frown.

“Are you bleeding?”
“Yes, every now and then, but not a lot.”
“What colour?” The midwife asked. “Dark, brown, or red?”
“More red.”
“Bright red?”
Ysona nodded, and the midwife exchanged a worried look with Dís.

“What is it?” Dís asked after she and the midwife had left the bedroom.
“I don’t know, my lady.” The midwife sighed. “But I fear the worst. Keep her in bed, let her rest, but if the pains persist, I am afraid there is no help but to end it. We have to give her an abortive potion.”
Dís closed her eyes for a second. “Is it that bad?”
“Not yet. But if it doesn’t get better, then we can only save her so she may have another child.”
“I understand.”

The midwife left, and crossing her arms, Dís stared into the hearth. What the midwife had just told her was the worst possible news, and she had no idea how she could break it to her son. She tried to give herself hope that both of them were still young, healthy and had many years ahead of them to have children.
And maybe everything would turn out fine after all, but the face of the midwife as she had palpated Ysona’s abdomen gave Dís little hope.

She finally decided against telling Fili about the possible need for abortive measures, not before it became a reality, but she knew how much he worried about his wife.
Dís sat down in one of the armchairs at the hearth with a heavy sigh, and wondered what Mahal’s reasons were to torment the young pair like this. She came to a conclusion that was as unpleasant as it was making her feel helpless, so she tried not to think about it.

The days passed, and Ysona grew weak and pale. The pains did not go away, but the first time Dís gently and cautiously mentioned an abortion, Ysona broke down crying, keening and begging her not to kill her baby. Dís and her son exchanged a look of utter desolation, and Fili sat down beside her on the bed, taking one of Ysona’s pale and shaking hands in his.

“Ysona, dear. This is hard for all of us, but you can’t deny that something is wrong. Very wrong. Please, do no harm to your body that cannot be undone. And Mahal willing...” He kissed her fingers and sought her eyes. “Mahal willing, I can give you another one.”
Tears trickled down her cheeks, and she mutely shook her head. “Please, please no.”

Fili sighed and pressed his lips together. “Amad, what can we do?”
“I don’t know.” Dís smoothed a few moist hairs from Ysona’s forehead. “I simply don’t know.”

That night, Ysona awoke with a jolt of pain that made her whimper and double over. The bed sheet under her was stained with blood, and Fili jumped out of the bed and ran to fetch his mother.
Dís hastily threw on a gown, and when they returned to their bedroom, Ysona had thrown up and suffered from a bout of diarrhoea. She cried, both from shame and from pain, and after Dís had helped to clean her up, Fili wrapped her into a clean blanket. After hastily putting on a shirt and trousers, he picked Ysona up and carried her to the Halls of Healing.

Once there, Fili and Dís settled the almost unconscious Ysona onto a bed in the room they had been assigned. The healer was an elderly woman with an aura of knowledge and calm, but after taking one look at Ysona she instantly had the midwife summoned as well.

Now Dís and Fili stood outside her room while Ysona was being examined, looking at each other worriedly and too afraid to voice their thoughts.

Finally, Dís laid a hand on Fili’s arm. “Don’t you think we should try and get some rest? We will be summoned the very moment something...”
“I shall not leave her,” Fili interrupted her, his voice tired and low. “You go and sleep, Amad, I stay.”
Dís shook her head with a sad smile. “You think I will leave you alone here, dashatê?” There was a bench at the other side of the hallway, and she took Fili’s arm and led him there.
“Thank you,” Fili muttered.

Time passed. Midnight had come and gone when the door to Ysona’s room opened and the healer emerged, but she just gave Dís and Fili a nod before vanishing down the hallway. Fili felt a feeling of anger and frustration well up in him, but the rational part of him knew that he would only be in the way in there and that he could do nothing to help. She would have told them if there was any change to Ysona’s state, and trying to remain calm, he rested his head against the wall.

Erebor was still so sparsely populated that it was eerily silent at night. No footfalls, no voices echoed through the halls, and the only sound was the faint, distant gushing of the pumps driven by the heat of the ever-burning forges.
In an attempt to distract his thoughts he imagined those old, gigantic pumps, driven by steam, the water heated by the forges, pumping the water out of mineshafts and the lower tunnels through the mountain like a heart pumped blood through a body.
It washed all the sewage from all over the mountain down towards the underground river to be carried away into the lake. From a good bit upriver, these same pumps also fetched fresh drinking water from that river, supplying all the wells and fountains throughout Erebor, a masterpiece of engineering.

During daytime, the faint noise of the pumps was drowned out by the sounds of life in the mountain, but in the stillness of the night, it was audible, if faintly so. A faint, background thrum that kept the mountain and its people alive and healthy.

Fili stared at the door, his worry growing with every passing minute. He couldn’t even say how much time had passed when finally, the healer came back, accompanied by Oin, the apothecary.

He looked at Fili and Dís on the bench and nodded. “There’s no reason to give up hope yet.”
Fili gritted his teeth while Dís managed to give Oin a thankful nod. Then he and the healer vanished into the room, and the waiting continued.

“I know you do not want to leave,” Dís said after a while. “Would you like me to bring you something?”
“Don’t trouble yourself, Amad.”
Dís sighed and took one of Fili’s hands. “I cannot help her, let me at least help you.”
Fili looked up into the worried eyes of his mother. He squeezed her hand and the ghost of a smile showed on his face. “If you could find my pipe, I’d be grateful.”
Dís got up and ran her fingers through his hair. “I’ll be right back.”

Fili continued to stare at the door, his worries giving way to desolation. That Oin was here would likely mean they would make Ysona drink the abortive potion his mother had spoken about the other day, and he couldn’t, and didn’t want to imagine what Ysona would go through after that.

He knew, if only from hearsay, that pregnancy could go wrong, that a lot of women lost children and yet had several healthy ones despite it. But thinking of his delicate, vulnerable young wife being forced to part from the child she had been so happy about made Fili shudder. She would be devastated.

But then he remembered the blood on the sheets as Ysona had woken him up earlier, and the dim fear grew into certitude. The child was almost certainly dead already. With all the blood she had already lost previous to that, and all the pain she had suffered, even Fili, who knew next to nothing about these matters, could not imagine the child could survive. This was not about the pregnancy any longer; it was about the life of Ysona herself.

Coldness crept up his spine and settled as a hard knot between his shoulder blades, and even the pipe weed his mother brought him a little later could do little to calm him.
As he smoked with trembling fingers, he lowered the pipe and looked at her.

“The child is dead, isn’t it?”
A heavy sigh heaved from his mother’s chest. “I don’t have any hopes. I’m sorry.”
“Can they save her?”
“I don’t know.” Dís closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them again they were misted with tears. “I don’t know, Fili. It looks bad. Very bad, but then, I am neither healer nor midwife. They know a lot more than I do.”

Fili nodded, and tried to share his mother’s feeble hopes. They continued their silent vigil until at one point, the door opened and the midwife stepped into the door.

“My prince, we need your aid.”
Fili handed the pipe to his mother and got up. “What is it?”
The midwife sighed. “She refuses to take the draught that can save her. Maybe you could talk her into it? I would hate to do it by force.”
Feeling a cold, hollow spot settle in his stomach, Fili nodded and followed the midwife into the room. A pungent smell of herbs hung in the air and mingled with sweat and a faint tang of blood. His heart sank when he saw Ysona.

She was even paler than when he had brought her here, moisture made her hair cling to her temples and forehead. She seemed short of breath, too, but the worst about her was the hopeless, terrified look in her eyes.
Fili sat down on a small footstool beside the bed and took one of her hands in his. It was cold and limp.

“Ysona, dear,” he said gently.
“My prince...” Her voice was hoarse and shaky. “Please do not let them kill my baby.”
Fili sighed and closed his eyes for a second before meeting her eyes again. He spoke softly, and gently but firmly squeezed her hand. “Ysona. I know your pain, I feel it too. It was my child as well, but there is no hope left. Please, do as they ask you to and let them save your life. We will have more children, but this time, it wasn’t meant to be.”
A soft sob escaped her and she closed her eyes. “Fili...” A tear trickled down her cheek. “I’m so sorry...”
“And I’m sorry too, uzbadnâthaê.” He was hard pressed to keep his voice calm and had to summon all his strength to do so. “But this is no longer about the child. It is about your life, Ysona.”

He looked up as the midwife slowly stepped up to him, extending a cup. Her eyes were full of sorrow and compassion, and with a heavy heart, Fili took the cup and gently lifted Ysona’s head with his other hand.

“Drink, uzbadnâthaê. I’m sorry it came to this, but please, don’t make me lose you as well.”

The tears were flowing freely now as Fili brought the cup to her lips, and she sobbed one last time before she opened them and let him help her drink it.
When that was done she let her head fall back into the pillow and cried. Fili took her hand again and brushed her hair out of her face. He kissed her fingers and held on to her hand until the midwife gently asked him to leave again as the draught would soon start to do its work.

Fili nodded, pressed a kiss onto Ysona’s cold and clammy temple and left again.

When he sat down beside his mother, he could see she had been crying too.
“There is no hope, then?”
Fili shook his head. “Not for the child, no.”
Dís embraced him then, and he let his head drop onto her shoulder.

Down in the hall, Erebor slowly began to awaken. The first craftsmen and traders made their way to their workshops, and the kitchen staff started their day to prepare breakfast for the royal household. Fili heard two women laugh, heard a few men shouting a greeting at each other, and heard as someone dropped something heavy and cursed.

When the first moan of pain filtered through the noise and the closed door Fili was on his feet in an instant, and Dís hastily got up and took hold of his arm.
He swallowed hard and leaned against his mother. Dís put an arm around him, and they remained like this, trying to block out the noises from behind the locked door in front of them.

Someone came up the stairs with heavy steps.


Fili opened his eyes. Thorin, wearing none of his royal garments apart from the crown, looked worriedly back and forth between Dís and her son.
“A servant told me Fili had brought Ysona to the Halls of Healing last night. How bad is it?”
Fili closed his eyes with a shake of his head.
“Very bad,” Dís said softly. “The child is dead, and now they are trying to abort it to save Ysona.”

Thorin stepped beside his nephew and put a hand on his arm. Genuine concern and sorrow showed in his eyes. “I am sorry, Fili. I truly am. Tell me if there is anything I can do.”
Fili gave him a desolate stare and shook his head.

Just at that moment, someone else came running up the stairs with long, bouncing steps. Kili almost lost his balance as he rounded the corner and stared wide-eyed into the corridor.

“Fili!” He hurried towards his brother and embraced him. “Why for Mahal’s sake do I have to hear from a servant that...” He leaned back and looked at his brother, his voice instantly toning down. “Fili. Brother, why didn’t you call me?”
“Why wake you up and worry you?” Fili shook his head. “What could you have done?”

“Be here?” Kili looked hurt. “With you? I’m your brother, Fee. I know we’ve been not as close these last few months as we used to, but did you really think you’d have to go alone through this? I know I cannot actually do anything, but I can be here for you.”

Fili met his eyes, and saw only genuine concern and worry. He sighed and embraced his brother, leaning his head onto Kili’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, little brother.”
Kili firmly closed his arms around him. “No, don’t be sorry. You’ve enough on your mind as it is.”

The brothers remained like this until the door to Ysona’s room opened again.

This time, the midwife’s face was drawn tight with worry. She didn’t even acknowledge the king’s presence but looked at Fili.
“You had better come in,” she said.

She did not need to say more. Kili immediately released him and with heavy steps, Fili entered the room again, with a cold feeling of dread growing inside him.

Ysona wasn’t screaming anymore, she wasn’t even moaning. She lay still and was even paler yet, a sight that gave Fili’s heart a jolt. The footstool had been replaced by a chair and he sank heavily into it before taking Ysona’s hand. He leaned over her and brushed a finger across her cheeks.

Her eyelids fluttered, and her lips parted. He more read his name on her lips than he could hear it.
“I’m here with you. Don’t leave me, please.”
He felt a hardly perceptible pressure around his fingers holding her hand.

Words failed him. Her forehead furrowed and a tiny whimper of pain escaped her, making him shudder. The midwife and the healer stood with Oin at the other side of the room, but no one spoke. The bitter smell of herbs and the metallic scent of blood hung in the silent room.

Ysona’s breathing was shallow and fast. Another whimper forced itself past her lips, and she finally opened her eyes, searching and finding Fili’s face. Fili tried to smile, but wasn’t even sure if she could see that clearly. Her eyes were glassy and full of tears.
“My princess,” he whispered, leaning close. Even with his ear almost at her mouth, he could hardly hear her breathe. “Stay strong. Stay with me.”

Ysone closed her eyes with another high-pitched whimper of pain. Her head tossed to and fro, and when she relaxed again, her breathing was even shallower than before. Fili closed his eyes and touched her temple with his forehead. He held on to her hand, increasing the pressure, and listened to her weak, shaky breathing, expecting every one he could hear to be her last. He remained with her, oblivious to anything else. Her life seemed nothing more than the flickering light of a dying candle flame.

Out in the hallway, Dís was leaning against her brother, trying to remain strong and calm, but helpless against the silent tears. Others had obviously heard the bad news as well, because somewhat later, Balin found them there, too, offering silent support as he stood beside them.

When finally, the door opened again, everyone looked up to see Fili leave the room. He softly closed the door behind him, his face pale, his eyes empty, hollow pools of pain.

He looked at his mother, his uncle, his brother and at last, at Balin.

“Ring Durin’s Bell.” Fili’s voice was a hoarse, toneless whisper. “The Sapphire Princess is dead.”

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