Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 27

Holding on to the railing Fili stared down into the halls of Erebor where life went on, people going about their life unaware of the tragedy that had happened in their midst.

He felt cold. Coldness deep inside, that no amount of fur or fire could ever banish. He wished he could cry, for her sake at least, but there was only the hollow emptiness he had hoped to have overcome. Now it was back, even colder and darker than before.

A hand came to rest on his shoulder, so familiar in feeling and gesture that Fili did not have to lift his head to know it was his brother. The hand vanished and Kili silently stood beside him so their shoulders touched, and neither said nor did anything else, offering silent companionship. Behind him, Fili heard the voices of Thorin and Balin, talking so low he could not understand their words.

His mother had gone into the room to help washing the body and make her ready for the wake. She would not be buried the next day, as was customary; they would have to wait for her parents to arrive.
In her worry, Dís had sent a speeded courier out the moment the first signs of trouble had appeared, but it would still be some days before they could arrive, even if they made all haste.

And no matter what, they would come too late. They would not see their child again, only a cold, empty shell that she had left behind on her last journey.

Steps sounded behind him, and he felt a hand pat his shoulder. Then Balin slowly headed down the stairs, his head bent in sorrow. Fili followed him with his eyes as until he rounded a corner and disappeared.
Another set of footfalls came closer, steps that Fili knew belonged to Thorin. His uncle stood at his other side, and he did not say anything either.

Time passed that Fili was unable and unwilling to measure while below, life went on.

When he saw Balin again he could see the old dwarf had been shedding tears, the moisture still glinting in his beard. He was followed by all the other dwarrow of the Company, their empty faces and mournful eyes telling him Balin had given them the bad and sorrowful news of the Sapphire Princess’s death.

One by one they came up the stairs, and each of them offered no more than a gentle touch on his arm or shoulder for comfort. Fili did not look up, even if he didn’t know why he could meet no one’s eyes.

He could hear the door open again, and after a moment, he felt his mother’s gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Fili, my love,” she whispered.

Finally, Fili tore his eyes away from the life below and turned around. His mother’s face was pale and drawn, her eyes red and swollen.

“We are ready to bring her to the Chamber of Resting. Is there anything you wish to say or do before we go?”
Fili mutely shook his head.
“Then you have to make yourself ready.” Her voice broke, and more tears ran down her cheeks. “Balin brought some white silk.”

This time he nodded, and began to remove the beads out of his hair and moustache. He unravelled all of his braids, then turned around to have his mother tie his hair together at the back of his neck with a length of white silk.

It was then that he noticed the white sashes that Balin had obviously handed out already. Kili was just tying his together at his hip.
Every one of the dwarrow that were here with him wore now a sash across the chest in the white of mourning, to show their support and share his sorrow. Four of them, Bofur, Dwalin, Nori and Gloín, now entered the room and emerged again, bearing the stretcher with Ysona’s body. It was covered in white linen, but the outline could not hide the fact that it covered a woman.

Once everyone had left the halls of healing they made their way to the main stars down to the descent into the deepest and coldest part of the mountain where the chambers of resting were.

The stretcher came first, followed by Fili flanked by his mother and brother. After them walked Thorin and behind him, the rest of the Company.

As the funeral cortege made its way through the halls and galleries, life stood still wherever they came. The dwarrow stopped whatever they had been doing and bowed their heads, mumbling words of blessing and sorrow as the dead princess passed by and calling out ritual blessings to their prince.

The cavern with the Chambers of Resting, the small rooms where bodies awaited their funeral, was deep down in the bedrock, cooled further by the underground river.

The silence was only punctuated by their footfalls and the sounds of the river as they entered one of the chambers where the bearers carefully set the litter down. In the middle of the chamber was a large, rectangular stone block hewn from the bedrock, but when Dwalin and Bofur were about to pick her up, Fili stepped in and shook his head.

They stepped aside, and Fili knelt down to gather Ysona’s body into his arms. Rigor mortis had already begun to set in and he had a few difficulties picking her up, but then he rose and gently placed her onto the stone block. He then arranged her limbs, straightening her legs and crossing her hands on her chest, before covering her again.

“She will rest here until her family has come and made their farewells,” Balin said in a low, husky voice, then took a deep breath and spoke in a louder, clearer voice, the voice of the Master of Ceremonies. “Idrithi amradû khagalalnâs'aban uzbadnâtha!

Everyone lowered their heads, and in unison, they muttered their response. “Ankhâsh.” Sorrow.

Everyone left then but Fili and those closest to him. Thorin closed a hand around his shoulder.
“I’m not coming yet. I want to stay with her for a while.”
Silently Thorin let go of his shoulder and headed for the mouth of the chamber. Dís looked at Fili, then at Kili and opened her mouth to say something, but decided against it. There was no need in asking Kili so stay with his brother.

Dís turned around one more time after leaving the chamber to see Fili slowly sink to the ground with his back against the stone block. Fresh tears welled up in her eyes and holding on to her brother’s arm, she left her son to his silent grief.

Kili leaned against the wall of the chamber directly beside the entrance and waited, listening to the sound of the underground river and the faint rhythm of the pumps. He began to freeze, he began to feel hungry, as well, but a single glance at his brother had him forget his discomforts.

When Fili finally lifted his head, after an amount of time had passed Kili could not measure, his eyes fell onto his brother.

“What are you still doing here?” His voice was hoarse.
“Being here.” Kili had his arms crossed and one foot resting against the wall. “What else?”

Fili lowered his head again, and after a moment, laboured onto his feet. He cast a long look at the still, pale form under the linen shroud and a heavy sigh heaved his shoulders. Then he headed for the mouth of the cave.
Kili left his vigil and took his place at his brother’s side, and in silence they made their way upwards into the light and warmth of the living again.

Feeling so cold and empty inside, Fili wondered, as he blinked into the light, if this was how a ghost felt when he wandered restlessly among the world of the living. Seeing the life and happiness and the warmth and the light, but unable to feel it.

It was when they had finally reached the royal quarters that Fili spoke again as he stared towards the door of his halls.

“Can I stay with you?”
Kili draped an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “As long as you like.”

Due to her vision blurring with tears Dís let her sewing sink into her lap and swallowed a sob. She kept staring at the white cloth in her hands that she was turning into a shirt. She had done this so many times before, she had helped a good many women, neighbours or friends, sew clothes of mourning, she had even, with the help of her friends and neighbours, sewn her own after Felin’s death.
But to do so for her own son broke her heart with every stitch she put into it.

Míl and Elira, the wives of Oín and Gloín, her oldest friends and now ladies of her court, sat with her and did their share of the sewing so they would have finished one set for the funeral. They, too, were silent as they worked. There was no singing or chatting in the halls of the queen.

Dís kept staring at the cloth as her thoughts tumbled in her head.
Her son, his heart broken two times already in his young life.His young wife, having died a painful, terrible death. A child that had never known what life means.
Fili as he had parted from his One.

A small spot of moisture appeared on the white cloth.

He should have fought for his love, but had instead let his sense of duty override all feelings. And ever since, Dís knew, he had not been the same. He had lost something of himself, and against her better judgement, Dís had kept her silence.

Regret washed over her, bitter regret for not having backed up her son properly. She should have told him to fight for his love, to defy Thorin, but she knew that Fili would never defy his King and uncle.
Another regret. She should never have allowed for Thorin to have such an influence over her son.

And now it was too late. Ysona was dead, and Katla had vanished. Dís kept praying to Mahal everyday that she had not tried to reach Erebor on her own; she had even secretly send Dwalin and Bofur out to search for her, but they had found no signs. If that was good or bad, she couldn’t say.

Another circle of wetness appeared next to the first one.

When had her son forgotten that there was more to life than duty? And when had she herself become so immersed in old traditions that she had not thought of fighting back?

Dís blinked and took a deep, shaky breath. She thought of Thorin, her beloved brother, and what had become of him, and she thought back to these many instances where she had had the feeling she no longer knew him. No, she was ashamed, and full of regret, but it would end.

Now was not the time, now was a time grief, and for the next three years, while Fili would be in mourning, there was little she could do. But she would no longer tolerate her brother’s notions destroying her son. Not more than he already had.

Her needle resumed its swift movements up and down through the cloth while the two small circles of moisture dried and vanished.

In his role as apothecary Oín had taken up the duty of embalming the body to preserve it for the funeral. His wife and two of her maidservants had then washed and prepared her, dressed her in a blue silk gown and combed her hair. Then she lay and waited, pale and beautiful as the full moon in a starless night.

It was more than a week after her death that her parents finally arrived from the Iron Hills despite the fact that their ponies foundered and could hardly walk anymore.
The lookout had seen them and announced their arrival, so Thorin and Dís, both with a white sash across their chests, stood flanking Fili, who was dressed completely in white now, his unbraided hair bound back with a white ribbon and the three of them faced the entrance.

Bradda came hurrying down the stairs followed by her husband, but when she saw the three waiting for her, she almost collapsed. She stumbled down the last steps, and with tears already running down her cheeks she stared forlornly at Fili who just lowered his eyes.

“Please... where is my baby?” Bradda was hardly recognisable; no trace remained of the morose, touchy woman they had known. “Where is my little girl?”
Fili looked up, and found he could not meet her eyes.

To protect his wife, her son had had to die. Now that his wife was dead, and within one single winter, Bradda and Glerin had lost both of their children. He remembered how Ysona had wept and said she was cursed, but she had never been the cursed one. The cursed one was him.
He had brought unspeakable suffering over two parents and had ended the bloodline of a family, and all in the good intention of doing the right thing, of protecting what was his.

“Fili...” Bradda sobbed and held out her hands. “Tell me it isn’t true.”
Fili took her hands and shook his head. His voice refused to carry when he answered. “I’m sorry, mother Bradda.”

Glerin was at her side at that moment and just about had the presence to catch her as she collapsed, and she fell against his chest with loud, high-pitched keens that echoed in the silent hall around them.

Fili accompanied them down to the Chamber of resting, but stayed outside to let her parents have one last moment with their daughter before she would become one with the mountain after the funeral the next morning.

The voice of Durin’s Bell, now finally in place again afterher long slumber in Smaug’s hoard, was only heard singing to the mountain when a member of the royal family had died and was going back into the mountain.

She had sung to announce Ysona’s death, and now she sung again to announce the Sapphire Princess was going back into the mountain, the deep, mournful rumble of the golden bell vibrating through the mountain and bringing the life in Erebor to a halt for the duration of her song of death and grief.

Ysona’s parents stood on one side and Fili and his family, his mother, brother and uncle, at the other side of the large stone coffin in which Ysona now rested, her hair spread out on the pillow, the sapphire diadem resting on her brow and her hands folded on her chest. Almost all of Erebor was here now, passing the coffin by to give a last farewell to their princess, and even though most of them had never known her, they mourned the passing of one so young and beautiful.
All too soon, so many of them said. All too soon.

When finally only the two families remained, accompanied by their closes friends and in Bradda’s and Glegnar’s case, Daín Ironfoot, Balin stepped up to stand at the upper end of the coffin. He lifted his arms and spoke the ancient blessings and called them on to make their final farewells.

One by one, they passed her again and placed their final gifts into her coffin; jewels, gold, precious cloths with lace of gold and silver threads. Her parents gave her a necklace of sapphires that matched her diadem and a rose made of wrought silver.

Fili was the last to say farewell to her, and the only thing he had in his hands was a piece of white cloth. And while most of the others had believed it was only the wrapping for his final gift, it turned out this wasn’t the case.

The cloth Fili now approached the coffin with was the blanket Ysona had been sewing and embroidering for the child that had never been born. He folded it and gently placed it into the crook of her arm. Then he placed a kiss onto her forehead and stood back again. He could hear his mother’s gentle sobs behind him, her barriers finally breaking after she had seen her son’s farewell gift.

Four dwarrow were needed to lift the heavy stone lid onto the coffin, the runes carved into it announcing her name, lineage and date and cause of death. Then followed a prayer to Mahal, asking him that he take her soul home and give her peace. Balin lowered his arms again and spoke one last blessing.

With a desperate wail, Bradda threw herself onto the coffin as if trying to embrace her child one last time, but her husband slung his strong arms around her and pulled her back.

One by one, the dwarrow left the royal crypts until Fili remained alone, the only one at his side his brother who refused to leave without him.

After another long moment that Fili stared at the coffin he turned around, and with slow and heavy steps, left his wife to the coldness and darkness of the mountain.

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