Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 28

As the days passed by, Fili began to feel more and more like a ghost.

The cold emptiness inside him made him feel like he did not really belong in his own skin, and everyone he encountered in his aimless wanderings lowered their eyes and looked sorrowfully away. No one spoke to him, and he did not feel any desire to speak to anyone else, either. And even if he did no longer sleep his brother’s halls, and Kili would sometimes accompany him as he roamed without a goal through the galleries and halls of Erebor.

It was on the fifth day after Ysona’s parents had left, having taken all of her daughter’s possessions with them as Fili had no desire to hold on to her dowry, that they passed by the Burglar and Dragon. Bofur was just opening, and invited them in for a pint on the house.

Kili looked at his brother who just shrugged, and they went inside.

“There you are.” Bofur placed two expertly drawn pints of ale in front of them and a third one for himself. He sat down and looked the two brothers over. Then he silently lifted his tankard and all three knocked them back.

Kili put his down with a sigh. “Thanks, Bofur.”
“Don’t mention it.” Bofur smiled friendly and nudged Fili with his elbow. “You know you’re always welcome here if you happen to get cabin fever alone in your halls.”
Fili looked up, and because smiling was still beyond him, he gave Bofur a friendly nod. “Thank you.” His voice was rusty; it was the first time he had spoken since the funeral. He didn’t speak any more as they sat there sharing an ale with Bofur, apart from a word of thanks as they left.

Kili continued to follow his brother as he walked down the hallways, when suddenly, Fili changed directions. “I need some air.”

They headed for the main gate and left the city, then headed up a small path that led up to the western flank of the mountain where the slopes where gentler and greener. Kili realized where they were going; they had found a spot sheltered from the wind by a cluster of rocks and shadowed by an ancient, gnarled birch tree that stood so ducked and hidden that it had somehow escaped the dragon’s desolation.

The rocks made for good seating, and once they had settled down, Fili took out his pipe. Kili followed due, and for a while, the two brothers sat in silence, staring westward at the slowly sinking sun, and smoked.

It wasn’t before the sun began touching the horizon that Fili spoke again.

“What kind of dwarf am I, brother?”
Kili slowly turned his head to look at his brother, but Fili was still staring into the sunset. “Whatever do you mean?”
“What kind of dwarf am I? I thought I was... I thought I am a warrior, a dwarf of honour. I thought...”
“Fili, whatever it is that makes you think you are not is not true.”
Fili exhaled softly and followed the cloud with his eyes. “Is it not?”
“What do you mean, brother?” Kili lowered his pipe.

“I mean that...” Fili closed his eyes. “That it’s not even two weeks since I buried my wife. I am in mourning, and I shouldn’t even be thinking this, and even less talk about it. But it’s burning me from the inside, and I have no one else but you to share my shame with.”
“Stop talking nonsense.” Kili felt a lump in his throat. “There’s no shame here between us, you know that.”

Fili opened his eyes again, but he still didn’t look at his brother. “It is because...” He swallowed, and when he continued, his voice was husky. “It’s because I keep thinking that there was another child now that I will never know.”
Kili closed his eyes for a moment. “And why is that a shame?” he asked gently.
His brother hesitated before speaking. “Because there is no chance that I will ever see the one, but...” He broke off and dropped his head.
“Fili, please... of course you would think about...”

“How can I think these things what with her body hardly cold?!” Fili threw his pipe away. His brother flinched as it hit a rock and shattered in two. “How can I be such a bastard that... I just buried her, for Mahal’s sake! And I have three years of mourning ahead of me, and the only thing I can think of is...”
“Fili, please!” Kili slid down from his rock and stood behind his brother, placing both his hands on Fili’s shoulders. “Please stop. You can’t honestly blame yourself to try and find comfort after all you’ve been through?”
“What I’ve been through?” Fili’s voice was hoarse. He got up and turned around to face his brother. “What I have been through? Kili, I caused the death of two people and because of me, the bloodline of a whole family is extinguished! I carry more guilt than I can even fathom myself so don’t talk to me about comfort!”

Kili gritted his teeth as he frantically thought about what to say. He finally took a deep breath and met his brother’s eyes, deep, blue pools of sorrow. “Fili. You didn’t kill Ysona. Glegnar died because he had a sick mind and was a danger to your family. That Ysona died is not your fault!”
“If it wasn’t for me she’d still be alive.”
“Yes, and living under the same roof as her brother who lusted after her.”

Fili paused and lowered his eyes. “I... I don’t know. But that still doesn’t make it right that I...” He ran both hands down his face and not for the first time, Kili was worried about how haggard his brother looked. “I fought for my family and my wife,” Fili continued in a whisper. “Despite the fact I neither loved nor wanted her. I had a certain fondness, yes, and that I was about to be a father... ag...again, it made me feel happy again. I fought, I did everything in my power to keep them safe, and I failed. Don’t you see?”
“I’m afraid I don’t.”

Fili shook his head. “I didn’t love her and I did all I could for her. And Katla... Kili, I loved her, I still do, but I just let her go, thinking it was my duty to do so! But she... they were my family, too! I abandoned my woman and my son to Mahal knows what fate because I believed it to be the right thing to do!”
“Then get her back!” Kili grabbed his brother’s shoulders, looking at him with desperate resolve. “I can see you die every day a little more and I can’t stand it! If you won’t go, then I will!”

“You will do nothing of the sort!” Fili took a step back and shook his brother’s arms off. “There is no need to hurt her again! I remember how calm she was, and how composed... And I’d like to think that she has found a new man, and that her boy grows up having a father who cares for him.”
Her boy?”
Fili’s voice was toneless and dark. “I abandoned every right I had on him when I abandoned them.”
“You didn’t...”
“I did. I let them go. For blood and duty and the throne of Erebor, I let them go.”

Kili swallowed and shook his head. “Brother... Fili please stop torturing yourself like that.”
“I am not torturing me. I am confronting truths about me that I do not like. I let them go without a fight, and now that I’m alone again, I find myself thinking about them again as if she was something to fall back upon, a cheap fill-in that...
“Fili stop!” Kili closed the gap between them and grabbed his brother’s shoulders again, this time in an iron grip that he could not so easily break.

“Stop. I know you are better than that. You still love her, and in all that time that has passed, every day of these last three years, I have never been in doubt about it. Did it ever cross your mind that when you decided against love and for duty, that you did not believe it would end like this? That you couldn’t imagine she was your One because you’ve actually known her for barely three weeks? That you believed you would get over her and be able to move on? That was your only mistake, Fili. That you failed to see what she is to you before it was too late.”
Fili’s face was set tight, but his jaw muscles worked. He looked at his brother as if he was desperate to be able to believe him.

“Brother.” Kili lowered his voice. “If you could just admit that to yourself, you would hurt less.”
Fili lowered his eyes and shook his head.
“Come, Fili. Just say it. You did not know what you truly felt until it was too late.”
“Is is true...” Fili whispered without looking at him. “But that still doesn’t make it right to think of her now.”

“Be that as it may.” Kili squeezed his brother shoulders. “Ancient laws are hard to overcome. But if a person doesn’t love their spouse, why force them to pretend to be mourning her for three years when the pain is gone much sooner? And if they do, no amount of time will ever heal the pain. These three years, I could never understand why. But that’s the way it is, and there’s nothing to be done about it. But don’t try to tell me you haven’t thought about her during the time you were married.”
“...of course I have...”
“So why would that be different now?”

Fili finally looked up again. “But what would it change?”
Kili frowned.
“What would it change? Even if she was to come back, we could still not be together. The boy would be a bastard without honour and she a shamed woman. I rather have her live in a place where there is at least a chance for her to be happy.”

“I understand,” Kili said after a while. “And I promise that I won’t just barge into her life trying to drag her back.”
Fili nodded and Kili let go of his shoulders. Then Fili turned around to look at the setting sun again.

“I can’t stop thinking that once these three years are over, I will go through the same again. Thorin will find me a bride, and I shall never have rest until I have produced a significant amount of heirs to Durin’s line.”
Kili sighed in anger. “I know.”
Fili didn’t answer and just kept staring west. West, where behind the Misty Mountains, the Shire lay in all its green fertility and peaceful goodwill.

“Let’s get back inside,” Kili said after a moment. “Before the path gets tricky with darkness.”
Fili nodded and followed his brother down the path and into the city again.

Ysona’s possessions had been removed and Fili had taken up living in his own halls again, so after bidding his brother a good night, Kili turned on his heel and instead of heading for his own quarters, went to find his mother.

Since it was still early she was still in the Queen’s Halls with her ladies, and she startled and stood up when Kili barged through the door.

“Mother. We need to talk.”
“Kili, I beg your pardon, what is...”
“We need to talk,” Kili interrupted her. “Now.”

Dís took a deep breath, but after meeting her son’s eyes, she asked her ladies and servants to leave. Then she bade Kili follow her into the adjacent audience chamber and locked both doors before facing him again.

“What is it?”
“It’s about Fili, Amad.”
“I gathered as much.” Dís sighed and shook her head. “What is it?”
“He is going insane, but I think you have noticed.”

After a long moment of silence, Dís closed her eyes. “Let me guess.” She opened them again and met Kili’s gaze. “He blames himself for Ysona’s death.”
Kili blinked a few times, then nodded. “And for Glegnar’s. He blames himself for the extinguishing of their family bloodline, and even more he blames himself for thinking of...”
“Of Katla and the boy,” his mother finished for him.

Amad, what can we do?” Kili asked after a moment. “How can we help him? Should I travel to the Shire and at least find out if she has a new man?”
Dís pressed her lips together.
“Come with me.”

Worried beyond compare he followed his mother to her private quarters and nervously watched her as she locked the door and went to a large chest that she unlocked with a small key she produced from her bodice. From the chest she then took a basket and waved Kili over.

“Do you remember when Bilbo came, the spring after Fili married?”
“I do.” Kili looked at the basked with incomprehension. “But what...”
“He brought me this.” Dís looked at her son, her eyes filling with tears. “It is the basket Katla was found in as a babe. Wrapped in this blanket, the same blanket I remember being her boy was wrapped in. He found it on his doorstep one morning with a note to give it to me.”
Kili looked back and forth between his mother and the basket. “But what...”

“Kili.” Dís cleared her throat but her voice was still thick with tears she tried to hold back. “Bilbo went to talk to her immediately after he had found it, but her house was empty. Her personal things were gone, the child was gone, and she was gone as well.”
“But...” Kili’s eyes widened in shock as he realised what that meant. “But then...”
Dís gently put the basket back into the chest. “She left the Shire, and Bilbo couldn’t find a trace of her. We do not know where she is now.”

“Does... does Fili know?” Kili finally dared to ask.
“Of course not.” His mother kneaded her fingers. “He would go mad with worry, and I didn’t want to add that weight to all the things he already has to bear. But whatever we can do or try to do, we have to find her first. And I have no idea where to start looking.”

“Amad.” Kili slung his arms around his chest as if to warm himself. “He didn’t know what he truly felt, did he?”
“No.” Dís shook her head. “And neither did I, or I would have tried harder to talk my brother out of this notion of impurifying Durin’s bloodline. Wasn’t it Mahal’s intention for them to be together? Is it not Mahal who chooses and then brings those together that belong together? And I have ignored all that, against my better judgement, and I have watched my son being put through hell because of it.”

“No, Kili. It is not my fault, but I blame myself for not trying hard enough to avoid all this. I don’t even know if I could have, but I do know that I did not try very hard.”

They shared a long, mute look of despair.

“I don’t know what we can do,” Dís finally whispered. “But I will think of something. In the meantime, stay with him.”
“I will not let him down,” Kili replied.

They embraced, and after Kili left her, Dís slowly locked the chest again.

“Mahal forgive me,” she whispered. “Mahal forgive me, and help me put things right again.”

Spring came, and snowdrops nodded in the cool air that wasn’t really warmed by sunshine yet. The ice on the lake melted away, and the spring floods carried fertile silt onto the plains around the lake yet again.

Blue tits and finches had returned, and the few trees and shrubs that were growing where once had been only dragon-burnt desolation, and they were full of life as the buds of their flowers sprang open with the lengthening of the days.

Sparrows had found their way into Dale again, and their twittering and the cooing of doves filled the air together with the chirping of the starlings that came with early summer.

Midsummer came, and the Midsummer Celebration was held again in the King’s Great Hall, the tables bending under food and drink. The hall was filled with song and laughter, but in the midst of all those merry people, Fili sat in his stark white clothes without braids, jewellery and his smile, and he looked more like a ghost than ever.

He sat in silence and drank in silence, and the only company he tolerated was that of his brother who had by now mastered the art of being his silent companion.

Midnight had long passed, and a lot of the guests had already retired or fallen asleep under various tables, and Fili was still drinking. He had slowly and consistently worked his way through pint after pint, and while he was still far from sober, he was still far from being really drunk, either.

The mood had dampened a little due to the hour, and Bofur finally got onto the table announcing he had a song to sing. That statement was greeted with applause, and the merry dwarf entertained the remaining guests for a while with songs and his whistle before announcing the last song for tonight.
His voice pitched low, he began to sing.

As I was a-walking for my recreation,
A down by the gardens I silently stray'd,
I heard a fair maid making great lamentation,
Crying, Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

The blackbirds and thrushes sang in the green bushes;
The wood doves and larks seem'd to mourn for the maid;
And this song that she sang was concerning her lover;
O Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

Her cheeks blushed like roses, her arms full of posies,
She stray'd in the meadows and, weeping, she said:
My heart it is aching, my poor heart is breaking,
For Jimmy will be slain in the wars I'm afraid.

When Jimmy returned with his heart full of burning,
He found his dear Nancy all dead in her grave
He cried: I'm forsaken, my poor heart is breaking,
O would that I never had left this fair maid!”

A few seconds after he had finished the silence lasted, then his audience applauded and praised his voice and his singing.

Apart from Fili. He slowly got up and put his tankard down and a hushed silence fell upon the dwarrow surrounding Bofur as they watched the widowed prince rise, his white clothes setting him apart from the colours of everyone else.

“A lovely song,” Fili said, his voice low and hoarse. “And if you ever sing it in my presence again, I’ll break your neck.”

Open-mouthed, Bofur stared at him and failed to think of a reply, and Fili just turned and left the hall.

Kili got up as well. “Sorry, Bofur, You know he doesn’t really mean it.”
“I do.”Bofur’s smile had given way to a sorrowful frown. “Considering that... uh... it was a very bad choice of a song.”

Kili just shrugged and hurried off to follow his brother.

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