Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 30

When Kili realised that his brother wasn’t going to appear in the hall for the morning meal he was worried; when he realised that Thorin was in a very foul mood his worry grew. His appetite quite vanished, he left his seat and the hall and went to find his brother.

Fili was in his chambers, sitting at the hearth and staring into the cold ash. The room was chilly.


Fili didn’t reply.

“Fili?” Kili walked over to the hearth and sat down in the second chair. “What is it? Did you and Thorin have an argument?”
Fili finally lifted his head to look at his brother. Kili was aghast, he could see he had been crying, and he was pale as a corpse.
“Brother?” His voice hardly carried. “What is the matter?”

“I just wanted her back,” Fili whispered, with his eyes narrowing and staring at nothing. “I just wanted her back, but I... I never realised it was...”
Kili leaned forward and took one of Fili’s hands in his own. It was limp and cold.
“I just didn’t see it,” Fili went on. “I really didn’t.”
“What didn’t you see?”

Fili met his brother’s eyes. “How possessed I am, Kili. Don’t you see? That fierce desire, that single-minded craving... I didn’t see it, I didn’t want to see, but Thorin is right.”
“About what?” Kili had the feeling he wouldn’t like the answer, and he was proven more than right.
“It’s the dragon sickness.” Fili leaned forward, pleading for understanding with his eyes. “It consumes me, and I can’t get rid of it. I don’t know how. How...”

Kili closed his eyes, and for the first time in his life, he felt fury rise up in him like a gust of hot lava, directed at the dwarf who had raised him, the dwarf who had been the only father he had ever known. He could barely conceal it.
“Thorin has told you your love for Katla is a dragon sickness? And you believed him?”
Fili drew his eyebrows together. “How could I not? It’s all there... the fierce...”
“You mentioned that,” Kili interrupted him angrily. “But that’s not what dragon sickness is about. If you so had her back, would you go on craving to have her back?”

Fili blinked a few times, and his frown turned into an expression of puzzlement.

“No,” Kili went on. “Because once you had her, you’d be happy again. The dragon sickness isn’t about satisfaction. It’s about wanting more and more, it’s about greed, Fili, a bad and evil greed. That’s not what love is, Fili.”
His brother took a deep, shaky breath. “But isn’t this...”
“No.” Kili squeezed his hand. “No, brother it’s not. You love a woman, how can that be bad? The dragon sickness is about loving gold too fiercely to feel anything else. You have seen Thorin, Fili. Are you really so like him, filled with rage and hate?”

Fili was silent for a long time, his eyes closed and his lips pressed together. When he finally opened his eyes again they were burning in an unhealthy light, like those of a man dying of a fever. He wordlessly got up, and in three long strides he was at the door and through it in one motion. He slammed the door shut behind him so violently that the lock couldn’t hold it and it slowly swung open again.

Kili flinched as the door slammed, but hastily got up to follow his brother, but as he reached the door, he decided against it. Instead, he headed for his mother’s chambers.

He knocked, and after his mother bade him enter, he softly closed the door behind him and leaned against it with closed eyes. With a sigh, he pushed himself away again and looked around.

Dís was sitting at the hearth with the old blanket in her hands.
“What is it, my love?”
“Did... did Thorin and Fili have an argument?”

His mother looked up, and Kili could see she had been crying. “An argument... well, it certainly started like one.” She rose from the chair and met Kili’s eyes. “Why?”
“Because Fili told me... he told me that Thorin had said...” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“That Fili suffers from dragon sickness,” Dís finished for him.
“So you know.” Kili felt his shoulders droop. “But...”

“I have no idea where it came from... well, I do, but it is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Fili now thinks his feelings for his One is an illness he must overcome.”
“I... I managed to talk to him. He was pretty angry at last and slammed the door into my face.”
Dís sighed. “That is certainly better than brooding in despair.” She neatly folded the blanket and walked over to the chest where she kept the basket.

“Do you know where he went?”
“No. I had the feeling he’d rather be alone.”
“I hope he didn’t go back to Thorin.” Dís shook her head with a frown. “But that’s neither here nor there. I’m glad you got Fili at least to doubt Thorin’s words. He believed them as he left him.”
“And now?”
Dís shrugged. “I don’t know, Kili. I simply don’t know. Fili’s time of mourning is almost over, and Thorin will begin looking for another wife for him soon. If I had anything to say about it, there would be only one choice.” She sighed. “But I don’t. The only thing I can do is try to badger my brother out of it. But then, we’re both of the line of Durin and you know as well as I do how stubborn we all can be. You’d have more luck making ale by banging rocks together.”

Dís put the blanket into the basket and straightened up again. “If you can think of anything, no matter how useless you think it might be, I would be glad to hear it. Any thought could point us...” She broke off and looked down at the basket as she saw a movement from the corner of her eyes. A rather large, black spider balanced on the edge and scuttled lightning-fast into the folds of the blanket.

“Beasts.” Dís tore the blanket out of the basket and shook it; when that failed to produce the spider she took the basket itself and turned it upside down. “Get out of there, I’ve no intention to be bitten next time I...” The spider tumbled to the ground, followed by something larger and heavier that hit the ground with a clatter. The spider beat it and vanished under the chest.

While Dís folded the blanket again Kili bent down and picked the stone up to look at it. “It’s a piece of slate.”
Kili turned the stone around and his eyes widened. “It’s her namestone.”
“What?” Dís dropped the blanket and grabbed the stone from Kili’s hand.

The namestone, just as Kili had said. Every dwarfen child had one of these in their cradle, engraved with his or her own name and the name of the parents, to have something to tell their soul where it came from until they knew their own name and those of mother and father. So Katla had one of those too, but instead of a polished piece of granite as was usually the custom, it was a piece of slate, and it wasn’t even polished.

“Who would give their child a namestone of slate?” Dís voice was full of sorrow.
“Well... she is a half-breed,” Kili said. “She probably wasn’t wanted.”
“Then why give her a namestone at all?”

Their eyes met and they shared a look of puzzlement.

Dís ran her forefinger across the runes. “Katla, daughter of Kamma.”
“She told me the stone had given her father’s name, and not her mother’s.” Kili scratched his chin.
“Stop scratching your beard,” Dís said automatically. “That’s what it says. It’s her mother’s name. We can only assume the humans who took her in got that wrong.”

Kili stared at the stone and then shook his head. “Slate.”
“I don’t know.” Dís looked at the stone. The longer I look at it, the more I think I’m missing something.”
“It’s because you want to believe that.” Kili smoothed the yokes of his shirt. “As well as I do. We both want to find something in there so we can tell Thorin to fetch her back.”
Dís turned the stone over in her palm for a few times. “I guess you’re right,” she finally admitted.

Then she took the stone between two fingers and held it at an angle before her eyes. “Kili,” she whispered.

Kili frowned and stepped closer.
“Is it me, or is there a piece chipped off?”
Kili took the stone from his mother’s hand and turned it slowly while staring at it with narrowed eyes. “I think there is. It looks like a piece of the outer layer is missing.”

Their heads leaning together, Dís and Kili kept staring at the stone in an attempt of finding out if it was true or imagination that a piece was missing. The piece where the name of her father might have been engraved.

“We can only make sure if there’s a piece missing with a magnifying glass.” Kili leaned back with a sigh.
Dís frowned. “Where is Balin now?”
“I don’t know. Most likely somewhere in the archives.”

They exchanged a single look, and in unspoken agreement, were out of the door in a quick stride.

They found Balin indeed in the archives, but only after a serious amount of searching and the help of Ori. When he heard what kind of request it was he lifted both of his snowy eyebrows, but instantly produced his pocket magnifier, held it in front of his eye and glared through the lenses at the piece of slate.

Kili, Dís and even Ori dared not to breathe.

When Balin lowered his glass and the stone again, he looked at the three of them with a face that was hard to read. He tilted his head for a second and pursed his lips.
“There is a piece missing,” he said. “But there’s no telling what had been on it.”
“Of course not!” Kili took the stone and closed his fingers around it. “But what else would have been engraved there but her father’s name?”

“What else indeed.” Balin slipped the magnifier back into his pocket. “What if it was her father’s name, and it was a human name?”

Crestfallen, Kili frowned and his shoulders dropped.

“I don’t care what kind of name it was,” Dís suddenly said into the silence. “She has a namestone, and therefore, she has to have a place in the Archives of Blood.”
“As a half breed?” Balin weighed his head.
“Is she one?” Dís crossed her arms. “She has a namestone, and her mother is a dwarf. There was a father’s name on the stone. Humans found her and concluded from this stone she is a half-breed. Didn’t you say yourself she looked like one of us?”
Balin looked like he didn’t really want to agree but had to, anyway. “I did, and she does, although she doesn’t have chin-hair.”
“I had hardly any chin-hair until I was over ninety,” Dís gave back.

She looked at Ori, at Kili, and then at Balin. “None of the things we actually know point at her being a half-breed. It’s guesswork. If no one had mentioned it before, wouldn’t we be inclined to give her the benefit of doubt?”
Balin opened his mouth, then closed it. He shook his head and opened his mouth again. “We would,” he finally admitted.

Dís squared her shoulders and her face turned into a mask of determination. She took the stone and without looking back, she said: “Come with me, all of you.”
All of a sudden, she was a princess of Durin’s line again, and there was no disobeying that voice, not even for a dwarf like Balin although he sighed as he followed her.

Disregarding any form of protocol Dís knocked at the door to Thorin’s study and entered in one stride without waiting for an answer. The other three dwarrow in her wake entered a little more hesitatingly or, in Ori’s case, fearfully. He looked as if he was trying to hide behind his quill that he hadn’t thought to put down as he had gone to help find Balin.

“Dís.” Thorin frowned and looked at her retinue with mild confusion. “Will you care to tell me what this is about?”
“I will, and I will not take more of your time than necessary.” Dís put the stone in front of him onto his desk.
Thorin looked at his sister, at the stone, and back at Dís. “Yes?”

Dís took a deep breath and straightened up. “When Master Baggins was here last time, he brought me a gift from Katla. The basket she had been found in and the blanket she had been wrapped in. As a keepsake of my grandson. Today, I found this hidden under the blanket.”
Thorin lifted his eyebrows and looked at the stone again to read the runes. “So?”
“It is her namestone, Thorin. And if she has a namestone, she has to have a place in the Archives of Blood!”

“Does she.” Thorin crossed his arms.
“She does.” Dís crossed her arms as well.

The silence grew heavier with every passing moment. The two siblings of Durin’s blood matched each other’s stare of stubborn refusal to budge and the tension rose.
“Put her name in the archives then,” Thorin finally said without taking his eyes of Dís. “But as long as she does not have a father to her name, she does not marry the heir to the throne.”

Dís searched her brother’s’ eyes, but she could feel that she had lost. She took the stone and made one last attempt. “But there was a name.” She looked at Balin for help. “A piece of the outer layer broke off.”
“There was a name,” Balin agreed.
“But you do not know what was on the piece that is missing.” Thorin looked from his sister to Balin.

Thorin’s eyes came to rest in his sister again. “I’m sorry, Dís. I know how hard this is for all of you, don’t think it isn’t hard for me to see Fili like this. But I can’t...”
“But you can!” Dís held the stone out to him. “You can! You are the King! Your word is enough! One word, Thorin, just one word and her name will be cleared off...”
“It can’t be.” Thorin shook his head. “And I won’t break my forefathers’ holy laws...”
“To save your nephew and heir?”
“He does not need saving.”

In helpless frustration, Dís slammed both her hands palm down onto Thorin’s desk, stone and all.

“You stubborn tharrbund! Why is it that you want Fili to suffer?”
“I do not want the lad to suffer!” Thorin’s voice rose now as well. “But I have more on my mind than the soft heartedness of a...”
“Soft hearted?” Dís threw her hands into the air. “You call being in love soft hearted?”

“Excuse me...”

“I call being in love like he is, acting like a love sick puppy...”
“You will not call my son a puppy!!” Dís almost impaled Thorin on her forefinger. Her eyes were glowing with rage.
“I would call him a proper dwarf is he so chose to act like one!” Thorin shouted back.

“Erm... maybe you should...”

“So being a dwarf hewn of stone without feelings, is that what a proper dwarf is about?” A few strands of hair had escaped Dís’ braids and teetered around in front of her face. She didn’t seem to notice.
“It is about strength of character!” Thorin curled his right hand into a fist. “Strength of body and will!”


“Oh and just because you have a soul made of stone you expect others to have one, too?”
“It is certainly better than moping around and feeling miserable for years over a woman!”
“Oh just a woman now, is it?” Dís spat. “Just a woman? Because the only thing you need a woman for is her womb and the rest is completely irrelevant, is that what you mean to tell ME?!”
Thorin’s nostrils flared and he took a deep breath.

“Stop it, both of you!” Balin grabbed each of the two combatants by one arm. “Stop it!”
“You should... maybe have a look...” Ori ventured cautiously from behind Kili’s shoulder.
Amad.” Kili stepped to his mother’s side. “The stone.”

Dís lowered her eyes and saw the namestone she had slammed so carelessly onto Thorin’s desk. It had fallen apart.
But it hadn’t fallen apart into pieces. It was slate a sedimentary rock made of layers, and it had fallen apart into thin slivers of stone that had tilted over like a stack of cards.

“How is that even possible?” Dís carefully picked the uppermost sliver up, the one with the names engraved on it. It was somewhat thicker than the rest.

Five pairs of eyes stared at the stone that had fallen apart like a book. Balin took his magnifier and picked up the next sliver, thin and delicate. It was covered in tiny runes.

“Ori?” Balin waved at the younger dwarf without taking his eyes off his magnifier. “I can’t read them.”

Ori cast a cautious look at Dís and Thorin and hurried to Balin’s side. He looked at the runes through the magnifier. “They’re very faint.”
“But how is it possible?” Dís brushed the hairs back behind her ear. “I could imagine how to part the layers, but how to put them together again?”
His usual shyness forgotten as he was engrossed in the runes, Ori answered, his voice carrying excitement. “It’s a certain form of elemental magic,” he said. “It was used in the first age to transfer secret messages between the kingdoms and it was devised by Durin the sixth during the wars of...”

Kili looked baffled. “How do you know these things?”.
“I read it in a book...” Ori ventured cautiously and blushed.
“Stop tallying!” Dís interrupted. “What does it say?”

Focussing on the magnifier and the runes brought Ori back into his own territory. “These are Erebor runes.”
“Erebor runes?” Thorin frowned and shook his head.
“But only the Erebor runes have that distinct angle to the...”
“The details of those runes are of no consequence!” Dís said.

“I disagree.” Thorin’s frown deepened. “What if it is a fake?”
“Who would have faked it?” Dís stared at her brother. “Katla, who didn’t even know a word of Khuzdul? Or me? Did I fake it for the sake of my son?”
Thorin opened his mouth, but thought better of it and shut it again.
“Please continue,” Balin said diplomatically. “If there is one dwarf to determine if this is a fake, than that dwarf is you, Ori.”

Ori blinked a few times and looked through the magnifier again. “It is the old Erebor rune of P. He looked up, spotted Thorin’s quill and ink and took a piece of parchment. He wrote the rune and beside it, another, very similar one. “That is our rune for P. And that one is the old Erebor rune for P, as it was used back until the reign of Thror... ended...” Ori looked up at Thorin. “The same goes for the rune of Y.” Again, he wrote two very similar runes, one being a slightly more simplified version of the other. “So we can conclude that these runes were carved by someone who knows the old Erebor runes but not our version that we brought with us from Ered Luin.”

Five dwarrow stood around Thorin’s desk and looked back and forth between the piece of slate and Ori. Thorin was the first to speak, his eyes still resting on the parchment. “Continue. What do these runes say?”

Ori carefully took the sliver of slate, then the next one, and the next one, until he had all the pieces laid out in the correct order. He then took the quill and copied the runes onto the parchment.

Then he cleared his throat.

“The last survivors fled the dragonfire...”
“Dragonfire?” Kili cleared his throat as four pairs of eyes glared at him. “Sorry.”

“The last survivors fled the dragonfire,” Ori went on. “Wandering the north. Trying to build a home in Ered Mithrin.The orcs came and took it from us after almost two hundred years.” He paused and using the magnifier, quickly looked back and forth between the stones. “Yes, that is right. Two hundred years.”

“So there was a group of survivors we never knew about,” Balin whispered.
Thorin froze upon hearing these words.

“Most that survived the orcs were taken by hunger and cold,” Ori continued. “Few of us came home, and found the dragon still alive. We are dwarrow, and we will fight. We trust our last surviving child into the care of Mahal should we fail. Her name is Katla, daughter of Kamma and daughter of Dalir, son of Damli, son of Dafur. May her eyes see our home one day.”

“They tried to take back Erebor...” Kili whispered. “And found only Smaug.”
“How old is she?” Dís stared at the parchment with a pale face. “She can’t be much more than sixty and five.”
“So little more than half a century ago another group of our kin tried and failed in what we finally have achieved.” Balin closed his eyes for a second. “Mahal rest them.”

“So.” Thorin took a slow, deep breath. “Apart from those runes, how can we say this is not a fake?”
“Thorin.” Dís shook her head and reached out to touch his arm. “Who? Really, who could fake this? Katla cannot have done it, and why would she? She would never have mentioned being a half-breed at all if she wanted to be recognised as a dwarf. And I’ll gladly make any oath you want to hear that I have not done it, either. I found it in this basket. Then there is Bilbo...”
“I get your point,” Thorin snapped, torn between anger and amusement at the thought of the hobbit trying to forge ancient dwarfish runes.

“But that...” Kili suddenly was wide alert. “That means we can bring her back! We have to bring her back!”
“But how?” Dís smoothed her hair back. “We don’t know where she is!”
“In the shire, I assume?” Balin frowned at her.
“No.” Dís sighed. “Not any longer. “When Bilbo gave me that basket he informed me that she had left the Shire and that he could find no trace of where she might have gone.”
“So she left the Shire four years ago and no one knows where she went.” Balin sadly shook his head. “Any trace she might have left is long gone cold by now.”

A weary silence settled over the dwarrow in Thorin’s study.

“I know...” Kili suddenly whispered. “I know!”
“What?” Dís looked at him imploringly as all heads turned his way.
“I think I do,” Kili added. “I spoke with Fili once, a while ago, about her. And he told me that when they had parted, they had both been sad about the fact that the boy couldn’t grow up a dwarf!”
“But what has that to do with...” Thorin began.
“Everything!” Kili started to grin. “There’s only one reason she would have left the Shire: She wanted him to grow up a dwarf, so she went to find dwarrow to live with. And the nearest dwarrow settlement to the Shire...”
“ Ered Luin,” Dís finished for him, her voice trembling.

“I’ll be on my way with sunrise.” Kili’s voice was resolute and confident. “I’ll bring her back. Spring Equinox.”
“Kili my lad, it is past Durin’s Day...” Thorin began.
“Yes.” Kili shrugged. “Fili and I have made the journey to Ered Luin weeks after Durin’s Day, back after the battle. There’s no reason I couldn’t do it again.”

“You alone?” Thorin lifted his eyebrows.
“I...” Kili swallowed. “I wouldn’t want to have Fili know of this. What if I am wrong and she is not in Ered Luin? He’d better not know until we’re sure we can bring her back.”
“You still shouldn’t go alone, laddie.” Balin nodded. “But anyone of our old Company you’ll ask will gladly help, I gather.”
“I’ll ask Bofur, and Bifur, and Dwalin.” Kili bit his lower lip. “Between the four of us, we’ll get her home safely.”
“If you find her,” Dís said softly.

“We will find her, Amad.” Kili took her hands in his. “I will find her, no matter the cost. I find her and bring her back.”
“What if... what if the worst has come to pass?”
Kili lowered his eyes. “I will bring her back, Amad.” Then he looked up again. “Either way, her final resting place will be the tombs of her forefathers.”
Dís nodded silently.

“Then it is agreed.” Thorin carefully collected the slivers of slate and put them onto the parchment. “Kili will go to Ered Luin tomorrow.”
“I am glad you...”
Thorin gave his sister a look under lowered lids. “These were warriors of Erebor who survived Smaug and later were killed by him after all when trying to regain their home. They wished for this child to see their home again, and I am honouring that last wish.”
Dís turned around and shook her head. “As you will, brother.”

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