Sacred Duty, Bleeding Heart

Chapter 34

Waiting had always been the hardest part for Dís, and the days following the arrival of Lord Elrond’s message were no exception, in fact they were the worst days of waiting she had suffered in her life.

She hadn’t seen Fili since her revelation as she didn’t want to hover around him like a mother hen – although she presently felt like one– but she couldn’t even imagine what he had to be going through right now. Not that she wanted to.
For his sake, she hoped he could still find solace in the forge; it would help him pass the days and maybe the hard work would also help him find some sleep.

Dís herself was restless and irritable as if it was her who would see her long-lost lover again and not her son, and she had a hard time not to take it out on her ladies who also were her friends. They understood and had a lot of patience, but Dís had no intention of creating a grudge.

One day, her aimless roaming brought her close to the royal kitchen again, and for a moment, she stood and debated with herself if she should approach Skadi again. Before she had consciously made up her mind she was already headed for the kitchen when a sound coming from an open storage room caught her attention. She listened, and instantly recognised it as a woman being harassed. She stepped into the doorframe.

A burly dwarf was pressing a woman against the back wall with the whole weight of his body. The woman was gasping for breath. Was he chocking her?

Mustering all her authority, Dís crossed her arms. “What in Durin’s name is going on here?”

The dwarf jumped and spun around, met her eyes and pointed at the woman he had been assaulting. “She’s resisting me!”
Dís slowly raised her eyebrows.
“She has no right to resist! She’s marked, after all!”
“Get out.” Dís voice was cold as ice.
“But she’s a laszûna! She’s got...”
“Get out!”
“What is it to you anyway?”

Dís stepped into the room, as until now she had only been a dark outline against the brightly lit corridor. Now, inside the room, she was not merely a woman, she was clearly the Emerald Princess, dowager queen of Erebor. “Leave. Now.”
“My... my princess.”

The dwarf rushed past her and out of the door. Dís exhaled slowly and looked at Skadi who was slowly sinking to the floor, her back against the wall. She wasn’t crying, but she was still shocked.

“Skadi,” Dís said gently as she lowered herself down beside her. “Did you come to harm?”
Skadi opened her eyes and shook her head. “No, you came in time.”
Dís reached out and touched Skadi’s cheek where a large bruise began to show. The two women then looked at each other and as their eyes met, Dís brushed a few of Skadi’s hairs out of her face.

“You were my friend,” Dís said. “I cried when they took you away, and I never understood why you had to be punished so harshly for something that was not your fault.”
Skadi shrugged. “It was and is the law.”
“Laws can be changed.” Dís got up and offered Skadi her hand. “As can fates.”
Taking her hand, Skadi let herself be helped up without taking her eyes off Dís face.
“Will you come with me this time?” Dís put a hand on Skadi’s shoulder. “I offer freely and expect nothing in return... except maybe that we could renew the friendship that was once between us.”

“I am still marked,” Skadi gave back. “How could you?”
“I don’t care about that ring that has been forced onto you. We find a way to remove it, and in more than one sense of the word.”
Skadi lowered her eyes, but when she looked up, something of the spirit that Dís remembered had returned into her emerald green eyes. “Thank you.”
“Come.” Dís smiled and felt an incredibly old weight be removed from her shoulders.
“And what about... him?”
Dís took her arm. “Leave him to me.”
A hesitating smile grew on Skadi’s face as she and Dís left the storeroom and headed upstairs towards the royal quarters.

In the forges of Erebor, past the mighty furnaces, the song of hammer and anvil rang through the work halls and hallways.
Fili swung his hammer as if the glowing iron before him was not a piece of crafting but a deadly foe. Sweat ran in rivulets down his bare chest and back as he drudged with the determination of the damned. But still, every minute seemed an hour, and every hour seemed a day.

Exhaustion let him sleep a few hours, but it did nothing against the dreams. The restlessness came back in the small hours of morning, and Fili ventured back into the forges to start the fight against the hours once more.

Skadi had been honestly surprised when Míl and Elira had greeted her like a long lost friend, but accepted their explanation that this was exactly what she was to them. And they were obviously very happy that this time, they could do more for her than just to give her a place to sleep and work to earn her bread.

After a bath Dís supplied her with a few of her own dresses and the four of them spent the evening together in Dís’s private chambers, sharing sad and happy memories and a bottle of dandelion wine.

When at last, the servant who had been tasked with readying a set of chambers for Skadi came and announced the chambers were ready Dís accompanied her old, newfound friend to help her settle.

She would talk to Thorin, but not right away. Skadi should be allowed to settle in first, recover her strength both physically and mentally, before Dís would inform her brother which would doubtlessly lead to a confrontation between him and Skadi.

What Dís didn’t know was that her brother had been on his way to her chambers just as she had left them. He had seen who accompanied her, had recognised the voice that was a haunt from the past, and he had silently headed back to his own chambers.

Thorin spent a sleepless night staring at the ceiling above his bed.

He had believed the pain was gone.

Two weeks had passed and Dís had been forced to watch her firstborn son become more and more a shadow of his former self, the tortured look never leaving his once so sparkling blue eyes.
She had never felt so helpless in her life, apart from the moment when she had been forced to watch a dragon destroy everything she knew and take everything she valued.

Fili left the hall again without having eaten much. He had forced a little bread and milk into himself, hardly enough to sustain him during his hours of labour in the forge, but he could not think of anything but the passing of days. Nothing had any meaning anymore than another day lying behind him.

This day was no different. He went to the forges, took off his tunic and shirt and replaced those with the heavy leather apron. He tied his hair back and without further ado got to work, fetching water, pumping the bellows, heating the iron; and the hammer in his hand was like an old friend.

He had been working on this particular blade for a long time now. He wanted it to be perfect, perfectly balanced and perfectly formed. When he now cooled it in the bucket the water hissed and steamed, and he lifted the blade to inspect it. It was perfect, the perfect gift for his brother for Durin’s Day.

It was first when the steam had cleared that he noticed someone who had not been there before. He straightened up and recognised his mother.


Dís walked up to him and her facial expression had Fili instantly worry about her. She had been crying.

Amad.” He hurried to meet her, the blade cooling forgotten on the anvil. “What is the matter?”
Dís held out her hands to Fili who took them. “Fili,” she whispered.
Fili felt her fingers around his own, squeezing gently.
“Bofur has arrived. They had sent him ahead as a vanguard. Your brother will have reached the gates in less than two hours.”

A searing hot pain shot through his abdomen, as if he had been impaled by a glowing sword. For a second, his world spun, and when it settled again, he could see his mother smile. The pain was still churning in his guts, making his heart race and his breathing shallow. But he couldn’t think. He couldn’t move.

“Come,” his mother said gently. “You want to clean up and dress I gather. Come.”
He followed his mother out of the forge, his heart racing and his thoughts spinning until only one remained.

Katla was coming home.

They stood waiting at the gates, but Dís had only told very few people what would happen. Thorin was there with Balin standing at his side. Bofur was there, too, but his usual good-natured, happy spirit was absent, his face serious as he stood beside Dís and watched Fili stare into the distance, still as a statue, the wind tugging at his fur collar and playing teasingly with his hair.

“I wouldn’t want to be in his skin...” Bofur whispered to himself. But Dís, standing so close to him, had heard those words and could only agree. There was no imagining what agony he had to be in.

And then they could finally make out the forms of five riders heading for the gates of Erebor.

Fili’s hands curled into fists.

The ponies seemed to move agonizingly slow when in truth, they were moving at almost a trot. But it seemed to take forever until they were finally close enough to distinguish the riders.

There was the broad form of Dwalin and beside him, unmistakable even at this distance, Bifur. Beside Bifur rode a smaller person with dark blonde hair that had to be Bilbo. Beside Bilbo was a woman Dís instantly identified as Katla and beside her rode Kili.
As they drew nearer, Dís could see that a much smaller person was seated in front of her second son, a child with golden hair. Suddenly she could watch them no longer, and tears blurred her vision as she turned her head away, covering her mouth with one hand.

About thirty yards away from those who were waiting for them, the group parted, and four of the five ponies trotted ahead while the fifth came to a halt. Dís could see the rider dismount; a woman with chestnut hair, wearing trousers under a skirt that was slit back and front to allow her riding astride.

Moving slowly as if he was underwater, Fili finally unfroze and began to walk, passing the other four riders without giving them any notice.

Katla held on to the reins of her pony after dismounting, and as expected, she could see one of the dwarrow waiting at the gates come for her. She closed her eyes for a second and when she opened them again, she saw that he had broken into a run. Her heart seemed to be attempting to break free of her ribcage.

Fili came to a halt only a few steps away from her. He stumbled the last steps staring at those familiar jade-green eyes.

“Fili,” Katla whispered, her voice thick with tears.

Fili kept staring at her, but before Katla could say anything, he fell onto his knees with a heavy sob and with his head falling forward he grabbed the hem of her skirt. “Forgive me,” he choked out with gritted teeth. “Forgive me...”
“Fili...” It was only a whisper.
“Forgive me!” A hoarse sob escaped him. “Forgive me for not fighting for you! I should... I should have fought for you and our son! I should have stood my ground, but instead I let you go! I only thought about my duty...” He sobbed again, a rusty, painful sound that made Katla shudder. “Oh Mahal, please forgive me, I should never have let you go... I’m sorry, Katla.... I’m so sorry...”

Katla slowly knelt down in front of him and swallowed. “Fili, please don’t...”
Fili lifted his head to look at her, the grief-stricken face wet with tears. “I’ve made so many promises I didn’t keep... I promised you that I would marry you, that you would have a rank and honour...” He swallowed audibly, and still his tears were running down his cheeks. “I promised our son a father and a future and... and I broke every single one of them!”

Katla blinked, and a tear fell free from her lashes. Another followed and she reached out with a trembling hand to touch Fili’s cheek. He closed his eyes with a sob.

“Fili... you need not act as if the fault was yours and yours alone. It was me who would not believe in us. It was me who told you it wasn’t meant to be. And it was those words that made us both believe that what we felt was not worth fighting for.” She dropped her head for a second and when she looked up again, her lips trembled and tears dripped down her chin. “I said it wasn’t meant to be, not you. And I left, using a debt that the king owed me to make him let me leave when I very well just could have done it anyway. Fili... you let me go after I told you it was the only way.”

Fili stared at her face as if he was unable to understand.

“It was far too late when I finally realised that what I felt for you was not something I would get over. And if it hadn’t been for Frerin, I’d have gone mad...” She sobbed again and shook her head. “I don’t want you to believe it was your fault alone, as I carry as much of it as you do. So either we are both guilty, or we are both innocent. But I will not let you take everything upon you.”

Choking back his tears Fili leaned forward, and with another soft sob, Katla did the same until her foreheads touched.

“I missed you,” Katla whispered through her tears. “I missed you so much.”
Fili took a rasping breath, but his voice was only a hoarse croak. “I missed you too... Katla I missed you... Oh Mahal...”
Then he threw his arms around her and pulled her close. She, in turn, closed her arms around him as Fili buried his face into her hair. “I missed you...” He unsuccessfully tried to suppress another sob. “My gemstone, my jewel... oh Katla, I missed you, my love...”
“I missed you too.” Katla’s voice was only a husky whisper. “My warrior, my prince, Fili, my love... “
They held on to each other as hard as they could, until their tears began to abate.

“I will not let you go again.” Fili broke the embrace and leaned back to look at her. “No matter the cost, I will not be parted from you again. By Durin’s blood, Katla, I will not let you go again!”
“Never.” Katla shook her head and smiled at him through her tears. “I will never leave you again, Fili.”

Then she reached for his face again, placed a hand on his cheek and tenderly ran a thumb along his eyebrow. Fili closed his eyes and turned his head, brushing that hand with his lips. He looked at Katla again, and hesitatingly reached out with a trembling hand to caress her hair. Katla closed her eyes and leaned forward as Fili moved his hand to the back of her head and leaned in while he pulled her close.

Their lips touched in a tender kiss, soft like the beat of a butterfly’s wing.

After a moment of breathing against each other’s lips they kissed again, and Katla closed her arms around Fili and buried her hands into his hair. Their kiss deepened, tasting of salty tears as tenderness gave way to passion and passion to the ardent longing that had been denied for far too long.

The cool northern wind played with their hair, mingling a few golden strands with chestnut ones as Fili moved his hands to her face, cupping her cheeks while gently running his thumbs across her skin. They finally broke the kiss and leaned back, their breathing only slowly calming down.

Fili felt a smile on his lips and saw it mirrored on Katla’s face. She brushed a few hairs from his face.

“You look even more beautiful than I remember,” he whispered. “But I... I’m sorry if...” He broke off and bit his lower lip.
“What?” Katla leaned forward to touch his forehead with hers.
“I’m sorry but... but I think my memory is playing tricks on me because...” He leaned back. “I can’t remember you had chin-hair.”
A soft chuckle escaped Katla’s lips. “It’s because I hadn’t.”
“It grew just like that?” Fili reached out with a tiny smile and ran a finger across her jawline and through the soft dusting of chestnut hair.

“No.” Katla suddenly avoided his eyes and looked down. “It... I had it since I was forty. I was... I was mortified when it showed, and I’ve been... I’ve been removing it ever since.”
Fili’s eyes widened. “You...shaved? How could I not have noticed that while I was living with you?”

“I did it in secrecy. I’m sorry if...” Katla swallowed hard. “I was just so... so used to doing it that I didn’t think about it. All I knew is that I didn’t want it, it was just another thing setting me apart. And I didn’t shave; I used hot wax because it... it doesn’t leave a stubble.” Her cheeks slowly turned a deep crimson and she continued in a trembling whisper. “It was first when I decided that our son should have the chance of growing up a proper dwarf that I stopped doing it.” When she looked up again, her eyes were full of desperate fear. “I could... I could do it again if you want, so I could look like you remember...”

“No!” Fili shook his head with emphasis. “No.” He caressed her jaw line again and smiled. “Would you want me to trim back my beard so I would look like you remember me?”
“No.” Katla ran a finger through his beard, considerably longer than it had been when they had parted. “No, it has grown beautifully.” Then she looked up again and met his eyes. “My handsome prince.”
Ghivashêl.” Fili placed another kiss on her lips. “Mahdêl...”

“I love you...” Katla whispered against his lips, more tears escaping her closed eyelids. “Fili, I love you...”
Amrâlimê...” Fili pulled her close again and held her as tightly as he could. “I love you, my jewel.”

With that he got up and taking her hands, helped her up in turn before he slung his arms around her again.

They held each other in a tight embrace, but after a moment, Fili chuckled shakily into her hair and leaned back. “I feel as if...” He shook his head and blinked the remnants of moisture away. “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry now.”
Katla wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and smiled as well. “Laugh. I’ve done enough crying as it is.”

Their eyes met, and their smiles widened. Katla chuckled, and Fili’s smile turned into a dimpled grin. Then their laughter broke free, the dam inside breaking just as the dam of their tears had broken earlier. Fili picked her up and spun her around, still laughing, and embraced her again after he had set her down. They shared another passionate, hungry kiss.

When Fili leaned back his eyes fell onto his brother who was standing beside his pony some yards away. Kili’s eyes were reddened and his cheeks were moist, but he flashed his brother his usual impish smile and winked. But when Fili noticed the boy who was still sitting on the pony’s back, his smile vanished.

Kili noticed his glance and leaned over to the boy, whispered something and lifted him down.

Fili felt his vision blur again as he walked, and he slowly went down onto one knee as he had reached the boy. He looked at Fili with wide, blue eyes, his golden hair tousled by the wind.

“Are you Frerin?” Fili asked, his voice rough.
The boy nodded mutely.
Fili swallowed hard. “And do you know who I am?”
This time he shook his head.

“Frerin.” Kili bend down to whisper something into the boy’s ear and Frerin’s face lit up, his eyes growing even wider.
“My father?”
His throat too dry to speak, Fili could only nod.

Adad!” Frerin threw himself at Fili and slung his arms around his neck. “Adad! Uncle Kili was right! You’re not dead at all!”
“No.” Fili closed his eyes as he embraced his son, fruitlessly fighting more tears. “No, I’m not.”

After a moment, Frerin peeled himself away and stared at his father. “Will I have a beard like you when I grow up?”
“Most likely.” Fili smiled through his tears.
“And do you have a sword for me?”
“Not yet.” Fili tousled Frerin’s hair. “But I will make one as soon as I can.”
“Will you show me how?”
“If you want to, certainly”

“Uncle Kili!” Frerin turned around with a huge grin. “Adad is going to show me how to make a sword!”
“Bodacious!” Kili grinned at his nephew in return. “Just remember what I promised you!”
Frerin spun around again. “Uncle Kili is going to show me how to shoot a bow! Can you shoot a bow, Adad?”
“Not really well.” Fili gave his son a lopsided smile. “I prefer swords myself.”
“Like with sword and shield?” Frerin waved his arms about.
“I use two blades.”
“Two?” Frerin’s eyes were so wide that Fili was sure he could have seen his lashes had he stood behind him. “Like cousin Dwalin with his axes?”
“Close.” Fili couldn’t suppress a grin at the childish enthusiasm. “I will show you.”
“No, another time. Right now there are a few people I want you to meet.”

Fili straightened up again and smiled fondly down at his son who was very obviously pretending to fight with two blades. Then he met his brother’s eyes and walked up to Kili to embrace him.
“Thank you, brother,” Fili muttered. “Thank you for bringing her back.”
“If I hadn’t done it someone else would have,” Kili replied.
“But you brought her back,” Fili said after leaning back. “So thank you.”

Kili grinned, Fili returned that grin, and in unspoken agreement they brought their foreheads together in a lovingly, brotherly head butt that made Frerin jump when he heard it.
Both brothers broke out laughing and Kili embraced Fili and slapped his back. “I can’t say how good it is to see you laugh again.” He stepped back. “It’s been too long.”
Fili smiled and shrugged.

“Frerin?” He turned around and held out his hand to his son.
Frerin squinted up at him and took the offered hand, closing his fingers around Fili’s.
They walked towards the gate where Dís, Balin and Thorin were waiting.

“That lad is the spitting image of his father,” Balin said with a small, nostalgic smile. “There’s no denying who sired that one.”

Fili, still holding his son’s hand, came to halt in front of Thorin who regarded his nephew with an unmoving face.

“Uncle Thorin, there is someone I’d like you to meet.” He looked at his son and then back at Thorin. “My son Frerin.”
Thorin’s mask cracked and his eyes widened ever so slightly. “Frerin?” He paused and took a deep breath. “You named him Frerin?”
“We did.” Fili firmly held Thorin’s gaze. “Frerin, son of Fili.”

After a long moment, Thorin let his eyes wander down to muster the golden-haired boy. “So, you are Frerin.”
Frerin slowly nodded.
Fili then crouched down beside his son. “My uncle Thorin. He has raised me as a father, as my father died when I was your age.” He looked up again. “Thorin Oakenshield, Kind under the Mountain.”

Frerin shrunk the tiniest bit back and leaned towards his father. “King?” He whispered.
“Yes.” Fili smiled and whispered something into Frerin’s ear. “Can you do that?”
Tan menu...” Frerin broke off, looking helplessly at his father.
Tan menu selek lanun naman.”
“Very good.” Fili smiled proudly and tousled his hair before straightening up again.

Frerin took a few very deep breaths, drew himself up to his full height and squared his shoulders. Thorin lifted one eyebrow.
Vemu, Thanu men! Tan menu... selek lan... lanun naman!”

Thorin’s face went blank for a second. Then a small smile tugged at his lips and he inclined his head. “Gamut sanu yenet, dashatû nanaûdashat men.

When Thorin looked up again his eyes looked past Fili and his son. Fili turned around to see Katla who had walked up to them and was standing behind him. He took a step aside and Katla walked up to Thorin and bowed her head. “Vemu, Thanu men. Tan menu selek lanun naman” Her Khuzdul was clear and fluent as she spoke the ancient ritual greeting.
Thorin slightly inclined his own head. “Gamut sanu yenet.”
Katla lifted her head again and met Thorin’s eyes.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Thorin exhaled softly and extended both his hands to her. Blinking in surprise, Katla took the offered hands.

Thorin’s facial expression softened the slightest bit. “Welcome to Erebor, Katla, daughter of Dalir, son of Damli, son of Dafur,” he said.
Katla’s lips parted slightly as she stared at Thorin in surprise. Then she bowed her head again. “Thank you.”

Thorin let go of one of her hands, and extended the other to Fili who took it with a slightly confused frown. Thorin smiled then, but it was a very small and very sad smile as he brought their hands together between his.

“I give you my blessings,” he said in a low voice.

Katla and Fili exchanged a bewildered look, but Thorin had already let go of their hands and, after giving them a nod, he walked slowly back towards the gates.

“Let me add my greetings to the King’s,” Balin said after shaking his head. “Welcome to Erebor, Katla.”
“Thank you.” Katla remembered the old dwarf and his kindness and gave him a warm smile. “It is good to see you again.”
“You can’t imagine how good it is to see you again,” Balin gave back with a wink. “Seems like our prince is in a much better mood all of a sudden.” He then also winked at Fili.

Dís chose that moment to step forward. She wordlessly pulled Katla into a firm and warm embrace and when she stepped back, she gave her an equally warm smile. “Welcome to Erebor, Katla.”

Then she smiled at her grandson, visibly forcing herself not to break into tears and smile instead. “Frerin? I am Dís, your grandmother. Welcome to Erebor.”
Frerin frowned and his eyes darted this way and that, his tongue sticking out of a corner of his mouth. Then his face lit up and he smiled at Dís, an honest, open smile, his blue eyes shining. It melted Dís heart to see that smile again after so many years.

Sigin'amad Dís,” Frerin said and looked unconfidently at his father for approval. Fili nodded with a tiny smile and a wink, and Frerin returned his gaze to his grandmother again and grinned.
Dís blinked her tears away. “Your Khuzdul is splendid, little warrior. Your father will be very proud of you.”
“He is,” Fili said softly and ran a hand through Frerin’s hair. “Very proud indeed.”
Frerin gave him a smile of utter adoration.

“Frerin?” Dís held out her hand. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m starving!”
She laughed. “Boys like you are always hungry. Come with me, and I’ll find you something, what do you think?”
Frerin looked at his mother. “Amad? May I?”
“Of course.” Katla smiled gratefully at Dís. “I’ll see you in a bit.”

Frerin took Dís’s hand in his childish, unconcerned trust and skipped along beside her.

Fili turned to Katla again slung his arms around her waist to pull her close and into a kiss. When he straightened up he smiled and touched her forehead against hers.

His voice was only a whisper. “Welcome home.”

Ghivashêl: Treasure of all treasures
Blessings of all blessings
Amrâlimê: My love
Vemu, Thanu men! Tan menu selek lanun naman
: Greetings, my king. May your forge burn bright!

Gamut sanu yenet, dashatû nanaûdashat men: Well met, son of my sister-son.

Gamut sanu yenet: Well met.

Sigin'amad Dís: Grandmother Dís

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