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Sons of Durin

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If he had a name, she never spoke it.

Truthfully, the dwarves of Erebor were half a nomadic race after the Desolation of Smaug; there were so many who traveled through their meager Hall (not a city, not a home, never a home) in the Blue Mountains that Dís could have had her choosing of noble—or ignoble—dwarves to father her sons.  Tinkers, toymakers, merchants and miners... and all wanderers, always wanderers, the pain of their dislocation a heavy lament in Thorin’s soul.

Whether Dís heard that same lament, bore that same pain, he did not know. She did not share her feelings or her memories any more than she shared the name of her sons’ father with her king—or her brother.  Neither did he know exactly what she remembered, if anything, of Erebor.  She had been but a child, barely more than an infant when the dragon came, she and Frerin both.  Their dirty, hungry faces were the ones that Thorin most remembered in those dark days and years after the Desolation, Dís stumbling without crying, pulled hither and yon through the empty wastes as Thorin, Frerin at his heels, ran after Thrór and Thráin.

Whether Dís remembered that it had not been her father, or her grandfather, or even her older brother who had carried her out from the firestorm of Erebor, she kept to herself, even as she kept lovers to herself.

In his darker days far from home, laboring for men in Gondor, Dunland, and faraway Bree, he wondered if Dís bore her sons because she wearied of waiting for him, King of a scattered people, to gather them home again.  Wondered if his sister, who should be first lady of Erebor but was instead second-in-chief of a second-rate hall of iron-workers inside hills that only dreamed of being mountains, had in dismay chosen another hero.  If she had given up waiting for the hero of a thousand stories in her childhood to swoop down, fresh and rosy from battle, and return the princess to the stone-carved palace where her sons' childish mirth should have echoed over the din of the working of gold and precious gems.

Or could she only dream of this dark, damp iron works where dirt trickled down upon their heads with every hammer’s blow on the anvil?

Perhaps she had waited in vain for the return of a new-chosen hero, for the father to claim bright golden Fili at his birth and take her with her son to a new castle.  Whether merchants, miners, or tinkers, the wandering life of Erebor’s exiles was never entirely safe. Children, too, could be fragile; had she waited to speak a father’s name until she could be certain Fili would grow to be the son of that name?  Perhaps she had chosen again, waited in vain again, and so smoke-and-peat Kili stood next to red-gold Fili.  Had she sought this second chance to give her sons a worthy home while Thorin hesitated to reclaim their true birthright, tangled in the weight of memory and the cares of a much reduced kingdom?  What plans had she made while her brother the King spent his days ruling over workers in iron and stone rather than precious gold and gems?

In his darkest days, he had wondered if she only remained because he was all she had left.

But then he caught her bright, fierce smile after Kili made a particularly spectacular shot, his arrow splitting the errant apple as it tumbled from the tree.  He saw the satisfaction in her stance when Fili deftly beheaded a difficult melon on its post, laughing at his sword covered in bits of seed and flesh. Thorin knew then the magnitude of his error:  Dís waited for no one but him.  Fatherless, her sons were as rootless as the rest of Erebor’s folk.  No other dwarf would claim them, no other kingdom, no other shambled hall full of refugees still half confused in their exile.  Fili and Kili could yet belong to Erebor, to Durin’s line, as long as she refused to acknowledge any other lineage’s claim.

As if anyone doubted the stamp of Durin on her boys. Not when Fili fixed his cold blue stare on you, making you think that maybe you shouldn’t walk blind around corners for a while. Not when Kili’s temper flared, hot and searing, and then settled, sullen and deep as the endless flames beneath the earth.  Not with Fili’s calm, steady presence beside Thorin when he sat in the high seat to render judgment, the lad just beginning to grow into the role of prince-in-waiting.  Not with Kili’s dogged determination to never be left out or left behind, to never be just the ‘spare’ behind his brother, the heir.

No, they were Durin’s blood all right, Dís rightly proud to see them stand behind and beside her brother, the King.  And if he was stern with them, it was because he, too, was a fatherless son of Durin’s blood.  Born to Thrór’s golden treasure hall, Thorin had never had their opportunity to linger in reckless, feckless youth.  No, his minority had been friendless scrambles for survival and battles almost beyond his ken.  If he snapped at Dís’s sons more when they were most carefree and happy, drove them harder when he turned to find them laughing and joking, it was only because in their sheltered lives they knew nothing of the ways of orcs and dragons, of the faithlessness of elves and allies. 

Because they did not wake in the dark with the stench of kin-death filling their noses, choking and strangling them in the wee hours of the night.

The sistersons of Thorin Oakenshield would not fall in battle for lack of this knowledge.  He would not turn to see golden bright Fili spitted on a goblin sword, would not see the deep earthen glow that was Kili lying gutted and dismembered at an orc's feet.  They would not be destroyed and thus created a weapon of his own destruction in their enemy’s hands.

Still, as hard as he drove them, Thorin at times was overwhelmed by these precious gifts his sister had given him:  dark and light, light and dark, tumbling like puppies at his heels, learning smithcraft at his knee, competing on the bellows,  their hands side by side on the tongs, and, at last, their hammers striking in ragged rhythm with his on the anvil.  Sister sons who moved with him, sword stroke for sword stroke, parry for parry, advance for advance, always dreaming of accompanying him on brave adventures—

Sons that were his and his alone in all but their getting.

Sons who were growing into loyal, honorable dwarves with willing hearts, who stepped up before all others, first to answer his call and take up this quest to retake their ancestral home. 

Sons who came with their mother’s blessing.

Dís could fight—all dwarven women could fight.  They were savvy traders and good trail mates.  But too often they did neither, women too rare and precious to chance their fate in battle or on the road away from home. Not for a slow-growing race such as the Children of Earth. 

Dís would not fight.  She would not travel. But she would give him her sons for this fight.

Staring at the embers, he slowly swirled the remaining ale in his cup.  They were good sons, strong and true.  Worthy companions for all that they were, too, the callow youths their sheltered lives had created them.  He did not know why he hesitated this last night to accept this gift his sister had given him so long ago, just that he did.

“They are young—“

“They have thrice the years you had when Erebor fell.”

Dís’s gaze was implacable, green and mottled like agate stones washed in the streams of spring, the season of growth and beginnings.  He refused the image of fall, season of death and dying, brown fields and dying green tinged with sickly yellow covering the beautiful stones, choking the water's flow.

“Who will care for you while we are gone?” he dared suggest, Frerin’s spectre peering over his shoulder as if waiting for her answer, too.

She dignified their question with her silence, allowing Thorin to pretend it was a serious concern, allowing him to ignore the imagined laughter of Frerin, that Dís needed either of them to take care of her.

But … fatherless sons.  There would be no one else.  

“Maybe Kili should st—“ he began, only to be interrupted by the sharp shake of her head.

"No."

Truthfully.  He smiled, drank the last of his ale.  Firestorms there would be, dark and bright, if he or she tried to separate the brothers.  What Fili had been like in the five years before Kili’s birth, no one remembered. It had been Fili and Kili ever since, Kili and Fili; each half of the whole, the two together greater than the sum of the two apart.

Dís shifted then, her hand caressing the satin-smooth wood barely visible in her apron-covered lap: the shattered handle of Thrain’s ax, one last bitter memorial from that last desperate battle at Moria’s gates.  Her hesitation was brief, as if the earth rippled, sagged, and then she steadied.

“They need to be with you on this quest.”

He did not think before he took breath to speak again.

 “I cannot guarantee their safety.”

I cannot guarantee their return echoed between them, flickering through the sputtering flames before dissipating with the smoke into the cracked stones and rafters holding back the earth above.  He saw the thought lodge in her mother’s heart, met her gaze knowing the anguish of it sparked as well in his father’s soul…and still…still, she lifted her chin.  If her agate-green eyes were bright with unshed tears, they were hard as the agate marbles the lads used to leave scattered about their private rooms.

“If we are not willing to wager all on this quest, how can you ask any other dwarf to follow you?”

Her judgment, as always, was swift and sure, correct and implacable—probably the same way she had chosen her lovers, he thought, envious of her certainty in the half light of this last fire before leaving the safety of hall and hearth.

He turned from that certainty, stared again into the embers.  There was no softness in this his sister.  Even now, as he waited, she did not offer a name, spoke nothing of any other dwarf—or dwarves—whose claim might be laid to these sons she had borne.  She gave her sons no safety, no refuge, just as Erebor’s dwarves had had none.  She allowed no other fate, no other heritage for Fili or Kili but her own. 

He stood a fraction behind Dís as she rose.  Her hands clenched around the remnants of their father's axe, and he knew:  There would never be another name.  Though her sons be fatherless, through her they were royal sons born of Durin’s line.  And so she would give them to him, last king of Durin’s line.  They would be sons of Durin and none other.

“They are yours,” she said.  “They always have been.  Give them their rightful home.”

Still holding the ax-handle, she took the half dozen steps that would take her out of the room, then hesitated beside the door.  One work-roughened hand reached behind the worn tapestry there, returning with a scraped handful of dusty earth.  She held it up, let it filter  through her fingers to the rough-flagged floor at her feet.  Her back straight, there was only one last name he would hear fall from her lips tonight.

“Take my sons, Thorin.  They are true sons of Durin.  Take them, give them—bring me—Erebor.”