“Tauriel,” an unamused looking Thorin says slowly, pushing a soot-covered Orodir toward his mother, “perhaps you would care to explain to your son that the rail carts in the mines are not toys. In fact—” he steps to the side to reveal a sheepish looking Kíli who had been all but hiding behind him — “perhaps you could explain it to my nephew as well.”
Light in the mountain is scarce, but Tauriel knew it would be. It only makes the little there is — streaming in from high windows, or reflected from torches into thick veins of gold and silver revealed in the rock — all the more beautiful.
“I didn’t say I understood it,” Fíli tells his mother the first time they talk about Kíli’s choice of lover, “I just got tired of arguing with him about it.”
The Erebor of old had been a place of order, of carefully orchestrated movements and meetings; now, with only thirteen Dwarves, an Elf and a Halfling filling it’s halls, it is surprisingly inconsistent.
Dwarves are gruff by nature, they show their affection in little ways: the brush of a hand, touching shoulders as they sit, the bestowing of pet names. “Reckless,” Dís often calls Kíli, and it takes Tauriel a long time to realize that it isn’t just an observation, but a term of endearment.
Tauriel’s hands are pale and smooth where his are rough and calloused, and Kíli can’t help but wonder if the rest of her body is the same.
Little fingers form a firm grip on one of the braids hanging down in front of his ear, eyes the shade of emeralds blink slowly once, twice, before they come to focus on his, and half-Elven or not, Thorin Oakenshield knows that he will move mountains for this child.
Though he dropped it down an abandoned mine shaft years before, there are days when Thorin still feels the pull of the Arkenstone where it rests deep within the mountain. (He has no idea that he is not the only one.)
So much of Erebor is still scarred by the dragon, but Thorin takes comfort in the things that have not changed. The forges still burn. The masons delve ever deeper into the mountain. Children, including the son of his sister-son, still play the same games he once played amongst the ruins.
Children are rare and precious to both their people; it nearly breaks her heart to hear the healers tell her that the birth was difficult on her, that she nearly died in the process, that she will not be able to give him more sons or daughters.
xi. Odds and Ends
Every little thing he picks up has meaning. Helping his mother decide what to bring with her back to Erebor is a challenge that Kíli did not anticipate.
They stop at Bag End on the way to Ered Luin, and again on the way back. Dís still has not really warmed to Tauriel, but it is difficult to hate anyone — even an Elf — over a plate of Bilbo Baggin’s scones.
Each braid is carefully made and arranged, and by the time he is finished her hair is studded with so many beads that she half expects to jingle when she moves.
The bow is still a strange weapon to many Dwarves. Whenever Kíli or Tauriel go to practice, in a cavernous hall once used for feast days but now given over to the guard, they always find themselves with at least a few spectators, watching silently and listening to the reverberating thwack of arrows striking the targets.
The first time that Thorin sees Fíli comforting a fallen Orodir (the lad took a tumble on the practice courts, nothing serious, Thorin suspects bruised pride more than actual pain), he can’t help but feel that it’s a shame the elder of his sister sons never found a lass for himself. He would have been a good father.
It isn’t that they never argue. It’s just that when they do, it’s usually in languages the other doesn’t understand fluently anyway.
The mountain is lonely, surrounded by empty plains slowly filling with enemy soldiers, but it is hard to feel vulnerable surrounded by so much grandeur.
Bilbo is seventy eight years old when, over afternoon tea, Gandalf casually mentions the possibility of a to return to Erebor, a chance for Bilbo to visit his old friends, and to meet the new prince. They plan to leave in the fall, but something distracts the Wizard, and by the time he finally comes around again several years later, Bilbo has a young nephew of his own to look after.
Thorin tells his sister a carefully edited version of their quest and the battle that followed. She doesn’t need to know how close she came to loosing them all. At least, she doesn’t need to hear it from him. Maybe Fíli or Kíli will be stupid enough to tell her that part of the story, and she can yell at them instead.
The rebuilt throne features the filigreed image of a full-grown oak tree, and on the right arm rest (where it won’t be seen by the general populace; it is for the king’s eyes only) a single acorn.
Fíli does not think that he has ever been prouder than he is in the moment when Kíli hands him his newborn son to hold. Proud for his brother, sure, but proud for his people, too. He and Kíli were born into exile; with this child, born in the safety of the Lonely Mountain, that ordeal finally seems to be over.
She stopped listening to the whispers that follow her through the halls of Erebor long ago, and so it is Fíli who finally has to tell her that some of the rumors have gotten somewhat out of hand. “Heard someone swearing up and down that Thranduil banished you because you were putting spells on his other guardsmen,” he tells her. “I think they’re a bit afraid of you.” Tauriel never bothers to correct them.
Just because he has a child to look after does not mean he can’t still pull the occasional prank himself.
Banishment should be more frightening, Tauriel thinks; but surrounded as she is by a merrily laughing Dwarves, a warm, crackling fire, and the delightful music of twin fiddles filling the cavernous space, it is hard to find it so.
Legolas isn’t really used to change, and he tries to prepare himself for the fact that his friend of so many centuries will undoubtedly be different — pale and drawn, perhaps, from being underground so long, but that is not at all what he encounters. He never expected to see her like this, bright and vivacious and transformed physically too, her body grown round with child. It’s almost too much to take in. Despite her happiness, he isn’t sure if he likes it.
Maybe he can only see it because he has to assist in the building and rebuilding, but the work that goes in to restoring the fortress city is just as beautiful as the result. Maybe if Thrór had seen more of the craftsmen and their halls, and less of the treasury, they would not have lost the mountain in the first place.
Winter is her favorite season. She doesn’t understand why Kíli doesn’t like it until she sees him sink into the thick snow.
“Adad. Say ‘adad.’”
“I think you’re doing this on purpose. Go on. ‘Adad.’”
This goes back and forth for some time until Kíli simply gives up. Language barriers, he thinks. His son is picking up Elvish faster than Khuzdul. He’s never going to hear the end of this.
“Red,” Tauriel says, indicating her hair color.
“Copper,” her three year old son helpfully replies.
Language barriers, she thinks, and wonders if they will ever see things the same.
In a moonlit clearing in the forest, Orodir Half-Elven stands before the King of the Greenwood, the Lord of Rivendell, and the Lady of Lorien herself, and chooses a mortal life. Thranduil frowns, Lord Elrond remains expressionless (he alone understands that, in Orodir’s position, there can be no right answer) and the Lady smiles.
“Then go, Orodir Heroesson,” she says, her voice a whisper on the warm summer breeze, “and may the light of the Valar be with you all the days you walk this Earth.”