Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.
"Writing to the lady Effie?" Kíli teased his brother as he pulled out his pen.
It was no secret to the younger that Fíli loved her. Kíli saw it in Fíli's face every time that blasted bird delivered her letters. They kept Fíli going. Kíli had to wonder though, if Effie knew how much his brother cared for her. He wondered if she knew that her letters wrote promises on his heart, promises that would not lightly be forgotten.
"At least I have someone to write to." His elder brother took his pipe from behind his mouth. "Besides, I did promise to keep in touch from time to time. It can't hurt to share in the smaller details of this adventure."
Kíli rolled his eyes and tossed his dinner bowl aside, sliding into his sleeping pelt. "And it also wouldn't hurt for you to try and be more discreet with sending them…" He paused a moment and gazed up at his elder brother in silence. The look on Fíli's face was one he had never seen before. Kíli knew his sibling better than anyone, but lately he had lost the overbearing glee he once shared freely with anyone and everyone. Something was troubling him, something deeper than the thought of Smaug and Erebor…something closer to the only home they both knew.
"What is it?"
Fíli shifted his weight and dabbed his pen against the tearing parchment. Whatever it was he wanted to say, it was on the tip of his tongue. "I…"
Kíli sighed and propped his head against his hand motioning with exaggeration for him to continue. "You…what?"
"What if I can't Kíli? I promised a home for all of us…I swore to provide for them both when all of this comes to pass. For Durin's sake, will you please stop staring at me like that? I'm serious."
His little brother was grinning mischievously, without the intent it clearly had. Brushing a hand over his mouth, Kíli apologized but still clang to his smirk. "I didn't mean to anger you. It's just that…well…do you remember Effie back then? How…homely she was?"
Fíli's face burned with embarrassment as he took in his brother's words. "She was never that bad."
Kíli laughed shaking his head. "Oh aye, she was…do—do you remember the day after we met Nain? How stubborn and brash she was? It was kind of fun trying to get her to play in our ridiculous games. Funniest thing is, she was right about most of them; we did do some lame things. Do you think about those things Fíli? How our lives were as children?"
The elder brother stared deeply into the flames of their campfire, thinking back all of those years ago. He didn't answer his sibling, and then again he didn't need too. Kíli knew the answer to that question. Those days were often in his thoughts, just as they were now. And he had Kíli to thank for that, sincerely. His brother always knew how to take his mind off of daunting subjects like his promise to Effie. Instead, he let his mind drift to the days Kíli had recalled. Fíli smiled for the first time since they left the Blue Mountains, remembering their childhood; remembering Effie and Nain's own story...
The pale October light gleamed off the drenched shingles of the village rooftops. Among the bustling noises of men, the sound of rain no longer gave comfort. For today Effie's mother lie dying. It was a slow passing to a horridly painful life; one that wracked her body and warped it until it became the thin skeletal figure Effie now knew in the small broken bed. Studying Azalea, her daughter painfully took in the sight of her crippled features. Those lips had once been a fair shade of pink, as Effie recalled. Just as her eyes had once bloomed in a bountiful joyous blue. Now, those same eyes were pallor grey; void of any emotion, save suffering. Those lips now cracked and white.
Azalea had lost the ability to speak long ago, but when she had been able to voice her thoughts, her daughter recalled the name of her father being whispered. It had been dragged out like some wicked curse reminding her children that day their father died, was also the day their mother had given up. And now remembering those things, Effie was forced to ask the emptiness within her, what if her father had lived? What if he hadn't fallen to his death in the mines? Perhaps then her mother would have been able to fight off the ailment within her. Perhaps then, Effie and her little brother Nain would have a future. Of course, there was no sense in asking questions to which there were no answers. Besides, wishful thinking had been severed from her childhood long ago. So when nothing more could be done to ease her mother's passing, Effie had come to terms that Azalea would leave them that night. Her mother's time on this earth could last no longer just as Effie predicted; Azalea had taken her last breath in that dank leaky room somewhere in the midnight hour. For as long as her daughter lived she would never forget that night. Forever she would remember the cold of the October air, the smell of lifelessness and the weeping boy she held close in her own childlike grasp. It was the first taste of death Effie had witnessed firsthand. It was the beginning of an endless sorrow, one she would bear all her days…
Weeks had passed in the small village beneath the Blue Mountains; the activities had continued much the same as they always had. No mention of the widow Azalea's passing had stirred gossip. Nor had anyone for that matter sent their condolences to her orphaned children. The extent of any sympathy shown was that of the dwarven undertakers eradicating the body from the wretched home. Effie hadn't overlooked the fact that they hadn't made eye contact with her or her brother. Though she didn't take it to heart; after the death of her father, none of his kin had shown his wife or their children kindness in abundance. The prejudice towards a dwarf taking a human as his wife was shunned by both races, and so naturally their children were held under the heel of that boot. This meant they had no place in the world and Effie had tried to explain this to her brother many times over. Being so young and guiltless with a heart of innocence, Nain hadn't yet grown old enough to learn the wickedness of the world. So he simply shook his head and dismissed Effie's words as biased anger.
There were many things Nain did not understand at his age. Racism was only a small subject his mind couldn't grasp, but the latest custom that disagreed with him was the act of mourning. Nain had not yet been born when Azalea and Effie had mourned for his father, so naturally he had no knowledge of it. But Effie had gone into depth about how respectful it was to remember the dead by dressing in all black and refraining from merry-making. Which in itself was absurd; in all of his young life Nain could not remember once making merry of anything. That and not one article of clothing he owned was deemed flashy or colorful by any standard. So in his own opinion, Effie was just taking their miserable lives and somehow multiplying it tenfold. She had a fine way of doing that, he thought. For every day, one way or another she would taint any glimpse of hope he had for a better life. Often he would wonder why she made their lives so unhappy…why she never smiled…just the way his mother had never smiled. When he thought about this, he would grow deeply afraid that his sister and his mother were one in the same and that she too would grow ill and leave him. Then the act of mourning would never cease. Effie had assured him however, that she was not ill the way their mother had been. For a while that was enough to convince Nain she was speaking truthfully on that matter. Still, he longed for the day when he was no longer forced to wear black or act solemn. Nain was wishing just that, the day Fíli and Kíli came into their lives.
It was late afternoon, sometime in mid-November. He remembered the air was chilly but the wind strong enough for Effie to hang the wash outside to dry. He was sitting on a stool whittling at a bar of soap, staring off in the distance at the other children playing.
"Effie, can I go play with the other children?" His voice was quiet, pleading.
Effie on the other hand replied with curtness. "No. You are in mourning."
And it may have sounded cruel, but the young girl was doing the best she knew how. Raising a child as a child herself in a world so unforgiving was not an easy task. She didn't know how to properly handle such a situation and so sternness was the only course she felt comfortable taking. Effie didn't wish to hinder Nain's happiness; she simply lacked the emotion herself. So much pain lingered in her heart that it was hard to cipher it out to start anew. She was following the same pattern her mother had when Effie's father died. Effie was placing the same weight on her younger brother that her mother had placed on her, and she hated herself for it. She hated that no matter how hard she tried; her actions fell back into the unchangeable pattern that led to her mother's downfall. But how else was she supposed to teach Nain that the world didn't just hand out happiness in pretty packaged boxes with ribbons and matching paper? If only she wasn't so naïve in her own way. Then perhaps, even if she was damned herself, she could ensure Nain a decent life.
"They are playing a game will a ball. I like games like that." Nain went on, chipping away at the yellow soap forming a figure resembling a puppy dog.
Effie sighed and pulled the dried clothes from the line and took a seat next to Nain on the stool. Then, she began to fold the linens. "When have you ever played a game with a leather ball?" Toys were expensive. They hardly had enough money to buy their bread when their mother was alive, let alone buy trinkets for their own pleasures.
Nain pursed his lips and frowned before turning it around into a bright smile. "Well…it looks like it'd be fun."
Effie found herself beaming before she knew it and the sensation felt strange and alien against her lips. It was pleasant enough that she decided it couldn't hurt to bring a small amount of joy to her brother as well. It was the least she could do in repaying him for the kindness. Just as she was going to tell him that she'd try to find a way to get him a leather ball, one flew right into her laundry basket, but not before drilling her in the face.
Effie shouted in pain, grabbing her nose to stop the flow. Pulling her hand away, she stared intently at the red liquid covering her small fist.
"Effie, are you okay?" Nain dropped his small soap and knife and craned his neck in order to view his sister's condition properly.
She nodded. "I'm fine. It's just a nose bleed." Effie placed her clean hand on Nain's shoulder, who stooped down to pick up the leather ball.
Both children looked at the sphere in the Nain's hands. Dirt covered and worn, the toy did hold a certain atmosphere of carefreeness that neither Effie nor her brother completely comprehended. The more they studied it, the more aware they became of their own misery. It held their attention so firmly, that when one the children who had been playing with it came to claim the ball, both sister and brother stared dumfounded.
"Did you hear me?" A boy, a few years older than Effie crossed his arms over his chest in annoyance. "Can we have our ball back? We only have a little while left before our friends have to go home. We'd like to finish our game."
Effie blinked, bringing herself back to the present. Her attention shifted from Nain to the fair-haired boy and then back to her brother. "Go on Nain, give it back."
The adolescent lad extended the toy, watching as the other youth took hold of it and raised his brow.
Nain could not help but notice the flamboyancy of the latter's clothing. The youth adorned rich brown trousers, a tunic of deep green and a coat of the finest bear fur he had ever seen. The fabric looked so kindly against the lad's golden braids that Nain had at first thought he was in the presence of an angel. He had been so convinced, seeing as he had never encountered anyone who dressed so fashionably, that he voiced his thoughts to the stranger.
The boy laughed in amusement. "No. You're funny though. My name is Fíli. You remind me of my brother you know that? What's your name?"
Effie sat quietly on her stool, slightly irked that the boy hadn't asked how she was fairing. He could have at least apologized for the nose bleed.
"Nain son of Norm and this is my sister Effie daughter of Azalea." Nain's eyes gleamed with joy at such an interaction with a well-to-do stranger. It only added to his ever expanding excitement that the stranger was indeed, another child.
Fíli bowed properly before Effie, winking mischievously. "Milady," He smiled and just then another child rushed up behind him.
The new face was winded from the trek across the way. The braid that was more than likely secured at one point atop his head was fringed and frayed from heavy play. He too had been dressed freshly, though his clothes were more worn from mud and hard play than the elder. "Fíli, did you get the ball? Muri and Buri have to leave soon!"
Effie took note that the second lad was close in age to Nain. His brown eyes loomed with the joy of all the wonderful natures that come with being so young. As he threw his hands in the air and wiped his nose with his sleeve, Effie felt a sore form on her heart; Nain had never enjoyed this: having only to worry that his playmates would have to leave before finishing a game. As far as she knew, Nain didn't even have playmates.
"Yea Kíli, I was just getting it. Look, this is Nain! He is about your age I think. You should introduce yourself."
Kíli took a sniff in before wiping his runny nose on his sleeve. "Hi, I'm Kíli. Do you wanna play with us? Hurin had to leave for supper, so we are short a kicker."
Nain looked up at Fíli, as if looking for conformation that it was okay with him. "Can I?"
Fíli beamed a grin that reached from ear to ear. "Well, I don't see why not. My brother could use someone his own age in the game."
Looking over to Effie, Nain's eyes pleaded most earnestly. "Can I Effie? Can I go play with Fíli and Kíli?"
"Yes can he? Please Effie?" Fíli mocked Nain in a higher pitch, all in good fun. Following suit, Kíli then dropped to his knees and narrowed his eyes into a squinting plea and inquired the same.
They were mischievous devil to be sure. Effie knew that for certain and the stern mother figure returned promptly. "No. Nain is in mourning. He cannot play today or tomorrow."
"Mourning," Fíli snorted. "Nain, do you want to be in mourning?"
The lad looked to his feet, afraid if he answered truthfully Effie's scorn would follow. It wasn't that he didn't miss his mother, for he loved her greatly. It was just that three weeks had passed since then, and he was tired of feeling so glum. "No…I don't want to mourn anymore."
"Then don't!" Fíli saved the lad from the wrath of his sister. Crouching down to Nain's height, he placed a hand on his shoulder. "Besides, I don't think the dead want us to be sad. Do you?"
Kíli answered for him, "I don't! When our mother died we had a huge feast." The youth spread his arms wide to demonstrate the grandeur of the banquet he spoke of. "And when our father died there was a wake!" Kíli sniffled again, wiping his nose on the snot stained fabric of his tunic.
"Yes well, we are not dwarves. Our customs are different." Effie crumpled the starch fabric of the ruined linen she had accidently bled on and tossed it into the dirty laundry heap.
"Well, not really." Nain corrected his sister, and felt the cold disapproving stare of Effie on his back. "Our father was a dwarf…I didn't know him though. He died in the mines. Our mother brought Effie to the village after that…do you live in the Mountains?" He asked Kíli.
The dark haired lad's head bobbed like a buoy in water. "We live with our uncle…Fíli I want to finish our game!"
Fíli rolled his eyes and continued to smile, as if that was the only expression he ever adorned. "Right then, Nain are you coming?"
"Effie said I can't." Nain kicked the mud under his feet.
"Well do you always listen to her? What fun is there in always doing what you're told? Kíli never listens to me; watch this." The elder brother turned to the younger and said very sternly, "Kíli, go home right now."
The small dwarf boy snorted in his dripping snot—which Effie found to be disgusting—and raised his tiny fist in defiance. "Never!" And he took off in the direction of his friends.
Fíli then took the leather ball and held it out to Nain as an invitation. Before Effie could say anymore on the subject, her brother took the ball from the dwarf and ran after Kíli.
Effie's face burned red with anger.
"Are you going to join us?"
Folding her clothes with contempt, the girl's eyes narrowed grimly at the boy. "Not all of us are blessed with the leisure of being noble. We have work that must be done; I am in mourning."
Fíli simply shrugged her foulness off and pulled the collar of his fur-lined jacket closer to his body. "Suit yourself."...
Fíli sighed looking down at his blank paper. In the corners of the faded yellow parchment small inky dots congregated, taunting him. They did little but bring to his attention that he was indeed at a loss for words. Partly because there was nothing to tell; Kíli and he had just started their trek from home a fortnight ago. Nothing exciting had happened in that short time, nothing worth putting in a letter. The other trial stopping him was the right out fact that Effie's letters were full of heart gripping notions. The literacies she scratched with her perfect penmanship contained such subtle quixotic ideas involving him, it was frightening. In all the years he had spent with his friend, never had the topics she spoke of crossed him mind, yet clearly she had thought about them every day. Both when he had been home and while he was away now.
Fíli looked down at her letter next to his foot and reached out for it, bringing it close to his face. He could hear her voice, as if she were here reading it to him.
I know it is probably seen as impatient of me to write you again so soon. You probably haven't the time to reply to one of them, let alone read all of my ranting thoughts.
If only she knew, Fíli thought. If only she knew he had read all five constantly since their arrival.
It's just that, well…I miss your company greatly. I find myself making silly mistakes around our home, and I can almost hear that enchanting laugh of yours. Then, I expect one of your taunting remarks to make me flush. Oh Fíli, your absenence is sorely missed.
Please be careful wherever you are. I don't think my heart could take to losing you or Kíli in this matter. Do not think me weak; I beg of you. After all, I am only a woman. Isn't it my duty to worry for the person I care for most? If only you knew how proud I am of both you and Kíli. Be safe Fíli…for the love I bear you and your brother, try to remain safe.
Nain inquires about Kíli as well; he is still so angry with me for denying him a place in your quest. Do you feel that I should have let him join you?
Your dearest friend,
Effie daughter of Azalea
"To worry for the person I care for most." The blonde dwarf whispered into the cool air, folding the thin paper and placing it inside his jacket.
Fíli closed his eyes and thought about that line for a moment longer. He was no fool in ways of wooing women, (dwarven and human alike) but never had the tables been turned on him. It was almost cruel really, for him to be at a loss for words with someone like Effie. He couldn't even find the right words to simply tell her they were doing just fine. It was nerve wracking. How was he supposed to write her back when he sent her letters like that? Then, an idea came to him.
He may not be able to tell her in words he was alright, and that her verses had touched in deeply; perhaps a token of his gratitude would do that for him. Fíli opened his eyes and thought long and hard for what felt like hours, trying to find the perfect thing to send. He had just about sent his ring with the bird when he had an epiphany. Sending a ring as a token of appreciation was a custom favorable of men. He was a dwarf; a dwarf of the line of Durin. What did dwarves give as personal tokens to women? Fíli looked down at his sleeping brother to be sure he was indeed—asleep. When satisfied that he was, Fíli reached down and pulled out his knife, sitting back against the rock that was propping him up. His stomach churned with butterflies and for a moment, he thought for sure he was going to need to use the closest privy to relieve himself. But that feeling had past and his hand steadied as he brought the blade to his braided beard. Before he could argue with himself, he cut it off and tied the frayed end. Fíli felt rather naked then, staring at his facial hair. It was much in same style as his moustache, plaited and beaded. Effie would know its meaning, even if Fíli himself had trouble grasping what he was truly doing. It wasn't that he didn't know what it meant; simply that he couldn't believe he was doing it.
In the darkness, Fíli hooted like a barn owl, until the creature turned up. It had been a kind of game the four of them had made up as children. (Fíli, Kíli, Effie, and Nain) They would recreate the sounds of the owls in hopes of attracting them. When they had, they would send messages to one another and so it seemed a right way to keep in touch when they had left for their adventure. Each of them had their own call, and that was how the owls knew where to take the message. Effie's was the screech owl, just as Fíli's was the barn owl.
"There you go," Fíli tucked the braided hair into the owl's talons and looked at it with a smile. Next, he hooted like a screech owl and the barn owl was off to deliver the token to Effie.
As the bird flew away, Fíli felt that daunting emotion grip his stomach once more. Dwarves away from home only send tokens like those as a way of proposing a courting. In a sense, Fíli was promising himself to Effie and it felt oddly natural. Now, he would just have explain the absence of his beard to his brother, and when he saw Thorin again, his uncle.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Hobbit, the character Fíli or anyone that can be recognized as part of the Hobbit. I'm not making money off of this fanfiction. It is all for fun and personal enjoyment.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Here we go! Review and enjoy.
Chapter End Notes:
And that's why Fili doesn't have a full beard when they reach Bilbo's. hehehehe. ;)