The Feast of Mithril
Stepping out of her chambers that evening, Kíliel felt as though she was an entirely different girl from the one she’d been waking up that morning. She could not explain it. She saw with new eyes, breathed with a stronger sense of smell, walked with a steadier pace, and felt with fingers determined and yet curious. All of this was because she had entered the Iznêd, and she could not contain her excitement for what else was to come as she matured.
Kíliel couldn't but grin as she entered the festival hall with her family, seeing the ocean of dwarves rise before them as they took place at the head table, far south in the hall. It was a table hewn out of stone, much like the table in the Council chamber, on a stage a few feet above the ground in the hall.
Being princess, Kíliel had always both loved and dreaded the attention of an official gathering. She loved attention, for whomever she talked to, they would instantly come to like her, and yet she felt the fear in her heart, knowing that some thought her unfit for the throne, and that there was nothing she could do about it.
Today was different. For the first time in her life, Kíliel did not want to hide from all the staring gazes, quite the contrary. If she could’ve had it her way, she would have wanted to go naked, so that everyone could see her changing body. They would know that she was also a dwarf, and maybe they could understand that she could be their future queen. She sighed. She knew of course that she could not show off the part of her that was dwarvish, but just knowing it in her heart, she felt there was hope. Now that she knew it for herself, she felt confident she could convince the council dwarves as well.
Her heart beat heavily in her chest thinking of it all.
Kíliel was standing in front of the people of Erebor, next to her mother and father on the right side of Thorin’s chair, as they all waited for the King to enter. The entire hall was filled with dwarves, and they were all quiet as Thorin entered, walking beside Fíli and Altar. Kíliel clenched her jaw as she saw the dark-haired, blue-eyed dwarfling behind them. Aín looked his normal, arrogant self, as he walked beside his father, behind his grandfather. His narrow eyes held Kíliel’s in a look of self-righteousness, and she wanted to wipe the smug expression off his face.
He was walking in the trail of the King, as only a handful dwarves were ever honoured with. He was shown this honour because his grandfather was Council Leader, giving Aín the honour by default, and the option of becoming a Council member himself when he came off age.
Since that day he had grasped her arm in the class room, Aín had kept more away from her, and gotten closer and closer to Fíli and Thorin. Thorin was stubborn, and after the incident in the training area he had not trusted Aín, but Fíli was more forgiving and open to giving Aín a second chance at showing his worth, which the boy had eagerly taken. He was clever, and he knew that gaining Fíli’s trust was the most secure way to get a seat in the council, to become a dwarf of influence.
After all that had happened between them, Kíliel was outraged he could be considered to be a part of the Council that she would one day rule… with Thekk, of course.
It was at this that Kíliel finally realised that Thekk and his family were not yet here. She turned to see if they sat anywhere else, but there were three open seats next to her, and she knew those were their seats. She turned back to see if they came after Thorin, and yet she could not see them. Kíliel kept her eye at the entrance, while her foot tapped impatiently on the floor, as she waited to see his bouncing curls in the archway.
Thorin had finally made his way to his high chair, and sat down by the sound of a thousand dwarves settling in their own seats. He sat quietly for a moment, before he rose his arms and his voice rang over the hall with all his kingly might: «Sanzigil Mahalu khajam du khazâd. Let the feast begin!» and the dwarves rejoiced, cheering for their king and for the meat that was suddenly being put out on all the tables.
The trays bearing cooked meat of boars, pigs, horses, large birds and fish were also decorated with actual mithril, illuminating the splendour of the feast. The dust gleamed as light bounced around the hall. Nothing was spared in the preparation for this feast.
It was not only the meat trays that were decorated. Not a single dwarf in the entire hall was clad in anything but their finest. With bejewelled tunics and vests, gold and silver, and some even wore mithril, attached to newly combed beards and hair. It seemed as though the entire hall was gleaming in the light erupting from many light-sources in the ceiling. Between the squared holes ran veins of sapphire and ruby, but it was the mithril stalactites that dripped in huge icicles from the ceiling that the hall was renowned for. These were the reasons for the enthralling light display that bounced around the hall. The fire from the thousands of torches lit around the room, as well as the white rays of the late winter sun, came together and made a harmony of colours in the light that every piece of jewellery in the hall gathered and reflected so uniquely.
This was the sight that this holiday was reflecting, the coming of spring and the light of the new year that the dwarves treasured, the light of Mithril. From Kíliel’s seat it was a memorable sight, and she couldn't but stare out over the masses as they talked and laughed, with light reflecting from silvery ear-clasps and golden hair-band.
«It is beautiful,» Kíliel mouthed to herself as she exhaled of the marvellous sight.
«Not as beautiful as you, Your Highness,» she heard a voice mutter behind her and she turned so abruptly she stood up, causing her chair to topple. It fell to the ground with a hollow thud. Behind her stood Thekk of course, and she rolled her eyes and bent down to raise the chair as a servant did the same.
«Why must you always startle me like that?» Kíliel sighed as she settled on the chair again, and thanked the helpful servant.
«Well, I owed you one from this mornin’,» Thekk looked as if he was about to burst with laughter, but managed to keep his face straight as he settled in the chair next to her.
«Thekk! Is that how you speak to your our Princess?» Éira snapped at her son and slapped the top of his head, before she turned to Kíliel. «I have tried to teach him how to behave, but it seems to have been in vain,» She shook her head and laid an apologetic hand on Kíliel’s shoulder before she sat down beside Thekk. Kíliel giggled.
«I was only joking, mom!» Thekk muttered annoyed at his mother’s reaction.
«The young must have their fun, you understand Éira. Kíliel doesn't mind, now, do you, lass?»
Dárin laid a massive hand on her back and Kíliel shook her head smiling. «Of course not.»
«Well, of course she’s gonna say that with you two ganging up on her,» Éira scoffed and rolled her eyes as both her husband and her son grinned widely. She turned to Kíliel and placed a soft hand on hers, leaning over Thekk whom sat between them. «You must come to me if you ever tire of either of them, I’ll get it sorted,» she winked with a clever smile, and Kíliel squeezed her hand lightly, smiling widely at their playful way.
She was happy to see them recovering from the loss of their daughter, five years earlier. A cloud had long hovered over the family, and it had taken a few years before she saw the lightly humour they used when they were gathered like this. Dárin especially had taken the loss hard, and he had on many occasions stayed in, not being able to live through the festivities after the loss of his daughter, or so Kíli had said when Kíliel had eavesdropped on her parents.
«And I hear I have you to thank for my son’s combed hair. He hasn't let me do it for the last couple of years, and I fear it wasn't done properly before today,» Éira giggled and caressed Thekk’s hair, which was now fashioned into three large braids across his head, much like his father’s, and yet there was a lot left to hang lose around his shoulders.
«Amad!» Thekk groaned and leaned away from his mother’s embrace, and Kíliel grinned. She enjoyed seeing him brought down from his high horse for once.
«You’re very welcome,» she said happily to Éira, and noticed how Thekk’s cheeks turned slightly red.
Thekk rolled on his shoulders as his parents turned back to each other, and gave the young some privacy to talk amongst themselves. It was a side of him Kíliel rarely saw, and it amused her greatly. He always seemed so calm and carefree, but for the first time in a long time she was reminded that he was not much older than her. Actually he was seven years younger than her, but being half elven, Kíliel grew slower than the dwarven children her age, and that was yet another thing she hated about it. Had she only known how much she would come to change during her Izned, she would not have wished for it so soon.
Kíliel gazed at Thekk while food was brought to them by the servants, and their cups were filled with red-wine. Dwarves had no age limit to their drinking, but elves did, and Tauriel sent Kíliel a look she knew well. Had she not been so happy for her sudden maturing, she might have wished to cross her mother’s wishes, as she sometimes did. Today everything was different. Even the strict gazes from her mother could not upset Kíliel on this day. Therefore she sipped the wine carefully, and happily ate the tender lamb that was her favourite, as well as a few pieces of fish and vegetables that Tauriel demanded of her.
Thekk was silent for a while, though he gazed at her once in a while and looked as if he had difficulty chewing his food. Kíliel did not know what to make of it, and decided to leave it be. If he did not want to talk to her that was his choice, and she would not push him, though obviously she was wrong.
«But you are truly beautiful,» Thekk suddenly leaned in and whispered to her, and again it surprised her so she almost swallowed wrong the piece of meat she chewed on. She looked at him with a misbelieving grimace.
Her hair was still damp, though braided with golden and silver threads, matching her golden vest, over the light green tunic she was wearing. She wore heavy rings, and ear clasps of gold, and yet she did not feel beautiful. It was the one thing she knew she was not, for she was too much dwarf to be a beautiful elf, and she was too much elf to be a beautiful dwarf.
«Now you're being silly again,» she scoffed and shook her head in disbelief.
«What? Don’t cha’ believe me?» Thekk pretended to be upset as he gasped theatrically.
«Of course, because you are always so trustworthy when it comes to such things,» Kíliel raised a brow and ate a piece of lamb. «Please,» she muttered ironically with a full mouth, which her mother would have scolded upon had she seen it. It would seem that Thekk had indeed a bad influence on her.
«You’re a woman soon, you’ll have to learn to take a compliment,» Thekk almost sounded educating, had he not overdone it with pursing his lips and speaking with an ironical accent, rolling the S-es excessively. «Or it is just bad manners.»
«I will, if you ever give me a compliment I can believe. Besides, I’m the princess! I can do what I want,» Kíliel grinned widely, showing all her teeth in her most charming smile.
«Well, that attitude is not very attractive,» Thekk smiled with one brow lifted, and Kíliel snorted.
«When did you begin worrying yourself with ‘attractiveness’ and ‘beauty’?» Kíliel flipped her hair with a fancy swing of her hand, as she had seen mature dwarven women do when they courted men, and she dashed her eyelashes with a mocking expression. «That doesn't seem like the Thekk I know. Have you truly changed? Khuzd binfasl?»
Thekk snorted with laughter, snapping for air as his mouth fell open and he jerked his eyebrows upwards, clearly surprised that the princess knew such words of insults, but he was slightly impressed as well. He definitely was a bad influence on her, but his own reaction was perhaps evidence of her influence on him in return.
«Girls like you should definitely not know such words,» Thekk chuckled, too entertained to bother act strict.
«Maybe I’m not the kind of girl you think I am,» and she threw him a clever smile with narrow eyes, speaking of mischief and unexplored adventure.
Thekk suddenly felt very light headed. Her gaze was intense, but it was not an uncomfortable feeling, and while he struggled to breathe naturally, he could not think of anything to say in reply. He could not take his eyes off her for that one moment. He took a mouthful of his wine as an excuse while he tried to think, but there was little luck. He blinked a few times, while swallowing slowly, and Kíliel grinned.
«Well, my good prince, I do believe I’ve silenced you,» and she leaned closer to him, patting his arm patronisingly. «Give me a moment while I tell your mother I clearly do not need her help in that department.»
Thekk wrinkled his nose with narrow eyes, shaking off the strange feeling as he returned to himself. He stared at her with an annoyed expression. «You are not so funny, Kíliel, it doesn't suit cha’,» and he raised his eyebrows with a clever smirk on his lips.
«Oh, and you are?» Kíliel snorted and stabbed the remaining piece of lamb with her fork before ruthlessly cutting it in two. She shot him a quick, ironical glance. «Of course, I forgot: you know everything.»
«That’s right. I forgive ya’ your ignorance,» Thekk straightened in his seat, and looked down on her with a crooked smile.
Kíliel snorted as she shook her head in annoyance and took another sip of the wine. The strong, warm taste spread through her mouth, and even if she had only had a few sips she thought she felt the soft numbness spreading through her limbs and fingers.
Thekk was obviously more affected than her, having downed two glasses already, as his parents seemed to care little for his drinking. Therefore, before she said anything, Thekk noticed something new, and he reached over to take the pin she had fastened her braids with. It was a beautiful, silver hair-pin, unlike anything he had seen made by dwarven hands. It was slender and yet hard, with fine red flowers attached like on branches, and rubies were fastened to them. It looked so fragile, yet he felt it was strong.
«What is this?» Thekk asked curiously, being a young smith in the making and constantly looking for new designs to explore, but Kíliel snapped it from his fingers before he had the opportunity to study it further, or ruin it with his clumsy hands.
«It was a gift,» Kíliel muttered and caressed it with a careful touch before fasting it again to the braids on the back of her head. Thekk looked at it with a curious gaze.
«Who’s it from then? I’ve never seen anything like it,» his voice was full of wonder, and Kíliel looked at him with furrowed eyebrows. She wondered if she should tell him, not knowing if he would be upset hearing about Legolas.
«It’s elven,» she said finally, watching Thekk to see his reaction. He did not look surprised or angry as she had expected. «Legolas, of the woodland realm of Mirkwood, gave it to me many years ago. My mother grew up with him, and they are close friends.» She felt her voice falter slightly at his name, but she acted like nothing was wrong.
She sighed. Only mentioning his name awoke the longing in her heart to see him again, but it was many years since he had last come visiting, and she did not know when he would come again. It had been some time since she had thought of Legolas now, but her desire to see him was no smaller than it ever was, and wearing the pin she felt he was a little closer to her.
«Mirkwood, eh’? I’ve heard about them, never had the pleasure, though,» Thekk smiled at her, sweet and innocent, and in that moment she truly believe him.
«He is actually the first elf ever to be granted free access to Erebor,» Kíliel felt a blush colour her cheeks as she talked about him, her first and only love. She would probably have not spoken so freely of him had it not been for the wine.
She noticed Thekk turning slightly harder. His lips lost the softness and turned into a harder line than she had ever seen him with, and a flicker of fear crossed her thoughts. She had never talked about Legolas to anyone before, and maybe it was a mistake. Dwarves, prejudice or not, were never especially fond of elves.
«Why don't he come here more often, then?» Thekk pursed his lips and looked at her with weighing eyes.
Kíliel didn't know what to say, for she did not know the answer. She would have liked to ask Legolas the same thing, and as always a thousand questions began circling in her head. Was it her fault he wasn't coming back? Had she done something wrong? Did he not like her? And as always she felt the anxiety grow in her chest thinking of the answers.
When she was about to open her mouth to answer, Thekk mumbled: «What’s happnin’ now?» His gaze was locked at something to her left, and Kíliel turned abruptly to see what he spoke of.
Fear stroke her heart, for turning around she saw her grandfather half standing, with her father and uncle trying to hold him back. Thorin had a hard and yet confused expression on his face, as he waved his hand, still holding a cup with wine that spilled over the table and Kíli, as his nephews tried to calm him down.
«What is going on? Mother?» Kíliel laid a hand on Tauriel’s arm, and the elf turned quickly to her daughter. Her eyes were wrought in worry as she spoke.
«I don’t know, dear. Thorin suddenly began muttering about the dragon, and…,» Tauriel was interrupted by the sound of Thorin’s cup hitting the floor, as he, Kíli and Fíli were basically wrestling, all three standing together before the table, knocking cups and plates over as they tried to calm Thorin.
The hall quickly turned quiet, and all that could be heard were the grunts and mutterings of Fíli and Kíli: «Uncle, settle down!», «Everything is fine, Thorin!»
«Let go of me! I do not need your help, I’m not a child!» Thorin shook the hands of his nephews off of him, and straightened as someone about to make a speech.
Kíliel stood halfway from her chair, as she beheld her grandfather with a worried and vigilant expression. She did not understand what had happened. She tightened and released her fist restlessly, wanting to cut in and make sure everything was as it should be. Thekk took a firm hold on her hand, steadying her in her anxiety. He too watched intently, weighing the situation.
But Thorin stood alone before the eyes of everyone in the hall. Kíliel desperately wanted to go to him, but she didn't know what was to happen, and she knew she had to be rational, act maturely and give Thorin the space to return to normal without her unnecessary involvement. There had been too much attention already, with Kíli and Fíli interfering.
«People of Erebor…,» Thorin began, his voice somewhat lesser than his usual regality, and he had a bewildered expression as he turned and locked eyes with Kíliel for a mere moment. She could not know what he was thinking, but he looked more uncertain than she had ever seen him, and it cut deep in her chest to see him this way. Her grandfather was strong, mighty, regal and no one could question his authority; that was not the dwarf she was now watching.
«You must all remain strong throughout this hard time,» Thorin continued. His voice had regained some of its former might, but it still had a hint of confusion to it.
A mutter arose among the dwarves, wondering what exactly their King was speaking of. They exchanged looks, and returned to Thorin with even more confused expressions on their faces. And Kíliel felt her heart beat faster and faster, her fingers prickled with want to take action, to go to her grandfather and help him become himself again. There was something very wrong with him, and she wanted to shield him from the judging stares of every dwarf there.
«Today, with the help of my nephews…,» Thorin leaned his hand on the table and took a deep breath as if preparing for something. Kíliel couldn't breathe for her anxiety, and it seemed like the entire hall was keeping its breath along with her. Thorin finally raised his head and opened his mouth with a roar: «WE WILL KILL THE DRAGON!»
There was a moment of deafening silence, everyone looking at Thorin with a shocked expression, wondering what this was all about. Then the people turned to their drinking companions and began laughing. The sound of it rolled throughout the hall. They thought it was a joke. But Kíliel felt her heart break, for she knew it was not what her grandfather meant, and she saw his expression grow ever more confused, wondering how they could all laugh at him at a time like this.
«Li… listen to me,» Thorin mumbled, his expression furious and confused. Suddenly touching his head, he stumbled and steadied himself so not to fall. He stood leaning back and forth with his hands firmly planted on the table in front of him, as one consumed with ales or suffering from head-spins.
«Grandfather,» Kíliel squealed, only loud enough for the ones sitting closest to her to hear. Tauriel turned to her daughter, and carefully touching her hand, she nodded to her, as if saying she should go to him.
Kíliel sent Thekk a pained look, and he nodded understanding, before she slid her hand out of his. He had held her tight the entire time, and it wasn't before she let go of his hand that she noticed how secure his hold had been, how it had supported her. The air felt cold to the memory of his grip, and she felt very light and alone without it. It was only a quick notion, for she focused mainly on Thorin, but the thought would stick with her longer than she could have imagined.
When Kíliel walked to stand beside her grandfather’s chair, Kíli and Fíli were silently arguing, not noticing her before she laid a hand on Thorin’s shoulder. His big hand moved to cover hers, and he turned to meet her scared eyes.
«Nadan,» He said, his voice kind, but still with the bewildered edge to it.
Kíliel made sure he held her gaze steadily, and she laid her hands on either side of his face, now that he sat down again. «Grandfather,» she began carefully, whispering so only they could hear. «The dragon has been dead for 42 years.» She caressed his bearded cheek and saw the confusion grow and change in his eyes as he blinked, trying to comprehend her words.
«This is the feast of Mithril. Do you not remember?» Kíliel spoke softly, knowing that whatever was wrong with him, she would have to be calm so that he could relax in his strange state of mind.
«No! No, that is wrong, I…» Thorin muttered, and closing his eyes he sighed heavily, as one tired after an intense training session.
He opened his eyes and looked at her again. His eyes had regained that which made them Thorin’s, and Kíliel looked intently at him, trying to see if he had returned to himself.
«Grandfather?» Kíliel asked under her breath, trying to keep tears from filling her eyes of fear for the dwarf she loved.
«Kíliel,» He said then, his voice breathless and his breathing was shallow. But Kíliel’s heart fluttered, knowing that he was again himself, and the confusion was now not as frightening as it had been.
«Where am I?» He muttered, and his eyes moved slowly back and forth, trying to comprehend his surroundings. But Kíliel couldn't but throw her arms around his neck as she felt a single tear release from the corner of her eye.
«Now, now, lass,» Thorin held her tight for a long moment. Kíliel breathed in the strong, soothing scent of the fur on his collar, before she released her hold on him and looked upon his face again.
«I’m sorry,» she muttered, and wiped her face, as she felt the hand of her father on her shoulder suddenly. Kíli looked at his daughter and then his uncle with a worried expression, weighing them both.
«Uncle?» He asked, and the question was too obvious in this tone.
«Yes, Kíli, I am tired. Maybe Kíliel could follow me back to my chambers?» And she straightened immediately to follow him out. «You and your brother will stay and continue the celebration in my stead.» He muttered softly, even as it was an order, and he rose from the chair. His voice now finally revealed how fatigued he was.
«Come, grandfather,» Kíliel hooked her arm in his so that he could lean on her, would he need to. They walked slowly away, to the sound of a thousand dwarves standing up, and then her uncle’s explanations that the party would go on, even if their King did not feel up to the festivities.
Translations(only Khuzdul this time):
Sanzigil Mahalu khajam du khazâd = Mithril is Mahals gift to the dwarves
Amad = mother
Khuzd binfasl? = dwarf without male genital organ (I imagine it to be a very light but naughty insult, not as heavy as insulting somones beard f example)
Nadan = child