Vilir watched his son run to the training ground in amusement. Kili had always been an energetic lad since he was little, but Vilir suspected that this time his liveliness didn’t entirely come from his naturally vast reserve of energy. Yesterday that Thorin had invited Kili to watch a festival in a nearby town, a flimsy excuse to spend time with Kili, and Kili had quickly accepted. With Fili as an ever watchful chaperone, they left in the morning and returned at dusk with stories of delicious food, endless flow of ale, ceaseless dances, and fascinating stalls. Even Fili had looked quite impressed by the spectacle and Vilir knew that he took his role in ensuring Kili’s wellbeing a little too seriously. Thorin had left after dinner filled with Kili animatedly talking about everything he had seen that day and Vilir’s family had gone to bed in good spirits. Before she fell asleep, Dis had told Vilir how grateful she was that her son was courted by a good respectful dwarf (“…who has a bit of a temper and so headstrong he could probably crack a stone using his head, and really should by now understand that looking at people intently doesn’t constitute as a conversation and making fun of people doesn’t draw them toward you, but that’s just how Thorin is. Dwalin would sooner choose a life of celibacy and sobriety before Thorin changes his way.”) so Vilir decided not to wake her when he saw Kili slip out of their house to no doubt visit Thorin.
At least Kili was now of age, which hadn’t been the case when Thorin started courting him. Now spending some time together wasn’t so frowned upon and wouldn’t cause a scandal. Of course considering their social status there should be an illusion of complete chasteness over the relationship, but no one would be entirely surprised if they knew that Thorin and Kili had done more than stealing kisses in privacy.
There was one issue, however. Vilir had started his courtship with Dis when she was of age and they had gotten married a little over a year since he handed her his ceremonial dagger. Thorin, on the other hand, had started his courtship two years before Kili became an adult. Yet, almost a year after Kili’s coming of age, there was no sign of them entering deeper commitment. Yes, Thorin had taken Kili on his official visit to Nogrod, thus implying the seriousness of the relationship, but nothing else followed the travel. Knowing how Durin’s Folks were, Vilir knew that it would likely take divine intervention, such as Durin himself manifesting to lecture his stubborn descendants about the importance of honor, to make them move forward with their relationships. While he was glad to allow them to proceed at their own pace, as a father of a dwarf who considered rules as challenges, he felt he should do something.
After making excuses to Dis, Vilir went to Thorin’s house. It had improved quite tremendously since the beginning of the courtship, when it looked more like a house of a lowly blacksmith than a residence of a displaced king. Of course display of wealth wasn’t important to Vilir—he’d be happy to let his sons marry anyone they wanted regardless of wealth and, furthermore, he was aware of his own humble origin as a son of a miner—but he still would like his son to live in a house that didn’t threaten to collapse at any time due to the superb construction technique Thorin invented called building walls and putting something on top of it for a roof. Today, it was clearly the house of the wealthiest and most well-respected dwarf in Ered Luin. It stood tall in blue marble with intricate carvings made by their best craftsmen. Sculptures reminiscent of the tall figures guarding Erebor were erected outside and inside the building. There were silk and gold-gilded furniture everywhere one turned inside it. It was possible that Gloin had gotten a little carried away when tasked with renovating the building, but Vilir couldn’t say he blamed him. It did make any visitor feel very small and insignificant, which was a proper reaction to meeting the mighty dwarf king, whether he had a kingdom or not. Unless said visitor was his brother in-law in a mission to protect his son’s honor, that was.
At the direction of a servant, Vilir went to Thorin’s study. Thorin was fortunately only accompanied by his works. He stopped writing when he saw Vilir entered the room.
“Vilir. What a pleasant surprise,” he said mildly.
Vilir was never very close to Thorin the way Dwalin or Balin was. Some said it was because of their difference in social status, others suspected it was Thorin’s protectiveness over his only sister, but Vilir knew it was because he had once deliberately given Thorin the wrong direction that resulted in him ending up in another city instead of Balin’s new office. Oh, well. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
Thorin looked a little surprised but pushed away the scrolls in front of him and put his quill away. “Of course not. Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to the many seats in the room.
Vilir thought of his options for a moment before choosing a chair that was neither too close to be within reach of Thorin’s arms or too far to allow Thorin to be too comfortable in the conversation. After all, Thorin was a Durin and Durin Folks spoke in the language of intimidation. Except for Dis who also spoke in seduction but Vilir’s interest didn’t run in Thorin’s direction.
“Wine?” Thorin offered, lifting a half full bottle of wine.
“Yes, thank you.” As Thorin poured him a goblet of wine, Vilir wondered how to best approach the subject. Should he start by talking about the weather as he knew Men did? Or should he soften Thorin by first talking about his many successes in governance? Perhaps he should remind him of his numerous obligations to his people, family, friends, and lover? No, Vilir decided as Thorin drank. He was dealing with a Durin’s Folk. The best approach was direct approach. “Tell me, Thorin, when do you intend to marry my son?”
Thorin’s eyes water as the wine entered the wrong pipe and he proceeded to cough fitfully. Would he go down in history as the first king who died of choking on wine when asked about his intention toward his lover? Fortunately for the dwarf race and unfortunately for poets in search of inspiration for romances for the ages, the answer was no. Once his coughing subsided, Thorin winced and cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon?”
Thorin never begged anyone’s pardon. Maybe Vilir should do this more often. “I appreciate that you’ve waited so long, but it has been over two years. Sooner or later people will talk since Kili has come of age. You understand that I’m getting a little concerned.”
“I,” Thorin began, looking flustered. He looked quite lost, rather like that time Vilir found him in a brothel when he was actually going to a tavern, but he regained his composure, straightening his back to look at Vilir levelly. “I assure you I have all the good intentions toward Kili. I will do right by him.”
“And yet you choose clandestine meetings over making him your wedded husband,” Vilir pointed out. He smiled when Thorin turned a little red. “Don’t worry. I don’t think anybody knows and we’d like to keep it that way, wouldn’t we?”
“I-yes, of course.”
Vilir studied Thorin closely. After the initial shock of learning that Thorin was courting Kili, Vilir was relatively confident about the relationship, unlike Dis and Fili. He knew he could trust Thorin to treat Kili properly and to rein him when his hot blood had the better of him. He was rather sorry, in fact, that it had to come to this—he had expected Thorin to do what was right without parental prompting. But, he supposed such was the way with Durin’s Folks.
“Then, can I expect a happy visit from you in the near future?”
“I’m afraid not,” Thorin said carefully.
Vilir raised an eyebrow, smile widening in a way that made Dwalin shudder and inch to his axes and prompted Dis drag him to the nearest private corner. “No?” he asked slowly.
Thorin’s eyes darted around to look for any shield or weapon and, when he found none, glanced toward a window. Vilir wasn’t worried. He might not be the fastest runner, but unlike Thorin he wasn’t at risk of running in circles in Ered Luin. “No. I can’t ask his hand in marriage yet. I haven’t quite had everything I have planned for him.”
Vilir looked at the grand study around them, where tall bookcases containing valuable dwarf knowledge and wealth were stored and where precious statues were displayed to signify power. Then, he nodded the banner of Durin’s Folks behind Thorin’s chair. This wasn’t Erebor’s throne room, but it was still the seat of power of a dwarf kingdom and Thorin was still a dwarf king even without a raven crown. “I suppose you don’t have an archery ground,” he allowed testily.
Thorin looked thoughtful for a moment before remembering what they were talking about. Vilir expected to hear about construction of an archery ground in the near future. “Yes. And also many things else.” When Vilir looked at him in question, he continued, “Gold, jewels, power.”
“Kili is not so greedy,” Vilir said, frowning and truthfully a little disappointed that Thorin thought Kili would want those things after years of courtship.
“No, he is not. He is not at all. But… You’re married, Vilir. You understand how I want to give the very best for Kili.”
Indeed, he did. Vilir clearly remembered working very hard after he met Dis and secured her affection. Every minute not spent with her had been spent working to provide her a comfortable home. He knew he couldn’t get the palace Dis had had even if he worked a thousand years, but he had tried to the best of his ability to show that he was capable of making her happy and well. “Dis only asked for a gold ring from me. I think Kili won’t ask for much more.”
“He won’t. Nevertheless, I want to present him with Erebor.” He paused, looking at Vilir with a sad yearning always found when one spoke of Erebor. “It is his birthright yet he has never even set his eyes on it. He’s only ever heard it and I have only ever spoken of it. I want to give him what he is entitled for,” he said quietly.
Vilir took a deep breath and took a slow sip of his goblet of wine. He half suspected that this ambition wasn’t entirely for Kili’s sake—Kili was content enough with Ered Luin and everything it had to offer. However, he couldn’t blame Thorin for wanting this. Erebor was the birthright of all Durin’s Folks. This fact was never clearer to anyone than Thorin. That he wanted to show it to Kili (and Fili, Vilir assumed) was also understandable. In fact, it showed the commendable degree of his responsibility to think of not only himself but the future generations of Durin’s Folks. Still, was it strictly necessary to delay marrying Kili just because Thorin couldn’t bring him to Erebor yet?
“Kili is entitled for happiness,” Vilir said. “And he won’t find it in gold.”
Thorin looked chastised. “No. But, as I have said, I want to do right by him and it is the right thing to make him a proper prince of Erebor.”
“But is it right to risk gossips? Remember, Kili is not the most cautious of dwarfs. People may eventually know about the time he spends with you in secret.”
“I know it’s not good too wait too long. That’s why I’m gathering information about the Lonely Mountain. I’ve heard that the dragon hasn’t been seen in a few years. I’d like to make sure of it.”
Vilir was stunned. “You plan to retake Erebor!” he exclaimed.
Thorin looked at him gravely and nodded. “We have waited and dreamt too long. It’s time to take action.”
Vilir couldn’t tell whether Thorin was being courageous or foolish. Many before him had failed and perish in trying to do the same, including his own father. It took a great deal of bravery to make such plan despite knowing this, despite seeing all the previous failures and losing a family member to the cause. Similarly, it took a considerable amount of blind confidence to chase after a dream that had cost so many lives, for dragon or no dragon the road to the Lonely Mountain was treacherous and filled with danger. In Vilir’s view, this was an unnecessary suicide mission. Ered Luin had flourished beautifully and many of their people were perfectly content to call it home. Why took this great risk? But, Vilir wasn’t a Durin. He had never even seen Erebor and thus felt no attachment to the mountain kingdom. He was only mildly disappointed to have never seen it. The opposite was true for Thorin, however.
“And what news is there from the Lonely Mountain?” he asked.
Thorin shook his head. “Nothing yet. Few dare to go near it, so it’s difficult to gain any information.”
“You understand that even if the dragon is dead, the road to the east is not safe,” he warned, refraining from mentioning how Thorin’s own father had disappeared on the way to Erebor.
“I understand that,” Thorin said. “I’m also gathering information on what to expect so we can prepare ourselves accordingly.”
“What have you heard about it?”
Thorin took a deep breath. “There are orcs on the way.”
Vilir pursed his lips. “This is a huge risk.”
“It is,” Thorin agreed. “But it is a risk a long time coming. I’ve always been meant to embark on this mission. I will do that for our people, my family, and Kili.”
Now, Vilir fancied himself an expert in Durin’s Folks, having been married to Dis for over half a century and raising two rambunctious sons with her. He was confident in his skills in altering the notoriously stubborn minds of Durin’s Folks. But, this time, he doubted any word he might say could change Thorin’s mind. Thorin was right. This was a risk long time coming. It was a task he was to eventually take. For many decades he had pondered it and now he finally decided to act upon it now. Vilir couldn’t say it was wise, but he understood that to Thorin this was a certainty no matter how the odds might be against him. Furthermore, as a dwarf he was exceedingly proud of Thorin’s courage to make this attempt. When many had grown secure and cowardly in their relatively safe new home, he dared to seize his chance, slim though it was. There were wiser rulers out there, but Vilir was indubitably proud to serve one that didn’t only sit idly by and dream of what could be.
“Then I wish you and Kili the best of luck,” Vilir decided. He had his doubts, but he understood that this was inevitable for Durin’s Folks and if his sons could have their true rights, then he wouldn’t complain too much.
Thorin looked simultaneously relieved and surprised. “Thank you,” he said, bowing his head slightly, a sign of respect never before directed toward Vilir.
“Do refuse him when he becomes impatient. I trust you’re able to deny yourself improper pleasures?” he advised, wanting to protect his son’s good name since a wedding was unlikely to take place anytime soon.
Vilir successfully kept his expression neutral when guilt flickered on Thorin’s expression for a brief second. “Of course,” he said stiffly.
Well, at least Kili couldn’t get pregnant. And neither could Thorin, for that matter. Vilir finished his drink in one big gulp. No parent ever needed to know or imagine that much detail about their child’s sexual activities. “I’ll take my leave. I don’t want to interrupt you for too long.”
Thorin nodded. Before Vilir reached the door, he called him. “You won’t tell Dis about this, will you?” he asked, a hint of nervousness bleeding into his voice.
Vilir thought of the lies he had to maintain in front of Dis and Fili, the close supervision he must now employ to make sure Kili’s secret meetings with Thorin weren’t detected by the general public, and the headache he would have to endure when Thorin’s plan came to light. He smiled disarmingly to Thorin. “You will know if she knows.” Then, he slipped out of the room and grinned widely the rest of his way home.