Hi all. I meant to get things going and wrapped up by now, but school started, and papers were assigned right away. This is a little chap about family, introducing more wee bairns who aren't so wee by the end. Thanks for your reviews on the last chapter and for those who have signed on since. And Lalaithiel, you are right, of course. Partners aren't always in tune or sensitive to what the other feels or needs, but they worked it out well enough.

Chapter 54

"All will be well, Sweet Relianna. We're already gathering our people. I'll make the announcement and explain the circumstances, and then Frain will share his part. It will be short because I want to come back to you and our son." He shook his head like he couldn't believe what he had just said. "We will do a more formal celebration when you both recover."

"Very well. Hurry back."

"As soon as can be, love," he said with kiss on her forehead and stroke of their son's arm. "You know, we had our name picked out, but after what happened, I want to change it if you agree." She watched his face and knew immediately what he was thinking.

"I do. The name is perfect. He couldn't be called anything but Frain."

The first clue that Thorin's birth announcement was well-received came in the form of an anonymous package some days later. Frain, completely besotted by his sister-son, carried in the small parcel and handed it to Relianna. He had gone stiff with shock when Thorin told him what they decided to name their son.

"Truly?" he had said. He put his hand over his heart before kissing his sister's son on the forehead. "For as long as I'm alive, I'll be there for him," he had said, "but I can't promise I won't teach him to annoy you."

Relianna turned the parcel over and squeezed the fabric wrapping. "Whatever could this be?" she asked. She was on the mend under her husband's and brother's watchful eyes, and it showed. "Thorin, do you know about this?"

He looked over from where he was holding their son and shook his head. Frain walked over and gestured for Thorin to pass him his namesake, but Thorin shook his head with a smile.

"He just woke up, and I want this time." He laughed at Frain's disgruntled expression. "You'll have your turn soon enough. Relianna, love, go ahead and open it. Perhaps the note's inside."

Perplexed but intrigued, Relianna opened the soft package to find a tiny quilted outfit in royal blue. It was made of the softest velvet and had the Durin crest embroidered on the gown and runes of good health and long life stitched on a matching quilted cap. Tiny quilted booties and mitts trimmed in fur completed the wee ensemble. It was a rich gift but more so because the maker had folded all seams over to make sure nothing rough rubbed against little Frain's skin. The outside was fit for a prince, but the inside was the softest armor possible for the tiny warrior who had won his first and most important battle.

"Oh!" she said, holding it up for Thorin. "Look what they made for us!" She held her composure long enough to lay the outfit on the bed and finger the little mitts before snatching up a handkerchief to stem the tears.

"My, aren't we an emotional family?" Kili said carrying in a few more packages. He braced his foot against the heavy door and shifted the packages so not to drop them. "I believe we've passed the last hurdle if these presents are anything to go by."

A little while later, the family took in the carefully stitched outfits, toys, and quilts for the newest member of the Durin clan. Frain held up the tiny Durin blue cap and with Thorin's permission, placed it on little Frain's head.

"I think this is going to be all the rage," he said. "Now every babe will be wearing caps until their hair grows thick."

Thorin and Kili laughed him off, but he turned out to be right. As soon as Frain was seen in his Durin blue cap, all the infants in Erebor had to have their own version.

"You'd think it's freezing in here the way they're bundled," Fili said, but in truth, they were delighted. Thorin and his sister-sons saw it as a reaffirmation of allegiance to the House of Durin, Relianna took it as a sign that her son was accepted, and Frain teased that Erebor was now setting fashions on top of all else.

"Do leave something for the rest of us to be best at, Thorin," he said after getting a very loud burp out of a very small bundle. "You can't have Erebor ahead in everything. "My, you've a lot to say today, my lad!"

"He never does that with me," Kili said with chagrin. "Everything I get is out the other end."

"To each his end, Kili," Frain said in a mock-superior tone before nodding to Relianna. "I'm ready to go, Reli, but I want to check him one last time. Are Oin and Nella on their way?"

As if summoned, they appeared at the door with their remedy books and quills, and Frain ushered them in. Over the past week he had been writing down his thoughts and instructions for little Frain's care, and he wanted one last meeting before he left for home. Dain and Lord Kerba were overseeing provisions for the trip, and Naldin and Carba were saying goodbyes to friends.

"I've been thinking as we all have on how to help little Frain along," he began, "and I want you to hear me out. You may like what I say, you may not but I think it's best."

Sitting down at the table, they discussed what they had observed so far. Little Frain's bleeding, although frightening for everyone, wasn't nearly as bad as his uncle's was when he was born.

"Remember mother saying I looked like a purple grape when I popped out?" he said to Relianna who sighed and nodded. "He's in much better shape, praise Mahal. Nevertheless, you need to eat good protein and much organ meat and marrow while you're nursing." Relianna grimaced but agreed. "When he's old enough, he needs to do the same. Don't glare at me, sister. Yes, he'll probably kick up just as big a fuss as you did when you were young, but having a warrior for a husband should help out. He needs some battle practice anyway."

General chuckles met his words. Thorin already had his hands full contending with his wife's fiery nature, but he blessed it for the joy it brought him in other areas. He blood warmed at her flashing eyes.

"What else?' Thorin asked. "I want to hear everything before you have to go."

"Understand that Relianna is just as fine a healer as me, Thorin," Frain said, "but I will say that she, that you all, will want to protect Frain from every injury, but don't." More than anyone, he knew what his namesake would endure in body, mind, and heart, but he would only be the stronger for facing it head on.

Relianna bit her bottom lip, but she understood what her brother meant. Thorin was only a beat behind.

"I understand," he said slowly. "So all of us," and he turned to mark every face, "must protect him but not to the extent that he grows up fearful and weak. He must be allowed to live just as his uncle has."

"That's easier said than done," Fili said, "How will we know when to and when not to?"

Thorin took Relianna's hand and gave it a squeeze.

"We'll learn as we go," he said. Frain nodded in approval.

"There's no other way."

So little Frain grew up with the loving concern of all Erebor, and that included his younger sisters, Relia and Renna, who followed him into the world two years later. However, they were as strong-willed as their mother and had very definite ideas on what their brother could do, and in their opinion it wasn't anything remotely exciting. They never understood how their parents could wave Frain on to play with others his age and certainly not with weapons.

"Mother, can you please make them stop?" he said while holding up his blunted practice sword. "Now they're telling me the edges are too sharp." He glared at the 27-year-old twins who looked proud of themselves for saving their brother again from what they were sure would be a lengthy stay in the infirmary.

"Did you see his elbow, Papa?" Relia said, wagging her finger at Frain's sleeve, which he hastily yanked down. "He needs to be an archer like Uncle Frain or Uncle Kili. With padded finger guards and blunted arrows, of course."

"Yes," Renna chimed in, "sword-play is much too dangerous."

Thorin and Relianna shared a look of amusement before turning to their flame-haired daughters. Relia and Renna were as devoted to Frain as anyone, but unfortunately for him their adoration was of a ferociously protective kind, and they followed him everywhere, having appointed themselves to be his personal guardians. When they were very young they had seen one of his more serious injuries and decided then and there that he would never get hurt again if they could help it, and they did their best to his great frustration. Thorin smiled on them, proud of their loyalty, but also aware that Frain was reaching his breaking point.

"Relia, Renna," he said taking their hands and pulling them close. "I'm as proud as a father could be that you love your brother so well." He decided not to address Frain's irritated huff. "But we talked about this before. He's not made of glass, and all warriors have their scars." Frain puffed out his chest and threw a smug grin at his sisters. "You need to stop following him and leave him be. That is an order. He knows his limits, and now you must learn yours." He turned to his son and with raised brows, willed him him to drop the sarcastic comment he was sure Frain had waiting. "Although I'm sure he's touched that you both go to such great lengths to keep him well. I'm sure that he's thankful underneath to have sisters who love him as much as you do. Isn't that right, Frain?"

Frain looked down at his sisters' wide and anxious green eyes and sighed. His cousins, Tamra and Tamrin, had a very different relationship, yet again neither of them were bleeders. Naldor and Kerbin, sons of Naldin and Lady Carba, had only each other, and he briefly wondered how much easier life would be without his pesky sisters, but then he recalled his Uncle Frain's words to cherish the love and care of family and friends—even when it was trying.

Don't begrudge them their concern even if you think it's misplaced. It isn't. They've suffered watching you in pain, and even though they understand you need to live your own life, sometimes their love will cause them to push in anyway. Be patient. Your Aunt Bemma's been secretly protecting me for years, and I let her think she's getting away with it, but I love her all the more for wanting to.

Reluctantly, Frain opened his arms, and his sisters flew into them.

"You're squeezing too hard, Relia! He'll bruise!"

He grimaced at his parents who hid smiles behind their hands.

"Now it's time to get ready to leave," Relianna said. "Wash up and get your things together. We want to leave in the morning." Per their earlier promises, relatives and friends met as often as duties allowed, and visits were divided among Erebor, the Iron Hills, and Lord Kerba's keep.

"Where are we going again?" Renna asked. Frain groaned. Between the two sisters, Renna was the flightier and had many odd fancies that she had to describe in precise detail. Many times she cornered her parents, brother, sister, and anyone else who would listen. Thorin was the most patient and since she was very little settled her on his knee and tried to listen to her winding stories, but once he started snoring in the middle of a most dramatic retelling. It took many apologies to soothe her injured pride.

"Uncle Kerba's," Relia said. "I told you that this morning."

Renna trilled and bounced on the balls of her feet. Uncle Kerba never tired of listening to her stories and even put a few down on parchment. He had told her that she was a natural bard like his son, Kerbin, on whom she had a secret crush, or at least she thought it was secret. It wasn't. Everyone except Kerbin knew Renna was sweet on him. His intelligence and bookish demeanor left her in awe. She could listen to him expound on meal worms for hours.

"Welcome! Welcome!" Lord Kerba said when they arrived. He waved his hands in delight and ushered everyone inside. "You must be famished. You have time to refresh yourselves before the feast, but I took the liberty of ordering trays of cheese and breads to tide you over before the feast is prepared."

"Thoughtful as always, Uncle," Relianna said, and she leaned in for a kiss. "Where are Tamra and Tamrin?"

"Here Aunt," Tamra said. She was a beautiful echo of her grandmother while her brother resembled Frain almost exactly. "Tamrin will be right out."

"And where is your dear father?"

Dain came out first, leaning heavily on his son despite his cane. He had been crippled after a rock fall in the lower mines but was as cheery as ever at seeing his family together.

"Why my girls," he said giving Relia and Renna smacking kisses, "how much you've grown since I saw you last and more beautiful than ever." Next he appraised not-so-little Frain. "And you, my lad," he said after giving him a look over. "You're in the pink. A proper warrior I think. I don't know, Thorin, but I think your son'll give you a run for your coin soon enough."

"Aye," Thorin said proudly, "and Tamrin's a worthy heir. I'm sure he has plenty of admirers."

"Too many," Bemma said with a roll of her eyes. "I have to beat them off with a stick."

Relianna stood back and eyed her brother who stood with an easy smile, but yet there was something not quite right. His shoulders were slightly hunched, and the faintest hint of purple rimmed his eyes.

"And you?" she asked. "What aren't you telling me?" With a jaunty tilt of his head, he tried to play her off, but she wasn't having it, and he shrugged.

"Some headaches is all," he said. "Relics of the past. Now wife," and he gave Bemma his arm, "I'm famished."

"You just ate!" Bemma said with a laugh. They had arrived the day before.

"Yes, well, it didn't stick," he said. "It was like eating air."

"His appetite is good," Bemma said to Relianna. "Nothing to worry about." Relianna caught her son's annoyed stance and wagged a finger.

"You have to give mothers and wives a little leeway, son," she said. "It's our job, you know."

Frain gave his mother's brother an exasperated look, which he answered with a wink. His uncle was second only to Thorin in his eyes, and he was most proud that he was named after one so brave. Every word his uncle spoke was instantly committed to memory, and he followed his suggestions scrupulously. His Uncle Frain was the only one he felt understood him completely, and he cherished any time they spent together.

"I want to see how you've progressed in your sword training, Frain," his uncle said. "I hear you've become a fearsome opponent. Isn't that right, Thorin?"

"Indeed," Thorin said, "and I think it's time you show him the bow."

Forgetting his sisters' earlier words, young Frain agreed with eagerness. Anything to spend time with his beloved uncle.

"I'd be delighted, although it's been some time since I've trained. Now can we eat?"

It's a bit fluffy, but it does serve a purpose. I'd love to hear from you if you have the time to send a shout out.