Second marriages were nearly unheard of in Dwarves. In dwarvish society, the females are never forced into marriage and can choose not to marry if they can't wed the one they love. Marriage is for life.

Unless you are the daughter and granddaughter of kings. And unless you are in direct descent from Durin the Deathless. And of your two brothers, one died too young and the other could die at any time in battle. And that brother is also unwed.

Apparently this was too close to extinction for the family bloodline.

Dis refused to cry. Her hands were shaking so badly that she could read no further, but she was not crying. Her grandfather had fallen in battle. Her father's mind had broken and he was captured or dead. That was as far as she'd managed to read. But it was enough.

Thorin was now the defacto leader of their people now. But her older brother knew nothing of her current location or circumstances.

Dis, the one time princess, sighed heavily. When she'd married Nehili she'd been terribly happy. Then he'd fallen in battle, leaving her with an infant son who was his father's mirror.

Now a rambunctious four year old, Fili fairly flew around the room chasing shadows like they were real enemies with a stick pretending to be a sword. Sadly, Dis watched the one joy in her life. He was going to be a warrior, just like his father, his uncles, his father and once even his grandfather. But that was a long way off. For today, Fili was a loving and sweet young dwarrow who would be wanting lunch soon.

And she? What was she?

A test. An offering from her father and grandfather. Not forced, no ...never that. But a grieving widow willing to do nearly anything for the love of her people.

Second marriages. Bah.

She'd been here four months now. Her husband wasn't any happier than she. They were kind to one another. Polite. Both were trying, she had to admit. But this ...whatever this really was, wasn't working.

And now the only two dwarves who knew what she was doing and where she was ...were dead or missing.

Dis didn't even think about it. She bustled around the richly appointed rooms, taking nothing of his. In between feeding Fili a cold sandwhich and packing, she was ready to go in under two hours.

The most time she used was to pen the note she was leaving. The note read, "I'm sorry. I have taken nothing that didn't belong to me. You are not at fault. Please forgive me."

Not the most elegant way to end a relationship. The marriage wasn't over, of course. Divorce was a human concept, unheard of among any other race. But Dis knew neither of them would remarry or want to do so, and in this the point was moot.

Once away, Dis slipped into the nearest human settlement and arranged for passage back to Ered Luin. It wasn't until she and Fili were settled in the travelling caravan that she realized that her four year old son was wearing a bead braided into his hair. One given to him by her second husband. A kindness to a child that wasn't his.

Dis felt a moment of regret for someone who had ever been polite, and even kind in his way. But as her love was dead, so was his. Though he'd never had the chance to marry the one he'd loved before her untimely demise. Thus their fathers, and her grandfather, had arrived at suggesting a marriage between them instead. For heirs.

Pensive and sad, Dis could not bring herself to remove the bead from Fili's braid. And it wasn't until two months later that the dwarven princess realized that she hadn't left her second marriage as cleanly as she'd thought.

She had indeed taken something of his with her.

Dis sighed, resting her hands upon her still flat stomach. She was pregnant.

Worse? She had no intention of telling him.

o.o.o.o.o

o.o.o.o.o

Dis sat on the porch, snapping beans for supper, watching the sun inching closer to the mountains in preparation of setting. She smiled at the two young male dwarrows wrestling in the grass.

"Whose?" Thorin stood behind her chair, leaning casually against the wall next to the cabin's door.

The younger sister didn't have to guess what he meant by his question. He'd been asking the same one for nearly nine years now.

Kili ended up on the bottom of course. He was five years younger than Fili. But the brunette didn't seem to realize he'd been beaten. His dark eyes narrowed and he pushed out his lips in defiance, balling up his fist and striking his brother as hard as he could.

Fili reared back, frowning. "No cheating!" He held up his fingers and dug them into Kili's sides, making the younger brother screech with delight and anger at the same time.

Thorin sighed, having once again not received an answer. He frowned over at both of his nephews. "It's plain that they had different sires, even if I didn't already know you'd long been a widow before Kili was made."

"They are brothers." Dis insisted, calmly filling her bowl with fresh snapped beans. "That's all that needs to be known."

Thorin scowled. "They are both my heirs. Kili is a wonderful lad, but I have to know. Whose is he?"

Dis shook her head. "All you have to know is his heart. The lad adores you and would follow you anywhere."

The dark-haired dwarven prince snorted and shook his head. "He's reckless."

"He's eight." Dis countered. "Teach him better."

"He's too thin." Thorin sighed, squinting as the two brothers now chased each other around and around the cabin. "You need to feed him more."

Dis stifled a laugh, and shook her head. "He goes to bed stuffed as it is. Our people sometimes barely have enough, but you and Dwalin and even cousin Balin each sneak a bit extra to Kili. He's going to be as big as your friend Bombur one day soon."

Thorin chuckled. "Everyone likes him." He sighed, shaking his head. "Can't help it. He's just got that ...something."

Dis' hands hesitated, then she gave a bright smile. "That's our grandfather in him."

Thorin nodded absently, missing his sister's momentary lapse. "I don't remember Thror ever being that charming. No matter what stories the older dwarrows tell."

o.o.o.o.o

o.o.o.o.o

"Mam? What's a bastard?"

Dinner effectively stopped. Thorin's eyes found those of his cousin Dwalin, who was visiting for the evening. The older dwarf shrugged, looking puzzled. Fili hadn't heard the word from him.

Dis looked at seventeen year old Fili and sighed. "Stop pulling at your mustache, it will grow unless you keep messing with it."

Fili grimaced, but put his hands back down on the table.

"Where did you hear that word?" Thorin asked, his tone deceptively mild.

Fili shrugged, looking down at his half-empty plate.

Dis looked over at Kili, who was acting like he wasn't paying attention. Her eyes narrowed on her youngest son, he was currently pushing his food around on his plate. Not eating. She looked up and caught Dwalin's eyes, then looked back down at Kili's plate.

Dwalin frowned sharply. "Kili?"

Instead of his usual chipper self, the twelve year old just stared at his potatoes and stabbed them with his knife a bit.

Thorin frowned, noticing where the other adults were looking. "Who said the word bastard?"

Kili's shoulders hunched.

Dis put her hand on her youngest's arm. "Answer your uncle." She told him as gently as possible.

Fili coughed and frowned. "The grocer called Kili a bastard. We don't know what it is, but he didn't make it sound like a good thing."

Thorin balled up his cloth napkin, tossing it on the table, his appetite gone. "I'll take care of him."

"You won't." Dis sent him a sharp glare before turning her attention back to young Kili. "Son? A bastard is a child born when the parents weren't married. That's all."

Kili frowned, trying to piece it together in his young mind.

"But neither you nor your brother are bastards." Dis continued.

Dwalin and Thorin shot each other incredulous looks, both suddenly not breathing. Were they finally going to hear just whom Kili's father was?

"I married twice." Dis continued, watching the hopeful look dawning in Kili's eyes. "Unusual, but I did it. I will swear on that by Durin's Axe a Blood if need be."

Thorin's eyes widened in shock. An oath like that was far from meaningless. He swallowed hard.

"It was arranged by my father and grandfather, but it didn't work out." Dis smiled gently. "But I am forever grateful, for this marriage gave me you."

Fili frowned. "Why didn't it work? Didn't he like me and Kili?"

Dis shook her head, looking between her two fine sons. "He gifted you with your first braid-bead. He was very kind to both of us. Though he never got a chance to meet Kili."

The younger dwarrow opened his mouth to ask further questions, when Thorin cleared his throat. "If you're not going to eat, go on out and get your chores done before bed." He gave both children a long look. "Go."

Kili and Fili both grabbed a last bite of dinner and scrambled out the door in a hurry.

Once the room was clear of young ears, Thorin leaned back in his chair. His dark eyes studied his younger sister. "Truth?"

"So I would swear." Dis commented firmly, not looking away from her brother.

Dwalin sat still, not saying anything, his mind racing for possible names. He finally shot a glance at Thorin and shrugged. He still didn't know who had fathered Kili.

Thorin's frown grew deeper. "It doesn't make sense. Any family would be proud to be invested into Durin's Line. Kili is my second heir, and ..." His words stopped as a wild thought occurred to him. "Kili's father isn't dead."

Dwalin's eyes flew to Dis' face, hissing with shock as he saw her wince as the truth was revealed.

"You're still married to him." Thorin's voice dropped low with shock.

Dis stood, gathering up the dishes from the table. She carried them into the kitchen and came back with a bone. The one-time elegant princess of Durin's Folk opened the back door to the cabin and tossed the bone out for the watchdog.

Thorin watched her come back and start to wipe down her end of the table. His mind was racing, and first and foremost was the realization that his sister really didn't want to discuss this.

Why?

Thorin grabbed her hand as she passed him. She yanked her arm out of his grasp. He let her go. "Dis?"

The dwarrowdam sighed, but didn't answer.

Dwalin cleared his throat uncomfortably. Cousins he might be, but this conversation was for closer family than that. "I can go."

Dis shook her head. "He must never know."

Dwalin's eyebrows drew together in concern. "Know what?"

Thorin was quicker to the goal. He closed his eyes in shock and consternation. "Does he even know he has a child?"

Dwalin swallowed wrong, coughing roughly so that he could catch his breath.

Dis smiled sadly at her older brother. "It's well known among all our kind. I have two sons. Both your heirs. Of course he knows." She told him. And that wel could be true, for all she knew. Somehow though, deep inside, she doubted it.

He would have come if he'd known.

o.o.o.o.o

o.o.o.o.o

"See there? Nothing bad. We both had fathers and neither of us is a bastard." Fili poked his dejected looking younger sibling in the side, using the newly discovered word.

Kili sighed, putting his head down. "We both heard."

"We don't know what we heard." Fili protested. "Hanging around by the open window doesn't mean we heard everything."

The dark-haired brother looked up, his eyes misty with hurt.

Fili moaned, moving closer to put his arm around his younger brother. "It's okay."

Kili shook his head, struggling not to cry. Only babies cried. He was twelve, young for a dwarf, but not a baby. "Thorin said he was still alive."

Fili frowned, shaking his head. "No. He was guessing. That's all."

"If my father is still alive, and mam is still married to him." Kili's shoulders hunched. "Then he left because he didn't want me. I wasn't good enough."

"Us." Fili grimaced. "I was around then. You heard mam. Your da gave me my first braid-bead." He reached behind one ear and pulled out a small braid capped by a pretty silver bead with a symbol on it. "I don't remember him." He added, sounding sad.

Kili felt a tear loosen from his left eye and trace it's way down his cheek. "Damn it."

Fili sat up, having heard enough. "Stop. Mam loves us. Thorin is training us. We're both HIS heirs. No other dwarrow in the world is better than Uncle Thorin."

The younger dwarrow looked up, hope blooming quickly in his face. "That's right!"

Fili slapped his thigh hard enough to sting. "We are the Folk of Durin. We can trace our line back to the First Age. Never forget that!"

"I won't!" Kili jumped up, his usual cheer rising back up a notch.

Fili grinned, hiding the anger he felt behind his smile. He promised himself, if he ever met the bastard that was Kili's father, he'd kick him in the balls. How dare he leave their mam? How dare he leave Kili, like he was nothing!

The blond youth put his hand on the silver bead in his hair, inwardly swearing an oath that he would wear it until the day he could beat the crap out of the dwarf who'd made his mother and brother so sad.