A/N: Happy Christmas, dear readers! First off, a HUUUUUUGE thank you to YMR for his revisions (peeeeerfect!) and for busting his butt to get me this chapter so quickly so I could get it up for Christmas. YMR, you complete me!
Lastly, a quick note to Carlie B, since I couldn't message you. Please PLEASE ignore the haters, write your story, tell me when it's ready, and I will read the HECK out of it!
Chapter Four: Shantihi, Shantihi, Shantihi
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niramayah
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu
Ma Kaschit Duhkha Bhaag Bhaveet
OAM Shantihi, Shantihi, Shantihi - OAM
"Your pacing will not stop the storm, Buhel." Dwalin kept his eyes shut as he leaned back against the cave's cold rock walls. "But it will rile everyone's nerves. No one's finding rest watching our Umbad'ê worry so."
Thorin's fists tightened. Dwalin knew the truth, yet Thorin needed moving,so full with pent energy, prodded by the need to get back to the Mountain—
His hand ran over his chest, over the pocket hidden beneath his coat, where he had tucked away Sona's letter—
—she'd wrapped a sprig of lavender between the folds—Nungu Azsâlul'abbad Zabal. Home.
—Sona Biriz Akmâth'ule—Her words and flower nestled safely in the pocket near his heart, delivered with the news the Ravens had brought in the hour after they vanquished the Orc horde.
His Company sustained minor injuries among them—
—Imhed'ul Mahal—no deaths—
—And that band of Orcs were no more.
The slaughter left an ill feeling in Thorin's stomach, one he'd never felt in battles past. Was it because they no longer clawed for survival? They had won their home back, certainly, and yet the folk who lived on the land were still subjected to marauding Orcs. Now it was a matter of safe-keeping the outlands between the realms, a necessary extermination.
He craved nothing more than home, to return to E'ze—
—who longed for his return—
—the words from her letter seized upon his heart, spurring him, for speed—for now he held a wish,as well as the deadline…
…I've just one wish
For this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you.
Your Biriz Akmâth
And here they were, stopped up in this dank cave, because a winter storm hit within the hour after they set out for home, driving them to shelter, preventing them from getting back to the Mountain in time for Yule.
Blast the winter weather.
Yule had come and gone, and Thorin paced.
The Twenty Fourth Day was days away.
She waited, missing him—
No, he could not let her down—he would not.
"Thorin, did you hear me?"
Blast it. Thorin slowed with a glance at his boots, metals of the rings in the caps reflecting off the firelight. Dwalin knew, his paces brought him nowhere. He looked over at Danîe. She sat quietly fingering Fíli's beads in her braids, betrothal, courting, her One's gifts of years, Fíli Ahu'ze. Her eyes traced Thorin's tracks, and glancing away, peeved at himself, Thorin noted so did the eyes of many others. Aye, Dwalin knew. His paces brought him less than nowhere—
—he brought them all on edge.
He angled to the rock wall where he'd flung his kit before, and quickly flung himself next to it, pressing his back hard into the cold stone, grasping his hands tightly so he'd be still, so he'd force the calm, so he'd—
—so he'd just stop with fretting.
Dwalin snorted, still not opening his eyes. "If you need to move, write her another love letter. Whatsafist seemed to enjoy the last one."
Thorin looked at him askance. How did he know?
"Why so surprised, Buhel?" Dwalin tapped his own breast pocket. "You are not the only one to have received mail from Ravens."
And with that, Dwalin rolled over to his side, giving Thorin his back as well as the illusion of privacy.
Thorin momentarily forgot his own concerns. He knew Dwalin had Ahu'ze somewhere, that he felt Juzrazur. Dwalin had asked him questions early on in the Quest for Erebor, and they had spoken of it then, as Dwalin felt the pull filling him with questions, an undefined restlessness: Juzrazur did not make it easy, always. Up to now it seemed his Warrior Friend did not yet know who was at the other end—
—or at least he had never told Thorin.
Who wrote to Dwalin?
But then Thorin ceased to wonder.
If Dwalin knew, or if he had questions, or when he is ready—
—then he will tell me—
And Thorin was right back to worrying—
—would they make it back in time? The scent of lavender rose from his pocket—
—Ē'ze Nungu Azsâlul'abbad Zabal—
He could write her another letter, as Dwalin suggested. But any letter he could send would not go until after the storm had cleared. The Ravens would only reach the Mountain a day in advance of his return.
And yet his fingers itched for some occupation.
So he took a piece of parchment, the cleanest he could find, and a bit of charcoal. After sharpening, he set the charcoal to the paper and remembered as best he could. He had not the talent to match Ori when it came to sketches, yet he had a steady hand, and his tutors had called his works fair.
He hoped this would do as a Christmas gift for Ē'ze, as he would have no time for anything else.
Sona laughed and clapped along as the dwarves before her—Bofur, Dori, Fíli, and several dwarflings—continued with their rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. But as they didn't know any of the lyrics of the original song apart from "five golden rings" (which everyone in the Great Hall bellowed at the tops of their lungs at this point) and a "partridge in a pear tree" they had had to get creative in filling in their own. So there had been "nine dwarrow-dams dancing", "three miners mining", and the like, each verse accompanied by hand gestures, dancing, and much laughing.
She was so touched by it all.
The Great Hall was bedecked in holly and evergreen garlands, with red and gold ribbons intermixed. There was a massive tree in the corner of the room; Sona ignored the fact that it wasn't a fir tree, but instead an apple tree in a pot brought up from the greenhouse orchard. They'd decorated it with strands of popcorn, and it seemed every dwarf in the Mountain had contributed a bead on a string to hang from its branches until it positively sparkled, putting any Christmas tree Sona had ever seen at Disneyland to shame.
As for the food, well, Bombur and Gâlis had created a feast to beat all! The tables were heavy laden with Indian vegetarian delicacies, such as various curries, but also her favorite dishes—dal makhani and saag panner—along with heaps of garlic naan. The smell of fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, and so many other spices were mouth watering. There was also traditional American holiday fare like roast turkey with stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes.
And that hadn't even begun to cover the desserts!
Bombur beamed as all the Dwarves fed with much gusto and appreciation.
Sona also found she was also relieved to finally know what had been going on. The past week or so had been an interesting. So many dwarves had suddenly showing a heightened interest in her family and cultural practices. And while she'd enjoyed talking about it all—it had helped as a balm on her sore heart given the holiday festivities she was missing with her family—she had thought it a bit odd that there was sucha sudden interest. Then there were the meetings she knew were happening, but that she wasn't invited to.
Oh, they'd tried to hide them from her, but Sona wasn't completely dependant on Nori for all her sources of intel—that would be foolish and short sighted. She'd thought that perhaps it was a special shadow council Thorin had constructed to ensure she didn't do anything she ought not as Queen, but then almost immediately rejected the idea. No, he would not install her as Regent and then immediately undermine her.
She'd ultimately settled on it being a council of her closest friends and family, set up by themselves, in order to provide her aide without her knowing. So she'd both ignored its existence and worked as hard as she could to not need their help. Fíli and Balin provided more than enough guidance and assistance, as they were expected to.
Her relief, when she realized upon entering the Christmas bedecked Great Hall that the council had actually been a planning group to surprise her, was profound.
No one had doubted her ability to rule in Thorin's absence, and more than that, they'd loved her enough to try to not just give her a bit of her old home, but also to show her how much her ways mattered to them.
Just then Gâlis entered the room, dressed head to toe in a bright red velvet sari, with white fur cuffs and edging. Her white blonde hair and beard flowed out beneath her red wizard's hat—which also was edged in white fur. Sona was confused for a moment, until Liliandil—dressed in a plain green sari with white fur edging and bells on the tips of her pointed shoes—announced to everyone:
"Santa Claus is now here." The elleth indicated the rotund dwarrow-dam, who was, in turn, seating herself upon a large over-stuffed chair that had just been dragged into the room. "If all the children would be so kind as to gather round," Liliandil continued, "I will humbly assist my mistress in distributing gifts to those she deems worthy."
Which then kicked off the part of the night where Gâlis—er, Santa Claus—brought every child individually to sit upon her knee, and then queried them about their behavior over the past year. For those she determined to be good children, she gave them a gold bead with an emblem of deer antlers stamped into the side. For those she determined to be naughty she gave a lump of coal and told them to use it to relight the forges of their "good works" and try harder for next year.
Throughout all this Liliandil assisted Santa. She'd heft the dwarflings onto Gâlis's lap, then pull them off again, never tiring. She presented each one of them with a candy cane no matter whether they were in the "naughty" or "nice" list, and for those who were sad to be carrying coal, the candy and the elleth's calming presence put a smile back on their faces. In short (or in tall), she was the perfect Christmas Elf—Santa's little helper—much to Sona's (and every one else's) amusement.
"What do you think, N'amad'ulê?" Dís sat beside Sona, a mug of apple-spiced chai in her hands. "Is this not a good Christmas?"
"Oh, it's absolutely marvelous! I couldn't have dreamed up anything half as wonderful!" Sona smiled at her sister. "Though I will say, Santa has a much higher 'good child' bar here in Erebor." She watched as yet another child clutching a lump of coal had their tears dried by Liliandil and then a smile crossed their face as she gave them a candy cane.
"N'adâd'ulê would have beamed at receiving coal, like those there," she motioned to a few Dwarflings who were quite content with their lumps of coal, tossing and catching them, smiling back at Santa, all giggling by the time they reached Liliandil to receive their candy. "Fuel for their forges, always in trouble. My brothers would have tossed their coals between them, surely I know it." Then she winked at Sona.
Sona's response was cut short by watching Fíli lever himself out of his wheelchair and onto Santa Gâlis's lap. Given that he was still technically "under age" that meant he, along with many others who appeared to be "grown-up" to Sona's eyes, got a turn at the naughty or nice judgment. She stifled a chuckle behind her hand as he wheeled off with coal and a candy cane in his lap, clearly pleased with himself.
So much like his uncle. Frerin too, apparently.
"Are there more good children among Men than Dwarrow?" Dís seemed truly curious, and Sona couldn't help but giggle into her sister-in–law's shoulder over the ridiculous idea.
"Oh, absolutely not. Highly doubtful." She set her own mug of chai down. "It's just that no child ever makes the naughty list in reality; they all receive a gift from Santa at events like this."
Dís looked at her, clearly scandalized, brown eyes flashing. "Then what is the purpose of the event if all the children are told they are good when clearly only a very few are consistently throughout the year? How are they to learn and grow?"
Sona smiled into her chai at Dís's umbrage. "Oh, I'm not saying I disagree with you. Just that well, perhaps it is because children are only viewed as children for such a short time—only eighteen years—before they are expected to function in the world as adults, and out be on their own."
At this Dís relaxed and nodded while stroking her beard in thought. "Yes, that makes a certain sort of sense." Her gaze lingered on Fíli. "Eighteen years is scant time to make a proper start on raising young ones. I understand how Men would be tempted to coddle them through most of it."
Sona was about to laugh her agreement when suddenly Fíli and several other dwarves in the room stopped what they were doing and began looking toward the entrance of the mountain.
Then, like a rubber band snapping back into place, Sona felt it too.
She was on her feet and running to the entrance before understanding had fully formed in her mind.
And then Thorin was there, as if he had never left, sweeping her into his warm embrace. Sona flung her arms about his neck, heedless of the dirt, dust, and other road filth from nearly ten days of hard marching and fighting that coated him, as she liberally peppered his cheeks and beard with kisses. Later, she would remember the laughter and cheering that came from behind as her people witnessed her unrestrained fervor for her beloved spouse, their King. But for now all she could concentrate on was the fact that he was back and all felt right in the world again.
She would always miss her family, this she knew, but if faced with the choice to leave or stay… well, it was not really a choice. Her heart was home with Thorin, their people, and the Mountain. She would never willingly be parted from any of them.
Thorin tightened his hold on her, his lips nuzzling her ear as he whispered, voice rumbling low and deep:
"Merry Christmas, Thief."
"She told me the tree we have in the Great Hall is perfect, N'adad." Dís had seen her eyes roaming over the many beads, all the many Dwarrow! Home in the Mountain! Dís knew Sona loved that tried not to sound cranky, but she was not happy to be woken in the middle of the night.
"I hear you, N'amad'ē," Thorin said by way of explanation. "I needed an evergreen in our chambers' main room, so Dwalin helped me get one—"
"—for the Whatsafist." The Warrior added, nodding his apologies and looking pleased with himself all at once.
"I need your help," Thorin persisted, "to find the right spot for this tree, to show it best, and to help Dori decorate it, ribbons, bows, candy canes... candles..."
"There will be pine needles everywhere," Dori groused as he finished putting together a star he was fashioning for the top.
Nori, hanging light-weight mithril chain along the branches for the garland, laughed and muttered: "How he doesn't know what a fist is at this point…"
Dís did a double-take back at Nori, who, she realized, was sporting a very recent black eye, and Dwalin had a split lip. But the spymaster continued hanging the chain, seemingly quite content with himself. Dís shook her head, looking again at her brother, who had insisted on the mithril garland, as well as the star. He stopped moving at Nori's words, a big smile crossed N'adad'ē's face, and he seemed calmer.
Even so, all evening he had insisted on quite a lot of things, almost as though they'd somehow gotten Christmas wrong for Sona, and he wanted to fix it before she woke.
Dís nursed a bit of hurt feeling, like Thorin thought what she did was lacking, that grumpy feeling so hard to shake sometimes.
"I did not create the traditions." Thorin caught her eye, as well as her mood: his low voice whispered from the fireplace where he was at work hanging two ridiculously oversized red velvet socks—Ori had justfinished embroidering Thorin and Sona's initials on the white fur trimming the tops of them. "I cannot help if they make no sense.Akminruk'zu Dís N'amad'imê," as if he would thank her and ask for patience all at once.
Dís heard the panic in his voice. He did not seem to realize that for Sona, this holiday already reached perfection: he was here with her. The Darrow-dam felt a smile tug at her lips; Víli would have been behaving the same way for her.
Several hours later the tree was up and decorated—along with gifts on it (one of Sona's Christmas songs had been veryspecific about gifts onthe tree), the stockings were up and filled with sweetmeats and fruits, and the family was gathered.
Nearly everyone in the family was there: Bifur, Bofur, Bombur and Gâlis, Dwalin, Balin, Fíli and Danîe, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin (his wife and son were back in their apartments as Gimli was nursing a cold), to include Liliandil and Beth. Only Kíli and Tauriel were absent as they were still at Thranduil's court—Dís remained none-too-happy about it, either. Kíli was not yet of age, after all.
Everyone tried keeping quiet, and yet in this large and boisterous group, coupled with the fact that Sona was a notoriously early riser—
"Merry Christmas!" Danîe bellowed as Uzbada'êsleepily shuffled out of her sleeping quarters, a beaming Thorin directly behind her.
Sona stopped in the doorway mid eye-rub and just stared, taking in the group and then the room. Her eyes widened as she clutched at the ties of her lavender silk robe. Then a smile blossomed on her face, large and giving, and Dís knew the fuss had been all worth it; she was already mentally creating designs and plans for how they could incorporate both Christmas and Diwali into the Mountain's Yule celebrations the following year.
Many hugs were given and received and Sona made sure to kiss every Dwarrow atop his head as she thanked him, and all the ladies in the room on their cheeks. Beth brushed it off as "stuff and nonsense" but blushed warmly at it all, giving the lie to her words.
Then came time for the gift exchanges. There had been a drawing over the week past, names in a basket, and they all had drawn the name of another who would be attending, one to whom they would impart a gift. Well, all but for Umbad'â, as she had been kept out of the drawing for the sake of the surprise.
Dís had drawn Liliandil's name, and she gave the Elleth a mithril ring she had set with one of the remaining white stones from Liliandil's mother's original collection. It was the first time she'd seen the Elf Princess come close to crying. Dís was most certainly taken off guard when the Elleth swept her up into a tight hug.
Nori had drawn Dís's name, and he had given her a bronze bead as a favor token. Or, as he put it: "You can ask me for a favor: anything at anytime. Once. And I will do it, no questions asked." This had left Dís more than a bit touched at his trust in her—to know that she would not put his honor at risk.
Though,she mused whilst giving him the side-eye, he's spent more than enough time on the inside of a jail cell by his own doing.
But the best had been when Thorin had given Sona her gift. It was a scroll tied with red and blue ribbons. When she opened it she stared, mouth parted in a gasp as silent tears streamed down her face, before she gingerly set it down and embraced her husband tightly, whispering all the while in his ear. The look of happiness and contentment on Thorin's face at his Ahu'Yâsuth'zē'swords was all Dís could have ever wanted for him.
Thorin was a fair hand, though he was no master, and he'd drawn an oddly shaped guitar being held out by two hands as though they were trying to give the guitar to the image's viewer. The hands themselves were rough and scarred, with a portion of one index finger missing. Dís did not know the significance of the drawing, but clearly for Sona, it carried much meaning.
Sona pulled away, but only far enough to rest her head on Thorin's shoulder. Tears were drying on her cheeks and she did not wipe at them. "Âkmînruk zuto you all. I wish I had something for all of you—if I'd known…"
"Perhaps you could play us a song, my lady? A festive one… now if you please." Bofur grinned from beneath his floppy hat, and Sona met his smile with a knowing one of her own.
"That I can do," she nodded.
In a few moments her guitar—a gift from Thorin the previous year—had been organized. Their Queen sat before them, lips pursed, thinking. Then a fresh smile broke on her face and she strummed a chord and began a jolly, festive tune:
Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
'Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!
I met a man who lives way down in Bree, and he was headin' for
The Riddermark and some homemade pumpkin pie
From yor Gondor folks are travellin'
Down to Dol Amroth's sunny shore
From Ered Luin to the Iron Hills
This Mountain gives me such a thrill
Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
'Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home!
Translation of opening mantra:
May everyone be happy
May everyone be free from all diseases
May everyone see goodness
And auspiciousness in everything
May none be unhappy or distressed
Peace, peace, peace!
A/N: Many thanks to all of you who stuck around the first couple years while the main story was being written. You kept me going & gave me the wings I needed to finish it. Many thanks also to those of you who came across the main story after it was done & completely posted but still took the time to comment and review. Your kind words and encouragement kept the story fresh in my mind even years later, and directly led to me writing this Holiday short story about Sona, Thorin, the Company, and more. I don't know if I'll write in this world again (though I do hope so—it's always such fun), but please know that even if I don't come back here that I read each and every one of your comments and reviews & they mean the world to me. Much love to you and yours; Happy Diwali, Happy Hanukkah, Yuletide Greetings, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, and the Happiest of New Years to you all!