A/N: I sincerely apologize for the delay on this. You guys have been so patient with me as I struggled through this fic, I cannot thank all of you enough! The only excuse I can offer is the incredibly exciting news that I am now a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! :D If you would like to know more about that, see my blog at fogisbeautiful {dot} com. It's been a lot of work and a long time coming, and it's been exciting and exhausting all at the same time.

Without further ado, the conclusion to Fading Flower, Broken Stone.

Epilogue: The Four Gifts


The intricacies of dwarven courting were a maze that Brie quickly realized she wasn't quite prepared to navigate. On the surface it appeared fairly simple. There were four gifts: khajamir-rathâkh (the hands-gift) khajamib-baraf (the clan-gift) khajamid-zailu (the mind-gift), and khajamik-kurdu (the heart-gift). Each party exchanged gifts (usually in order, but this wasn't as rigid as one might have expected) and when the exchanging of gifts was done, they were married. Simple enough.

Except that without Brie's realizing, Thorin had already presented her with her first gift.

"The garden?" she asked incredulously.

Bofur shrugged, stirring his tea. They were sitting together in the Ri's parlor, alone for now, as Bofur was the only one of her brothers not currently...struggling with her, admittedly unexpected, decision to allow Thorin's courting. Even Ori, usually the optimistic romantic, had furrowed his brow in concern. But Bofur seemed neither surprised, nor bothered by the sudden turn of events. As well he shouldn't be, since Brie had her suspicions that many of the circumstances leading up to this had been engineered by Bofur himself. The sneaky creature.

"It was made with his hands," Bofur said, sipping thoughtfully, "And he did specifically designate it a gift for you. Technically, that's khajamir-rathâkh."

Brie groaned and buried her head in her arms at the table.

"How on earth am I to come up with something like that?"

"Well, there's no use comparing your gifts before you've even begun," Bofur said firmly, "It sort of defeats the point. The point is to make something that is the truest representation of you."

"Of me?" Brie asked, "What in the world would that be?"

"Well, darling, that's really not for me to say," Bofur said, unhelpfully, "Most dwarves choose a gift of their omdit for these things. That's what I did."

"Your omdit?" Brie asked, "I never saw you give Bilbo any..."

She trailed off as realization dawned.

"Buttons," she said softly, "His forget-me-not buttons."

Bofur smiled sheepishly down into his tea. "It wasn't really fair, of course. I knew he didn't know what they meant. And that I wouldn't be getting anything in return. But..." His eyes glazed over for a moment, then he blinked it away and shrugged. "I guess I couldn't help but hope."

Brie smiled and reached out to cover his hand with her own.

"I'm glad you're here, Bofur," she said, "I don't know what we would have done without you."

Bofur's smile turned into a mischievous grin. "Nori and Bilbo would have torn each other apart in the first month."

Brie laughed.

"Most likely," she said, "It is nice, though, hearing them both agree on something for once."

"Even if they're both dead wrong," Bofur said, taking a sip of his tea.

Brie hesitated.

"Are they?" she asked, running a finger along the rim of her cup, "It's just...I wonder if maybe I'm...not seeing things clearly."

Bofur blinked at her and then set his teacup down on the table, his face set into a determined expression.

"I'm no expert, namad," he said firmly, "I've never claimed to be. And of course it could all go pear-shaped, and I'm sure Nori and Bilbo will murder me and bury me in the back garden if it does. But that is a risk I am willing to take, because I truly believe this is where you are meant to be."

He reached across the table and took her hand.

"I would give my life, twice over, to see you happy and whole even for a little while."

Brie could feel the strength of his conviction echo inside of her, and she smiled. He returned her smile and his expression of solemn gravity floated away, replaced by his more familiar joviality.

"So," he said, sitting back and picking up his cup again, "We're back to the problem of khajamir-rathâkh."

Brie sighed and sat back herself, staring into the parlor fire.

"And I have no omdit," she said, sullenly.

"'Course you don't," Bofur said sensibly, "You're thinking about it like a dwarf, but you aren't. You're a hobbit. So, what would you give him if we were back in the Shire?"

"Well, I…"

Brie trailed off. She knew exactly what she would give him if she were in the Shire. But it seemed silly now, considering what he had given her.

...there's no use comparing your gifts before you've even begun...make something that is the truest representation of you...

Bofur smiled knowingly at her over his tea cup.

"Best to get it over with, nadith," he said, "No second guesses."

Brie sat up and took a settling breath, then nodded decisively.

The next morning, Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, opened his door to find a flower crown hanging on his door handle. Primroses. He took it carefully in his hands, turning it over and over as if he could not quite believe it was real. Then slowly, he began to smile.

He wore it all day, even to the meeting of the Guild heads. No one dared to question it, or the twinkle of a grin that colored his every expression.


Brie might not have had a full understanding of dwarven courting customs, but the second gift was a phrase that she was painfully familiar with.

"I would have given it to you...my khajamib-baraf…"

She hadn't understood what it meant all those years ago on the wall. Not really. But now even the thought that Thorin might consider giving her...it turned her stomach. She nearly called the whole thing off. In fact, she was still considering it half an hour before she was meant to be at dinner, half an hour before they were meant to exchange gifts before their friends and families.

"You'll wear down the stone, you keep pacing like that."

Brie jumped and turned to Nori, who was leaning against the doorframe of her room with a forcibly neutral expression on his face.

"This is a terrible idea," Brie blurted out, going back to her pacing, "I don't even have anything of my family's to give. I would have to send for my things back in the Shire, and what would I give him anyway, my mother's doilies? At least the primroses meant something, I can't just… I don't…"

She couldn't breathe. Gasping, she sank down onto the bed and covered her face with her hands.

"This is a terrible idea," she repeated, her voice muffled and heavy with unshed tears, "I can't do this. I can't..."

For a long while there was only silence, filled with the sounds of her terrified breathing. Then she felt the bed sink down beside her and the warmth of Nori's presence at her side. She sniffed and dropped her hands to her lap, but didn't dare look at him. They hadn't really spoken much since Brie had given Thorin his flower crown. Though he put on the appearance of being resigned to the situation, Brie knew that he was still upset. She sometimes thought she knew Nori better than she knew herself. Kurdu-nadad—the brother of her heart.

"Do you know he threw that stone into the lake?"

Brie's breath caught and she looked up. Nori was scowling down at his clasped hands, elbows on his knees, not looking at her.


Nori shut his eyes and let out a long breath through his nose.

"Ori told me," he said, "That time they came through the Shire. It was...part of his coronation ceremony."

Brie could only stare for a long moment.

"...it's gone?"

Nori shrugged. Brie felt as if a boulder had been lifted off her chest. She took a deep, cleansing breath and touched his shoulder.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

He opened his eyes and gave her a look. She already knew the answer. She dropped her hand. They were silent again for a long while.

"I'm scared, Briallen."

He was staring at his hands again, now open and palms up. They were shaking.

"I wish I were as strong as you," he whispered, "I wish I could just let it go, as easy as that, but…he hurt you, Brie. And I'm supposed to keep you safe. I know I've done a poor job of it thus far, but—"

Brie took both his hands in hers, cutting off his words.

"Never say that," she said sternly, "Never, nadad."

He looked up, his hazel eyes searching her face.

"You didn't mean it, did you?" he asked, though it was more of a statement than a question, "About it being a bad idea. You're still going through with it."

Brie felt a tiny smile tug at the corners of her lips. Perhaps Nori knew her just as well as she knew Nori.

"I suppose I am," she said, though the realization made her quake a little inside, "I...I love him, Nori. I really do."

Nori's lips twitched upward and he touched a finger gently to her nose.

"Stubborn mim ghivasha," he whispered. Then he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Fine. Then I have something you can give him."

The dinner was held in the chambers of Princess Dis, and the entire royal family, as well as the whole of the original Company were present. Though the food was excellent (prepared under Bombur's expert supervision), Brie could barely stomach any of it. She and Thorin had been seated at opposite ends of the table and when she caught Thorin's eye he smiled, but it was hesitant and tense. She almost wished she could not see him at all.

The meal finally ended and the party moved into the parlor. Without ceremony or delay, Thorin strode directly to the mantelpiece and took down a small parcel, wrapped in plain brown paper. Brie could see his hand trembling slightly as he handed it to her.

"It's...not so fine as you deserve," he said, "But it means a great deal to me."

Brie fumbled with the string a bit before she finally managed to unwrap the parcel. Cupped in her palm was a gold ring, set with a square cut ruby and intricately carved with runes that Brie could not quite make out. It was clearly too big for her finger and so had been strung with a fine gold chain.

"It was my father's," Thorin said, his voice tinged with warmth and sadness in equal measure, "And my grandfather's. And generations of Durin's line before him."

Brie ran her finger over the ruby's smooth surface and was surprised to find it warm to the touch.

"It's magic," Brie said, lifting it up and turning it into the firelight, "I can feel it."

"It's said that whoever holds it is granted a measure of protection," he said, "A touch of life, drawn from the fabric of the world."

Brie stared at him, the ring held suspended in her fingers. He was watching her carefully, his eyes flicking from the ring to her face. And she was suddenly, painfully aware of the fact that he would outlive her. Even if all went well—if peace was maintained and the Fading never returned to haunt her—Thorin's natural life span was years over hers. And he knew it. That was the real reason he had given her this gift, a desperate clinging hope that they might live together for as long as was possible. She blinked away tears and turned the ring over in her fingers, trying to think of something to say.

"Well," Ori piped up, breaking the heavy silence, "That makes our gift seem rather silly."

"Oi!" Nori exclaimed, crossing his arms, "I've a right mind to be offended. I am far better than some dusty, old trinket!"

Thorin raised an eyebrow and looked at Briallen.

"You're giving me...your brother?"

Brie straightened herself and clenched the ring in her fist, taking a strange comfort in its warmth.

"No, your majesty," she said haughtily, "I am giving you a spymaster."

She heard a choking sound from over by the mantel where Dwalin and Balin were standing. Nori stepped up to her side with his arms crossed, eyeing Thorin with a not-quite-glare. Thorin looked slightly intimidated, but held his ground.

"Heard you were needing one," Nori said curtly, "And as I appear to be in this thing for the long haul now, thought I might as well make myself useful."

"You're staying, then?"

Dwalin's gruff voice and stiff bearing were belied by the flickering of his eyes, searching the whole of Nori's face, as if waiting for the ruse to reveal itself. Nori glanced at him, and then away, down at his feet. He shrugged.

"Suppose I am."

There was a long beat of silence, but then Nori seemed to shake it off and resettle himself.

"The dwarves in these parts don't know my face as well as the others," he said, "I can reforge old contacts easily enough, especially with some of the old gang from Ered Luin, they'll get me in with the right sorts. So long as your guardsmen don't try to tell me how to conduct my business, it ought to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. You get a better eye on your kingdom...and I keep a better eye on you. For whatever reason I might need to."

He gave Thorin a very pointed look and Brie was about to touch his elbow, to draw him back, but Thorin put out his hand instead.

"We would be lucky to have you, Master Nori."

Nori stared him down for a moment or two longer, and then grudgingly accepted the hand.

"I'm only doing this for her, you know."

"Nori!" Brie exclaimed, but Thorin didn't even flinch.

"And I appreciate your diligence," the king said, "But I assure you, Master Nori, that I intend to spend the rest of my life not meeting your expectations."

Nori raised an eyebrow and, for the first time all evening, he smiled, though the expression was sharp and almost predatory.


Brie buried her face in her hands.

"Green Mother preserve us," she murmured.

"And Mahal grant his help," Dis agreed, putting an arm around her shoulders, "Welcome to the life of a dwarrowdam, namad."

Brie only groaned in answer.


After the agonizing deliberation of the first two gifts, Brie had been certain that the khajamid-zailu, the marriage contract,would be the easy part.

She had been mistaken.

"Don't be ridiculous, of course Fili is still the heir!"

Balin gave Thorin a knowing look, and the king dropped his eyes to the table.

"That is not generally how right of succession works," he mumbled.

"Well, I don't care two jots," Brie said, crossing her arms and stamping her foot, "He's been working for this his whole life. He deserves it!"

"No one is arguing his worth—"

"For goodness sake, he is your son!" Brie went on, outrage at the mere suggestion driving her on, "Anyone who doesn't see that is as blind as a mole rat! This shouldn't even be a discussion!"

"Unfortunately, there are a surprising amount of mole rats in Erebor, my dear," Balin said gently, "We simply must be explicit about these things or someone will find a way to manipulate the situation in the future. It has to be done."

Brie snorted and sat down hard in her chair.

"Fine, put it down," she said, "Fili, and then Kili, before anyone else."

Balin tucked away a smile and dutifully made a note on his parchment. Thorin had still not looked up from the table, but he made no objection.

"Now, let's see," Balin said, humming and reaching for another sheet of parchment, "There is the matter of your education and coronation ceremony—"

"My what?" Brie squeaked, sitting up.

Balin glanced up and raised one bushy eyebrow.

"Well, you'll need a bit of instruction before you can take up the mantel as the second half of our monarchy. You'll have to learn our laws and the histories behind them, you'll need to be schooled in proper Khuzdul—" Here he gave her a pointed look that made Brie blush a little and cross her feet under the table. "—and in the duties you'll be expected to perform, as well as our traditions and customs. Normally, this wouldn't be so much of an issue, as a dwarrowdam would already have this knowledge, but—"

Thorin growled and Balin gave him a stern look.

"We've discussed this, your majesty," the old dwarf said in a measured tone, "There will be opposition even if we take these measures. You know this."

"My choice is my choice," Thorin grumbled, staring at his hands gripping the edge of the table. His knuckles had gone white.

"And no one is disputing it," Balin agreed, "But you are attempting to bring an outsider into dwarven affairs of state. There will be protest."

Thorin shot him a glare that Balin met with only a raised eyebrow and crossed arms.

"Couldn't I just...be his wife?" Brie suggested tentatively, "Like a consort, instead of a queen? If it would make things easier—"

"You are not a latrûnayusth!" Thorin snapped, "I'll have none say it!"

Brie flinched and Thorin's glare vanished in a blink, replaced with wide-eyed dismay. He stood up and, for a moment, Brie thought he might flee the room, but instead he paced the floor, running his hands over his face a few times as if to scrub away the last remnants of a terrible nightmare. He finally settled with his hands resting on the back of his chair and let out a long breath through his nose.

"You're right, Balin," he said, nodding to him, "Forgive me, I...lost sight for a moment."

Balin relaxed in his own seat and gave Thorin a fond, understanding smile.

"No one is trying to take her from you, Thorin," he said, gently.

"Well, of course, they're not," Brie agreed, sitting up defiantly and crossing her arms, "After everything we've seen, you really think a few grouchy, old politicians are going to frighten me off?"

Thorin gave her a reluctant smile. "They are very grouchy."

"You haven't met my cousin, Lobelia."

Thorin chuckled and sank back down into his chair.

"I've heard stories," he said, with a glimmer in his eye, "I look forward to the introduction."

Brie felt a spark of wickedness touch her smile. "As a matter of fact, so do I."

"Excellent," Balin said, scratching something onto the parchment in front of him, "Of course, I am happy to volunteer myself as a tutor for our future queen, if she is amenable. I believe with your foundation of—"

"Wait," Brie said, blinking back to the present, "Are we still doing the coronation? I thought that we—"

"My dear," Balin cut in, giving her a skeptical look, "After that rousing display, you don't really expect us to believe you would be content sitting quietly in the parlor while your husband struggles daily with Erebor's mole rats, do you?"

Brie opened her mouth to protest...and then closed it again. She looked at Thorin, but he was only giving her a smug grin that was absolutely no help at all. She glared and sat back in her chair with a huff. Balin smirked and picked up his pen.

"As I was saying," the old dwarf continued, "I believe with your foundation of basic Khuzdul and customs taught by your brothers, we can safely schedule a coronation for the first year after the wedding. Until then you will simply be a...consort-in-training."

"Can't we find a better word?" Thorin grumbled.

Balin rolled his eyes.

"I know how much you hate it, your majesty, but there is no other word," he said, "If the two of you hadn't spent the last four years trying to kill yourselves through pure stubbornness, things might be simpler. As it is, you will simply have to make do."

Both Brie and Thorin retreated sheepishly, staring at their hands. Balin gave them both a sharp glance, then went back to his parchment.

"So," he said, primly, "Lessons daily, noon to two. Next order of business…"

Brie glanced up and caught Thorin's eye across the table. He was smirking at her, as if he had won some great argument. He looked entirely too smug for his own good, so Brie stuck out her tongue at him. Thorin laughed, and Brie felt much better for it, even under Balin's disapproving glare.


The final gift, khajamik-kurdu turned out to be the easiest gift of all. There was a flurry of preparations and a great deal of traveling, but finally, on a fine spring morning almost a year to the day since they had left Bag End (for what she had thought would be the last time), Briallen Baggins found herself sitting on the bench beside the round green door of her family smial. The little garden that the Gamgees had started in their absence would flourish this year, without anyone to meddle and kill all the new growth. She smiled and shut her eyes. She could almost imagine her father there, kneeling in the earth with a trowel in his hand and his hat on his head. In her mind, he sat back on his heels, looked up at her and smiled.

"That's my girl..."


She opened her eyes. Bilbo was standing in the open doorway, in his fine red waistcoat and lavender-ribboned hair, watching her anxiously. He had been like this for weeks now, constantly searching for any sign that there might be something amiss. But as much as Brie still had moments of doubt, as much as she still wondered about the wisdom of her choices, she could not deny that there were no black tendrils at the edges of her vision, no sinking feeling in her chest, no sign of the Fading at all. She felt light and free and nothing could be more right than that.

She moved over a little so Bilbo could sit beside her on the bench, their feet swinging in tandem.

"Are you nervous?" he asked.

"A bit," she admitted, "It's an awful lot of words."

"I managed it alright, and with far less practice than you've had," Bilbo said, "You'll do fine."

They sat another moment in silence.

"I'll miss you, Brie."

His breath caught on the words and Brie felt tears well up in her eyes. She blinked them back and took his hand in hers.

"Me too."

"Do you..." He paused and shifted in his seat. "Do you remember what you said to me? A long time ago, we were running for our lives, and I was so cross with myself that I had left you to face Azog alone. You said, 'Sometimes, Bilbo, being together doesn't mean side-by-side. It means—'"

"—that you are here," Brie said, pressing Bilbo's hand to her heart, "And I am here." She reached out and pressed her other hand to his chest.

"And that means we are never alone," Bilbo finished, "Even when we're apart."

Brie smiled. "Together or not at all."

He squeezed her hand. "Together or not at all."

The sound of a crash reverberated from the meadow below, followed by the sounds of raucous laughter, both dwarven and hobbit alike, drowning out the gentle music that had been drifting on the morning breeze.

Bilbo chuckled and wiped his eyes.

"We'd better get down there," he said, getting to his feet, "Or there might not be much of a party left."

Brie took his offered hand and let him pull her to her feet. She could see the party tree at the base of the hill, all decked in blue and gold and lavender. There was a crowd of hobbits and dwarves all waiting down there. Thorin was waiting. Waiting to give that final gift, the gift of words that would bind their hearts together.

Brie squeezed her brother's arm, and made her way down to meet him.


-One Year Later-

Briallen paced the empty hallway, heavy robes swishing against the stone, muttering words and phrases under her breath. This was madness. It was all madness, everything, the coronation, the...

She pressed a hand to her middle and then dropped it again, twisting her fingers together. Nobody knew. She hadn't told anyone, had not even been to see Oin, but... She had always scoffed at hobbit housewives who talked about just knowing, but she thought she understood now. She just knew. And it did nothing but terrify her further.

"Stop that," Dis said, appearing around the corner and standing in the way with her hands on her hips, "You're going to wear a trough in the floor."

Brie stopped pacing and looked at her sister-in-law, feeling only a tinge of jealousy at how well her courtly robes fit her, how easily she seemed to command the space around her, how well suited she was for the job that Brie was about to succeed her in.

"I can't do this," she said, turning to press her back to the stone wall and burying her face in her hands, "I don't know why I ever thought I could. I'm not a queen! I'm not even a dwarf! I'll never be able to do this, never—"

"Well, you're going to have to," Dis said unapologetically, "Because whether or not you go through with the ceremony, I'm leaving for Ered Luin in two days, and Erebor needs a queen. Thorin is a very good king, but he is rubbish about trying to do everything on his own. And he's picked you, so..."

Dis shrugged, her arms crossed in what might have been a stern fashion to anyone that did not know her. In the year since Brie had come to live in Erebor, she had come to love Dis as much as any sister. She would miss her when she was gone. But the princess's heart still called for the Blue Mountains, and so Thorin had agreed to give them into her rule. She had an air of eager anticipation about her as the date of her impending departure neared, and Brie was happy for her. But she was right, of course. Erebor needed a queen. And Thorin had picked her. Which made Brie the only person in all of Middle-Earth qualified for the job, however badly qualified she might feel.

She pushed off the wall and straightened her robes, as Dis moved forward and fussed with the braids in her hair, rearranging the strings of sapphires and bits of silver.

"There," she said, "Now you look like a queen."

Brie smiled and took the other woman's hand, but before she could make a fool of herself with sentimental rubbish, one of the large stone doors behind them cracked open, letting loose a torrent of sound from the cavernous room on the other side. Ori poked his head out and gave Brie a tentative smile.

"We're ready."

Dis squeezed her hand and glided off to take her place at her brother's side, to hand over the mantel that she had worn for three long years. Brie felt the loss of her warmth keenly and pressed her hand to her stomach again.

"Nerves?" Ori asked, and Brie dropped her hand again.

"A little," she confessed.

Ori smiled brightly at her.

"Don't worry, namad," he said as he positioned her in front of the entrance and made a motion to the guards on either side, "They're going to love you."

Brie thought about the tiny life growing inside her and felt another twitch of uncertainty.

"I certainly hope so," she whispered, as the doors were pulled open and the fanfare began, drowning out the noise of thousands of dwarves that waited beyond, the dwarves of Erebor. Even though the dais seemed miles away, Brie thought she could detect the tiniest hint of a smile on Thorin's face, though the rest of his bearing was solemn and stately. It gave Brie the courage she needed to straighten her spine and make her way down the narrow walkway, to whatever fate waited for her.

Whatever came next, they would face it together.

The End

Khuzdul Translations:

The four gifts:

Khajamir-rathâkh- the hands-gift

Khajamib-baraf- the clan-gift

khajamid-zailu- the mind-gift

khajamik-kurdu- the heart-gift

Omdit- art of the heart (a dwarf's chosen craft, to which they are devoted)

Namad/Nadad- sister/brother

Nadith- little sister

mim ghivasha- little treasure

Latrûnayusth- lazy-lady wife

Story Note: I did want to point out that, yes, Thorin gave Brie the last surviving Dwarven Ring of Power as a courting gift. And yes, I do realize that in the canon, Thrain has the ring and it is lost when he's captured by Sauron. But I'm taking fanfic liberty with this and instead assuming that Thrain gave the ring to his son before he disappeared, and so Thorin now has it to give to Brie. Because he wants her to live, Mahal dammit! ;P

A/N: I just want to thank you guys again for taking this journey with me. I've left this ending intentionally open-ended, as I have plans to perhaps continue in the future, but for now, we'll be leaving Brie and Thorin (and their tiny gift) as they are, happy and whole and ready to face the world together. I'll be spending 2018 focusing on my Marvel fics (because I have fallen woefully behind in that universe), as well as continuing my original series of Shakespeare in Space novels. If you'd like more information, or would just like to keep up with what I'm doing, I regularly post blog updates at fogisbeautiful {dot} com {forward slash} blog.

Thank you guys again for all of your wonderful comments and encouragement as I wrote this fic. It's meant the world to me and I can't wait to see what life has in store for us in the future!