“For home, a song that echoes on;
And all who find us will know the tune.”

“Song of the Lonely Mountain”
Neil Finn

[Source]: thorinoakenshield.net post: 05/12/12

Akhalathnurt ‘Afgargablâg 2nd

(Tuesday May 19th)


It started with Bard.

“Morning, Mestari,” the Bowman said, pleasantly enough, as he strolled casually up toward Kivi’s work station.

Her work crews hadn’t yet reported for the day; the sun was barely above the horizon and full light wouldn’t flood the nooks and crevasses of Dale for at least another hour. Kivi, however, was ever early to bed and early to rise; as the chief supervisor of the city’s rebuilding, there was always plenty of work to be done before the crews shuffled up to their meeting point, yawning widely, still half-asleep.

She hovered over her makeshift table and scribbled notes to herself in a large, oil-stained, and weather-beaten leather journal. Every so often, she would tuck her quill behind her ear and squint hard at the almost haphazard array of blueprints spread out before her. When pausing to consider and think, she would raise a sturdy, steaming, green-glazed ceramic mug to her lips and sip at its contents absent-mindedly. There was a bowl perched just within her reach, filled with a peculiar, red-tinted porridge, the likes of which Bard hadn’t ever seen. He eyed it thoughtfully and then over at Kivi’s mug, out which was emanating a deep and smoky scent into the still-crisp morning air.

“Mornin’,” Kivi answered gravely from around the rim of her mug; her blue eyes tracked Bard’s movement and the Bowman knew that she already suspected the reason for his unexpected visit.

He decided to ignore the obvious for the moment.

“An interesting breakfast,” he waved a hand casually at Kivi’s wooden bowl and glazed mug.

“Not so, really,” the mason glanced down at her red-tinted meal with a wry half-smile. “I suppose, then, that you’ve never had a porridge made out of cowberries.”

“Cowberries?” Bard blinked in surprise and leaned over the table to peer at the contents of Kivi’s wooden bowl. “You can eat them, then?”

“Let me guess,” Kivi didn’t even try to hide the laughter in her voice. “You Men only give them to cattle?”

“Well…yes,” Bard’s dark hair moved slightly against the side of his throat as he shook his head in surprise; equally dark eyes rose up to meet the dwarf-maid’s amused face. “I was always told that they were poisonous – for Men, at least,” his gaze dropped again to consider the innocuous bowl of porridge. “Because of the vibrant color and all.”

Kivi gave up on being stoic. Her laughter rolled against the stones around them with a gentle peel, the timbre of it husky and rich, yet unmistakably feminine. She shook her head in ill-disguised mirth and the sun rising slowly above the tower behind them caught the scarlet strands woven naturally amid her golden hair.

“What is it with the folks of the West and their aversion to bright colors?” she chortled, eyes sparkling like chipped crystal. “We call them puolukka in the North and in my southern travels, I thought they had disappeared into my childhood, a fond memory,” her full lips curled upward in a cheerful smile as she picked up the bowl with one hand and offered it to Bard. “But, imagine my surprise when I traveled here to Dale and found whole bunches of them growing in the cracks and crevasses of the ruins that overlook this valley. They are a treasured fruit of my kin and grow so plentiful in the Northern Waste, that whole fields will be spread with a pleasing array of deep green leaves and scarlet berries for as far as the eye can see. Please, try.”

If it was one thing Bard had learned in his nearly two years of dealing with dwarves, it was that one did not decline their generosity. He shared Kivi’s smile, reached over across the table, and cupped his larger hands around the smooth sides of the bowl. It was still warm, the heat soaking through his bare palm and soothing the callouses on his fingers. He picked up the spoon that was propped up against the side of the dish and took a tentative bite.

“Hmm…” the Bowman mumbled around a mouthful as he rolled the porridge across his tongue and swallowed. “It’s quite tart.”

“It is,” Kivi couldn’t stop a friendly chuckle. “Most of my people put more sugar into the porridge than I do – Seppä, for example. But, I like it a little tart for a morning repast. Wakes up the senses.”

Bard took another bite, as if to confirm his opinion of the matter. He squinted off into the distance as he chewed slowly and thoughtfully.

“I like it,” he finally determined and handed the bowl back to Kivi with an easy grin. “You will have to share the recipe with Sigrid. It would indeed make a good breakfast.”

“It’s easy enough to make – Tilda could make it as well, I wager,” Kivi all but beamed with the Man’s approval. “Or you, or Bain,” she shrugged with a wide smile. “It’s nothing more than rough-ground grain, mashed cowberries, sugar, and a little cream.”

“Simple enough, then,” Bard agreed, with an appraising eye cast down on the brightly colored porridge.

“Simple, but hardy,” Kivi picked up her mug and sipped at its contents with an air of particular satisfaction. “It’s what we folk of the North do best.”

“It would seem that your kin are people of great humility…and even greater skill,” Bard lifted his eyes toward the scaffolds built up against the nearby walls and the half-way finished arch between them.

“I assure you, our humility is but practicality. The odds of survival are considerably higher when one watches her tongue,” Kivi snorted into her drink, but her eyes still twinkled with good will. “As for our skill…” she set her mug down gently on the table in front of her and traced a finger carefully around its rim. “That, too, comes from sheer practicality. Like all dwarrow, we dig into the earth, but the wilds of our homeland are frozen for more months of the year than they are green, and the earth is much harder there than here. Wood is fragile and catches fire too easily in the dry, snowy air; in some places it is also quite scarce and put to better use as firewood, for our hearths, for our life heat,” she spoke softly, her eyes fixed to the walls as well.

She seemed to be in something of a trance as she recalled the ways of the Stiffbeards; Bard hung on every word. This was more than he had ever heard Kivi speak about herself, her people, or her homeland.

“Like all dwarrow, my kin also burrow into the bones of this world. But, we do not mine so deeply as the others. Instead, we depend on stone for our survival – stone supports and shelters us. Without it, our ancestors would have died long ago, in Thulin’s age. Stone is integral to our survival and so, we have learned to master our craft,” Kivi glanced solemnly toward Bard, who met her gaze with equal intensity. “Our stone must support the weight of our kin, it must shelter us and all who come to us for survival during Shulukadrân, or Deep Winter . It must bear the weight of mountains covered almost always in layers of hardened ice and snow. It must protect us from the cold drakes and the storms. One mistake made by the mallet of a mason can kill hundreds of my kin as swiftly and as cruelly as the frost. Ours is a sacred duty, a matter of truest trust,” she glanced down and briefly brushed her fingers against the iron mallet that was laying dutifully at the edge of the table by her left hand. “We never forget that.”

“So, Dale is in the best of hands, then,” Bard had never once questioned Kivi’s skill, but it still buoyed his hopes to hear her speak of how integral her craft really was to her own identity.

“It would be in the best of hands, if any Stiffbeard mason were here,” Kivi shook her head, braid bouncing, as cautious as ever of praise that might single her out. “Dale is indeed in the best of hands, because I am a Stiffbeard, but not by any virtue of my own self.”

It was this humility that intrigued Bard – not because he felt it was disingenuous, as he had observed equal displays of humble evasion to praise from Kivi’s four adult companions, but because he suspected that, in Kivi’s case, it was a product of some strange secrecy. Bard, as an archer and a long-time boatman of Laketown, had a keen instinct when it came to others – instincts sharpened by a life on the fickle water and a life with the fickle Master. He had known from the very day he met her, that Kivi Journeyman had much about her self hidden away. That intrigued Bard, but he was wise enough not to pry. She had never lied to him, or even so much as quibbled in the time she’d spent among the Men of Dale. This was enough to urge Bard to keep his tongue and curiosity in check – the dwarf-maid would tell him in her own time and probably in abrupt, unexpected revelations, like this one.

He couldn’t help poking, though, ever so lightly.

“Seppä would seem to disagree,” Bard softened his words with a roguish smile and a sidelong glance at his short friend.

Kivi had the reaction he expected – she sighed heavily and rolled her eyes skyward.

“Seppä has high expectations – if you haven’t noticed, he’s a most unrealistic dwarf.”

Bard just laughed and countered with an easy:

“He said your mother was a Stone-Singer and could shape the most elegant structures – structures that could withstand the weight of ages.”

“My mother was special,” a great sadness darkened the clarity of Kivi’s eyes and Bard felt a sudden regret for bringing up what was apparently a topic of grief. “And she was indeed a Stone-Singer – like her father before her and her grandmother before him,” the gold-and-copper strands of her hair framed the curves of her face and only seemed to accentuate how very young she was.

Too young to lose a mother, Bard realized with a pang of empathy; he had and still did think the same of his own two daughters.

“But,” Kivi carried on, her voice much softer now, with memory and pain. “She died young and I was young, as well – too young, in fact, to have learned much of the great knowledge she had to pass down. I have learned what I have mostly from my early youth and from her journal,” her hand drifted to the sturdy, well-worn journal on the table between her and the Bowman. “And from an Ice Elf,” the dwarf-maiden’s lips curled up wryly at the corners. “Which is the height of irony, really,” she finally lifted her eyes and offered a chagrined little smile to Bard. “Since it was my ancestors who taught Katrikki’s forefathers how to shape the stones to their will.”

Bard’s eyebrows threatened to fly off of his forehead in surprise.

“But, isn’t Katrikki a healer…?”

“She is,” Kivi chuckled softly and shook her head; her braid bounced brightly against the front her bright blue tunic. “But, Katrikki is the daughter of a mason herself. And Jarvi is a mason, too – he has had a great role in teaching me the secrets of our people.”

“Isn’t he a…ah…” Bard paused, wondering what was the most delicate way to state the obvious.

“A half-dwarf?” Kivi’s brilliant blue eyes glanced slyly up and over toward her taller friend. “That would be the colloquial way of describing his lineage. But, if the Umli are indeed a mixture of dwarven and Mannish blood, it is a thing that happened long before the memories of our ancestors. Although,” she pursed her lips thoughtfully and tilted her head to the side. “Intermarriage between the Umli and the Stiffbeards is neither forbidden or unusual,” she shrugged and a winsome smile finally brightened her face. “After all, he is my cousin.”

“Your…” Bard thought quickly. “Father’s nephew, then?”

“Yes. Umli is the youngest son of my father’s youngest sister,” Kivi’s face darkened again, but not quite so severely as before. “When he reached his age of Choice, he asked to be apprenticed to my father. Jarvi, if you haven’t noticed, is cheerful and…” Kivi wrinkled her nose comically, her eyes twinkling teasingly. “Well, quite loud. Far too loud for the dour Umli. He fit in much better with us Stiffbeards and he had many years to learn my father’s craft. I have, in many respects, learned far more of my father’s skills, than my mother’s.”

“Surely your father was a great mason in his own right,” Bard didn’t mean for his words to sound quite so obsequious and he winced a bit to himself.

Kivi just threw her head back and laughed.

“No, not really,” she grabbed her braid and threw it over her shoulder, so it could swing freely across her back; she winked playfully at the Bowman, to ease some of his embarrassment. “Isä had many duties to fulfill that had nothing to do with masonry, so he could not devote himself to his craft as much as my mother could. He was solid – a true and masterful mason, to be sure. But, he was no Stone-Singer or Stone-Master, and he would tell you that himself, were he here to do so.” [“Father”]

Her smile, again, turned a little sad, so Bard tried to push the conversation past such sad remembrances.

“Your companions all seem to think that you’ll become a Stone-Singer yourself, one day,” his dark eyes watched Kivi closely, in the hope that the sorrow on her face might fade again.

“Perhaps,” Kivi shrugged, all practicality and humility again; she didn’t quite meet Bard’s gaze and fiddled absently with the corner of one parchment blueprint. “But, they have not yet begun to sing to me and I cannot sing to them until that bond has been made.”

“Stones…sing?” Bard nearly gave himself whiplash as he turned to peer curiously at the silent walls above them.

“The earth is a living thing, you understand,” Kivi’s voice was reverent and firm, her words assured by a deep-seated knowledge that the Man before her could only marvel over. “The soil, the grass,” she waved at the unremarkable dust and dirt at their feet. “They are but the skin. The rocks, the stones, the gems? They are the earth’s bones and they whisper their secrets as surely as the wind above them.”

Bard watched Kivi with a mixture of disbelief and awe. He had never heard such things – much less from a dwarf. In fact, he was fairly certain this was the longest conversation he had ever had with one of the Khazâd – Kíli notwithstanding.

“They don’t sing like sparrows or crickets, mind you. But, I remember my mother saying once that each stone, each metal, each bone of the earth had its own harmony when struck with chisel and mallet. She could carve so certainly and so swiftly, that she could make the stones sing as she worked. I watched her once, when she didn’t know I was there, when I was a dwarfling younger than Kari or Kal,” Kivi stared straight ahead at Dale’s resurrected southern wall; her gaze never wavered, nor her voice, but Bard could hear her loss all the same. “She sang to them – she sang with them, with the rhythm of her tools, and with the steady beat of her iron against the stone. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

“I can, perhaps, Master Bowman, claim to be a Mestari among the worlds of Men,” slowly, Kivi turned her fiery heard toward Bard and looked solemnly up at him. “But I could not claim to be a Mestari among my own people, within my own homeland. And I am certainly no Stone-Singer.”

There was a long, painful silence between the two of them. Finally, Bard took a deep breath and sighed heavily into the brightening morning.

“But,” he shoved his thumbs into the sturdy width of his belt. “Dale is in good hands.”

“You have my word,” Kivi spoke with all the sincerity of an oath-making.

Bard chewed the inside of his lip for a moment as he debated on whether to leave the conversation amiably at that…or to press his luck toward his original intentions. A harsh squawk and abrupt flurry of wings distracted him and he jerked his head up toward the sky at the same time Kivi did. A pair of energetic ravens flapped and fluttered over the top of a newly rebuilt guard tower to the right of the reconstructed gate. The caws of the two birds echoed through Dale’s lower streets, startling more than their fair share of sleepy workmen, yawning merchants, and bleary-eyed beggars.

“Ugh,” Kivi made a noise of deepest disgust as she lowered her head and reached for her still-steaming mug. “The favored birds of Durin’s kin just had to be ravens.”

“Have something against ravens?” Bard tried to make light of the situation and laughed easily as the ravens’ din began to fade the further they flew.

“They’re carrion birds,” Kivi pinched her lips together, as if she had just taken a bit of an unsweetened cowberry. “Foul and loud,” her eyes flashed fiercely at Bard, as if daring the man to contradict her. “Omens of death and war. What king in his right mind would make such dark portents his personal toteemi?”

“His what?” Bard shook his head, confused.

“His…” Kivi waved an exasperated hand in the air between them as she searched for the right word. “His emblem. His…symbol, I suppose.”

“Ah,” the Bowman glanced upward again, at the now raven-less sky.

As a curious aside, he added:

“Do the lords of the Stiffbeards have a…ah…toteemi?” he forced his mouth to work around the foreign word and was quite pleased to hear that it came out not half as horribly as he would have thought.

“Theirs is the Pale Owl, the kalpea pöllö,” Bard did not miss the wistfulness that crept into Kivi’s voice. “They are noble creatures, the great birds of prey in the far North. They have wingspans nearly as long as a dwarf is tall. They are graceful and silent – keepers of secrets and ancient wisdoms.”

“Quite the opposite of ravens then, I imagine,” Bard offered her an encouraging half-smile.

“Indeed,” Kivi quirked her lips in something that her companion couldn’t decide was a smirk or a grimace.

Silence, again.

Bard took another deep breath, as Kivi took another deep sip of her drink.

What he meant to say next was something along the lines of : “What do you have against Erebor, exactly?” What came out, instead, was:

“I have never heard you speak so freely about your people, your homeland.”

The Bowman had quite startled himself by the unintended admission and he blinked owlishly at Kivi. For her part, the master mason’s face softened into an expression that was almost self-conscious.

“You are an easy audience,” she shrugged and cast her eyes down, as if suddenly shy. “And you have caught me on a morning where I am, perhaps, more nostalgic than I would be normally.”

“You are an unusual dwarf,” Bard observed gently; his gaze never strayed from Kivi’s down-turned face. “Seppä, too. You’re as secretive as any dwarf I’ve ever met, but you have from the beginning offered a hand of friendship to me, my family, and the people of Dale. I have never met dwarrow so willing to help those not of their own race.”

“That is because the Stiffbeards have learned a lesson that the other Khazâd have yet to fully grasp,” Kivi looked up at that, her face proud and – Bard could think of no other word – regal. “We have learned to exist in a world that would kill us in our very sleep. We are dependent on each other – and all honorable races of the North. We have learned to be interdependent, for there is no other way to live in the Wastes.

“The Forodwaith – the Men – hunt whales and the beasts of the icy seas. They trade oil, food, skins with us. The Umli are master hunters and herders – it is they who taught my forefathers how to be invisible amid the snow, how to find food, to herd the horned losrandir, how to train the loyal reikikoriat to pull our sleds. The Ice-Elves have taught us how to heal our wounds, what dangers to avoid in herb and berry, how to read the sky, the stars, the weather. And in turn, we have taught them all how to carve stone, how to build, how to tend fires that never wane. In the days of Thulin, our Vanha Isä, he swore an oath that we have solemnly kept to this very age – from the first day of Iklaladrân, to the last day of Shulukadrân, for five months total, we welcome any wanderer into our halls. Be they Man, Elf, or Dwarf, they are welcome to partake of our hearth fires and the safety of our stones. This hospitality is the cornerstone of all that my people are,” Kivi explained solemnly, her husky voice filling the balmy summer air with memories of ice, hoar, and frozen winter nights. “In the North, the word ‘kin’ extends far beyond the Khazâd. We are all kin, for we cannot survive without each other.”

Bard could not help but be awed by the fierce nobility of Kivi’s words. She was as proud to be a daughter of Thulin, as any dwarf of Erebor was to be a son of Durin. There was a depth of honor, a veneration of memory that grounded her words in a way that no Man of Dale could claim of his or her own histories. Bard felt oddly compelled to bow his head respectfully to her, as respectfully as if she were Kíli himself.

“You honor me deeply with these stories of your homeland,” tawny eyes met cerulean, solemnly and admiringly. “It is an honor to have you and your kin with us, Kivi Journeyman, and I will always, gladly, call you ‘friend’,” Bard paused and a subtle tension now slipped in between them.

He took a steadying breath and watched as Kivi read his body language. Her own shoulders pulled back and a slight frown marred her high, smooth forehead. They had come to the juncture of their conversation and they both sensed it, as strangely connected in thought and knowledge as if they had known each other intimately for decades. Bard swallowed hard and hoped he would not displease her with the question that now quite begged to be asked.

“But,” he watched as Kivi’s eyes now narrowed ever so subtly. “If you are so honor-bound to help rebuild the walls of Men,” Bard motioned wide around them, never once breaking eye contact with the stocky mason. “Then why will you not rebuild the halls of Durin?”

Anger crackled darkly through Kivi’s eyes, altering the clarity there like sharp divides in broken ice. She lifted her chin proudly, haughtily, her demeanor now as unwavering as the very stones she carved.

“Because I am not a daughter of Durin, for Kíli Thorinkin to order about as he likes.”

“He’s not ordering you though,” Bard fought the urge to reach up and rub his temples in exasperation; for all of Kivi’s openness around him, she was as stereotypically obstinate as any dwarf he’d met. “He’s asking.”

“If the King Under the Mountain wishes to request my assistance, then he can stop speaking through the mouths of others and ask me himself,” Kivi’s voice was now as sharp as her ever-present chisel. “I might consider such a thing, should he climb off that accursed throne of his, and set aside his arrogance. But,” she pursed her lips sourly. “I rather suspect the deserts of Haradwaith will freeze first.”

“He is a king, you know. The high king, really, of the Khazâd, to my best understanding,” Bard frowned and shifted his feet in frustration. “As such, it is in his right to order and offer.”

“There is a divide among the children of Mahal,” Kivi stubbornly shook her head, unmoved by Bard’s limited understanding of the Khazâd. “And Kíli Thorinkin should well know that. Durin’s Sons may rule the West, but the heirs of Thulin rule the East. And so it has ever been. I am not his to command.”

Bard squirreled this revelation away in the back of his mind to bring to Kíli’s attention later. He had never heard such a thing about the dwarrow – but as he now thought of it, he hadn’t ever really heard much of anything about the Eastern Houses of the Khazâd, either. While what Kivi claimed shocked the Bowman, he briefly mused that with as little understanding as he had of the dwarrow (and none at all about their Eastern kin), then it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility for Kivi’s word to reinforce the dwarf-maiden’s refusal to acquiesce.

And yet, Bard couldn’t help feeling there was more…

“You speak of him as an equal. You treated him that way, as well,” he eyed her thoughtfully, carefully.

To his surprise, Kivi showed no reaction to his subtle prod into the deeper depths of her identity. Her face was as impassive as the mountain beyond them and she smoothly dodged his inquiry with a sharp retort that revealed absolutely nothing.

“I did indeed approach Kíli Thorinkin as an equal,” if anything, her expression was mulish, her eyes unrepentant. “And if he ever wishes to have my cooperation, then he will extend the same courtesy to me.”

And that was that. Kivi Journeyman would not speak any more of it and Bard left soon thereafter in a mixture of mild irritation, piqued curiosity, and deepened respect toward the enigmatic dwarven-maid who so was so painstakingly piecing back together his ancestral home.

Akhalathnurt ‘Afgargablâg 2nd

(Tuesday May 19th)


Kíli let out a long, deep sigh as he lowered himself down into one of the many hot springs beneath the mountain. This particular one was located just beneath the Royal Level, and as such, was exclusively reserved for the King Under the Mountain and his family members. At this particular point, that privilege strictly encompassed only Kíli, but he had extended an invitation to Lord Dáin to use the baths when he so wished, as Kíli had also given him a room in one of the three wings that circled around the more centrally-placed baths.

All of the Royal rooms were built along the outermost curve of the mountain, facing the city of Dale, the plains between them, and the glistening ribbon of River Running as it started its long journey south from its source deep within Erebor. Almost all of the rooms had a balcony, although none so grand as the King’s; from within his chambers, Kíli could throw the heavy stone doors of his balcony wide open and entertain as many as a party of six there in the fresh air and sunlight.

On the inside of the mountain, the halls of the Royal Level were open on the left side, to display a breath-taking view of the levels, walkways, balconies, and stairways of the kingdom above and below them. The floors of those hallways were made of pale blue sky-stone, threaded with intricate laces of silver and edged with delicate golden filigree. The walkways were carefully framed with study banisters made of polished black marble and brass; they were just about the height of an average dwarf’s chest and as such, were the perfect height for leaning against and looking over without fear of overbalancing and plummeting to one’s doom.

The level beneath the Royal apartments, however, was more enclosed and carefully guarded. In fact, the only main entrance to the apartments branched off of the walled hallway that lead to the very baths in which Kíli now rested. The baths themselves were artificial – the pools and their depths specifically engineered by dwarrow masons to mimic the more natural caverns deeper inside the mountain. But, the hot spring water that filled the pleasant, dimly lit baths was from the heart of the mountain itself. Long ago, the dwarves had found hot springs a plenty within Erebor and also the heart of the River Running itself – a deep and seemingly bottomless spring that was filled with the freshest, coldest water known to Durin’s kin. The hot springs were ingeniously used to warm the kingdom, along with the steam and fires of the forges deeper below. The Heartspring (as River Running’s source was called) and its handful of smaller, tertiary springs, supplied all of the cooking and drinking water – all of the springs were duly guarded, the cold springs especially, and as a result, the people of Erebor never had to fear the quality of their water.

Strong pipes and reinforced plumbing made it possible to pump both hot water and cold water from the various springs into the dwarf-made baths, so that no one dwarf (King or commoner) had to stray far from their homes or quarters to wash themselves. Kíli currently sat in one of the hot baths, on a gently curved, shallow seat of sorts that had been carved into the side of the pool. He had come from an invigorating wash in the cold baths – which were neatly separated from the warmer pools, to avoid an excess of steam. He relaxed in a smaller pool, one that had been scented with herbs to relax the muscles in his thigh and to soothe the ever-present ache in his chest. He had his arms slung along either side of the carved seat and had sunk down into the water far enough to bow his back slightly and lay his head against a padded leather pillow that had been left there for his convenience.

Kíli breathed deeply, drawing the hot spring’s steam into his lungs like he would a fine pipe smoke. He held it for a moment and then let his breath out slowly. This was the only time that he’d had alone to himself since sunrise – and last he checked, the moon had long since climbed into the star-lit night. It had been a draining day, full of sorrow and grief, as the last of the eastern interlock’s recovered bodies were lovingly entombed in the Halls of Memory.

For once, however, Balin relayed a mostly positive response to Kíli’s words and royal actions upon Erebor’s cold stone throne that day. The young king felt at least some tension leave his body when such news was delivered. His words had apparently soothed many of the broken hearts that had gathered sorrowfully in the Great Chamber of Thrór after the burial ceremonies had been concluded; among that number were, reportedly, a significant number of Dáin’s kin. This was quite the accomplishment, Balin had assured him, since support of Kíli’s right to the throne was greatly needed from the Iron Hills dwarrow, in order to ensure both peace and stability among the three Houses of the West.

Kíli opened his eyes, which he had closed during his brief muse over the day, and gazed wryly up toward the ceiling which disappeared in the warm, damp darkness. The other business of a king seemed to escape him continuously, or confuse him, or utterly overwhelm him.

But, grief? Grief he knew. He had spoken nothing but what was true that day, what came from his heart. He mourned the continued losses of his people – it was not so difficult to communicate that to others. It came far easier to him than words of mirth, or council.

A sudden kerfuffle outside of the nearby door to the baths prevented Kíli’s thoughts from taking a turn for the worse. He agitated the water around him as he abruptly sat up, but not enough to splash onto the stone floor, which was carefully kept as dry as possible, to prevent any unfortunate slips. His long, dark hair stuck in wet tendrils against his cheeks and mouth as he whipped his head around to eye the dimly lit walkway behind him.

“But, but…Your Highness!” Dwalin’s deep voice echoed against the stones outside in clear and obvious distress.

The door flew open and a stout figure in what appeared to be quite definitely in skirts paused proudly in the light that flooded harshly into the baths.

“He isna’ decent!” a taller silhouette appeared to the side and Kíli could see a thick arm reach out to grab the skirted figure back.

Yi’!” a wondrously familiar voice that Kíli knew as certainly as the sound of his own heart’s beating chimed dismissively through the clouds of steam that billowed in protest against the cooler air that now intruded. “I brought the King of Erebor into this world with naught to cover him from my sight! I have nursed him, and dressed him, and chased his bare little khakhaf over half of Ered Luin, just to corral him into a bath! What dwarrow-dam would I be if I were embarrassed by my own son’s body?” [“Bah!”] [“Buttocks”]

The figure – the only one that brought Kíli any joy whatsoever any more – marched resolutely into the bath, as Dwalin grumbled darkly behind her.

“No more, Dwalin!” she was now close enough that Kíli could hear her skirts swish as she stopped and waved her hand toward the door. “Leave me to speak to my son in the way that I so choose.”

“Well, it wouldna’ hurt if ya’ chose to speak to him decently. At least, for the love of Mahal, he shouldna’ talk to a lady in anything less than his trousers!” Dwalin was apparently determined to have the last word; before any retort could be tossed back to him, he had shut the bath-house door behind him, perhaps a wee bit harder than was absolutely necessary.

“As if I could see anything in all this bloody steam,” skirts rustled again as, evidently, Kíli’s guest found the small stool behind him, upon which his towel had been precariously placed. “And as if I’d see anything I haven’t had to bathe before, in any event.”

Kíli laughed, his first true expression of joy in nearly a year – since the last time he had seen or spoken to his mother – Dís, sister of Thorin Oakenshield and Princess of Erebor.

“I was quite a bit smaller in those days, Khagun,” he squinted through the steam, but could only see his mother as a solid mass and not much more. [“Mother”]

Dís laughed brightly at that; something rustled again and Kíli could picture her smoothing the imaginary wrinkles in the lap of her deep blue dress.

Kíli’s quick way with words had always brought a smile to her face. He had always had a personality not unlike her’s – witty, puckish, and just a tad bit bawdy. His similarity to her, in truth, was one of the reasons she had always worried over him so, lecturing him on his brashness and cavalier dismissal of danger. Thorin had once told him, in a moment of typical frustration, that Dís had been much the same way in her youth – always dashing off in search of adventure, while her brothers scrambled desperately after her, resigned to being dragged along, to carrying her back home, and being blamed thoroughly for any mishap that befell her.

And, usually, blamed also for her going off on adventures in the first place.

“Frerin was always reading those damned history books to her – the ones with all the great deeds and feats of our forefathers and Durin reborn. Filled your mother’s head with a taste for what she couldn’t have.”

“You didn’t send word that you were coming,” Kíli tucked his good leg underneath him and turned, so that he was now resting his elbows on the stone floor, facing the misty form of his mother, his chest and stomach pressed up against the curve of the hewn cubby where he sat.

He folded his forearms side-by-side and rested his chin in the gentle groove between them. The steam was beginning to settle down, as the air within the chamber regulated itself once again. The features of Dís’ proud face, thick hair, and elaborate braids were beginning to come into focus and for a moment, Kíli felt for all the world like a dwarfling again, being distracted in his bath-time play by his mother’s mellow, dulcet voice.

“Yes, well…I’ve become quite well known in Ered Luin for my seclusion,” Dís reached up and tucked one of her smaller braids behind her ear – it was the one she wore for Thorin, as it was fastened by a clasp he’d made for her so very long ago. “Had I come out of such a thing so suddenly, saying that I wished to visit you…well, it would have made quite a stir. Which is not so much a bad thing,” she added after a reflective pause. “But,” she turned her head and finally, son and mother could make eye contact through the thin veil of steam that separated them. “I wished to have time – of my own make and choosing – with my only son, to speak privately with one another.”

“You could speak with me privately whenever you wished, Khagun,” Kíli titled his head so that his right cheek almost touched the patch of hair on his arms that was thickening slowly as he grew older.

“Yes…but if I had come with a full retinue and sufficient notice, it would be days before I could truly capture such time like this with you, dashat,” Dís smiled gently at her youngest – her only remaining – child. [“Son”]

Nâm,” Kíli murmured softly – his mother had a point; he frowned then a bit. “What brought you out of Ered Luin in the first place? Not that I’m not overjoyed to see you,” he lifted his head and smiled at Dís a bit ruefully in the hopes that she didn’t misinterpret his question. [“Ahhh”]

“I went to pray before the Forge of Mahal some time ago,” Dís finally turned her gaze away from Kíli and considered her demurely folded hands, which glistened faintly in the ambient lamps high above them, from the number of golden rings she wore as symbols of her status and wealth. “I thought that when I lost your father, that I had would never feel such a dark despair ever again. But, losing my last remaining nadad and your only…” one strong, but slim-fingered hand reached up to brush at the high curve of her cheek. “Oh, Kíli. I was so very wrong. My heart has been truly buried – I went to beseech Mahal to beg Him to take me so that I might shed the bitterness of this world and be with your father, your brother, your uncle once again.” [“Brother”]

Kíli’s own heart thundered in his chest with a rhythm that was as painful as a hammer pounding against his ribs. He could not bear the thought of his mother being taken from him, too – not so soon, in any event. The pain flowing through his body, through his heart was also one of visceral empathy – he knew only too well what drove his mother to Mahal’s Forge in such desperation. He, too, had been far beyond all grief or sorrow and had sought such boons from the Father as well.

He said nothing of this to his mother, however. He simply pressed his cheek to the top of his arms and silently thanked the dimness of their surroundings for masking the tears that threatened to spill down his own cheeks. At this particular moment, after such a deep confession from Dís, Kíli didn’t quite trust himself to speak.

Dís didn’t seem to mind – if anything, she knew her son was crying as well and she continued on, her voice shaky, but clear.

“As you can see, Mahal did not answer my prayers,” she tried to laugh, but all that came was a soft, whispery hiccup. “But,” Kíli watched silently as the back of her hand now wiped quickly across both of her cheeks. “He sent your father, Ríkin, to me first, in a dream. Then Frerin. Then Fíli. And lastly, Thorin.”

Kíli roughly scrubbed his cheek against his arms, to wipe away his tears. He lifted his head, instantly alert, curious, and strangely hopeful at Dís’ words. He had always heard that his mother possessed the ability to dream-see, but since Ríkin had died between Kíli’s own conception and birth, the young king had only ever heard tales of Dís’ occasional gift. Losing Ríkin had robbed her, it had seemed, of the ability to dream-see and once, when he had asked about it as a dwarfling just on the cusp of his adolescence, Dís had said as much herself.

Apparently, however, her dream-seeing had not entirely deserted her after all. Or, perhaps, her grief and desperation had been so much, that Mahal had decided it was best to let her walk the misty worlds one more time, so that she could find the hope she needed to carry on. In any event, Kíli was glad of Mahal’s intervention and he leaned further against the stone against his chest, eager to hear what the memories of his loved ones had revealed to Dís’ broken heart.

Dís noticed her son’s youthful hope and smiled gently at him, her eyes drifting lovingly over the dark, winsome face that was so very much like the uncle he’d never been able to know – Frerin, the brother she had adored from birth. She had often thought that there was Thorin in Kíli’s eyes, her own self in his roguish smile, Ríkin in his slender form, and Frerin in his face. They all lived on in the youngest King Under the Mountain – kings within their own right, standing loyally in Kíli’s own two shoes, willing to give him the strength to reign as they each would have done.

If you could but see that, dashat, Dís thought sadly.

That was the true reason why she had come without warning from Ered Luin, that was the message that her fallen family had been sent to give her. Women did not usually council their kings, but Dís had been shown that winds of change had long been blowing over the mountain. It was her mother’s duty to help her son heal, to guide him, to teach him, to show him how to reforge the broken pieces of his spirit. She had been told that it was time for her to step in, she had been reminded that not all was lost, that one last flame of hope flickered within the darkened ruins of Azsâlul’abad. She could no longer think of herself; it was now time for Dís to come into her own as a Princess of Erebor.

Kíli could – and would, and had – resist the guidance of Balin, or Gloin, or Dwalin. But, he could not resist his mother. Not when they both knew the depth of their shared losses. Dís took a deep breath, sat up straighter on her stool and turned her gaze back toward Kíli, her king, her son.

Kibil,” Dís spoke her only-son’s True Name ever so gently into the thick air, an honor and privilege restricted to her, her late husband, and the One that Kíli might yet wed. “The avelut is over; your year and a day is long past. Mahal has kept you here for a purpose that you must honor,” as she spoke, Dís rose softly from her seat and knelt carefully on the stone floor so she could cup her son’s stubbled cheeks in both her hands and lift his face to meet hers. “It is time to accept your crown, Thanu men.” [“My King”]

“Have you not mourned past the appropriate time, Khagan?” Kíli’s voice matched his mother’s in softened timber, but his words were defensive – he had grown more than weary with the expectations of others to lay aside his grief as if it were a passing fancy.

Dís seemed to sense some of the king’s thoughts. She shook her head and a few strands of steam-loosened hair brushed against Kíli’s upturned face. He breathed in deeply the scent of rosemary and almonds, which he had associated with his mother for as long as he could remember. It calmed him and diffused some of his irritation.

“Kíli, Thanu men, you are indeed correct – I have mourned long past my time. It is, perhaps, the one custom of our people that I have tried to fight the hardest. I remember as if it were yesterday, the day when I received your father, cold and bloody on his shield,” tears threatened to fall again, but Dís never broke eye contact with her son, never moved her fingers from beneath his chin. “Fíli was barely beyond a babe in arms and you were still growing within me. I was young and full of despair – the midwives had to fight with me to take care of myself, to take care of you.”

Kíli’s eyes grew a bit wide in the dimness – this was a part of his origins that he had never known. Always, his mother had seemed cheerful, if ever-anxious over the safety of her sons; she had always been firm of hand, but never once could remember a time when she did not comfort him when he needed it. The only time that illusion of a strong dwarrow-dam had been shattered, was when he’d last seen her, kneeling at the side of Fíli’s tomb and sobbing softly into her hands for hours. The memory softened his stubborn heart further and he would have lowered his head to the floor in shame, but her smooth hands prevented him from dropping his gaze.

“It was Thorin who pulled me – protesting quite mightily, I confess – out of my sorrow. I’ll never forget,” a watery smile lifted Dís’ lips ever so slightly. “Oh! The fuss he made! I was in labor with you, screaming and crying for Ríkin, and he quite thoroughly scandalized the midwives when he came bursting through the door without warning.”

Kíli finally broke free of his mother’s hands, as he pulled back and stared at her, agape. Dwarrow men never entered the birthing room – unless, of course, he was himself the father. The presence of the father was expected at the birth, as it was he who had the honor of cutting the babe free and swaddling he or she in the cloths that had been prepared. It was the father who put the baby in the mother’s arms; mother and father were both then expected to stay with their new charge, with each other, for however long it took the mother to recover, usually a few days. Such was custom, but only ever the father.

“Oh, he made a mighty roar, in order to make himself heard over my wailing. ‘Stop your screeching, woman!‘ he said,” Dís leaned back herself and laughed softly at the memory and at the shocked look on her son’s face. “Scared me right into silence, I have to admit, although that certainly didn’t stop the pain of your imminent arrival. Then he plopped himself – armor, weapons, woolen coat and all on a stool next to me and grabbed my hand,” the Princess dipped her head and dashed the back of her hand over her eyes. “‘Ríkin is gone to Mahal and nothing will change that,‘ Thorin said, then. He was so harsh and his demeanor quite frightened me. But, your uncle had a heart of oak, too, dashat – strong, and loyal, and proud. He sat in your father’s place, because he knew that’s what I needed – tradition be damned – and held my hand. He gave me his strength for that long night,” Dís reached out and put her own slender hand on the top of Kíli’s closest forearm. “He quite amazed the midwives, really, once they stopped their squawking. They said later, when Thorin was being most thoroughly scolded for his indiscretion, that they did not think you or I would have survived that birth without him there. Yours was a hard birth, Kibil, and my spirit, my body, was weaker than it should have been.

“I no longer had your father when I needed him the most, but Mahal left me one strong enough to take his place where and when he could. It was Thorin who cut your cord, who swaddled you, who put you in my arms,” no amount of steam could hide the shimmer of tears in her eyes, or the gentle illumination her sudden smile gave to her face. “I think that is, perhaps, a large reason why he always seemed to favor you. He took a father’s bond with you, whereas Fíli’s was with Ríkin.”

Kíli was silent, unable to think of any response to his mother’s revelation. In all his years with his uncle, Thorin had never said a word about his nephew’s birth. His mind, unbidden, flashed back to the time just before the Battle of the Five Armies, when Thorin cupped his hand around the back of Kíli’s head and pulled him forward to rest their foreheads together. They had smiled at each other, then, and Kíli had seen the depth of Thorin’s love for him. It was the sort of gesture a father made with his son, one that was a rare but widely accepted admission of love, since dwarrow fathers rarely spoke their feelings out loud. It was the sort of affection a father showed to his son, before they both went out to battle and to face the very real possibility that they might never see each other again.

His whole life, Kíli had known no father, but his uncle. And he had never thought about it, had never analyzed it, but in the light of his mother’s memory, the closeness he had always shared with Thorin suddenly made sense. It was Thorin, who had given him his first bow, who had patiently taught him how to shoot. It was Thorin who had sat back and indulgently allowed him to run amok, while Fíli had to keep his nose buried in the driest of dwarrow tomes. Kíli had never hesitated running to his uncle, as a dwarfling, to sit on his lap and to listen to stories. Oh, Fíli had never hesitated, either – but Fíli had always sat at Thorin’s feet, his back propped up against his uncle’s legs, or maybe on the leg of the chair. Fíli was, for the most part, instructed by Balin, but in Kíli’s early stages, it was Thorin who taught him how to read, to write, and to add his numbers.

Thorin’s attentiveness had waned as Kíli grew up – upon reflection, that was the way of all dwarrow fathers, to give their sons the opportunity to grow on their own and make risks, while still under the watchful eyes of a parent who could fish them out of whatever chaos they created. But, when it was time for Thorin to teach Fíli and Kíli both the art of anvil and hammer, Thorin did not protest when Kíli failed to show a proper inclination for the craft. He was hard – always hard – on Fíli, but it was Kíli he allowed to apprentice to a jeweler. Not a negative word was ever said about the choice to pursue a more delicate craftsmanship, one that suited Kíli’s nimble fingers far better than the forge. Unlike Fíli, Kíli had almost always been given his choice of paths to take through life; Thorin had, if anything, encouraged it, quite possibly because, as youngest-son, Kíli’s fate was one far less predestined as his brother’s. And freedom, he had been told sternly by Thorin from his youngest years, always came with choices that he had to learn to make “with a steady head on your shoulders“.

Kíli could feel the corners of his eyes growing hot again with tears – tears that he was truthfully tired of shedding. But, to know that Thorin had brought him into the world and formed a father-bond with him because of it… And to know that now and to know that he had lived all those years under Thorin’s watchful eye without once acknowledging or comprehending the depth of his uncle’s love for him…it was enough to tear a new wound clear through his heart.

Dís watched as all of Kíli’s thoughts flashed across his face and echoed soundlessly in his dark eyes. As her young king worked out his thoughts and emotions about what she had told him, she gently brushed his arm and waited for the storm within him to calm. Once she thought it was maybe safe to interject, she said as softly as she could:

“This is why you have been allowed the twelve months of avelut, without question. Thorin was to you what Ríkin never got to be to Fíli – a father, in so very many ways. Even in my grief, I have received letters from Balin, updates on your doings here. You might feel differently, dashat, but no one has begrudged you your year and a day of grieving. But, that is seven months past, Kíli.”

“I’ve lost my brother – who protected me whole life and never left my side, not once,” the young, burdened King of Erebor squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head fiercely; his voice wavered and his words were thick with emotions he could only express in angry spurts. “I’ve lost the very man who, you say, was my father in all ways except for siring me,” as he spoke, Kíli unconsciously clenched his fists against the stone beneath them. “And I’ve lost….I lost…” his voice broke, unable to name Tauriel, even to his mother.

But, Dís knew anyway. It was no secret to her that her reckless, hard-headed, open-hearted youngest had stood at the cusp of giving his heart fully over to an Elf-maid. And, truthfully, she could not find it in her heart to fault him for trying to grasp at a love he could call his own.

“You have lost much, Thanu men, no one – not I – will argue that. But you are not the only one who has lost so deeply,” Dís lifted her hand and gently moved a strand of hair that had stuck itself to Kíli’s cheek when he had shaken his head in refusal. “Thorin showed me that so very long ago; he also showed me that Mahal will always leave you with what and who you truly need.”

Dís stopped for a moment and watched with great compassion, her heart breaking anew, as Kíli’s shoulders and upper chest heaved in an effort to hold back his sobs. Her hand now soothed the wrinkles in his forehead and brushed his damp hair away from his face – soft touches, comforting touches, healing touches she hoped.

“I did you wrong, Kíli, when I allowed my sorrow and despair to send me back to the comfort of Ered Luin. It was safe for me, a place where I could be left alone as I so chose. I should not have left you here by yourself – we have much in common now, dashat.”

“I have missed you, mother. So very terribly,” Kíli admitted in a voice that was barely above a whisper; Dís drifted her fingers through the long hair that framed his face and murmured soothingly. “I’ve felt all alone in this Lonely Mountain.”

“And you have never been alone before,” Dís sighed heavily, guilt rolling through her at the thought that she had left her only remaining child to face the challenges of grief and kingship all on his own. “Oh, what sort of mother have I been?” she asked, more to herself than to Kíli – but he answered anyway.

“A good one, Khagun,” he finally lifted his head, his cheeks wet with what they both pretended was condensation, and reached up to grab his mother’s hand. “Always.”

“One that has been blind and foolish in her grief,” she said wryly.

“So, we’ve both been fools,” Kíli rolled his shoulders and tried to smile up at his mother. “Runs true in the blood as…” his voice faltered. “Fíli would have said.”

Dís chuckled softly and let her son take her hand in both of his as he sat straighter, his chest still pressed to the stone.

“Frerin used to say that Thorin all the time. Fíli must have learned that saying from your uncle, then.”

The two fell silent for a moment; they were both trying to get used to the names of their loved ones on their tongues again. As far as Kíli was concerned, saying his brother’s name out loud almost physically hurt – he hadn’t said Fíli’s, Thorin’s, or Tauriel’s names out loud since their death. Just the very thought of doing so had always made him feel as if speaking their names out loud, in the past tense, would bring a wretched sense of finality to their loss.

He had indeed be correct in that assumption – his heart sank and he had to swallow a shout of grief that threatened to burst out of his chest at the very sound of his brother’s name in the air, in his voice. His mouth felt sour, then dry and he couldn’t stop the tears that fell into his all but non-existent beard.

“Tell me, Kibil – you did not speak their names or talk about them at all during your aninut or your shiva, did you?” Dís asked gently as her hands were all but crushed in the desperate grip Kíli had on them.

Unable to speak, he just shook his head and a soft moan passed through his lips, which he had pressed sharply together.

“I should have done this a year ago, little raven,” she murmured ever so gently, using the nickname she had given him as a dwarfling, because of his riotous array of dark hair and keen, bright eyes.

Still holding his hands, she scooted as best she could closer to the edge of the carved seat where Kíli shook and shivered in his sorrow. She had barely managed to settle her skirts again – her feet now hanging over the edge of the pool and all but brushing the top of the water – when Kíli made a desperate sort of sound and threw his arms around her waist. They were level enough that he could bury his face into her thigh, as he had done as a dwarfling and occasionally as an adolescent. Dís did not need to ask, to know that Kíli had tried to play his uncle’s role – stoic, stubborn, emotionally repressed. In truth, it was a natural thing to do – to hold tightly onto the clearest role model in memory and to mimic what one knew best. But, Kíli had never been like Thorin, or as Fíli had learned to be – no, her youngest son had always worn his heart on his sleeve, had always chattered incessantly like a young raven of Erebor, had never quite learned how to keep his thoughts to himself. True, he learned to withhold verbal displays of affection – but, before grief stripped his heart to nothing more than blood and sinew, he would have never hesitated to honor a memory by speaking it out loud.

Kíli keened softly into the softly stirring steam around them and Dís cared not at all that her skirts were soaking through and her hair had gone limp all around her face. Nor did she care that her full-grown son was still naked, covered though he was by his position against the stone. Dís simply ran her fingers through his hair and cried softly with him. Kíli did not need to say anything at all, for her to know that he had not allowed himself to speak of his grief, or to show it, or to let it out since he had consigned his beloved uncle and brother to Mahal’s eternal keep.

A year and a half’s worth of tears dampened the wool of her skirt – which would probably be well ruined by the steam, the damp, and the drag of it across the rough-hewn floor. But, Dís ignored it all – in that sacred space, there were no titles, no expectations, no courtly or social expectations. There was simply a heart-broken son and his only remaining family – his mother, who grieved with him more deeply than he would ever know.

“They walk with you, Kibil,” Dís’ words hung like gentle wisps in the air between them, as she smoothed her hand over the curve of her son’s proud head. “They always will. Mahal has shown me that death does not have the power to sever that bond.”

She spoke as if she were talking more to herself than to Kíli, but it seemed as if the words helped. His sobs were still fierce, but they grew less frequent in the long, timeless minutes after her whispered promise.

Later, when Dís would look back on that time with Kíli, she would wonder if her mind was deceiving her. But, she remembered dark forms in the steam, more dense than the air, but not enough to be mortal forms. And she could have sworn that the familiar hands of kings and princes now gone reached forth and lay like voiceless blessings on the shoulders of her youngest son. She would also remember the moment that Kíli’s sobs finally stopped and when he finally lifted his tear-stained face from her skirts, his eyes swollen with grief, but finally clear.

She would remember that as the moment when Erebor finally took its first breath of hope.

Cowberries – a colloquial name for ligonberries. Since I live in the States (and the South, at that), I have never eaten or seen a ligonberry in the whole of my three decades. However…from what I can gather from research, it’s rather like a cranberry in taste and appearance. Ish?

Shulukadrân – technically means “wet-season”; spans from between January/February and March/April. Is considered the “Deep Winter” in the Northern homes of the Stiffbeards.

Reikikoriat – sled dogs; think huskies.

Iklaladrân – winter, basically. Is considered the season between October/November and January/February.

Vanha Isä – means “Old Father”. According to the MERPs website, this is the name that the Men have given Thulin. Which confirms what I had already suspected…the cultures of the Far North are indeed Finnish-based.

Haradwaith – the far southern nation/region of Middle Earth.

Azsâlul’abad – Khuzdul name for the Lonely Mountain.

Kibil – means “silver”. I thought it would work well for Kíli’s secret name, since “Kíli” can be easily made by just shuffling the “l” over and dropping the “b”. I have this working theory that a lot of dwarrow true-and-outer names might work this way. It also makes sense to me that a father/mother would know this name and occasionally use it in private moments like this, since they’d be the ones to name their child both ways. And, well, I imagine a dwarf’s One would know his name and he hers – it would be a very intimate, binding sort of thing and definitely appropriate in the context of a marriage.

Avelut – I’ve read quite extensively on the Dwarrow Scholar’s notes about Khuzdul and it was based in a large part on ancient Hebrew. The dwarrow themselves, were said to be inspired by the Israelite’s wanderings and exiles from Jerusalem. As a seminary student, I’ve totally fallen in love with this idea, so I’ll be weaving some Jewish traditions/words in, here and there. I’m particularly fascinated by the rituals of Jewish grieving. Avelut is the final stage of the grieving process, which is only observed for a parent, and lasts 12 months.

Aninut – the day or two period of grieving immediately after the loss, during which the body is prepared for burial and the bereaved are allowed to their own privacy without guests or visitors. This is a time for the family alone.

Shiva – the seven day period after the funeral, in which the bereaved can accept guests and visitors; however, guests are not allowed to initiate discussion and it is at the discretion of the bereaved on what they want to talk about, or whether or not they want to talk at all. This period also involves a meal of condolence is made, which usually involves eggs and bagels/bread (which are both considered symbols of life).

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