Billana does not come to completely regret asking Dis to help her learn to become a true Princess of Erebor, but it is a near thing. The 'dam is a hard taskmaster, drilling Billana daily on reading that she had set the hobbit the previous evening. Fili and Kili often come back from attending to tasks of their own around Belegost as they help to ready the caraven for the coming spring to find her asleep over her books and scrolls. Much as Billana's exhaustion becomes an obvious source of worry for them, however, the hobbit can only be grateful that they do not try to step in or interfere. Her diligance and determination prove to impress Dis, however, so every time that her husbands mention they will speak about having Billana's workload lessened she begs them not to. Her current exhaustion would be for nothing if she wastes this one opportunity to learn everything that she needs to know, especially if it does not help her to convince Dis that she is needed in Erebor more than she is needed in Ered Luin.
Slowly, almost painfully so, Dis begins to warm to Billana. She asks questions of the hobbit that Billana knows she will dislike the answers to but answers as honestly as she can anyway. Billana refuses to answer all of them, not wanting to dig through some of the more painful memories that she has again. Much of her past has been shared with Fili and Kili, far more than she will ever willingly share with anyone else again, and Dis seems to respect that reluctance to share such pain in much the same way that Balin and the rest of the Company have. Billana, in return, does not pry into the parts of Dis' life which still seem to cause her the most pain though she sees her husbands' worry increase every day. Her relationship with Dis is too new and too fragile for Billana to make any input on the matter, though she rarely sees Dis without a tankard in hand and never at breakfast since Dis seems to prefer to dine alone in her rooms in the morning.
The lack of intimate friendship with the mother of her husbands does not mean that Billana remains oblivious to the other tensions that exist in the life of Princess Dis. The first is that, for all the obvious affection between Hillevi, Fili ,and Kili, the same does not extend to Dis and Hillevi. The other 'dam is in a position of great trust with the royal household and she is the one that Billana most regularly sees guarding the door to Dis' office when she arrives. That there is tension between the two makes her question it and it is not until Billana arrives slightly early one morning that she gains any insight into the matter.
"You have sworn yourself to me, Hillevi," the hobbit hears Dis say. The door is closed and perhaps a dwarf might miss the muffled voices, but Billana's hearing is better.
"I swore myself to my husband first," Hillevi replies, "and there is nothing for him here. Frode needs to go to Erebor for his craft, Orde and Nylevi are going with him. Oath or no, I will not turn my back on my husband and children. You know as well as I that Nylevi is old enough and knowledgeable enough to serve as ruthukhînh to Billana. She needs only a little more guidance in the procedures and I can provide that as we travel if you still cannot bring yourself to leave."
"Why should I leave?" Billana hears Dis demand.
"Because if you do not, you will be alone," Hillevi replies bluntly. "You will not see them again once they leave this time. Fili and Kili will return to Erebor and they will be drawn into their new lives as heirs and husbands and, eventually, fathers. They will wish to come and they will send you letters. They will beg you to come to them in Erebor but they will not leave. I have done my duty to you as ruthukhînh as best I can during the last three decades. If you will not permit me to accompany you there in that role, you leave me with no choice but to retire from your service."
There is silence, and Billana takes that moment to slip away from the door. There is, perhaps, some wisdom in not letting Dis know that she has heard as much as she did.
Billana meets Nylevi later that day. The young 'dam, with hair the same deep auburn as her mother's and who is probably a handful of years older than Fili, is quietly curious and respectful of Billana. The hobbit's time is quickly divided between learning to be a princess with an increasingly subdued Dis and getting to know her new guard as well as meeting others who will be coming to Erebor who could also serve in the role. Fili and Kili need only one murkhûn each. Billana is expected to choose at least four ruthukhînh. Not because she is seen to be weaker as a female, instead it is because she is thought to be all the more worth the protection and when the three of them eventually decide to begin a family there will be times when it will be far more difficult for Billana to defend herself. Some discussion with Nylevi, Hillevi and Balin leads her to agree to choose one other from Ered Luin and another two upon their return to Erebor. To Billana it seems excessive, to her husbands and Balin, who have seen how alone and mistreated she had been in her youth, it is not enough.
Winter progresses, as it must, and Billana and her family begin to make plans for returning to Erebor. While they are planning, however, Billana's mind turns to other things. She would be lying if she tried to tell herself that she has not considered the next stages of her marriage. She would be lying if she tried to convince anyone that she does not want children. She would be lying if she tried to insist that Hillevi's word to Dis had not reawoken that deep desire within her. If it were practical she would have removed her charm already and allowed nature to take its course. The longer they spend in Ered Luin, where she can see dwarf families as they go about their daily lives, the more she wants a child. Now is not the worst possible time for this realisation, or for her to be contemplating it, but it is far from the best either. It does not, however, stop her from bringing up the subject with Fili and Kili one evening a few weeks before they will have to depart with the caravan if they are to make the deadline Thorin gave them. Her husbands understand why she keeps secrets, but they have always encouraged her to talk to them about whatever is on her mind before she can worry it into something bigger than it already is.
"When we get back," she says sleepily in bed one night, "I want a child."
"Stewed or roasted," Kili mutters just as sleepily. "I think roasted is-" He yelps when Billana kicks him and she sees Fili glaring at him over her head. She should have remembered that Kili can be little bit absent when they are all in bed together.
"Are you sure, Kitten?" Fili asks her, his face strangely intent. "You must not feel like we have to begin immediately on our return, if our mother has said-"
"It has nothing to do with your mother," Billana cuts him off. "I want a child with you both, more than one, I've wanted it since before we got married. It just never seemed to be the right time. But when we get back- when we get back I want to start trying. If you're happy to?"
"Nothing would make us happier, Kundith," Kili purrs, seeming to have regained some function of his brain, enough for him to process what she is telling them at least. Then he proceeds to make her shiver as he tells her, in detail, exactly what he imagines it will be like to be with her while she is carrying their child.
The three do not get much sleep that night, she may not have removed her charm but it seems that Fili and Kili are firm believers in practising. It also gives her husbands something else to use when they are attempting to convince Dis to join them. Billana has no mother, Kili points out, it will be beneficial for her to have Dis at her side to guide her through this great battle. He conveniently ignores that fact that Belladonna was a healer and a midwife who taught Billana much about the process. Fili appeals to the other side of things, he appeals to the idea that Billana will need someone who can step into her place while she recovers from the birth, that she will need someone who knows how to fulfil her role as princess while she learns to care for the new life that she will be creating. Finally, Dis relents.
"Very well," she says, "but I will not be able to remain there for the rest of my days. I will not return to the stone away from that of your fathers."
"We can accept that, Amad," Fili replies, stamping on his brother's foot when it looks like Kili might make an objection.
While they are speaking Billana looks over at Hillevi who has remained in the room, her arms folded tightly over her chest as she stands by the door. The 'dam meets her eyes, then gives her a slow nod. Billana has no idea what sort of conclusions have been drawn from the conversation, and nor does she wish to know, but the tension that had existed between the two dawrrowdams begins to ease as Dis starts to prepare for her journey. Covered wagons and carts begin to appear in the city in greater numbers, more and more of the residents of Belegost, and the neighbouring towns and villages, preparing to leave Ered Luin for the bright future and safety of Erebor. Billana knows that the first two caravans from Ered Luin will have arrived there in the time that they have been gone and it makes her wonder how the restorations will have progressed. She finds herself growing impatient to leave and realises that Fili and Kili are much the same, apparently fearing that the wait of even a few weeks will be enough to convince their mother to change her mind.
There is a moment, the morning that they depart, where it does appear as though Dis has changed her mind. She hesitates in front of the weapons that belonged to her husbands and stares up at them with a longing and heartache that once again makes Billana fear for the day she might lose one or both of her husbands. Then Fili goes to her and links their arms together, whispering in his mother's ear as he assures her that one day she will return to the Blue Mountains to be with them.
They leave with the creaking of carts, plod of hooves and stomp of boots in their wake, beginning their long return to Erebor and the future that Billana has longed for.
A.N: This one did not want to be written, probably because as I was writing it I realised that there was only the epilogue to go afterwards and I don't want this one to end. Also, because I successfully mathsed my maths that refused to maths *shudders at that terrible collection of words*. Now I need to finish making my mother's birthday present, wrap my sister's, pester the Manbeast to sort out my mother-in-law's and gather everything to make GDK's present and buy the rest of them, as well as the ones for the Manbeast as well. Why are there so many birthdays in July? Which is all an excuse to procrastinate something terrible on the epilogue.