"Inkeri!" The familiar shout rings through the royal wing of Erebor. "You're dead when I get my hands on you!"
Billana looks up from the report she had been studying with a frown, twenty years after returning to Erebor and sometimes day to day life there still surprises her.
"I wonder what she's done to Kari this time," Dis huffs as she enters, Billana's youngest son on her hip as she rocks the fussing, nap refusing, toddler.
"They're Nori's girls," Billana shakes her head, "I'm not entirely convinced Kari didn't ask for it."
Twins are rare among dwarves, but apparently elven healing can do strange things to a 'dam and Nori and Dwalin had been blessed with three sets of twins before they had decided enough was enough. Inkeri and Kari, their eldest, had been born by the time Billana, Fili and Kili had returned from the Blue Mountains and the youngest pair would be ten in a few weeks. For their part, Billana, Fili and Kili had intended to stop at three children, two sons and a daughter, until the charm which had served them so faithfully over the sixteen years since their meeting had unexpectedly failed. As a matter of fact, the number of times those charms had failed in the twenty years since Erebor had been reclaimed had resulted in a population boom, not that Billana feels this is much of a problem, and Fili is leading a council of healers in investigating exactly why that might be.
"Well, Bali will not be having his nap with all of that carrying on," Dis frowns, "at least the other three are with Thorin today," she adds. "Less opportunity for them to get into trouble."
Privately, Billana doubts that her children will have managed to avoid causing some manner of chaos while with their uncle. They are, after all, descended from Fili and Kili who still delight in winding their uncle and the council up as much as they possibly can. Which is probably one of the reasons why the council had been so keen to let Fili escape so many of the duties that come with being the heir to the throne to investigate the failing contraceptive charms, while Kili continues with the seemingly endless task of identifying and cataloguing the multitudes of magical artifacts collected by Smaug over the years. Her dark haired husband, who she had once believed could barely stand to be still, sometimes has to be physically dragged out of the archives. Although Billana has found other ways to entice him home that are more effective than any amount of talking or nagging.
Which is probably why she is now carrying her fifth child after the charms had failed for a second time.
"You need rest as well," Dis tells her. "This can wait." She takes the report from Billana's hand, passes Bali to her and disappears into the kitchen.
Billana rests her cheek against her son's curly dark hair as he tangles his fingers into hers. The hobbit is not quite sure what she would have done had Dis not kept on putting off her return to Ered Luin. The topic comes up every couple of years, naturally, but then one of the children will look at her with wide, sad, eyes or Billana will anounce another pregnancy and Dis will decide to stay again. Billana understands more now about why Dis does not wish to pass in Erebor, she understands the burial rites and customs of dwarves which would be observed and why Dis would rather be in Belegost when the time comes. Still, Billana thinks as she leans back in her comfortable chair and waits for the shouting to begin as soon as Kari finds her sister, Dis very likely has decades ahead of her yet. The change of location and the addition of grandchildren in her life has had a positive effect. Dis still drinks, some days more heavily than others, but usually only after the children are in bed.
"Drink," Dis orders as she returns, passing Billana a cup of hot tea as she takes the now sleeping Bali from his mother's arms and carefully untangles his fingers from her hair. "What this boy will do when the babe comes I know not," the older 'dam mutters as she cradles him. "Never seen one so attached to his ma before."
"We'll work it out," Billana yawns again, letting herself wonder which of their father's this child will favour.
Bali and Noli favour Kili, with dark hair and eyes, although Bali has his mother's curls. Renli and Rosana favour Fili in colouring, also sporting their mother's curls, and Renli has the same amber eyes as Billana. They had thought, for a time, that he might have inherited Billana's wild magic even though Manwë had said that none of her children would. He had not, but all four of their children have already shown signs of being gifted, with Rosana apparently having the strongest gift of all of them. She spends a lot of time with Kili, being only three years younger than Noli, learning how to control and use that magic. Fifteen is still considered very much a child among dwarves, but the hobbit blood in them means that her children are maturing that little bit more rapidly and so is their gift. Noli seems to have inherited a lot of Billana's calm, something Thorin is grateful for, while Renli and Bali are yet too young to show much more than an early preferance for one thing or another, in the way of all children, which will likely change with time.
There is a crash and a shriek from the corridor and when the door opens Billana looks up to see Kili, wearing dark robes that mark him as a high level master mage, cheerfully towing Inkeri and Kari suspended in a ball of glittering black fire behind him. The girls are both pouting, and it is clear that Inkeri has been meddling with her sister's shampoo again by the black stains down the side of Kari's face and the uneven black patches in normally lucious auburn hair.
"When are Nori and Dwalin supposed to be back from Rivendell?" Kili asks her, the couple having been sent on the diplomatic trip to the Hidden Valley that year due to Billana's unexpected pregnancy.
"Two months," Billana replies promptly, as she shakes her head. The girls and their four brothers are supposed to be staying with Dori, normally they would be with Ori and Nylevi, but they have just brought their first child into the world and the addition of Nori and Dwalin's brood was deamed unwise by Fili, who has taken on the healing of every member of the Company since Oin's retirement. Kili groans.
"Remind me to have a chat with Elrond about how effective his healing is," he says as he leaves with the twins still in tow.
Billana won't, mostly because she knows how much it has eased the guilt that both of her husbands feel about the loss of Nori's first child. She has managed to get the whole story about that incident over the years, and she knows that there was nothing that Fili or Kili could have done to prevent that loss, but knowing something and feeling something are often different things altogether.
Billana yawns again and lifts her feet to rest them on a nearby footstool. If someone had told her when she found an injured raven in her garden that it would be the start of a life filled with more love, family, happiness and adventure than she had ever dreamed of having she would have laughed. She only wishes that her own mother could have lived to see it. But then, perhaps had Belladonna lived Gandalf would never had considered Billana as the right fit for the quest.
Funny how these things work out.
A.N: Wow, we're finally at the end. I started this at the end of November 2019, it's now nearly mid July 2020. In that time I have started the first year of my degree (put off because I was lazy and then children) continued to renovate the insane house that Manbeast and I purchase a month before I started writing this and continued to do all this alongside homeeducating my two young children during a global pandemic. It has been a wonderful, marvellous journey which ended up being nearly double what I had originally envisioned and I am so thankful for every one who has read and especially those who reviewed because without those I would never have finished it at all.