The most shocking thing about it wasn’t finding out that Fili and Kili were apparently…involved with each other. Bilbo had always seen them as an overly affection pair of brothers and no one in the company had ever treated it as unusual.
Nor was it that surprising to learn that Fili was female. Bilbo knew there were dwarf women in the world, and Gandalf had even mentioned once that all dwarves wore men’s clothing and used masculine forms of address while travelling.
But hearing Kili growl about how he would give Fili children…well, that was a bit much.
Bilbo hadn’t meant to walk in on them, but what were they expecting when they decided to do…that…on a kitchen counter? Indeed, Bilbo’s first thought was that wasn’t very sanitary before his brain caught up to him.
Fili and Kili were brothers, even if one of them was female in body. And they were…
Bilbo beat a hasty retreat to go back to the rest of the company. Fili and Kili did not seem to notice.
When he returned to the area where the others had gathered, they must have noticed his pale face.
“Bilbo?” Balin asked kindly. “Is something the matter?”
Bilbo hesitated, casting a glance at Thorin before he said, “Um…just…” He struggled to find the words. “I saw Fili and Kili in the kitchen and…and it doesn’t seem decent, even if one of them is technically female…I mean…”
Dwalin rolled his eyes. “Are they still in their honeymoon phase?” he asked. “It’s been over a year! You’d think the novelty would have worn off by now!”
“Ah, but you know how it is,” Ori said. “He’s Fili’s first one and they haven’t been able to do anything since we left.” He threw a smirk at Nori and Dori. “And if they’re taking advantage of a comfortable house, maybe I should, too.”
Bilbo’s mouth fell open as Nori grinned. “Wouldn’t say no to that,” he said, throwing and arm over Ori’s shoulder and pulling him into a deep kiss. Ori accepted it willingly and then turned to Dori and kissed him the same way.
“Not here,” Dwalin muttered. “We don’t all need to see it.”
Balin chuckled and patted his hand. “Now, now, dear, don’t be harsh on them. I recall you were just as bad when we first started.”
Dwalin’s eyes softened. “Who could blame me?” he asked, his voice suddenly soft. “I’d landed the smartest, handsomest dwarf who ever lived.”
“I beg to differ,” Bombur said, curling into Bofur’s side and pecking him on the cheek. “You’d be hard-pressed to match mine, Dwalin.”
Bilbo stared at them all, aghast. “But…” He flushed as all eyes turned to him. “But I thought you were all brothers!”
There was a moment of silence before the dwarves all started laughing. “Oh, yes,” Balin said. “That.” He glanced at Thorin, who nodded. “I think you’ve earned the right to know our little secret, Master Burglar,” Balin continued. “You see, many centuries ago when dwarves and men and elves were just starting to interact with each other, they all had to start translating their own languages into the Common tongue, so they could communicate.”
Bilbo blinked. “Um…what’s that have to do with…?”
“Khuzdul is a very difficult language to translate,” Balin continued as though he had not been interrupted. “Especially since it’s kept so secret. The dwarves would not allow the scholars of elves and men to learn it, so they had to do all the translating themselves. There were quite a lot of mistakes, but one of the most glaring was when the word ‘wife’ somehow got mixed up with the word ‘brother’…and by the time the dwarves had realized their mistake, well, they had gotten too used to the words to bother changing it. So whenever we travel, our wives are introduced as our brothers, partly due to this mistake, but also because it’s safer for the tall folk to assume all dwarves are male.”
Bilbo took a moment to process all that. “So…you’re all actually married to one another?”
“Nearly two hundred years for us,” Balin said, smiling at Dwalin affectionately. “And a better wife I couldn’t have dreamed of.”
Dwalin grunted. “Stop your sweet-talking before we embarrass everyone else,” he muttered.
“And…” Bilbo looked to Nori, Ori and Dori, who were all getting rather cuddly. “You three are…?”
“Well, only one in three dwarves is born a woman,” Ori explained. “And not all of them marry, which means there are a lot of extra men about. It’s not unheard of for us to take two or three husbands to keep the birthrate up. Besides,” he added with a wicked grin. “I get the best of both worlds with these two.”
“So did you all just happen to have rhyming names?” Bilbo asked.
“Marriage convention,” Gloin said. “We change our names to match our wife’s.”
“So is Oin your wife, or are you his?” Bilbo asked.
“Neither,” Gloin said. “Remember Ori said that women take more than one husband? Our wife is back in Erid Luin with our son.”
“And…would those of you who are female prefer me to use feminine forms of address?” Bilbo asked, feeling very wrong-footed now.
Bombur shrugged. “If you like,” he said. “Though really, most of us prefer to stick to the masculine. Much safer that way.”
“Right,” Bilbo muttered. “Well, um…glad we cleared that up.” He glanced at Thorin. “Though I would appreciate it if you asked your nephews not to do it on the counter where we prepare food.”
Thorin sighed and got up. “I suppose I’d better,” he said. “Though Fili isn’t actually my nephew.”
“No, your niece,” Bilbo agreed.
“No,” Thorin said. “My daughter.” He raised his eyebrows. “Just because some prefer the word ‘sister’ in conversation doesn’t mean we got the translations right.”
Chapter 2: First Comes Love
A brief exploration of the couples in the Translation Fail verse.
So I did a bit of rough translating and combining to form some Khuzdul words for this culture. Actual Khuzdul speakers may beat me later, but they are as follows:
Maraluzêkhamûna: Literally "first passion of a young lady," usually used to refer to the first husband.
Amshâmunûyusth: Literally "second duty of a wife," used to refer to a second husband in poly-amorous relationships.
Marlelze: Literally "one love of loves," used by dwarvish women who only take one husband.
Naddulzarb: Literally "brother by the marriage contract," used to refer to two men married to the same woman.
He met her at the forge. He was working for men, pounding out their plows and horseshoes and other necessities, while she was merely in to place an order. But he knew that she was the One.
He spoke to her less gruffly than he would to others, and she answered in kind, her eyes sparkling, her golden hair shining in the forge.
Dis, she said her name was, and he responded in kind, telling her that changing his name was no great thing if she would wish to marry.
But she refused. He was a King, even if he had been brought so low, and his name would remain the same, no matter his marriage. But, she said, she would consider his court.
He saw no marriage braids in her hair, but there was one that indicated she was open to courting, which was nice. Not that it mattered—he would not have cared if he were the first or second or even the third of her husbands, so long as he could be near her.
She returned, again and again, and he could barely stand it. But then she said she would accept his suit. The braids in her hair changed, indicating courtship, and he was happy.
“Maraluzêkhamûna,” she called him, and it thrilled him, knowing he was the first of them, that he was her passion and her love, that no other husband she took would ever make her feel the fire he did.
And fire they felt, as hot as the forges, as they touched, as they kissed.
“I will take no other,” she said. “What more could I ask than a king, and my passion?”
And oh, how he loved her for that.
She was strong, willing to travel, willing to work with him. She took to the forges by his side, and she was beautiful, even as he introduced her as his brother, the two of them smiling secretly over the joke that men never understood.
And when she bore a daughter as lovely as she, he declared that their daughter, their Fili, would be the Queen Under the Mountain, no matter what it took to get there.
He knew he was rather young to marry, but how could he help it? She was gorgeous, too much so to pass up, and from a good family. Really, no one could find any objection.
And oh, how he loved her, her strength and her ferocity and her loyalty. Her axes and hammers and swords, her grace in spite of her size, her ability to listen to him talk about nearly anything for hours on end, her tattoos…her everything.
He didn’t know if she would want him, but she quickly cleared that away with her whispered “Marlelze” and her hand twined in his. She was young, so young, but he knew she knew what she wanted. That fire was only felt once, and it could not be extinguished. It had to lead to marriage—there was nothing else for it. And he was so, so happy to accept.
Their marriage was as much a battle as everything else, his books against her axes, his wit against her roughness, and yet it worked. It worked when she banged their foreheads together, or lifted him into a kiss. It worked in the new tattoo on her head, proclaiming her taken and not interested in a second, and he was dizzy to be not only her first but her only. Her one love.
It was especially dizzying when she had him on a bed beneath her, because she treated sex like a battle, and he always lost. But he was happy to lose, because it was beautiful, and the way she kissed him afterwards was always worth it.
Or at least, it was when they were young. But after two hundred years, it was a bit harder. Oh, she was still as formidable as ever, and she didn’t slow down at all, but he couldn’t keep up, and after a while, they had to settle down.
But her eyes still glowed when they looked into his. Her strong hand still held onto his. She still cracked their heads together in greeting, and he still felt dizzy whenever he saw the tattoo proclaiming him her only.
The words were never quite right to her.
The connotations were there, and there was no reason to feel ashamed, but they didn’t work as well as they should. At least, not always.
The first was accurate. Maraluzêkhamûna…it worked for her, because that was how it felt when she first married, the passion, the fire, even though she was only just of age. But he had ignited that flame, with rough hands and harsh kisses, her back against the wall and her legs around his hips, her fingers ruining his hair and his cock ruined her.
And it was still like that, whenever he came home. The fire had never gone out. She missed him, and when he returned to her, she reveled in the press of his hands, the spark from his lips, the fever of their couplings.
The other would always shake his head when he saw her afterwards, bruised and bitten and wrecked, but he said nothing. He knew she wanted that from her maraluzêkhamûna, and it was not his place to interfere. He was her danger, her excitement.
The second, her amshâmunûyusth, knew how to make up for it anyway. He knew that while he couldn’t spark her the same way, he could still make her feel magnificent. He did not fuck her as her maraluzêkhamûna did. He made love to her, worshipped her. He may not have been able to make her scream, but he knew every inch of her body, her breasts and legs and beard, her stomach and shoulders and her sex. His mouth had traced her, cool where the other was hot, gentle where the other was rough. He never had to hurry. He never left her side, so he had time.
The words made the second sound less important than the first, like she did not love them both. But she did. Two different types of love, but still love. The first was the passion of youth, the second the companionship of experience. In that way, she supposed, the words were accurate, but the second wasn’t a duty. He was a gift. He was her security.
But her favorite time was when they were all together. Those times were rare, as the two were merely naddulzarb, not married to each other. They barely got along when they saw each other. But for her sake, they would be peaceful.
And though she gave them equal attention, well, sometimes she wanted a little bit more.
So on occasion, when they were all three in the house, they would all converge on her bed. Both would kiss her, fire followed by gentle wind, bruising hands followed by soft caresses, her hands trailing over them both until they couldn’t stand it.
And when she was caught between them, her maraluzêkhamûna pushing hard from behind, her amshâmunûyusth rolling gently in front, bruising hands on her breasts, gentle hands on her hips, teeth on one side of her neck and lips on the other, it was always too much to bear.
Both were good to her, and she loved them both.
Her marlelze was perfect. Happy, handsome, and good-humored. They had everything they wanted, a good home, good jobs, a dozen perfect children. She could never ask for more.
But it did come with some issues. His cousin, for one, though he was really a sweet-natured dwarf, making toys for all the children. Hard work, but not enough to separate them.
And having so many children was a lot of trouble, though she grew used to it. And she could hardly say no when he asked if she’d like another, because she always wanted one. They were a fertile match, so why waste that? Many dwarrowdams had to shop around to find a dwarf that could give her children, ignoring the passions of their hearts in order to carry out their duties. She had found her perfect match who could give her children. Most would say she was very fortunate.
She was fortunate, she decided one night. The children were all asleep, including the addled cousin, and she and her marlelze had time to themselves. Time to enjoy each other as they hadn’t in several nights.
His hands roamed over her generous form, and her mouth sought ever part of him. They fit together, her large frame surrounding him in warm bliss, his ridiculous hat for once knocked aside in favor of her. Another child next year, perhaps, or maybe just a night of passion. It did not matter—she would want him even if they could have no children at all, as so many couldn’t.
She lay on the bed and let him have her, gasping with every touch and kiss, overwhelmed by sensation, loving him so much it almost made her burst.
And she knew he felt the same.
If he could have been her marlelze, she would have been content. She had never desired anyone else, not since she saw his dark eyes and slender form, and she doubted she ever would.
But she was a princess, and she knew that one day, her father would find an amshâmunûyusth for her. She would have a second duty, and she was terrified.
Would her maraluzêkhamûna be happy with a naddulzarb? She doubted it—he was a jealous sort, and while he was far from being a selfish lover, he did not like to share, and he would definitely not like sharing her.
But he had known when they married that she would one day make a second marriage. He had known that he was merely the first passion, the flame that took a young girl’s heart, and that he would not be alone with her forever.
So he took advantage when he could, taking her in every secret corner, loving her perfectly, growling that no one else would ever make her feel this good and that her children would all be his, even if politics forced her to have another in her bed.
And she was thrilled by it. She was just as enthusiastic about him as he was about her, eager to have his children, begging him for sex whenever she had the chance, no matter how perilous. Their honeymoon phase lasted far longer than most, though to be fair, they had been interrupted by a six-month quest during which her father had strictly forbidden any sort of intercourse.
They almost managed, until they reached Laketown. And it had been too long and they had almost died too many times and then he had made eyes at that elf girl just to rile her and that other elf kept manhandling her and driving him mad and…
Well, the kitchen counter was not the best place to do it, but it was the first time they were alone and he was not going to get to a bedroom. Her golden hair was quickly undone and tangled in his raven locks, and he was so rough, almost animal, and it had been far too long, and it felt so fantastic…
They turned slowly to see her father standing there, eyebrows raised. “I believe I told you none of that on the journey.”
Her maraluzêkhamûna had stopped moving, though he hadn’t pulled away from her. Her father had walked in on them enough times that neither was embarrassed about this anymore.
She pouted. “But Adad, it’s been months!” she whined. “And we’re almost there, and we’re safe…and we should have heirs, shouldn’t we?”
“Do you want to face a dragon while pregnant?” her father asked. “Besides, we all have to eat off that counter and you’ve upset the Hobbit.”
They sighed and pulled apart, hastily fixing their clothes. “If we move to a bedroom, can we continue?” she asked.
Her father raised his eyebrows further. “Only if none of us can hear you,” he said.
That was all her maraluzêkhamûna needed to pick her up and carry her off to their room.
She didn’t know if anyone heard them that night, though she did hear a lot of other noises from the surrounding rooms, so she assumed they were all right.