Title: The Last Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure
Rating: M / FRM
Main characters: Aragorn, Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Éomer, Erestor, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli, Glorfindel, Haldir, Legolas, Meriadoc, Nazgûl, Pippin, Thranduil (, OCs).
Pairings: Legolas/OMC (brief Aragorn/Arwen, Éowyn/Faramir)
Summary: After many peaceful years that have followed the war against Sauron, everything changes. Evil returns, striking without warning, and it is stronger than ever before. It is time for the final fight, but who shall achieve victory?
Work in Process.
Warnings: Characters’ death (major, OC), violence, torture, slash, mild sexual content (het and slash), plenty of evil, etc.
“)…(” = Sindarin
A white horse walked under the canopy of the trees like it belonged there. Following a nearly invisible path that ran through the forest, Arod carried his riders surely ahead – for Gimli’s great annoyance. He had for a long time waited for any kind opportunity to whine about their way of travelling, for he had been the one to insist – on the other side of the forest – that they should travel on foot, because it just wasn’t a place for a horse to travel through the forest. Once again, he had been wrong. It seemed that Arod very much enjoyed travelling through the forest.
“Poor beast,” Gimli muttered to his beard. Before him, Legolas turned his head slightly to his direction, so indicating that he had heard Gimli’s words. Encouraged by this, the Dwarf continued. “It wouldn’t much surprise me if this four-legged smelling creature would suddenly jump up and climb into a tree.”
Legolas let out a short laughter.
“You have made this fine Rohan horse behave like a beast. No manners at all.”
“If you mean that accident this morning, Master Dwarf, it was purely your own fault. Usually, if you wave a bunch of grass in the front of a hungry horse’s nose, it usually comes to you.”
“Aye, but did I ask this thing to stamp upon my foot?” Gimli growled.
Legolas laughed again, his bright voice ringing in the air, making Arod to prick up his ears and neigh happily. “Correct, Gimli, but now I start to wonder what you were trying to tell him to do.” Legolas turned around to look at the Dwarf, his blue eyes dancing with mirth.
Gimli muttered something, too quiet and muffled by a beard for even Legolas to catch. But the Elf did not stay to wonder this, as his head already turned elsewhere, his body straightening up. Gimli also prepared himself quickly, reading from his friend’s movements that something was approaching. Not soon after this, Gimli felt Legolas shiver slightly. “What is it? Enemies?” Gimli asked, glancing around him, trying to identify the source of the trouble.
But Legolas remained quiet, his only answer being that he patted Arod gently to the neck, making him stop. Then he remained unmoving and silent, much to Gimli’s dislike.
“)Welcome home, my Prince Legolas,(” a voice called somewhere above them, and Legolas smiled. While Gimli was still struggling to translate the words, an Elf dropped from the trees to the ground, making Arod shift slightly, and paw with his front leg. With one movement Legolas controlled his horse again, dismounted swiftly and approached the other Elf, and much for Gimli’s surprise, he embraced the other warmly.
“)Rafél, mae govannen, mellon nîn!(”
Only then did Gimli recognise who the Elf was. He had visited Legolas’s homeland on a few occasions, and Ithilien even more often, but still he knew very few Elves. Not that it would have been his fault. It just seemed that most of the Elves weren’t interested in befriending Dwarves. And on the other hand, some were more than interested… Luckily, Rafél wasn’t one of those. This Elf held great importance for Legolas, and therefor, Gimli had soon learned to know him – by looks at least. It was quite difficult task to really learn to know an Elf. Sometimes it still seemed that he didn’t even know Legolas…
Rafél was one of those Elves who had trained Legolas, but above all else, this Elf was Legolas’ bodyguard – or had been, until Legolas chose to join into Fellowship. After leaving Rivendell, Legolas hadn’t seen his protector until he had returned back home after the War. Gimli could still distantly remember that Rafél had been there that day, welcoming his Prince back home. As Gimli thought it now, there had been great relief in the other’s face as he had seen Legolas safe and sound – in the company of a Dwarf or not.
The two were now talking quietly, Elvish most likely, and Gimli sighed quietly. He wasn’t going to waste his time in trying to translate the words that were spoken, for his knowledge in Elvish was still quite poor. Though it had improved a lot after meeting Legolas for the first time, it still wasn’t quite enough to translate an entire conversation.
But soon enough the Elves turned into his direction, and with a silent nod, Rafél greeted Gimli, who responded with a small bow, carefully trying to avoid falling from the horseback. With few more words, Legolas returned to Arod, and lightly sprang onto his back, guiding him slowly forward. “Rafél is going to see us to the palace,” he informed his Dwarven friend.
Gimli snorted. “Can he really allow such a delay for his duties?” Gimli knew well that Rafél was a high ranked captain in Woodland Realm’s forces, and if he was out here on a duty, it probably was an important one. Gimli glanced at the Elf walking beside them, and frowned. “Or was he waiting for us here all along?”
Legolas laughed. “Do you think that any duty in this forest is more important than seeing the youngest Prince safely to the Palace?”
Gimli raised one eyebrow, and then laughed. “Well, I think you are right. If you would be here all on your own, I really doubt if you would ever manage to get into Woodland Realm…”
Legolas turned his head around, his face trying to adopt a hurt and offended look. Gimli only gave him an innocent look, which caused Legolas to narrow his eyes dangerously.
Beside them, Rafél laughed quietly, watching their play, amused. He had witnessed these kinds of discussions often enough to know that it wasn’t necessary for him to protect his Prince’s honour. In any minute, Legolas would come up with some sharp remark, and the game would begin anew. While waiting for that, Rafél whistled loudly, and after some moments, a white horse galloped from the forest, stopping only few inches before Rafél, pushing his chest gently with his long nose, whinnying as a greeting. )A, Lumén, vanya nîn! Where were you? Look who is here? Shall we see Legolas home safely?( Rafél questioned his horse lightly.
Legolas let out a delicate snort for response, and Lumén neighed happily, turning around so he was able to nudge Legolas’ leg with his head. Arod, on the other hand, seemed not to like this kind of behaviour towards his rider, and he tossed his head, whinnying with disapproval. Legolas laughed, pushing Lumén away playfully, and soothed Arod, stroking his neck. “It is well, Arod. He is merely saying ‘hello’. He means no harm!”
Arod flattened his ears, and shook his head, snorting. Legolas sighed, and Gimli mumbled something about spoiled horses. While this lasted, Rafél mounted. When Legolas noticed the other was ready, he urged Arod ahead again, and they started to trot through the forest.
For a moment they spoke nothing, but then Legolas asked softly: “How are things at home? Do they know we are coming?”
Rafél glanced at his Prince and answered slowly: “All is well. Maybe too well: the warriors are getting restless. But that is always an inevitable consequence when a long war ends. And our war has been a rather long one…” he sighed. “Your people are aware of your return, and they are waiting you to arrive soon, no doubt. There will be a great celebration when you get back home.”
Legolas smiled, and laughed a little as he felt Gimli shift slightly behind him. He knew that the Dwarf was as eager to arrive to Woodland Realm as he was, if not for the celebration ahead, then at least for a change to get down from the horseback. Though Gimli was nowadays a seasoned ‘rider’, he also had his limits. “It will be good to be home again. And moreover, to meet my father. There are a lot of things I wish to speak with him about.” After Legolas had said this, Rafél shifted somewhat nervously upon his horse. Legolas glanced at him, puzzled. “Is something wrong, Rafél?”
“Well, I think your discussion with your father must wait for a while.”
“Why is that? I am sure he isn’t that busy that he cannot meet his son…”
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that…” Rafél muttered.
“So what is it? Is my father aware of Gimli’s presence, and therefor isn’t willing to meet me?” Legolas voice was steadily growing more irritated.
Noting this, Rafél answered directly. “Your father cannot speak with you, because he isn’t here.”
“What?” Legolas stared at the elder Elf in disbelief.
Rafél merely shrugged. “He left some days ago. We are not expecting him back anytime soon.”
“Left? Where? Surely he knew I was coming.”
“Yes, I think he knew, but that information didn’t seem to bother him too much,” Rafél said, and Gimli thought he heard something akin to disgust in his voice, and wondered that.
“So, where has he gone?” Gimli asked gruffly, knowing that Legolas was still trying to get over his shock.
“Surely he told someone. He is a King, after all,” Gimli wondered.
“Nay, he told none. The only thing we know is that he went north, but further than that, we cannot tell,” Rafél answered.
“You speak as if he went alone,” Gimli said, glancing swiftly at Legolas.
“That is why I said so: he went alone. Or, well, not alone: there were others waiting for him on our borders.”
“Others?” Gimli asked, getting more and more confused all the time.
“He took none of our own people with him: no esquire, no escort, no warriors, nothing. But our northern scouts reported that there were some men waiting for him in the north, and that they continued from there together.”
“So you let your King go alone, with mere strangers?” Gimli shouted, astonished.
Grimly, Rafél nodded. “That is how he wants it done.” Before Gimli could react to this, he continued: “This is not the first time. During the last year or so, this has become a quite usual tradition, if that is how you wish to call it. But you shall hear more from your brothers and Thrénandu, they are more aware of this situation than I,” Rafél said, pointing his answer more to Legolas reaction, who was now frowning in confusion.
Slowly, Legolas nodded, and the rest of the way back home was travelled in tense silence.
The new morning was pale and beautiful in Woodland Realm. The rays of the sun shone through the layers of leaves, filling the forest with green light. But there was one who did not notice the beauty of the beginning day. And for once, the one who is ignorant isn’t the Dwarf, Gimli son of Glóin thought bitterly. He stood on the one side of the room of Eryn Lasgalen’s youngest prince, and tried to stay out of his friend’s way while the Elf dashed around the room like a whirlwind. Angry whirlwind, Gimli added to himself. Or maybe ‘angry’ is not the right word, not even nearly bad enough. ‘Furious’ would be good, or ‘extremely irritated’. But this Dwarf isn’t quite sure if even those words are bad enough. Gimli sighed mentally; afraid to do it physically, because it might mean that the Elf would notice him and that he would be the one to receive the onslaught of Legolas’ particular emotions.
Not that he would have been afraid of the Elf. What a ridiculous idea! He merely didn’t want to be shouted without a reason. At the other hand, the Elf always shouted to him without a reason on those rare occasions his friend lost his temper – and Gimli never forgot to remind his friend about those moments afterwards. Or maybe just a few of those times had been justified, but Gimli wasn’t quite sure if his actions had been that bad…
But maybe Legolas had the right to be angry this time. Gimli wasn’t sure if he should laugh or be offended by the actions that the house of Oropher showed towards him. Or a particular member of it. But right now he didn’t feel offended, only sorry for his friend. He knew how ashamed Legolas was of his father’s actions toward the Dwarves when one of their kin came to visit in Eryn Lasgalen, or was otherwise in touch with the Elves.
The hate between the Elves and the Dwarves was long and bitter, and now that Gimli and Legolas tried to make a peace between their races, the results weren’t always promising: old ways stuck hard. Not that the King of former Mirkwood would have been the only one to stuck into old manners. Other Elves were rather suspicious towards the Dwarves, and Dwarves… Gimli felt like sighing again. At least his father was giving Legolas a chance to prove himself trustworthy – when it suited Glóin himself, that was – but there were ones that would have rather told their opinions with their axes.
For his shame, Gimli remembered well the days when he had felt the same distrust towards the Elves, but those days were long gone. The more he met Elves, the more he realised that his kin was wrong. Just as much as the Elves were wrong about Dwarves. But some just weren’t ready to admit that their opinion wasn’t a right one.
This time the main problem wasn’t the behaviour of Eryn Lasgalen’s King towards Gimli, not at least patently so. He and Legolas had arrived to the borders of Eryn Lasgalen a few days ago. Of course travelling through the wide forest took time, and they had come to the northern part of the forest the last morning. The people of Woodland Realm had known for long that their Prince was coming, but when they came to the palace, they were told yet again that the King wasn’t present. Indeed, like Rafél had said, he had left only few days before towards north, and none knew when he would return.
The thing that had first worried Legolas was the fact that his father hadn’t taken a guard of his own people with him, but a group of strangers, who, he heard, had also accompanied the King on his trips to the north before – journeys that could take even weeks. But if their King wished to take a journey with total strangers, his people had very little to say in the matter. Legolas had indeed been worried for a while, but that feeling didn’t last long. After that came burning anger, and when the youngest Prince of Eryn Lasgalen was angry, it was a sight to behold. In the case you weren’t the one to receive that anger…
This time Gimli sighed physically as well, risking his wellbeing for a moment. He didn’t quite understand this whole ordeal, but knowing his Elven friend, Legolas would dig out every little piece of information of these ‘strangers’ and ‘journeys to north’. A talent, which he had adopted from Aragorn, or so it seemed to Gimli. Or other way around. Legolas was after all nearly three thousand years old. Or maybe it was generally an Elven trick, for Aragorn had been raised in Rivendell by the Elves…
Suddenly a door of the room opened and an Elf stepped inside, closing the door silently behind him. Bold, Gimli thought, very bold. But any less couldn’t have been expected from this Elf. The newcomer inched close to Gimli quietly, watching for a while how Legolas strode through the room cursing under his breath. And as suddenly as the Elf had come, he turned to Gimli, a wide grin spreading to his face. A very un-elvish grin, Gimli added to himself. Though, very normal for this one.
“Hello Gimli. I thought to come and see how you fare with our dear Prince. I’m glad to find you still in one peace.”
Gimli’s only comment for that was a risen eyebrow.
“Oh come on, you know what he is like in those moods. We are all very lucky that they are extremely rare. Though they are coming more usual nowadays,” the Elf sighed, shaking his head dramatically.
“Your point, Shannai?” Gimli finally asked. He also knew that there possibly was no point. Just some mischief, that’s all.
Shannai was the most unordinary Elf he had ever met, and probably ever would: Shannai was also one of those very rare Elves who wished to befriend Gimli – a thing that the Dwarf had learned quickly after he came to Woodland Realm for the first time. Shannai looked like a normal Elf: pale skin, long bronze hair, light green eyes and pointy ears. And that was about it. Of course he had all the abilities of Elves as well, though he didn’t prefer a bow as a weapon, but a sword or a knife; with a bow he wasn’t very good, especially when compared to other Elves, though among Men he would have been among the best. But the ability that made him different from the other Elves was his curiosity and open mind for new things. As soon as he had met Gimli, he had tried to learn everything about Dwarves from him. He still did, though he knew quite much already. He didn’t feel distrust towards any of their kin, and his curiosity didn’t stop just to Dwarves. He was curious about everyone and everything, always listening to stories and songs, learning new things from them. And if you asked something about those stories from him later on, you could only notice that he seemed to remember every single word. So Shannai was a popular storyteller among his people. But he never twisted the stories so they would show only the good side of the Elves: he showed also the positive side of the other races, just like they had been told in the stories. And that wasn’t the end of it. He was a jester. This Elf had excellent sense of humour, and he could turn your every word upside down in seconds. He made joke of everything, and that sometimes led him into a trouble. Legolas had told Gimli once that Shannai had been much worse in his youth, and Gimli really found it hard to believe. But Legolas and Shannai were friends far from past – though Shannai was a bit older – and Gimli thought that Legolas probably knew what he was talking about…
Shannai had even threatened to come and stay in Glittering Caves for a while to see the real life of the Dwarves. Gimli didn’t doubt for a second that the Elf would really do it. He could just wait and dread for that day. Or the day when Shannai would meet Hobbits. Though the Hobbits would be more than happy to tell about their lifestyle, and to show it as well. Maybe Shannai should have been born as a Hobbit after all. Or as a Man. Or even as a Dwarf. Someone had made a terrible mistake when this particular creature had born as an Elf. It just didn’t fit. And Shannai thoroughly agreed to that. Actually it was he who had said it for the first time...
Gimli glared up to the Elf – somewhat shorter than the others of his kin, yet still taller than Gimli himself – waiting for an answer.
“Are you going somewhere?” Shannai asked after a while, watching Legolas do some kind of preparations, though it seemed that the Prince couldn’t hold his thoughts in the work he was doing.
“Out,” Gimli sighed, shaking his head. “We are going out. Or that’s what I guess we are going to do. Of course I can’t be sure, for he isn’t really telling me anything right now.”
“Have you even asked?” Shannai asked with a smile.
“Are you crazy? If I would have done nothing else but stood here quietly as a ghost all this time, I really might say that I wouldn’t be in one piece any more.”
Shannai watched him with his eyes wide with playful terror, turning quickly to glance at his Prince. “Well, my friend, in that case I wish you luck to your journey, for it may be you last. But worry not! Thou shall die for a greater cause, if that shall be thou destiny.”
Gimli tried very hard not to laugh. Shannai was so dramatic it was actually ridiculous, which most likely was the meaning. But the show hadn’t ended just yet, though the smile that now covered Shannai’s face was one of total innocence. “What?” Gimli asked, curious about where Shannai was aiming.
“Nothing,” the Elf answered, but he definitely wasn’t finished. And because Gimli wanted to see where this particular game would lead, he played along.
“So, you won’t find any Orcs for Legolas to play with? I think it would help him to ease his mind.” This was actually a half serious question from the Dwarf, because he really thought that some fighting and killing would right now do only good for Legolas…
“I think that cannot be arranged, my good master Dwarf. But I’m sure you will personally help him to ease is mind. Outside air will do well for him. And you look like that you could use some exercise yourself: it seems to me that you have gained weight since I saw you last time –”
“You little Elven – !”
Shannai quickly jumped away from Gimli, laughing uncontrollably. “All right, all right! I will go. But just remember to take good care of our precious Prince Greenleaf, because you don’t want to be present when the King arrives if something happens to his youngest.”
“Aye. But I think that your Elven Princeling is in much more greater danger without me. No get off from here! Have you nothing better to do than jump around here jeering at me?”
“But master Gimli, jeering at everyone and everything is the mission of my life.” Shannai bowed and left the room, leaving Gimli to shake his head amused, a small smile on his face. If Shannai had come here to cheer him up, he had succeeded. Most likely that was the case, because after all Shannai was an Elf, and he had also that serious side in him, though it wasn’t seen very often.
Suddenly he was aware of Legolas’ gaze upon him. The archer stood in the middle of the room, staring at him like he had never seen a Dwarf before in his life, gazing him up and down from head to feet and back. “Shannai was here,” Gimli said, crumpling slightly.
“I know, I really could not help but notice.” A pause. More intense staring. “Are you really going to go out in those clothes?” the Elf asked, referring to the normal clothes that the Dwarf always wore: chainmail, leather jerkin, more armour… Altogether, normal clothing for a Dwarf to wear.
As a response, Gimli placed his feet firmly to the ground, putting his hands across his chest and glared at Legolas for return with deathly gaze.
Legolas nearly laughed. “All right, but you are the one carrying them. But don’t you come whining to me when you ware down on the road and can’t go on anymore because of the weight of your gear.” After he had said that, the Elf walked to the door, knowing the Dwarf would follow.
And so the Dwarf did, muttering darkly: “I really don’t know about you Elves, but we Dwarves don’t just ‘wear down’ on the road.”
They walked swiftly through the halls of stone and came at last to the fresh morning air. No Elf stopped them, for they clearly saw that their Prince wasn’t in the mood for speech. So the pair was left alone as they walked to the forest, and Gimli felt a slight hint of worry of what would come. In these moods Legolas was unpredictable – even more so than usual – and the Dwarf couldn’t guess where they were going or for how long. The only thing he knew was that he should not let the Elf out of his sight. Steeling himself for what was coming, Gimli walked after Legolas into the shadows of the forest.
Legolas marched along a hidden path through the forest. For Elves the path would be visible as any, but others races could not make it out from the forest floor. His thoughts were dark and angry, and every now and then he muttered Elven curses, not really caring if they fitted to this current moment or not. Of course this wasn’t normal to him, for usually he was very calm when things turned against him, and he had learned to hide his emotions well in his father’s court during his long years. But today was different. He and Gimli had come a long way to visit his homeland, sending a message of their coming long before, and when they arrived, his father wasn’t here! He had dared to leave, just few days before! It was – in Legolas’ point of view – as insulting as any offence his father could say to Gimli – or to his own son.
It was a clear signal that Thranduil wasn’t even interested of his son’s actions to bring peace and friendship between Elves and Dwarves. It seemed more like his father was doing his very best to destroy Legolas’ work to the ground. But Dwarves love ground, so is it that bad? Legolas tried to humour himself, but it just left him even more irritated. He felt himself personally insulted by his father’s actions, but there was nothing he could do about it right now.
To relieve his growing frustration he absently kicked a rock upon the road, sending it off flying to the bushes. “And what has that poor peace of nature done to you to receive such a treatment?” a gruff voice asked behind him. Legolas found himself smiling for the first time that day – actually the first time after they had arrived to the palace’s area. He had totally forgotten Gimli. Partly he had thought that the Dwarf would have stayed in the palace, because his Elven companion wasn’t very responsive that day. But as always, Gimli had followed him, trying to ease his mood, and at last he was truly doing success. As an answer, Legolas merely shrugged and kept walking, heading to no specific place, but wanting to get away from the other Elves for a while. The company of a Dwarf, on the other hand, would do him only good.
After they had walked a few more hours without any direction or goal, Legolas started to feel a little better. He started to hum quietly himself, touching the trees as he passed by them, listening at the wind and the trees around him, enjoying of their touch on his skin. He walked for a while like this, until he came to an edge of a small clearing. Before him was a short but steep downhill. He considered his options for a while, and then he swiftly leaped down the slope, landing to the high grass on the foot of the downhill with a grace of a deer.
In the middle of this clearing ran a small river deep in the riverbed, which was about two yards deep, the Elf observed. The way to the other side was at least four yards; so jumping over it may not be the best possible idea. The water wasn’t deep, and Legolas didn’t doubt for a moment that he would fail if he would try jumping, but there were other ways to get over the river: he just had to find it first. And when he looked to his right, he saw a fallen tree that made a nice bridge over the river.
Smiling, Legolas ran to the tree and jumped on it, when suddenly a terrible roar filled the air. Right after it followed a serial of thuds and shouts, clinging of chain and dwarvish curses, which all ended up in a one loud thud, and then there was only some less coherent cursing. Legolas turned around in instant to see what happened, and saw one of the most comic sights of his life; Gimli rolled down the downhill and then crushed into the tree standing near the end of the slope, making the old branches and leaves of the tree fall all over him. Muttering terrible things about one certain pointy-eared, tree hugging Elf, he rose to sit up.
Legolas merely watched while Gimli rose himself from the ground, and walked – still muttering – to the place where the Elf was standing on the fallen tree. When he reached the Elf, Gimli stopped, hands upon his chest, giving Legolas maybe one of the most terrible glances in all Middle-earth, and which perhaps would have put even Gandalf in shame.
Legolas, on the other hand, kept his face expressionless with great care, though it was a hard task indeed. If Gimli wouldn’t do something fast, he was sure he would burst into laughter. But this time the Dwarf saved him.
“I came with you just because of our friendship, but even my tolerance has its limits! We have been walking for hours, running around this brushwood, going nowhere as far as I can see. I could have stayed to the palace, and be now lying in some nice, sunny place and just enjoy myself. But here I am, in the middle of this stinking forest, where every tree seems to think that their only mission is to trip up one very specific Dwarf – or at least try it! I’ve had enough! Keep your childish games, for this Dwarf is going back right now! I’m hungry and tired and my feet ache, but you just want to rush through every bush, swamp, pog, every nettle of bush and burr that you can find on your way.” Gimli took a deep breath, eyes flaring with anger, his mind literally fuming. “Keep your fun. I’m leaving!” Gimli shouted at last, taking his helmet from his head and threw it to the ground and then just stared up to his friend, thoroughly offended look upon his face.
Legolas looked at the Dwarf thoughtfully, smile slowly forming on his face. He had known that taking Gimli with him would be a good idea. Slowly he walked to the end of the fallen tree, standing right before the other warrior, and with an absent movement he pulled few splinters of wood out of the Dwarf’s beard, while speaking: “I’m quite sure, master Dwarf, that you would feel much better right now if you would have left even a little part of your armour to the palace when we left, like I suggested.”
“The armour is not the fault,” Gimli said slowly, “but one silly Elf! No stop tugging my beard, Elfling, or you will feel the full wrath of a certain, very enraged Dwarf!” Gimli practically shouted, causing Legolas to flinch back, startled. Then Gimli snorted, turned on his heels, and strode back to the direction where they had come from.
“Not a word, Legolas. I do not wish to see you, hear you, or even feel you around me! Have I made myself clear!?”
“Yes you have, unforgettably, but if you wish to go back to the palace, you are going into a wrong direction.”
The Dwarf stopped on his tracks, turning his head to look at the Elf behind him. “What?”
“The palace,” Legolas said slowly, pointing on the way on the other side of the river, “is that way. We have walked in a wide circle.”
“Are you sure?”
This time it was Legolas’ turn to make an offended face. “Master Dwarf, I am an Elf, and Elves usually know how to walk in the forests, and most of all, I have lived in these woods my entire life, which is –”
“A long time, yes, yes, yes! I have heard that all before. Now if you could be so kind and show me the right way back to the palace, I would be most pleased.”
“Of course, Gimli. And you are right: we have been travelling for a long time, and now is time to return. So come! Let us find our way back!” And without a further word, Legolas ran lightly along the fallen tree over the river, and disappeared among the trees. Gimli grumbled yet again, and started to walk slowly after the Elf. He knew the other one would wait him, and he would definitely make sure of that that the rest of this ridiculous trip would be travelled with his speed. Far ahead he could hear the Elf’s clear voice: “Come, Master Dwarf, night is falling soon, and I’m sure you don’t want to stay in this brushwood long enough to sleep.” With a sigh, the Dwarf swore something inaudible under his breath, and slowly climbed to the fallen tree, watching it suspiciously.
The tree had dug itself steadily into the ground, and was wide enough to be crossed easily. Gimli gave it last suspicious look and then started to march over it confidently, which was a mistake. The wet bark got loose, and with a terrible shout, the Dwarf fell from the makeshift bridge.
Not two seconds later Legolas was back on the riverside, bow and arrow ready. When he didn’t see the Dwarf anywhere he grew worried. Then suddenly a quiet cursing reached his sensitive ears, and slowly he walked to the riverbank. And then he laughed. Down before him sat Gimli, waist deep in the water, looking very unhappy and wet.
“Very funny Legolas. If I would be you, I would close my mouth very quickly and help me up from here even quicker!”
“Of course. Immediately,” Legolas gasped, and then started to laugh again. Gimli just sneered. The only positive thing in this situation was that Legolas had got his light mood back. Gimli, on the other hand… wasn’t too happy anymore.
When the pair arrived back to the palace the sun was already setting. Gimli was wet and hungry, but his mood was better than before. He and Legolas had joked on their way back from the forest, or talked about everything between mining and gardening. As usual. It seemed that Legolas was himself again, and Gimli felt a slight rush of pride run through him, knowing that he was the cause for this sudden change for the better. Though he would be feeling much better himself when he would get something warm, dry and clean to wear.
When they came to the corridor that led into their rooms, they nearly ran into Shannai. It didn’t take long from the other Elf to find something to say about Gimli’s current state of appearance. “But my Lord Gimli! What has happened to you? If I wouldn’t have known better, I would have thought that our dear Prince had brought some kind of a river-rat with him.” Even Gimli’s deathly glare didn’t make Shannai’s smile vanish. Then Legolas broke the situation, asking Shannai if he could bring them some food to his rooms, and with those words, the company parted – while Shannai still grinning like a fool.
In Legolas’ rooms there was a warm bath waiting, and as the Elf didn’t wish to bathe, Gimli took advantage of the chance to clean himself. When he came from the bath, the food was already waiting, and then they sat together to eat. For a moment Gimli had been worried that Shannai would have stayed with them for a dinner. Not that he didn’t like Shannai: he just wished to spend some time alone with Legolas, that’s all.
They didn’t speak much during the dinner, though, but enjoyed each other’s silent company. After they had eaten, Legolas put the dishes aside, and they went to sit before a small fireplace. As he sat there, a small fire warming the air, Legolas combed Gimli’s hair with careful hands, humming to himself. Gimli let himself relax, enjoying of the moment, knowing that he would miss these kind of evenings when he would sit alone in his chambers in Aglarond. When Legolas was finished with his hair, the Elf put the comb away, and sat down beside Gimli, leaning lightly against the Dwarf’s side, resting his head upon the other’s shoulder.
They sat thus for a long while, both in their thoughts, content.
“Do you remember the first time I arrived to your home? After the War,” Gimli asked at length. He felt Legolas shrug beside him.
“Of course, Elvellon. Why do you ask?”
“I was just wondering… didn’t we sit before this very same hearth that night when we arrived?”
Legolas frowned. “So we did. Indeed your memory isn’t failing you yet.”
“And I hope it won’t do so for a long time,” Gimli laughed softly, caught in memory. “That evening… is maybe the most pleasant memory that I have from that visit, you know.” Beside him, Legolas shifted, and Gimli turned his head so he could look at his friend. But Legolas refused to meet his eyes, and Gimli swiftly understood that he had chosen the wrong words. “I didn’t mean to say that my first visit to your homeland was a poor one: that one evening just brings me much good memories.”
“You don’t have to embellish your words for me, Gimli. I know your first visit here was a disaster,” Legolas whispered gravely.
“No it wasn’t! Why do you think that?” Gimli pressed, knowing well where this current discussion was leading. They had spoken of this before, and Gimli had thought Legolas had got over it, but it seemed that his friend still needed some more time…
“Because all your time here you had to hide behind my back so anyone of my kin wouldn’t shoot you!” Legolas shouted somewhat frustrated, shame colouring his cheeks.
“You know that isn’t the truth. No one would have dared to shoot me, you in front of me or not. I was here as your guest, after all.”
Legolas let out a short, ironic laughter. “I’m sure they just lacked a little encouraging to do so… a little errand from you, and…” Legolas never finished his sentence.
But Gimli wasn’t going to give up so easily. “Maybe it was so that my life was in danger, but you kept very good care of me. You accompanied me all the time; you shared your room with me… I didn’t feel a bit offended or threatened while I was here, and mostly the thanks goes to you.”
Legolas didn’t answer to this, only stared at Gimli.
Gimli smiled to his friend, and put one arm around the slender but strong archer’s shoulders. “And what of your first visit to my home, hmm? I would call that a disaster, if anything. You weren’t even let to enter to the caves, and I was sure than more than one of my people planned to sneak up to you and end your life without further hesitation.”
“That’s different –”
“Different? No, it isn’t. And don’t try to argue with me, Elf! I was quite safe here among your people. And now, today, I know I am safe as ever under the tall trees of Eryn Lasgalen. Your people know me, and respect our friendship. Some of your kin have even come and talked to me – and I don’t mean only Shannai here. Among the Elves, I am Elvellon. But among Dwarves, you are still only an Elf,” Gimli finished somewhat sadly. He lifted his eyes from the fire to see Legolas’ face, and was moved by the emotions that he saw in the blue eyes.
Legolas smiled, and laid his head on Gimli’s shoulder again. “They will learn,” he said quietly. “Just like you learned. And if they do not… well, it will be their loss, I guess.”
Suddenly Gimli sprang up, startling Legolas. The Elf watched questioningly as Gimli went to his pack, searching something from within it. “Gimli, what are you doing?”
Gimli merely murmured something inaudible, and then at last lifted something from his pack. Legolas looked at him interested as Gimli returned to his side, carrying in his arms a small wooden box that was carved with runes and beautiful markings.
Gimli kneeled down in front of Legolas, who waited patiently, and slowly the Dwarf opened the box, raising something from inside. “I made these in Aglarond last winter. First I didn’t really know what I was doing, but then the idea struck me, when I one day saw a small bird circle around the citadel, carrying a small rock in it’s feet. I still had those two green stones that you found from the caves... those with the star-shapes in them.”
“I remember,” Legolas said, waiting for the other to go on.
“I thought so too. But, well, these are what I made, and I hope that you like them… I thought these symbol our friendship quite well… or something…” Gimli trailed off, and rose his hands, letting Legolas see for the first time what he held in them.
Legolas gasped. “Gimli… they, they are beautiful,” he exclaimed.
Gimli merely shrugged, and extended his hands so Legolas could take the objects from him.
Legolas took the offered things carefully, sliding his fingers gently over two necklaces he now held in his hand. They were two identical birds – made of mithril and silver as far as Legolas could tell – winds slightly spread like it would have been flying, or protecting the round stone that it carried in it’s feet. The green stones that the birds carried were deep shade of green, and from the middle of them was a shape, like a star. Legolas followed every curve of those beautiful creations with his eyes, and yet again he could only wonder how gifted Gimli truly was in crafting.
Finally Legolas lifted his eyes to Gimli’s, who was watching his every reaction carefully. “You must have spent awfully much time in the making of these,” Legolas finally stated.
“Well, after seeing your face, it is worth it. So, do you think that…”
“Do I think that these jewels are good enough to symbol our everlasting friendship? Yes. But,” he stated, looking at the necklaces in his hand again, “there is something missing in them.”
“Missing?” Gimli asked, puzzled.
Legolas only nodded, and smiled mysteriously. Then he took each necklace to one hand, curling his fingers carefully around them and then raised his hands close to his chest, bowing his head and murmured quietly some words that Gimli couldn’t understand. Suddenly, Legolas’ inner glow blazed, shining brighter than before, and Gimli could only stare in awe at his friend. Slowly, the glowing around Legolas ceased, and the Elf raised his head to meet Gimli’s gaze, his blue eyes still shining brightly. He brought forwards his hands, and uncurling them, revealed the necklaces.
Now it was Gimli’s turn to gasp. The green stones were now glowing brightly with their own inner light, as if they would have been alive.
“For now on, whenever these two are close to each other, they shall glow in happiness of their closeness; just like I feel happiness whenever I am with you, Elvellon,” Legolas said softly, smiling.
Gimli nodded, swallowing, and took one of the necklaces, putting it carefully around his neck. “I can feel it,” he gasped softly, touching the necklace carefully with his hand, as if he was afraid he would somehow ruin it with his caress.
Legolas laughed. “Ai, as I can feel you. And whenever we shall be apart again, these will bring us consolation, for through these we are now bound. Yet these jewels are but one stage in which we are bound,” he said softly, touching his own necklace in turn, and if possible, the stone shone even brighter, and Gimli felt his friend’s presence even stronger.
“Hannon le, mellon nîn” Gimli said, his voice rough with emotions. He quickly wiped a tear from the corned of his eye.
“A very least I could do,” Legolas replied quietly.
A few moments passed like this, both of them again staring at the fire. Soon Gimli found himself dozing, weariness creeping over him.
“I think you should go to sleep,” Legolas said gently, waking Gimli from his dream-like state.
Gimli nodded, yawned, and stood up, walking somewhat stiffly to his bed. Legolas sat alone for a moment, and then also stood up, gazing at Gimli, who already was lying in his bead, seemingly content. “I will go to the Main Hall, for there will be a celebration of some kind. Don’t worry, there shall be many enough celebrations you can attend to before we shall leave from Woodland Realm.” Gimli only grumbled in answer, pulling the blanket over himself. “I’m not sure if I’ll join you tonight.” Another grumble. “So, I wish you sweet dreams.” No more grumbling, just snoring. Legolas shook his head, smiling. Last time Gimli had been this tired it has been after the war against Sauron has ended: there has been very little time for them to rest during the journey across Middle-earth.
With one last glance at his friend, Legolas left the room silently, going to join to the other Elves in the Main Hall. There would be celebration for days because of his return – and Gimli’s, of course. There were already many among his people who knew the Dwarf and welcomed him with happiness – though Legolas hoped that there would be more in the future, but this already was a good start. With a soft sigh, he closed the door of his room and walked to the dim corridor.
to be continued…
)Sindarin(: - Westron:
Mae govannen - Well met
Mellon nîn - My friend
A, Lumén, vanya nîn - Ah, Lumén, my beauty (in this phrase, “vanya” is Quenya)
Elvellon - Elf-friend
Hannon le - Thank you