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Axe and Bow

A Legolas and Gimli fan archive

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Lied: Lay My Heart Naked

by Jacquez H. Valentine

Category: Poetry
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: None.
Disclaimer: Based on characters and events created by J.R.R. Tolkien. Used without permission. No money made, no harm intended.
Feedback: Certainly.
Author's Website: http://www.dementia.org/~jacquez/writing/
Summary: Gimli loves, and yet the sea calls.
A/N: Thank you to Debra Fran Baker for the betas, and Basingstoke for title assistance.




We rode to Isengard upon one horse, the Elf and I. As we rode, he sang to himself, and I laid my sore head between his shoulders and listened to his voice. When we stopped for the night, he stayed close by me, tending his weapons as I rested.

"So," he said, "I heard something today that I know must be false."

I opened one eye. "Aye?"

He ran long fingers over a black Orc-arrow. "I heard Aragorn tossed you to the causeway, Master Dwarf."

I closed my eye again. "'Tis a scandalous falsehood," I said. "Nobody tosses a Dwarf."

"I thought so," he said, and I listened as he returned to his work. The feathers rustled; the shafts echoed softly, wood on wood. The night was full of fear, but Legolas was by me, singing again.

The watchmen cried out; the Elf's voice cut off, and I rose amid the trembling of the earth. "Stay where you are!" Gandalf called, and as I reached for my axe Legolas caught my hand in his. "Draw no weapons," Gandalf said then, and I subsided.

Legolas's pulse beat against my palm, and his fingers were calloused and warm. When the mist and the danger had passed, he made no move to draw away from me, but settled closer and pressed me down again, so that my head lay cushioned on his thigh. It was more pleasant to lie thus, and my head ached the less for it, so I offered no protest.

He sang me to sleep, and in the morning, we rode to Isengard and found it taken by the Ents, and guarded by the Hobbits, and inhabited by an old trickster.

And all day, Legolas was by my side. At times his hand brushed my shoulder, or his leg pressed close to my own, or his eyes smiled at me before growing serious once more.

I knew in my heart then that I loved him, an Elf of Mirkwood, the son of my father's jailor.

* * *

Out of Isengard we rode again, and I with a pipe and pipeweed tucked into my pouch. "You smell of smoke," Legolas said, "and like loam under trees." He did not sound displeased.

"You smell of forest," I said, "and a little of blood."

And when Gandalf left us, and when Aragorn's kin came to join us, Legolas looked to the northeast, his face troubled, and there was no comfort I could give him. I was also far from my kin in wartime, and would fain have seen my cousins' faces.

We slept in Edoras that night, and Legolas lay close by my side. He had pulled his dark hair back tightly, and I looked on him and was troubled. Elves, of all the Free, alone are beardless. (Excepting, perhaps, Hobbits, about whom there is little lore.) Beardless as children, and young of face, though old of eye and in their hearts.

It troubled me to love so well so smooth a face.

Aragorn came in to the chamber we shared, and I joined him by the fire to smoke. I watched him through the shadows and he looked as though his years lay heavy on him.

"That child out there," he said, at last. "Eowyn. Such I must seem to you, and to Legolas, but still I feel--" He broke off and rubbed the bowl of his pipe in his fingers. "She loves me, I think."

"And you do not love her," I said, for all who knew Aragorn well knew of his love for Elrond's daughter.

He sighed. "It is not merely that, Gimli. I am older than I look, older than Theoden King." He blew a puff of smoke in my direction. "Nearly old enough, indeed, to have fathered Theoden, though I look young enough to be his son."

"Your race is long-lived, for Men," I said, and he nodded.

"Were I a young man," he said, "love her I could; but I am not, and my blood does not fire for every pretty face." He tapped the base of his pipe against the table, spilling ash into his hand. "And one does not simply abandon a lover of many years' duration." He smiled at me, then. "Perhaps especially not when one rides with her brothers at either hand."

"Ah," I said. "And you think the lady would have you abandon your love?"

He shook his head. "I think she knows not of my love for Arwen Evenstar, who I have loved since before Theoden sat his first horse."

"You are indeed old, for a Man," I said, refilling my pipe. "And it seems that the loves of Men are unnecessarily complex, though perhaps--" and I looked at Legolas, who lay quiet and still on the bed we had been sharing --"perhaps I am not one to speak."

Aragorn followed my eyes. "Ah," he said. "So that is how it is with you."

"Aye," I answered, "for all he's beardless and too tall by half."

At that, Aragorn closed his eyes, and a shadow of a great pain crossed his face. "I would advise you to love another, if you could, for the Elves are perilous to love," he said, and his voice was hollow. "But I suspect you cannot, and so I advise this only: love him as well as you can, for as long as you can, and never ask him to leave his people."

Then he withdrew and joined Legolas on the broad bed. Long I stayed awake, watching the flames, before retiring myself. Legolas did not stir when I crept into bed, but he curled close sometime in the night, so that I woke with his breath in my hair. And that day, he covered the eyes of our horse and sang to it, and I wished in my heart that he sang to me, to calm me at the Dark Door. Yet it was not so, and I walked alone and fearful into that black mouth.

I have never felt the like of that in my life, nor been so afraid over or under the earth. My courage is not infinite, but neither is it small, yet there it nearly failed me.

For the caves housed the Dead.

When we emerged, I rode again with Legolas. "The Dead are following," he said, when he turned to look behind us. "I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter-thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following."

I saw their banners reflected in his eyes, and knew again the nameless fear of the Door.

They followed us to the Stone of Erech, the pale Dead, come to fulfill their oath. And that night, again, Legolas sang to me, and his voice was a balm to my heart, though on occasion it trembled, and he kept his hand on my arm throughout the night.

I wondered at it, for Legolas feared no human dead.

***

We rode to war with the Dead at our backs; a long hard ride, more than ninety leagues.

Legolas laughed, merry in the midst of the fighting, and I laughed back at him, my axe bloodied. And then we were swept apart, and I saw him not until the battle was over.

We slept close again that night, weary from the day. He touched my brow with light fingers. "How is your wound, Master Dwarf?"

"It mends," I said, and he smiled and bade me good night.

We traveled up the Great River, and we stood together with the wind in our hair. "I am not over-fond of ships," I said, and Legolas sighed, his hand resting on my shoulder.

"I have heard the gulls," he said, his voice trembling. "Ai! I hear them even now." The Lady had told him to beware of their voices. Had he not ridden with Aragorn, for the love we both bore him, he would not have heard--but it was too late. The longing was upon him, and though he looked on me, he did not see me.

He rode with us up the Great River, to battle, and thence to Minas Tirith and to the Black Gate. He was quieter than was his wont, and often turned his face to the faraway sea. Yet he stayed by me: riding before me, dreaming beside me, his presence a warm comfort.

On the road back from the Black Gate he turned to me in the night and laid his long body alongside my own. "Gimli," he said, "when we have returned to Minas Tirith, do not let me be too much alone."

"Nay," I said, and ran my fingers through his hair.

And yet, when I would have rested, Legolas went away singing. And yet, when I sought him out, he spared me only a few words and then made some excuse to be off.

I walked alone through the city. For the work of Men, it was a fine place--and Men, I admit, brew fine beer when they set their minds to it.

One day I strayed into the gardens, and *they* were there: Galadriel and Arwen, Morning and Evening, and I thought how alike they were, and yet unlike. The Lady Galadriel sought out my eyes, and smiled upon me. "Gimli," she said, "you are troubled."

"Aye, my lady," I said. "For I have come to love many things I never thought to love, and I look upon them and see that they must pass away."

She raised her chin, and the fine-spun gold of her hair stirred in the breeze. "All things must pass," she said, "in time, or out of it."

"I love thee, Lady," I said to her, "and yet when you travel over the Sea, though my heart be sad, it shall not break. There is another--" I stopped, for dared not betray myself, or him.

Then Arwen the Queen spoke for the first time. "The Sea-longing may have taken him," she said, her grey eyes distant, "but the Sea need not take him, not yet." She looked at me again, and a smile touched her face. "Not if he has something to stay for."

I shook my head. "Nay, Lady. I'll not hold him here by speaking. He would stay for the sake of the love I bear him, for his is a generous heart. I would have him stay of his own will."

"And staying because of the love you bear is not staying of his own will?" She raised her brows, then knelt before me, her hand on my shoulder. "Friend of my beloved, know this: there is no force in Middle-Earth to keep an Elf on these shores, except love. I have lost my father; I shall never see my mother again, and yet to leave my lord would have been the greater sorrow. He cannot choose if you will not lay the choice before him."

I thought of Aragorn's words: Never ask him to leave his people. "And did your lord ask you to forsake your people, my lady?"

There was pain in her face then, and I turned to the Lady Galadriel and saw pain there, too. Arwen released my shoulder and stood. "My father is Elrond Half-elven," she said. "Here, I must face the Doom of Men; Legolas will never suffer that fate."

My confusion must have shown, for Galadriel spoke again. "Gimli, after death, where do the Dwarves go?"

I lowered my eyes and would not speak; it is not a thing to be said in the speech of Men or Elves, but only in our own tongue. Then Galadriel kissed my brow. "Love him," she said, "and let him choose. Mayhap he will carry you over the Sea with him."

I drew back, angered, but there was no trace of mockery in her, and when I looked at Arwen, I saw that she wept.

I bowed then, and left them. At the garden entrance I turned back, and they clung together like two slender reeds, swaying in the wind, and I heard their grief in the air. For they must soon be parted.

As I must soon be parted from Legolas, or else lay my heart naked before him.

* * *

It took me three days to find him, alone on a hilltop, and when I called his name he looked at me like a trapped thing, like a deer about to flee. And, looking on him, I knew the truth.

"Legolas," I said, and took his hand. It trembled in mine, and I drew it under my beard and pressed it to my heart. "Legolas," I said again, and his lips parted. Tears stood in his eyes, and the pulse in his wrist beat hard against my hand.

With my other hand I drew his head down to me, and kissed his mouth. He opened to me, moving his hand from my heart to my back, his mouth sweet and cool. I tasted his tears as he kissed me and wept, with joy or sorrow I could not tell.

Joy, I hoped, for why else would he hold me close to him? Why else would he press his body to mine and murmur love between the brushes of our mouths?

Too soon, he straightened, and I looked at the silver tears on his lashes, looked at the marks they had left on his skin. "Gimli," he said, "I cannot stay in Middle-Earth. The world has changed, and Luthien's choice can never be mine. I can only leave, or fade."

I laid my palm on his cheek. "I would not ask it of you, in any case. Stay a while yet, my friend. Only a while."

"For you," he said, his eyes opening, "I would stay thousands of years."

"Nay," I said. "I've not that long left in me."

He laughed, then. "It is my joy and my grief to love a mortal," he said. "Yet the joy is greatest. I will stay." He bent and kissed me again, and I hooked my leg behind his and tumbled him to the warm green grass.

He was long and slim and beardless as a child, and yet his eyes were wise and ancient. And he clasped me close to his breast and sang softly to me, and in his arms, in that place, I found at last my own peace.

---
an end


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