Text only (Large) ¦ Text only (Small)
Sorry! Hotkeys are not available on this page!
by Jevvica Nor
Disclaimer: I do not own Legolas, Gimli, or any other recognizable characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I merely wish to play with them a bit and put them back in (more or less) one piece:) I’m not making any money off this.
This is my first fanfiction *ever* and I’m terrified beyond all belief that I’m going to bomb this. Any suggestions and reviews will be greatly appreciated!
(*) Indicate thoughts
A rustling of leaves alerted Legolas. He paused, listening to the approach of heavy steps. It was not Gimli, he would know Gimli’s tread anywhere. No, these movements were different. The breeze held no warning, so he felt no need to conceal himself. Legolas waited calmly for the walker to appear. A short figure exited the bushes in front of Legolas and came to an abrupt halt. Dark eyes bore into Legolas’ own from under a hood. The being was dressed in mail and travelers’ clothes. Sunlight flashed on the axe held in one hand.
*Strange*, thought Legolas. *I would almost say this was a dwarf, but there is no hair on its chin...at what point do dwarves grow beards? Perhaps this is a young dwarf...but I recall something about them always having whiskers ... what do I know of dwarven beards...*
“Hail, Traveler,” greeted Legolas, bowing slightly. “A fine day, is it not?”
“Indeed,” came the short reply. “I am looking for someone.” The voice was deep, but not so deep as Gimli’s. It had a quiet, melodious quality. Not the speech of any male dwarf...
“Can I be of some assistance?” Then, as clearly as the sun shone in the sky, Legolas realized what he beheld. A female dwarf!! Lady dwarves were the things of story and debate. No one, other than dwarves, had ever seen one. Gimli had always declined to satisfy questions on the matter. The dwarf before him threw back her hood, revealing a long, golden red braid and dark blue eyes.
“I was told the dwarf Gimli, son of Gloin could be found in these woods. Is that true?” Legolas struggled for a moment to find his voice. A dwarf maid! The elf prince had seen many things in his many years and yet, he had never thought to see this.
“Aye, my lady, I can take you to him. If you wish.” The dwarf lifted her chin slightly, and regarded him with her sharp gaze. She nodded curtly, then bowed.
“I wish.” He swept his arm in the direction of his and Gimli’s camp, motioning her to take the lead. She smirked, ever so slightly and bowed again. “After you, Master Elf.” Legolas paused for a moment, then set off in the direction of camp.
She followed quietly, never getting too close but never falling behind. Every time Legolas turned to check her progress, he found her eyes ever on him. It did not surprise Legolas she did not trust him, no dwarf would, with the exception of Gimli. His curiosity was burning, but he doubted this she-dwarf would answer his questions. Legolas would have to wait until they reached Gimli.
Gimli looked up as Legolas entered the clearing, carrying naught but his bow.
“Well my friend, it seems your hunting was unsuccessful. Luckily, my hunting skills greatly surpass yours, we will not go hungry.” Gimli gestured to the rabbits roasting on the fire.
“True, I caught no rabbits, but I feel as though I bring you something far more interesting that dinner,” laughed Legolas as the dwarf maid emerged from the woods behind him. Gimli’s eyes widened at the dwarf before him.
“Gaila?” Gimli’s voice was but a whisper. A huge smile broke across the maid’s face.
“Gimli!” she cried as she ran toward him. Gimli let out a booming laugh as he swept her into his arms, her lighter laughter combining with Gimli’s, filling the trees.
Legolas watched this with a slight smile, but a worry was in his heart. Who was this dwarf? Gimli’s wife? Daughter? Gimli had never mentioned a family, other than his father. Was Gimli needed at home by a household Legolas knew nothing about? Were their journeys together over so soon? Legolas steeled himself against this as Gimli finally turned to him with a broad smile.
“Master Elf, you have indeed brought me something more interesting than rabbits. Gaila is better than dinner any day, come high water or hobbit!”
“As I thought my friend, but I fear we have not been properly introduced.”
“Did you not tell Legolas who you are?” asked Gimli, turning to the dwarf at his side.
“Forgive me Gimli, if I found it unwise to divulge anything to this...elf,” murmured Gaila, her eyes glittered coldly as she gazed at Legolas.
“Gaila!” snapped Gimli. “Legolas was one of the Fellowship, a brave warrior. More than even that, he is my dearest friend.”
“Legolas? Son of Thranduil? Imprisoner of Gloin? This is your friend?” Gaila’s voice was awed and puzzled.
“I will not hold against him the crimes of his father. He has proven himself time and again as a loyal friend to me. That should be enough for even you.” Gimli’s voice was low and held a note of warning. “Or do you no longer trust my judgment?” Gaila held Gimli’s gaze for a long moment and then turned to Legolas. Her sapphire eyes examined him closely, looking for something. Her stare was nothing to one who had stood beneath the examination of the Lady Galadriel, but still Legolas felt as though he was being weighed.
“Well Elf, if Gimli says you are worthy, than I shall defer to his decision. I apologize,” said Gaila, bowing low. “ A friend of my brother is a friend to me, or so I would have it.”
“Brother?” Legolas could only hope he did not look so confused as he sounded, even to his own ears.
“Aye my friend,” said Gimli with a grin. “Gaila is my sister.”
Author’s Note: A couple of little bits that I forgot to mention last time: 1) I am fully aware that Tolkien states that all dwarves have beards. My female dwarves don't. It is not an oversight, more like...a small adjustment:) I make a few other possible such adjustments later, consider yourselves warned. Thanks to all who mentioned it though. Don't hesitate to let me know when I'm screwing up. 2) I want to profusely thank everyone who has helped me with this, especially joyjoy. Without her encouragement and ideas, this little adventure would have remained locked firmly in my head. Enough drivel, on with the story!
(*) indicates thought
Not Betaed, all mistakes are mine.
A red glow reflected in Legolas’ eyes as the fire grew small. The sounds of night were about him as he brooded. Gimli and Gaila had talked without pausing for breath since Gaila had struck a truce with him. They had spoken long into the night of their home, father, and all that had happened since they had parted. Finally they had fallen to sleep and Legolas was left with his thoughts.
*They have not seen each other for many months and these have been dangerous times. They are entitled to a reunion. Gimli is merely eager to know of his family and home. I am not unwanted.* Legolas shook his head with disgust. *I should stop sulking like a reprimand elfling...*
“What troubles you, Legolas?” The elf steeled himself to raise his eyes reluctantly to meet Gimli’s gaze. He had heard the dwarf approach, but he was wrapped in his thoughts and he knew not what to say.
“You must be seeing things, Gimli. Nothing troubles me, I know not of what you speak.” Gimli snorted and sat down beside Legolas.
“I may not have the eyes of an elf, but I am not as foolish as an elf either.” Gimli smiled at the withering look Legolas gave him. “Something weighs on your heart. Would you keep it from me?” Legolas sighed deeply.
“No, my friend. I would not keep anything from you. It is just that I fear Gaila came to take you back to your home. That we would not travel together to Fangorn and to the Glittering Caves.” Legolas lowered his eyes and poked at the fire. Gimli said nothing. The night sung about them and Legolas braced himself. Prepared to hear things he did not wish to. He tensed ever so slightly as Gimli finally spoke.
“Legolas, I have not forgotten our words and we will see them done. Gaila came not to call me away, but merely to find that I lived. When the messengers were sent out to inform the peoples of our victories against Sauron, no word was sent to my father that I lived. My family feared for me and so my foolish, hard-headed sister came to find me.” Gimli smiled at the sleeping form in the shadows. “Even so, do you truly believe anyone could call me from what I wish to do?” Legolas raised his eyes to meet Gimli’s smile and suddenly felt foolish for doubting his friend.
“No.” Legolas allowed his relief to break across his face in a broad grin. “No, I do not see anyone convincing you to do other than you would.”
“Good, it seems I have managed to teach you a thing or two, despite your elvish tendency to be flighty.”
“The stubborn necks of dwarves and you think it is I who is difficult to teach?”
“Yes, Master Elf, that is what I think,” rumbled Gimli, but his eyes twinkled. He decided to end the jabbing they both knew could last all night. “You will take watch?”
“Indeed, Master Dwarf, if you trust this flighty elf to maintain the concentration to do it,” Legolas could not help remarking. Gimli snorted, which sounded suspiciously like strangled laughter to Legolas’ ears.
“Just keep your singing to the stars down, will you?” With that, Gimli moved beside his sister for the remainder of the night, his axe near his hand. Legolas stirred the fire once more with a smile and settled against a log to listen to the conclusion of night and the prelude of dawn.
Morning was full when Gaila sat up with a start and looked at Legolas for a full moment before recognition flashed in her eyes and her hands loosened on her axe. *Gimli’s word she has, and still she does not trust me.*
“Good Morning, Daughter of Gloin. I trust the night was kind to you.”
“Restful, thank you,” said Gaila. Her tone was not unfriendly. As Legolas spied Gimli moving, he decided to attempt to set Gaila more at ease, to bridge the gap that lay between them.
“Though I can not understand how you found rest, with that snoring mountain beside you.”
“I heard that, Legolas,” muttered Gimli, sitting up. “Again, you were not paying attention. I do not snore.” Legolas was about to retort when he was stopped by Gaila’s laughter.
“Oh, but Brother, you do snore. One day I feel you will rival even Father.” Legolas could not help but chuckle at the stunned look Gimli’s face as he sputtered in indignation.
“Well, there it is, Gimli. I would not dare go against the word of your sister.”
“Marvelous. Were it not bad enough the two of you mocking me alone,” muttered Gimli, getting to his feet. “But now you have forged a partnership in tormenting me.” Gaila threw back her head in a full, deep laugh. When she caught Legolas’ gaze, there was no longer reservation there.
“Aye,” she murmured, eyes dancing. “A formidable partnership I feel it will be.”
The day remained uneventful as the three continued on to the great mountain halls of Gimli’s people. The hours were spent in sharing of stories and laughter between Gimli and Gaila, Legolas and Gimli, even some between Gaila and Legolas. Evening found the travelers near a stream. While Gimli went off in search of dinner, reminding Legolas of his failure the day before, Legolas and Giala set about making camp. Legolas turned from his newly built fire to see Gaila submerge her head in the steam and smiled as she flung it back, sending water in a huge arc above her. He went and sat beside her as she began to comb through her massive amounts of golden red hair.
“What do you do, Gaila?” She looked at him quizzically.
“Gimli has said that while all dwarves are skilled at all forms of stone work and metallurgy, they often have a...special talent. Something they excel at. I merely wondered what yours was. If you do not wish to tell me, I will take no offense.”
“Nay, I do not mind,” said Gaila, after the briefest pause. She set down her comb and picked up her axe. She handed it to Legolas, haft first. “Beautiful, is it not?”
“Indeed,” murmured Legolas, turning the weapon over in his hands. The axe was smaller than Gimli’s, but of the same two-sided style. The balance was perfect, the edges sharp, the handle strong. What truly set his axe apart was the etchings. Intricate, interlacing designs covered every face of the blade. Strong, solid patterns that still held a delicate touch. Dwarvish runes circled the handle. “I have never seen an axe of its equal, not even Gimli’s.” Legolas handed the ace back to Gaila. She set it in her lap lovingly, lightly tracing the etchings with a finger.
“Gimli make this axe. The finest he has ever forged, and he has forged many. Weapons are his gift. Strong, practical, dangerous, all the things he is,” said Gaila with a smile. “ I did the engravings. Carving and etching are what I appear to do well.”
“Appear? Mistress Dwarf, there is very little doubt with this axe before me.”
“I thank you for your kind words, Legolas. Gimli says the elves too, create very beautiful things. I value your opinion,” responded Gaila. She regarded her axe again, then pointed to the runes on the handle. “My father carved these. A blessing in battle. This not merely a weapon. It is a bringing together of many talents. It is an embodiment of my family.”
“It is truly magnificent, Gaila. I thank you for sharing it with me,” said Legolas. Gaila dipped her had briskly, as if suddenly embarrassed, and picked up her comb again.
“Never fear to ask me anything, I will tell you with the plain honesty of a dwarf.” She deftly pulled her hair into a thick braid, flipped it over her shoulder, and smiled at Legolas. “Or with that same honesty I will inform you of how it is none of your concern.”
“Of that, I have no doubt,” laughed Legolas.
“That sight,” called Gimli, stepping from the trees, catch in hand, “fills my heart with dread. The two of you laughing together can not bode well for me.”
“Live in fear, Brother,” said Gaila with a smile. “Live in fear.”
Aragorn looked up from the many papers and scrolls strewn about his desk at the knock on his door. He sighed deeply and straightened his tunic before sitting back. *There is so much to do, I have not the time for these interruptions.*
“Forgive me for troubling you, Sire,” said the servant who opened the door, “but you wished to be informed when Masters Gimli and Legolas returned. Their party comes this way, even as I speak.”
“Excellent,” said Aragorn. “Sound the trumpets, welcome them back.”
“Yes, my King.” The servant bowed, shutting the door behind him. Aragorn felt the weight upon him lighten at the thought of his friends being near once again. The unlikely friendship between the elf and dwarf never failed to entertain, if not exasperate, him at times. More importantly, their friendship gave him hope. If an elf and a dwarf could overcome years of mistrust to become fast friends, there was hope for all divisions and rivalries.
Aragorn stood at the head of the group waiting for Legolas and Gimli’s party when they arrived at what would be the site of the great gates of Minas Tirith. The newly arrived party consisted of many dwarves, carrying tools and leading pony-drawn carts filled with metals and equipment.
“Welcome, Master Gimli! I am glad to have your safe return.”
“Well met, King Elessar. It is our honor to assist you,” said Gimli, bowing low, keeping the meeting formal. “I present to you...” The introductions took very little time, Aragorn could already see the dwarves looking at the earth where the gates would stand, the walls about them. The king could sense their eagerness to begin. He bowed to and greeted each in turn. “And lastly, I present my sister, Gaila.” Aragorn managed to hide his surprise as he bowed to the stocky female before him.
“Welcome, Daughter of Gloin. A pleasure to meet the sister of Gimli.”
“Well met, King Elessar.” Gaila bowed low, long braid swinging. Aragorn gazed at her a moment and then raised his voice.
“I and all of Gondor welcome you and thank you for sharing your fine craft with us. These men will show you to the quarters and forges that have been prepared for you.” Aragorn stood back as the troupe made its way into the city.
“Welcome back, Legolas,” said Aragorn to the elf who came to stand beside him. “I am certain you found the journey...interesting?”
“Again Aragorn, your powers of observation are astounding,” murmured Legolas dryly, but then he smiled. “Never did I think I would travel with a company of dwarves. Interesting indeed.”
“A sister?” asked Aragorn. “Did you know of this?”
“I did not,” said Legolas, as the pair began to walk into the city. “I was as surprised as you, when she stepped from the forest...”
Later that evening, a great feast was held in honor of the dwarves. There was much eating and drinking, but the atmosphere was not like that of a party. The dwarves talked of the work to come, sharing ideas, arguing over approaches. Aragorn sat at the head of a long table, Queen Arwen at one side, Gimli and Legolas on the other. A few small drawings of possible plans for the Gates lay amongst plates and goblets.
“We have several plans already drawn up, Aragorn, but we want your council as well,” said Gimli. “We are eager to begin.”
“I see that, Gimli. I’m surprised that you have waited this long!” mused Aragorn. “You and your companions seem hardly able to contain yourselves.” Gimli took a long drink from his cup and examined its contents before responding.
“This land and these walls are strong, Aragorn. Any dwarf could feel it, and they do. We are ready to see what more we can do with what is already before us. A challenge, and if done well, a triumph that will last for many ages.”
“Very well then, we shall make final decisions tonight. You and your kinsman will be able to begin at first light, if you so wish,” answered Aragorn, the corners of his mouth upturned ever so slightly. Gimli grinned and drained his cup.
“Oh, I am quite sure they will wish,” laughed Legolas. “Stubborn necks of dwarves, they can think of little else, but hammering and lugging things about...” Legolas broke off as he ducked the piece of meat that flew towards his head.
“And you, Master Elf? Have you not been to the walls several times since we arrived, watching for your people? You cannot wait to play with some flowers, sing to some trees, and roll about in the dirt.” Gimli caught the bite of bread hurled at him and popped it into his mouth.
“Peace! I had managed to forget how the two of you behave like children.” Aragorn gave a long-suffering sigh, and patted his smiling wife’s hand. “I will not have you throwing food about my royal dining room! When you both have suppressed your bickering, we shall go to my Council Chambers to finalize the Gate plans.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” intoned the elf and the dwarf, neither managing to look the least bit regretful. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli made their goodnights and along with two dwarven designers selected by Gimli, went off to discuss the plans for the coming days work.
Dawn found the dwarves heating their forges and preparing the gate site. Long work tables were constructed outside the smithies and at the wall of the city. Dwarves studied scrolls, pointing out things on the plans. A vision was being created and there was a subtle thrill in the brisk morning air. Legolas stepped around them all carefully, looking for Gimli. Most of the dwarves accepted him, but a few still glared at him from dark eyes. Legolas found Gimli finishing a conversation with a dwarf whose name Legolas could not recall. He turned as the elf walked up.
“Good morning, Legolas! Aye, a fine morning.” Legolas smiled lightly at his friend.
“A fine morning it is, Elf-friend. Never have I seen you so cheerful so early.” Gimli breathed deeply and surveyed the bustle around them.
“Work to be done, metal to be wrought, hammers to be swung. This is what a dwarf lives for.” Gimli looked up at Legolas. “What of you? When do your people arrive to begin the replanting of Minas Tirith?”
“I look for them at any time. Perhaps when they arrive, I shall teach you a thing or two about gardening!”
“Are you certain that is a wise idea, Legolas?” The two turned at the sound of Gaila’s voice. The dwarven maid walked up, studying them both straight-faced. “I do not think Gimli should be entrusted with so delicate a task.”
“I am inclined to agree with you, Daughter of Gloin, but I am willing to attempt this feat, however daunting.”
“There would be many deaths, Master Elf,” warned Gaila, perfectly serious. “A terrible sight I am sure, the field of battle where Gimli, Gloin’s son, endeavors to grow something.” The elf and the she-dwarf stood side by side and examined Gimli carefully, as if the fate of the world rested on his ability to garden. The moment was broken when a red-faced Gimli finally managed to shut his open mouth with audible snap. Legolas could no longer contain his smile and doubled over in bell-like laughter. Gaila had a broad smile across her face, as she awaited Gimli’s response with a look of innocence. Gimli looked from one to the other and back again. He shook his head is disgust.
“I shall never understand it. My closest friend and my very own sister, delighting in plaguing me so. Known each other for mere days and already behaving as if you have rehearsed these little attacks. I shall never understand it.” Legolas smirked behind his hand and Gaila remained a picture of guilelessness. “Sister,” said Gimli, putting weight on the word, “do you think it is possible for you to keep the elf out of trouble until he finds some flowers to play with or a tree to sing to? I cannot allow him to be underfoot.”
“Of course, Brother. I shall keep the wandering elf out of your way,” murmured Gaila with a deep bow, her smile showing in her voice. “I am sure I can find something to keep him occupied.”
“Do not look so worried, Elf! I assure you, my plans for you are completely painless.” Gaila’s smile was broad, and reminded Legolas of Gimli. She led Legolas to a table that just cleared his knees, near the forges.
“Worried? No, no Gaila, I am sure it was anticipation you saw, not worry.” Gaila snorted in disbelief, but her smile returned.
“I desire your assistance with the plans for the gates.”
“I thought the plans were completed? Construction begins as we speak.”
“Aye, for the gates themselves,” Gaila gestured to parchments with sketches of trees, stars, and copied text. “Not only will these gates be strong, they will be beautiful. I am working on the inscriptions and etchings. I will present my ideas to King Elessar later this night. I want them well in order. I wish to have the inscription in the languages of the Dwarves, Men, and the Elves. That is where you can help me, Master Elf. I will need assistance with the translations. That is, if you find my task of interest, or course.” A raised eyebrow was all that moved on her waiting face.
“An honor, Mistress Dwarf, to help in anyway I can,” intoned Legolas with great seriousness, before returning Gaila’s growing smile.
The morning was worn away by hammerings and scrapings and much talk. Legolas sat on a barrel beside Gaila’s work bench, commenting for time to time on her work, but for the most part, the silence was companionable. Legolas drew his knees up to his chin and surveyed the work being done. The dwarves had leveled the earth at the gate site, measuring heights and widths, reinforcing the surrounding walls. Great slabs of steel were being heated and hammered and quenched, all to be done again. Gimli had stopped by a time or two, but for the most part remained busy. Legolas could see him not far off, bare-chested, merrily swinging a hammer, surrounded by his kinsmen doing the same. The elf also saw something that had been troubling him for some time.
“That dwarf. Who is he?” Gaila looked up from her papers, and put down her pencil.
“Which dwarf? The one with the beard? The one that is shorter than you?,” teased Gaila. “I fear you shall have to be more specific, Legolas.”
“That one there, near the wall. He is holding a pick-axe.” Legolas lowered his voice, though no one stood near enough to hear them. “The one who seems to have naught but contempt for Gimli. Or you.” Gaila’s sapphire eyes followed Legolas’ line of sight, but looked down at her workbench again. Her brow furrowed for a moment before she answered, with a slight sigh.
“That dwarf is Thror.” When is seemed that Gaila had no intention of going on, Legolas pressed her again.
“Why does he glare at you and Gimli so?”
“Long ago, ere I can remember, Thror’s father and my father were part of a group digging a fresh tunnel in one our mines. There was a earthshake and the tunnel collapsed, with Thror’s father inside. By the time they dug him out, it was too late. Thror blamed Gloin for the collapse, he claimed the braces in the tunnel were not sound. Both my father and his father constructed those support beams, together.” Gaila smiled wryly, but it did not reach her eyes. “If there is anything my father knows well, it is supports. There was nothing wrong with the braces, both Gloin and Thror’s father were cleared of responsibility, but Thror refused to accept this. He vowed to make my father pay. He challenged Gimli. They battled, according to custom, and Gimli won. According to those same customs, the matter was ended at that moment and Thror was honor-bound. He has no more claim or right to vengeance.” Gaila shook her head, as if throwing off foul thoughts. “There has been no more talk of retribution since. But it does not take the sight of an elf to see how he dislikes us.”
“Why did Gimli bring him here, if such a grudge exists?”
“He is talented. There are few dwarves anywhere with his gifts of foundations and support systems,” an iron cord sounding in her voice, though Legolas could not tell from anger or conviction. “Old feuds should not stand in the way of quality, or so says Gimli.”
“And what do you say, Daughter of Gloin?” Gaila hissed and roughly pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. She crossed her arms over her chest and turned to watch the work progressing at the gate site. Legolas looked at her rigid stance and wondered if perhaps he had overstepped his bounds. He remained perched on his barrel and waited. After a while, Gaila turned back to Legolas. She did not seem angry to the elf, but he could not readily gauge what he saw.
“I want to believe Gimli is right. He says it is over,” Gaila began evenly. “Thror is good at what he does, even so...,” her voice stiffened again. “Hate dies hard. You know that as well as I, given the history of our peoples.” She turned back to her work, pencil in hand. Her final remark was so low, only an elf could hear it. “And I feel the hate of his glares.” Legolas felt a chill at her words, and once again sought out the glowering Thror. The dark haired dwarf continued on in his work, but Legolas felt a new wariness of him. *Hate dies hard.*
“Speaking of beards,” spoke Legolas lightly, turning the conversation, “I have a question that has burned for some time.”
“It is said all dwarves have beards, but you do not.” Gaila barked a short laugh, her eyes never leaving the paper before her.
“No, I do not Legolas. That is very observant of you.” Gaila smiled, her hand never ceasing it’s steady motions. “Most female dwarves do not have beards, no matter what you have heard.”
“Are there so few she-dwarves, as is said? You are the first I have know to be more than legend.”
“We are fewer than the males, it is true, but fear not Master Elf, the dwarven race will continue on.” Legolas chuckled lightly. His next question was interrupted by the clear ringing of trumpets. The elf leapt from his barrel and quickly climbed to peer over the wall.
“The Elves! My people have come at last, finally no more of this numbing racket of hammers,” exclaimed Legolas, jumping down.
“Have I been such a bore, Legolas? Gimli will be furious, I did promise to keep you occupied,” teased Gaila.
“Not at all, dear dwarf, you have entertained me well! I merely wish to make some contributions of my own. I shall speak with you later, to see what Aragorn says of your inscriptions.” With that, Legolas was gone.
Legolas softly patted down the loose earth around a small purple flower he had just transplanted to the Royal Gardens. Arwen sat not far away, singing softly as she watered freshly planted ferns. Legolas’ people had come with carts of flowers, vines, ferns, and saplings of all sorts to help make Minas Tirith beautiful once more. Some looks had been exchanged between the elves and the dwarves working at the gate, but the brief passing had gone as well as could be expected. Groups of elves were scattered throughout the city, planting gardens and walkways so that all could enjoy the lovely craft of their Queen’s people.
Legolas looked up as two dwarves entered the garden. Gimli and Gaila picked their way carefully toward him, mindful of trays of seedlings and tools.
“Puttering about in the dirt, elf?”
“It appears so, Brother, and getting a fair amount on himself as he does so,” laughed Gaila, reaching out to wipe a smudge of dirt from Legolas’ nose. Legolas felt the tips of his ears grow warm as he ignored the look Gimli gave him.
“Done playing with your hammers are you? It has been days since you last saw fit to grace me with your presence.”
“Done for the day,” responded Gimli, ignoring the elf’s quip. “The gates are raised. They will settle over-night before Gaila begins etching on the morrow.”
“Then I suppose you have come to pester me?” asked Legolas with a long suffering sigh.
“As I recall, Legolas, you promised to teach Gimli to garden,” said Gaila. “I am merely here to witness the slaughter, er...I mean lesson.” Her smile was broad as she sat down next to Legolas.
“Lesson!” snorted Gimli, thumping down on Legolas’ other side. “What could there be to learn? Put seed in the dirt. Water dirt. Something grows. I believe I have a grasp of the concept.”
“Ah, but how much water? In what soil will the plant flourish? How much sun will it need?” Legolas laughed at the blank look on Gimli’s face. “As I thought, Master Dwarf. You have much to learn.”
Some time later, both dwarves were helping the elf transplant seedlings and bury bulbs. Legolas would sometimes give advice or give the name of a plant, but for the most part, the time was spent in comfortable quiet. Legolas stood and stretched a bit before picking up a tray of small white flowers that would over time grow to a large creeping vine and walked over to where Gaila knelt turning up soil.
“I think we shall put these here, so that they may climb the wall of the garden,” said the elf, sitting down next to Gaila.
“How goes the planting with the other elves?”
“Well. We shall finish ere nightfall tomorrow.” Legolas handed the she-dwarf one of the small vines and watched as she gently hollowed out a place for it in the loose earth. Her large, strong hands had a grace one would not suspect.
“You finish as I begin.”
“You begin tomorrow?”
“Aye, the gates rest this night. Come first light, I will begin the etchings.”
“How long will the carvings take?”
“Several days, I should think. It depends on how long it takes to persuade the steel and mithril to my way of thinking,” said Gaila, giving Legolas a wry smile.
“You will be leaving after that?” Legolas took another vine and began planting it, carefully avoiding Gaila’s dark blue eyes.
“Not long after. I believe King Elessar wishes to have a banquet when work is completed. Then I will return to my home.” She picked up another vine. “I understand that Gimli will be accompanying you to see your people home.” Gaila gave a short laugh. “I am certain my brother traveling with a company of elves will be quite entertaining.”
“You could accompany us.”
“I think not. I have obligations at home and someone must keep and eye on Father.” Legolas smiled and continued to transplant the white flowers, but he could not help but feel a sadness at the thought of Gaila leaving. She was so much like Gimli, it was impossible to love one and not the other. *If nothing else,* though Legolas, *Gimli will not have to do much persuading to get me to visit his home.* Suddenly a breeze ruffled Legolas’ hair, stirring leaves of the trees above him. The trees spoke a warning. The elf looked about and saw the source of unrest. Framed by the arch entrance to the garden stood the dwarf, Thror. He did nothing, merely watched them a moment and then moved on, but the breeze still flowed and the leaves still whispered. Legolas could see Gimli watching Thror depart as well. *Perhaps Gimli does not trust Thror as much as he would have Gaila believe.*
“Legolas? What is it?”
“Nothing.” Legolas turned a bright smile to Gaila and patted down the earth around the last small vine. “Nothing at all, but I do believe we are finished here. Thank you for your help.”
“The least I could do, for your assistance with the gate.”
“And the enjoyment of watching Gimli garden,” added Legolas.
“Ah yes, that as well,” grinned Gaila. Legolas rose gracefully and made his way toward Gimli.
“How goes it Master Dwarf?”
“How would I know? After all, I know nothing of gardening. These could all be upside down for all this dwarf knows,” remarked Gimli, rising to his feet. “I do know however, that I have had quite enough of this. I believe it is time for dinner.”
“So it is my friend, so it is,” laughed Legolas. “Come Gaila! Best to feed your brother ere he becomes grumpy.”
“Alas, I fear we are too late by many years for that,” said Gaila, her face a mask of great sadness.
“Grumpy am I? How is this for grumpy?” yelled Gimli, snatching up a watering can and launching its contents at Gaila. The dwarf maiden shouted but could not move quickly enough to dodge the water. Legolas and Gimli’s laughter rolled through the garden as Gaila could do naught but stand and drip, her mouth an ‘O’ of surprise.
“Well,” gasped Gimli, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, “she is clean for dinner now.”
“But Brother you are still filthy.” Before Gimli could blink, he too, stood doused in water. Legolas nearly fell, he was laughing so hard.
“Luckily, Lady Arwen has departed and she does not have to witness two dwarves turning her garden path to a muddy ruin,” laughed Legolas, holding his stomach.
“Aye,” murmured Gaila as she calmly bent to pick up a handful of mud and threw it at Legolas’ face ere he knew what had happened. “Even worse two dwarves and an elf making a mess of all their hard work.” Gimli was crying with laughter again as Legolas regally wiped mud from his eyes with all the grace he could muster. With that, the trio began flinging buckets of water and globs of mud at one another. Their laughter and shouts rang through the garden, over the stirring of leaves.
They did not see the dark eyes watching them.
It was late evening the next day before Legolas found time to check Gaila’s progress with the gate. He had been overseeing the final work on the gardens all over the city. He had just finished taking Aragorn and Arwen on a brief viewing of the accomplishments an they seemed most pleased. Legolas then made his way toward the gate site. What he saw caused him to miss a step. Mighty gates of gleaming steel and mithril rose majestically into the twilight sky. The size was astounding, even to an elf who had seen many things.
“Shut your mouth Legolas, before your tongue falls out.” Legolas glanced at Gimli as the dwarf stepped beside him. “Impressive, eh?” Legolas nodded wordlessly. “Speechless Master Elf? As you should be. This is indeed fine work.” Gimli grinned. “If you are this awed, I fear a view of the front may be too much for you.” Legolas realized he still stood on the inside of the wall. The carvings and inscriptions would be on the outer face of the gates.
“I believe I can handle the strain, Gimli, but you are not mistaken. I am impressed.”
“Did you doubt the skill of the dwarves?”
“Nay, but plans on parchment do little to convey the grandeur of the finished product.” Legolas smiled as Gimli’s chest puffed a bit at the compliment.
“Grand, it is that. Not finished though. Not yet.” Gimli led Legolas to the gate and banged on it loudly with a solid fist.
“What?” came the short, angry sounding reply. Gaila did not sound as if the steel and mithril were shaping to her way of thinking.
“Sister, night falls and it is time to stop. Let us open the gate and give Legolas a viewing.” Legolas could hear her loud exhalation and a muttered ‘Very well.’ After much shouting of orders and sounds of movement, the gates began to swing open soundlessly.
Gimli and Legolas walked through, greeted by ladders and work tables, spread with tools. Collapsible scaffolds sat piled nearby.
“How do you fare, Gaila?” asked Gimli, taking a hammer and chisel from the dwarven maid’s hands and placed them on one of the tables. Gaila blew a wisp of hair from her face.
“Not terribly, but I did wish to be further along.” Gimli snorted.
“Did you now? And perhaps you believe Khazad-dum was built in a week!” Gimli shook his head and fondly tugged at Gaila’s braid. “You give yourself and your contingent too little credit.”
“I should say so,” murmured Legolas. The gates had been closed again, so they stood as a whole, if incomplete, work.
“You approve, Legolas?” asked Gaila, coming to stand next to the elf.
“I should say so,” repeated Legolas. He was aware he must look dumbstruck, but could not seem to help it.
Centered in the gate was the White Tree, wrought of mithril and set into the steel. Above the tree’s spreading branches were seven stars, arching over a crown, also of set mithril. Around the edges of the gates, on all sides, was detailed and intricate weaving pattern carved into the metal. The strong lines crossed on each other in such a way that there was no beginning and no end.
“Indeed,” said Gaila and Legolas realized he had made the observation aloud. “This marks a new beginning for Gondor. It is not the beginning, but it is a beginning. May it never see an end, though it will see many endings. Such is the way of all things.” Legolas turned and studied the dwarf beside him. Younger than Gimli, a fraction of his own age, but Gaila had wisdom. The elf felt a new respect for the sister of his dearest friend.
“It is beautiful Gaila, it truly is. I have seen many beautiful things, great and impressive things, but those were left from an age long past. This is something I have seen from its birth. I believe that is why it transfixes me so. I can say for all the ages, I witnessed the rise of the Gates of Gondor.”
“Oh, so it is a sense of history that strikes you? Nothing to do with the splendor of these gates? Is that what you aim at, Elf!?” Legolas nearly began sputtering explanations, but he saw the upturn of the corner of Gaila’s mouth and the way her eyes sparkled with merriment. “The hour grows late, and much remains to be done. I shall retire now.” Gaila strode away, braid swinging, before Legolas could say a thing. Gimli chuckled and took Gaila’s place at Legolas’ side.
“For all your talk of elven senses, you surely blunder into Gaila’s traps as though you were blind, deaf, and dumb.”
“And you do not, Gimli? I have had but weeks to learn to watch for her snares. You, however, have had a lifetime to learn. Yet you stumble as often as I.” Instead of arguing, as Legolas expected, Gimli merely shook his head and smiled.
“A clever one, my sister.” Gimli walked to help his kinsmen with the cleaning of the construction site. “As crafty as any female of any race there ever was. I believe you would do well to keep that in mind, my friend.” Legolas could find no way to argue.
Aragorn stood before the Gates of Minas Tirith with a rare smile. *Magnificent, the dwarves have done their work well.* The Gates had been finished that morning and he had been informed he could come and make his inspection. He had not been to see the work in progress, but he had heard the city buzz. The rumors had not been misleading, the Gates were amazing.
The huge Gates towered over him. They were thicker and more solid than any the former Ranger had ever seen. *Any army would think twice, if not thrice, before attempting to come through these* While their strength was undeniable, the Gates were not without beauty. The White Tree, wrought of mithril and shining like the moon, spread over the Gates. Framing the stars, crown, and tree was an interlocking carving of knotwork, bordering on all sides. Gaila had explained its significance to him and he heartily approved. Etchings arched just over the stars in three languages: Elvish, Dwarvish, and Common. Aragorn had heard some grumbling that three languages was too many, but he endorsed Gaila’s idea to include all who may come here. The inscription itself, Gaila had carefully chosen on her own:
The Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.
*And the City shall be blessed. Valar, may it be so.* prayed Aragorn fervently.
“Well, Aragorn? What say you?” Aragorn turned to the dwarf at his side.
“Magnificent, Gimli. Never have I seen its rival. Your people have done an astounding job. I am most thankful to you for making this possible, my friend.”
“An honor to help a friend, Aragorn.” Gimli smiled, hand on his belt. “I am certain one day you shall find a way to help me in return.”
“I have no doubt, Master Dwarf. It is inevitable I shall have to get you out of trouble one day.” Aragorn glanced over Gimli’s head and smiled again. “And more than likely Legolas as well, given your...partnership in calamities.”
“The only reason I would need assistance,” muttered Legolas upon reaching Aragorn and Gimli, “is due to something this stubborn dwarf has gotten us into.”
“Oh-ho, and I am sure you are perfectly innocent at all times, Master Elf?”
“Of course,” murmured Legolas, humbly dipping his head. “And I feel I must do my part to help the less fortunate.”
“Enough!” laughed Aragorn, waving his hands. “We all know this could go on forever, no need to demonstrate that fact. Preparations must be made for the feast tonight. All of Minas Tirith will be celebrating and much remains to be done. If you have nothing else to occupy your time, might I suggest you assist me? Unless, of course, you would rather stay here and warm the city with your hot air?” Aragorn turned on his heel walked into the city. He swallowed a smile as heard them begin to follow wordlessly.
*Aragorn certainly can throw a party,* thought Legolas, watching the gaiety around him. The celebration when Aragorn and Arwen were married had been more impressive, but this was quite a festivity. *The Gates are a last sign of the healing of Middle Earth and Gondor. There is every reason to be happy.* The elf smiled to himself. *Aragorn is going to earn quite the reputation at this rate.*
The people of Minas Tirith mixed with the company of elves and dwarves, all wearing their best. A group of musicians sat in the corner of the Great Hall, playing cheerful tunes that sent all to dancing. Tables of food were against one wall, but smaller tables full of talking and laughing peoples were scattered about. A group of young maidens walked by, tossing not-so-shy smiles Legolas’ way. Legolas returned their smiles, but looked for a route of escape. He stood and made his way to the dance floor. A few dwarves had momentarily commandeered the musical instruments and were in the midst of a rollicking tune Legolas did not recognize. It was fast and light, but had a beat as solid as the earth itself. One could not help but tap a toe, if not join in the dance altogether. The floor was packed with elves, dwarves, and the people of Th. city alike, but Legolas could not miss Gaila and Gimli.
Hand in hand, the siblings whirled around the floor in a step that was nothing Legolas expected of dwarves. Gaila’s hair was free for once and her thick red-gold curls would fall past her waist, were it not flying as she danced and Gimli’s face shone with pure merriment. They moved with a effortlessness that would surprise someone less familiar with dwarves. Legolas had seen the grace of dwarves in battle.
The dance came to an end, the partners bowing to one another. Gaila had but a moment before she was swept into another dwarve’s arms and another dance began. Gimli came to stand next to Legolas, beaming from ear to ear.
“Ah Master Elf, I should have thought you up to your pointy ears in maidens by now.”
“And I would have though you well into your cups, but you still seem quite spry. Not a dance I would expect to see of dwarves.” Gimli puffed a bit and tugged his beard.
“Aye, it is a hobbit dance.” Gimli cocked an eyebrow with a hint of challenge. “I do not see you displaying your elven grace, Legolas.”
“I have not yet found a partner.” Gimli snorted, eyeing the girls who were in return, eyeing Legolas.
“I find it hard to believe you can find no one to dance with.”
“Mayhaps I wait for the right partner, Gimli.”
“As you say.” The two friends watched the whirling, laughing dancers for a few moments before Gimli spoke again. “Aragorn and Arwen seemed pleased with our additions to the City.”
“Indeed, I believe our peoples exceeded their expectations. When do the dwarves plan on leaving?”
“In the morning, as soon as they can be away.” Legolas nodded but said nothing. “When shall we accompany your elves home?”
“I believe they wish to remain in Minas Tirith for a few more days. Gimli,” paused Legolas, looking down at his friend, “you do not have to come with me if you do not wish. I understand if you would rather see Gaila home.”
“Nay my friend, you came with me, I shall go with you. Gaila is quite capable of getting home safely.” Gimli smiled. “She would truss me up for suggesting otherwise.” Legolas returned Gimli’s smile, but could not help but notice a slight unease in his friend. The song had ended and Gaila walked up before the elf could comment.
“Legolas,” said the dwarven maid, dipping her head slightly.
“Greetings, Gaila,” answered Legolas, smiling at the she-dwarf. “You appear to be having an enjoyable time.”
“Aye, I am.” She took both the elf and dwarf in with an appraising look. “Why am I not surprised the both of you stand here as two stones?” Legolas and Gimli shared a glance.
“The spirit has yet to move me,” murmured Legolas.
“Speaking of spirit,” said Gimli, “I believe I shall go in search of some, if you will excuse me.” The dwarf moved off in the direction of the barrels of wine and ale. The dwarven musicians were handing their borrowed instruments over to some elves who had decided to take a turn. A light, but slow tune began after a moment. Throughout the Hall, several elven voices began singing.
“Dance with me, Gaila?” Gaila gave Legolas an calculating look.
“Spirit poking you now, is it?”
“Indeed,” laughed Legolas, holding out a hand. Gaila looked at his outstretched hand, for a moment before slipping her own into it. They joined the dancers on the floor, moving in large, slow circles. Legolas shortened his steps slightly, leading Gaila in the unfamiliar dance.
“A fine pair we make, Legolas,” murmured Gaila after she had the simple steps of the elven dance down, moving like she had known them forever.
“I hear that more and more,” said Legolas. “My lot, I suppose, for befriending dwarves.”
“More than likely. You should accustom yourself to it, I should think. I do not see my brother tiring of you anytime soon.”
“And you? Do you weary of me?” Gaila laughed as he unexpectedly spun her about.
“Yes, I weary of you,” said Gaila, her sapphire eyes shining as she looked up at him. “But I believe I shall weary of you a while longer.”
“At least until tomorrow,” said Legolas with a smile. Gaila snorted softly.
“As if that will be the end of it. I know my brother and I know you and I know fully well that I will be seeing much of you through the years.”
“You should have such fortune.” A quirked smile was her only response.
A/N: The inscriptions on the Gates comes directly from "The Return of the King".
"...out of the East there came a great Eagle flying, and he bore tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:
Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.
Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.
Sing all ye people!"
The next morning was beautiful, with a bright sun shining off the Gates and a light breeze stirring the freshly tended flowers of Minas Tirith. A small crowd had gathered in the clearing before the Gates to send off the company of dwarves and farewells were been said all about. Aragorn and Arwen, took each dwarf in turn, thanking them and wishing them a good journey. Dwarves milled about, securing supplies, tightening straps on wagons of tools, checking harnesses of ponies.
Gaila walked to Legolas and gazed up at him serious eyes.
“I wish to thank you, Legolas.”
“For being a friend to Gimli.” She continued to hold his eyes and add weight to her words. “Dwarves are not an overly emotional people. We do not let our feelings be shown often.” Gaila cast a glance at Gimli, who was bidding others farewell. “I will tell you this, though it is not my place. I would have you know. Never have I seen my brother so happy as he is with you, no matter how gruff he may act. He smiles more now, laughs more. I thank you for bringing that out of him.” Gaila bowed low. “I am forever in your debt, Master Elf.” Legolas blinked at her sincerity, but found he had to clear his own throat before he could speak.
“You owe me nothing, Gaila. Believe me when I say, whatever I have given Gimli, he gives to me as well. He is my brother in every way but blood.”
“I have heard it said,” murmured Gaila, a smile returning to her face,” that friends are the family you choose for yourself. Know that I too, call you brother.”
“You honor me, Daughter of Gloin.” Elf and dwarf had each other’s gaze, saying many things and none at all. The moment was broken by Gimli’s approach.
“You will send my greetings to Father?”
“Of course, Brother. I believe the bits about your failure to accompany me home being due to your traveling with elves will conveniently slip my mind.”
“A wise idea. See how wise my sister is, Legolas?” Gimli and Gaila shared their twin smiles. “I shall send word more often, to keep you from chasing me all over Middle Earth. Valar only knows where this fool elf will drag me off to.” Gimli gave Legolas a mighty slap on the back. Legolas winced, but found himself smiling as well.
“You know how Gimli finds trouble, Gaila. You shall be safer as far from him as you can manage. I will do my best to keep him from harm.” Gaila gave an incredulous shake of her head, braid swinging.
“How the two of your traveled so many leagues and faced such danger without killing each other or forcing someone else to kill you is quite beyond me.”
“Beyond me as well, Gaila.” The three turned to see Aragorn striding toward them. “I often had to hold my own desire to end their eternal squabbling.” He gave the pair a fond smile and turned to Gaila. “Again, my thanks to you, Gaila, daughter of Gloin. You are welcome in Gondor and I count you as friend. Return here whenever you wish.”
“An honor, King Elessar,” said Gaila dipping her head. “May your city flourish and peace favor your lands. Should you ever need my help again, I stand at your service.” Aragorn bowed in return and moved on to others preparing to leave. Legolas too, moved off to bid safe journey to a few other dwarves he had become friendly with, leaving brother and sister to their good-byes. When he turned back in the direction of Gimli and Gaila, he caught sight Gimli reaching out to gently push a strand of Gaila’s hair behind her ear. The breeze carried snatches of thier conversation to the elf as he slowly approached them from across the clearing.
“You are certain, Gaila?” She smiled reassuringly and tugged gently at his beard.
“I am certain, Gimli. I will be fine, go with Legolas. I honestly do not know why you are so troubled.” Gimli looked at her face searchingly, and sighed softly.
“Nor do I.” Gaila patted Gimli’s cheek softly.
“I will be fine, Brother. All will be well.” Gaila bent to fasten her axe to the top of ther pack, within easy reach and swung it onto her back. Gimli refused to meet Legolas’ gaze as the dwarf moved off to stand next to Aragorn. Everyone was nearly ready to move out. Gaila smiled up at the elf as he helped her arrange her pack. “I do not understand it. Gimli is fussing over me as if I still had not swung my first hammer, and you are nearly as bad. Is there something you have failed to tell me, Legolas?”
“Not to my knowledge,” said Legolas, returning her smile, even as he thought to himself. *I do not know, but I have caught your brother’s mood. He worries.* “Do be careful, Gaila. I do not wish to handle your brother should we have to come save you from something.”
“I do not blame you,” laughed Gaila lightly. She stood back and looked at the elf a moment, before bowing. “Farewell, Legolas. Until we meet again.” Legolas returned her bow.
“A star shone on the hour of our meeting, Gaila. One shines now, on the hour of our parting. I wish you safe journey.” The dwarven maid turned to join the rest of her people, who stood before Aragorn. Legolas went to stand behind Gimli, awaiting the final farewell.
“The land of Gondor and the city of Minas Tirith commends your great skills and thanks you for sharing them with us.” Aragorn’s voice rose into the morning carried over the peoples gathered there. We wish you safe journey, go in peach and ever be welcome here.” The company of dwarves bowed as one, and turned to begin there trip home. The people gathered cheered as they walked away, calling out well wishes and thanks. Legolas put his hand on Gimli’s shoulder. The dwarf felt tense, almost as if he were a breath away from running after Gaila. They watched the departing party until Gimli could see them no more, but still the dwarf and elf remained. Aragorn turned to return the palace, arm in arm with Arwen. He gave Legolas a meaningful look, but continued on at the barely perceptable shake of the elf’s head. Legolas put his other hand on Gimli’s other shoulder and squeezed gently.
“Gimli, will you tell me what troubles you? I ask no more than you ask of me, to share with you my thoughts, no matter how dark or ill founded.” The dwarf relaxed a fraction under Legolas’ hands as he sighed deeply.
“Nothing troubles me, precisely. Nothing I can put to a name. Just a whisper of a shadow.”
“What does it speak of?”
“That I have seen my sister alive for the last time.”
The remaining time spent in Minas Tirith was uneventful until the day after the dwarves had departed. That night, Legolas was roused from his room by noise in the hallway outside. *That sounds suspiciously like it is coming from Gimli’s room.* The elf found several guards standing in the hallway, looking at one another.
“What is it?” asked Legolas, he kept his face a careful mask, but already his stomach clenched. He feared he already knew.
“An alarm was raised by the Tower Guard,” answered one of the soldiers. “The dwarves have returned, some of them. They came bearing a letter.” The guard held up a stained parchment. Legolas took it and examined it. Too few of the dwarvish runes looked familiar enough for him to discern what it said. “After Master Gimli read it, he took off. To see why they have returned, I would assume.”
Legolas arrived to a sight that further tightend the knot in his stomach. In the courtyard of the palace stood hardly half the dwarves that left earlier the day before, looking haggard. Gimli was no where to be seen. Neither was Gaila. The elf sighted a dwarf he recognized, one of Gimli’s friends, and made his way toward him.
“Doin, what has happened? Why have you returned?” The dwarf closed his eyes tiredly, but opened them again to motion to the letter in Legolas’ hand.
“We were attacked from within, Legolas. They have taken Gaila.”
“They who, Doin? What does this say?” Legolas held up the parchment.
“My honor will wait no longer,” quoted Doin, anger simmering in his voice. “We have your sister. You will come to the Midpath Cave or we will break her hands beyond repair. My father will be avenged.”
“Thror,” growled Legolas, flinging the parchment to the ground. “Who works with him?”
“Others,” spat Doin. “Others who believe Thror deserves another chance to defeat Gimli in battle.”
“Does he?” Fire lept into the dwarf’s eyes.
“Nay. He lost that claim long ago. There is no honor in what he does now. There is only madness.”
“You said you were attacked...”
“They attempted to carry off Gaila in the night, while we slept. We did not know what was happening, only Gaila managed to cry out and awaken us. Fights broke out, we tried to stop them. They killed their own people to have leverage against Gimli for a feud that should be long dead.” Doin’s anger was only slightly greater than the guilt Legolas heard in his voice. “No one suspected. It did not stand out that they volunteered for the watch. We did not know what they planned, Valar save us, we did not see.” Doin refused to say more, not that Legolas desired to hear more. He was fairly sick at what he had learned. Gaila was taken and being used as bait to lure his best friend to a battle that would be less than fair. The shadow that had whispered to Gimli had not lied and Gimli would never forgive himself for not heeding it.
Legolas found Gimli sitting on the floor of a little used hallway. Legolas advanced carefully, unsure of Gimli’s state. His friend stared blankly at the wall in front of him, unseeing and unmoving. Legolas sat beside him, and waited. They sat like that for long moments before Legolas tried to rouse the dwarf.
“Gimli?” There was no indication he heard Legolas. The elf gently placed his hand on Gimli’s arm and tried again. “Gimli.” For a moment Legolas despaired of reaching his friend, then Gimli’s eyes slowly focused onto his face.
“Legolas?” Legolas’ heart ached at the desolation in Gimli’s voice.
“Yes, my friend, I am here.”
“Legolas, did you read it? They have my sister.”
“I read it, I know.”
“They will torture her if I do not come. They will break her hands.”
“No Gimli, we will find her, we will not allow that to happen.”
“Our hands, Legolas, our hands are our lives. How will she carve and etch if they maim her?”
“Gim...” The dwarf continued on, as if Legolas had not spoken. his voice rising.
“It would be better should they kill her.” The dwarf’s voice continued to rise. “It would be better should I have their heads on a block!” he finished with a roar. As Legolas blinked, the dwarf was on his feet bringing his axe to bear on a door. As wordless bellows of rage filled the hallway, the door was reduced to planks, then shards, then toothpicks. It was only after the door was utterly destroyed and Gimli knelt among the wreckage, did Legolas dare approach.
“Legolas.” Gimli looked up at his friend, his eyes shining with tears. “They have taken my sister.” Legolas drew the dwarf to his feet and gripped his shoulders.
“We will not abandon her to this fate. You have my bow and my life, Gimli, if it will aid you. Go where you must to save Gaila, I will go with you.”
“I wish you would let me accompany you, Legolas”
“Your obligation is here, Aragorn. You yourself were just muttering the other day of all that remains to be done.”
“I am beholden to my friend...”
“But your responsibility to your people out weighs that,” interrupted Legolas.
“I find this duty is heavy and chafes at times,” growled Aragorn, turning to stare out the open window. Legolas placed a soothing hand on Aragorn’s shoulder.
“He agrees it is best that you remain. No one thinks you insult Gimli by staying.”
“How does he fair?” asked Aragorn, standing up straight. “He seems to be handling this well, but I know he would never let anyone see otherwise, save you.” Legolas sighed softly and closed his eyes for a moment before joining Aragorn at the window to watch the preparations in the courtyard below. Nine dwarves stood, readying their packs to leave in the early dawn light.
“As well as can be expected, I think. He would have left last night, if I would have allowed him to. He is more than ready to leave this instant.”
“I see that,” remarked Aragorn. Gimli stood in the courtyard, axe in hand and pack already on his back. He cast an impatient look up at Aragorn and Legolas. “You are certain you do not want more soldiers?”
“Nay. We stand against four dwarves, so numbers are in our favor. Gimli and the others believe a smaller group is best.”
“This Midpath Cave is known to them?”
“Yes, it is a long abandoned mine that is still used by traveling dwarves for camping,” said Legolas, struggling to keep his voice smooth. Aragorn was not fooled.
“What is it, Legolas?”
“I fear what traps have been laid there. The moment we enter the cave, it could be brought down about our heads. And I fear what Gimli will do when he gets there.” The elf shook his head, blonde hair swaying. “This is an ill situation, Aragorn. No matter how we approach it.” The king nodded thoughtfully.
“That it is. How long do I give you ere I send out the army?” Legolas could not help but smile.
“It should take no more than a day and a half’s ride to reach this cave, if not less. I am told we should return in three days, no more. If we fail to appear, I leave your response entirely up to you, King Ellesar.”
“Take care, my friend. Bring them both back safely. I will watch for your return.” Legolas dipped his head and bounded down the steps to the courtyard. The dwarves that Gimli had chosen to accompany him had mounted their ponies, eager to depart as soon as the elf was ready. Legolas quickly secured his pack and his bow, and swung easily up onto Arod. He reached down and pulled Gimli up behind him.
“Do not waste time with words, elf. Let us move as quickly as this beast of yours is able.” Legolas gave small smile and with a soft word, Arod leapt forward. To his satisfaction, Gimli gave a bit a yell and tightened his arms around Legolas’ waist. They did not go as fast as he could have normally, the ponies of the dwarves would have fallen behind. The strange troupe of mounted dwarves and lone elf trotted quickly through the quiet streets of Minas Tirith, towards the Gates. They opened as they approached, soldiers standing at attention as they left the walls of the city and began to follow the path the ill-fated company of dwarves had taken nearly two days before. Legolas did not turn, but he felt Gimli do so. The dwarf did not face forward again until the gleaming Gates had vanished from his sight.
Legolas jerked awake from his elvish dreams and was on his feet with an arrow notched before he knew why. He saw others opening their eyes, searching with startled looks. Those who had been keeping watch during the night stood with axes ready. Legolas saw then, the cause of the commotion. Gimli sat straight as a board, his skin pale beneath his beard. He was staring at his hands as if he had never seen them before and what he saw terrified him.
“Gimli? Gimli, what is it?” The dwarf did not answer. He simply stood and walked away from camp. Legolas put down his bow, but took care that his knives were on his back before he followed Gimli into the forest. He did not have far to go. Gimli had walked to a nearby stream where he knelt scrubbing his hands in the water. Legolas walked to his friend’s side and knelt beside him. “Gimli, what troubles you?” The dwarf never ceased his scouring as he spoke in a low tone.
“Gaila stood before me, begging me to help her. They’d cut her hair. She wore rags. She pleaded and cried. Legolas, I have never seem my sister cry.” Gimli’s breathless whisper tore at Legolas’ heart, but he waited for the dwarf to finish. “No matter how she screamed and begged, I could not move. I could not reach her.” His hands still scrubbed at each other relentlessly and Gimli’s voice was ragged as he continued. “She held out her hands to me then. They were mangled and useless stumps. She looked at her own bloody hands and then held them up for me to see. I could move at last, but I did not go to her. I looked down at my own hands. They were covered in blood. Gaila’s blood.” Legolas shivered in the warm night air at the horror of Gimli’s nightmare. He reached out gently and took Gimli’s hands in his own, stilling their constant scouring.
“Gimli, my friend, there is no blood on your hands, there is no guilt upon you.”
“I should have gone with her. I should have heeded the warning in my heart. I knew something was wrong, I could feel it.”
“There is no way you could have known what Thror was planning.”
“I should have!” roared Gimli, startling Legolas, but the elf did not flinch, nor did he release Gimli’s hands. “Something was not right,” said Gimli, much softer. “I should have gone with her.”
“Then you would be as dead others of your kin,” said Legolas flatly, deep eyes boring into Gimli’s. “As would Gaila. And there would be no hope. Hope remains, Gimli.” The elf reached out and gently ran a thumb across Gimli’s cheek. “You must see that if you are to save your sister.” Gimli looked down at his hands, laying open in his lap.
“There is no blood.” The dwarf stated it clearly, as if commenting on the weather.
“There is no blood, elvellon.”
“Not yet,” whispered Gimli. He looked up and met Legolas’ gaze. The dwarf’s eyes were as the hardest stone, his voice like velvet over steel. “But there will be, one way or another. All that remains is to whom it will belong.” Legolas blinked at the fierce hardness he saw in his friend, where moments before had been guilt and sorrow. The elf was not sure which troubled him more, Gimli lost in culpability or the vengeful dwarf who was rising to stand before him. Legolas had seen Gimli fight with relentless brutality, but there had always been a sense of control. Legolas felt a spark of recklessness in Gimli’s words he had never before known in the dwarf. He hid his discomfort by rising to his feet and by the time he stood facing Gimli, the ember of frenzy was gone and the dwarf seemed the same as he had days before.
“Come, Friend Legolas. The others will wondering where we have made off to,” said Gimli, almost cheerfully, as he made off toward the camp. Legolas followed wordlessly, still uneasy at the flashes of Gimli’s mood. *Someone will perish in this. Blood will stain his hands. May it not be his own.* Legolas shuddered at his dark thoughts and continued after Gimli.
They broke camp at dawn and continued toward Midpath Cave, at Gimli’s direction. The dwarf’s mood seemed to have settled into a calm but fierce resolve. It was well before noon when Gimli called the company to a halt and slid from Arod’s back. He directed Legolas’ gaze across an open meadow. The elf then saw a small opening in amongst what looked like a pile of boulders. The entrance to the cave. The dwarves led their mounts to a rock sheltered area, tethered them and looked to Gimli with the same determination on all their faces. Legolas followed suit with Arod, but could not help but feel that he was missing something. He had tried to convince Gimli to tell what he planned, if he planned anything, but the dwarf had stubbornly refused to tell the elf anything, save he would be told later. *A curse on the stubborn necks of dwarves,* thought Legolas fervently to himself. *I do not like this sense of walking into a snare blindly.* It had not escaped the elf that the other dwarves did not look anxious or uncertain. It was almost as if they already knew what was going to happen...
“Gimli, what are you planning,” said Legolas, his voice much sharper than he had intended, but he did not look away from Gimli’s dark expression.
“What must be done, Master Elf.” Legolas strode up to Gimli and fixed him with his coldest Elven gaze, not a trifling thing. He lowered his voice till it was little more than a hissed whisper, but the elf’s anger lost none of its heat.
“That is not an answer, Dwarf. I do not know what you are playing at, but it appears I am the only one who does not know the game. This is not the way a friend behaves.”
“Do you trust me, Legolas?” The elf blinked, but did not soften his gaze. This was not what he had expected.
“I trust you with my life. It also changes nothing. I cannot aid you unless you tell me what you propose to do.” Gimli heaved a great sigh as he turned to gaze across the meadow. The other dwarves set about sharpening their axes, checking the ponies, obviously giving the friends a moment of privacy. That was not a sign that Legolas was going to like what he was about to hear.
“When we reach the main cavern,” began Gimli, his voice steady, “Doin and the others will escort Thror’s companions out of the cave and hold them if necessary, but I do not believe it will be. They will get what they want.”
“What they want? Gimli, you do not mean to face Thror in combat.”
“That is precisely what I mean to do.”
“I was under the impression that we came to get Gaila,” said Legolas, struggling to hold his self-possession. “Not to maintain Thror’s claim that you still owe him his honor, which you do not.”
“We did come to get Gaila,” said Gimli. “That is where you will hold to your word to help me, Legolas. No matter what else may happen, you will find my sister and take her away from here. I will face Thror alone, as custom dictates.” Legolas closed his eyes for a moment, firming his grip on his patience.
“Gimli,” said Legolas, his voice low, “you propose to follow your codes of honor and then expect Thror to do the same. Nothing he has done thus far suggests that he has any honor left. Your dwarves out number his, that is true, but he has been here for some time longer than we. There may be traps, elvellon. Things we do not anticipate. More than that, Gimli,” Legolas put a hand on Gimli’s shoulder, “I do not like this idea of my leaving you with no one to watch for these traps. I should remain by your side.” Gimli looked up at Legolas and smiled fondly, placing his own hand over Legolas’.
“I managed to grow to adulthood without your aid, my friend. I think I can manage without you for a short time. I do not anticipate this taking terribly long. I will do what I have to do. This will never end if I do anything less. You will find my sister and take her to safety, and you will not interfere.” Legolas started to object, but the dwarf overrode him. “No matter what happens, Legolas. No matter what you hear, no matter what you see, no matter what Gaila says and I imagine she will bloody you a bit when you try to stop her.” Gimli smiled wryly. “I have your word, Master Elf. No matter what.” Legolas stared down at Gimli for a long moment, holding the other’s gaze. Gimli showed no sign of fear or relenting. The elf exhaled and nodded once.
“I will hold to my word to help you, Master Dwarf. No matter what, I will do nothing until I see Gaila safe.”
Legolas forced his hand to loosen on his bow as they entered the cave. Caves made him uneasy enough, without expecting an attack from behind every formation. The dwarves seemed relaxed enough as the troupe proceeded down a dark tunnel lit by the occasional torch. *Am I the only one who does not trust Thror?* Gimli seemed to sense his thoughts and spoke in a soft rumble.
“It will go as I say. There will be no trouble.” Legolas sniffed softly.
“As you say.”
“You do not know about dwarven customs, Legolas. This happens not often, but it does happen. There are protocols.”
“Do they involve abduction?” Gimli said nothing, they had reached the main cavern. A tall ceiling arched overhead and the room was lit by many torches. Legolas could see tunnels leading off in several directions, but he spared little time examining their surroundings. The four dwarves in the center of the room held most of his gaze. Thror stood flanked by dwarves on either side. He did not look angry or particularly deranged. His face was as hard and as determined as Gimli’s. Gaila was no where in sight.
“It is long past time for this, Son of Gloin.”
“No, the time for this passed long ago. It was ended then, but you have given me little choice.” Gimli leaned on his axe, no, it was Gaila’s axe, Legolas realized. Thror had not taken it when they had taken Gaila. There was little doubt what Gimli intended it for. His voice was the coldest Legolas had ever heard it. “Where is Gaila?”
“Down that tunnel, take the right fork and pass three passageways. The key to the bars hangs next to the gate.” There was only a hint of smugness in Thror’s voice. He turned to his companions and gave a short nod. Without preamble, they walked from the room, followed just as wordlessly by Gimli’s guards.
“Legolas, go and get Gaila.” Gimli’s voice remained cool and terribly calm. Legolas clenched his bow so hard he thought it would crack in his hand.
“I do not like this, elvellon.”
“You do not have to. We will discuss this later.” Gimli looked up at the elf with soft eyes. “Please just go, Legolas. Remember your word.” Legolas put his hand on Gimli’s shoulder and squeezed.
“We will discuss this later. I will see you outside,” said Legolas, as firmly as he could manage, meaning so much more than just the words he spoke. With a last press of his best friend’s shoulder, he turned and trotted to the tunnel Thror had indicated. He forced himself not to listen to what was behind him. To turn his back had been hard enough. Legolas followed the passage some minutes before he came to a fork and turned right. The elf counted off the three tunnels and finally came to the place where Gaila was being held. The dwarf maiden lay on the ground, her hands bound firmly behind her back. Her eyes were closed. Legolas put his hands on the bars of the cell and leaned forward, swallowing a lump he had not noticed. “Gaila?” To Legolas’ immense relief, her deep blue eyes opened immediately and focused on him.
“Legolas?” She began struggling to sit up, muttering all the while. Legolas quickly unlocked the barred gate and went to her side. “You should not have come, Legolas.”
“Did you truly believe we would not?” said Legolas, smiling grimly. He took a knife to the ropes that held her, wincing at the blood on her wrists. The elf tossed the bindings away and gently helped her to her feet.
“No, but I had still hoped you would make Gimli see sense. This is a foul deal.” Gaila swayed slightly, but managed to right herself. Legolas quickly took in the cut on her head, blood matting her wild, tangled hair, and the way she favored her right leg. “I am fine, Master Elf. Where is Gimli?” Legolas grimaced and motioned back the way he had come.
“Fighting Thror.” If he had expected her to look shocked or upset, she did not. She merely nodded curtly and began moving out of the cell and up the passage, limping substantially. Legolas was quickly at her side, but she waved him off.
“Where is my axe?”
“Gimli has it.” Gaila did pause at this, brow furrowed, but she continued on, as quickly as she could. Wondering what that meant, Legolas continued after her.
The site that met them when they reached the main chamber set Legolas’ hands to clenching again. Thror and Gimli were in heated struggle, their axes locked. They broke apart and stood measuring one another, when Gimli saw them standing there.
“Legolas, go!” roared Gimli, never taking his eyes from Thror.
“Gimli, that is my axe, he owes honor to me now!” shouted Gaila.
“Aye, he does, and I will take it, but first I will exact what is owed me first.” With that, Gimli flung himself at Thror, axes clanging. “Legolas, your word!”
“Gaila, come, we must go.” The she-dwarf turned and fixed Legolas with such a glare, he paused.
“You would leave Gimli? Why are you not helping him? Find me an axe, Elf, and I shall fight. I will not turn my back on him.”
“I gave him my promise, Gaila, to see you safe and not to interfere. And I shall keep it.” Legolas took hold of Gaila’s arm and proceeded to drag her toward the exit tunnel.
“NO! Legolas, stop! No!” Gaila tried to plant her feet, but her right leg crumpled beneath her. She continued to kick and try to pull away from him. “Do not leave him! Gimli!” Legolas gritted his teeth against Gaila's struggling and the sounds of combat, and continued pulling. He was strong, but he doubted he could carry the stout dwarf even if he had tried. And that was if she hadn’t been trying to beat him senseless. “Legolas, how can you do this?” He did not turn or stop, but her words ripped at his heart. *How can I leave him? One arrow...* Legolas shook his head against that thought and forced himself to ignore Gaila’s cries. *Gimli would never forgive me if I did not do as he asked.* Finally they broke into sunlight and Legolas continued on, toward where the horses were hitched. The other dwarves stood a distance from the entrance, and seemed slightly startled when he came out, tugging a loud, furious she-dwarf behind him. It was then Gaila quit fighting. She went limp and fell to the ground. Legolas was at her side instantaneously, worried he had been too rough. He gently pushed her snarled hair back from her face and peered at her worriedly. The elf was rewarded by a smart punch to the nose. He fell back and put a hand to his face. It came back bloody
“I am fine, you stubborn dolt, I just had to get you to stop, since you obviously would not listen.” Gaila raised herself to her knees and motioned around her, “I am here, I am safe. Now go help Gimli!”
“Your brother did not want my help, Gaila,” sputtered Legolas thickly through his shock. Valar, his nose hurt.
“I do not care what he wants!!” bellowed Gaila, in a voice to rival Gimli's. “I want you to go back and help him.” She softened her voice and gazed at Legolas with pleading eyes. “Please, Legolas. I do not trust Thror not to do something dishonorable.” Legolas paused a moment before he jumped to his feet and headed toward the cave. *I have done as he asked, Gaila is safe. I am not breaking my promise, I will not interfere.* Legolas had not traveled far enough into the cave to be out of sight of daylight when he felt the ground begin to shake beneath his feet. Stones and dust began to rain down upon him from the tunnel’s ceiling. Legolas realized what was occurring and could not move. *NO.* This was not happening, not here, not now. His best friend was down there. A rock striking his head set Legolas to running from the cave. He ran into the entrance just as a great thunderous boom nearly shook him to the ground and dust came billowing from the entrance. He turned and stared in horror at the huge bowl-shaped pit in the earth far from where they stood. Legolas did not need to hear Gaila’s screams to know what had happened.
The main cavern had collapsed. With Gimli inside.
Legolas stared at the ruin before him, voices and thoughts running through his head. “‘I will see you outside.’ *I will not interefer.* ‘You have my word.’ *One arrow...* ‘Do not leave him!’”
“No.” With a single word and a single thought, Legolas began running toward the entrance. Several of the dwarves moved to stop him, but there were nothing, gnats to be swatted away. He thought he heard Gaila calling to him, but he could not be sure, with the blood pounding in his ears. He would not, could not, stop.
Legolas ran down the tunnel as quickly as he could. *Perhaps he was in the tunnel and not the cavern. Any moment now I will come across him, laughing at me for worrying. I shall kill him myself...* A dark pile of rubble rose before the elf and he skidded to a halt. Dust still settled from the ruin in front of him and there was quite obviously n way through.
“Gimli!” yelled Legolas, his elven ears straining for a sound of response. “Gimli! I am no longer amused by this! Answer me!” The elf listened, but there was no hint of his friend. Legolas fell to his knees, a scream ripping from the depths of his soul that ended in a hoarse whisper, “Gimli, please.” But there was nothing.
Legolas had no idea of how long he stared at the caved tunnel, but the next thing he was aware of was a hand on his shoulder. He turned and looked up at Gaila. Her eyes were dark and unreadable as she gazed at him, but her jaw was set in a way that Legolas knew well.
“Come, Legolas. There is still hope.” Legolas stared at her, struggling to understand what she was saying through the despair that filled him.
“Hope?” He turned his eyes back tot he rubble. “How can you see hope in this?”
“Not here,” she said, her eyes taking in the destruction, unchanging. “There is another way.”
Legolas raised himself up and followed Gaila back out of the tunnel as fast as Gaila’s leg would allow. The she-dwarf did not speak and she fairly radiated anger. Legolas suspected much of it was directed at him, but he could find no words. No blame could be heavier than the guilt he placed upon himself. Nothing he could ever say could ever undo what had happened, could make Gaila trust him again.
When they emerged into the sunlight, Legolas’ sight followed where Gaila pointed. Some of the other dwarves were already making their way along the basin created when the cavern collapsed. On the far edge, Legolas could just make out another opening in the earth.
“There is always more than on way in and out of a cave of the dwarves,” murmured Gaila softly. “Valar send his over there.” Legolas turned to face her, useless words forming on his lips, but she held up a hand to silence him. “Just go, Legolas.” Legolas did not pause. He broke into a dead sprint across the meadow. He quickly overtook the dwarves and did not lessen his pace. Hope once again lent to his flight, but he did not dare too much. If Gimli was dead, Legolas feared he would not survive the dwarf long. He had no doubt the depths of elven grief would destroy him. Gaila. What would her sorrow bring? Perhaps her anger would end his grief for him, a quick end compared to the wasting of sadness.
As Legolas neared the opening, he sent out his senses, searching for anything of Gimli. His sensitive ears were met with the echoes of a shuffling, unsteady step and ragged breathing. Legolas came to a stop at the entrance, too afraid to hope, too afraid to breathe. He listened to the slow but steady approach and then calmly drew his knives. Gaila and the others were still some minutes away, but it did not matter. Legolas was finished with dwarven ideas of honor and debt owed. If it was Thror who emerged from the shadows, Legolas would not hesitate.
Legolas stood on his toes, a study in stillness and calm. A carved statue of grace that looked as if it could move, but never would. All his thoughts and senses centered on the figure approaching sunlight. The elf's knifes glinted in the light and were still as death. In the distance, the steps of the other dwarves approached, but they did not matter. All Legolas knew was the here and the now. And what he would do if Thror came to stand before him.
Legolas' eyes narrowed as he saw movement in the darkness. A faltering shadow, blacker than the shadows around it, coming toward the day and the waiting elf. Legolas' eyes were mere slits, searching for something distinguishable amongst the dust and darkness. His hands tightened on his glittering knives as the ragged breathing drew closer.
Finally, the dwarf moved into the light and Legolas ran forward like a flash of silver. He was at Gimli's side just as his friend sank to his knees.
"Gimli! Are you hurt? Where is Thror? What happened?" Gimli gave a soft smile and leaned into Legolas' arms.
"Flighty elves," whispered Gimli roughly. "They wait not for an answer to on question before they bombard you with ten more." Legolas frowned as he tightened his grip on the dwarf. He did not like the weakness of Gimli's voice. The elf settled on the ground and leaned Gimli against his chest. He kept his voice smooth and light as he addressed Gimli.
"Then focus your slow mind and answer me one at a time. Where have you taken hurt?" Gimli waved his hand dismissively, but his breathing was not much eased.
"It is nothing, Legolas. Some cuts and scrapes."
"It does not sound like nothing, Master Dwarf."
"Where is Gaila?" Legolas felt his frown deepen at Gimli's dodging, but answered anyway.
"She approaches quickly. I must say, she is rather upset with me or dragging her out of the cavern." Gimli chuckled before deep coughing stopped him.
"I have no doubt she is furious with us both," said Gimli, when he had caught his breath. "Her anger will pass, Legolas. You did well, my friend." Gimli laid his hand over Legolas', clasped on the dwarf's chest. "You kept your word to me."
"Yes, I did," murmured Legolas. He gently freed his hands from Gimli's and began to check the dwarf for injuries; as best he could with Gimli leaning against him. Everything seemed just as Gimli had said, bloody cuts and scrapes, until he reached Gimli's broad chest. The movement of ribs beneath his fingers told him enough, if Gimli's sharp intake of breath had not told him more. "That is not nothing, Gimli."
"Oh, that?" said Gimli, his voice soft and innocent. "I have hardly noticed."
"How did it happen?"
"The ceilings of caves are very heavy," said Gimli wryly. "I will tell you the tale one day."
"No, not today, but one day."
"It is just as well," said Legolas, resuming his position with his arms encircling his friend, choosing to let the matter lie for time being. "Perhaps your injuries will hold back Gaila's anger." Gimli snorted and then tensed in pain.
"That is not likely to be the case, Legolas. Not likely at all." Legolas turned to watch the other dwarves approach and judged he had a few more moments along with Gimli.
"Never again, elvellon," whispered Legolas softly, resting his chin on Gimli's shoulder. Never again will I stand by and let you fight alone."
"I am sorry," said Gimli gravely, "if I caused you worry."
"I would have you worry me a while longer yet, if I can keep you alive to do it," said Legolas lightly, but his voice returned to its serious tone. "I have never been so frightened as I was today, Gimli, so close to despair." Legolas smoothed the dwarf's hair and pressed a kiss to his temple. "Never again."
"Does he live?" came Gaila's booming voice as she strode toward them, limp almost imperceptible. "He had better, for I have every intention of killing him!" Legolas let go of his anxiety and laughed like bells ringing. If Gaila had a tail, it would have been lashing.
"Aye, Mistress Dwarf, he does." She stood over the pair, her hands on her hips.
"Of all the obstinate, stubborn, foolish, proud, headstrong, unyielding, suicidal dwarves in the world, the most stiff-necked, hard-headed one of all had to be my brother. Have you no sense? Having me carted off like a sack of grain, when I could have helped you. Letting your foolish dignity rule you! And you!!" said Gaila, turning her blazing gaze on Legolas. The elf quickly lost his smile. "You deserve each other! Making ridiculous oaths to carry out shoddy ideas, but never once pausing to consider you may be wrong in your woolheaded mulishness!" Gaila finally paused for a breath and all the fire seemed to go out of her. With Legolas' help, Gimli levered himself to his feet and stood before Gaila.
"Are you quite finished, Sister?" Gaila nodded once and slowly raised her eyes to Gimli's. He smiled and brushed at the single tear that traced a way through the dirt on her cheek. "Then I am glad to see you, too." With a cry, Gaila flung herself into Gimli's arms. He grunted in pain, but did not loosen his grip on his sister, his face buried in her hair. He murmured to her in soft words Legolas did not know, but they rumbled like the earth and soothed like a warm fire. When Gaila pulled away, her eyes were red and shining, but she smiled as she tugged at Gimli's beard.
"Well, what are you gaping at?" asked Gaila, hands once more on her hips, her eyes fixed on the other dwarves, who had kept there distance when her outburst began. "Go and get the ponies. Let us linger here no longer than we must. Go!" With that the dwarves quickly made off toward the place where the ponies and Arod were hobbled, talking animatedly amongst themselves.
"Will you be able to ride, Gimli?" asked Legolas, placing a hand on the dwarf's shoulder.
"I think I will manage, Legolas. If you can control that beast of yours."
"I will see what can be done," smiled Legolas. The elf turned to Gaila, who watched him darkly. Gimli had been forgiven. It did not look as though he had. Legolas knelt before the dwarf maiden and looked up at her.
"I am sorry for carting you off like a sack of grain, Gaila," said Legolas in perfect seriousness, but his eyes smiled. "I promised Gimli to see you safe and I held to my word. We both realize now our error and it will not happen again." He stood in a fluid motion and bowed low. "Never again." Gaila studied him a moment and then reached up to gently tough his nose.
"Never again," echoed Gaila softly. Her hand cupped Legolas' cheek for a moment before pulling on a lock of his hair. She smiled up at him then; her eyes clear blue in the sunlight. "Never is a terribly long time." Gaila turned and followed after the other dwarves, laughing as she went.
"Legolas? What just happened?" asked Gimli, looking after Gaila ass he walked away.
"She said never is a long time," said Legolas, his tone puzzled. "Either she does not believe I will never carry her off again or she foresees hitting me sometime in the future."
"Ah," said Gimli. "So that is why your face if puffy with dried blood all over it." Legolas gave a start, his hands going to his nose, wiping at the blood under it.
"Forgive me, Master Dwarf, if I was more concerned for you." Legolas looked down his companion who was shaking with silent mirth. The elf rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. "Oh, just laugh, you will only hurt yourself further." The dwarf's chuckle rolled over the meadow. Legolas fixed him with a regal and long-suffering look. "You sister has quite a punch."
Gimli only laughed harder.
Legolas entered the House of Healing at a brisk walk. When the group had returned to Minas Tirith earlier that day Legolas had turned the care of his friends over to the healers there, shortly before being chased out to bathe and change himself. He had relented and done so, but as quickly as he could manage, after a few words with Aragorn. Gimli had drifted into an uncharacteristic silence as they had traveled, and Legolas did not like the idea of letting his friend out of his sight for too long a time. Legolas entered the room where Gaila and Gimli had been last. Gaila leaned against several pillows in one of the beds, her mood obviously less than serene.
“Legolas, tell them I am well and good and this,” snarled Gaila, gesturing to a large, unwieldy splint on her leg, “is completely unnecessary.” Legolas eyed the wooden trappings doubtfully, but a quick glance at the healers as they left the room settled him.
“I will do no such thing, if they say it is needed, than it is.” The elf winced slightly at the growl of frustration emitted by Gaila as she crossed her arms across her chest in what looked very much like a pout. Not that Legolas would ever tell her that. He sat carefully on the edge of her bed and carefully out of her reach.
“Does your leg pain you much?” The look Gaila shot him would have stopped a Nazgul in its steps. “Where is Gimli?” asked Legolas, quickly changing topics. The storm clouds in Gaila’s eyes did not dissipate, but they no longer seemed aimed at him.
“I would know, were I not trapped here like an invalid,” growled Gaila through clenched teeth.
“Ah,” murmured Legolas. “I see.”
“Do you really? Somehow I doubt that,” spit Gaila angrily. Legolas stood without a word and walked toward the door. “Legolas.” Gaila’s softened voice stopped him. “Legolas, I am sorry.” The elf turned and regarded the dwarven maid with an intense gaze. Gaila plucked at her blankets idly before meeting his eyes. “I am angry at being kept here and concerned for Gimli. I should not have spoken as I did.”
“Do not worry, Mistress Dwarf,” said Legolas gently. “I will find him.” Gaila nodded wordlessly and leaned her head back wearily, exhaustion seeping into her features. Legolas watched her a moment more before continuing out of the room. He paused outside the door, catching the arm of one of the healers.
“Is the splint truly necessary?” The kind looking woman grimaced slightly.
“Yes and no. Her leg is not so badly damaged as that, but she does not need to be walking on it either. After Master Gimli bullied his way out, we had to find a way to keep Lady Gaila from following.”
“And how was Gimli? Any other injuries?”
“We wrapped his ribs, but he would not take anything for the pain and he would take no rest. A handful they were, with Master Gimli trying to run off and make Lady Gaila stay all the while Lady Gaila is shouting for Master Gimli to do as we said and ready to take off after him when he did not.” The healer shook her head ruefully. “A handful indeed.” Legolas thanked her and made his way out of the House. He was not certain he knew where Gimli had gone, but he had an idea as to where to begin his search.
As Legolas stepped beneath the entry arch of Queen Arwen’s garden, he was pleased that his guess had not been wrong. His quarry rested on a bench under the spreading branches of a huge maple. Gimli sat stiffly, his broken ribs obviously pained him, but Legolas knew the dwarf would never say as much. The elf approached quietly and sat down next to his friend. Legolas said nothing, for he knew not what to say. Gimli did not need to be admonished for not caring for himself, no matter how much Legolas wished to give just that lecture. He merely waited in comfortable silence, watching the leaves of the tree dance in a soft breeze.
“How fairs Gaila?” asked Gimli, after some time.
“Her leg will heal,” said Legolas. “Along with her mood, I am hoping.” Gimli chuckled softly. “She worries about you, Gimli.” The dwarf heaved a great sigh and shifted his weight uncomfortably.
“A sister’s duty, it seems.”
“Will you not tell me what happened down there?” asked Legolas, turning his gray eyes to Gimli. “Can today be that day?”
“I killed Thror, Legolas. That is what happened,” said Gimli evenly, his voice flat.
“The cavern? Why did...”
“A trap.” Gimli laughed bitterly. “You were right. He could not be trusted. Support columns must have been weakened strategically. When it became apparent he would not win, Thror triggered the cave-in. When I realized what he had done, I ran for nearest exit tunnel.” Gimli took a deep breath, a tightness apparent around his dark eyes. “He did not even try to escape. He just stood there and laughed as I ran. Laughed as his death rained upon him.”
“I am sorry, Gimli. I did not want to be right,” said Legolas quietly. “Many years of anger and resentment, ending as it did.” The elf shook his head. “But is does not sound to me as though you killed Thror.”
“Just because my axe did not take his life does not mean the responsibility is no less mine.”
“No where, in any of this, can I see how Thror behaved honorably,” said Legolas. “You cannot blame yourself for his death.”
“I do not blame myself,” answered Gimli quickly. “Thror chose his path and he followed it to the end. Responsibility does not equate blame, Legolas. Since accountability belongs to me, I will travel to our home and inform his kin of his death. If he had a partner or child with no other means, they too would be my in charge, but he does not.” Gimli sighed again. “The weight in this case is small.”
“It does not seem a light burden to me, elvellon,” murmured Legolas, Gimli looked the weariest the elf had ever seen him.
“What of those who supported Thror?”
“They will be dealt with,” said Gimli as though he could not care less at that moment. The elf and dwarf sat together, watching the coming night.
“You said it is a small weight,” said Legolas after some thought, “but I would bear it with you. Allow me to accompany you home.” The dwarf gave him a considering look, but said nothing. “I do not think you weak. If ever I did, I was gravely mistaken. I want to come. And perhaps,” smiled Legolas, “I feel a need to keep an eye on you after recent events.”
“I do not need your eye upon me, Master Elf,” muttered Gimli, but a smile belied his gruff voice. “However, if having you about keeps Gaila’s furies from me, then you are most welcome.” Legolas laughed and helped Gimli to his feet.
“I thought Gaila and I were twice the pain in your stiff neck, Master Dwarf?”
“You are,” said Gimli, the pair making their way out of the garden. “But as you may have noticed, Gaila is of a foul temperament when she is ill or injured. I am not above sacrificing you to her anger.”
“Sacrificing...!” sputtered Legolas.
“Ah Legolas, you are a true friend,” Gimli hurried on, before Legolas could retort. “I knew you would understand.”
“I suppose I can take comfort in knowing I can outrun her in her present state.”
“She will still try to catch you.”
“You have not yet seen the contraption on her leg.”
“That big, eh?”
“She is in a proportionally unfavorable mood.” Gimli laughed and slapped Legolas on the back.
“Glad you are coming along, Legolas, glad you are coming.”
“Are you certain this is wise, Gimli? Would you not rather stay a few more days?” asked Aragorn, surveying the mounted dwarves preparing to leave. “Two days hardly seems adequate time to heal before departing again.”
“I am certain, Aragorn. There are certain matters that must be addressed back home, but thank you for the offer, my friend.” Aragorn sighed deeply and gripped Gimli’s shoulder.
“As you wish then. I hope you have a safer journey this time.”
“As do I,” laughed Gimli wryly. “I have had quite enough adventure for a while.”
“I believe adventure will always find you, my friend. As well as him,” murmured Aragorn as Legolas approached with Arod following him. “It is best you face it together.”
“Perhaps. I wonder though, if he shares that sentiment?” smiled Gimli.
“Yes, I do think it best,” said Legolas, drawing to a stop. “All the better to save this dwarf’s neck yet again.” Gimli snorted, but turned to Aragorn.
“Fare thee well, King Elessar. Until we return to once again complicate things for you.” Aragorn laughed.
“I look forward to it, Master Dwarf.”
“I will hold you to that, Aragorn, when next you are grumbling about us,” said Legolas, reaching down to pull Gimli up onto Arod’s back.
“I am certain you will. Safe journey, my friends.” Legolas nodded to the King of Gondor and directed Arod out of the Gates. Their leaving was understated this time, no cheers or speeches. Legolas set a leisurely pace, wagons and ponies following behind. A quiet morning. *Too quiet* though Legolas. He could feel the angry eyes of a dwarven maid secured in a cart behind him. He and Gimli had both managed to dodge Gaila for two days, hoping her anger over her incapacitation and Gimli’s flight from the House of Healing would cool in that time. It seemed however, that her temper had waited and grown at their evasion.
“She is not pleased, Gimli,” said Legolas softly, not turning his head.
“No, she is not.”
“Gimli, the brace is unnecessary. You and I know this and I am fairly certain that Gaila is aware of it as well. If anything, you are only making things worse.”
“You are probably right. We will remove the brace tonight.”
“We could free her now.”
“By all means, Legolas, but I am not getting off this beast til I must. If you wish to take it upon yourself, however...”
“We can remove the brace tonight,” said Legolas quickly. “Surely that is soon enough. No harm in caution.”
“No harm at all,” said Gimli, his smile evident to the elf’s ears. Legolas sighed.
“If we were truly cautious we would leave her in that cart until escape was possible,” said Legolas dryly.
“Aye,” said Gimli matter-of-factly, but Legolas could feel the dwarf shaking with silent mirth.
“She is going to skin us, isn’t she?”
“Probably. Definitely me and more than likely you for good measure. The perils of being part of our family, it seems. Valar help us,” laughed Gimli. “We shall need it.”
Author’s Note: Sorry it took so long to finish this up, I received some flames and my muse appears to be scared of fire. I couldn’t even write without getting indignant, but I’m over that now and I’ve already started planning a sequel. If you could kindly give me some feedback on my very first fanfiction ever, I would love it and it would help with what to work on for next time. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem enough to say for all of you who have reviewed and emailed and given encouragement and help. Believe me when I say I have truly appreciated every bit of it. Thanks again!!
Return to top
Make an author happy today! Write a review.
Return to top
Sorry! Hotkeys are not available on this page!
Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003