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by Jevvica Nor
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: The sequel to The Family you Choose.
A/N: The sequel to "The Family You Choose", as promised!! This story can stand alone I think, but it would make more sense if you read "Family" first. I've been taking my sweet time, I'm aware, but I have been terribly busy. Updates may be slow in coming, do try to be patient with me.
Gimli smiled to himself as the and Legolas walked toward the Glittering Caves. Many years ago, he had brought some of his people and built a home there. A home he was too often absent from, it seemed. Often he was away, visiting Legolas in Fangorn, Aragorn in Minas Tirith, or other friends across Middle Earth. *Time slips from us all.* he thought, but it could not dampen his happiness at returning home, especially today.
"Why such a smile, Gimli? Too long from your hole?" prodded his companion.
"Aye," responded the dwarf. "My wits wander when too many hours are spent in the company of elves. I look forward to more sensible companionship." Legolas quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing as his eyes caught a glint of red gold at the mouth of the cave.
"Gaila awaits us."
"We are late."
"We are? At what hour were we expected?"
"Earlier than when we would arrive, no matter the hour," laughed Gimli. Legolas smiled, but looked puzzled.
"Why is she so anxious? I have visited on many occasions and never before has she stood watching for us before." The elf fixed Gimli with a sharp look which the dwarf carefully ignored. "What do you know, Master Dwarf, that I do not?"
"Hhmmm?" rumbled Gimli, starting as though jolted from deep thoughts. "My apologies, Legolas, I have not been listening. Too long from my hole, it seems..."
"Do not play games with one who knows you as well as I, Gimli. There is more to this visit than simply Gaila's desire to see me well, is there not?" Gimli smiled enigmatically up at Legolas, something he had perfected over his time with the elf, and said nothing. Legolas gave up and lengthened his stride to match Gimli's increased pace. Soon, they reached the natural opening of the Glittering Caves the opening the dwarves preferred to the walls of Helm's Deep.
"Welcome, Brother," smiled Gaila, hugging Gimli warmly.
"Well met, Sister," responded Gimli fondly. "I trust we are not too terribly late?"
"Not too terribly," said Gaila, "but you could have arrived sooner. There is much that remains to be done." The dwarven maid turned to Legolas. "Welcome, Brother! I am so pleased you could come."
"Well met, Sister," smiled Legolas as he embraced Gaila. She had changed very little over the many years since the elf had met the younger sister of Gimli. A few, barely noticeable strands of silver twined in the golden red of Gaila's braid were the only visible touches of time upon her. "I fear Gimli is being a bit vague, Gaila," said Legolas as he straightened. "So much to be done for what?" Gaila turned, hands on hips to look at Gimli.
"You did not tell him?"
"By tradition, it is not my place, Gaila." Gaila threw up her hands.
"Tradition! I believe tradition fell a bit by the way side when I invited an elf. You," said Gaila, taking on a teasing tone, "merely wanted to torment him with it!"
"Perhaps," muttered Gimli, a smile threatening. "Well, he is here now. I am going in." Gimli threw Legolas a mysterious look and slipped into the shadows of the cave.
"I suppose I should not be surprised that he dragged you here without telling you why," said Gaila.
"He dragged me no where, Gaila. It is no great labor to persuade me to pass time with you and Gimli," said Legolas lightly, moving with Gaila down into the cave. Legolas was not fond of caves, but the Aglarond was beautiful and familiarity had mad it more comfortable. This was his friends' home, where he was known and welcome by a race who not long ago would have hated him on sight. The particular cave troubled him very little. "What is to prepared for? Why have I come?" Gaila looked up at him, her eyes sparkling in the torchlight that lined the walls of the tunnel.
"My wedding. I am to be married tomorrow."
Gimli was met with the greetings of the dwarves of his sovereignty: smiles and hearty slaps on the back, all voicing their congratulations at the upcoming wedding of his sister. The Great Hall, a formal gathering area with huge arching ceilings was full of milling dwarves, welcoming their leader home and preparing for the approaching ceremonies. Torches lined the walls, burning without much smoke or scent, keeping the air of the massive cavern clean. Some openings in the ceilings allowed some natural illumination into the Hall which reflected off the sparkling walls, leaving nothing of the cave dark or dreary. After greeting friends and kinsman, Gimli took a moment to look about for Legolas. He spotted the elf, speaking with Gaila and Dolin. *Assessing the groom to be, I'm sure*, thought Gimli to himself with a smile. Dolin was an honorable dwarf, a skilled craftsman and treated Gaila like a queen. Gimli would have accepted no less in a suitor for his sister. He wondered if any suitor, short of Valar-made-flesh, would be good enough in Legolas' eyes. The elf had come to love Gaila as much as Gimli did and was just as fiercely protective. Gimli's smile died on his lips as he made his way to the trio. Gaila and Legolas had been close from very nearly the day they had met, sharing a sense of humor and a love of tormenting Gimli. He hoped Legolas was not disappointed Gaila was marrying. *What would he do? Marry her himself? Does their love run that deep?* Gimli had carefully avoided just these thoughts for many years. It was too strange an idea, his best friend and his beloved sister wedding. Recent events had pushed these thoughts into the open, there was no choice now, but to examine them.
Dolin looked up at Gimli's approach and quickly bowed low to his lord, his words holding barely concealed nervousness that always seemed to appear when Dolin spoke to Gimli. Gimli rubbed his beard to cover his smile. He was perfectly fine with Dolin being a bit frightened of him. It would keep him in line.
"Lord Gimli, I am glad to see you have returned safely and in time for tomorrow's events."
"No force in Middle Earth could have kept me from it, Dolin," said Gimli.
"Of course. Gaila, Lord Gimli if you would excuse me, I have matters to attend to. Master Legolas, it was an honor to finally meet you." Dolin bowed to each in turn and hurried off, doing a remarkably good job of not looking like he was hurrying. Legolas watched the dwarf depart with sharp, gray eyes that revealed nothing.
"I believe I would like to retire to my quarters until the feast tonight. I will see you both then." Legolas turned on his heel and walked toward his permanent guest quarters, not far from Gimli's own. Gimli and Gaila watched him go, slightly surprised at the elf's departure.
"Come, Gimli. Your wedding attire has been prepared, but I want to see it on you before tomorrow, to make sure you have not gained too many pounds on those Elven sweets you cannot keep your hands off of," said Gaila with a bright smile, leading Gimli toward his quarters. The torches were lit and the rooms had been freshly cleaned Gimli noted as he and Gaila entered. His sister moved to the bed and began to unfold many new garments. Gimli sat down on a carved bench that lined one of the walls of his bedchamber and gazed at the floor, his mind working.
"Gaila, for many years have I watched and said nothing, but before you wed Dolin..." Gimli swallowed and looked at his sister. "Do you love Legolas?"
"Of course I do," said Gaila briskly, "He is my brother."
"Sister," said Gimli, an iron thread tightening in his voice," do not play words with me." The dwarf maiden stopped laying out clothes, her back to Gimli.
"I love Dolin. I would not marry him if I did not wish to," said Gaila firmly. Gimli fell quiet and Gaila went back to the wedding garments.
"If this is truly what you want, you know I will not stand in your way," said Gimli after a time.
"You could not, even if you wished to. Marriage is the choice of the maiden and you know it. Your opinion means very little in the grand scheme of things, Gimli." Gimli bristled at her words. He knew the truth of what Gaila said, even as her brother and closest living relative, he had no dominion over the nuptials of a Dwarven maid. Gaila turned to toward him and looked at him intently. "It is not that I do not value your considerations, Gimli, but this is my choice." Gimli nodded, and felt a slight smile turn up his lips. *As if my "considerations" have ever managed to sway her before.* Gaila sat down next to Gimli and leaned against his shoulder.
"What is it Father used to say? Take what you want..."
"And then pay for it," finished Gimli. Gaila nodded wordlessly and they sat like that for a moment, in quiet closeness and then Gaila smiled. "Now, try these on so that I may see they are proper." She tugged on Gimli's beard and then stood. "Do not frown so, Brother. Tomorrow is my wedding, a joyous thing. It is what I want," she said as she walked from the room. Gimli did not stop frowning as he fingered the clothes laid out for him.
//It is what I want.// Gimli sighed. *And what will you pay for it?*
The feast that evening was a huge affair, every dwarf in Aglarond was present in their second best finery, saving the best for the ceremony to take place the next day at noon. Long tables now filled the Great Hall bowing with the weight of roast game and large barrels of beer. A large fire burned in an immense fireplace at one end of the Hall that was clear and musicians were setting up their instruments. Excited talk rumbled through the air, laughter and hearty claps on backs echoed softly off the huge vaulted ceiling high above. An air of a party. *Then why do I not feel like celebrating?* thought Legolas to himself as he took a long drink from his mug of beer and grimaced for what felt the thousandth time. He never had acquired a taste for Dwarven brew, but he was willing to drink it this night. Strange thoughts would not leave him be. *She is my dearest friend's sister, she is MY sister for all intents and purposes. We are friends, that is all.* Legolas drained his mug. *I am entertaining flighty, ill-founded ideas. Gimli would laugh me out of the cave.* The elf stood and made his way to the nearest mead barrel, dodging drunken dwarves and nodding greeting to those who called his name. The musicians began to play a spirited jig that caused the assembled to raise a thunderous cheer and many moved to the dance floor. Legolas watched them as his mug refilled and sighed deeply. *I am being beyond ridiculous.*
"Legolas! There you are," exclaimed Gaila, coming to stand at his side. "Do not forget, you need to try on your garments for the ceremony tomorrow, you will be standing with me." Legolas nearly choked on his beer.
"Standing with you? Gimli...I mean, someone else...me?" sputtered the elf to which Gaila smiled widely.
"Why Legolas, I do not think I have ever heard such an inelegant thing come out of your mouth before. You have grown to like the beer?" Gaila laughed as his face wrinkled before he could stop it. "Strange elf, you will be my formal witness. Gimli will preside, as he is our lord. Dolin will choose his own witness. Now come," said Gaila, pulling the elf toward the dance area. "You must dance with the bride-to-be, it is tradition."
"I thought you did not care for tradition," murmured Legolas as he was led.
"Some I do, some I do not. This one and in this case, I do," smiled Gaila. The band began a slower song as the elf and dwarven maid moved onto the floor. The drums took up a soft beat and the clarinets and harps created a sweet melody that a single flute soared over in sweeping, long notes. Legolas took Gaila's hand in his own they began to move in wide circles with the crowd of dancers. The dwarves moved with a grace that never failed to amaze Legolas and Gaila was no exception. Her loose hair gleamed like the rays of the sun as the fire reflected off of it and her eyes shone as sapphires. *Beyond ridiculous.*
"Do you love Dolin?" The words escaped him before he even knew he had thought them. Gaila looked up at him and sighed softly.
"I would not marry someone I did not wish to, Legolas."
"That is not what I asked."
"Aye, I do love him. He is loyal and strong. Not to mention," Gaila said with an evil smile, "Gimli has not yet killed him. Surely that is a sign in itself." Legolas' smiled slightly, but his eyes did not, and this was not lost on Gaila. She sighed again and looked up at him, trying to discern what he was thinking. He avoided her eyes and swung her about in a turn. They danced in a silence heavy with things unspoken and uncertain. When the song ended, Gaila had certainly had enough.
"Come, Legolas. I want to show you something." The elf followed Gaila down one of the tunnels, away from the noise and light, to her quarters. She opened the door and quickly lighted several lamps. She bent down and reached under low bed and pulled out a long, wrapped bundle and sat down. The dwarven maiden looked up at Legolas and patted the bed beside her. The elf walked over silently and came to rest beside Gaila as she began to uncover the bundle. She pulled out a magnificent axe and held it out to Legolas. Legolas took it gently, held rapt for a moment by the sheer beauty of it. Wrought entirely of silver and set with rubies, it radiated light, even in the fairly dim illumination of the lamps. Scrolling knotwork covered the entire handle and elegant swirls graced the blade. Along the edge of the blade were runes running the length.
"Gaila," whispered Legolas, "this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever beheld. Once again, you impress me with your talent."
"I am glad you are impressed," smiled Gaila. She absently folded the covering material in her lap. "It is my wedding gift for Dolin. When two dwarves are married, they exchange gifts, something they have made themselves to signify their commitment and the craft they bring into the relationship. Long after we both pass into Mandos, this axe will remain, a sign of a promise made and unending, even in death. Normally, no one is to see it until the unveiling at the wedding, but I wanted to know what you thought of it." Legolas cleared his throat and handed the axe back to Gaila.
"It is truly beautiful." Gaila took the axe and rewrapped it in the folds of the rich red velvet in her lap. "Wait, what is this?" asked Legolas, running a slender finger over the runes on the edge of the blade.
"A warning," said Gaila simply, and continued her wrapping. "To never overstep his bounds and to honor me always." Legolas could not hold back his laugh.
"Why does that seem so fitting?"
"Aule help him, should he ever forget this warning," said Gaila, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Indeed. So, a representation of your commitment and relationship?"
"Aye." Legolas stood and walked a bit around the room.
"A beautiful axe, but never meant to be used." Gaila set the axe down and narrowed her eyes slightly as she regarded the elf.
"Not a weapon, no."
"A decoration? A trophy?"
"A symbol. A gift."
"Mhh," grunted Legolas in such a way that reminded Gaila so much of Gimli. He stopped his pacing of her room and turned back to her. "The hour goes late and I still need to make sure my attire for tomorrow is satisfactory. I will inform you if it is not. Good night," said Legolas as he turned to go.
"Answer me a question, Brother?" Legolas turned and met Gaila's smoldering glare. "What have you been trying to say since you came here?" Legolas' gaze softened and he smiled ruefully.
"Be happy," was all the elf said as he closed the door behind him.
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003