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A/N: Although this is bookverse, I refer to the final part of a scene from the movie which I liked very much. This story is still in an experimental stage... It may very well be revised once or twice ;-)
Gimli, son of Glóin, awoke in the early morning hours of March the seventh in the year 120, Gondor reckoning(*). The sun had not yet risen, and the Dwarf's chamber still remained in darkness. In the gloom Gimli lay nestled between the silken blankets and soft pillows provided by Queen Arwen's household. He should have felt most comfortable, yet he sensed only dread and grief, and above all he sensed an all-encompassing wrongness. He had no need to think long on whence this feeling came, for it had not left him since his dearest friend -- Thranduil's son, Prince of Eryn Lasgalen, Lord of the Elves of Ithilien, Legolas Greenleaf of the Fellowship of the Ring, to list but a few of the many names bestowed upon his companion over the years of his immortal life -- had said his farewell to the King Elessar in Rath Dínen.
Gimli had knelt before Aragorn's last resting place and had watched as Legolas had touched a hand first to his forehead, then to his lips, in a gesture they had once witnessed in a forest, in the silence after a grim battle had been fought and partly lost. Then, whispering 'Be at peace, King of Gondor', Legolas had bent and kissed Elessar's brow. After that the Elf had turned and left the House of Kings swiftly and without a glance at any other.
The image was branded into Gimli's soul, and every time he thought on this last moment between two of the people most beloved to him, his eyes filled with tears. Too many had died in recent years. Now only three were left of the circle that had wreathed itself around the Fellowship, though he did not truly count Queen Arwen among the living, for in her heart she seemed already to have left her life behind. Only her body still moved and had not yet laid her down for the final rest.
'And if I wait much longer ere I take action,' said Gimli to himself, 'I shall be forced to watch as the obstinate Elf loses himself in his despair. His spirit will simply leave his body behind, if I take no care.'
Yet Gimli was certain that he could out-stubborn his friend. He was a Dwarf after all! He would sooner be damned before he allowed Legolas to waste his immortality.
It had been a perpetual cause for dispute between them over the last hundred years and more. Misunderstandings, jests, and competitions aside, the only true fights the two had ever had were about Legolas' refusal to sail over Sea. Gimli, having had to witness the worst of the Elf's bouts of despair, repeatedly had begged his friend to leave. And Legolas -- besides other reasons -- had been incensed at the idea of being remembered as the one who was too weak to last at least as long as his companions lived.
At one time, in the first years of King Elessar's reign, after an especially heartbreaking episode, Gimli had pulled his beard in frustration, crying 'I wish you had never left your father's halls!', meaning, of course, that his friend would have been spared thus to hear the cry of the gulls. Legolas had raised himself to his full height, standing before him in all the haughtiness he was able to project, and his voice had been colder even than during the grimmest and bloodiest battles they had had to survive. 'You wish we had never met? Is your heart so weak that you are unable to look upon the pain of a friend? I believed your race to be much hardier. If an Elf can endure this longing for a short while, surely a Dwarf should stand to be its witness. 'Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens',' said the Elf, throwing the Dwarf's own words back at him. The blood had nearly frozen in Gimli's veins then. He had whispered through a throat that had threatened to close from the pain: 'Think you so little of me and my commitment? You cannot believe that any other sentiment than the deepest worry for your wellbeing would make me willing to part from you.' And for the first time it had been he to turn away and leave his friend behind, for usually it was Legolas who fled from their fights. It had taken them many long weeks to reconcile.
"You never truly understood that it was love which prompted my words. Mayhap your head told you thus, yet your heart could not grasp the idea that I was as ready to suffer for the sake of another as were you," said Gimli, staring up to the ceiling of his room. "Not only the Elves are capable of great sacrifices."
In the late afternoon of March the fifth Gimli slowly approached his friend. Legolas stood at the battlement that crowned the highest and outmost point of the bastion of stone which devided the City of Minas Tirith in two. This huge mass of rock had often been likened to a great ship-keel, and truly, as Gimli drew near, it seemed to him as though Legolas stood at the bow of the ship that would take him to Eldamar, looking ahead over the endless expanse of waves towards the horizon where the blue of the sky touched the blue of the sea. From that line would spring his first glimpse of the Undying Lands.
Gimli had to suppress a snort. 'I have become a poet in my old age,' thought the Dwarf. ''Tis a wonder that my association with this Elf has not yet driven me to howl at the moon...'
The sun chose this very moment to sink partly below the peaks of Mount Mindolluin, and darkness suddenly shrouded all of the City, except for the edge of the outthrust stone keel, where Legolas leant against the parapet. He was as still as a statue. Only his dark hair was lifted by a breeze now and again to flutter behind him like a banner in the wind. The last remaining shaft of light bathed him in an unearthly glow. It reminded Gimli once more why he seemed inspired to poetry again and again. His friend truly was an otherwordly being, and never more so than when he grieved or was in despair.
At this thought a ghost-hand seemed to reach into Gimli's breast and squeeze his heart, for he knew what he would see when looking upon his friend's face.
He sighed, and Legolas slightly cocked his head at the sound. It was a barely visible movement, but Gimli had learned over the years to watch for, and notice the minute changes in Legolas' posture and voice.
"You should have stayed inside," said the Elf. "Spring has not yet arrived and the air grows cold as soon as the sun sets."
Gimli rolled his eyes behind Legolas' back. It had always been his friend who had disliked the cold, not he. Legolas was able to endure the harshest temperatures, yet he tended to become discontented and irritable when freezing. 'Even grumpy,' thought Gimli. 'If such a word can be ascribed to an Elf.'
"I know that you are making faces at me, my friend." Legolas turned his head to the right then, but still did not look at Gimli.
"Then you know also that a little bit of chill does not bother me," answered the Dwarf. "My bones do not yet rattle against each other like dry sticks in a sack." Gimli reached his friend's side and climbed onto a stone bench to look over the wall.
"Aye, you are still as strong and as stout as I have ever known you, and I thank all the powers that hold you in their favour for it." His hand drifted towards the Dwarf as if of its own volition, but at half the distance he halted the motion and his arm fell heavily to his side.
To Gimli this aborted gesture spoke more loudly of Legolas' turmoil than any shout. For the Elf to betray that much of his feelings as to even attempt a touch while in view of the whole City was an almost unthinkable sign of weakness. Though his behaviour these last four days had been wholely unusual to begin with: After leaving Rath Dínen, Legolas had gone straight to this place and had not left his post since then. Gimli had visited him here twice each day for some hours, which had been spent mostly in silence. Yet now the Dwarf had reached his limit. "Legolas," cried he.
But his friend at once interrupted his speech. "Do not begin anew our dispute," said the Elf. "I beg you."
"I *will* speak," answered Gimli. "I must. You have waited more than a hundred years. For most of these years I have bowed to your wishes and kept my silence. Yet now our King is dead, and I have watched your suffering for longer than I am willing to bear." He turned his back to the wall, looking at his friend then, and truly, there was a brittleness to the Elf's form which his rigid posture did not hide, but emphasize instead. And the skin of his fair face seemed almost translucent. "I want you to set sail," demanded Gimli.
"I will not leave while you remain," said Legolas tiredly. "You know this."
"And how shall I feel during this time? Did you think of it? Believe you that I wish to spend my remaining years watching you count the minutes until I die? It would make a poor imitation of our friendship!"
"Gimli," gasped Legolas. "How can you utter such terrible words? Never would I feel impatience for your death! Never!!" The Elf trembled in revulsion against the idea.
"I apologize for the harshness of my speech," said Gimli. "I know you do not crave my death. Yet every hour you tarry here, your pain grows greater. As long as Aragorn lived, you found much purpose still by serving him. The knowledge that you were for him a source of loyalty, wisdom, and love held your longing for the sea at bay. But what of the future? Shall you spend the rest of our time in Aglarond? Or do you wish me to leave the Glittering Caves for good and stay with you in Ithilien?"
"I do not know," replied Legolas. "I have no ready answers to all your questions, for I have not yet thought as far ahead."
"But I have -- Legolas!" cried Gimli, and he waited until his friend met his gaze at last. The vast ocean of pain he beheld in the Elf's eyes was like a blow to the body, yet Gimli had learned over many years to endure the full force of an Elven stare.
"It is time for you to leave. Better a painful end, than pain without an end in sight," said the Dwarf passionately. "Even if you never spoke of the sea again, never showed an outward sign of your longing, I would still *know* of it. Remember, Legolas. I sat behind you on Arod's back when first you heard the cry of the gulls. I stood at your side when your eyes first looked upon the waters of Belegaer.
"I would rather part from you forever, knowing that your suffering has ended, than watch this... this poison! darkening your existence."
Legolas shook his head in denial. "My suffering, as you call it, would not end. Do you not see that, Gimli? How could I sail over Sea with a light heart while leaving behind my dearest friend to live his remaining years alone?"
'Hardly alone.' The thought sprang up in Gimli's mind, yet he did not speak it aloud, for he knew what Legolas had meant. As much as he loved the friends and kinsmen who had come to the Glittering Caves, they could never replace this Elf who had wormed his way into Gimli's life to become the most important person therein.
"Please, my friend," begged Legolas. "Let us cease to argue. It is a fruitless effort. My mind was made up a long time ago."
Gimli complied, but glowering at his friend, he crossed his arms in annoyance, thinking: 'My mind has been made up, also, and it has not yet been determined whether my efforts will truly prove to be fruitless!'
While thinking of the dispute which had taken place two days ago, Gimli had nearly completed his morning routine. Sitting on a low stool, he finished braiding his hair, which still retained some of its original colour.
His preparations were all in place, he needed only to harden his heart ere he followed up on his plans. He grimaced. 'I have not even truly mourned the passing of our King. Not much longer and I will surely burst from all these locked up feelings!'
He stood and went to the chest at the foot of his bed. Breathing deeply, he opened it and then stared at its contents for a moment.
What he was about to do went against his nature in almost every sense. Yet the worry he felt for his friend had proven stronger than any other reason and objection his mind had come up with.
Years ago he had decided for himself that, if it ever came to a time when he had to fear for the life of his friend, he would force Legolas to leave these shores. His heart had cried out at the prospect of deceiving or injuring his dearest friend. Yet he also felt sure, that he would rather live in the knowledge that the Elf had parted with hatred for the Dwarf, than stand by in silence while Legolas wasted away. His friend seemed to have forgotten that his race was capable of dying from grief. Gimli would sooner suffer eternal torment than watch this come to pass.
When Legolas had begun to build the ship which would one day take him over Sea -- despite his protestations that he would not sail in the foreseeable future -- he had unwittingly provided the Dwarf with an idea and given him the means to see his plans through.
Gimli had then employed the help of his apprentice, Ghân. If truth be told, he had shamelessly taken advantage of the devotion the Wood Man felt for his adopted father. For when Ghân, the grandson of the very man who had lead Théoden and the Rohirrim to the battle of the Pelennor Fields, had left the forest, he had also left behind his name and all the rights that came with it. He had forsaken his people to learn of the ways of other races in Middle-earth. Unlike all other Woses he had been curious about the world outside his homeland woods. Secretly he had spied on the comings and goings on the roads between Rohan and Gondor, fascinated by all the different folk who travelled there. He was the first and only one of his race to be drawn out into the open, to feel a desire to be part of the alliances and friendships between the peoples of Middle-earth that had been formed after the War of the Ring. He had given up the protection of his family and the right to use his father's name when he had at last found the courage to walk into Edoras.
Éomer had been amused, though he had not shown it, and when he noticed Ghân's childlike fascination with all crafted things, he had sent him to Aglarond with one of his Riders. To this day Gimli suspected the King of a prank, yet nobody could have foreseen what had happened then.
When they had lifted Ghân from the horse, the young man had been scared nearly witless. The King's messenger had told Gimli how the poor thing had clung to him like a leech during the ride and had wailed into his back continuously. The Lord of the Glittering Caves could well understand someone's fear of horses, even if he had learned to endure such experiences. Therefore it had been with pity that Gimli had first looked upon Ghân, and with good will. And after learning more about the young man, and convincing himself of his true determination, it had not taken long until Gimli had accepted him as his apprentice.(**)
Now, years later, Ghân considered the Dwarf a father, or godfather, and he had asked for permission to call himself Gimli's son. Having no offspring, Gimli had gladly granted the right. Among the peoples of Middle-earth it was a common thing, indeed a question of pride, to use one's father's name, and when the Wood Man had referred to himself as Ghân-buri-Gimli for the first time, many had been glad for him, and also for Gimli's fortune in finding an apprentice in whom to entrust his knowledge and craft.
Gimli smiled, half fondly and half sadly, for their farewell had been hard, and he had not yet the heart to think of it. The Dwarf remembered instead the day on which he had first approached his apprentice with his plans. Ghân had been unsure. Still his devotion had been such that he had not questioned the rightness of their conspiracy. He had given his support whole-heartedly, and with his help Gimli had created the device which would now aid him in the deception of, and attack on his friend.
Reaching into the chest, he took out a bottle containing the potion that would render the Dwarf immune against the poison he was about to handle. Closing his eyes and silencing the voice of his conscience, he opened the bottle and drank its contents. Then he pulled on his leather gloves and lifted from the chest the net he would cast on his friend.
Legolas stared into the darkness which covered the fields below. He had not looked up to the stars once during the night, or the nights before. No, the stars did not offer any solace. He felt dark and hollow in their face, and he dared not confront their light. The parting of one friend after the other had taken something from him every time, and Elessar's death had left him with an inner emptiness he could scarcely comprehend. He felt adrift, and therefore had hardly dared to move lest he simply float away on a breeze. Surely the feeling was only temporary... Still, it had seemed safer somehow to remain rooted to one place.
His sense of time, however, was undisturbed, and it told him that Gimli would soon arrive for the first of his daily visits.
'Gimli!' Legolas breathed deeply at the thought of his friend. 'You will ground me to this place... make sure that my feet stay firmly on the earth. Your presence shall fill this void. Were it not for you, I would surely go mad.'
As though his thoughts had magically gathered his friend, he heard the sound of steps approaching. The steel tips of Gimli's boots echoed faintly on the streets of Minas Tirith. And these days there was also an unusual heaviness, inaudible unless one had Elven ears. It was one of the many signs of the worry and grief surrounding the Dwarf. Even now his friend's presence exuded great pain. To Legolas' senses it seemed as a dark cloud, veiling Gimli's inner light. And there was a sharp note to it which alarmed the Elf. Yet ere he could turn around to discern its cause, he became aware of some *thing* descending upon him.
It was hardly visible, but felt like a kind of cloth, like the sheerest silk, light and transparent. At once it seemed to wrap itself around his body, and when Legolas tried to wipe it away, it clung to his fingers, reminding him of the dangerous cobwebs of Mirkwood's spiders.
He struggled against the fabric's hold, but soon noticed that his movements were clumsy and his limbs did not obey his command. He was overcome by a sudden dizziness and he swayed. His sight seemed to dim, to narrow.
Fear gripped him. He strengthened his efforts and tried to turn towards Gimli in order to alert him to his problem, when his legs gave out and he fell. His head rolled to the side on impact, and there stood his friend. The Dwarf seemed frozen to the ground, his eyes wide with horror.
"Gimli," cried Legolas, his voice a rough croak that would have made him wince had he still the control of his muscles. He felt as though, one after the other, his senses were failing, and he was helpless to resist. What was happening to him? Was this what he had feared? Would he not float away, but cease to function?
"Forgive me," whispered Gimli.
Uncomprehending, he stared at his friend. "What-?" He had to swallow around a sudden lump in his throat. Why was Gimli simply standing there, instead of coming to his aid? And what was he apologizing --
'No!' His heart would surely be the next organ to fail, for in this moment it ceased a beat and then resumed its throb thrice as quickly as before. What had Gimli done?
The Dwarf drew near and knelt down beside Legolas, yet he did not touch or help him in any way.
"Do not fight," said Gimli, his dark eyes shining with unshed tears. "There will be no pain. You will not be harmed."
Slowly the realization trickled into his awareness that the Dwarf had somehow caused this state. Not willing to believe, he asked: "What is- - ?"
"Try not to speak." His friend cut short the question. "Soon you will fall asleep. The... the potion works swiftly, and painlessly... I made sure of this."
The truth overtook Legolas then. Understanding came upon him, as well as knowledge of what Gimli had planned. "No, Gimli," whispered the Elf, shaking his head in denial. "Release me, please..."
A deathly fright took possession of the Elf. Gimli did not move, gave no sign that he would help him, although he wept openly now.
Legolas increased his efforts once more to free himself of the web that was spun about him. Every motion was a struggle, every word almost beyond his remaining strength. He tried to implore the Dwarf with his eyes. 'We must not part like this!' cried his heart. He wanted to scream the words. How could his friend do this to him? His mind refused to accept the idea. Would he be stuffed into a sack and carried away like a piece of luggage? Would Gimli then dump him onto his ship and simply cut the ropes tethering him to these shores?
"No," moaned Legolas. "Gimli, no..." He tried to lift his hands, reaching out to his friend, but they were like lead and nearly all strength had left him. His arms fell to his side, useless.
The Dwarf moved at last, taking Legolas' hands into his own. But any hope of relief was in vain, for Gimli did naught else, and even the anticipation of his friend's touch, of being comforted by its warmth, died at once. The Dwarf wore gloves made of a thick leather which did not allow for the strong pulse of his blood to be felt by the Elf's dwindling perception.
Hopelessness was then the only feeling left. 'I shall not even receive a last touch,' thought Legolas desperately. 'Without a final embrace, I am sent away...' Had he had the strength left, he would have closed his eyes then. Instead he was forced to gaze upon the Dwarf as long as his sight still remained. Already it seemed to him as though he was peering through a dark tunnel. Something pulled him backwards, and the light at the end, Gimli's image, became more and more distant. And of a sudden, although just moments ago he had wanted to turn his eyes from Gimli, he wished for nothing more than to cling to the image, for the knowledge sank into him, and pained him like a twisting knife in his heart, that this would be the last time he looked upon his friend. This would be the picture he would take with him over the sea, which would have to last him through eternity.
He fastened his gaze on Gimli's face, anchoring himself to the Dwarf's dark eyes which were surrounded by deep lines of anguish.
His vision blurred. Through his own tears he caught a last hazy glimpse of his friend, when darkness took him. His final impressions were the smell of salt, and Gimli's broken whisper "it's for the best.... all will be well..."
Legolas awoke to the creaking of ropes and the sounds of wind and water. The ground below him swayed gently. Light filtered through his closed eyelids; night had turned into day during his unnatural sleep. The only thing that remained the same was the scent of salt water.
His inert knowledge of the passing of time told him that three days at least had gone by while he lay unconscious.
His other senses, too, had returned to him, therefore he was able to taste a bitterness like bile on his tongue, and feel the warmth of smooth wood under his hands. The slight ache in his bones told him that he had remained in the same position for too long.
Above all, however, he felt a soul-deep agony which caused almost unbearable pain in his breast. It seemed as though his heart had been gripped by iron claws.
Never had he been so utterly alone... sent away by the one he had trusted most, who knew him best, and whom he had shared everything with, his saddest moments, deepest thoughts and greatest joys.
Legolas rolled to the side, drew up his legs, and pressed his face to his knees, curling around the pain. His hands pushed against his ribs, trying to counteract the ache. Surely this could not be born!
'Gimli...' A sob escaped his throat as the weight of his loneliness crushed him. Glóin's faithless son had abandoned him to the mercy of Belegaer. Never would he be able to find happiness now. Already he cursed his Elven memory. There would be no reprieve for him, not in a thousand years; every joy tainted by the taste of salt. His longing for the sea would be turned into loathing, the waters' beauty only a reminder of the uncrossable distance separating him from the one on its eastern shores. Another sob broke free, and another. Leaving behind all sense of pride and self, and his surroundings, he let the grief overwhelm him.
(*) Fourth Age -- 1541 in the reckoning of the Shire.
(**) The full story about these events has been told in the Chronicles of Aglarond, therefore we need not go into detail here.
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003