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by Isos Arei
Warnings: Spoilers - Fellowship of the Ring and Silmarillion
Disclaimer: Gimli and Legolas are the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Summary: Often he took Gimli with him when he went abroad in the land, and the others wondered at this change.
They call themselves the Speakers, and sometimes it seems they still believe they are the only ones in all of Middle-earth. First-made, First-born, and First-loved, highcrafters of words and shapers of songs the Elves may be. But when they met us at the first, they called us not iron-workers or even axe-wielders. Perhaps they had already known too much hardship, and had but little love left for naming, but since that time we have ever been the Stunted, and the Stunted are not Speakers.
But Dwarves were First-made, too, and Stunted is not the name first given to us. For we are Children of Mahal the Smith, who forged us under the mountains and taught us speech before all else. Mahal gave us skill in words as well as in bright stones and shining metal, and Mahal it was who instructed us that true naming and true making are bound together -- and that the language he gave us would tie us always one to another, kin forever.
Mahal said this also: that almost from the moment of our becoming, the Dwarves came into grief, and would know more grief before the End, yet he made us not in grief but in joy. And so he called us the Well-named, the Well-wrought, the Well-loved.
Ever after we have guarded our language with care. We change it little and do not allow it to diminish, in memory of our ancient making by Mahal. A jaw-breaker language it may be to others, but to us it is beautiful and sacred, the foundation of an entire people. We do not easily share it. To know it is to know what makes our hearts burn and what it means to walk alone, even as Durin the Deathless gazing upon the cruel heights and cold waters.
But the Lady of Lothlorien knows. She speaks with reverence the ancient names that are as the blood of the fathers within us. She sees that the Children of Mahal, having not the knowledge to make the mountains and the streams, turned their hearts to the giving of such names for them as would be passed down in lore.
So, too, she sees that we are driven to forge, to carve, to create things within our capacity -- driven too often to our sorrow, and others'. But she judges us not harshly, understanding that our desire is moved by love, in remembrance of our past and in anticipation of the time, as Mahal has taught, when we may aid him in true making and help the Maker of Mahal in the rebuilding of Middle-earth. For then perhaps our own making will come to its fulfillment. Made in joy, we may be accepted in joy, true Children at last of the Maker and the Smith. Until then, though Elves and Men have allied and mingled, Dwarves walk apart, yet maybe not completely alone.
The Lady Galadriel understands.
The Lady, and perhaps one other.
:: :: :: ::
Legolas sought me, the third day in Caras Galadhon, though I had left the other companions to grieve alone. Balin, son of Fundin brother of my father's father, was lord no more of ancient mansions. Balin of Durin's line, felled by arrows near the Mirrormere. Oin my father's brother, and Ori, and Frar and Loni and Nali, and more besides. Too many more. Grief upon grief, and even the grace of the Lady could only ease so much. I made no movement from my seat beneath the trees, but Legolas did not go.
He regarded me warily, but also kindly. After a moment, he said, "Gimli, I have found a place, fair even by the measure of Lorien, where sadness seems not to abide." Here he paused as if unsure, and then his voice was grave. "If you will forgive my rash words regarding the necks of Dwarves, I would take us there. Gandalf bade us be friends."
At mention of Gandalf, fresh grief arose, and yet it seemed I could feel my heart kindling. Even sorrow may be tinged with joy.
I stood and bowed. "Faithless would I be to break friendship with one who pulled my neck to safety in the Chamber of Records."
"Nay," answered Legolas, clasping my shoulder, "faithful is he who stays to mourn a fallen kinsman even at the peril of his own life."
Hearing his words, I thought a vision passed before my eyes -- of Balin as he should have been: proud and unweary, arrayed in armor bright with jewels, bringing light and song back to Dwarrowdelf under the mountains. "I will walk with you, Legolas," I said. "I will tell you of Balin, descendant of Durin, and Oin, and many others, and try to leave the sadness for a little."
And so we walked, and spoke, and ere long reached a place where the leaves were like to living gold, tended and shaped by careful hands and set blade by blade upon stems of truesilver. There Legolas asked suddenly, "What is your word for kinsman?"
"Why would you know?" I asked in haste, and regretted the mistrust that sounded so clearly in the air of Lorien. But it was true that I wondered if he knew what he was asking.
Legolas turned not away, and he said: "I would know it, Gimli, to understand what Balin truly meant to you."
:: :: :: ::
The next day we walked past winter flowers like glinting beryl scattered upon the grass. He spoke of his youth in Greenwood before the shadow, of beech-trees still fair beneath the sun, of trailing ivy carved upon the columns in the halls of the Elvenking. Before we rejoined the others, Legolas said, "Whatever passed between your father and mine, the son of Gloin and the son of Thranduil should repeat it not."
So it was, in fair Lothlorien, that we told each other such stories as had not been shared between his people and mine for many long years, and some stories that perhaps had never been shared at all. And sometimes he would stop me to ask for the names of things, and tell me the same in his own language. We spoke also of Gandalf, and as it was before, so was it now that hearts could not remain unkindled at the thought of our guide and leader, though he was lost to us.
One day I did not meet Legolas until night had fallen. A wind moved in the trees, and where it parted the leaves, the sky above was filled with faceted gems that glistened against the darkness. "The stars that lie in the Mirrormere are without compare," said I, "and yet they are more beautiful that shine in this land."
"Ah, Gimli!" he said. "Elf-friend, star-lover. Teach me your words for the breath of the night wind through the trees and the light of stars set into the sky."
I spoke them, and he repeated the words to me, and it seemed I heard my own voice sounding beneath his. "What other words would you wish to learn, Legolas?" I asked him then. "I will tell them to you, if I can, while the gold upon the leaves has not yet faded from memory."
"I would know these, Gimli: separation, estrangement, and regret," he said softly, "but also gladness, and friendship, and union."
Those words I shared in the starlight beneath the trees. Legolas learned them and many more. Later it was for me to learn his words for not-alone and not-apart.
Before that night the Children of the Smith had not those words.
Still later there were simply no words, save for 'Gimli', spoken as though Mahal himself had newly wrought me, and 'Legolas', the sound of which seemed to move him more than any song.
:: :: :: ::
Long ago Mahal the Smith forged the Dwarves in sacred halls beneath the mountains. Speech he taught us and words he crafted for us, to remind us always of our kinship one to another. We came to grief, and walked alone, and seldom shared with others the language that was Mahal's gift against the chances and hardships of Middle-earth. And never has one of us shared with others his secret name -- his true name that is bound with the ancient making -- for none has ever wished another to know him entirely.
But this I know: twilight falls on Lorien, but perhaps not yet upon the world. Sorrow may be tinged with joy, and I wish to walk with Legolas. Today when he seeks me, and asks what words and stories we will share, I shall answer, "I would hear all that you desire, my friend, but first I will tell you my name."
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Issue No.: 2.6
Site Last Updated: 11 May 2003