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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: An AU sequel to The Hobbit. What if Bilbo had never managed to free the Dwarves from Mirkwood, and Thorin and Thranduil had agreed instead to send Dwarven slaves to Mirkwood, in return for Thorin's freedom? And what if Gimli was one of the slaves? And what if he was commanded to serve Legolas? Ah, what then?
A/N: A long story. Ro drew the picture , but it was Jaime who suggested the premise. I wrote the first scene, and left it open to any takers, and it was continued mostly by Dís. Then I made the mistake of rewriting the initial first scene ... and inspiration struck. Have tried to keep as close to the original text though.
Thanks to Isos Arei and Adina for looking over this.
PREMISE: When Thorin was imprisoned by Thranduil, Bilbo never
managed to free him. Instead, Thorin had to bargain his way out,
and since he flatly refused to part with Thranduil's asking-price
(a half-share of the gold) he pledged instead to send slaves - the
children of his companions.
Additional premise: exploring Lisa's
Nefarious Legolas Parentage Theory - Legolas as illegitimate child
Glóin had wept as he had broken the news - wept as Gimli had never seen him weep before.
"Thorin has no children," he had said with tears, his hand trembling where it gripped Gimli's shoulder. "He cannot understand what he does to us. And now you my son must pay the price of our victory."
He had explained, and Gimli had thought he understood: how that Thorin had bought his freedom and the aid of the Elven-King with the promise of servants, swearing to send the first born of his companions in exchange for the aid that would win him the Lonely Mountain. It had been that or a half- portion of the treasure; and Thorin had never borne children.
Gimli had thought he understood.
The chains did not pain him badly, not the wide iron bands at his wrists or the looser ones which bound his ankles - not even the fist-thick iron ring around his neck, which bruised and chafed even the hardened hides of the Dwarves. No, the Elves were not given to cruelty. They had inflicted no pain upon him.
That was small comfort, though. If he had been in pain - if he had been injured, then at least he would have been able to wear shackles without shame, a reluctant prisoner rather than a voluntary one, sold by his lord in payment of an honour-debt. At least, too, he would have had some distraction from the faint currents of cool air that brushed and stirred at what little was left of his beard.
He did not look at the others - at his cousin Oli or Burin, Balin's son or even at Vigdís, Dwalin's only child, whose femininity the keen-eyed Elves had not even detected, the only first-born daughter of Thorin's companions who did not have a brother to take her place. Each in turn had had their beards neatly trimmed at the quick impersonal hands of a dark-haired Elf, who probably knew and cared nothing for the disgrace she was visiting on those she tended.
None had been able to meet her eye, once their faces were shorn - or rather none save Vigdís, who had stared the Elf-woman down with condemnatory eyes, and then turned her back and strode to the back of their group, shedding her tears at the desecration in disciplined, motionless silence, unnoted by any except Gimli.
For Durin's folk, only condemned criminals wore their beards shorn.
The Elf was leading them now through the arched stone corridors of the Elven-King's castle. It was said to have been cut under the earth like caves, and yet so pale, and so airy was it, that it could have been the streets of a Mannish town. Their feet crunched on the rushes strewn underfoot, and she cast them a disdainful backward glance, as if their bruising of the reeds displeased her, or the clanking of their chains as they walked, or the way their feet shuffled heavily along the floor.
* * *
Legolas had been about to return to his duties when the knock came at his door.
Normally he would simply have opened it himself, but there was a slight officious tone about the knock that bade him stand on ceremony. He removed his travelling cloak and weapons once more, and then called to enter, watching patiently as the door opened.
The petitioner was Elwen, a maiden of the Eastern woods, and she seemed to be bringing with her - a Dwarf?
A Dwarf in chains, clad only in undyed woollen breeches, and with his auburn beard cut very short and his hair braided very tight. Flames danced in the darkness of his eyes, and under his tanned skin the muscles moved and shifted in a mechanical battle of wills.
Legolas stared at this apparition for fully sixty seconds.
"What means this, Elwen?" he asked more in surprise than discourtesy. "Are we to make slaves of the Naugrim?"
The Elf-maiden tossed her head impatiently. "Not so. This Dwarf is of those given by the King of the Dwarves, in return for our King's aid. They are to be the slaves of the royal line as long as they live." Her face was lined with a distaste which was probably not for the fate of the captives. "You, as the King's son, have been honoured with one.
It was not customary to honour the King's unofficial children so. There were obviously more slaves than King Thranduil had legitimate progeny, and so the King had clearly decided to display his generosity to those of his children who were not truly royal.
"I have no use for a slave."
"It is yours." Elwen turned and left, with less courtesy than when she had entered, leaving the fettered creature behind him, the chains that she had held striking the cavern floor in a discordant cascade.
"I leave for the Western border at nightfall," Legolas called after her, knowing the words futile. From tonight's new moon until the next he had command of the Western Guard - and was he to take a Dwarven slave with him, and be followed by a a clanking, rattling boulder through the forest?
Legolas gazed down at his new possession in silence, for once abandoned by his normal eloquence. The Dwarf stared straight ahead, not once meeting his gaze, his eyes flickering between anger and shame.
"I do not wish for a slave," Legolas said aloud in the common tongue. The creature did not react, unless the shifting and tightening of muscles in his shoulders and back could be called a reaction.