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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: "Fast friends"" doesn''t mean it was smoothàà Legolas/Gimli friendship origins
The Fellowship of the Ring: ‘A Journey in the Dark'
‘Well, here we are at last!' said Gandalf. ‘Here the Elven-way from Hollin ended. Holly was the token of the people of that land, and they planted it here to mark the end of their domain; for the West-door was made chiefly for their use in their traffic with the Lords of Moria. Those were happier days, when there was still close friendship at times between folk of different race, even between Dwarves and Elves.'
‘It was not the fault of the Dwarves that the friendship waned,' said Gimli.
‘I have not heard that it was the fault of the Elves,' said Legolas.
‘I have heard both,' said Gandalf; ‘and I will not give judgment now. But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both.'
~ Words with the Wise and Weary ~
Legolas mounted the stairs behind the messenger, his eyes on his feet despite the beauty of Lothlórien spread out on the ground below and in the trees around him. The lament for Gandalf continued, filling the air, drifting from where the Elves continued to mourn. Spiraling higher and higher toward the luminous royal talan, it seemed with each step he could see more of the splendors of the Golden Wood and could feel more harshly how it was entirely lost on him in his current state of mind.
The messenger halted at the foot of the steps that ascended to the ruling chambers, standing silently beside Legolas to await the Lord of Lórien. They did not have to wait for long.
‘Son of Thranduil,' Celeborn greeted, gracefully descending the stairs to stand beside him, lacking all the ceremony of his previous entrance. ‘I only just sent for you. I thank you for your ready attendance.'
‘The hospitality of you and your lady deserves more than punctuality,' said Legolas, bowing his head in respect, ‘but as I have nothing to give beyond it, it is at your command.'
Receiving a nod from the liege of the land, the messenger quickly departed down the stairs. ‘A kind sentiment,' Celeborn said. ‘And not unlike those spoken by the man Aragorn.' His eyes narrowed, framed by his silver hair, and Legolas instantly felt the weight of his inspection. ‘Though short of words, the hardship of your journey shone plainly on his face and in his eyes…as it shows in yours as well.'
Legolas lowered his gaze, though the comment did not surprise him; he had long assumed that the ability to read others was not solely a talent of Galadriel's. ‘In the beauty of your land, we had lost our woes, for a time,' he said. ‘Now, within the comforts of Caras Galadhon, they return.'
Celeborn moved to stand in front of the younger Elf, inclining his head to force eye contact. ‘While my lady Galadriel concerns herself with the necessary and weighty burdens of the Ring-bearer, I turn my attention to those of the rest of the company, and I find much of my interest falls on you,' he said.
‘My burdens are nothing when compared to those with whom I travel and they certainly do not warrant the attention of Celeborn the Wise,' Legolas uttered.
‘I am glad to hear you say so for it means you, at least, do not think your troubles insurmountable,' the liege reasoned. ‘But small though they may be, your troubles do concern me. Even Celeborn the Wise may play favorites.' He smiled warmly. ‘I have not heard your voice among the others in lament. Why do you not sing to ease your grief?'
‘My heart is not yet light enough to do so,' Legolas explained. He did not say that it felt as though it might not be again, nor that the depth of his sorrow was a worry for him as well, for he could not best serve the quest in a body wracked with grief. But to the intense scrutiny of Celeborn he presented a light smile. ‘I do believe that before my stay here has ended, I will join in the lament.'
Celeborn lifted his head, looking down on him with a skeptical gaze. Legolas sighed faintly, knowing that his attempt at deception, half-hearted though it had been, had utterly failed.
‘That is, I hope that I will,' he amended.
‘Thank you for that attempt at accuracy,' Celeborn replied fondly. ‘Despite your well-stated argument that your worries and concerns are not worth my attention, I would like you to tell me why you only "hope" and do not "know."'
‘Those who sing,' Legolas began carefully. ‘They did not pass these last weeks in the wizard's company. They did not see his bravery and leadership…they did not watch him fall.' Tears burned behind Legolas' eyes even as the lament swelled louder. ‘I do not doubt their grief; I simply do not know how to lighten my heart to join them.'
Celeborn looked upon him with a gaze that radiated compassion. Legolas could feel it all around him. ‘Time will always be the greatest healer, but it is also a notorious dawdler and there are ways to speed its affects,' he said. ‘I would recommend you find one. The company needs you, Legolas. They need your mind and your heart on the quest and the quest alone.
‘I bid you search your memory,' he continued. ‘In all lives that end, there lies a key for those who mourn to find joy within the pain. The answer is there and only waits to be found. And when you have, I ask you return and join in song with the others. It will do their grief good to hear you sing out yours.'
‘Your advice is sound,' Legolas said. ‘But I do not know how to follow it.'
To his surprise, Celeborn broke into amused laughter. ‘I fear I have underestimated the insight of my Northern kin,' he cried, ‘for I have told you nothing you did not already know! You have long since discovered the key, have you not, Legolas?'
‘I have, but I do not know what to do with it,' Legolas answered honestly.
The Lord of Lórien chuckled softly to himself, looking upon Legolas with infinite affection. ‘I will not waste your time with more of my perspicacious understandings for I believe you know yourself quite well enough to be your own guide.' He clamped a hand on Legolas' shoulder. ‘Trust yourself in this matter and all others,' he said with a smile. ‘It is a foolish Elf who would ignore the counsel of Legolas the Wise.'
Beneath the warmth and light of Celeborn's visage, Legolas felt a genuine smile cross his features. ‘I cannot accept such a title even in jest,' he refused kindly. ‘And certainly not tonight when Legolas the Confused seems a better fit.'
‘What has you confused, then? Perhaps those who mistakenly call themselves Wise may still be of some aid,' Celeborn said.
Legolas hesitated. Somehow, saying his thoughts aloud, revealing to another what his grief-laden memory had brought him meant he could no longer ignore it as he had done. If he spoke of it, he forced himself to action. Unpleasant action.
‘My mind returns to words spoken at the doors of Moria,' said Legolas finally. ‘There, Gandalf spoke of happier days when friendship existed between Dwarves and Elves.'
Long, hard days later, Legolas could still hear the disappointment in the wizard's rumbling voice as he spoke of the end of those happier times. Unbidden, a longing awoke in his heart; how he yearned to feel happiness again.
Celeborn's expression became serious and the gravity in his face chilled the younger Elf standing before him. ‘I begin to understand,' he said. Then, with a sympathetic smile, he shook his head. ‘But I cannot help you. I do not recall what ended the friendship and I do not know what is needed for it to grow once again. A dwarf's presence in these woods is a start, but if my own misjudgments are an indication, the end is still very far off.
‘I can only wish you luck, Son of Thranduil, and leave you with these words: What you feel Gandalf wished of you has not been tried for many years, perhaps not even within your lifetime. Keep that perspective, for what you begin, others may finish.' He leveled his eyes with Legolas'. ‘If you cannot make a tree,' he said, ‘then simply plant the seeds.'
Gimli sat in the shadow of the woods, sharpening the blade of his dwarf-axe, though it did not need it. The light from the pavilion glowed only dimly in his direction, swallowed by the silvery darkness of the trees.
The heart-aching music of the Elves continued all around him, filling his head, and he was happy the music was light, almost reverential, rather than dark and somber. He was unsure his heart could have taken it if it were otherwise. As it was he knew the full beauty of the song wasn't reaching him; couldn't reach him in this state of mind.
Moments later, footsteps approached, crunching in the fallen leaves, and Aragorn crouched down before him. ‘Master Gimli,' he said, ‘you do not sit with the others. They speak of Gandalf now. It might do your sadness good to speak of happy memories.'
‘Do not trouble yourself,' Gimli refused, his attentions focused solely on the care of his weapon. ‘You have far more pressing concerns now, Aragorn. I will return in time.'
Not heeding him, the Ranger lowered himself to the ground and leaned back, sharing the tree. ‘Though we would all wish it otherwise,' said Aragorn, ‘it seems I am now the leader of this company. That makes all those in it - including you - my concern. I need you strong, Gimli. I need you unburdened.'
Gimli laughed hollowly. ‘I fear you ask too much,' he said.
‘I am sure I do,' Aragorn uttered. ‘These times are most unfair in their demands, but we must all endeavor to be…more than we are.' He smiled faintly. ‘If you do not find solace in speaking with your fellows, will you speak with me?'
No, Gimli thought to answer. He wanted to sit quietly with his axe and let his grief and worries wash over him, or to climb another towering staircase and see the kindness of Galadriel's eyes again, or to wander about and frighten a few Elves by the sudden appearance of a dwarf. He wanted to do many things, but he did not want to talk.
Nor did he want to callously dismiss their new leader. ‘Perhaps I should be less solitary,' he conceded.
‘Perhaps,' Aragorn mused, seeming uncertain. ‘Though we all knew it to be a possibility, we did not expect this. I, myself, feel as though I would like to stay years within these borders, but our task will not allow it. Time and the Enemy press on and so we must do the same. We must each of us find the quickest way to drive grief from our minds and bodies and return to the quest.'
‘I agree,' said Gimli, ‘but my mind is a terrible companion sometimes, Aragorn. It suggests ridiculous solutions to serious problems.'
The Dwarf realized he was close to exposing the ludicrous notions that the strain of the journey and the company's loss had put into his mind. The only path Gimli saw before him to achieve some sense of purpose and closure was an unpleasant one. He did not want to journey down it. In fact, at that exact moment, he would have rather walked blindfolded and naked into Mordor.
‘And like us all, I do not suppose yours is such that merely wishing to reach the solution is enough?' Aragorn chuckled.
‘No, the thought is not what counts, unfortunately,' Gimli replied, ‘though perhaps that is in my favor, for I do not wish to do it at all. If my thoughts counted, I might be facing a very difficult task, indeed.' He feigned a bit of laughter for the sake of Aragorn.
‘It has seemed to me that our actions alone speak for us on this journey,' the swordsman said. ‘I would not imagine your personal quest to be any different.'
‘This place has an odd affect on a dwarf, I think,' Gimli said, his eyes drifting to their ethereal surroundings. ‘It has me thinking that the Lady of this land was not what I had expected and so others might be as well.'
‘By your musings, I would guess your mind dwells upon Gandalf's words at Moria,' Aragorn said.
‘Indeed, it does,' said Gimli, shocked, ‘but I am surprised you remember. It was such an idle comment and addressed only to the Elf and I.'
‘No words of Gandalf were idle and those to whom he speaks remember what he says, if they have sense,' Aragorn explained, ‘as I know both you and Legolas do.
‘I can tell you how it is to be among the Elves,' he continued with a sigh that seemed to press upon Gimli's heart, ‘but it would likely be useless for I imagine being a dwarf among Elves is something quite different. I am uncertain how to lead this company and if that succeeds, how to lead the race of Men, so I cannot begin to know how to repair the divide between your two peoples.'
With his every word, Gimli felt as though another parcel were being added to his pack, weighing him down. ‘I can only say this, Gimli: It is in both of you to heal a great rift, but know that we all of us strive for an end we may never see.'
~ Dwarves and Elves ~
Legolas wandered through the trees, trailing his fingertips along the bark of each as he passed, taking comfort in the familiar sensation. Though headed in the general direction of the pavilion, he had to confess, at least to himself, that he was talking the long way there.
Celeborn's words, though they had helped him, had also brought more sharply into focus what it was he thought to do: befriend the Dwarves. That is what Gandalf had asked of him. Be friends with the Dwarf.
He knew just what Dwarves were like and it was not what he desired in a friend. They were loud, greedy, stubborn, ugly - everything Elves were not. And more importantly, he knew exactly what they thought of Elves. They thought Elves to be unfeeling, unfriendly, lacking in skill and power simply because they chose not to root through the earth searching for riches.
Why dig for beauty when it was so easily found in the trees and the stars and the water? Legolas wondered. The land above was full of more loveliness than he could appreciate in his immortal lifetime, so why did the Dwarves need to cleave into the heart of the earth to find more?
Legolas supposed that it was the serenity born of immortality that Dwarves misinterpreted as unfeeling and unfriendly, for he knew well that his kin were neither. That the Dwarves could not see that was baffling. They must be hard of sight, he decided, for they could not see beauty or kindness when it simply stood before them. No, they felt they must dig to find treasures worth finding.
The familiar heat of irritation slicked through Legolas' limbs like oil. In every way, the company Dwarf, Gimli, son of Glóin, had perfectly represented his race. He was stubborn, Legolas had observed, and in the cursed Mines of Moria, he had seen beauty.
And yet, Legolas forced himself to admit, he had also seen beauty in Lady Galadriel and in that the Elf could not fault him. More baffling still was that that wondrous lady seemed to have seen beauty in the Dwarf as well. Though it made his mind feel full of clouds, he had to acknowledge the possibility that the Dwarf might not be entirely without merit, despite being a Dwarf.
But, for all its daunting implications, making peace with Gimli was the easiest task before him. It was evidently only a start.
His mind replayed over and over again Celeborn's parting words and each seemed to knock the wind from his lungs. Is that truly what Gandalf had asked of him? Had he misinterpreted the wizard's words? he wondered.
And yet, somehow it was fitting: as long as they remained at the Ring-bearer's side, they bore the hope and fate of Middle-earth with every step. Gandalf had made clear the necessity of unifying all the free peoples and within that the Elves and Dwarves were the most divided. It simply made sense that that is what he would ask.
Legolas quickly decided it was a far wiser - or more foolish - Elf than he who would question the thoughts and words of Gandalf, Galadriel and Celeborn all three. His shoulders squared and his body strengthened with new resolve, he turned in the direction of the pavilion where his companions rested.
He had been there only hours ago to have an uncomfortable and strained visit over a meal. Their memories thick with thoughts of the wizard, they had spoken of everything but.
He heard voices now, coming from the pavilion, low and sad, but voices nonetheless. He paused at the top of the stairs, listening. ‘Do you remember the first time we saw his fireworks, Pip?' Merry asked softly.
Legolas peered down to see little Pippin huddled amongst the other hobbits, his head resting mournfully on Merry's shoulder. He could only nod in reply, the tears lining his eyes catching in the silver lamplight. He, too, Legolas noted, could not yet trust his voice to release his grief.
Silently, the Elf stepped down into the clearing, receiving a nod of greeting from Aragorn, their weary new leader. His leonine face looked drawn and worn. The burden he bore was no less than the grief he felt and Legolas worried for him. But he was not why he had come.
Far on the other side of the trickling fountain, Gimli sat hunched over, looking not unlike the hulking rocks his people worshipped. Though Legolas could not believe it, he appeared to be sleeping.
*** Gimli listened dimly to the talk of his companions. Their voices drifted about in his mind, heard, but unacknowledged as the young hobbits recalled their fondest memories of Gandalf the Grey. He closed his eyes, wanting sleep to put distance between himself and this unhappy day, but he could not. Another unhappy day awaited him tomorrow and so peace and rest hid far away.
As Aragorn had wanted, he had shared his own stories and those his father had told him. Frodo had helped him tell the story of when his kinsman Bilbo had traveled with Gimli's father, Glóin, and the other Dwarves under Thorin's command on a quest of their own through, among other places, the spider-infested forest of Mirkwood.
The humor and innocence of Gandalf's involvement in the tale seemed somehow darkened by the knowledge that it was that seemingly trifling journey that had eventually brought all eight of them to this moment.
Gimli felt thick with sadness and talking had done little good. Grumbling quietly to himself, he realized that it had actually made it worse because Aragorn's grave words had punctuated just how ridiculous his thoughts truly were.
It was these enchanted woods, he was certain, or the unexpected kindness of Lady Galadriel that played with his reason. He felt as though a bridge had given way beneath his feet: Gandalf was gone, the fellowship was losing heart and now Elves were being nice. It was too much for a grief-stricken Dwarf to handle, so now his mind entertained unreasonable ideas like Dwarves befriending Elves.
He understood Elves perfectly; he knew what they were. They were all of them - with the exception of the magnanimous Lady Galadriel - self-important, stubborn, unfriendly know-it-alls. They thought that their immortality made them wiser than every being in Middle-earth and therefore they would talk incessantly, giving advice that no one wanted or could follow. And Gimli knew what they thought of Dwarves, too. Oh, yes, he knew that very well. They thought them unkind, unintelligent, greedy and ugly.
Unkind? Perhaps only when responding to an aloof and arrogant Elf.
Unintelligent? The assumption made Gimli bristle all over. Dwarves may not live forever, but they live for a long time and they do not wander blindly through life. He knew of many Dwarves with wisdom and knowledge far surpassing that of any snobbish Elf - except Lady Galadriel, of course.
Greedy? Naturally - and well they should be! What was so unreasonable about wanting to keep a beautiful thing once found and wanting more besides?
Ugly? Against that perception only could Gimli not passionately argue; Dwarves were not a handsome race, he knew. Even as he likened Galadriel to the brightest, loveliest star in the heavens, he had to acknowledge that, even for all their cold and distance, the other stars were pretty, too. It was nature's way, he supposed: gold and silver were trapped deep within stone - and physical beauty was squandered on the Elves. If only the Dwarves could devise a way to harvest that wasted radiance as they had for the mithril buried far underground.
The now familiar bitterness of anger rose in his throat. In all ways his recent traveling companion, Legolas, son of Thranduil, was an Elf. He had that same stubbornness, that same haughty and dismissive nature as the rest of his race.
Then again, he had traveled days through Moria and had not once mocked Dwarven architecture or culture. That did not mean, of course, that he liked it, but he had held his tongue and though Gimli felt dizzy trying to comprehend it, that meant the Elf might not be entirely without compassion, despite being an Elf.
Still, he realized that being able to admit such things was so small an accomplishment as to be nearly invisible. Reaching a peaceful understanding with Legolas was the smallest task before him.
Aragorn's words seemed to echo hollowly in the back of his mind no matter how much he tried to silence them. Had Gandalf's request really been so large? Gimli wondered, but somehow it was painfully reasonable. He represented not only himself on this quest, but the race of Dwarves, just as Legolas was the emissary of the Elves. It simply made sense that such a task would be set before them.
More importantly, the kindness in Lady Galadriel's eyes had entirely inundated his soul. She would think highly, he felt certain, of a peace between Dwarves and Elves. She would want him to try and he knew he could never deny the wish of a lady so beautiful and so kind.
Breathing in deeply the scented air of the Golden Wood, Gimli made up his mind. He had just resolved to go find the company Elf when he felt a light tap upon his shoulder.
~ Hearing ~
‘Master Dwarf,' Legolas said quietly, hoping not to disrupt the others from their healing memories. The undersized warrior lifted his head to look up at the elven intruder. ‘Gimli,' he softened, ‘would you…walk with me?'
The Dwarf's tired face twisted into a grimace and Legolas could almost hear the refusal on his tongue, but to the Elf's vague chagrin, he sighed and then said, ‘Yes.'
Legolas stepped back as Gimli hefted his podgy form from the ground and the two stood looking at one another in uncertain silence. The rest of the group had stopped speaking to stare blatantly at the unusual sight of an elf and a dwarf accepting each other's company - especially this Elf and this Dwarf.
Legolas cleared his throat uncomfortably. ‘Perhaps toward the river,' he suggested.
‘Very well,' Gimli said, moving to follow.
With a fleeting, embarrassed glance back at their puzzled companions, Legolas lead Gimli out of the pavilion. He felt the eyes of the others on their backs, deep into the shadows of the mellyrn trees, far from the glow of the silver lamps.
‘What do you suppose that was about?' he heard Merry ask, not taking into consideration the extensive range of elven hearing. When he didn't detect an answer, Legolas assumed one of the others had responded with a bewildered shrug. If Merry had asked him, he might have shrugged as well.
Gimli scuffled along beside him and Legolas could have sworn he could hear him scowling. Dwarves were not light of foot and were certainly lacking in grace - without a doubt, the Elves for several yards around knew that the Dwarf was walking through the trees - it was possible, he supposed, that Dwarves could audibly scowl.
They walked for a great distance with only their own footsteps and the mournful lament to accompany them. The Elf shortened his strides and heard Gimli scoff under his breath as if the consideration were predictably patronizing. Legolas searched his mind for something to say, even for an idle comment to end the unpleasant silence, but he simply could not imagine how to start a conversation with a dwarf.
He thought to comment on the beauty of the trees, but Dwarves did not admire such things. The music still hung in the air and he thought to mention that, but he could not imagine the Dwarf enjoyed it. Dwarves sang, that he knew, but it was different from the singing of Elves, different from what Legolas would call music. And still more perplexing was how to converse with someone whose face was half-hidden by fur.
‘If we go much further,' Gimli said, his rough voice breaking through the song, ‘I will be unable to hear the music.'
‘Oh! Dwarves like music?' Legolas asked, surprised to think he had been wrong.
Gimli laughed bitterly. ‘Yes, even Dwarves!' he cried derisively. ‘Music can reach our ears down here just as well as it reaches yours up there!'
‘I made no reference to the level of your ears,' the Elf defended quickly.
‘No?' said Gimli. ‘Then you must doubt their sharpness. They may not be pointed and we may not be able to hear a bird landing in a tree a mountain range away, but I assure you that even the ears of Dwarves know beauty when they hear it!'
‘I was not suggesting otherwise.' Legolas glanced at the fuming Dwarf beside him. ‘And I cannot hear a bird a mountain range away,' he added bitingly. ‘But perhaps I do question the sharpness of your hearing for you have clearly not heard a word I have said!'
‘I can assure I heard not only the words, but what they were meant to imply as well,' argued Gimli. ‘I can understand even your lilting voice when I am so unfortunate as to have it right next to my head!'
‘And yet you manage to hear me wrong; I am most impressed, Master Dwarf! I had no idea that Dwarves were blessed with skills so prodigious as hearing nonexistent conversations,' Legolas responded angrily. Gimli opened his mouth to counter, but Legolas quickly interrupted. ‘Will it suit you, then, to turn about? We cannot have strayed far out of your range.'
His bearded face tight in a frown, Gimli turned, staying with him. ‘It suits me just fine, Master Elf! And do not walk slowly on my account. Dwarves are not so fragile as Elves and I wish to return to the camp as quickly as possible!'
Fury swept through Legolas' limbs and a dozen harsh retorts flew to his mind, but he bit his tongue. The Dwarf was purposely misunderstanding him and he would not give him the satisfaction of becoming embroiled in another argument, not when he had come with the noblest of intentions. Just like a Dwarf, Legolas thought; he interpreted the words of an elf as an insult, no matter how innocently they had been said.
Legolas the Confused was no longer a fitting title. He understood perfectly why the friendship between the Elves and the Dwarves had waned: Dwarves were innately irrational and unfriendly. The true mystery was how such a friendship had ever existed. If one managed to grow, it was on very unstable ground from the start.
Legolas lengthened his stride. The Dwarf prided himself on being so hardy, he could keep up.
Gimli fought to keep up with the Elf's gait and struggled to discern at which of his discourtesies he was angrier. That the Elf had said that Dwarves didn't appreciate music! - it made his blood boil just to think on it.
And he had rudely tiptoed into the pavilion and disturbed Gimli from his thoughts without even the courtesy of walking loudly enough to be heard approaching. Walking on snow! Gimli thought with a snort: it was possible the frail thing couldn't make a noise even if he wanted to. And now he was deliberately walking faster than usual. He was infuriating!
Gimli now knew he had the answer to the true riddle at the doors of Moria. The friendship between the Elves and the Dwarves had waned because Elves were impossible! He marveled at the immense patience of his ancestors that any of them had managed to even tolerate the company of an elf, let alone seek it out!
He grumbled to himself, not caring that the Elf's irritatingly acute hearing would surely hear him. Better Legolas should know he had crossed him. Undoubtedly, the scrawny bowman had no idea what it meant to cross a Dwarf. He knew nothing about them!
Including whether or not they enjoy music, Gimli realized with a pang that almost halted his steps.
It was possible, he supposed, that Legolas didn't know. Dwarves were protective and secretive about their culture - and rightly so! - but it presented an unfortunate possibility.
He replayed the Elf's question in his head and despite his best efforts, he could not hear any intentional insult. He heard only surprise, and it was almost happy surprise at that. Gimli tightened his jaw, gritting his teeth as the full realization came upon him: the Elf had been in the right…at least marginally.
Immediately, he decided he would dare to speak again, though he did not examine his motivations for doing so. If he had, he would have found it was partly because he knew that Gandalf wished him to befriend this irksome Elf and partly because Galadriel would perhaps admire his efforts if he succeeded in uniting their races. But it was mostly because of his own vehement, albeit deeply buried, insistence that, if this foolish endeavor were to fail, it should be entirely the Elf's fault, not his.
‘The song,' he said, coughing lightly to clear his throat. ‘It is not as somber as I would have expected.'
Legolas turned to him, anger flashing in his bright eyes. ‘Are you questioning its sincerity?' he asked sharply. ‘We Elves do not die, but we do know what it is to grieve.'
‘I never said you did not,' Gimli growled.
‘Then it is just our method of expressing it that offends you?' Legolas questioned, looking pointedly down upon the Dwarf.
‘I did not say it offended me.'
‘It is evidently not morose enough for your liking,' the Elf clarified. ‘You would prefer a funereal dirge? Or perhaps just wailing would suit you better.'
‘I have said what I meant!' Gimli sneered, glaring up at his towering companion. ‘I stand by my words, Elf.'
‘As I stand by mine, Dwarf,' Legolas haughtily replied.
Gimli could almost feel the prickle of static in the air. Legolas' blood was up. Just like an elf, Gimli thought; listen to the words and care none for the voice that said them.
Then, quite suddenly, Legolas came to a stop. In his haste to keep pace, Gimli walked a few feet past before he noticed. Tightening his fists in subdued anger, he turned to regard the Elf.
Legolas stood like a statue in a shaft of moonlight, his expressionless features turned skyward. Gimli noted how the silvery light seemed reflected back at the moon from within the Elf himself and he averted his eyes, his face tense with irritation. Dwarves knew beauty when they saw it too and it was especially vexing that this particular Elf had it in spades. Gimli's only small sense of triumph was that, opposed to the warm, welcoming loveliness of Lady Galadriel, Legolas' beauty was cold and aloof; an alienating handsomeness, like the rest of his kin.
‘We can hear the music very well from here,' Legolas said deliberately. He lowered his lanky form to the ground and leaned his back against a tree.
‘Do not stop for me,' Gimli said, unable to keep the bristle from his tone. ‘I am quite capable of continuing.'
‘Then you may do so,' Legolas replied curtly. ‘I am staying.'
~ Wiser Halves ~
Legolas grimaced as the impossibly loud Dwarf paused, then, grumbling, plunked himself on the ground at a tree a few feet away. But even sitting, he could not be silent. It seemed that every part of him creaked, squeaked or scowled.
The Elf stared into the silvern darkness that seemed to hover always beneath the canopy of Lórien. The lament continued, well within his hearing and he believed, well within the Dwarf's. He willed it to drown out every other sound and if it could, every thought in his mind.
Though he knew exactly where he was and exactly how to get back to the security and comfort of his own kind, he could not presently recall ever having felt more lost and more isolated.
He had abruptly stopped as if slapped because he felt as though he had been. It had suddenly and clearly occurred to him that the Dwarf had meant no offense in his comment and was, if anything, attempting to start the conversation he himself had truncated the first time.
He felt his jaw tighten and he exhaled slowly, trying to rid himself of the feeling of impending failure. So much for the keen senses of Elves, he thought, for he was unable even to tell the difference between an insult and a veiled apology. The Dwarf had started it, of course, but even that excuse felt as hollow as the Mines of Moria, for an feud cannot exist if only one is fighting. Legolas knew he should have known better; Gandalf had wished him to know better.
That the Dwarf had tried to start a second conversation after the first had gone so disastrously awry was surprisingly admirable and Legolas dimly realized that, if he could simply remain calm for the span of a single discussion, he might actually come to like Gimli.
The elven archer did not doubt his skills as a fighter, but of the rest of him he was less certain. It was as if, when arguing with the Dwarf, all reason left his mind. His voice said harsh, cruel things and somewhere deep inside, the true Legolas wondered why. And now with the anger still trembling through his muscles, causing his usually steady hands to quake slightly, tears of loathing coated his eyes and the true Legolas reclaimed control.
This was not who he was. He was not mean. He was not uncaring and yet, to the Dwarf he was. It was no real wonder that Gimli did not like him. He would not have liked himself either.
*** Gimli scowled, listening to the melodious lament, feeling as though it pierced him to the soul. He idly wished he understood Elvish and could comprehend the mournful words they sang of the wizard. He knew that a translator sat only feet from him, but he was determined not to be the first to speak; not after his attempt at reparation had been purposely misunderstood.
He did not even try to guess why the Elf had suddenly stopped. No doubt the tree had whispered to him, asking him to please, come and rest a while at its feet. Ridiculous, flighty, bothersome Elf. If he weren't so useful during battle, Gimli would have declared him worthless to the company and beseeched Aragorn to dump him immediately, making a strong case against hauling unnecessary baggage.
Yet, his wiser half - the half that seemed to vanish when the Elf spoke to him - whispered that he might grow to like the son of Thranduil, if he dared; he was clever and the Dwarf liked cleverness. However, Gimli steadfastly ignored the voice. It could not be his own mind, he decided. It had to be the trees. These were elven trees after all, and no doubt they talked incessantly as well, giving advice that tired Dwarves didn't want to hear.
But despite his wish to lay the blame solely on the Elf's shoulders, he could not ignore the emptiness of failure hollowing his insides. This attempt at reconciliation, he supposed it could be called, had run no differently than any of his other conversations with Legolas. There had been unpleasant silence, then angry words and then angry silence. It was a pattern they knew well.
Gimli dimly realized that what he liked least about the Elf was his own reaction to him. He felt he became a shadow version of himself that contained only his spite and his malice - hardly what he considered his finer qualities. He was not at his best when arguing with Legolas. It was no real wonder, then, that the Elf did not like him. He did not entirely like himself.
~ Re Eina ~
‘Master Dwarf,' Legolas said softly, hoping Gimli could hear him for he was not sure he could force his reticent voice to grow louder. ‘I spoke too harshly and too hastily. I ask you forgive my earlier comments.'
Gimli nodded, thankfully having heard, and let loose a sound that was somewhere between a cough and a grumble.
‘I sought to somehow ease my own grief and I fear I have now compounded yours by taking you into an hostile wood away from the comforting presence of the others,' the Elf continued.
‘Do not trouble yourself,' Gimli said quietly. ‘I found little comfort there. The young hobbits console one another, Aragorn has greater problems to think on now and Boromir…I do not want to guess where Boromir's mind is, but they each have their own sorrow to contend with. I can manage mine.'
Legolas grimaced slightly at the sorrow in the Dwarf's coarse voice. He could still hear his anguished wails at the tomb of his kinsmen Balin in Moria and he felt certain that a dwarf's grief must be a cumbersome burden.
He had once heard, long ago now, that Dwarves sang songs of farewell for their fallen comrades. He did not know if it was true, but if it was, he knew how he would feel if he were unable to hear the soothing voices of his kindred all around him. Even if he could not yet join them, it was a balm for the soul just to listen.
‘Do you understand Elvish?' he heard himself ask as the Sindarin words of the lament caressed his ears.
‘No,' Gimli answered.
‘I could try to translate for you, if you wish,' he offered, surprising even himself. ‘I do not have the skill to translate it as it should be, but it does my heart good to hear such words of him. Perhaps it might do the same for you.'
Gimli only nodded in response.
‘They sing, "O Pilgrim Grey, no more will you wander the green fields of this earth. Your journey has ended in darkness. The bonds cut, the spirit broken. The Flame of Anor has left this world. A great light has gone out."'
As he heard the words sung so majestically around them, Gimli slowly lifted his head. He did not regard the Elf sitting across from him, but instead looked beyond, and inward. It almost looked to Legolas as if he were allowing the words to slowly dissolve into him. He closed his eyes to do the same.
‘"Journey ended in darkness,"' Gimli repeated softly. ‘"A great light has gone out."'
‘After so long a time and so great a life, it does not seem a fitting end,' said Legolas sadly. ‘Nor a fitting resting place.'
‘Does it not?' Gimli asked, but there was no offense in his tone. ‘That same Khazad-dum holds the tomb of Durin, the ancestor of all the kings of the Longbeards and the eldest of the Seven Fathers. To me he seems worthy company of Gandalf, the keeper of the light of Anor, though I would consider few others as such.'
‘But to lie in such darkness,' Legolas breathed, wincing at the horrible thought as it filled his mind.
‘The darkness to me only makes the end easier to accept,' said Gimli, his voice more gentle than Legolas could have imagined possible, ‘for what besides the greatest darkness could confine the greatest light.'
Legolas opened his eyes to his companion, feeling unexpectedly eased by his words, more eased than he was even by the singing of his kin around him. ‘I had not thought of it in that way,' he uttered. ‘Thank you for sharing it with me.'
‘Thank you for telling me what they sing.'
Tears still threatened just behind Legolas' eyes, but a smile curled at his mouth. The Dwarf stared at him, a faint look of surprise accenting the smile that bent his beard and creased his cheeks. Peering across at him now, the Elf tried and failed to recall how he had ever thought Gimli to be lacking in beauty. Indeed, now he was certain he had never seen kinder eyes. Though he could scarcely believe it, it was true: he rather liked Gimli, son of Glóin. He truly liked a Dwarf.
‘I feel I must ask your forgiveness once more, Gimli,' Legolas said. ‘For I see now that I have denied myself a kind companion on this unfriendly journey.'
‘I believe I denied myself the same, so no apology is needed,' Gimli replied, ‘unless you are prepared to accept mine in turn.'
‘I am, Master Dwarf. My mind has been occupied much these days with the words of Gandalf,' the Elf said, ‘as all are I do not doubt, but mine has fixed especially on those he spoke at the doors - '
‘The doors of Moria?' Gimli finished for him, astonishment lighting his deep voice.
‘The very ones,' Legolas affirmed, raising his head slightly in amazement to look upon the Dwarf huddled in the shadows. ‘They were why I requested you walk with me.'
Gimli breathed a light chuckle. ‘They were why I agreed to do so.'
Legolas felt the barest of smiles settle across his lips. It was true that he and Gimli had nothing in common, but Gandalf, his power never ceasing, had given them something in common: love of him, and grief at his passing.
‘Do you think they could be restored,' Gimli questioned, ‘those happier days of which Gandalf spoke?
‘If we still had Gandalf's wisdom,' Legolas began with a weighty sigh, ‘I would say hope remained, but now, I do not know. Those days were so long ago, and as for happiness…that seems even more distant.'
Legolas' eyes settled on the warm light all around them, sensing the safety and security of this wondrous land - and he could feel it. It was a chill in the earth, a flutter in the trees, but it grew nearer and nearer with each passing moment. This haven, this warm repose of sacred exile was under threat.
‘I fear for the future,' he whispered. ‘A darkness begins to claim the land. I can feel it in the trees; a sadness, a growing shadow.'
‘I fear more for the company,' Gimli replied. ‘As the lady Galadriel said, hope remains if our company is true. If we eight remain strong and complete our task then the future can care for itself, but I do not know when we will recover from this loss. It has devastated us each.'
‘Gandalf was the heart of our fellowship.'
‘More importantly, he was our guide through more than just the hills and caverns of Middle-earth,' said Gimli. ‘He guided us through this quest, our own fears and dangers, our hopes for success.'
‘I cannot help but feel I have failed him,' Legolas said mournfully, feeling his throat constrict with tears. ‘You and I have reached an understanding, but we have the common goal of the quest and the words of Gandalf to push us to action. What of our people? The discord is buried so deeply within our cultures, I do not know if even the skilled miners of the Dwarves could root it out.'
‘You cannot solely take the blame for both Elves and Dwarves,' Gimli chided kindly. ‘You must share the burden with me for Gandalf spoke to us both.'
‘Then half of the burden is yours,' Legolas said with a hollow smile. ‘Beneath that weight, tell me: what hope do you see?'
Gimli was silent for a long moment. ‘I see none,' he said finally. ‘Our races are alike only in their stubborn ways.'
Legolas closed his eyes to the sudden oppressive swell of air that seemed to descend upon the glade. ‘We have the fates of too many upon our shoulders, Gimli,' he said. ‘They begin to press upon our hearts.'
‘And our lungs,' Gimli added, tugging at his collar. ‘I feel as though I cannot breathe.'
‘Yet, with what air we have left, we must find a way. I do not wish to leave a task to be finished by others, not when I myself will be there to see it.'
‘I agree,' said Gimli. ‘If I fall in the pursuit, then so be it, but I will not admit defeat while I yet stand. I fight to see for myself the ends we begin, so we will find a way, Legolas…somehow.'
Legolas detected Gimli's voice fading as the Dwarf drifted into his own thoughts. Feeling tears in his eyes, the Elf surrendered to the mournful wail of the minstrels still filling the air as if staving off the impending doom or gloomily accepting it.
He believed in the quest. He believed in the Ring-bearer and in Aragorn who must now lead them. But the task seemed so much larger than all of them. He imagined them now as eight stalwart warriors, their weapons brandished high, fighting to hold back the tidal wave that loomed over them, ready to wash away everything beautiful and dear on these shores.
He was the son of the king of the Mirkwood Elves and while that was of little consequence to the fellowship, surely that standing could only aide him in this massive endeavor to reunite his people with the Dwarves. There was - there had to be - a way to accomplish what Gandalf had asked, but he could not see it. He already felt as though he were gasping for breath beneath the weight of the quest; the burden of restoring those happier days of Gandalf's was drowning him.
‘Perhaps you might help me, Master Elf. Your memory can only be more accurate than mine,' Gimli said abruptly, his voice apprehensive. ‘I attempt to recall Gandalf's exact words to us, for I cannot myself remember him ever asking us to unite our races.'
Legolas slowly sat up and eagerly delved into his own recollections.
‘But I beg you two, Legolas and Gimli, at least to be friends, and to help me. I need you both.'
‘You are right, Master Dwarf,' he replied, amazed. ‘My memory yields only an entreaty to the two of us, so either that is what was said, or we are both losing our wits.'
‘That may very well be anyway,' Gimli answered, ‘but at least it seems we are going together.'
‘Another new perspective you have shown me tonight,' said Legolas. ‘Gandalf did not ask us to be a beginning, he did not ask us to bridge the divide that separates our people.'
‘No,' Gimli agreed, ‘he only asked the two of us to be friends.'
‘A cheer for the memory of Dwarves!' Legolas cried and Gimli grinned at the outburst. And it was as if suddenly Gimli had pulled his head above the water and Legolas could breathe again. He saw his own unexpected relief reflected in the gentle face of the Dwarf across from him. ‘To speak the truth, that is what I had thought until I spoke with Lord Celeborn.'
‘I had thought that as well until I spoke with Aragorn,' Gimli interjected. ‘I had only hinted at the topic when he began speaking of reuniting Dwarves and Elves.'
‘It was the same with Lord Celeborn,' Legolas said, feeling a wide smile on his lips. ‘It seems the fellowship's task is so large that no one thought Gandalf would have asked us to do something so small as simply befriend one another.'
‘I think you are right, Legolas!' the Dwarf cried with great amusement, ‘but I no longer doubt the dedication of the company: you and I at least are ready to take on the whole of Mordor and resolve an ancient feud while we are at it!'
‘If only we could wield the combined might of our good intentions,' Legolas said, ‘Middle-earth would have nothing to fear!'
Laughter bloomed within the Elf's chest and he let it out in a great, relieving torrent, hearing the loud guffaws of Gimli accompanying him. The realization was at once so sudden and so soothing it was intoxicating.
‘Next,' Legolas fought to speak through his laughter, ‘we should turn our attentions to deciding on a temperate climate. Snow, rain, wind, calm - it would be much simpler if we chose just one.' His back left the tree as he slid to his side, encompassed in hysterics and feeling a wonderful want of breath.
‘Naturally, Legolas, naturally,' the Dwarf agreed, barely able to force out the words. ‘And perhaps we might also look to extending the reign of the sun, for it would be more convenient for the company if we did not have to fret about nightfall.'
Gimli roared aloud and Legolas felt tears slip from his eyes as his laughter intensified so greatly his stomach began to ache. He did not know if the words they spoke were truly funny or if they were simply too light-headed to respond in any other way. Nor did he care - it felt so wonderful to laugh.
‘And now that you bring it to mind,' Legolas said, ‘the Misty Mountains have always been far too misty for my liking.'
The Elf heard Gimli's armor clank as he, too, rolled to his side, lost in his mirth. The happy sound of their laughter drowned out the sorrowful echoes of the lament as they both lay on their backs on the ground, laughing at the sky.
It felt to Legolas as if the weight upon his chest and heart drifted away on every amused exhalation, leaving him light enough to glide upon the voices of the singers. His lungs ached and his stomach hurt, but he could not stop laughing; it felt too wonderful, it had been too long. And the guffaws of the Dwarf nearby were lovelier than any song the race of Elves could devise.
‘If befriending one another should have been our sole ambition tonight,' Legolas said finally, happily gasping for air, ‘then you at least have succeeded, Gimli. I would proudly call myself your friend, if you would allow it.'
‘I could only deny you the title if I were to deny my own heart,' Gimli replied, a stray chortle warming his words.
‘Then, we have triumphed, Master Dwarf,' Legolas said brightly, putting a hand to his aching stomach. ‘We may once again turn our attentions to the quest, where they should have been all along, evidently.' He grimaced gladly as a laugh broke free, distressing his tired lungs.
‘I am quite relieved,' said Gimli. ‘I did not care for the idea of asking my father to journey on a diplomatic mission to Mirkwood. He is terrified of spiders!' Gimli let out a loud, rolling guffaw that easily incited Legolas' own cheer and the two once again lay helpless on the forest floor, enveloped in an unrelenting bout of laughter.
As they walked back toward the pavilion, Gimli marveled at the changes that had occurred in a span of just a few hours. The noiseless falls of the Elf's footsteps were no longer an irritant; in fact, he felt the strangest sense of admiration at them. And when Legolas' light hair caught an errant ray of moonlight through the trees, he no longer averted his eyes for the beauty did not seemed squandered. Indeed, he began to suspect that maybe it was modest for it seemed to him that, like all the finest treasures, the Elf's beauty within was even more dazzling than his beauty without.
In this one night, Gimli had already shared with him thoughts he had not spoken to another - Elf or otherwise - but he felt no regret. He sensed that Legolas was one to be trusted with such secrets, even if he was an Elf. And he had been there when Legolas had denied the hobbits, refused to interpret the lament due to the weight of his own sorrow. That the Elf had spoken the tender lyrics in the Common Tongue to him was an honor he could not take lightly.
They paused at the top of the stairs descending into the pavilion. Legolas glanced quickly about the clearing where the hobbits slept deeply, their arms about one another, and Aragorn and Boromir dozed nearby on their bedrolls. ‘I fear I have kept you from sleep,' he apologized.
‘My time was better spent without it - this time anyway,' Gimli replied with a wink.
A bright smile lit Legolas' features and the sudden warmth of the expression made Gimli wonder how he had ever thought his handsomeness cold. ‘Now that I have your pardon, I long to claim the remainder of your moonlit hours for myself, but my kinsmen have requested I stay my nights with them during our time in Lothlórien,' he explained, apology plain in his voice. ‘I would like you to join us, but -'
‘They are not ready for a dwarf in their midst, I agree,' Gimli said. ‘We have made great lengths tonight, Master Elf, you need not push others on my behalf. Do not forget that we have done all we needed to do.' He smiled up at Legolas, hearing a chuckle resurface within him.
‘Ai, do not remind me,' the Elf said happily, his long hand pressed to his stomach. ‘I ache all over from laughing.'
Gimli chortled at his friend's minor discomfort and was immediately reminded of his own as his lungs stung dully at the action. He could not remember the last time he had laughed so long and so heartily, but he could remember the last time his entire body had been sore. Pain from laughter was far preferable to pain from battle.
‘Now that we have recovered our senses,' said Legolas, ‘we will have to recover from the recovery. It is good we are safe within the Golden Wood for if Orcs were to descend upon us at this moment, I do not know that I would be of much use.'
‘Ah, then it is in the company's favor that Orcs do not attack with humor,' Gimli declared. ‘They would learn very quickly to launch a volley of jokes at the Elf and we would all be greatly diminished!'
Legolas laughed again, a bright cheery sound, and rested a hand on Gimli's shoulder for support. ‘Good night, Gimli,' he said. ‘I know when I am defeated. Now, I must regain my strength for the rematch.'
Gimli reached up and clamped his hand on the Elf's forearm, unable to keep the smile from his face. ‘Though I am no doubt supporting an Elven misconception of Dwarves,' he said, ‘I must say that, if I could have imagined any satisfaction to be found in this night, I would have thought it to come from fulfilling one small wish of Gandalf's. But it seems I am far more selfish than that. Happy though I am to honor to his wisdom, I find greater pleasure in knowing your mind better, Legolas.'
‘I believe I am flawed with equal selfishness so I will never judge you for yours, my friend,' Legolas replied. ‘May I come for you tomorrow when my kinsmen make my evening my own?'
‘I hope that you will,' answered Gimli, loathe to let this night's conversation end. ‘There is much we still do not understand about one another and I find myself wishing to know.'
‘Then, I ask your pardon in advance,' the Elf said, ‘for I may claim many of your evenings while we remain within the welcome confines of Caras Galadhon.'
‘That is just as well. I would like to see more of the splendors of Galadriel's realm, but if I were to wander about unescorted I would likely be taken for a Dwarven spy,' Gimli joked.
‘Then I consider it my duty to our hosts to be your guide, for I would pity greatly the guard who approached you in violent haste. He would likely lose his legs to your axe before he realized you carried one.' The Elf looked down upon him with tangible affection that Gimli could feel in the air all around him and he gladly basked in the glow of another smile. ‘Rest well, Gimli.'
Turning, Legolas journeyed back into the forest, his steps even lighter than they had been when they had set out that evening. The Dwarf strode down the stairs and quickly claimed a clear spot beneath the protective canopy spread above the sleeping travelers. The lament continued long into the night and as Gimli drifted into sleep, he heard a voice, nearer than the others and deeper, join in with the swelling notes of the lament.
He knew in an instant that it was Legolas.
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