Contrary to popular belief I'm not dead! Though it's been over two years in the making, here it finally is, the final chapter of "Writings on the Sword!" Yes, yes, I know I took my time getting it out, but I'm really proud of this and hope everyone likes it and feels it was well worth the wait. And thanks a bunch to everyone that reviewed and kept hassling me to get a new chapter out. I sometimes need a little push to get me back on track:P
Well, I hope everyone enjoys the chapter, and I'll see you down at the bottom!
A fine, gentle rain drizzled down on the elven city of Rivendell. Like a city set in the clouds, it seemed to float on a fine blanket of mist deep inside the great river valley surrounded by the towering grey bodies of the Misty Mountains. A great stillness seemed to hang over the quiet city, as if no one there dared speak or venture out into its deserted streets. Though war had been diverted and the evil elven sorceress Eronel defeated, there were no sounds of celebration in the peaceful elven city. No voices rang out through the chilly air to rejoice in the return of peace and tranquility to the elven realm of Imladris. Only empty silence except for the soft pattering hiss of rain.
In the great halls of the Last Homely House, such stillness also pervaded. Nothing seemed to stir in its cavernous depths. If one would have wandered down the halls and streets of Lord Elrond's realm at that time without any knowledge of the recent events of the past week, they would have wondered at the disconcerting stillness in the air. What had happened to have caused this disturbing quiet? Had some terrible tragedy visited the house of the ancient elf lord? But if such a person really had existed, there would have been no one there for that person to ask, and so would have had to continue on their journey with no idea as to the events that had transpired to have dampened the spirits of everyone there in that once bright and lively realm.
And it was in one of the many rooms of Lord Elrond's house that the quiet stillness hung heavier than anywhere else.
Laying in repose on the only bed of the room rested a still blonde figure. A thick cream colored comforter lay pulled up to his chin and carefully tucked in around his body. No sign of life or movement could be detected from the motionless form. Thick blonde hair lay fanned out across the pillow beneath his golden head. Pale, ivory-white skin shined dimly in the weak grey light that filtered in through the bank of windows lining the far side of the room. Nothing but the soft patter of rain outside could be heard in the still quiet of the room.
But as the rain continued to softly drum against the windows and stream down the glass in tiny rivulets, the still blonde figure began to stir.
Issuing a soft moan, he rolled his face to the side and shifted slightly under his warm nest of blankets, signaling the beginnings of a return to consciousness. As he once more shifted beneath the blankets, a small grimace formed across his face, his forehead and brows furrowing together in discomfort. Even the smallest of movements seemed to awaken in him a deep, lingering ache that seemed to reach down into the very marrow of his bones. In his groggy, only half-aware state, he once more tried to shift but was instantly stilled as a small jolt of pain shot down the length of his right arm. Settling back into stillness, he let his head drowsily roll back into the comfortable divot of his pillow. Though the urge was strong to remain where he was and let himself drift back into sleep to rest his weary body, Legolas slowly blinked his heavy eyes open and into focus.
For several long moments of silence, the prince just lay there in a half-awakened daze, watching the rain softly patter against the windows on the far side of the room. Then, still somewhat half asleep, slowly glanced around him at the interior of the unfamiliar room in which he lay.
Looking around at the sparse but elegant decor he wondered how he had gotten there. For some reason he could not explain, he could not remember anything of the past few days. His mind felt sluggish and fuzzy like it was wreathed in some dense fog that refused to reveal any of its secrets to him.
But all worries of those unanswerable questions were instantly forgotten as his eyes finally finished their slow, cursory arch of the room and came to rest on a stout, bearded figure sitting slouched down in a chair close beside his bed, lightly dozing with his head rolled back against the back of the chair. Though slightly taken aback at having not noticed the person sitting there so close beside him before, Legolas nevertheless felt an intense wave of happiness, relief, and several other emotions he could not accurately describe or name wash over him at the sight of the one he saw.
"Gimli..." he whispered in a soft, raspy voice, the name unknowingly slipping from his lips as if he could not actually believe the sight of the one sitting there beside him.
At the sound of his name, the dwarf instantly woke with a start and turned to stare at the elf laying awake and staring back at him with sapphire blue eyes from the warm confines of his bed. "Legolas!" he exclaimed in surprise, "You're awake." Shaking, the dwarf leapt to his feet and leaned down over his friend. "You're awake..." he again whispered as if in disbelief. Then sharply turning to look back over his shoulder at the open door of the room, he excitedly yelled, "He's awake! He woke up! Come quick, he woke up!"
Before Legolas could understand what was going on, the tall, dark-haired form of the Lord of Imladris suddenly materialized in the doorway of the room and made his way over to Legolas' bed to lean down over the elven prince.
"Welcome back, Legolas," Elrond said with a smile as he gently laid a hand across the prince's brow as if feeling for a fever, "You had all of us very worried. We all feared you may have been too far gone for me to help when they first brought you back yesterday."
"What? I– I don't understand..." Legolas weakly stammered, feeling very dazed and confused by everything that was happening so fast after just waking up.
"It's alright, Legolas, don't worry," Elrond assured him with a tender, fatherly smile as he stood straight again, "I'm sure you don't remember much of what happened yesterday considering everything you went through. Just wait here while I go get the others. I'm sure they will all be very excited to know you are awake. I was barely able to keep them out of here this long to let you rest in peace. But I'm sure if you had slept any longer, they would have lost all sense of patience and just barged in here anyway to wait for you to wake." Here Elrond gave a meaningful glance over at Gimli standing close beside Legolas' bed, but elaborated no more on the matter. Then turning back towards the door, the ancient elf lord swept back out of the room in a blur of dark brown hair and flowing red robes.
Left alone by themselves once more, Legolas again looked up at the dwarf hovering over him. He expectantly stared up at Gimli as if silently asking him to explain what was going on, but the dwarf seemed too lost in his own thoughts to notice the elf's unspoken question. "Thank Aulë you're awake, elf," he said in a slightly trembling voice as he continued to stare down at the elven prince, "I was so worried there for a time... I almost thought we'd lost you again..."
"Gimli, what happened?" Legolas asked in growing confusion, "I don't understand what's going on." Though he desperately fought to try and remember what happened to have made Elrond and Gimli act so strangely towards him, the fog clouding his mind refused to lift.
Gimli finally seemed to come out of his trance, and looked down into the elf's shining blue eyes. "Don't you remember, Legolas?" he softly asked, "Don't you remember anything about that witch or that dagger I gave you?"
A rush of memories suddenly flooded Legolas' head at the dwarf's prompting. Memories of intense, fiery pain coursing up and down the entire length of his arm; waiting in hopeless uncertainty for Gandalf, Toreingal, and Gimli to return in time with a cure; looming darkness, inescapable doom, and a low poisonous voice speaking to him through his mind all returned to him in one massive surge of recollection. Gasping at the onslaught of unpleasant memories, the elven prince weakly struggled to push himself up and sit against thick pillows of the bed.
"Easy there, elf!" Gimli scolded, "You're in no condition to be moving around like that. Your arm's broken." But he nevertheless moved forward to carefully help his friend sit up and recline against the headboard of the bed. As he helped Legolas lean back, Gimli made a visibly effort not to jostle the elf's aforementioned arm which hung splinted and stabilized in a sling around his neck.
Finally situated – though still panting from the immense exertion of energy it had taken his unnaturally weary body to sit up – Legolas looked back up at his friend. "Eronel..." he whispered, slowly meeting the dwarf's solemn gaze, "Eronel and that dagger... The poison... She put a spell on me so that everyone thought I was dead. Elrond woke me and I went to stop her. We were fighting her together, but then–"
The dwarf grunted softly under his breath. "That sure was one hell of an entrance you made back there on that battlefield, elf. I thought for sure I had finally gone mad when I first saw you standing there." Pulling his chair even closer to Legolas' bedside, Gimli slowly sat back in it and stared at Legolas for a long moment of contemplative silence, his eyes growing suspiciously moist as he did so. "We all thought you were dead..." he finally went on to say in a soft, whispery tone, "For almost a whole week I thought you were gone. It was one of the longest weeks of my life. Even now I don't know how I survived it..." Unable to stop himself, the dwarf shakingly reached out and took Legolas' good hands into his own. Though it was obvious he fought to keep his emotions from getting the better of him, Gimli could not help a small sob from slipping past his defenses as he looked down at the cream colored blanket of Legolas' bed, unable to look at the elf without his breath hitching in his throat. "I don't think you'll ever truly know how much we missed you, elf," he said, forcing himself to look back up at his friend with slowly brimming eyes, "You've come to hold a greater place in my heart than I thought anyone ever could. I just thank Aulë and whatever other higher powers that be that you're back..."
Legolas sat there stunned by the emotions he heard in Gimli's voice and saw expressed in his eyes and ruddy face. Though he and Gimli had been friends now for several years, he had never seen the proud, noble dwarf ever express himself so openly. For several long moments of silence, Legolas just sat there trying to think of something to say in response to the heartfelt confession he just heard. But as he finally began to come out of his shock and open his mouth to say something, he suddenly heard coming from beyond the open door of the room the sound of many hurried footsteps.
Both looking up at the sound, Gimli and Legolas' quiet reunion was promptly ended as the room was suddenly filled with more than a dozen smiling, shouting, happy people, all of them clamoring to crowd in around Legolas' bed.
"Legolas! Legolas! You're awake!" the exuberant young face of Pippin exclaimed as he and three other overjoyed Hobbits rushed forward to crowd in around Legolas' bed and stand on tip-toes to look over the edge and see its incumbent elf. "We were all so worried about you! Elrond didn't know if he would be able to help you, but we never gave up hope you'd pull through."
"We didn't know what to think when we heard you were still alive," Sam piped up and added from between Frodo and Merry.
"That really was some kind of miracle," Aragorn agreed as he too rushed forward and came up beside Gimli to greet his friend with restrained tears shining in his pale grey eyes, "You don't know how startled we were when we first saw you." Behind him stood Arwen, her own eyes moist with joy at the sight of the elven prince sitting alive and awake against the headboard of the bed.
"Aye, coming back from the dead is no small feat," Elrohir chimed in with a nod of agreement from his brother as they came to stand at the foot of Legolas' bed, "There are few that can attest to achieving such a feat."
"Wouldn't one of those people in question be our own dear Glorfindel, brother?" Elladan asked, giving a mischievous glance to the side where said balrogs slayer stood close beside Elrond near the back of the group.
"My situation was completely different from Legolas'," the golden haired march warden replied rather stiffly, "And to once again reiterate what I know your father's already told you: Legolas was never truly dead. We only administered the drought of magical water Gandalf and Gimli brought back with them to wake him from Eronel's spell. He never actually passed over into Mandos' Halls."
"And a very lucky thing that was," the low, ancient voice of Gandalf said as he too came up to stand next to the confused prince's bedside and look down at him, "If Lady Arwen had found him any later, it is almost certain Legolas would have passed away. We can only thank the Valar she went to see him when she did and saw the poison still spreading."
This statement only seemed to spark another round of shouted agreements and exclamations of joy for Legolas' close call, and within seconds it suddenly felt as if everyone in the room was trying to talk at once. Slightly overwhelmed by the presence of all his friends crowded around him and simultaneously talking, Legolas could only sit there in a daze listening to their words of excitement and joy wash over him in a never ending tidal wave of emotions. Never had he ever felt so cared for in his life. He could think of nothing he could have ever done to have ever deserved such a display of emotions from his friends.
As if sensing his friend's confusion and doubt, Gimli gently patted the elf's arm and gave him a small, reassuring smile, as if trying to let him know that he truly did deserve their love and affection – that he was more important to them than what he gave himself credit for.
Legolas looked back at his friend and returned his smile. If there was one thing he could share with his friends' in their unending joy in that moment, it was his best friend's presence there by his side. For too long during those dark, uncertain days while he had lain there writhing in agony from the dark, evil poison flowing through his veins, he had yearned for the dwarf's return. He remembered later fighting against Eronel with Gimli close by his side – just like they used to before this whole nightmare had come to tear their lives apart. He remembered how he had felt as he fought alongside his friend – like he had somehow found his way back home or found some missing part of him. But then he remembered a bright, blinding flash of light, pain, and then... darkness. For some reason, one of the last things he remembered before succumbing to the darkness was the saddening certainty that that would be that last time he would ever have a chance to fight alongside his friend. That that was the end, and that even with his second chance of life, he still hadn't gotten a chance to say goodbye. And now to have Gimli sitting right there beside him again was almost too much for the elven prince to comprehend. It felt like he was in some sort of dream that he was afraid he would wake up from at any minute. He could only hope that if it really was a dream that he would never wake from it or have to see it end.
The soft, tentative voice immediately broke Legolas out of his thoughts and back into the present. Looking up past his ring of friends standing around his bed, he saw standing there in the doorway of his room his father, King Thranduil of Mirkwood. Close behind him, Legolas also saw his cousin, Toreingal, timidly standing behind his father, stretching his neck out to see up over Thranduil's shoulder into the crowded room.
A sudden hush fell over the room, everyone instantly quieting as they too turned to look at the Elvenking and his nephew standing there in the doorway.
"My son..." Thranduil once more whispered, his voice cracking somewhere deep inside his throat. The Elvenking seemed lost in his own little world, unaware of anyone else around him except his son sitting there against the headboard of the room's only bed. He stood there frozen, staring at his resurrected son with untold emotions swimming in his liquid blue eyes. "Legolas... They all told me you were dead..." Thranduil tearfully whispered as he took a small, shaking step into the room. Step by step, he slowly began to approach Legolas' bedside, his eyes never leaving those of his youngest son. "They all told me your were dead. I didn't know what to believe or think..."
As Thranduil began to draw closer, Gimli slowly rose from his chair beside Legolas' bed and quietly backed away from the elf, leaving Legolas alone to meet his father's approach. Startled by his friend's sudden desertion, Legolas frantically looked back at the dwarf, silently begging him to return. He did not want Gimli to leave. After everything they had both gone through and survived he did not want Gimli anywhere else but at his side.
But Gimli did not heed the elf's unspoken plea and continued to silently stand there several paces away from Legolas' bedside next to Aragorn, apprehensively watching as Thranduil slowly came up alongside Legolas' bed and sat down on its edge next to his son.
"Legolas," Thranduil softly called, reigning his youngest child attention back towards him. "Please look at me." Reaching out, he gently took Legolas' left hand into his own and held it as though it were a spun piece of glass.
Looking back up into his father's pale blue eyes, Legolas suddenly felt all his previously forgotten thoughts of reaching his father before Eronel could instigate any bloodshed between his father's forces, Imladris, and Dwarves come rushing back to him in a massive surge of panic. Frantically gripping Thranduil's hand in his own, Legolas desperately began to plead. "Please, father, you must not blame Gimli for what happened. He had nothing to do with my poisoning. He only gave the dagger to me as a gift. He didn't know there was anything foul on it. He would never do anything like that to harm me. Please, you can't blame him. He's my friend. What happened was an accident. You can't blame the dwarves or attack Imladris. They had nothing to do with what happened. They–"
"Hush, young one," Thranduil finally said, cutting off his son's rambling pleas with his soft but authoritative voice. Legolas obediently quieted but sat there in fearful anticipation of what his father's response would be. He had no idea what Thranduil would say. It was a well known fact that Thranduil harbored little love for those of other races; especially Dwarves. And after already being so ready to declare war and seek retribution from those he blamed for his son's supposed "death," Legolas couldn't even begin to wonder how his father would respond to his desperate pleas for peace.
As if reading the fear in his youngest child's eyes, Thranduil reached out and tenderly tucked an errant strand of disheveled blonde hair behind Legolas' ear. "Hush, young one," he once more soothed, holding Legolas' anxious, worried gaze with his own, "Have no fear. There is nothing to worry about. Mirkwood has ceased all war efforts against Imladris and its dwarven inhabitants."
"What?" Legolas stammered in shock, not quite sure to believe what he heard.
"After your unexpected arrival there on the battlefield and fight with Eronel, an immediate peace agreement was made," Thranduil explained, "Mirkwood has revoked its declaration of war on Imladris and relinquished all forms of hostility against it. After what I saw on that field after Eronel's defeat, I knew there had been a mistake. No murderer would ever risk his own life for another or show such emotions as those I saw displayed yesterday."
Legolas sat there stunned, wondering if perhaps he still wasn't in the grips of some terrible fever caused by Eronel's poison. Had he just heard right? Had war truly been diverted? But how? It almost seemed too much for his mind to comprehend.
It was then that Legolas suddenly realized he had no idea what happened that day after he and Gimli defeated Eronel, or how he had come to wake up there safe and sound in Rivendell with war successfully diverted.
Slowly looking around at all his friends and family gathered around his bed, Legolas' eyes finally came to rest on Gimli standing off to his side. Staring at his friend for a long minute of silence he finally asked in a soft voice of confusion, "What happened...?"
For their part, Legolas' friends seemed to instantly sober and become quiet at the memory of that fateful day. Legolas swore he saw Gimli's eyes become moist and begin to brim along the edges with unshed tears. But despite his pride, the dwarf's gaze remained steady and did not break from that of the confused elven prince.
"It was terrible..." Elrohir finally spoke up and said. "After Eronel disappeared in that great flash of light, none of us knew what had happened. It wasn't until we saw Gimli kneeling there in the middle of the field that we finally began to understand what happened..."
Rain continued to fall steadily from the steel grey sky overhead, showering the quiet field below in a never-ending stream of tears. Nothing seemed to stir in the still, aftermathic quiet that had come to hang so heavy in the air there in the middle of the field except for the soft hiss of falling rain. But even then the raindrops seemed to fall quietly, as though they did not wish to disturb the terrible scene they fell upon or the one whose anguished sobs mingled with their own mournful hiss.
Another sobbing wail rent the air, and for a moment the figure of a stout dwarf swam into view through the misty veils of rain showering the quiet field. Kneeling there on the cold, muddy ground, Gimli clutched the still, lifeless body of his friend Legolas closer to his chest, almost crushing it to him in his despair to detect even the smallest sign of life in the elf's limp form. But he could feel nothing. Only emptiness. And cold...
Tears seemed to flow in unending streams down Gimli's face, soaking his beard and mingling with the cold rain lashing his face. His chest felt constricted and tight from all the anguish and grief he could not seem to expel from himself fast enough in the form of tears and gut-wretching sobs. All he could focus on was the still body in his arms – his friend and comrade who refused to answer any of his plaintive calls.
Holding Legolas close as though desperately trying to will his friend back by sheer force of will or stubborn denial, Gimli began to rock back and forth on his knees, still crushing the unresponsive body to his chest. But still no change to the elven prince, and his eyes remained tightly closed like those of a sleeping mortal – dark lashes pressed tightly down against pale white cheeks. Choking back another anguished sob, the dwarf gently tucked the elf's head up under his chin, weeping uncontrollably into the thick waves of golden hair as he continued to rock his friend's body back in forth in his arms to the rhythm of his unending grief.
So caught up in his misery, Gimli did not hear the sound of footsteps hurrying towards him until they were almost right there atop him – Aragorn, Gandalf, Glorfindel, Elladan and Elrohir, Toreingal and Thranduil all crowding in around him. Unintelligible rounds of exclamations and shouts filled the air, creating an overwhelming cacophony of noise and confusion. But still Gimli did not seem to focus on anyone else around him. It was only when Thranduil slowly dropped to his knees in front of him, staring at the still blonde figure cradled in his arms, that Gimli finally seemed to come out of his trance and focus on the others crowding in around him.
"I'm sorry..." he whispered, slowly raising grief-filled eyes up to meet those of the stoic king, "I'm sorry... I– I tried to save him. I did. But I was too late. I'm sorry. Please forgive me... This is all my fault. I couldn't save him..." Dissolving into another round of anguished tears, the dwarf desperately clutched the still blonde form in his arms closer, weeping uncontrollably into his friend's thick hair.
Thranduil knelt there, stunned by the emotions he saw and heard coming from the anguished dwarf. Never before had he ever seen anyone so overwrought with grief or emotion – as if that one would surely die of grief if this sorrow could not somehow be lifted or reversed. It was a disturbing display that shook the startled king to the very core of his being and way of thinking. Never had Thranduil ever given much thought to the ways of mortal hearts and affection. They had always seemed so beneath him, unworthy of even giving a second thought to. For how could those whose lives were nothing but a fleeting note of sound in the grand scale of Iluvatar's Song be capable of experiencing such powerful emotions or forming such close bonds with another like Elves could? It was unthinkable. Yet here this dwarf knelt in the mud and rain, weeping for his fallen son like he would follow him to the Hall of Mandos if he did not wake and answer his pleading calls.
Shaking, Thranduil reached out for Legolas, his eyes silently pleading for his son's limp body.
Tears still streaming down his ruddy cheeks, Gimli reluctantly relinquished his death grip on the lifeless prince and slowly released him over into his father's waiting arms, all the while still murmuring soft words of repentance and grief. Thranduil said nothing, but gently took Legolas' limp body and cradled his youngest son against his chest. As Legolas finally left the safe enclosure of Gimli's arms, the dwarf finally seemed to lose his last little bit of control, and broke down into loud, heart-wrenching sobs of anguish. Aragorn immediately stepped forward to try and consol his grieving friend, but Gimli seemed too lost in sorrow to hear any of his friend's words.
Hugging his son's lifeless body close, Thranduil sat there stunned as he watched the dwarf he once blamed for his son's death crumble before his very eyes under the weight of grief. Struck speechless by the dwarf's show of emotions, Thranduil slowly turned his gaze back down onto his youngest child's upturned face.
For a long time Thranduil just knelt there, silently staring down at Legolas' face. After all these many long days believing his son dead, somehow holding him in his arms after just seeing him alive and well felt unreal. He felt torn and confused. A thousand different emotions whirled around inside the Elvenking's head. He had almost resigned himself to the fact that his son was dead. But then when he arrived to seek retribution for his son's death, who should appear there on the battlefield but Legolas himself! And now to actually lose him again... It all seemed so unfair and cruel. So unfair...
Thranduil tried to school his emotions as he continued to stare down at Legolas' face – wanting to memorize every minute detail of his son's pale, delicate features – but he could not seem to keep his vision from blurring from the flood of tears that sprung up to sting the corner of his eyes.
Shakingly he reached out to brush back several strands of rain soaked hair from his son's peaceful face. And as he did so it was like some dam finally broke somewhere deep inside the stoic king.
Unable to keep his long restrained tears of grief and pain back any longer, Thranduil felt his throat constrict and a hollow sob slip past his lips. Like a tidal wave of poison, all his old grief and anguish came rushing back to him. Succumbing to despair, the anguished father leaned down over his son's still form and desperately clutched Legolas to him, rocking back and forth on his heels as though trying to comfort a crying child – or perhaps more accurately himself...
Somewhere through his grief induced haze of tears Thranduil thought he felt his nephew, Toreingal, somewhere close beside him, trying to offer comfort. But in all honesty, Thranduil wouldn't have cared if Elbereth herself had descended from Taniquetil at that moment to come and comfort him in his grief. All he could think about and feel was the weight of his son's limp body in his arms, his head resting in the hollow of his shoulder, and the cold emptiness he felt where such life and warmth once resided.
Choking back his tears, the Elvenking gently pulled his son even closer, tucking his head up under his chin like he used to do when Legolas had been nothing but a little elfling in his lap. It was too much to bear. He didn't know how he was going to go on. The gaping hole in his heart that had been there ever since he first received word of Legolas' first supposed death suddenly seemed to rip open and swell until Thranduil felt like he was being swallowed alive by some bottomless pit of darkness. Nothing around him seemed to matter anymore. All he could focus on was the still, limp form in his arms, and the overwhelming emptiness and grief in his heart.
Tears streaming down his face with no pride or care to those standing around him, Thranduil buried his face into Legolas' hair and held his son close, wanting nothing more than die than have to bear the loss of one of his children. It was so unfair and wrong. No parent should ever have to bury their child. It was one of Mando's cruelest works...
But as Thranduil sat there on the cold, muddy ground hugging his son close and weeping for the injustice of his loss, he suddenly felt a soft, almost imperceptible thump against his chest where Legolas's chest was firmly pressed against his own. A soft gasp flew from his lips at the brief, fluttering sensation, and his eyes sprang open wide. His tears instantly forgotten and his sobbing stilled, the Elvenking clutched the still body to him ever closer, almost crushing Legolas to him as he waited in breathless anticipation for another sign of what he hoped was not some cruel trick of his grief-stricken mind.
Time seemed to stop and everything around him fade away as Thranduil knelt there with batted breath. Blood pounded in his ears like thunder as he waited in painful suspense. His heart pounded so hard against his ribs it seemed to want to leap out of his chest. But he did not move or dare draw breath for fear of missing even the smallest conformation that what he thought he just felt was real.
Time ticked slowly by.
And then, just when Thranduil was about to give up all hope... there! The soft flutter of another heartbeat against his own! It was faint and weak, but it was there!
Almost leaping to his feet at the sensation, Thranduil gasped so loudly all those standing around him immediately looked down at him in surprise. "A healer! Quickly, someone call for a healer!" he frantically shouted, hugging Legolas close to him disbelief, "He still lives! Someone call a healer!"
Aragorn swiftly knelt next to Legolas and pressed two forefingers to the elven prince's neck. He stayed like that for several long moments of breathless eternity until he suddenly gave a startled gasp and retched his hand back in surprise. "He speaks truly!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide with disbelief, "Legolas still lives, though barely! We must get him back to Rivendell as fast as possible! He is in desperate need of Elrond's care!"
Gasps swiftly followed Aragorn's proclamation, and before anything else could be said, everyone erupted into action. Barely wasting a moment, Thranduil scooped his son's limp body up into his arms like he weighed nothing at all and raced in the direction of his waiting horse. Toreingal followed close behind, and took Legolas into his arms as Thranduil swung up onto his horse before then swiftly handing his injured cousin back up to him.
"Show me towards Rivendell!" Thranduil called out over the falling rain to Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel who were also in the process of swinging up onto their own horses' backs. In front of Thranduil, sitting slouched forward in his seat, the Elvenking tightly clasped Legolas' limp form to him with a strong arm across the younger elf's chest.
"This way!" Elladan shouted, turning his horse towards the line of Imladris warriors on the western side of the field. Thranduil gave no audible answer, but immediately spurred his horse after Elrond's oldest son. It suddenly seemed as though in their haste to aid the elven prince, all past grievances and feuds had been set aside and forgotten – that there were no longer any sides or enemies, only those working together to save the life of a precious friend.
Still kneeling on the ground in shock from Thranduil's declaration that Legolas still lived, Gimli could only stare after the Elvenking as he and his nephew sped after Glorfindel and the twins, making straight for Rivendell with Legolas protectively held in Thranduil's arms. Drying tear tracks streaked the emotionally wrung dwarf's face as he watched them disappear into the surrounding forest of the field, his mind a jumbled mass of confusion and conflicting emotions.
Had he really just heard right? Was Legolas truly still alive? No matter how much those wild thoughts swirled around in his head, he could not seem to make them actually register.
"Come, Gimli," he suddenly heard Aragorn say as the man came up beside him and lightly touched him on the shoulder, "We should go. Legolas needs you."
This seemed to finally bring Gimli back to his senses, for he quickly wiped the back of one hand across his wet, puffy eyes and leapt back up onto his feet. Then grabbing his discarded axe up off the ground, he hurriedly took off in the direction of Aragorn and Gandalf's waiting horses without waiting for his friend.
"What are you waiting for?" he impatiently shouted back over his shoulder as he finally reached Gandalf already sitting astride Shadowfax. "The elves are getting away! We have to catch up!"
Gandalf shared an amused glance with Aragorn as the man obediently leapt up onto his horse and offered a hand down to the impatient dwarf. With Gimli then safely seated behind Aragorn, the three took off at a full gallop after the departing group of elves and their resurrected friend.
"...and then we brought you back here to Rivendell," Elrohir concluded to the nods of everyone else there.
Legolas sat there for a moment of silence, stunned by all he had just heard. "So then it's finally over?" he asked.
"Yes," Thranduil nodded, still tightly holding his son's hand in his own as if afraid to let him go, "It's over."
As if still troubled by something though, Legolas gently pulled his left hand back out of his father's grasp and stared down at it. "I don't understand though...," he said, slowly flexing his now normal looking hand open and close several times, "I could still feel the poison in my arm spreading while I was fighting Eronel. She was right when she said the magic water didn't cure me. It only broke her spell over me. I could still feel myself dying as I fought her..." He slowly looked back up at his friends crowding in around him. "How did I survive?"
"That is a very good question..." Elrond replied, working his way through the crowd so he could stand next to Legolas' bed and lean down over his young charge. He gently took Legolas' left arm and turned it over in his hands. The elf's veins and skin still had a slightly bluish tint to them, but the coloring was fading so fast Elrond was sure Legolas' arm would look completely normal by lunchtime at this rate. "Ever since your father showed up on my doorstep yesterday holding you in his arms, you have made a remarkable recovery," the ancient elf lord said, still turning Legolas' arm over back and forth in his hands, "Your arm is all but completely healed of poison now. It is almost like it suddenly disappeared from your system." He finally released Legolas' arm and leaned back to meet the prince's eyes. "It is truly a miracle..."
Legolas slowly pulled his arm back and stared down at it with a mixture of amazement and awe. "It doesn't even hurt anymore..." he whispered. "It's almost like the poison was never even there..."
"Could it be that since Eronel was finally defeated that Legolas was cured?" Arwen ventured to speculate.
"That is possible," Elrond nodded, "After all it was from her the poison originated. And from what I was told, the dagger was also destroyed in the explosion after Legolas defeated her. Perhaps since one or both of the elements of the poison's origin were destroyed, the poison was finally nullified."
"Then it would seem we all owe a great deal of thanks to our dear friend Gimli," Gandalf noted with a tone of pride in his wise old voice, "For without his brave, if not somewhat hasty bid at trying to save Legolas by freeing Eronel from her cave, it is almost certain Legolas would have died–"
"–Because the magic water we got from her cave would not have been enough to defeat the poison..." Toreingal then took over and supplemented as the pieces began to fall together in his head, "If she had still been trapped there, we would have never been able to get back there in time before Legolas succumbed to the poison..." A hushed silence descended upon the room as those ominous words slowly worked their way down into everyone's heads as to how close of a call it had actually been for the young prince.
Legolas was the first to break out of his quiet contemplation, and slowly looked back up at his bearded friend who stood off to the side of his bed looking decidedly humbled and red in the face by Gandalf's comment. Legolas smiled softly to himself at the sight and mentally stashed that image of the dwarf's uncharacteristic blush away for future use in one of their verbal sparring matches. "It seems then I truly do owe you my thanks and gratitude, Master Dwarf," he said, making Gimli look back up at him and meet his eyes, "For without your help I would most assuredly be dead. I owe you my life. Thank you."
"You shouldn't say that, elf," he said, shaking his head vehemently, "I wasn't the one who showed up on that battlefield at the last minute and stopped the battle, or finished that witch off once and for all."
"But I had your help in fighting Eronel," Legolas said, "Without you she probably would have killed me before I ever even got the chance to deliver a single blow."
"But it was my fault you ever had to fight her in the first place," Gimli protested bitterly, "If I hadn't given you that dagger none of this would have ever happened. It was my fault you almost died, and why war almost broke out between our races, and–"
"Gimli!" Legolas exclaimed, cutting his friend off sharply, "It was no one's fault. You had no way of knowing what would happen when you gave me that dagger, so I don't want to ever hear you blaming yourself like this again!" Gimli looked ready to protest this, but Legolas quickly intercepted him. "No! I'm warning you, Gimli. If I ever hear you blaming yourself for what happened again I swear I'm going to cut that beard of yours off while you're asleep."
"You do, elf, and I'll cut off all your braids," the dwarf growled.
Legolas smiled. After all that had happened it felt so good to smile and feel lighthearted again. It suddenly seemed as though everyone else in the room had disappeared and it was only the two of them, bantering and threatening each other just like old times. Quieting, the elven prince leaned back against the headboard of the bed and stared back at his friend for several moments of quiet reflection. "I really do thank you, Gimli..." he said, his eyes softly holding those of his friend.
Gimli smiled and bashfully looked down at the floor. Stepping back up next to Legolas' bedside, he reached out and gently patted the elven prince's forearm. "I'm just glad you're back, elf," he said, slowly looking back up into Legolas' eyes with a soft smile pulling at his lips.
Legolas smiled back and reached up to gently cover the dwarf's hand with his own. "So am I, Gimli... So am I..."
The halls and corridors of the Last Homely House rung gaily with the sounds of voices and laughter. In the great Hall of Fire, music could be heard playing. The voices of minstrels and singers mingled with the sweet notes of flutes and harps that filled the air, setting the background noise for the crowded Hall's many merrymakers.
Long tables lined the room, ladened with plates of meats, breads, and cheeses. Countless pitchers of wine and ale also stood amongst the table's wide assortment of foods, continually kept full by Lord Elrond's staff of vigilant servants. No where was there an unhappy face or empty belly.
Outside, a light drizzle still showered the Hidden Valley as the last remaining remnant of turbulent storm that had passed over the elven city several days before. But the rain did nothing to dampen the moods of those feasting inside Lord Elrond's halls. No, in fact, it seemed to heighten them. For the rain that showered the eves and awnings of Lord Elrond's home was fresh and cool, portraying not sadness or grief, but rather the first signs of Spring – the seasonal time of rebirth and new hope.
For hope was what all those there now had.
Sitting together in various grouping throughout the great hall laughed and socialized those of all different races and realms – Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and Men, Mirkwood and Imladris, Sindar and Noldor. All of them sat together, feasting like old friends. No where did the distinction of one's race or homeland seem to play a part in how they interacted with one another. On one side of the hall sat a small contingent of Imladris and Mirkwood warriors, laughing heartily at some joke told by one of the group's elves. At another table sat a host of Elves next to a group of Dwarves. But neither side threw suspicious or distrustful glances at one another. No, in fact, they seemed to actually be enjoying the company of each other, listening to some exciting tale of war or adventure that had listeners from both races eagarly leaning in to hear more.
It was a grand feast. Even larger and more festive than the first one Elrond had tried to host over a week before. The music seemed somehow louder, the singing more sonorous. The laughter and talk of the great hall more infectious and heartfelt. For unlike before at Lord Elrond's first feast, there was much more to celebrate and rejoice in: the return of peace, the reaffirmation of old and forgotten alliances, the safe return of loved ones and friends, and the opportunity to make new ones.
It was truly a time to celebrate and rejoice.
And nowhere were those feelings more keenly felt than by two oddly paired figures sitting together in one of the halls quieter corners, away from the main hub of people.
"Well, elf, it looks like everything's back to normal again just like it was before that whole fiasco you started last week."
"If memory serves me right, Master Dwarf, I can safely say you were the one to blame for that 'whole fiasco,' as you call it, by giving me that poisoned dagger in the first place."
"I didn't know it was poisoned," the elf's companion retorted with a grunt as he took a quick swig from his tankard of ale. "If anything, I say you owe me. That dagger was a valuable family heirloom I decided to give you as a gift out of the goodness of my own heart. And what did you go and do with it? You went and got it destroyed killing some evil witch. I think you own me some kind of apology for that."
"Gimli, I will give you your apology and any small amount of treasure you desire as long as you promise to never give me another gift as long as you live," Legolas replied, barely hiding the seriousness of remark behind a thin veil of sarcasm.
Gimli gave a small chuckle and set his tankard of ale back down on the table in front of him. "Very well, elf," he agreed, "Though it wasn't like I was ever going to give you another present again anyway." Legolas rolled his eyes at this but Gimli went on unperturbed as if he never even saw it. "Plus I don't think I need any of your treasure. I think your father's already taken the initiative of trying to bribe me into never giving you another gift again himself."
"What do you mean?" Legolas asked.
Gimli leisurely took another sip of his drink before answering. "This morning I woke up to a messenger knocking at my door who then hands me a small chest of gold coins and jewels saying it was from Thranduil with his regards. Needless to say, I was rather taken aback and didn't know quite what to say..."
Legolas sat for a moment of silence quietly digesting this before finally breaking out into stunned laughter. "I never thought I would see the day..." he chuckled to himself. When Gimli looked at him inquisitively, Legolas elaborated saying, "I don't think my father was trying to bribe you more than actually trying to apologize and possibly thank you for helping save my life. You should take this as an honor. My father has never been an elf known to apologize or thank anyone he is otherwise not deeply indebted to."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me..." Gimli muttered to himself under his breath. "Well, if what you say is true, and from what I know of him myself, then I really do feel honored. For I doubt any other dwarf before me has ever received such a peace offering like that from Thranduil before."
Legolas chuckled softly under his breath. "Unfortunately I think you're right," he agreed with a wry smile. Leaning back in his chair, the elf reached out for his drink on the table and took several appreciative sips of the strong Dorwinian wine he was drinking. But for as simple and innocent an action that was, it immediately arrested the dwarf's attention. For Legolas had not done so with his usual right hand, but rather with his non-dominant left. His broken arm still hung down by his chest in a cloth sling.
"So how's the arm?" Gimli casually asked as Legolas replaced his glass on the table and leaned back in his chair.
"Fine. Lord Elrond said it should be fully healed within the next week or so," Legolas replied, flexing his right hand open and closed several times as if to test out its progress thus far.
Gimli nodded thoughtfully. "You were lucky to have made it out of that fight with only a broken arm," he noted with a small grunt as if the mere mention of the elven sorceress left a bad taste in his mouth, "Because I can't really say as much for that poor warrioress you shot down."
Legolas winced slightly at the mention of his father's commander who he had shot with an arrow several days before when he had arrived on the battlefield, still dying of poison, to try and stop the sorceress Eronel from instigating war between his father, the Dwarves, and Imladris. "I felt terrible shooting Celion, but I could feel Eronel's presence there controlling her. I had to stop her. The only thing I could do was aim for a non-fatal shot."
"Thank Aulë for her sake then you were still able to shoot straight," Gimli noted with a sarcastic laugh.
Legolas shared a chuckle with his friend, and almost as a subconscious act, scanned the surrounding hall for the warrioress in question. He easily spotted Celion several tables away, her blonde hair standing out amongst the small group of dark-haired Imladris elves she was sitting with. As if feeling the prince's eyes upon her, Celion turned in her seat and meet Legolas' gaze. They remained like that for several heartbeats of silence before the female warrior finally gave a soft, understanding smile and turned back around in her seat to listen back in on the conversation going on around her. Smiling to himself, Legolas turned back to his own companion and took another sip of wine.
After regaining enough strength the day after his fight with Eronel and waking back up in Rivendell, Legolas had gone to visit his fellow warrior who he had shot down the day before. When he had reached the Halls of Healing he had found Celion already awake and sitting up in bed, asking her assigned healers when she could expect to be released. It had been an awkward meeting at first between prince and warrioress, but after several minutes they gradually began to feel more at ease with each other's presence. Legolas had at first tried to apologize for the injury the warrrioress had suffered because of him, but Celion held no grudge against him for his actions and refused to listen to any of the prince's apologies, saying he had done what he needed to do, and that if their roles had been reversed, she would have done the same thing. Both seemed to find a fellow comrade in the other because of their shared experiences with the power of Eronel's dark magic, and parted with a feeling of understanding.
"I think she likes you," Gimli's voice suddenly broke Legolas out of his thoughts.
"What?" the elf spat incredulously.
"I think she likes you," the dwarf repeated with teasing smile, "And I think you like her too. I saw the way you two were just staring at each other."
"And I think you're delusional," Legolas retorted, "There is nothing between Celion and I except the bond of brotherhood. We are fellow warriors; nothing more. If anything, she was probably looking to make sure I wasn't aiming another arrow at her back."
Gimli laughed uproariously at this, and clapped the elf on the back with a good-natured slap. "Whatever you say, elf, just make sure you invite me to the wedding," he chuckled.
Legolas blushed furiously at this and speared his companion with a irritated glare. But then, as if thinking something, broke into an evil grin. "And what about the fair lady Rín I remember meeting in Erebor the last time we visited each others homelands?"
Gimli's laughter instantly stopped. "What about her?" he demanded, suspiciously eyeing the elven prince.
"It is just that I remember how she'd always stare at you from across the room, batting her eyes and twirling a lock of her beard around her little finger every time you seemed to look her way. With all this talk of marriage, I cannot help but think what beautiful, hairy children you two would have together..."
Sputtering and choking on the mouthful of ale he had just been in the process of swallowing, Gimli slammed his tankard back down on the table and glared at his now laughing friend in scandalized outrage. When Legolas showed no sign of repentance for his jest (and in fact laughed even harder under Gimli's baleful glare), the dwarf angrily leaned back in his seat and began muttering sourly under his breath about "annoying elves" and several other remarks Legolas couldn't hear but was sure contained a few words that would not have been suitable for polite conversation.
As Legolas finally began to regain some of his composure, and dashed several tears of laughter from his eyes, he turned once more to regard his now sulking friend. "Ah, Master Dwarf, do try and be more cheerful. After all, today is a celebration. I would hate to have to write to your fair lady in Erebor, and tell her of your despondent state. Perhaps though if I did, she might know of some way to remedy you of this foul mood..." Legolas thought he heard a growl rumble somewhere deep inside his companion's throat, and laughed out merrily.
"Supposedly dead, then alive again; not even a fake death is enough to keep you out of my hair," Gimli grumbled under his breath.
"Aye, Master Dwarf," Legolas chuckled, "I am afraid you are doomed to suffer my presence at least a little while longer..."
His eyes softening a bit, Gimli reached for his drink again and took a slow sip of it. "I suppose I can live with that..." he said.
As the two continued sipping their drinks and taking in the entertainment of the surrounding hall, a sudden presence next to Gimli's side made the dwarf give pause and look up from his drink. There, standing only several feet away from Legolas and Gimli, stood the Elvenking of Mirkwood's nephew and Legolas' cousin, Toreingal.
The blonde woodland elf stood proud and tall, his face an unreadable mask as he cooly met Gimli's gaze and held it with his own. For a long moment of time, nothing passed between the two and silence reigned. Legolas tensed, unable to tell what kind of exchange might be about to take place between his best friend and cousin.
"Master Dwarf," Toreingal finally broke the tension that had been steadily building, and dipped his head low to the stout warrior. "Cousin," he then greeted Legolas with a similar bow. The two mirrored his actions and waited – a little bewildered by the formality of Toreingal's tone and actions – for the elf to speak.
"I know we did not come to know each other on the best of terms," Toreingal started, instantly focusing all his attention back on Gimli. "From the first moment I met you, I regarded you as an adversary. For that I am sorry." Here he gave another graceful dip of the head to the seated dwarf. "Despite my unwarranted hostility towards you, over the past week you have proven yourself many times over a friend of the royal family of Mirkwood and of all Elf kind. I am forever in your debt for helping save my cousin's life. I will never forget what you did for him. I was wrong in my assumptions of Dwarves and hope that someday you might forgive me for my unwarranted prejudices. For I have come to see why you hold such a high place of regard in my cousin's eyes, and would like to formally acknowledge his claim on you as 'Elf-friend.' For that is what I now also proclaim you as." Thus spoken, Toreingal made a tight fist over his heart and bowed low to the wide-eyed dwarf before him.
Stunned into near speechlessness by the elf's speech, Gimli stared at Toreingal for a long moment as if wondering if he had just hallucinated the whole thing. Quickly regaining his composure though, Gimli nodded his head in acceptance of the elf's words. "I thank you," he said, meeting the elf's eyes again as Toreingal straightened from his bow, "But I hold you to no debt or obligation. What I did was nothing more than what Legolas would have done for me."
Toreingal smiled softly and once more bowed his head to the flustered dwarf. "I know that. And that is why I honor you all the more. You have my cousin's love, and thus you have mine. May you enjoy the rest of the feast, Elvellon, and may we meet again someday soon." His mission thus completed, Toreingal turned with only a parting smile to Legolas and disappeared into the pressing crowd of guests and merrymakers filling the hall.
Gimli stared after the departing elf for a long, stunned moment of silence.
"I just ever so love being talked about as if I'm not even here," Legolas' voice suddenly broke Gimli from his thoughts, "Why I'm sure my cousin and you could have gone on for hours like that if you really wanted to."
"Aw, stop your griping, elf," Gimli shot back, still staring in the direction Toreingal had gone.
Legolas chuckled softly to himself. "I guess that's one more elf down and only several thousand more to go until you are officially accepted by all my kind."
Gimli half laughed and groaned at the notion. "It took me six months before I could stand to be alone in your presence for more than a few minutes, a declaration of war on my head before your father gave up the notion of decapitating me, and several very long and harrowing days alone with your cousin in the wilderness before he deemed me worthy enough not to sneer at whenever he happened to look upon me. I just don't think I have enough time or energy to win over any more of your race."
"You won the Lady Galadriel's favor within mere minutes. Surely that should count for something," Legolas said, smiling as he saw his friend's eyes grow distant and dreamy at the Lady's mention.
"She was special," Gimli replied with barely concealed wistfulness tainting his voice, "I doubt I will ever meet another Elf quite like her again."
His eyes shining brightly with some unknown secret, Legolas smiled softly to himself. "Perhaps you will have chance to see her again some day..."
"I doubt that. I heard tell she plans to sail into the West sometime soon. I doubt I will ever be able to gaze upon her beauty again." As he said this Gimli seemed to grow more quiet and sullen in mood.
Sensing his friend's shift of mood, Legolas smiled knowingly and gave him a soft nudge in the side with his elbow. "Come now, Master Dwarf. Surely you would not prefer the Lady Galadriel's presence over mine now, would you?"
"Any day of the week," the dwarf returned with a wry grin.
Making a show of looking insulted, Legolas turned his nose up at his friend and preceded to make as if he were getting out of his seat to leave. Laughing at his friend's actions, Gimli grabbed Legolas' arm and pulled him back down into his seat.
"Aw, sit down, elf. I don't need you running off to go tell your father or cousin that I insulted you; they'd both come after me with swords drawn."
Legolas' laughter rang out like wind chimes over the background murmur of the surrounding hall. "Spoken truly! As annoying as you can be at times, I don't want to see you run out of Lord Elrond's halls with my father and cousin following in hot pursuit. That would not look good on our races' new peace alliance."
"No, I don't think that would," Gimli agreed with a slight wince at the mental image generated from the thought of such a scene actually happening.
"So it would seem everything is back to normal then," Legolas noted, taking another sip of his drink.
"So it would," Gimli agreed, nodding his head thoughtfully.
"I'm just glad everything worked out in the end."
"Me too more than you'll ever know." Raising his drink to his mouth, the dwarf upended his tankard and finished off the last of the mug's contents in one massive gulp.
Glancing aside at his companion out of the corner of his eye, Legolas felt an almost predatory grin spread across his face.
"Prey tell, Master Dwarf, how many of those have you had thus far today?"
Gimli looked down and seemed to contemplate his empty mug for a long moment of silence. "Two or three. Why?"
Legolas could not help his evil grin from spreading. "Well, it's just that the feast has barely even begun and already you seem to be showing signs of intoxication, while I on the other hand have already had several glasses of wine and still am feeling nothing..."
Legolas knew he was baiting his friend, but the dwarf's expression of bristled outrage quickly silenced any twinge of conscience Legolas might have had at that moment.
"Signs of intoxication!" the dwarf sputtered near incoherently, "That's it, elf. Grab a mug. We're going to finish this once and for all. Last one standing wins! And no cheating this time! Don't think I don't know what you did in Meduseld after the Battle of Helms Deep!"
"Whatever you say, Gimli," Legolas replied, happily grabbing himself an empty mug from a nearby table and several pitchers of ale too.
Settling down into their seats and raising their first tankard of ale up, Legolas softly tapped his mug against Gimli's. "To Friendship and Peace," he toasted, "May the best Elf win."
"Whatever notion you chose to delude yourself with, my friend. See you at the bottom."
Then clinking their mugs together one last time, the two threw back their heads and drained their glasses, drinking to Peace, Friendship, and Brotherhood. All of which they eagerly toasted to again and again until late that night when the moon hung high in the sky and victory was finally decided. But there were no losers in this particular game. For even as the victor helped his unsteady companion navigate the darkened hallways of Lord Elrond's house back to his assigned guestroom, the two walked side by side, their voices raised together in a drunken round of song – one light and melodious and the other deep and baritone – both perfectly harmonized and timed with the other. And as their voice slowly faded away into the night, the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, for all was right in the world once more and everything restored back to its proper place.The End
Yeah! It's done! Did you like it? Hate it? Tell me tell me tell me!
I hope everyone that's seen the extended version of "Return of the King" caught on to my little nod to what is now infamously know as "the drinking scene" here at the end of the chapter. Absolutely hilarious... If you've seen it than you know who ended up winning my little rematch.
Well, I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it, because it's been an absolute blast. I hope you'll go and check out my other LOTR fics now. I plan on starting back up on "They Came Upon a Midnight Clear" soon, so keep a lookout for an update from that. Also, If you've happened to read my other fic "the Touch of Sight" I've just gone through a major revision of it, and revised it back to PG-13, so hopefully you'll give that a look.
Well, till next we meet again in another update,