Disclaimer: It all belongs to the genius Tolkien

A/N: I got this idea from the movie, yes, but it's written in book-verse. The only change is the fact that there are now elves at Helm's Deep, and that Haldir is dead

A/NII (aka personal rant): I hate that they never really mention the Dwarf/Elf animosity in the movies, so this is my solution to that oversight

Divide and Conquer

The armory at Helm's Deep was alive with tired, sore Men and Elves, cleaning and caring for their armor and weapons. Graybeards showed the youngest the proper way to score blood, especially the thick Uruk-hai blood, off their swords. In return the young were hanging their teacher's heavy chain mail and removing the stubborn sections old fingers could not grip. To one side of the fire-lit room, a group of Elves were removing the strings from their Lorien bows, wrapping bow and string alike in oiled cloth to keep them dry. Their empty quivers sat beside them, and those who had finished tending their archers' weapons had moved on to the same stinking task the Men now worked at, cleaning the blood of Men and Uruk-hai off their elegant swords and daggers.

One Elf, dressed less fairly than the others and looking more travel-worn, was sitting on the edge of their group as he cared for the bow given to him by the Lady of Lothlorien herself. For an idle moment he wondered at the bow, and grief threatened to choke him at the memories his gaze triggered. He held back tears, though -- he had managed to save his bow from damage after the long battle in the rain, but didn't want to risk the harm just that bit of liquid might do. How long would it be before the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien knew their best Scout had fallen? He recalled Haldir mentioning Lord Elrond; what would he think when he learned so many of the Lorien Elves had died defending Men?

"You look like you just swallowed a sour thought, Elf. What put that expression on your face when we celebrate victory in the face of the Enemy? Unless your nose ceased being able to ignore the rotten scent lingering in this room," the rough voice came from the left below his head-level, the nose of it's owner crinkling at the smell of Uruk-hai blood.

Legolas wrapped his spare strings in oiled cloth before answering. "We won, yes, despite the odds against us. But we paid a heavy price in lives, with little time to mourn their loss."

Gimli nodded. "Haldir, from Lothlorien, fell upon the walls of Helm's Deep, among the bodies of his kindred and Men alike. It will be quite some time before his or any other loss can be properly mourned."

"What would you know of loss or mourning, Dwarf?" came the sneering voice of an Elf to Legolas's right. His bow was safely stowed away, the sword in his hand nearly clean of the foul blood of the Uruk-hai. Black hair fell just past his shoulders, strands clumped together and escaping from the thick braid behind him. Green eyes as hard as emeralds stared malevolently at Gimli. "You, Dwarf, lost naught this night but a few chips from your axe."

Gimli's eyes narrowed at the Elf, but for the sake of the victory just won (and without further insult he was really too tired to care) he replied only, "This night, yes. But a city of my people lays slain in the depths of Moria."

Before the other Elf could speak again, Legolas intervened. "There have been many good leaders lost of late, among all the free peoples. Haldir, Theodred, Balin."

"Balin? You, the Prince of Mirkwood, dare speak the name of a Dwarf in the same breath as Haldir? What madness is this?" the Elf rose to his feet.

One of the Men, whose grandson was cleaning his armor in the absolute least efficient way possible, noticed the commotion near the Elves. When he realized that there was an Elf and a Dwarf about to get into a major altercation, he called for his grandson. "Vester! Vester, fetch Lord Aragorn. There's about to be a fight among the Elves and that Dwarf - there'll be blood shed if someone doesn't stop it."

"But aren't we on the same side, Grandsire?"

The old warrior shook his head. "Elves and Dwarves are only allies on the battlefield. Off it, they're more likely to kill each other in the name of some ancient feud neither remembers what started! And if the Elves can no longer remember, it's been a long time gone. Oh, it doesn't matter right now, Vester. Get Lord Aragorn! He's the only one likely able to get between those two . . ."

"Kylvin, it's not worth your energy," one of the other Elves told him tiredly.

The black-haired Elf seemed disinclined to listen. "First you willingly travel in the presence of a Dwarf, and now even seek out his companionship? What reason could an Elf have to consort with such a filthy creature?"

With a growl at the back of his throat Gimli stood and threatened the Elf with a half-clean axe. "Filthy creature? Have you looked in a mirror recently?" Legolas remained sitting, still a bit stunned by the ferocity of Kylvin's hatred toward his friend.

"I am disgusted that the eyes of a Prince of Elves are so clouded," Kylvin shot mockingly in Legolas's direction. "The Dwarf's greed will surely lead him to the service of the Dark Lord."

With the furious cry of "Insult!" Legolas sprang up faster than Men's eyes can follow and his two blades clashed with Kylvin's one. "Take back that foul poison or I may reduce the number of this company by one!"

"Legolas! Kylvin!" Aragon strode in between the rows of stilled Men before Gimli could do more than take a step toward Kylvin. He had inquired the name of the Lorien Elf at the door. The two Elves froze, though their blades were still pressed against each other. "What is going on?"

"This - this- " unable to find anything suitable in the Common tongue, Legolas spat something in Elvish at Kylvin that was most certainly not complementary. "accused Gimli of being a traitor!"

Aragorn's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline. He turned this look on Kylvin. "There are few who would dare utter such an insult against one who has the favor of the Lady of Lothlorien."

Kylvin paled a bit.

"It seemed to me," Gimli spoke up, still carring his axe. "that there was also some question of Legolas's sincerity. I believe the word was 'disgust'."

The Man blinked in mild astonishment at the Elf's audacity. "Well, archer, those are some interesting accusations. Care to refute them?"

Kylvin seemed now to be straining a bit to keep Legolas's twin blades at bay. "I don't deny it," he snarled at Legolas and Gimli. The Dwarf growled, hefting his axe, and Legolas increased the pressure against Kylvin's blade.

"Hm," Aragorn turned more of his attention to Kylvin. Legolas and Gimli he trusted - Kylvin and the other Elves, in matters such as this, he did not. "According to the laws of Men, such an insult is punishable by death. It seems to me that at the very least you owe an apology to those above you in skill and station."

The Elf rolled gem-hard eyes. "And what would you do to me, if I chose not to apologize?"

Aragorn shook his head, eyebrows still raised in disbelief. "You would, of course, be free to return to Lothlorien."

"Although it is quite a long walk, and very dangerous for one so unarmed," Gimli added with a hint of relish.

If it were possible, Kylvin paled until dead white at the thought of crossing so much unstable territory defenseless. "An - apology, then, to the Dwarf, and to the Prince of Mirkwood," he spat as if the words tasted bitter on his tongue. However, neither he nor Legolas relaxed their crossed blades.

Before anyone else could move Kylvin had flown halfway across the armory, sword clattering to the bloody floor next to him as he skidded to a halt. Legolas had shoved him back with the force of both his blades, and didn't sheath them before moving to stand over the other Elf. "Treachery is an ancient weapon of the Enemy, as is discord and dissention. You have sown both this day, and I would not hear you utter another word in Helm's Deep. Our allies are few enough as it is. Do not seek war within our ranks."

The white-handled blades made nary a sound as they slid back into the sheathes on Legolas's back. The Elf walked from the armory, his stride jarring, bow in one hand and quiver in the other. Gimli glared at the fallen Elf before following his friend up the stairs, though Aragorn did not even spare Kylvin a glance.

Atop a tower set against the stones of the cliff, Legolas was fletching new arrows with a concentration that would give an onlooker a headache. Gimli nearly set his whetstone against his axe-blade yet again, but sighed and set it down. "If I sharpen this one more time, it will shatter the next time I use it. Legolas," he called. The Elf, perched in between two stones across from him, did not answer. "Elf, look at me."

Legolas threw the half-finished arrow down with hands that shook in fury. The eyes he turned on Gimli were stormy with conflicting emotions. "They are my kindred. Fellow Elves. And I know, or vaguely remember, thinking the same things setting off from Rivendell. Yet by this time, hasn't it grown dark enough to set aside the old feuds? We've certainly lost old allies. We cannot even remember who or what began this foolish civil war in the first place!"

"To the dishonor of my people, you would not have been treated any better among Dwarves," Gimli shook his head. "And we will not be treated in either hall, I think."

"It grieves my heart to say it, but you are right. Among Elves, any Elf who befriends a Dwarf faces insult from kin and foe alike. I would guess it is the same among Dwarves," Legolas admitted. "And that does not account for the personal assault."

"I meant to talk to you about that," Gimli walked over and crossed his arms at the Elf. "I could have taken him."

Legolas rolled his eyes amusingly. "I know, Gimli. But one ought to be able to defend one's friends." Then he pointed out, with a bit of mischief in his eyes, "I was closer."

"I could have gotten there!" the Dwarf protested as he heaved himself onto the stone next to Legolas.

"Yes, but you have no talent for post-brawl banter."

"Post-brawl? You chatter whenever you're fighting, sir 'shall I find you a box?'"

Gimli grinned, and Legolas grinned back.