A/N: This story is not what I typically write, but the mood struck me and I went for it. It is given as a shared birthday gift between Nightwing and myself (we are one day apart). She asked for the premise, and I was in the mood for a little elf-dwarf banter. Thus, this story came to be.
To Nightwing: Happy Birthday, doll! May this be the start of a rich and fulfilling year for you!
To everyone else: You know, reviews make wonderful birthday gifts (hint, hint).
Summary: Legolas and Gimli make a middle-of-the-night, bedside visit. Post-ROTK. Rated G.
Disclaimer: If you think I might make claim to these characters, you obviously are insane. Tolkien's estate owns everything. Me? I own nada. I gained nothing from this tale except a chuckle or two. Hopefully you will get the same. Enjoy!
The Four in the Morning Visitors
There are many tales told of the land of Gondor and the heroic people that made it great. Those are stories of courage and valor and heroism; stories told of long histories and tumultuous past; stories of glorious deeds done by a noble few. Thus it should be, for Gondor is a land that is grand and good and those incidents are deserving of the retelling. Those who lived those days were folk of strong convictions and heart, and their tales should be heard.
This, however, is not one of those tales, for no tragic battles were fought; no heroic deeds were done; no great morals were learned; no boundless treasures were found. Instead this story is told to give a brief glimpse on two of those folk who were heroes of their day. Modest is the tale, but for all there should be little doubt that the main characters of this story were of good heart, and that all those other tales told of their great deeds of war and courage and love are true, and that this is what makes them all that much more worthy of being immortalized in lore.
However, the heroes of this story do not embark within it in such good lightfor this account begins with them seen as two shadows scuttling in a long hall of doors. They were sneaking, you see.
They could have easily been mistaken for assassins then, or robbers even, had it not been that they were dressed far more casually and were actually unarmed. Their garb was unadorned and they wore their tunics loosely over leggings that ended at unshorn feet. The taller of the two stood a good many heads above his companion; he was lithe in figure, wispy and graceful. His companion was the mere opposite, being burly in form, solid and stout. The former ran barefoot while the latter moved soundlessly on woolen-socked feet, but despite their cladding or silhouette, they seemed to move clandestinely alike. To add to the confusion of who or what these two figures were, their attire should be noted as being not the dark colors of night thieves, but more those of regular roamers, as if they were accustomed to this place and walking so late at night.
Strangely, in fact, their attire was that of one casually at home, if such a place where they were roaming could be called a home. Truly, it was a palace, or manor house, as you might say, of magnificent proportion and grandeur, and the hallway they were currently investigating was the third they had slipped into on this dark night. Their voices were low as they searched, whispers actually, and they had good reason to speak in these tones.
"Which room do you suppose is his?"
"Hush! You will wake her!"
"Do you think it is this one?"
"Who is the better tracker between us? Let me do my job while you play look-out per our agreement."
"We have been searching for a good hour now. Were you to ask me, I would say we are lost."
"We are not lost! I just have never visited this wing of the manor before. The floor plan is not as I would have expected it."
"In other words, we are lost."
Such was the conversation kept between them, as were often the words they spoke. And this is what gave them away to be anything other than robbers, for true burglars would be long out of commission were they to trade words as much as this pair did. You see, the two had a tendency to argue, even though they did not regard their conversations as such. To them this was the way they engaged with one another, almost as one conscious soul giving both sides on any point. This was how they worked together.
They flitted easily into the dark recesses of the doors, stealthily disappearing from common sight to all but the most discerning of eyes. The depth of the night's darkness aided them in this. If one could follow them in those black halls, it would be plain to see that they were experienced in concealment and deceptive hideaways. Their movements were gained from years of training in covert activity and they bore that sly kind of maneuvering telltale to engaging in warlike assaults. However it is doubtful in all their experiences they had ever thought their training would lead to activities such as this. Still, their learning was paying off, and they proceeded unnoticed as a result.
"Keep your voice down. Look here! We have found it!"
"Is she within?"
"I hear no sound of her."
"She must have the adjoining room then."
"Quiet! We do not wish to wake her."
"I'm surprised she does not have sentries posted at the door."
"Nay. I believe she is a coy one. She would not do so as it would give the room away. "
"The soldiers are at the ends of the halls nonetheless."
"Does it not seem paranoid to go through such trouble to protect one who is already so well-protected?"
"Dare I point out that it was we who entered this hall through the window?"
"Our reasons are justified! We come on a mission. I believe she would have heard had we come otherwise. I believe she hears everything!"
"Yes, paranoia is a good word to describe what transpires here."
"It was a terrible insult laid upon us, you must admit."
"She did not even allow you to near him."
"She practically snatched him away from you!"
"Tsk! Had the lord or lady been present I daresay it would have been different!"
And thus they had a plan to avenge what wrong had been done them by this unnamed female foe, for they felt she had slighted them. Normally they were both of forgiving souls, given to lightness of the heart, laughing with others when they knew they must laugh at themselves. But in this case, the slight was one that they perceived done for reasons that they felt worthy of retribution. Unfortunately, what those reasons were they could not say, but they felt certain they were steeped in prejudice nonetheless. Even if they had no evidence to prove their point, they had the insult, and that surely was enough.
"Did you remember to close the window?"
"Sorry. I forgot about your sensitivity to the cold."
"I say it for his sake, not mine. He is susceptible to chills."
"Did you remember the parcel?"
"It is here. Have you considered where we will leave it? It must be some place where she will find it."
"A calling card that we were the thieves? Ha! She will be livid. But nay, I have not decided yet where it will go. I assure you though it will be obvious."
But before more of this story can go on, it might be important to tell a bit about the slight done to these two. Let us start by saying that they were in the palace of the king of Gondor, visiting with the fair and wise lord, King Elessar, and his beautiful elven lady, Queen Arwen, on the near occasion of the birth of the king and queen's firstborn child. The baby, named Eldarion, was put in the care of a nurse, new to the king's staff. The woman had come to the king and queen highly recommended, and all was seemingly going well under her care and responsibility. The king and queen were wise and fair rulers, but it might be wise to point out that they were also first time parents, and so they were eager, as those folk usually are, to do whatever is most right for their child. Since they had no experience at raising babies and the nurse certainly did, they were willing to uphold the nurse's opinions to the highest regard, and to suspend their own ideas on child-rearing, relegating them as meager thoughts not worthy of discussion given the nurse's skills.
Now, let us proceed onward to our heroes. Of the two main characters (earlier described as 'sneaking'), there was Legolas, who was an elf, and Gimli, who was a dwarf. A very uncommon pair they were, for in this time and place of Gondor history, elves and dwarves did not normally mingle. But as you may have guessed, these two were quite extraordinary and were not like common elves and dwarves. They were friends of proud standing, loyal to the king and to each other, and they had fought together in war and made merry together in peace. But those are the things of tales better left said on other days and by other folk. Their visit to the king and queen on this occasion was done more than as a mere courtesy. They had a gift to deliver, one that they had crafted together for the specific occasion of this special birth. They, like all others of the kingdom, were delighted by the arrival of the new prince, so how could they not want to bestow a gift to the child?
Now here is where the unfortunate matter of this story occurred, for at its base it is likely that the whole of the differences and hurt feelings came by simple misunderstanding. You see, although the nurse ran the nursery well, she was not privy to the king's counsel and neither did she hold a place in his court. Therefore she was not present when the odd pair arrived at the palace doors and when they were brought into audience with the king. As such, she was not witness to the deep affections held by all in attendance there and the loving reunion had. Of course, the elf and dwarf, being long friends to the family, were immediately escorted to a more intimate setting where they might find the queen, and were not made to wait in the sitting rooms as a viceroy, or dignitary, or envoy that was seeking audience might be made to do. Instead they were brought to the private gardens that were a part of the palace grounds, a special place and where the queen often was found, and open only to those invited there. She came forth as the two approached with her husband for she too was of their great affection. However, civic duty beckoned King Elessar, or Aragorn as his friends knew him, to continue his duties. Thus the queen was left alone to host the pair.
Normally this would be no trouble at all as Queen Arwen was as close to this pair as any lady might be to a pair of stalwart knights. In fact she was closer. She knew immediately that they wished to see the new heir and sent word to the nurse to bring the infant forth that the two travelers might see him. Unfortunately, it was moments before the nurse arrived that Arwen was called away (alas, it was only a trifling matter to do with the cook, and had she not gone the matter that followed never would have occurred). Her leave of course meant that she was not present when the elf and dwarf met the nurse. That meant also the nurse thought the pair sneaks who had slipped past the guards (even though they were very good guards who would never let anyone sneak past them) and were in the private garden without authority. After all, she had been called to see the queen and after a minute she discerned that no queen was there. Therefore, she felt she was under no obligation to attend to Legolas and Gimli or to show them the new prince.
For a minute though -- just one minute -- she expected the queen was with them somehow in the gardens, and she acted as if she were staff, not management. Yes, for that first minute she presented the baby to them just as she had many a noble before them. However, that time of courtly manners wavered as soon as she realized the queen was not with them. Thus, the encounter was incredibly short.
Perhaps it was their arguing though that undid her. As was common, Legolas and Gimli were locked in yet another of their eternal debates over, this time, who would be the better guardian to the, as yet, unmet child. It was a silly discussion really, one truly impossible to argue as they both had merits that offset one another and made them ideal in their own individual ways. And as was typical, their debate was rather loud and had been going on moments before she ever appeared. Upon the nurse's arrival to the designated point in the garden where the queen was said to be, their argument was so heated that it should be no surprise that the nurse formed her opinion of them there on the spot.
Strangers yelling in the gardens over who could potentially be the better at taking care of the king's baby . . . yes, you might see why she grew to have predetermined notions about these two. Still, that does not quite excuse everything that occurred.
It should be said here too that Eldarion was not necessarily an easy charge. That had an influence on her actions too. An infant he might have been, but he was an infant with a will, and he had already made the nurse's dealings difficult within this house. Many a sleepless night had been spent on her part trying to soothe the child to sleep, all to no avail, and she was beginning to grow weary of disruptions as a result.
However, before you go and start to feel pity for this woman you should know one more thing about her, and that is that she was not exactly a compassionate keeper. In fact, she was downright stubborn and demanding in her ways and she had come to the king and queen's service with many notions pre-determined. For example, there were those thoughts she had on children, babies in particular. To her mind, she had faced many a tough child in her day and always did they try to assert themselves. She, however, was determined she would not be broken. Certainly Eldarion was difficult, but she believed that with a rigorous command over all that could influence him, she might wean him of his bad habits and ways. We shall ignore for the moment the child was but an infant and had not had time yet to form bad habits and ways. The nurse believed all children were in need of molding, and she was just the one to mold them.
So it might have been that Eldarion, at the ripe age of a few days old, knew what he was up against in this woman, thus his behavior and sleeplessness was geared to oust her in the only way his young mind could fashion.
She was also the suspicious-type. You may have met one or two characters like this in your lifetime. They are the kind who often looks over their shoulder, sniffing the air like a bloodhound, certain they are being followed when they are alone. With this dubiousness, she took heavy precautions with the infant, knowing his station in life and not daring to be the one who should see him stolen from her care. In fact, she went so far as to change the room selected as his nursery to one of the many hundred in the house, just to confound any burglar who might prove a thief of children. She made it seem that prowlers stalked the hall on a nightly basis, and though they did in the way of our heroes on the event of our story, they truly never did before. Arwen had had a room for the child prepared near the room she shared with the king. It was to serve the purpose of nursery. The nurse, however, did not care if another room had been made for the child. Her will prevailed, and thus the beautifully decorated baby's room was set aside so the nurse might uphold security for her charge. But the queen wished to be near (she was nursing the child and knew he would come to feed in the fine hours of the night), so she and the king were made to move their bedquarters too. This just goes to show what power the nurse really held over the royal couple.
Had she given it much thought, she might have realized that with the queen present or not, these two odd beings could not be in the gardens without invitation, and therefore they must be special, especially when one realized such presentations in the past had always been in the more formal sitting rooms. But there too was a problem in the nurse's perceptions. For you see, this nurse -- this forthright, controlling nurse -- was not pleased by much of the king's household. She had much decided changes needed to be made there as well and she aspired to make them happen the longer she remained in charge of the nursery and could wield her authority. Top amongst her list of peeves were the number of strange folk that came to visit this king and queen. Prejudiced, one might call her. She did not see it that way. She only knew that she did not approve of the host of hobbits, istari, horsemen, wildmen, ents, elves and now dwarves that came to call, and in the case of this particular pair, she did not care for their bickering, and especially the topic of their discourse.
It might be she simply did not know how highly regarded they were that she allowed herself to act so poorly in their presence, or it might have been that she acted on good decorum and they overreacted. In any case, there was immediate dislike between all parties from the start.
But there was that minute when all were on proper behavior to remember, and the contrast between her good behavior and bad is where the slight fell.
The nurse diminutively approached Legolas first (he was very striking in appearance you see, and women tended to be drawn to him, thus that may be why he was neared first in this task). She offered him then the babe to hold. So far, all was good. However, it was the elf who came off poorly in this case, for he appeared nearly frightened by the baby when he saw him wholly (which was actually true, for as long as he had lived -- and elves do live an incredibly long time, some say forever -- he had never taken on such a challenge as to be near one newly born) and so he had fumbled ineffectively as he saw Eldarion, uncertain how to touch or hold a child of this young age. All he could do was hem and haw and smile hesitantly. It would have been charming for some to see, for Legolas never showed fear otherwise, but for the nurse, her snuffling suspicions came to awaken and her stance immediately changed. She no longer came off with subtlety as she began to search her surroundings for the queen. Her imperial, wide-eyed stare became unsettling, and poor Legolas then felt strongly compelled to back away, almost with shame, muttering something about the need to see to his horse.
The dwarf, on the other hand, was not so easily intimidated (he in fact had some baby-holding experience of his own, again taken from tales best left to other telling). He announced in his loud, booming voice that he gladly would take the proffered child, and had the nurse been easier to give she might have seen then that deep down he had a special fondness for children and was as gentle as a lamb when it came to it. However, she was not easy to give and quickly did she withdraw (sensing some brute harm that might come from him should she not comply with his demand). She immediately went on the defense, wielding her nursing skills as a weapon. Thus, she reprimanded him for everything he did wrong in her eyes, before he even had the chance to do it! Though he took the child from her arms nonetheless, she barked at him her misgivings about how he cradled the child, breathed on the child, spoke near the child, and so on until finally, in a quick fit she snatched the child away, abruptly making excuse that Eldarion needed a nap, hence leaving Gimli empty-armed without even having given the child their gift.
Of course, Eldarion, sharp baby that he was, began to cry at that moment, for though he did not know these two souls, he knew he did not like the way his nurse was behaving and was indicative of what she might bring to his future. Further, it was very poor manners on her part, he felt, and in this way he was reprimanding her. Children, especially very young children, are clever that way.
Queen Arwen, being a new mother and thus highly sensitive to the cries of her child, and King Elessar, likely the same as a father, came running to the scene. But by then, the nurse had already gone, leaving Legolas and Gimli to decide how to report such poor behavior by a member of the household. Well-mannered as they were, they decided it was not theirs to tell the king and queen of the misdeed, for it would have humiliated them (they had already spoken golden words about the nurse, and one must suppose that in that couple's eyes she was magnificent for her command over any baby situation). And perhaps Legolas and Gimli thought the nurse might be justified slightly in finding them a bit suspicious. Still, had she stayed a few minutes longer, she might have seen they were of good people. Yet she hadn't and the slight was done. To the king and queen they merely said Eldarion was fussy and the nurse took him back to the nursery.
However gracious they were on the outside though, they fumed within for they could see both sides of the debate, and they decided to take it upon themselves to aid in Eldarion's cause and free him of this awful nurse who was given the task of caring for him. And the best way they saw fit to doing such a thing was to sneak the baby away from her, proving once and for all that her paranoid aspirations could backfire on her, and that they were supreme in their covert skills. Also they wanted to prove that the nurse was not so sharp a guardian as she thought, and that they were in fact superior to her.
It really was not a well thought out plan though, for they had not considered anything of a baby's needs when they conceived it, such as nursing, and changing, and burping, and what not. Oh, they thought they were on the right track, for their plan was to put the baby back in his original nursery and to leave their gift behind in the nurse's newly assigned baby room. It was a message meant to tell the nurse what they had done, and they thought it very clever indeed. However, as has been said, Eldarion had a will of his own, and though he did not care for his nurse, he had a way of asserting himself into any situation and he would play a role in what happened later.
And that brings us back to the two figures skulking in the halls of the great palace at the outrageous hour of four in the morning. Or actually, sneaking at the door of the infant prince's room, as the case was.
"I am surprised she sleeps so soundly. I have heard no sound of her."
"Not even a snore?"
"That cannot be! She has the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a hound. Did you drug her at dinner?"
"Nay! Pity I did not think to do as much. I believe it was our friend who wore her out. He wearies his mother as much as the nurse. I have heard it said that Eldarion is an exhausting charge to all. There are circles beneath her eyes, you know."
"The nurse's? Why should I care for that? I thought circles beneath her eyes were a regular state for that woman."
"Not her! The Lady Arwen! Her appearance is greatly marred by her nursing duties."
"She is still beautiful to behold. But indeed, I have noticed. And the Lord is fatigued as well."
"He is restless when the baby cries, I am sure. He knows not what to do, for he is ill-equipped to aid in this situation."
"I fear Eldarion would prefer his mother's breast to the healing hands of the king."
"Tonight is a good night though. I expect all in this wing of the manor sleep hard."
"Good. He is all ours then, Gimli. You twitch in proper anticipation. Let us proceed."
"Watch as you say. I do not twitch."
"Ah, but you do. Ever since she first slighted you I have noticed it, as if you are ready to reach for your axe and take a victim."
"You make me sound murderous."
"Is that how I sound? I was trying for 'lethal', but 'murderous' is a good word."
"I suppose I am. But what of you? You act just the opposite, Legolas, and that is a mystery to me. For all my time serving the king and his family, I have never seen you act as you did today. You practically ran away from her."
"Mayhap the nurse scares me."
"False. It is the child that scares you!"
"Let us get on with this, Gimli."
And so the elf evaded the comment with the dwarf rolling his eyes in frustration, and they entered the room.
"There is his cradle,"
"And there he is!"
"Hush! You will wake him!"
"I never thought I might be allowed to get this close."
They stood before the tiny bed of the even tinier young prince. A gentle moment it was, with moonlight streaming through the window and its fine light illuminating the angelic-looking child. Gimli then took pity on the baby, remembering the uptight nurse and said words of sympathy.
"Poor child. We must speak to the king on his behalf. If he and Arwen could only see, they would realize Eldarion truly needs no more than his parents for his care, even if he does manage to exhaust them at the moment."
"And friends. They need their friends for support."
"He sleeps peacefully, does he not?"
A long pause followed in which they both sighed contentedly, forgetting the nurse and realizing the true reason they had come: to set eyes upon the prince, the son of dear friends. And when at last, after minutes the silence began to press on them, the dwarf spoke.
"I would like to touch him."
"Touch him? What?! Gimli, no! You will wake him and that is not what we said we were doing here. We are here to abscond away with him, not pet him."
"I do not think he will stir, Legolas. Besides we will have to touch him if we are to take him away."
"No! He -- he will cry!"
"Why do you look so mortified? Touch him. There. See. He does not bite."
And to that the dwarf demonstrated the effect of stroking the baby's curled fingers. When he looked up to see his friend's reaction, he was met by a queer expression. Legolas looked positively ill, as if he feared just the idea of touching the child.
"What is your fear, elf?"
"I hold no fear."
"Then touch him."
"But what if I -- what if he breaks?"
"He will not break! Touch him. You will see he is made of sterner stuff than this."
And so the elf did. Hesitantly at first he reached out a hand. His fears were understandable given his size in proportion to the child. One finger could cover nearly all of the baby's hand. But eventually, he did make contact. And just as might have happened had the nurse been gentler when she showed him the child, he fell instantly into bonding with the baby. It could not be helped you see, for Legolas was an elf, and those people are given to strong emotion.
"He is -- he is so small and peaceful thus, is he not, Gimli? Little prince, I would serve you well, if you would have me."
"So quiet. So calm."
"Aye. 'Tis comforting. This is a beautiful scene. I am quite moved, Gimli."
"As am I."
A mischievous gleam came into the eyes of the elf then. If you have seen elves before you will know the look of which I speak. They are a playful sort of folk, prone to quick moods and merry making. It can be startling to those who are not familiar with them.
"Now, let us wake him."
"Wake him? Elf! Are you mad?"
"Perhaps I am! It is boring this way, just watching him sleep. Let us wake him!"
"And bring the entire household alive with his cries? We will be in trouble then!"
"Nay! He will not cry out. He is made to be sterner stuff than that, remember? One need only look at him to see he follows the elven part of his heart."
"You have not even held him and yet you know this?"
"I have not held you either and yet I know you will balk at any idea I might have."
"Hush, elf! You will wake her."
That warning on Gimli's part was a frightening thing, and just to make sure he did not wake her, Legolas tiptoed to the door of what appeared to be an adjoining room. He listened intently at the door, pressing his ear to the heavy panel. It seemed he heard no stirring for he immediately resumed the topic.
"Gimli, let us wake him."
"On this we do not agree."
"He will not cry. I know his lineage. I can see that of which he is made. A family line as strong as his does not breed silly tearful musings."
"True. But at the moment he is a baby, and babies tend to cry when they wake, and if he cries the nurse will come and we will be in a world of trouble for she will claim we are vermin and should not be housed in the same structure as him, let alone be in his nursery at four in the morning."
"He will not cry."
"You say that with surety. How can you know?"
"I am an elf."
"He is an elf."
"Half elf. And I repeat: so?"
"Elves do not cry."
"They most certainly do!"
"At the drop of a hood elves weep!"
"A lie propagated by rumor."
"You want proof? Very well! Two words: Arda. Marred. There! See! I need only speak the words and you get all teary-eyed."
"We are a feeling people. But that does not mean we cry for little reason!"
"I would argue with you on that, but the point would be lost. Let us just confer on what we know for the moment, shall we?"
"I am listening."
"Eldarion is a baby. Babies cry. Even half-elven babies cry. End of tale."
"Not this baby. Look at him. Does he not look wise and fair?"
"Yes. Very. While sleeping. But I do not think he looked as such when the nurse was trying to settle him in this night."
"She just did not know how to converse with him. I doubt she speaks Sindarin."
"I doubt Eldarion speaks it either."
"One need not speak it to understand it."
"That explains much about your people. What are you doing? Legolas, stop! What do you think that you do?"
"I am waking him."
"Stop! You will be the death of us!"
"Death becomes you, Gimli. Look at who has joined us."
"He is awake?"
"He is awake."
"He does not cry?"
"Do you hear the sound of cries?"
"Ah, there! So he does have eyes. Look at him Legolas! Is he not beautiful?"
Need you be told that the baby woke up? From what has just been said, likely not. Imagine then what the child must have thought to see two strangers in his room at four in the morning. It is testimony to his strong powers of reasoning and deduction that he acted as he did next. Some children might have cried. However, Eldarion was not like most children. He was actually rather curious, and in his young mind, he must have been wondering if the strange pair had taken the place of his nurse for she was not there as she almost always was.
"And look. He has fingers and toes."
"What did you expect? Hooves?"
"Nay. I just -- he is just so lovely to look at lying there."
"Aye, Gimli, and see? We have caused no harm."
"Very well, Legolas. You were right."
"Think you . . . think you I may hold him?"
"You have seen it done, surely. One puts him in their arms and they hold him."
"Yes, I have seen it done, but do you think you are ready for that? Do you even know how?"
"I think so. It was something like this. A hand under here and another here."
Fortunately, at this point, Eldarion was willing to go along with this little game. In fact, if these two were to be his new nurses, he was eager to see what they were like in the job.
"Ho! You are doing it! Legolas!"
"Ai! So I am! Look, Gimli! I am holding a baby!"
"Be careful you do not bend him. My, he is pliant! I think his head needs to be steadied a little more until he gains some muscle there in his neck."
"Yes, that looks better. How does it feel?"
"Strange. There is something amiss."
"I do not know. It feels like I should be doing something more. Here, you try it."
"Easy there. Ah, now I have him."
"And . . .?"
"Aye, I do believe you are right."
Now Eldarion knew what was missing, for he had spent much time being held and so was experienced this way. With amusement, he sensed that these two odd creatures were new at this nursing stuff, and so again, he gave them a chance to figure it out on their own.
"Do you know if there is anything else others do when they cradle a baby?"
"I have noted in the past that they talk to them."
"Yes. Quite a lot too, if I remember correctly. It seemed a constant stream of words."
"For what purpose do you think it is done? Certainly Eldarion cannot return the conversation."
"It was inane by my observation. Nonsense really. But it seemed a commonality among all who held babies."
"You might try it then."
"Try it? What might I say?"
"Introduce myself? Er, right. Introduce myself. My name. Um . . . er. Hello, Eldarion. My name is Gimli."
"This is silly."
"Go on. He is looking at you."
As it turns out, this was exactly what Eldarion was looking for them to find in their blundering, nursing ways, and he was greatly pleased to see they had figured it out. Better yet, he enjoyed the way they conversed, for it seemed that together they spoke just as much as any other that held him, and further that their conversation was far more interesting than any of the inane prattle that spilled out of the mouths of his other admirers. They spoke almost as one conscious soul giving both sides on any point and Eldarion liked that.
"And my annoying companion here is Legolas --"
"Uncle Legolas. And I am not annoying."
"--Though you may just call him 'Elf'. I often do. It is much easier that way as his name is such a twisting muddle of sounds. Very difficult to get your tongue around, even for a learned dwarf such as I."
"Do not go putting on airs for the lad, Gimli. He will only learn the truth and come to be disappointed in the end."
"Do not listen to him, Eldarion. He oft says things that make no sense whatsoever. Most of us have learned to overlook his mindless musings. Few of us even hear him anymore."
"You hear me."
"It cannot be helped. You are like a song I cannot get out of my head. Better to sing along than to try to ignore you, for as irritating as you are, you do not go away!"
"Careful, Gimli. I could wake the nurse. And then you would be left holding the baby."
"See what I mean, Eldarion? Endless trouble he is. He would probably enjoy it too."
"Seeing the nurse roast you alive? No doubt!"
"I would take you down with me."
"And now you see the true nature of your Uncle Gimli, Eldarion. Vengeful, is he not?"
"Ah, little lad, but I could tell you tales to fill the years of your life on the troublesome manner of this elf. For example, there was the time when we were in Edoras and your Uncle Legolas decided --"
"We have not years to fill, Gimli. Dawn will be coming and others of the staff will be up soon. Let me hold him now that we might carry out our plan."
"What? You want to hold him? But you have already had your chance."
"I gave him up to you."
"Hand him over, Gimli."
"Have you not a horse that needs tending? Hold that."
"I would rather hold the baby. You have had your fair turn. Now it is mine."
"I dare not. He looks very comfortable in my arms."
"He will likely doze in mine. My turn, Gimli!"
"I did not realize 'baby-holding' was a competition."
"Hand him over, Gimli!"
"Very well then. Do not grapple at me, Elf. There."
All might have been well then, but Eldarion was not done considering this odd pair as a replacement for his nurse. True, he did not like her, but there were some things he knew she did well, and it was time to give them the harder part of his testing to see if these two had the grit to match her.
"There. Oh, look at him."
"What a face he makes."
"It is amusing, is it not? Look at how his brow screws up. I would call that his fierce expression."
"And there. That one. That would be his curious expression."
"What of that one?"
"That one . . .That one . . . He . . .he does not appear happy, does he?"
"Nay. Nay. He does not."
Now if you have ever spent much time in the presence of babies, you may well guess what that face really meant.
"Ai! Ai! Gimli, what have you done?"
"What do you mean 'what have I done'? I have done nothing! I am standing here watching you hold the baby, as you directed."
"Ai, he cries! Make him stop! What did you do when you held him that he did not cry?"
"I do not know! He was simply content with me."
"Here! Take him then! Maybe he will be content again with you and stop crying!"
"Do not hand him off to me! The nurse will be here any second now and I will not be the one made guilty!"
"But you know how to stop him. What a noise! It is painful to hear! Take him, Gimli! Make him quiet again!"
"I know not how! You were the one who said he would not cry, Legolas!"
"I was wrong! There! Are you happy? Take him now!"
"Very well. But . . . Legolas? He is all wet. What did you do to him?"
"Do to him? What do you mean?"
"Ugh! He has made himself wet. And you too, it appears."
"What . . . ? Huh? Ai! That is disgusting!"
"Here hold him."
"Hold him? Did you not just hear me speak?"
"Hold him! I need to find a clean set of clothes for him!"
"Could we not just wait until the nurse arrives and let her do it?"
"She sleeps like the dead tonight. Have you heard her stirring? Nay. I thought not. Now hold him!"
"But surely Arwen will come? Or a maid?"
"Do you see them here, Legolas? All sleep soundly. Now HOLD THIS BABY WHILE I FIND A CHANGE OF CLOTHING FOR HIM! I suspect his wails will cease once we have cleaned him up."
Eldarion really was unhappy. He did not like being wet, and in that he is probably not unlike you. But he really knew he did not need to cry with such ferocity. It was just his way of seeing what they might do, and so far they were not faring well on this portion of the test.
"Ai! The noise he makes! Yes, please hurry! It seems we need not have acted stealthily. All would have slept, even should a mumakil have been delivered to the palace grounds this night."
"It appears so."
"Have you any success yet, Gimli?"
"Please hurry! His cries pain me. How do the others tolerate it?"
"Aragorn paces the floor as you'll recall."
"As do I. And justifiably, I think. Hurry, Gimli, please!"
"Why not speak to him in Sindarin. You had claimed the nurse knew nothing because she did not speak it."
"You are enjoying hearing me say I was wrong this day, are you not? Very well. I was wrong."
"That appeases me greatly, but in fact I was making a sincere suggestion. Try speaking to him in your tongue. It soothes beasts. Why not a baby?"
"What should I say?"
"Is there an echo here? Speak to him, Elf!"
And so Legolas mustered his courage and spoke to the child in Sindarin, which is the elven tongue. It is an old language, barely spoken anymore today, and because of that it is likely you do not speak it yourself. So for the sake of this story, translations are provided as to what was really said.
Eldarion, lend caun, ion ned evair, lasto an Adar-gwador Legolas. Daro le nir. Echadech lin noss thir faeg." ["Eldarion, sweet prince, son of the elves, listen to Uncle Legolas. You must cease your tears. You create a bad example to your kindred."]
"There! It is calming him! Go on."
"I nogoth echannen meren na lin curu. Tiro le cartha ir othorech le?" ["The dwarf is impressed. See what you can do when you master yourself?"]
"Aha! I've found his wardrobe. Diapers, clothing, booties. I've hit the motherlode, Legolas!"
"Ned rath, din u-norn o echad meren lin curu nogothrim. Hain sennui u-goll gwaith." ["Of course, it is not difficult to impress dwarves. They are a rather simple people."]
"Eh? What was that you said to him?"
"It is just more of that garbled speech, Gimli. Pay it no heed."
It cannot really be said if Eldarion understood Sindarin at this point in his life, but he was charmed by the sound of it nonetheless, and thus he calmed considerably when it was spoken. Still, he did not halt his tears completely. The prettiness of this language was a nice thing to have in a nurse, but they had not completed the task laid to them yet, and the infant prince would know the results if he could.
"There. Clothing. Now let us see him. Off with this and -- oh, that is disgusting! Not just wetness is contained in this diaper! He sees fit to send a gift as well."
"You may keep the gift. I will pass, thank you. Should not the nurse be doing this?"
"The nurse is not here and I do not think he would enjoy waiting for her. If you are so cowardly then I can do this. Some guardian you are."
"Never have I shirked in my responsibilities, Gimli! But in times of war one does not send in an axeman when a bowman is better suited."
"I see no reason for you to shoot him."
"That is not what I say. I simply mean that the nurse is better suited to changing his swaddling than we."
"Yet she is not here."
"Why do you suppose that is, Gimli? Should she not have completed this task by now and had us skinned and drained of blood simultaneously?"
"I shall now dispose of these wet clothes. I do not know why she is not here. Why do you think he does not calm completely?"
"Perhaps he does not like being naked. But seriously, Dwarf, why do you suppose the nurse has not come yet?"
"Oh, bother with the nurse! Help me here, Elf! What am I to do with this cloth?"
"Gimli, you took the diaper off too fast. How do we know how to fold or affix this new one?"
"I could hand you the old one from the bin if you want to try to determine the folds from it."
"No, I think not. No. Perhaps . . . like this?"
And with that, Legolas the elf twisted and folded and sculpted the diaper cloth into a very smart looking configuration that looped between the baby's legs and up around his belly, covering both his rear and front and making Eldarion much more snug and secure in his dry clothes. It pleased the baby greatly, and he immediately stopped crying.
"Ha! I see it is handy at times to have an elf about. Very clever the way you folded and wrapped that, Legolas."
"Thank you, Gimli. And you were correct in assuming he would cease his cries when he was in drier attire. Now to finish. I think if tied off like this. . . "
"No need to get fancy with those knots, Elf. He will only get wet and be in need of changing again."
That remark gave Legolas an idea.
"Oh! That remark gave me an idea!"
"I feel a sense of deja vu when you say that. What is your idea?"
"Where is that parcel, Gimli?"
"Parcel? It is here. Why?"
"Because I do not think we need to steal Eldarion away after all."
"You want to leave him here? What good is there in that?"
"Plenty. If we leave him here we do not frighten anyone into thinking he has really been stolen. Imagine how Aragorn and Arwen would feel should they find him gone, even if it is but for a minute. Will it not have made the nurse's paranoia seem that much more justified? Besides, Eldarion will grow hungry soon. What do we do then? If the healing hands of the king are helpless in such a situation, what might we do?"
These were all very good points on Legolas' part, especially the one about Eldarion growing hungr,y and the baby paid little attention to what else the tall figure said, instead trying to decide if he was ready to sup once again.
But before he could spend much more time thinking about it, he was distracted, for Gimli showed then what was in the parcel. The object of his enchantment was truly dazzling and though he was young and knew little of such things, he could tell even then that what he saw was an heirloom of priceless quality.
Gimli handed to Legolas a brooch that was fashioned in mithril and gold (that is to say it was made from precious metals). It took the shape of a tree, a striking tree of white that had branches that reached outward in gold, as if they touched a rising sun. It was an exquisite piece of art.
If you know of the ways of elves and dwarves, you might come to understand the significance of this pin, for it was made to represent both of those folk, and more. The metals tied it to the dwarf, for his kin worked hard the ground, forging precious stones and gems; and the emblem of a tree was a gesture to the elf, for the heart of his people, lived in the wood. But combined, those metals and design came to become the white tree, which was the sign of Gondor, and that tree was unique to the line of kings to which Eldarion was related. So the gift was the bind of all parts of Eldarion and his family's friends to each other. It was a very special gift, and if one thought about it, it could belong to no other than the ones present.
"What do you intend to do with our gift?"
"I intend to use it to pin his diaper closed."
"Like the clasp on our Lorien capes?"
"And we shall leave him here, safely in his nursery?"
"Until the nurse awakes. And when she goes to change his diaper next, she will find it, and know we were here."
"Oh that is wickedly clever, Legolas."
"That was really our goal for revenge, was it not? To make her see how foolish she had been?"
"And this way no one else need be harmed. It can be a secret that remains between all of us, and she might be more courteous to visitors from then on."
And that was all they need to have done, for Eldarion was convinced that they were better than she in nursing. And in all else.
"Good enough. Where are the rest of his clothes?"
"Here. But how do you . . . ? I am not familiar with this garment. Is this for an arm or a leg?"
"I think it is for the head. Try this . . . like this . . . I think. Is that right?"
"I do not think so. Perhaps if you put his arm in here, like this. And his legs thus."
"That looks ridiculous!"
"He seems not to mind."
"This will never do for an elf!"
"Half-elf. And it will have to for he has stopped crying and I intend not to upset him by wrestling with his clothing further."
"He does look content."
"So he does. And look! He smiled at me."
In fact, Eldarion laughed.
"I think it was me for whom he smiled."
"Nay. 'Twas I. Uncle Gimli."
"I alag a raun nawag peda anira, Eldarion. Istam suilach o nin."
Oh, more Sindarin here. That means: "The daft dwarf can say what he likes, Eldarion. You and I know that you smiled for me."
"Watch it, Elf. I heard that."
"It is just nonsense speech, remember, Gimli?"
"Nonsense or not, I will not have you disparaging me to the lad."
"As if you will not do the same to me given the chance."
"Ah yes. There was a story I started to tell. In Rohan, Eldarion. The elf is rather persnickety at times and he decided the bed he was offered was not fine enough for his liking."
"Not true. The bed was fine. It was what was in my room for which I did not care."
"I was in your room."
"You said nothing to me at the time. You merely complained that the bed was too lumpy."
"It was lumpy with you. If you must tell this story, do get it right."
"Well, it seems you have a different interpretation of the tale than I. Perhaps you should tell your version and I will tell mine and we will see which falls out to the more likely version."
"Very well. We will let Eldarion decide who tells it better. Nae, Eldarion, im echat dartha na i nawag."
"In the Common Tongue if you don't mind."
"If I must! . . . And thus, Eldarion, I was forced to room with the dwarf."
"No more rooms were to be had. The palace was filled with emissaries traveling on business for the council."
"Are you telling this or am I?"
"Go on! Go on!"
"King Eomer thought that since Gimli and I were companions of long standing, we might share a room. He did not realize how loudly the dwarf could snore, nor did he know how disruptive that was to the rest of those within the vicinity."
"I do not snore!"
"I traveled the Quest with you for numerous months. You snore loud enough to scare off the Dwimmerlaik."
"No one else of the Fellowship complained."
"They were frightened you might axe them should they rouse you to stop. Besides, you served to chase off many a predator with the noise you created. "
"Posh! You know not what you say. But what is there to be expected from one who sleeps with eyes open."
"Someone had to remain aware. One never knew when you might swallow your tongue."
And so our story ends . . . What? You do not like that ending? You say you would like to know what the nurse's reaction was when she found the pin? Well, sadly for this tale, there was no reaction from the nurse.
Oh, now there! That will not do! Such language from you! Did your mother not teach you to be more gracious than that?
There is another ending to this story though. If you would hold your tongue and speak in kinder words it might be told. Would you like to hear it? Very well then. That is better. We must back up a little though to get to it. Let us go to the last bit of Legolas and Gimli's conversations.
"He does look content."
"So he does. And look! He smiled at me."
"I think it was me for whom he smiled."
"Nay. 'Twas I. Uncle Gimli."
Yes, that is a good place. Now, as the elf and the dwarf were back to their argument about who was the better between them, two figures were skulking in the hall -- or perhaps sneaking is a better word? -- actually eavesdropping on this conversation (which wasn't hard for you have already been told that the elf and dwarf tended to get loud in their arguments, even if they were whispering the entire time of this story). And so this new set of skulking, sneaking, eavesdropping silhouettes spoke.
"Do you really think it wise to leave Eldarion in there with them?"
"He seems rather content to listen to them go on as such."
"That is what worries me. What bad habits do you think he might pick up from them?"
"It is too soon to tell, but I think if anything, they might do him good. They might actually tire him out enough that he will sleep the rest of the night through."
"I could do with some sleep. He is a blessing, Arwen, but he wears me out."
"I understand, my love. But do not fret. In time he will outgrow this stage."
"Have you regrets about relieving the nurse of her duties?"
"None. The woman was a tyrant -- keeping our friends from our son! They said nothing to me of her, but Eldarion did. I could read from his cries just how upset he was with her. She knows not her limits and certainly not to whom she deigns inferior. I will begin interviewing tomorrow for a replacement, but I think I might know what is really right here. How many mother's and father's do this task of child-rearing without benefit of nurses to aid them?"
"How many are the king and queen of Gondor?"
"Not many, I suppose, but I'd like to play a role in the raising of our son, Aragorn, even if we do have crowns to wear."
"As would I. And with the help of our friends, I think we might do well."
"Agreed, my love. And for the moment our son appears in good hands with our friends. Let us resume our rest while we can."
"Goodnight, Eldarion. Do not keep your new nurses up too late."
"Goodnight, my son. Play nicely now. I am certain you will have those two mastered in no time, so no taking advantage of the situation."
"As if you could stop him!"
"He takes after you, you know."
"And I was to say that he is much like you."
"Surely you jest. I was never as manipulative as that."
"Oh, but my dear, I have seen your wily ways."
"Wily ways? How can you say such?"
"Remember the ambassador of Peleregon?"
"Oh yes. Well, you have a point."
Thus this tale truly reaches its conclusion. There is nothing more that might be said of it except that Legolas and Gimli remained close companions to Eldarion ever after, always his protector and guardian, even if they were not his nurses, and they were also always resourceful with affixing his diaper when it needed affixing, or in later life when his spirits drooped, or his heart flagged. They were a delight to him, and they managed to amuse him by being themselves, engaging with one another, almost as one conscious soul giving both sides on any point. For that was how they worked together, as any real love or deep friendship works.
And so, if you are now satisfied, let us breathe a sigh and happily complete this telling by saying those words that draw us to a close. Here they are then. THE END.