"I am Orvelos," the taller of the two declared, looking down at him, "and this is my friend Wilburaë." Orvelos was tall and lanky even for an elf, his untidy dark hair and fanatically burning eyes pronouncing his Noldor antecedents. Wilburaë was shorter and not quite so thinly built, but while his pale hair proclaimed him to be of the Teleri, his sea-blue eyes burned just as madly as did those of his friend. They were both of them carrying leather portfolios overflowing with parchments and papers. "We seek your wisdom, good Master Dwarf."
"About what?" Gimli asked. There was an almost Dwarvish air about the two of them that intrigued him. "Are you having some difficulty with a mine?"
"Nay, Master Gimli," Orvelos replied. "This is about your wonderful pumping device. Might we come in?"
"The pump? What about it? I assumed that it was still upon Prince Legolas' vessel." Wilburae's lips pursed up in an endeavor to repress a sneer.
"That poor thing? It was put out of its misery and dismantled some time ago," the Teleri said, his voice higher than his friend's. "The wood was set aside to repair other vessels, and the pump put in one of our warehouses. I discovered it, and knowing that Orvelos is interested in such things, showed it to him. He was fascinated, and the two of us have conferred and planned for a long time about the uses to which such a device might be put."
The innate possessiveness of Dwarves flared in Gimli's heart then, and he frowned as he declared, "The pump belongs to me!" Papers fluttered from their bindings as the two elves hastened to reassure him.
"We realize that, Master Dwarf!" Orvelos hastened to say. "That was never in dispute! In fact, that is why we are here--we wish to examine the device more closely, particularly its inner workings, and have come to ask for your permission, and hopefully your help as well."
"Towards what end?" Gimli asked, now very curious. Orvelos shuffled his portfolio about uncomfortably, obviously wanting to pull out something specific from within. Snorting, the dwarf stepped back from the doorway and beckoned the two of them in. It was not the most gracious invitation, but they did not seem to notice, and readily crowded into Gimli's small cabin.
"The device takes in water at one end, and expels it with considerable force from the other, if I understand its purpose correctly," the Noldor said, spilling his papers onto the kitchen table, and rifling through them. Wilburaë followed suit, and there was much rustling for a moment. "Wilburaë and I are thinking that if we could increase the speed and force with which the device works, and perhaps make it smaller, than it could feasibly be used to give motive power to a sea-going vessel."
"Rendering it completely independent of the vagaries of wind and wave!" exclaimed the Teleri. "And making it possible to attain speeds far greater than even the fastest sail-powered vessel under oar!" He had the crazed, obsessed look common to Dwarves in the midst of a creative frenzy, and for the first time since he'd arrived in Valinor, Gimli felt at home.
"Let us show you what we have intuited about the inner workings of your device, and perhaps you might be able to suggest how we could reproduce it," Orvelos pleaded. "We took our idea to the master smiths, and they laughed at us, and refused us working space. But we will build a shanty up the beach if we must--this will be a great break-through if we succeed, and nothing must be allowed to stop our work!"
"That's the spirit, lad!" Gimli declared approvingly. "Show me what you have." It took but a few moments to determine that their ideas about the inner workings of the machine were only half-correct, and pen, paper and ten minutes more to set them straight. Odd though they might be, there was nothing wrong with their minds. "But this is not designed to do what you want to do in any event," he explained to his visitors. "You would not be able increase the output enough, I deem, to do what you accomplish. What you need is a screw."
"A screw?" Orvelos asked uncomprehendingly. Nervousness overcame him a moment later, and he looked at Wilburaë with an idiotic grin. The two of them actually giggled.
Gimli sighed, closed his eyes for a moment, and prayed to Aulë for patience. "A screw," he reiterated, "or perhaps some sort of fin-like thing to move the water. If it turned fast enough, you might get the velocity you desired." The elves looked at each other and giggled once more, this time in relief.
"You two don't get out much, do you?" the dwarf asked them. Blushes came over their countenances.
"Who has time for maidens?" Orvelos protested. "It is the work that is important!"
"And we are not......popular," Wilburaë admitted mournfully.
"Can't imagine why!" muttered the dwarf. "And you Elves with as many women as men!" Of course, he had encountered this phenomena before, he reflected, fondly remembering the frenetic clangor of sublimating hammers pounding every spring in the Lonely Mountain. Ah, youth........
"Please, Master Dwarf," Orvelos pleaded, trying to bring Gimli's attention back to the matter at hand. "You've been most helpful just in this short amount of time. Your advice and knowledge would expedite our project enormously." Wilburaë, who seemed content to let Orvelos be the spokesman, nodded vigorous assent.
Gimli looked them up and down for a moment. Two absolute fanatics with a crazy idea that looked to involve great effort, heartbreak, possible physical peril, had almost no chance of success, and looked to be world-changing if it did succeed. It was enough to make one positively reminiscent about the good old days!
"Very well, I'm in," he told them. The Elves whooped in glee. "The first order of business is for me to look into this work-space problem of yours."
Some of Orvelos' elation faded. "I do not know what you will be able to do, Master Gimli--the smiths were most obdurate."
Gimli's age-creased face split in a big grin. "What makes you think that I am going to talk to the smiths?"
"And so you see, my lady, the smiths have been rather.......difficult," he said the next day to the person he hoped would solve the workspace problem.
"I had heard something about this idea, and dismissed it out of hand myself, Lockbearer," said Lady Galadriel, her white draperies trailing behind her as she paced about the room. "I had no idea that you were involved, or I would have insisted that the smiths allocate the space that was requested. Are you sure that this is something you wish to participate in, Gimli? Orvelos and Wilburaë are considered rather.....erratic."
"Then all the better that they have a firm Dwarven hand to hold them to their course, my lady. And it will give me something to occupy my mind during those dreary times when I am not basking in the glory of your beauty."
Galadriel gave him an arch look. "Those who speak of the rough, unlovely tongues of the Dwarves never met you, Lockbearer! A warehouse, forge and wharf, you say? There are such properties amongst my family holdings. I believe I can arrange for all that you desire."
"My lady, if you could grant all that I desire, Lord Celeborn would not be speaking to either one of us," Gimli said daringly. Galadriel gave him a girlish smile, and a musical laugh.
"The things you say, Gimli! Such a flatterer! Let me see what I can do."
When Galadriel set her mind to getting things done things got done, no matter who objected, which was one of the reasons the Valar had not been in any hurry for her to return. Within two days, Gimli and the elves had their work-space, and it was soon filled with plans, tools, and the disassembled pump. The three inventors then set out upon a frenetic round of activity. Orvelos was responsible for forging and casting the parts of the device, while Wilburaë spent his days creating small scale models of the ship that would house it and testing them in the outgoing tide for seaworthiness and aqua dynamics.
Gimli supervised the whole project, and greatly enjoyed doing so, for association with the two young lunatics brought to mind his younger days in the craft halls. They all of them pretty much lived with their work, having brought cots to the warehouse, and they ate whatever could be had at the local taverns. There was no-one to tell them to wipe their feet, take baths, fold their clothes or pick up their work area, and no-one to swing upon Gimli's beard. When Orvelos and Wilburaë both chipped in and bought him a keg of ale as a token of their appreciation, and set it up right there in the shop, his happiness was almost complete. It was the perfect bachelor domicile.
Not long after Gimli moved down onto the wharf, he was visited one day by Legolas, who looked about at the chaotic disarray with a frown of puzzlement. He had been greeted by Orvelos and Wilburaë with the greatest of respect, as a member of the Fellowship, and the two of them had retreated outside in a rare display of tact and consideration.
"Gimli, what is it that you are doing here?"
Gimli, clasping his arm with great affection, said, "Building boats."
"Aye. Boats that do not need oars or sails."
"That seems rather....unnatural. What do the Lords of Aqualondë say about it? And the Valar?" Gimli shrugged.
"Don't know. Haven't asked. Would you care for some ale?" Legolas owned that he would, and after some searching, Gimli found him a clean tankard and filled it. The elf then settled into a chair that wasn't filled with parts and papers and looked about bemusedly.
"Are you coming home soon, Gimli? Amarilia and the children all miss you, and so do I."
Gimli looked uncomfortable for a moment. "Not for a little while yet, Legolas; a year, perhaps more. It will take us that long to create a working prototype. And for my beard to regain its former fullness." Legolas winced.
"I am sorry about that, my friend. The children mean well, you know."
"I'm sure the Fall of Doriath is not the same without me." Legolas winced again, and took a deep drink from his tankard.
"In your absence, they've moved on to the Fall of Gondolin. Guess who gets to be Maeglin?" It was Gimli's turn to grimace.
"You have my sympathy, friend Elf. You know that you are welcome to come and visit me anytime you like."
A look of surprised gratitude suffused the Elf's countenance. "Truly, Gimli? You wouldn't mind? I would hate to interrupt your work."
"Oh, there'll be no interrupting," the Dwarf assured him, "We'll put you to work. I'm sure that a master boat-builder like you will be of use." Legolas gave his friend a suspicious look, but Gimli managed to seem totally sincere. Though it was perhaps just as well that Wilburaë had stepped out for the moment.... "And thanks to me, you know your way around a forge a bit. We'll find something for you to do." He gave his friend a knowing grin. "In fact, anytime the Fall of Gondolin gets to be too wearing, send word, and I'll send a note desperately requesting your aid for a week or two. Surely Amarilia cannot deny the wishes of your poor old mortal friend."
Deeply moved, Legolas took another swig and sighed gustily. "Oh Gimli, you have no idea what your offer means to me." The Dwarf cocked a bushy brow.
"On the contrary, Elf, I certainly do."
With Legolas visiting as often as he could make excuses to get away, Gimli's happiness was now complete, and he applied himself to the work with a will, as did his two co-workers. That was not to say that they did not have their set-backs; a couple of wharf-fires, some near-drownings, the odd collision, and the very spectacular explosion of one engine, which they had actually installed in a hull, and which Wilburaë happened to be test-piloting at the time.
He was blown to Mandos in an instant, and Gimli and Orvelos were left heart-broken and bereft, wondering where they would find another such genius to collaborate with them. They ceased work for a week, drifting about aimlessly, and had just decided one morning to begin again and do what they could, when in walked Wilburaë, subject of the swiftest re-embodiment in Elven history. When asked how such a miracle had come to pass, the Teleri simply shrugged and explained, "I wasn't popular there, either," and took up his work where he'd left off as if nothing had happened.
"Thanks be to Mandos for that!" exclaimed Orvelos.
"Mandos says that really, no thanks are necessary," murmured Wilburaë abstractedly, squinting down the keel of one of his hulls with a frown, "and that I should be more careful and live a long, long time." He stroked a hand along the side of the boat. "Twitchy bunch of wisps they were there--not a good conversationalist in the lot. And all that business about reflecting upon your life--it's not like I ever got up to much. About all I had to talk about was the boat."
"Well, we're just glad to have you back," Gimli said heartily, exchanging raised eyebrow looks with Orvelos over the Teleri's head.
"Good to be back. You get that second engine finished yet, Orvelos? I'm ready to go out again whenever it's done."