I wrote this story partly to get it out of my head, partly to work around writer's block, and partly as a challenge for myself. I wanted to see if I could sustain a lengthy debate between Legolas and Gimli and tell it convincingly from an outside perspective. For better or worse, this is the result. Hope you enjoy!

On another note, HUGE thanks to Lamiel for catching serious formatting errors. (Curses Fanfiction) It should work now, so hopefully the fic actually makes sense. Also, HUGE thanks to Docmon for a very helpful beta session. I would not have had the courage to post this fic without her.

Of Elves and Dwarves and Late Night Philosophy

A warm fire crackled merrily in the hearth. The popping and shifting of burning logs blended seamlessly with the steady patter of rain on shuttered windows. Detailed tapestries, colorful banners, and bright shields gave life to the solemn stone walls while the polished floor found its own covering in a sprawling bearskin rug imported from the wild steppes of Rhûn. The smell of leather and pipe-weed mixed with the taste of mulled wine to complete the picture, creating an atmosphere that was comforting and nostalgic. Stretching his long legs out before him, Aragorn settled back in his chair and sighed happily. He had not been this relaxed in months, and he was determined to enjoy the peace for as long as it endured.

Which will probably not be much longer, he thought with wry amusement, glancing at the elf and the dwarf also seated beside the hearth. They have been far too subdued this evening. I cannot hope that such restraint will continue.

But Aragorn was grateful for the reprieve he'd been granted and was prepared for what came next. A part of him was even looking forward to the pending banter of his incorrigible companions. It had been too long since he'd last seen either of them. Expansion projects within Aglarond had kept Gimli occupied in Rohan for the past year, and Legolas was only recently returned from Greenwood where he had negotiated trade agreements on Gondor's behalf. It was good to have them both in Minas Tirith again, and Aragorn and Arwen had sat with them for many hours after dinner, laughing and reminiscing until most of the household had retired for the night. Arwen herself had sought rest not long ago, leaving the other three alone in the private study, and they had sat in comfortable silence ever since, content to enjoy one another's company. But Aragorn knew Gimli and Legolas too well to believe that the silence would last. It was only a matter of time before one of them made an observation of some kind. The other would feel obliged to challenge the observation, the first would defend himself, the second would contest it, and the debate would begin. It did not seem to matter what the topic was or whether they actually believed in what they were saying. It was simply a strange game they played, sometimes to amuse themselves and sometimes to exasperate those around them.

The last time they were here, they argued over what color the sunset had been, Aragorn remembered. I wonder what it will be this time. And I wonder who will begin it.

Surreptitiously studying the pair, Aragorn examined their expressions carefully and decided that Gimli would probably speak first. Legolas seemed unusually withdrawn at the moment. The firelight playing off the elf's face revealed distant eyes, and Aragorn silently cursed the timing of his return. Sheltered within Greenwood where there was little to remind him of the sea, Legolas had come home to a winter storm and a southern gale that carried not only moisture but also the smell of brine. It probably did not help that the swan-bedecked banner of Dol Amroth hung prominently beside the elf's chair. No, tonight it would be up to Gimli to begin the conversation, and the dwarf looked more than equal to the task. His dark eyes were thoughtful, one hand stroked his beard, and the other tapped his pipe absently against his thigh.

Soon, Aragorn thought, watching Gimli's face closely. Very soon. The king held his breath when the dwarf's eyes narrowed and his lips parted slowly, moving as though he spoke to himself. Gimli's pipe ceased to drum against his leg and his other hand shifted to rest upon the arm of his chair. Now it comes. Elrohir could have set the changing of the guard by this. Five… Four… Three… Two… One…

"Which was first, do you suppose?" Gimli asked as Aragorn congratulated himself on his timing. "The feel of evil or evil itself?"

Drawn from whatever thoughts—or longings—had occupied his mind, Legolas tipped his head to one side and frowned, his brow creasing slightly. "Pardon?"

"Of the various forms that evil takes, which do you think was first?"

Legolas's face became curiously blank, which meant that the elf was confused but did not wish to admit it. Aragorn could sympathize for he was slightly confused himself. When Gimli first spoke, Aragorn had wondered if this was a continuation of an earlier debate, but Legolas's reaction said otherwise. It was certainly not along the lines of their normal debates, especially since it seemed that Gimli would have to explain his question before they could begin. The initial stages of their arguments were usually much simpler.

"Think of the Nazgûl," Gimli said, noting their confusion. "Or even of Wargs and Orcs. They have a…a feel about them. You can sense them before they reach you. My father also claimed that one could sense dragons. At least, he said he could sense something of Smaug's presence. And we ourselves felt the Balrog in Moria long before we could name it. There is an air about fell creatures that reveals their presence. A chill of sorts, or a lingering unease. So I wonder which came first: this feeling of evil or the physical form."

"But you said yourself that these things are sensed ere they are seen," Legolas answered. "Therefore, the feeling comes first and the evil follows after."

Gimli shook his head. "Nay, you do not understand. My question was not what warned first. My question was what existed first."


The dwarf rolled his eyes. "Yes, but Ilúvatar is not considered evil."

"Morgoth, then."

"No, I meant—"

"Of course, he was first known as Melkor," Legolas continued, pursing his lips. "And according to legend, it was stated that Melkor could do nothing that did not have its ultimate source within Ilúvatar, and that whatever he attempted would ultimately work within a grander design. So although his intentions were evil and his actions heinous, eventually it shall all weave into the greater purpose."

Gimli sighed. "It seems I am not making myself clear. Let me give you an example. Think of…" He paused and waved his hand. "Draugluin," he said, naming the chief of Sauron's werewolves from the First Age. "When he and his kind came into being, did they create the feeling of evil that surrounded them or did the feeling of evil create them?"

"Neither," Legolas said with a puzzled frown, though Aragorn could now detect a sparkle of amusement hidden in the elf's eyes. "Werewolves were spirits imprisoned within wolf forms. Possibly these spirits were to be feared at the time they were imprisoned, but prior to their fall, they were almost certainly innocents. They were not evil at their creation, nor did they have this 'feeling of evil' to which you refer. That came later."

Gimli's jaw tightened and Aragorn turned away in order to hide a smile. Legolas was being deliberately obtuse, and it was swiftly eroding the dwarf's patience. It looked to be an effective strategy, for Legolas now seemed to be winning and the debate had not even truly begun. Halbarad used to do this, Aragorn mused with a small twinge of grief. It would drive Erestor to the brink of madness.

"Aragorn, you know of what I speak," Gimli said, casting about for an ally. "What are your thoughts?"

Abruptly snatched away from his memories, Aragorn recovered quickly and shook his head. He had learned long ago to avoid involvement in these debates. "I would hear your opinions on the subject first. I require more time to study the matter."

The evasion might have worked in Minas Tirith's Council, but it did not fool Gimli, who leveled a dark glare at the man. "King Elessar of Gondor has no initial thoughts? No insights that he would be willing to share?"

"Perhaps in a moment," Aragorn said, gambling that his presence would be forgotten once the debate began in earnest.

"I will hold you to that," the dwarf growled before turning back to Legolas. "Let me give you a different example. Perhaps one that will be easier for your simple mind to understand."

"Perhaps it is your simple mind's inability to explain that causes misunderstanding," Legolas said archly, obviously enjoying himself.

The fire now burning in Gimli's eyes had nothing to do with the fire in the hearth, and Aragorn found himself tensing. "Wargs," the dwarf said, his voice strained. "They are not spirits imprisoned but wolves that were bred and further corrupted. When the first Warg was born, did he have a feeling of evil about himself, or did the feeling come first and corrupt the Warg?"

Legolas made a show of considering that. "What causes you to think that the first Warg was a he?"

Gimli swore loudly. "I was attempting to avoid a discussion of Orcs and their origins, but if you—"

"Peace," the elf interrupted with a laugh. "Peace, I will be merciful." Legolas shook his head, a smile teasing the corners of his lips. "Allow me to think a moment more on your question, but while I do so, perhaps you could reveal what prompted it. For it does not seem to be a question that a dwarf might ask."

Gimli scowled. "And what mean you by that?"

"Naught. I simply wonder how such a question might fit with what you have told me of dwarves in general, namely that they are industrious and practical and have little time for frivolous questions that might waste valuable time."

"I do not waste valuable time on this question," Gimli said indignantly. "It merely…comes to mind. Occasionally."

"Enough so that you have now brought it to our attention," the elf observed. Relaxing again, Aragorn decided that Legolas was still very much in control of this discussion.

"Perhaps it comes to mind more often of late," Gimli hedged, shifting in his chair. "But that does not mean it is a distraction from my work!"

"Of course not," Legolas said, his eyes twinkling. "Yet it does seem to be a distraction from other questions."

"What other questions?"

"Specifically, my question."

"You asked no question."

"I fear I must disagree. My question wondered what had brought about your question."

Aragorn smiled slightly at the wordplay while Gimli again shifted restlessly. "Ah. Yes. Well…" The dwarf frowned, his fingers tapping out a rhythm upon the armrest. "Last spring, Eomer received a letter from Pippin concerning Merry. Apparently his right arm still gives him trouble from time to time, though he will say nothing of it to anyone. Pippin does not believe it to be serious, but he asked that Eomer invite Merry to spend some time in Rohan as a guest, thinking it might aid him." Gimli shrugged. "After that letter, I began wondering about the influence of Nazgûl and dark forces in general."

"You have been thinking on this since spring?" Aragorn asked in surprise, speaking ere he could stop himself.

"Occasionally!" Gimli stressed. "I have been thinking on it occasionally."

Legolas's hastily smothered laugh earned him a withering glare. "My apologies," the elf said, not quite able to banish the smile from his face. "But as you have occasionally pondered this question for the past eight months, surely you have more insight on the matter than what you have revealed. Are you willing to share your ideas ere we share ours?"

We? Aragorn thought with some consternation.

"I suppose," Gimli said reluctantly. "I am not as knowledgeable as some, and so I can say nothing for certain. But after considering the matter, it is my belief that the feeling of evil came first and that from this feeling emerged dark creatures."

"So you think that the feeling made the creatures and not the other way around," Legolas said.

"Correct," Gimli nodded. "And now that I have graced you with my view, would you be willing to share yours? Or does your simple mind require more time to study the matter?"

"Nay, my simple mind is not so simple that it requires eight months for thought." Gimli bristled and drew himself up to respond, but Legolas continued ere he could say anything. And the elf maintains control, Aragorn observed, fascinated by the dynamics of their conversation. "My initial thought is that evil is a choice of the heart," Legolas said. "And for the first of the Wargs you mentioned, it was probably a conscious decision. Dark influences might have affected or persuaded them, but in the end, the choice was theirs. And once the choice was made, they surrounded themselves with a feeling of malice and anger."

The dwarf frowned. "Perhaps your simple mind should take eight months to study this question. By your own admission, the Wargs were influenced by darker powers. Would that not mean that the feeling of evil played a large part in their creation?"

"The feeling of evil might have indeed played a part, but it was not the primary instrument of their creation," Legolas answered. "It was simply a factor in their making. The decision to serve dark forces had to have been a choice. Feelings of evil can be overcome. They cannot sway a creature against its will unless some form of consent is given."

"It is well your skills with the bow are not related to your skills in an argument, for again you miss the mark," Gimli scoffed. "Let us say that we remove the feeling of evil from the wolves' beginning. Would they still choose to serve Morgoth? Would it still be their intent to commit evil acts? Or would they instead choose to serve themselves, taking thought for their own survival and little else? I think the last case most likely, and thus it makes far more sense to believe that an outside influence holds sway."

"And it is well that your skills with the axe are not related to your skills in an argument, for you have failed to strike the heart of the matter. I said not that outside influence holds no sway; I said that it was not the deciding influence. Think on it! The evil feeling about these creatures must come from within them, but how could it exist in their hearts unless they chose to accept it? For is not temptation the lure of darkness? That was how the Ring spoke to us. It clouded our minds, yet our actions did not turn to evil unless we accepted what the Ring whispered."

"It seems I am not the only one who fails to strike the heart of the matter. You speak of the Ring and what it offered, so let us explore that further. It offered Boromir a chance to make Gondor strong and protect his people. It sought out that which he desired most. It sought out that which was already in his heart. It needed no acceptance or permission to go there. Think you that Boromir would have attacked Frodo without the Ring's influence? I do not. The feel of evil had to come first—with or without consent—and from that influence, a darker creature was born."

Legolas's brow furrowed, and it looked to Aragorn as though the elf could not find a ready answer to Gimli's logic. But then he shook his head, his eyes distant. "It is not the same."

Gimli's response was a raised eyebrow. "It is not?" And control passes to the dwarf, Aragorn decided.

"Nay, it is not." Legolas seemed to be searching for ways to express his thoughts, which was unusual for any elf but even more so for Legolas. Rarely was he at a loss for words, especially in the middle of a debate with Gimli.

"Do you have an explanation for this assertion?" the dwarf challenged.

"Boromir overcame his temptation," Legolas said slowly, his eyes narrowed. "In the end, he was not a creature possessed by evil but rather one who died to protect others, grieving for what he had done. Is this not so, Aragorn?"

Still attempting to stay on the outer fringes of the discussion, Aragorn conceded the point with a simple nod. He did not quite trust his voice to speak of Boromir's last moments anyway.

"Now consider the Wargs and the Nazgûl," Legolas continued. "Think you that they have a chance to become as they once were? To redeem themselves? I do not. Boromir did not consent to the Ring, and so he could not be completely taken. He was too wise and too valiant a man for that. The Ring could only work through him in fits of madness. But Wargs and Nazgûl are wholly within evil's grasp, for they have consented to it. It is a choice of the heart."

Gimli pressed his lips together and studied the elf. "You have a point," he said grudgingly. "But it still remains that Wargs and Nazgûl would not have become such if evil did not tempt them in the first place. The shadow of evil must still come first!"

"The shadow of evil must be present, certainly," Legolas said. "But in the end, it must be the choice of the individual."

"Which is influenced by the evil that is present."

The elf shook his head, evincing subtle signs of exasperation. "But that is not the deciding factor."

"Then what is?" Gimli demanded. "What forces a creature to choose servitude in the darkness?"


Gimli blinked. "What?"

"The creature must choose," Legolas said. "You proclaimed it so yourself."

"I never denied it, but I am more interested in what forces this choice."

"Outside influences and inner desires, but the choice is the important part," Legolas said, his voice rising. "Naught can be done until the choice is made. Would we have prevailed at Helm's Deep had we not chosen to fight? Would the Morannon be broken if Frodo had not chosen to carry the Ring? Would Saruman be vanquished if he had not chosen to seek after greater power? Nay!"

"Yet for all of these choices, larger forces were at work," Gimli shot back. "And it was these larger forces that made the choices even possible. Without them, Rohan, Frodo, and Saruman would never have had the opportunity to choose in the first place! It is perhaps the same reason that elves are so insufferable. No greater force has given them a chance to choose otherwise."

"And perhaps the reason that dwarves are so stunted is that they will not choose to give up their heavy and cumbersome beards," Legolas returned heatedly. "But even if these larger forces of yours gave the dwarves such a choice, it is unlikely that they would be intelligent enough to see it. Once again, it is the choice that matters, not whatever feeling precedes that choice."

"Then flights of fancy are not responsible for the absurd ramblings of elves? Your inane babbling is a deliberate choice?"

"You will notice that I have neglected to say aught of dwarves and the ill feelings that precede them. Or should I say the stench?"

Gimli said something rather crass in return, but Aragorn did not hear it, suddenly torn between conflicting desires. The argument had devolved into a round of insults—which was not uncommon—but Aragorn could not quite hold back a strange sense of regret. Slander could be entertaining in its own right (Legolas and Gimli were both remarkably creative in their slights) yet the king of Gondor found himself taking a reluctant interest in the original topic of their debate. He could interrupt now and move the conversation back to where it began, but if he did so, he would lose his coveted position as an impartial observer. By becoming an active participant, he would be forced to sit through the bulk of the debate until they had reached something resembling a conclusion. Yet Gimli's question had led Aragorn to think on other possibilities that captured his interest. Would it truly be so terrible to sit and speak with his friends until they settled on an agreement of sorts?

Yes, warned a voice in the back of his mind. It very well could be. They might feel this discussion warrants an entire night of scrutiny.

Aragorn grimaced, knowing that he should listen to his instincts and stay well away from this. In fact, he should probably retire to bed now while the option remained to him. But Aragorn's curiosity had been piqued, and if he left now, he would be awake all night pondering the possibilities that Gimli's question raised. No, it was probably best to talk this out and conclude the matter ere it became an obsession. With a rueful shake of his head, Aragorn turned back to the conversation just in time to hear Gimli say something about elven hair and its ability to repel sanity.

"My friends, I fear we have gone astray," Aragorn said, interrupting before Legolas could respond. "We spoke of the ill feeling about Wargs and Nazgûl, and I would return to that topic if possible."

"You have an opinion on whether it is choice or outside influence?" Gimli asked, his eyes glittering.

Aragorn hesitated, aware that he walked very dangerous ground. "On that subject, I am undecided. I do not feel the question has been properly defined, and to that end, I would turn your minds toward a different perspective."

"Then you believe that Gimli's occasional eight-month query is ill-founded?"

Closing his eyes, Aragorn held his breath for a moment and then let it out slowly. "Nay, I believe that the question over which you and Gimli have both argued is not precise enough." He opened his eyes and fixed what he hoped was a quelling gaze upon the elf and dwarf. "It was not clear to me whether the question asked about the key factor in the creation of evil or the key influence, and I can give you arguments for why those things are different. Moreover, you concentrated on beginnings and origins, yet such things are so far in the past—even for you, Legolas—that it is nearly impossible to be certain of anything. I would have us turn to something more recent and perhaps more relevant. I would ask which sustains the other: the fell creature or the fell feeling."

There was silence for a moment, and the sound of rain made itself heard again as it drummed against the windows. Legolas and Gimli both appeared to be considering the question, and Aragorn once more found himself wondering which of the two would speak first. He guessed Legolas, and after a few quiet minutes, his guess was validated.

"The feeling sustains the creature," the elf said.

"Are you certain?" Gimli asked, fingering his beard. "That seems to contradict your earlier arguments about choice."

"Nay, it does not. Once the choice is made, the evil takes hold, and after that, the body becomes so corrupted that it is dependent upon darker forces."

The dwarf grunted and leaned back in his chair, saying nothing for a moment. Aragorn watched, intrigued. It was one of the few times that either the elf or the dwarf had not come out in direct opposition to the other during a debate. He suspected it was because Gimli agreed with Legolas and was struggling to find arguments that might support the other side. "What say you, Aragorn?" Gimli asked at length. "It is your question, after all, and since you seem to find it worthy of discussion, I suspect you hold views that might support both answers."

"I do, and as with the previous question, I am undecided as to which arguments are better," Aragorn said, phrasing his words carefully. "Legolas makes a good point that evil corrupts a body. For myself, I believe that minds can become accustomed to the feeling of malice and that without such feelings, dependent minds can lose purpose and direction. Yet I continue to think back over my experiences with Wargs, and I remember that when one kills the body, the feeling of evil is lost. Or at the very least, it fades. That seems to suggest that the creature sustains the feeling."

"What of Greenwood, then?" Legolas asked. "Though it grieves me to say it, there are parts about the ruins of Dol Guldur that are still quite dark. Yet the Orcs who stalked the forest are all but gone. How do your arguments account for that?"

"By remembering that the trees themselves were affected by the Necromancer," Aragorn said. "So long as they cling to the shadow of evil, they will sustain the feeling of evil."

"Your words might be true were it not for the fact that many of the trees have died," Legolas answered. "But despite the efforts of my father's elves, the evil has not died with them."

"And what of Minas Morgul?" Gimli added. "Naught of note grows there, yet it is still heavily shadowed. The feeling of evil persists despite the lack of creatures to sustain it."

Aragorn's brow furrowed. "Evil does not affect the living only. Sauron's power shaped the earth and the mountains about him. Perhaps the very stones of Minas Morgul sustain the feeling of evil. And perhaps it is the same in Greenwood."

Legolas narrowed his eyes and Gimli pursed his lips. "I cannot speak for the forest, but the rock of Minas Morgul was first hewn by men of Gondor," the dwarf said. "Stone may not have life as you understand it, but it does not forget those who shape it and it holds to the shape it is given. The walls of Minas Morgul do not sustain the feeling of evil. If anything, they lament it, remembering their first masters."

"The forest is similar to that," Legolas said. "It remembers the elves and that once we walked there. As Gandalf said years ago, it takes much evil for a land to forget, and Greenwood has not forgotten. Yet evil remains. What say you to this?"

Ai Varda, they have joined together against me! Aragorn suddenly realized. It was a remarkable feat, actually, because the king still did not know which view he supported. Yet somehow, Legolas and Gimli had maneuvered him in such a way that he was now forced to defend the idea that creatures sustained evil or admit defeat before he even chose a position. What was it Imrahil said last year? 'None enter a debate between Legolas and Gimli with impunity.'

"You have no answer?" Gimli pressed.

"The examples you give are of regions where evil held great sway for an extended period of time," Aragorn reasoned. "Perhaps feelings of darkness were allowed to exist independent of living things, and so these feelings continue. But you cannot deny that killing a lone Warg removes the shadows that accompany him. If evil sustained the Warg, should it not continue even after the Warg's death?"

"But when you strike the blow, is it truly the Warg that you strike?" Legolas challenged. "Or are you striking down that which supports him?"

"The feeling is intangible," Aragorn said, frowning. "How would one go about striking it down? It is the Warg that falls."

"True, but the weapons most effective against Wargs are those which have been made to combat shadows," Gimli pointed out. "Are there not runes upon Andúril for that purpose? My axe was forged with such things in mind, and I believe that Legolas's arrows were also crafted to strike at more than just the body."

"Just as it is more effective to strike an enemy on many fronts, a weapon of dwarven or elven make would be more effective than a normal weapon," Aragorn said. "But that does not mean that the feeling of evil is struck down first. Wargs may also be killed through poison or mishap, and in these instances, the result is the same as it would be were the animal killed with your axe. The feeling of evil disperses."

"Think of Gollum, then," Gimli said. "He lived far longer than any others of his race, and in that case, it was clear that evil sustained him. He would not have survived otherwise."

"Nay, that is different," Aragorn said. "In that instance, the evil clearly came from an outside source: the Ring. In speaking of Wargs, they carry with them their own feeling of evil. And that feeling leaves when the Wargs die."

"But why should evil work differently for Sméagol than for the Wargs?" Legolas asked. "Does it not all have the same source?"

"The same source, yes, but not the same methods."

Gimli shook his head. "I see no difference. Corruption is corruption, and though the form might change, the result does not. It is like harvesting the silver lodes within the Blue Mountains. There are several different ways to go about obtaining the ore and they require different amounts of time and effort. But in the end, once the ore is freed from the rock, it is generally the same no matter what method was used. The basic properties of the ore are not altered because of the methods used to extract it. Evil is similar. Methods may differ, but in the end, what remains is the same."

"It is not the same," Aragorn insisted. "Gimli, the evil that took both Gollum and the Wargs was not interested in obtaining metal but rather servants. The methods used would have been far more complicated and would have produced a variety of results."

The dwarf's eyes glinted. "And what mean you by that?"

"Perhaps he means that mining uses only simple and mundane methods," Legolas suggested, his lips curving into a wry smile.

"You know very well that is not what I mean," Aragorn sighed, rubbing his temples as he attempted to construct an escape plan. "But metal is a tangible entity. Something that can be held and felt and seen. The mind and the choices it makes are entirely different, and I do not think we fully comprehend all that can affect it."

"You deem this debate to be worthless then?"

Aragorn stared at Gimli, dumbfounded. Could it truly be that easy?

"For as I remember it, we spoke of this as per your desires," the dwarf continued.

No, of course it could not be that easy. He could surrender the argument or he could surrender the idea of even beginning the argument. "Was it not your question that prompted our discussion?" Aragorn asked, attempting to shift the blame.

"Indeed it was, and it prompted a good discussion. It was only after we turned to your thoughts that our talk began to go awry."

You would consider the concluding insults to be part of a good discussion? Aragorn wondered, but he did not voice this thought for it would only lead to a different debate. And he was beginning to think it was time to leave his friends to their strange ways and retire to bed. His desires for discussion were waning in the face of a combined assault. "I do not believe that the discussion has been worthless," Aragorn said slowly, "for it has revealed to us just how little we truly know. And to that end, I deem it a profitable venture. It is always good to know one's limitations. But I see little value in continuing to speak of that which we cannot hope to understand."

Legolas blinked, looked at Gimli, looked back at Aragorn, and frowned. Gimli also frowned, opened his mouth, closed it, and then frowned again. The two traded glances, possibly conferring about what they might say to counter this, but it became apparent that neither had a response when they turned back to Aragorn with identical looks of grudging respect. For his part, Aragorn decided to mark this as a triumph of monumental proportions and made a mental note to share this event with Faramir and Eomer, who had both discounted such a victory as impossible.

The only problem was that now he could not leave because he was curious as to how long the silence would last.

The rain continued to tap at the windows. Within the hearth, a log shifted and settled, sending tiny sparks flying about. The gold and silver threads of the tapestries gleamed in the firelight. Legolas and Gimli traded looks yet again. Aragorn could not interpret all of their silent communication, but he read enough to know that Gimli was willing to concede but Legolas was still resisting.

And now it comes, Aragorn predicted, watching Legolas's face closely. Elven eyes narrowed and looked at the fire. Then they turned again to Gimli and narrowed a bit more, dark and inscrutable. Finally, they turned to Aragorn and the muscles along the elf's jaw bunched. The king began to count. Three… Two… One…

"It still remains that dwarves would grow taller if they gave up their beards."

And that would be my signal to depart, Aragorn decided, rising to his feet and stretching. His back popped in mild protest and he swung his arms around, fighting off the yawn that was threatening to engulf his face. "I thank you both for your company and for your speech," he said when his friends looked up at him. "But now that the discussion has ended, I think I shall take my leave of you. I am weary and the morrow will come all too soon."

"Age weighs hard upon you if simple talk can induce weariness," Gimli chuckled.

"Simple?" Aragorn shook his head. "That would not be my word for it. But I do not wish for further discussion about what we might classify as simple," he added hastily, seeing the eagerness in his friends' eyes. "I will instead leave that for you and wish you pleasant dreams."

"Pleasant dreams upon you as well," Legolas said, inclining his head in lieu of a bow.

"Perhaps we may continue this tomorrow," Gimli added with something of a gleam in his eye.

Aragorn decided not to acknowledge that last remark and confined himself to a quick nod for both friends. He shut the door behind him as he left the room, but ere it closed completely, he could hear voices rising as discussion ensued once more. With an affectionate smile and a shake of his head, Aragorn turned to seek out his own rooms, knowing that Legolas and Gimli would be at it long into the night.

Author's note: I wanted to say something about Gimli bringing Boromir's temptation into the debate. It is said in TTT that Aragorn kept Boromir's last words a secret for quite some time, but this seems to imply that he did speak of them eventually. Furthermore, Gandalf apparently knew what had happened, and it's clear from their conversation with Faramir that Frodo and Sam both knew what had happened. Legolas and Gimli are fairly observant, and it is likely that they gleaned enough from conversations to come up with their own suppositions. After that, I suspect Aragorn shared with them what Boromir had confessed just to set the record straight once and for all. Anyway, for what it's worth, that's my justification for Legolas and Gimli knowing about what happened to Boromir.