FOREWORD

The friendship between Gimli and Legolas is a very unique one – unheard of some might say, since it grew despite old feuds, distrust and dislike. There might be hope that it can be the beginning of a new understanding between elves and dwarves, or perhaps that thought is too optimistic?

DECISION

Thranduil, troubled and resolute in the way that seemed to be so much a part of his nature, turned with a swish of green robes to one of his aides. "I hear the grumbles, and see the efforts my people make to accommodate my son's…guest. I will act now. Keep the Dwarf out of my sight. But go find Legolas. It is time to settle this matter." He waited for the door of his throne room to be opened smoothly by the stoic-faced door guard. Once the door was wide, Thranduil turned from his aide and entered the room. There he strode across the polished stone floor and ascended his official Dais as King of Mirkwood. It was symbolic of his office, and he desired to use all his power to his benefit. He spoke again to his accompanying aide. "Send for Legolas."

Legolas was not hard to find, for if he himself did not draw enough attention, his company definitely did. Gimli was presently giving the stonework of the stronghold a thorough examination and Legolas watched with amusement and some amount of pride as his friend nodded in approval here, grunted in admiration there, and in general showed good interest in the Elf's home.

"My Lord Legolas?"

Legolas turned, not very surprised, for he had heard the aide's approach. Gimli, on the other hand, needed a moment to look exactly in the right direction after drawing his eyes away from the stone.

"You father, Lord Thranduil, wishes to speak with you. He awaits you in the throne room."

Now that Gimli was watching his friend instead of stonework he could see that Legolas was hesitating for a moment, but then apparently decided that it was better to comply with the King's wishes. So, they agreed to continue the tour of the stronghold later and together hurried for the throne room, where Legolas was surprised to be stopped by the guards.

"The Dwarf will have to stay here."

"His name is Gimli. And he is my guest." This was a sentence that Legolas had repeated many times already these days, and usually he had been given his way, although in many cases with obvious reluctance. In this case, however, it did not help. "This is the King's order. He will have to wait here."

Legolas was just taking a deep breathe to set his authority against the guard's possibly very simple and perhaps not too specific orders when he felt a hand on his arm.

"Let it go, lad," Gimli said. "I will wait. These pillars will keep me good company."

Legolas blinked and hesitated, but then he nodded. "Very well. Call for me if you need anything." A moment later the guard at the doors swung them open and Legolas strode into the throne room with long, sure steps. He crossed to the dais and stood at the foot of the steps. "You wished to see me?"

Thranduil had waited with false calm for his son to come to him. Now, after he held himself still awhile after Legolas stood before him. He did not invite him up onto the dais. "Green Leaf. Why do you go against so much tradition, so many of my own wishes?" he finally asked.

Legolas blinked. "I am not sure that I follow. What wishes do you speak of? I do not recall having received any orders."

Thranduil gazed at his son, and the frown was in his voice, rather than on his face. "You know how I feel about Dwarves, and yet you bring one right into my own home. Is that not defiance of the tradition of this realm? Dwarves are not welcome here, and this you know."

Legolas met his father's gaze evenly although his jaw set a bit more firmly. "He is not just any Dwarf. He is my companion and my friend, and has proven to be worthy and faithful many times. I would think that should warrant an exception. At the beginning of a new age, old feuds should be put to rest."

Thranduil kept his seat, although he shifted slightly on his throne. "Legolas. I have no feud with this dwarf, and I admit he served well and did good. But he is not Elven, and the rift between Elf and Dwarf is not settled. The recent War was against great evil seeking dominion over us all, and it is ended. But not all conflicts end in one stroke. You know this." Thranduil leaned forward slightly. "Your judgment I challenge. Companions were chosen for you, but your friendships have never so startled me. You dishonor yourself in your rash judgment. You dishonor your people, and harm their need for contentment. And you dishonor your father."

"Rash?" Perhaps at first Legolas might have been willing to listen to Thranduil's reasoning. Some things did take time, but now he felt like he had to defend himself from an unfair attack. In that, he felt his temper rise, but restrained it into nothing more than a balled fist. "I did not cast my judgment blindly. I made my decision after months of watching, listening, after knowing him. We fought alongside each other. He saved my life and I saved his. Is that not enough to give him a chance? That is all I ask. A century old feud cannot end in one day, possibly, but is it asked too much to at least be open enough to accept the possibility?" At this point Legolas had to stop for air, which then slowed down his speech again considerably, and his voice became calmer again. "I brought him here that he might grow in understanding of the Elves, see my home, and appreciate the beauty of it. Do not prove me a liar by destroying this beauty with cold obstinacy."

At this, Thranduil slowly stood, now towering above his son. "I find no beauty in having a son thrust upon me the presence of a Dwarf. I thank him for saving your life, as I am sure many other of your companions did as well. Yet you do not bring them. You bring the one who most challenges us. You should have waited, Legolas," said Thranduil, with a little more familiarity. "I prove nothing about Elvendom except what we would find if we walked in like manner into a Dwarven sanctum. Therefore, 'cold obstinacy' are words ill considered!" Thranduil descended from the dais. He stood beside Legolas. "I want you to send him away."

"I cannot do that." Legolas had bee thinking about explaining that Gimli had not simply 'walked in here', but had been invited and so far behaved in every way as a guest should. But in the end these four words were all that he could say. Surely Thranduil would see.

Courtesy and reason demanded it.

Thranduil stiffened his stance. "Are you my son, and a son of Mirkwood?"

"I am," Legolas said evenly, but with pride.

"Then do as I ask."

For several heartbeats there was silence. Legolas did not know what to reply, and when he did something rare had happened. His voice had become pleading. "Father. All I ask if one week. Gimli is my guest and he will not trouble you. Afterwards you can judge him by what you have seen, and we will leave if you wish. One week, no more. Please."

Thranduil stood tall, in fact just a little taller than his son, while yet the height difference seemed expanded. He came down from the throne, for he had heard the plea in Legolas' voice. Yet his heart remained unmoved.

"That a dwarf is your guest--and only the dwarf, for no other of your companions did you bring--troubles me. You have chosen ill in this friendship, and this does deeply trouble me." These words were spoken as a father to a son, but the next words were those of the King. "Send him away now. And you I offer this choice: return to the house of your Father a wiser Elf, or leave it now, for talk is rife if quietly whispered, and your place and wisdom are being questioned. Either the Dwarf goes and you stay, or you both go. This is the choice I give you."

Legolas' jaw dropped and he was silent for a moment. He felt like he was hitting a wall in full run. Leave the hourse of Thranduil would mean he was practically expelled from the family, and if tradition help true it would be as if he never existed. This could not be, this could not be happening! His father was demanding him to chose between his friendship and his family, and without even knowing Gimli, all because of an old grudge. The situation was unreal, and overwhelming in its sigificance. Although it was obvious that Thranduil was not going to relent Legolas made another deserate try. "One day. Give me just one day, please."

Thranduil's temper showed, but he checked it somewhat. He knew what he was demanding, and he expected Legolas to obey him, not...beg. "One more day for rumors to become that much more deeply entrenched?" He shook his head. "I deny your request. Choose, and choose now. Obey me."

Legolas' lips moved, but without a sound. This was a choice he could not make, even if he wanted to. Not now, not with matter flung at him so suddenly. In this moment he felt more lost than ever before in his life.

But indeed it was not really a choice, but an order - with the detailed knowledge of what the punishment for failing to obey the order would be. Again the injustice of the situation hit him, made worse by the fact that his father did not even see the injustice. His eyes dropped to the floor, and when he looked up again were filled with the desperation of someone who did not know what to do. He was torn in a way that made him feel like he would burst any moment. Again his lips moved, with as little effect as before. His usual proud and tall stance wavered, and suddenly without even one word he turned and hurried out of the throne room the way he had come. Past the astonished guards and an even more astonished dwarf he went but did not see any of them. His long legs were eating up the distance when he hurried down several corridors, and finally broke into a run without even knowing where he went. Somewhere secluded...

tbc...(faster with reviews)