(A Legolas-Gimli friendship story)
"So, Master Elf, are you going to stop that interminable singing of yours long enough for me to die in peace?"
Legolas looked up from his harp playing and smiled. Gimli lay in a bed that was too large for him, his hair and beard whiter than the sheets. His eyes were closed, his breathing slow and regular, but Legolas could see how tired he was and grieved, though when he spoke, he kept his tone light.
"I thought you liked my singing," he said teasingly.
Gimli nodded without bothering to open his eyes. "In drips and drabs, but not when I'm busy trying to die. It's... distracting."
Legolas' smile slipped a bit. "Is that what you're doing, Master Dwarf, trying to die?"
The Dwarf sighed and finally opened his eyes. "I'm sorry, Legolas. I know how difficult it is for you."
"And it is not difficult for you?" Legolas countered.
Gimli shook his head. "Not in the same way, my friend. For me, it's a fact of life and long anticipated. For you..."
He shifted his position slightly, attempting to sit up. Legolas was by his side immediately to give him a hand. When Gimli was settled, Legolas handed him a goblet of water. The Dwarf grunted his thanks before drinking, handing the empty goblet back to the Elf, who returned it to the table next to the bed.
"Is she coming?" Gimli asked.
Legolas did not need to ask who she was. There was only one she for his friend. He nodded as he sat back in his chair, picking up his harp and idly strumming it. He had tuned it earlier to Gilgalad ned Pherinor, a gentle key that was soothing to the mind and fëa alike.
"Yes, she is coming," he said. "Elrond sent word earlier. She should be crossing from Aman even now and will be here before dawn."
Gimli sighed and sank back into his pillows, closing his eyes again. "My gift..." he said.
Legolas got up and went to the dresser, picking up the crystal in which was set three strands of russet brown hair only lightly frosted with white. They were not as fine as the hair of the Firstborn, but they were, to the Elf's eyes, more precious than the very crystal in which they were embedded. He returned to the bed and placed the gift gently in his friend's hand.
"Here, mellon nîn," he said, smiling warmly. "Here is your gift to the Lady."
Gimli opened his eyes and looked down at what lay in his hand. He glanced up at Legolas who had resumed his seat once again, an expression of worry on his age-lined face. "Do you think she will like it, Legolas?" he asked anxiously, not for the first time. "Will she not be offended by my... my temerity?"
Legolas smiled warmly at his friend, his eyes full of love for the Dwarf. "Nay, Gimli. The Lady will treasure this gift of yours all the more because it is you who give it."
Gimli nodded, looking less disturbed. After a moment he gave the Elf a mock frown. "So, where are the others?"
Legolas gave the Dwarf a delicately raised eyebrow in answer, his expression becoming what Gimli secretly called Legolas' 'Elf-lord look'. Thranduil had it too. Come to think of it, just about every blasted Elf he'd ever met had that look and more often than not it was usually directed at him after he'd said something... unelf-like. He smiled to himself.
Legolas sighed and relented. "Elrond left to attend to his other patients. Lady Celebrían has gone to the docks to meet her naneth. The others have stayed away out of deference to your..."
"Dying?" Gimli supplied with an amused twist of his lips when the Elf hesitated. Legolas gave an elegant shrug that spoke volumes to the Dwarf. "Contrary to popular opinion among you pointy-eared wonders," he continued, "it's not a dirty word."
"I know that Gimli," Legolas said softly, "It's just that..."
Here he stopped. It was an old argument with no resolution. He was of the Firstborn, his friends were all Mortals. And that was the rub — he could not honestly call any of his own people 'friend', save perhaps the Elrondionnath, but they were still in Ennorath with their Daeradar and Lord Glorfindel and it was doubtful they would sail any time soon. The last news he had received from the latest ship to come West had been that Imladris had been abandoned and the Elves had either gone to Eryn Lasgalen or Ithilien. He suspected Elrohir, Elladan, Celeborn and Glorfindel had gone to the latter elvish enclave in order to be closer to their mortal kin. Legolas wondered if they would finally abandon Ennorath once Eldarion had left the Circles of Arda. He didn't know. He only knew that the last of his true friends lay dying before him and he was helpless to stop it, knowing full well that he couldn't.
"You need to make friends among your own kind, laddie," Gimli said gently, divining his friend's thoughts. "You've been hanging around us Mortals for too long."
"Not long enough," Legolas whispered, but Gimli heard him nonetheless.
"Too long," he reiterated more forcibly. "Time to put aside your toys and take up your duties as a lord among the Firstborn."
Legolas stared at Gimli. He had never heard his friend speak in such a manner before. Even so...
"I do not want to... to give up my toys, as you say," he said somewhat defiantly.
"Yet, who could seriously trust an Elf who plays with Dwarves?"
Legolas turned around in surprise at the sound of the voice coming from behind him while Gimli laughed and wheezed, finally ending in a coughing fit. Standing at the doorway was Mithrandir, or rather Olórin, his young-old eyes crinkling with gentle humor. Gimli's coughing fit forestalled any comment Legolas was wont to make just then as he and the Maia attempted to soothe the Dwarf's spasms.
"Why are you here, Mithrandir?" Legolas asked as he helped Gimli to drink some more water.
"Because I asked him to come," Gimli said as he lay back on his pillows with a sigh of relief. He closed his eyes, his face looking more shrunken than before. "He's my gift to you."
Legolas stared at Gimli in disbelief. "Gift? What do you mean?"
Gimli opened his eyes and gave the Elf a wry smile. "Olórin has agreed to introduce you to the other younger Elves once I'm gone and..."
Legolas stepped back, his expression going inscrutable, which Gimli knew meant he was very angry. "I do not need anyone to 'introduce' me."
"Really?" Gimli asked disdainfully. "Name me one Elf you've met since coming here that you did not already know in Middle-earth."
Legolas hesitated for a moment. "I... well... there's ... um... and then there's..."
"Just what I thought," Gimli said, sounding pleased with himself. "You don't really know anyone here. Well, that's going to change once I'm gone. Gandalf is going to introduce you to some of the younger Elves. That's my parting gift to you." He sighed and gave his friend a sympathetic smile when he noticed how upset Legolas truly was. "I will depart for the Halls of my Fathers with an easier mind if I know you'll be well looked after."
"I don't need looking after!" Legolas protested, his expression becoming cold and distant, always a bad sign with him, Gimli knew.
"Do you not, child?" Olórin asked gently. "When was the last time you sang in the Hall of Fire at Elrond's home or danced under starlight with a willing elleth? When was the last time you even did something without Gimli along?"
"He needs me," Legolas retorted lamely.
"Nay, friend," the Dwarf said. "I need no one now. You, on the other hand, are about to lose the last of your Mortal friends. What will you do when I am gone?"
Legolas looked hesitantly between the Dwarf and the Maia, not sure how to answer, or even if such answer would suffice for either of them. "I... I don't know," he finally admitted, casting his gaze at his feet, suddenly feeling like an elfling of thirty being quizzed about his behavior by his elders.
"Hmmph. As I figured," Gimli grumbled. "That's why Gandalf's here, to see that you do indeed meet with other Elves. The last thing I want you to do is fade on my account."
Legolas gave him a shocked look. "I would never do that! Do you think me so weak and..."
"Nay, mellon nîn," Gimli interrupted, raising a hand in protest. "I think no such thing, nor does Gandalf, but we are both worried for you. You barely acknowledged anyone's existence after we arrived and you've even refused King Ingwë's summons to attend him in Vanyamar. Not a smart move. I only hope he doesn't make you regret it."
Olórin smiled at them both. "Rest assured that the High King understands Legolas' reluctance to leave your side, Master Dwarf," the Maia said. "Indeed, both Ingwë and Arafinwë spoke of possibly coming here to meet you both."
Now both Gimli and Legolas were nonplused and neither could muster up the wherewithal to speak for some time. Finally Gimli seemed to recover from the shock.
"Well, they're leaving it a bit late," he muttered as he settled more firmly into his pillow with a sigh. "Still, I am glad for Legolas' sake that they bear him no ill will for his... obstinacy."
Olórin snorted good-naturedly at that, though Legolas merely went all Elf-lord cold again.
"So, Master Elf, do you like my gift?" Gimli asked after a long moment of silence had passed between the three friends.
Legolas did not answer immediately, but sat on the edge of Gimli's bed. Gimli gave him a quizzical look. Finally, Legolas nodded, tears glittering in his eyes. "Yes, Gimli. I like your gift very much. Le hannon, i-vellon nîn."
Gimli nodded, looking satisfied. "If I were a singer, I'd leave you a song to remember me by, but I'm not. Nor do I have any gold or silver to give you. All I can give you is one friend to help you find other friends who will support you and... and love you when I'm no longer there to do either."
Legolas nodded in understanding but did not speak.
Olórin regarded the two unlikely friends warmly, laying a hand on Legolas' shoulder. "And I will endeavor to honor your trust in me, my friend, in helping Legolas to find a friend among the good people of Tol Eressëa."
"That is well," Gimli said, sounding tired. "I would sleep now for a time." He closed his eyes and was soon asleep. Elf and Maia remained, quietly keeping the death watch as their beloved friend continued snoring away.
Gimli snorted and blinked his eyes, focusing on the pale face above him, finally able to recognize it as that of his dearest friend.
"What...?" he asked, still feeling a little confused.
"She's here," Legolas said, a small secret smile on his face. "Would you see her?"
As the import of the Elf's words impinged upon his consciousness, Gimli struggled to sit up. Legolas gave him a hand. He noticed that Gandalf was no longer there, but that hardly mattered at the moment.
"My gift!" the Dwarf cried, looking frantically about. "Where's my gift?"
"It is here, my friend," Legolas said soothingly, handing the precious crystal to the Dwarf.
Gimli took the gift, nodding his thanks. Legolas smiled at him gently then went to the door, opening it and stepping back to admit someone.
Gimli could not help but gasp.
She was so beautiful and he always seemed to forget how beautiful whenever she was not in his presence. She was dressed in a gown of white brocade with faint hints of rose, azure and sea-green interwoven in the fabric. The gown was trimmed with pearls and her flaxen hair was crowned with a garland of elanor and niphredil entwined. She wore a diamond necklace, the last gift her lord had given her before she left Middle-earth forever. On her finger was Nenya. Her smile was beatific and Gimli forgot everything else in that smile.
He struggled to sit up further and offer her a proper bow, but she forestalled him by coming to his bedside and bending down, giving him a gentle kiss on his forehead.
"I came as soon as I could, my lord Gimli," she said, her voice deep but not masculine.
"And I thank you, lady," Gimli replied with great courtesy, "for responding to a dying Dwarf's last wish so quickly."
She gave a merry laugh that was nonetheless tinged with sadness. "And how could I not come at my champion's request?" she asked, straightening up. She took the chair Legolas offered her with a silent thanks and turned her serene gaze upon the Dwarf who was seeking not to blush. Legolas stood behind her, giving him a knowing smile.
"How fare you, Master Dwarf?" she finally asked solicitously.
"Well, now that you are here," he said in relief. "You are... you are my last... I mean... I have... I have a gift for you," he blurted out all in a rush, cringing slightly at how utterly stupid he sounded to himself. If Galadriel thought the same she gave no indication.
"A gift?" she asked in surprise.
Gimli nodded, every word of the speech he'd carefully prepared for this moment fleeing from his mind until he was incapable of doing anything more than thrusting the piece of crystal at her. "It's... it's so you... won't forget me."
As if any Elf worth her salt could forget anything, much less a froward Dwarf acting like a love-struck ninnyhammer, as dear Samwise would have said. The daughter of the Noldóran leaned closer to accept the gift and looked at it in wonder.
"I... I thought share and share alike..." Gimli stammered. "I made this at the same time as I made the one with the strands of your hair. I know it's a poor trade, but..."
Galadriel looked up, her eyes shining with something indefinable. "Nay, mellon nîn. This gift is worth more than Arda itself to me. I will treasure it always."
"And always is a very long time, as you know," Legolas said teasingly and then they all were laughing.
Finally, Gimli nodded. "It is well, then. May you live blessed, my lady." He sighed and closed his eyes, sinking back into his pillows.
The door to the bedroom opened and Gimli opened his eyes to see who had come and saw Elrond and Celebrían stepping in, along with three other Elves he did not know. Legolas gave a small gasp and bowed deeply to them. Galadriel merely looked up and smiled.
"Atto, Uncle, Brother, come and meet my friend, Gimli," she said simply.
Thus, Gimli son of Glóin became the first of the Children of Aulë to meet the High King of All the Elves in Aman, as well as the Noldóran. But the highlight of the visit for the dying Dwarf was meeting the Lady's brother, Lord Finrod Felagund, Friend to Dwarves and Men.
Elrond surreptitiously examined his patient while introductions were made. Celebrían stood beside her mother, smiling in delight at the sight of her grandfather and her Uncle Finrod visiting with Gimli, while Legolas looked on with amusement. Mother and daughter exchanged satisfied smiles.
The two kings spoke softly and courteously to the Dwarf and Gimli responded in kind, though he wasn't above making jests at Legolas' expense. The Sinda prince took it in good stride and returned the favor, much to the amusement of the others. Finally, though, Gimli visibly tired and
settled back into his pillows with a weary sigh, closing his eyes. The Elves remained respectfully silent.
"Will you play something for me?"
"I thought you found my singing... distracting."
A ghost of a smile lit the Dwarf's face. "Well, just this once I suppose I could tolerate it."
Finrod reached down where Legolas' harp leaned against the night table and gave it a professional glance, handing it to the Sindarin prince with an approving smile. Legolas returned the smile with a shyly muttered "Thank you".
"What should I play?" he asked the Dwarf.
Gimli gave a small shrug. "What you will. Let it be your gift to me."
Legolas nodded though Gimli did not see. For a moment the Elf did nothing except strum the harp strings in a random pattern, then he began tuning it to Iâf e-Daur and sang a hymn to Aulë that he had composed for Gimli when the Dwarf had taken official lordship of Aglarond. Though the words were unfamiliar to the other Elves, the tune was ancient, having been brought to Ennorath originally by the Noldor, and soon they were all humming along in wordless harmony.
And Gimli son of Glóin, First Lord of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, smiled as he listened to the singing of the Elves one last time.
"Time to wake up, my son," came a deep rich voice.
Gimli opened his eyes. He was still lying in his bed in the cottage he and Legolas shared in Tol Eressëa, but there was no sign of the Elf. Instead, there were two Beings smiling down at him.
"Ma-mahal!?" Gimli exclaimed in disbelief.
Aulë, known as Mahal among the Dwarves, nodded and held out his hand. Gimli never hesitated, but took it, allowing the Vala to help him out of bed. He suddenly realized he was no longer feeling old. Looking down at himself he saw his beard was no longer white but the deep russet brown it had been in his youth. He looked up in wonder at the two Beings.
"So, I'm finally dead, am I?" he asked with a quirk of his mouth and a twinkle in his eyes.
Aulë laughed and the other did too. Gimli took the time to look them over. They were a study in contrast. Whereas Aulë was bright, his hair and beard a golden-red, the other was dark, reminding Gimli more of Lord Elrond than anyone else.
Aulë looked fondly upon his Child, then turned to his brother Vala. "Did I not say this one was special, Námo?"
Gimli blinked at that. Námo? The Lord of Mandos? He gave the Vala a nervous glance but Námo was paying him no heed as he answered his older brother in the Thought of Ilúvatar.
"I always knew he was special, Aulë," Námo said with a smile, "otherwise I would not have seconded your request to allow Gimli to come to Tol Eressëa with Thranduilion."
Gimli blinked a second time at that revelation, then decided he really did not want to know the details. Instead he looked around. There was no sign of Legolas or the other Elves. The Valar, divining his unspoken question, turned their attention to him.
"They are fine, my Child," Aulë said gently. "Do not fear for your friends. They will mourn but they will go on."
"He will be well," Námo said gently. "Olórin will help him there."
Gimli nodded. "It was my one fear, you see," the Dwarf tried to explain, "that the laddie would... would fade when I died. I... I did not want.. I did not want despair to be my last gift to him."
The two Valar gave him grave looks. "Fear not, Gimli Elvellon son of Glóin, Lord of Aglarond," Námo intoned formally. "I promise thee that we will look after Thranduilion and teach him joy."
"And some day," Aulë added, "thee and he will meet again."
Gimli nodded, satisfied. "Well, I'd rather you taught him some new songs instead," he said with a straight face. "I was getting rather tired of the old ones."
The Smith of the World and the Lord of Mandos threw back their heads and laughed and soon Gimli joined them as the three walked through the walls of the cottage and made their way further West.
Gilgalad ned Pherinor: (Sindarin) "Starlight on Midyear's Day" [pherinor per- "half" + în "year" + aur "day" with stop mutation.
Daeradar: (Sindarin) Grandfather.
Ennorath: (Sindarin): Middle-earth.
Le hannon, i-vellon nîn: (Sindarin) "I thank thee, O my friend".
Noldóran: (Quenya) "King of the Noldor".
Iâf e-Daur: (Sindarin) "Fruits of the Forest".
Elvellon: (Sindarin) "Elf-friend".