Summary: After the War of the Ring Legolas settles in Ithilien, but King Thranduil misses his son and invites him to Greenwood for a visit. To everyone's horror the younger elf decides to bring a friend. And a friend's father.
Disclaimer: All characters and places belong to Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema. Fortunately! If I owned both Thranduil and Glóin I would have had no idea what to do with them.
Note 1: I never believed I would ever say this, but… Here it is! My very first story with no Aragorn in it :-) Please tell me how I did.
Note 2: Gimli and Legolas are listed as main characters, but although they are pretty major, the story is in fact about Glóin and Thranduil. However, none of the two appears in the character list. (As I have mentioned in one of my other stories, Gilraen and Arathorn are not on the list either). I hope the site will fix that one day…
Note 3: This story was written for the Teitho "Friend or Foe" challenge. It placed first.
The dwarf fixed him with a cold, dark glare. Snow-white hair was framing the wrinkled face, but age had done nothing to lessen the flame in those determined brown eyes.
Gimli fidgeted nervously. He could not understand how his father's gaze alone was always able to make him feel once again like a little dwarfling whose beard had not yet grown to its full length.
"You expect me to meet the Elvenking?" Glóin's voice was under control, but his son could easily sense the underlying danger.
"Legolas thinks that you two should meet," the dwarf said in a small voice. "He believes that there can be friendship among our peoples."
"Legolas? Ah, the Elf. I see." Glóin looked at the younger dwarf critically. "And you, my son? What do you think?"
Gimli hesitated. "I think that this is a very bad idea."
"Good," his father said approvingly and nodded in satisfaction. "I see that you have kept your wits in spite of the time spent with the Elf."
"You are not coming then?" Gimli asked, trying to hide the relief in his voice.
Glóin grinned. "On the contrary. If I do not come, your Elf will never know just how bad his idea has been."
Gimli gulped nervously. He did not like this at all.
Legolas was relieved to learn that Faramir had just returned from his short visit to Minas Tirith. Gimli and his father were expected to arrive any time now, if Glóin accepted the invitation of course, and he wanted to leave for his father's halls immediately. However, he did not want to leave Ithilien unattended and was glad about the Steward's presence.
Not long ago a letter had arrived from his father, asking him to come for a visit. Legolas had been thinking for some time that it would be good to introduce Gimli to King Thranduil, and had invited his friend to come along. This was when he realized that he was curious to meet Gimli's father as well.
And then disaster happened. In a moment of madness, which the other Ithilien elves contributed to some evil sorcerer who had stolen their lord's brain, Legolas decided that it would be a wonderful idea for Glóin and Thranduil to meet. Surely the two could easily resolve their differences, and maybe even be friends.
The Elves in Ithilien shook their heads in horror, wondering desperately if Legolas would ever get his brain back. They truly hoped it would be before his plan had been set into motion.
But the Valar had already decided otherwise.
Legolas strode forward and greeted Faramir with a wide smile. "Well met, my friend!" He called. "What news of the White City? How fares the King?"
The Steward suppressed an exasperated sigh. "King Elessar fares well, but he is quite shocked by your decision and begs you to reconsider it."
The elf laughed. He had expected that much. "Did you tell him that he is invited to join us?"
"I did. He regrets that he cannot come, but his duties keep him in Minas Tirith."
"His duties?" The elf snorted in disbelief. "I am sure he is simply scared to be present when my father meets Glóin."
"And he should be," Faramir said darkly.
Legolas smiled in amusement. It was not such a bad idea, was it? He only hoped that Glóin would accept the invitation.
"My Lord?" Legolas raised his head from the letter he had been writing and nodded at the elven messenger. "Lord Gimli and his father have arrived."
The Lord of Ithilien cried out in joy in a rather undignified manner and rushed to meet the guests. Men and elves turned back to look at the fair creature, running fast as a panther, his hair flowing like a golden banner behind him. Faramir spotted him and shook his head in apprehension. "This is a very, very bad idea," he murmured.
Legolas stopped shortly before he had come in sight of the two guests and fixed a slender braid that had become loose during his mad rush. After brushing some dust off his clothes the elf was satisfied that he looked presentable enough and walked forward with a genuine smile.
He had been worried that Glóin would not agree to come, or that Gimli would be too fearful to ask his father. But now it seemed that his fears had been for nothing and the old dwarf had proven to be not as pig-headed as he had thought.
The elf looked at the silver-haired dwarf in curiosity. He had last seen him at the Council of Elrond, and it was hard to tell if Glóin had aged after that. He had the same snow-white hair, the same wrinkled face, and the same inextinguishable fire in the dark eyes.
Legolas resisted the urge to greet his dear friend first, and turned his attention to the dwarf whose trust he yet had to gain. He placed a palm over his heart and bowed slightly in greeting. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Master Dwarf. My name is Legolas, son of Thranduil, and you are a guest in my home."
Glóin grunted in contempt. "I know very well who you are, elf, and if I were you, I wouldn't say my name and my father's name so proudly."
Gimli groaned and buried his face in his palms. If anyone else had said that to Legolas, a sharp axe would have been the last thing he would ever see. But the dwarf's respect for his father was immeasurable, and he was reluctant to even reprimand him.
Legolas' eyes suddenly turned cold as a mountain lake. "And I suppose you have what to be proud of, Glóin, son of Gróin? As far as I remember it was your and your companions' greed that nearly led to war between my kin and yours."
"My greed? Our greed?" The dwarf sounded furious. "We only desired something that belonged to us by right! It is your father who wanted something that was not his! That thief!"
"Don't you dare speak of my father!" Legolas hissed and blue and brown eyes locked in a deadly glare.
Gimli was staring in shock and despair. It broke his heart to see the two he loved most of all speak like that, and he did not know whom to support. It seemed to him that they were both right. And that they were both wrong. And whatever side he took it would seem to him as the ultimate betrayal.
"Father, perhaps we should return to Erebor," he suggested softly.
Glóin did not tear his eyes from the elven prince. "No, my son. I would love to speak to this elfling's father. There are a few things I want to say to him."
"Very good," Legolas hissed in return. "Let us go to the stables and get horses, and we will ride towards Greenwood."
"I am not riding," the silver-haired dwarf said firmly.
The elf shrugged. "You have no choice. I shall ride with your son, and I can find an elf, or a man if you prefer, to ride with you."
"I am not riding," Glóin repeated in a tone that allowed no argument.
Legolas looked at him incredulously, "Surely you cannot want us to walk to Greenwood? Have you any idea how long this will take?"
"Yes, I have," Glóin replied simply and walked past the elf without looking back.
Legolas strode forward, frowning unhappily and murmuring something about the stiff necks of dwarves. He had hastily collected some supplies for the long road and followed his two companions. This was folly! It would take them weeks to reach his father's halls on foot! Especially considering the length of dwarven legs. Or rather the lack of such.
The elf sighed. He was being unfair and he knew it. Gimli had already proven on more than one occasion that his determinedness and strength of will compensated for his small size, and he was able to walk almost as swiftly as his elven friend. He was sure that Gimli's father possessed the same ability. But right now he was too angry at the silver-haired dwarf to admit it.
Hours passed and the distance they had traveled from Ithilien grew. The sun was sinking below the horizon, and a cold breeze blew from the north, caressing Legolas' face and cooling down his temper. As his initial rage slowly subsided, the elf repeated the confrontation in his mind over and over again, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
He had thought he knew better than that. He had expected Gimli's father to regard him with distrust and contempt, and he had thought that he had been prepared. And indeed he had been prepared for all insults the dwarf would have in store for him, and had been prepared to meet them with patience and humility. What he had not been prepared for was that the dwarf would insult his father. He would have suffered Glóin say anything about him, but he could not stand anyone speaking of his father like that!
The sun finally set and the forest was covered in darkness. Glóin sat on the grass and stretched his legs wearily. "We rest here," he said in a voice filled with authority.
Legolas frowned and was about to ask the dwarf who had made him the leader of the trio, but then he remembered his decision to be patient and only nodded. "You can go to sleep, I will take the first watch," he said.
The two dwarves spread out their bedrolls under an ancient oak and quickly prepared to sleep. Legolas gazed at the two forms lying on the ground, illuminated by the pale moonlight. So alike, and yet so different. Both sturdy and bearded, both stubborn and proud. And yet, one despised him with a passion, while the other would gladly die for him.
Glóin fell asleep almost instantly, apparently not disturbed by anything. His son, however, tossed and turned, unsuccessfully trying to find a better position. Legolas sighed in relief. He desired to speak to his friend, and that way he would not need to wake him up.
He stood and walked to the restless dwarf and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Gimli," he whispered. "Come, my friend, we need to talk."
Gimli stood up and looked at him, his eyes clear and focused. It was obvious that he had not been anywhere near falling asleep. "So you finally realized what a bad idea this was?" He asked softly.
Legolas shrugged. "I do not know. He cannot speak calmly even with me, and I cannot imagine what he will be like with my father. And I thought I was prepared for his outburst, and I was willing to fight to win his trust. I am afraid my father will do no such thing."
Gimli chuckled. "It is true that you fought, but not exactly for gaining his trust."
The elf sighed sadly and did not object. "What did I say wrong, Elvellon?" He asked softly.
The dwarf looked at him in surprise. "What didn't you say wrong? Do you remember what you said to him?"
Legolas smiled apologetically. "Perhaps I was a part of the problem and not only Glóin. I hope that my father will be more sensible than me and will be able to gain his friendship."
Gimli snorted. "I doubt it. You are the most sensible elf I have met." He cleared his throat and quickly added. "But keep in mind that this doesn't say much."
The elf's grin broadened. "Why, I am honored, my friend. But I ask you not to underestimate my father. He is not as pig-headed as yours!"
The dwarf raised his axe and frowned threateningly. "Mind your words, elf!"
Legolas laughed and raised his hands in a pacifying gesture. "Peace, Gimli! We are tired now and our tempers are short. Go to sleep, we have a long road ahead of us tomorrow."
Gimli grumbled something and walked to his bedroll. The elf gazed at him as he departed, and swiftly climbed the oak tree which gave him a better vantage point.
As he looked at the two sleeping figures, he could not help but remember how the dwarf had lost his temper the moment he had insulted his father. Just like he had lost his when Glóin had insulted Thranduil.
Perhaps Elves and Dwarves were not so different after all.
As the days passed, Legolas was forced to admit that Glóin had proven to be as sturdy as Gimli, and they were not slowed down because of the dwarves' short legs. Of course, they would have traveled much more swiftly on horseback, but he forced these thoughts out of his mind. The elf firmly believed that after Gimli and he had become friends, the same was possible for all Elves and Dwarves, and he hoped to be able to count the silver-haired dwarf among his allies.
Since their first confrontation Glóin and Legolas had scarcely exchanged any words. Sometimes the dwarf made comments about the elf, especially when he started to sing, but Legolas wisely ignored them. When he had first met Gimli he had always answered similar comments with sharp words, but now he was willing to sacrifice his pride in the name of the ultimate peace.
He often talked to Gimli, eager to learn how the dwarf had been faring after their last meeting. Gimli had settled in the Glittering Caves, and many of his kin had already started moving there, but his father still lived in the Lonely Mountain, and he visited him as often as he could. Legolas felt slightly ashamed as he realized that he had never visited his own father after he had settled in Ithilien. But this was going to change very soon and he hoped that the Elvenking would like the surprise his son had in store for him.
Gimli moved to talk to his father, who seemed somewhat unhappy every time his son was speaking with the elf. Legolas walked behind them and smiled fondly as he took in the two short figures. Years ago he would have never believed that he would find himself in such a company.
He breathed the fresh forest air, and his smile widened. The intoxicating smell of the flowers made him want to sing. Legolas laughed heartily and rushed forward, nimbly climbing a slender birch.
Glóin stared in shock, "My son, I am afraid your Elf has gone mad!"
Gimli shrugged helplessly. "No, this is normal. I was starting to worry he hadn't done it until now. You will get used to it when you start spending more time with Elves."
"I have no desire to spend any time with Elves," the older dwarf grunted and glared at Legolas, who was still laughing happily.
"Gimli, my friend, come here!" He called. "You can see the Sun so much better from here! And the air smells fresher!"
Gimli watched in amusement as his friend suddenly jumped from the tree and landed on the next one. Then he made one more jump and balanced himself on a branch of a wild apple tree.
Before Gimli realized what his friend was doing, the elf picked one of the small and hard fruits and threw it at the dwarf, grinning playfully.
"Ouch!" Gimli cried. "You will pay for this, you little, witless…"
Suddenly the dwarf stopped his angry tirade and gaped in shock and alarm. His father had raised his axe and with a war cry rushed towards Legolas, embedding the weapon into the helpless tree. "No one throws apples at my son!" He shouted in rage.
The elf gasped as he felt the tree silently moan in pain. He jumped from the branches and grabbed Glóin's axe, glaring at him. All of his cheerfulness had vanished without a trace. "What do you think you are doing?" He shouted in rage.
Gimli placed his hand on his father's shoulder. "It is alright, father. He was only teasing. He never meant to hurt me." He noticed that his father was shocked by the elf's rage and wondered how he could explain to him Legolas' feelings towards the injured tree in terms the older dwarf would understand. "The elves," he whispered quietly in Glóin's ear. "They are not very well here," he knocked on his head. "They think that trees can talk. So please, father, do not hurt any trees or he will be upset."
"Trees can talk?!" Glóin shouted in wonder and his son winced.
But it mattered not since Legolas' sharp ears had picked up even the softly whispered conversation. The elf, however, decided not to comment on this and tried to suppress his rage. He could feel that his relationship with Glóin had been severely damaged by this incident, not that it had ever been particularly good, and decided to let Gimli handle the situation. He never noticed the wicked glimmer that had appeared in the older dwarf's eyes.
"He was only teasing, you say?" The white-bearded dwarf asked and Gimli nodded in apprehension, not sure what to expect. Glóin grinned. "Fortunately, I can tease too."
Thranduil's gaze was fixed on the dark path coming from the forest. His son was expected to arrive weeks ago. Where was Legolas? Surely he would have sent word if he had decided to delay his arrival. Or would he?
The king reminded himself that the road from Ithilien was safe now, and it was unlikely that any ill would befall his son. Besides, he would not be traveling alone.
Thranduil remembered the letter Legolas had sent him. He gladly accepted the invitation and informed his father that he would be bringing a friend. The Elvenking wondered briefly who that might be. He had initially assumed that his son was referring to Aragorn, and he did not mind that at all. Although he had initially been skeptical towards his son's friendship with a mortal, he had grown to trust and respect the man.
But if Legolas was coming with King Elessar, he would have said so. This unspecific phrase, 'a friend', sounded as if he was coming with someone Thranduil didn't know. But who could that be?
Truth be told, the Elvenking cared little. All that really mattered was his child's safe arrival.
It was Glóin's turn to take the first watch, and Gimli had stayed awake, suspecting that his father was planning some mischief. Legolas had unsuspectingly drifted into sleep, his blue eyes staring forward unseeing.
"Father, this is cruel!" Gimli protested when the older dwarf shared his plan. "I cannot let you do this to him!"
"I am your father," the silver-haired dwarf grunted. "And you will listen to me. I know what is best for you."
Gimli was incredulous. "This is best for me?"
Glóin nodded. "This will teach him to respect you. I doubt he will ever throw an apple at you again!"
"But father, I don't really mind that he throws apples at me!"
The older dwarf frowned. "Do any of your dwarven friends climb trees and throw apples at you, Gimli? Would you call this normal behavior?"
Gimli's brown eyes shone in sudden determination. "This is not about normal and abnormal. He is simply different. Yes, he is different than us, but I like him the way he is and I would not have him any other way!"
Glóin grunted in sudden anger. "I knew it! Your time spent with those elves has muddled your brain!" He shook his head. "But it matters not. I will do it and you cannot stop me." To Gimli's horror he walked towards the sleeping elf with an evil grin.
Thranduil could take the worry no more. He left the balcony from where he could look at the darkened path and walked inside. He quickly spotted a dark-haired elf and motioned to him to come closer.
"Yes Sire?" The elf stood in front of him obediently.
"I have a task for you, Neranion," Thranduil said. "I need you to take one more companion and ride towards Ithilien. If you meet my son on the way, join him and ride with him to the halls. If he is still in Ithilien and has decided to postpone his visit, return and report to me. If," the king hesitated. "If he is in trouble, help him," he finally said, hoping that he was not too late.
The elf nodded respectfully and swiftly left the corridor. Thranduil glanced after him, his heart clenched in fear.
Legolas awoke to a horrid smell and a terrible choking sensation in his throat. He blinked and started coughing when something dropped from his mouth.
Gimli's pipe. It was stuffed with pipe-weed and lit, and was filling the air with a thick cloud of dark smoke.
The elf stared in confusion as he realized that he had been unintentionally smoking in his sleep. And then all confusion was gone and his azure eyes shone with a fire that could have melted the snows of Caradhras, and he strode purposefully towards the older dwarf, who was grinning smugly.
Gimli threw him a sympathetic gaze, but he ignored it. Instead he crouched in front of Glóin and their eyes met. "Do you want a war, Master Dwarf?" He asked, his voice deceptively sweet. "Because if you do, I have to warn you that you are making a grave mistake."
"Not at all, Master Elf," the dwarf replied in the same tone. "All I wanted was to see your face when you awoke. It was quite a sight."
Legolas expression darkened almost imperceptibly, but he reminded himself of his decision to be patient towards the dwarf and try to achieve peace. So he quickly straightened and shouldered his pack. "Come, we still have a long way ahead of us," he called suddenly as if nothing had happened.
Gimli shook his head in wonder. So throwing apples was not normal behavior, but putting lit pipes in sleeping people's mouths was? Ah, perhaps Elves and Dwarves were not so different after all. And one of their similarities was that neither race had a tendency towards 'normal' behavior.
Thranduil rushed forward to meet Neranion. The elf had returned earlier than expected. And he had returned without Legolas.
"My Lord!" The elf quickly dismounted. "I met Prince Legolas. He is on his way here."
The Elvenking breathed a sigh of relief, but his confusion grew. "Then why isn't he with you?" He asked.
Neranion hesitated, apparently reluctant to deliver the news, and the king felt his heart clench. Had something happened to his son?
"He told me to ride forward and inform you of his coming," the younger elf mumbled, unsure how to continue.
Thranduil frowned. There was something he could not understand. "Why didn't he come with you?"
Neranion blanched. "He… he was unable to keep up with my pace."
The king desperately tried to control his growing worry. "Why was he unable to keep up? Is his horse hurt?" Is Legolas hurt?
"He does not have a horse," Neranion said softly. "He has been traveling from Ithilien on foot." The younger elf closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Oh, how he hated that he would be the bearer of such news!
"What?" Thranduil almost jumped in surprise. To travel such a long road on foot when horses were available was madness. At least it explained the long delay. "Why?"
Neranion took a step back, as if preparing to flee. "Prince Legolas… he… he was not alone."
"Ada!" Legolas rushed forward to greet his father. Thranduil embraced his son, letting for a short moment the relief and happiness of seeing his child suppress the shock and anger he felt.
"I missed you," he whispered in the golden locks and pulled back, looking carefully at the younger elf. "You look well, ion nîn."
And then the short moment was over and the shock and anger came back full force. Thranduil's stormy eyes narrowed and he glared at his son. "What do you think you are doing?" He hissed. "What is this?"
Legolas had anticipated the reaction, so he only smiled cheerfully, pretending not to notice his father's mood, which was rather impossible. "Ada, I want you to meet my dear friend, Gimli. We have gone through a lot of joy and peril together, and I could not be happier to have him by my side." The elf ignored the murderous look in the king's eyes, and continued. "And this is his father Glóin. I have known him for but a short time, but on our way here he proved to be a loyal and a wonderful companion."
At this Glóin grunted loudly leaving Thranduil no doubt that Legolas' last statement had only been a white lie. The silver-bearded dwarf walked towards the Elvenking and their eyes locked. "So we meet again," he stated coldly.
"I cannot say that it is a pleasure for me," Thranduil replied in a matter-of-fact voice.
"It is no pleasure for me either," the dwarf muttered. "I cannot say I enjoyed my previous visit to this place."
The Elvenking grinned. "For this I am glad."
Glóin's eyes glittered in rage, but he managed to control his voice. "I trust you will provide us better accommodation than last time?"
Thranduil raised an eyebrow. "And why would I? The dungeons are a perfect accommodation for your kind."
"Father!" Legolas interrupted suddenly before the argument could grow physical. "Master Glóin and his son are my guests, and by you leave I will escort them to the guest quarters."
The king was surprised at his son's behavior and stepped back. "You have my leave," he said coldly. "And later you and I will need to have a good talk."
"Later, ada," Legolas replied with an innocent smile and led the two dwarves inside.
"Do you think I made a mistake?" The elf asked sadly, nervously playing with his tunic.
Gimli sighed. "Legolas, I told you my opinion from the very beginning. This whole thing was a very bad idea."
The elf seemed to be deep in thought. "I think I know what the problem is," he said suddenly. "And I have an idea how to fix it!"
The dwarf groaned. "Another idea? Well, it surely cannot be worse then your last one, so go ahead. I am listening."
"When our fathers are together, they rely on us for keeping them from grabbing each other's throats," Legolas explained. "They do not restrain themselves in their insults because they know that we are there to restrain them. Therefore, we should leave them alone for a while. If they are left together and we are not present, they will be forced to learn to restrain their words, and hopefully will learn to get along well."
Gimli choked and his eyes widened until they became the size of the apple Legolas had thrown at him. "I was wrong," he finally managed to say. "This idea is even worse than your previous one!"
"Why do you think so?" Legolas asked. "I think it might work well. We could go hunting tomorrow and leave the two of them alone. I am willing to bet that when we come back, their relationship will be better."
"Unless one or both have already found a violent death," Gimli murmured pessimistically. "But there is no way we can do that. I am not leaving my father all alone among all those Elves!"
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Legolas asked.
"I have nothing against Elves, Legolas," the dwarf replied quickly. "Not at all. But my father is hostile towards them, and they are hostile towards him. He is going to feel uncomfortable here if I am not around. He will never show it and will hide it behind insults and gruff manner, but he will not enjoy his stay."
Legolas was suddenly thoughtful. "Do you feel uncomfortable here, Elvellon?" He asked worriedly.
Gimli hesitated. "It is well as long as you are here," he admitted. "But if I was in Mirkwood on my own, I am afraid that, yes, I would probably feel uncomfortable."
"It is Greenwood now," the elf corrected. "And if it is so, I will never leave you here alone. And yet, I think it is the only way," he continued his previous thought. "We will leave them alone only for a day. I have a feeling that this would work. Please, Gimli, you must trust me on this."
The dwarf grunted. "I trusted you once already and look where we are now! In the middle of a battlefield!"
Legolas laughed. "No, you didn't! You never trusted me about bringing your father here."
"No, I didn't," Gimli admitted. "And I was right not to!" Before he could continue, he caught sight of his friend's pleading eyes, and sighed in defeat. He knew that he was going to regret this. "Alright, alright, but this is the last time I let you make the decision."
Legolas beamed. "Thank you, my friend! You will see that it will work!"
The golden-haired prince bid his father farewell and walked outside where Gimli was already waiting for him. He had asked Thranduil to take care of his other guest in his absence. The Elvenking's lips twisted into something that suspiciously resembled a cruel smile. Oh, yes. Take care he would.
"Our sons are finally gone," he said smugly to the dwarf standing behind him. "You know what this means, don't you?"
"Yes!" Glóin cried and raised his axe. "It is time to see who is the better dwarf!"
"Exactly," Thranduil said with a grin and reached for a broad sword. They had spent the better part of the previous day arguing about Elven and Dwarven battle skills and weapon quality. And now it was time to know the truth.
Dwarven axe and Elven blade would meet in battle. And the one who lost had to admit that the other's skills were superior.
Both warriors walked proudly outside, each sure in his own victory.
Glóin and Thranduil walked quickly down the path through the woods, accompanied by the cheerful singing of a few birds. The forest was much different from what it had been only a few years ago, before the fall of the Dark Lord. The air was fresh and sweet, the trees were green and free of the Shadow, bright sunlight often caressed the grass, and the orcs and the spiders were gone. Mirkwood was no more. Greenwood was restored to its previous beauty.
Soon the duo reached a glade among the trees and stopped. Thranduil took a deep breath of fresh air and stretched his arms to prepare his muscled for the coming challenge. Glóin fingered his axe.
"I will beat you, King of the Elves," he said. "I will triumph over you even here, in your own home, where even the trees are helping you."
Thranduil frowned. "What do you mean?"
Glóin shrugged. "Surely you cannot deny that you fight better among those trees you seem to love so much. They give you strength and support. But I will best you in spite of that."
The Elvenking nodded thoughtfully. "I see. So this is your excuse for your upcoming defeat. I will win, and then you will say that it is only because the trees had helped me." Glóin started to protest, but Thranduil interrupted him. "Worry not, this will not happen. We shall not fight here. I know of a better place."
The Elvenking strode through the forest and Glóin had to run to keep up with the tall elf. They walked among tall trees and crossed a broad river over an old wooden bridge. Glóin glance briefly at the rushing waters, wondering where they were going.
Soon they reached a rock and could see the entrances of several caves. "Ah, I see," the dwarf muttered. "We shall fight inside a cave, so that you can have an excuse when you lose."
"Not at all, Master Dwarf," Thranduil countered. "We shall fight inside a cave, so that I can prove to you that I can best you even there. This one looks suitable." He pointed towards one of the entrances.
Glóin was about to respond to the king's last comment, when he suddenly looked at the cave the elf had chosen and shook his head. "We cannot fight here. Even a child can see that the cave is unstable. A louder sound can easily make it collapse."
"You are afraid then?" Thranduil said smugly and walked towards the entrance.
"Do you doubt my knowledge of caves, Elf?" The dwarf hissed.
"Not at all. The only thing I doubt is your courage."
"Fine then," Glóin muttered to himself. "Go get yourself killed. But Glóin, son of Gróin, is not going to die because of elven stupidity!"
"Coward!" Thranduil called merrily from inside the cave.
The dwarf cursed silently elves and their stiff necks and reluctantly followed.
Metal clashed on metal. The fierce blow of the Elven blade was blocked by a Dwarven axe. The clear sound traveled down the entire cavern.
Thranduil was too absorbed in the duel to notice, but Glóin had had too many years of experience not to feel that the stones were moving. "Run!" He shouted and rushed towards the entrance.
The Elvenking stared after him in confusion before he heard it too. A large rock fell in front of him, forcing him to jump backwards. He ran after the dwarf, zigzagging to avoid falling rocks.
But it was already too late.
Glóin stopped after he had finally left the cave and bent forward panting. He was expecting to hear Thranduil making some idiotic comment as usual, but all he could hear was silence. Perhaps the foolish elf is ashamed of his mistake. And he should be.
The dwarf turned around and his eyes widened in surprise. The cave's entrance had collapsed. And the Elvenking was nowhere in sight.
"So he did get himself killed after all," the dwarf muttered to himself in wonder. "And all for the better! Middle-earth is better off without him!" He turned around and started walking back, when a sudden idea made him freeze in his tracks.
"Wait! What will the elf's guards do to me when I return and say that their king is dead? They'll surely think that I had killed him! And they'll put me back into that dungeon!"
He turned towards the cave once again and started pacing. "And why should I care? I do not need to return to his halls. I could return to Erebor from here."
He stopped pacing and gasped in horror. "Gimli! My son is in danger! Who knows what will happen to him if I let this king die? He is still with that yellow-haired, beardless princeling! He might lock him in the dungeons and torture him!"
Glóin scratched his head and threw a hesitant glance towards the pile of rocks. "I should not help the elf because of cowardice! This is not what a dwarven warrior does! I will rescue my son and we will return to Erebor together."
But a sudden doubt entered his mind. "Ai! Gimli is already too brainwashed by those elves! Will he want to return with me? He better does! I won't let the princeling torture my son!"
The dwarf sat on the ground in despair, but suddenly stood up, and his brown eyes were shining with determination. "What am I saying? Of course I have to help this brainless kingling! And not because I fear his guards, but because I am Glóin, son of Gróin! I am a dwarven warrior and protector of the weak ones! And he is certainly a weak one. He looks so weak, and beardless, and helpless, almost like a child! No, even a dwarven child is stronger than him. But it is not his fault that he has been born a skinny and a witless elf! I have to help him!"
Glóin crouched down and started cautiously lifting the stones. Soon he came across a pale and limp hand. It seemed that Thranduil had already almost reached the entrance when the stones had fallen over him.
The dwarf started working faster and soon the Elvenking's body was free of the stones. Glóin was relieved to see that Thranduil was still alive and quickly examined the elf's wounds. His entire body was covered by swallow cuts and bruises, but apart from a deep cut on his left forearm and a nasty bump on his head, none of the injuries appeared serious.
The dwarf took out his waterskin, tore a piece of his tunic and carefully started cleaning the elf's cut. The king winced, but did not regain consciousness. Glóin wrapped the cut in a piece of cloth and gazed at the elf in amazement.
He looked so weak, and yet he had survived this ordeal. Glóin doubted that many dwarves would have survived those stones falling on top of them. Must be because of his thick head, he thought, but his musings were interrupted as the elf suddenly opened his eyes.
Thranduil was confused at first, but then he quickly remembered what happened. He could vividly remember the rocks falling down, the terrifying sound, and his frightening realization that safety was too far away. However, memories only added to his confusion. He saved my life?
Well, if the dwarf expected him to thank him, he would have to be disappointed. "It is late," Thranduil said instead and glanced at the Sun, not making any mention of the cave and the unfortunate collapse. "We will have no time to finish the duel today if we want to return before our sons."
Glóin chuckled. "Worry not, I would not fight you in your present condition. It would not be honorable of me."
Thranduil raised an eyebrow and stared at the dwarf. "I could easily defeat you even in my present condition," he said coldly.
"Especially in a collapsing cave," Glóin said with a grin, apparently not caring about the elf's complete lack of gratitude. "Come now, we need to hurry. I do not want my son to know what we have been doing."
"Me neither," Thranduil admitted. "But there is no need to hurry. I know a shortcut."
The elf rose to his feet and led forward, his injuries forgotten.
"There is something I forgot to mention when I said that I knew a shortcut," Thranduil admitted after they had walked for a while. "Remember the river we crossed?"
"The huge one?" Glóin asked.
The elf grinned. "I am sure it appears huge to someone of your size. Yes, the same one. We crossed it over a bridge, but there is no bridge here."
"So we need to walk across it and hope that the water won't carry us away?"
"Exactly," Thranduil confirmed and stopped. They had reached the river.
Glóin gazed fearfully at the rushing water. "Well, what are we waiting for?" He asked, hoping that his voice did not reveal his uncertainty.
The elf sighed. "Have you never been trained in river crossing? First we need to determine if it is safe to cross."
The dwarf eyed the river warily. "Doesn't look very safe to me."
Thranduil shook his head. "This is quite a useful observation, but I will show you how you test this the proper way. It is safe to cross a river only if the current is not faster than the fastest you are able to walk."
"And how do you test that?" Glóin asked, trying not to show his curiosity towards the new information. To be honest, he had to admit that he had always avoided crossing rivers and no one had ever explained him how to do it. But he would never let the elf know that he had taught him something useful.
Thranduil crouched and picked up a stick from the ground. "You drop a stick into the river, and it will be carried down the current," he explained patiently. "You try to walk next to it along the shore."
He dropped the stick, and it immediately sailed forward. The elf followed it with quick steps. Glóin rushed to keep up with him.
"I said walk, not run," the Elvenking said. "You are not fast enough. You will be unable to cross the river safely. I will have to carry you."
Glóin glared at the elf, his brown eyes shining dangerously. "Nobody carries a dwarf!" He shouted.
Thranduil sighed in exasperation. "You have no choice. Do you want to be swiped away by the river?"
"I said you are not carrying me!" The dwarf repeated stubbornly.
The elf furrowed his brow in concentration. "Perhaps I could toss you to the other shore. But I suppose nobody tosses a dwarf either?"
The fire in the brown depths was enough of an answer.
Thranduil shrugged. "Very well. Die then, I care not. Let me just give you this piece of advice – when your make your steps, try to lift your feet as little as possible. Certainly do not raise them above the water surface, and try to keep them as close to the bottom as you can for better balance."
Glóin snorted in contempt. "I do not need your advice, elf!" In spite of his words, however, he tried to raise his feet as little as possible when he entered the water.
Thranduil had already reached the other shore and looked back to see how the dwarf was faring. Glóin was nearing the middle of the river, taking small and slow steps.
The Elvenking chuckled. "I know that dwarves are famous for their speed, but your swiftness surpasses my wildest expectations!"
Glóin's face reddened in anger. This elf will see. I will make him see. In his rage the dwarf forgot all about caution and took a faster step.
This proved to be his undoing.
Glóin slipped on a stone and with a cry fell into the river. The cold water accepted him in its deadly embrace and carried him down the current.
Thranduil gazed in shock at the dwarf's form disappearing in the distance. "Let him drown," he finally murmured. "It was his own folly."
He turned to walk back, but stopped in his tracks. "But if he dies, his son will be upset. And if his son is upset, Legolas will be upset as well. He will never forgive me." The Elvenking started pacing along the shore.
"Besides, he was traveling with me, so he was left in my care. Surely, I could not expect a dwarf to be able to take care of himself! He was Legolas' guest, and he entrusted him to me. I had to protect him! It is not his fault that he was born a short and clumsy dwarf. Even an elven child could swim better!"
He watched the water rush past him, unable to decide what to do. And then he raised his head and his stormy eyes were shining with determination.
"Valar, Thranduil, what are you talking about?" He shouted angrily. "This creature saved your life! You could at least return the favor! Not to mention that it was your fault that he slipped!"
The Elvenking ran along the shore, trying to catch up with the dwarf and deciding not to worry about the fact that he was talking to himself. Soon he spotted Glóin's white head. The waves were toying with the dwarf as if he was a rag doll.
Thranduil rushed towards the dwarf and managed to grab his tunic. However, as he had already warned Glóin, it was unwise to lift your feet high up when crossing a river. But it was impossible to run without lifting your feet. And so grabbing the dwarf's tunic was the last thing he did before he slipped too. The merciless water grabbed him and carried him forward.
The river pushed him left and right, up and down, and Thranduil desperately tried to keep hold of the unconscious dwarf. His right hand reached out blindly and after several unsuccessful attempts finally managed to grab a root protruding from the bottom. Carefully he regained his footing and rose, holding the dwarf above the surface. To his dismay, Glóin had not regained consciousness. He was well aware that if the dwarf was not breathing, the only way to save him would be to breathe for him. Mouth-to-mouth.
The darn dwarf better be breathing because I am not doing that!
The elf walked slowly to the shore and laid the dwarf down. No, he was not breathing. Who said it would be easy? Thranduil hit him hard on the chest, and turned him to the side, continuing to hit his back. Obviously Glóin had some water in his lungs, and he had to find a way to make him expel it… other than the traditional one.
After several frantic attempts the elf could clearly see that he was not getting anywhere. The dwarf was not breathing. And this left him only one choice.
Ai Valar! This cannot be happening!
The Elvenking carefully looked around, making sure that no one was watching, and bent down to do what he was supposed to do. Curse that dwarf! He hoped that no one had seen them or he would never live this down.
Finally his efforts were rewarded and the dwarf started coughing water. Thranduil turned him to the side and sighed in relief.
Soon Glóin opened his eyes and frowned as he realized where he was. The elf had saved him?
Thranduil cleared his throat. "I am afraid, Master Dwarf, that in the process of saving you I was forced to carry you," he said, sounding slightly amused. "I hope you do not mind too much."
Glóin cursed silently and glared at him. "No one is going to hear about this, elf! Understood?"
The Elvenking grinned. "I have to disagree. I dwarf falling into the river and being carried to safety is too good a story to miss."
"Aye," Glóin unexpectedly agreed. "But it is not better than the story of the elf who was buried under a pile of rocks because he refused to listen."
Thranduil paled. "Alright, agreed. No one will hear anything about the cave or the river."
"Agreed." Glóin nodded satisfied. "Not let us try to return before our children and get ourselves out of those wet clothes."
As the two walked back, Thranduil was struck by a surprising thought. Both Glóin and he had suffered that day because of their pride and stubbornness.
Perhaps Elves and Dwarves were not so different after all.
When Thranduil and Glóin had finally reached the halls, they were relieved to see that their sons had not yet returned from the hunting. The two changed in dry clothes and looked at each other critically. With a bit of luck the young ones would never learn about their misadventures.
The healers cleaned all of the king's numerous cuts and redressed his arm wound, and now all of his injuries were hidden beneath his clothes and the bump on his head was hidden beneath his hair. The deception would work.
Glóin and Thranduil sat in front of the fire to let their hair dry. Finally, Thranduil brushed his golden hair and started redoing his braids. The dwarf followed his example and started braiding his beard.
As he did so, he was struck by a sudden thought. Elven warriors braided their long hair, and Dwarven warriors braided their long beards. For both it was a matter of honor and pride.
Perhaps Elves and Dwarves were not so different after all.
Legolas and Gimli returned late after sunset. The elf was carrying two large rabbits, and the dwarf was walking next to him, talking animatedly. They could soon see that the King was waiting for them at the door.
"Welcome back, my son." He walked forward and took the rabbits from his son's hands. "Master Dwarf." He nodded at Gimli. "You have come home just in time for dinner.
"Good! I am starving!" The dwarf cried and let the elf lead them to the table. Glóin was already seated and was waiting for the two young ones, eyeing the food impatiently.
The company ate in silence until Glóin cleared his throat. "This forest looks much better than the last time I visited it," he said, and Legolas wondered where the comment was leading. It could be nowhere good. It was just too civil to be true.
"I am glad you think so," Thranduil replied. "The woods changed much after the Shadow was defeated."
"You wood-elves must be very glad that darkness was defeated," Glóin said in between bites.
"Isn't everyone?" The Elvenking asked cautiously.
"Yes, but it was especially good for you. I do not see how you were able to withstand so long. You seem to me quite incapable of dealing with your enemies. All prisoners you have held here that I know of have escaped." He chuckled at the elf's raised eyebrows and at his son's and Legolas' horrified expressions. "It is true! Gollum escaped, my companions and I escaped…"
"Enough!" Thranduil said firmly. "You and your companions escaped because you were aided and not because of a flaw in my dungeons!"
"Not a flaw in the dungeons," Glóin replied with a grin. "But a flaw in your guards. And someone's love for good wine, naturally."
Thranduil was looking murderous, but the dwarf continued undisturbed. "And the fact that we were aided speaks in our favor. It proves that dwarves are able to make good friends. One's strength is not determined just by muscles, battle skills, and brain, but also by a good heart and ability to make loyal friends and trusted allies. The fact that this remarkable hobbit helped us only shows that we have noble hearts and this is why he joined our side."
"Noble hearts?" The Elvenking shouted in disbelief. "As far as I can recall, Mithrandir described your friend as 'a professional thief'."
Glóin jumped from his chair, glaring at the elf. "Bilbo Baggins is much more than a thief!" He cried. "I am honored to call him my friend."
"It is true," Thranduil admitted. "I know this hobbit's worth, and you should indeed be honored to call him your friend. Why he decided to mingle with the likes of you is beyond me. But I wouldn't say that he was on your side. As far as I remember, he betrayed you."
"He didn't!" Glóin argued passionately "He didn't betray us when he went to you. He was only trying to protect us from your greed."
"Or from your own greed," the king suggested.
Legolas did not like where this was going and stood up, prepared to intervene. Then suddenly he caught sight of something that made the breath hitch at his throat.
It was a glimmer in Glóin's eyes. The same glimmer he had often seen in Gimli's eyes when he was bantering with his friend. And then he looked up to see the same glimmer reflected in his father's eyes as well.
Legolas gazed at Gimli, as if looking for confirmation. Do you see the same that I am seeing, Elvellon? His stunned expression seemed to ask.
Yes, Gimli's eyes seemed to answer. I see a friendly argument.
Glóin and Thranduil continued shouting ay each other, but their sons could clearly see that it was devoid of the malice that had been present before. And they could only stare in wonder.
"Perhaps this was not such a bad idea after all," Gimli said softly.
"No," Legolas answered. "Perhaps not."
Lost in their surprise, the two friends lost track of their father's conversation until Glóin's next words made them both jump in their seats.
"I will leave soon," the older dwarf was saying, "but you are welcome to journey with me and visit Erebor."
Gimli and Legolas exchanged a shocked glance and froze in expectation.
"I would be very interested in seeing The Lonely Mountain," Thranduil replied.
Gimli blinked. He winced as he imagined the proud and somewhat stubborn Elvenking surrounded by his kin. This could not end well.
Legolas had paled. "Or maybe I was wrong," he said with a guilty smile. "Perhaps it was."