Title: The Threefold Bond

Author: Elwa

Summary: A dwarf, a human, and an elf. Together it sounds like the beginning of a joke. But this is the story of just such a bond, but it takes place long before they become the fellowship. Meet Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as children. Pre-fellowship.

Genre: AU

Warnings: I do not intend this to become particularly dark, but there will likely be some violence in later chapters in which dark creatures are gorily dismembered and young warriors might potentially be injured. This is also a work in progress, so my writing in it might be a bit sporadic. I have been known to drop a story for months before I pick it back up again. If you find this too annoying, I advise you not to read this until it is marked 'complete'.

Rating: PG (for now. Actually, for now it's probably G, but to be safe I'll say PG)

Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings.

Author's Note: I am aware that Legolas is much older than I have made him. (I'm not sure if Tolkien ever gives an exact age, but his comments at Fanghorn certainly indicate he is rather old). I am also aware that it is somewhat of a tradition among writers to make elven children age at an infinitely slower rate than humans, preferring to say that their age is equivalent to such and such an age for humans. This seems unlikely to me, though truthfully the only reason I am not sticking to that tradition is because I wanted to make Legolas younger than both Aragorn and Gimli while still making it feasible for him to go on the ring quest. I also suspect Gimli is rather older than I made him. Basically, I played around with everyone's ages to make them closer to each other. This story is AU, meaning that if you notice any discrepancies between my story and the canon text, (and there will likely be a lot, I'm not an expert by any means) then simply assume it's because it's an alternate universe. But let me know anyway, especially if it has to do with language; constructive reviews are always appreciated.

Chapter 1

Two Parties and a Feast

To say that dwarves never get along with elves is a myth. It is true, they have had many differences of perspective. But there have been mighty alliances between the races in the past; Moria is evidence of that, despite its bitter end. And where companionship is lacking, trading opportunities open many doors. So it was that thirteen dwarves once passed through the halls of Elrond the half-elven, and that meeting paved the way for a longer and fuller friendship. Some twenty years after the dwarves had settled beneath the Lonely Mountain, Gloin returned with a number of his people in the interest of friendship and trade. The timing of this journey proved to be rather unfortunate.

These dwarves have little quarrel with the elves of Imladris. This is not true of their relationship with the elves of Mirkwood. Such as those who had arrived almost within the same hour, including none other than the despised King Thranduil himself. Some days, Elrond felt it was not worth getting out of bed. All he needed for this disaster to be perfect was for Mithrandir and another string of adventurers to come along, perhaps a group of reformed goblins. Surely they would be less of a headache than trying to house a party of Mirkwood elves and a faction of belligerent dwarves together, no matter how far apart their guest quarters are assured to be. The worst was when they attempted to mask their hatred in politeness.

"Of course I have no trouble residing near our dear forest neighbors," Gloin declared heartily, "It will be a learning experience for all of us. Perhaps when they partake in your hospitality they may even learn something of how to house their guests!" No, of course the dwarf wasn't bitter about that little matter of imprisonment during their quest. All was said with a smile, or at least a resemblance of bared teeth.

"I'm sure you won't find Elrond's hospitality lacking," one of the Mirkwood elves agreed, though it wasn't Thranduil himself who spoke, "There must be some room in the cellars among the wine barrels." Elrond strongly resisted turning and fleeing, leaving the two parties on his doorstep to self destruct. He could come back in an hour and nothing would be left to do but a little clean up.

"Are you saying dwarves enjoy their drink a bit too much?" Gloin demanded, his tone just short of hostile. He blatantly ignored the barrel jibe. Probably better for dwarves and elves if that whole incident was discreetly forgotten. The elf raised an eyebrow in utter innocence.

"I only suggested you would be more at home underground," he said, "Do you believe dwarves to have a problem with drink?" It was at this point that Elrond made a more aggressive attempt to play as gracious host.

"I have rooms made up that should satisfy all your needs," he said, ignoring the heated glares and already trying to juggle in his head how to manage the upcoming days. It would be easier if he knew exactly why Thranduil had suddenly decided to grace him with a visit. It was a long way for anyone to travel, let alone a king, and with children no less. He could just make out the boy sitting wide eyed on his pony, surrounded as he was by horses and elves. He was the only one still mounted. The dwarves had no mounts but only because they had already been settled within the hour before the elves arrived. Elrond had just been about to see them to their rooms, in fact, when the sound of hooves ringing over stone announced the second party. Just five minutes was all he would have needed to avoid this entire confrontation.

"This is Elladan, my son," Elrond continued, motioning towards an elf who was quite young by immortal standards, though certainly not the elfling who still sat shyly upon his mount, "Let him show you to your rooms and make sure they are to your liking." Gloin nodded, appeased perhaps that he at least warranted a son of his host showing him the way, and Elrond was able to breathe a silent sigh of relief as the dwarves were led out of sight. Only then did he stand properly before Thranduil while motioning for their horses to be taken care of. The young one finally slid from his own mount and was soon lost in the faction of much taller men surrounding him.

"King Thranduil," Elrond said, giving a short bow of respect which the king returned in kind, "This meeting is most welcome, though rather unexpected. How fares Mirkwood and its people?"

"Tired," the king answered shortly, "The shadows lengthen, my friend." He hesitated for a brief second, before making subtle motions towards his men, and soon two elves stood at the king's side. One had dark hair of similar features to the king himself, and though it is immensely difficult to tell the ages of elves once they pass into true adulthood, Elrond got a sense that this elf was not so very old, probably of similar age to his own sons. The second elf, by sharp contrast, was easy to divine the age of as the top of his head did not come much past the king's waist. His hair was a surprising white to match his father's golden tresses, but his features did not so closely match.

"May I present my sons," Thranduil announced, "I believe you have met Prince Sidhodoron." He motioned towards the elder of the two, who inclined his head politely. Elrond welcomed him in return, acknowledging that they had met, though it had been many years since that time. It was hard to be of an immortal race and not, at some point or other, cross paths with most everyone. "And this is Prince Legolas, my youngest son." Here he presented the child, who bowed his head with equal decorum to his elders. Elrond welcomed him as well, then motioned for his own child to approach.

"You have seen my son Elladan," Elrond said, referring to the one sent to take care of the dwarves. He purposefully did not elaborate on where Elladan was now, not wanting to remind the elves of the dwarves' presence, but instead said "This is his brother Elrohir." An elf identical to the one who had left stood next to his father. "My foster son Estel is currently with his tutor, but I am sure you will be able to see him at the evening meal. There will be a feast, to celebrate your arrival." And the arrival of the dwarves, but it wouldn't do to say that now. "Now, please let Elrohir show you to your rooms." Thranduil agreed, though there were tumultuous emotions showing behind his eyes. It made Elrond uneasy, but now was not the time to make demands. Thranduil would reveal the reasons behind his visit soon enough.

Elrohir led the elves away, the king and the princes in the lead. It was not long before the courtyard was empty, only the stirring of dirt and leaves upon the ground revealing their passing. Elrond could not help but think of it as the calm before the storm.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Legolas Thranduilion was not the only child to have arrived at Imladris that day. Gimli, son of Gloin also stood at his father's side. He was only slightly shorter than the adult dwarves, a youth on the verge of puberty. Aside from being short even for a dwarf, he had yet to begin to grow a beard, a fact that he did not find pleasing at all. He had many friends of a similar age who already sported a slight fuzziness about their chins while his was as smooth as any infant. But today, it was not his beardless state that had him looking cross.

"I don't like it here," he grumbled, holding onto a small war hammer tightly while his father began to unpack, "Cellars indeed. Did you truly find rest within these walls upon your journey?"

"Elves may be flighty sorts of creatures," Gloin answered patiently, though there was a warning tone to his voice that his son had better back off and heed his words, "But Lord Elrond is a decent sort. And elves do know a thing or two about music and cloth, I'll give them that."

"Is that what we came here for, to trade for trinkets?" Gimli demanded scornfully, "And for this I must be polite among poor company and leave behind my ax and hammers?"

"It is a matter of pride to show your manners even with elves," Gloin answered sharply, "And it is cowardly to wear weapons ready in another's home; it shows you fear them. You stay away from those Mirkwood elves and they can stay away from you. What we are here for is too important for an old feud, no matter how well justified it is. We trade for alliances against the darkness, not merely for trinkets, as you say." Gimli nodded in response, suddenly feeling very young and foolish. How could he ever prove himself to be a mature warrior when he quarreled with his elders at every turn, like a child throwing a tantrum when told to put away his toys? Then his father winked at him as he slid a small knife into a sheath hidden up his sleeve and Gimli's grin returned. Of course they should not openly bear arms about this haven of peace, but that did not mean they had to walk defenseless. Gimli should have known his father wouldn't be so quick to abandon his weapons.

In truth and despite his uneasy mutterings, Gimli was excited to explore this place. Some of his earliest memories were of sitting on his father's knee while being told a wondrous tale about a dragon, goblins, trolls, and elves. There was also a wizard and a hobbit involved and quite a good deal of magic and excitement. The great hero Thorin Oakenshield was imprinted early on his memory, as well as the names of his thirteen companions. Most children believed their fathers to be heroes, but Gimli knew his to be one. And now, here Gimli was directly in the middle of one of his father's stories. Imladris was always mentioned with fondness, which was odd because in any other occurrence Gloin would curse the existence of elves.

"Do you suppose there will be music like you described?" he asked as he finally relinquished his hold on his hammer, "And food and wine?"

"You won't be drinking more than one glass," Gloin answered, eyeing his son warily, but it was hard to resist his excitement, "And I suppose you will get to see for yourself soon enough. It doesn't seem to have changed much since for all that it's been twenty years." Gimli grinned eagerly, still unable to quite believe he was here. The entire trip had been exciting, especially crossing the Misty Mountains. There had been no wizard to guide them but despite the youth's secret desires for battle they met no difficulty. Now, here among the elves, he found himself wondering if they couldn't continue on, retracing the steps of that legendary journey right back to the burglar's dwelling. He didn't know how to feel here, caught between old legends and an ancient grudge, each equally a part of his bedtime stories.

In the meantime, a youth of even fewer years than the dwarf followed his own father and brother into their rooms. Thranduil did not unpack; he let his attendants do this task for him in deference to his role as king, though he did look after his weapons himself. His sons did the same, his youngest partaking in the unpacking more actively because his father believed in discipline and learning by experience even more than he believed in pride and station. It had certainly worked well with the elder, who was now given responsibilities of a less menial nature and allowed to receive similar ministrations as the king. Though all three had separate rooms, they were all connected by large, open doorways that had only light curtains to create a sense of privacy between them. The curtains were open now, making it feel almost like one very long room rather than three.

"I thought you said all dwarves wore beards down to their toes," Legolas said as he unfolded a night tunic before laying it away, "But those men only had beards to their knees, and one of them didn't have a beard at all." Thranduil raised an eyebrow at that; he himself hadn't spotted the novelty of a beardless dwarf, though to be fair he had been avoiding looking in their direction at all.

"They only appeared short, because of how they were braided and tied up," the child's brother said, though his eyes were not on Legolas but on the pretty maiden busy laying away his father's tunics, "And perhaps the beardless one was a woman. It is difficult to say with dwarves." Legolas frowned.

"But Curanion says that dwarves don't have women. Aule made them to grow from the earth and their beards are really lichen that they braid like hair." At that his brother laughed out loud though Thranduil frowned.

"I have talked to you about listening to that man," he muttered, "Dwarves do not grow from stone anymore than men are really dwarves with a growth defect and spiders did not learn speech by eating an elfling's tongue." That last story had been the source of many nightmares and sleepless nights. Legolas nodded his head solemnly.

"Now," Thranduil said, "Let us bathe away the dust of our journey and get ready for this feast Elrond spoke of. And do not speak of the dwarves while we are there, Legolas, ignore their presence. It is rude to speak of your host's other guests in such a manner, no matter who those guests are." Legolas nodded his head sagely, though in truth he understood little of what his father was talking about. At any rate, the child was well versed in how to act at important social events, tedious though such behavior could be. And the excitement of getting to leave home and see the famous Imladris was well worth having to watch his manners. Even more exciting he had actually seen real live dwarves, a creature he had only heard of in stories before as they seldom crossed into Mirkwood, the last event happening well before he was born. Perhaps Elrond would also happen to host some men or Halflings or even a wizard; that would be truly brilliant. This was one feast he could not wait to attend.

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

This was one feast Elrond wished that he could avoid. The same could not be said for the young man eagerly running about his study. He was supposed to be relating what he had learned that day, but the youth sounded much more interested in hearing about their visitors.

"I don't think I've ever seen a dwarf before," Estel proclaimed, wandering over to a painting and then back to his seat again, "and the only elf from Mirkwood that ever came was that gruff warrior who didn't seem to want to talk to anyone."

"Mirkwood prefers to keep to itself," Elrond responded, "And you were sick the last time we had a party of dwarves visit."

"Oh yes," Estel answered, making a face. He vaguely remembered that disappointment, though most of his sick time was a blur of lying in bed, drinking medicine, and feeling icky. Not dwelling long on that past instance, he turned towards Elrond once again to ask, "Were there any youths with the elves or dwarves?" Elven children were a rare occurrence, and there were none in Imladris close to Estel's age.

"As a matter of fact, Gloin's son appears to be close to your age," Elrond answered, smiling slightly at the way Estel's face lit up, "And Prince Legolas has come as well, though he is younger than you. Still, do not slight him for his age if he wishes to join you." Estel scoffed at the stern directive tacked onto the end; as if he, who himself was too often left out from his youth, would do such a thing to another. Besides, he rarely had the chance to show off for someone younger than himself. Unless the prince turned out to be a boring cry baby, he would have no trouble with him. And there was a dwarf his own age! Two exciting things to happen at the same time.

"Go," Elrond said, giving up on hearing about Estel's lesson that afternoon, "And don't forget to wear your fine clothes for the feast." Such was Estel's excitement that he didn't even complain about his formal ware. Though not overly uncomfortable, the robes always made the youth afraid he'd spill something, and the twins were always teasing him about dressing like a lord, never mind that they had to wear the same outfits. Still, on this one occasion, it would be worth it.