Summary: Gimli celebrates his one hundred and fiftieth birthday, one of the most important days of a dwarf's life. But someone is missing.

As Was Dwarven Tradition

By Nieriel Raina

Autumn

Year 8, Fourth Age

As he marched in, Gimli's fellow dwarves hefted their mugs and offered a cheer in honor of his birthing day. He bowed, as was expected, but he found it difficult to maintain the appearance of joviality when he felt such disappointment. He shouldn't, but he did, and that was that.

He was ushered to the chair of honor, a stone throne raised on a dais in the dining hall. Here he would preside over the festivities, while below, his fellows feasted on roasted venison, and guzzled dark ales.

Then it began.

Dín started by standing and raising his mug. "To Gimli, of the Nine Walkers!" Then he bowed his head in respect, as was dwarven tradition.

All the dwarves raised their mugs and shouted, "To Gimli!"

Then Blákári stood and raised his mug. "To Gimli, Lord of Aglarond!"

"To Gimli!"

One after another throughout the feast they would stand and honor him for his deeds. And he would nod and raise his own mug in acknowledgement, though he felt none of the enjoyment he should.

He was being an idiot and he knew it. He'd spent too much time with elves. He missed the cheerful music of flutes and lyres, the musical voices laughing gaily, a teasing smile and glittering grey eyes full of mischief.

Legolas had not come.

Not that the elf had said he would. Rather, Legolas had said he would try to make it. But autumn was a difficult time for him to leave Ithilien, especially this year, after all that had transpired over the past year. Legolas had been injured in a cave in last summer, and had lost his memory and nearly sailed West. He had returned to Ithilien in the Spring to resume his duties as Lord of Asgarnen, and now the harvest would be in full swing.

Gimli loved autumn. Never had he regretted being born in the time of the changing leaves and cooling winds — except now, on one of the most significant birthing days a dwarf celebrated.

Traditionally, when a dwarf reached his hundred and fiftieth year, he was considered well lived and in his prime. His deeds of youth were celebrated, and his achievements declared. Several lords had come from Erebor (though not the ones opposed to his associating with strange folk!) and even Thorin Stonehelm, King Under The Mountain, had sent a missive and a gift to commemorate the occasion. It was a celebration only rivaled by the one commemorating a dwarf's second century, when he became an Elder, wise and respected among their people.

But the one person he most wished to come, had not.

"To Gimli, Designer of the Gates of Minas Tirith!"

"To Gimli!"

It was going to be a long night.

And then a fair voice echoed across the hall. "To Gimli, Keeper of the Lady's favor."

"To Gimli," the others echoed, many less confident as heads turned to look in the direction of the voice.

Gimli's eyes followed, and he nearly fell off his seat.

Thranduil stood in the doorway, mug raised, head bowed in respect. By Durin's Hammer, what was the Elvenking doing in Aglarond? He had to force himself to lift his mug and smile.

No doubt Legolas had mentioned his birthing day to Thranduil, and the importance of the event. But for the king to come? He and Thranduil had come to decent terms over the past year. Some might even call them friends, despite their families' rocky beginnings. It lightened his heart. It wasn't the same as having Legolas attend, but it meant a lot to him nevertheless.

"To Gimli, the most traveled dwarf in Middle-earth!"

"To Gimli!"

Gimli rolled his eyes. It was going to be a very long night indeed.

: - :

Legolas grinned at the shocked look of the sentry at the door and slipped down the halls of Aglarond after his father. He waited until after Thranduil entered and offered his respects, allowing a few more dwarves to raise their mugs before he slipped in and found one of his own. Few had seen him from his place by the entrance, and those who had snickered and kept his secret. A few patted him on the arm.

Finally a lull in the calls, and Legolas stepped forward and raised his mug aloft.

"To Gimli…"

Silence filled the room as Gimli's head swung around. Legolas felt hard pressed not to laugh at his friend's expression. The dwarf stood from his place in surprise, his mouth gaping open. Gimli had nearly dropped his mug!

Legolas let his gaze wander across the room. Many of the dwarves had stood when they saw him, most wore grins and nodded their approval. Looking back at his friend, Legolas lifted his mug higher and shouted.

"To Gimli, Elvellon! Mellon nín!"

"To Gimli!" the shout roared in the room.

Legolas bowed his head in respect, but when he lifted his eyes, it was to find Gimli had left his place of honor and stood before him. The dwarf's eyes glistened suspiciously with moisture.

"You didn't think I'd miss your birthing day, did you?" Legolas asked.

Gimli's lips twitched. "Well, you are a flighty elf. Never know when you might turn up."

Legolas threw back his head and laughed, as Gimli stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Legolas' waist in a tight hug. Legolas squeezed his friend's shoulder.

"Happy birthing day, Gimli!"

The End

A/N – The dwarven birthing day traditions in this story are entirely my creation.

Dín – Gimli's second at Aglarond.

Blákári – Old Norse meaning 'black, curvy, wavy' named for his hair. He is a friend of Gimli's though younger. He is one of the dwarves who relocated to Aglarond first introduced in Seemingly Forbidding Crags, and the messenger sent to Thranduil in The Trees Were Burning.

Author's Note: Not all the high ranking dwarf lords approved of Gimli's relocating to Aglarond, nor his close association with Legolas and the elves of Asgarnen. Since the end of the War of the Ring, there has been certain tensions in Erebor, causing Gimli much grief when he visits his home and family.