Rating: PG for language
Warnings: A bit of swearing, that's all.
Summary: A Yule fic starring the elf and the dwarf.
A/N: Yes, I know it's been OMG!Forever since I posted a new story. I've been working on this one for several years, actually but just haven't posted it due to my spotty internet access. Yay for netbooks and free internet at Panera Bread, is all I'm saying. So, long story short, I have several stories both as sheraiah and as Wednesdayschild that I will be posting over the next few months. My more explicit stuff can be found on the Axe_Bow archive where I post as Wednesdayschild. Just a heads up that it's slash so it's not for everyone. My het stuff gets posted at Open Scrolls and I'm sheraiah there, too. Oh, and I have a collaboration going with Lerouret that I sincerely hope will see the light of day sometime soon when we can get our muses to co-operate. Her muse is continually running off to Cabo with the cabana boy and mine just digs his boot heels in, plants his axe, and refuses to speak to me.
Gimli shook his head, leaning on his walking axe and fighting the grin that threatened to cross his bearded face. Trust the elf to use the fact that it was snowing as an excuse to cavort in the woods! Legolas was spinning slowly, arms outstretched and face to the sky. Large snowflakes drifted lazily down, landing in the elf's hair, on his face, and on his upturned palms. In truth, though, he rejoiced inwardly to see it. Legolas had been melancholy of late. In part, that had been his reasoning behind suggesting spending Yule at the Lonely Mountain. Legolas relished few things as much as he did new experiences. Gimli hoped that he would throw himself headlong into the merriment of a dwarven Yuletide celebration and forget at least for awhile the sea longing that plagued him and the lingering effects of the injuries he had sustained during the War that had been prolonged by the sea longing's interference with his body and soul.
"One would think you'd never seen snow, elf!" Legolas turned to him, grinning, eyes twinkling with mischief and humor.
"Oh, many, many times, friend Gimli, but it is never the same twice!" He gestured to the trees around them. "Can you honestly say that you do not appreciate the beauty of the trees' winter cloak?"
"I do appreciate the sight, Legolas. What I do not appreciate is frozen toes and fingers. While you aren't bothered by the chill, I will be once night falls." His expression softened at the look of chagrin on his companion's face. "None of that, now, you daft creature! We'll get to my home a couple of hours after nightfall if we leave now. No harm's been done." Legolas crossed the distance between them to the horse that Gimli stood beside. "Nay, let the poor beast have a respite. Our feet will serve for now. We can ride later, if we have need to. We'll be coming up on the river soon, anyway, and we'd need to dismount to cross it."
"Trust a dwarf to make up excuses to walk in the snow," Legolas retorted, grinning, his guilt assuaged. Gimli merely snorted.
"Looks solid," Gimli said, thumping the ice with the butt of his axe.
"Looks can be deceiving," Legolas said, his eyes scanning the frozen river in the dimming light. "We should cross over here," he pointed to their left. "The water is shallower at that point, if my memory is correct, no deeper than my knees. If the ice should break, we would have an easier time getting out."
"Well, standing here isn't getting us across," Gimli grumbled. He was beginning to feel the cold more acutely, not that he would consider admitting that to the elf, and he was longing for his parents' hearth and a mug of hot buttered rum, as well as a hearty, and hot, meal. He started across the ice, Legolas following and leading the horse several paces behind and further to his left.
The ice under the horse's hooves cracked, but the animal retained his footing and plodded on. Legolas, however, ended up wet to the waist as his foot slipped on a rock and Gimli chuckled at the variety of colorful phrases that passed his friend's lips. He'd been pleasantly surprised at how creatively the elven prince could swear when frustrated. The lad was almost as creative as a dwarf in that respect. Evidently, elves did feel the cold when doused in icy water because Legolas hurried the horse to the far bank and turned to face Gimli, an impatient expression on his face. The dwarf chuckled again.
"I'm hurrying, lad, I'm hurrying! No need to glare a hole through me. Get your clothes changed while you're waiting." He grinned at the speed with which Legolas turned, removing his cloak and weapons and rummaging in his pack for a change of clothing.
Suddenly, Gimli heard a loud noise and the surface dropped out from under his feet, plunging him into darkness, the bitter cold stealing the breath from his lungs. It took him a moment to realize that he was immersed completely in the icy water, the weight of his maille dragging him down to the bottom of a deep hole. He flailed, trying to reach the surface but not knowing for certain which way was up, his lungs burning.
Then, he felt something clasp him hard around the middle and just as he felt his consciousness fleeing, his head broke the surface of the water and he drew in a spluttering breath. As his ears cleared, he heard Legolas shouting in elvish and felt himself being dragged out of the icy water into the even icier air. He was dragged, half submerged, through cracking ice, to the far bank and hauled up onto dry land and onto his feet. He stood, shivering violently, disoriented. Legolas appeared before him, soaked to the skin also, kneeling down and tugging on the clasps of Gimli's clothing.
"We have to get you into dry clothing, elvellon, and quickly," Legolas said, stripping him down to his smallclothes before bundling him into dry socks, breeches, and a shirt and wrapping him in his blanket. "Lean against my horse while I change my shirt, Gimli. He will keep you warmer."
"Both pairs are wet, I fear. I had already changed them when you fell," Legolas replied grimly. "Fear not for me, my friend. I will be fine. You, however, we must get to your kin and soonest." He donned a dry shirt, gifted him by Eomer during the war and too large for his lean frame, before bundling their wet clothing into an empty pack and wrapping Gimli's maille swiftly but carefully, stowing it in yet a third pack. "Up you go, elvellon. We have need of speed from here on!" He lifted Gimli up onto the horse's back and vaulted up behind him, wrapping his blanket around Gimli before urging the horse onto the path to the Lonely Mountain as the wind began to pick up and the snow began to fall more thickly.
Fror the dwarf shifted, trying to get comfortable. His fellow door guard, Niri, frowned at him but made no comment. They were sheltered from the bitter wind of the winter storm, but it was still far colder than either would have liked and both were looking forward to the arrival of their replacements. They had been there since sundown, some two hours past, and it had been an uneventful watch. Soon, they would be off duty and could join in the Yule preparations inside the Mountain. And, what a Yule it would be! The Dark Lord had been vanquished and Niri's cousin, Gimli, who had taken part in the battles to defeat the evil one in Mordor itself, was finally on his way home to a hero's welcome. Fror could hardly wait!
Suddenly, the sound of a horse's hoofbeats reached their ears and both dwarves looked at each other in alarm. No dwarf rode a horse. Ponies, yes, but this was larger than any pony by the sound. Fror gripped his axe tightly as the animal rounded the bend in the path up the Mountain. He squinted, unable to make out more than a shapeless lump atop the horse through the swirling snow. It did not look particularly threatening, especially to a seasoned dwarf-warrior, but one did not survive long enough to be seasoned without being wary so he kept his grip on his axe as it approached. As the figure drew near, it raised its head. Fror nearly dropped his axe.
The rider was an elf, of which Fror had seen no few living where he lived, but never had he seen one looking as this one did. The creature's face was ashen, lips blue with cold, and ice coated its hair. It did not look alive, apart from the fact that it was moving. Abruptly, Fror realized that the elf was speaking.
"..fell... ice." The Elf blinked and shook his head. "Help Gimli." The elf drew back the layers of cloth wrapping the large bundle before him to reveal an all too familiar face.
"Gimli!" Niri shouted, dropping his axe and rushing forward as Fror sounded the alarm. The elf half lifted half slid Gimli off the horse and into Niri's arms.
"Fell through the ice," the elf said, dismounting clumsily. Niri looked up at the elf.
"From the look of it, you went in after him," he said warily.
"Did," the elf replied, swaying on his feet and holding onto the horse for support.
There was no further time for questions as dwarves started pouring out of the doorway. In short order Gloin and Gimli's mother, Naris, had been notified and Gimli was carried off to their chambers in the company of a healer. The horse was led away to the stables that the dwarves kept for their ponies and the elf was half carried to an antechamber until it was decided what to do with him.
"That's enough, he's warmed now. Dry him off and bundle him into bed." The healer turned his attention to the dwarf-woman who was stirring a pot at the hearth. "Naris, is the brew ready?"
"Yes. How is he?"
"Far better than I'd have expected," Borli, the healer, replied. "Why he's not got frostbite, I've no idea but thank Mahal he doesn't. Your boy's very lucky."
"Thank Mahal," the dwarf-woman breathed. "Gloin," she called to her husband, "Is he settled?"
"Aye, he is and beginning to wake, I think," he replied, relief patent in his voice.
Naris rose, a cup of the brew in her hands, and crossed the room to the bed that Gimli had been tucked into by his father. As Gloin supported Gimli's head and shoulders, Naris patiently spooned the brew into his mouth, coaxing him to swallow. About halfway through the process, Gimli's eyelids fluttered open and he blinked, looking dazedly around the room.
"Mam?" he whispered.
"Aye, love, and your Da's here, too." Naris reassured him, lifting another spoonful of the hot liquid to his lips. He swallowed it and the two that followed obediently. Then his eyes, which had been half-closed, popped open wide.
"Legolas! Where's Legolas?" He struggled to get up only to have his father firmly hold him down.
"You're in no shape to go tearing through the mountain, son. Let your Mam and me handle things. We'll see to your companion." Gloin did not release his grip until Gimli relaxed under his hands.
"He was shivering, Da. Legolas doesn't get cold. Something was wrong."
"I'll see to him, love. You rest and drink the broth your Da gives you." Naris laid her hand briefly on her son's forehead before leaving the room.
Naris hurried down the corridor to the antechamber nearest the entry to the Mountain her niece, Narin, following closely behind her. The guards who had carried Gimli to his parents' chambers had told her that the elf who had accompanied her son had been taken into the first antechamber. She only hoped that the dwarves guarding him had had the sense to ensure that he was cared for.
That hope was shattered as she passed through the doorway into the antechamber. The room was cold, in spite of the fire that crackled in the fireplace. The elf was sitting on the hearth, as close to the fire as he could get without risking immolation. He was curled up, arms wrapped about his waist and knees up, his head resting on his knees and his dripping hair hanging down over his legs and hiding his face from view. She threw the guards, who were leaning against the wall at the far side of the room, a murderous glare and hurried to the elf's side. Reaching out, she gently gripped his shoulders.
"Lord Legolas?" She gave him a little shake to rouse him. "Lord Legolas, wake now." As her fingers tightened on his shoulders, he gave a little gasp and tried to pull away.
"Aunt, his left shoulder doesn't look right," Narin said, moving to that side and pulling the too-large shirt he wore down to expose the shoulder. "Dislocated," she commented succinctly, probing it gently and drawing another gasp from the elf. "His skin is so cold I can't tell if there's damage to the hand. Hold him, Aunt, and I'll push it back into the socket." Naris shifted over to give her niece room and wrapped both arms around the elf's torso. He turned his face into her shoulder as Narin gripped his arm and pulled, guiding the joint back into place. His body shuddered, but he made no sound. Narin and Naris traded a look. "Tougher than he looks," Narin commented.
"Aye," Naris agreed. She loosened her grip on the elf and he drew a deep breath, but made no move to sit up. His hair obscured his face, and after a moment's consideration, she stroked it back. His gray eyes were glazed as he tried to focus on her.
"You're inside the Mountain, Lord Legolas," she replied, shifting her arm lower on his back to take more of his weight. She was surprised at how little he seemed to weigh. "Don't you remember how you got here?"
"I know you are, we're going to take care of that. Can you walk a little bit?"
She and Narin guided him to his feet, which Naris only then noticed were bare, and steadied him between them, assisting him out the door and down the corridors to Naris and Gloin's chambers. It was a slow process, for although his weight was indeed slight, he was quite a bit taller than both the dwarf women and very unsteady on his feet. Halfway there, his knees buckled and he crumpled, his caretakers only just preventing his head from striking the stone floor.
"That's it, he can't make it further on his own power. We're going to need help," Naris said, sitting down on the floor and easing his head onto her shoulder. She cradled as much of his torso as she could off the floor, wrapping her arms around him to warm him. She felt him tense and try to sit up, but he had no more strength than a newborn and he soon subsided. "Easy, now. You'll be all right," she said, trying to speak in soothing tones.
"I'll get help," Narin said, disappearing in a swirl of skirts.