Hello to everybody who is still reading this! Yes, unbelievable but true - I am finally back ! The last few months were very chaotic and left little time for writing but it should all be better now. I hope it will not take me another nine months to finish the next chapter :-)

A big thank you goes to all of you who kept asking for an update - even when I did not answer for so long. I do not know if I had continued to write without your encouragement and all the praise I received :-)))

Another big thank you to Little My who once more offered to beta.

So, I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as you seemed to enjoy the rest of this story.

Oh - and best wishes for the new year!!!

__________________________

As Legolas's attention turned once more to the camp, the chaos there had almost settled. His eyes wandered over the clearing, looking for Gimli, and he found the dwarf speaking to one of Eomer's men, gesturing wildly. Sharp elven hearing could make out the words spoken and a smile passed over his face.

'He is looking for it,' Legolas commented, and the twins nodded. They had not missed the dwarf's searching of the camp.

'Maybe we should help him,' Elrohir offered, a playful twinkle in his eyes.

'And maybe not,' Legolas quickly answered, shaking his head. 'Sometimes it is better not to interfere.'

He watched as Gimli walked over to one of the small huts, entering it with determined steps. But his attention was diverted by the sound of someone approaching, and he turned his head to see Eomer walking towards him. With a smile on his face the elf took a few steps of his own towards the man. 'Eomer,' he greeted him with a slight bow of respect that was quickly returned.

'Legolas. It is good to see you well.' The King of Rohan extended an arm to greet the elf, relief and joy open on his face.

'I have to thank you for your assistance in this matter,' the elf answered with a quick sweep of his hand indicating his surroundings. 'Things could have gone amiss rather quickly had you not arrived in so timely a fashion.' A flicker passed over his face as he added, 'Although I cannot remember when and why this happened.'

With a wry grin, the man was glad to enlighten him. 'I received word from Aragorn that the Lord of Ithilien and the Lord of the Glittering Caves, together with the sons of Elrond, had decided to hunt in my lands. That was warning enough to gather my men and set out.'

He laughed at the mixture of confusion and embarrassment on Legolas's face.

'Well, my friend,' he added, 'We have been trying to find the hiding place of these thieves and murderers for some time now. I was sure the keen eyes of elves would find their traces, and I hoped to catch and burn them out once and for all.' A glimmer of satisfaction shone in his eyes as he surveyed the clearing. 'It seems we succeeded in this task, and my thanks go to you for this.'

'What will happen now?'

'The men will be taken to Edoras, to face trial. The women and their children can choose if they wish to accompany them or leave to find another place to live.' The man's expression had turned grim as he spoke and for a moment both stayed silent. Then a sudden smile lit Eomer's face. 'It seems Gimli has found what he has been looking for.'

Indeed, the dwarf's demeanor had changed completely as he stepped out of the hut. A pleased smile graced his face and he seemed much more relaxed than he had been before.

'We will leave soon,' Eomer spoke once more. 'I do not think you will wish to come with us?'

Casting a short glance at the captives, Legolas shook his head. He remembered the feeling of ropes binding him too clearly still to bear the thought of traveling with them.

'I will enjoy the hospitality of your people another time, my friend,' he answered. 'But take my best greetings to your Queen.'

He met Gimli at the other side of the clearing, the very pleased expression on his friend's face lifting his heart.

'You have found it?' he asked.

'Aye, I have. There is naught a dwarf misses if his mind is set on finding it.'

'I am pleased to hear this,' Legolas answered. 'Surely this was the way you found me when I got lost? I only wished you would have succeeded faster, for I was getting rather bored here.'

'So was that why you kept falling asleep, my friend?' Gimli asked sweetly. 'And I thought there was a more serious reason that prevented you from maintaining your senses. Not that you usually succeed in doing this.'

'So tell me, my friend, how did you get me out of here?' The elf's voice had turned serious, curiosity shining in his eyes.

Gimli opened his mouth but words failed him. Slightly embarrassed, he stared at the elf, his thoughts racing. How would the elf react to what he had done? He was a proud creature and could take great offense in hearing this tale. The last thing Gimli wished for was to affront his friend's feelings.

'Well, Gimli?' Legolas prodded, seeing Gimli's reluctance. He had to keep the mirth out of his eyes and from his face as he waited for the dwarf to speak.

'It was no big matter,' Gimli finally answered. 'We came here, took you and left.'

'That was a very short story,' the elf said innocently. 'It is certainly below the skill of a storyteller who usually needs hours to recount one minor incident.'

'There is not much to tell,' the dwarf answered back, his eyes searching for something or someone to distract the elf. He really did not wish to tell him the truth.

Something glittering caught his eyes and he turned to look at it, an expression of chagrin passing over his face as he recognized the necklace dangling from Legolas's fingers.

'I think there is much to tell,' the elf spoke and the expression in his eyes was a mixture of fondness and gratitude. 'And I think this belongs to you.'

Gimli did reach out but stopped himself in mid-movement. He shook his head.

'Nay, my friend, there you are wrong,' he spoke softly. 'This,' and his finger touched the sparkling material ever so slightly, 'was never mine. Even when I formed the mithril and set the rubies, it was never mine. It was made to belong to another but never to me.'

His eyes met Legolas's, seeing understanding there.

'I wish for you to keep it.'

Surprise formed on the elf's face and he shook his head.

'This I cannot accept,' he exclaimed. 'It is too precious.'

'Aye, it is,' Gimli answered. 'It is not meant to be carried around in my bag until the day I die, to finally get mingled with the other gems and jewels my people keep. It was meant to belong to one person and be cherished for its meaning and not the worth of its materials. I wish for you to keep it and one day give it to someone you love.' An embarrassed smile formed on his face as he cast an almost shy glance at Legolas. 'You may call me selfish if I do wish for it to be kept in honor. As long as your people live, I will know it will not get lost or forgotten and with it I hope that the memories will stay as well.'

The elf did not protest any further, the deep meaning of this gift not lost to him. Instead he bowed, his fingers closing around the necklace as he pressed it against his heart.

'It will be kept in honor for as long as I live,' he vowed. 'And for as long as my people remember me and the stout dwarf who fought at my side.'

'Guess that means about forever,' Gimli grumbled with a smile.

Long fingers secured the precious gift safely inside Legolas's tunic. His hand lingered a moment above it ere it fell back to his side.

'It seems,' Gimli spoke, his eyes taking in their surroundings, 'that the men of Rohan have everything under control.'

'Aye,' Legolas answered. 'It seems that our work is done.'

'Our work? I do not recall you doing much more than getting yourself captured and sleeping.'

'You do not understand the brilliance of my doings,' Legolas answered in a lecturing voice. Ignoring the snort this evoked from the dwarf he continued. 'I was merely offering myself as bait so I would be taken to this place and you could follow me. I did trust Elladan and Elrohir to free me in time.'

'I wonder what part racing through the woods like a blind deer took in your plan?'

Legolas could not remember this detail very clearly but answered quickly.

'To cause a moment of distraction, of course.'

Gimli's laughter told him it had been the wrong answer.

'Distract whom?' the dwarf snickered. 'The birds on the trees? You were with us and out of danger already, my friend, when you took off like a startled deer. A drunk startled deer, I might add.'

Not even Legolas's quick mind could come up with an answer to that, as he could not remember much more about this incident than running. He remembered the confusion and the disorientation he had felt, and a disgusted look crossed his features.

The dwarf's voice still contained laughter as he spoke again.

'Nay, my friend, this time there is no way of denying the bitter truth: you got yourself captured and into a helpless situation, and it was the dwarves who saved you from it.' With a very satisfied grin he took out his pipe and weed.

For a moment it seemed that Legolas was pondering how to create another version of this story but finally he shrugged.

'I see that you will never understand the great planning behind all this. So I will leave you to your beliefs.' He grinned at Gimli as he added. 'I will go now and thank Eomer for aiding you, for I fear without his help you would not have been able to succeed so easily.'

Shaking his head, Gimli chose to ignore the elf's words and lit his pipe. But he stayed at Legolas's side as the elf made his way through the camp to meet Eomer once more. They were joined halfway by Elladan and Elrohir.

''Do you wish to accompany the King of Rohan to Edoras?' the older twin asked.

'I do not plan to,' Legolas answered for himself, with a questioning glance directed at Gimli. He had not thought about asking the dwarf yet.

'Neither do I,' Gimli answered. 'I feel no desire to keep company with these thieves and murderers any longer, and I doubt my kinsmen feel much different.'

Elladan nodded in silent agreement, speaking for both of them.