Summary: In the mines of Moria, new understanding grows and the foundations for friendship and change are laid.
Warnings: Spoilers for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Author's notes: Kind of speculative and expository. May be considered AU. Set during The Fellowship of the Ring, it more closely reflects the film adaptation of Moria rather than the book, though elements from both versions will be apparent. Conversely, events from The Hobbit are heavily referenced but are more likely to reflect the book rather than what we will see in the remaining adaptations, since there are several directions Peter could go with that… obviously. (Though I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he does not exacerbate any erroneous tropes regarding the Elvenking, that he has the Elvenking voice his famous line to the Bard, and that we get to see Bilbo and Thranduil's interactions near to as they are in the book - wish list).
Additional disclaimer: There are some lines taken directly from Tolkien's text (LOTR) – I'm pretty sure, as you're reading, you'll know which lines those are.
If you read this at Teitho – this is very slightly altered from the version over there. Not drastically – just a bit cleaner and more finely tuned, with variance on word use here and there that may make a difference only to me.
The vast jagged rock under the crafted tread of his boots was silent and unforgiving. There was no song here. Not in the rough walls beneath his hand. Not in the vaulted ceilings or low arches. Nor even in the remaining threads of mithril that spun circuitously throughout all of them.
Not even a lament like that sung about the vanished elves by the remnant stones of Hollin.
Deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us, but they are gone.
They are gone.
Legolas could not forget the words. Privately, he hummed them over and over as he crouched on an outcropping overlooking one of the immense delvings in the mine. For on this fellowship's own journey into doom, there would be none to sing of them if they were taken like all else here who were dead.
Mindful of his companions setting camp behind him, he closed his eyes and held his breath, deep and long. In the quiet, quiet dark behind his eyelids, a spark struck, like flint and steel across his nerves. In the corner of his consciousness there erupted a turquoise burst of fire – bright – but only for a moment. Then it was gone.
A hand brushed his shoulder. He pivoted on the balls of his feet with wide open eyes, only to have Aragorn halt his momentum with a fervent clutch to his biceps. "Legolas," he repeated, wistfully soft. "Breathe, my friend. Please. It seems you have ceased to do so since we entered this place."
"I breathe," said Legolas.
Guardedly, Aragorn moved callused fingers up to grip the base of his neck, the dry warmth of his skin culling the rumble of cold Legolas had gathered in stiff awareness near the top of his spine. "You lie. You look to be a statue – particularly when your chest stops moving just so. It is why I came over. You are frightening the hobbits."
"They are not children, Aragorn."
"Nay, but they are not yet accustomed to such a journey, nor such a sight."
"They have shown as much courage along this road as any of us. I am not frightening the hobbits."
"Then you are frightening Boromir."
Legolas glanced across Aragorn's shoulder to see Boromir lift his head and look at Aragorn askance.
Aragorn followed his gaze and sighed. "Fine then, you are frightening me." He dipped his voice to nearly a whisper, settling elbows on knees and cleaving to a more serious tone. "Will you not tell me what troubles you? You have not slept, nor barely closed your eyes to blink since we entered this place."
Legolas bowed his head, swallowing an answer he did not yet have to give. Vacillating a portion of air into a deeper part of his lungs, he closed his eyes once more, reflecting on the abyss below his feet… and there it was. The waiting dark. All black behind his eyelids except for the tremor at the far reaches of his senses, rising like a shiver through his toes. Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. And then the crackle – lightning in a whisper – from the tips of his ears to his fingertips and back again.
Blue fire. Red fire. Then darkness.
He blinked, focusing momentarily on the furrowed plane of Aragorn's forehead. "There is evil here," he ultimately said, the coarse edge of the unknown chaffing the back of his throat. "Something elves ought to fear, though I know not what it is."
"What do your senses tell you?"
Legolas considered. Never had he known the preciseness of Durin's Bane. If that was indeed what was crawling under his skin, he could not name it. "There is something… something deep in the profound darkness of this place. An ill-cast shadow. It has been wrenching at my mind." He stopped and folded his crouch slightly forward, touching his fingers to the ground.
Deep they delved us…
Fair they wrought us…
Shaking himself, he spoke. "I fear what the greed of the dwarves may have dragged forth and opened space for in this place."
"Greed!" a barrel-toned voice invaded. Legolas and Aragorn turned to see Gimli standing nearby, stout and angry. "Greed of the dwarves you speak of. With the treasure hoards reputedly held by your father, you have the nerve to call the dwarves greedy!"
Legolas rose and Aragorn with him, putting a preemptive hand to his chest. Legolas ignored it, though held in stasis the spring of his muscles. "Reputedly," he repeated coldly. "Do not mix old tales with current rumors and believe you know my king, nor my people."
"Are you attempting to tell me that once your father heard the dragon Smaug was dead he did not set out at once to examine what portion of the treasure might be positioned for Mirkwood?"
"For Mirkwood," Legolas echoed strongly. "Which mission was set aside for the aid and rebuilding of Esgaroth the moment we heard what dire circumstances had befallen the people there."
"Which friends of yours your people then aided in laying siege against my people for the greed of that same treasure."
"Not for treasure! And not for greed! For the compensation of the destruction wrought forth by what lay under that mountain and was brought to wrath by– "
"Aye, and your father was indeed well compensated when all was said and done, wasn't he?"
Legolas felt his teeth lock, a skein of emotions tangling under his ribcage. "You say this when your own father was part of a company who quested at length – inciting destruction and shunning the consequences to all around them – for a jewel."
"Not just a jewel to him that sought it! And it was not exactly as you say. But what could an elf understand of such things? An elf whose father imprisons innocent visitors for fear of protecting his own stores. To an elf a jewel is likely just that – a jewel in the way they think of treasure."
"Peace!" interrupted Gandalf. "Peace. Legolas. Gimli. Please. Perhaps you forget," he continued gently. "I carried a role in those events as well."
Legolas twitched lithe fingers into fists and hitched his lungs, attempting to dampen the fire that stuttered his chest. He tossed the wizard a brief look, then closed his mouth and breathed in silence. He became conscious, abruptly, of pressure on his collarbones. Aragorn's hands had journeyed up to his shoulders, tense palms bracing him, though Legolas had advanced no farther than the length of an oak leaf.
For his part, Boromir had risen and placed himself a cautious span from Gimli's elbow.
Behind them, the hobbits were wide-eyed and taut.
I am frightening the hobbits, Legolas thought. He caught eyes with Aragorn and let the cloud of that grief appear in his expression—though only for a moment—before he shuttered it away.
"Without the gates of this mine I told you both I would not give judgment on the waning of friendship between elves and dwarves," said Gandalf. "Indeed, if all grievances in the matter were dragged before us we would be hard pressed to find an end to such a discussion. But on this one matter I will speak, for I fear we will none of us find respite in this dark place otherwise. Come, both of you, and sit."
Brittle as fine weaving from dried leaflets, Legolas eased away from Aragorn's hold. Forcefully keeping his feet steady to the stone, he followed the dwarf and maia with resigned concession.
Moria – already a place that wore to weariness the tread of his nerves – was an experience grown worse by the random sparking praises the dwarf burst forth with in regard to it, causing Legolas's ears to feel overly hollow and his skin raw for stimuli.
He did not wish to hear anyone speak.
There is something here. Something in the dark and deep. Something elves ought to fear, he thought.
He shivered, but sat, pressing his back to an encroachment in the rock wall, looking at Gandalf and waiting to listen.
The others sat as well, Frodo coming closer than the rest. "Biblo was there also," he said simply as he folded his legs underneath him. "He is the one that aided the others in their escape from the Elvenking, and then later gave the Arkenstone to him for a time, and I know he felt he had his reasons."
Gandalf cleared his throat.
"What of this, Gandalf?" said Gimli. "I'll not sit here and accept the accusation that dwarves know nothing but greed!"
"We are none of us wholly immune to the call of power, recognition, or riches, Gimli, even when our purpose for seeking such things may be well meaning," the wizard replied. "Were it not so, our quest now would be an altogether easier matter. However, of this I will speak but little, other than to say, of the peoples of Middle Earth, we often intend our actions for good, not knowing at times what ill may come of them, nor what ill may be said of them later. We only know that from them here now we remain, doing our best not to repeat past mistakes. Or the reverse – hoping to make decisions as wise as those that came before us."
With his shoulder locked into a boulder in front of the craggily expanse near Legolas's head, Aragorn repositioned his boot, dulling the quiet pattern of grit on the rock below. Legolas tilted his chin towards the opaque line of his posture, feeling as though he could touch his thoughts.
Gandalf looked at them. "At this time, what I ask of all of you is that you take your considerations from the position and perspective of another when you can, whether past or present. In doing so, I feel you will find more understanding than you may have hitherto been able to acknowledge, and our quest will be better served for it. For right or wrong, it is this kind of understanding we need. And wise is the person who seeks it."
Gimli made an indistinct noise, while Boromir turned his head, breathing into the dim.
The hobbits seemed captured in their quietude.
"I will begin by reminding you that King Thranduil has long fought the war that Middle Earth now fights. His realm has been far engaged in this battle. It is a war that came upon them long ago. Nearly from the moment the ring was lost."
"Thranduil's people have not been the only ones affected through the years!"
"I did not say they were, Gimli – only that their battle has been long fought." Gandalf's eyes wrinkled as he considered the dwarf. "I would ask you a question, Gimli, if you would allow it."
Gimli, looking tense as a bowstring, shifted the lean he maintained on his axe handle. "Speak on," he agreed tersely.
Gandalf nodded, bending the angle of his hat. "If during a time of private celebration among the dwarves in the mountain, a small grouping of elves was caught sneaking into the proceedings, and then, once caught, refused to reveal their intentions, what might your rulers have done with them?"
Legolas felt his ears burn at such a proposition, but the warm pressure from Aragorn's sudden hand upon his knee stayed his tongue.
The hobbits rumbled with a subdued spatter of chuckles.
Gimli sputtered. "Elves sneaking about… Well who would have heard of such a thing!?"
On that, Legolas thought, at least we can agree.
"Such elves could have no good purpose!"
Legolas's lips thinned. He lifted his chin and retreated into the stone, letting the toothed rock at his back bite restraint into his skin.
Gandalf stayed focused on the dwarf, the wisdom of a storyteller's tone in his cadence. "But you see, dear Gimli, of your dwarven forbearers who arrived trespassing the forest, Thranduil may have believed precisely the same thing."
The dwarf made a grumbling noise while the pressure Aragorn had placed against Legolas's knee increased.
"Now tell me this," Gandalf continued, unbothered. "In your view, what was the hope of Thorin's quest for the Arkenstone? Why did your father follow him in pursuit of the Lonely Mountain?"
"Home," Gimli answered immediately. "To Thorin Oakenshield it represented home and the path of his ancestors." His voice blurred, the bluster of defensive emotion mixing with something Legolas could not immediately identify. Then the dwarf took a breath, as though trying to swallow half the air in the cavern. "And if some stubbornness asserted itself in his character, it was only because he wished his kingdom and right restored to him and in his nobility would not suffer those who got in his way!"
"Indeed," Gandalf replied kindly. "Indeed. I would have you keep that in mind as I explain something further."
Chest spread full with the air he'd gathered, Gimli hesitated, then tapped his axe once and issued a curt nod.
"Though it may have long ago been true that King Thranduil and his people maintained wonderful wealth, beyond even the way they measure such things, the woodland realm no longer holds in reserve the great stores of other elven kingdoms. All such that remains to them is held for the beauty and magic of their current defenses, and at times for those of their allies. It is true, and fair to say, they have done well with what they have, for they have stood strong against a long shadow… for a great span of years."
Legolas breathed, steadily, his chest expanding and contracting with thin deliberation, but he said nothing. There was a tightness in his skin and spine that seemed determined to linger.
"Bilbo has told me of your home, Legolas," offered Frodo. "He described your people as living in such wondrous contrast to the darkness of the forest that when he first came upon them, he thought the elves and dwellings he encountered were a dream."
Merry piped up. "Aragorn told Pip and me that he felt that way on his first visit there too." He hesitated, turning eyes to the ranger. "Isn't that right?"
"Aye," confirmed Aragorn, flashing the soft edge of a fleeting smile.
"All that beauty, but no treasure hidden away?" questioned Pippin. "I thought Bilbo described the Elvenking as being adorned with riches. It was one of my favorite bits in all of his stories."
Gandalf chuckled lightly. "Bilbo's descriptions may have been distorted somewhat by the idea that the elves of that forest measure their wealth with some difference than others might. That is not to say that the wealth that remains to them is not still great in a certain sense. However, whatever traditional wealth Legolas's king is reputed to preserve is for quite a different purpose than what you imagine, and quite unlikely to be found in hidden roomfuls as many have pictured."
"What does he preserve it for?" asked Sam.
"Hope, Samwise," said Gandalf. "He guards what treasures his people may count amongst themselves in the hope that he may one day return them to the distinguish they once knew. For where others see only a Forest of Great Fear and view only terror in the shadows of his tree's dark branches, Thranduil sees the tranquility and beauty that once reigned in the boughs. More than that, Thranduil envisions in those boughs what once more may be. Not entirely unlike Thorin, hope and home are ever near his heart."
Gandalf paused, drawing a lenient breath. "It is key you understand this. For the elves of Mirkwood were once a very different people, inhabiting a realm vast and immensely beautiful. They lost much in their retreat to the north, and became a wary and diminished people by result."
A swirl of air, painful and sharp, knotted at the surface of Legolas's throat, but he swallowed it back, for there was nothing Gandalf was saying with which he could truly argue, even if he did not wish to hear it.
Slowly, he lifted his head and met the wizard's gaze.
The space between them seemed both cavernous and small with the emotion that seized it. Legolas realized he could not have spoken, even if he wanted to.
His heart felt pricked by needles.
"They lost much," Gandalf repeated, a wash of compassion in his eyes. Inclining his head, he held the look for a heavy span.
In the periphery of his awareness, Legolas sensed the eyes of the hobbits as they traveled towards him. Their gazes were so full of guileless curiosity and sympathy he could not be bothered by them, yet still wished they would look away.
"And more reason than this does Thranduil have to be suspicious of visitors to his realm," the wizard finished softly, the echo of solemn memory tuning the quiet words. Finally he turned away, gravel and smoke visible in the murky light trying to emerge from his eyes. "The Wood of Great Fear does not invite casual visitors."
"Even in Gondor, we have heard this truth," Boromir said quietly.
"Indeed," rejoined the wizard. With a gentle dip of his staff, he focused newly on the dwarf. "King Thranduil's treatment of your father was undoubtedly with all these things in mind, Gimli. His actions were born of both hope and concern, suspicion and caution. Surely in these dark times, such concepts cannot be foreign to any of us."
"I'd like to say not in the Shire," said Frodo. "But even there you are likely to encounter suspicion quite easily, particularly for outside folk."
"Quite true, Frodo. Quite true." Gandalf nodded his head, the bend in his hat smoothing tiredly backwards. "May we not, then, consider the Elvenking's actions from this viewpoint and let the matter rest? Of truth, may we not all consider what it is like to lose a homeland, to mourn its loss, and act out of a desire to protect what remains and see it restored?"
Feeling as though his bones had hollowed, Legolas blinked and tipped his head curiously. It seemed that Gandalf was speaking directly to Gimli, but of note was looking directly at him.
"Hope, and home. Kin, and loss. These are things that should not separate the peoples of Middle Earth."
There followed a prevaricating silence, which Gimli finally broke.
"I suppose," the dwarf began slowly, "if a small grouping of elves snuck themselves in upon one of our celebrations… they'd have had a much harder time finding barrels to fit into for escape, eh?"
As fractious and on edge as Legolas was feeling, he almost took offense. A spark of heat ran from the grief in his chest to the tips of his ears, but when he glanced up, the fire of retort on his tongue…
Gimli was looking at him…
Legolas felt his lungs catch, as though his ribs had been frozen in motion by one of Gandalf's spells. And when he breathed in again, the smile snagged at his heart like a loose thread catching on a hidden tree branch.
Then, Gimli winked at him and released a short barking laugh that sent the hobbits into giggles.
Surely he had seen the dwarf smile before, but he did not think it had ever been directed at him. Yet there it was. More than that, it was a familiar smile. A smile he believed he understood. A smile he felt it in his own heart, as one he might give himself. As one he might exchange with Aragorn, or Elladan, or any other fine friend he knew.
It felt so immensely out of place – brightness on the face of a dwarf, here in a place so devoid of light.
Never had he thought dwarves evil – though at times had been guilty of wondering in impiety if some part of their race had not been born diminished of compassion. As if perhaps Aulë, in his haste-driven attempt to sneak them into existence, had neglected to cultivate in some of them its full capacity.
He blinked and heard the hobbits chattering with genuine lightness. "Elves in a barrel!" Pippin was saying. "That'd be a tough fit for sure!"
"And they'd be rolling themselves down a mountain to escape, wouldn't they?" added Merry. "Surely!"
The others were chuckling.
Legolas had no idea what was showing on his face. He had the impression it was not much of anything.
"Come now," said Gandalf, with a humorous lilt to his voice. "Let us put together what we can for an evening meal. Long will our journey be to exit this place. We can imagine elves rolling in barrels later."
One by one the fellowship began to gather towards their packs.
In the fellowship's absence, Aragorn tapped the back of his hand affectionately against Legolas's knee.
Tearing his gaze from the retreating dwarf, Legolas turned his head.
"Breathe, my friend," Aragorn whispered.
Deliberately, Legolas softened his eyes. "I breathe," he said, and waited for Aragorn to comment on his similarity to a statue.
Aragorn hesitated. "Legolas, Gandalf was not trying to grieve you."
"I know." Legolas nodded, looking out into the cavernous dark, then alighting his gaze once more upon the dwarf. "He did not."
Aragorn narrowed his eyes but after a long quiet, stood. "Come to eat something then. Gandalf is right. Our walk tomorrow will be long, and I know not what else our journey here may cause us to need strength for. If your portents of doom prove correct, we must be prepared."
"I will follow," said Legolas, without moving.
Aragorn gripped his shoulder. "Follow soon."
Legolas ate little, though he made a fair attempt as the fellowship folded themselves down into the ashen shadows below the rocks, settling for the pretense of rest. The mine was quiet but for the quiver in the deep that perhaps only Legolas could hear. And that was as yet not a physical sound.
Boromir's eyes remained open, catching grim reflections of cobwebs on their glass-like surface, while Frodo lay on his back near the other hobbits with his hands pressed over his breastbone.
Aragorn sat not too far distant, smoking his pipe. The scent of it wafted under Legolas's nose, teasing his senses, however, it did not prompt him to move as it otherwise might have done. His eyes were locked on Gimli, and could not be drawn away.
The dwarf had drifted a short distance from the group and was standing silently on the crumbled edge of a once fine abutment, staring into the dark.
Such a strange and incongruous creature.
Pulled by curiosity he couldn't shake, Legolas buried the unease he felt with his surroundings and unfolded. Hesitating for only a breath, he moved quietly to crouch on a slate of destitute stone near Gimli's shoulder, where he could see what it was the strange dwarf was staring at and perhaps resolve the mystery this creature had become.
As he looked into the abyss all he could see were ruins caught in sickly shadow.
The black chasm.
He had not wished to come here.
Would that they had chosen another path.
Cocking his head, Gimli peered at him. "To what do I owe your company?" he asked.
"I wished to know what you were looking at," Legolas answered honestly.
"Ruin," said Gimli simply. "Great ruin." He said it absolutely, yet his face did not reflect the ruin, nor the darkness Legolas felt. And there was something in the dwarf's expression… some remnant of that earlier smile. Something… warmhearted. Something caring.
Legolas twitched, breathing silently out through his nose as he looked again at the destruction. Perhaps the mine had once been as magnificent as Gimli claimed, but surely this was a dwarf's folly. What other being could stand staring with such regretful fondness over a place lost to so much evil except...
Legolas closed his eyes.
In his mind, a dense forest grew up before him, covered in spider web and shadow.
"Are you in pain, Master Elf?"
Legolas shook his head and blinked, slowly. "No," he answered. "Of truth, I believe I am beginning to understand what Gandalf has been trying to tell me. For I believe his story earlier about the motives of my father was for my understanding, not for yours."
"You elves speak in riddles," accused Gimli, though this time there was no bite to it as there might have been in one of their usual exchanges. "Did you not already know the motives of your father?"
"Aye. I did. I did," Legolas said, nodding to himself, breathing the words out in such soft rumination it was a wonder Gimli could hear them. "But shrewd is the wizard in the way he teaches his lessons to me. Upon reflection, always has it been so. He knows me well."
Inclining his head, Legolas tipped his chin and regarded the dwarf solemnly. "I am sorry. In my discomfort regarding what may await us in the depths of this place, I neglected to think on what it represents to you. Forgive me."
Gimli shook his head – a rapid, guileless shake. For the first time, Legolas noticed how his hands were clasped, as if to combine anxiety and prayer. "I do not hold your disquiet against you, elf. Moria is truly a dreadful place. This, I cannot deny. I do not know how Balin and his contingent may have survived here. My hope for them is thin."
Legolas drew a breath of iron-casted air and pulled a quiet into his lungs that was thick with the sense of death. "Were I in your place and had journeyed with hope to a kinland… only to find…" He stopped there, feeling the air swath between his teeth, for the remainder of words would not come.
He blinked with that hard emotion in his chest, pushing through the catch in his ribs and grasping noiselessly at his voice. "Do you mourn, Dwarf Gimli?"
"Aye," said the dwarf.
Legolas swallowed, staring around again at the ruin. "Who will remember those who were here of your kin? I hear naught that sing of them. I hear nothing in this place. Perhaps it is what unnerves me so. There is no feeling here. Only evil. Who will remember them?"
Gimli looked at him, long and steady. "I will," he said.
Bowing his head, Legolas's heart crumpled, the ache sending a pulsing thrum deep into his bones. In the reverence of grief, he peered again at the destruction and decline, seeking with his gaze every minute detail he could imagine, working harder to see the wonder of what the dwarves once knew here.
Shutting out the doom in the darkness and the tremor in his consciousness, he suddenly saw the city repair before him. Engraved stone, twined with mithril in relief, stood poised to catch and spread sheaths of light descending from wide, ingenious shafts. Crafted pillars, similar to those spoken about and left behind by the elves of Eregion, overtook the decaying supports along the cave walls. Arches and stairways wove themselves to clear beauty and purpose and the destitute stone he crouched on revealed the intricacies of the fineness it once knew.
Legolas parted his mouth slightly at the wonderment, filling his lungs to capacity, as though the added air could keep the dream from fading. Flexing his fingers, he allowed the echo of loss to beat through to the tips as he made an aborted reach towards the illusion. He held back instead, lowering his hand until it touched reality, ghosting over the remaining carvings in the stone he crouched upon.
Slowly, as the vision dissipated, he ran the sensitive surface of his touch along the intricate pattern.
Deep they delved us…
Fair they wrought us…
High they builded us…
Legolas swallowed. "The elves of Hollin once traded freely with your kin here," he whispered tightly. "There was truly friendship between the races once."
Gimli took a breath but didn't speak.
Legolas did not expect him to. Slowly, quietly – still mindful of disturbing that dark place trembling below – he began to sing, transferring the lament of the stones of Hollin into a new voice, spinning the soft melody in elvish, then into the common tongue for the sake of those listening – for some laments should be understood and remembered, that those lamented not pass away without note or acknowledgment. That some remnant might stand stronger than the evil that would overwrite them.
Deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us, but...
They are gone.
They are gone.
He sang softly, steadily – teaching, as he could, the song to the stone, giving voice to all the grief he knew.
As he continued, Gimli began his own lament, and as he was able, Legolas added what he could of it to his own voice, giving it over to the world around them while pressing his touch along the engraved patterns in his reach.
The stone was slow to soak it in, for he was not their crafter, but it grasped at it just the same, emotion by emotion, measure by measure. The music was unable to spread far, and would only ever be heard or understood by few who tread this ground, but by the time he finished, it hummed strongly in the place where the fellowship would sleep for the night, the stone maintaining the melody easily, for the sorrow was already there.
When Legolas truly felt the reverberation carrying through without him, he allowed his words to slip quietly silent and looked up.
Gimli was watching him, eyes wet. "Thank you, kind elf," he said simply.
Voice still trapped in the memory of the song, Legolas stayed silent, but carefully, he lifted his hand, pressed his palm to his heart and extended it towards the dwarf with sincerity.
Kindly, and in a manner that seemed somehow kingly, Gimli smiled. Creating the same, familiar sensation his smile had gifted before.
Legolas's heart beat warmly in response.
He had never seen himself in a dwarf before.
What a strange occurrence to happen so far underground.
Carefully testing the motion of his ribs, he breathed out, and with an ache of joy, touched with some inexplicable measure of sorrow, he smiled back.
Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold.
Thranduil to Bard
Final note: Though in both the book and film much of the friendship between Legolas and Gimli develops after Gimli meets Galadriel, it's always stood out to me that when Gimli was reluctant to leave Balin's tomb (in the book), Legolas was the one to drag him away. It made me wonder about the potential for a missing scene or moment between the two in the mines, where the friendship might have started to find its legs. For me, this was that.