Delightful Dwarf Stories
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In the Deep Places: 3. Reflections of Immortality
The need to move, to fight, was nearly overpowering. Legolas held himself absolutely still, not trusting himself to move, lest he break. He might have injured Pippin. As it was, the young Hobbit was shaken, and his wrist would bruise. Legolas had been so keyed up, so hyper aware, that he had reacted to the threat without thinking. Only the realization that the sound had come from below them, out of range, had prompted him to drop his bow and draw a knife instead. Had he drawn an arrow, as was his first instinct . . . Legolas shuddered.
He had been trained from earliest memory to be a warrior. The growing Shadow in Mirkwood permitted no other choice. Without the power of a Ring, the Wood-elves needed every member capable of stringing a bow to defend their home. Through a combination of necessity and personal temperament Thranduil had raised his seven sons with a military discipline foreign to the other Elven realms. Natural Elven playfulness was tempered by duty, and his father was ever critical, ever demanding. Legolas’ grandfather and two eldest brothers had been lost, along with two-thirds of Mirkwood’s forces, in the Last Alliance. It was a lesson that the family never forgot. Even Legolas, who had not been born until the Third Age, felt the loss on a keen personal level.
Thranduil had survived his grief only by channeling it into a relentless drive for perfection, from himself, from his sons, from his people. A warrior must never make a mistake, must never slip, for such an error might be fatal. And Thranduil’s sons were held to an even higher standard, for there was always the chance that they might be called upon to assume command of Mirkwood’s forces, or even the rule of the kingdom itself. In the Shadow over Mirkwood, Elven immortality could not be taken for granted.
So it was that family discussions revolved around military strategy, and affection was expressed most often through correction and criticism. The greater Thranduil’s pride and love for his sons, the more stringent were his demands upon them. In Legolas’ case, natural talent had blended with iron discipline to make him the most gifted archer that Mirkwood had ever seen. And this in turn raised the bar of Thranduil’s expectations, and more, Legolas’ expectations of himself.
An Elf might be joyful or sorrowful, mischievous or melancholy, playful or solemn, or any combination thereof. But always, always there was control. A Wood-elf was always aware of the most minute detail of his surroundings, always in complete control of his actions. He never reacted blindly, never drew a weapon without a target. And yet . . . only centuries of drills – never fire blind, if you cannot see your enemy use your knives – had prevented Legolas from stringing an arrow at that critical moment. It had been far closer than ever should have been allowed.
Legolas stared into the shadows past the doorway of their chamber. Keen though his eyes were, he could make out only the vague outline of humps of rubble, slightly darker in the inky blackness where Mithrandir’s light did not reach. He could hear the shifts of his companions as they slept. Pippin was sitting against the wall with arms wrapped around his drawn up knees, staring blankly at the well. Gimli’s mail scraped against the rock as he shifted position. The Dwarf’s stentorian breathing rasped harshly in the stillness. Legolas was vaguely grateful that Gimli had not gone to sleep. He could not have borne the Dwarf’s snores this night.
Mithrandir was also awake, it seemed. The wizard was lying on his side facing the wall, his breath slow and regular, but there was an air of tension around him that did not speak of sleep. Legolas stretched his senses out further. Somewhere there was a faint drip, drip of water against stone. The flapping footfalls had ceased. No echo of the hammer taps remained.
Yet even as he listened, Legolas felt strangely cut off from the world around him. Sound was distorted in the dead air, and no light pierced the darkness. But more than that, he felt alone. As a Wood-elf, Legolas was accustomed to having his own senses extended and augmented by the forest of his home. The trees responded to the creatures in their midst, and nothing entered Mirkwood without affecting their song.
The Elves were naturally attuned to the rhythm of life around them. The tree-song was a fundamental part of Legolas’ being, and so much a part of his senses that he hardly thought about it, until it was gone.
But now, cut off from any manner of growing things, trapped in a world of stone and iron, Legolas was disoriented and adrift. Though his senses were still keener than those of his companions, by his own standards he was nearly deaf and blind. He was striving to compensate for a sense that he could not even explain fully to the mortals around him.
Watching as they rested peacefully, Legolas was struck by how very different they were, how alien their perceptions were to his own. He had noticed these differences before in his friendship with Aragorn, but then they had seemed a small thing. Mortals slept with their eyes closed – how that had startled him the first time he had patrolled with the Ranger! He had shaken the Man awake, certain that he must be grievously sick. He had laughed when Aragorn had explained it to him, but spent the rest of the night watching him closely. It had taken several more night watches to convince him that the Man would not die in his sleep.
Mortals sank in deep snow, and had limited powers of sight and hearing, and could not seem to move in a forest without crashing through the underbrush like wounded múmakil. And yet these things had seemed so minor, insignificant in comparison to the gifts they offered. Legolas had been raised to have a strong suspicion of outsiders, for Thranduil’s people bore the scars of the Last Alliance deeply. Everyone had lost family or friends in the War, and many of those who had not succumbed to grief had later passed away over the Sea. The Mirkwood Elves would have accepted this loss as a necessary part of their long battle against the forces of evil, but at the last their tragedy was compounded, their victory made meaningless, by the treachery of Man.
But Legolas was young, and had not seen Isildur’s betrayal personally. Though he loved his people, and felt their pain, he had a more open mind than his elders. It was perhaps this openness that prompted Elrond to choose him for the Fellowship, and that allowed him to appreciate his companions.
Legolas had learned that mortals possessed a keen awareness of time. For all the love that the Eldar had for Middle-earth, they did not mark the time spent there. One yén flowed into the next seamlessly, the only change coming in the growing Shadow. But mortals counted every year, every day, every hour with obsessive precision. They celebrated each year of their lives, marking the anniversary of their birth with gifts and special feasts. Legolas found this custom enchanting, though he was unable to explain it to his father or brothers.
“They count the days until their death,” Thranduil had marveled. He was sitting on his throne, a crown of autumn leaves entwined in his golden hair. Legolas had just finished his report of the latest trade negotiation with the Men of Laketown. Occasionally, as a gesture of respect, and as a way of checking up on the mortals so close to Mirkwood’s borders, the Elves visited Laketown for these necessary meetings rather than summoning the Men to Thranduil’s halls.
Such visits were invariably dull: long, tedious meetings with minor interludes during which the Elves were gawked at suspiciously by Men who never seemed to appreciate that the security and prosperity they enjoyed was due to their trade with the Elves. Worse still, in the evenings the more friendly of the mortals would attempt to show hospitality by dragging the Elves into smoky, dark taverns and forcing tankards of ale and hours of off-key singing upon them.
It was a common joke among Mirkwood’s guards that they would rather join the Southern patrols (which ventured nearest the encroaching evil of Dol Guldur and hence suffered the greatest casualty rate) than provide escort for the Laketown trading parties.
Certainly Legolas shared this opinion. Yet Mirkwood’s youngest prince showed a remarkable amount of patience, even friendliness, toward the Men. This may have been due in part to his long admiration of Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond who always seemed to be in the company of one Man or another. It was known, among noble Elves at least, that the house of Elrond maintained close ties to the heirs of Isildur. The twins spent a great deal of time with the Dúnedain, and nearly always brought one with them on their infrequent visits to Mirkwood.
Despite his strained relationship with Elrond Thranduil received them graciously, for he needed the support and wisdom of Imladris as he fought on the darkest front of the Elves’ Long Defeat. But he was ever cool toward the heir of Isildur, and forbid his own sons from speaking to him. Thus Legolas’ earliest encounters with mortals were generally at a distance, and inextricably bound up with his observations of the adventurous, exciting twins.
The result was predictable, though not as Thranduil might have hoped. Rather than scorning mortals, Legolas was fascinated by them. The ways that Men and Dwarves differed from each other, as well as from the Firstborn, piqued the young Elf’s curiosity. This was not unnoticed, and the result was that the unpleasant task of visiting Laketown had increasingly been foisted off upon the youngest prince. He might have disliked it, but he did his duty with grace and discipline. He certainly never threatened to shoot the locals, as Thranduil’s third son Ellomë had done after being subjected to innumerable quantities of pipeweed smoke and a forty-five minute rendition of “The Lay of Leithien.”
Indeed, curiosity often overcame distaste, with the result that Legolas allowed himself to be drawn from the clean Elven campsite near the river and into Laketown itself, to observe mortal merry-making. It was there, in a slightly less smoky tavern than usual, that he had witnessed the birthday party.
Thinking back over the events, Legolas tried to capture the spirit in a way that his father could understand. He had finished his formal report, standing before the slightly raised dais in the small natural clearing where the king held court in peacetime. The rest of his negotiating party had been dismissed, and Thranduil stretched out his long legs in a signal that formalities were complete, for the moment.
“I do not believe that they count the days until death, Sire,” Legolas said finally. “None of their songs spoke of such a thing. Rather they count the days of their life thus far, and regard the years they hold as a measure of their accomplishments.”
Thranduil raised his eyebrows disbelievingly. “And yet they know that death is inevitable. Surely they must recognize that each year they count past is another closer to the end. They cannot deny their mortality. It must be a strange Doom of Ilúvatar indeed, that they look forward to it.”
Legolas frowned. “Perhaps,” he said. “And perhaps it is the knowledge that their time is limited that makes them treasure each day so. We love Middle-earth, Father, and yet do we love it as they do? How long have we held Greenwood against the Enemy? Should we not take pride in that accomplishment, measured in years? And,” he added with a hint of mischievousness, “shall we not be grateful for our king, and celebrate his birth?”
Thranduil stiffened, and sat up straight in his chair. “I hardly believe that you have so neglected your lessons as to forget the date of our arrival in Greenwood. And as for the other, how long would you count the years, my son? Into the thousands, the tens of thousands? To what end? Would not such a custom become a farce? We continue, to the end of Song. Counting the time of the Song is meaningless.”
Legolas opened his mouth to argue, but the king raised a hand in dismissal. “You may look up the year of your birth in the histories, if you are curious. And you may add an additional hour of study to your discipline this evening, to remind you that we do not leave the record-keeping of Middle-earth to mortals alone.” He turned away and motioned a guard to bring in the next postulant.
Legolas closed his mouth and bowed. He turned and walked with quiet grace from the clearing, careful not to show his anger in posture or expression, though Thranduil was no longer looking at him. He held himself in check until he reached the seclusion of the trees, where he could launch himself up into the branches and run. He did eventually return to spend an additional hour in Mirkwood’s library that evening, as ordered, but first he spent two hours in knife work on the practice fields, in order to exhaust his anger to the point that he could think clearly.
He should never have mentioned the birthday celebration to the king. The negotiations with the Men of Laketown had gone well, and Legolas had arranged a settlement that would profit Mirkwood greatly in the coming years. But his father had said naught of congratulations or even acknowledgement. Always Thranduil seemed to hold him back, to give him the simplest of assignments. And now, when he had accomplished his task and proven himself worthy of responsibility, the king was distracted by a passing description of mortal custom and dismissed him as a wayward child.
There was something meaningful in the mortal view of time, Legolas was sure of it. But his father would not see it. Legolas did look up the date of Thranduil’s birth, and kept quiet note of the day for several years. But the king was correct. Such ritual was meaningless for the Eldar. An Elf-child’s development might be measured by age, but after he reached physical maturity and attained full rank among Mirkwood’s warriors time had little meaning. An Elf was reckoned young or old by the tone he sang in Ilúvatar’s Song. With the passing ages they grew in wisdom and patience, and their tone became deeper and more resonant with the harmony of Ennor. Legolas’ own faer was driven by an eagerness for new experiences that would have marked him a youth, even were he not one of the last of the Elves born in Middle-earth.
Yet however many Ages passed, he would retain a sense of playfulness and mischief, as did all Elves that did not succumb to grief. It was necessary, lest the gift of years grow heavy and the heart be crushed by weight of experience under Shadow. Legolas often marveled at the seriousness of Men. They had so few years in Middle-earth that they had the luxury of an intensity that no Elf could afford. Measuring the years was a gift of the Second born, and an indication, to Legolas’ mind, of their value in Ilúvatar’s Song. But there was no point in arguing this to Thranduil.
The king’s mind was set, and would not be changed. Legolas held his tongue, but continued his observations of mortals when the infrequent opportunity arose. It was as a commander of a small scouting party some centuries later that he chanced upon Elladan and Elrohir on the east bank of the Anduin, and was introduced to their brother, Estel.
Wary though Legolas naturally was of strangers, he soon found a sense of kinship with the tall young Man. There was an almost Elvish air about him, and Legolas sensed the blood of Númenor in him, truer than in all his ancestors who had previously visited Mirkwood’s halls. Gradually suspicion gave way to friendship, for in Aragorn Legolas found a keen wit and a sense of adventure and curiosity to match his own. They would meet and travel together when chance and duty allowed. Legolas took him patrolling Mirkwood’s borders, and found the Man’s woodcraft a near match to the Elves’. Also, the great racket that the Man made in the brush served to draw spiders to them, giving Legolas an easier shot and allowing them to kill many of the foul beasts without having to venture into their web-ridden nests.
Their friendship was noted by the other Elves, of course, but few questioned the young prince directly. Legolas had proved himself an adept warrior many times over. As a captain of Mirkwood’s forces he was subject to no command save the king’s, and he skillfully avoided his father’s censure. Biased though he was, Thranduil would not order his sons concerning their personal lives unless they endangered Mirkwood’s people. And Legolas was careful to ensure that his friendship with Aragorn never interfered with his duties to the guard or to the court.
So Thranduil could not order him to cease his visits with the Ranger, though the king did not scruple to make his displeasure known. Even more than his distrust of Isildur’s line, Legolas knew, Thranduil feared attachment to mortals of any kind. They were by their very nature transitory, and grew from strength to frailty in a breath of wind. To become attached to a mortal was to invite sorrow and despair when the inevitable end came.
The life expectancy of Elves who gave their hearts to mortals was greatly reduced. And even if the Elf survived the grief, Middle-earth too often lost all appeal in the aftermath. The Sindarin connection to Middle-earth was stronger than that of their Noldor kin, but could still be weakened by grief. It was their isolation that allowed the Mirkwood Elves to remain, even as their brethren in Imladris and Lothlórien faded and passed over Sea. Thranduil had lost two sons to mortal treachery, he told Legolas. He would not lose another to mortal love.
And yet Legolas believed that the benefits of mortal companionship far outweighed the risks. There was a sense of impermanence about them that forced one to appreciate every moment. Men burned with a white-hot flame that flared up in an instant and threw the world into stark relief before it faded. The intensity of it seemed to consume them from within, leaving its mark on their features, but giving them wisdom as well. Legolas had been amazed at the great changes in his friend the first time he had encountered Estel after a short absence. His face had grown more rugged and weathered, and small lines around his eyes bespoke great experience and growing wisdom. Small gray threads in his dark hair showed the passage of time, like ash, Legolas thought, from the burning within. He later calculated how much time had passed since he had last seen his friend, and been shocked to realize that twenty years had slipped by.
After that he made an effort to keep track of the seasons, and not allow too much time to pass between visits. Thranduil insisted that he stay in Mirkwood, but Legolas led patrols along the kingdom’s borders, and occasionally he was allowed to carry messages to Imladris. He sought these opportunities, for a mortal friendship could not be taken for granted.
Yet now, as he kept watch in a cavern a league below Ennor’s surface, Legolas couldn’t help but wonder if his father had a point. Aragorn was a close to an Elf as a Man could be; yet he slept. The evil grew ever nearer, close and thick as the choking darkness about them, yet the mortals slumbered without care. Pippin was alert and watchful, but Legolas could see weariness in his eyes. And the Dwarf . . . Gimli’s kin had actually built this black pit, and took pleasure in shutting away the stars and free air. He was at ease here, and sat relaxed against the wall, for all that he watched Legolas from the corner of his eye. The Elf was cut off from the song of growing things, trapped by stone and iron, feeling the Shadow growing every stronger, and surrounded by beings whose perceptions and thoughts seemed suddenly completely alien to his own.
Legolas drew a deep, shuddering breath and closed his eyes. His hands traced the smooth wood of his bow, taking comfort in the familiar touch as he tried to center himself. He forced his thoughts to focus on the slow rhythm of his breath as he sought the calm center within himself. Slowly the rock tightness of his neck and shoulders eased, his hands relaxed against his bow as he sought the meditative state as he might do prior to a battle.
This faltered somewhat as he came up again. Automatically, as he felt calm soothing away the previous tension, he allowed his senses to spread out again and sought the familiar forest song to complete the process. But it was gone, and in its place was only an echoing void of darkness and stone. Legolas shied away from it, and forced himself to ignore it. Still, the meditation had worked, and though he was still alert and wary, he was no longer keyed to the breaking point.
Thus he did not start or jump when Mithrandir suddenly rolled over and cast off his blanket. The Istar met his gaze for a moment, then got up and went over to Pippin. Legolas was aware as the wizard spoke softly to the Hobbit and sent him to bed, but most of his attention was focused once more on the impenetrable darkness beyond the door.
He turned sharply back toward Mithrandir at the sound of him rummaging in his pack. And it was all he could do to suppress a groan as the wizard drew forth his pipe. As much as he might like some mortals, Legolas did not and could not appreciate some of their odder habits, and Mithrandir seemed to have developed a taste for the most unpleasant habit of all.
Legolas held himself still while the wizard packed and tamped down leaf in his pipe, but when he produced a small coal and issued forth a stream of smoke, the Elf could bear it no longer.
He circled the well and walked over to Mithrandir. The Istar watched him calmly through a growing haze of pipeweed smoke. “You do not sleep,” he said quietly when Legolas stopped before him.
“Nor do you,” returned the Elf. “I believe that you gave Pippin the watch.”
Mithrandir shrugged. “I had need for thought. I must decide which path we shall take. The middle passage is the most level, and seems to be soundest, but there is a feel about it that I do not like.”
“There is a feel about this whole place that I do not like,” Legolas muttered. He bowed his head for a moment, trying once again to find the source of the icy dread that curled up the back of his neck. But there was nothing, only the omnipresent weight of stone above and the silence. He looked up again to find the wizard watching him with raised brows. “Shadow is all around us, Mithrandir, as great as in the very bowels of Dol Guldur. Is this truly the only way open to us?”
“I fear that choice was taken from us by the Watcher,” the wizard replied. His voice was low and tinged with concern. “We must go on. Will you manage it?”
Legolas stiffened. “I am no stranger to the Shadow, nor even to caves. My mind is clear. But I tell you there is something here, more than Orcs or Shadow. There is evil watching us, such as I have never felt. You know this. We must get out of this place, we must leave now.”
Mithrandir shook his head. “The evil of which you speak cannot be escaped so easily. It is a part of our Doom, I think, and we can only meet it as best we can. And that means allowing the Company to rest, and taking time to choose our course as wisely as we are able. We cannot go rushing blindly into the dark, choosing passages at random.”
“I said naught of going blind,” Legolas said. “I will trust you, Mithrandir, as I have always done. But I will not sit by and wait for evil to find us. At least permit me to scout our path, to see what dangers await us in the passages ahead. Then you may choose in certainty, and swiftly.”
The bowl of Mithrandir’s pipe glowed briefly as the wizard sucked upon it. “You say your mind is clear, but what you propose is folly. I have no need of such knowledge, if the getting of it puts one of our members at such risk. You know nothing of these passages, and you have no skill in Dwarven mines. To wander alone in the dark is utter foolishness.”
Legolas seized upon the weak point in the wizard’s argument. “Then I shall not go alone. Aragorn will scout with me. He has been here before.”
But Mithrandir was shaking his head, and his eyes flashed with growing exasperation. “You will not put another of the Company at risk because you cannot abide staying still in the dark. The mines are vast, and Aragorn did not pass through this portion. Moreover he is sleeping, and I will not disturb his rest.”
Legolas hissed as a hot coil of anger curled in his chest. “I am an Elf. We are children of the stars, and our people lived ere sun or moon gave light. It is not mere darkness that troubles me. Do not think to dismiss my counsel so easily. We are in danger. I propose a reasonable method of determining the nature of the threat, and how close it comes to us. At the very least Orcs may be on our trail, roused by Pippin’s stone. I will not permit you to let evil catch us unawares.”
Mithrandir sighed. “An Elf you are indeed, Legolas Thranduilion, and your pride leads you to folly. I admit that a scouting of our path may be useful, and if Orcs follow us I would not have them come too close. But you are the last member of this Company that I would choose for such a mission. Darkness you may know, but the caves wear upon you, and drive you to recklessness. Even the Hobbits are more suited to this place than you.”
Legolas might have made a comment at that point that would have reflected poorly on his upbringing, but he was prevented by a deep voice that spoke from behind him. “Of course he cannot cope in the mines. Only a fool would send an Elf to do a Dwarf’s task.”
Legolas whirled to see Gimli regarding him with a dark gaze. The Dwarf met his eyes for a moment, then pushed heavily to his feet and picked up his axe. “I will scout the paths ahead, and take care of any Orcs that might pursue us.”
Mithrandir breathed out a long plume of smoke, and Legolas held his breath until it dispersed. “I do not doubt your expertise in the mines, Gimli, but this is not the Lonely Mountain. This labyrinth is beyond your experience, and in any case it is still foolish to travel alone.”
Legolas had a split second to decide. His first instinct was to support Mithrandir in quelling the Dwarf’s arrogance. Gimli had been far too free in his boasts of Dwarven superiority ever since they had first approached Moria. Legolas would dearly love to see the Dwarf reminded of his shortcomings. But that would mean that Legolas would be trapped here in this small cavern with the Dwarf and a smoke breathing wizard until Mithrandir deigned to allow the Company to move on. Legolas was desperate to get out of the enclosing walls, at least, even if it were only to face the greater dark of Moria, and even if he had to endure the Dwarf to do it. To move freely was worth even the greatest sacrifice, he told himself, and spoke before he could change his mind.
“Then the Dwarf and I will go together,” he said. “He has enough stone craft to avoid leading us over a cliff, I think, and I will prevent any Orcs from skewering him.”
Mithrandir and Gimli turned toward him with identical expressions of shock, and Legolas lifted his chin defiantly. Gimli looked like he was going to object, but then Mithrandir spoke. “This is not the place for games, Legolas. You and Gimli have done nothing but torment one another since we left Rivendell. One of you alone is too great a risk, but both of you together is begging for disaster. A false step could lead to tragedy, and a distracted warrior is no warrior at all.”
Legolas stiffened, but Gimli spoke first. “We are not children, Gandalf,” he said, and there was a wealth of wounded pride in his voice. “We have never endangered the Company, and we will not do so now.”
Legolas nodded, not caring that he was agreeing with the Dwarf. “You bid us to be friends, Mithrandir, and to assist you. Friends we are not, but we will assist you nonetheless. I will not let the Dwarf’s blockheaded stubbornness give the advantage to our foes.”
Gimli glared at him briefly, but said, “And I will not let the Elf’s featherbrained arrogance betray us. There is too much at stake.”
Mithrandir sighed gustily. Legolas felt a small curl of triumph at this. They had countered the wizard’s arguments, and truly he had no choice but to let them go. Even the echoing shadows would be a blessed reprieve from this stony sarcophagus. Mithrandir caught his eye and glowered. Legolas smiled back – surely the wizard was about to admit defeat. But Mithrandir cast about for a moment and then came up with a new objection.
“You have no light. Even Legolas cannot see without some illumination, and we have no torches.”
“I have senses other than sight,” Legolas began, but Gimli interrupted. “Of course we have a torch. Men and Elves might be careless about such things, but a Dwarf is always prepared.”
Gimli stumped over to his pack and began rummaging in it. Legolas watched him with some bemusement. If the Dwarf did manage to produce a torch, so much the better, for then Mithrandir would surely have to admit defeat. But with or without a light, Legolas was determined to go. He had spoken truly when he told the wizard that the darkness in itself did not bother him. Far more than mere blackness pressed in upon them, and no amount of light would counter the Shadow, or fill the desolate silence of the void. Legolas actually hoped that they would encounter Orcs. He desperately needed to move, to fight, anything to break that smothering silence.
“Aha!” Gimli straightened up triumphantly. He held a small throwing axe in his hand, and was winding torn rags about its head. He produced a small bottle of grease and smeared the rags liberally. Then with a spark from his flint and tinder, the rags caught in smoky flame. They seemed to produce more smoke than light, but would no doubt provide illumination enough.
“Will that not damage your weapon?” Legolas asked curiously. The Dwarf was always possessive of his things, and setting a good throwing axe ablaze seemed out of character. But Gimli snorted. “Dwarven craft is not so flimsy as the weapons to which you are accustomed, Master Elf. The head is tempered iron, and it is driven straight into the iron core of the handle. The wood may char a little, but the axe will hold.”
At any other time, Legolas would have taken issue with the Dwarf’s casual dismissal of Elven craft, and challenged him to a test of their respective merits – Gimli’s helmet, perhaps, against one of Legolas’ arrows. In view of the probable outcome of such a test, Legolas might even allow Gimli to take the helmet off first. But at the moment all that mattered was that Mithrandir was finally looking resigned to letting them go. The wizard had run out of arguments to deter them, and offered only a final token warning. “Very well then. But be careful, both of you. Return here within two hours and report your findings.”
Legolas did not ask how they were expected to tell the time without reference to moon or stars, for Gimli was nodding absently. If depending on Dwarven time sense was the worst fate that befell him in these benighted mines, Legolas thought, he would be grateful indeed. He bowed to Mithrandir and turned, and did not look back as Gimli followed him through the doorway.
Múmakil: Sam’s Oliphants. The TwoTowers, Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
yén: translates as “year,” but actually equivalent to 144 of our years. This is the Quenyan word, used because that's what Tolkien uses in the books, and I felt that the Sindarin version (idhrin) was too obscure for most readers to recognize easily. Return of the King, Appendix D: The Calendars
Ellomë: From él, star, and lômë, dusk. “Star-dusk.” I made it up, source The Silmarillion appendix.
Ennor: Sindarin equivalent of Arda, Earth, The Silmarillion
faer: Sindarin equivalent of fëa, soul. The Silmarillion
Estel: Hope. The name given to Aragorn/Strider/Thorongil/Elessar when he lived in Rivendell. Return of the King, Appendix A part v.
Legolas Thranduilion: Greenleaf son of Thranduil. But you already knew that.
Next up: Chapter 4. Time for the action part of this action/adventure/angst story.
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