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Holiday: 1. Holiday
Fourth Age 06 – Summer
Rocky road to Dol Amroth
"Sailing? Legolas, have you lost your wits? What makes you think I want to travel halfway across Gondor to go sailing?" Gimli grumbled. He certainly had not come all the way from Aglarond to Ithilien only to immediately travel on to Dol Amroth.
"I cannot go back on my word." Legolas at least had the grace to look apologetic. "I already sent the messenger back to say that I would be pleased to accept the Prince's invitation. You can of course stay here if you prefer, or go back to Aglarond, but I am certain that Imrahil would be pleased to have you along. We are already ten, one more will scarcely matter."
Gimli was even less enthusiastic at that news. Not just sailing, but sailing with a bunch of Elves. If Legolas in one of his Sea-moods was anything to go by, they would all spend their days mournfully gazing West, or composing interminable odes to the white-wingèd seagull. Then he met Legolas' pleading gaze, and shrugged. "Well, if you're really certain..."
It clearly meant much to Legolas, and fair was fair; the Elf had not complained either about their expedition into the deepest reaches of the Glittering Caves the previous year. Besides, Gimli considered, he held Aglarond from the king of Rohan, and Imrahil was the queen's father. If he thought of this as a diplomatic visit, it should not be too bad.
They were barely halfway to Dol Amroth before Gimli began to regret agreeing to the plan. Everything about it was wrong, and this could only end up as a very long, very uncomfortable summer. Gimli belatedly thought that, as they had passed through Minas Tirith, he should have used the opportunity to persuade someone – anyone – there to offer him an invitation that would have been impossible to refuse.
The pony he rode had been a gift from King Éomer, and while he had to admit the beast was as steady-gaited as a Dwarf pony, yet much faster, its narrow back and fiery temper made it nowhere near as comfortable. He discreetly rubbed his sore behind, hoping to ease the pain without his discomfort attracting the notice of his companions. He would never hear the end of it otherwise.
"Not far now!" Legolas called out from the head of their group, and nudged his horse into a gallop.
Gimli stifled a groan as the other horses increased their speed as well, and his pony speeded up its gait to keep up with the larger animals.
Still saddlesore from the journey, Gimli had been able to beg off from the hunting parties that had been a prominent part of the first week of the visit. 'No' had never been an option for the sailing trip that was currently taking them to Tolfalas and back.
His attempts at explaining that Dwarves and the Sea just do not go together had been as pointless as speaking Khuzdûl to a cave wall and expecting an answer. He'd given up on trying to get Imrahil to understand, and just gritted his teeth as he said that he would of course be glad to go sailing.
Legolas, however, would not let it go, not even now that they were on board the ship. Gimli sighed in frustration, cursing the Elf's tenacity. "No Legolas, you do not understand."
"Then explain it to me again. I wish to understand, truly, but I fail to see... Do not tell me you fear the Sea?" Before Gimli could answer, Legolas went on. "I know you can feel fear, so..."
"Do not even think of mentioning the Paths of the Dead," Gimli growled. Really, could the Elf not let this rest? "That has nothing to do with it! Besides, I remember how you were in the Glittering Caves after we doused the torches."
"It was dark," Legolas protested, "You could not possibly have seen me. Besides, this is not about me."
"No, but I heard your whimpering. Nor has this aught to do with fear. I have been on a ship before. It's just... wrong. Dwarves and the Sea don't go together." Gimli shook his head. "It's just not in our nature."
"I suppose so," Legolas said, sounding more than a bit doubtful still. He sighed and got up to lean on the ship's railing, staring out towards the open Sea for some time before he sat down again. "I do not doubt my attraction to the Sea is as strange to you as your aversion to it is to me. But so wrong as the Sea feels to you, so right does it feel to me. And to be here is both agony and bliss. For in the call of the Sea is also the call of the West, of Elvenhome, and that is agony to resist. And to watch the gulls..."
"Ah, yes. The gulls," Gimli interrupted him. "Why? I know their cries can awaken the Sea longing, but they seem perfectly ordinary to me otherwise."
That question had been with him ever since the messages the Lady Galadriel had sent them during the War. While it was obvious that the Elves were deeply moved by both the Sea and the gulls, Gimli wanted to know why, to understand this obsession with what, as far as he could tell, were no more than ordinary birds, even if particularly raucous. It was not even as if they were useful or intelligent; all he'd seen them do so far was fly around, catch fish, and perch on the ship.
Legolas looked up to the bright blue sky above them, then looked at Gimli again. "Do you not feel anything when you watch them soar, so free and proud?"
"I knew it," Legolas cried out triumphantly. "There has to be some poetry in that rock-carven dwarven soul of yours."
Gimli was starting to regret bringing up the subject of seagulls at all, as suddenly a voice cried out in disgust, and they both jumped up and turned to see what was going on.
"Damn shitehawks!" Imrahil repeated as he attempted to clean off what had been deposited on his head.
Gimli wondered which was funnier, the sight of the Prince of Dol Amroth standing there with the ah... gift from the seagulls oozing down in his hair, or Legolas's shocked stare at the insult the Prince had just given the creatures he so venerated.
Do not laugh, Gimli told himself, Remember, this is a diplomatic visit. Don't look at Imrahil, and don't look at the Elf. Diplomatic visit. Even if it's at the Elf's expression, and not at your host's mishap, do not laugh.
Setting aside his plate after an excellent lunch, Gimli considered that he was beginning to regret that this trip was so safe that the Prince of Dol Amroth had brought his family along. Imrahil's sons were pleasant enough company, and the eldest son's young children were well-spoken and polite. Unfortunately, the children in question were also fascinated by his beard.
"I want a beard too when I grow up," little Finduilas now said, peering closely at the object in question.
"Girls can't have beards," Finduilas's older brother Alphros announced categorically from the wisdom of his ten years.
"I heard it said that Dwarf girls do," Legolas told the children, cheerfully ignoring Gimli's offended glare.
The little girl's giggle set Gimli's teeth on edge as she looked at him even closer. "Are you a girl?"
"Silly, of course he isn't," Alphros said. "Besides, Father is not a girl and he doesn't have a beard. Or Grandfather, either."
As Finduilas sat down to think, still giving him doubtful glances, Gimli was torn between embarrassment and amusement. Had he been among Dwarves, such talk would have been highly unseemly, but he realised that the girl's questions were just childish curiosity in the face of outlandish concepts. Surely he could bear the discomfort of being the concept in question? After all, this was a diplomatic visit.
Finduilas jumped up again, and Gimli braced himself for another round of questioning, but the child scampered over to Legolas instead. She first looked closely at his face, then sat down on the deck in front of the Elf and silently studied him for a long time. Finally she asked, "But you are so pretty, you must be a girl?"
Gimli did not even attempt to hide his laughter.
A/N: Alphros is canonical, his sister is an OC.
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