Gimli stood, unmoving, staring with unseeing, burning eyes into the shadows. There was a hard pain in his throat, but his mind felt numb. This was impossible, an awful mistake. He kept expecting Aragorn to turn to him and say they had been wrong. He felt sure that if he turned around he would be able to see the faint stir of his friend’s breathing, and would know he still lived after all. Yet, somehow, he could not bring himself to move. This way there was still hope. Once he looked there would be no room for any possible doubt.
He could scarcely believe he felt this pain over anyone, let alone an Elf. But despite the long enmity between their races, and the less than promising start at their first meeting, somewhere on the long road between Rivendell, Lorien and Gondor they had become friends. Close friends. Complete opposites, and each always more than ready with a barbed comment or insult, he knew their friendship puzzled a great many people - not least their own families and friends.
When Sauron’s messenger had come to the Lonely Mountain, Dain and the other Dwarf chieftains had been greatly troubled. They could not stand against the evil contained in the veiled threat, so eventually the decision had been taken to seek advice. Grudgingly, they accepted that the wisest course was to ask Elrond - and Rivendell was also where Bilbo was, who had to be warned. As Gloin had met Elrond before, and knew Bilbo, he volunteered to carry the message, and Gimli accompanied him. They had a relatively easy journey to Rivendell, but once there Gimli felt very uneasy at being among so many Elves. He did not trust them, did not trust their swift changes of mood from joyous to sad.
He was surprised that he and his father were included in Elrond’s Council, but at least it seemed as if their news was being taken seriously. The Council started well - up until the point where those present were named. Some of the Elves were from Mirkwood. Gloin muttered at that, and shot the group a deeply unfriendly look. Elrond continued with his introductions. Their leader was Legolas, the son of King Thranduil. Gimli froze. Thranduil, the Elven King. Gloin, Bombur, and the other survivors of the quest for Smaug’s gold often told tales of their long imprisonment deep under the halls of Mirkwood. Beside him, his father spat a curse at the Elf and fingered the haft of his axe longingly. Gimli leaned towards him. “Shh. I don’t think you should kill him here. Elrond wouldn’t let you. Later.”
Gloin subsided, but continued to scowl at the Elf, who appeared oblivious to the glares being cast his way. Typical. He was either too stupid to notice, or too arrogant to care. Instead, his attention was on one of the Men at the council, the son of some sort of king. The Elf leapt to his feet, and Gimli tensed. He confronted the man, Boromir, and in a ringing voice defended another man at the Council, proclaiming his ancestry. Gimli blinked. The heir of Elendil and Isildur? How could this be? As Elrond calmed them, the three sat down again, but remained tense. Gimli sat up straighter and began to pay closer attention to the group. This was interesting.
The debate raged around a gold ring that a strange creature - a Hobbit - had placed on the central table. It was clearly the same ring that Sauron’s messenger had been seeking. Boromir seemed to think his people could use the thing to their advantage. Gimli wasn’t so sure. Now Thranduil’s son was on his feet again. “Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said? The ring must be destroyed!”
At this new interruption, Gimli’s patience evaporated. “And I suppose you think you’re the one to do it? I will never trust an Elf!” That, he conceded, was not the wisest thing to say. Not when he was in an Elf city, surrounded by Elves. All the Mirkwood Elves were standing now, baying for his blood at this insult to their prince. The whole Council was on their feet, shouting, arguing. No - not everyone. The Hobbit who had first brought the ring to them sat quietly in his seat, flinching at the anger surrounding him. “I will take the ring. I will take it!”
Slowly, the arguments died away. Then Gandalf, the Wizard who had accompanied Gloin on the quest for Smaug’s treasure, smiled and pledged his help. So, too, did Elendil’s heir, Aragorn. Then Thranduil’s son said: “And you have my bow”. There was no way Gimli could trust the Elf on a quest like this. He would have inherited his father’s greed and be after the Ring for himself, so before he knew it, the Dwarf added: “And my axe!” He glared up at the Elf, who shrugged and looked resigned.
And that was it. In the end there were nine of them, a strange cross mixture of races and temperaments. Gandalf seemed to know everyone, and the four Hobbits had grown up together. Aragorn and Legolas - both heirs of tainted bloodlines - were old friends. Only Gimli and Boromir did not know anyone else.
They left Rivendell, and slowly journeyed south. By the time they reached the mountains tempers were becoming frayed. The Ring seemed a constant presence, a tenth member of their company, and travelling conditions were difficult. When the decision was made to turn back and go through the Dwarf realm of Moria, Gimli was delighted. His cousin Balin had led the recolonisation of Moria long ago, and Gimli looked forward to seeing him again.
Entry into the mines was difficult. A fearsome creature lurked in the water in front of the gates, and once they had got past it, it had slammed the gates shut behind them. For three days they walked in near darkness, lit only by the light of Gandalf’s staff. The rest of the company seemed tense, but Gimli walked through the halls of his forefathers with pride.
He noticed that of them all, the Elf disliked the darkness most. When he casually mentioned the weight of rock that lay above them the Elf changed the subject, and when he wondered aloud how many more days their journey would take, Legolas started a conversation with Aragorn, or Gandalf - or anyone. After that, Gimli never missed an opportunity to refer to the dark, the length of their journey, how deep underground they were. When he started discussing mining accidents, and Dwarves who were buried alive following cave-ins, the others began to look haggard too, until Gandalf asked him sharply to stop. At this point Legolas abruptly left his side and moved to the head of the group. Gimli could hear him talking to Aragorn in a fierce undertone and hoped it was about himself. However, he had no wish to upset the Wizard, so he stopped tormenting the Elf, at least when anyone else could overhear.
On the fourth day they finally saw a glimmer of light high up ahead of them towards the east. Dimly they could see a chamber opening off the main hall, and went that way to explore. In the centre of the chamber was a stone slab like a tomb. Gandalf translated the runes carved on it. “Here lies Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria.” Gimli gave a muffled cry of grief and rage and fell to his knees before the tomb. The chamber was so quiet he could hear the thud of his own heart. The sound grew louder and faster, until the others could hear it too. He suddenly realised it was the sound of drums in the deep caverns.
There was a harsh ring of metal as swords were drawn, and they all turned to face the chamber doors. Arrows flew as the doors were smashed down, and orcs poured into the room. Gimli fought fiercely, wielding his axe with deadly effect, when he heard a cry from one of the Hobbits. Risking a glance in that direction he saw the Elf, surrounded by dead orcs, still fighting on a ledge at the side of the cavern. He was cornered by a huge cave troll swinging a wicked looking chain. Trust the Elf to get himself trapped. There was no one else close enough to help, so Gimli would have to do it. Swinging his axe high he brought it down hard on the troll’s foot. It let out a bellow of pain and rage, and glanced down. The heavy chain missed Legolas by a hair’s breadth and wrapped around a pillar. It was all the Elf needed. With a nod of thanks to Gimli he launched himself at the troll, firing arrows into its head before leaping off.
At last the battle was over. The troll and all the orcs were dead, and the company for the most part was unscathed, although there had been some worrying moments with Aragorn and Frodo. As they stood in the cavern, breathing hard and checking weapons, Legolas looked across at Gimli. “You have my thanks”.
There was no time for further discussion as they fled the chamber, running back through the main hall and down a flight of stone steps that bridged an immense chasm. A yawning gap stretched across their path. One by one they leapt across the gap, Aragorn and Boromir throwing the smaller Hobbits to safety. When Aragorn would have done the same with Gimli he stepped away, glowering. He jumped across himself, but only just made it. His feet slipped on the broken stone, and he was only saved from falling by Legolas lunging forward and grabbing the only part of Gimli within reach. To his deep humiliation, the Elf seized his beard and hauled him onto the steps. He had been saved by the Elf, and the life debt incurred by Legolas, which Gimli had hoped to use to his advantage for a long time, had already been repaid. Scowling, he stormed down the steps, following Boromir and Gandalf to the next bridge.
When Gandalf fell, he was transfixed in horror. It did not seem possible that of all of them the wizard was gone. Each of the company revealed their grief in different ways - the Hobbits cried inconsolably, Gimli and Boromir raged at the skies, Aragorn sat, head bowed, on the ground. Legolas stood to one side, staring down the valley. When he eventually rejoined them Gimli could see tears on his face. That surprised him. He did not think the Elf would show emotion in that way, he seemed too aloof. But during the long journey from Rivendell he had learnt much about Elves, and this Elf in particular. He had remained in good spirits through all the hardships they had endured, whether it was rain, snow or enforced travel by night. True, the cheerfulness had seemed rather forced while they travelled through Moria, but he never complained. He had willingly turned his hand to any of the tasks that needed to be done, even digging latrine pits when they camped. Gimli wondered just how different the Elf might be from his father.
He got the opportunity to find out that night. It was late when they left Moria, and by the time they moved a safe distance from the mines and tended to Frodo it was too late to travel to Lorien. “We will stop for what remains of the night and go on in the morning. It would be better to arrive in daylight.” Aragorn decided. “I will take the first watch with Merry.” To everyone’s surprise, Legolas argued against this plan.
“Aragorn, don’t be a fool. I know how hard that troll hit you. Let me take the first watch while you rest. Let the Hobbits sleep too, they could do with it. Gimli can stay with me.” It was a measure of how bad his headache was that Aragorn made only a token protest before lying down. He was asleep almost immediately. As silence fell over the camp Gimli and Legolas were left alone. Gimli turned to find the Elf was watching him carefully. “My thanks to you, Master Dwarf, for distracting the troll. I think I owe you my life” he said quietly. Then, to Gimli’s total disbelief, he held out his hand. Numbly, Gimli shook it, and found himself saying “And I have not thanked you. I would have fallen from those stairs if not for you.”
Legolas smiled. “Indeed. I fancy your beard is somewhat longer than it was before your adventure.” Gimli bristled at this comment, but could not prevent a small chuckle. Soon they were both laughing, waking Boromir, who looked at the pair in amazement. As the night wore on, they talked. “I think Gloin was less than pleased to see me at Elrond’s Council” said Legolas softly.
So, he HAD noticed. “He is not very fond of Elves. Your father imprisoned him and his companions. He can never forgive that!”
Legolas sighed. “It is true my father has no love for dwarves, and can have a hasty temper. We had just had many battles with the spiders, and he thought the dwarves were a distraction, maybe even in league with them. If he had only listened to reason, he would have realised he was wrong.”
“But why couldn’t YOU do anything?”
“I was not there. We had many patrols out, guarding the borders of Mirkwood. I was commanding the south and west patrols - that was the direction the spiders were coming from. When we drove them off I returned, just days after Bilbo had freed your father and the others. The place was still in uproar!”
Gimli sighed. “Well, thank goodness for Bilbo, then. If it wasn’t for him, they would still be in the dungeons!” He looked at the Elf suspiciously. “What? What’s so funny?”
“We are Elves, Gimli. We don’t have any dungeons. We do not usually have prisoners - our only enemies are the great spiders, and orcs and goblins from the Misty Mountains. I don’t think my father really knew what to do with them! Thorin and his companions were held in parts of the wine cellars, and various storage rooms - they were scattered all over the palace. Then he had to feed them. I think he would have thrown them all out long before if it hadn’t meant giving in to Thorin’s demands. I think he was secretly relieved when Bilbo did the job for him!”
Gimli, who for many years had heard highly embroidered tales of his father’s long incarceration in the gloomy dungeons far beneath Mirkwood, of cruel deprivations at the hands of the merciless Elven King, chuckled at the new picture that presented itself. “That is not how my father tells it!”
“It is not what MY father tells anyone else. But I got the truth out of him - and spoke to some of the guards.” Their laughter woke Boromir again, who this time gave them a look of disgust. “He and Thorin met again at the Battle of Five Armies, so I made him apologise. He did not like doing so, but they made their peace at last. I am glad, for Thorin was killed later that same day.” Legolas paused, recalling the mighty battle and the many Elves and Dwarves who had fallen. “It made me realise how petty their bickering had been. We faced a far greater peril, and stood together.”
Gimli nodded. “We still face great peril. And WE must stand together. We are both part of this Fellowship. The Enemy will surely win if we continue to fight each other.” They clasped hands in comradeship, then Legolas rose and went to wake Boromir for his watch.
Gimli shifted his balance slightly, feeling stiff. That had been the start of their friendship. It hadn’t been instant, and there had been difficult moments, particularly when they first arrived in Lorien. But it had lasted. However, he was a relative newcomer in the Elf’s long life - while he had known Legolas for a matter of a mere twenty years or so, Arwen had known him for far, far longer. Thousands of years. He could scarcely comprehend such a time. He had not spoken to Arwen this night, but found himself wondering how she was faring with Eldarion’s grief and guilt.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.