9. In the Mind's Eye
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.
"A pretty riddle," Gimli said, "But I find myself no more enlightened than ere I asked. What may be the answer, Gandalf? I grant you dwarves know little about growing things and the way of trees, but I would venture I am not the only one among us who has never seen a tree uproot itself and move several leagues from whence it stood. See there! You have confounded even our wise Elf." Gimli motioned idly with one hand. "Legolas!" he shouted. "Come and join us, and stand not amazed!"
Legolas paid him no mind and stayed transfixed at the edge of the Deeping- stream, gazing in wonder at the eaves of the forest, heedless for the moment of all else.
"Elves..." the dwarf grumbled from where he sat upon the grass. "If he falls in, I am not much inclined to jump in after him." He turned to look at Gandalf. "I admit, though, that this is wizardry indeed. I should have guessed you were behind it when first we caught sight of the strange forest from above."
Gandalf lifted his head and laughed long, stretching his legs out before him, and he seemed more the Gandalf of old to his companions. There was no trace of the fey and terrible White Rider who had driven the orcs to madness at his coming. There was only Gandalf, a pipe between his teeth and his eyes glowing warmly beneath his bushy eyebrows. He regarded the dwarf with amusement. He had removed his hat and his hair was white as snow in the sunshine and gleamed under the blue sky, as did his robes. Shadowfax strayed upon the field behind them, picking his way over grass which had been trampled black under the orcs' armored shoes to find patches of green upon which to graze.
"Nay, this is no deed of mine, my good Dwarf," the wizard's lips twitched. "It is a power far older and far stronger, perhaps, than any sleight-of- hand I might conjure, Gimli. It walked the earth ere elf sang or hammer rang. We may count ourselves lucky to have such an ally. But if you wish to learn the answer to my riddle, I suggest those of you who would understand follow me to Isengard."
"Isengard!" Gimli twisted his head sharply to regard the wizard. "You would have us go to Orthanc?" He straightened with interest and his eyes smouldered.
"I would," Gandalf replied. His face became grave. "We have unfinished business to attend to, and I would not put it off for any longer than is necessary. I wish to speak to Saruman as soon as may be. I must pay him a farewell visit. Dangerous and probably useless, but it must be done."
"Unfinished business indeed," Gimli growled. "That sorcerer has much to answer for. I should like very much to follow you to Isengard, Gandalf. We waste time tarrying here. How swiftly do we ride?
"Patience, my friend." Gandalf admonished. "Not all have the unflagging endurance of the dwarves, son of Gloin. Once Theoden and his men have tended to their dead and rested, and we all have had the chance to recover, my path and the path of those who would go with me lies now eastward. The king and a handful of men he has chosen will come with me as well, as Saruman has done them great injury. But have a care, Gimli. Though his forces may have been defeated, Saruman is not one to trifle with. He is a dangerous foe with more than a few tricks up his sleeve yet, I daresay. I go now to parley, not to fight."
"I will go," Gimli said quietly. He lifted his head and his eyes wandered to the elf standing still by the stream's banks. "Though I cannot say my purpose is merely to parley. I would look upon Saruman myself and judge what I may."
"Master Dwarf!" Aragorn sighed heavily from where he sat before Gimli. "If you truly wish to accompany us to Isengard, I advise you hold still, lest I wrap you from head to toe and send you back to Rohan with the women and children." He turned the dwarf's head around to face him. "Let me tend this wound ere you do yourself further damage." Aragorn ignored the disgruntled look Gimli cast at him and bound a clean cloth over the freshly bathed cut upon the dwarf's forehead.
"AH! Careful!" the dwarf bellowed. "No need to be so testy. It would take more than such an orc-scratch to keep me back, Aragorn," Gimli said sullenly, trying not to move.
"Nevertheless, it will pain you and you will hinder us if I leave it. Do not argue."
Isildur's heir found himself struggling to keep the mirth from showing on his face, lest the dwarf should think he were making light of him. In truth, Gimli's stubborn protests filled him with profound thankfulness this day. Aragorn had never felt so relieved as he had when he had at last sheathed his sword from the slaughter upon the field and turned to see three familiar figures striding down from the causeway to greet him. The meeting of the companions was joyous to behold, and when Gandalf rode up on Shadowfax to join them, their hearts sang with the victory of that fair morning and of dear friends miraculously restored.
Messengers were sent by Theoden to all the corners of the Mark to proclaim the glorious tidings, but even now at the height of their rejoicing, the Rohirrim set about the task of tending to the dead and wounded. Two great mounds were raised upon the field before the Hornburg where the Riders who had fallen defending Helm's Deep were laid to rest. No orc remained alive. Those who were not crushed by the men of the Mark or the forces of Erkenbrand and the White Rider had disappeared into the forest, never to emerge again. At Gandalf's urging, they piled the corpses there were into great heaps near the eaves of the trees and left them to the carrion until it could be decided what was to be done with them.
Eomer had been taken by his king back into the Hornburg in order to rest and be cared for, but the others did not follow. Legolas had refused to enter Helm's Deep again and wished to remain beyond the confines of stone beneath the open sky, and so they stayed there upon the green grass in the dale beside the Deeping-stream to watch the solemn activity of Theoden's men and to take their hard-won ease.
"A marvel, is it not?" Aragorn murmured to the elf as walked past him to kneel and wash Gimli's blood from his fingers in the running water.
Legolas tipped his head slowly, his sight lingering upon the forest, then he turned to look at Aragorn with shining, inquisitive eyes. "I have never seen such a thing," he breathed. "Know you what they are, Aragorn? Are these the Onodrim of which Gandalf has spoken?"
"I know not, my friend," Aragorn smiled fondly. The expression of the usually composed elven prince was that of an enchanted child, open with wonder and delight. "I could not venture to guess. Gandalf promises we shall know more if we go with him to Isengard."
"To Isengard...." Legolas repeated softly. Aragorn watched the fair enchantment slip away from his face. The elf looked pallid, and his jaw tightened as if in remembered pain.
Legolas looked down upon Aragorn's hands and the eddying stream which flowed red about them, and it seemed to Aragorn that his keen eyes grew distant and shadowed.
The elf remained very still, unquiet, his gaze fixed steadily upon the man's hands for such a long instant that Aragorn grew alarmed and lifted them from the stream.
Legolas started and drew back as one who had been dashed with cold water. He seemed confused and unsettled, but before Aragorn could say aught to him, the elf swept silently past, making his way back to the others.
Troubled greatly, Aragorn brushed his hands dry upon his cloak and rose to follow.
Legolas had settled himself beside the dwarf, and for a while he sat and listened to his companions speak but said little himself. Aragorn could not coax him into conversation and so left Legolas to his thoughts, though his attention wandered back to the elf's pensive face time and again.
Aragorn and Gandalf debated plans for the next day, and the famished companions made a light meal from the provisions. As late afternoon approached, the king rode forth once more to say that his company was preparing to depart. Theoden took counsel with Aragorn and Gandalf, and they left Gimli and Legolas alone to ready themselves for the journey.
Gimli lifted himself from his seat on the grass and groaned at the stiffness in his neck and arms. "Horses again. The parts of me which are not now sore soon shall be."
Legolas seemed not to hear him. The elf looked still to the forest, but after a moment he asked softly, "How is your head, love? Are you certain you should ride?"
Gimli tugged at his beard with frustration. "I know not who will coddle me to distraction first, you or Aragorn! 'Twas but a feeble scratch, yet listening to the two of you, one would think I was upon the verge of death."
It was an idle remark, but Legolas glanced up at the dwarf with an expression of sudden, abject terror. The look was gone as soon as it came and Legolas swiftly averted his eyes, but that hint of fright that was so out of place upon his friend's face had not escaped Gimli's notice.
"Legolas!" he exclaimed, and knelt by the elf's side. "What is it? Surely I was jesting, Elf! That is, lest Aragorn confided in you something about my condition of which I was unaware," he said with feigned gruffness.
Legolas attempted to be light-hearted. "Nay, my friend. I have no doubt you will be hale and whole, though I am certain we will hear your complaints nevertheless for days to come. Dwarves are such wearisome creatures," he smiled.
The elf paused uncertainly, as if searching for the words he needed. "I do not think you should ride to Isengard, Gimli," Legolas said finally. "There is a foreboding in my heart and I wish you would not go."
Gimli blinked and stared with consternation at his companion. "Not go?" His deep voice was perplexed. "Legolas, even were I not burning with curiosity to look upon Saruman and see for myself this wizard who been the cause of so much grief, I would not leave Aragorn's side, nor yours, for all the danger that may await me at Orthanc or anywhere else, for that matter. Legolas... surely we have seen much peril upon this quest, but I have never seen you so affected. What troubles you?" Gimli sat back upon his haunches and studied the elf's face.
Legolas gave a deep sigh and closed his eyes.
He saw before him once again the water stained crimson, red, red blood pooling in the stream to be borne away inexorably by the constant swirling current.... The image haunted him, vague whispers filled his mind, and he felt faintly ill. Fear was not such an accustomed emotion to the elf, and he found he could not express this unreasoning dread which gripped him now. He felt foolish for speaking of it, it was absurd and yet the feeling remained.
"I know not, Gimli. And yet I would ask you still not to go," he said quietly.
Gimli took Legolas's hand in his and sat thoughfully for a long while. He let out a tired breath and turned the elf to face him. "Legolas, wherever our path shall now lead us, it will not be easy, and there shall always be risk. We will see darkness before we come again to the light, I fear, but we cannot turn from it. I will not turn from it, not while I still have a part to play." He lovingly caressed Legolas's cheek, trying to lighten the worry which lay heavily upon him. In a low, soothing tone Gimli said, "I shall do my best to keep you from harm and to keep safe myself, come what may. You have my word. I have the world to live for in you, Legolas. All will be well. You have had little rest and much strain this past while, dear heart, as have we all. Be of good spirits. Today we have triumphed beyond all odds! It is not a day of sadness."
Legolas said nothing, but he nodded. Gimli pulled him to his feet and clapped him on the shoulder. "Stay and watch for Aragorn. I will go and inquire if that beast you call a horse is still among the living and return to you shortly."
Legolas waited by the Deeping-stream, his reason fighting the irrational panic that would not leave him in peace. "All will be well." He mouthed the words and willed himself to believe them, but he felt a not unfamiliar chill stab at his heart.
(A long ramble from Me: ACK!! Your MOTHERS are reading this? Perhaps I shall have to go back and edit this one down to a G rating.... ! Oh, wait, the NOVELS. The reviewer's mother reads the novels... *whew*. I would have hated cutting out the risky parts I'm planning for upcoming chapters. : )
The subtext for a relationship between Legolas and Gimli can indeed be found in the novels, if one looks hard enough, though for the record, I don't believe any of the characters in the book are more than the most loyal of friends, a concept those of us with jaded 21st century minds have trouble sometimes grasping. I've given in with this fanfic and indulging in a little idle fun, but for me, Tolkien's 'real' Legolas and Gimli remain as pure as the heart of his story. (Gad, I've got to stop hanging out in Lothlorien with those damn elves... how nauseating was that!) ; )
And yes, I am integrating many passages and quotes from the novel itself to lend my poor work some credence and prevent me from straying too far from the actual story. As Bilbo explains to his listeners in Rivendell, the game is to tell which parts are mine and which are the Duneda... uh... Tolkien's. "If you can't judge between an artist like Tolkien and a hack fan fictionist, your judgement is poorer than I imagined. They're as different as peas and apples!" Hehe... oh, this is too much fun. Alright, I'll shut up now and see about more chapters....)
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.