1. The Gift
‘It is a difficult question,’ said Gimli before taking a swig of beer from the tankard he was holding. ‘I have thought about it over and over, but I am no closer to an answer.’
‘Mmm,’ Legolas agreed, nodding. ‘What does one give as a birthday gift to a prince who has everything?’
‘Well, I would have thought that as a prince who has everything, you might have some insight into the problem.’
‘You believe that I have everything?’ The elf arched an eyebrow quizzically.
‘A glass of wine in your hand, trees to sit under and the company of a dwarf such as myself – I cannot see that you are lacking anything in your life, Legolas.’
Legolas smiled. ‘I see what you mean, Elvellon. But this is getting us no nearer to a solution to our problem. What ideas have your shrewd dwarvish mind produced thus far?’
‘Well, I am sure that he will already have plenty of things to play with, toys and so on. Why do we not get him something that is useful?’
The elf held his glass up to the light, admiring the deep blood-red colour of the wine. ‘What manner of thing is useful to a babe? I know little of the needs of children.’ He took a sip from the glass.
‘You have seen him more frequently that I. What does he do? How does he spend his time?’ Gimli prompted as he settled his back more comfortably against the trunk of the tree.
‘When I saw him last he was spending a good deal of his time chewing things. Arwen explained that his teeth are coming through and he feels the need to exercise them.’
‘There we are then,’ the dwarf nodded decisively, ‘we can buy him things to chew. What does he like to get his teeth into?’
‘My hair, if he can get his hands on it!’ Legolas said with a rueful smile. ‘But I am sure that he would like your beard just as much.’ Legolas gave said beard a playful tug. The dwarf batted his hand away in mock annoyance.
‘Much as I admire Aragorn, my devotion to him does not extend to offering my facial hair to his son as a chew toy. Perhaps we should settle for cutting off one of your braids and gift-wrapping that.’ Gimli reached out and fingered one of the intricate plaits that fell behind the elf’s ear. Legolas leaned into Gimli’s hand and the dwarf turned the touch into a gentle caress.
‘We do not make much progress, do we, Gimli,’ Legolas said softly.
‘Oh, I wouldn’t say that.’ The dwarf smiled, his fingers gliding over the silken strands, brushing lightly against the very tip of the ear.
‘The present, Gimli, the present.’ Legolas was trying to sound exasperated but Gimli noticed that the elf did not move his head away. ‘Perhaps we should buy Eldarion something that will be of use in the years to come,’ Legolas continued, making a brave attempt to retain some interest in the topic of discussion. The dwarf could be very distracting when he wanted to. ‘He is sure to need…to need practical things…such as…’
Reluctantly Legolas drew back from Gimli. ‘We must concentrate, mellon-nin. This is important.’
‘I am not the one whose concentration is failing, Legolas. But yes,’ he assumed an expression of mock solemnity, ‘the question of the gift must be resolved ere the child reaches manhood. Something practical, you say. Hmm…. what about an axe?’
‘Why not! The child is one year old, my dear dwarf. What possible use could he have for an axe?’
‘You said, did you not, that we should get him something that will be of use in the future. An axe may prove to be of tremendous use. ’
‘Yes, I am sure,’ said the elf with a grin, ‘but I think that a prince of Gondor will have servants to chop up firewood for him, Gimli.’
‘Firewood! Firewood!’ Gimli spilt most of his beer in his agitation. ‘I will have you know, elf, that the axe is the most noble of weapons and would be entirely suitable for a future king of Gondor.’
‘I fear his father would favour the broadsword over the axe, Elvellon. Anyway if the gift is from both of us, I do not feel that it should be your weapon of choice.’
‘An axe and a bow, then.’
‘And a knife.’
‘Yes, yes, a knife as well. After all he may need something with which to peel fruit and chop vegetables.’
Legolas adopted an expression of disdain that would not have been out of place on his father’s face. He carefully placed his glass on the ground. ‘Dwarf, you are going to suffer for that.’ Within seconds Gimli found himself pinned down and tickled mercilessly in the ribs.
‘No, no! Aaaaah! Stop!’
‘Oh yes. You should know better than to insult me when you are not wearing your chain mail, Gimli.’ The tickling moved up to Gimli’s armpits. The dwarf could have pushed Legolas off without the slightest effort, but somehow Gimli was reluctant for the punishment to stop.
Legolas paused for a moment. ‘Do you surrender?’
‘Surrender to an elf? Never! The honour of the dwarves is at stake!’
‘So be it. Do not say that I failed to offer you mercy.’ Legolas renewed the tickling with greater enthusiasm. Gimli tried to roll into a ball to protect himself. He was laughing so hard that it hurt.
Finally Gimli decided that it was high time he regained the upper hand. With a push and a twist he tipped the elf’s slight body off him and made a grab for Legolas’s foot. Gripping the ankle tightly, Gimli pulled off the light shoe, threw it into a bush and tickled the sole of the foot. Legolas convulsed with laughter.
‘Not the feet! Not the feet!’
‘If you wore proper boots,’ Gimli managed to croak as he wrestled with the flailing limb, ‘your feet would not be vulnerable.’
At length they were both so helpless with mirth that the tickling had to stop. They lay back in a tangle of limbs.
‘Now,’ said Legolas when he had caught his breath, ‘give me a sensible suggestion for Eldarion’s present.’
‘Oh, do I have to?’ Can’t we just have a pleasant evening together? A little drink, a comfortable place to rest,’ Gimli wriggled his head where it had come to rest against the elf’s stomach, ‘and a friendly conversation. Why do we have to get into a debate about birthday presents? Can’t that wait?’
Legolas reached out a long arm to retrieve his wine glass. ‘We do not have that much time left in which to decide.’
‘All right then…a pony.’
‘The child is only just learning how to walk, Gimli, I think a pony would not be a wise choice.’
‘Why don’t we buy him a baby horse…’?
‘Yes, I know, a foal, and then by the time the foal has grow into a… a…’
Legolas shot him an encouraging look as if he was a star pupil. ‘Yes?’
‘…a …grown-up horse,’ Legolas’s eyes rolled up in his head, ‘Eldarion will be old enough to ride it. Can’t argue with that, can you elf? Impeccable dwarvish logic! ’
‘The logic is sound but I believe Eomer will claim that it is his right to supply the prince with a pony.’
‘Well, what are Faramir and Eowyn getting for him? And where is the rest of my beer?’ said Gimli sitting up.
‘A puppy and next to the elm tree.’
‘The elm tree.’
‘Since when did elm trees have acorns, Gimli? Here, for goodness sake.’ Legolas passed the drink to Gimli and they settled themselves comfortably.
‘I don’t see that it matters what we get him, Legolas. Can you remember what you were given for your first birthday? Of course you can’t.’
‘The way I look at it is that in years to come, we want Eldarion to look at some beautiful object and say, ‘Where did this come from?’ and for Aragorn to say, ‘Ah yes, my boy, your uncles Legolas and Gimli bought that for you when you were a baby,’ and for Eldarion to nod appreciatively in full understanding that his uncles Legolas and Gimli possess exquisite taste.’
‘A mithril chamber pot?’
‘Well, it is practical, will be useful in the future and Eomer won’t have bought one for him.’
Legolas closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. ‘This is hopeless. You are hopeless.’
‘I haven’t heard you produce with any good ideas yet.’
‘That, my dear dwarf, is because you keep distracting me. Now hold your peace and let me think.’
Gimli smiled to himself and concentrated on his beer. The elf was taking all this far too seriously. There would be plenty of time this week for them to find a suitable gift. Why worry about it now when it was really such a pleasant evening? Did the elf truly expect them to spend their first evening together in four months discussing birthday presents? No, Gimli had envisaged an altogether different entertainment. He glanced sideways, his deep brown eyes glittering.
‘Do you remember what I gave you for your birthday, Legolas?’
‘We cannot give Eldarion a bottle of wine.’
‘No, no. What did I give you after the bottle of wine?’ Their eyes met for a long moment. Eventually Legolas spoke quietly.
‘We most definitely cannot give that to Eldarion! Now, hush! I’m thinking.’
Gimli drummed his fingers on the side of his tankard. Shifting himself a little, he turned so that he could see Legolas’s face more clearly. The elf’s brows were furrowed in concentration. Gimli smiled.
‘It was a good birthday present, was it not?’
‘I said it was a good birthday present, yes?’
‘Dorwinion Red. Very acceptable.’
‘No, Legolas, I meant…
‘I know exactly what you meant, Gimli.’
Gimli settled back again, his head resting on the elf’s stomach, feeling it gently rise and fall. He closed his eyes. A breeze drifted across the glade and for a few moments there was only quiet birdsong and the susurration of the leaves. Legolas dropped his gaze to Gimli’s peaceful face. It must have been a long journey from Aglarond. Poor Gimli. He would not bother him with any more talk of presents. No, he would postpone the discussion until Gimli was rested. Legolas studied the planes of Gimli’s face and the small lines that radiated from the corners of his eyes. Yes, he needed rest. The elf’s gaze took in the curve of Gimli’s lips, half-hidden amongst the rich chestnut beard. He became aware of the sturdiness of the body resting against him, the power of those shoulders, the depth of the chest. He frowned again. On the other hand, perhaps Gimli was bored rather than tired. Maybe rest was not the solution.
‘Do you believe such gifts need be confined to birthdays?’ said Legolas, struggling to maintain an expression of innocence.
Gimli opened one eye.
‘Perhaps such a gift would be appropriate in other circumstances,’ continued the elf. ‘For instance, at the reunion of friends after a long separation.’
Gimli opened the other eye and shot a glance at his companion. ‘That would depend on the generosity of the gift-giver, would it not?’ he said.
‘Indeed.’ Legolas’s fingers were weaving a teasing pattern through the dwarf’s beard. ‘It is fortunate that I have always found you generous to a fault.’ The long fingers were beginning to pull very gently on the beard, drawing Gimli closer.
‘But are you not preoccupied with the problem of the gift for the young prince, Legolas?’ Gimli moved with surprising grace until his face was inches from the elf’s. ‘I could not possibly present you with a gift knowing that your mind was elsewhere.’
‘Oh that is quite settled. Do not even think about it.’ Legolas’s breath was soft on Gimli’s face.
‘Really,’ the dwarf murmured, tracing the line of Legolas’s cheekbone with one finger. ‘I’m so glad.’
‘And it is?’
Legolas’s lips brushed his with the lightest of kisses. ‘An oliphaunt.’
‘Perfect,’ said Gimli. ‘I’ll help you gift wrap it.’
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.