29. The First of Many Partings
Grimbeorn- the Carrock (can change from man to bear)
Barin- Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain
Orimhedil- Elf warrior from Rivendell
Glóin- father of Gimli
Calengaladh- Thranduil’s second (living) son. Commander of the Mirkwood party.
Mallos- Thranduil’s third (living) son
Othon- Mirkwood archer
Lhûn- Heir of Mirkwood. Thranduil’s eldest living child.
~Western Scouting Party~
Malbeorn- veteran Ranger
Rowgond- young Ranger from Hollin
Halbarad- Aragorn’s longtime pal
Winter gradually relinquished its grasp as the eastern scouting party and their large entourage descended the Misty Mountains. Jagged ice-covered rocks and wind-blasted shrubs gave way to forested hills, still flaunting colors of the waning autumn.
They were harassed very little; though whether this was due to chance none could say.
When at last they reached the swiftly flowing Anduin, the group was surprised to find a second party bathing in the river’s icy waters. Fordun, first captain under Grimbeorn and of the same gigantic stature as his commander, was first to greet them.
Unfortunately, the Carrock’s captain bore only ill news. A party of orcs had attacked the Old Ford further downstream, attempting to drive out the Beornings guarding its bridge. The Enemy’s numbers had been sufficient enough to draw Fordun and his followers down from their watch over the High Pass.
Upon hearing the eastern scouting party’s tale, the massive captain of Grimbeorn apologized profusely. “I had my suspicions over why they attacked the bridge,” said Fordun, his face growing shadowed. “And now it looks like it really was to divert our attention from the Pass. Orcs are on the western side of the mountains, you say?” He angrily shook his head. “I bet my spear they went over the High Pass while we were gone. Ugh.” His giant hand curled into a fist. “They’re springing up like weeds—for every one we kill there’s five more hiding under the next rock.”
Pressed as they all were, there was little time for small talk. Exchanging swift farewells, Fordun and his Beornings began their bleak trek up the mountain path.
News of the Ford attack was particularly upsetting to Grimbeorn. “I tire of dealing with this,” the Carrock grumbled, his gait taking a decidedly bearish lumber. He loped ahead of the company as they reached the outermost fringes of Mirkwood, brow darkening while even darker thoughts flitted across his mind. The parties gave him wide berth, for none were so foolish as to pester an angered Grimbeorn.
When they entered the forest, Legolas could not ever recall a time he had been so happy to be among the trees. Stately oaks and towering elms opened their branches in welcome, remaining autumn leaves rustling soothing murmurs to the wearied parties. Far more leaves littered the forest floor, and they crunched pleasantly underfoot. The Elf closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The scent of bark, leaf, and earth was invigorating. It rushed through him like wine in the veins. Weeks of tension lifted and disappeared under the wide eaves.
Feeling himself surprisingly giddy—for no reason other than the fact he wasn’t in danger of being chased, buried, or shot at for the first time in days, Legolas began humming softly under his breath. The trees felt different than those of Thranduil’s realm, but it was still Mirkwood.
Calengaladh’s clear voice soon joined his, and the rest of the Mirkwood Elves followed suit. Even Mallos lifted his voice in song, offering Legolas a slight smile before tilting his head to the boughs overhead.
Calengaladh and Mallos had, of course, quietly taken their youngest brother aside at the first available opportunity. It had been a memorable discussion. Legolas adamantly refused to tell of the eastern scouting party’s woes. Only after a particularly persuasive threat from Calengaladh did he admit “the Dwarf” was responsible for his injury, but would go into no further detail. This led to an abridged—and rather biased—recount of the pond incident, followed by Gimli’s insult against the Mirkwood queen.
Calengaladh would have put an end to Gimli right then had Legolas not dove straight into the pipeweed disaster.
To his utter surprise, it was gentle Mallos—not Calengaladh—who promptly cuffed his ear, exclaiming, “You ought to thank the stars half of the mountain was not blown up with you!”
Calengaladh did his best to keep his cool demeanor intact, but in the end was reduced to choking fits when Legolas described how the Dwarves had run about howling with their beards aflame.
The fact that he, Orimhedil, and Glorfindel had reacted in a similar manner was conveniently forgotten.
The large company trekked past clover-filled bee pastures; through tall and ancient oaks, which caused the Elves and Woodsmen to murmur in appreciation. They bypassed a thick thorn hedge, which was impenetrable even to the keen eyes of the Elves. At last, Grimbeorn halted them in front of a creaky wooden gate. A wide track on the opposite side led to various low buildings, including a wooden house with two long wings.
There was a cheerful whinny as Grimbeorn unlatched the gate. Two sleek horses followed by a fat pony trotted towards the group. Grimbeorn smiled and called out to them before striding jauntily towards his house, not even pausing to cast a backwards glance at his companions.
The remaining company stood awkwardly at the gate, unsure of whether or not they ought to follow. Gimli drew his thick eyebrows together, wondering if it was his imagination or one of Grimbeorn’s horses was actually staring at him. The de-bearded Barin whimpered and pulled his makeshift mask a little tighter around his head as the two horses observed him curiously and laughed. Or, at least, it sounded as though they were laughing.
Legolas shot Calengaladh a questioning glance. His brother was staring after Grimbeorn, a slight frown gracing his fair features. Legolas knew Calengaladh thought the Carrock’s behavior somewhat rude, for he was beginning to hold a similar opinion. Was Grimbeorn inviting them to his home, or were they being asked to leave? There was certain protocol one must follow when in the presence of guests, and Grimbeorn was displaying the social tact of a rock.
Glóin solved the dilemma by hoisting his axe over one shoulder and marching after the Carrock. “Come Gimli, Barin.”
Gimli and Barin followed, leather jerkins and chain mail squeaking and clinking as they walked down the track. The faces of Legolas, Calengaladh, and Mallos all bore similar looks of disgust.
The Woodsmen came directly behind the Dwarves, though somewhat reluctantly.
Ten very perplexed and affronted Elves were left standing at the gate, horses milling impatiently underneath them. They could either invite themselves into Grimbeorn’s dwelling—which was extremely rude, or depart—which was also extremely rude if Grimbeorn indeed wished them to enter his house.
Calengaladh scowled and muttered something under his breath about mortals and lack of etiquette.
“Lord Glorfindel?” Legolas turned to the Imladris captain. “You are more experienced in the customs of mortals than we.”
Glorfindel rubbed his sore head, realizing the others viewed him as the outstanding authority figure in this situation. Even Calengaladh, who normally refused to relinquish power, was awaiting his decision. Thranduil had always been particularly strict in terms of proper etiquette, and Calengaladh was too well-bred to risk social faux pas.
“I believe,” the Elf lord slowly replied, “Grimbeorn intended us to follow him.”
Readjusting his quiver strap, Calengaladh gave a non-committal shrug and sprang from his steed. The rest dismounted as well, relieving their horses of any further duties. The fleet-footed animals happily trotted off to join the horses of Grimbeorn.
Grimbeorn had already set a fine meal upon the table when the Elves entered the western-most hall. Glóin and Grimbeorn, who appeared to be have bonded over the Dwarf’s acquaintance with Grimbeorn’s father Beorn, were jovially recounting some tale of a Great Goblin. The Dwarves and Woodsmen indulged their stomachs with nuts, jarred fruit, loaves of bread covered in honeyed butter and cream, and warm cakes. Judging from the cakes’ smell, and the numerous earthen pots of honey lining the shelves, Legolas supposed the cakes were of a honey flavoring as well. He sniffed appreciatively. It had been a while since his last decent meal.
Though not fond of closed spaces, Legolas found Grimbeorn’s home fairly comfortable. The entire building was constructed of wood, and a large oak trunk served well as a makeshift table. A large fire sizzled and popped in the center of the hall, its flames warding off the coming night’s chill. A large hole in the roof released excess smoke, though the ceiling was charred black nonetheless.
Glorfindel and Orimhedil gracefully took seats and helped themselves to loaves of bread and honey. The Mirkwood Elves reluctantly set aside their bows (both the Dwarves and Woodsmen having discarded their weapons), and joined the company. It was not unnoticed by Legolas that Calengaladh did not remove the dagger about his waist.
Gimli watched the Mirkwood Elves from out of the corner of his eye. They sat ramrod straight and silent, not even attempting to converse with those around them. ‘Arrogant tree coddlers,’ he thought in annoyance. Apparently Grimbeorn’s food was not up to their aristocratic tastes.
Mallos openly blanched when he realized the entire table was drinking from two water bowls. Disgusting. He would die of thirst before drinking from something that touched the lips of a Dwarf.
He closed his eyes when his stomach threatened to rebel at the sight of one of the Dwarves guzzling loudly, followed by a hearty belch. Elbereth only knew how much the creatures backwashed.
Legolas and Othon, both too polite to comment on the Dwarf’s lack of table manners, simply made quiet sounds of distress. Calengaladh looked positively revolted. When Ulyss, leader of the Woodsmen, offered him a drinking dish, the golden-haired prince handled it as though he had been passed an orc head.
Much was discussed around the roaring fire in Grimbeorn’s wide hall that night. It was agreed that a further alliance must be forged between the Woodsmen and Mirkwood Elves to combat the Enemy’s growing threat. The Beornings, led by Grimbeorn, would continue to keep the High Pass open at all costs. The Woodsmen also offered their aid.
The Dwarves lodged a complaint or two against the tolls they were charged when journeying through the High Pass to reach the Council of Rivendell, claiming, “at all costs” really just ought to be a figure of speech. All in all, talks went fairly well.
That was, until they discussed the next day’s plans.
The Woodsmen would head out, and Calengaladh promised an emissary from Thranduil would meet with them at an appointed spot. Barin and Glóin were eager to return to the Lonely Mountain. The Elves of Mirkwood wished to return to their halls as well.
Gimli suddenly found himself the odd Dwarf out.
There was not enough time for him to journey to the Lonely Mountain, and the Woodsmen encampments were also too far. Grimbeorn flatly refused to let him stay anywhere near the Carrock. “My father wasn’t particularly fond of company, and neither am I,” the large man said, though not unkindly. “You lot are my guests for the year. I’ll not have you leading any more orcs or Wargs onto my land.”
“Then where am I to go?” Gimli asked.
“We shall take the Elf-path through Mirkwood,” Glorfindel replied. “That way you will not have to separate from Barin and your father until we reach the Halls of Thranduil.”
Gimli looked somewhat skeptical. “And then what?”
“You may stay with the rest of us in King Thranduil’s palace.”
“He certainly may not,” Legolas snapped.
“I certainly will not,” Gimli replied in the same breath. Dealing with one son of Thranduil was bad enough. He had no intention of dealing with a whole palace full of the prissy fiends—especially the Elven-king himself.
“The returning party will remain together,” Glorfindel stated firmly. “And we would reside in the palace three days at most.”
Calengaladh lifted his chin and glared challengingly at Glorfindel. The captain of Imladris resisted the urge to groan. “Naugrim do not walk the Halls of King Thranduil, Lord Glorfindel. We are not Imladris.”
“I am not going to Thranduil’s palace,” Gimli loudly informed the group.
Legolas haughtily glared at him. “We did not invite you.”
“Silence, both of you,” Glorfindel ordered, one hand raised in warning.
“The Naugrim will not set foot within my father’s halls.” Calengaladh’s words rang with a note of finality, which Glorfindel promptly ignored.
“I shall personally watch over Master Gimli, Prince Calengaladh. I doubt your father’s realm too small to accommodate a single Dwarf.”
Calengaladh’s eyes flashed. Mallos placed a restraining hand on his brother’s forearm. “I am sure,” the dark-haired prince sweetly replied, nibbling the edge of a honey cake, “our guest would find the dungeons particularly spacious.”
At mention of the dungeons, Glóin bolted to his feet with amazing speed for an old Dwarf, and informed Mallos the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain would fell every tree in Mirkwood were Gimli even brought within sight of a cell.
“I dearly wish to see how my archers fare against an invading rabble of Dwarves,” came Calengaladh’s icy retort.
Barin leapt to his feet, overturning a drinking bowl in the process. “Hah! The steel of Dwarven axes could outlast your puny arrows any day.”
The archer Othon snorted in disdain. “Save your energies for the growth of a real beard, Stubling.”
Barin turned several shades of red before exploding. “A beard! Grow a beard? I had a perfectly nice beard until you imbecile princeling decided to burn it off!”
Legolas, who had been busy glaring silent threats of death unto Gimli, turned his wrath upon Barin. “For the last time, Dwarf—it was not I who burnt off your beard. But it is a pity your tongue was not burnt off as well!”
“I ought to have aimed that arrow at your head,” Gimli roared, pounding his fists on the table.
“Yes,” snarled Legolas, “And in doing so mayhap you would have instead shot the Warg.”
Glorfindel propped his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. Shouting broke out on either side of him like a thunderstorm. He had hoped to keep what occurred during their mission between scouting party members. Obviously, this was no longer an option.
He looked bleakly to the Woodsmen, who were attempting to exit Grimbeorn’s dwelling as discreetly—and swiftly—as possible. Grimbeorn, on the other hand, was leaning back in his chair sipping a cup of tea.
‘Do something,’ Glorfindel silently mouthed. ‘Please!’
Grimbeorn gave him a curt nod and set down his cup.
His roar shook the house to its very rafters. The ensuing silence was deafening.
Glorfindel sighed in relief. He was a veteran of many campaigns; none of them had been this ridiculous. “Now, as I was saying—“
”The Dwarves may follow us along the Elf-path,” Mallos interrupted, jaw tightening in disdain, “but your Dwarf shall journey on and stay in one of the outer settlements of Lake-town.”
Glorfindel slowly nodded, deciding not to point out Gimli was not ‘his’ Dwarf. Thranduil had the habit of dropping subtle insults as well; Glorfindel had witnessed Elrond deal with the Elven-king far too many times to allow himself be baited. “I believe that is fair enough. What say you, Gimli?”
Gimli grunted. He was positive he had seen a dagger in Calengaladh’s hands only moments earlier. That the Elf was capable of concealing a weapon so quickly unnerved him. “I have no desire to go to the Elven-king’s halls. I will be more than happy to reside elsewhere.”
“Good,” said Glorfindel. “Then it is settled.”
Grimbeorn, who had resumed drinking his tea, emptied the cup and smacked his lips. “I’ll lend you three ponies to hasten the journey through Mirkwood.”
Barin was not particularly fond of ponies. Neither was Gimli for that matter. Ponies were occasionally used to pull carts, but rarely did the Dwarves actually ride them.
“The forest is still dangerous,” said Grimbeorn. “Even magic of the good Wood-Elves can’t hold off all creatures.”
“Yes,” said Calengaladh with ill-concealed contempt, “it would be a shame if they were picked off by a spider.”
“Or an archer,” Legolas muttered.
Gimli lay quietly upon his blanket, Barin and Glóin snoring heartily on either side of him. He watched the three Elves sitting across the fire from beneath hooded eyelids. They were busy constructing new arrows, talking so softly he could not hear them.
Gimli had never seen Elves make arrows, and found it to be an odd undertaking indeed. They would take a shaft, make a single minute shaving with a knife, and then hold the shaft eye-level. The Elf would then rotate the shaft, frowning, and take one or two more tiny shreds from the stick. This continued for some time. Gimli highly doubted the removal of five splinters made much difference in the arrow, but the Elves seemed to think so.
The Elf would then select three feathers to fletch the shaft with. These were carefully smoothed—several times over—and, Gimli noted with disgust, color coordinated.
Several minutes were spent placing the feathers in exactly the right position. Curiously enough, Gimli couldn’t tell any difference from the initial placement of the feathers to the last adjustment. The feathers were then secured to the shaft with some sort of resin coating. The resin was always brushed on the same number of times, in the same direction, at the same place.
Then came the arrowhead. It had to be perfectly shaped, perfectly sharpened, perfectly placed, and perfectly bound with sinew. After this was completed, the Elf would carve runes along the shaft. As far as Gimli was concerned, this completely defeated the purpose of wasting so much time whittling it in the first place.
He blinked as his eyes began to close. Were all Elves this neurotic, or was it just the sons of Thranduil? Deciding he really didn’t care, the Dwarf rolled over and allowed his snoring kin and the crackling fire to lull him asleep.
Legolas frowned as he examined the arrow shaft. He pulled out his knife and painstakingly shaved off a thin sliver. “Mallos, have you any dark green feathers? I seem to be one short.”
“Why not use the lighter green?” Mallos squinted as he readjusted his feathers.
“I already have. And I cannot fletch an arrow with two light and one dark. The light feather must be on the top, and flanked by two dark.”
“Check my pack, *Ant es Sauron,” said Calengaladh.
Legolas reached for the pack, scowling. “Please stop calling me that.”
Calengaladh merely smiled and began to twirl an arrow shaft between slender fingers.
“Why do you look at me so?” Thranduil’s youngest son was immediately alarmed. Calengaladh’s grin suggested he knew something Legolas didn’t. Such instances rarely played out to the youngest prince’s favor.
Mallos raised a dark eyebrow at the two.
“I again wish to know how you received that arrow wound.”
Legolas flushed crimson to the very tips of his ears. “Lord Glorfindel said we were to no longer speak of it.”
Calengaladh snorted. “And since when are you under command of Glorfindel?”
“Calengaladh.” Mallos gave his brother a gentle shove of warning. “If Legolas does not wish to speak of his embarrassment, then let it pass.” His grey eyes twinkled mischievously. “Besides, I am sure we shall render him sufficiently drunk at the Winter Solstice Festival to coax the story from him.”
“I do not get drunk,” Legolas hotly declared. “Only when you two set about to make me.” Much to his chagrin, Mallos and Calengaladh dissolved into helpless fits of smothered laughter. He felt his face burn an even deeper shade of red.
“You are far too uptight with the maidens for your own good,” Mallos managed between snickers. “And anyways, it is Lhûn, not Calengaladh and I, who ought to be held responsible for last year. Though we were all of the opinion it was for the best.”
“Indeed.” Calengaladh brushed tiny wood shavings from his tunic front. “And your ‘display of bravado’ certainly attracted a few choice maidens that eve…” He grinned. “Not to mention the rest of the kingdom.”
Legolas glared at them both, hoping to look even remotely like an angered Thranduil. Othon, who was supposedly sleeping, giggled.
“Then it is well I shall not be present for this year’s festival.”
The heads of Mallos and Calengaladh immediately snapped up.
“And where is it you intend to be?” Calengaladh asked.
Legolas toyed with the finished arrow in his hand. “Lord Elrond has named me one of nine walkers. We shall accompany the hobbit Ringbearer…” He trailed off uncomfortably. His two brothers continued to stare dumbly. Mallos appeared positively stricken.
It suddenly occurred to Legolas that, in all likelihood, the news would not go over well with Thranduil.
* * *
The Rangers busied themselves licking their wounds and plotting any and all means of rescuing Boromir. It did not help matters that nobody knew where Boromir was. However, the Dúnedain were a resourceful bunch, and now they drew from the very dregs of their wisdom and cunning.
“You certainly cannot disguise yourself as a woman with that nose.” Halbarad brought up the dress for the umpteenth time. He was convinced it would have worked, and made sure the others were aware of it.
Rowgond, plumb-sized nose the color of a molted tomato, responded with a rather rude gesture.
Luckily, the offensive signal went unnoticed by Halbarad, who was far too busy staring at Malbeorn. A huge piece of rotten cabbage was plastered to the old Ranger’s forehead. Malbeorn had done nothing but seethe for the past few hours—not even bothering to clean himself.
Halbarad chewed on his bottom lip. He was itching to pick the leaf off. Surely it must be causing the grizzled man some annoyance. It was practically driving him mad.
“Aragorn looks like an orc,” he continued, eyes still on the rotted cabbage, “and Malbeorn and I would be smelled before we even reached the main road.”
His annoyance at the leaf finally won over. Reaching tentatively towards Malbeorn, he made move to pluck the cabbage from the man’s forehead. Malbeorn growled and slapped Halbarad’s hand, wiping the leaf away with his own. Halbarad shook his stinging hand and scowled, though somewhat thankful Malbeorn hadn’t bitten it off.
Aragorn, who had been standing with his arms outstretched like a scarecrow while the tar dried, tottered over to his saddle pack and grabbed his water skin. He was sticking to everything. His clothes were unbearably stiff. And Halbarad was right—he did resemble an orc. Dried blackened pitch covered his entire body. His hair stuck out at odd angles, and clumps of unmixed goo distorted his features.
He dumped water over his blackened hands yet again, knowing full well the tar wouldn’t wash away. His skin felt burned and raw. He gritted his teeth and futilely scrubbed his hands. “We must do something.”
“Really?” asked Halbarad, his voice thick with sarcasm. “Perhaps we could simply ask the kindly villagers to hand him over.”
“Are you volunteering, my friend?” Aragorn somehow managed to make “friend” sound insulting. He flexed his tar-covered fingers and groaned in disgust.
“Whud if we just breedend he dever eggsisted?”
Aragorn sighed. “Rowgond, I think it may be a bit difficult to convince everyone else there never was a Boromir.”
“Perhaps not.” Halbarad smirked. “After all, he has disappeared…”
“Doh,” said Rowgond through his blocked nose. “He is righd dere.”
Following Rowgond’s arm, the Rangers were shocked to see the son of Denethor casually riding towards their encampment.
“Well met, Dúnedain.” Boromir cheerfully dismounted the nag, looking for all the world as though he had just returned from a leisurely ride. His wounds had been tended to—both those he had actually suffered and those he had invented. (Mysian had not objected in the least.)
“Great seasons Aragorn! What has happened to you all?” He wrinkled his nose as he caught a whiff of Halbarad.
The four Rangers stood stock-still, mouths agape. Even Malbeorn was caught off guard.
The dumbstruck expression on Aragorn’s face made him appear even more orc-like. “Boromir? How—?”
Boromir grinned. Aragorn thought the man looked decidedly smug. Evidently, Halbarad was of the same opinion. The lean Ranger crossed his arms over his chest and scowled at the man of Gondor. They had just spent the better part of the week fighting off a whole town of Sauron protégés for Boromir’s sake, and he had the audacity not only to free himself, but to return in better condition than any of them as well.
Boromir, far too pleased with himself and thoughts of a certain bar maiden, merely continued grinning. A cry of delight escaped his lips when he noticed his horse approaching cautiously from the trees. Releasing the nag with a smart slap on the rump, he strode over to the stallion. His jaunty whistle nearly set all four Rangers upon him then and there.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
Aragorn allowed Halbarad and Rowgond to throw only a few well-placed acorns at the man. One rock found its way into the fray, though Halbarad innocently claimed he mistook it for a nut.
* * *
The sun had already begun to slip into the west when the company parted ways. Malbeorn, Rowgond, and Halbarad were to continue westward, veering slightly to the south to join their fellow Rangers in Tharbad. Boromir and Aragorn were to turn back to Rivendell.
Rowgond shivered in the cold damp wind and pulled his cloak tighter around his shoulders. He watched the two men, dark figures against the smoky shadows of evening, as they receded into the distance. “Strange,” the young Ranger murmured, a perplexed look gracing his open features. “I do nod thing I shall eber see himb again.”
“Never see whom again?” Halbarad paused and glanced up from the buckle he was tugging at.
Rowgond remained thoughtfully silent for a moment. “Boromir.” He shrugged, shaking his head and emitting a dismissive laugh. “Comb. I subose we shud be on our way dow.”
Malbeorn, silent as ever, paused at the edge of the grove. There was a momentary flicker of sadness in the grey eyes, fleeting as the last orange rays of sunset.
“Farewell, Boromir son of Denethor. May your soul know peace and honor.” His softly spoken words were swallowed by the cold wind and shivering leaves.
He sighed. This was the first farewell. There would be many more to follow.
“Malbeorn! Come, we have tarried long enough!”
The grizzled Ranger slowly stirred at Halbarad’s call. The sun slid beneath the horizon, and darkness blanketed the land.
The old Ranger shivered, suddenly feeling the sun would not truly rise again for a very long time.
“Ant es Sauron”- Gift of Sauron. Kudos to erunyauve for the translation!
A round of applause to Thundera Tiger, generous soul she is, who has opened her home to our beleaguered Dwarves: Gimli and Glóin.
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.