8. Fight or... Fight
“Fëa” is the elvish word for “soul.” Elves believed Dwarves did not have one and simply dissolved back into the earth when they died.
Ah, and a slight warning to the squeamish. I toned Merry’s injuries down as best I could.
An evening campfire crackled merrily beneath the leafy boughs of the trees. If one listened carefully, the rushing waters of the Bruinen could be heard just up ahead.
Legolas stoked the fire half-heartedly and tried to bury his swiftly rising irritation. The Dwarf had been staring at him since he had first sat down by the fire. The detestable creature appeared to be waiting for something.
Gimli watched the Elf slowly poke at the burning logs and felt indignation sizzling within. The Elf had not even bothered to give him a second glance. ‘He is purposely ignoring me,’ thought the Dwarf angrily, ‘and has so far refused to offer an apology to my father—which is long overdue.’
In truth, Legolas was unaware that Gimli was the son of Glóin. While the Elf had attended Council, for all he knew Barin might as well have been Gimli. He still couldn’t distinguish between the two. Of course, Legolas had not exactly tried to do so. Thranduil had stressed to him on numerous occasions that one Dwarf was the same as them all: stunted brutes who would sell their own children if they thought it would bring them one more piece of mithril or precious gem. “They would bargain with their Fëar,” Thranduil had said, “but it is well known they posses no such thing.”
Legolas found himself wondering how one could go on existing without a soul. ‘What miserable creatures their kind must be,’ he thought. ‘I almost pity them.’
The uncomfortable silence stretched longer. The remaining members of the group were either foraging, on watch, or sleeping, ensuring that the pair would not be interrupted for quite some time. Gimli watched as firelight gleamed in the Elf’s hair and eyes. It cast unnatural shadows along his face, throwing dark circles under his eyes and causing his cheeks to appear sunken.
‘Not so pretty now,’ thought Gimli with smug satisfaction. Of course, not that it mattered to him whether the Elf was pretty or not.
Legolas continued to stare at the fire. ‘I wonder what the foul creature wants. Is it customary for the Dwarven Race to gawk rudely at all they see?’ He grinned inwardly as the Dwarf began fidgeting. ‘Poor fool, do you grow tired of this contest?’ Legolas could go on as such all night.
The son of Thranduil frowned when he suddenly realized what he was doing. ‘Why are you engaging in such petty behavior?’ one side of his mind began chiding. ‘Stop this foolishness immediately!’ The voice was quickly drowned out by a more stubborn one, which promptly shouted, ‘You would give victory to a lower creature? And you call yourself an Elf! Shame on you, son of Thranduil! Shame on you!’
Legolas squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head viciously. The last thing he needed was an argument between the voices in his head. His conscience continued warring back and forth until he finally decided to go with the louder and more pushy of the two. ‘I may be childish,’ he concluded, ‘but I am an Elf. The day a lower creature bests me in any competition is the day I shall grow a Dwarven beard.’
Glorfindel watched the two below from his perch high atop an Elm. Legolas and Gimli appeared to be in some sort of duel of silence. Struck by the immensely idiotic behavior of the two, Glorfindel could not help but be entertained. ‘I have not known Gimli for a great while, but I bet Legolas shall win this one,’ he thought.
Never one to stay silent for very long, Gimli was finding it most difficult to do so now. He would not, could not, let the Elf win.
The minutes crawled by agonizingly. Finally, Gimli could take no more. “I thought the Elves were fond of song and speech. Have you swallowed your tongue?”
The Elf cast a piercing gaze upon the Dwarf. Gimli swore he saw the thing smirk.
“Nay,” Legolas answered. “You seemed to enjoy wallowing in the silence and I had no mind to break it.”
“I was not ‘wallowing in the silence,’ Elf.”
“I would argue otherwise.”
Gimli grunted angrily and began rifling through his pack in search of his pipe. He had the distinct feeling the Elf would win a war of words as well. Settling back, he lit the pipe and drew a long breath. Smoking was much more preferable to arguing with an arrogant Elf. Drawing another puff, he allowed the tingling, warm sensation of tobacco to spread throughout his body.
Legolas curled his lip in disdain. The creature was smoking—in an Elvish forest.
“Must you engage in such disgusting habits whilst beneath our trees?”
Gimli raised his brows in surprise. He had not expected the Elf to pursue any form of communication. Pausing to look at the Elf, he released an extremely large puff of smoke directly towards the tree leaves. “I find it relaxing,” he answered, pleased he had struck a nerve.
Legolas could almost hear the trees cough and see the leaves withering. “You resemble a dragon with all the billows pouring from your mouth, and it smells twice as bad,” he snapped, feeling the day’s long ride and the temper he had inherited from his father get the better of him. “Perhaps you have more in common than the love of smoke.”
Gimli regarded the young Elf suspiciously. He was thoroughly enjoying the fact that he had ruffled the little prince’s feathers, yet something about the last comment raised his hackles. “If you have something to say, Elf, I would advise you to spit it out.”
Legolas’s eyes glinted as he narrowed and pinned them on the Dwarf. “It is widely known that Sauron, or shall I call him ‘Aulëndil,’ was favored by Aulë. One must wonder where the loyalties of the Dwarves lie.”
“You imply we are among the minions of Sauron?” spat the Dwarf, his knuckles white as he gripped his pipe in anger.
Legolas immediately regretted his slip of tongue. He really ought to have more control over himself than that, and he knew it. Besides, a creature without a Fëa was probably not the smartest choice of beasts to anger.
Eyes still locked with his Dwarven counterpart, Legolas shrugged nonchalantly. “I merely state the obvious.” He silently cursed himself for ending up in such a predicament. The Dwarf was furious, and Legolas knew his continued baiting was not helping matters. Perhaps he was far too prideful for his own good…
“Then while we are pointing fingers, let us not forget your people,” Gimli growled, watching the Elf stiffen. “Much is said of the Morquendi’s allegiance, and we all know of your father’s—“
“Enough!” Glorfindel jumped from the tree and landed beside the fire. “Legolas, relieve Rithol of her watch. Gimli, follow the lead of Barin and take to your bed. Now.” The Elf lord’s voice rang with steel and left no room for protest.
Legolas took several deep breaths to cool his boiling temper, which had escalated alarmingly at “we all know of your father’s”, and with a final scathing glance at the Dwarf, turned and walked into the trees.
“Watch out for falling rocks, Elf.” Legolas heard the Dwarf’s warning follow him as he stalked into the forest. Only after he had had taken over Rithol’s post did he realize that only a handful knew his attacker had used a rock as the weapon of choice. Gimli was not of this handful.
* * *
Merry was induced from his shivering stupor by the increased activity of the birds overhead. The wind whistling through the airy caverns of the cave no longer held its previous slap of wetness, and he supposed the rain had ceased. His teeth chattered uncontrollably, contributing unmercifully to his already-pounding headache. It was impossible to keep warm while lying on stone in damp clothing.
The hobbit curled into himself and shut his eyes. Somehow, in the confines of his frozen and muddled brain, Merry decided he would go no further. ‘No more. No more,’ he repeated silently. He could think of nothing else save that the crebain would never succeed in moving him from this spot. Merry attempted to ball his fists resolutely, then smothered a whimper of pain when they refused to do so. Stomach churning at what he might find, the hobbit reluctantly looked down.
He gulped quickly and averted his eyes. During their attempt to force him to release Pippin, the crebain had focused primarily on Merry’s hands. They had done their work well: Merry’s hands were blue and swollen. Torn and perforated, they resembled anything but the gentle hands of hobbits.
‘At least I am too cold and numbed to feel them,’ he thought in an uncharacteristic moment of black humor.
The raven-feathered beasts began fluttering down to the stone floor in preparation to resume their dark journey. Merry heard Frodo and Sam moan as they were roughly lifted into the air. As far as he could tell Pippin was still unconscious.
Before he could protest, Merry felt himself raised from the ground and whisked out of the cave. Trees covered the jagged, mountainous slope below him and wisps of misty cloud appeared to be ensnared in their branches. He could not deal with this again. Something inside of him snapped.
Bellowing in anger, the young hobbit began kicking and twisting with all his might. “Let me go!” he screamed, feeling crebain talons grip him tighter.
Despite their best efforts, the birds could not control the mad hobbit. Merry was past any form of punishment they could deliver—he’d had enough and would take no more.
Frodo and Sam watched in horror as the crebain crowed in anger and suddenly released Merry from their grasp. Arms pin-wheeling in desperate attempt to regain balance on the ground that wasn’t there, Merry plummeted earthward with a terror-stricken cry.
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.