2. Chapter II
In which shelter is found, dinner eaten and a tale or two told*******
It was less than an hour later than the rain began to fall. Although it was only mid-afternoon the sky had turned almost black and the wind was now so strong Gimli doubted he would hear Legolas if he spoke. Gimli could now barely see more than a few feet ahead of the horse’s nose and he wondered at how Legolas expected to find them shelter in this, for as yet they had seen nothing. Arod was clearly unhappy with the situation, and for once Gimli fervently agreed with his opinion and he hoped that something would be found soon for he knew it was dangerous for them to be out as the lightning flashed and the ground turned into a quagmire beneath their horse.
Gimli sighed. The last time he had felt this wet had been at Helm’s Deep but he had not felt this cold since the Fellowship’s doomed attempt to pass over Caradhras. Unknown to him Legolas was contemplating much the same thoughts as he strained his eyes trying to peer through the dark and now driving rain. The Fellowship’s quest had been the first time he had travelled with any mortal but Aragorn and certainly the first time he had travelled over snow with them. He had not realised at the time just how near to death his companions had been, the temperature drop for him had been something to note only in passing, but now his senses registered it carefully, knowing how badly it would affect Gimli, especially considering that they were now soaked through. The wound on his arm had subsided to a dull ache, the cold at least seemed to be numbing the pain.
He stiffened slightly as something caught his eye and turned to concentrate more fully on whatever his eyes had spied. Gimli noted his movement, "What do you see?" he bellowed, managing to make his voice carry over the rain and wind, a fact that Legolas was actually rather impressed with.
He made no response, deciding that he did not want to even attempt to make his voice reach that kind of volume but simply spurred their mount towards what he believed was a light, just visible in the gloom. As they got nearer he could see that he had been right. There was a faint glow, coming from the shuttered windows of a small home. A barn stood nearby and Legolas uttered a fervent prayer of relief, no one would turn away strangers seeking shelter in this weather.
They were almost at the door before Gimli too could see the shelter that they had found, but when he did he let out a grunt of satisfaction. At this moment the idea of a fire seemed like pure bliss to the Dwarf. They reached the door and quickly dismounted, fortunately the small house managed to create a shelter from the wind and they could finally hear themselves speak. Legolas stayed near their horse, his cloak covering his face, although he could just make out the sounds of voices that ceased when Gimli went and banged on the door. Thankfully the door was soon unbolted and opened slightly. A man peered through the crack, wisely cautious of strangers out in this weather, although his eyes widened in surprise as he caught sight of the dwarf.
"It’s evil weather to be travelling in", the man remarked, trying to get a clearer view of the strangers who had arrived at his door.
"That it most certainly is", Gimli agreed whole-heartedly. "My companion and I are travelling and were caught without shelter. We were hoping you could provide ourselves and our horse with somewhere dry until the storm passes. We will, of course, pay for your trouble, Sir", Gimli added to reassure the man of their good character.
"The horse can stay in the barn", the man decided, opening the door more fully, while grabbing his own cloak. "But you and your friend can share our fire". The man was clearly still surprised that a dwarf had appeared at his door, let alone a dwarf with a horse, and then the wind blew Legolas’ hood away and the man gaped openly as he finally caught sight of the dwarf’s companion, "You… You’re an elf!" He stammered.
Legolas simply nodded with a small smile, he had grown used to this reaction from the men in Minas Tirith, although he neither enjoyed the attention nor felt it truly warranted. Then a woman appeared behind the man, "Gressin, what are you doing keeping folks out in this weather?" She broke off as well when she caught sight of the visitors, but to her credit recovered quickly, "Well don’t just stand there. Get that horse into the barn, while these poor folks come in and get dry".
She pushed the man towards them, which spurred the man into motion. He smiled and shook his head at the woman’s actions and then stepped outside and made to take the reins of the horse from Legolas. Arod did not accept this and pranced away, until Legolas snapped in his ear, "Arod, Daro i!" He stilled slightly but kept backing away from the now very nervous-looking man. Legolas laughed and called out, "Gimli, go on inside. Arod expects me to make sure he’s comfortable. Please lead the way, Sir", Legolas added to the man, who simply nodded, clearly still somewhat overawed.
They led the horse towards the barn while Gimli turned back to the house and sighed as he strode out of the rain and into the blessed warmth. He struggled to remove his dripping cloak and murmured his thanks to the woman who immediately took it off him. "Go on and warm yourself up", she said firmly, a command Gimli decided it would be easiest to obey. He headed straight for the fire not realising he had other company until he heard gasps and saw three children staring at him.
Meanwhile, Legolas followed the man and led Arod into the barn. There, the family’s own horse was stabled, whom Arod seemed to regard with a measure of condescension before turning to Legolas and waiting for him to remove the packs and provide him with some food and water. While Legolas quickly removed the packs and brushed the animal down the man brought a blanket and set out some food and water for the horse. Legolas nodded his thanks, deciding to allow the man time to get over his shock.
Soon they were back in the house and as Legolas removed his cloak he did not bother to hide his smile as he saw Gimli surrounded by three children, all clearly fascinated by the Dwarf. The woman, presumably their mother, was failing in her attempt to shoo them away.
But then the children caught sight of him and silence fell as the children stared in amazement at the golden-haired Elf. The woman threw up her hands, "Honestly! Have the lot of you forgotten all your manners? Stop staring and let these poor folks come in and get dry". Her admonishment finally met with a measure of success as the children dropped their eyes.
"We are most grateful for your hospitality, my Lady"; Legolas bowed and smiled at the woman. "I am Legolas, an Elf of Ithilien, and my companion is Gimli, son of Glóin". Gimli shook his head at the Elf’s introduction. Legolas rarely made note of his heritage, indeed he most often did all he could to hide it but the Elf had once told him that the Race of Men were generally uncomfortable enough as it was around the Eldar Race, his status as a prince would only further that.
This ploy seemed to work for the family began to relax. "I am Gressin"; the man finally introduced himself. "This is my wife Rosa, my sons Bain and Harrid and the little one is my daughter, Morag".
"It is good to meet you", Gimli said, "we had begun to despair of finding shelter". He was beginning to feel rather cheerful as they took places near the fire and he finally started to feel warm.
"I’m surprised you found us at all, we are not exactly on the Forest Road. Have you been travelling long?" Gressin asked, clearly curious as to what an elf and a dwarf were doing together.
Gimli contemplated what to say. He doubted the full tale of their role in the destruction of Sauron had reached these parts as yet and this reminded him that his companion had been hurt earlier that day and was clearly attempting to hide the injury. "We have indeed, but this reminds me, Legolas, I want to have another look at your arm. The bandage will need changing."
"You’re injured?" Rosa asked with concern, at the same time as her eldest son exclaimed, "You were in a battle?"
Legolas directed a glare towards the Dwarf. "It is fine Gimli".
"Please, let me have a look at it", offered the woman, "I know something about treating a wound, I’ve had plenty of experience with my boys!"
Gimli returned the Elf’s glare with one of his own. He had at first thought this vexing need to conceal any injury, no matter how serious, a characteristic of just Aragorn, Boromir and Legolas, but the further they had travelled he had seen that nearly all men and elves shared this trait. Why could they not act with common sense, like dwarves? "The bandage will be soaked through and most certainly needs changing. Let the good lady have a look at it. And yes", Gimli added to the boy, "we met a few orcs today".
"There is an orc group around?" Gressin asked, the worry clear in his voice.
"We met a group of seventeen before we crossed the River Running at the ford", Gimli replied, drawing the attention away from the Elf as the boys gasped in astonishment.
"You fought seventeen orcs?" questioned the younger, Harrid if Gimli remembered correctly.
"We did. Come sit down and I will tell you the tale", the children were quick to obey and the man joined them.
As Gimli spun a rather edited story of the events earlier that day, Legolas sat down on the bench of the table and, once the children’s attention was fully on Gimli, allowed the woman to examine the cut on his arm. As Gimli had suspected the bandage had been soaked through by the storm and the cut itself was still oozing blood. The woman was gentle and careful and she cleaned and re-bandaged the wound. Legolas looked at her as she worked; there was something about her that teased a memory at the back of his mind. Something vaguely familiar… He dropped his gaze though when he realised he was making her uncomfortable.
"Thank you", he said quietly as she finished. "You have been most kind to us".
Rosa smiled at that, "We don’t get strangers often so it’s no trouble. Besides, I think it is we who owe you thanks. If that group of orcs had come this way…" she trailed off, unwilling to continue that thought. "I don’t know many who’d take on that number."
"Fighting overwhelming odds in hopeless situations has become something of a habit of ours lately", Legolas said dryly. "By comparison seventeen mere orcs seemed almost restful. Have you heard of other orcs around here?"
"No, not for months. There is still a militia in Lake-town, they were needed as there were orc groups and men from the east around after the Battle of Dale and the Battles in Mirkwood, but we haven’t heard of any sightings for a while. Well until today, I suppose". The woman shook her head, "But I must get on and cook supper. Your friend can only distract my brood for so long".
"He has plenty of stories to tell, but I’d best make sure he tells them faithfully. Unless you need my aid?"
"No, Master Elf, please, supper will not be long, although I will appreciate the chance to cook dinner in peace!"
Legolas laughed at that and went over to join Gimli. He was just in time to hear Gimli tell the children how he had rescued the Elf from the orcs that had surrounded him. Gimli looked up as he finished his tale. From the look in Legolas’ eyes he could expect some retribution for suggesting that he had ‘rescued’ the Elf, even though this was the truth no matter how Legolas tried to obscure the facts. The two boys were excited, while Gressin had a grateful look in his eyes. He knew, even if his boys did not, how much pain those orcs could have brought to his family. The little girl, Morag, on the other hand, had clearly not been listening and did not even seem to have realised that he had finished his tale, as she was too busy staring at the Elf.
Gimli sighed to himself. His companion seemed to have this effect on most women of the Race of Men, although it was most pronounced in those not yet reached maturity. And the Elf seemed unaware for the most part of just what kind of effect he was having, seeming to equate all the stares as just ones of surprise at seeing an elf. It made Gimli long to get back to his home as see some dwarven women again. They at least would not be infatuated with the Elf. He hoped.
The boys began begging for another story and this time it was Legolas who answered them. "I think it is my turn to tell a story", he smiled as they immediately fell silent and looked at him expectantly. He turned a mischievous smile on Gimli, who realised that as he expected the Elf was planning retribution.
"I shall tell you a story about another battle we fought on our journey here. We had just travelled from the great Kingdom of Rohan and entered the magnificent Fangorn Forest. We spent many days under its eaves, until even my dwarven friend, had to accept its splendour." He spared another impish glance for Gimli, who fought the urge to drop his head in his hands. By Aulë he did not want this story told, he had been trying hard to forget those wargs. But no miracle came to stop the tale.
Legolas described, with no small amount of malicious glee, Gimli thought to himself, how they had been about to leave the forest when they had been attacked by wargs. How ‘the clumsy dwarf’ had ignored his friend’s warnings and ended up half-buried under the body of one of the wargs, which his companion had shot. How his ‘gracious elven friend’ had rescued him by asking the trees to look after the dwarf, while he, himself, had killed ALL the wargs. And how afterwards the dwarf had had to thank the trees. Profusely.
It had not been pleasant at the time and the re-telling made no improvement. Besides Gimli blamed nearly all his misfortune that day on the dratted Elf. ‘Still’, he mused to himself, ‘ I shall not disabuse these children of their notion that elves are magnificent heroes. And they were pleased enough to hear of the feats of a dwarf in my rescue of the Elf earlier. No I shall leave them their dreams, I know the truth and I’m sure I can find my own measure of embarrassment for the Elf in return, soon enough’. This in mind he listened to the tale and was grateful that the warmth of the room could be blamed for the blush creeping up his face.
Fortunately he was spared any questions from the children, for as Legolas finished the story, Rosa spoke up, "Thank our guests for their stories, children and come and sit up, dinner is ready". The children were quick to do as they were bid and hastened to the table.
Gressin smiled at them with pride in his eyes before turning to the visitors. "Please come and sit. We’ve certainly made you work for your supper tonight!"
Laughing they joined the family at the table. The fare was simple but delicious, a thick stew, with hunks of fresh bread. The pair had certainly eaten worse on their travels and the company was good, Gressin and Rosa, clearly adored their children and the sounds of a normal, happy family punctuated the meal.
Afterwards the boys began to beg for another story, but their parents hushed them, telling them it was time they gave their visitors a rest. So the boys turned their attentions on their parents. But it was the little girl who finally spoke up, her attention still fixed on Legolas, "I know what story you should tell, Mama", she announced, loudly. "You should tell us the ‘Story of the Lost Little Elf’!"*******
Daro i - ‘Stop that!’
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.