4. Chapter IV
In which certain revelations are made, questions asked and a conclusion found.*******
The woman smiled softly as she came to the end of her tale. "As I said, it is just a children’s tale", she said again.
"But Mama, you showed me the hair-clip!" Morag protested her mother’s words indignantly.
Legolas started slightly at this piece of information. The look in his eyes suggested he was lost in thought, ‘or rather lost in time’, Gimli thought to himself. Gimli had been watching his friend’s reactions closely during the tale and, although the family would not have noticed, Gimli had seem the tenseness in his friend’s posture, the slight twitch of his hands, that told Gimli that this was no fairy tale. Gimli was sure that the star of this tale was his friend but he also suspected that a lot more had been left unsaid.
No reason had been given for why the child had been lost nor why the elves had not been able to find the child themselves. And most worrying of all, no mention of Legolas’ mother. And until he had answers to these question he would refrain from teasing the Elf, however much potential there was in the story for that. But maybe in a few years time, when Aragorn and Arwen or Faramir and Eowyn had had children and they wanted a story to send them to bed…
But now was neither the time nor place for such questioning. The adults were herding their children off to bed, telling them that the hour had grown late and Legolas and Gimli remained in a contemplative silence in front of the dying fire.
At length Rosa re-entered the room, bringing them blankets, which they could use to make a bed. Gimli rose to help her and the two of them turned at Legolas’ voice. "Your daughter said that you still have the hair-clip?" Gimli took note of the hidden strain in the Elf’s voice.
Rosa seemed surprised at the question, "Well, I suppose so. I mean, my mother told me it was when she told me the tale, but I’ve always thought it was just a family heirloom".
"May I see it?" There was an odd intensity to Legolas’ voice.
She nodded uncertainly and slipped out of the room while Gimli eyed his friend with some concern. Noting his gaze, Legolas attempted to smile, "This story has given me much to think about, Gimli. I will tell you the rest, though, I give you my word".
Gimli nodded, content for now to wait after having extracted that promise and then turned as Rosa came towards them, bearing a small cloth bag. Legolas took the bag and with the utmost care withdrew its contents. The clip was small, but beautifully wrought, although the silver had faded. The clip appeared to be a cluster of leaves and Gimli knew much work must have gone into making it. It was no family heirloom, or at least not the heirloom of a poor family of Men. He watched as Legolas turned it over in his fingers, smiling wistfully.
"My mother gave me these", he said and seemed almost surprised that he had spoken the words aloud. "I still have the other, safe at home". He looked at Rosa intently, "That you’ve remembered this story so long", he shook his head in amazement. "You do me great honour, my Lady", he finished as he slowly returned the clip to her.
Rosa seemed utterly speechless, staring from the clip in her hand to the Elf in front of her. "The Little Elf was you?" she finally managed to say, her voice no more than an awed whisper. "But the name?"
"It was". Legolas replied. "’Ion nín’", he pronounced carefully, "is a good enough name, it means ‘my son’ in our tongue", he explained.
Rosa finally found her voice, "But I’m sure… You are not offended? I mean there must be much more to the tale that has been lost?"
Legolas considered her and smiled gently, "no, Rosa, I am not offended. And the tale, as you told it, is enough. You remember near as much as I", he paused for a moment and decided to continue, "You have much in common with your ancestor, Rosa. I wondered why you seemed so familiar to me". He hesitated once more and then spoke again, "Your daughter will inherit this story?"
The question confused Gimli for a moment, but Rosa seemed to almost instinctively understand. "She will", she said softly. "This story has always passed from mother to daughter in my family and I will make sure it always will". The woman hesitated for a moment, "Thank you for telling me".
"It is I who must thank you". Legolas said simply and turned away.
Gimli too thanked the woman, who was still obviously in shock at the revelation she had just heard, and made sure she headed off to her bed. Gimli took one look at the Elf, standing at the shuttered window, seemingly listening to the sounds of the storm as it continued to rage outside and decided that for now his friend needed his silence. He has promised to speak and Gimli would wait. He lay down on the pile of blankets and quickly drifted to sleep.
The next morning came quickly and when Gimli rose he was glad to see that the storm had ended and gentle sunshine was just beginning to light up the house. He saw Legolas, standing still, gazing out the now un-shuttered window and wondered if his friends had walked in his strange dreams at all that night.
Legolas turned at the sounds of his friend getting to his feet. The tension last night’s story had brought him had faded somewhat and he flashed a bright smile at his friend, "Good morning, Master Dwarf", he said cheerfully, "I had wondered if you would wake at all ere the day had completely gone!"
"The presence of a dwarf is worth waiting for!" Gimli managed to retort as he tried hard to wake up fully. ‘How could the Elf always managed to sound so cheerful at this hour?’ he thought to himself with a distasteful grimace. But he also noted the slight look of pain in Legolas’ eyes. There was still something wrong with the Elf but he still wanted to hide it. Gimli would let him be. For now, anyway.
"Perhaps, Master Dwarf, perhaps". But come, Arod has also spent a restful night and is eager to be underway. We should reach Lake-town easily today".
Deciding it would be easier to ignore his so-called friend for now, Gimli set about rolling up his belongings. The two shared a simple breakfast with the family and then mounted their steed. The children were loath to see them leave, but Rosa simply smiled at the Elf, his identity would be kept secret from her family but she was grateful he had shared it with her.
Soon the pair had travelled out of view of the house as they made their way north. They were not going at any great pace, they planned to reach Lake-town by the afternoon before travelling the next day to Legolas’ home. They travelled in companionable silence as Gimli waited for Legolas to decide to speak. It was at least an hour before he chose to do so.
"I was very young, mellon nín, less than a score of summers, and much of what I can tell you of those days I did not learn until later. And my version of events does not have such a happy ending. Although I suspect you have guessed as much", he added with a sad smile. Gimli nodded to himself and briefly squeezed the Elf’s arm in support. This would not be an easy story to tell.
"It was nearing summer and my mother had planned to take me for an excursion, into the forest for a picnic. I was excited of course and got up far too early and ‘accidentally’ woke my mother and father as well. But they did not mind; Adar played with me until my mother was ready and then she took me and sat me down to brush my hair so he could get ready.
His responsibilities meant that he couldn’t come with us that day, although originally he had planned to. My mother sang to me as she brushed my hair and she gave me those hair-clips that day. She had such a beautiful voice, Gimli".
Legolas broke off and closed his eyes. He could still hear the song she had sung to him that day and they way she had laughed as she played with him and her smile as he had thanked her for her gift to him that day.
Softly he continued, "It was just my mother, my nurse, myself and six guards. At the time there were no other children in our realm so I was used to being with my mother and nurse. We should have been safe, Gimli, we did not travel that far from home, we were still well within our borders, but we were not.
Well-named Mirkwood was. We were attacked by spiders, a small group, which the guards dealt with but they drove us south. And they hid a greater danger.
The trees screamed out another warning but by then it was too late. I did not know what was happening at first, just that there was danger. As the guards readied themselves to fight my mother climbed with me into a tall tree. She told me that I had to hide and when it was safe that I had to run, as fast as I could but that I must stay hidden.
She tried to reassure me, make it sound like a game. I can remember her scent as she kissed me, before she turned and dropped back into the clearing. I did as she said, Gimli, I stayed hidden. I sat frozen in terror as I watched the orcs, dozens of them, surround the guards who were trying to buy us time. I watched my mother run, Gimli, leading the orcs away from the path she had told me to take. I saw her run and I never saw her again".
Legolas broke off again, as he combated the grief that assailed him as these memories rose up again. He could remember those moments so clearly, the smell of the oak tree and the feel of its bark, the whisper of the wind, the clash of weapons and the screams. The tree trying to hide him as he peered through their leaves and the bright flashes from blades and from the sunlight as it danced through the leaves and from his mother’s hair as she ran…
He came back to the present as he felt Gimli’s hand on his shoulder. He turned and saw that his deep grief was mirrored in Gimli’s eyes, "I am sorry, my friend", Gimli said and his voice was quiet and rough with pain. Legolas covered the dwarf’s hand with his own and managed a small smile before turning back. Aragorn was the only other person to whom Legolas had told this tale and he was grateful for the dwarf’s understanding and respect.
Slowly he resumed the story; "her plan had worked. I could see my way clear, away from the orcs before they saw me. I asked the trees for their protection and they gave it to me. They hid me as I ran, from branch to branch, tree to tree, and they hid me so well that none could follow the trail I took. My father told me later that his best trackers could find no marks and the trees would not give up their secrets even to him".
Gimli snorted at that, not surprised. He had seen how the trees in Fangorn had reacted to an elf in their midst, even though it had taken him some while to admit that trees could react. The trees in Rivendell would protect Legolas from even their own masters if that story Elrohir had told them all in Minas Tirith was to be believed. Of how Elrohir’s twin brother Elladan had ‘fallen’ out of a tree whilst trying to pursue Legolas through them once. Elladan had denied the story vehemently and Legolas had been laughing to hard to vouch for either one… Gimli shook those thoughts from his head as his friend started speaking once more,
"So I ran. I did not know where I went, the trees were strangers to me, I did not know the path home so I just ran and hid, ran and hid. I think two nights passed, although all that time is blurred together now. But I remember that finally the trees thinned and then a river was in front of me. I ran straight on, and fortunately the river was shallow there and suddenly I was out in the open.
It was the first time that I had left the eaves of my home and at first I was frightened of the wide, open space I saw, with only a few trees here and there. But I remembered my mother’s words and ran on, even though by now I was so tired I kept stumbling as I tried to run. I saw a small grove of trees and collapsed to the ground there, I knew I could go no further.
And that was where those two boys found me. I was terrified, Gimli. I had only ever seen edain from a distance, the few times they came to my father’s halls. To me they seemed so strange and I could not understand what they said. But they took care of me, and found my kin, as Rosa’s story said.
I was so glad when my father arrived, until they came I had begun to believe I had lost them entirely, that somehow I had found a different world, where there were few trees and strange people. But he came and held me close. He hid his grief so that I would not be distressed by it, mourned my mother in private so that he could smile with me. He raised me on his own, doing everything he could to make sure I would honour her. He is good and honourable, mellon nín, and I look forward to seeing him and my home again". With his story done Legolas fell silent.
"And you are an honour to her, Legolas", Gimli said at length. "A greater friend I could not have asked for". He wondered at himself as he realised that the idea of Thranduil as ‘good’ or ‘honourable’ no longer seemed far-fetched to him. His father’s tales had faded with the reality of his friendship with Legolas and to him anyone who could raise one such as Legolas would have to be given a measure of respect.
The two continued on for some way in silence again. Legolas still seemed downcast, whatever had been bothering him since they had entered Mirkwood, troubles him still, Gimli noted. And then he almost fell off Arod as he started in surprise.
The horse gave a rather aggrieved whinny and Legolas patted his neck slightly in reassurance, "Are you well, Gimli?"
"You left out one of the most important parts of the story!" Gimli said as his mind though back to his friend’s words. That gained him a rather confused glance from the Elf and he explained his words, "You never told me how long ago this was!"
The Elf laughed at that, "Nay, I did not".
Gimli, growled, the Elf was back to playing games. "Well?"
"Well, what?" a profoundly innocent expression was plastered on the Elf’s face, but mischief ran clear in his voice.
Gimli restrained himself from rolling his, this ‘game’ that Legolas enjoyed playing would drive him to insanity one of these days. "How old are you, Little Elf?" He enunciated clearly, deciding that if Legolas was going to play this game he could tease the Elf about the story after all.
A moment’s silence came as Legolas thought about continuing to amuse himself at Gimli’s expense. But, he supposed the dwarf was worthy of an answer and further teasing could make the dwarf decide to name him ‘Little Elf’ within someone else’s hearing, Aragorn perhaps and he shuddered at that thought. "Around 750, my friend. We elves do not note the years as closely as mortals do".
"That’s very young", Gimli said in surprise. He had always known Legolas was young for his kind but less than a thousand! Then, realising he had made that comment out loud, he continued quickly, "I mean for an Elf, isn’t it?"
Legolas’ lips twitched in amusement at the dwarf’s hasty attempt to cover himself. "It is", he said simply. "I was one of the last elves to be born here. I expected to be here for centuries yet".
Gimli did not need to ask what had changed. He had seen Legolas when the Sea-longing took hold, how he lost his focus as his thoughts turned west. Legolas fought that Sea-longing every day, the strength of his love for his mortal friends binding him to their sides. Yet he would leave, all elves would in the end.
"They remembered their story well over such a long time", he commented.
Legolas did not respond at first but then he sighed, "they remembered some of it, the things most dear to them. Even I did not learn the boys’ names until yesterday. But it makes me wonder", he paused and considered his words. It was time to tell his friend what had been troubling him since they had crossed the mountains. "I wonder what they will remember in another seven centuries, when all the elves will be gone. Will we be no more than myth and legend, a fairy-tale to be told to children at night?"
"Does it really matter?" Gimli asked softly, as he tried to understand why this bothered his friend so.
"Yes, no, I don’t know", Gimli sighed in frustration at that honest, but confusing answer but before he could reply Legolas went on, "Men forget, Gimli. They try to remember, try to hold to the most important things but they forget, not just our stories but their own as well. Even their own history is forgotten after a time. Whereas for us… the trees remember elves, Gimli. They will sing of us even when we have been gone for centuries, they will not forget. And I think it is the same for dwarves, the stones will remember you even if they do not sing. But men forget and all is lost."
"Men do not forget everything", Gimli tried to reassure his friend as he saw what had upset him so. The destruction of the trees in Mirkwood had been to the Elf almost a destruction of part of himself, and had led him to wonder if his father’s three thousand year defence of his realm had been in vain, that they would all be forgotten, remnants left in myth and song. "Men keep what they can and even if they do forget my people have long memories. And even if we forget I will know that as long as the elves live they will remember."
"But is what we remember the truth?" Legolas asked sadly. "You and I know better than anyone how history is coloured by our own thoughts and prejudices."
Gimli nodded at that, their versions of what had happened when Gimli’s father had travelled with Thorin and been taken captive by Thranduil had differed vastly. One dwarf’s ‘capture and imprisonment’ had been an elf’s ‘saved from starvation and spiders’ and so on. It had taken them a great deal of time to come to a middle ground on the subject and it was one they still tended to avoid in conversation.
"It has ever been so, Legolas", Gimli said gently. "None of us are prefect. Something more than this… this philosophy is worrying you. What is it?"
Legolas laughed at that, "I see your patience with me has finally run out, Master Dwarf! No", he continued before Gimli could make an honest reply to that comment. "You are right, I am troubled by more than pessimistic thoughts on myth and history. I am returning home, Gimli, to a place that is nearly destroyed. My father has fought back the darkness here for three thousand years, my people regard him as a king as unsurpassed. And now his son returns home to ask his people to leave. What right do I have to do this, Gimli?"
Gimli blinked. It was a problem he had given some thought to himself, since he was to ask dwarves to come with him to form a colony at the Glittering Caves, but Gimli felt their problems differed in some respect. Gimli was a returning hero, if he said so himself, who had discovered a fine new place for a mine, something that other dwarves would appreciate. His kin had a history of travelling to new places and building anew and they had been exiles for centuries.
Gimli knew that the elves had moved in the past but Legolas had only known one home all his life. He had bot been there to defend it in its darkest hour, never mind that he had been fighting more important battle elsewhere and now he planned to leave it. He chose his words carefully, "You do not think your father will approve?"
Legolas laughed again, "Ae, my friend, there is little that my father would not grant me. I know that when I mention this colony to him he will support it and me."
"Then what is problem?" Gimli asked, finally frustrated in his attempts at patience. "Listen, Elf. The elves you met in Rivendell thought the colony in Ithilien was a wonderful idea. They plan to leave these shores but you have given them reason to stay. They will follow you to rebuild the land there, to give one last thing to us mortals before they leave forever. Your father will see this and believe in it too, if anything you have told me of him is true. He knows that you have been fighting to save all of Middle Earth, Mirkwood included! So stop worrying yourself and if you cannot do that then let us head straight to your home so you can put these senseless fears aside!"
Legolas was silent for a moment as he considered the dwarf’s tirade. Perhaps his fears were senseless but until he saw his father safe and well he could not lay them aside. "You would not mind if we went straight there?"
"No, Legolas, I would not. I have gotten used to you singing and being irritatingly cheerful, I do not want this downcast companion", Gimli jested as he tried to laugh off the seriousness in Legolas’ tone and eyes.
Legolas allowed him that. Without replying he whispered, "Noro lim", to Arod and Gimli tightened his grip on Legolas as suddenly they were racing into the forest.
How the Rohan horse could make his way so quickly through tree and bush, Gimli knew not and averted his eyes from the view in front as they kept seemingly rushing straight towards trees, missing collisions by mere inches. They travelled for hours and continued on as darkness fell. Gimli did not know whether he should be grateful that the dark hid how close they came to the trees or simply worry as to how Arod could see but he laid his concerns aside as Legolas finally spoke. "We are nearly there, Elvellon, the guards have sent word ahead".
"What guards? We have met no guards", Gimli felt constrained to point out.
"They would not stop their prince, Gimli. They took note as we passed and whistles carried their news forth. Look, can you see the lights?"
Gimli could and stared with some wonder as they approached the home of the Elven-King. He could now see other elves as they rode towards the steps and he heard their voices calling out as they passed. But Legolas did not hear them, his attention fixed on the steps where a single golden-haired elf waited. Bringing Arod to a halt he leaped off his horse and came to stand before his father.
The two regarded one another for a moment before Thranduil spoke, "Mae tollen na mar, ion nín" and with that he embraced his son. Gimli smiled as he watched the two elves. It did not matter to him what kind of stories would be told of Gimli, son of Glóin, one of the nine walkers and elvellon, in the future, or who would be telling them, he was content to be where he was now. History could wait. And with that he dismounted as Legolas led Thranduil towards him.
edain – ‘men’
mellon nín – ‘My friend’
Adar – ‘father’
Ae – ‘Ah’ or ‘Oh’
Noro lim – ‘run fast’
elvellon – ‘elf-friend’
Mae tollen na mar, ion nín – ‘Welcome home, my son’
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.