16. January 9, 3019 (Night)
As a dwarf, Gimli was accustomed to many kinds of darkness. He had entered caverns where the only light was that of a flickering torch. He had endured midnight in caves when some mishap caused all lamps to go out and it was impossible to see even one’s hand before one’s face. He had marched through tunnels aided only by the feeble light of day as it hovered in the entrance as though fearful to venture further. Darkness and shadows were part and parcel of normal life to a dwarf, and Gimli had no particular qualms with this. That is, he had no qualms except for once specific type of darkness, and that was the darkness in which he now found himself. It was the darkness of unconsciousness.
It had taken a few moments for him to realize what had happened, and during those few moments of confusion, he had been on the verge of panic. The suffocating darkness of the mind had always held some nameless fear for the dwarf, though why that was he could not say. But now, as memories began to trickle back to him and he remembered the painful tumble down the side of the gorge, Gimli calmed a bit. If his mind could panic, he would probably be fine after a bit, and with a weary sigh, he resigned himself to what he knew had to be endured. Gimli did not like being unconscious. It was a sign of weakness, and dwarves took such weaknesses with an ill grace. In addition to this, Gimli also hated recovering from unconsciousness. The dazed, bleary feelings as well as various accompanying injuries never made it a pleasant experience, and it would take time for his wounded pride to recover.
To make matters worse, Gimli’s recovering senses were beginning to pick up a song floating just the other side of consciousness, and it didn’t take long for the dwarf to recognize the voice of the individual behind the singing. Must that elf be everywhere! he demanded. At the very least he could show some consideration for those of us who are not yet awake enough to cover our ears. In an attempt to ignore the hated song—a song that indicated Legolas was not only awake but also awake enough to sing and sing well—the dwarf tried to turn his mind to other things. But it is a noted and documented ability of elven song to drown out all other distractions, and despite his fervent wishes to the contrary, Gimli found himself being pulled into the bittersweet melody.
The dwarf knew none of the song’s words and the tune was unfamiliar, but there was still something about the melody that captured and held his attention. It was as though he drifted through time and space, reliving a past he did not know, seeing sights of wonder and glory that he had never seen, and experiencing a loss that had never been his. Curiosity began a war against pride and disgust, much to Gimli’s dismay, and he remembered the words his father had spoken against too much inquisitiveness. One of Gimli’s biggest faults lay in his rampant curiosity. Not that curiosity was a stranger among dwarves, but Gimli possessed it to an unusual degree and it now compelled him to listen and seek understanding.
Understanding?! And what am I to understand?! All elven songs are alike. They yearn for what they will never have, and then they throw their grief into music. Why should I be so intrigued about such a thing?
But as usual, Gimli’s curiosity could not be contained, and Glóin’s predictions on its dangers continued to bear out. Gimli had now lost interest in returning to consciousness and getting to his feet. Instead, the prospects of learning the secrets of an elven melody seemed far more appealing, and he began casting about for ways of casually asking Legolas for the translation of this song. And as his mind went about looking for answers, his body drifted closer and closer to the world of the conscious. Before he even knew what had happened, borne upon the wings of an ancient song from the younger world, Gimli was opening his eyes and sitting up.
The song died almost immediately, and shorn of its comforting presence, Gimli’s normal personality rocketed back into place. With a steely glint in his eyes and a dangerous anger directed at his wayward curiosity, the dwarf turned around and surveyed the scene before him. Legolas’s own flashing eyes met his, and the dwarf felt his anger shift in the direction of the elf. But then he saw the form cradled in Legolas’s arms. His anger vanished completely and fear took hold of him.
The still figure did not move, and Legolas glanced down at the motionless hobbit as suspicion and distrust faded from his fair face. "He lives, but he took a severe blow to the head," the elf murmured, tracing a gentle hand across Pippin’s brow. "He has yet to wake."
"And you thought singing to him would help," Gimli spat, starting to fold his arms across his chest. Unfortunately, his movements were arrested by a screaming pain from his right shoulder, and the dwarf abruptly realized that something was seriously wrong. Glancing at the questionable arm, he attempted to move it only to find that he had lost all feeling in his hand and fingers and that the limb was unresponsive to any commands.
"I notice that you are filled with answers and counsel," Legolas shot back while Gimli pondered his shoulder. "My most sincere apologies, Master Dwarf, for assuming that an elf would be able to do anything. Shall I give the hobbit to you and watch the wonders of your healing powers at work?"
The sharp words should have roused great anger in the dwarf, but they fell upon deaf ears this day. Part of the reason was that Gimli was still focused on examining his shoulder and coming to the rather grim conclusion that it had been dislocated. But more than that, the sight of a motionless hobbit in the elf’s arms had led the dwarf to ponder on the reasons for their fall from the cliff. The conclusions he had reached were not good, and a feeling of guilt was beginning to rise within Gimli. He should have sensed the disturbance in the earth and the weakness in the rock. He was a dwarf. It was in his nature to note such things. Yet he had not. His attention had instead been focused on arguing with Legolas, and his failure to protect Pippin was beginning to prick his conscience. It also occurred to him that had the elf not been so focused on their argument, he might have reacted swiftly enough to save Pippin and so prevent the fall. Yet even with Legolas sharing some of the blame, Gimli could not acquit himself and the feelings of guilt continued to rise.
Aragorn spoke truly. In prolonging our own dispute, we placed the rest of the Fellowship in danger. Alas that he was right, and alas that we allowed it to progress this far.
But despite his thoughts and his realization of what had happened, Gimli could not quite find it in himself to set aside his quarrel with the elf. Apart from the fact that Legolas was the son of the hated Thranduil, he was also insufferably arrogant and would assume that any retreat on the part of the dwarf constituted a victory in his favor. And such a victory, even if it was only a perceived victory, did not sit well with Gimli. Turning to eye the elf, Gimli cast about for words to say and eventually began to speak.
"As you already hold the hobbit, I shall not take him from you," the dwarf said, retorting to Legolas’s earlier comments. "It would be folly to move him overmuch. Instead, I shall give you a chance to redeem yourself. You may apologize for allowing Pippin to fall into this gorge and then you may carry him as we seek a way out of it."
Had Legolas not been holding the hobbit, he might have attacked the dwarf then. The rage in his face caused even Gimli to take a hasty step backwards, but at the same time, Gimli realized something. Such a remark, though intended to provoke anger, should not have been that infuriating. He is ashamed, the dwarf suddenly realized. He is ashamed because he knows what I know. He knows that our quarrel led us down here.
"I have heard you boast many times that the dwarves are very much tuned to the rumblings of the earth and the groanings of stone," Legolas was saying when Gimli turned his attention back to the conversation. "Should it not have been you who sensed the crumbling of the cliff?"
"And what of superior elven hearing?" Gimli demanded, not about to let the elf shrug off any blame. "Should not you have heard the first pebbles fall?"
"Were not you standing closer to Pippin than was I?"
"Are not you the possessor of superior elven reflexes?"
Elf and dwarf fell silent, both seething with an anger that did not ring completely true, and it dawned on Gimli that they were not actually upset with one another. Rather they were upset with themselves. Yet it seems neither one of us is able to admit it, he sighed. By the Valar, how shall we escape the follies of pride!?
Gimli wondered if he should speak of this, but before he could even begin to formulate words, Pippin groaned in his sleep and Legolas’s attention left the dwarf. Freed from the piercing eyes of the elf, Gimli breathed a sigh of relief as though he had just been released from a grueling interrogation. Irritated at himself for showing such a reaction, the dwarf expectantly waited for some snide comment from the elf, but to his amazement, Legolas kept his silence and said nothing.
Feeling rather confused and also rather useless, Gimli glanced around and decided to look for his axe. This was actually the first thing he should have done upon waking, but his annoyance with the elf had somehow taken priority. Such a thing should not be, Gimli sighed as he began to wander about, peering into the underbrush. Truly Aragorn had reason to fear for us. Yet I wonder if it is not already too late to correct what has happened. Too many things lie between us now.
With a shake of his head, the dwarf grimaced and decided to concentrate on finding his axe, which seemed a far less daunting task than solving the problem of what to do concerning the insufferable elf. The axe was with me when I fell. Of that I am certain, he thought. Therefore, it cannot be too far from the place where I woke. Gimli hesitated for a moment and glanced back at Legolas. It would probably not take long for the keen eyes of the elf to locate the weapon, but the thought of asking for the prince’s aid made Gimli’s skin crawl and he shuddered. Berating himself for even considering the idea, he stubbornly poked around the underbrush, firmly ignoring the ache from his dislocated shoulder and also trying to ignore the presence of the elf behind him.
He eventually found the axe caught in a bush and partially buried by rock. It was an effort getting it out, particularly since he was limited to the use of only one hand now, but dwarven perseverance and stubbornness saw him through. Despite the awkwardness of the task and despite the pain from his injury, the axe was eventually secured again in Gimli’s belt. Mission accomplished, Gimli stalked back toward Legolas and discovered that the elf had resumed his quiet song and was now gently rocking the hobbit.
Gimli sighed, partially in annoyance and partially in resignation because he found himself once more listening to the music despite the clamors of his dwarven pride. There was something strangely comforting about it, and it seemed to clear his thoughts. Unfortunately, clear thoughts brought with them renewed feelings of guilt and shame as well as the realization of some unpleasant facts. He was trapped in a gorge with a comatose hobbit and a singing elf. And with his shoulder in its current state, he would remain trapped in this gorge with said comatose hobbit and singing elf unless he and the elf worked together. Neither option was a welcome prospect, but at least the latter notion of cooperation offered a way out. Besides that, there was his duty to Frodo to consider as well as his duty to the rest of the Fellowship. With a murmured oath, Gimli groaned, prepared himself, and then moved toward Legolas.
"Master Elf, I have words that I must speak."
The singing stopped and Legolas slowly raised his head, his expression guarded and his eyes wary. "Of what would you speak, Master Dwarf?"
He could at least try to make this easier, Gimli groused, forcing himself to stop glaring and adopt a more casual expression. "It seems to me that we have been caught in a rather unfortunate dilemma."
"Dwarven perception will never cease to amaze me."
Gimli bit back yet another surge of anger, and as he did so, he took a good look at Legolas and stopped, startled. Though his tone was sarcastic and bitter, the elf’s face was beginning to take on a look of grudging acceptance. Somewhat encouraged by this, Gimli pressed forward, eager to say what need to be said and so finish the discussion. "I hold no great love for you, that is no secret, and you hold no great love for me. But we are both bound by duty to protect the Fellowship. We must see to Pippin’s needs, and we must rejoin the others. In order to do this…" The dwarf trailed off and hesitated, wishing he could better read the elf’s face. "In order to do this," he eventually continued, "we shall have to work together."
A tense silence fell over them, but after several minutes of a searching stare, Legolas dropped his eyes and looked away. "You speak as Aragorn spoke," the elf sighed, anger now vanishing from his voice to be replaced with something akin to guilt. "And his words are words of wisdom. Would that they had been heeded. In this…in this, I fear that we are both at fault."
"So it seems that we are in agreement," Gimli reluctantly admitted. "Then for the time being, shall we set aside our quarrel?"
"For the time being," Legolas sighed, capturing Gimli with gray elven eyes that warned of assuming too much from this temporary truce. Gimli met the look with his own warning, and satisfied that the issue was settled, Legolas smiled a cold smile and nodded. "We should move soon. Pippin needs more care than what we can give, and the road is uncertain from here."
"Then let us depart, for a dwarf is always ready."
The elf muttered something in response to that, but it was far too low to make out and Gimli decided that knowing what had been said would probably only make the situation worse. Firmly disciplining his mind and trying to adopt a mental attitude of patience, he turned and began walking south, hoping he was moving in the right direction. He would trade his axe for a crossbow ere he ever looked to the elf for guidance.
He’d gone perhaps twenty steps before he realized that Legolas was not following him. Confused, he stopped and turned to find that the elf was examining him with the piercing stare that never failed to turn his stomach. "Is aught wrong?" Gimli demanded, uncomfortable with the intense elven scrutiny.
"Are you able to travel?" Legolas asked, his voice suspicious.
The dwarf frowned and tried to fill his voice with derision. "Is elven memory so fallible? I have just told you that a dwarf—"
"I asked not if you were ready; I asked if you were able."
Gimli would never be able to say exactly what forced the words from his mouth. Perhaps it was the sight of Pippin cradled in the elf’s arms. Perhaps it was the throbbing pain from his shoulder that was beginning to blur his sight. Perhaps it was the fact that his entire arm below the elbow had now gone completely numb and he feared damage to his fingers. Perhaps it was a combination of all these factors. In any event, somehow, despite all his dwarven heritage, he found himself speaking.
"I believe that my right shoulder is dislocated."
Once spoken, the words could not be retracted. Though his voice was soft, he had come to hold a grudging respect for Legolas’s superior senses, and he knew that the elf’s hearing had caught his murmured phrase. To his credit, he managed to keep his eyes locked onto the elf’s, and he watched as something that appeared to be surprise flitted through the bright, gray orbs. Then it was gone, replaced by a look that Gimli knew all too well. The elf was plotting something.
Realizing he had just severely disadvantaged himself, Gimli shook his head in disgust and turned away, intending to continue up the gorge and pretend that the last exchange had never happened. But he had not gone more than two steps when a sudden hand on his good shoulder stopped him. Completely startled, he jumped and started to swing around only to find himself stopped by a grip that rivaled the strongest iron of the Blue Mountains.
Much to his surprise, Gimli found himself obeying that voice. He didn’t exactly know why and his pride was sending up a rather violent series of protests, but nevertheless, he dropped to the ground and felt the elf kneel behind them. A light touched probed the injured shoulder and he could not quite keep back a hiss of pain when Legolas began to maneuver his arm.
"I have nothing to give you that might ease your discomfort," the elf said quietly, his voice carrying a strange mixture of resignation, confusion, and irritation. "I fear this will be rather unpleasant."
"Cease your talking and get on with it," Gimli growled, still trying to figure out why he was allowing the elf to help him.
"As you wish."
An arm suddenly wrapped itself around him and he was pulled back against a strong chest as the elf braced the dwarf against his own body. This was too much for Gimli and he began to pull away, but before he could get far in his attempt, his injured arm was suddenly yanked down, up, and then slammed back toward his body. With a strangled cry, the dwarf lurched forward only to be held upright by the elf behind him. For a moment they were frozen thus, still and silent, while Gimli wavered between unconsciousness and reality. Pride alone prevented the dwarf from swooning as he fought waves of pain and nausea, and after a long moment, his pride was rewarded as the world ceased to spin so violently.
Gimli shook his head, sending up desperate prayers to the Valar that the shooting pain would not cause him to lose his supper-breakfast.
"My thanks for your aid, Master Elf," he grunted, pushing to his feet and extracting himself from Legolas’s hold. Feeling was returning to his right arm, and though tender, he could tell that it would now mend swiftly on its own. Brushing himself off, the dwarf gestured to the trail south, his eyes glinting with warning should the elf say aught of what had just happened. "Shall we continue? I do not think our companions will wait long for us if they decide to even wait at all."
Something that might have been a smile ghosted across Legolas’s face, but it vanished quickly and he nodded, rising to his feet and moving back to where he had left Pippin. Gathering the hobbit in his arms, the elf rose, turned to the dwarf, and inclined his head. "After you."
"As it should be," Gimli muttered, knowing his comment would be overheard and hoping Legolas would react to it so that he might have a reason to dislike the elf again. But much to his dismay, Legolas did nothing and simply waited for the dwarf to begin. Confused, bewildered, and injured, Gimli had no choice but to begin the march.
* * * *
Boromir was beginning to suspect that he was the only member of the Fellowship with a firm grasp on reality.
This idea had actually been with him for some time, but the actions of his companions this night were doing more to confirm his suspicion than had all previous actions on all previous days combined. They marched parallel to a gorge, the bottom of which even Aragorn could not see, and forsook the clear path of the road that would take them to their destiny. And for what? For the sake of an elf, a dwarf, and a hobbit who had fallen into the gorge just ere sunset. Boromir would have been more than ready to march the length of the ravine had anyone else fallen in, but considering the individuals involved in the accident, the son of Denethor harbored serious doubts about their ability to meet up with the rest of the company. If the elf and the dwarf have not already killed each other, they are probably only moments away from doing so, he thought sardonically with a shake of his head. The only one able to stand between them is Pippin, and I’ll wager half my father’s realm that he will only add to the problem.
Unfortunately, Boromir seemed to be the only one who had realized this, and so they marched haphazardly along the top of the ravine, forging their own path much of the time, in the hopes that they might be reunited with their missing companions.
I had judged Aragorn to be of sounder mind than this, Boromir thought with a hint of disappointment, glancing over his shoulder at the Ranger who had assumed Legolas’s usual place as rearguard. But then, Aragorn had grown up trusting in the strength of the elves, a strength that Boromir viewed to be naught but a myth of the past. To the men of Gondor, any race whose population consisted entirely of walking contradictions was a questionable race, a belief that immediately downplayed anything the elves might have to offer as well as casting doubt upon Aragorn’s judgement in revering them. And the Ranger’s judgement was now called into question again because of his belief that they would be reunited with their companions. It was an impossible dream! Legolas had demonstrated no willingness to let go of his quarrel with the dwarf, the stubbornness of the dwarves was legendary and Gimli possessed this stubbornness in spades, and Pippin’s lack of tact—as well as his uncanny ability to open his mouth at precisely the wrong moment—was certainly not going to help. Insofar as Boromir was concerned, if elf, dwarf, and hobbit did manage to catch up to the rest of them, it would be hard evidence that the Valar still played a very active role in Middle Earth.
With a sigh, Boromir turned away from his pessimistic thoughts and directed his attention up the trail to Gandalf. The wizard had just pushed his way into a small clearing and was stopping, apparently deciding that now would be a good time for a bit of rest. Boromir readily agreed with him. It was no easy task to forge one’s own trail through the thick brush that grew parallel with the gorge, and that last march had been longer than usual.
"What are we doing?" Merry demanded, speaking for the first time since they’d begun the night’s journey. "We aren’t stopping, are we?"
"Yes, we are stopping, Master Meriadoc, because running ourselves into the ground shall not help our friends," Gandalf answered, finding a convenient log and easing himself down. "It is doubtful that Pippin will be moving any faster than we are, if he is even moving at all."
"Why wouldn’t he be moving?" Merry asked, his voice sharp.
An uncomfortable silence fell until Aragorn shifted slightly and sighed. "It was a long fall, Merry. He may have been injured."
"Injured?" The hobbit shook his head emphatically. "Not Pippin. Pippin is never injured. He bounces back from everything."
There was yet another uncomfortable silence as the company tried to find a response to that. Frodo was the first to do so. "I’m sure you’re right. We’ll probably find him waiting for us at the top of the gorge wondering what kept us."
"Right," Merry said with a nod. "Then let’s get going."
"Now half a moment," Sam protested, trying to pick brambles and cockleburs out of Bill’s mane. "We’ve only just arrived here, and if Strider and Mr. Gandalf think that we’re making good time, then that’s good enough for me. Besides, I know for a fact that Bill could do with a bit of rest. There’s not much here in the way of a path for us, and forcing his way through everything is tiresome work for a pony."
"Sam is correct," Gandalf said, addressing his words to Merry. "A few more minutes shall provide us with better strength for the end of the road, and you will be grateful for that strength when it is needed. There are still great distances before us. Sit and rest for a moment. You do Pippin no good if you expend your energy worrying."
Merry mumbled something in response to this, but it was too low to make out. Nevertheless, the hobbit stalked over to a tree and dropped his pack, leaning against the wide trunk while the rest of the company spread out and made use of their brief rest.
"You do not believe we shall see them again."
Boromir nearly jumped out of his skin, completely unaware that Aragorn had come up behind him. Forcing his face into a mask of calm and fighting furiously with the indignation and anger that flared out of his surprise, Boromir turned around and cocked his head to the side. "Why do you say that?"
"It is plain to see for all who harbor the same doubts," Aragorn answered with something akin to a shrug. "You believe that the quarrel between Legolas and Gimli shall spiral into something that neither can control. You believe that they will never leave the gorge."
Boromir frowned. "Earlier, you expressed hope that we would meet them where the floor of the ravine rose to meet our level, yet now you say my mind is clear to those with similar doubts. What is your mind on this matter, Aragorn? Where do your thoughts lie?"
The Ranger smiled and laughed quietly. "You are your father’s son. A neat deflection, that."
Boromir shifted slightly, uneasy with the prospect that Aragorn seemed able to read him nearly as well as did Faramir. "You have not answered my questions?" he pointed out, uncertain of what else to say.
"True enough," Aragorn replied, apparently content to let the shift in conversation stand. "Where do my thoughts lie, you ask? I believe them to be equally balanced between hope and doubt. I hope that Legolas and Gimli may put their quarrel aside long enough for them to leave the ravine with Pippin. I cling to such hope, but hope is not without doubt. And in this case, doubt is unusually strong. I believe there is a chance that we shall be reunited ere long, but there is also a chance that tragedy will come of this." The Ranger sighed and glanced toward the gorge, his eyes briefly illuminated by moonlight as the clouds above them parted. "It is in their hands now, and I shudder to think what that might mean. Hopefully, a need to protect and shelter Pippin shall see them through. But that, too, is fraught with peril."
"I cannot say that I know much of elves, for it seems that lore in Gondor has strayed from fact concerning the Firstborn. But there are many tales in Gondor of the dwarves, and from what I have seen in Gimli, these tales contain much truth. Gimli will not suffer a blow to his pride if that is what cooperating with the elf will take."
"True, but stronger than pride can be loyalty and honor," Aragorn answered. "It is for this reason that I am less concerned with Gimli than I am with Legolas. Gimli has bound himself body and soul to this Fellowship. He will not forsake us. Legolas, on the other hand, is a prince in his father’s realm and has also inherited some of his father’s pride. He is a far more difficult individual. However, he is also rather protective by nature, and he sees the hobbits as helpless. Pippin’s presence might be enough to overcome his stubborn elven arrogance."
"But then again, it might not," Boromir said, finishing Aragorn’s unspoken thought.
"As I said before, it is out of our hands. We can only go to meet them and hope for the best."
"But if the best is but a faint glimmer along the horizon, would it not be better to make straight for the Redhorn Gate?"
"The road here is certain enough that both Gimli and Legolas can follow it with little difficulty. Even Pippin should be able to pick his way out of the gorge and follow our road for several miles after that, but by tomorrow night, that will all change. For part of the journey, the trail to the pass almost disappears entirely, and only one who has traveled it before might find his way. Neither Gimli nor Legolas has been in this area. Pippin has never been outside the Shire before now." Aragorn sighed and shook his head. "No, we must wait for them. And hope is not yet dead. There are reasons to believe that Gimli and Legolas might resolve their differences."
"As you say, Aragorn. You know them better than I," Boromir muttered, still feeling the cold fingers of doubt clutching at his heart. "But the crebain shall return come daylight. If we are forced to wait for our companions, we will not be able to wait for long."
"Are we ready to go yet?"
Aragorn sighed and glanced over at Merry, who looked no more rested now than he did when they’d first entered the clearing. "A moment more, Master Brandybuck," he called. "As Gandalf said, you shall need your strength toward the end of this night. We will begin a rather steady climb."
"Then shouldn’t we be keeping a steady march?"
"We should be keeping a steady march with intervals of rest," Gandalf said. "This is one of those intervals. Peace, Meriadoc. Your anxiety does not help us."
"Stopping isn’t helping Pippin or Gimli or Legolas," Merry returned.
"They’ll have to stop, too," Sam broke in, picking the last of the cockleburs from Bill’s mane. "It won’t do any good to reach the head of the gorge while they’re still in the middle of it. Then we’ll have a long wait with nothing to do, and I don’t know as I could take that."
"Besides, if we keep with a steady pace, we’ll be able to keep moving," Frodo reasoned. "And then the birds will have a harder time finding us because we won’t be in the same spot for very long."
"The hobbits echo my words," Boromir murmured to Aragorn. "Listen to them. We must keep moving. If we do not find our missing companions when we reach the area where the gorge rises, what then? Shall we wait? And if so, how long shall we linger? How much danger shall we risk for the sake of an elf, a dwarf, and a hobbit."
"I have no answers to your questions," Aragorn said quietly. "It may be that we need not worry over such things. Perhaps all will go according to plan."
"Fortune is too fickle a mistress to trust that everything will go according to plan," Boromir argued.
"Perhaps, but upon occasion, she will reward those who trust in her," Aragorn answered. "And since there is naught that I can do to remedy the situation, I shall place my faith in her. A fool’s choice, no doubt, but a choice that has served me well in the past."
"You, perhaps, but shall it also serve the rest of us?" Boromir asked.
"Who can say? Let us put it to the test." And with that, the Ranger smiled and turned away, moving toward Gandalf.
I was right, Boromir decided, watching as Aragorn began speaking with the wizard. I am the only one in the company who has a firm grasp on reality.
* * * *
For some strange reason, Legolas was utterly fascinated by the creature walking before him. He would never admit to this fascination and he allowed none of his preoccupation to show upon his face, but nevertheless, he was very much intrigued. The dwarf was still suffering from a tender arm, but he did not allow this injury to slow his progress as he hoisted himself over logs and scrambled across loose gravel. It greatly surprised Legolas that Gimli should be doing so well, and this surprise had triggered his elven curiosity.
Sure-footed and armed with an inborn grace, Legolas followed the dwarf easily enough despite the sleeping hobbit in his arms. Occasionally a tricky bit of maneuvering was called for and Pippin would have to be shifted about. During these times, Gimli would stop and wait with an air of impatience, but he would say nothing and his eyes betrayed none of his feelings. This was also a source of great curiosity to the elf, who was usually quite good at judging emotions based on facial expressions. But the dwarf had become a challenge to read this day, and the prince of Mirkwood was quite fond of challenges.
That is how I see him, then, Legolas said to himself, trying to account for the fact that he was not feeling his usual irritation around the dwarf. I see him as a challenge. When we return to the company, I doubt not but what his rough speech and uncouth ways shall once again try my nerves and my patience.
His emotions now explained to his satisfaction, Legolas continued to divide his attention between Gimli and Pippin. Unfortunately, while watching the dwarf was somewhat entertaining, watching the hobbit was sobering. Pippin had murmured a few words shortly after their fall into the gorge and he had moaned occasionally during the beginning of the hike, but for the last two hours, he had been completely silent. Legolas did not know what to make of this for he was quite unfamiliar with mortal failings. The fall had failed to knock him unconscious as it had Gimli and Pippin, and he’d been at a loss as to what to do for them. Thankfully the dwarf was hale and walking on his own. Carrying the hobbit was tiring, and Legolas shuddered to think of what carrying the dwarf would do to him.
Pausing for a moment while Gimli navigated a collection of fallen trees and scattered rocks before them, Legolas shifted Pippin in his arms and called softly to the hobbit. As before, there was no response and the elf was now becoming even more concerned. There was no fever, and Legolas assumed that to be a good sign, but if Aragorn was any example of a mortal’s ability to recover from unconsciousness, then Pippin should have woken long several hours ago. Feeling the beginnings of frustration building within himself, Legolas did the only thing he could think of. He began to sing.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gimli stiffen when the song began, but surprisingly enough, the dwarf said nothing and continued on his way after a bit. Legolas now followed, carefully scrambling over debris but never ceasing his quiet melody. The prince had noticed once in Rivendell that elven song seemed to have a soothing and quieting affect on mortals. More often than not, after a session of music in the Hall of Fire all mortals in attendance would have to be roused and sent to bed. Legolas now hoped that his song might reach through the layers of unconsciousness and call to Pippin, luring him into a safer state of rest and easing his spirits so that his body might relax and begin to heal itself. Legolas didn’t know if this would actually work, but he could think of nothing else to do.
At length, Legolas made it past the pile of upturned trees and brush. He stopped and glanced up at the sides of the gorge, wondering what had happened to make these cliffs so unstable. They seemed to come across a landslide every mile or so, sometimes more often than that. The elf considered asking Gimli about the structure of the rocks and whether or not that might be a factor, but he discarded that suggestion quickly. It was one thing to travel with the dwarf under a flag of truce. It was an entirely different thing to begin asking for his opinion.
And so the journey continued in a strained silence. Curiosity once again pricked, Legolas began wondering whether or not the silence was grating upon Gimli’s nerves. Dwarves were not know for their patience, and the tense atmosphere that followed them was probably doing nothing for Gimli’s temper. It would not take much to anger him, Legolas reflected, thoughts of mischief beginning for form. But fortunately for both of them, Legolas shook his head clear of such ideas. Now was not the time to be testing a dwarf’s patience. They had companions to find and a hobbit to tend.
"How fares Pippin?"
Legolas nearly jumped, completely surprised by the dwarf’s voice. Gimli had said no word to him since they left the sight of their fall, and in return, Legolas had said no word to the dwarf. But their unspoken vow of silence was now broken, and the elf hurriedly collected himself.
"He still does not wake," Legolas answered, brushing his hand across Pippin’s forehead.
"Strange," the dwarf mumbled. "I would have expected him to be up and about by now. If nothing else, hobbits are resilient." Gimli studied elf and hobbit for a moment and then frowned. "Set him down."
Legolas felt his pride flare to life. He did not take orders from a dwarf, and Pippin had become his charge. Why should Gimli know more about the hobbit’s care than he? Because the dwarf is also mortal, a voice in the back of his mind scolded. Now put your foolish pride aside and set the hobbit down.
With a sigh, the elf reluctantly gave in to common sense and knelt, propping the hobbit against him. Gimli knelt beside them and placed two fingers against Pippin’s neck, checking his pulse. The dwarf waited a moment, grunted, and then ran his hands carefully over Pippin’s head. "He was struck behind the ear," Gimli announced after a bit. "And his heart rate seems slow to me. We should probably stop soon and let him rest without being jostled. Dawn is perhaps an hour away."
"An hour and a half, actually," Legolas corrected, feeling a flash of irritation at the implication that he was jostling the hobbit about. Anger flared in Gimli’s eyes, but he blinked quickly and the rage vanished as quickly as it had come. You are controlling your temper well this night, Legolas observed, somewhat impressed by the dwarf’s restraint.
"An hour or an hour and a half, either way it makes little difference," Gimli answered, his voice strained. "I suggest we stop at the next likely campsite and wait out the day."
"I can hear a spring of some sort about a mile up the ravine," Legolas said with a slow nod, though it pained him to be caught in agreement with a dwarf. "If we intend to stop, it would be best if we do so there. But I do not wish to spend the entire day motionless."
"It is too dangerous to move during daylight," Gimli argued.
"This gorge provides cover that is not to be found on the levels above us," Legolas pointed out. "I believe we could travel without fear of spying eyes."
"That is well and good, but if you are proven wrong, we will have brought danger upon the Fellowship through our haste."
"If I am proven correct, then we will cause the Fellowship no further delay," the elf answered, feeling irritation build within him yet again.
Gimli muttered something in his own tongue and seemed about to go on, but then he stopped and shook his head. "Let us not discuss this now. Later will be soon enough. Come. I would find this spring of yours so that we might refill our water skins. And mayhap a cool drink will wake the hobbit."
"Mayhap," Legolas allowed. "Continue, then, but bear to the right where possible. The sound of water comes from the west."
The dwarf nodded slightly and turned away, soon losing himself in the thick underbrush of the gorge. Once again, Legolas gently cradled Pippin in his arms and groaned slightly at the effort it took to carry the hobbit. While Pippin was not particularly stout, he was still a burden and one that was beginning to tell on Legolas’s strength. And more than that, he was a burden upon the elf’s heart, for a fear was beginning to grow in the prince that Pippin might not wake. He had seen head wounds turn fatal, and Gimli had now confirmed his growing suspicion that Pippin should have already recovered from this. At the very least, he should have opened his eyes by now.
With Gimli temporarily out of sight, Legolas allowed his façade of elven invincibility to drop, and he shook his head in frustration as his shoulders slumped. There were two things that never failed to upset Legolas. One was the feeling that he had lost control of a situation. The other was the feeling of helplessness. To an extent, he now felt both insofar as Pippin was concerned. He did not have the knowledge necessary to treat the hobbit, and his inability to find a solution was maddening.
Perhaps hope shall be borne on the light of the dawn, Legolas sighed to himself, composing his face once more as he hurried after Gimli. But until then, I fear I shall have to live with my doubts and my worries. Would that Aragorn were here. The dwarf is useless. But then…so am I.
And with this rather humbling thought, Legolas sighed and decided that he had done far too much thinking for one night.
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.