1. Leaves and Stones
-“Mind you, I heard that!” –a blunt voice replied, and the echoes lingered in the open spaces of the cavern, bouncing from wall to wall. Coughing, and seemingly disturbed, the dwarf resumed his heavy step. –“Think not that a dwarf will not find his way in the heart of a cave!”
-“Do you mean we are lost then?” –the elf lord cried, and a tinge of anger stroke through his words.
-“Lost?” –the dwarf repeated in annoyance. –“Lost you mean? Not lost, my friend, but not enlightened yet.” –His voice regained the confident tone that was its wont when he talked about such matters; however, he spoke more to reasure himself than his friend. –“Once we reach the place where the torches are, you will not mind the time we have spent in the dark.”
-“I was certain you knew your way around the place, for so your words made me believe,” –the elf stated, his voice slightly rising until it filled the air around them. –“Had I known the truth I would never have consented in coming with you!”
-“Legolas! A promise is a promise and it cannot be denied.”
-“I hope you remember your own words, Gimli, once we step under the eaves of Fangorn. Then you will feel glad to have an elf for a guide, for we do not mistake our way in the woods, nor do we deceive our friends and trick them into thinking otherwise...”
-“Argh!” –Gimli cried in frustration as he waved his hands over his head, -“It is useless, useless to try to bring you to a sense. You have been like this since you lost in our little contest and we had to choose this way first, instead of going to the woods,” – a spark of merryment lighted his words as he added, -“But I won, and so we are here.”
The dwarf ended his remarks with the sound of suppressed chuckles. Legolas was indeed right, and it was likely that he had mistaken their way a few turns behind, but he would not let the elf know now; besides, he was enjoying himself too much to spoil the occasion with
such meaningless details, or to disturb the tranquillity of his friend’s mind, if indeed the elf’s numbing silence could be construed as tranquil.
Legolas’s heart was at ill ease and his suspicions of the dwarf’s having erred the way to the heart of the caves were in no way lessening his unrest. Elves are not used to stone, nor to be estranged from the air and woods which are their delight. The air was damp below the rocks, and heavy. The depths of the cave felt cold, and reminded him of the unyielding nature of the stones that surrounded their way. To his ears came the continual song issuing from the springs and falls that trickled in the rocks, reaching them with their steady yet gleeful rythm; at least another sound, a proof of life beyond Gimli’s echoing footfalls. The darkness of the place was almost blinding. He drew his hand to his pouch as if to drive comfort from it, and as he touched the smooth leather he produced a metallic tinkle.
-“What is that?” –the dwarf asked in one breath. His companion’s musical laughter made clear that this disturbance should not be accounted as a sign of danger.
–“What have you got there?” –he asked more subdued, but daring. –“Legolas, you are not helping by breaking the thread of my thoughts with such trifles. I could’ve sworn you are carrying gold in that sack by the sounds of it!”
-“And you would be right, master dwarf, for it is indeed gold that I carry.”
-“Gold?” –Gimli asked, puzzled. –“What would you need gold for?”
The silence that followed after allowed Gimli the time needed to remember a day not too long ago. His eyes glared at the recollection and he crossed his arms over his chest muttering words under his beard.
-“You would ‘pay gold to be excused,’ was that not what you said?” –he demanded in a gruff, menacing tone. Legolas made an effort to conceal his mirth, but to no avail. –“And double to be let out if you strayed in! I see what great confidence you have in my guidance. But you shall regret your words and deeds once you’ve seen. Who would then laugh, I wonder?” –and after knocking his head against a dangling stick he added, -“Oh, here it is as I had thought.” –He produced a small tinder box out of his own travel bag. In a few moments he had lighted a fire, and was now standing in the middle of the chamber, casting a great shadow over the glittering surface of the white marble.
As he rose the torch higher, blinding sparks dappled the darkness with their brilliancy, revealing a hidden world far too dazzling. At first Legolas saw only bright flashes all around him but as the light steadied, driving the twilight away with its unfolding mantle, he beheld a beauty so wondrous that appeared to be the memory of an ethereal dream. Crystals hung in clusters from the ceiling of the cave, reflecting the red light from Gimli’s fire. The floors were paved with colored marble. There were pillars to both sides, numberless and smooth, crafted with great skill and care. Gimli must have sensed the awe and wonder concealed in the elf’s stare, for he lowered his voice to a whisper and spoke to him, breaking the train of his thoughts.
-“Is this not wonderful?” –Gimli asked in expectation, -“Did I not tell you; no, did I not warn you about the beauties of this place? It is haunting! I will forever be under its spell.”
-“You spoke well, Gimli. Yet none of your descriptions do any justice to the beauties of this place.” –Legolas paced the chamber as his hands ran softly over the glistening stones. Cold they felt, but beautiful, flawless, perfect as a raindrop or as the dripping dew. And they were all over the cave, glittering in the light and vanishing like the foam in the sea.
-“Aglarond!” –Legolas whispered.
-“And there is more, my good elf. There is chamber upon chamber upon chamber of wonders! Secrets and treasures waiting to be uncovered. How could I, or any other being resist such charms?”
Legolas looked at him with an amused gaze. The dwarf’s eyes danced about the stone walls of Aglarond in eagerness, as if drawing a picture to prevent forgetfulness, and yet all too aware that forgetting such a place was not possible.
-“I know what you will say, Legolas,” –Gimli said, divining the thoughts that crossed his friend’s mind, -“But I assure you it has never crossed my mind to do any harm to this place. My axe would sit idle while my eyes toiled to grasp all the secrets of this realm. My hands could not but touch with care the smooth surfaces of this caves, so do not even suggest that we would mar more than we make as you once did.”
-“Ah, but you remember!” –Legolas said, pleased; but his countenance changed as his eyes caught a glimpse of a green glow, far in the depths of the tunnel. As if drawn by an unseen force he crossed the passage and kneeled to find in the ground what appeared to be a green sun.
The beautiful gem was shaped in the form of a strange leaf, thin but broad, with veins like running waters that crossed its polished surface. Both pairs of arms stretched to lift the priceless jewel and their gazes met for a brief moment.
There was much that Legolas read in the dwarf’s countenance, but it was more what he read in his own; even thoughts that he had never conceived before and surprised him now. He beheld in front of him a Son of Aule, not just a dwarf; and he shared alike in his love for beauty and a desire to cherish it. Handling the gem with care, Legolas took it and gave it to him. Were they so different then? As different as they had thought? For a moment it seemed not so.
-“Such beauties we are bound to find in the depths of the earth, master elf,” –he said at last in reverence. –“I told you there was nothing to compare with the treasures of the underground.”
Legolas regarded his fellow with attentive eyes until a grin curved his mouth. With a spark and a wink kindling his grey eyes, he said,
-“Think, then, what you may see in Fangorn!”
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.