The first sign of how long they had been in the cave was the sputtering of a torch. Gimli looked up, and saw that it had almost burnt out. Suddenly the awareness of time that had vanished with Eldarion’s innocent delight in the cavern came rushing back, and the dwarf almost groaned aloud. Originally he had planned for their exploration of the cave to be a full day’s event, and had placed several extra torches around for when the first started to dim. The pack on his back even had a light lunch that he had intended for them to picnic on in an adjoining room of the caverns; it had a formation that was so table-like the dwarf had always pictured someone (perhaps Aulë) dining on it. But after Legolas’s bought of fright, he had changed his plans. Instead, he had decided to only show Eldarion enough to satisfy the boy, and then get his friend out of here.
But joy and delight were contagious, especially when the feelings came from Eldarion. Time had slipped away from Gimli, and a short time had turned into two hours. Abandoning the crystal pool in which he was showing the young prince the ceiling of the cavern above their heads, he suddenly announced, “all right, that’s all the time we have. Come along, lad; go stand by your uncle while I put out these torches.”
Eldarion’s face fell into disappointment and he sighed a sigh so ponderous is surely came from a much older and more suffering breast, but he did as he was told. Legolas tried to catch Gimli’s eye, but the dwarf carefully ignored him.
“I’ll just extinguish these a moment, then I’ll lead you back out, lad,” he said, pretending to be reassuring Eldarion, who seemed to have no fear of either darkness or caverns. “Just stay there by the tunnel, I can find you in the dark.” In reality, he was speaking to the Elf, and they both knew it. Only the boy was oblivious to the subtle signals being exchanged, but he was so overcome with awe that they could have spoken plainly and he still would have paid little mind.
Firmly placing a hand on Eldarion’s shoulder to steer the lad out of the cave, Gimli waited until he felt Legolas’s hand to move. What he felt first, however, was a light whisper in his ear, so quiet that even the echoing cavern could not amplify it.
“What do you think you are doing? It is not yet noontime,” the Elf hissed.
Gimli tried to direct a scowl at his friend. Knowing that he could not keep his own words from reaching the sharp ears of the boy, the dwarf replied as if he were simply telling Eldarion what their next event of the day would be. “We’ll start you on that campfire a bit sooner, I think, lad,” he said casually. “That way if it takes a long time to light, we won’t be waiting on our dinner. Instead of just lighting it, however, I want you to know how to build the thing from scratch. You can borrow one of my axes.”
“Really?” The boy’s eyes had lit up so brightly you could hear it in his voice. “Oh, Uncle Gimli, can I really? And if I get it lit in time, can I help look for the game for dinner? Please? And—and can you teach me another song, Uncle Legolas?”
“Of course,” the elf replied, voice carefully pitched to disguise any discomfort he felt at being in the small, dark space. “We shall do our best to keep your day so filled you will drop to sleep before the moon has fully claimed the sky.” Unspoken but not unreceived was the thought that they would have to make it a very interesting and busy day to make up for the abbreviated visit to the cave. Gimli shifted uncomfortably, but said nothing. Cave or no cave, the lad would have fun, they would see to that—and it would be fun that would not put the elf through any ordeal more horrific than trying to hunt with a human child in tow. But, of course, the elf would see to it that Gimli suffered far worse for his change of plans. He was surely already plotting something fitting, the dwarf knew—perhaps scavenging for fruit in the trees, which the two half-monkeys would toss down to their disgruntled companion below. Which was still a sight better than forcing said companion to join them in the trees. He sighed.
Gimli had a feeling that Eldarion would not be the only one tired this 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.