Exploring Darkness: 5. Promises and Pretense

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5. Promises and Pretense

Gimli was awoken the next morning by a muffled sound of excitement. He groaned. Why did that boy have to always get up so very, very early? The fact that Eldarion had gone to sleep hours before he had, and hadn’t stood a watch, hardly crossed the dwarf’s mind. Then he frowned. He didn’t remember standing a watch, either. While the two of them usually didn’t bother with such things this close to Gondor, when he and Legolas were traveling in the company of Aragorn’s son they were always extra careful. If that dratted elf had “forgotten” to wake him for his watch, he was going to string him up by his braids and tie him to one of his beloved trees.

Legolas saw the threat in Gimli’s eyes as the dwarf sat up and glared at him. Restraining a laugh, he responded with his most innocent look. Gimli’s eyes narrowed; he sent a silent tongue lashing at his friend with his scowl. Legolas smiled and turned away, replying to something Eldarion had said before full consciousness had claimed the dwarf.

“Yes, Eldarion, now that slug-a-bed Gimli is finally awake,” he gave an exaggerated sigh for his companion’s laziness, “we can start breakfast. Perhaps you would be so good as to stir the fire while I fetch water from the stream?”

The boy instantly stopped fidgeting with his bedroll and sprang up. He shouted a gleeful affirmative and began stirring the fire so vigorously that a small shower of sparks joined the smoke on its lazy path. Legolas, pausing only to grab the water-skins, was gone before Gimli could speak.

Grumbling under his breath about foolish, flighty, impossible elves, Gimli began assembling breakfast with Eldarion’s eager assistance. By the time Legolas returned—after a far longer time than it usual took him to get water—the dwarf had mostly forgotten his promise of a tongue-lashing for the night’s watching. He contented himself with another glare, but Legolas pretended to be too distracted by Eldarion’s antics to notice it.

Sighing, Gimli gave up on scowling sense into elves, and settled down on a convenient log to eat his morning meal. It was very peaceful in the woods, sitting around a small fire with a patch of blue between the trees overhead. Eldarion’s light chatter, punctuated every now and then by an elvish laugh or reply, flowed gently over the dwarf. Despite the fact that the lad seemed never to cease talking, his voice was pleasant rather than aggravating. He reminded Gimli of little Peregrin Took with his cheerful inquisitiveness. The dwarf smiled, simply enjoying the gentle morning and agreeable company.

“We can go back to the cave right after breakfast, can’t we?”

“Now Eldarion,” Legolas said gently, “you know we have to break camp first. We can’t simply leave these things sitting around out here while we spend a full day inside the caves. I promised we would go as soon as possible, and we will, but you must be patient.”

“All right,” said Eldarion as graciously as he could manage.

Gimli, having been caught by the words just as he lifted his water-skin to his mouth, finally managed to stop coughing enough to speak. “What?” he asked in a voice that was almost a roar.

“As he did not get to see more than the first room of the cavern, Eldarion wished to return to the cave today.” Legolas looked supremely innocent. “I told him that breakfast much come first, and counseled patience.”

“But you promised we would go,” Gimli accused.

The elf nodded. “Oh please, Uncle Gimli, please?” Eldarion asked, eyes shining with eagerness and anticipation. “I promise to be good! I’ll be on my absolute best behavior the whole time and I’ll be ever so good and—”

Gimli held up a hand, and the boy fell silent. He looked at Legolas sharply. The staring contest was short, and eventually Gimli sighed and gave in. When the two princes were united against him, he had little chance of overcoming them. Eldarion was hard enough to deny under any circumstance (his two uncles spoiled him abysmally, Arwen always complained, but she smiled when she said it). When Legolas got in on things, Gimli might as well not even try—he knew he would loose.

“All right,” the dwarf said at last, trying not to smile too broadly at the squeal of glee Eldarion let out. “But I don’t want us staying there all day. If we bring you back to your parents without a healthy suntan they’ll never let you come with us again, and it’s dark in those caves.” He looked at Legolas, trusting that his friend would understand what he left unsaid.
The elf nodded and said softly, “I know.” Then his serious mood vanished and he sprang to his feet. “Come, Eldarion, let us prepare the campsite!” The boy scrambled to his feet and the two of them quickly began gathering and packing things up.

Gimli sighed and stood as well; sometimes he felt like the only adult, despite the fact that Legolas was the elder by at least hundreds of years. Elves!

* * *

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Gimli muttered anxiously to Legolas as they paused before the entrance to the cave. Eldarion was practically hopping up and down with excitement, and had only restrained himself from rushing in by Legolas’s insistence that the boy re-tie his boots so he wouldn’t trip. The elf, on the other hand, had been eyeing the dark maw somewhat dubiously.

Now he turned to Gimli with his best elf-prince-haughty-Thranduilion-down-the-nose-glare (Éomer and Gimli had named it one night after a suitable amount of ale). Legolas said nothing, just turned and stalked into the cave, head high. Eldarion scrambled to catch up, still knotting the laces on his right boot. Gimli took off after his friend as quickly as he could without actually seeming worried, but fortunately Legolas had had the presence of mind to stop directly within the entrance, where there was still more than enough light to see by.

Gimli glared at the elf, who exuded supreme innocence. Muttering dire curses against his friend’s entire race, the dwarf started into the deeper parts of the cave—one hand on Eldarion’s shoulder, and Legolas’s on his own. Legolas’s hand was a light, steady touch on his shoulder as they walked into the darkness, but Gimli wasn’t fooled.

Just because his friend had had many centuries of elven training to practice being in command of his emotions didn’t mean that he could pull it over on a dwarf.

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.

Story Information

Author: Tathrin

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 02/02/05

Original Post: 02/02/05

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