17. Chapter Seventeen
Gimli walked slowly across the field, hoping to find Haldir. He needed to know what had happened, why Legolas had abandoned their Quest. He knew something terrible had happened. Never, in these years that he had known the Elf, would he ever have thought Legolas would abandon his friends. He found the two of them and grimaced slightly. They lay naked next to a small creek, both sound asleep.
He sat down next to them and pulled out his pipe. After a few moment's struggle, the weed caught and he sucked it four or five times, till the entire area smelt of it. He chuckled to himself. 'This will surely wake them, much as Haldir hates the smell.'
"Who?" Haldir sat up and reached for his tunic, thoroughly wet and wrinkled. Nevertheless, he drew it over her before standing. "What are you doing here?" Anger coursed through him. 'Do Dwarves watch?' He shivered in disgust.
"I came to see what in thunder chased my friend away."
The voice was calm but Haldir recognized the same level of hostility he felt when first he had encountered the Dwarf many years before. At that time, he had his sword at the creature's neck. He almost wished the sword was within easy reach now. His eyes widened at the thought. He had been careless; the sword lay next to Haldirriel, a good few feet away from him. If it had been an enemy, he would be dead now, as would his beloved.
The Dwarf saw the realization in the Elf's eyes and chuckled. "Let yourself be caught high and dry, have you? Well," and the chuckle turned into genuine laughter. "Not quite high and dry are you? Should I offer my own cloak to cover you?"
Haldir growled. "Your cloak would not be enough to cover me, Dwarf!"
Gimli smiled again. "I think you should change your haughty voice, my fair Elf. The Lady herself values my friendship. More than she values yours? I think so, once she finds you have insulted the Prince of Mirkwood and Ithilien. She values that Elf and his King." The smile on the Dwarf's face grew wider. "She would not want an incident, now would she?"
Haldir took a step towards the Dwarf, then stopped himself. The creature was right. But what was he saying about Legolas? "You speak in riddles. What is this about Legolas being chased away?"
"Elves speak in riddles. Oh! And Wizards. There are no wizards about at the moment, only Elves. So I believe it is you who speaks in riddles. What did you do to Legolas to make him leave?" The Dwarf's tone grew low and menacing.
"Legolas has gone?" Haldirriel's voice cut through the tension. "Where did he go?"
"I believe he is headed back to Ithilien. To safer and quieter lands. Does that make you happy?"
She stood up and pulled on Haldir's arm. "You must stop him. He did only what you would not. I was in need."
His eyes misted. "I know and I am sorry, so sorry for turning from you. I will not do it again, I promise."
"Please, we must go after him."
"I will. And Gimli will go with me." He smiled at the arched eyebrow. "You purport to be his friend. Would you sit by the campfire and let me go after your friend? Who knows - perhaps we might come to blows."
"I saw you already did!" The Dwarf held up his axe. "If it happens again, this will find your skull! I have been tolerant until now!"
Haldir turned away and helped Haldirriel dress; the three walked back to the camp. Haldir gave instructions that the party should move north and camp south of the River Ninglor. He put Haldirriel in charge. "Camp just south of where the two flows from the mountain join together. I will meet you there, and I promise I will have Legolas with me."
She nodded and turned away from him. Haldir mounted his horse and held his hand out. Gimli looked at him in surprise. "Do you think I'd be riding with the likes of you? I will walk. We Dwarves are known for our speed and endurance."
"I have heard that of your kind," Haldir said quietly, "but if you hope to find your friend in time for us to meet back with Haldirriel, then you must ride. I do not believe you wish to ride a horse alone?"
The Dwarf harrumphed. "I'm feeling that you are toying with me, Elf. You better control your beast or I will let every Elf left in Middle-earth know that you let me fall, if it comes to that!"
"You will not fall, Gimli son of Glóin. You have my word."
The Dwarf scowled and took the proffered hand. Haldir swung him into the saddle behind him and felt the Dwarf's one arm around his waist. He smiled as he realized the axe was still unsheathed in the other hand. "Are you ready?"
"Aye. Let's be off and stop all this chatting."
Haldir nodded and urged the horse into a canter and then a full gallop. He felt Gimli's arm tighten about his waist and smiled. Suddenly, his good sense returned and he slowed his mount. "Is the pace too brisk for you, Master Dwarf? I could slow even further if you are afraid." He tried to stop the laughter that threatened to explode as the Dwarf grumbled and harrumphed behind him.
"Very well. I will keep up the pace. I do not want our Elf getting too far ahead of us."
"I can smell him for miles," Gimli snorted. "He'll not escape my notice."
"I beg your indulgence? Did you say he will not escape your nose?"
Another grumble and harrumph shook Haldir's body and the Elf laughed outright. "Forgive me, Master Dwarf. I forget myself. You have the high esteem of the Lady of the Golden Wood and of my friend, Legolas; I am becoming boorish."
"Mayhap I have goaded you into such actions," the Dwarf said hesitantly. "I only worry about my friend."
"I know what it is to worry about a friend. Let us call a truce for a time?"
"Aye." The response was still sullen, but Haldir accepted the answer.
Haldirriel had the camp broken and the company mustered within moments. As they rode, she hummed to herself; then, she frowned. Her heart soared and sank: soared when she thought of Haldir's love and sank when she thought of Legolas' pain. The sky began to darken as her mood did. Her thoughts turned towards the nightmares she had had. Her heart began to flutter in joy. If Singollo lived.... But tortured? How would his fëa survive such a thing? Then, she remembered Maedhros. Years had the poor Elf been shackled to the mountain, in agony. Though Singollo was not Noldor, he too could survive, she told herself. He must!
The company rode forward as her tears fell. She had put her love and lust before her own tortured brother. But it could not be helped. Their bond, Haldir's and her's pulsed as if alive and she had all she could do most moments to not find him and plunder his mouth and attack every last part of him. Her arms even now tingled at the thought of him and all conscious thought of her brother was washed away in the overwhelming sensuality of her thoughts.
The rains came and cooled her and she was grateful. They rode on until Anor slid behind Hithaeglir. She finally called a halt and bid their camp be set for the night. She sent out pickets and gave the password that Haldir had devised that morning. Now, all she could do was wait and hope that the two Elves she loved more than anything in the world would come back to her.
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