13. Dying Living
They walked forever on the burned ground, ashes clinging to their boots and feet as they wandered further into the land, searching for anything that would reveal what happened. Smoke seeped from the ground here and there, almost like tears, the only tears the ground could cry.
Gimli led the pace, Sam following close with Sting held high. Legolas trailed behind, his eyes dark. Little was said. It was a graveyard they were walking through. Words would be intruding.
The Dwarf felt a sting in his heart as he considered how many elves could have fallen. The ashes told nothing of numbers, but he thought he sometimes caught a glimpse blood among the dirt. He dared not look at it, for Legolas might follow his glance. His Elven friend looked paled enough as it was.
Paled skin, burning heart. How frail the Elf looked, and not from some outward cause. The wounds were not visible and no herb could heal them. Perhaps the Lady Galadriel could reach the mind of Legolas and bring him from whatever abyss he was teetering at the edge of… If she indeed still lived and had not fallen into the abyss herself.
Never before had Gimli felt so small. There was naught he could do but watch – watch the destruction, watch the despair, watch his own footsteps, wondering if they would be his last.
He did not wish to die here, in the ashes of greatness. He would not fear dying to defend such greatness, but the battle was lost. The world was burned.
Perhaps they all stood at the edge of the abyss, about to fall.
And then he lifted his eyes from the ground to see a light beaconing in the distance. His heart knew that light and for a moment, it felt nothing but joy.
“Legolas!” he whispered.
The Elf lifted his head also, and a look of wonder fell on his face.
“Elves,” he whispered, eyes lighting up.
“Not just any elves” Gimli replied. “Come, Sam. We will once more look upon the beauty
of Lady Galadriel.”
“Frodo is there,” Legolas added, his keen eyes fixed on the distant shimmer of light. “He lives, Sam.”
The hobbit smiled, and fiercely brushed off ash from his cheek. Not that it would help much, some had fallen like snow into his hair, some stuck to his clothes like a second layer. Gimli could only imagined he looked much the same. He cared not to look, but he felt ash caress his skin when the winds lifted slightly.
Perhaps this was to be the fate of the world – drowned in flames and swallowed by the sea.
As they drew nearer, Sam was the one who took the lead, the sound of his naked feet against burnt soil leading the Dwarf and the Elf on. Strangely, the sound seemed to echo Gimli’s heartbeats, as if they were one and the same. Joy died away and fear grew.
The Dwarf tried to lift his face to look upon the light ahead once more, but tears gathered in his eyes uninvited. He was not sure for whom he cried – Legolas? Sam? Galadriel? The Elves?
His own kindred?
They were dying, he suddenly realised, and his heart contracted painfully. They had for a long time, and he had always known. Like the mountains, the death was slow and gradual, piece by piece, rock by rock. One morning the sun would rise without any dwarves to greet it.
Dying so slowly they believed they still lived. Perhaps a quicker death brought by the Ancient Enemy was a blessing. No slow torment.
Death would come either way, slow or quick.
He felt Legolas’s hand on his shoulder, a light touch, almost insubstantial. Perhaps if the Dwarves would become earth, the Elves would become air. It would be fitting, somehow.
A tear fell to the earth, sizzling quietly and burning away. He could not hinder it and scarcely even felt it. His steps seemed to become heavier, as if whatever inflicted Legolas had fallen upon him as well, pulling him to the earth.
When he finally looked up, they were among Elves. Bruised and bloodied Elves, paled yet still magnificent. Wisdom and pride shone in their faces, and Legolas bowed low.
There were Elves unlike Gimli had ever seen, and he too bowed. Elves of power, Elves of old. He dared not lift his face, fore surely he would not be welcome here. Why had he come?
For Legolas. For friendship. For hope.
To his shame, another tear fell from his eyes to the ground, for a moment shining like a dark-blue pearl. Then the earth embraced it, drawing it in, starved for moisture.
Frodo and Sam embraced quietly by his side, no words spoken. Or perhaps he simply did not hear them, for all the Dwarf could hear was the pounding of his own heart.
He would look up and see grief in her face, and he would die.
Gimli, Lord among Dwarves, will you not do as you once asked and look upon my face once more?
No, my Lady Galadriel.
What do you fear so to see?
The death of all things beautiful.
She offered no answer, but he felt her eyes on his face and his cheeks grew hot. It was as if a sun was upon him, a dying sun about to set. But still a sun, radiant and strong, warming the land, warming him.
There was life here, even as it was dying, clinging on with all its strength. Under the ash, he could see brown earth and patches of green grass. Life.
Perhaps Valinor had not been shielded from the world, but had shielded the world away from it? To heal, to plan some sort of counterattack. Perhaps this was not Morgoth’s victory, but the Enemy’s failure? Valinor still lived, under ash and darkness. It lived.
“You see far and wise as always, Gimli, son of Glóin,” Galadriel said gently, her words stirring something deep in his heart. Pride, perhaps. Or the essence of the rocks and earth from which his kindred had come.
And he lifted his face.
Death was coming. At least he would die living.
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.