3. Tales under the Moonlight
The moon hung low, just barely clearing the mountains. The light it gave out was faint, bathing the world in pale silver. The stars helped as much as they could, their old light still as strong.
Gimli and Legolas were sitting by a small mountain top, sheltered from the wind. Gimli's eyes were closed as he listened to Legolas's soft song in Elvish. The words meant little to the Dwarf, but the song itself carried infinite sadness.
The small fire the Dwarf had started crackled, a strange backdrop to an Elvish song of lament. Up here it seemed so silent, so free and open. The air was fresh, though cool, and the stars sparkled in the streams and brooks.
He had definitely been spending too much time with the Elf, Gimli decided. Next he would probably start carrying a bow instead of an axe and start reciting poetry about the beauty of stars and trees.
The song ended on a long high note, fading into the wind. Legolas fell silent, lost in memories of the past and Gimli had not the heart to trouble the Elf with his questions.
For questions were burning on the Dwarf's lips, and one above all.
Were not Elves Immortal?
Legolas looked down at him and Gimli realised he had to have spoken the question out loud.
“Immortal? We do not die, Gimli. Our bodies can be slain or broken, but then the spirit rests in the Hall of Mandos in Valinor until it is allowed to resume form again. My father…” Legolas's voice faltered, and he closed his eyes.
“But if Valinor is gone, your father would be truly lost,” Gimli finished.
“My heart is heavy. There is a feeling of change around me, and something fell is in the air westwards. A tale from my younger days is echoing in my mind…”
“Dagor Dagorath,” the Elf said, staring into the flames distantly. “The end of days. It is but a whisper among my people. The eldest speak not of it, for it involves our greatest fear.”
“No. Sauron was the enemy of all free people of Middle-earth, but he was only a minor power compared to Morgoth – the Ancient Enemy of the Elves.”
The name was nearly spitted out, and a pained expression flashed over Legolas's face. It occurred to Gimli that though Morgoth was a name of fear and pain among his people also, it carried no personal vengeance. Not so for the elves. Even Legolas, who was born long after Morgoth's fall, seemed to feel it concerned him personally.
“I wish Mithrandir were here,” Legolas said after a while. “I dearly miss him, Gimli. Those were dark days, but with his wisdom the world was clearer. He would know what is happening.”
“Gandalf,” Gimli said softly. “We could have used a wizard.”
A thought occurred to him suddenly, a memory of Gandalf telling a tale at the Council of Elrond and a name he had mentioned. Radagast the Brown – another wizard.
“Legolas, did Radagast pass over the sea with Gandalf?”
The Elf looked confused for a moment, merely staring. Then he laughed, a small and sad laugh, but a laugh nevertheless.
“Alas, you have a fool of a friend! Never let it be said a Dwarf cannot think brighter than an Elf. Radagast resides near Mirkwood, Galadhbar would know if he has been seen of late. I shall ask him in the morning.”
Gimli settled back against the rock, his keen eyes regarding the Elf. There was something Legolas had not spoken of, something that worried his elven friend. The Dwarf furrowed his forehead, wondering. Whatever it was, Gimli decided he would have to keep an eye out. Legolas was his friend, but he was an Elf, and Elves had secrets in their blood.
Secrets, starlight and tales. Sometimes Gimli wondered if the elves were made of that rather than flesh and blood.
“And long Eärendil set sail into the starless vast, Elwing at his side, the Silmaril upon his brow, voyaging the Dark behind the world, a glimmering and fugitive star. And ever and anon he returns and shines behind the courses of the Sun and Moon above the ramparts of the Gods, brighter than all other stars, the mariner of the sky, keeping watch against Morgoth upon the confines of the world,” he cited, making Legolas look up in surprise.
“I do listen to your tales, Legolas, even when you think I have fallen asleep. You told me of the Silmarillions and Earendel when we rested in Fangorn. If you did not think I listened, why did you tell it? Do Elves love the sound of their own voices that much?”
“I do recall hearing snoring at some point during that tale,” Legolas replied, and stared hard at his friend. After a few seconds he broke into a smile, and was soon joined by Gimli.
The smiles faded as Legolas stared up at the sky, and Gimli threw more wood onto the smouldering fire.
“Not all share the Elvish love of tales, Legolas, but we too have tales. They concern mostly mines and underground beauty, I will not bore you with them. Though we may not concern ourselves much of the worries of the world, we are aware of them. And Morgoth brought Durin's bane, and forever will we resent him for that. Moria was our greatest stronghold, our pride – now it is but a tomb.”
“Morgoth brought pain to many. Perhaps we elves forget that at times. We see our own loss, and only ours,” Legolas replied, sounding pensive. “It is said he is trapped beyond the world until Dagor Dagorath. But something is not right. I feel it in the air. This should be the time of Men – and we shall slowly fade and pass into the West. There we shall await the end of days. So says the tales.”
Legolas fell silent, sadness overcoming him again. His father should not be lost – yet, his heart was grieving. There was something terribly wrong, and finding out could very well lead him to where his friend could not follow – over the sea, to see if Valinor was truly gone.
A part of him did not wish to take that way. It would mean leaving Gimli, and their farewell would be final. The Dwarves were not immortal…
But if Valinor was gone, neither were the elves. Legolas shuddered, despite the warmth from the fireplace. For the first time he realised what the Doom of Men had to be like – not knowing what awaited. What if there was nothing, only darkness forever?
Not seeing his father ever again seemed like pain too heavy to carry. And what of his mother? How did Men and Dwarves endure the uncertainty of their fate and those they loved? No tales offered any answers. Perhaps Elves took too much comfort in tales.
And yet it was only one thing he could think of to wash away the dread and grief he was feeling.
“Tell me a tale, Gimli. Of mines and underground beauty. You will not bore me.”
Author's Notes: Radagast is mentioned in the book-version of the council of Elrond. The concept of Dagor Dagorath is mentioned in Unfinished Tales. More details on Morgoth and the elves's struggle can be found in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.