‘Master Dwarf,’ Legolas said quietly, hoping not to disrupt the others from their healing memories. The undersized warrior lifted his head to look up at the elven intruder. ‘Gimli,’ he softened, ‘would you…walk with me?’
The Dwarf’s tired face twisted into a grimace and Legolas could almost hear the refusal on his tongue, but to the Elf’s vague chagrin, he sighed and then said, ‘Yes.’
Legolas stepped back as Gimli hefted his podgy form from the ground and the two stood looking at one another in uncertain silence. The rest of the group had stopped speaking to stare blatantly at the unusual sight of an elf and a dwarf accepting each other’s company – especially this Elf and this Dwarf.
Legolas cleared his throat uncomfortably. ‘Perhaps toward the river,’ he suggested.
‘Very well,’ Gimli said, moving to follow.
With a fleeting, embarrassed glance back at their puzzled companions, Legolas lead Gimli out of the pavilion. He felt the eyes of the others on their backs, deep into the shadows of the mellyrn trees, far from the glow of the silver lamps.
‘What do you suppose that was about?’ he heard Merry ask, not taking into consideration the extensive range of elven hearing. When he didn’t detect an answer, Legolas assumed one of the others had responded with a bewildered shrug. If Merry had asked him, he might have shrugged as well.
Gimli scuffled along beside him and Legolas could have sworn he could hear him scowling. Dwarves were not light of foot and were certainly lacking in grace – without a doubt, the Elves for several yards around knew that the Dwarf was walking through the trees – it was possible, he supposed, that Dwarves could audibly scowl.
They walked for a great distance with only their own footsteps and the mournful lament to accompany them. The Elf shortened his strides and heard Gimli scoff under his breath as if the consideration were predictably patronizing. Legolas searched his mind for something to say, even for an idle comment to end the unpleasant silence, but he simply could not imagine how to start a conversation with a dwarf.
He thought to comment on the beauty of the trees, but Dwarves did not admire such things. The music still hung in the air and he thought to mention that, but he could not imagine the Dwarf enjoyed it. Dwarves sang, that he knew, but it was different from the singing of Elves, different from what Legolas would call music. And still more perplexing was how to converse with someone whose face was half-hidden by fur.
‘If we go much further,’ Gimli said, his rough voice breaking through the song, ‘I will be unable to hear the music.’
‘Oh! Dwarves like music?’ Legolas asked, surprised to think he had been wrong.
Gimli laughed bitterly. ‘Yes, even Dwarves!’ he cried derisively. ‘Music can reach our ears down here just as well as it reaches yours up there!’
‘I made no reference to the level of your ears,’ the Elf defended quickly.
‘No?’ said Gimli. ‘Then you must doubt their sharpness. They may not be pointed and we may not be able to hear a bird landing in a tree a mountain range away, but I assure you that even the ears of Dwarves know beauty when they hear it!’
‘I was not suggesting otherwise.’ Legolas glanced at the fuming Dwarf beside him. ‘And I cannot hear a bird a mountain range away,’ he added bitingly. ‘But perhaps I do question the sharpness of your hearing for you have clearly not heard a word I have said!’
‘I can assure I heard not only the words, but what they were meant to imply as well,’ argued Gimli. ‘I can understand even your lilting voice when I am so unfortunate as to have it right next to my head!’
‘And yet you manage to hear me wrong; I am most impressed, Master Dwarf! I had no idea that Dwarves were blessed with skills so prodigious as hearing nonexistent conversations,’ Legolas responded angrily. Gimli opened his mouth to counter, but Legolas quickly interrupted. ‘Will it suit you, then, to turn about? We cannot have strayed far out of your range.’
His bearded face tight in a frown, Gimli turned, staying with him. ‘It suits me just fine, Master Elf! And do not walk slowly on my account. Dwarves are not so fragile as Elves and I wish to return to the camp as quickly as possible!’
Fury swept through Legolas’ limbs and a dozen harsh retorts flew to his mind, but he bit his tongue. The Dwarf was purposely misunderstanding him and he would not give him the satisfaction of becoming embroiled in another argument, not when he had come with the noblest of intentions. Just like a Dwarf, Legolas thought; he interpreted the words of an elf as an insult, no matter how innocently they had been said.
Legolas the Confused was no longer a fitting title. He understood perfectly why the friendship between the Elves and the Dwarves had waned: Dwarves were innately irrational and unfriendly. The true mystery was how such a friendship had ever existed. If one managed to grow, it was on very unstable ground from the start.
Legolas lengthened his stride. The Dwarf prided himself on being so hardy, he could keep up.
Gimli fought to keep up with the Elf’s gait and struggled to discern at which of his discourtesies he was angrier. That the Elf had said that Dwarves didn’t appreciate music! – it made his blood boil just to think on it.
And he had rudely tiptoed into the pavilion and disturbed Gimli from his thoughts without even the courtesy of walking loudly enough to be heard approaching. Walking on snow! Gimli thought with a snort: it was possible the frail thing couldn’t make a noise even if he wanted to. And now he was deliberately walking faster than usual. He was infuriating!
Gimli now knew he had the answer to the true riddle at the doors of Moria. The friendship between the Elves and the Dwarves had waned because Elves were impossible! He marveled at the immense patience of his ancestors that any of them had managed to even tolerate the company of an elf, let alone seek it out!
He grumbled to himself, not caring that the Elf’s irritatingly acute hearing would surely hear him. Better Legolas should know he had crossed him. Undoubtedly, the scrawny bowman had no idea what it meant to cross a Dwarf. He knew nothing about them!
Including whether or not they enjoy music, Gimli realized with a pang that almost halted his steps.
It was possible, he supposed, that Legolas didn’t know. Dwarves were protective and secretive about their culture – and rightly so! – but it presented an unfortunate possibility.
He replayed the Elf’s question in his head and despite his best efforts, he could not hear any intentional insult. He heard only surprise, and it was almost happy surprise at that. Gimli tightened his jaw, gritting his teeth as the full realization came upon him: the Elf had been in the right…at least marginally.
Immediately, he decided he would dare to speak again, though he did not examine his motivations for doing so. If he had, he would have found it was partly because he knew that Gandalf wished him to befriend this irksome Elf and partly because Galadriel would perhaps admire his efforts if he succeeded in uniting their races. But it was mostly because of his own vehement, albeit deeply buried, insistence that, if this foolish endeavor were to fail, it should be entirely the Elf’s fault, not his.
‘The song,’ he said, coughing lightly to clear his throat. ‘It is not as somber as I would have expected.’
Legolas turned to him, anger flashing in his bright eyes. ‘Are you questioning its sincerity?’ he asked sharply. ‘We Elves do not die, but we do know what it is to grieve.’
‘I never said you did not,’ Gimli growled.
‘Then it is just our method of expressing it that offends you?’ Legolas questioned, looking pointedly down upon the Dwarf.
‘I did not say it offended me.’
‘It is evidently not morose enough for your liking,’ the Elf clarified. ‘You would prefer a funereal dirge? Or perhaps just wailing would suit you better.’
‘I have said what I meant!’ Gimli sneered, glaring up at his towering companion. ‘I stand by my words, Elf.’
‘As I stand by mine, Dwarf,’ Legolas haughtily replied.
Gimli could almost feel the prickle of static in the air. Legolas’ blood was up. Just like an elf, Gimli thought; listen to the words and care none for the voice that said them.
Then, quite suddenly, Legolas came to a stop. In his haste to keep pace, Gimli walked a few feet past before he noticed. Tightening his fists in subdued anger, he turned to regard the Elf.
Legolas stood like a statue in a shaft of moonlight, his expressionless features turned skyward. Gimli noted how the silvery light seemed reflected back at the moon from within the Elf himself and he averted his eyes, his face tense with irritation. Dwarves knew beauty when they saw it too and it was especially vexing that this particular Elf had it in spades. Gimli’s only small sense of triumph was that, opposed to the warm, welcoming loveliness of Lady Galadriel, Legolas’ beauty was cold and aloof; an alienating handsomeness, like the rest of his kin.
‘We can hear the music very well from here,’ Legolas said deliberately. He lowered his lanky form to the ground and leaned his back against a tree.
‘Do not stop for me,’ Gimli said, unable to keep the bristle from his tone. ‘I am quite capable of continuing.’
‘Then you may do so,’ Legolas replied curtly. ‘I am staying.’
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.