2. Chapter 1
Author's Note: Dialogue between asterisks is taken directly from The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien.
With much excitement, Gimli hefted her pack and set out with her eight companions. While the seriousness of their mission weighed heavily on them all, for the first time she was being shown the honor due to her as the son of Glóin! Her lips twitched upwards with her exhilaration at finally getting her due. Long had she waited for this chance, and she gloried in the freedom she now had over others of her gender. If not for the unfortunate death of her mother during childbirth and her father's refusal to follow custom, Gimli would have been raised by her aunt and grandmother.
She marched along, listening to the hobbits chat quietly between themselves and watching the Men with interest. She had never encountered Men such as these before – this Boromir of Gondor and Aragorn Arathorn's son. Strange they were, very tall and very serious in demeanor…and nothing like the flighty creature walking at the back of their company, humming to himself or softly singing.
Gimli snorted and turned her eyes back to the front. The way was difficult and one needed to watch where one walked; still, the elf's presence amused her. He had said nothing to her in the two month stay in Rivendell. Except for the outburst between her father and Legolas during the Council, she had hardly seen the elf speak to any, even the other elves in Rivendell. He was a strange creature, even for an elf of Mirkwood, and she had met several. He often just sat, usually somewhere up high, and either sang to himself, worked at increasing his cache of arrows, or simply drew up a knee to his chest and watched the various goings on in the hidden valley.
What fascinated him so about the various races in Rivendell that he had sat at the fringes and merely observed, never really a part of the goings on but never far from it either? Legolas had been introduced as Thranduil's son, a prince of Mirkwood! Frivolous creatures, full of whimsy, they enjoyed feasting and dancing and making merry under the stars. Those she had met in her travels with Glóin had been outspoken, merry and playful. But this one – she glanced back at him – he kept to himself and was quiet. Perhaps he was shy?
The elf's gaze turned towards her and for a brief moment, their eyes met. Gimli found her gaze captured by stunning silver eyes that shone like the stars themselves. By Mahal! She had never seen such eyes! How had she not noticed them before? Then to her horror, he winked, and then his gaze flitted away, leaving her feeling enraged, confused and bereft all at once.
Gimli determined then and there that the elf was dangerous, and she resolved to keep him at a distance. Yet…she could not stop herself from taking small peeks in his direction, and she cursed herself for being a fool. She had seen his smirks; the elf was laughing at her!
Gimli had anticipated several difficulties while she had prepared for the journey. Being the only female in a company of nine, and her gender unbeknownst to the others at that, created other…complications. It was nothing she had not dealt with before among her own kind, though some things proved easier among the Dwarves due to certain cultural distinctions.
Relieving oneself, for instance, was a very private affair for a dwarf. Having had little exposure to other races, at least in regards to such matters as that, she was unprepared when the Man of Gondor simply stopped by a tree and began fiddling with his trousers. Her eyes widened as she realized what he was doing, and she stared in absolute horror.
"What do you think you are doing?" she rumbled at the man, staring in horror at the wet spot growing larger at the base of the tree.
Boromir's brows rose as he looked over his shoulder at her. "I would think that was obvious, my good dwarf, or do dwarves not need to relieve themselves?"
It was Gandalf who answered. "Dwarves are very private about such things, Boromir. Even among their own gender." The wizard had looked down at her with knowing eyes. "It is considered an insult to expose oneself to another or to relieve oneself in the presence of others." He glanced around at the rest of the group, who all stared at Gimli with varied expressions of amusement or curiosity.
Her face burned.
"We are a company of mixed races and cultures. We must work to respect our differences."
There were nods of agreement from Boromir and Aragorn, and to Gimli's relief, smiles of understanding from Frodo and Sam. Merry still looked a bit thunderstruck, while Pippin… Gimli feared Pippin was about to make some embarrassing statement. She was not disappointed.
"How then do they…er…" Pippin's voice trailed off as his cheeks turned pink. "Never mind..."
She stared at the hobbit, thinking he had surely not meant what she thought he had meant, when a light voice behind her merrily added, "Are Dwarves not known to live in dark holes? Perhaps they have no need for light in order to—"
"Legolas!" Gandalf's voice boomed over the company, and the elf's bright laughter followed. Gimli bristled with anger and indignation at the elf's insinuations. Shy? No, he was a churlish, dog-hearted miscreant!
Gimli turned and glared at him. "Why you pointy-eared, foul-mouthed—"
"Gimli." Gandalf's tone was a warning. "That is enough." Gimli snapped her mouth closed, but continued to glare at the elf. Gandalf continued, "As I was saying, with the differences in culture among our company, we must work to show each other respect."
The wizard's eyes turned to hold the elf with a pointed look. "Bathing, for instance…" Gimli's eyes widened as the elf's pale cheeks bloomed with two blotches of color. "Not all races believe in communal bathing. In this, elves and dwarves are much alike. When the opportunity arises, privacy must be respected." Gandalf's eyes moved over each of them, drawing agreement from all. "Now, we have lingered here long enough. Let us away, for we have many more leagues to travel before the sun rises."
Seething, Gimli joined the line and marched along, but after a short time, she realized most of her complications had been resolved during their short break. She had no need to explain anything. Tharkûn had indeed done his part to preserve her identity.
For a fortnight, they traveled. And during that time, Gimli found herself constantly bristling. The elf seemed to be doing his best to irritate her with his words. Always his eyes sparkled with mischief as he made some statement or other about the dwarves. It was rather unsettling, especially when she realized he never once made such comments about any of the others in their company.
The elf kept his distance from the others, always walking in the back, often just behind Gimli, though why, she was at a loss to understand. At mealtimes, he took his food and sought some high ground or tree in which to partake of it. When they rested, he often sat alone. He watched their surroundings and listened intently to the tales they told to pass the time, but rarely did he join in them, except to make some comment that left Gimli incensed and muttering under her breath.
What need drove him to spark her ire, she did not understand, and so she withdrew from him more, walking closer to the hobbits. At least she attempted to put distance between them; to her dismay, the elf followed her, and Gimli began to walk with one hand resting on the haft of her axe, her eyes boring into him and fingers twitching to teach him some manners.
By the time they reached Hollin, Gimli had given up on trying to keep the elf away. His comments continued, always with merrily dancing eyes and she found to her great discomfort that she enjoyed the teasing on some level. Curse him for being so fair! Beauty such as his should not be paired with such a daring personality. Finding it impossible to hold him at a distance — the blasted elf seemed always at her heels! — she simply ignored him, or attempted to do so. The dratted elf was hard to ignore.
She found it easier to distract herself once she laid eyes upon the mountain peaks in the distance. Oh, how she had longed to see them again! It had been many years since that first and only glimpse she had gotten of them while traveling from the Blue Mountains to the Lonely Mountain with her father and their kin. To be so close and to know they might get closer still stirred her with excitement. Her heart yearned to see Khazad-dum, the ancient home of her ancestors. It was possible Balin might yet dwell there, and they might find temporary refuge and comfort with him.
Instead, Gandalf chose to take the Redhorn Pass. While Gimli felt some disappointment at not going through the mines, her heart trembled at the thought of seeing the waters of Kheled-zâram – the Mirrormere. And she marveled at the elf's ramblings about the Elves of Hollin. *"Only I hear the stones lament them…"* he had said. Did Elves truly hear the stones as the Dwarves did? Gimli felt a certain amount of respect for him at saying this…right up until he grinned at her and winked. Blasted elf!
The grueling walk up Caradhras quickly stole what joy she had found in the thought of seeing Kheled-zâram. She should have been enjoying at least the sight of the mountains as they pushed on towards the pass, but her eyes continually strayed to where the elf jaunted easily up the incline. Not only was the elf fair to look upon, the fey creature could walk atop the snow! No trudging for him. Her temper, sparked by this slight against nature, grew fouler along with the weather. Angry and cold, she grumbled and muttered under her breath, wishing they could leave the cruel Caradhras far behind.
The storm built the further they walked, until they were finally forced to stop. Gandalf, Aragorn and Boromir debated what they should do next, but Gimli remained silent, stomping her feet in an effort to warm herself and eyeing the hobbits and their bootless feet. The Man of Gondor spoke truly. The hobbits would not fare well if they continued.
Gandalf allowed a fire, and Gimli stepped forward to light one, but the elf beat her to it. She watched with a smug smile on her face as he tried and failed several times to ignite the wet wood. Finally, he stood and with chagrin admitted, "It is no use. The wood will not light."
"Get out of the way," she grumbled, pushing past him. She dropped to her knees and pulled out her tinder box fully prepared to prove the superiority of the Dwarves. Many minutes later she had to concede the wood was too wet for elf or dwarf to light. She frowned at the kindling that refused to ignite for her just as it had for the elf, then dropped her flint back into her tinderbox and stood. The failing had not been the fault of either of them but that of the weather.
The chill wind howled about them, driving snow deep into her beard and stinging her eyes and face. She stepped back, frowning and waiting for some cutting remark from the elf, but none came. Gandalf relented and used his staff to make a small blaze. Gimli huddled beside the hobbits next to the weak fire and glared out at the swirling snow, wondering what other challenges they might face on this Quest. To date, Caradhras was the worst of it, but she feared there was much worse to come.
When, to her surprise, the elf came over and sat beside her, she scooted away and up against the cliff wall. To her dismay, he followed and sat so close his leg brushed against hers. She inched away until he was no longer touching her and glared at him.
"It is chill," he said, though he did not look the least bit cold. He was simply making an observation.
"Of course it is chill, you fool elf!" she snapped. "Did you expect the warmth of the sun in all this swirling snow and ice?" His lips twitched, and she harrumphed and turned her head away but did not move. His body heat spread to her from his closeness, and though she grumbled, she let it warm her.
Come morning, the path could no longer be seen and the clouds overhead were still heavy with snow. Gimli looked up at the mountain and shook her head. "Caradhras has not forgiven us," she said. *"He has more snow yet to fling at us, if we go on. The sooner we go back and down the better."*
But that was easier said than done. The path they had traveled up the mountain had drifted closed and retreat seemed all but impossible. They would have to find some way to break through the drifts that lay deeper than the hobbits' heads in some places. To Gimli's dismay the elf easily climbed up the drifts and looked down at them.
*"If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for you,"* he said with a slight smile. The blasted elf did not even look cold! Here they were stuck on a mountainside with the threat of more snow dumping on them at any moment and yet there he pranced, merry as could be.
To Gimli's satisfaction, Gandalf answered as grumpily as she felt. *"If Elves could fly over the mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us! But I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow."*
The two Men decided they would dig a path through the drifts, and Gimli settled back against the wall while they began shoveling the snow with their hands. She would be of little use in such an endeavor. Dwarves were not made for pushing through snow; the drifts came to even over her head in some places. She watched them a moment, then a light voice drew her attention.
*"The strongest must seek a way, say you? But I say: let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming, and for running light over grass and leaf, or over snow — an elf!"* Legolas sprang forward after the Men, calling over his shoulder to the wizard who glared at him. *"Farewell! I go to find the Sun!"* He darted across the drifts as if running over firm ground, passed the men with a merry wave and disappeared around a bend.
"Elves are strange, aren't they?" Pippin asked, settling down beside Gimli. "I mean, I'd never before met an elf until we left the Shire, and since then, I've met many, and they are all a bit odd in their own way." The hobbit tugged his cloak more firmly around him. "But Legolas…well, he seems a bit odder than the rest. Do you think they are all like that in Mirkwood?"
"Bah!" Gimli replied, shaking her head. "Wood-elves are indeed flighty, but that one is the worst I've met. Elves are silly creatures!"
For all her outward gruffness, Gimli wrestled within herself between offense and amusement at the elf's antics. Gandalf still glared in the direction Legolas had gone, and Gimli snorted and shook her head. After the hobbits, Legolas probably roused the wizard's ire more than any of them. If not for being a target herself of the elf's flighty moods, she might find it more amusing. Dratted creature! Here she sat, freezing her arse off on a mountain determined to bury them in snow, and she could not stop her thoughts from straying to a flighty elf, who pranced about on top of the snowfall as if he were running and playing in a meadow of new grass!
By the time the elf and Men returned with the news the snow drifts only extended a short distance, Gimli was in a foul mood and angry with her lack of control over her thoughts. What was wrong with her? She should feel nothing for him, yet… She shook her head and refused to acknowledge the strange stirrings in her heart. They were unnatural and could prove to expose her if she entertained them. Better to let the anger cover any hint of the growing fondness she felt.
As they began their descent, she raised her fist and shook it at the mountain. *"Enough, enough! We are departing as quickly as we may!"*
The elf's laughter sounded above her. From her spot down in the trench which Aragorn and Boromir had dug, Gimli hid a smile, then hardened her features and threw up an insult.
The flight from Caradhras brought more challenges. There were Saruman's crebain to dodge and again they had to decide which path to tread. When Khazad-dum was mentioned, Gimli felt her heart leap. She longed to go that route, but remained silent as the others debated amongst themselves. Even if they chose to walk that path, there would be many obstacles to overcome, not the least of which would be finding the closed doors – the entrance through Khazad-dum.
When Gandalf defended making the trek, going so far as to suggest that there was still a chance that Dwarves dwelt in their ancient home, Gimli finally added her voice to the debate. *"I will tread the path with you, Gandalf!"* she said. *"I will go and look on the halls of Durin, whatever may wait there — if you can find the doors that are shut."*
*"Good, Gimli!" said Gandalf. "You encourage me. We will seek the hidden doors together. And we will come through. In the ruins of the Dwarves, a dwarf's head will be less easy to bewilder than Elves or Men or Hobbits. Yet it will not be the first time that I have been to Moria. I sought there long for Thráin son of Thrór after he was lost. I passed through, and I came out again alive!"*
She smiled at Gandalf's praise, even as the others spoke against the path through Moria. Yet despite theirmisgivings, she eagerly agreed to follow the wizard there and excitement burned through her inner being. She might shortly be reunited with her cousin Balin. How she had missed him! She refused to entertain any thoughts of finding anything other than the best. Nothing could dampen her joy now, she thought, even as Boromir claimed he would only go if all agreed.
*"I do not wish to go to Moria," said Legolas.* For once his eyes did not sparkle, nor did he tease, wink or smile. He looked troubled, and Gimli found a great part of her enthusiasm dissipated with his words.
Then the wolves began to howl.
To Be Continued…
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.