4. Chapter 3
The doors of Moria were revealed to them, but opening them proved to be something of a challenge. Gimli had been surprised that it had all come down to a simple word: friend, spoken in elvish, of course. Neither had she missed the glance Gandalf had cast at her and the elf nor the twinkle in the wizard's eye as Gandalf explained the riddle.
Then everything went to the depths in a moment. One second all was peaceful and the next, Frodo was being dragged into the water, Sam was crying out and trying to save him, the water was boiling with what appeared to be snakes (Gimli hated snakes!) and then Gandalf was urging them into the gateway and up the stairs.
It all happened so quickly that Gimli found herself blinking in the pitch dark, the doors having been slammed shut by the snake things, followed by a great rumble that she recognized all too well: the sound of stone against stone. Sam was sobbing about the pony, and Gimli could hear several of the others calling out to each other, though she could see nothing in the pitch blackness. Then came the sound of Gandalf going back down the stairs to the door, but it did not open.
*"Well, well!" said the wizard. "The passage is blocked behind us now, and there is only one way out – on the other side of the mountains. I fear from the sounds that bounders have been piled up, and the trees uprooted and thrown across the gate."*
Gimli heard a slight gasp not far from her, and knew it to be the elf. She had placed where the rest of them stood by their voices and sounds of movement, but until he gasped, she had not heard any sound from Legolas. Odd creatures, really, the elves. In the darkness she could actually feel his grief at the death of the trees.
Gandalf continued, *"I am sorry; for the trees were beautiful, and had stood so long,"*
Frodo began to speak, but Gimli focused her senses on the elf. Something was off about him. His breathing came heavy and quick. As she stared, she thought she could just make out his faint glow. It was more than grief emanating from him, but she could not place what it was she sensed. It quite puzzled her and she was reminded of his reluctance to enter Moria. Was it true that elves could not bear to be so deep underground? That they had to be near the trees and the stars?
A deep voice broke into her thoughts. *"In the deep places of the world!" Boromir complained. "And thither we are going against my wish. Who will lead us now in this deadly dark?"*
Gimli glared in the Man's direction. She had never liked him, but now more than ever her dislike was plain. How could any person not be thrilled to just set foot in the halls of Durin?
The silence and darkness worried her, however. They should have found some trace of Balin and his people, but there was no light, nor smell of forges or other sounds of a working mine.
*"I will," Gandalf stepped forward, the tip of his staff beginning to glow with a faint light, revealing the dim faces of their company, most with worried and anxious expressions, especially among the hobbits. "And Gimli shall walk with me. Follow my staff!"*
Unquestioning, Gimli fell in with the wizard. For several hours they walked in silence, and Gimli spent those hours puzzling over what troubled the elf and bristling at Boromir's slight against the ancient home of her kin.
"Not all embrace the dark as do the Dwarves, Gimli," Gandalf whispered as they climbed a wide stairway. "All that this Company has endured in the past day alone would make most quail and shake, but these brave souls continue on. Do not despise Boromir for his dislike of the dark."
Gimli nodded, and continued up the steps in thoughtful contemplation. It was so easy for her to forget the hardships they had suffered once they entered the mines. This was the home of her forefathers, and she felt excitement to be walking here, though the silence troubled her deeply. But the others were still shaken by their encounter with the monster or monsters in the lake, and it had been unsettling to have the doors slammed behind them and blocked with wood and stone. If one were not used to deep places she supposed it might feel something like being sealed in a tomb. She vowed to herself to be more understanding of the differences in her companions. Not all could have the constitution of a dwarf, after all.
They took a brief rest at the top of the long stairway, and then continued on in single file. When she glanced back, she could just make out Aragorn at the back of their company, silent and thoughtful and looking uneasy — not a look she was used to seeing on that austere Man. Something about the scenario niggled at her mind. Aragorn brought up the rear from time to time, but usually he was accompanied by…
The elf walked in the middle of the file and glanced about nervously, his eyes bright in the darkness. She could again see the slight glow emanating from his skin, only this time the reality of what she was seeing became clear. By Mahal! She had noted the elf stood out in the dark early into their quest, but had not realized he actually glowed! During their journey, she had noticed it and had assumed his pale skin and hair reflected the moon and starlight. But here in the dark of Khazad-dum, she could clearly see the faint light he gave off and knew that her assumption had been incorrect. The elf actually emitted a soft light of his own. How curious! Her fingers reached into her pocket to touch the arrowhead she had placed there. There was so much about elves she did not understand.
"Gimli?" Gandalf's voice drew her attention back to the task at hand. Gandalf sought her help in choosing the best path through the mines, but having never been here before, she was of little aid to him, though she did her best. Khazad-dum exceeded all her expectations and they had been great. She felt awe beyond her comprehension as she stared about them on the journey. And she worried over Balin's fate. No, she was not of much help; she suspected the wizard sought only to occupy her enough to prevent any arguments between her and the elf. Perhaps Gandalf had noticed her staring at the glowing elf and was simply waiting for her to make a barbed comment.
Oddly, she felt no desire to argue or bicker. She felt a strange concern and uneasiness within her when it came to Legolas. Something was not right with him. He remained in the midst of their companions, almost constantly humming or singing to himself, though his voice was so low Gimli could not make out the words. Only when Aragorn sought to assure the hobbits of Gandalf's worthiness as a guide through such a place and implored them not to fear that she realized what it was that she sensed in the elf.
Legolas was afraid.
The elf's fear had proven to be justified, Gimli thought as she walked down a silvery path between the trees of Lothlórien. Legolas had sensed what perhaps Gandalf had known: that evil lay sleeping deep in the mines, waiting for someone foolish enough to venture within the darkened halls. How her heart ached as she remembered the glories of Khazad-dum lost to such darkness. The discovery of Balin's tomb had brought a grief so great she had felt compelled to hide her face, lest the others see her tears. Dwarf-men did not shed tears, but she could not have stopped them from falling if she had wished. Balin had been more than kin; he had been a good friend, nearly a brother to her.
Even now Gimli might be in that small room if not for Legolas. They had all fought valiantly, but when the time had come to flee, Gimli had found herself paralyzed, staring at Balin's tomb and not able to bring herself to leave him. A strong hand had siezed hers and dragged her from the room. He had not let go in their flight, not until Gandalf had called for her to walk ahead with him. The elf had released her then, but Gimli had felt a chill tightening her chest as that warm grip was withdrawn.
Gimli's steps faltered to a halt and she leaned back against one of the magnificent mallorn trees, shining silver in the moonlight. Oh, how the thought of their final flight through Moria brought such remorse and grief to her heart! Evil had been waiting for them as they ran for the bridge of Khazad-dum. If only she had known what her people had awakened, she might have spoken much earlier in their journey and urged Gandalf to take the Gap of Rohan. Her silence and secret longing to see the deep places of the dwarves had removed her voice and helped to lead them there. She was not foolish enough to take the blame for Gandalf's death onto herself alone, but if she had spoken, perhaps Tharkûn might have reconsidered their path.
She would never know now. It was too late. Tharkûn, the grey wizard, was dead.
Gimli sank to the ground, her back slipping against the trunk of the great tree until she sat at its base. She pulled her knees up and leaned her head against them as the grief washed over her in waves. She knew there was most likely an elven escort somewhere in the trees overhead, watching her; the Elves of Lothlórien had proven their distrust of the dwarves when they had insisted she be blindfolded in order to enter the wood, but she no longer cared who knew of her grief. She let the tears fall.
A light thud sounded beside her, but Gimli did not look up. She did not care what the elves of this realm thought of her. Even now the sound of lament rang through the trees. They could grieve in song if they wished. For once, she would grieve in the manner most fit for her.
She knew that light voice. Once it might have irritated her that he would come at such a time, but not now. His soft whisper was close enough that his breath stirred a few loose strands of her hair. Then a hand settled on her opposite shoulder, his arm urging her closer to the warm body beside her. She found herself tucked up against his shoulder and for some reason did not care that he knew that she cried. She wept against him, letting her grief soak into his tunic, even as Legolas's tears fell, adding to those on her cheeks.
When their tears were spent, they sat side by side, their backs to the tree. They did not speak of what had just passed, but instead shared memories from their lives. Gimli could not say when it had happened; perhaps it had been outside the Gates of Moria when Gandalf had beseeched them to be friends, or maybe it had begun even earlier with all the teasing and winking and playful banter exchanged between them. When she looked at Legolas now, she no longer saw just the elf: he had become dear to her, a friend.
"And then Mithrandir reached out and knocked me on the head with his staff!" Legolas laughed. "I will not say I did not deserve it! My father would agree I did indeed, and I learned never to touch a wizard's bag of pipeweed."
"You're a strange creature," Gimli said, her lips twitching with amusement.
"But you like me anyway." Legolas grinned at her and winked. Before she could say another word, he had leapt to his feet and up into the trees, his silvery laughter echoing back. Gimli stood and chuckling to herself, made her way back to the rest of her companions. Yes, she liked him anyway.
How long they stayed in Lothlórien, Gimli was uncertain. The trees blocked the stars and even the moon from sight, filtering the evening lights to a silvery glow on the forest floor. She was not overly interested in knowing how much time had passed since their arrival. They needed the rest. Gimli found herself most days trailing the blasted elf through the trees, listening to him talk. By Mahal, had she ever thought of Legolas as shy? Or quiet?
She snorted to herself as she walked, for once alone, down a golden path lit by the afternoon sun. The light was reminiscent of the Lady's hair, all sparkly and gold with a hint of silver. Never had Gimli seen such beauty as when she looked upon the Lady of the Light. Like all her kindred, she was drawn to beauty, and she had marveled like a fool when confronted by the elf-woman. Perhaps that had saved her from having her secrets revealed. While Galadriel had questioned and tempted in her mind, the lady did not seem to have discovered Gimli was not what she seemed. Or perhaps the Lady simply had no wish to betray her secret so long as Gimli proved faithful to the task, refusing the lure of the Ring.
With a piece of toweling draped over one arm and her pack hanging over her shoulder, Gimli headed to a secluded pool to bathe. Aragorn had announced they would set out once more on their Quest come morning, and Gimli would take the opportunity to indulge herself by bathing in one of the many hot springs found in the wood before having to once again settle for cold water baths as they continued their journey south. She hoped to find the spring closest to where the Fellowship camped to be unoccupied.
A slight splash from ahead warned her that the pool she had planned to use was probably in use. She smirked to herself and drew closer, unable to squelch her curiosity as to who was bathing in the pool. The lack of chatter could only mean it was not the hobbits. The Men were not as talkative when bathing; she had caught them at it several times. They washed and redressed quickly, wasting no time in conversation or play. Gimli had never come upon Legolas, however, though he obviously had bathed during their time in the Golden wood. The elf seemed to take cleanliness a bit too seriously to Gimli's mind. At home, perhaps, such was appreciated, but in the wilds? She stifled a snort.
Being as quiet as she could manage, she paused behind a large tree and peered cautiously around it. The pool looked deserted. Steam rose from its surface in the cool air. She itched to remove her restrictive garments and sink into the warm water. She was about to step out from behind the tree when something surged up from under the surface. Startled, Gimli dropped her towel, and then could only gape at the sight.
The elf stood in the pool up to his waist, water streaming from his hair and down his body, the droplets glistening on his eyelashes and face before dripping down to trail over the pale, hairless expanse of his chest. Like finely chiseled marble, he stood there with his head thrown back and arms raised to the westering sun. 'Exquisite!' Gimli wished she could immortalize the moment in stone, so beautiful he was.
She realized she had stepped from behind the tree to stare about the time Legolas opened his eyes and met her appreciative gaze. Heat flushed her cheeks with warmth, and she turned away, horrified to have been caught gawking. She was a daughter of Mahal! Not some slinking, giggling elf-maid!
"Forgive me," she grumbled. "I didn't realize anyone was here." She stooped to retrieve her towel and kept her back turned to the naked elf. He did not answer her, but she heard the sound of him moving to the shore and resisted the impulse to glance over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the full view. Her heart pounded as she waited for some scathing remark, an embarrassed plea for her to leave or even some jest, but the only sound that greeted her was the sound of him hastily dressing…then silence.
She waited, unsure as to whether he had fled and equally uncertain as to how her blunder would affect their new friendship. Gandalf had made it clear that elves held a certain modicum of modesty as did dwarves when it came to certain personal issues. She sincerely hoped she had not inadvertently returned them to the awkwardness that had previously surrounded them on their journey.
Several minutes passed, and then something moved behind her. She started to turn, then froze as the smell of summer and beeches drifted to her. Whatever his response, she would soon find out. She was surprised when instead of lashing out (definitely what she would have done had circumstances been reversed), he raised a hand to her shoulder.
"If you wish it, I will stand guard so that you might bathe in peace, Gimli. You have my word that I will not disturb your privacy."
The words were softly spoken with such genuineness to them, Gimli had to blink and swallow. He was not going to say a word about her lack of decorum, anymore than he had commented on her tears that first night in Lothlórien. The gesture touched her, but could she trust him to watch the path so she could bathe? If he wished to feign all was well in an effort to allow himself turnabout of embarrassment, her secret would be revealed. That she could not risk, and yet, if someone else stumbled upon her as she had done while he bathed, would she not also be found out? Having Legolas watch for her would be ideal but only if she could trust him.
His head bent to rest beside hers, and she became aware then of how closely he stood behind her. His breath brushed her cheek and ear. "You can trust me," he whispered.
"Perhaps," she murmured, still uncertain.
Both of his hands came up to rest on either of her shoulders, his head dipping further until his lips nearly touched the sensitive skin of her ear. "You can trust me," he whispered again, then continued in hardly more than a soft breath, "I know what you are."
Gimli's breath stilled in her chest as a chill ran down her spine. It felt as if a stone had been dropped on her chest. She was found out! He knew! Somehow he knew. Curse it all! Curse it to the deepest pits of Mordor!
His hands tightened slightly on her shoulders as he straightened. "I have heard it said that the dwarves highly prize their women, never letting them walk alone above the tunnels and halls of their kin. Is this true?"
"I am Glóin's son," she returned, shocked to hear the wobble in her voice.
He ignored her. "I believe I have heard that dwarves value their women over gems and even mithril. Daughters are protected at all costs."
"I am Glóin's son!"
He sighed and leaned forward, dipping his head to her ear once more. "Elves also place great value on their women. From them comes new life. They are to be respected and honored…and protected."
She stiffened at the implication in his words. "I need no protection!" she growled. "I am Glóin's son!"
His hands fell away. "Yes, I know, son of Glóin. I have watched you fight valiantly. You surprised me. At first, I was greatly amused by your presence. How well you present yourself. But you have more than proved your worth. You have my highest regard and my everlasting friendship if you will accept it." Then the world tipped as his lips pressed to her temple. "I will watch the path. Go and bathe."
He stepped around her and walked towards the path. Gimli watched him go, knowing she was trembling from all that he had said and done. "I am Glóin's son!" she called to his back.
His steps halted as his head turned slowly around and he looked at her over his shoulder. "If ever I had any doubts, son of Glóin, they dissipated the moment I caught you watching me bathe." Then he winked, his lips quirking into a smug grin.
Face burning, Gimli turned to the spring, but she did as bid and bathed in the warm waters. Flashes of doubt assailed her, but not once did she feel eyes upon her. Legolas kept to his word; she could trust him. When she was done, she returned to their camp alongside the elf. Nothing was said of what had passed between them that day.
They resumed their journey by boat the next day, and Gimli smiled to see she and Legolas were to share one of the small craft. As the water carried them from the Golden Wood down towards the Anduin, they spoke of the journey to come, speculating on what other dangers they might encounter or bickering back and forth in playful banter, drawing curious glances from the hobbits and the Men.
On their first night camping alongside the Anduin, it was Pippin who finally gave voice to what the others were wondering. "Are you friends now then?" the hobbit asked, glancing between the two of them. Legolas sat in the low branches of a tree, singing softly to himself, one foot dangling down in Gimli's face where she sat beneath him at the tree's base sharpening her axe.
"A dwarf and an elf be friends?" Gimli swatted the annoying foot away, then looked up at her ever present companion with a grin. "Whoever heard of such a thing!" Legolas smirked as he gazed back with a wink.
Pippin looked between the two of them, his brows drawing together in a frown, then his eyes widened and his face reddened. "Never mind," he mumbled before scurrying back to the other hobbits.
Gimli looked up at her elven friend and grinned at his horrified expression. Served him right, giving her all those winks and smiles. She winked up at him, then continued sharpening her blade. Let the hobbits whisper and wonder, she thought. She knew the truth, and that was she had found a most unusual but loyal friend.
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.