1. Keeping Watch
Warnings: Adult rated for physical violence, battle scenes and sexual content in later chapters. Slash.
Disclaimer: Not mine. The characters are from LOTR and this is purely for your amusement and mine. No money etc.
Beta by Anarithilien.
Chapter 1: Keeping Watch
Gimli Gloinsson was a Dwarf lord. He was a renowned warrior and Master Smith of the High Order. He had fought orcs in the Iron Hills and looked upon the Bane of Durin. He had survived the attack at Parth Galen, and fought with great honour at Helm's Deep. But here, in the small camp on the edge of Dimholt, the Haunted Mountain, his fear froze the hair on his head. Even the moonlight unnerved him. Shadows shifted into shapes of men long dead and dissolved into the cold air of that dreadful Mountain.
He had awoken sweating and breathing hard, clutching the haft of his axe.
A grey cloaked Ranger on watch glanced over and then looked away. And nearby, Legolas lay rolled up in his blanket, quiet breaths deep and regular. Gimli breathed in and stilled his own shaking hand. He stole another glance at the sleeping Elf and then slid closer, remaining still for a moment. Then giving a sigh as if he were asleep, he rolled over and lay spooned close against Legolas's back. Warmth seemed to embrace him and his fear dissolved in the Elf's own soft glimmer.
Next morning he was cold in his stomach and the dew lay on his beard and in his hair, threading it like silver beads. He felt the Elf's absence; the space behind his back was empty and chill. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and peered over the top of his blanket, studiously avoiding the grey mists that circled the small camp. Horses snorted nervously and pulled at their tethers.
There were low grey humps where Rangers pulled their cloaks around their ears and slept on the cold ground, and Gimli could not help but think of the low humps of Men's graves.
Nearby, a small fire blazed and twigs crackled as they burned. Legolas sat cross legged near the fire, sliding his long fingers along the shaft of an arrow. Beside him was a small pile of feathers he had gathered from the ducks he had brought down the night before. There were two rangers with him, one throwing something into a pot to make some sort of tea, Gimli supposed. He could not remember any of their names, so he had dubbed these particular two, Grim and Grimmer. He had entertained himself on the long march, distracting himself from the fear that froze his scalp by experimenting with names for the Rangers and seeing if he could tell the difference between the two Sons of Elrond- he couldn't and called them both Elrodan.
He threw back his blanket and stretched, listening to his joints crack and feeling his sinews stretch and the pressure in his bladder. Rubbing his hand over his face, Gimli scratched his beard lightly, and tried to put the cold in the pit of his stomach down to hunger and morning dew.
Throwing his blanket about his shoulders, the Dwarf shuffled over to Legolas. He thumped heavily onto the ground and wished he had not, for it made the pressure in his bladder grow. Grim and Grimmer turned to nod unsmiling at him and one scooped hot liquid into a small tin mug for him. Legolas did not turn or pause, and there was a slowness in his movements that suggested he was not concentrating.
Gimli determinedly took the mug and sipped. The tea scalded his tongue but it made him feel more awake. He glanced at the Elf. 'You are elsewhere, Legolas.'
Legolas turned his strange green eyes to the Dwarf and Gimli realised he had been walking in elven dreams, or listening to the sounds of the dawn.
'Not quite Sam's cooking but I suppose it will do,' Gimli muttered, gesturing at the thin tea and wondering what strange paths the Elf had walked that night, and if they were as restless and disturbed as his own. He took another sip from the tin mug and handed it to Legolas. The pressure on his bladder grew almost painful but he would not, could not, bear to walk into those mists that swirled, where the Dead hovered already, as if longing for the feel of life long gone.
'I was listening to their song,' the Elf said, not quite returned to the world of Men. Live ones anyway, thought the Dwarf.
'Oh yes. And what do they sing? Of dry bones and maggoty worms no doubt. A cheerful thought on such a day as this,' he exclaimed. Legolas looked at him then more closely, his eyes focused and intent, and Gimli knew he read the fear that trembled at the edge of his control.
The Elf put his head on one side for a moment, thoughtful, and Gimli wondered if he had slipped back into whatever strange dreams he had. Then a slow smile stole over his fair face and he laughed softly.
'Come Gimli. I will watch your back and guard against any ghosties who try to creep up on you, if you will watch mine.' He nudged the dwarf, making him spill scalding liquid on his breeches. Ignoring the dwarf's angry curse he stood abruptly and looked down at him. 'I need a piss.'
Gimli started. He wondered if the whole of Mirkwood was a bit mad and concluded they probably were, perhaps they all behaved in this abrupt and strange way. But he gratefully stood with the Elf who was grinning cheerfully at the Ranger on watch.
'The Dwarf and I are in need of some relief,' he told them.
Gimli groaned when he saw the startled faces of Grim and Grimmer turn towards them. 'No, no, that is not what he means -not that kind of relief.' But he saw the glances they exchanged and gave up. Legolas had already stepped out of the circle of warmth and Gimli had no choice but to follow.
It seemed to Gimli the grey shadows and swirling mist drew away at the Elf's approach and for the first time, he thought Legolas was brighter than the dark, a soft glimmer. He followed Legolas to the trees and bushes just outside the edge of the camp and both stood to relieve themselves.
Gimli watched the air around him though and could not at first get started; he heard the long stream of Legolas beside him and bit his lip in frustration, but the air was cold around him and he imagined shadows watching, greedy for life. And he could not… go!
'Did you see the Ranger who watches?' Legolas said over his shoulder to the Dwarf. Gimli grunted. 'He is called Corbarad I think. He is the one you have been calling Sunshine. And Grim is Haldaron and Grimmer is his brother, Baelderon. They are cousins of Halbarad and Aragorn.'
Gimli leaned forwards a little. Still nothing, yet his bladder hurt with the pressure. He could hear Legolas humming softly as the Elf let his own stream hiss onto the ground, then he began singing cheerfully,
'Gil-Galad was an elven king,
Of him the harpers sadly sing,
The last whose realm found such bliss,
But nowhere could he find to piss.'
Gimli was shocked for surely Gil-Galad was their greatest King! But to be fair, he thought a little guiltily, he had heard worse sung about Legolas' own father in the halls of the Lonely Mountain. He tried not to think whether he had been one of those who had joined in. At last a pungent stream arced over the ferns at his feet.
'It is a sad tale and very long,' said Legolas brightly.
Gimli sighed and leaned forwards, looking down. 'I have heard,' he replied dryly, feeling his bladder slowly empty.
The Dwarf was suddenly aware of shadows falling over him. He quickly stumbled back, stuffing himself back into his breeches and turned fearfully, but Legolas stood there, right behind him, looking at the space over Gimli's shoulder and whispering softly.
He did not look at Gimli, instead his bright gaze focused upon some point in the shadows. Gimli did not understand the words he spoke but recognised the soft cadence and lilt of Legolas' own language. A light breeze ruffled across his hair and he thought he heard the wind sigh. But he dared not look around, instead fastening his own gaze upon Legolas' strange forest green eyes that looked fearlessly upon the ghosts of Men.
Then Legolas said quietly, 'Come Gimli. Let us go back now if you are done. My throat is parched as a Noldo's charity.' He placed his hand gently on Gimli's shoulder and steered him back to the camp.
Gimli emerged from the bushes quickly, slightly dishevelled and struggling with the ties on his trousers. He tried to ignore the knowing look on Grim and Grimmer's faces - Haldaron and Baelderon he corrected himself, although he thought Grim and Grimmer much more appropriate. He sat back down at the fire once more.
Gimli tore off a hunk of hard rye bread and chewed thoughtfully. Legolas sat next to him and resumed his careful picking over the pile of drifting feathers for fletching his arrows.
'Where is Aragorn?' Gimli asked, handing him the hunk of bread. The Elf shrugged as he tore some off and shook his head.
'He went with Halbarad and Elladan before I even arose. I do not know how long they have been gone, or where they went.' He lifted his waterskin to his mouth and drank deeply.
'Which one is Elladan? And which one is Halbarad?' Gimli asked, wondering how on earth the Elf could tell.
Legolas wiped his mouth on his hand and said, 'Elladan is the friendly one and Halbarad the tall one.'
'Ah.' Actually, Gimli could place both exactly now. 'Then where is Elrohir?'
'He is still watching me in case I do something that will bring down the whole of Mordor upon us,' Legolas said with a slight grimace.
Gimli glanced at him briefly. 'What have you done to deserve that? Has your father thrown him in some dungeon?'
Legolas smiled at the old jibe. So much had changed, Gimli thought. He pulled out his pipe and pipeweed, and then, looking innocent, he added 'Or have you tried to dally with his sister's affections?'
Legolas looked horrified, 'Undomiel? I would never….'
'His brother then?' Gimli interrupted mischievously. Legolas looked at him and then he laughed.
'Your lurid imagination does you no credit,' he said and although he narrowed his eyes in preparation for the moment that Gimli struck his flint and sparked the noxious weed, he did not move away.
'You must employ your usual tactics to win over your enemies,' the Dwarf continued. 'You will have a drinking contest, and having lost graciously, as you always do, he will join you in a wild Woodelf dance around the fire and fall over drunk with you,' he said seriously.
Legolas smiled. 'I fear you now know all our secrets, Gimli Ironmaster .' He turned then and tilted his head. 'Aragorn returns.'
The camp stirred and, as Legolas predicted, Aragorn and his two companions entered the small clearing. Aragorn looked stern and drawn and Gimli knew he had looked once more into the Palantir. He recognised the slight grey pallor of his skin and the exhaustion in his eyes.
Halbarad stood close to Aragorn, almost supporting him in his fatigue. Elladan stood nearer the fire and gazed thoughtfully into the flames. Gimli nudged Legolas and muttered quietly, 'He has looked again into that accursed Stone.'
Legolas said nothing but glanced down to the small pile of drifting feathers and chose one. He held it against the narrow shaft of the arrow and quietly continued fletching.
Gimli stared at Aragorn and took another swig from his waterskin. 'What has he seen that concerns him so?' He was aware of Legolas, silent and focused on the arrows, but knew he listened. 'He would have taken us with him not so long ago.' Gimli murmured. 'It seems we are no longer needed.'
Legolas paused then, and glanced at the Dwarf. He said nothing and after a moment, he laid the arrow down and selected a new shaft.
Aragorn was pulling his cloak about him as if he were cold, although the days were warmer as they drew South. Gimli felt the air change and smelled new growth and Spring, and the earth was warm under his feet. He watched as Aragorn approached the fire and stood next to Elladan. The dark-haired Elf looked anxious and had pulled his own grey cloak about himself much as Aragorn had. Gimli wondered what had unsettled them so, apart from the obvious army of the Dead that hovered nearby, he reminded himself. But Legolas was not afraid of them, and surely, neither was the Son of Elrond?
'Aragorn. You do not look like you have rested,' Gimli could not help saying as the Man stood near them. He looked him up and down and added, 'You look terrible.'
The smile Aragorn gave him was thin and tired. 'I will be better once we are riding again and have reached Gondor.' He knelt and warmed his hands over the small fire that gave little heat but seemed to cheer him a little. 'I fear for the City,' he added and looked down into the flames. Elladan shifted where he stood behind Aragorn and glanced at him with concern.
'Have you been looking in that stone again?' Gimli asked. He felt Legolas stiffen slightly beside him and Aragorn sighed. He shifted back onto his heels and ran his fingers through his hair in the habit he had when he was worried.
'So? What did it tell you?' Gimli persisted. And then the words were out of his mouth before he had time to think. 'Is Mirkwood still standing? Does the Lonely Mountain still belong to the Dwarves?'
Halbarad pretended not to have heard the bitter words, and Elladan glanced down at Aragorn. Legolas turned and stared at the Dwarf accusingly.
But surely they were due some consideration, thought Gimli, especially after what had happened at Orthanc? He would never forget that terrible vision of the yellow smoke and the bloody banner the orcs raised. Surely it was not too much for Aragorn to use the Palantir to see if that bloody massacre of the Wood Elves was true or if it was Saruman's wicked lie?
Aragorn looked away and his face, if anything, looked even more exhausted. 'I do not yet have the mastery to wrench it from its focus on Minas Tirith,' he confessed. 'I …I will try again tonight. I promise.'
Gimli felt Legolas' anger with him like a tangible heat and knew he was glaring at him. The Dwarf winced inwardly.
'What have you seen?' he asked more gently. 'Will it help us?'
Elladan pushed a tin cup into Aragorn's hands and it was then Gimli noticed the trembling. He looked away awkwardly and knew that Legolas had seen it too.
Aragorn sipped the tea even as Gimli had and he too scalded his tongue on the burning liquid. He muttered a curse and Gimli handed him his waterskin. The Man drank gratefully, thirstily, spilling water down his chin. He handed it back to Gimli. Instead of taking it, the Dwarf gently reached out to wipe Aragorn's chin.
Their eyes met for an instant, earth-brown and grey. Aragorn dipped his eyes and for moment, a smile trembled about his lips.
Aragorn drew a breath and pulled his cloak tighter about himself. He did not look at them but stared into the fire and in quiet horror, told them what he had seen. 'There are dark clouds hanging over Minas Tirith and black ships sailing from Umbar. Orcs gather to attack the city. They hunt in Lebennin…and Pelargir…' He did not look at Legolas but twisted the ring on his finger.
Gimli frowned – surely Pelargir was the mouth of the Anduin? That meant the Sea. His frown deepened. Aragorn would not meet his gaze.
'I tried… I tried to see Frodo,' he said quietly. Gimli felt Legolas freeze beside him and raise his head to stare. 'I could not see through the dark clouds and fog that rises in Mordor… and I did not dare dwell on it in case He should sense my intrusion.'
Gimli felt the Elf shift slightly but still he said nothing. Aragorn glanced up, but Legolas would not look at him.
'Legolas?' Aragorn's voice was thin and tired. 'I did not look for long, not long enough for the Eye to see…'
But then Legolas looked up and smiled casually. He rested his hand on Gimli's arm gently, silencing him.
'Faithless is he who would abandon his friends in the dark times,' the Elf said quietly and he held the Man's gaze. 'We must not forget them.'
There was a softening of the lines around Aragorn's eyes and his shoulders dropped a little. He reached out and grasped Legolas' shoulder, but Gimli started. The words were his own, spoken on the road to Orthanc. He remembered that night vividly, sitting by the fire, watching Aragorn sleep. He remembered the strange conversation that now, he understood all too well…
Legolas had been leaning back on one elbow, his long legs stretched out, stripping the bark from a twig until the pale wood was bare. Then he had started pulling on a loose thread in his cuff. It was strange to see the normally composed Elf so fidgety and restless. Gimli had not been able to account for it at the time and told Legolas to rest...
'I cannot rest now.' Legolas had frowned. He was so irritable and unlike himself. He had leaned back, gazing up at the night sky and murmured. 'Rest… what does that mean? Rest can also mean death, can it not?' The Elf had looked so unhappy that Gimli had wondered if he had been injured in the terrible battle at Helm's Deep. But his next question had startled the Dwarf even more. 'Are you set upon going all the way to Minas Tirith?' He had a clear memory of Legolas then, still leaning on one elbow, firelight flickering over him, gilding his hair. His green eyes, reflecting the flames, had been intent on Gimli, and utterly miserable.
Gimli bitterly regretted his reply now, but he could not now take it back. He squeezed his eyes shut, remembering his words with merciless clarity. 'Faithless is he who would abandon his friends in dark times,' he had said, shocked that Legolas was even thinking of abandoning Aragorn in his greatest hour. A strange calm had gradually come over the Elf then and he nodded slowly, resolve hardening in his eyes. 
Well, it was too late now. For Pelargir meant the Anduin's mouth and that meant gulls. And now that he knew Galadriel's' warning, Gimli understood. Whether she meant to warn Legolas of his death or of something else, it did not bode well for the Elf. And since Orthanc, when Saruman had shown them that terrible vision of Mirkwood's destruction, Legolas had… well, changed. It was subtle, but there was his recklessness, and his resolve to go with Aragorn, whatever the cost. And Gimli worried that the cost would be his life.
The hairs on his neck prickled. Aragorn had gone, and with him, Elladan. He was alone with Legolas. He looked up and met the Elf's gaze, and suddenly tears stung his eyes. 'I will guard your back, Legolas,' he said quietly, 'if you will give me your word that you will not abandon me.'
Legolas tilted his head slightly, regarding the Dwarf. Then he narrowed his eyes slightly. 'I have already given you my word, and you have told me what that means to a Dwarf.' He smiled suddenly, 'I will not let you fall.'
Reviews are nice and don't have to be literary criticism- just a sentence is enough. I think I have an average of less than ½ % of visisotrs ot my stories actually leave a review. It gets a bit demoralising actually, to not know if people are reading and enjoying it or reading it and hating it or worse, indifferent. So thank you if you review - and if you are logged in, I will reply as always.
X X X
Personally, I don't think you should worry about these references to the earlier story, but I have explained them in case you are confused.
 The Rohirrim give Gimli this name in my other stories, "Rohan's Gold" and "Deeper than Breathing." This is a continuation of "Deeper." "Rohan's Gold" is quite, quite both- you'll enjoy them.
 This incident occurs in "Deeper than Breathing." Gandalf has just given Legolas the message from Galadriel- Aragorn and Gimli were not present so Gimli does not know at this point, about any message.
In the book itself, Legolas says to Gimli 'Would you rather she foretold your death', which suggests that for at least some of the time, he thought that hearing the gulls might herald his death – he is riding to war so not unlikely. Yet he still goes.
 This is a terrible revenge Saruman takes on Legolas. He gives them a vision of Mirkwood destroyed and Thranduil slain. It is unclear whether this is one of Saruman's lies or if it is real.
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.