The Old Forest
Glóin opened the case slowly, with great care. It was quite old,
and cried out in protest upon being opened. He lifted out a long object
wrapped in heavy furs. Gimli crowded in close to his father as the
object was unwrapped and he could see the bright glint of an axe blade
shining in the firelight. He exhaled sharply, and smiled up at his
"Yes, young one. This was my father's axe, and his father's before me.
Now it is mine. One day, it shall be yours..." He paused, trying to
fight back the sudden lump in his throat. He laid the axe gently down
on the tabletop, and suddenly left the room. Gimli stared after his
father, knowing that the older dwarf was trying not to cry. His grief
was still close; an almost tangible thing. Gimli understood this. He
knew the grief of losing a parent. He contemplated following his
father, and then thought better of it. The axe was calling to him. He
lovingly ran a finger over the etching on the handle. Their family
crest. One day, this axe would be his, when he was old enough. His
beard was not yet grown, and he knew it would be many years before
Glóin would allow it to pass into his keeping. And so, he
They were sitting by the fire, silently working on the tasks at hand.
Glóin was sharpening and polishing his axe, and Gimli was
wood carving. Under his delicate touch, the block of wood he had found
on the streets of Dale gradually took shape. "What are you carving,
son?" Glóin asked.
"It's something for mother's cairn," he replied softly, still
concentrating on the shape that was emerging beneath his steady hand.
His mother had been dead for many long years, but he and his father
still visited the cairn every year. Dwarves did not bury their dead.
They burned them, and scattered the ashes in the mines. They believed
it gave them good fortune. They erected cairns to honor the fallen, and
would visit these hallowed shrines to honor their lost loved ones.
"May I see it?" Glóin asked, reaching out his hand. Gimli placed
the object in his father's outstretched hand with trepidation. What if
he did not approve? Glóin looked at it for a long time, then
handed it back to his son. "I think it's perfect," he said with a
"Thank you, father. You honor me."
"No. You honor her with that gift. When will it be ready?"
"I will be finished tonight. We can take it to the cairn tomorrow,"
Gimli replied, already back at work with his knife and his sharp eyes.
"Good. Tomorrow it is." Glóin put aside his axe and the
polishing rag and stood up; stretching and arching his back. Gimli
could hear little crackling pops of the spine as his father reached
down and touched his toes, his white beard curling up in a pile on top
of his boots. "I think I shall turn in. I have something else for us to
do tomorrow as well. Something involving the axe..." He nodded in the
direction of the axe he had laid down by his chair. Gimli's eyes
gleamed with the firelight reflected in the axe's blade.
"You mean....?" he trailed off, too excited to continue.
"Yes, son. Time for your first trial of manhood. Time to earn your axe.
We will talk more of this tomorrow. Right now, an old dwarf is tired,
and I'll let you get back to your carving. Goodnight, son." He crossed
the room, and laid a kiss on Gimli's forehead before retiring to his
"Goodnight, father," Gimli called out softly. He stayed up for a few
hours more, finishing the carving, and contemplating what events would
transpire the following day. He was thrilled beyond all measure.
Finally, he finished the wood carving, laid the knife and the object on
the table, and went to his bedroom. He glanced back at the object one
last time, and realized his father was right. It was perfect. It was
the nickname his father had given his mother when he had found out she
possessed a gardener's touch. It was a rose.
The following morning dawned with a blanket of fog draped over the
mountain. It was cold and damp, and Glóin was in a foul mood.
His old bones ached, and he missed his wife. He barely spoke to Gimli
as they made their trip to the cairn. Gimli laid the wood rose on top
of the cairn, and neither of them spoke. They were lost in the memories
of her. Gimli remembered how soft her beard had been; she used to
tickle him with it when she would kiss him after he woke up from a bad
dream. Glóin remembered the touch of her hand on his face, the
feel of her the night they decided to make a baby. He remembered how
happy she had been the day Gimli was born.
"Let's go for a walk in the forest," Glóin suggested suddenly.
"It will take away the hurt."Gimli nodded, not really caring where they
went. They wound their way out of the mountain and through the town of
Dale towards the old forest. Glóin found that the aches in his
joints were easing as the morning fog dissipated. It was nearly
lunchtime when they finally reached the shade of the old, overgrown
trees. Gimli had remembered to bring salted beef, a hunk of cheese, and
a loaf of bread, all wrapped in a large handkerchief. They drank water
from a nearby stream, and after the meal they smoked.
"So, father, what else are we going to do today?" Gimli asked curiously.
"Well, son...I thought we might..." Suddenly, something blurred past
Gimli's vision, striking him hard and casing him to hit his head on the
ground. Before he lost consciousness, he could hear his father
struggling with something large. He heard growls, and his father's
scream. Then, darkness.
He awoke to a splitting headache, and the scent of blood in the air. He
sat up, and the world tilted on its axis. He gripped his head in his
hands, and waited for the vertigo to pass. He stood up slowly, and
moaned low in the back of his throat when he saw a pool of blood on the
ground not far from where he hd fallen. It was all that was left of his
father. He had disappeared into the forest, leaving a trail of blood in
his wake. Gimli was afraid. Should he go back to Dale for help? There
was no time. He would have to do this alone. "I'm coming, father," he
As he ran deeper into the dark, old forest, he saw a glimmer of
something in a small shaft of sunlight. It was the axe. His father's
axe. Something that he never would have left behind unless....Gimli
felt tears sting his eyes. He howled in anger and fear and picked up
the axe. His thick fingers curled around the hilt tightly, and he ran
after his father.
He stood at the edge of the heart of the deep, tangled forest with his
father's axe in his hand, staring into the darkness between the trees.
All was silent in the old forest, not a bird sang or a creature
stirred. He could not hear anything over the sound of his own harsh,
ragged breathing and the blood singing in his ears. He could not
even hear the little patters of blood dripping off the handle of his
axe onto the ground, creating a puddle the color of dark crimson.
Dare he go in there? He stood there for what seemed like an eternity,
frozen by the fear that washed over him like waves of icy cold water.
He had to go in there. Had to go after the monster that had stolen from
him the one person that mattered, the one person in the whole of middle
earth that he depended on. That monster had stolen his father. Took him
deep into the old forest, where the sunlight did not penetrate, where
any sane creature feared to tread.
He was not ready for this......this trial.......this test. He was not
yet grown by dwarven standards. He realized now that this was why he
was here. Trials came unbidden and without reason, but they should be
recognized and dealt with....perhaps his father knew something like
this would happen. Perhaps they were meant to be in the old forest on
this day....and perhaps he was meant to save his father, using
the axe that had been passed down in his family for generations.
He took a deep breath, and stepped into the heart of the forest.
The darkness enveloped him. Dwarven eyes were keen in the dark,
and it only took a moment for his to adjust. The smallest slivers
of the fading sunlight penetrated the dense canopy of trees in
certain spots, but in other places shadows moved, fooling the
eyes into thinking they were living creatures. The wind didn't
help things either. It howled and sang as it made the dead leaves
dance and cavort in between the trees, and it gave the shadows
their voice. Gimli shuddered and forced his legs to move forward.
There was only one word running through his mind. Father, Father,
His axe at the ready, he slowly inched his way deeper into the
old forest, hands shaking, head darting from side to side. Sweat
poured down his face into his beard, making it glisten. He was
badly frightened; his heart was racing madly in his chest.
"Why oh why did we ever come here today?" he whispered into his
chest despairingly. "None of this would have happened if we had
not come......if I had been more vigilant....if only....." He
stopped. A low moan whipped through the trees, carried by the wind, and
it caressed his face like a lover's kiss. He swallowed hard,
and advanced further into the darkness. It was still daylight,
but the sunlight would not penetrate here, deep in the heart of
the forest. He felt a spider on the back of his neck; he swatted
it away angrily and shuddered in revulsion. "Father?" he
whispered, taking one halting step after another. The moan came
again, and it was closer this time. It sounded like it was coming
from straight ahead. It was not a moan of fear or pain, it was a moan
of satisfaction...and desire. Like someone, or something, was
about to feast on a succulent morsel.
He could see a low thicket ahead of him, and he got down on his
haunches and crawled towards it on his hands and knees, the axe
gripped tightly in his hand. He parted the thick branches ahead
of him, and saw the creature bending over his unconscious father.
It was a large spider-like creature, something he had never
seen before. It cradled his father in its many legs, and it was
sucking up the blood coming from his father's wounds with some
sort of proboscis. It had glowing green eyes, and large black
bristling hair all over its body. Gimli began to growl low in his
throat, and his anger simmered in his veins, threatening to
overtake him. He was no longer afraid. He howled, a deep and
primal battle cry, and broke into the thicket, axe raised above