Tree and Stone
Chapter 5: Ringbearer
Legolas left the house and followed the
hoofprints that led toward the level floor of the valley. He could
smell horses and wildflowers, grain and straw. A stable stood beneath
the eaves of a grove of trees, and many horses wandered free on the
grass there. Feavano cantered up to him, nuzzling him for the apple he
smelled in his pocket. Legolas laughed and gave it to him. He had been
tended well, his coat gleamed and his hooves were clean. Feavano
allowed Legolas to check each hoof then flicked his tail over Legolas’s
head and trotted away to sport with the other horses. Legolas smiled
and watched him play for a long while.
Turning back to the house, he espied an Elf
in the stable, grooming a beautiful white horse. He spoke softly to the
beast as he combed out the tangled mane. Both groom and horse looked as
though they were on the edge of exhaustion, but they supported each
other’s weariness. Legolas did not interrupt them. He hoped that he
could speak with this Elf later; he looked familiar.
As he returned to the house, he saw that the
Dwarves had finally arrived, and Erestor was there greeting them with
the same solemn contanence he had offered the Green Elves. Gloin was
speaking for the Dwarves, asking that the Lord Elrond make himself
available at the earliest possible time. As Erestor was explaining that
he could not come, a small individual came out of the house.
"Gloin! You look magnificent!" spoke the
halfling. He walked right up to the dwarf and shook his hand warmly. To
Legolas’s surprise, the Dwarf laughed and embraced the little one.
"Bilbo Baggins! You look the same as ever you did! Still alive and working? I did not hope to find you here!"
Bilbo laughed, patting Gloin’s shoulder.
Legolas could see that he was much older that the other halflings he
had observed earlier. His hair was nearly white and his face was
wrinkled like a winter apple. His eyes and voice were merry, but the
Elf could see a hint of worry in his face, like a shadow. "Not working,
no! I am retired, don’t you know? But I find this place a good one for
resting and for writing in my book, when there aren’t noisy guests
around to disturb me!"
Gloin laughed and bowed, and introduced Bilbo to the dwarves behind him. Legolas heard him name his son at last: Gimli.
Erestor watched the scene with an expression
of patient wariness. He was in fact relieved that Bilbo had appeared.
The Dwarves were now less irratable and caustic. When they had
exhausted their greetings and bowing, he showed them into the house.
Legolas noted with relief that their rooms were some distance from his
He re-entered the house and looked in again
on the halflings. All were asleep now, worn and weary with travel and
worry. Legolas wondered what strange events had brought them from
whatever strange land they dwelled in. He had heard of them only as a
distant rumour. Had not a halfling been involved in the slaying of
Smaug the Dragon? Legolas wondered if there was any connection. Surely
that halfling could have lived this long... that had been merely 60
Legolas sighed, and rubbed his forehead. More riddles! As if he did not have enough on his mind!
As he turned to go, he heard his name spoken
softly. From within the room where the halflings slept came a Man that
Legolas knew, and his joy in seeing him was very great. He embraced
Aragorn warmly and silently they withdrew a distance so as not to
disturb the sleepers. "I had hoped to find you here, Aragorn," Legolas
said. "Though my message is dark and locked on my lips for Elrond’s
ears, still I am pleased to see you."
"And I, you, Thranduilion," answered Aragorn
in his soft voice. "I would speak with you longer, my friend, but I
need to check on my charge. My heart cannot rest until I learn of his
"Did you come hither with the halflings? I
wondered at them, seeing their weariness. What has driven so many so
far, and at such desperation? Must I wait for this council to learn
what has occurred?"
"Come with me Legolas, and some answers you
may find." Aragorn led him down a corridor that came to a clean room
where a gathering of folk were standing around a table. Mithrandir was
there, and Elrond also, bent over the table with an intent expression
on his noble face. When one of the elves moved to fetch a basin of
water for Elrond Legolas saw what he was so intent about, and his heart
leapt in his chest in pity.
A halfling lay on the table. He had dark
curly hair and pale, translucent skin. He lay motionless, and his blood
was bright red as it soaked the white linens. His shoulder had been
cruelly pierced and Elrond was carefully exploring the wound as if
looking for something. Legolas marveled that the tiny creature was
still alive. He seemed to be on the very threshold of death, his spirit
flickering like a waning star.
Legolas did not know this halfling, had not
yet even learned his name, but he was suddenly filled with compassion
for him and a desperate desire for him to survive. He turned to Aragorn
and saw his feeling mirrored in the Ranger’s dark features.
Aragorn motioned for him to come out from the
room. In the corridor, Aragorn gave Legolas a brief tale about his
coming to Rivendell, and also the name of the halfling that lay within.
When he ceased speaking, the Elf gripped the Man’s shoulder frimly.
"Brother, you have done a wonderous deed! You
must rest also, for you are weary beyond your endurance. Frodo Baggins
has Elrond and Gandalf with him… he will survive. Go and get you rest!"
Aragorn nodded and left, but Legolas remained
outside of the chamber where the battle was still being fought. He
could not leave, but stood and pondered his riddles and as he watched
Lord Elrond work, he prayed to Elbereth to protect the brave little
halfling who had stolen his heart.
Chapter 6: Gimli
Okay, we have had the story from the Elven point of view, but what
about the Dwarves? We need some equal opportunity musing here! Let not
the Son of Gloin's story go unheralded longer! But now we must change
our heads a little. What does go on inside that artfully-etched helmet?
The wind was biting on the eastern face of
the mountain. The clear air was full of the smell of snow and ore and
granite. Gimli breathed a great lung-full of it; it was very
So far this adventure had been rather tame,
he reflected as he walked alongside his father. When they had been sent
off from Lonely Mountain, they had been warned of dangers at every bank
and boulder. Gimli could not see what everyone had been so worried
about. They had seen a couple of largish spiders who had fled the torch
that Gimli waved toward their webs. They smelled wolf a couple of
times, but that was not unusual in Erebor in the autumn. Bandits were
too impressed by the arms and armour of their well-equipped group to be
tempted by the wealth they sported, and not a sign so far of goblins
high or low. Gimli was beginning to feel a little disappointed. If
Gloin had told him that they would be taking a long peaceful walk to
see a bunch of layabout elves, Gimli might have told his father to go
on without him!
The Dwarf chuckled at his own thoughts. Of
course he would have still come... Gloin and he were a team. Even if
this Rivendell place lay on the far side of the Misty Mountains, still
they had come more than half the distance already and were unscathed.
Climbing a mountain would not qualify as a hardship to any real dwarf.
The Misty Mountains were a great barrier of
lofty peaks riddled with lesser piles and precipices, breaks and
saddles of rock like curtains sweeping green with fir. There were
ribboned with valleys and ravines, marching endlessly toward the north
and south beyond the eyes' stretch. Sharp, steep and wild, even this
path that was well worn through the mountain pass. Rockslides were not
uncommon and often they came to places where the road had been washed
away or had broken off and fallen like tears down the mountain's face.
Still, this no hardship for a dwarf worth his
metal, thought Gimli. No very treacherous places had they come to, and
he was beginning to think that if they had chosen to bring ponies to
ride, the journey might have actually been rather relaxing.
Gimli heard the sound of hoofbeats then, as
if in answer to his thought. He turned and cast his long sight behind
them, hailing the other dwarves who had not heard the sound yet.
"Horses behind!" He freed his longhandled axe and shaded the noon sun
from his eyes. Noting the aspect and effects of the riders, his face
clouded with dislike. "Elves! Party of four on riding horses, father,"
"Well, I hope they are not in a hurry," said
Gloin, directing the troupe to proceed with the climb. "We are nearly
at the pass, and there is no room for them to ride around us. We were
here first and we will cross first. The tolls that the Beornings
charged us to use this road are high enough that we have the rights."
The dwarves grumbled and agreed, glancing
darkly back and returning to their steady pace. Gimli stood for a while
staring back then turned and joined Gloin again. As he walked, he
loosened his axes in their sheaths of leather and steel and flexed his
mighty arms beneath the ringed mail he wore.
Gimli did not like elves. He had many
reasons, founded in history and harder than granite to argue with.
Firstly, as a dutiful son, he resented the imprisonment of his father
and companions by the elves of Mirkwood. He had heard the tale more
often than he could recount, and ever the reasoning seemed petty and
unfounded for their debasement. Also, Elves had long been mistrusted by
his people, since before Khazad-dum had been lost. Elves had made
crafty things, objects of power that were now only whispered of, and
they had misused them and caused much trouble in the world.
A typical elvish trick, to take an ingot of
fair metal or a finely cut jewel and corrupt it into a ring or an item
of sorcery. Gimli blamed elves for perverting the artform of crafting.
How many Dwarven smiths had died with their secrets when the Dark Lord
had come for his Rings? All their lore lost and whole families ended...
a disaster to rival dragons any day! Though a gulf of time opened
between these deeds and Gimli's own birth (he was nearly 140 years old
now, in his prime of life) he held it close to his heart and vowed to
trust no elf nor traffic with one, if ever this could be avoided.
Now he was heading into a nest of them, and
if that weren't bad enough they were being followed by four more.
Woodelves by their dress, but Gimli cared not. And elf was an elf, and
each as guilty as the rest for the crimes of their kin. Did they not
live forever? Could one of these following be one who had actually
stood in Khazad-dum in the height of Durin's glory; knowledge and
vision no dwarf can now claim? It seemed a cruel irony to Gimli, and it
enraged his heart. He cast more frequent scowls behind them, as the
elves drew closer and slowed their horses, unable now to travel faster
than the footspeed of a dwarf.
After a time the elves fell back and Gimli
breathed a sigh. When they all finally left Middle earth for good, then
the world would be a better place, he thought to himself. A nugget of
ice that lay deep in his heart spread a chill through his limbs, as he
recalled a voice; a voice murmured within his own head that no one else
"Once you said not such things, Gloin's son Gimli..."
~~~ seventy years ago, Ered Luin ~~~~
Gimli had been angry when his father had
refused his request to join Thorin's company. He was not "too young",
and Gloin's argument that he was his only son and both of them could
not be risked in this venture fell dead on his ears. Infuriated by
being left behind, he was determined to follow them until he caught
them up, and then they would be force to allow him to come along.
Instead, he got lost in the winding
willowlands that rotted the foothills of the Blue Mountains. He
despaired completely of finding their trail and had finally turned to
try to go home when he had met his first elf.
Her name had been, simply, El.
El had found him wandering near exhaustion,
foodless and shelterless in a wild land. She had taken him to her home,
a humble cave burrowed in a hill but warm and dry and snug. She fed him
pineseeds and wild rice, sweet cresses and fresh fish until he was
strong again. He remained past his recovery to learn of her, for she
was quiet and lovely and simple, and yet seemed higher of purpose than
anyone he had ever met before. He dreaded returning home to the shame
of his failure, not so much worried about the ire of his mother as loss
of face to the other young dwarves he had bragged to about following
Thorin. It was quiet and peaceful in the willow valley, and the summer
leaked away and autumn blew past, and then winter came to freeze his
She packed her few small things and bid him
farewell. He would not walk with her to the Havens, though they were a
few short leagues away. He asked her not to go, to remain and teach him
more of the ways of birds and trees. He begged her to stay for him,
because he cared about her and had no other friend. He became stubborn
and insisted, claiming that he could not find his way without her help.
She merely smiled and laid a white hand on
his head, leaned down to kiss his cheek crimson with choler and his
eyes wet with sorrow. Then she had turned and joined the group of elves
who had appeared to collect her, to make their way to the Sea and the
grey ship that waited for them. Gimli watched them until they
disappeared; she never turned and looked back toward him, not once.
That was the day he began to hate elves.
~~~ present day, High Pass ~~~
It had been a pleasant journey, until those
blasted elves showed up. He might have known they'd disappeared as soon
as trouble showed its face. The melee with the orcs had almost been a
relief; Gimli had a lot of frustrated anger to work off, and two score
goblins was just the cure he needed.
He would have accounted half of the goblins
himself, but for the interference of that skulking elf. His arrow had
cheated him of his proudful score and he was genuinely annoyed, (though
a wiser part of him was rather shaken) that the goblin had not been as
dead as it was supposed to be when Gimli had turned his back. It had
been a close shave!
But indebted to an Elf? Gimli would never
admit such a debt, nor give thanks for such. He rather resented that
Gloin spoke to him so, though he understood the need to maintain
relations with them as allies. Elves could be useful, when they were
interested in helping.
At least Gimli had gotten the satisfaction of
hearing the Elf ask for something Gimli had the power to withhold. That
shred of happiness buoyed him throughout the rest of the journey, until
they came down from the comfort of the mountains to the overgrown
crevice of Rivendell.
There was no further incident. The Elves now
trailed the Dwarves closely, riding their horses and talking in Elvish,
sometimes singing. Any noise they made, be it merry or morose,
irritated the Dwarves. Gimli walked steadily, trying to ignore the
noisy, frivolous elves. Did they not know or did they choose to not
remember the goblins that had attacked and fled? Gimli was sure that
they would disappear again should they come again with reinforcements.
Gimli turned his head and glared back at the
tag-alongs, but when he saw the face of the Elf he had spoken to, he
recalled again the puzzlement and frustration in that fair face. Gimli
allowed a grin to spread beneath his beard, and he nearly laughed when
Legolas perceived him and frowned back. He lengthened his stride but
slowed his steps, and began singing a dwarvish song, encouraging his
fellows to join him. He drowned out the delicate music of the Elves'
voices, his brassy baritone echoing off of the stones around and below
them. The mountains sang with the Dwarves this day.
As the valley finally came into sight, after
winding through the last few miles of stone, the Elves greeted the
sight of the woods and green vale with joyful song. The Dwarves paused
in their march and turned, saluting the mountain that they had just
traversed with respect.
Now the path spread wide, and there was ample
room for the Elves to ride around the slow moving Dwarven party. The
Elves remained behind them for a while, but the music of the valley of
Imladris was intoxicating to them, and they longed to ride ahead and
drink its peace. They finally let their horses take their heads,
breaking into a run down the steep road.
As they flew past the Dwarves, Gimli's Elf
offered a salute to him. Gimli repeated his earlier salute, shaking a
fist and scowling. He waved a hand before his face as the dust of the
horses settled on his beard. Cursed, troublesome Elves!
The Elves let their mounts take them speedily
toward the Last Homely House nestled in the valley below. As the last
rays of the setting sun was glimmering on the white turret of the tower
of Elrond's observatory, the Dwarves came in their own time to
Imladris. Gimli wondered what would be waiting for them there: aid, as
his father had hoped to find, or a refuge for fleeing elves, too
engrossed in escape to help the People that they had for so long
claimed to befriend?
Gimli tightened his grip on his axehandle and walked on toward the setting sun.