Chapter 1. The Seafarers Arrive
A strong sea breeze filled the mithril white sails, driving the graceful ship ever closer to the land the Elves now called home, and every few moments, a stray gust freed itself from the task and danced with untamed gold of Legolas’s unbraided hair. Never before had he allowed the silken strands such unruly behaviour, but as he keenly watched the horizon for his first glimpse of the Blessed Realm, he gave no thought to grooming the tresses back into an orderly array.
“Is this not exhilarating?” He looked at his companion with eyes that shone brilliantly and spoke with a voice full of delight and wonder.
“Nauseating is the word that springs to my mind,” grumbled the Dwarf who had discovered too late that he had no stomach for sea faring. Legolas was filled with compassion for his friend’s plight, the pallor of his skin, and the sweat on his brow from his latest upheaval. The motion of the waves had taken their toll on the Dwarf’s normally strong constitution and he fervently hoped that the trip would end very soon. Legolas, on the other hand, whilst eager to reach Valinor, was enjoying every minute of the journey.
“I am so sorry you are unwell, dear Gimli. Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?” he asked with genuine distress for his friend’s state of health, as he gave the Dwarf’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze before he moved to reclaim his favourite vantage point.
“Aye, come down from there at once! I do not wish to arrive in Valinor having to explain to all and sundry that you fell from the ship and drowned,” growled Gimli as he watched with some trepidation as Legolas nimbly climbed the mast, and perched somewhat precariously on top of the sail connected to it.
“Have no fear; it is no more dangerous than climbing a tree. Just think of the mast as the trunk and the ropes as the branches,” declared Legolas as he closed his eyes and savoured the refreshing tang of the sea spray on his lips. Gimli could not help but smile at the childish delight on the Elf’s face and the carefree behaviour he had been displaying since leaving Ithilien, and he decided his discomfort was a small price to pay to see the Elf so happy.
“As you wish, but can you speak with it?” teased Gimli.
“Nay, but I am certain there are many trees there must be to speak with in the Blessed Realm. We must visit them all!” The thought of traipsing through endless forest as they had done on their travels together in Middle-earth caused Gimli to groan with exasperation. Legolas’s response was a peal of merry laughter that stopped abruptly when to be replaced with a gasp of wonder as elvish eyes caught their first glimpse of the white sands of the shores of Valinor.
“Gimli. I see it! I see the entrance to the havens and the beach beyond! Our journey is at an end!” he shouted ecstatically as salty tears of joy mingled with the dampness of the sea spray on his cheeks. He swiftly climbed back to the deck and enfolded his friend in an exuberant embrace, and then before Gimli could recover his composure, Legolas disappeared into the cabin below.
Although the sea sickness had miraculously eased with the appearance of dry land up ahead, the Dwarf still felt a certain roiling inside borne of his uncertainty of the kind of welcome he would receive. He had not mentioned his reservations to his friend, but he had begun to ponder the wisdom of accompanying Legolas to Valinor.
“Well it is too late to change your mind now, Gimli son of Glóin,” he told himself, putting the thought from his mind as he wondered what the Elf was doing and why he was taking so long. The answer became evident when Legolas emerged almost an hour later, his hair was once again immaculately groomed, and the loose shirt and leggings he had been wearing discarded in favour of the elegant formal robes Thranduil had gifted him especially for this occasion.
“Is my appearance acceptable?” Legolas asked his friend, who was staring into the distance still trying to catch sight of their destination. The Dwarf turned and studied the warrior prince for several moments, impressed as always by his delicate, yet unmistakably masculine beauty, a beauty matched by the brightness of the spirit within.
“That depends on who it is you are trying to impress. Is there perhaps some sweet elf maid, one who you have so far neglected to mention to your best friend, waiting for her prince to sweep her off her feet?” he teased, smirking at the pale blush that only served to make Legolas’s features more fair and to make Gimli even more suspicious.
“Well… there is someone I wish to kook my best for…” began Legolas, deciding to tease his friend and fuel the Dwarf’s curiosity instead of satisfy it.
“Ha! I knew it! Who is she?” Gimli asked triumphantly.
“A very beautiful Elf who I have loved all my life and have missed terribly,” Legolas replied, thinking he had given his friend more than enough information to discern the obvious answer. He realised he was mistaken when he heard the next question.
“And what is the name of your lady love?” The Dwarf demanded, thoroughly convinced there must have been some maid who had captured such a gentle and loving heart as his friend possessed.
“Elisiel is my adar’s lady love, not mine. I wish to look my best for Nana,” laughed Legolas pleased with his jest.
“Most amusing Elf, “scowled Gimli self consciously glancing at his own attire.
“Have no fear, your appearance is most acceptable, my friend. Nana will see you as I do… through the eyes of my heart.” It was Gimli’s turn to redden slightly at such an expression of affection, and he laughed at his own folly.
“But will the others be so accepting or will they be as Haldir of Lórien was on our arrival in the Golden Wood?” he wondered, hinting at his concern that he would be but one Dwarf among many Elves, some of whom no doubt would not approve of his presence.
“I can not answer that, but you know you have the Lady Galadriel’s favour and you have been granted the grace of the Valar. None will dare openly speak against you, and in time all will come to accept you and your irascible ways,” Legolas assured his friend unable to resist teasing him a little more. They both turned their gazes back to the fast approaching brilliance of Valinor, and Legolas pointed to something the Dwarf’s eyes could not quite discern.
“Look, my friend, do you not see the Lady waiting there for you on the shore?”
“I do not have eyes as far seeing as yours, but I believe I can make out the light of her beauty,” said Gimli, squinting in the direction Legolas indicated. He could now see the shore on which stood something bright, but could not discern the detail. “Should you not be taking the helm?” he asked suddenly realising no one was steering the ship as the stone archway loomed before them.
“Nay, Cirdan’s ships need no hand to guide them to the havens,” replied Legolas with a nonchalant shrug.
“But he did not build this one, we did,” said Gimli becoming somewhat alarmed.
“It makes no difference, it is still his design. See?” Gimli watched in wonder as the ship passed safely through the archway and came to rest beside the wharf. Legolas cast his eyes over the large group of friends that had come to meet him, smiling warm greetings to them all, especially his lifelong friend Tathar and his lovely wife, Mirieth who stood close together with their arms about each other’s waists. Beside them was the one Elf he wished to see more than any other.
With a choked cry of “Nana!” and disregarding the presence of all, even Gimli, he jumped lightly to the shore and ran to Elisiel’s waiting arms. Mother and son held each other in a crushing embrace, exchanging tearful kisses and word of love, so lost in their joyous reunion that they were totally oblivious to the others waiting to greet the new arrivals.
The Dwarf remained on the ship, his feeling of unease having returned as he noticed several Elves eye him with cold regard. Nothing was said, but there were a few murmurs and gasps of surprise when Galadriel offered her hand to help him disembark and he dared to kiss it lightly. Her musical laughter eased his fears and he spoke his greeting.
“I am pleased to see you once more, my Lady,” he said with a gallant bow.
“Welcome to your new home, Gimli son of Glóin. Come, we have much to talk about, and I think it only fitting to leave Legolas and Elisiel to their privacy. There will be plenty of time for you to make the acquaintance of Legolas’s Naneth at the feast of welcome tonight,” she explained when Gimli seemed undecided.
“As you wish,” replied the Dwarf as he saw that Legolas and his mother had moved away from the wharf and were now seated on the white sand, thoroughly absorbed in their conversation.
Before he and Galadriel had taken more than a few steps, their progress was halted by Tathar, who at first bowed politely to the Lady and then knelt down to hug the Dwarf soundly.
“It is good to see you again, friend Gimli. I trust you enjoyed the journey, despite the company you were forced to keep?” he asked with a wicked grin and soft laughter. His light-hearted banter eased Gimli’s apprehension and he answered in kind.
“I did not! The sea conspired with that crazy princeling to make the trip as unbearable as possible,” he declared, the glimmer of amusement in his eyes confirming his pretence of affronted feelings.
“Then I am pleased to learn that my friends has not changed since last we met,” Tathar replied.
“Nay, he is still as annoying as ever, but happier and more content than I have ever seen him,” declared Gimli with deep affection. Tathar nodded his understanding, and was silently relieved that all was now well with Legolas.
A gentle tug on his hand caused him to belatedly remember his manners. “I am sorry, my love. Gimli, I would like you to meet Mirieth, my sweet wife,” he said, moving aside so that the two could exchange greetings.
“I am honoured to meet you, my Lady. I have heard much of your beauty from both Tathar and Legolas, but neither described it adequately,” said the Dwarf as he kissed Mirieth’s hand.
“And you, Master Gimli, are far more charming than I have been lead to believe,” she replied, causing Gimli to redden slightly at the compliment.
“Come, Gimli. I have a pavilion set up in the glade where tonight’s feast will be held where you can take your rest,” said Galadriel. “Perhaps your friends would care to accompany us?” she suggested.
“Thank you, my Lady,” Tathar said, accepting the invitation, knowing that Gimli still felt a little uncomfortable.
The pavilion was but a short distance inland from the shore, set amongst a grove of trees that formed the border of a large, gaily decorated clearing. A large fire had been set in the centre and already musicians were filling the air with sweet melodies. Well accustomed to participating in elvish merrymaking in Ithilien, Gimli was looking forward to a pleasant evening with his feet firmly planted on immovable soil and stone.