Chapter 2. First Meeting
Galadriel also sensed Gimli’s initial discomfort with his new surroundings and sought to calm his inner turmoil with words of reassurance spoken in casual conversation as she selected a peach from the platter of fresh fruit that was part of the light repast that had been prepared for the Dwarf.
“Never doubt that you are more than welcome in Valinor, dear Gimli, both as one of the honoured Nine Walkers, and as elf friend,” she assured her companion with the smile that had captured his heart so long ago in Lothlórien.
“I thank you for your kind welcome, and your comforting words my Lady,” said Gimli feeling a little more settled as he took another swig of the finest Dwarvish ale that he had ever tasted. He knew Elves disliked the strong, bitter brew and he briefly wondered how such a fine drop came to be in Valinor.
“I believe Olórin, who you know as Gandalf, had a hand in procuring the ale, but from whence I do not know. Perhaps you should ask him when he arrives,” suggested Galadriel, answering the unspoken question. “Now is there anything more you require, Gimli?”
“Nay, my Lady, all I need after such a refreshing meal is a quiet spot beneath one of the trees where I can smoke my pipe, enjoy this fine ale and perhaps take a brief nap,” he replied as he refilled his now empty tankard.
“As you wish. It is still a few hours until Eärendil begins his journey across the sky and it is his appearance that will mark the official start of the festivities,” she told the Dwarf with an amused smile as she heard him mumble, “How very Elvish!”
“Then I will certainly have sufficient time to rest,” said Gimli with a slight bow as he took his leave and made for the inviting shade of a rather large oak tree. It took him but a few moments of well practised skill to fill his pipe, and as he did so he wondered how Legolas was faring now that he was reunited with his mother again after all this time. Knowing the Elf, the tears of joy still flowed freely, for he was really a very sensitive soul, particularly when it came to his parents. The deep and everlasting love that defined the bond between parent and child was the same no matter the race, Gimli decided upon reflection. As far as he was concerned his love for his long departed mother and father was no different to that which Legolas felt for his parents, but it was not the way of the Dwarves to be as openly affectionate and demonstrative. Sorrow and grief filled his heart at the memory of their loss for even though he was long into adulthood, Gimli missed Glóin very much and envied Legolas the warmth and affection of his mother’s arms.
The first spiral of smoke had barely left his pipe when the lone Dwarf was joined by several of the Elves he had been acquainted with in Ithilien as well as a number of curious onlookers from both Lothlórien and Eryn Lasgalen. Those he knew well greeted him warmly and asked to hear news of Middle-earth, of Ithilien and their beloved King who had not yet indicated if he would take ship one day.
Ever willing to tell a tale or two, not to mention relishing being the centre of friendly attention, the once Lord of Aglarond settled comfortably against the trunk of the oak tree and spent a pleasant few hours answering questions with his usual humour and outspokenness. He was also immensely enjoying the willingness of the various members of his audience to refill his ale tankard whenever his voice grew hoarse from too much talking.
When it came to discussing Aglarond and the Dwarves who remained there, his well known tendency for slight exaggeration was tolerated in its usual fashion, with amused smiles and indulgent glances among his listeners. There was much laughter and friendly banter that served only to make the Dwarf feel more at ease and banished all his thoughts of being out of place amongst so many Elves. Clearly he had plenty of friends who were glad to see him, and he decided that his decision to accompany Legolas had not been in vain.
“You would forgo the comfortable bed in the guest pavilion in favour of sitting beneath the trees?” asked Tathar as his eyebrows rose in mock disbelief and his lips curled in a wicked grin. He and Mirieth had also joined the merry group and he could not resist the friendly barb. “I can not wait to see Legolas’s face when I tell him of this.” The other Elves laughed merrily at the gentle teasing that they had not heard for so long, but that had become commonplace in Ithilien.
“Who do you think constantly expressed his dislike of smoking and insisted I develop this habit?’ asked Gimli. “I have come to believe that it is his form of revenge for all those nights whilst we journeyed on the Quest that Legolas, and his aversion to the aroma and the smoke produced by the Shire’s finest pipeweed, was forced to seek fresh air away from the campfire, usually at some height above the ground in the branches of a tree. However, as I have told him every time he asks, I have no intention of climbing anything It is only to keep him from annoying me that I have now become accustomed to seeking some distance from those around me who do not smoke when I wish to indulge in my pipe. Sitting beneath the trees is as close as I come to behaving like an Elf, and at least the trees do not complain,” explained Gimli in his usual free spoken manner, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had just spoken rather unflattering words about their leader and his present company.
“Not that you would even know if they did, of course, since Dwarf ears can not hear the soft sounds of nature,” Legolas pointed out, in an equally derogatory tone that was nonetheless laced with a hint of amusement. A small burst of laughter followed his words, and all eyes turned to face the new arrival who was walking arm in arm with Elisiel. He ignored the Dwarf’s snort of contempt, and smiled greetings to the many welcomes voiced by his friends and acquaintances as he moved towards his lifelong friend and his wife.
“It is good to see you again, mellon nin,” said Tathar as Elisiel stepped aside to allow her son to be engulfed in his friend’s brotherly embrace.
“As am I pleased to see you,” replied Legolas as he returned the hug in kind. “You have been looking after him well, Mirieth,” he said as he released Tathar and took his friend’s wife into his arms and kissed her lightly on the lips in the usual manner of their greeting. The two had been friends long before she and Tathar had wed.
“I have missed you, dear Legolas, welcome home,” she said warmly. Gimli smirked as he watched the way Legolas behaved with Mirieth and decided a little teasing was in order.
“I suggest you keep a firm hold on your lady’s heart, Tathar lest you lose her to the charms of our friend here,” he said with a wink to indicate his words were spoken in jest.
“We are nothing more than friends, as you well know, Gimli,” declared Legolas, in defence of his and Mirieth’s honour.
“Then perhaps instead of shamelessly flirting with your friend’s wife you should consider seeking one of your own,” retorted the Dwarf, grinning as he took delight in some small measure of revenge for the Elf’s deliberately misleading comments on the ship. There were several nods of amused agreement from the others, Tathar included and Legolas groaned inwardly. He had expected Elisiel, and likely Mirieth, to indulge in well intentioned matchmaking, but not the Dwarf.
“I see we have much in common already, Master Dwarf,” said Elisiel, stepping forward with a mischievous smile that reminded him very much of Legolas’s. Gimli chuckled softly as he wondered how Thranduil had coped with these two, for he realised that his friend had inherited his ‘playful’ streak from his Naneth.
“Since *some* people seem to have forgotten their manners, let me introduce myself, I am Elisiel, Legolas’s mother.” Gimli scowled at his friend, but then smiled charmingly and inclined his head to Elisiel.
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lady Elisiel. You are even more beautiful than your son described,” he said as he gallantly kissed her offered hand, for in his eyes she was almost as lovely as Galadriel.
“And you are as charming as Galadriel described,” Elisiel replied with a soft laugh at the blush her compliment caused to colour the Dwarf’s cheeks.
“Thank you, my lady,” the highly embarrassed Gimli managed to reply.
“Please just call me Elisiel,” she said then turned to speak with her son. “Legolas, I am reminded that you have yet to pay your respects to Galadriel. I think you should do so now. I will wait here and speak a while with Gimli, we have much to discuss.” Legolas looked warily from one to the other, hoping that his lack of a life partner was not to be the main topic of conversation.
“Ai, Nana,” he replied, smiling with relief as he realised his fears were unfounded when he heard Elisiel ask Gimli to tell her a little about himself, a question the Dwarf could easily take days to answer if given the opportunity and the company of a good listener.
Legolas kissed Elisiel on the cheek then took his leave and made his way to the pavilion where Galadriel was to be found.
“Welcome, Legolas,” Galadriel said as she rose from her chair to greet the younger Elf. Before he could utter a word, she gently tilted his chin and gazed into the brilliance of his eyes as she probed the inner recesses of his heart and soul. When she looked away, Legolas released the breath he was unaware that he had been holding. Galadriel remained silent for a few moments before turning her saddened gaze back to Legolas.
“Is there something amiss my Lady?” he dared to ask.
“Your grief at Aragorn’s passing runs deep, as does your desire to see Thranduil sail to Valinor, and is nothing less than I expected to find, but when you think of Arwen … your heart is filled with guilt. Tell me why?”
“When I learned she was suffering such grief at Aragorn’s passing that she no longer even wished to remain with the children born of that love, I should have insisted she sail with Gimli and me rather than being left to wander alone amongst the mellryn, until she faded as they have,” he replied.
“There was no ship that Arwen could take that would bring her here. It was her choice to remain at his side, even unto death and you did all that you could. I saw in your mind that although she refused your company on her final journey, you nonetheless ensured that the Rangers, although unseen by Arwen, guarded her steps. They watched over her in secret until she finally disappeared from Middle-earth. You did all that you could, and for that I am as grateful as I am certain Elrond and my daughter will be,” said Galadriel, as she reached out to gently wipe away the single tear that traced a path down Legolas’s cheek.
“Ai, I saw to her protection even though she denied it was needed because she was not thinking clearly when we parted, or so it seemed to me. My Lady, I do not know how to tell Lord Elrond this sad news, for surely he will ask me to speak of her fate,” admitted Legolas his eyes pleading for advice.
“Do not let sorrow and grief mar your reunion with your naneth and your friends. You have suffered much and the time for unhappiness is past. Go to your loved ones, child. I will speak with Elrond and Celebrían in your stead,” said Galadriel.
“Thank you,” replied a very relieved Legolas as he bowed slightly and turned to leave. Galadriel’s soft voice called after him, causing him to turn back around.
“Have no fear, Legolas. I know Celeborn will eventually be ready to leave Middle-earth and at that time, Thranduil will need no convincing to sail with him,” she stated with certainty.
“How can you be so sure?” Legolas asked, all too willing to believe her words.
“The two beings Celeborn loves above all other await his return, and he promised me that he would not forsake the bonds of husband and Adar, and neither will Thranduil. As Elisiel and I have already discussed many times, this is where their hearts truly lie, it is just that neither of them realise it yet.” Galadriel was pleased to see the radiant smile that shone from the young Elf’s heart added a further brilliance to his handsome face.
Whilst Legolas had been speaking with Galadriel, Elisiel and Gimli were doing likewise; only their conversation was far more light-hearted in nature. Elisiel listened with fascination as the Dwarf employed his considerable story telling talent to describing his life amongst his kin at Erebor. Tathar had quietly suggested the two new acquaintances be allowed some time alone together, but Elisiel realised that the other Elves in their presence were also curious to hear more of the one who had become one of their prince’s dearest friends and had permitted them to stay a while longer.
“That sweet old Hobbit, Bilbo told me much of the Battle of the Five Armies, but I only now realise that most of you fought alongside Thranduil,” she said as she looked around and saw many pairs of eyes dim slightly as the memories of the battle and the lost loves were recalled. Several of the Elves told of the part Thranduil’s army had played in the battle and Elisiel beamed with love and pride for her warrior king.
“Were you there also, Gimli?” she asked.
“Aye, I fought with my father,” he replied proudly.
“Glóin, I believe his name was?” she asked, Gimli nodded. “Legolas mentioned that you and his Adar are not exactly the best of friends. I suspect that memories of the incident in the dungeons did little to enhance your friendship, did it?” Elisiel sensed that Gimli was rather reluctant to speak about such a sensitive subject in the presence of so many Elves, so without uttering a word, she requested to be left to continue the conversation in private. In the blink of an eye the Dwarf found he was alone with the lovely Woodland Queen.
“Nay, it did not. Thranduil is not fond of Dwarves, as you are surely well aware, and he found the notion of his son befriending the son of one of his least favoured beings rather difficult to accept,” explained Gimli.
“But neither are you overly fond of my husband,” she stated, her calm demeanour giving no clue as to her own feelings. “Thranduil has his reasons for his attitude towards your kin, and whilst they may not necessarily reflect my own, I still respect his opinion and will hear no disrespect spoken of him,” she warned Gimli who had seen the same fierce protectiveness of his friends and loved ones in Legolas on many occasions and realised that, like Galadriel, Elisiel was very beautiful but also very formidable if she needed to be.
“I mean no offence but I make no claim to friendship with the King, yet our love and affection for Legolas urges us to tolerate each other,” he admitted, suddenly feeling guilty that was so, for he felt nothing but admiration and fondness for his friend’s mother, regardless of the fact that they had only just met.
“To be able to teach Thranduil tolerance where he would not normally display it, is a feat very few have achieved and that you would attempt to do so tells me you are truly worthy of my son’s affection and friendship. Please know that you will ever have mine as well, friend Gimli,” Elisiel said as she bent down to kiss the Dwarf’s cheek. She quickly drew back in astonishment and Gimli wondered what he had done to cause alarm.
“Did I do something wrong, Elisiel?” asked a rather confused Gimli. Perhaps the deep red colour of pleased embarrassment that now graced his face and neck had startled Elisiel? He had been too stunned to even move when the feather light lips brushed his cheek, but one never knew what would upset an Elf.
“Nay, it is just that I have never before felt the strange sensation of facial hair tickling my cheek. I am certain I will become accustomed to the feeling in time,” she said pleasantly, indicating that she was likely to offer a friendly kiss as the occasion demanded. Gimli decided that he liked the thought of being subject to further displays of almost motherly affection, and was still blushing furiously when Legolas returned from his meeting with Galadriel.