Chapter 8. A Secret is Revealed
Gimli had great faith in Elrond’s abilities as a Healer, but the Dwarf still vividly recalled how appallingly uncomfortable he had been on his first sea voyage and could not quite believe even an elvish potion would be of use against the affliction. So it was to his intense relief and delight that, in a very short time after he and Legolas set sail, Gimli realised that he was no longer plagued by the sea sickness. In fact he found the rise and fall of the craft as it rode the gentle waves to be a very relaxing motion which, when combined with the warm caress of Anor’s rays, was likely to lull him to sleep if he stayed sitting too long in the one spot. Gimli knew that all too soon he would succumb to eternal sleep, and so did his best to remain awake to share the joys of their last adventure with his friend.
Legolas had not needed to hear the words spoken between Elrond and Gimli to know that the Dwarf’s time was drawing to an end. The evidence of Gimli’s aging was apparent to his eyes, as well as his other senses. He could feel his friend’s ever increasing fatigue, and there was no denying that the Dwarf’s usual earthy odour was enhanced by that of the salve that archers commonly used for soothing aching muscles and joints after prolonged practice sessions. Had he realised his friend was in such need of pain relief, he would have offered it to Gimli, but the prideful Dwarf had never once hinted that was the case. Nor was he likely to, for Legolas knew that his friend was trying to spare him from a grief that was inevitable. He was grateful that Elrond had seen fit to supply his friend with such, for he could not bear the thought of his dear friend having to live with any unnecessary pain.
“Would that there was such a simple remedy for grief,” thought Legolas with much sorrow.
Their journey of exploration followed a simple pattern of choosing a likely looking cove in which to anchor the ship and then disembarking with travel packs and high spirits to explore farther inland. Gimli could easily manage two or three days on foot before becoming too weary, but usually that was enough time to allow them to see some of the rugged natural beauty of Valinor.
“It is much like Middle-earth in places, especially these mountains,” commented Gimli as they walked slowly along the narrow pass through The Pelóri that would lead them to Valmar and Aulë’s Hall.
“Ai, but do you not notice the difference?” asked Legolas as he suddenly realised what should have been obvious. Gimli looked around, and shook his head. “This path is much too even and easy to follow to be simply a natural road. I suspect the Valar have made it so, maybe just for us,” he added his eyes alight with wonder. The Dwarf could not help but agree.
“Aye and I am pleased that they decided to assist us in such a manner. I do not relish having to fight my way over boulders and such to reach our destination,” said Gimli as he stopped and inhaled deeply a few times to calm his laboured breathing. As he absently rubbed knees that had begun to ache, Legolas offered him some water and a look of concern as he suggested they take a rest. Gimli sat only long enough to swallow a few sips of the miruvor Elrond have given to him to use as a tonic, and then insisted they be on their way.
“We have been invited to visit Aulë, and I for one do not dare disappoint any of the Valar,” said Gimli with a hint of awe in his voice whenever he spoke of them.
“A wise decision,” agreed the Elf.
Anor's last rays had almost vanished into twilight when they reached Aulë’s Hall, and although they seemed to be alone, there was a table set with a generous meal, a bottle of wine and a jug of Gimli’s favourite ale. The Dwarf’s eyes lit with delight at the sight of the food and drink.
“This repast is obviously for us,” he said as he took a seat and helped himself to a large platter of meat, cheese and fresh fruit. Legolas smiled at his friend’s enthusiasm and not feeling very hungry, delicately nibbled on an apple as he poured himself a goblet of the wine.
“An excellent vintage, would you not agree Thranduilion?” asked a deep yet melodious voice from the doorway. “Although I must admit that like Gimli, son of Glóin, I much prefer good, stout ale.” Legolas and Gimli both stood and bowed respectfully to the almost glowing Elf who was the image of Aulë.
“We are honoured to meet you, my Lord Aulë,” said Legolas speaking for them both.
“Indeed, well met, but please just call me Aulë,” he replied and gestured for them to resume their meal. “Oromë was supposed to be here by now, but in his typical manner has probably been detained by the tale some tree is telling him.” Legolas and Gimli exchanged an amused glance at the slight barb, which was not unlike that which the Dwarf would have said of the Elf.
“Nay, not this time. I was speaking with Olórin about that matter we discussed a few days ago, if you must know,” Oromë said as he entered the Hall and greeted his fellow Vala with a friendly embrace.
“Then you are forgiven for your tardiness,” replied Aulë. “Come join us at the table.” Legolas and Gimli bowed their heads in greeting as Oromë sat beside Legolas. As they ate they spoke of many things, and when the conversation drifted to Aglarond, Gimli and Aulë seemed to forget the others were even present.
“Come, Legolas, they will be talking of dark caves and shiny rocks for hours. Let us take in the sweet scent of the evening air and the shiny gems of starlight in the night sky,” suggested Oromë as he took Legolas’s arm and lead him outside. “Tell me of the forests of Middle-earth,” he said as they lay side by side beneath the stars. Legolas willing answered the Vala’s questions and it was almost midnight before they returned to Gimli and Aulë. They left early the next morning to return to the ship and continue their journey, promising Oromë that they would soon walk in his woods.
“The Dwarf is an extraordinary creature, and so devoted to Legolas,” commented Oromë as he and Aulë watched the two friends laughing merrily as they disappeared from view.
“Ai, ‘tis heart-warming to see such a strong friendship between two such different beings. They have sacrificed much for each other.”
“Gimli is called elf friend by many of the other Firstborn as well, they will sorely miss him,” said Oromë with sadness for the grief his beloved Elves would soon feel. “I wonder whether Legolas would have found such acceptance in a colony of your Dwarves.”
“I believe he would have, my friend.”
“I begin to understand why you enjoy sailing so much,” Gimli said one day as he came to stand beside Legolas who was steering the ship towards one of the many coves they would eventually visit.
“Because the salt air is refreshing and the soft sounds of the water have a very soothing effect on my spirit,” Legolas answered as he closed his eyes to allow his senses to relish both these at once.
“If you say so, but I had something else in mind,” said Gimli with an air of mischief. The Elf raised and eyebrow in query, silently inviting his friend to continue. “This form of travel is decidedly easier than horseback and is very easy on tired old dwarfish legs and no doubt even young elvish ones.”
“I never thought to hear you admit that a Dwarf could tire, but I assure you Elves do not!” Legolas retorted with an affronted glare that caused Gimli to chuckle before becoming serious.
“Do you not sometimes tire of immortality?” he asked suddenly finding a means to broach a topic that was of great concern. He needed to make Legolas understand how he felt about death so that his passing would not be cause too much grief for the Elf.
“Nay, how can I? I am of the Firstborn and it is our gift from Ilúvatar,” replied the Elf.
“As was Aragorn’s mortality, and so is mine,” said Gimli as he held Legolas’s gaze. “He did not fear death and neither do I, yet as our bodies age and become of little use we weary of them. I know not what happens to the souls of men, but I do know that my soul will join my kin in the part of the Halls of Waiting reserved for Aulë’s children. Neither of us can deny that I am destined to be parted from you soon, but please tell me you understand I will go willingly when the time comes.”
“Ai, I understand,” nodded Legolas said as he placed a friendly hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder. ”Nonetheless I will grieve for you as I did, and still do for Aragorn and the others.” They stood in silent remembrance of the others of the Fellowship who were no more, until Gimli decided it was time to alter the tone of their conversation to something less morbid.
“Be wary of too crying too many tears my friend for I imagine a grieving Elf who is in need of comfort might be very attractive to the many fair maids who would console him,” teased Gimli with a wicked grin. Legolas rolled his eyes and sighed with exasperation at the less than subtle hint.
“Only if they wish to be disappointed,” Legolas whispered softly, not expecting the Dwarf to hear.
“My body may be ageing, but I can still hear quite well. Why would they be disappointed?” he asked. Legolas did not answer immediately, but there was an unmistakeable pink tinge on his cheeks and the delicate tips of his pointed ears. Gimli frowned at this unexpected response, and then clapped Legolas on the back with delight.
“You have found someone!” he stated with certainty that changed abruptly to mock anger. “How dare you keep such a secret from me? Who is she? Do I know her?” he asked in rapid succession, his curiosity piqued beyond enduring.
“Ai, I have found someone, but I have not yet sought her parent’s permission to court her, and so we have kept our relationship private,” explained Legolas. “I do not believe you two have met, but I fully intended to introduce you when we return from this trip.”
“We should go back now. I do not wish to deprive your lady love of your attentions for a moment longer,” said Gimli with sincerity and sensitivity as well as an intense interest in meeting the one who would hopefully be the love and hold his friend when grief overwhelmed him.
“There is no hurry, for she and her parents are at this moment travelling to Tirion to visit with her brother and his wife and to see their newborn child,” Legolas told his friend.
“I imagine your parents are delighted,” said Gimli knowing full well they would be happy beyond measure for their son.
“I have not told them yet, either. You are the first to know,” Legolas admitted with a warm smile for his dear friend that was returned in kind.