Chapter 1. Unwelcome News
For the fist time since the gates of Minas Tirith had been restored by the skill of the dwarves, Gimli passed through them without even stopping to inspect the stonework for signs that repairs were needed. His mind was set on a single purpose, of such importance that he allowed nothing to distract him, thus the friendly waves and greetings of the people of Gondor were not returned, nor even acknowledged with as little as a gruff reply. His mood was not improved when he found his way to Aragorn’s chambers barred by one of the King’s Guard.
“Now, lad, I know you are only doing your duty, but I must see the King at once! Let me pass!” he demanded loudly as he glared angrily at the guard who was standing his ground in the midst of the hallway.
“As I have already explained, my lord Gimli, the King and Queen are taking their morning meal in their chambers, and I can not allow you to disturb their privacy,” the young man replied patiently, ignoring the Dwarf’s ire.
“And as I have already told you, I bear urgent news for King Elessar,” repeated Gimli, his voice raised in anger as he vented his frustration by pounding the handle of his axe on the stone floor.
“Then please join us, friend Gimli,” offered a quiet, yet firm voice from the doorway that was now opened to reveal Elessar, wearing his only night attire and an amused grin. He nodded at the guard who accepted the unspoken command and moved aside to allow Gimli to pass.
“And about time too,” grumbled the Dwarf, fixing Aragorn with an irate glare even as he accepted the invitation.
“You must forgive my guard, he was only following orders,” apologized Aragorn as he led Gimli out onto the balcony where the breakfast table had been set.
“I know, but I think he now also disapproves of your lack of modesty,” commented Gimli, indicating Aragorn’s state of undress and smirking at the shocked expression he had noted on the guard’s face as he walked past him.
“I doubt that he is aware that during our travels together modesty was a luxury we could not afford,” replied Aragorn lightly. Gimli laughed and nodded agreement, remembering the many times they had shared a stream as they bathed. He was just about to comment that he had likely seen as much of the King as the Queen had, but stilled his tongue as he realized Arwen was sitting at the table, listening with amusement to the conversation.
“Speaking of forgiveness, I must apologize for my rudeness. Good morning, my lady,” he said bowing respectfully to the Queen, whose nightgown was appropriately covered by the robe she wore. Arwen stood so that she could return his greeting with a kiss to his brow.
“It is always a good day when you grace us with your presence dear Gimli,” she said sincerely, smiling at the deep red blush on his cheeks that resulted from her display of affection.
“Now, what is this urgent news you have for me?” asked Aragorn as he offered the Dwarf a mug of hot, black tea.
“Legolas is missing!” stated Gimli with his usual directness.
“What do you mean… missing… ?” Aragorn was stunned, he had suspected Gimli bore ill news, but was not prepared for this.
“I mean I went to Ithilien to see him only to find he was not there. Apparently he had left for an unknown destination, saying he would be gone no more than two or three days. That was over a week ago and he has not been seen since,” explained Gimli. “As he obviously is not here as I had hoped, I know not where he might be found.”
“Have not the Elves searched for him?” asked Arwen, concerned for Legolas who was not only Aragorn’s friend, but dear to her heart as well.
“His friends were not particularly worried about his absence about him until I arrived yesterday. Legolas often stays longer than planned when he visits Aglarond, which is where they assumed he had gone. Although I would have thought that they knew that not even an elf could travel fast enough to reach my caves in such a short time. Needless to say, they were dismayed to learn I had not seen him and search parties were quickly organized. Unfortunately it was nigh impossible to find a trail to follow since it was discovered that he had taken one of the boats. It is only a guess as to whether he headed upriver or down,” replied Gimli despondently.
“Well if he went north, perhaps it was to visit Faramir’s city?” suggested Aragorn, the hope in his words dying as he realized that Legolas would have included a trip to Minas Tirith in his plans, either before or after leaving Faramir. He never missed an opportunity to spend some time with the King and Queen of Gondor.
“Might I suggest you send a messenger to Dol Amroth? I think it more likely he headed to the sea,” offered Arwen. Aragorn and Gimli exchanged a look of despair as they realized the significance of her words.
“Do you think he has succumbed to the sea longing?” surmised Aragorn. Arwen nodded and placed her arms about her husband’s waist in a gesture of comfort meant to ease the pain he felt at the thought of such a loss. Gimli was not convinced that was the case, however.
“It is a sad possibility, but I do not believe it to be so. No matter how urgently he needed to answer that call, Legolas would not leave either of us without saying goodbye,” stated the Dwarf with total confidence in the bond of friendship he and Aragorn enjoyed with the Elf.
“No, he would not,” agreed Aragorn. “But I know he has received several invitations from Prince Imrahil to visit Dol Amroth, so maybe he decided to do so.”
“That is what we must find out, and soon,” replied Gimli in a manner that suggested to Aragorn that it was not only Legolas’s disappearance that was of concern. There was more ill news to be heard.
“I will send a message immediately, but what have you not yet told me?” he asked the Dwarf, suspecting he did not really wish to know.
“Thranduil is expected to arrive in Ithilien within a few days,” answered a grim faced Gimli. He had only met Legolas’s sire on one occasion, and the welcome he had received from the elder Elf had been as cold as Legolas’s affection for him was warm.
The Woodland King did not approve of his son’s friendship with a Dwarf, but Gimli took consolation in the fact that neither did he approve of his friendship with King Elessar. Nevertheless, out of his desire not to interfere in Legolas’s happiness, Thranduil had been nothing but polite all the while Gimli had been in Mirkwood.
“Then maybe Legolas has gone to meet him?” mused Aragorn with renewed hope; this was good news. “If he is only a few days away, he must be close to Ithilien. I will ask Faramir to see if he can locate Thranduil, and hopefully Legolas will be safely in his father’s company.”
Two days later, Aragorn was heartened to hear that Faramir had entered the gates of Minas Tirith in the company of a blonde haired Elf. His relief was short lived, however when he saw that it was not Legolas, but his father who accompanied the Steward into his study.
“Greetings, King Elessar,” said Thranduil with the barest of respectful bows. “Have you any word as to the whereabouts of my son?” he asked before Aragorn had a chance to speak. The King exchanged a questioning look with his Steward, who shrugged in resignation.
“King Thranduil was already aware of Legolas’s disappearance when I encountered him in the forest. The Elves had also hoped to find him with his father,” he offered by way of explanation.
“I see, I should have realized they would have done so,” he berated himself before addressing his reply to Thranduil. “It grieves me to tell you that I have no news to report, Your Majesty.”
“Then I must ask that you allow Faramir to guide me to the settlement. I have been reassured that my people will continue the search for my son, and I intend to join them as soon as possible,” said Thranduil, not bothering to hide the concern in his voice.
“If you would allow it, Gimli and I wish to join the search also,” said Aragorn, speaking on Gimli’s behalf as he knew the Dwarf would expect him to. “Faramir, will you stay in the city in my stead, in case news arrives?” he asked his Steward.
“If you so desire, King Elessar,” replied Faramir formally, accepting the task with a slight incline of his head.
“I would be most appreciative of any help you and Gimli may be able to offer,” answered Thranduil, allowing himself a small smile at the surprised look on Aragorn’s face that changed rapidly to one of respect. It was a measure of the depth of Thranduil’s love and concern for his son that he did not raise a single objection to the proposal, even though Aragorn had been expecting at least a derisive comment, if not an argument from the Elven King.
“Shall I seek out Gimli, and send him to speak with you?” Faramir asked, easily guessing Aragorn’s next request. The King smiled and clasped his Steward’s shoulder in a gesture of friendly affection.
“You know me too well, Faramir, that is exactly what I want you to do. But please allow me the pleasure of informing Gimli of our plans, and see to it that we are not disturbed when he arrives,” he added with a conspiratorial wink as he closed the door behind Faramir. Turning his attention back to Thranduil, he indicated with a wave of his hand that the King should take a seat while they waited for Gimli.
“You have had a long journey, and an unpleasant shock, Your Majesty, perhaps a glass of wine will help to ease your heartache?” suggested Aragorn to the Elf who appeared at the moment to be more a very worried father than a formidable King.
Gimli had been correct in his assertion that Thranduil disapproved of his son’s choice of friends, but that did not prevent Aragorn from admitting that there was much to admire and respect about his friend’s father. In face he was actually quite fond the elder Elf, and Aragorn suspected that hidden beneath the façade of unwilling acceptance of the mortal King’s friendship with Legolas, Thranduil actually liked him as well.
“Thank you, yes, but the need for such formality between us has long passed, Aragorn. Please just call me by my name,” said Thranduil, the simple request seeming to confirm Aragorn’s supposition and causing him to wonder whether the Elf had somehow sensed his thoughts. He did not have time to ask, however, before Gimli strode into the room.
“King Thranduil,” he said tersely, acknowledging Aragorn’s guest with no more than a brief glance.
“Gimli,” replied Thranduil equally as abruptly, his fragile resolve to try and become better acquainted with Legolas’s closest friend disappearing in the wake of the distinctly unfriendly attitude he sensed coming from the Dwarf.
“I take it there is still no news of Legolas?” Gimli asked, pointedly ignoring Thranduil and addressing his query to Aragorn.
“No, but Thranduil wishes to continue the search from Ithilien, and I have agreed that we will accompany him to Legolas’s settlement,” Aragorn answered easily sensing the sudden chill in the air that caused him to question the wisdom of traveling, even only as far as Ithilien, in such unfriendly company. He quickly discounted the notion as foolish since he was well experienced in dealing with an Elf and Dwarf who apparently had no love for each other. It was unrealistic to expect a friendship to develop between the two, but they both loved the missing Elf and Aragorn hoped they would be united in their desire to find him safe and well.
Still Aragorn breathed a sigh of relief when rather than replying in his usual confrontational style when he disagreed with a proposed plan of action, Gimli merely nodded his agreement.
“I suggest we leave as soon as possible, Legolas may need us,” said Aragorn, suddenly afraid that the Elf was not just missing, but maybe lying injured somewhere and unable to seek help, or perhaps he no longer even lived. His eyes were filled with the fear in is heart at his unwelcome thoughts.
“Be at ease, Aragorn, he has not passed to the Halls of Waiting… I can still hear the sweetness of his song,” Thranduil reassured him.
“It gladdens my heart to hear that,” muttered a relieved Gimli who had also feared the worst.
“Indeed, but the sooner we leave, the sooner we are likely to find him,” said Aragorn.
Within the hour the gates of Minis Tirith were but a shining speck far back on the horizon.