Only a Dwarf Would Dare
“So this is what is left of Dol Guldur,” said Gimli as he cast his eyes over the crumbling stonework of the tower and the blackened ruins that surrounded it. The Dwarf and his Elf friend were headed homeward and had been unable to resist stopping at the remains of the place that had been the source of so much grief and suffering for their people. Their reactions upon seeing the destruction of the darkness here was as different as they were from each other. Gimli wore a smug grin and was more inclined to gloat over the defeat of the Dark Lord whereas Legolas sang a melancholy lament as he mourned the loss of the Elves who had died at the hands of those who once dwelt in the dark tower.
“At least your beloved trees are now free to flourish once more,” said Gimli as the last notes of the song died on the breeze. Legolas spared his friend an affectionate glance, finding comfort in his words and in the knowledge that the Dwarf knew him so well.
“You are right, dear Gimli. It is pleasing to see that the forest is already trying to reclaim its own,” replied the Elf as he bent to take a closer look at the small white flowers blooming between the cracks of the destroyed stonework.
“Aye, not that I would ever admit to saying such a thing, but I think that flowers and greenery here are much more preferable to the grey of the stone,” said Gimli with a gruff laugh.
“Adar would definitely be surprised to hear a Dwarf make such an admission,” said Legolas with an affectionate smile at the startled look on his friend’s face. “If I was to tell him, that is,” he added with a gleam in his eye.
“I still think it unwise of me to accompany you to Eryn Lasgalen,” said Gimli as he settled on what was left of one of the walls and lit his pipe. Although he had initially agreed to accompany Legolas to his forest home after the Ring War, now that they were approaching the Woodland Realm he was reconsidering the wisdom of his decision. Legolas had assured him of a warm welcome, but it was not likely that Thranduil’s dislike of Dwarves, be they friend or no of his son, would disappear overnight. Nonetheless, he did not believe his Adar would be less than polite with one of the Fellowship, who was also a guest of his son.
“Surely you do not fear the King? I have already informed him to expect you and have tried to tell you that his reputation amongst the Dwarves is largely exaggerated and undeserved,” said Legolas as he moved well out of the range of the distasteful smoke. He found a spot to his liking on a patch of green grass and sat down, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun, and the teasing of his companion. Gimli scoffed at that notion, but was secretly inclined to believe the Elf, for his affection for the son did not allow him to think of the father as anything other than Legolas had described him. Judging by the Elf’s intense loyalty, Thranduil was also a well loved ruler who had been forced to deal with many difficult and dangerous threats to his realm in the way he sought fit.
“Well, we both know his dungeons are not all that secure, so I suppose I have little to be concerned about,” replied Gimli smugly. Legolas took his friend’s words in the light hearted manner in which they were intended and laughed merrily.
“I would refrain from mentioning that to Adar if I were you, unless it is a challenge you are seeking,” he warned with an innocent expression on his face. Gimli considered this for a moment, and decided there may be an element of truth in the jest.
“Certainly not! I expect a warm, comfortable bed in a room with no bars on the doors or windows and a plentiful supply of food and drink when we reach your home, just as you will be offered at the Lonely Mountain,” stated Gimli emphatically.
“I had thought to offer you a room in the talan I built outside the palace, but according to Lord Celeborn the fires destroyed all the dwellings in the trees,” Legolas said sadly.
“You can always build another, and I would be pleased to help,” suggested Gimli with softness in his voice he reserved for the Elf alone.
“You are a good friend, Master Dwarf and there is much comfort in your offer, but I think building can wait until I return to Ithilien,” Legolas said.
“Speaking of which, how do you think Thranduil will receive news of your plans?” Gimli asked suddenly realising it would not be an easy move for Legolas to make. It was not uncommon for a Dwarf to leave his friends and family to establish a settlement, and he was certain his desire to do so in Aglarond would meet with hearty approval. Such was not the case for Elves who, as far as he could see, preferred to remain in their isolated realms. “Will he not wish you to remain in Eryn Lasgalen?”
“I am merely seeking permission to do as he and my grandsire did so long ago. I believe he will understand my reasoning and give me his approval. If not I might find myself locked in the dungeon for safe keeping!” Legolas said with mock seriousness, unable to stifle his amusement as Gimli laughed uproariously at the image the Elf’s words painted.
The two friends received a very mixed reception as they made their way towards the clearing where Thranduil was to be found supervising the plans for the rebuilding that was much in evidence.
The returning prince was greeted with joyful smiles and warm embraces, followed by many questioning glances at his companion. Legolas returned their greetings, and ignored their curiosity, occasionally demonstrating his affection for the Dwarf by placing a hand on Gimli’s shoulder as he offered him a reassuring smile. It was evident to all that their prince would tolerate no disrespect for his guest and so most of the Elves paid the Dwarf no heed, except for a few who turned unfriendly eyes on him as he walked proudly by Legolas’s side. It was nothing less than the Dwarf expected, and he paid the looks of distrust and disapproval no mind for he knew that it would be the same for the Elf when they reached the Lonely Mountain.
Gimli cast his eyes about the clearing hoping to get a glimpse of the King before their presence was acknowledged, but could see only workers, all busily engaged in their appointed tasks. Many of the Elves were smoothing the planks of wood used for the talans, whilst others worked on winding the fine elven rope used for the ladders. Another group were sitting beneath one of the trees, studying a parchment that Gimli supposed was some kind of building plan. None wore any regal attire, nor sign of office that he could see and the Dwarf had almost decided the King was not there, when his eyes fell on one who, but for the ageless depths in his bright eyes, could have easily been mistaken for Legolas.
A flash of gold passed by him stopping only when Legolas was safely enfolded in Thranduil’s embrace, sharing unashamedly their kisses and tears of joy at their reunion. Gimli decided instantly that he liked the Elvenking, and when Legolas finally beckoned him to join them, he cleared the lump that had formed in his throat at the display of affection between father and son as he walked proudly over to meet the King.
“King Thranduil, this is my dear friend, and valued member of the Fellowship, Gimli son of Glóin,” said Legolas. Gimli was momentarily taken aback by such formality from his usually carefree friend, but realised it was appropriate behaviour for the King’s son.
“It is an honour to meet a member of the Fellowship, Gimli son of Glóin,” said Thranduil as he placed his hand on his heart in the elven form of greeting.
“It is both an honour and a pleasure to meet the sire of my dear friend and a King of great renown,” responded Gimli. Thranduil looked a little surprised at such words of praise from the Dwarf, but merely inclined his head in thanks.
“No doubt you both are weary and in need of refreshment. Legolas please show Gimli to the guest chamber while I will arrange a light meal for you both,” he told his son. Legolas lead his friend back to the bridge, noting that Gimli looked slightly displeased as he muttered something about ‘starving to death’ that fortunately only Legolas heard.
“Come Gimli, do not frown. A light meal is all we will need for now, I can assure you that Adar has a banquet planned for this evening,” said Legolas who was smiling happily at the amicable initial meeting between two he loved dearly.
“A banquet you say, well that is more like it!” exclaimed Gimli. “That went well, do you not agree?” he asked with undisguised surprise.
“I told you there was nothing to fear, and even if Adar wishes to question my choice of friends, he would not do so in public,” Legolas admitted.
“So you have yet to convince him to accept me?” surmised Gimli, smiling at his friend’s reluctant nod. “Just tell him what a wonderful, brave, handsome and skilful warrior I am and I am sure he will come around,” he said lightly as he followed his now laughing friend across the bridge and past the gates that protected the entrance to the King’s Hall.
“I fail to see why you objected so strongly to being in Moria when you live in a palace hewn into the mountain side,” commented Gimli as he was lead through the cavernous passageways.
“There is no darkness or evil here, and it is but a short walk, not four day’s march, that takes me back into the star light,” replied Legolas.
“Humph, a minor detail,” grunted the Dwarf.
“Besides, as I told you before we mostly live among the trees, this is more of a refuge. It is only the dungeons that are far underground. I will show them to you, if you wish,” offered Legolas.
“Aye, I admit to a certain curiosity about the place I have heard much about from my sire,” Gimli told his friend. Legolas lit a torch and after several minutes of brisk walking, they descended a winding passage into the murky depths.
“This is where Glóin and the others were imprisoned, and Thorin’s cell is further down that tunnel,” explained Legolas pointing to an open doorway.
“Hmm, the doors are of sturdy construction, and the hinges well hidden in the Dwarvish fashion,” observed Gimli as he carefully studied one of the cells. “It is no wonder that my kin could not escape without Bilbo's help. OH! What is this!” he exclaimed suddenly, indicating for Legolas to bring the torch closer to provide a little more light.
“They are Dwarvish runes, are they not?” asked Legolas as he studied the small row of marks carved into the wall near the wooden cot that was the only furnishing provided for the prisoner’s comfort.
“Indeed they are,” confirmed Gimli with amusement sparkling in his eyes.
“What does it say?”
“It is not very complimentary,” the Dwarf warned.
“I doubt whoever carved this was feeling very kindly. What does it say?” the Elf repeated.
'Here was Glóin, son of Gróin unfairly imprisoned by Thranduil, son of an Orc.'"
Gimli could not withhold his chuckle of amusement at the insulting words left by his father and added, "It was very clever of my dear sire to use dwarvish runes, was it not?" His mirth vanished in an instant when he saw the gleam of mischief in Legolas's laughing eyes.
"Only if he was certain that Adar could not read them."