I shall never forget my father’s final words to me on the night before our departure from Rivendell. “Your bravery is not lacking, and your skills with the axe are without compare. Both will serve you well. It is your kind heart that will be your downfall if you do not take care. This has ever been your greatest weakness. Guard your heart carefully, my son.”
Considering the gravity of the occasion, I had firmly grasped Gloin’s arm and made the promises he had wanted to hear. At the time, though, it had taken all of my self-control to keep from rolling my eyes. How often I had heard these words or ones similar to them. I believe the first time I ever heard them was when I was but a dwarfling. I had rescued a mewling kitten from a condemned mineshaft that had begun crumbling down around me as I entered it. Never afraid of anything was I! As a brash young dwarf, I once threw myself into the midst of a melee to defend the honor of a young maiden who was being harassed by a crowd of drunks. At least ten sturdy dwarves had run cowering back to their homes by the time I had finished with them. Always my father was proud of my bravery, but always he warned me against becoming too soft of heart for my own good.
Those warnings had ever seemed to me to be the ramblings of an ancient dwarf becoming foolish with age. It is only just now that I begin to think that perhaps the old devil was right after all. My traitorous heart has finally led me into the trouble that will be the end of me I fear. I have agreed to accept a commission that may end up being the worst mistake of my life, and it cannot be undone for a dwarf never goes back on his word. It is all the fault of that blasted ranger! Had he not taken it upon himself to fill me in on the truth about the elf, I could have remained blissfully ignorant. I was perfectly at ease with the former relationship I had with Thranduil’s brat. If he spoke to me at all it was an insult muttered in an icy tone and I usually replied with a growl or glare of my own. Mostly we just stayed out of each other’s way, and that worked out fine for me. It was a comfortable way to get along. But as I said, that dratted human had to step in and change everything we had worked so hard to build. He took it upon himself to let me know that the elf was in fact not yet an adult. This bit of information changed everything! I could no longer continue in my old habits, and I’ll admit it pricked at my conscience when I recalled my past treatment of him. Of course I would never knowingly treat a child of any race unkindly. There would be no honor in such deeds, and I pride myself on being honorable, though sometimes a dwarf is more comfortable not knowing all the facts.
Aragorn had looked so desperate when he asked me to look after the elfling, that I could not say him nay. How could I when he made it seem so vital to the quest and with Gandalf just lost to us? To be perfectly honest, I probably would have promised to adopt a band of orcs had I thought it would ease his burden a little. It was impossible to refuse his request when he looked like that. But what finally swayed me completely was talking to the princeling, himself. The poor lad had looked truly lost and in need of someone. With the wizard gone and Aragorn weighed down with new responsibility, the child had no one to turn to with his grief and of course my treacherous heart would not leave me alone until I had made a promise I had no idea how to keep. It got my ire up when I considered how dark times had become if we were depending on younglings to go to battle. It was and still is my opinion that he should yet be under his real father’s watchful eye, not out risking his life on this dangerous expedition, though I will back peddle and say he has been a great asset to the Fellowship. We may not have been the best of comrades in the past but I must give credit where credit is due. He is a skilled warrior and I would feel quite secure if he were guarding my back in a battle.
In any case, in a moment of weakness I agreed to act as guardian to the lad until he can be returned to his father. He must have had a weak moment as well, for he also has agreed to this arrangement even though it was clearly explained what this would mean for both of us. He is to heed me in all things, just as he would his own parent, and I am to keep watch on his general well being. So at a most unusual and inconvenient time, and without having the pleasures of taking a wife, I have suddenly become the father of a very tall and potentially very dangerous adolescent. I shudder to think what Gloin would say if he could see the mess his son was in, in spite of all his warnings to be on guard. I should have listened to him.
Once a dwarf puts his shoulder to the plough, however, he does not look back. My honor is at stake and I must not renege on my commitment. The trouble is I am clueless as to how to fulfill it. What do I know of the needs of elflings? What I know of children comes almost entirely from memories of my own childhood and what I know of elves could be contained in a hobbit’s thimble. I am unequipped to carry out this assignment, and yet I must find a way.
I have been asked to ‘watch out’ for the lad, but am at a loss as to how to accomplish this task when he never stays in sight. Since morning I have been trying to keep an eye on him and finding it to be a thankless task. We have been walking at a brisk, but steady pace, and making good progress too, but the elf is never where I can see him. He is always far ahead scouting the path or beyond my sight behind us making sure we are not being followed. This is all well and good, for his eyesight is very keen, but it makes my new job near impossible.
And trees have been a hindrance. No less than a dozen times this morning I have spied him in the very tops of some of the tallest trees I have ever seen. How some of those branches hold his weight is beyond my understanding. Watching him clamber about like some kind of blond squirrel has taken its toll on my nerves this day. When I asked for an explanation as to what he was doing, he informed me that he was trying to discover what kinds of birds had made the nests in each tree. There are no eggs, it seems, since it is not Spring, but there are other clues such as left behind shards of shell and bits of feathers. You could have knocked me over with one of those feathers, when I heard his rationalization! Here I have been breaking my neck trying to keep up with his antics, only to find out he was just nest watching! Not to mention the fact that he has traveled three times the distance as the rest of us with his running around. I understand that elves have little need of rest, but he is throwing good energy after good for no reason and it is bound to catch up with him eventually.
By midday I have finally taken all I can of trying to keep track of the Laddie. I also wish to put an end to the glances that keep coming my way from that irritating Ranger. He is clearly amused at my discomfort and seems too pleased with himself for engineering this whole situation. When next I see my new charge on the ground I call out to him.
“Legolas! Walk with me for a moment, Lad.”
Immediately he falls into step beside me, “What is it, Master Gimli?”
I stop walking and grab his arm, halting his progress as well and allowing the others to get a bit ahead of us so our words can be private. “I would request that you remain on the ground with the rest of us unless it is for necessary reasons.”
“You do not find my reasons for climbing acceptable?” His tone is scornful. Clearly he does not like hearing what I have to say, but that does not stop me from continuing.
“Indeed I do not. We have a long trek ahead of us this day and for many more days to come. Ye would do well to conserve your energy a bit.” I could see my words were not setting well with him, for the scowl on his face became quite spectacular.
“Obviously you do not understand elven abilities, Dwarf! I do not need to ‘conserve energy’ as you say. I am no mere mortal requiring constant rest.”
Never would I have believed that such a fair face could carry such a sour expression, but I choose to ignore his rude manner and go on with what I have to say. “That may well be so. Nevertheless I expect you will do as I say. If you find it necessary to leave the company, you will explain your reasons for doing so beforehand.”
He glowers at me through narrowed eyes, and I can see he is struggling to keep his temper in check. Since he has given his word to obey me, his honor is also at stake. I suspect that is the only thing that is keeping his tongue somewhat civil. Instead of answering, he merely gives a quick nod and moves to walk behind me. I can feel his glare boring into the back of my skull. If dirty looks were arrows, I would now have one protruding from my forehead! Still he is complying with my wishes so far, and I did not ask him to have a good attitude about it, so I cannot complain I suppose. I have a distinct feeling this is going to be a very long day.
I should never have agreed to this!
What possessed me? How could I have been so foolish as to even think of agreeing to this ridiculous ‘guardianship’? My brains must have been addled, or I was put under some sort of spell. What elf in his right mind would allow a dwarf to rule him as I have done?
Which mayhap explains it all. I must indeed have run mad and now I am beginning to understand exactly what that momentary madness may cost me while I continue on this quest.
Gimli now seems to believe he has a right to order my every movement. ‘I expect you will do as I say’. Am I to leap off the end of a cliff at his behest, or run naked through Moria?
Moria, my breath catches in my throat. In that dreadful fell place I lost, no we lost Mithrandir. I still cannot comprehend how it could be. He was a Maiar. I have known him all my life; he was a constant. While he walked before us I could almost believe we might succeed in our endeavors. Now … now doubt clouds my mind and despair dogs my steps. A small part of me wishes now that a messenger from my father had arrived in Imladris before we set out, for I know well that I would not have been given permission to travel with the ring-bearer. Rather I would have been ordered home under escort and in disgrace.
Still, that ignominy would have been preferable to what I face now.
The son of Thranduil under the thumb of the son of Gloin it is unsupportable, yet it has to be borne. I have no choice, for I have given my word and no matter how much I might rail at the situation I will not break my oath, not for anything. I have not sunk as low as that.
Yet I already regret my agreement to Estel’s suggestion and fear that I will come to regret it far more as time goes on.
I know so little of dwarves. Oh I have studied their culture and history but real knowledge, practical knowledge of how they think and feel and act, of those my understanding is all but non-existent. I have been in the company of but one of their kind and he walks ahead of me now.
When I say walk I actually mean stomps. Gimli Gloinson stamps, his every movement accompanied by the squeaking of leather, the jingle of metal on metal, and the thump of his walking axe as it hits the earth. It is a wonder to me that we are not beset by Orc. Our enemies must be able to hear us approaching for many a league with the amount of noise he makes.
Yet I have to admit that he has proved himself a useful companion on our journey; he rarely appears tired, and he is a doughty fighter. He has also shown himself to be kind and thoughtful of others’ needs and comforts.
Not mine I hasten to add, for initially we had naught but disdain for each other. How could it have been otherwise? My lord father imprisoned Gloin. He was right to do so. The dwarves had trespassed in our woods and disturbed our revelry. What is more they refused to give a reason for their presence, although we found it out soon enough when we marched to battle.
There was a rapprochement of sorts after the Battle of the Five Armies but not, it seemed, enough to convince Gloin or many other dwarves that we elves were good folk deserving of their regard. That is a charge that works both ways of course. The elves of the Wood do not think much of their dwarven neighbors and I was brought up to look down on them and their crafts. Now I have to rethink my long held views on the Naugrim.
Although this day all I can think of is how resentful I feel at being told I must seek permission before I can leave his side.
I am no elfling to be so bidden!
I wonder if he can feel the heat of my glare, which I am presently sending to the back of his helm. If he does he gives no sign of discomfort. Does he not understand that I must have freedom if I am to be of use to what remains of our Fellowship? My eyesight and swiftness of foot are used to best effect when I can range before and behind the main party. While I am tethered here I am of little use.
My sense of disgruntlement grows with every step we take. The trees call to me. I want to climb to their heights and share their song if only for the most fleeting of moments. I need their comfort. They are the link to my distant homeland; while I am amongst their branches I feel closer to my father and almost believe I can sense his presence.
But rather than my Adar, I am plodding along in the wake of a dwarf who seems to believe he has the right to order my obedience, which of course he does, which adds to my sense of ill-usage.
I should never have agreed to this.
I find it difficult to keep my mind on what I should be doing. When I volunteered for this quest I knew what I could offer and what my strengths were. I did not doubt my abilities; I have trained for many yeni and am accounted as the best archer still on Arda. I can track and hunt as well as any of my kin and have proven my fighting credentials over the years I have spent protecting my Adar’s realm. Yes, I am young, little more than an adolescent, but I am no child and I resent the fact that others, specifically the dwarf, now see me as one.
Surely, I was allowed to show my grief at the death of Mithrandir without Aragorn believing I was in need of a permanent minder. Was I not allowed to seek some small measure of comfort at such a terrible and unexpected event without everyone thinking I am become incapable of handling my emotions unless I am kept under the eyes of someone more ‘mature’ than myself?
Except the being given that responsibility can hardly be said to keep me under his eye, since he is so much shorter than I. Perhaps I should offer to walk along on my knees! That thought makes me smile and immediately the dwarf turns back and asks what I find so amusing. Those dark eyes seem to look deep inside my mind and the bushy eyebrows rise in mute question.
I make some vague answer, disconcerted that he seems capable of picking up on the slightest of changes in my demeanor I shall have to be very careful. Does he have eyes in the back of his head or is it some kind of dwarfish mind reading capability that I have never been told about.
It seems that dwarves are not as dumb as I have been brought up to believe, at least not this particular dwarf. It is my ill fortune it seems to have been saddled with an over inquisitive and very perceptive member of the Naugrim race.
We walk along in silence for a while, and I find myself watching Gimli from the corner of my eye, trying to gain some insight into this strange creature that now seems to hold my life and freedom in his hands.
Talking of hands I realize for the first time how large his hands are; there is a power in them that makes me shudder for some inexplicable reason.
That he is a warrior of some ability I do not doubt. He is skilled in his use of weaponry and I have come to respect his strength and his resilience. He never seems to tire despite the exigencies of our journey and he is unfailingly kind to the Periannath, young Peregrin in particular, often shielding him from trouble from Boromir or Gandalf.
But I am not Pippin and I do not need to be shielded nor do I need to be watched and looked after.
Almost without conscious thought my strides lengthen and soon I am level with and then ahead of the dwarf. If I can just speak to Estel, perhaps he can explain my needs to Master Gimli.
My feet carry me forward and I feel a sense of impending freedom when my forward momentum is summarily stopped by a hand on the back of my tunic.
“Have ye forgotten already what I said?”
“I needs must talk to Aragorn” I tug myself free of his grip, acutely aware of the stares I am receiving from the other members of the Fellowship. I can feel the heat of a blush on my face and my embarrassment grows, as does my resentment.
“Then ye had only to ask”
I want to argue the point of having to ask for permission for anything from such a creature as he, but know that an argument now would do me no favors. Instead I incline my head as if agreeing with him and then sprint off towards the front of the line. Estel has the gall to grin at me, and my hopes of eliciting his support in throwing over the dwarf’s guardianship die on my lips unspoken.
Very well, if that is the way it must be I shall have to find other methods of shaking off the overprotective supervision of Gimli Gloinson. I do not give Estel the satisfaction of pleading, but talk instead of general matters, even while looking back at Master Gimli as if I am speaking of him and seeking Estel’s approval for something.
When Estel nods at one of my comments on the need to find shelter for the day, I drop back again to where Gimli is and inform him that I have spoken to Aragorn about finding a suitable camp site. I do not ask his permission to be released from his side, I am not so foolish, nor do I do more than imply that I have gained Estel’s consent to leave the Fellowship, but the dwarf accepts the fact that I have done so and waves me away. I leap off the path into the trees, free from unwanted supervision for a short while at least.
Never in my life have I had an assignment that I felt so unsure of how to complete. As a craftsman, I am used to drafting and planning. Weeks, even years of preparation have usually gone into any project I have worked on. Always I have known the outcome, before I even began the labor. Of course in battle, one can never know the final conclusion from the beginning, but even wars must be planned and prepared for. I have studied battle tactics and have received decades of weapons training along with plenty of practical experience in combat. I know what I am about when it comes to metalworking or war craft. Even when we began this perilous journey, I was aware from the beginning what my role would be, for I know my strengths and abilities and how to use them in full measure.
It is only in this new commission that I have for the first time felt uncertain about what I must do. It is an unsettling feeling for a dwarf. I have agreed to take charge of the pointy-eared menace that now walks behind me. This is something so unexpected that I could never have prepared for it. At first it seemed that it might not prove too difficult a task, as the lad, in a vulnerable state after the loss of Gandalf, showed me a bit of his sweet nature when he asked if he could braid my beard. Any trace of the charming being he was that day has been replaced by an arrogant, scowling, adolescent brat.
I must not let my uncertainty show lest he find a way to use it to his advantage. I continue to walk with conviction, looking straight ahead as if I am thinking of nothing but our destination. He walks so silently behind me that I begin to wonder if he is heeding my instructions to stay with the company. Unable to help myself, I look back and am surprised to see the glare that earlier marred his features gone, and an impish grin in its place. I have to control my expression or I will be smiling as well. He looks very like the young Hobbit, Pippin, when he is intent on planning some sort of naughtiness. I do not comment on this, however, since I am certain it would not be well received. Instead I just ask what he find so amusing. He gives me a look of pure innocence and a clearly contrived answer; so now I am sure he’s up to no good and am just waiting to see what form his mischief will take.
I can feel him studying me and can only wonder what might be going on in that scheming mind of his. He still walks without making a sound, so I sense, rather than hear, as he moves up behind me. I am prepared as he speeds past me, and grab a handful of the back of his tunic, successfully halting his forward progress. He frowns in my direction and tries to wrench free, but I have a fast hold.
“Have ye forgotten already what I said?” I ask as he continues to struggle in my grasp.
“I needs must talk to Aragorn,” he says and I release him.
“Then ye had only to ask,” I notice the sudden flush of his face and look around to see the others staring at us curiously. It was not my intention to humiliate the lad, but he is the one who insisted on testing the seriousness of my convictions, and we will not be able to forever keep secret our new ‘agreement’ from those who are our constant companions. I suspect it will take some time and effort for the elfling to come to accept that reality though.
I watch as he rushes forward to catch up with our leader, looking for all of Arda, like a school child planning to tattle on a playmate. I have to laugh to myself when Strider gives him a smug smile before he even begins speaking, causing his face to fall in disappointment. Clearly Aragorn is finding amusement in our situation, and I begin to think he may have the ability to rival the elf when it comes to mischief making when he’s of a mind to. They talk for a while, and then the Laddie returns to my side.
He informs me that he has spoken to Aragorn about the need to find shelter for the evening. It is not unusual for the elf to be sent ahead to scout out a campsite, so that is not what makes me suspicious. What has me concerned is that he is again wearing that wide-eyed look of virtuousness. He must have practiced that expression for centuries, and I feel suddenly sorry for all who have been taken in by it, for it is rather appealing, though it pains me to admit it. Still I have no real reason to prevent him from leaving, and I have heard that elves do not lie, though I am beginning to wonder if that is just a tale without any factual basis. So, in spite of my misgivings, I send him on his way with a wave of my hand and immediately he is gone from my sight.
I am beginning to feel uneasy again. It has been some time since the elf left our path, and still we have not stopped to make camp. He should have been back by now with some kind of report, even if it was just to say that there is no suitable place to stop in the vicinity. I have a nagging feeling that something may have befallen him since he has gone beyond my sight. What if he is in need of aid, and I have failed to even take notice of which direction he took when he left my side? Perhaps I have already fallen short in the promise I made to Aragorn and to the lad himself. I swore to do my best for him, without thinking what that would entail, and now a few days into our new arrangement I have already lost track of him. I should have paid better attention.
Talking of paying attention, I begin to realize that had I been paying attention all along, I would have been able to see that Legolas is little more than a child. Talented and clever he is, have no doubt. Never have I seen an archer with such deadly accuracy and I have great respect for his skills. However these last few days I have been watching him, trying to get an understanding of how I must handle my new assignment, and it has become exceedingly clear that he is a long way from being fully mature. He often displays the recklessness of youth, never considering that he might need to slow down and rest on occasion and is not above taking unnecessary risks. There are plenty of dangers along our path without our having to flirt with disaster, as he sometimes seems to do. One example being he has a penchant for going out alone away from the company. I understand that it is sometimes needful, but when it is not, we are best together. Not that he liked it overmuch when I pointed out that little fact. He can pout in quite an impressive fashion, giving further evidence of his immaturity. Considering how long childhood and adolescence lasts for elves, it is a wonder any of them live through it.
Yes I wonder why I never noticed such an obvious fact earlier in our quest. Honesty makes me admit that I did not notice, because I did not want to notice. I had preconceived ideas about elves before we even set out. I did not want to know Legolas, or any elf for that matter, so did not trouble myself with paying him any heed. I have always been taught that elves are conceited and untrustworthy and beneath bothering to get acquainted with, but have had to reconsider this view. It is my hope that we will be able to put old prejudices aside, and learn to get along. I am willing at least to try.
That is if I haven’t lost him already. I am beginning to truly worry now, though Strider is the one who sent him out and he doesn’t seem concerned for his lateness. Perhaps if I talk to him, he will be able to ease my mind. After all he has been a friend of my charge for years and he was raised among the elves, so he may be able to give me some useful insight.
I hasten to catch up with our leader who smiles and greets me when I walk up beside him.
“Master Gimli! How goes the new commission?”
“I am not certain. That is what I wish to talk to you about. The lad does not seem overly pleased with the arrangement.” I say nothing of my own misgivings.
“Of course he does not,” Aragorn laughs, “you have ordered him to stay on the ground with all of us plodding mortals. I am confident he does not like that at all.”
I had thought no one had noticed our earlier exchange, but things seldom get past the ranger. His laughter is annoying, though, and I bristle a bit, “I found his wandering to be distracting and unnecessary and thought he would be better to not risk tiring out too soon,” I say, defending my actions.
“I am not saying you should not have done so, just that it is not surprising that he does not like it,” he says, “Did you ever like being told what you should or should not do when you were a youngster?”
He has a point. I had not thought of it before but it is folly to expect the lad to be pleased with everything I request of him. I will have to be prepared to deal with the fact that he may be irritated with my instructions at times and may well balk at some of them. It is the natural way with youth, and it will take some time for him to understand that I will not be crossed and he would be better to heed to my words. This thought makes me sigh. We may have some bumpy days ahead I fear.
“The fact is I am glad you made that particular request of him.” Aragorn continues, “ His antics were driving me quite mad, and he cannot continue on at such a pace, no matter what he tells you about ‘elven abilities’.” He laughs again at my look of dismay. Does he have elf’s ears as well so that he heard our conversation? “Yes I know what tactics he will try to use to get his way, my friend, for we have been together for a long time. Likely he’ll try to tell you he has no need for any of the comforts we mortals need, sleep and food included, for his pride knows no bounds. Though he has to be getting close to his limits. I have not noticed him sleeping since we lost Mithrandir.”
Can that be possible? We have had days of difficult traveling since then. How can it be that he has continued for so long without sleeping, and why haven’t I noticed? I have been remiss in my duties to the lad for I should have thought to ask Strider about such things instead of taking the elf’s word that he was above such needs. I vow to do better in future, beginning with this night though I expect we may have a row about it before anything is accomplished. Ah well, a dwarf is always up for a challenge and the son of Gloin is used to prevailing in any kind of scrap! I will not be conquered by some stubborn, pouting, bratling of an elf. I square my shoulders and begin to scan the area. It is becoming dark now, and my concerns come flooding back. Where can he have gone?
“Where is your elfling anyway?” Aragorn seems to voice my thoughts. “I have not seen him for some time.”
“You sent him to scout out a campsite,” I say becoming alarmed, “do you not remember?”
“I did no such thing,” Aragorn says, “we spoke of the need to look for shelter, but that is all. I am afraid you have been duped, Master Gimli. What were his exact words?”
I think on it for a moment. He said he had spoken to Aragorn about finding shelter for the evening. I assumed he had been given permission to leave the company though he did not actually say so, now that I think back. In fact I am almost certain that he never said he was to scout the area at all.
The deceitful little scoundrel! I suppose he eased his conscience by telling himself it had not been a lie at all. Well soon enough he will know that we will not be splitting hairs in such a fashion. His clear intent was to fool me so that he could get back to doing what he had a mind to, and in my book that is little different from lying. I intend to leave no doubt about how I feel about such things. If he thinks he can keep me from my duty by such behavior, he has another think coming. I will keep an eye on him from now on, even if I have to hold his hand all the way to the Black Gate! Now all I have to do is find him!
Free, at least for now, I cannot explain even to myself how restricted I felt having to walk behind the dwarf like the smallest of elflings. I suppose I should be happy that he has not as yet attached a leading rein to my person. That would be the worst of humiliations.
I do not doubt his concern. From what I know of him, which is not very much I admit, he seems to be an honest person and one that once he has given his word will do his best to keep it. I do not know, as of yet, whether that will prove to be a good or a bad thing. I suspect that I will find the answer to that question all too soon, but for now I am free of anyone’s scrutiny and I intend to make the most of it.
The trees here do not know me as the trees at home do; yet they seem to welcome my presence. Even those who have already settled down for their long winter sleep drowsily acknowledge me as I perch amongst their branches and breathe in the cool air.
Had it been earlier in the year I could sit here unremarked for many hours, but most of the trees here have already lost their leaves and their branches are bare and even an elf such as myself cannot hide in open sight no matter how much he may wish to do so.
High in the sky above my head I see a skein of geese in flight. How wonderful it must be to be able to take to the skies as they do. How simple it would be for the Fellowship if we could all fly as the birds do; our journey would be all the swifter and safer for it. Then I have to clap a hand over my mouth to prevent myself laughing out loud as my imagination supplies my mind with a picture of Gimli Gloinson frantically flapping his arms and trying to get off the ground. With all that armor I cannot see him achieving it, even with the help of the Valar.
Thinking of the dwarf I am reminded that having left behind the rest of the Fellowship for this short period of time I must not allow my pleasure in this solitude to lead me to forget my primary purpose here on this quest. Yes, I need the time for myself but I also made a vow back in Imladris and that must always take precedent over my own needs.
So after a short period of peaceful contemplation it will be time for me to search for a safe campsite as well as try to locate and kill some wild fowl, which seem quite plentiful in this area. Samwise will be happy to have fresh meat for his cooking and it will do no harm to show to the dwarf just how useful my skills are to our company.
Perhaps it will even show him that his too close scrutiny is neither needed nor wanted.
Listening to the whisper of the wind through the branches, I let the tensions of the last day or so to slip away and briefly close my eyes.
The alarm call of a small bird wakens me and I look up at the sky. The short winter day will all too soon be over, and if I am to find a campsite and take down wild ducks I will have to hurry. I suspect my lengthy absence will have caused some concern so it will behoove me to show that I have been gainfully employed while away from them.
Fortunately my keen eyes and swift steps soon allow me to spot a suitable place to set up camp for the night. It is in the lee of a high escarpment, with a small clear stream running through it and enough dead wood about to make a cooking fire a possibility.
Stringing my bow, I now begin my hunt for our dinner. The water birds are just beginning to come down to the water to find shelter for the night amongst the reeds that fringe the stream, so now is my opportunity to kill a brace of them for our supper tonight.
I take out one quickly, the goose falling almost at my feet. My second shot also makes its mark, but rather than dropping to the ground, the arrow protruding from its neck catches on a bush half way up the cliff face. I will have to climb up to retrieve it.
Were I at home or even in Imladris, I would not attempt such a climb alone. I am of course skilled in the art of scaling trees and have had much practice in it, but climbing cold unresponsive stone- I have done it of course but it is not by any means my forte. The trees guide and protect me, they respond to my needs. Perhaps stone responds in the same way to others but I suspect it will not welcome an elf like me and yet …
I could leave the bird and go back to the others. With their support it would likely be a small task to recover our dinner, yet that would leave me open to criticism and ridicule from my companions, the dwarf in particular. I am already being forced into an unwanted and unnecessary relationship with Gimli Gloinson. I will not give him any opportunity to see any weakness in my skills or abilities.
I hang my bow and quiver in a tree alongside the first goose, because to attempt the climb so encumbered would be foolish beyond permission, then step up to the base of the cliff and look upwards. Heights hold no fear for me, but this cold forbidding face of rock gives me momentary pause. It looks more like a vertical sheet of ice than anything and even with my keen eyesight I fail to spot many handholds. Still it must be done so I grit my teeth and reach up to begin my climb.
This is harder than I could ever have imagined, the sheer wall is daunting, formidable. Twice already I have slipped and only by dint of scrabbling with my fingertips have I avoided falling. I should never have considered this. I would not have done so, had I not wanted so very much to prove to the rest of my companions that I am their equal at the very least, and I trust their superior in many things, climbing amongst them.
I would retrace my steps, except I think to go back down will be as hard as to go on up. In other words I am trapped betwixt and between.
Still, I soldier on struggling on up the cliff face towards the thrice be-damned goose; I reach up high seeking a new handhold, knowing I am at the limits of my endurance but determined to go on. Stretching to my absolute bounds my fingers curl around an outcrop of stone and I begin to haul myself upwards when a sudden gust of wind causes me to lose my grip, then I am falling, pin-wheeling downwards, unable to prevent my fall, and I wonder what the dwarf will have to say about this … if I survive the fall that is.