For all that Glóin was prepared to dislike the elf that Gimli brought home from his travels, it was Glóin himself who made the first misstep. He’d been throwing subtle barbs about dungeons and pointed ears for days; a true wound hadn’t even been intentional.
They were all sitting for dinner quite peaceably. Gimli had somehow procured what Glóin considered rather an overabundance of vegetables but the way the elf smiled and touched the promise beads in his braids as he tucked them behind his pointed ears stayed Glóin’s tongue. Instead, he expounded on a wealth of pearls that had recently been delivered from the East Sea, their color ranging from the shimmer of opal to the soft pale of sea foam, surfaces as smooth as glass.
“Legolas,” Gimli said, quiet, and Glóin paused to look over at the elf. His visage was utterly blank, eyes dark and hollow as the deepest tunnels in the mines. Glóin shivered. “Legolas,” Gimli said, sharply now, and the elf’s head snapped up, his eyes filling in again, a deep, terrified blue.
“Gimli,” he said, long hands gripping the edge of the table, knuckles white.
“Let’s get you to bed,” Gimli said gently, letting the elf lean on him heavily, like an invalid, as they shuffled slowly to the guest quarters.
Gimli never reappeared and Glóin spent the night wondering what in Mahal’s name had happened.
Gimli enlightened him the next morning. Glóin found him sitting at the kitchen table with dark circles beneath his eyes, listlessly scrapping butter over toasted bread. There was no sign of the elf.
“Da,” Gimli said tiredly, “I would beg you not to speak of the sea.”
“Why ever not?” Glóin asked, baffled.
Gimli gave him the same look he had when he’d spoken of Lothlórien and reverently brought three strands of golden hair out of his breast pocket. It said, clear as spoken word, that he did not wish to hear Glóin casually dismiss something as elvish nonsense. “The elves are leaving these lands,” Gimli said carefully. “They cross the sea to Valinor where there is neither strife nor pain. For most it is a choice and an easy one at that. But there are those that would remain, and of those some are hopelessly torn, afflicted by what is called the sea-longing.”
“Your elf,” Glóin said, shocked, then stopped himself. “Legolas suffers this?”
“He does,” Gimli said and in his face Glóin could read the agony of one who felt they were bringing misery upon that which they held most dear. “When he thinks of the sea, his eyes will darken and his heart will wrench and there is naught that can be done. Most succumb, for there is little and less to hold them here.” Gimli paused to look Glóin in the eye. “Legolas stays for me.”
Glóin was struck speechless and Gimli left him there at the table to go fetch Legolas from bed.
Well! Glóin thought. Well, that changed things! Such love was the sort songs were sung of! And if they tended toward tragic ballads, Glóin brushed the thought away. Gimli and Legolas would have centuries yet and the memory of elves was said to be ever-bright. Certainly Thranduil had not forgotten whatever dwarven slights of old had made him so crusty. And Glóin, although his dear Rél—Mahal keep her—went to the Halls over a decade ago, had never forgotten the sweet smell of her skin, the breathless sound of her laugh, and would not part with an instant of their time together for all the long, lonely ache of his heart.
Glóin took a deep breath and stood to make his way to the trades market.
It took Glóin a good many hours to find what he sought and by the time he returned home it was full evening. Gimli and Legolas were sat at the table talking, the elf’s hands busied fletching arrows. He still looked pale to Glóin’s eyes, but the haunted cast to his features had retreated.
“Da,” Gimli greeted. “We missed you for luncheon. Is all well?”
“Quite, quite,” Glóin nodded. “I apologize if I worried you. I had an errand of some import.” He drew a velvet bag from his pocket. “Legolas Thranduilion,” he said formally, “I would present you a gift of welcome.”
Legolas set aside his arrows and rose from his chair, curious, as Glóin motioned him to come forward and hold out his hand.
Glóin tipped the velvet bag carefully until it released its treasure into Legolas’ palm: a dazzling emerald set in a band of mithril.
Gimli made a choked sound and Legolas looked at him quizzically.
“My father’s blessing on you as my chosen,” Gimli explained.
And a weighty one at that, though Gimli did not say so. The emerald was dark as evergreen and carefully faceted by a Master of the Jeweler’s Guild to reflect brilliantly from any angle. It was the kind of artistry Glóin could afford because he had been one of thirteen dwarves on a successful venture that netted him a fourteenth’s share of Erebor’s great treasure and had invested wisely besides. No dwarf who espied the ring on the elf’s finger would give him so much as a disdainful glance after.
Legolas held the jewel up to eye level to admire it. “Thank you, Glóin,” he said simply, his voice holding a depth of emotion that Glóin never would have believed of an elf before he’d heard Gimli’s tale. “It is truly beautiful.” He slid the ring onto his right hand where it wouldn’t impede his grip on his bow.
Glóin nodded with satisfaction. The jeweler had looked at him askance when he’d asked for the ring to be resized for so thin a finger, but the measurement had been well done.
“Thank you, adad,” Gimli echoed. He looked so grateful that Glóin felt embarrassed to have been so churlish in previous days.
“May you have every happiness,” Glóin said softly, and they sat down for a much more peaceful dinner than the last.
Once he opened himself to the possibility, Glóin found himself growing rather fond of the idea of having Legolas for a son-in-law. Apart from making Gimli rapturously happy, Legolas came with other manifold benefits as well.
He could reach the highest cupboards with ease and unearthed a favorite old pipe from the far back of one that Glóin had long suspected Rél of secreting away decades ago when he’d smoked like chimney. And, furthermore, he’d rolled his eyes when Glóin mentioned the exchange rate of silver for galenas leaf, which elves truly considered a weed, and promised to review the terms of trade with Mirkwood’s steward.
Glóin also expected an influx of new archers in Erebor after the impromptu exhibition Legolas put on at the practice range.
Gimli had taken Legolas to the training grounds as much to show Erebor his elf and the promise beads in his hair as to show Legolas the majesty of Erebor and upon their arrival they’d been immediately swarmed by eager young trainees clamoring for demonstrations of the skills for which they were now famed in story and song.
Gimli gently cleared his admirers far enough back that he could perform several beautiful axe sequences without any accidents, but it was on Legolas and his small knot of curious admirers that Glóin focused his primary attention. The fact that Erebor retained even a score of archers Glóin fully attributed to the high visibility of Prince Frerin—and poor Kíli after him—who had been well known to favor the bow.
Dwalin stopped sparring practice with his latest batch of guards to watch and came to sit by Glóin in the observation stands. “Your son’s elf?” he asked.
“Aye,” Glóin said.
Legolas drew his bow and the emerald on his finger winked in the torchlight. Dwalin choked in much the same manner Gimli had but compounded by the fact that he’d just taken a draught from his waterskin. Glóin pounded him on the back helpfully.
“Is that,” Dwalin wheezed when he could breathe again, “Is that Master Tevar’s emerald?”
“It is,” Glóin said calmly. “My gift of welcome to Legolas.”
Dwalin stared at him. “Tevar vowed never to sell that emerald, so greatly was he moved by its beauty. Nori tried to steal it no less than a dozen times. King Dáin himself once had an offer rebuffed.”
“So he did,” Glóin said. Master Tevar had been persuaded by enough gold to pay for the apprenticeships of all three of his grandsons to high-level Masters in their chosen crafts.
“You esteem your son’s choice so highly?” Dwalin asked. “An elf? Thranduil’s son?”
Glóin raised an eyebrow. “I have made my esteem visible for all to see.” Indeed, he noticed several other dwarves twisting their own rings and whispering to each other.
“Well,” Dwalin said looking at the targets Legolas had peppered with arrows, each one a bull’s eye, “he’s certainly a fine archer.”
“Aye,” Glóin said with pride, watching as Legolas loosed two arrows at once and each cut through thin ropes from which hung goblin practice effigies. He looked embarrassed when Gimli said, dryly, that he was meant to aim for the hearts but the clear awe in the eyes of the dwarven archers made him smile again.
By the time Legolas made his reluctant farewells to return to Mirkwood, the traditional letter Glóin wrote to Thranduil expressing thanks and welcome for his son was truly meant. Glóin tied the scroll closed with a strip of leather and handed it to Legolas. “For your father,” he said warmly.
“You are sure I shouldn’t accompany you?” Gimli asked for the hundredth time since Legolas had said he must travel home to speak with his father.
Legolas put an apologetic hand on Gimli’s shoulder. “He will take the news better if you are not there to be railed at, meleth. I will return to you in a fortnight,” he promised before leaping onto the back of his white stallion and galloping away.
Legolas in fact returned in under a week but as he rode through the gates Gimli looked as though he wasn’t sure whether to be pleased about it. Legolas appeared dispirited and Glóin noticed that his emerald ring was twisted round, the stone turned inward toward his palm as if to shield it. In his other hand, he clutched a letter, the heavy parchment slightly crinkled.
“Is that for me, lad?” Glóin asked.
Legolas hesitated before handing him the letter. “With my father’s compliments,” he said. The wax crest was chipped around the edges as if Legolas had fought hard with himself not to break the seal and read the contents.
Glóin spared a glance for the sigil of branching antlers before splitting the seal open with a thumbnail and unfolding the missive. The elaborately curled Westron letters were written in red ink that Glóin suspected was made of the same berries that studded Thranduil’s ridiculous twig-crown but which looked astonishingly like blood. It read:
Glóin, son of Gróin, Lord of Erebor-
Cease this nonsense at once.
Glóin laughed, long and loud. Here, he thought, was yet another unexpected boon in having Legolas for a son-in-law. Beside him, Legolas practically wilted with relief.
“Glóin..,” Legolas began.
“Call me adad,” Glóin said. Khuzdul may be the secret language of the dwarves but along with battle cries and cursing, endearments had long been expanded to outsiders who were yet considered close friends and kin.
Bilbo had called Thorin men hammelekh from the time the Company had descended the Carrock until they’d reached Erebor, never understanding why Thorin had flushed red as ruby until Balin finally took pity and explained that while Bofur had been technically correct in telling Bilbo that men hammelekh translated to my king, colloquial use had long since softened it to be generally understood to mean my dear. Bofur had suffered several well-aimed acorns to the head at discreet intervals, but Bilbo hadn’t stopped using the term.
“Adad,” Legolas repeated hesitantly, his accent atrocious.
“Just so,” Glóin said fondly and winked at Gimli who rolled his eyes behind the elf's back. “Sit, sit. I'll make a salad.”
“Gimli,” Legolas said despondently as Glóin assembled a variety of vegetables an old woman in Laketown had sold to him after providing him with detailed instructions on proper peeling, slicing and cubing, “I lack your silver tongue. Many times I tried to extol your virtues to my father, but he would have none of it.”
“Nonsense,” Gimli blustered. “The only thing you lack is my understanding father and he shall soon be yours to claim in law as well as heart.”
“That is a gladdening thought,” Legolas said and Glóin felt himself flush, warmed.
He applied himself to the celery with renewed fervor and soon put the salad down on the table with a flourish. Legolas looked baffled for a moment but he quickly hid it. “Thank you, adad,” he said, taking the wooden fork Glóin offered. Glóin wondered if perhaps elves didn’t include potatoes in their salad, although the woman in Laketown had been quite adamant.
Glóin put a leg of mutton in front of Gimli and considered. “What shall we have for the wedding feast?”
“Malt beer,” Gimli said at the same time Legolas said, “Dorwinion wine,” and then both looked at each other and laughed.
They settled in for several hours of wedding minutiae which Glóin felt went rather well despite the occasional culture clash but when they reached the guest list, Legolas went quiet and sorrowed. “We might come back to it another night,” Gimli tried tactfully.
Legolas stood, a sudden anger in his eyes. “He is being ridiculous,” he said bitterly. “I will convince him of it if I must threaten disownment.” He slung his bow across his back and made ready to ride back to Mirkwood with all speed but evening had long fallen and the outer gates closed so he acquiesced to Gimli’s entreaty to at least spend the night.
Glóin stayed up by candlelight to draw out a seating chart and in the morning he handed Legolas a scroll that he felt might do more to sway Thranduil than any of Legolas’ impassioned arguments.
I would have your comment on the seating arrangements, Glóin wrote above a drawing of Erebor’s reception hall where he’d crowded dozens of long tables with dwarves and set a small table labelled Thranduil three back from the head table, a deliberate taunt.
Such a strike to Thranduil’s pride would never go unanswered.
Legolas could barely have made the journey back to Mirkwood when a swallow managed to find its way into Glóin’s rooms, a message held securely in its beak. It dropped the message, bit Glóin sharply on the thumb and alit without waiting for a reply, barely evading the broom Lady Kih across the way wielded as deftly as any soldier of Erebor wielded an axe.
Glóin looked at the amended seating chart with smug vindication.
Thranduil had ousted a noble family of Firebeards and written his name in large, dark letters on the table closest to the right of the head table and elven delegation had been scrawled across four more surrounding tables besides. Glóin squinted at the table to the left of King Aragorn and the hobbits to find that Thranduil had struck through Lord Elrond of Rivendell’s name so many times it was barely visible.
Glóin was still roaring with laughter when a second swallow dropped a message, this one written on a torn parchment scrap with what looked like a draft of a trade agreement on the reverse side. It read: Do not take my last to mean that I will let this travesty go forward.
Glóin held it over the candle flame. It was a sad fact of messenger birds that they were not fully reliable. Certainly a swallow was easy prey for hawks and eagles.
He sent his own return message agreeing to the revisions and enclosing the planned menu with a diplomatic delegation that he rather feared would receive an even more frosty reception than usual.
A swallow came back with: More fruit and wine.
Glóin rolled his eyes. We might do this better in person, he wrote, barely stopping himself from adding, you childish twit. This time the swallow was waiting for a reply, although it was hopping about impatiently and had something of a gimlet look in its eye. Glóin put on his work gloves before offering the message to its sharp beak.
Several days passed without reply and Glóin was beginning to worry when a swallow laid a message in front of him with far more care than usual. Glóin ripped open the seal.
My son will not be swayed, the missive read, the usual graceful swoops of the letters notably absent. I will see you on the solstice.
Despite Dwalin’s embarrassed, handkerchief-bearing presence at his side, Glóin did not try to hide the wetness in his eyes as Gimli replaced Legolas’ simple copper promise beads with the painstakingly fashioned sapphire marriage beads he’d labored over for months, nor when they drank from the silver wedding cup that Glóin himself had forged.
He glanced over at Thranduil periodically to gauge his reactions.
Thranduil looked like he was being speared alive during the vows and spent the entirety of the reception dinner downing bucketfuls of ale, but towards the end of the night he put his hands atop Gimli and Legolas’ clasped palms in blessing and Legolas’ pale face shone bright as moonlight.
“Come now, is it really as bad as all that?” Glóin asked, sitting down beside Thranduil who had moved on to the Dorwinion wine he’d ostensibly brought as a wedding gift but which Glóin suspected had been intended for this more self-serving purpose.
Thranduil gave him a scathing look.
Across the room, Legolas’ laugh rang out clear as the peal of a bell, underpinned by Gimli’s deep chuckle. Glóin thought he might have seen something in Thranduil’s expression soften.
“Wine?” Thranduil offered quietly.
Glóin smiled and let him fill his cup.