By the Mirrormere, T.A. 2985
The sky was dreary and cloudy, a heavy blanket threatening to fall over the travellers in waves of cold rain. They moved swiftly, by foot, as it was the custom of the Galadhrim, and because ahead lay mountains too cruel for horses to climb and then descend to the western side, to Imladris.
The group was small but well-armed. At its centre, four familiar figures moved close to each other, tied by blood and by love. Legolas watched them closely, lying flat against the top of a tall boulder, hidden from view.
When the travelling party grew near, he moved to action.
“What are the chances?” Legolas asked, hopping down from the boulder to land right next to Aragorn.
“You’re roaming far from home, Legolas,” Aragorn replied, seemingly unfazed, although his surprised start did not go unnoticed. Legolas grinned and Arwen, by Aragorn’s side, giggled. Elladan and Elrohir sheathed the swords they had flashed just moments before and the two Galadhrim closest to them rested their bows.
“You are playing with fire!” Elladan exclaimed. “I could have chopped your head off.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, you are not that fast,” Legolas quipped.
Elladan punched him in the arm and Elrohir patted him on the back, as Aragorn heartily hugged him. When the greetings were done, Legolas moved forward and bowed deeply before Arwen.
“My lady, what a pleasure to see you.”
Arwen bowed her head in greeting with a warm smile playing on her lips. She had met the prince of Mirkwood briefly once before, but felt as if they were friends already from the many tales her brothers and Aragorn told her from their joint adventures, after Legolas had started roaming the lands outside his father’s realm.
A quiet, vigilant, Silvan elf with a shock of short auburn hair, moved from behind the rocks as the greetings took place.
Legolas introduced them. “Lady Arwen, please meet Captain Tauriel of the Greenwood.”
Tauriel blushed and bowed. “I am no longer captain, my lady.”
“And the Greenwood is now Mirkwood,” Legolas said, shrugging, “so… let us not dwell on details.”
Arwen bowed her head slightly. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Are you camping here tonight?” Legolas asked.
Aragorn pursed his lips. “We would, but seeing you here begs the question – any signs of activity?”
“No. We have been tracking a group of no more than ten orcs, but we missed them somewhere back there.” Legolas waved in the direction of Caradhras, the high mountain peak. “We were about to start retracing our steps. It is as if they were absorbed by the mountains.”
“Mmm,” Arargorn frowned and instinctively moved closer to Arwen. The twins immediately became even more alert. All of them seemed to instantly recall the same memory, the attack of Celebrían only a few miles away.
“We sent a group up ahead. They should be returning shortly to report.”
Tauriel exchanged a glance with Legolas. “Why don’t we take a look around while you set camp,” she proposed.
“I’m not easy about spending the night here,” Aragorn said.
“Darling,” Arwen intervened, placing her hand on his arm. “We will be fine. No fires, always someone on the lookout and we’ll have a peaceful night before we start the trek through the mountains.”
Aragorn looked around. The margins of the Mirrormere were as good a place as any to spend the night and, despite the ominous clouds above them, the weather was not too cold, and the rain might just hold out. Elladan nodded and Elrohir started unpacking the grey cloth of Lórien, and bivouacking them, creating a camouflage for the night. The Galadhrim also started moving and soon there were what appeared to be rocks scattered among the heather.
Arwen looked around, then walked to the lake shore. Legolas followed her to fill his water skin.
“Do you see a crown, my lady?” he asked.
“Legolas, could we forego the ’my lady’?” Arwen asked. She inhaled the humid air deeply. “Despite what Aragorn thinks, these clouds will not hold out.”
Legolas looked up. “I fear you are right.”
“Are you going home for Yule?” Arwen asked, rather bluntly.
“Your father must miss you.”
“And I miss him. But we both accept that I will only visit Mirkwood sporadically while Tauriel’s banishment lasts.”
“My brothers told me about that,” Arwen said. “It seems a great sacrifice. It must be a great love.”
As she said that, Aragorn reached them and wrapped his arm around Arwen’s waist, depositing a kiss on her cheek.
Legolas smiled. “It is… something.”
A woosh followed by a yawp interrupted their conversation. Legolas drew his bow as he scanned the area behind them, Aragorn placed himself in front of Arwen, unsheathing his sword and Arwen pulled a long knife from the sheath on her thigh. Orcs, coming from nowhere, attacked the two Galadhrim while Elladan and Tauriel covered Elrohir, who held his right arm with his left hand. Red seeped through his fingers, but the arrow seemed to have only grazed his flesh.
Arwen started running toward the assailants, followed by Aragorn and Legolas. Five orcs were in the thick of the fight, and two on the ground, dead. Before they reached the camp, the other five were also slain.
“Tauriel, they’re the same,” Legolas said.
Tauriel lifted three fingers, signalling the three orcs who were missing from the party.
They moved slowly, carefully scanning every rock, every shrub. Suddenly, Tauriel drew an arrow and shot, faster than light. The arrow only hit the leg of an orc hidden behind a boulder, but it was enough to make the creature shift enough for Legolas to shoot him through an eye.
The other orc, who hid behind the same boulder, shot two arrows. Arwen cut them in the air, protecting Aragorn, while Tauriel and Legolas simultaneously shot the orc.
Tauriel raised one finger. Legolas pointed left with his chin and Tauriel moved in that direction while he moved right. Aragorn and Arwen stayed with the Galadhrim and the twins.
Tauriel quietly pulled an arrow, but when she was about to shoot, a voice rose.
“Peace!” a weary Galadhrim voice shouted.
From behind a rock came three marchwardens.
“We did not see anyone on our way out but we heard the attack just as we were reaching you,” the leader said. “We took one out who was running for his life back there,” he added pointing to what looked like a solid wall of rock. “I think they were hiding in a cave.”
“They do like their tunnels,” Legolas sighed.
“Elrohir, are you badly wounded?” Arwen asked.
“No. It’s a scratch. Let’s go to these tunnels and see what else lurks in there.”
“No,” Aragorn said. “Let’s lift camp and leave here right away. We don’t know their numbers.”
Legolas nodded. “The group we were tracking was small, but it is true that more could be out there, especially if there is shelter.”
“I think they would not have attacked with only ten of them, if that was the case. They were just hungry, on their way to somewhere, and saw fresh flesh.”
Everyone recoiled at Tauriel’s remark.
“Still, I’d rather not spend the night here,” Aragorn said.
“Fortunately, the night will be fine for walking,” Legolas said, pointing skywards.
From the mountains came a chilly draft, creating holes in the blanked of clouds above, revealing pale slivers of darkened sky and a halo of silver moonlight.
“Let’s clean that wound up and move from here,” Aragorn said.
“We will walk with you right up to Caradhras,” Legolas offered.
“Thank you, my friend,” Arwen said. “Is it this time that you will cross the Hithaeglir and visit us in Imladris?”
Legolas glanced at Tauriel. Before he could speak, Arwen added, “All are welcome.”
Legolas smiled sadly as Tauriel shifted on her feet. “We would not like to cause a diplomatic incident.”
“But surely,” Arwen protested.
Aragorn placed a hand on her wrist. She looked at him, understanding that there was more and that he would tell her later.
“As you wish,” she said, bowing her head toward Tauriel, “but know that my father’s hospitality depends not on other’s opinions…”
“Thank you, my lady,” Tauriel said, bowing her head in return.
By the Mirrormere, T.A. 3020
Legolas sat by the lake, immersed in bittersweet memory. Somewhere behind him, he heard Gimli foraging for wood for a fire. He rose to his feet.
“Are you too tired?” he asked upon reaching Gimli. “Shall we spend the night or rest just for a few hours? The night promises very clear skies and the full moon will bless us with her light.”
Gimli dropped the sticks in a pile. “You’ve been broody for a while.”
Legolas shook his head. “It’s nothing.” He sighed. “It’s just that as we come closer to home, I find myself dwelling on things past.”
“The red-haired lass?”
Legolas lifted an eyebrow. “How do you know that? Did Aragorn-”
“No, no. Aragorn is no gossip and you should know that. But you do talk in your sleep… sometimes quite a lot,” Gimli chuckled. “No, I jest. My father told me a muddled story when he saw you in Rivendell.”
“Ah,” Legolas said, rather peeved. “I thought all elves looked alike to you.”
Gimli winked. “You do. Anyway, you should be happy, going home.”
“She’s not there… and we are not together.”
“The feelings are complicated, and it is a long, long story, but in the end, she chose herself and I chose a quest… and new friends.” He smiled warmly at Gimli.
Gimli smiled too. “I appreciate that, but friends are friends and with this lass there seemed to be something else.”
“It never really bloomed,” Legolas said.
“Yet, true love never really dies, does it?” Gimli asked.
“No, I suppose not, and I am glad that I had her friendship for many years. More than friendship, even. She did consider me...” He pursed his lips. “It really is a complicated story with an element that will surely delight you, but I would rather tell it another day.”
“Of course,” Gimli said, taking his flint from his pocket and kneeling by the twigs. “I didn’t mean to pry. Shall we roast that rabbit you shot and then walk on?”
“I will do it, my friend,” Legolas said, kneeling by the incipient fire. “You go and enjoy the Mirrormere.”
“Thank you,” Gimli said. “And thank you for indulging me. It was quite a stretch from delivering a few letters at Caras Galadhon to crossing all of Lothlórien and going up the Silverlode just to see a lake.”
“I did it gladly. And besides, we now have all the time in the world.”
“Not quite,” Gimli chuckled. “My parents are expecting me for Yule, and my new friend, as they put it. I supposed we will make scandal in both realms.”
Legolas smiled. “An elf and a dwarf…” he said, a tone of melancholy seeping into his voice.
“Like Celebrimbor and Narvi,” Gimli added.
“No, not like them,” Legolas said. “They were kindred spirits in a different way. Both loved stone, and metal, and craft. We are different. I love trees and you love gems, and yet, we complement each other.”
Gimli took a folded piece of paper from his inner pocket. “Here,” he said, offering it to Legolas.
Legolas unfolded it and silently observed the drawing faintly coloured in watercolour. A medallion of a tree with a lush canopy in several shades of green. “It is lovely,” he said at length. “Truly lovely.”
“It is something that I mean to make as soon as I get home. Perhaps I will finish it in time to give it as a Yule gift.”
“To someone special…”
“To someone who taught me how to love trees.”
Legolas smiled. “Will you set it with the olivine from Erebor? How I long to see it now and to appreciate it. It’s funny how you can live for so long close to something and not see it.”
Gimli laughed out loud. “An elf who knows the names of minerals! Who would have thought!”
Dale, T.A. 3021
The court of Bard II gleamed softy with candlelight. The silks were worn, and the furs ragged, but the men and women stood tall and proud, welcoming the visitors from their neighbouring realms.
“So many women and children,” Legolas whispered sadly to his companion, as they watched Bard greeting Thorin III Stonehelm and Thranduil more informally, now that the official welcoming ceremony was completed.
“And many of their women died in battle too, my father tells me,” Gimli replied.
He remained silent for a moment. Despite knowing that pain all too well, having lost his mother many years before in Gundabad, Legolas hesitated on what to say. In an effort to protect his son, Glóin had not sent news to Gondor of the demise of Gimli’s mother, who perished at the gates of Erebor while defending the refugees from Dale. The Battle of Dale and the Siege of Erebor were yet other episodes of destruction and loss in the War of the Ring, leaving many sundered homes and bereaved families.
“Here’s to light and warmth,” Legolas said, raising his glass.
“To peace and love,” replied Gimli.
They drank silently.
“How was home?” Gimli asked, at length.
“The same. Many fatherless and motherless children. Many friends whom I will not see again this side of the sea.” Legolas’s voice was flat, but his eyes tightened in the corners.
“We will rebuild. Cleanse and rebuild everywhere, always,” Gimli said, raising his glass, that had been refilled in the meanwhile.
“Always,” Legolas said, toasting too, as he grabbed a flagon from a page who passed by them.
“And to the fallen,” he added, refilling their glasses.
“To the fallen,” Gimli toasted.
As Legolas filled their glasses again, Gimli fumbled in his pocket.
“I see where you are going and let me tell you, it is a mighty fine idea, if not the type that will earn us the fame of great diplomats, but before we get sloshed, let me get this for you.” He gave Legolas a small parcel.
Legolas opened it. It was the olivine tree medallion, gleaming in the soft light.
“Gimli, such a treasure,” he said, after a speechless moment. “It is truly wonderful,” he said, putting the medallion around his neck.
Gimli’s eyes twinkled. For a moment they stood silent, not looking at each other. Across the hall, they saw that Thranduil and Glóin had met and were conversing.
“He has that pinched smile he makes when he’s swallowing toads,” Legolas said.
“I didn’t know you knew my father so well,” Gimli quipped.
“I meant my fath- oh,” said Legolas, realizing Gimli’s jest.
“They both look a tad constipated, actually,” said Gimli, rather meanly.
“Nah… I think they will end up being even closer than us,” Legolas said. “Think of all the commiserating they have to do.”
Gimli heartily laughed, then raised his glass. “To commiserating fathers!”
Legolas drunk his glass in one gulp. He was still far from his limit, but the spreading warmth felt close to something like happiness. Gimli’s cheeks were warming too and the thought that soon they could be singing bawdy songs made him chuckle to himself.
“I feel we are at the end of an age,” Gimli said, as Legolas poured more drink. “Their wine is fabulous, though.”
“It is. But I feel we are at the beginning of a new age” Legolas smiled and placed a hand on Gimli’s shoulder, squeezing fondly.
“Ever the optimist,” Gimli said.
“It is what you like best about me.”
Gimli smiled. “That certainly is not what I like best about you,” he said, “but I can toast to optimists.”
Legolas laughed and drank.
“To the fine Dorwinion and those who make it,” he toasted next.
Gimli laughed, drank, then laughed again. Then, his countenance grew serious, and he faced Legolas to look deep into his eyes.
Legolas hesitated for a moment. His fingers touched the medallion, his eyes searched Gimli’s, his throat dried.
Swallowing the knot that formed in his throat, he nodded, before toasting back.