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“You!” sneered Legolas. “Were you not the one shouting ‘Never trust an Elf!’ at the late parley? And yet you choose to show yourself in my tent upon such an errand?”

“Aye,” the Dwarf answered with a cold look, “For I will send none of my folk in my place, nor ask them to do what I would not submit to.”

Gimli, son of Gloin: that was the one; a senior officer of Thorin’s, an excellent warrior, but an inveterate hater of Elves. He was in full battle array, clad in dark mail, helm and weapon on his back; which was ridiculous. His heavily bearded face held to a severe and stoic reserve, making no concessions whatsoever to their necessary cooperation in the matter at hand.

So this is how the Naugrim play it, the Elf thought bitterly; even though we are driven to these deeds to serve both our peoples, they send one who will make things as unpleasant as possible. A curse on their stubborn, stiff necks. So be it, then.

The cursed locket lay in a nest of silk upon his camp desk, where he had been working on dispatches. The jewel in its center appeared as a dull matte grey, lifeless and without sheen. If the wizard is wrong about this, I shall kill him myself, he said angrily to himself. He saw that the Dwarf did not even look at the thing, as he pulled off his weapon and cloak. Well. They had all seen it, and wrangled about it, for long hours in council. Either this unnatural ceremony would work, or it would not.

Legolas hardly knew what to do with himself, where to place himself or begin. Gimli stood at the opposite end of the tent. After folding his cloak and setting it on the ground, he placed his axe on it, and the removed his helm with its rim of golden inlay, and added it to the pile. His pauldrons and his brigandine of leather joined it, then he reached for the hem of his long mail shirt and yanked that over his head. Finally, there was a soft padded shirt that went under the mail; off that came, and he was naked to the waist.

The lamplight played over his pale skin and thick, muscular shoulders, the dark soft mat on his chest, the long cascade of his beard and braided mane of red hair.  Legolas wished that he had built up the coal fire in the brazier; he had been sitting long in thought, and the tent was cold and drear. Too late now.

Abruptly, Gimli turned and came towards him. Apparently his boots and trews were not coming off, what was he doing—and suddenly the situation was too much for Legolas, the strangeness of the other’s face and body, his aggressive movement towards him. He did not fear the Dwarf; for all the other’s tough strength, he knew himself to be stronger. But his heart cried out at the utter absence of tenderness.

“Hold,” he cried. “Now that I am put to it, I think I cannot bring myself to so repellant a meeting.”

“In my experience,” said Gimli grimly. “If the bellows are worked, the forge will heat. Close your eyes if you are so put off.” He pushed Legolas so that his back was against his own table; then he went down on his knees.

The Elf looked down at him in shock, as the other put a large, warm hand flat against him, there; against his cock. And then he found the laces to Legolas’s’ leggings, and moved his hands just over his hips, and took the waistband of the leggings and rolled them down, nearly to his knees. Legolas’s body was all too shamelessly ready, his prick responding to the scenario with just as much enthusiasm as his brain protested against it; it was flushed and full. Gimli took him deeply into his mouth, and sank his head downward.

Hot and wet and wrong and good: he was clinging to the edge of the desk behind him with both hands, but his hips wanted to pump outwards, and he did, he thrust into the other’s mouth with a cry of pleasure. Gimli looked up at his face, with dark eyes, half-closed; he seemed to give him a hot stare of contempt and rebellion.

Oh, it was bad, very bad of him, but that look of mutiny and unwilling service, framed around his own cock, the sight of himself thrusting into his kneeling foe’s grim mouth: it was delicious. He came at once, copiously, using the Dwarf with a final discourteous thrust, and grabbing at the other’s hair so he should not retreat from it. Oh, yes.

The other turned his head, after, and spat upon the floor. Legolas, suddenly spent,  found no words. The Dwarf went to his pile of things, pulled on his shirt, gathered the rest in his arms and made to leave. “It worked,” the Elf found he was speaking in a hoarse voice that did not sound like himself.

The ensorcelled locket was now glowing with a faint, lugubrious, ghostly light. Gimli nodded, without turning his face, and went out.

He brought the vile thing to Thranduil’s pavilion. His father was standing at a table full of maps and rosters. He looked up when Legolas came in, his handsome cold face unreadable. “The thing is done?” he asked.  He set the object on his father’s desk, with a click. “It is,” he replied. Surely he owed no other details. “Then we must test it at once,” said the King, with grim satisfaction. “We will attack tomorrow at dawn. Send in my captains.” Legolas nodded once, and went out to gather them.

 

#

In the middle of the night, he woke. “I should have thanked the fellow,” he thought. “I should have tried to repay him, to caress him to release in his turn, if he would. I barely touched him. It was not well. He is not an enemy, at all events. ” He felt a little, hot, unpleasant wave of shame.

He touched himself: his loins ached, and he played the scene all over again in his mind, his hand moving rapidly over his body, until with his own hot grasp he made himself release. He lay back, dissatisfied.

#

They had the victory. Though the Orcs and Wargs came against them in greater strength than ever, the allied hosts of the Woodland Realm and Erebor threw them back, and pushed on towards the next pass, regaining in a day miles lost over many bitter weeks of battle.

Nor could their sudden success be attributed to a game of morale, or aroused hopes: Thranduil had sworn his inner circle of leaders to tell none of their folk about the magic object, lest the promised power prove false; even fewer knew how the artifact had been wakened.

As for the Dwarves, they were secret by nature, even among themselves; they breathed no word of it.

For the next week, the enchanted jewel shone with a low, uncanny light, while their forces fought on with renewed energy and deadliness. And then it faded.

 

#

He knew well why the unenviable task had fallen so easily into his lap. He’d left a string of broken hearts and disappointed former dalliances in the Woodland Realm; a few ruined friendships, as well. And then there was that Beorning, which ended so badly: he’d avoided that part of the woods for years after.

His father had given up hope of his ever marrying, which was a relief. Then this unpalatable need had come upon them, the strange prophecy which called for a physical union between the mistrustful allied forces, in order to bring an ancient magical object to their aid.

He’d looked around his father’s gathered officers, realized how many had spouses or betrotheds —-or even just futile but dear hopes , and he had none. So he’d volunteered.

His father had looked at him, after,  with a curious mix of emotions: gratitude for the offered solution;  distaste for the qualities in his son that lead to it. “I have never been grateful before for your eternal lack of chastity. I suppose this will leave you unscathed,” Thranduil said. “Everything always does.”

#

Legolas moved about his tent. He had changed his bedding, piled the cot with fresh covers; he made the tent warm, and had some wine fetched in, poor stuff of the camps as it was.

Just before the hour appointed, he remembered to change out of his own light armor; he put on a long robe that fastened easily in the front, and at the last moment, took off his boots. Standing barefoot, he suddenly felt vulnerable, and foolish.

When Gimli entered, he began to speak, rapidly and awkwardly. He meant to be more generous this time, more proper in spirit.  “I must apologize to you for the last encounter, Master Dwarf,” he said. “I agreed to the bargain, and yet when the moment came, I balked at the jump, like a yearling colt. I was not courteous, neither. I would you let me see to you, this time.”

“You were not so balky as all that,” said Gimli, unsmiling. Legolas flushed. “But the matter needs not so many words. Let us get on and be done,” he continued. For a moment, the Elf found his temper flaring: the stubborn rude fellow, to reject his proffered peace! And yet—looking at Gimli’s face, he thought he saw a war of emotions, beneath the mask of stoniness, none of them happy—and yet he should be patient, could be patient.

And so he knelt, himself, by the other’s side, and with nimble fingers, began to remove his gear for him. First the armor and arms, the outer shell, then the layers next to the skin. When Gimli’s torso was bare, this time, Legolas reached his own hands to the Dwarf’s shoulders—they were warm, and hard with knotted muscle—then ran them over the plane of his chest, down over his ribs, to his thick waist.  He thought the color rose somewhat in Gimli’s face. Risking the other’s mood, he dipped his head, and just flicked his tongue over a broad, pink nipple.  

The Dwarf made a low, harsh grunt in return, and Legolas glanced at his expression: progress! So he played and tweaked and licked at his chest,  and Gimli put up a big, strong hand and cupped Legolas’s jaw. His panting breath did not sound displeased, at any rate. “I would like to strip you off, all the way, this time,” he said meditatively, and put his hands to the drawstrings of the other’s  leggings. “Shall you buffet me, if I do?”  “Do it and find out!” Gimli replied. When Legolas glanced again in his face, he saw a rather indulgent light in those dark eyes. This was better.

So he did what he proposed. The Dwarf had a fine, thick, handsome-looking cock, in a thicket of still more hair; it sprang out and upwards when Legolas undressed him, flushed and eager with his touch. He stood and dragged his companion to his cot.  He lay down and pulled the other alongside him, but he pushed him so that Gimli lay on his side, facing away.

As they were posed, Gimli’s broad back was towards him: he reached around and firmly grasped his silky, stiff member, and stroked all the way from base to head, and back. He was rewarded with another throaty moan, and what was likely a Dwarven curse, guttural and mysterious. “Now,” he whispered in his ear. “You may close your eyes, if you like. Think of something you like: whoever, whenever you like best.”

He kissed the shorter man’s shoulder, as he stroked him; he fit himself well up against him. His own robe was coming untied, and they felt warm against one another. His hard cock, well-pleased, was moving against the other’s muscular backside.  Oh, there was scope there, for future encounters, if they must; if it was their duty .

But meanwhile, he simply sank into the pleasurable lusty haze of the moment. “Oh, you’re close,” he murmured, feeling Gimli’s prick jerk in his hand. “It must be a nice thought, you’re having,” he ran his thumb over the top of the other’s cock, where wetness beaded, “Yes, you’re going to come for me, you are,” and the Dwarf gave a sudden cry, and he did, and shuddered in his arms.

They both stilled for a minute, and Legolas ran his hand idly through the other’s long, rough mane of hair. Suddenly Gimli turned over. With an amused expression, he put one hand on the Elf’s own yearning erection, and the other on the side of his face, and he gave him an expert pull and stroke,  and kissed him on the mouth at the same time. He flicked out his tongue, pressed it just where Legolas’s lips parted, and then for a long sweet moment, Gimli’s tongue was in his mouth, and he suckled it, like a wanton.

Legolas did not have coherent words, but his cock throbbed contentedly with the friction of the other’s callused hand, and his mouth was warm from his kisses and his tongue, and he was immediately near to spilling. “Your turn,” Gimli said low and husky. “My turn , yes,” he heard himself agree, “Oh please, please, do not stop!”  And then he was done, too.

Legolas had left some things for washing up, by the side of the bed, so they did, and some of the wine within reach, so they had it.  After they had lain next to each other in companionable quiet, passing the wineskin between them, Gimli turned on his side and rested his head on his hand.  

Very gently, he ran a hand over the Elf’s stomach, his thighs, and rested it on his softened cock. “A ready fellow, you have there,” he said drily, with some slyness in his eyes.  Legolas was resting with his hands behind his head; he looked downwards at his member, and said, “Alas, a troublesome thing. He has often gotten me into scrapes. How traitorously easy he did yield to you!” “Mmm, and longs to do so again,” said the other. For Legolas liked his touch, it was evident; and was stirring hopefully once more.

So Gimli sucked him off again, with greater attentiveness this time, and when Legolas came, he swallowed him down, holding his cock sweetly in his lovely warm mouth. This time, Legolas pulled him to his own chest, after, where he rested his head for a while. Legolas felt spent and satisfied to his core; then the other got out of bed with a chuckle and sauntered away. “Thank you!” he remembered to call, this time. Gimli waved his hand dismissively, and the Elf let his head fall back on the pillow.

Sometime later, he had a sudden start of memory, and looked to the enchanted locket. Was it his imagination, or was it glowing more brightly, more warmly, than the last time?

#

The campaign had now advanced far to the east and south, pushing towards the Sea of Rhûn.

Thranduil was a wily old campaigner, and so he enforced some caution on the Allies,  guarding their flanks and ever calculating against spreading their forces too thin. The sad history of his father Oropher was ever at the back of his mind. He helped balance out Thorin, who was filled with almost too great an enthusiasm by their victories, and was for smashing Sauron’s forces while their advance was hot, and the enemy in disarray.

The debates ran long and passionate in the tent of the joint command; Dain Ironfoot and the wizard Gandalf often cursed both Kings as stubborn, prideful fools.

Legolas spoke little in the great contests; sometimes he thought he saw others looking at him in surprise, for he was wont to form his opinions quickly and voice them freely. But the secret sat oddly in his heart and body. Even knowing that few guessed the truth, it was as strange an era as he had ever lived through in his long life.

By day he fought fiercely in the van of his father’s army, leading the other archers where the battle raged most thickly.  On the other side of the battlefield, somewhere, the Dwarf was wielding his axe amid one of Thorin’s legions. Over all their forces, unseen, invisible, the enchanted locket reached out tendrils of power and turned all the fortunes of war their way.

By night, once every week or so,  he met with this all-but-stranger, and waged a sweet contest of lust, away from the eyes of all, a little safe island of intimate pleasure amid a great sea of combat and blood and death. They did not see each other else, amid their two hosts. Though he thought of him at times, in the days in between.

One evening, while once again intent on his plans, Thranduil spoke to his son abruptly. He said, “The guards say there is but one Dwarf that comes to you, each time. The same person, I mean.” “I thought they were instructed to secrecy,” Legolas replied with some asperity. “They are,” his father replied. “Of course, that does not include myself. And you have told me nothing.”

“There is little you need to know,” he replied. “Yes, there is one man, whom I meet. It is one of the Khazâd officers, a kinsman of their King, if it matters. He is a good fellow, and we have come to an understanding. He serves his people, as I do mine.”

“And he treats you well?”

“I do not complain of it. We do our duty. And now, enough of this. That this secret magic has worked to our aid is quite clear. Let us continue to press our advantage while we can,” Legolas could bring a great deal of hauteur and coolness to his bearing when he wanted to. He used it all against his father now, who had taught it to him. They spoke no more of the secret evenings, only of the war.

He could not exactly say why he did not want to talk of Gimli to his father, why he would shelter his name and identity from him (which was foolish, doubtless Thranduil could learn it, if he cared to).  

More than once, he thought he saw Thorin Oakenshield glaring at him, with a face of brooding distaste and mistrust. But that was his common expression towards Elves.

Other times, he thought that the wizard was looking his way with an air of kinder inquiry, as if he wished to find out how Legolas fared; he then made every effort to see that he and Mithrandir did not end up alone together. Perhaps that was strange. He had long revered Mithrandir: it was not fit that he distrust him now his prophecy about the fated locket had proven true.

Only, he wished to make no change, while this arrangement lasted; he wanted no interference.

 

#

He pushed Gimli back against the pillows; he took hold of the Dwarf’s wrists and pinned his hands against the bed on either side of his head. Tucking his own long hair back behind his ear, Legolas looked his fill: he liked looking at Gimli, the low lamplight glinting in the spill of his red-brown hair; the strange trails of inked clan markings all over his arms;  his dark chestnut eyes, with their glint of humor; even his awful great beard.

He said to him this night: “Do you know, I had an interesting dream about you?” He was kneeling over him, nude, a leg straddled to either side.

“Oh? And what was in this Elvish dream?” said Gimli. He seemed pleasantly relaxed, for a Dwarf who was pinned to the bed by the tall naked person of his hereditary foe.

“I am afraid it was very improper,” Legolas said, with pretend remorse; he moved his hand, very slowly to the other’s firm cock. “No, do not move those!” He pressed Gimli’s hands back onto the bed again, up by his head, when the Dwarf tried to return his caresses.

“For in this dream, you were my prisoner. And you,” he leaned down and kissed Gimli on the mouth, and then pulled back again. “You fiercely resisted me.” “I did? Aye, but of course I did! You smooth, treacherous cur!” Gimli was playing along with him, half grinning.

“I lusted for you! But you rejected my seduction!” and here, Legolas made a fierce face, and played more forcefully with the Dwarf’s ready cock. “Cunning and insidious Elf! Be off with you, I shall never give in!” Gimli rather spoiled the illusion by thrusting into Legolas’ affectionate touch.

“And then,” said Legolas, reaching for a small dish of oil he had readied, “Then I told you I would ravish you, that I would have my will. That I would fuck you,” and now, he probed with his fingers, between Gimli’s parted legs, and found his opening. This far, they had gone before; not further. Now he pressed in, forcing his fingers into the tight entrance, deeply excited by the thought of Gimli yielding this to him, aroused by the mix of pain and pleasure he would deal him in the act.

The other was flushed and panting; he kept his arms where Legolas had put them, playing the captive so very readily, so handsomely;  he looked so strong, and yet so vulnerable;  so fierce, and yet so open.  He looked into his companion’s eyes and said thickly, “And what did you do then?” “I took you,” Legolas whispered, “I fucked you, and you wanted it—you cried out and you struggled, but I had you, in the end, I made you take it, and I came in you, ah, and I shall have you!”

And he steered his hard cock right where he wanted to go, pushed the head up against his entry, pushed the head in, oh , and even as Gimli gave a shout, he sank in up to the hilt. Oh gods . His friend was strong, hard, made of muscle; but felt tight, so very tight; he knew Gimli lay with males among his own people, but their bodies were different, and this was new to them.

It felt so good , though. He thrust hard into the lovely tight hole, over and over, it was delectable, and he very much didn’t want to stop.

But Gimli had his face turned to one side, and he was moaning through clenched teeth, and Legolas wasn’t sure—he couldn’t bear to have it not be good for him, too. He made himself slip out. He rolled to one side, and quietly petted Gimli’s flushed prick, not letting the pleasure between them break, but slowing himself from his lustiest urge to fuck and push and take; they both panted.

Finally, Gimli raised his head enough to look at him, and quizzically raised one eyebrow.  “I suppose . . . I am just too great for you, with all this,” the Elf waved at his own waist, “too mighty?” He meant: is it alright?   Gimli put his arms around him then and said, “Ah, you bawdy villain! You monstrous vain fellow! Go ahead and finish your work!” And then Legolas did shove his cock back in, and settled in for a drawn-out, satisfying fuck.

A sweeter, more tender lover would doubtless have been considerate; would have ended it sooner. But Legolas, being only himself, a lusty villain, made use of his permission,  and took a long, hard ride that was bound to leave the other aching on the morrow, and released at last in a long spurting pulse, filling him with his come, with the utmost satisfaction to himself. Gimli was welcome to get his own back, in his turn.

When they were done, however, he had another pleasure to ask; and he found it almost more difficult than to plead for sensuous favors. “Must you leave,” he asked plaintively, when the Dwarf, with a groan, made to get up.  “Could you not sleep here, this evening?” “I thought your kind didn’t sleep,” said Gimli, surprised. “Not true! We do at times. But even when we rest with eyes open, and walk in memory, in reverie, as we say, it is . . . nice to do it in company.” “In that case, I shall not shift,” said Gimli, turning over on his stomach. ‘It’s a bloody long, cold walk back to my bunk.”

#

In the morning, when he rose slowly out of memory,  where he had walked in a peaceful, shaded summer glade in the far-off forest, there was a Dwarf washing himself down at his basin of fresh water, and shivering in the light of dawn. “By the Smith’s tits, you gave me a start,” he said over one shoulder, “Waking up to see you lying there with your eyes wide open. You are an unnatural creature—Get! Off!  I have a muster with my King in a quarter hour, fool!”

#

The next time Gimli came to him, a heavy rain was beating on the tent, and a shivering wind reached its fingers in when he entered. Legolas was seated at his desk. Some supper and ale had been brought at his request, and sat on a table, untouched. A mug of tea had gone cold at his elbow. He was almost startled to find that the afternoon had fled. It had been some hours since he sat to this work.

He had not changed or made ready; he did not go and greet his friend, but sat upon the bed. In a minute Gimli came to him; he’d taken off his armor, but not the rest. He was a perceptive fellow, for a hardened Dwarven warrior.

Sitting heavily on the cot beside the Elf, he put one arm around his shoulder, and said nothing, for a while.  “I’m sorry,” Legolas said quietly. “I am afraid I shall be wretched company, this evening. My head aches, and I am good for nothing. I should have sent to you, so that I would not waste your time.”

“Ah, to the dust with that. Here, lie down with me for a while, lad.” Legolas would have protested, but he found that the other indeed only lay at his side, fully clothed, and left him be, otherwise. The Dwarf felt warm, solid; a safe refuge in a strange and bitter world. Gimli took out a pipe from some pocket; he filled and lit it, and smoked quietly for a long while. At last he said, “We had a bad afternoon of it, on our side. Many fellows torn up, and sent to the healers, and some will fight no more this year. And some dead.”

“And on ours,” said Legolas. “There was one who—he was a playfellow of mine, when I was a child.  His mother has known my father for countless years.  She may already know in her heart, parents of our kind often do, but I must write to her—I cannot leave her to only the bare knowledge of his death.”

Gimli rolled out of the cot, then, and offered him his hand, and did not let it go as he led him back to his desk. Legolas made ready the pen and the ink, and he wrote out the name of his father’s old friend. Beside him, Gimli said, “He died bravely, this soldier. Others were saved by his courage, who still live this evening. He protected his people from the enemy. It is through the gift of mothers such as herself, that our people live.”  Off Legolas’ look, he said: “I have written such things, myself. Too often.”

He went back to the cot, and left Legolas to it, and the Elf found that the rote phrases made their way from his hand to the paper, and then he was able to soften them, once the page was not blank.

He finished, and went back to bed. They did no more than remove their boots that night, and pull a covering over themselves. Gimli slept, with one arm around Legolas, who rested, and listened to his companion’s heartbeat and soft breathing,  and the sounds of the great armed camp at night, and the rain beating on the canvas overhead.

After Gimli left in the morning, he glanced at the enchanted locket, the stupid magic powerful thing that gave them victory, but did not protect them from loss. To his shock, it was lit with a light stronger than he had ever seen it; warmer, richer, more potent.

He brought it back to his father’s pavilion, in the little iron casket in which they carried it about. Mithrandir was there, speaking in a low voice to Thranduil as they leaned over a great map. Legolas merely set the thing on one of the camp tables. He had no wish to look at it. But the wizard glanced up suddenly, and went to the small box and opened it, and took the treasure in his hand. His brow furrowed, looking down at the bright, living light, flowing between his fingers. He gave Legolas a look of startled perception; he felt for a moment as if the old man’s strange, ancient blue eyes were staring directly into his heart.

He left as quickly as he could.

 

#

On the afternoon when it happened, he and his cohort of archers had just carved through a great bank of snarling Orcs and their wolves with singular ease. The sun was westering, and his people were securing their ground, tracking the few fleeing foes with an eye towards their reports, and tomorrow’s renewed assault.  

Their campaign had made such thrilling and unexpected progress that it seemed they might soon be able to join up with the great Southern army from Rohan and Gondor, with its new king at its head. What had seemed a mere wild dream not long ago, a task that might take a year, if it could be accomplished at all, had taken mere months, fueled by ancient, secret magics.

But even as he led his Elves in their tasks, seemingly secure from peril, Legolas felt a great, sickening pain in his side. He felt the blade sinking into him, not only the pain, but the horrible pang of defeat as he fell: but he looked down, and his side was whole, there was no wound, no blood.

He knew, then.

He handed command over to his second, surprised at his own calm. He took horse, and rode back to camp. The sunset was pouring red-gold gilding over everything, the white tents, the colored banners, the gleaming armor of the returning Elves.

His father, with his head bare, his silver hair flying, and his robes in such disarray as he seldom ever allowed, came striding toward him. Gandalf was with him; his lined face under his broad-brimmed hat was stricken with grief.

“Oakenshield sent word, that this private acquaintance of yours was wounded. He seemed to think—-Mithrandir seems to think—-that you would much grieve for it,” the King said slowly, and he looked into Legolas’ face with almost disbelief. “If this is so, then I am sorry for it. I did not realize that you had become so familiar with this Dwarf that—-that it would be so great a matter.”

“Where is he?” cried Legolas. “Damn your bloodless heart, where is he?” Thranduil looked at him aghast.

“Legolas,” said Gandalf, holding out his hand to stay him. “Gimli still lives, but his hurt is grave.  An orc wounded him with a poisoned lance, I am afraid. I have sent for someone who has  wisdom in these things, beyond the common army healers. But I do not know if he can come to us, in time.”

Legolas heard the words, but he was only half-listening. He set out instantly for the Dwarrow side of the great camp. He had never set foot in it before. Today he strode up to the Erebor guards, with their great crossed pikes,  as if he made a habit out of entering their compound.

He intended to demand that they let him go to his friend, and to fight them to the ground if they denied him. But to his shock, a senior officer of some sort, decked in dragon-helm and diamond epaulettes, took charge of the scene at once, and shouted orders in their private language. He was lead right away to a lofty pavilion, which flew the Raven and Anvil pennants of the Mountain and the House of Durin.

He entered. Across the room, he saw it: Gimli lying half clothed on a pallet, his long hair fanned out upon a white sheet; healers working at his side, taking away cloths that were soaked in scarlet blood. His dear face was a horrible pale color, and very still.

Legolas took in the fact that Thorin, King Under the Mountain, was here in the tent, and the Crown Prince Fili and his brother, and a knot of senior counselors, all marked with shock and sorrow. He and his friend never discussed Gimli’s family, or his rank, in their lingering evenings together; but the Elf had a sudden dawning understanding that he knew nothing, nothing after all.

“Go to him, Thranduillion!” said Thorin harshly, as if he needed to be ordered, and the Crown Prince added more kindly, “My cousin has asked for you, Prince Legolas.”

Legolas knelt by Gimli’s side; he seemed deeply unconscious. “I am sorry,” said one of the bearded healers. “He’s fainted, the poor lad.”  The Elf put his hand to his Dwarf’s brow, then, and stroked back the sweat-dampened hair. Almost it seemed to him, that the still face stirred at his touch.

The two Dwarrow healers look at each other, and him. One of them said, tentative, “Call him.”

“Gimli, Gimli! It is I! It is I, my dear: I am with you!”  He bent over his true love’s good, brave face, and kissed his brow, and said, low, “Surely it is not time to part, surely not yet, mellon!”

And there it was: slowly, and as if fighting against a terrific weight, his friend’s eyes opened; but they seemed sightless. No sign of recognition dawned in his blank face, only a wave of weariness and pain.

“Again!” The elder Erebor doctor, a wise-looking dam with iron-grey braids, clutched his arm. “Call him again, Elf! You must keep him with you, do you see!” Her younger assistant looked confused, and said, “But he is not Khazâd, Mistress Olvi, this makes no sense!”

Legolas could scarcely parse their words, but he felt,  he knew, what he must do. “Gimli, to my side! Be with me, stay with me!” He had Gimli’s hand in his own, and suddenly, there was a pressure, and he was looking into his friend’s face and found there recognition in his deep, warm eyes: he was known.

“Elf friend, true friend, breathe with me now, let your heart beat still, be with me, as I am with you!”  Legolas could not explain where these words came from; their import, or their origin; they seemed to flow from his tongue as if he had always known them. He said them in Sindar, and then in Common Tongue. Then all at once,  Gimli spoke, and said a few faint words in Khuzdul. The Elf did not know this tongue, but he found the meaning nonetheless.

Gimli had said, with a sad smile only half reaching his lips: “I did not think to die in the company of an Elf.”

No , for you should stay, and live in my company: our place is by each other’s sides!” He held both of his friends’ hands in his now, and he felt as if he and Gimli were taking each struggling breath together.


If only the fools around him would stop distracting him!

“The Elf just understood that,” said the younger doctor. “I don’t supposed my cousin’s been teaching you our grammar,” said the Crown Prince, in a conversational tone, “All those nights in your tent?”  The other Dwarves were crowding around them now, and watching in fascination.

“What? No!” said Legolas, dumbstruck, wishing them all away. Is that more color in Gimli’s face? If only he could be certain . . .

“Well, that confirms it, they’re bonded,” said the older healer. “Subconscious calling, paired respiration—” “His breathing and his pulse just improved again,” replied the younger one, reaching around Legolas to feel Gimli’s pulse. “I’ve never heard of instantaneous trans-linguistic comprehension, but—” “We’ve just never seen bonding work with an Elven mind, before,” the other finished. “Ekarr, make sure to take notes.”

“Bonded! BONDED! What is the MEANING of this?” Somewhere behind him, Legolas heard his father’s voice raised in almost a screech. With a small part of his mind, the part that was not terrified for the person he loved, he felt sorry for Thranduil. This must all be arriving as a terrible shock to him.

Especially when Thorin, of all people, was the one replying. “Thranduil, you arrogant fool, what did you think would happen? Did you suppose your pretty idiot of a son could dally with one of the noblest lords of my house, and feel nothing of love? It appears that even your get is not so heartless and without honor!”

Thranduil buried his face in his hands. “Then we have had our victory at the cost of their hearts and their happiness!”

Gandalf stepped forward, and placed a weathered hand on his shoulder. “That would only be true, King Thranduil, if this bond meant unhappiness to Legolas and Gimli, and I think we may very likely find that it is not so. But let us bide: the work of healing must be completed, first! The shadow of this hurt has not passed, and the life of this brave warrior still hangs upon a thread!”

“Perhaps I may be able to remedy that.” A stranger stepped into the room, a tall figure of the race of Men, by his look, with a kindly, noble air. A simple circlet bound his dark hair, and his black cloak and armor were worn with battle. Yet despite his war-torn state, he carried himself with great majesty. A figure of a white tree was graven on the breast of his mail.

“Aragorn!” cried Gandalf, with joy. “King Elessar! You come in very good time, my lord!”

Everyone else in the tent looked at each other in great confusion. “Whom?” said Thorin, his black brows coming together. “By name, that’s the King of Gondor!” said Fili. “I don’t follow Southern politics,” said the healer Olvi, dismissive. “I thought the Army of Gondor was a hundred miles off!” said another Dwarrow officer.

“The Dúnedain? What on earth is one of Elrond’s strays doing here?” said Thranduil, haughty even in his utter distress.

“I’ve been telling you for years, Thranduil,” said Gandalf, patiently. “Heirs of Elendil, the Sword That Was Broken, the Return of the King who is promised—” “Yes, but they’ve never actually returned anywhere, have they, except to the skirts of Elrond!” said the Woodland King, moodily.

“Well, I’m here now,” said the Man with the White Tree, with patience.

“Please,” said Legolas, looking up at him. “Can you help him?”

“My name is Aragorn,” said the Man, kindly, “I am pleased to meet you, Legolas of Mirkwood. With your permission, I will tend to Gimli, Son of Gloin.”

They make room for him, although the Dwarves were muttering skeptically.  He placed a long, gentle hand on Gimli’s forehead and examined the wound in his side. The red-headed Dwarf caught the eye of Legolas, and raised a brow weakly. The Elf read in his expression, that he would say, “Who is this fellow, and what in the name of Mahal’s balls is he doing at my sickbed?” if he could summon the strength.  So he said aloud: “He is a King of the people of Men, he is here to help, I believe, because Mithrandir called him to our aid.”

Aragorn flashed Legolas an encouraging look, at that, and said directly to Gimli: “Indeed I am. You are suffering from a powerful Orc poison, which has sorely weakened you. Very great must be your strength, Gimli, to have survived it so long! And great is the strength of both your hearts: that you could call to him, Legolas, on the edge of the dark lands of death, and you Gimli, that you could hear and come to him! Let me see what I can do to bring you back further from the empty lands.”

He bowed his head over the Dwarf’s hand, and sang in an ancient tongue. To Legolas’ shock, he realized it was Quenya, the sacred language of the Eldar of the West, which few knew any longer in Middle-earth. Here it was on the lips of a Man!  Even those who did not understand it, felt a sense of calm and respite flowing over them. In Legolas’ breast, his heart leapt up, and looking at Gimli’s face, he thought he saw his pain receding.

Suddenly, the human King broke from his chant, and looked about the room.. “Have you by any chance, the herb called athelas?” he asked, not with much hope.

“Kingsfoil, my lord?” said the Dwarven healer, Olvi. “Yes. Ekarr, get it from my pack.” In a minute, the apprentice returned with the herb in a neat packet: the healers double-checked the tag. “Dried only, I’m afraid. Picked six weeks ago, apothecary gardens of Dale.”

“Thank you, my good Dwarrow! It is a pleasure to collaborate with professionals,” said Aragorn, and he bowed to them. They looked entirely won over. They also quickly supplied him with the bowl of steaming hot water he requested, and the healing scent of the crushed athelas filled the air.

Soon, Aragorn glanced round again,  and his smile went right to Legolas’ heart: “He will live, and he will recover fully. See, he has fallen into a wholesome, peaceful sleep. We should leave him to it.”

And somehow, everyone was made to leave them alone, at last.  Legolas did not notice exactly how it happened, only that the crowd was gone, and that the pain had fled from Gimli’s face, and then he fell asleep, too, by his side.

 

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Much later, they both rose, and Gimli leaned on Legolas’ arm, but staggered to his feet. “I’m sick of lying about, and looking at the roof of this tent! Let’s go find some proper food,” he said. “Are you saying you really didn’t tell your father anything?”

Legolas shrugged, and also punched him in the shoulder. Softly. “Do you confess you told Thorin Oakenshield you were in love with me? You didn’t tell me you were in love with me!”

“Apparently, you’re a bigger fool than I thought you were!" said Gimli, with exasperation. “How did you even live to be centuries old?”

Just as they were about to emerge from the tent, however, they heard voices. A cluster of voices.

“Honor demands that they be married!” said Thorin. “And they shall, if I have to spill a sea of Elvish blood to achieve it!”

“Oh, that’s a splendid attitude to family matters!” said Dain, in exasperation.

“I shall certainly forbid him to wed!” said Thranduil in a tone of utmost hauteur.

“Oh who’s asking you, you pretty princess!” Dain again. “Go back to yon forest and let your son decide for himself, since he clearly has better taste than ye!”

“Does this tent have a rear entrance?” said Gimli, stopping short. “Let us go find it,” Legolas answered. And with their arms around one another, they snuck away to discover their future together.

 

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