In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.
Song of Durin
The Hall shook. The dwarrowdam sized up the supporting columns critically. They held. So far. A roar thundered through the Hall causing everyone to cover their ears. The crackling of broken tunnels and the noxious fumes trailed into the last great Hall in Khazad-dûm bringing the sense of inevitable doom inside the hearts of last dwarrow resistance. At that moment the dam made a decision.
“OUT. Everyone out.” She ordered sharply. She put down her crown and pressed it into the hands of her son. “This is my last battle, Naín. I name you the king in my stead.” The ground was shaking continuously now. The ceiling was slowly coming down on their heads. The queen retreated a few steps leaving her shocked son standing in front of the last group of survivors. “My last order for you, Naín, is to guide our people out of these cursed Halls. I shall stall off the balrog, my son.”
“Naín, go. I’ll hold him off.” The dam ordered her young son. She grabbed her axe and run towards the mines, desperately hoping he would do as she said. Collapsing roof blocked the passage she used before anyone could follow her. A moment before it happened she noticed her son obeyed her, at last, and led away all of the remaining dwarrow out of the Hall.
“He’ll be a good king.” She whispered to the walls of her kingdom, the sense of inevitable doom filling her. The stones tried to comfort her. She felt their soothing influence, no matter how wounded they were by this invasion. They stood proud and unbroken for thousands of years. They withstood the Morgoth’s might and Sauron’s treachery. The dam put her palm on the stone wall trying to feel for the distant echoes of Mahal’s hammer and his unconditional love for his first daughter. These halls, full of precious mithril, were his gift to his firstborn.
“Courage, my daughter. There is no more time to waste.” She startled. Her father’s voice was as clear as a newly cut diamond. It reverberated through her with the truth. She closed her eyes trying to suppress her tears. The era of great Khazad-dûm was at the end. The dam tightened her grip on the axe, steeling herself for her self-appointed task. She quickly went through the passages, deep familiarity leading her to her foe. The mountain was radiating the pain from injures the flame beast caused. Her dwarrow needed more time to flee the kingdom. The dam sneaked down the hastily abandoned mines, noticing the signs of the approaching danger.
The more she continued to descend into the depths of her city, the hotter it was. In the narrow corridors, the air was fouled by the smell of burnt flesh. She almost tripped over a body of an unfortunate miner who wasn’t quick enough to flee before the wrath of the balrog descended on them. It was a terrible sight. The dam suppressed her feelings ruthlessly and continued. She wasn’t far from the beast’s lair. The stones were shrieking the warnings at her. She ignored them.
That was her purpose in this life. To stand against a balrog was certain death. That she knew. She had no choice but to stall for time. She hoped it would be enough for her son and her dwarrow to flee for safety.
The dam rushed out of the tunnel to meet her fate.
On the bridge bearing her name, she saw her foe. The fear squeezed her heart. She clutched her axe tighter, mentally preparing herself for her death. It was not getting easier no matter how many times she experienced it. The dam eyed the bridge sharply. It was very well made, one of the great wonders of dwarrow architecture. However the raging balrog damaged few keystones on the construction, she could take advantage of. It should be enough for what she had in mind. At least, she hoped.
Muttering a prayer to her first father she had chosen a spot to strike. “Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!” The dam cried out and attacked.
The queen’s axe struck true. The bridge started to shake violently. The dam didn’t waver in her furious attack on the stone. Glaring at the fell beast she prayed for it to go over the narrow edge. Finally, the balrog lost his balance and plummeted into depths of Black Pit. The queen smiled peacefully as the structure crumbled under her feet and buried the invader under the debris. Her dwarrow were saved.
With a voiceless scream, Gimli sat up, breathing heavily. Scrunching the tunic in her fist she tried to calm down her wildly beating heart. That dream again. Since the Ringbearer decided to carry on the quest through the Khazad-dûm, her dreams turned for worse. At first, she remembered only fragments – of blood, fear, and death. This was the first time she saw everything. It filled her with unease. She looked around to her companions – everyone slept soundly. Even that blasted elf, Thranduil’s son. It rankled her he could sleep so soundly and she was tormented by her dreams.
Those vivid dreams haunted her from her childhood. She was very young, barely 20 years old, when her cousins Fíli and Kíli, as well as her uncle Thorin, perished in the Battle of Five Armies, shortly after Erebor was reclaimed. Her adad, Gloin, was amongst the dwarrow who helped to kill the dragon and secure the mountain for the Line of Durin. She was very proud of her adad when she heard the news. However, the death of the king and his heirs cast the shadow over the reclamation of their home in the east.
She had only some indistinct memories of her travel from the Ered Luin to Erebor. It was during that time she experienced her first dream. For safety reasons it was deemed that the returning caravan would be taking a route through the Gap of Rohan and then following the Anduin river to the North. Mostly she remembered half-sneering and half-pitying faces of Silvan elves that acted as their guides through the Mirkwood until the caravan reached the Laketown and the remnants of Dale.
She glared at the infuriating elf. The youngest son of Thranduil. The leader of the patrol that captured and imprisoned Thorin’s company when they took a wrong turn in the Mirkwood during the quest. He might not remember her father but she never forgot his rudeness. Her adad had a lot to say about disrespectful princeling that insulted his wife and daughter. Still… There was something about him.
Gimli sighed and shook her head to get rid of the disruptive thoughts. She missed her amad desperately – her voice, her smell, her advice. She spent last weeks in the constant company of males, stubborn and uncooperative creatures, hidden as one of them. She was starting to chafe under her disguise, but there was nothing she could do about it. Her adad insisted. It was his only condition, reinforced by her oath to Mahal – not to knowingly reveal herself as a dwarrowdam – before he let her join the Fellowship.
At first, Gimli’s father was firmly against her decision to leave with the Fellowship, but she persuaded him. Using her silver tongue tutored in the ways of diplomacy by only other remaining dam of the Durin line, Princess Dís, she pointed out that no other dwarf in their midst was as well-trained as her. She might have been a bit young in their eyes, but she was the best-equipped one to represent the entire dwarrow race on the world-saving quest. It was her duty to see that cursed trinket destroyed. So, in the end, she was allowed to join the Fellowship, despite her adad’s reservations. Lord Elrond only raised an eyebrow questioningly, when she introduced herself as a son of Gloín, as she formally pledged herself to Frodo Baggins service. She was sure he knew she was a dam. Especially when a few special medicinal herbs found discreetly their way into her pack.
Studying the camp, Gimli sighed heavily. She wouldn’t be able to fell asleep again that night. Unnoticed, she shimmered out of her sleeping bag, putting the lessons of her uncle Nori to use. Earlier in the day, she noticed there was a lake in the vicinity. The dam longed to put off her disguise, at least for a few moments, and soak in the water to wash away weeks of dust from her body. It would be heavenly, she decided. With one last glance around the campfire, she snuck out.
It was a clear night. Only the stars and the moon lent the dam enough light to make her way towards the lake without any hindrance. Conveniently, the shore was an only short walk away from the camp – near enough for her to call for help if needed. The view was breathtaking. The darkness of night, the shimmering of stars and the moon illuminating the Durin’s Door on the other side of the lake.
Gimli put down her helmet and freed her tangled curls. She winced. Her disguise needed a great deal of work. Her clever fingers quickly undid her dishevelled braids. Gimli started humming while she worked at rebraiding her poor hair. The rough travel did them no favour. It was fitting to sing the Song of Durin when they were so close to the door Durin’s second incarnation commissioned from Narví and her elf. Some rare texts, surviving the abandonment of Khazad-dûm, described the scandal those two caused when they married shortly after the door was finished.
She was singing the last verse when she noticed something glittering in the lake, near the place she relaxed. At first, she thought it was only starlight reflecting on the water. Then she realized it was something different, precious. Gimli quickly finished the last braid and shrugged out her clothes. There was no need to soak them just for her need to assuage her curiosity about the trinket lost in the lake. Fearlessly, she waddled into the cold water, taking care not to disturb the water needlessly if there was some truth in legends of the water monster guarding the West Gate.
She gingerly grabbed the jewellery from the lake bottom and waded back to the shore. Carefully, Gimli cleansed it from the grime. She was holding a crown in her hands. A mithril crown decorated tastefully with exquisitely cut sapphires. It was a masterpiece of old, worth a lot of gold, since the mithril was very rare outside of Khazad-dûm. She turned the crown in her hands, curious whom it belonged to, until she felt an inscription under her fingers.
“By Mahal’s mighty hammer.” Gimli cursed in shock. The crown almost fell out of her hands when she realized what she was holding. It was the Crown of Durin, thought to be lost hundreds of years ago, after dwarrow fled Khazad-dûm – part of them returning to the east to the Ered Luin and the rest founding their new kingdom in the east in what would become Erebor one day.
There lies his crown in water deep.
Verse of the song echoed in her mind. She shook her head to clear it. She certainly wasn’t next incarnation of Durin. There was no sign at her birth. No mark on her body that would proclaim her to be the first of Mahal’s children. But a doubt niggled in her mind. That rare find had to be somehow connected to her dreams.
Gimli frowned to chase off those intrusive thoughts. No. She wasn’t Durin reborn. She didn’t want to be Durin. There was no way. It was just Mahal’s will leading her to find the crown. It was her duty now to guard it until Durin VII wakes and walks again amongst her people. All of sudden the crown grew heavy in her hands like it was chastising her. The dam quickly wrapped the jewellery in her spare tunic and hid it in her pack. Anything to get it out of her sight.
She sighed with relief, as a heavy feeling of expectations left her. Without any warning, a hand fell on her shoulder startling her out of her wits. She jumped in fright, quickly turning around, and slashed her knife blindly at her attacker. “You pointy-eared menace. You almost killed me with fright.” She shouted when she recognized the elf. “Don’t follow me again if you don’t want to get a knife in stomach next time.”
The elf tripped and fell on his ass undignifiedly, barely avoiding her knife. He was staring at her incredulously. Just… What she was thinking to attack him so unexpectedly. He just wanted to make sure, she was all right. The elf’s eyes widened when he finally grasped what his eyes were seeing. Slowly his scorching gaze trailed dwarf’s body, from head to toes, pausing briefly on her generous chest.
“Why are you staring at me?” Gimli barked in irritation.
The elf prince only mutely waved his hand at her body and looked away in embarrassment.
Gimli glanced down her body and blanched. She forgot she was clad only in her underthings. It was as clear as a diamond that she was a female, not a male like everyone thought. She blushed brightly, grabbed her discarded tunic, and ordered gruffly. “Turn around, elf.”
With haste he obeyed her. She seemed to be irritated enough to do something unseemly to him if he didn’t listen to her.
Legolas squirmed in his place n the ground, involuntarily listening to the rustling of clothes the female was adorning. When he woke from his sleep and noticed she was missing from their camp, he went looking for her wondering, why she left the safety of their camp. Fortunately, she left enough tracks he could follow her easily. And what he found was certainly a surprise. With his unexpected discovery, a lot of things about dwarf’s… Gimli’s… the behaviour started to make a sense.
Without her armour and helm, she couldn’t be mistaken for anything else than a female. Beautiful female, his traitorous mind corrected, and Legolas had to push down a blush. He couldn’t believe he found her attractive. She was quite different than elven women. Not as tall, of course, but taller than an average dwarf. Long auburn hair and clear blue eyes, creamy white skin, fine bone structure, and bountiful curves. She looked young. Barely off age, he estimated. Legolas couldn’t believe her father allowed her to go with a group of unknown males into the wilds on the quest at which end she would stand against Sauron in Mordor.
Gimli finished with clothing herself. Legolas stood up and faced her. He was surprised to see her back in the disguise. It was flawless. If he didn’t see earlier with his own eyes she was a female, he would have never guessed it. But that might be the purpose of her little deception. He bowed lightly. “I would like to apologize, my lady, for invading your privacy in such a manner. It won’t happen again.”
Gimli grimaced when she heard him refer to her with a female pronoun. “None of that my lady nonsense. Do you hear me, Legolas? I don’t want anyone else to know I am a dwarrowdam. You are not going to treat me differently. And if you will…” The dam glared at him and hissed. “I will use my bluntest knife to shear your hair off. Are we clear?”
Legolas touched his hair and hastily agreed. “Of course, Gimli. I won’t breathe a word.”
“See that you don’t.” Gimli snapped out and without another word, she walked back in the direction of their camp. That blasted elf tagged along.
The fellowship was standing in front of the Door of Durin staring at it intensely. The ithildin was shimmering beautifully in the moonlight. Gandalf frowned at the inscription. The key to open the gate was hidden in the riddle decorating the elegant arch. The wizard took his staff and hit the doors above the Star of Fëanor muttering a spell. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t that easy. The makers of this door accounted for the magic of Maia. The gate stayed closed.
“You won’t get inside without the correct password,” Gimli muttered under her breath.
“And, my dear Gimli, do you know the password?” the Grey Pilgrim turned around and addressed the dwarf. “I would like to see how you would fare against Narví’s masterwork.”
“Narví was a gifted craftswoman. And it is said that the door was projected as a joint-venture with her beloved elf. The password, they chose, had to be something simple, something symbolizing their union and friendship between the dwarrow of Khazad-dûm and the elves of Eregion.” Gimli mused aloud.
“Something simple. Something obvious.” the elf murmured. “Gandalf, please, read the inscription on the door again.”
Gimli’s eyes rested on Legolas. A sense of familiarity flooded her. “Mellon.” She whispered, unawares. The gate rumbled and swung open. The fellowship stared incredulously between the jawing entrance and their dwarf. Except for one of the hobbits. Pippin was throwing stones into the lake to pass the time while others tried to guess the password.
“Fool of Took.” Gandalf roared and grabbed his arm roughly. Startled Pippin dropped the last stone on the ground as an irate wizard dragged him inside the mines.
Unfortunately, it was too late.
The water guardian woke from its sleep. And it was hungry. It slithered out of the lake, following the smell of its prey inside the mountain. It attacked suddenly. One of its tentacles caught Frodo and tried to drag him outside. The hobbit’s scream alerted fellowship of the danger. Boromir reacted. He was the closest one to the poor Frodo. He drew his sword and cut off the tentacle that clutched the hobbit. Legolas grabbed the Ringbearer and run from the beast.
“Don’t stand here. Go on. Inside.” Aragorn commanded. The fellowship ran blindly deeper in the mine. The beast followed them. Its large body collapsed the gate and imprisoned the fellowship inside the Moria.
“I’m not going to run from that monster. Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!” Gimli decided and attacked. The dam’s axes flashed in the shadows of the dwarf city, injuring several of the beast’s limbs in quick succession.
“Gimli, what are you doing?” Legolas was pissed off. The female dwarf was attacking the water guardian. His strict upbringing urged him to help her. He deposited Frodo in Aragorn’s arms and ran back. He shot two arrows to help the infuriating dam. While she was poetry of violence in motion, the beast had too many tentacles to safely reach its weak spot. Gimli ducked under one of its limbs whirling her axe with precision, trying to get to its neck.
“Its eyes, Legolas. Aim for its eyes.” Gimli roared and sliced off another slimy tentacle. The elf listened to her. He took an aim and his arrows struck true. As soon as it was blinded, Gimli jumped up its body cut off the beast’s head.
“This is a great example of dwarf-elf cooperation.” Gandalf was delighted as the water monster collapsed limply on the ground.
The aforementioned pair were glaring each other heatedly. “If you didn’t challenge that beast so recklessly,” Legolas hissed angrily, “I wouldn’t be obligated to save your ass.”
Gimli snapped snottily. “I had everything under my control.”
Legolas only raised his eyebrow and flicked a bit of slime from her shoulder.
Gimli just rolled her eyes and took a step back. “Keep your hands to yourself, Legolas.”
“If you two are finished with courting, we should continue.” Aragorn teased them both. The elf and the dwarrowdam reddened and leapt apart. Taking pity at the oblivious pair Aragorn continued. “Gimli, I think you mentioned earlier your cousin Balin and several of his men had managed to occupy Moria and hold it successfully against orcs and goblins. Can you tell us where they are based?”
The dam paused, deep in thought. “Something is not quite right.” Gimli was forced to admit reluctantly. “We should have met some guards at the entrance, but there was no one there. It is also true that we, the Ereborian dwarrow, didn’t get any news for several months from Khazad-dûm. But it was nothing out of ordinary. The news travel slowly through the dwarrow realms. Also, the court didn’t think it was necessary to worry about the expedition because Balin, even though he was considered a scholar, was an experienced warrior. He was supported by his apprentice Ori, also a veteran of the Battle of Five Armies. Last we heard, they succeeded in fighting off a major offensive mounted by orcs.”
Gimli pondered on the passages leading from their current location in several directions. In the dim light of Gandalf’s staff, she noticed a familiar mark on the wall. “Follow me.” She insisted and entered one of the tunnels. “We should use this passage.”
Gimli ran down the sturdy staircase, neatly avoiding the ruble blocking her way. “Gandalf, if you can give us more light.” The dam asked. Wizard smiled enigmatically and the end of his staff brightened. The light penetrated the darkness around them.
“Welcome to the Moria, the greatest of dwarrow kingdoms,” Gandalf said to his astonished fellows. The majestic pillars, lining the main road, faded away in the darkness far ahead of them.
Gimli, finding her stone sense was amplified exponentially by the presence of vast quantities of mithril, led her companions deeper and deeper inside the mines. The stones and metal embedded deeply in the walls whispered to her, telling her of the secrets of ancient times. She felt very much welcomed in these grand halls of her ancestors.
The welcoming tone suddenly changed into one of an urgent warning. Gimli, heading their calls turned abruptly to right, ignoring Gandalf’s stern admonishments. The signs of battle were everywhere. The dead dwarrow lay haphazardly on the ground. Their bodies carried the signs of violence.
“No. No.” Gimli shouted. She collapsed on the ground in tears.
“So, it is as I feared. They are dead,” Gandalf commented when he noticed an opulent stone tomb in the middle of the room. On the stairs in front of it sat a dwarf – in one hand he held an axe and in second a book.
“This is no dwarf kingdom. This is a tomb.” Boromir muttered.
“Ori.” Gimli recognized the dead dwarf. “This is Ori.”
Gandalf took the book from Ori’s hands and opened the last written page. He read aloud the last lines. “There are too many of them now to defeat them. The Durin’s Bane was awoken by our mining operation. We thought it was dead. That it was long dead in an account of the sacrifice of the last incarnation of Durin. No such luck. The fell beast woke from its age-long deep sleep and killed the miners that manned the operation before they could sound the alarm. With its awakening, the orcs and goblins flooded the previously empty tunnels. They cut off every way out leading to the East Gate. Our only option was to turn back and use the West Gate. Soon we were surrounded. Balin, our lord, used one chance and attacked the orc desperately. He fell in the ensuing battle. We managed to recover his body and we made our way to the west. We buried him in these chambers, as befitting of the first dwarf lord of Khazad-dûm since Durin himself. As I sit here and write these lines, I know a certain death waiting for me. I swore to defend Lord Balin’s last resting place from the desecration of the hands of orcs and goblins. It is my destiny.”
“We have to go on.” Aragorn urged. “Gimli, please, lead the way.”
Tormented Gimli turned her eyes to the man. “They deserve something better than to be left lying here in the open air, and not properly buried in the stone.”
“There is nothing we can do for them, now. We have to continue,” whispered Legolas in her ear when he bent over to offer her help in getting up from the ground. It was difficult to see her in such a state, mourning the fate of her lost kin.
“I swear I’ll return someday.” She said and let Legolas take her out of the room. In the deference to her feelings, the fellowship continued in silence. It was the only thing they could do for the dwarf. Gimli blindly followed her instincts, making her way towards another great hall, leaving her dead kin behind.
“It’s not the throne room but it should be large enough for us to rest comfortably. I think this served as some kind of audience hall.” Gimli said and claimed one of the corners, the furthest from the rest of fellowship, for herself. She needed a space to digest the terrible news of the fate of Balin’s expedition.
Legolas didn’t know what possessed him but he desperately wanted to console her. He was on the verge of throwing out the caution and head towards the dam when Aragorn clasped his shoulder in warning. “Let her mourn, mellon nín. We can’t help her. We don’t know enough about the mourning rites of her people. Gimli has to cope with this loss alone.”
Legolas turned away from the female with a heavy heart. She wouldn’t accept any comfort from him. Under her disguise, Gimli was shedding tears. While she sang softly a mourning song for her fallen kin, the hobbits managed to light the fire and cook the dinner.
The meal was digested quickly and quietly. Even always boisterous hobbits were influenced by the sombre mood.
“I’ll take the first guard,” said Gimli as soon as she finished her meal. Anything to get her mind off the grim knowledge she got about the failure of Balin’s expedition.
“No, I will take it.” Legolas interrupted the dam rather abruptly. “You have a right to mourn, so take your time.”
Gimli only nodded in acceptance. She wasn’t particularly grateful for more time to ponder Balin’s fate, but she had few lesser rites to perform before she was satisfied. The proper mourning rites were necessary for the dwarrow spirits to reach safely the Mahal’s Halls. It wouldn’t take her more than half an hour. Then she could finally rest. The strain on her gifts and her current unexpected position as a leader she had to assume was weighing on her heavily. It seemed that the elf wasn’t as bad as she thought.
There was nothing you could do, Durin, to avert the disaster of their own making. They sealed their fate when they choose to ignore your sacrifice. The stones whispered to the dam as she prepared herself to sleep.
You are mistaken. I am not Durin. Half-asleep dam protested.
The stones only laughed at her denial and a familiar verse echoed in her mind.
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.
“Your majesty, your majesty, sound an alarm.” A miner shouted as he collapsed on the floor in the middle of the audience hall. “The invasion is imminent.”
The queen quickly descended from her throne to the poor dwarf. He was heavily injured. His clothes were burnt and smelled of sulphur. “Tell me. What has happened?” The dam urged him as she bent down her head to hear him better. With his last strength, the miner uttered only one word.
The queen paled rapidly and caught the eyes of her son. She stood up abruptly. “Sound the alarm, Naín. We have to evacuate the entire kingdom.”
“Amad, what did the miner told you?” The young dwarf wanted to know.
“Balrog. We were invaded by a balrog.” The queen replied.
“Peregrin Took. What did you do, you young fool.” Gandalf’s shout ripped Gimli from her sleep. “You revealed our position to the enemy.” He barely said it, and deep drumming reverberated through the walls.
“Up. Wake the fuck up.” Gimli roused the others. In a matter of a few minutes, they were packed and prepared to leave in haste. The clatter of armour and weapons was approaching rapidly their location.
“Come on.” Gimli murmured and cocked her head inquisitively. There was something behind that wall. She didn’t know where the knowledge came from, and she didn’t particularly care. The dam quickly tapped a certain sequence on the inscribed runes. A secret door was revealed. The others were surprised. But not for long, as the orcs were almost upon them. They hurried inside after their dwarf.
Several orcs managed to follow them inside the secret tunnel before the wall closed again. Boromir, Aragorn and Legolas stayed behind to deal with them.
The stones were whispering Gimli the secrets – where to run and what to avoid. How the orcs were rushing through the several corridors in an attempt to cut them off and ambush them in the next chamber. It was something Gimli refused to let happen.
At the next crossroad, she turned sharply left and followed some kind of instinct to avoid the ambush. The present started to mix with the visions from her dreams. She led the fellowship through the increasingly familiar tunnels. She didn’t even know how and they found themselves on a heavily damaged bridge over the Black Pit.
“Don’t dawdle. We are out of time.” Gimli said, looking at the ruined structure. The stones were warning her urgently of rapidly approaching danger. The orcs were only a few minutes behind them. “We have to get on the other side. The bridge should withstand the pressure.”
Legolas stared at the bridge dubiously. “Come on,” Gimli yelled out and stepped on the bridge. The fellowship carefully followed after her.
BALROG! The stones cried out in warning. The ground trembled violently under them. The support beams cracked under the pressure, and the construction was collapsing in parts, fortunately trapping orcs on the other side of the pit. The fellowship quickly reached the other side of the chasm.
From the depths of a mine, a beast of fire sprung up on the crumbling bridge.
“No. Go. Run, you fools.” Gandalf shouted facing the balrog on the bridge. “This is something you won’t be able to stand against. Your weapons won’t help us against this enemy. So, go. Now.”
Gandalf caught Gimli’s eyes and yelled in her mind. DURIN!!! Get them out. I’ll delay him.
The wizard’s power poured in and shattered the barrier she didn’t even realize was there, freeing the memories from her previous lives. Her last life as the Durin VI. was most vivid. With denial swept away in the flood of her memories, Gimli had to accept the inevitable. She clenched the crown, hidden in her bag, in her fist and nodded to the wizard.
The fight against the balrog featured prominently in her thoughts. She cringed. They had no choice but to leave Gandalf behind. Gimli sternly prompted others. “You heard Gandalf. Come on. This tunnel will lead us out of the city.”
“Are we just going to let him die?” Legolas shouted in denial.
Tears falling from her eyes and newly-awakened memories swirling from her mind, she replied angrily. “And what do you think you could do against that nightmare beast. Even Durin’s sacrifice wasn’t enough to get rid of it permanently. Do you want to spur Gandalf’s last wish? He is buying us time to get out from here.”
Legolas closed his eyes trying to suppress his grief. He didn’t like it but her words made a sense.
The men and the elf grabbed the distraught hobbits and ran after her. She quickly ducked in narrow passages, deep drumming throbbing in her bones. Gimli led them through her lost kingdom using the half-remembered secret tunnels. She didn’t know how long they run – be it hours or days – until they stumbled out of the Mountains close by the East Gate. The fellowship collapsed on the banks of Kheled-zâram in grief.
Gimli closed her eyes, tears wetting her cheeks. Hobbits were wailing after Gandalf, pleading with him to return. The men and the elf were silent in their grief. She knew the fellowship was on the precipice. Their first casualty was a powerful wizard. It promised nothing good for the rest of the quest. Gimli steeled herself. There was no time to mourn Tharkûn. The orcs and goblins from Khazad-dûm were on their heels.
“Lothlórien.” She murmured. Galadriel would shelter them for a time. Willy elf queen was one of few beings who could recognize her on sight. “Lothlórien, the Golden Wood. We are going there to rest and restock the supplies.” The dwarrowdam decided.
The defeated group followed after their dwarf companion. In their grief it didn’t just register to them Gimli was leading them. A dwarf leading the Fellowship to the elf kingdom looking for sanctuary. How her ancestors had to rage in the Halls of Mahal.
Gimli stopped suddenly and carefully took out her favourite knife. Someone was following them. Others became more alert when they noticed she armed herself. But they were still too lost in their grief to be much of use. She wrestled her feelings, ruthlessly suppressing them, in preparation for an ambush. After all, she had six lifetimes of experiences to draw upon.
The elf patrol jumped down from the trees and surrounded the group. Gimli frowned when she saw who was their captain. Reluctantly, she put away her weapon. There was no need to ruffle their feathers more than necessary.
“Mae govannen, travellers.” Haldir greeted the mismatched group. “My lady is awaiting you. Please, follow me.” He commanded in Sindarin. “Cover the dwarf’s eyes.”
Gimli narrowed her eyes haughtily at the elf and turned up her nose. With fluent Sindarin she replied. “Mae govannen, Haldir.” The fellowship just stared at her. It seemed their dwarf was full of surprises. She ignored them in favour of lecturing the patrol. “It is a high sign of impoliteness to accost the weary travellers on their way without introducing themselves. I am sure, Haldir, it was just an oversight to order your men to cover my eyes, and in the language, you couldn’t be certain I understand on top of it as if I didn’t know where I was going. I’m sure such an observant elf, long-time warrior and leader, would notice it was me who was guiding this group to the Lothlórien.”
Haldir frowned. The tone, the expression on the dwarf’s face and his bearing were very familiar to him. He couldn’t place whom the dwarf was reminding him of. He huffed. He felt like an errant elfling scolded by his parents. No matter he was thousands of years older than the dwarf. And it rankled the dwarf was telling truth. He was leading the fellowship directly to the main square in the city. Haldir motioned his men to retreat.
Gimli only raised an eyebrow at the elf’s sullen attitude and turned to her companions. “After this brief entertaining interlude provided by our escort, let’s continue on our way.”
The weary group, slightly entertained by the tongue lashing she dealt to Haldir, followed Gimli. Aragorn stepped beside her. “You understand Sindarin? I thought the dwarrow scorned the elves and everything of theirs – be it their language, their jewellery or their architecture.”
Gimli glanced at Aragorn and replied. “You didn’t meet a lot of dwarrow, Strider.”
The Dunédain blushed lightly. “I was raised in Rivendell by Lord Elrond. I was there when the company of Thorin Oakenshield stopped there.”
“Ah. Elrond.” Gimli mused. “He is one of the least prejudiced elves. If I remember correctly, he was raised by two of Fëanor’s sons, I forget their names, and both of them were proclaimed dwarrow friends in our distant past. I’m glad, their lessons seem to make a lasting impression on him.”
“We are here.” Legolas interrupted sharply their banter, not liking the rapport between Aragorn and the dwarrowdam.
Artains. Gimli bowed to the royal couple and reached out to the familiar mind.
In this age, I am called Galadriel. The elf queen reminded the dwarrowdam gently. Hello, Durin.
Gimli, please. In this life I am Gimli. I am far enough removed from the throne of Erebor I won’t be chained to it. I won’t be forced to lead under heavy expectations of my previous deeds and failures since I don’t bear Durin’s name. This time I’ll choose my fate.
As you say, Gimli. But fate won’t be thwarted. Galadriel warned her.
I’ll do as I always did, Galadriel. My father’s will shall be done in the twilight of this Age. As I stood with Gil-Galad and Elendil in the days of Last Alliance standing against Sauron’s might, as I stood with Fëanor and Valar against Morgoth, I shall stand against darkness once again.
You are early. I expected you to be born in the next generation as the heir of the King Under Mountain.
Gimli smiled sharply. I don’t think so, Galadriel. My One is here. And now. I’ve endured Ages without him – working, building and fighting against evil with an only vague promise from Udmas and Mahal he’ll be reincarnated one day. Let’s just say I lost my patience with Valar and took matters in my own hands.
Aulë wasn’t pleased with your defiance. I can see your mind is in turmoil. Your awakening was vastly different from your previous ones.
I think I prefer it to remember my past lives from my childhood. Gimli shrugged. Mahal might be my first father, but it was his will that linked my soul with my elf. I won’t be denied his love.
Oh, Durin. He doesn’t remember? Galadriel asked gently.
Gimli turned away her face and whispered. No. Not yet. But I hope.
Celeborn squeezed his wife’s hand gently to turn her attention to their guests. The queen smiled ethereally. “Welcome to the Lothlórien, travellers. May your hearts and souls find solace under these trees.”
The Silvan prince was wandering aimlessly under the soothing glow of Golden wood. He missed Gimli. She was secluded somewhere with Lady Galadriel for the last few days. The Fellowship was only told she needed in-depth healing and personal attention of the queen. He could only guess what it was about.
Legolas took a deep breath. He almost forgot how the healthy forest looked like. The Mirkwood was tainted for a long time. It was a relief to leave its borders, truth be said. Now, he could easily discern the negative influence tained Mirkwood had on its king.
Legolas. Walk with me. Galadriel asked the prince. Now, that she saw him and Durin at the same place and time, she could see the bond tying them. The future had changed. Durin’s… Gimli’s defiance caused the ripples with far-reaching consequences. There was some truth in reborn’s queen conviction – she changed her fate.
My lady. Legolas bowed and gallantly offered the queen his arm, his royal upbringing coming to fore.
Gimli. I see you discovered her true gender. What do you think about her? The queen asked bluntly while she was steering their path in a certain direction. It was very uncharacteristic of her, but she needed to know how much work was ahead of her in getting those two together. Her mirror was of no help to her in this matter. But maybe if Legolas would look in it…
She is… stubborn, proud and beautiful. Dangerously competent and fiery. She is… I don’t have the words to describe her properly. Maybe I don’t need many words. Maybe I need just one. The Silvan prince mused.
Is that so?
Legolas blushed. There was one word that flashed through my mind when I saw her at Elrond’s Council for the first time.
And what was that word?
I’m not sure I should disclose it. It’s a dwarfish term. But when I met her I had a strange feeling it suited her perfectly.
Do you wish to look into my mirror? The elf queen suggested when they stopped in front of the basin.
And what would I see? Legolas asked as he peered inside curiously.
Galadriel just smiled.
“And who you might be? I’ve never seen someone like you.” A soft tenor interrupted her thoughts. The dwarrowdam was glaring intently at the particularly stubborn stone wall. She was sure an entrance was near. She whirled in surprise drawing her dagger out of her clothes. Ah, a First-born. She realized and put the dagger away.
“My father named me Durin. I am the first of Smith’s children. At your service, master elf.” The female dwarf bowed regally.
“Naugrím? I’ve heard about you.” The elf muttered in surprise. “I thought you settled in the mountains in the North and the West.
Durin glared at the elf. “And I heard about you weed-eaters. You are rather rude for a First-born. You didn’t even introduce yourself properly before insulting me.”
The elf flushed at the female’s reprimand. He bowed deeply and kissed the back of her hand. “I beg your pardon, my lady. it was not my intention to offend you. Please, if you’ll be gracious and let me fix the lapse in my manners. My name is Aranion. Mae govannen, lady Durin.”
The dwarrowdam blushed prettily. Her hand lay forgotten in elf’s grasp.
“Thirty-eight. Thirty-nine. How many?” Aranion shouted through the band of orcs. It was meant to be a simple scouting mission. Just their luck… They fell into an ambush.
“Forty-four,” Durin replied, smirking bloodthirsty, her axe gleaming dangerously in the air. She swiftly blocked an oncoming attack and flicked a dagger out of her sleeve at the orc creeping behind Aranion. “Pay attention.” she admonished him and twirled back to avoid a sword aiming to behead her.
“Are you counting correctly?” The elf asked her incredulously as he let loose twin arrows at the orcs that were trying to surround Durin.
“Forty-five, forty-six. I’m just better warrior, elf.” Durin huffed between her kills. “Forty-seven.” She called out her final count.
“You won. This time.” The elf admitted grudgingly eying the carnage around them.
Durin pulled him down and kissed him wildly on the mouth. She complained against his lips. “Shut up, already. And kiss me again.”
“Meleth nín. You are beautiful.” Aranion breathed out. The white dress, she donned for the occasion, accentuated her curves she hid under armour otherwise. The elf and dwarrow runes embroidered with mithril on her bodice and sleeves conveyed the well-wishes and hopes for their future. Her red hair was twisted up for the occasion and held up by her mithril crown.
“Amrâlimê.” The dam smiled brilliantly at her elf. She walked up to him confidently and put her hands into his. Looking deeply into his eyes she bared her soul to him. “Aranion. My One. After I awoke from my long sleep I walked alone for years. I despaired I would never find you. Remember that first time we’ve met? I was quite put out by Mahal he chose such a rude elf for my other half.”
Aranion laughed. “And I remember meeting a proud dwarrowdam sassing me at every turn until she wore down my defences and made me love her.”
She squeezed his hands and recited her vow in Khuzdul and in Sindarin. “I pledge my undying love to you, Aranion, as I invite you to share my life. I promise to be kind, loving, respectful, and trustworthy so that together, our dreams of a beautiful future can come true. I will cherish our union, amrâlimê, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”
“Durin, meleth nín. On this day I promise to love and care for you and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love. I promise to respect and support you, to be patient and loving towards you, to work by your side to achieve the things we value and dream of, and to savour our time together. I pledge to you, Thatrudajnûna, all of these things from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”
Aranion bent down and pulled his wife in a kiss. The couple glowed lightly, sealing their union in the eyes of Valars, for all eternity.
“Pregnant? I’m pregnant?” The dam screeched. “How is it possible? I can’t be pregnant. I have much to do. Khazad-dûm isn’t finished. Not by far. We had barely begun. I can’t just stop now and wait a year. Not possible. We need to finish outer fortification before next winter.”
Aranion took his wife into his arms and cried joyously. “It’s a gift from Eru, meleth nín.”
The rest dwarrow ignored the display bustling busily around the half-finished royal apartments. They were used to it. Their lady and her husband were passionate beings prone to arguing and making up at the drop of hat.
“You are barely pregnant, Durin. There is enough time to finish the next construction phase.” Aranion tried to calm his wife.
“The plans were distributed to the appropriate guilds already. I think Jonys would be a great second-in-command and the captain of the guard. And I will have enough time to start planning next expansion.” Durin mused aloud. She suppressed her worries ruthlessly. She couldn’t afford to be distracted during such a crucial time. She was the leader of Longbeards. She should act like it and prepare herself for every eventuality. Carefully she entwined her fingers with her husband’s on her stomach and smiled brilliantly. A gift form Eru, indeed.
“NO. NO. Don’t you dare to die. Don’t leave us.” Durin pleaded with her husband. “Please. Please. Please, Aranion. Wake up.”
Aranion opened his eyes with difficulty. The wound in his side was too deep. It couldn’t be healed. He put his hand on Durin’s protruded stomach. She was only days away from giving birth. He regretted he wouldn’t meet his son. He choked out. “Saving your life and the life of our child is everything. You have to live for us both and raise him well. I shall give you one last gift. Farewell, meleth nín.” He breathed out last. His body glowed brightly as his fëa left his body. Unwilling to leave his wife defenceless in this darkening world a part of his fëa followed their marriage bond and nestled deep in Durin’s soul.
“WHY? Why?” She sobbed clutching his lifeless body to her. “Return him, father. Please, return him to me.”
Mahal appeared in front of his favourite child, eyeing speculatively the unmoored fëa of her husband hovering over her protectively. “Oh, my child.” Mahal lamented. “I can’t return your husband to you. He passed to the Halls of Mandos. And my brother won’t part with him easily. Unless….”
“Unless what?” Durin demanded to know.
Mahal sighed not liking he had to deceive her. “When you were born, a prophecy was made. You shall be born seven times to the Arda into the times of strife to lead dwarrow to prosperity. I think Námo can be persuaded to return Aranion back to you in the future, once he is healed and reembodied.”
Durin bowed respectfully accepting the burden of her fate. “I’m at your disposal, father.”
Only then Aranion followed the Námo’s call to the Halls of Mandos leaving his wife and life behind.
Legolas breathed out as the mirror left him from his thrall. He stumbled and Galadriel caught him.
“Where is she? Where is my wife? Where is Durin?” He croaked out. The images mirror showed him unlocked the memories buried deep in his fëa. The past and present blended and his soul cried for its mate.
“Gimli. She wants to be known as Gimli.” The elf queen corrected him gently. “Be careful with her, please. She spent six lifetimes without you. She almost lost her hope to see you ever again before the Remaking. Then you met in Elrond’s realm and she was crestfallen you didn’t remember her.” Galadriel paused for a moment. “Also I shouldn’t be one to remind you, Legolas, that the tension between the dwarrow of Erebor and the elves of Mirkwood is considerable without adding your complicated relationship in the equation.”
Legolas bowed gratefully to the queen. “I shall heed your words, my lady. But I’ve not seen my wife for thousands of years. That was Námo’s doom. The punishment for using a part of my fëa to prolong her first life.”
“Then go, Aranion… Legolas. She is in the gardens sitting on my favourite fountain.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
Gimli traipsed around the grounds aimlessly, looking for one of few stone structures in the Lothlórien. She felt a bit uncomfortable out of her armour, clad in a white dress and her mithril crown on her head. Fortunately, most of the Fellowship was still asleep when a group of elf-maids descended upon her. Bearing in mind her oath to her ada not to reveal herself unnecessarily to the fellowship, she made herself scarce. Although she cherished the look on Haldir’s face when he finally recognized her.
The dam was ill at ease with all the trees around her. Too much greenery to her taste and not enough solid stone. Fortunately, she found this treasure lost in the midst of Galadriel’s gardens. She sat at the fountain and touched a rune cleverly engraved as an ornament. The fountain was Durin’s gift to Galadriel in the Second Age, before the Rings were forged.
Gimli smiled lightly and turned her face to Legolas. “Thousands of years had passed and your accent is still terrible.”
The elf prince came closer to the dam and placed his palm lightly on her cheek. “Meleth nín. You are beautiful. You shine just like on our wedding day.”
“She made me wear this dress.” Gimli murmured. She closed her eyes savouring his touch on her skin. “Galadriel couldn’t help herself and had to meddle.”
Legolas bent down and carefully placed his forehead on Gimli’s. “I’m grateful to her. Only Eru knows, how long it would take me to remember everything on my own. If ever.”
“My father will never forgive me,” Gimli whispered to her elf and stole a kiss from his lips.
The elf prince lost himself dam’s blue eyes. “Nor will mine. But… Let me braid your hair.” He suggested impulsively, forgetting Galadriel’s warnings. “You are missing your betrothal and marriage braids. It vexes me.”
“Are you sure, Legolas? We are on the brink of war against Sauron.” Gimli warned him. “And for the record your last gift to me sucked. I spent thousands of years mourning your loss while I raised our half-dwarf half-elf child.”
“I missed you, meleth nín. For thousands of years, I felt something was missing in my life. I didn’t know what it was, until I saw you again months ago in Rivendell. I was drawn to you since the beginning, even in your disguise, but I didn’t understand why. Therefore I sublimed it by a dislike. And then I came upon you on the shores of the lake near the West gate of Khazad-dûm. I was struck speechless by your beauty. You became a distraction on this quest.” Legolas admitted as he wrapped a lock of Gimli’s hair around his finger. “I love you. I loved you then and I love you now. I vow I will love you for all eternity. I won’t be separated from you ever again. I refuse. Please, Gimli, just be mine. Be my love, my partner in love and war. Be the mother of our future children. Be my everything from this day onward. My Queen. My One. Thatrudajnûna.”
“Legolas.” Gimli breathed out his name and melted into his embrace.
In the weeks spent in Lothlórien, a new understanding bloomed between Silvan prince Legolas and Gimli, the dwarf. When the Fellowship left Lothlórien, their grief over Gandalf was greatly lessened. The gifts from Lady Galadriel renewed the Fellowship’s will to see their dangerous quest to its end – to destroy the ring and Sauron with it.