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Too Few Words  by annmarwalk

Too Few Words

Spring, 3020

She received him in her workroom, tucked away beside the office of the Master of the Works. It was furnished simply: drafting table, hanging lamp, stool, two chairs. All her tools ready to hand: parchment, pen, compass, straightedge. A small brazier to heat water for tea. She had crafted the brazier herself, spare and elegant; its design had been widely copied throughout Erebor. Now all had the luxury of hot tea, whenever they wished, as they worked.

She knew why he was coming to see her; there was always a way for word to spread informally, to test the waters, so to speak: “Gimli, son of Gloín, will be returning to Minas Tirith to assist in the restoration of the city; afterwards, he will lead a party to take up residence in the caves of Aglarond. He is in need of a skilled draftsman and has heard that you are the best, might you be interested?” She could have put a stop to it then; could have said, No, thank you, I am settled here, and prefer not to travel. I have comfortable apartments, and a cat. But she had not said a word, merely looked thoughtful when the subject was mentioned. So now Gimli son of Gloín, hero of the Pelennor, companion to the King, had begged leave to call upon her in her workroom, to invite her formally to join him. It mattered not whether it was Minas Tirith, or Aglarond, or anywhere in Middle-earth. He was coming to her.

She heard his booming voice in the corridor and smiled to think that he had needed to enlist the help of one of the apprentices to show him the way. But the voice she heard in reply was not that of one of their people, deep and melodious as water rushing over rock; but light, soft, like wind in the trees. Gimli bore a lantern when he arrived at her door; but his companion seemed to carry his light within him, like the first time starlight or moonlight had penetrated these dark corridors.

“Zei, daughter of Frór, may I present my friend and companion, Legolas Thranduilon, Prince of Mirkwood.” The prince bowed deeply, his eyes lively and curious, his manner gravely courteous. Zei nodded in return, carefully concealing her surprise. She busied herself for a few moments preparing the tea, serving it to her guests in fine olivewood cups lined with pewter.

Gimli spoke at some length, as was the custom for negotiations of this type. The terrible damage done to the gates of the city by the besiegers; the need for repairs, not so much now for defense but to accentuate the glory of the city and the kingship restored. Then, when the reconstruction work was done, on to the Glittering Caves. What a marvel, what joy for Dwarf-folk to live out their days amidst such loveliness! As Gimli spoke, the Elf-prince’s gaze never wavered from his face; his eyes mirroring his friend’s animation.

Finally, Gimli ran out of words, noticing, perhaps, that Zei was not quite as excited as he had expected. Indeed, she had sat quietly the whole time, nodding thoughtfully; but on the whole, curiously unresponsive. Perhaps, Gimli persisted, I have not been clear enough? About the gates, how the King wishes them reinforced with both steel andmithril? And the caves, how we will spend years, exploring and mapping, even before the first hammerstroke? The kings of both Gondor and Rohan have appropriated generous funds for these projects; all workers will be comfortably housed and well remunerated. Surely, an opportunity not to be missed!

But Zei shook her head, smiling. I thank you for your generous offer. It sounds most interesting, but I am settled here, and prefer not to travel. I have comfortable apartments, and a cat.

Gimli son of Gloin nearly choked on his tea; his companion pounded him on his back until he was recovered. Zei sat serenely through it all, then cheerfully escorted her guests to the door. As they turned to leave, though, Legolas Thranduilon caught her eye, and in that glance she saw his understanding, and compassion. And she in turn, speaking only with her eyes, responded, Keep him safe in your care.


When they were gone, she sketched them both: Gimli son of Gloin, dignified and handsome in his prime; Legolas Thranduilon, eyes warm with affection, gazing at his friend. After she passed on, the sketch was sent to Minas Tirith, where it came, somehow, into the hands of the king. He kept it with his private papers, wondering always at the skill of the unknown artist.

For not all the women take husbands: some desire none; some desire one that they cannot get, and so will have no other.(Appendix A – III, Durin’s Folk)

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