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It took Gimli precious seconds to comprehend, to truly internalise what she had said.
Dwarves have very quick minds, so this was extraordinary. Gimli knew that other, less enlightened races, especially Elves, thought that since Dwarves were captivated by gold and gems, and didn't spout off poetry with the slightest provocation, that they were slow thinkers. This, of course, was absolute rubbish. The members in their small company, the Men and hobbits, Gandalf, too, had been far more perceptive than that. No, it wasn't that Gimli's mind was at all torpid; it was the words themselves that she had uttered in her low, resonant voice. This being, this radiant, magisterial, luminous creature had defended him. She had defended Gimli's enthusiasm to see his forebears' home; in doing so, she had rebuked her husband.
Gimli was awed. Enraptured. Spellbound. That must be it. Without a doubt her power rivaled Gandalf's, and Elrond's, for that matter; this had to be Elvish witchcraft.
He was wrenched from his discordant musings as she continued, his mind stunned into silence as Galadriel spoke the names of the tribal geographies they had recently passed. With surety and grace, the Khudzul slipped from her tongue. Gimli was parched, thirsty for each dropped word as it fell on his ears. In all his life he'd never heard the syllables of his ancestral language uttered with such beauty. Simply by saying the word, the unfathomable depths of Kheled-zâram were brought to his mind's eye. The hairs on his arms and chest rose as he understood that she viewed them that way as well. In a dazzlingly quick flash Gimli was allowed to comprehend that she had been there when the Doors were made. She knew his kind, the determined naugrim that made the stones sing. They — he — held her respect.
He looked up in amazement and saw manifest in her expression an overwhelming tenderness. For the first time in his 140 years, as he stood to speak some homage to her, Gimli felt faint.
"May I join you?" a chipper but cautious voice asked.
Gimli turned to his visitor, who raised his pipe in salute. "Certainly, Peregrin."
Gimli was convinced more than ever that the whole land here was enchanted; what astonished him was that he cared not a whit. He supposed that he should be more worried at his own magnanimity, but he couldn’t be bothered to worry overmuch about that, either. The hobbit puffed next to him in companionable silence, his behaviour equally uncharacteristic. It didn't last.
"I suppose we'll be leaving soon," he said thoughtfully. "More's the pity. I've felt safe here, even if it is all a bit dreamy, if you know what I mean."
Gimli nodded. It was as though the very air was suffused with healing, although he certainly hadn't felt so when they had first arrived. He chuckled softly to himself, thinking of Legolas' righteous indignation at having to be blindfolded as Gimli had been. The Lady had allowed the cloths to be removed; Galadriel had put her confidence in Gimli even before setting sight upon him. Perhaps she had sensed him from afar, it was entirely possible. He felt encumbered by his language, as it simply couldn't capture her wisdom and transcendent beauty.
"What are you thinking about?" Pippin asked, scooting around to face Gimli. "I don't know that I've ever heard you laugh before."
"Nothing of interest to you," Gimli replied, softening the rebuke by patting Pippin's knee. "Unless you, too, are thinking about our most wondrous host. Vrâlsfire," he murmured reverently.
Pippin looked at him in confusion. "Vrail what?"
"Vrâlsfire," Gimli repeated. "Diamond. Galadriel," he said, smoothing over the syllables as if polishing the very gem.
The perplexed expression remained on Pippin's face. At last he sucked on his pipe, cheeks hollowing as he shook his head. "You're the only Dwarf I've ever known," he said as he exhaled, the fragrant tobacco rising before his face. "And not to be rude, but I must say that sometimes I don't quite understand you."
For a few moments, Gimli thought back to his fellow silversmiths, and one particular lapidarist. Their ways and habits made perfect sense to him, as was fitting. He didn't pine for the Mountain or anything sentimental and ridiculous, though his hands did miss the tools he normally used for hours each day. How did he appear to this young hobbit? It honestly hadn't crossed his mind to wonder about such things, especially since Gandalf's fall, followed so quickly by their hasty passage into this realm.
"What do you mean?" he asked finally.
Pippin seemed startled, then delighted to be able to continue the conversation. "Well, Dwarves don't like Elves. That's been obvious. But since you met Celeborn and Galadriel, that’s changed. You've even gone off walking with Legolas, just the two of you. It's rather a surprise, that's all."
Gimli chewed on the stem of his pipe. "Dwarves are perhaps more complicated than you realised." He leaned in, speaking in a low voice. "I am changed because she looked into me. She may be an Elf queen, Peregrin, but she sees with Dwarvish eyes."
Satisfied with the profundity of his compliment, he sat back. Pippin mulled over the comments before giving a slight shrug.
"I'm quite sure I still don't understand you. Hungry?"
Gimli shook his head and waved the hobbit along. Once he was alone again, he closed his eyes, seeing Galadriel's ethereal face, and he smiled.
At last he saw Legolas, standing motionless a ways up a hill. Gimli walked up to him, treading lightly on the undergrowth until they were side by side. The night was smothering in its darkness, the moon's light hidden in clouds. Despite this, Legolas' eyes held their own phosphorescence, and Gimli saw with gratitude that there was no mocking in the Elf's gaze.
"You miss her," Legolas said softly.
Gimli nodded gravely. "Dwarves do not fear death, but I do not wish to leave this world without having made a shrine worthy of her gift. The metal and how to craft it — it dwells on me, and is a delightful pastime, but I know my thoughts need to return to our upcoming tasks."
Legolas pondered Gimli's hushed rumblings before replying. "Where is your gift?"
Gimli scowled, but eventually tapped at his heart. No one would steal his treasure. Legolas especially, Gimli supposed, would never consider thrusting his pale fingers under his jerkin to rescue Galadriel's golden strands, were Gimli slain and left to rot on some battlefield.
Or perhaps Legolas would do exactly that.
"Do you think we will ever see her again?" Gimli asked, surprised at the desperation in his voice. He realised that implied in the question was one he stoically kept to himself: would they ever go home again, and if so, would there be a place for him? He was so changed now; even his dearest of brethren might find him inaccessible, or odd. What kind of Dwarf was he that he found it fitting to share his feelings with an adolescent hobbit, and obsessed about three hairs from an Elf's head? He needed his axe in hand and some orcs to kill. That would help set him to rights.
In the lingering silence, Galadriel's parting words to him rang in his head, her wish for him intrinsically Dwarvish. As though at the end of a long, satisfying night of song and ale, Gimli felt the need for rest overtake him. He turned toward camp, assuming that Legolas had no words on the matter.
"The future is a dark mist of unknowing," Legolas said. Gimli rounded to face him, surprised that he spoke.
"I do wish to be in her presence again, and sing songs of renewal in her fair woods." A faint smile traipsed on Legolas' lips. "And I hope that you, my friend, are at my side."
Gimli nodded. "May Mahal will it."
"Good night, Gimli."
Once back under his blanket, Gimli placed his gloved hand at his chest, and fell fast asleep.
Vrâlsfire is an anagram I made from the word for diamond in High Icelandic: alsverfir.
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