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Disclaimer: This story is non-profit and written for purely entertainment purposes. All recognized characters and places are property of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema.
Bitaliel- the blind madwoman
Bergil- one of Aragorn’s guards, son of Beregond
Galathe- Head figure of Umbar
Mortsdil- leader of the Corsairs of Umbar
* * *
~ Chapter 12: So Flows the Current ~
Middle-earth had not witnessed a gathering of such size since the height of Sauron. They came from the deserts of Southern Gondor; from the camps dotting the banks of the River Harnen; from the easterly sands of Near Harad. From Khand they came. From Far Harad and even the dead lands of Nurn. There were kings, chieftains, counselors, and warlords. Galathe had sent for them all.
And they had all come.
A great round table, large enough to seat the fifty-odd leaders, had been set up in the Grand Ball Room of Galathe’s white palace. While the sun beat mercilessly upon the brittle sand, those inside the room were sheltered by cool marble and richly dyed curtains. Servants, jingling with the weight of brass jewelry, waved large fans of woven palm fronds or silently scuttled across the room bearing pitchers of sweetened water.
Galathe soon discovered even the impenetrable walls of his palace could not protect him from the heat of debate within.
“Only a fool would attack Gondor!” Zarûf of the Yemnali pounded a meaty fist upon the table, sending a shiver across the tabletop that rattled their water goblets. “We have not the force to attempt such a thing. And even if we did, I would not dare declare war on those who defeated Sauron himself!” His thick black eyebrows drew together and his round face flushed as he spoke. “No, I say. You shall not have the support of the Yemnali, Galathe. We are content to remain in the realm of the living.”
A murmur of agreement rippled through the room. Galathe angrily set his jaw. “We only need launch a surprise attack on Minas Tirith, not all of Gondor.” He narrowed his eyes at Zarûf as the man folded his arms across his chest. “The rest will fall easily enough once we sack the White City. And as for ‘remaining in the realm of the living,’ my most esteemed Zarûf,” his face contorted with scorn, pinning the Yemnali chieftain as a hawk snatches the unsuspecting rabbit, “I hardly call your current conditions ‘living.’” He watched in cool satisfaction as Zarûf’s face grew more flushed. “Surely there is more to life than aimlessly wandering the deserts, slaughtering those who bumble into your lands because you have no other means of acquiring goods.”
Zarûf was restrained by his advisor before he had the chance to leap to his feet. Trembling with rage, he sent Galathe a look of pure hatred. Galathe, however, remained indifferent.
“What reasons have we to take such action?” An aging, stately man, white beard fairly glowing against his weathered olive skin, clasped his hands and rested them upon the table.
‘Gabnij of the Abhir,’ Galathe reminded himself. The Abhirrans inhabited the Oasis of Radara, an unexpected gem hidden in the sands of Near Harad. A scholarly bunch, preferring scrolls to the sword, this did not mean the Abhir were pacifist. On the contrary, they tended to believe it their noble duty to bear arms and slay those who would oppose them.
“It was Gondor,” said Galathe, his voice laced with vehemence, “who so destroyed us. Gondor left us leaderless and vulnerable! And now it is Gondor who grows ever bloated with riches while we wallow in chaos and filth, fighting each other as vultures for maggoty spoils of a rotting carcass. Shall we allow Gondor to so fatten and swell? Tell me, my brethren, shall we allow it?”
Several heads nodded and angry exclamations against the prosperity of Gondor punctuated the air. Galathe restrained a smug smile. They were almost his for the taking.
Gabnij held up a gnarled hand and beckoned for silence. Out of respect for the elder, the murmuring quickly died down to an angry hum. “Then you suggest we attack out of vengeance and jealousy, Galathe son of Ulzaan? Do you not think the time has long passed for revenge?”
Galathe coolly eyed the chancellor of Radara. He would not allow them to slip through his grasp so easily. “I am suggesting, Learned One, we merely take back what is ours.”
Gabnij pursed his lips in disapproval, but did not reply. His advisor leaned over and whispered into the elder’s ear, the man’s jerky hand motions his indicating anger. Gabnij merely shook his head and calmly waived him off. ‘A wise move, old man,’ thought Galathe. ‘Show me too much resistance and your bones may return to Arda sooner than was expected.’
“You speak of suffering and hardship,” called Ahmed of the Khalwaith, “yet what do you know of this?” The Khalwaith lived on the inhospitable dunes of the Great Desert. It was a wonder they managed to survive at all. Ahmed gestured to the high-ceilinged ballroom. “I am most anxious to hear of your suffering, Lord Galathe. Cleverly have you seated us at this rounded table, but still we are aware of who sits at the head of power.”
Galathe’s lips curled as a low growl formed deep within his throat. Before he could reply, Hadeem of the Bh’dul spoke.
“Where is your pirate-king, Lord Galathe?” The tall, lean man laced slender brown fingers together and looked at Galathe with a masked expression. “I have no doubt he stands to gain most from this strange plot of yours... or shall I say, ‘his?’”
Heads immediately snapped back to Galathe, awaiting his reaction with greedy anticipation. Galathe silently cursed his luck. He should have had Hadeem killed on the journey to Umbar. The man was far too sharp for his own good.
Hadeem pretended to ignore Galathe’s icy glare as he addressed the rest of the leaders. “The soldiers of Gondor fight under sworn oaths of loyalty to King Elessar. They require no bribing or threats to perform their duty, and would willing sacrifice themselves for love of their liege. How would we, an impoverished force of mercenaries who seek only to gain riches, fare in such a fight?” He paused, allowing the gathering to mull over his words. He could feel Galathe’s wrath growing all the while.
“And tell me this, comrades: Has Gondor raised a hand against us since the fall of Sauron?” Hadeem lifted his palms and earnestly regarded each face present. “Have they even threatened such a thing?”
Heads, both turbaned and bared, shook in affirmation. Several murmurs of “No” hung in the room.
“In fact,” said Hadeem, “has not Gondor even put forth the effort to work with us? To help us resolve our crisis?”
Galathe snarled, slapping his hand upon the table. “Gondor seeks only to increase its wealth!”
“But is this not what we all wish?” The elder Gabnij pointed an accusing finger towards Galathe.
“I, for one,” said Hadeem, his voice ringing across the table before Galathe had the chance to bend his wrath upon Gabnij, “am most intrigued by this King Éomer’s invitation to inspect the horses of Rohan.” Hadeem’s people were horse breeders themselves, well-known for fleet-footed steeds that flew over the sands. The King of the Bh’dul wished to see how the dished faces, delicate legs, and wide nostrils of his mounts compared to the stock of Rohan. “Nay Galathe, you shall not have the sabers of the Bh’dul.”
“Nor will the Khalwaith follow you to death,” said Zarûf.
Gabnij took a sip from his water goblet before serenely wiping his mouth with a silken cloth. “Neither do the Abhir wish to join the doomed.”
One by one, the leaders withdrew their support. Even those Galathe thought sure to join him quailed when they saw their neighbors back down.
“Then our council has come to an end.” Galathe stood, his cold brown eyes sweeping across the faces of all present. “Mortsdil will not be pleased.”
At mention of the name, the room seemed to drop in temperature. Few were successful in suppressing a shudder. There was something unnatural about Mortsdil. Something... missing. None could quite place what it was the Corsair lacked, sufficed to say one only came across similar instances among the freshly killed.
“What will it matter if he is dead?” Hadeem spoke quietly, though his words carried far in the heavy silence. His fine-boned features melted into a frown. “That is to say, more so than he is already.”
Galathe blinked. Of course... let that hellion Corsair attack Gondor all by himself. If the stories were true, even Mortsdil’s magic would not protect him from the power of King Elessar. At least, Galathe hoped the stories were true. His life depended on it.
He bowed in cold politeness to each leader as one by one, they rose to leave. His hawked gaze slid to Hadeem. So, the man wished to see the horses of Rohan, did he?
Deciding the results of his call to arms marked him as good as dead; Galathe saw no harm in grasping at whatever straws remained.
* * *
Firelight licked at the dusky sky, casting a haunting orange glow over the faces of Aragorn and Bitaliel. Bergil restlessly poked at the flames, eyes darting to and fro between the two. The King of Gondor rested his elbows upon his knees as he smoked his pipe, staring unseeing into the fire. Bitaliel tugged at the new bandage swathing her face before clutching the rag doll to her chest and muttering softly.
Bergil fidgeted. It was too quiet. Well over a thousand questions raced across his mind: Why were they still pursuing Lord Legolas? More so, why had King Elessar chosen he, Bergil, of all people? Why did Queen Arwen allow her husband to go so freely? Why was Bitaliel traveling with them? Who was she? What would happen when they found Lord Legolas...?
The questions screamed and jostled against one another, each vying for his attention. Bergil glanced at Bitaliel and frowned, wondering if this was the sort of thing that went on in her head. Would he be reduced to a jabbering sop by the time their journey was over?
He fidgeted even more, silently begging one of them to break the silence. “What ails you, Boy?” Bitaliel turned towards him, bandaged head swaying like a snake as she tried to pinpoint his exact location. “Are you in need of relieving yourself?”
Bergil flushed and swatted an insect attracted to the firelight. “No,” he crossly replied. “And I am called Bergil, not ‘Boy.’”
Aragorn raised an eyebrow, a slight look of amusement flickering across his face.
Bitaliel shrugged and absentmindedly pulled at the doll’s ragged yellow hair. “It is all the same to me.”
Bergil scowled at the blind woman. “Bergil. I am Bergil. I do not refer to you as..." He faltered, pondering which name would most insult her.
“Batty?” Bitaliel suggested, in valiant effort to aide him. “Deranged? ‘Round the bend?”
Bergil folded his arms across his chest. “Blinky.” He managed to stop just short of sticking out his tongue.
Aragorn dissolved into a fit of coughing as he inhaled too quickly and began choking. He furiously fanned his hands to dispel the smoke. “Bergil,” he said when he had regained his voice, “I expect my soldiers to conduct themselves in a manner--“
“Oh, bah,” said the young man in disgust. “It is not as though she has any manners.” It suddenly dawned on him that he had just spoken back to His Royal Highness King Elessar of Gondor. He hastily sought to amend his mistake, dropping to his knees and bowing profusely. Words of apology rushed forth. “Forgive me, my lord! I did not mean to--that is--I--“
Aragorn’s shoulders shook with silent laughter as he pressed his forehead into his hands. “Arise, Bergil. Off your knees.” His grey eyes twinkled. “I remind you yet again: you would do well to control your wagging tongue. It seems to have taken on a life of its own.” He shook his head in affectionate exasperation as the young man meekly toyed with a loose string on his tunic. “Were we in less hospitable lands, son of Beregond, I would have grounds for cutting out your tongue.”
Bergil’s eyes widened in alarm.
“However,” Aragorn continued, somewhat amused by other’s look of dismay, “we are still in Gondor, and such methods are deemed barbarian. Therefore, you are in charge of tomorrow’s breakfast. I suffice that will be reprimand enough at the moment.”
He thoughtfully tapped the smoldering pipe against his bottom lip. “You are far more cheeky than I was, yet I cannot help catch a glimpse of my younger self in you. Perhaps that is why I chose you to accompany me.” He shrugged with a slight chuckle.
“I thought I was chosen because I happened to be at your side when Lady Arwen forced you to name an escort.” Bergil clapped a hand over his mouth and winced. Mayhap he ought to sew his mouth shut.
Aragorn pursed his lips. “You are in charge of our evening meal, as well, Bergil.”
Bitaliel roared with laughter.
Bergil sighed in resignation. At this rate, King Elessar might name him in charge of all meals before the evening was out.
“I shall retire before my watch.” He gathered his things and went to find a suitable spot for his bedroll. ‘As best I know,’ he thought, ‘I have yet to talk in my sleep.’
Bitaliel smiled cheekily and waved as he threw himself upon his blankets. “’Night, Boy!”
“Goodnight, Blinky,” he called, pulling the covers over his head. Before drifting to peaceful slumber, he was last conscious of Bitaliel’s cackling laughter as the blind woman asked Aragorn which watch she had drawn.
* * *
Gimli awoke with a start. ‘This is becoming far too commonplace.’ He pushed himself upright and scowled at his quilt, which someone had thoughtfully tucked around him. Elder Dwarves were in the habit of nodding off. ‘And you,’ he reminded himself, ‘are by no means elderly.’
He sighed and allowed himself to sink back into the pillows. Sleep had become somewhat of a luxury within the past months, and he supposed it was bound to catch up with him sooner or later. First, there had been the scurry to finish Eomer’s gate. Then Legolas had arrived... The Dwarf rubbed a hand over his face in attempt to dispel his weariness. He had scarce left Legolas’ side since the Elf came stumbling into his realm several nights prior. Keeping Legolas occupied during the day was easy enough--there were always plenty of distractions within the bustling Dwarven community. Nights, however, were a completely different matter.
When all activity ceased and darkness soothed and lullabyed the Caves, it was then that Gimli found his presence was most needed. If left to his own devices, Legolas would allow his thoughts to wander dangerous trails; gently prodding and reopening the wound with sadistic curiosity, as though to make sure it remained and still burned with the same intensity. Gimli had seen the Elf’s face contort in painful grimace as flashes of what he had done lanced across his mind. The Dwarf’s nights became devoted to the welfare of his companion. Sleep was but a small price to pay if it meant he could spare Legolas further agony.
Gimli felt a rush of concern, almost to the point of panic, wash over him. Where was Legolas? Had the Elf taken to wandering the darkened tunnels by himself? In his grief-stricken state, he was in no condition to--
The Dwarf shook his head and grunted. ‘The Elf is not as frail or weak-minded as he appears, though I daresay he may look it.’ He sat up again and threw aside the covers, embarrassed by his overreaction. ‘Rocks and blocks,’ swore the Dwarf, ‘he shall have turned you into a fine nursemaid by the time this ordeal has passed.’
It was the Elf’s nature, Gimli decided, which mutated those around him into henpecking nurturers. ‘One cannot help but feel the need to protect that feather-brained, tree-hugging, arrogant, hopelessly naïve fool of an Elf. It is a marvel he has managed to survive this long. Dumb luck, I suppose.’
He laced up his boots and gave his beard a few tugs until he looked presentable. Judging by the temperature of the earthen walls in his chamber, evening was fast approaching. ‘I wonder how long I slept.’ He entered the corridor and shut the chamber door behind him. ‘And where is Legolas?’
The Elf had no mind to wander the Glittering Caves, and Gimli knew he would go no further than his own chambers. ‘Which leaves the Main Cavern or the outer tunnels,’ the Dwarf mused. He furrowed his brow in thought. He and Legolas had been sitting in the Main Cavern when he began to nod off.
How, then, had he ended up in his own bed?
Gimli paused for a moment, pondering this strange mystery. He did not recall walking to his room, and someone had tucked him in...
Before his mind put two and two together, Gimli convinced himself he had indeed walked back to his chambers.
* * *
The great opening of Aglarond yawned before him; its tunnel lit by the waning glow of evening. The absence of torchlight allowed a comfortable gloom to settle within the entrance. On evenings when the moon rode high and the stars shone freely, their pale lights would reflect and illuminate the many metals and stones embedded in the cave. It was a breathtaking sight: sparkling veins of silver with crimson iron ore, flashes of gold from the pyrite. There was the haunting glow of opaque and rose quartz, and the obsidian, whose inky depths seemed to devour the pale evening light, then cast it back over the stones’ polished surface with a blinding gleam. This was the pure, earth-bound beauty the Dwarves prized so highly.
It was on such a night, so many years past, that Gimli had presented the Caves to Legolas. The Elf had remained silent for a time, his usually impassive face alight with wonderment. “Let the Elves tend to all that which lives and dies upon the land,” he finally spoke, voice softer than a whisper, “and let the Men shape Middle-earth to their fancy. But let the Dwarves tend to stone and metal. For though such substances hold no life, they were borne of earth and hold not death.”
Gimli wished the moon would glow brightly on this night, though he knew such hopes were in vain. The midnight sun was waning, and amounted to barely a sliver. The Dwarf squinted, discovering he could just make out tiny stars as they peeked through the sky’s weary cloak. A sweet breeze brushed past his beard, carrying with it the scent of evening flowers and delicate strains of an Elven song.
As he drew nearer, Gimli caught sight of the tunnel guards. One he recognized as the black-bearded fellow who informed him of Legolas’ arrival several nights before. What the Dwarf’s name was, he could not remember, though perhaps he never had been told. Of the three remaining guards, only one looked vaguely familiar. Gimli supposed he had passed the fellow--an older Dwarf with a handsome scar across his right cheek--on his way out of the Caves during one of his evening walks. It was a habit he had picked up after his travels with Legolas. The Elf had a special fondness for dawn and dusk, and though Gimli was hard-pressed to greet the day, he had found the rising moon and stars brought with them peace and rejuvenation.
He had stopped the evening walks four years ago. Such behavior was not looked favorably upon by his kindred. “We are trying to establish a colony,” his chief advisor Bwal, had hissed. “How are we to do so when you insist upon wandering beneath the stars, addle-brained and moon-struck as though you were an...” The stately Dwarf cut himself short and narrowed his eyes. “Gimli, you must cease this madness!”
Gimli glanced towards the guards. They leaned against pike or axe, faces turned to the Cave entrance in a bewildered, trance-like state. The haunting Elvish melody pushed aside all other thoughts, gently provoking emotions foreign or long-forgotten.
Gimli shivered. Legolas sometimes forgot the power held within what he might consider a harmless tune. The one he now sang was moving by even elven standards.
His boots against the packed earth snapped the guards to attention. They drew back, almost fearfully, into the comforting shadows as Gimli brushed by. He did not bother to cast a glance over his shoulder as he headed out of the cave and towards Legolas’ voice. Their wary eyes bore into his back. ‘I suppose this will make for interesting gossip,’ he thought wryly.
He craned his neck and strained his eyes until he caught sight of the lithe archer. Legolas sat cross-legged in the lowest branch of an ancient beech tree, back resting against the trunk while slender hands lay unmoving upon his knees. Gimli trundled over and sat at the base of the tree.
He tilted his head and watched the singing Elf, knowing Legolas would not speak until he wished to do so. The Elf’s hair shivered slightly in the breeze, reflecting light from an unknown source. There was a soft, ethereal glow about him; it made his skin appear silvery and allowed his features to stand out sharply against the deepening sky. His eyes were painfully bright, focused intently on the flickering stars overhead.
Gimli was content to watch his friend, for in moments such as this the Elf appeared more strange and distant than the Dwarf thought possible. This was not Legolas Gimli beheld, but an Elf in the purest sense. The Dwarf was not altogether sure he liked viewing his friend as thus, for it gave rise to bittersweet emotions. It made him realize the Elf no longer belonged in Middle-earth.
The last strains of Legolas’ song faded into the night. Gimli suddenly found a pair of bright eyes staring down at him.
“You scared my guards, Elf.”
“Do all your people treat you as thus?” The eyes continued to stare.
Gimli started, caught off guard by Legolas’ question. He had, of course, expected the Elf to first avoid speaking of the stone: it was a peculiar Elvish trait that ensured every topic other than the one of most importance would be fully discussed. When the conversation had at last drifted completely away from its original purpose, the Elf would somehow strike the main topic, thus rendering any listeners (or arguers) completely dumbfounded. Legolas’ use of the tactic became most evident during their frequent banters. Had Aragorn not supplied him with a few helpful tips, Gimli would have been driven to madness long ago.
“Have the stars brought you some measure of peace, my friend?” Gimli sought to evade the subject with a question of his own. Pride would not allow him to discuss such private matters. His social standing was of his own doing.
A look of disapproval flickered across Legolas’ face. “It would appear I am not the only one whom comfort eludes within the confines of Aglarond.”
Gimli sighed, knowing his friend would not be dissuaded. “There is little you or I may do to change their minds, Legolas.” He shook his head as the Elf opened his mouth in protest. “They are far too set in their ways. And I believe they would be even less inclined to hear the word of an indignant Elf.”
Legolas folded his arms across his chest and allowed his legs dangle from the branch. “It is Prince Elf to them, Master Dwarf.” He peered down at the stout figure below, scrutinizing Gimli as though he had never before seen the Dwarf.
“Legolas, you are making my skin crawl. Please come down.”
Quiet laughter floated from above, causing the beech leaves to rustle in response. “Has anyone ever told you, Master Dwarf, that you are quite strange?”
Gimli snorted and attempted to make out the figure of the Elf. “Speak for yourself, Master Elf.”
“You have become most insightful since I first made your acquaintance.” Legolas’ mouth quirked in amusement as Gimli, not expecting the Elf to suddenly materialize directly behind him, gave an involuntary jump. “I had begun to give up hope for any growth in your intellect. I find myself pleasantly surprised.”
The Dwarf responded with a low chuckle. “You always were easily amused.” His heart fairly soared in relief; this was the Legolas he knew. “Little did you know Master Elf, I was forced to lower my wits to the addled levels of your comprehension. It was a difficult task indeed.”
Legolas seated himself next to the Dwarf with careless grace. “Then I commend your brilliant feign of mindlessness, for you had me utterly fooled.” He bowed his head to Gimli and grinned.
“Arrogant fool,” muttered the Dwarf.
“Thick-headed boulder,” responded the Elf, his grin growing wider.
The two leaned companionably against one another, shoulder-to-shoulder, and grinned into the thick summer night. ‘But we are a strange duo,’ Gimli could not help thinking. He cast a sidelong glance at Legolas. The Elf rested his head against the smooth bark of the tree, absentmindedly trailing his fingers over its strong roots. Gimli gave the earth a solid pat with his hand. It was good soil: rich and loamy. He picked up a handful and crumbled it, feeling the soft grit beneath his fingers. His hands felt strong and powerful.
The beech leaves stirred and whispered above them. The sweet evening breeze toyed with Dwarven beard and Elven braids, carrying with it the scent of mist and dew. Crickets droned from beneath rock and tall grass, their chirrups distant and muted. A night bird called, and was answered by its mate. Gimli allowed his eyelids to droop shut. “What do you hear, Legolas?”
The Elf remained silent for a time. Gimli knew his eyes were shut as well. “I hear.. I hear the opening of evening flowers. Their petals brush against one another as rustling silk.” His voice seemed to blend in with the night. “I hear the murmurs of this tree. It is content... I hear the flight of the nightingale. The humming of the stones.” Gimli smiled. “I hear the blades of grass as they bend under the weight of the dew, and the wings of the moths--they flutter as a child’s heartbeat...”
“And the sea,” Gimli whispered. He felt the Elf’s body heave as Legolas sighed.
“Yes, Gimli. And I hear the Sea.”
The breeze brushed past Gimli’s ear. He opened his eyes. “We must go to the sea, mustn’t we?” A tiny flash of lightening flared in the distance.
Legolas did not reply.
“Do you think we will meet Aragorn?”
“Yes, Gimli. I believe we will.”
Gimli reluctantly pushed himself to his feet. “I think I shall return to the Caves.” He grunted as he drew himself to his full height. Legolas nodded mutely and continued to stare at the winking stars above.
Gimli looked to him in concern. He would not have the Elf slipping back into melancholy. Legolas seemed to have a special talent for doing so.
“I shall stay here for a while longer, elvellon. Do not worry.”
Gimli squinted to the west. “Come in if it starts to rain. I’ll not have you dripping all over my chambers.” He took one last appreciative breath of night air and began walking back to Aglarond’s entrance.
The Dwarf turned, wondering if perhaps the Elf needed anything.
Legolas spoke quietly, his eyes never leaving Gimli’s. He swallowed with difficulty. “I do not think... I would not be able to do this on my own. Thank you, my friend.”
For once, Gimli found himself at a loss for words. The Dwarf was glad the darkness concealed his embarrassment. He felt himself fairly glowing red.
Rarely did the two speak of their friendship’s true nature, having reached an unspoken understanding it was not a thing they need discuss. It just... was. The bond they shared was as deep as it was hale: a tree wrought of steel with roots that extended beyond infinity itself. During the moments it was revealed--if even but the briefest of glimpses--its power overwhelmed both heart and soul.
Gimli bent his eyes towards the fine coat of dust on his boots and roughly cleared his throat. The night breeze, tartened with the subtle hint of rain, gently kissed his forehead and laughed as it pushed by him. The beech tree sighed happily. Shadows hugged him warmly while a moth waltzed by, dancing to the rasping symphony of crickets. The Elf’s eyes flickered like stars.
Gimli’s barreled chest expanded as he inhaled deeply and gave his shoulders a dismissive shrug. “Think nothing of it, Legolas. You would have done the same for me.”
Far to the west, a thread of lightening extended to earth and then branched across the blackened sky. Gimli frowned at the muted glow. “Are you sure you wish to remain here for a while longer?”
Legolas gently scooped a handful of dark earth and allowed the dirt to sift through his fingers. “Yes, my friend.” He smiled at the stout figure before him. “I wish to tarry longer in the company of this fine rock and soil.”
Gimli shook his head with a slight chuckle. “Then perhaps there is hope for you yet, Master Elf.”
The guards pulled back and eyed the Dwarf with suspicion as he returned to the Caves. Far too absorbed in his own musings, Gimli paid them no heed.
'Daft Elf,' he thought with fierce affection. 'I would follow you to the very ends of Middle-earth and beyond--whether you thanked me or not.'
* * *
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