Disclaimer: The characters in this pastiche, which is written exclusively for the enjoyment of myself and friends, belong entirely to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate, and this pastiche is not meant to infringe in any way upon their rights.
Feedback: Feedback is always welcome.
Story Notes: I'm working toward connecting this (whew) with the rest of my L/G story. Details may be subject to change (over the centuries).
A Fragment From Near the End
Gimli was tired. He sat, silent and heavy, and turned the steaming cup of tea that rested before him on the little table. Legolas had made the tea, spiced and sweet with milk and honey; it was a dwarvish recipe, yet somehow, made by Elvish hands, it tasted elvish, some subtle savor added mysteriously. Gimli was almost too tired to drink; he was content to feel the warmth of the cup and passively sniff the scented steam.
It was Legolas' dwelling--tall and lightly built; half hut of Mirkwood and half Lorien flet, so that in all seasons the wind wafted through it, and the bones of the building moved slightly with the stronger gusts, like the young trees that surrounded it. It had never seemed reasonably secure to Gimli, though it had stood sturdily enough for many seasons.
Now the air that breathed through the unclosed portals was soft and cool, rich with the earthy and floral scents of the early Southern spring. A gentle soaking rain alternated with bright sun, and shadows dappled the walls and floor as the trees, with buds just opening into new green leaves, tossed in the light.
Gimli felt the sweetness of young spring all around, and it saddened him that none of it penetrated to his heart--there it was still dead winter. All things had been hard: hard to travel in haste and sorrow; hard to see Legolas--one made for merriment, and deserving no less--so weighted with grief; hard to see Arwen Evenstar half mad with the same pain, silent and distracted like one who nurses a mortal wound. Hardest of all to see the corpse of an old friend, and a good friend, laid to rest. He had been beautiful in death, strangely so: as if some measure of youth had been restored, happier and more at peace than when the dwarf had last seen him living; but, Gimli thought, perhaps that made it harder, for he had been dead all the same, and Gimli missed him sorely.
It was while he was sunk in this black reverie that the Lord of Ithilien came to join him, and sat quietly by his side. Legolas too nursed a cup of tea that he did not seem inclined to drink, and they sat in silence for some minutes, drawing some comfort from each other's presence. Outside it grew dark with foggy rain, then the sun broke through suddenly, turning the grey drops to a glittering curtain of prisms and crystals; a brilliant rainbow glowed against the hurrying clouds, high to the east.
As if it had been a signal Legolas drew a breath. "Gimli, my friend," he said. "I think the time is come. For me the last tie to Middle Earth is broken, and naught lies now between me and my heart's desire. Already I have given orders that a ship should be built. We might sail in the high summer, down Anduin to the sea, and so into the West. What say you?"
Gimli's brows drew together as he stared at his cup, and under his whiskers, white and tawny, his face grew grey. "That I did not know you loved Elessar better than me," he said at last, thickly. "But perhaps I should not be surprised, for the bitterest blows ever come at the end of things, and it is certain you have seen more of him these many years than you have of me. You must follow your heart. In any case I feel I shall not be left here alone long--age is heavy on me, and life begins to be a burden."
With a little sound that was almost a sob Legolas slipped out of his seat, and with a shadow's grace knelt by Gimli's side, gripping the dwarf at arm and shoulder in his urgency. "Gimli," he said, "How you tear my heart! Can you think that I would--that I could--leave behind the best of friends, the truest of lovers? You misunderstand me. Word has been sent and received; you shall come with me, if you choose, or I shall not sail, not if I wait ten thousand years!"
Gimli did not immediately look up, but as Legolas waited anxiously, a hot flush crept up under the roots of the white whiskers until his seamed cheeks glowed like those of an apple. When he lifted his head it was with a cocked eyebrow and a wry smile. "I am an old fool," he said, "and I deserve to be kicked. But you took me by surprise, my friend--how is such a thing possible?"
Legolas grinned in relief. "You have forgotten you have friends among the mighty," he said. "Galadriel herself sends word that she is impatient to see you again, and hopes you will not tarry."
The blush had begun to fade; now it blazed up anew. Gimli thoughtfully ran his lower teeth over his moustache, though it did not hide his smile, and turned his cup again with new energy. "Well," said he, "I think that I will come. There is much in Middle Earth that is dear to me, but you are dearer still, and it was not mere bitterness that made me say I feel I am soon to leave it in any case. One last adventure with you is perhaps the thing I most desire... And I would like to see her again, Galadriel. Yes, of course I shall come."
Legolas, crouched at his side, searched his eyes. His smile had faded, but his gaze was full of love; with Elessar gone, Gimli seemed dearer than ever, and in Arwen's pain it may be that Legolas had seen a presentiment of his own. "I know that you are weary," he said softly. "And I am glad that you are still willing to make a new beginning, though it may be hard upon you."
"Ah," Gimli said lightly. He reached to stroke the elf's hair, and Legolas leaned against his hand. "Not so hard to begin. I think that it is endings that wear me."
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