Journeys by Bill the Pony

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Gimli laid his leaf-bladed silver-grey paddle down awkwardly; it was built for longer arms, but he refused to be passed over and treated as baggage. He twisted around, fingering his braided beard and eyeing Legolas; he was disquieted and wished to speak, but caution held his tongue.

Legolas, seeing Gimli's eyes rest on him, laid his own paddle over the gunwale; their boat settled into the current and dropped behind the others. The stream narrowed, the deep blue water running swift, its noisy ripples covering their conversation. Trees leaned over the river, screening them from the sky.

"You are troubled," Legolas guessed, moving forward lightly from the stern.

"I am." Gimli spat gruffly into the water and turned to face the elf. He spoke no further, watching Legolas steadily.

Legolas looked over his shoulder toward the Land of Lorien, which lay far behind them now, its woods eclipsed by the winding river and the gathering twilight. "The Lady of the Galadrim is ancient even among my people."

She seemed beautiful, and yet unreal." Gimli shook his head fiercely, annoyed that part of his thought had been perceived. "I do not know, Legolas, that I would have crossed the borders into Lothlorien, had I known her power. Welcome we had there, and yet Elrond's house seemed more fair, and he more welcoming."

Legolas watched him silently.

"Lothlorien seemed... more what I would have expected of Mirkwood." Gimli's hands closed around the shaft of the paddle. "As my father has spoken of it in days of old." The history of Thorin Oakenshield's imprisonment in the dungeons of Thranduil lay between the dwarves and the elves, and Gloin's lay between Legolas and Gimli.

"My father lacks the Lady's power, and yet..." Legolas shook his head. "Welcome is waning in all the lands. We had little enough in the Dwarrowdelf."

Gimli bristled, defensive, and then grew sad. "Balin would not have had it so."

"The welcome Balin found in Moria was also lacking." Legolas laid his hand on Gimli's shoulder to comfort him.

Gimli looked at it, but made no move to slap it away. "Of all the elves I have met, I think Galadriel is the most lovely and the most terrible."

"And I?" Legolas asked lightly, but his eyes were keen. Looking in them, Gimli thought of Legolas' hands on him in Moria... and since. "How fares this elf in your esteem since Rivendell?"

"You at least know how to welcome orcs-- with swift steel and without mercy." Gimli did not say more, and Legolas' hand lay yet upon him.

"That is one form of welcome our peoples share." Legolas smiled on him openly, as the Lady of the Galadrim never had, and Gimli blinked at him, dazzled. For a moment it seemed Legolas looked straight into his heart, as the Lady had. Gimli Gloin's son, who had stood fast before many foes and laughed at his peril, now trembled.

A shout from Aragorn roused him; the twilight had closed in about them and the other boats were hardly visible, a pale glimmer on the stream far ahead. Gimli scrambled to face forward, reaching for his paddle. "Perhaps there are other things we might learn that our peoples share," Legolas spoke softly from near behind him.

Gimli only grunted and drove his paddle into the water, not daring to look back.
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