Journeys by Bill the Pony

Chapter notes: Summary: After long years, Legolas comes to a decision.
After he had made himself known to Legolas, there were no more words of double meaning for Gimli, and no more sweet songs of invitation rang in his ears. None could but admire the deeds of the elf in battle, but there were no deeds to which Legolas set his hands with Gimli other the deeds of war and honor.

Though Gimli was saddened, he did not wish for others to know, least of all Legolas himself. For as he reckoned it, the fish who refuses to swim after seeing that birds fly is a fool, and Gimli son of Gloin would not be thought a fool by either man or elf.

And there were deeds of his own for doing-- orc-necks to hew, stone to move and work, battles to be fought and paths both fell and beautiful that he had yet to wander, and there were plans in his mind for the Glittering Caves of Aglarond and also for the gift of the Lady of Lorien, should the shadow be defeated. Therefore Gimli stayed by Legolas' side and journeyed with him throughout the war, and they were fast friends, for though sorrow grew in Gimli's heart, he did not speak of it. Those who knew him well were kind and kept their counsel, but those who knew him less well were aware of no stain on his heart.

When he had returned from battle and taken many of his kin from the Lonely Mountain unto the Glittering Caves and made with them a mansion there, he took power, but he took no wife. He was named Elf-Friend, and those who knew him from before spoke of the Sorceress of the Golden Wood. They said she had bewitched him with her beauty, for he kept as an heirloom in his house a token of her hair: three strands woven in a braid and set in gold and crystal, and he would lift his axe to any who spoke ill of her name. For his part, Gimli was content to let them think that it was so, for it was near the truth and yet it was no source of shame, for Galadriel had been wed to Celeborn for many long ages before Gimli's mother bore him into the world, and so he turned a deaf ear to the whispers of his kin.

Thus for many years Gimli's hands flowed with gold, and yet as the Lady of the Wood had foreseen, over him gold had no dominion.

And so it came to pass that in the sixtieth year of Gimli's reign as Lord of the Glittering Caves, a messenger came to him from the King of the Elves in Fangorn. He was allowed inside the Deep, for the peoples of the two lands were on friendly terms with one another as their races had not been since the days when there was commerce between Durin's folk and the elves of Hollin.

Dwarven heralds brought the messenger before Gimli, and Gimli's eyes were dimmed, for it was many years since had seen an elf, and the youth's fair face brought back memories long past. The elf was young, but tall and straight and slender, and his hair flowed like molten gold. His face made Gimli think of Legolas, whom he had not seen since they parted between Mirkwood and the Lonely Mountain after the sundering of the Fellowship.

"I am Lagor, son of Legolas of Mirkwood." The lad bowed before him and Gimli was astonished; yet he was grieved, for Lagor was beautiful, and Gimli guessed rightly that his mother was as lovely as the Sun. "I bring a message from my father."

"Deliver it," Gimli said, and for the first time he felt mortal age creeping upon him, though he was hale and his beard not yet entirely silver.

"My father says to you: 'The time for speech across the miles between us is now done, and the time for deeds has come. The Third Age is gone, and the Fourth Age is ripening.' Will you ride with him to the Havens now?"

Gimli looked about the gleaming beauty of the halls that he had made, and studied those of his kin who stood near-- his cousins and his nephews, for he had sired no son to follow him in rulership. He called to himself his trusted counselor Gani, the grandson of Oin, and set the scepter into his hands, and he took the jeweled crown from his brow and set it upon Gani's head.

"I will go, and I will not return." Gimli lifted his hand for silence as the dwarves around him cried out their dismay. He would not be gainsaid, but he placed the gift of Galadriel in Gani's hands and put aside his fine golden chain mail, and put on again the iron armor and took up the pack he wore of old.

Going out into the valleys of the Deep he blinked against the brightness of the sinking Sun, and when his eyes cleared he saw a small host of elves assembled before the wall of the Deep, with Legolas in the forefront, riding upon a fine white horse of Rohan.

As Gimli watched Lagor sprang up onto his own horse, and he and the Elvish company turned back toward Fangorn, but Legolas stayed and he reached down to Gimli, smiling.

But Gimli hung back and was doubtful, for Legolas was as beautiful as he remembered, and anger kindled in him as he thought of Lagor. "Do your son and his mother ride with you to the Havens?"

"They will stay in Mirkwood, for the Sea does not yet call them."

"I am to ride with you to the Sea, and then turn back alone?" Gimli asked gravely, and he thought then of the keen edge of his axe, and the refuge it might offer from his sorrows. Legolas looked on him with pity.

"Your heart had already made its choice long ago, had it not, that you would have no other?" Legolas was sober. "You, Gimli, who spoke to me then of deeds, should have acted on your heart's desire. When you did not, I deemed that the choice still lay open to you. Yet for many years I have watched, and you have taken no wife. Your line will not continue, though I would not have had it so," he said. "I have thought long on the matter, Gimli, and my heart tells me that I wrong you by giving you the chance to choose elsewhere, for it is plain to me now that you will not." Legolas freed his foot from the stirrup and reached out to Gimli once more.

"I will speak plainly to you now, Gimli. If you wish it so, I would have you ride with me across the Sea and be my heart's companion in the West, if the Eldar will allow it. If they will not, I will stay with you in Middle Earth for the rest of your days before I seek the Sea and sail to Elvenhome. Whatever be our fate, we will ride together, if you would have me." His eyes were filled with hope.

Gimli laughed harshly then and groped for Legolas' hand, near blinded by a veil of tears. "I have been a fool indeed. We will ride together at last, elf!"

Their hands clasped and Gimli's sturdy boot found the stirrup; Legolas swung him up onto the horse's back. Legolas' arm went around him even as their steed sprang forward, and as he drew Gimli's head back and bent to kiss him, the dwarves who watched on the wall were amazed to see their King and the King of the Elves cleave together.

In the wood of Fangorn and in the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, songs tell that it was long before they reached the Havens, for they taught each other much of riding as they tarried along the way.
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