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Land of Light and Shadows: 2. Near to the Sea

"I still say those who prefer horses to feet are daft," Gimli grumbled
as he dropped from Faensul’s back. It was the morning of the third day
of their travel, and the dwarf was exhausted. They had ridden hard that
first evening and night, rested during the second day, ridden again the
second night, and now drew nigh unto Dol Amroth, home to Prince Imrahil.
Aragorn had counseled that they should become accustomed to activity in
the night and rest during sunlight as that would be the way of things once
they entered Harad.

Legolas gave Faensul a pat and turned him loose to search for grass
and bed. "Were you to have traveled by foot, you would barely be beyond
sight of Minas Tirith," the elf said with a slight smile.

"Have you so little respect for the dwarves?" Gimli asked, trying to
ease the stiffness from his legs. "We are a hardy folk and can travel with
great speed if the need arises."

"But speed is relative," Legolas pointed out. "To those doomed to walk,
perhaps dwarves can seem fast. But for those of us who choose to ride,
you are snails by comparison, my friend." The elf sighed and moved away
from the dwarf, his mood abruptly shifting. "Can you smell it?"

Gimli glanced at his friend curiously, suddenly aware of a underlying
tone of sorrow in the elf’s normally cheerful voice. "Pardon?"

"The sea." Legolas’s bright eyes glittered in the light of the rising
sun and stared southward with an intensity that made Gimli shiver. "Can
you smell it? There is salt in the air and the smell of water. Almost I
feel I could touch it."

The dwarf gave himself a mental kick for not having anticipated this
development. Ever since the harrowing ride on the Paths of the Dead, even
before the destruction of the Ring, the call of the sea had claimed his
best friend’s heart. Legolas would mention it now and then, and whenever
the subject came up, a strange look of longing and discontentment would
cloud the elf’s gray eyes. Gimli had no means of understanding what Legolas
was going through, but it frightened him sometimes. Very few things stirred
the elf’s emotions for an extended period of time, and the sea was one
of these things.

"No, I fear I cannot smell it," Gimli finally answered, though he doubted
that Legolas was even aware of him at this point. The elf continued to
look toward the south with eyes that could span distances beyond imagining.
Gimli wondered if his keen-eyed friend could sea the waters that called
to his elven heart. "Legolas?" There was no answer and Gimli knew it was
vain to try again. With a heavy sigh, unable to do anything else, the dwarf
left Legolas standing there, consumed once more by his desire for the sea.

"You seem to have survived the trip so far," a laughing voice called
out to him. Gimli looked up and nodded at Eomer who was eating some kind
of waybread.

"It has been an adventure," the dwarf returned, trying to summon a smile.
"Elves are strange creatures and elven horses stranger still."

"Smooth his paces seemed to me, though I did not have the pleasure of
riding him," Eomer said. "But you have ridden a few horses in your life,
Master Dwarf. Tell me what you think of the elf’s new steed."

"I think horses are a poor substitute for one’s own legs," Gimli stated.

"I do not think many here would support that notion, my friend," a new
voice said. Dwarf and king turned as Aragorn joined them. He was holding
some kind of meat and was devouring it with slow relish, savoring the spicy
flavor. Noticing the dwarf’s eyes on his food, Aragorn frowned slightly.
"Have you had ought to eat, Gimli?" Gondor’s king asked.

"I partook somewhat while riding, seeing as I had nothing else to do,"
Gimli answered. "But I will have something more ere long."

"Where is Legolas?" Eomer wondered, realizing that the elf was not at
his usual place beside Gimli.

The dwarf grimaced, turned, and indicated the still form of the elf
with a nod of his head. "He says he can smell the sea."

Aragorn’s eyes softened and he sighed. "I wondered when we would venture
too close for his comfort. I fear he will be in torment until we pass well
into Harad. Would that there had been another way to journey."

"Would that he had never heard the gulls," Gimli muttered. "I still
remember when he disappeared several years ago and we found him a month
later wandering the seashore. He hadn’t realized how long he’d been gone."
The dwarf shook his head and studied his elven friend with compassion and
sadness. "I feared he had set sail without a word to any of us. It is a
fear I still carry with me, and I rejoice every day I can see him here
in Middle Earth."

"Yet Middle Earth will lose him one of these days," Aragorn predicted
quietly. "He will leave its bounds and sail beyond the reach of mortal
man, following in the path of many elves before him."

"But not now," Gimli vowed, watching the elf carefully. "And not soon,
if I can help it."

"I will be the first to admit that I do not know much on the subject,"
Eomer spoke slowly, "but it appears to me that there is little anyone can
do. It seems like a disease that cannot be cured, and ever will the longing
gnaw at his heart until he submits to its demands and departs from us."

"Verily, it is much like a disease," Aragorn agreed. "And I fear you
have it aright, Eomer. He will not be cured until he leaves. And until
then, he is doomed to wander in torment." Aragorn fell silent for a moment,
lost in thought, and then shook his head slightly. "Well, I shall bid you
a good night, or a good morning as the case may be. I must seek sleep while
I can. You would be wise to do the same. I have posted guards already,
so there is no need to appoint a watch."

"Thank you, Aragorn, and I shall heed your words," Eomer said. "A good
rest to you, and to you, too, Gimli."

"And to you and your family," the dwarf replied absently, his eyes still
on the elf.

Eomer and Aragorn exchanged concerned looks, but realizing they could
do nothing, they left the dwarf to his own devices. The sun rose further
into the sky and most of the host sought such beds as could be contrived,
but still Legolas looked to the sea. And Gimli continued to watch his friend
until he felt the grasping hand of sleep creeping over his mind. He struggled
against its grip, but he realized he could not hold out for long against
such a relentless foe. With this bitter knowledge directing his actions,
the dwarf moved to lie down behind the silent, motionless elf, hoping that
maybe his presence would help to anchor the prince in Middle Earth. If
Legolas noticed him, he gave no sign, and Gimli knew he could do nothing

"I don’t think you can hear me, Legolas," he whispered as he closed
his eyes and abandoned reality for dreams, "but I must tell you this. Remember
that you are wanted and needed here in Middle Earth. I would not have you
leave me, nor would Aragorn have you leave us. There is still much to be
done and much to see, and there is no one else I would rather have by my
side. No one! Not even another dwarf!" And having said this, Gimli gave
in to the onslaught of sleep. His breathing became deep and steady, and
the cares of the day—or in this case the night—were banished to dark, forgetful

But had Gimli managed to stay awake a moment longer, he might have been
comforted, for after a few minutes, a bright elven gaze turned his direction.
Considering the dwarf who now lay sleeping, the owner of that gaze shook
his head wearily. This friendship worked both ways, and there was no one
else, including other elves, that Legolas would rather have beside him
on journeys or merely joining him for dinner and a bit of friendly banter.
And their friendship ran deep enough that it overcame the ever-present
longing for the sea. Well, for now anyway.

"U-gwannathan ir deridh," the elf sighed, speaking softly in
his own tongue. "Dan i aer cad enni ui, meldirn. I aer cad enni

* * * *

When sunset came again, Aragorn roused all who slept. Gimli rose reluctantly,
aware of a stiffness in his joints from the rigorous riding of the previous
night. Legolas had not slept nor did he seem in any way affected by it
or by the long hours they had already put into the trail. And for the dwarf’s
sake, this evening he even refrained from speaking of the sea, though it
was obvious that the sea was continually on his mind. Still, Gimli appreciated
the elf’s effort on his behalf and took heart that Legolas had not wholly
forgotten his comrades.

"Did you enjoy your rest?" the elf asked as Gimli rubbed sleep from
his eyes.

More than you enjoyed yours, I daresay, the dwarf thought. "I
would have enjoyed it more if I could have had a few additional hours in
which to sleep," he said aloud, hoping to lure Legolas into friendly banter.

Legolas smiled, touched by the gesture. He was well aware of what the
dwarf was attempting to do, and though he did not feel up to it, he decided
to humor Gimli for the moment. "Is that why dwarves are able to endure
the depths of their caves? Have they nothing to do but sleep?"

Gimli could easily see that Legolas’s heart was not in the jest, but
he took it as a hopeful sign that the elf was even willing to make an attempt.
"It seems to me that sleep is more useful than the endless songs you weave
about the trees and the stars," he retorted, watching the elf’s face closely.

"Perhaps." Legolas looked away, unconsciously turning his gaze south
toward the sea. "I will go and seek Faensul. Doubtless Aragorn will wish
to continue the journey soon." And with that, the elf walked away, his
normally light feet dragging slightly.

Gimli’s spirits fell as Legolas abandoned the game and the dwarf to
search for the horse. With a frustrated sigh, he turned away and stalked
toward Aragorn who stood watching the preparations of the others in the

"What troubles you, Gimli?" the king asked, though he felt he already
knew the answer.

"It will grow worse as we go south, won’t it?" the dwarf asked.

"Most likely. Where is he?"

"He has gone to find Faensul. He will return shortly."

Aragorn nodded, glancing at the preparations of his men once more before
turning his full attention back to the dwarf. "It bothers you, doesn’t
it? It is a thing you cannot understand and are powerless to alter. And
someday it may take him from us. And when that day comes, there is nothing
that can be done to stop the forces at work in his heart."

"What drives him?" Gimli demanded. "What drives that elf to long for
the sea? Is not Ithilien fair enough for him? Does he not have enough of
his kindred for company? Is our friendship so barren that he must seek
other lands?"

"I think, Gimli, that our friendship, and perhaps yours specifically,
is one of the few things holding him here," Aragorn said gently. "I am
surprised he has not already left, and he must value his mortal friends
greatly. I have seen the longing for the sea in other Sindarin elves, and
it is a grievous hurt to them until they surrender to its commands. He
may not show it, but the sea is always in his heart. And when that sea
is within reach, he can no longer hide the desire from those around him."

"Your words bring me no comfort," Gimli sighed. "I would that he had
never heard the gulls as we rode to save Gondor. The Paths of the Dead
they are still called, but other names I could give them now. Pain and
sundering come to mind."

"What is done cannot be undone," Aragorn said. "Would you that we had
never taken that road and so left Gondor to be burned?"

"No. Yes. Perhaps. In truth, I cannot say. I know only that my friend
suffers greatly and that no act of mine can aid him. Nor can I help him
bear his suffering as I have no understanding of what he faces."

"You have a great heart, Gimli," Aragorn said quietly. "And I think
you do aid him, though you may not see it. Your presence, as a reminder
of why he tarries, brings comfort to him. He knows that he does not suffer
for naught. Go now. He approaches and he will need your strength as we
draw closer to the sea. We will reach Dol Amroth by morning and I fear
the cry of the gulls will be hard on his ears."

Gimli looked around and quickly caught sight of Legolas walking toward
him. If such an action could be ascribed to an elf, Gimli would have said
that he was trudging. The normal spring in his step was gone, and the sparkle
in his eyes that could bring mirth to an entire forest was dim and vague.
Sensing his master’s mood, even Faensul was somber and quiet this evening.
The proud arch of his neck did not seem so proud, and he watched Legolas
closely as though looking for ways to break through the elf’s melancholy.

"He walks as though one who prepares for a funeral," a voice whispered
behind the dwarf and king. Eomer stepped forward and eyed the elf critically.
"Should we send him across Anduin and ask him to wait for us on the borders
of Harad? I fear what taking him closer to the sea will do."

"He would not go," Aragorn answered. "It would be an affront to his
pride, and he would refuse to leave us. In any case, it would be unwise
to send one rider, or two if Gimli goes with him, so close to such a dangerous

"He will endure this," Gimli said firmly. "And I will help him. But
I would that we journey quickly into Harad, for the longer we tarry by
the sea, the worse he will grow until he is aware of nothing but the cry
of the gulls." And with that, the dwarf moved forward toward the elf who
had stopped and was regarding them all with suspicion and a bit of irritation.
"How fares your horse?" Gimli asked, hoping to divert the elf’s attention.

"I do not desire your pity," Legolas said testily, a flash of anger
appearing briefly in his eyes.

"Oh?" Gimli grasped madly for suitable responses to that. "Then perhaps
you would better appreciate my condescension? For how else shall a dwarf
regard an elf?"

It was a long shot and Gimli knew it, but he had an intuitive feeling
that insults were better than awkward words of comfort at this point in
time. Hardly daring to breathe, he watched anxiously as Legolas regarded
him through narrowed, stormy eyes. At long last, the corners of the elf’s
mouth started to twitch though the rest of his face remained stern and
uncompromising. Gimli heaved a silent sigh of relief.

"How shall a dwarf regard an elf?" Legolas echoed, and now his eyes
lightened somewhat, though shadows still lurked. "With homage and worship,
if that dwarf possesses a modicum of intelligence."

"Worship? You have done nothing to prove you worthy of worship, my friend,"
Gimli snorted. "What good is singing in the trees? We dwarves are the builders
of nations and the forgers of fine metal. How shall elves compete with

Legolas was prevented from responding when a clear trumpet rang out,
signaling that the ride was about to begin and the company should mount.
Faensul tossed his head at the call, eager to be off and prove his paces
to the other horses. Gimli moved to the stallion’s side and Legolas aided
him in mounting before leaping onto the horse himself. By now accustomed
to the procedure, Faensul trotted swiftly to Aragorn’s side and stopped,
waiting for the signal to move out.

"And so another day as baggage begins," Gimli sighed.

"And thus we see how the mighty builder of nations and forger of fine
metal is fallen," Legolas laughed.

"Watch what you say, Master Elf, for this baggage has an axe."

"A most unsuitable weapon for baggage. Perhaps you had best let me handle

"You? Legolas, I have seen you try to wield my axe and I still laugh
to think of it. You were a greater danger to yourself than to anyone else."

"I merely followed your example," the elf answered. The dwarf harrumphed
and Legolas smiled. Glancing over at Aragorn, Legolas could see him laughing
slightly at the interchange between elf and dwarf. "Are we ready to depart,
my liege?" he asked.

"Perhaps a moment more," Aragorn answered. "Some of the Rohirrim are
rearranging their saddle bags."

With a nod, the elf turned his eyes southward. Once more, he could sense
the presence of the sea, and he could dimly see a great field of blue in
the far distance. But now, a more immediate presence sat behind him, and
Legolas could feel concern and fear emanating from his friend. In a strange
way it was a comfort, and the elf felt his need to sea the great waters
on the horizon diminish in the wake of the dwarf’s powerful friendship.

"Yes?" Gimli sounded anxious, as well he might be. Legolas could feel
himself slipping back into his earlier depression.

"Thank you."

A moment of silence, and then one of dwarf’s hands that clutched tightly
at the elf’s tunic moved to his shoulder and rested there for a moment.
"You are welcome, my friend."

Faensul moved restlessly beneath them and Gimli quickly grabbed for
Legolas’s tunic again, fearful of falling from the tall horse. Legolas
laughed, though his laugh seemed filled with pain, and then he turned to
Aragorn who was watching the activities of the Rohirrim closely. Finally,
all seemed in readiness. Turning Arnor around, Aragorn raised his hand
and cried aloud. The company set off with a flurry of hooves, galloping
swiftly southward and passing as shadows into the warm, summer night.

* * * *

U-gwannathan ir deridh. Dan i aer cad enni ui, meldirn. I
aer cad enni ui
—I will not depart while you remain. But the sea calls
me always, my friend. The sea calls me always.

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Playlist Overview

Last Update: 17 Oct 13
Stories: 6
Type: Reader List
Created By: Dragonwing2

Provide a brief explanation of the reason for the playlist - variations on a theme, all stories by a shop of authors, etc.

Why This Story?


Story Information

Author: Thundera Tiger

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 04/04/05

Original Post: 06/22/02

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