Dwarves and Elves
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Time and Times and Half a Time, A : 3. Morgenlicht
A/N: We switch POVs rather a lot here. It should, I hope, be clear who
is who, though.
The morning arises cold and grey over the ruins of Fangorn Forest, and the still
figures among the few remaining trees greet it with raised faces, with hesitant,
tentative optimism. The Orc-Elf in their midst has not yet stirred.
"It is better so. He will be weaker if he wakes now," Gandalf mutters.
The glance he gets from the Dwarf is not kind. He pays it no heed, save to
be irritated anew by the Dwarf's contrariness. He has been tempted many times
this night to cast a sleep on the Dwarf, and had not some warning from his heart
forbade him, he might have done so.
He has returned with herbs of healing, of one kind or another, and he and the
Man are even now steeping and shredding them, their gazes flickering often to
the Elf and Dwarf before them.
The Dwarf looks away from them, purposely disregarding their fervid activity.
He watches only the figure before him, his eyes drawn constantly from the scarred,
scaly skin of the ruined body to the pale, near-perfect Elven face, and back
again. The welts and scars that had marred the face are already almost gone;
but if the body's wounds are sealing themselves he has seen no sign of it. He
watches, memorising the faint motions of the unconscious body - the shallow
breathing, the way the gentle morning breeze stirs the tattered hair - and does
not let himself look away. The Dwarf feels an urge to reach out and touch the
Elf's face, but he does not. He checks his weapons for the hundredth, or perhaps
thousandth time; he waits once more.
His world has narrowed. An Elf. A knife. An axe at his side. Beyond those things,
all is irrelevant. Introspection and anguish have long since fallen away from
him, leaving only wordless waiting. After the long night, he is ready.
The sky lightens, degree by degree, from charcoal to silver to near-white.
The world lightens also, though it seems as though a grey pall has been cast
over the land around them, and only slowly is it drawn aside.
The Dwarf watches not the dawn, but only the Elf before him. His knife is in
his hand. His axe is by his side.
He is ready.
* * *
From somewhere almost too far away, the Elf stirs in his darkness, drifting
quickly and slowly towards wakefulness.
It is a painful waking: he can feel too sharply the twisting of his spine, the
stings and itches of his skin. His joints are burning, sometimes fiercely, sometimes
dully. Everything pains him.
Even with his eyes still closed, though, he is already aware that there is sky
above him and wind on his face, and blades of grass tickling his bare back.
He can feel the cold light through his closed eyes, he can smell life, and air,
and green things.
He contemplates waking, wonders vaguely what he will find when he does. Easier
not to, so much easier, to take the other route that lingers temptingly at the
back of his mind. He has never before contemplated the thought of Mandos, but
now that he must, he finds that it holds no fear for him. It would be so easy,
such a small, simple matter, such a quick end to long pain.
He wonders what happens to Orcs, once they die, and the thought breaks on him
like a sudden shock of pain. He recoils from contemplating it. He can be certain
that it is not a happy fate.
The desire for death wanes, and once again, he is aware of the touch of cool
grass against his back. Resolving at last to face what he must, he opens his
The outer world greets him with such a blaze of unaccustomed light, that he
must shut his eyes again against it, leaving him with only a blurred image of
the world above him. Orcs are weakened by sunlight, he remembers, and supposes
this must be how it feels for them. For a fleeting moment he wonders how badly
they have harmed his vision. Or his hearing, for that matter. He is aware of
voices around him, but they are dim and confused.
"Gimli...?" He has said it out loud, and that is a foolish thing to do, is it
not? But the word is said, and there is no power in the whole of Middle Earth
that can take it back.
* * *
The hand tightens around the hilt of the knife; the Dwarf blinks back tears.
To hear such a voice from an Elf-
* * *
The sound of his voice pains him. Thick, harsh and guttural - an Orkish voice,
and, involuntarily, he recoils from the sound. Once, his voice was beautiful.
"I'm right here, Sir Elf."
He has not expected a reply, but there it is, the old, half-mocking title. The
familiar voice, deep and rough, and with it the familiar memory. But which is
this? he wonders. The reality or the dream? Was either ever real?
He opens his eyes and looks up blankly into an expanse of sunburned face, framed
by wiry brown hair and the thick fur of a beard, a face so much more strong,
more vivid than the memory had been. Suddenly he is aware that he has no idea
of what it was that he wanted to say so urgently. Whatever it was, it is certainly
not the words that escape before he realises what he is saying.
"Am I an Orc?"
And Gimli laughs, unsteadily, and tells him: "Never."
* * *
Why does he laugh? Because the only alternative is a pain too terrible to endure.
He is conscious suddenly of Aragorn and Gandalf watching him, their narrowed
eyes speaking doubt and suspicion. There is fear in the Hobbits' eyes, and they
draw back a little from him.
Why is he so certain? they are doubtless asking silently; but Gimli has no
answer for them.
He can give no name to his certainty; it is beyond the prosaic Dwarvish grasp
of words, to give shape to concepts so flimsy. He is sure only of his certainty,
but he cannot explain it.
<<Because->> is as much as he can offer. <<Because.>>
And he looks down into the face of his friend, studying again. It is a sadder
face than once it was, older, perhaps, but it is the eyes that are changed most
greatly. They are become younger, older, brighter, wiser all at once, and some
kind Maia puts inspiration suddenly into his heart.
<<Because I never yet saw an Orc whose eyes shone with the light of the
* * *
"Never," the Dwarf says again. "Never - or I am a troll." And now the deep,
rough voice rings with certainty.
The Elf stares up, oddly reassured. Only a Dwarf would speak so. Only a Dwarf
could be as real as that. Perhaps this truly *is* no phantasm of the mind. Perhaps
he truly is free.
He reaches across, trying to confirm by touch what his mind is telling him,
but his arm is batted away impatiently by some other person.
"Be still, you fool! Or would you sooner clean your own wounds?"
For some reason it does not surprise him to hear Mithrandir's voice. He is *almost*
certain now that he is not dreaming. He would speak to them, ask if all is well,
ask of his deliverance, but he does not wish again to hear the sound of his
* * *
The Dwarf looks up for a moment, to meet Gandalf's gaze. "Leave us. Please."
Aragorn looks up sharply. Gandalf watches him with furrowed brows for a moment,
and then nods curtly. "You may have five minutes, Gimli, and not a moment
He nods his agreement, and the others withdraw a small distance. For a moment
he can do nothing but stare down into the Elf's face, feeling tongue-tied and
not a little stupid.
"Gimli..." The word is whispered, as if the Elf fears to speak aloud.
"I saw my hands."
The Dwarf bows his head in acknowledgment.
"Am I much changed?"
"Yes ... and no." The Dwarf grimaces at his answer, which has, to
his ear, an almost Elven unhelpfulness about it. "Your body is much like
your hands, I fear, and much injured. But the blood from the injuries runs red,
not black. Your face is nigh untouched. Your eyes..." For a moment the
words almost fail him again. "I have never before seen eyes in which the
starlight shines so bright - except one." Except perhaps Galadriel, but
she is not one with whom comparisons are lightly made.
He watches the Elf lift up one hand and scrutinize it closely, an unmistakable
pain in his eyes. "So thus am I become," he whispers. "Could
any endure the touch of such a hand?"
The Dwarf reaches down, and takes the Orkish hand carefully between his own
hands, his eyes not leaving the Elf's as he does so. Then he looks down at the
hand, examining it closely, tentatively, as his craftsmen kin might examine
a damaged instrument, brought for repair.
The hand's skin is black and scaly, marred by cuts and scars. The fingers are
thin, but the knuckles much enlarged, the webbing between fingers and thumb
thin and papery. The Dwarf runs his fingers thoughtfully over the back of the
hand, along the swollen knuckles, across the palm, and down to the sensitive
skin at the base of the wrist. Then, slowly and deliberately, he raises the
hand in his own, to let the palm rest for a long instant against his cheek.
He lays it down gently, noting that the Elf's eyes are tightly closed, and his
breathing is uneven, hoping that he has not caused the Elf pain.
"I do not find its touch unpleasant," he says, in the manner of one
reporting the result of an experiment. The eyes open once more, and the hand
reaches out again, to seize the Dwarf's so tightly the grip is almost painful.
"Its grasp is also uncommonly strong," he adds ruefully.
From his place on the ground, the Elf almost smiles. With an unsteady voice
he whispers his thanks, but he does not loosen his grasp.
* * *
The others return before another minute has passed away. The Elf relinquishes
reluctantly his hold on the Dwarf's hand, and waits in stillness as they resume
their ministrations. Weariness is catching up with him at last, and whatever
it is the others are doing is taking a long while to be accomplished.
He feels the Dwarf's heavy hand come to rest, surprisingly lightly, on his
shoulder, and looks up, meeting the Dwarf's dark eyes with his pale ones. The
broad face above him is solemn and sad, though the eyes glitter brightly, almost
as if with tears. The hand on his shoulder becomes heavier, and is then removed,
as the Dwarf reaches forward to brush a strand of the dirty blond hair from
across his face. He feels the callused fingertips rest for a moment against
his forehead, in a kind of unspoken benediction.
He gazes up still, never taking his eyes from the face above him, and the dark
brown eyes stare solemnly back. But no more words are spoken between them ...
just a silence which lasts many moments - for a time, and times and half a time
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