Dwarves and Elves
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Telling of Tales, The: 1. Chapter 1
Warnings: Slash. This story contains much description of households and eatables, not much action, gratuitous use of sea-longing, reinterpreting of and poking fun at the Silmarillion and hair pulling. Sorry.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
It was drawing on to late afternoon of a lovely June day, and the last leg of his journey. The sky was a brilliant blue overhead painted with the occasional wisp of white cloud; the temperature warm, but with just a hint of a cooling breeze. The plains of Rohan had slowly given way to rolling grassy meadows, studded with bushes and the occasional grove of trees. The smell of sun-warmed earth filled the air and clouds of crickets and other insects exploded from the long grass before him as he strode along in the steady mile-eating gait of a dwarf on the move.
Cresting a small hill, Gimli could now see his destination, nestled in the base of a gentle valley and surrounded by trees and flowers. Small, sturdy and made of stone, the house glowed golden in the late afternoon sunlight. A meandering path led to the front door that was flanked by wide windows. Smoke rising from the chimney told him that he was not the first to arrive.
Fulfilling their vows given to each other several years ago in Ithilien, the dwarf and elf had brought their kin from their respective homelands to dwell in new colonies--Gimli and the dwarves in Aglarond and Legolas and the elves in northern Ithilien. And about halfway between the two colonies, they had made a house, for the two of them alone. They had picked out the site together, and Gimli had built the house himself while Legolas had made a garden, each with the other’s assistance. Here they would come to spend time together, as often as they could get away from the colony duties that pressed upon them, but of late those times had been all too few.
Smiling, Gimli looked down at the daisy tucked jauntily in his belt. It was still amazingly fresh from having arrived at the Glittering Caves a week ago, in a message pouch addressed to Gimli. Some form of wood-elf magic, no doubt.
It was Legolas that had hit upon the idea of using a daisy as their own personal symbol--a request for a rendezvous in their little house. The flower had come to have special meaning for the two of them, dating back to the time of their vows, when Legolas was making a garden at the Lady Éowyn’s request. So now the sending of the flower had come to represent the symbolic question: "Can you come?" And the answer was invariably: "Yes."
He quickened his pace, eager to finally be at his journey’s end. Stepping onto the path, he threaded his way through the clumps of wildflowers and wild grasses that made up the front garden.
Knowing that for a large part of the time his garden would be untended, Legolas has chosen to make it as natural as possible, using only plants native to the area, hardy and drought tolerant. The end result was the tended garden was all but indistinguishable from the flowering meadow that marched right up to their front door. The strongest indication of the gardener’s presence was the two large clumps of shasta daisies, one on either side of the doorstep. And of course the climbing rose bush, burgeoning with blooms and intertwined with morning glories, that had been trained up the wall to drape over the doorway, anointing all who entered with lush red petals and a sweet fragrance.
Someone had been gardening recently, another sure sign that the elf had beaten him there. Freshly cultivated earth could be seen around the base of many plants, and there was a small tidy pile of uprooted weeds to one side of the path, waiting to be taken round the back to the compost pile. And the doorstep, formed by a slab of stone set flush into the ground and beautifully carved with dwarvish and elvish words of welcome, had been carefully swept.
Stepping through the front door, propped open in the mellow June air, Gimli could feel his mouth start to water at the savoury smells issuing from within.
"Legolas?" he called, but there was no answer.
He unslung his pack from his back and set it down just inside the door, under the row of coathooks where Legolas’s light traveling cloak was already hanging. Gimli’s soon joined it, after being briskly shaken off outside of the dust from the road.
He sighed a little, and allowed his gaze to roam about the pleasant room--a welcoming sight to his weary eyes. The main living area was brightly lit by the westering sunlight streaming through two large windows. There was no fire in the fireplace, but the wood and kindling baskets beside it were full in anticipation of cooler nights. Two chairs were placed companionably on either side of the hearth, and a long wide bench underneath the side window provided additional seating, or could double as a bed for guests. A small desk and chair completed the room’s furnishings.
Although simply appointed, it was not without comfort or touches of beauty. The stone mantle over the fireplace was intricately carved with vines and flowers, birds and beasts, as were the lintels over the doorways and windows. Colourfully woven cushions softened the simply made but sturdily graceful wooden chairs. And other gifts from well wishers and friends--a slender pair of ceramic candle holders, a lovely clear glass oil lamp, and Gimli’s favourite: a beautiful painting of the eaves of Mirkwood, the Forest River snaking along beside it, and the Lonely Mountain rising up in all its majesty in the background. It hung in pride of place over the fireplace.
Crossing the swept flagstone floor, he placed his long two-handed axe next to Legolas’s longbow, unstrung and leaning against the wall next to the hearth. His quiver was there also--this alone was enough to tell Gimli that the elf was not far away.
To the right of the living area was the kitchen, and this is where Gimli headed now. It was lit by three windows, and a sturdy wooden table filled the centre of the room, large enough to seat four comfortably. There was a pile of greens, recently washed and lying on the long tiled counter that ran the length of one wall, obviously freshly picked from the small kitchen garden out back of the house.
Gimli lifted the lid of the pot that was simmering on the iron cookstove, and sniffed appreciatively at the succulent odour. It was a savoury stew, with potatoes and carrots, herbs and some game fowl from the look and smell of things. Also judging by the smell, there was a loaf of bread baking in the oven, but he knew better than to open the oven door to find out.
Opening a few of the cupboards revealed several wine bottles, labeled as a pressing from the vineyards of Dale from a few years back. Giving a critical sniff, Gimli crossed to his pack and, rummaging within, pulled out numerous brown bottles of ale. Lining them up along the counter, he could see Arod through the window, wandering at his sweet leisure through the grasses not far off.
Pulling the kitchen table aside slightly, Gimli raised the iron ring that lay flush to the floor and pulled up the trapdoor that led down to the pantry. Hoisting his pack again, he lit a candle and descended the steep stairs to the cool, earth-walled room dug out underneath the kitchen floor. There he unpacked the remaining foodstuffs he had brought with him--a cured ham, a haunch of dried venison, sausages, potatoes, a round yellow cheese--storing them neatly on the shelves against the walls. He smiled as he caught sight of a small block of butter, sitting on a plate and neatly covered with a bit of cloth. They would have fresh butter, melting on bread hot from the oven this evening!
Returning to the kitchen, he closed the trapdoor and returned the table to its rightful place. Retrieving his pack once again, he moved back to the living room to the bedroom door, set in the wall to the right of the fireplace. Inside was warm and cozy, the sun falling across the wide bed covered with a patchwork quilt. Legolas’s pack was resting on the floor at the foot of the bed, and a quick peek inside the wooden wardrobe revealed a few of his clothes folded therein. Gimli placed his pack on the floor beside Legolas’s and left the room.
The house was built in an L-shape, with the living room and kitchen forming the long part of the L, and the bedroom the short. Going out of the back door took one into a small kitchen garden, nestled in the crook of the building. The stone walls on two sides absorbed the heat of the sun all day and released it slowly as the night cooled, making it an ideal place to nurture tender herbs and vegetables. It was also an ideal place to sit of an evening, on the stone bench set against one wall, watching the stars come out in the darkening sky and perhaps enjoying a quiet smoke.
But the elf was not here, either, and Gimli moved through the garden, a bottle of ale in each hand and another under his arm, towards the small stream that sparkled gaily past the house. He sunk the bottles in the stream to cool them, noticing with amusement that several bottles of wine had already been placed there. It should prove to be an enjoyable evening; that is, if he could ever find Legolas. Leaning over the stream, he splashed water over his face and neck to wash away the dust accumulated from his journey, shuddering a little at the frigid temperature.
Moving further away from the house now, he passed the compost pile which had been recently turned--he could see the shovel still leaning against a nearby tree. Wrinkling his nose a little at the smell, Gimli hoped that Legolas hadn’t done this chore too recently. He had high hopes for this evening, and a sweaty elf, dirty from gardening and smelling of compost, would certainly put a damper on his plans. Although it could lead to interesting possibilities of mutual bathing…
Lost in his pleasant ruminations, Gimli entered the clearing they had made for the outdoor firepit. It was a good place to roast large haunches of meat, or to simply enjoy the comfort of an outdoor fire on a summer’s night. Here again was evidence of the activities of the elf--the firepit had been recently raked out, the ashes set aside in a bucket, and a fresh supply of logs was stacked neatly off to one side.
Gimli shook his head in amusement, feeling rather like a wild game tracker. Watch the intrepid dwarf, as he tracks the elusive wild elf! Here, the eating habits of the wild elf can be seen; note the little pile of green leaves left on the countertop. And here, known to be an avid tippler, the wild elf has left his telltale stash of wine bottles. And there! Evidence of the wild elf’s obsessive need to dig around in the dirt…
A raucous call, coming from above, startled him out of his whimsy. Shading his eyes from the rays of the lowering sun, he looked up into the clear blue sky. Astonished, he could make out several large grey and white birds, circling lazily overhead. Seagulls! What were they doing so far inland?
Another shrieking cry from a gull and Gimli stiffened, a sudden fear piercing his heart. Legolas! He started to run, not knowing where to, but desperate to find the elf. The cries of the gulls continued, and Gimli cursed the dratted birds, wishing them far away and gone, back to the seaside where they belonged; but not here, not here…
Rounding a corner of the faint pathway through the grass, he suddenly came upon what he was looking for. Legolas stood at the top of a small rise, tall grasses waving about his knees. His back was to Gimli so he couldn’t see the elf’s face, but his posture was rigid, and his head was tilted back, long hair fanning out in the light breeze as he watched the flight of the birds circling above him. His hands hung loose and open at his sides.
"No!" Gimli choked out, rushing forward. "No, Legolas, no, don’t…" He hastened in front of his friend, looking up into his face. Legolas’s eyes were wide and dark in his pale face, his fixed gaze focused entirely on the sky overhead, and he did not heed the dwarf’s distressed cries.
Seizing Legolas’s hands in his, he pulled the unresisting elf down to his knees, and taking his face in his hands, tried to force the elf’s gaze away from the sky and on to him. But he could tell that Legolas’s spirit was already far away, far from here, far from him--winging its way to the west over the salty spray of the waves.
"Don’t…don’t…" was all that Gimli could say, over and over, drawing the elf into a crushing embrace, trying with his strength and his love to anchor him somehow to this earth. But he could feel the elf’s eyes gazing over his shoulder, back up at the sky. And still the gulls screamed overhead.
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