14. Chapter Fourteen
A tree withers
that on a hill-top stands;
protects it neither bark nor leaves:
such is the man
whom no one favours:
why should he live long?
Night was falling as tired warriors sought dreamless sleep. The stars hung low and the moon seemed cold and almost weeping, though from what no one knew. It was spring, but little warmth filled the nights still.
Gimli was not sure what awoke him, even if he indeed was awake. An arm was wrapped around him and he felt a warm body next to him, but his mind felt lifted, as if he was standing on a peak high above and observing himself. A cold wind was wrapped around him, hissing, whispering in his ear.
He was not awake, nor did he sleep.
The voice called to him again, softly, but not soft as Legolas's voice. This voice was made to be soft, it was not filled with gentle autumn rain and spring breeze as the elf's.
Gimli, Glóin's son, hear me.
It was familiar, edged with power and wisdom and reaching out to him, only him. Saruman.
Listen to me. Mortality is a skin that you might shed. I can give you eternity. Such a wonderful gift for only a small story. Tell me of the Ringbearer, Gimli, and you shall have immortality.
"No," Gimli muttered, but his heart leapt painfully. Immortality. An eternity of love, nestled in the arms of light given shape.
Do not deny yourself this, Dwarf. I see your heart. I see your mind.
You can offer me nothing, Saruman.
Even in his own mind, the words sounded weak and pitiful. Oh, how he desired it! To know he would never cause Legolas pain he would almost give anything – his heart, his soul, his life. But this he could not give. Frodo's quest was beyond the importance of a simple foolish dwarf who had not the strength to deny his own heart.
Tell me where the Ringbearer is, Dwarf. Tell me and you shall never die. Choose forever. I can give it to you.
A shudder went through Gimli, the words echoing through his heart. Forever. He could choose to have love forever.
And then, clear as glass, he saw himself standing before Galadriel, heard her words once again. She had known. Immortal love or protecting the Fellowship to the last. But even as his mind conjured up images of life forever, he knew what the choice was.
Nay. I will die the moment I spoke the words, for I would no longer be Gimli. I deny you, Saruman the Fallen! I deny you! I saw Gandalf break your staff. You are dead, only your shadow lingers. Your words are empty and filled with lies, wizard. I chose mortality and my friends. Begone!
Something warm tickled down Gimli's face. Startled, he realised it was blood. The wind hissed menacingly, swirling about him in anger.
Fool. Die then, mortal! Die and become dust, forgotten and lonely, knowing the pain you have caused.
"Nay!" Gimli called out, twisting away. Something soft restricted him, and he struck out. The mists swept away from his mind and he realised he had hit the elf.
"Gimli?" Legolas sounded startled and deeply concerned, his blue eyes regarding the dwarf.
"Saruman," Gimli muttered through clenched teeth. "I apologise, Legolas. My fist was meant for the wizard."
'And myself,' he added silently. 'Forgive me, Legolas. I chose pain for you.'
"I am not sure if I should forgive you or go for my bow. Why did you think me Saruman?"
Gimli lifted a hand and gently caressed the elf's reddening cheek, cursing inwards.
"I dreamt. Even so I should have known your fair form from his foul."
"Many foul things seem fair, and fair things foul," the Elf replied, but the concern did not vanish from his face. Lifting his own hand, he touched the dwarf lightly on the nose, running a finger along the side, pausing just above the lips.
"I forgive you, Gimli, son of Glóin, but do not lay a punch on an elf who is trying to sleep. Many who have done so have ended their life on the tip of an arrow."
"I thought elves would need least rest of all," Gimli said lightly, grasping a subject distant from death and despair.
"Ever we ride on. Elves do not tire easily, but even I desire rest. A decade resting in the fair grass of Mirkwood, you in my arms."
"And would not your kindred find that strange?"
"As I did? Aye. But they will see your light, morn gîl, as I have."
Gimli closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remain afloat in the strong undercurrents tearing at him. A warm thumb outlined his lips ever so gently, hardly touching at all.
"We are not alone," the Dwarf muttered, wishing he had a dark cave he could drag Legolas into and for just a little while, feel warm and whole.
"I know. It may be long before we are alone again as the war marches on. But as long as you are near, I will not complain."
'But when I cannot be near any longer, what then?' Gimli thought and for a moment it seemed as if the wind gripped him again. He was but dust in a dwarven shape, soon to be spread on the winds.
And where was Frodo tonight? Was he safe and warm, alone in his burden even when watched over by ever-faithful Sam? All burdens were carried alone. Even Gimli the Dwarf's, small as it though seemed compared to others.
As if knowing his thoughts, Legolas leaned his forehead against Gimli's, and they sat quietly in the night as the moon wandered its lonely path over the sky.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.