1. Mists of time
Legolas Thranduilion stood silent and unmoving by the tomb of Balin, illuminated by a single shaft of light coming from above.
He watched as Gimli bowed his head in sorrow and pulled at the hood of his cloak, concealing his face in the shadow it cast. Before the darkness claimed the dwarf's features, the elf saw the unmistakable glint of tears in Gimli's eyes. Only one fell freely, rolling down his cheek slowly, before it too disappeared in his thick bush of a beard.
Hauntingly silent in his grief, Gimli appeared as a statue, carved out of solid rock by an artist's skilful hand, rather than a living dwarf of flesh and blood.
Only the slight tremor of Gimli's hands betrayed the intensity of his emotions. Legolas followed his lead and let no empty words of comfort pass his lips. Nothing could be said now, nothing that would matter to the dwarf, one way or the other. He knew this only too well. He had lost many he called friend to the shadow, more than he would care to remember.
He did remember them, however. Though, to his good fortune, or to his sorrow, he knew not.
Many years had passed, by the reckoning of Man, since the time when first a lingering darkness fell on the woods of his birth, Erin Galen. It quickly found a home there and grew, unnoticed by all, a blight on the once fair land. It spread, like wildfire, and open warfare was soon upon the Woodland realm. Legolas remembered well those hectic first years, and how his father had hurried to marshal their defenses. But none could have imagined, then, how heavy a toll the Enemy would exact on them.
Their losses, day by day, had been great. Before Sauron was forced to flee from his fortress of Dol Guldur, many of his fellow warriors had fallen prey to orcs, trolls and giant spiders that stalked the once peaceful woods.
But the Elves returned the favor gladly - we received no quarter or mercy... so we gave none. Many of the fell beasts had died at his knife and bow, Legolas remembered, and smiled grimly at the memory. But for all he killed, it was never enough - others spawned quickly and took their place.
The numbers of the Elven defenders diminished, and they drew back, to the Forest River.
There were moments, then, when he bitterly envied Men for yet another of their blessings, one that was often overlooked in happier times. For better or worse, the memories of Elves did not fall prey to the sands of time. But memories of Men, be they of happiness, or of despairing misery, unavoidably grew dim and tarnished with the slow trickle of the years. Images once poignant and sharp as the smell of freshly cut summer grass, became diluted and blurred before their last breath was upon them.
Men could forget and be healed by time, but the Firstborn remembered. They carried the burden of memory, joy and sorrow alike, with them, 'till the unmaking of the world.
While war raged all around him, Legolas could not help but consider such forgetfulness a blessing the One bestowed upon his mortal children. The Firstborn had no such luxury. He would remember each face that had fallen into shadow, with perfect clarity and with an aching heart, always.
"These are Daeron's Runes, such as were used of old in Moria," said Gandalf. "Here is written in the tongues of Men and Dwarves:
Balin son of Fundin
Lord of Moria."
"He is dead then," said Frodo. "I feared it was so."
Legolas heard Gimli swallow heavily and wondered next if the blessing of the One would ever blunt the sharp edge of the dwarf's sorrow.
He could not tell.
The Elf did not know if the Dwarves forget their dead.
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.