9. Angren-pau (Iron-Fist)
Sorry Imber- more angst than you can shake a spoon at!
Also -apologies for reposting this- the format had become skewed - thanks wombat for letting me know!
It's still doing funny things- wont let me space between paragraphs so forgive me for the weird look of this
And as always, for Anarithilien without whom this would be so much less than it is.
Chapter 9: Angren-Pau (Iron Fist)
'It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!
It is the cause.' (Othello)
Moodily, Aragorn leaned on the gunwale of the black ship and watched the gulls wheel and soar on the air
above. Even now the thin light that seeped through the heavy clouds caught their wings and they gleamed
with sudden brightness. But he did not really see them. Instead he saw with his inner eye, the obsidian glass
of the Palantir, and the swirl of purple and red in the depths of that opaque glass coalesced to show him the
green fields of Pelennor churned to mud, soaked with gore and blood by the relentless black hordes of Mordor.
Flames poured from the white towers and over the walls, engulfing his city. He thought he had heard the
horns blowing hopelessly across the Mountains, calling on their allies for aid… but too little. And too late.
Already the Nazgul screamed with triumph, wheeling above the burning city like the gulls wheeled above the
black ships that were too slow, and far, far too late. What was the point of having the Palantir if it was already
too late, he thought bitterly?
Black sails fluttered emptily above him. No wind stirred the pennants that hung from the masts and the Men
heaved on the great oars of the ships as they plunged forwards… but it was so slow against the tide, so slow
and ponderous that those Men he had charged with bringing the horses on foot to the city would get there
before him, he was sure.
He thought about the last conversation he had had with Gimli before they boarded the ships. His words still
burned in the air between them and Aragorn winced at the strain on their friendship. Tired, he rubbed his
hands over his face and squeezed his eyes shut. Gimli had been angrier than the Ranger had ever seen him,
accusing Aragorn of ignoring Legolas, of leading him knowingly to his doom, and even his death.
'I hope you have time now, Aragorn, to think on the damage your carelessness has wrought,' Gimli had said
coldly. Aragorn stared out over the iron grey water, remembering those bitter words. 'You knew!' Gimli had
gone on accusingly, 'You knew about the gulls and about this… cooevar or whatever it is- you grew up
amongst Elves so you knew… all this time. You guessed when you heard the Lady's message. And yet you
sought his company regardless. You asked him to come!'
And Aragorn had almost gasped then. It was true. He remembered the night Gimli spoke of, the first night
they had camped within the walls of Orthanc.
Legolas had been restless in his sleep then, and Aragorn had stood watch until the Elf finally gave up and
joined him at the campfire. Aragorn knew that Gandalf had delivered the last of his messages and that
Legolas would wrestle with this choice and yet, and yet… Aragorn cringed. He had behaved selfishly, afraid
the Elf would leave, and that he, Aragorn, would go to his terrible destiny alone and friendless. For Gimli
would go with Legolas and he realised how much he needed them both. His mouth pulled to one side in a slight
grimace and he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the memory of his words during that quiet talk
by the campfire.
'I cannot ask you this, Legolas. But I would have your company on this dark road, a while longer if you would
grant it,' he had said.
Legolas had seemed to turn his thoughts inward for a moment. And then slowly, as if he understood the
certainty of his doom, the Elf had replied, 'I would follow you to the ends of the earth, Aragorn.'
Aragorn's heart shrivelled now at the dreadful irony of his next words. 'Only to Minas Tirith, my friend,' he had
said. 'I would not want you to go where you might meet death. The gulls cry on the shores of Pelargir…we will
not go there.'
Legolas had moved then and the firelight caught the gleam of his pale gold hair. His braids lay down his back
against the soft green of his tunic. Leaning forwards he had stared at Aragorn intently. 'We have looked in
the face of death since we first left Rivendell, Aragorn. Nothing has changed.'
Gimli had been awake then too, he recalled, listening to their quiet words. He had said nothing then. But
here, when they had come to the black ships and had seen the gulls hovering in the air, the magnitude of
Aragorn's betrayal and falsehood shown in the dwarf's earth-brown eyes. He had looked at Aragorn with fierce
intensity and he had laid into the Man with uncompromising passion. Aragorn remembered every word. 'Do
you know what he said when I asked him to leave us, to go with Eomer? He said it was faithless. That he
would not fail your trust again,' Gimli had said as he stared at Aragorn with barely controlled fury. 'Do you
know what he was referring to? Do you know how much that weighs on him, your stupid words at the
Aragorn looked down at the varnished wooden deck of the ship. He stared at the whorls and a deep scratch in
the wood's grain. He had regretted those words, the accusation that the Mirkwood Elves had been lax in their
care of Gollum even as they had left his mouth. He had seen the Elf's face tremble briefly before the cold
mask had settled back in place then. And then when Legolas had told the Council of Mirkwood's subsequent
losses, he had felt ashamed for his reproof.
Once again he wished he had made time to seek Legolas out and make his apologies. All that time on the
Quest… but there had never been the right moment and, in all truthfulness, it had slipped from his mind,
until these last few days, this last week, when suddenly it had become so important.
Aragorn sighed and rubbed his hands over his face again, feeling the stubble and grime that still clung to his
skin. He leaned against the gunwale and frowned. Gimli had not finished even then, hurling out the
devastating words like daggers. 'You knew there are gulls here! You have been here before. What happened?
Did you forget?'
Aragorn had gazed at him then, stunned, horrified, unable to move or go after the Dwarf as he stumped off
towards a small boat waiting for him. And so they had parted and he was alone without his constant
He stared at the grey water churning beneath the ship's prow. Aragorn wondered how he could ever look
Gimli in the eye again. Legolas might forgive him, but Gimli never would. He would not understand that the
Dead had clouded Aragorn's mind, that their whispering and lust for vengeance had blurred his thoughts.
Aragorn knew that he had lost himself, lost all thought for others in the struggle to keep control of the long-
dead warriors. And the Dúnedain, the dispossessed Men of Numenor, had shared their need for blood and
vengeance. Their destiny tangled inextricably. So the Oath-breakers now rode with Isildur's' Heir, he they had
betrayed, with the same purpose. They had pressed around him, all of them, like they were cold, keeping him
close, keeping him safe so others could not distract him from his purpose or his destiny. And he had ridden
like the wind, without thought, without a glance at those with him.
He pulled his cloak about him more tightly, shivering slightly in the cold air. Only when they had gone did he
realise how clouded his thoughts had been, how unaware.
He glanced around and nodded at Halbarad. His old friend sat on a pile of canvas on the deck, cleaning his
sword. Beside him a whetstone and oilcloth. Baelderon and Corbarad were nearby, one silently smoking a long
clay pipe, the other whittling a piece of wood. They were quiet, patient, grim-faced, for this was also their
He felt the weight of their expectation grind on him.
Suddenly he realised he missed Legolas' mischievous teasing and Gimli's gruff tenderness. To them, he was
simply Aragorn, just as he was Strider to the Hobbits. He looked out and wondered which was Legolas and
Gimli's ship and leaned out over the gunwale once more. The great oars dipped and rose, dipped and rose,
white water flowing from the blades as they rose as one from the river. The ship creaked and still there was
* * *
Elrohir had watched him through half-closed eyes. Having witnessed the Dwarf's ire, he knew what haunted
his brother. Resisting the urge to go and smooth it all away through his comfort, Elrohir had allowed Aragorn
to wrestle with his inner turmoil. He knew Aragorn well enough to understand that nothing would assuage
his guilt. And he watched when Aragorn went below, hoping it would be to sleep. Too often of late had his
younger brother let his hand stray to the Palantir, stroking the round shape through his satchel, almost
caressing it, as if it warmed him. Rest was what Aragorn needed now. Peace.
Alone on the upper deck, his hand smoothed the loose braids that held his raven black hair away from his
face. He let his dark eyes stray out across the grey churning river. Elladan was there. He was safe. Aragorn
was safe. And his father and sister were safe. And… and his mother was in Valinor.
He steeled himself. He needed to think on this. For so long he had denied himself and now… he could turn
away no longer. He needed to heal himself, to think on the other Elf who lured him and drove him to violence.
And here, close to the Sea, with its salt blue scent drifting and the mewling of gulls wheeling above, he would
sink into it and …and breathe again. For so long he had hardly dared to breathe, in case he felt it…He did not
want to face it. Did not want to think… but he must.
Suddenly he whirled away, leaping down the stairs to the main deck, and there throwing the door to the hold
open. He stared into the darkness and plunged below.
It was close and warm, suffocating. The darkness pressed against him and the ship's hull creaked, the oars
lifted and plunged and he could hear the groans of Men straining against the great river as it wound its way
slowly to the Sea. They fought against it and he imagined their muscles bunched and slick with sweat. He
would take his turn too… but not now.
He retreated into the small cabin he had found and stood silently in the darkness.
He dropped his pack and armour in the corner of the cabin, and sat on the edge of the wooden chair in the
corner to pull off his leather boots. They were still muddy and spattered with blood. He wiped his hand on his
breeches and paused, looking down. Already on his breeches was a stain. He paused and stared down at it.
Dark red. Blood. And another stain nearby that was not blood. He groaned.
In the quiet dark another voice called softly, 'Is everything alright? Elrohir?' Aragorn had retired then, he
'Yes,' he answered quietly. 'I did not mean to disturb you.'
There was a pause and then Aragorn's voice came back softly, 'You did not. These walls are only wood.' And
there was a soft knocking on the wall near Elrohir's head as if to prove his point. Indeed, there was only a thin
partition separating them, he thought. He would have to be quieter.
He sat in the dark in only his light shirt and stained breeches, and stared down at himself in disgust. What
had he become? He remembered the light falling on pale gold hair and his hands holding the heaviness of it,
the fall of it, heavy and thick, wheat pale…he held the image of it in his mind and stared at it, following the
long length of hair and thinking about the tight braids that held it back from the Elf's face… No, he thought.
Nothing like…So why did he feel this…fury and rage? Why did he think of his poor broken mother?
And then he had to turn from the image of Legolas to the dark tunnels and caves of the Orcs once more. And
this time, he could not run. He forced himself to bring out the perfect Elven memory of it… forced himself to
relive the moment...
He took a breath and stilled his mind... and another breath and slowly, he opened the door in his mind that
had for so long, only opened in his dreams...
In the caves again, the heat and darkness pressing close, beneath his skin. The stench. Orc. Dried blood and
bones, putrefying meat. And excrement and urine. It was horrific. He eased himself through the darkness
that seemed thicker than air, like viscous liquid, like thick water- oil perhaps… he pushed away the horror of it
and instead focused on sounds … a muffled sob? Further down the tunnel, he could trace the sounds to
where a glow of torchlight flickered… a muffled cry again and as he eased himself closer, heavy breaths…
grunts. He stopped, listened, stretched out his senses… and realised what he heard, for he was no innocent
himself. And then the red hot anger and fury blazed through his blood and he could not stop…
Elrohir opened his eyes and stared into the darkness.
No. That is not how it happened. He had not blazed like a fury and flung open the door. The night he had
crept into the Orc den, he had already been aroused by battle, already felt that excitement akin to desire.
He knew other warriors felt it too; Glorfindel had warned him of it before his first skirmish, had told him of the
lust that swelled him and sometimes led Men who could not control themselves to atrocities. Elrohir Peredhel
understood well that lust… He had already felt the dark lust raise its head like a predator when he crept
silently down the tunnel and paused to listen.
A stifled scream tore through the dark as he eased open the heavy barred door. Inside the cell an Orc stood
pushing up against a pile of rags and filthy matted hair, a shapeless huddle that whimpered and cried. The
dark lust within him raised its head to listen. A pale breast showed through the torn fabric already filthy and
stained, ripped into shreds, and he stared, though his sword glinted in the torchlight. The Orc was panting,
thrusting itself into the shapeless form which moved and protesting hands clawed at the Orc. Elrohir held his
sword before him and paused…
Yes. This was it. He had paused, watching the Orc thrusting, its mouth wide in lust and the whimpering form
hanging loosely from its grip, pushed against the stone wall. Elrohir had felt a horrible kinship, the power of
violence, he felt himself swell and the erotic charge. He had almost groaned when the Orc suddenly stiffened
as it released and at that moment, Elrohir moved as if released from his own spell. The Orc turned suddenly
and seeing the Elf standing there, roared with rage. It dropped the ragged form and turned, dragging its iron
sword from the sheath as it turned to confront the intruder. Elrohir had simply, elatedly, lustfully slashed the
Orc's throat so its blood burbled erotically from the gash and it fell to the ground. He wanted to sink his hands
into its gorged flesh, to tear its heart from its chest and thrust into it himself. The stink of its release filled the
cell, horrible and familiar.
The ragged shape that stank of blood and semen now crawled away from him, mumbling and weeping. Still
sunk in the bloodlust and violence of killing, he had grasped its hair, thinking at first it was some female Orc
or some creature corrupted by darkness and Shadow for it seemed shrivelled and wizened. And then…a long
pale hand had scrabbled towards the Orc's fallen sword, scrambling to hold it and the rough voice whispered
brokenly. He bared his teeth in his rage, his desire for release driving his body, and he dragged her head back
intending to…intending to…
Tangled filthy hair dropped around her face… and her eyes, unfocused and bright with defiance and tears had
made him see her. His eyes widened in terror and he had nearly pushed her away when he realized the full
horror of what he discovered.
He had been about to… to… No! No! He could not think on that. But still the memories flooded him, for when
he had lifted her, she had torn at his face and screamed, struggling and saying vile things to him. She was
out of her mind then but it did not matter, for it was true. All true. He was worse than any Orc …
That was enough. He could not bear to think on it any more. He had confronted enough. Elrohir turned away
and found that he had gouged the palms of his hands with his own nails. This was the cause. That he had
found his mother without even knowing it was her. That he had felt the desire burgeon in him as he watched
her rape. Suddenly he gagged and his hand flew trembling to his throat. He leaned over and retched, as he
had all those years ago when he realised. He had retched until his stomach was empty and still he retched,
the smell of his own musk stinking in his nostrils.
He was worse than any Orc. He should have died over and over. Shuddering, he wiped his mouth with his
'Elrohir?' a voice called quietly.
Closing his eyes, Elrohir let his head fall back against the timbers. He did not want to speak but Aragorn would
worry if he did not and might seek him out. 'I am well, Aragorn,' he called softly back.
There was a pause and he waited, knowing that Aragorn wanted to offer comfort, would be wondering if he
should come in or of he should leave him be. He knew his brother well and a moment later he heard him call
quietly, 'If you need me, I am here.'
It was enough.
On another ship, in another cabin, Legolas drifted in sleep. The waves lulled him with the soft splashing of
water and the rise and fall of the ship. But something intruded. A small noise, muffled, distant and he closed
it out. Whatever it was, someone else could take care of it. He let his thoughts drift, and as he always did
when seeking the dream paths, he thought of the forest and was perturbed that he did not find the peace he
usually felt when his thoughts drifted among the tall trees, lush ferns and deep moss on grey granite stone.
He tried harder… clear forest streams rushing over mossy boulders, water white and silver, little waves
splashing at the side of the rafts that took the empty barrels down the deep, dark, forest stream, the waves
splashing on the bow, the silver water rushing past the grey pebbles… the soughing of the wind in the white
sails and white winged birds caught aloft on the breeze that came up from the Sea…he was lost...
* * *
Elladan quietly opened the door of the small cabin and peered in. He hoped Legolas would be resting and at
first, was pleased to see the Elf had fallen into reverie, his eyes glazed, lips parted slightly as he walked in
some pleasant forest dream… but he noticed the cup dangling from nerveless fingers and a patch of
dampness on the blanket near the cup. He strode into the cabin and lifted the cup, set it down on the small
table and bent over Legolas, looking anxiously into his eyes. The pupils, dilated wider than any Imladrian's,
were wide and unseeing. A thin line of green limned the pupil like a cat's eye in the darkness. Curious, he
stared and wondered if this was what allowed the Mirkwood Elves to see better in the dark.
Legolas' breathing was very slow and deep, and Elladan knew he was not sleeping in a natural reverie. He
recognised the cuivëar all too well and lifted Legolas' head gently to smooth his hair and tuck his arm more
comfortably under the blanket. His skin was warm and his muscles were hard. The warrior markings on his
skin glowed a little in the soft light from the oil lamp. Elladan found himself still holding Legolas' arm and
staring, mouth open. Suddenly he pulled away, disgusted with himself. What was wrong with him? He did not
go in for dalliances with other warriors, no matter how far from home. It was not the way of the Noldor even
if what he had heard about the wild Woodelves of Mirkwood were true. And it was enough that Elrohir had…
he shook himself. He did not want to think about what his brother had done.
He leaned over the Elf and rested his hand over his heart and called softly. He used not only his voice and
knowledge of healing, but his own inherent power. And slowly, Legolas' pupils shrank and the green iris
appeared. The Elf blinked and focused on the face in front of him. He frowned and pushed back into the pillows
at first, bewilderment in his eyes. His breath came in quick pants and Elladan retreated, aware of his distress.
'Peace, Legolas. It is me, Elladan. You are safe. You are on the ship and Gimli is here on board.' He said these
things that were familiar, suddenly worried about what other memories might have surfaced, but Legolas only
looked confused and then shook his head slowly. He watched the Elf struggle, stirring despite himself,
dragging him from the deeps, from the rushing waves and distant shore.
'I was... dreaming I think.' Dazed, Legolas spoke in a quiet murmur, as if not sure he was speaking at all. 'But
it was not … not reverie. I dreamed … of tall spires, and grey ships… it was the Sea…I was on a long journey.
And then you… ' He looked away. 'It was only a dream,' he finished lamely.
'You have been in cuivëar,' Elladan told him, taking his seat in the chair once more. 'It will happen. You will
dream…of Valinor, and the Sea,' he said gently. 'For now, yes, you are on board a ship, going to Minas Tirith.
You have been injured, an arrow in your shoulder. Do you remember?' he asked, scrutinising the Elf carefully.
'You were brought here and Nestor and Anor took care of you.'
Legolas frowned and lightly touched his head. 'You brought me here. You healed me…?' he said a little
Elladan said nothing but regarded Legolas steadily. 'The sere-vanda will confuse you for a while. But better
that than the pain of the arrow being drawn.'
Grimacing, Legolas shifted slightly and looked up at him. His face was slightly flushed and Elladan leaned
forwards, placing his hand gently on Legolas' cheek, feeling for a fever. But the heat he felt beneath his palm
was not from fever and slowly he moved his hand away and let it fall to his side. 'You do not have a fever,' he
said unnecessarily, his mouth suddenly felt dry.
Outside the small cabin now, he heard the stomp of two pairs of feet approaching. Almost gratefully, Elladan
leaned back into the chair, draping one arm over the back and grinned. 'If you did, Nestor and Gimli would
never have left you alone.' Legolas still seemed barely aware of what was happening, had not noticed the
slight flush in Elladan's own face.
Ever since he had declared the patient in need of some care, both had fussed and clucked and tucked Legolas
in so tight he could not move his arms. Elladan had simply found it all amusing, and rather touching. We find
our hope in the little things, he thought to himself. He cocked his head to one side for a moment and then
said, 'Ah. Your nursemaids are bickering.'
Outside the small cabin he could hear loud, angry whispers, gaining in volume and righteous indignation.
'… going in to check if he is still sleeping!' That was Gimli.
'If you go in, you will wake him. Elladan is with him.' That was Nestor.
'Elladan does not know him. He will want to see a friendly face.'
Elladan glanced down at the still sleepy face of the Elf before him. His long wheat-pale hair was mussed and
spread over the pillow, green eyes still half-glazed but becoming more aware.
'He will not stop until you let him in.' Legolas murmured sleepily. 'Dwarves are not very patient you know.
Nor are they very subtle. He will take his axe to the door if you don't move quickly.' He raised his head slightly
to look towards the noise.
Elladan raised an amused eyebrow, unfolded his lean body and rose to open the cabin door.
Two heads craned to see in, each with benevolent smiles. Elladan was aware of a quiet groan from Legolas as
he let his head fall back on the pillow. Both Nestor and Gimli jostled each other through the door.
'Only one of you.' Elladan said firmly, holding the door only slightly ajar so Nestor and Gimli had to remain
wedged in the doorway.
Gimli glared up at the big Man who had managed to pin the Dwarf against the wood with his hip. Gimli simply
bared his teeth and raised his elbow and Elladan, who had seen this move before, winced in sympathy as the
Dwarf's meaty arms collided with the Man's groin. Ooch. Nestor crumbled and Gimli triumphantly pushed his
way in. Elladan patted Nestor on his arm consolingly.
'Right. Good.' Gimli said, quickly scanning Legolas who rolled his eyes and sighed. 'Did you miss me?' he
'I am getting well, Nana Gimli. Look.' Legolas lifted his arm for inspection and although it was clear it did pull,
it had not been a deep wound and he was healing quickly.
Elladan waved his hand at the chair, indicating that Gimli should take it. The Dwarf stood for a moment
though, and stared at his friend, his deep brown eyes fixed, not on the wound, but locked on the Elf's green
eyes. They held each other's gaze for a moment and then Gimli sighed, glancing away and sank into the chair.
'Nana?' Elladan raised his eyebrow at Legolas. Legolas grinned weakly.
'Yes.' said the Dwarf defiantly. 'It is Sylvan for "Fearsome Dwarf Lord."' He raised his chin, folded his arms
and stretched out his legs.
Elladan laughed and moved towards the door. It would soothe Legolas to have the solid presence of the Dwarf,
to hear his friend's tales and tall stories, to count the number of Orcs they had killed. 'He is much improved,
Gimli. I think I can leave him in your care whilst I look at the others. Call if he starts to sicken though- you
know how delicate these Woodelves are.'
As he left he remembered Glorfindel telling him about the Elves of Mirkwood. He could hear Glorfindel's voice
in his own head, as if his long time mentor and friend was standing next to him, golden hair gleaming in the
candlelight, head tilted and that wry smile on his lips. 'Never wager, gossip, or fight with a Woodelf- they will
always beat you.' That mix of disapproval and admiration in his voice, 'They fight like demons, unstoppable,
relentless and the most ferocious things I have ever seen. And they have a fey distant look in their eyes as if
they are listening to something else that you cannot hear.'
'Trees? Or perhaps flowers.' someone, he could remember who, had interjected dismissively.
But Glorfindel had snorted. 'When you've seen a Woodelf gut an Orc without a second glance, you know they
aren't listening to flowers. And they can shoot a bat's eye in the dark.'
Elladan glanced back at the two friends and felt a sudden and unexpected surge of emotion… was that
jealousy? Envy perhaps? The easy love that bound these two, the camaraderie and affection that laced their
words was rare in these times of war… and he lingered too, on the memory of Legolas' warm cheek under his
hand and the heat that had suffused his palm when he touched him.
* * *
Legolas too was aware of the easy grace of this son of Elrond. As Elladan turned and left, the fall of his long
black hair caught the light and again, Legolas glimpsed the almost blue depths, the loose braids so different
from those he wore himself. And there was a resonance, a memory of his name traced on his skin, fingers
following the patterns of runes on his chest, above his heart, calling him back from the dream of the Sea. But
then a sudden sense of wrongness assailed him, unlooked for and unexplained. He frowned slightly and shook
his head. Later, he told himself. He would think about it later, when his head was clear of this numbing sere-
He closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, Gimli's deep brown eyes were staring into his face,
studying him anxiously.
'You look better. More colour in your cheeks. Must be the …the air,' he said hesitantly, Legolas looked at the
Dwarf uncertainly. 'And you have rested properly for a change.' Gimli looked about him worried, 'Are you
Legolas shook his head. 'No, I still feel too sick to eat- my stomach ails! It is the sere-vanda. It does terrible
things to your insides,' he added grimacing. He remembered a particular patrol in the depths of the bitter
Winter when the wolves had howled closer to his father's stronghold than they had ever dared before; he had
been injured, taken the drug to ease the pain so they could return more quickly and then suffered the horrible
gut-churning side-effects which, he felt, had been worse than the original pain.
'You must eat. Many a Dwarf I know has refused to eat after a cave-in or battle and taken far too long to heal
because of it. Have I told you about the time I was caved in at the Grey Mountain Deep?' Pulling his chair
closer, Gimli settled himself comfortably and reached into his coat.
'Yes, you have,' Legolas said hastily. 'Oh wait. Was it the Grey Mountain or the Blue Mountain you told me
about?' he said putting his head on one side as if to think. Gimli's bright eyes caught his in amusement. 'Or
was it the Grey Mountain Deep or Open Cast? It could have been any of them. I think I have heard all your
tales of cave-ins.'
Grinning generously, the Dwarf pulled out his pipe. 'Well then, since you enjoyed them so much I will tell you
a new story. Now I know I have not told you this one.' He leaned back in the chair and began to speak in the
slightly louder, slower voice that Legolas recognised as Gimli's best story-telling voice. 'I was digging in the
Lonely Mountain, in the darkest, deepest shaft, when I smelt the air change. It cooled…'
Resigned, Legolas let his head fall back onto the pillow and sighed. He tried to shift himself onto his good
elbow but it made his shoulder ache so he interrupted. 'Gimli, your talk of caves and landslides is making me
feel closed in. I have been feeling so much better. Perhaps you might help me to the deck and tell your story
there. I could do with some fresh air,' he said hopefully.
Gimli suddenly leaned forwards and grasped his arm. 'You should not go up there,' the Dwarf protested with
more asperity than Legolas had expected. 'You are not recovered enough yet. I will not talk of cave-ins,' he
promised earnestly. 'You must stay here yet a while. You are not ready.'
Legolas looked at him for a moment, slowly cataloguing his body's health, and decided that perhaps a few
more hours rest would aid his healing. The wounds had closed over but the one on his chest, made not by
any Orc but an Elf, had not healed as well as it should and he knew himself well enough to know that he had
indeed suffered from the constant anxiety, watching, and waiting for battle as well as the unspoken
antagonism from Elrohir. It had hurt more than he acknowledged, that one whom he had admired had
seemed to hate him on sight.
'Very well,' he conceded. 'Perhaps you are right. I will stay here for a few more hours. This sere-vanda makes
me feel heavy and sleepy…Tell me what has happened instead?' he asked.
Gimli put his clever hands behind his head and chewed the end of his pipe for a moment. Then he told Legolas
of the battle, of the Dead sweeping through the struggling knots of Orcs and Men, the surge of terror that
swept through the Men and how they had fled. He spoke too of the valour of the sons of Elrond and the
'Ere that dark day ended none of the enemy were left to resist us; all were drowned, or were flying south in
the hope to find their own lands on foot,' said the Dwarf.' Strange and wonderful I thought it that the designs
of Mordor should be overthrown by such wraiths of fear and darkness. With its own weapons was it worsted!'*
he said stroking his beard.
Legolas noted the Dwarf had finally been able to bathe and oil his beard; it lay silken and smooth over his
chest, gleaming richly in the lamplight.
'So Aragorn has released the Dead?'
Gimli nodded. 'A very bad idea in my view. Much better to have kept them with him. They were very useful in
a tight spot.'
'That may be,' replied Legolas thoughtfully, 'but I do not think Aragorn could have had the strength to hold
them much longer. Did you not see how they leaned on him, how they sought to draw him ever more to
their purpose. They wished to slake their thirst, to drench him in blood so he would release him. They drove
him onwards…and he was becoming lost in their song…' he murmured as if to himself. 'Indeed, as was I.'
As if satisfied that Legolas had admitted something, Gimli nodded quietly and sighed. It was like some tension
had eased. 'Aragorn has taken the largest ship for himself. He has unfurled his standard there. The Dúnedain
are all aboard his ship. It is a place of great humour and mirth,' he said solemnly.
Legolas smiled and he was suddenly so glad to see his friend, to have back that bone-deep connection with
this child of the mountain that he felt tears begin to prick his eyes. But he was not ashamed this time. He
wiped his eyes and focused on the Dwarf. 'Elvellon,' he said simply, and smiled.
Gimli regarded him steadily and in his deep eyes there was great love and affection. 'You are a mad Woodelf
and I love you for it, Legolas. But if you ever do that to me again, stop dead in the middle of a battle and
listen to some birdsong, I swear I will kill you myself!' And though he spoke gruffly, he reached out and
clasped the Elf's hand in his own. 'I remind you again of your oath to me, that we will return together and
explore the caves of Aglarond. You promised you would not let me fall, and I will not allow you to fall either.'
'Angren-pau.' Legolas squeezed the strong, capable hand in his and thought he would be proud to bring Gimli
to his home, wherever that might now be.
* ROTK The Last Debate.
The conversation Aragorn recalls at the start of this chapter is from my earlier story, Deeper than Breathing.
Angren-pau - Iron Fist