1. Chapter 1
These characters are obviously not mine. The great Professor gave us a fun world to play in, so let's play!
Please, I would love comments on what I'm doing right as well as what I'm doing wrong. Just let me know!
They sat in a circle. Eight, when there should have been nine. The Ringbearer and his servent sat close together staring blankly at the surrounding landscape. Pippin, at least, had fallen into sleep, while his cousin Merry stroked the curly head sadly. Aragorn's legs were stretched out in front of him and his hands were palm upwards on his thighs. His face was unreadable but he looked distinctly "unkingly" at the moment. Boromir sat a bit away from the group, his back turned to the rest of the company. He was muttering to himself again, as he often did. And then there was the dwarf. His very presence was an annoyance to the elf in this time of grief. He had that accursed book on his lap. Not open, not even bothering to read the thing. No, just running his fingers over the crackling edges as if his touch could absorb some knowledge from the ancient tome.
Legolas sighed. Of course the hobbits needed rest and a break from their grueling pace since leaving the mines, but this inactivity was quickly fraying his nerves. The orcs would be closing in and the feeling of pursuit when there was little that could be done was galling. At the very edges of his hearing he thought that he again caught the whispering patter of quiet feet from the way they had come. How long was Aragorn going to let them sit here? Had their new leader descended so far into his grief that he was heedless of the danger? The elf clutched his bow hard and took a steadying breath to calm himself. Long years of patrols had taught him patience, or at least how to fake patience, and to have faith in his commander.
His eyes strayed back over the company. None had moved, save Gimli, who at least had the decency to be looking at the ancient book he held now. "You should have let it lie, Dwarf," he thought miserably. Precious moments had been wasted rifling through the pages when they could have been looking for an escape. There had been no point in examining it then as far as Legolas could see. I had seemed clear from the moment they'd entered Moria that something grave had befallen the Dwarves. A shudder ran down his spine. Balin's grave could have easily become their grave. If they hadn't delayed then perhaps...
Legolas's heart clenched. No, he would not mourn Gandalf now. They would be under the eaves of Lothlorien soon, and then he could grieve. Until then he would harden his heart and look towards duty. Over time he had seen so many friends and comrades cut down by the enemy, why should this be any different?
But yet, something else was bothering him. Some memory from within the mines, mines that had become a tomb. It wasn't only the loss of Gandalf that made his heart ache.
It came to him then so swiftly he was at first unsure what to make of it. It had been the sight of the dwarf's sorrow at the tomb of his kin, head bowed against Balin's grave. There was a certain familiarity in the actions there.
There was a glade in Mirkwood that only the royal family visited now, where trees had been planted for his Grandfather and his mother and his brother when they had died. How many times had Legolas kneeled with his head bowed against their trunks in the same way that dwarf had done against the crypt? The trees. He could see them in his mind. Oropher's the greatest 3000 years old, now a mighty oak even compared against all the other tress in this forest. His mother's tree, 2000 years old and beautiful and shapely as he imagined she had been. Mallendraug, their Golden Wolf' tree, only a sapling in comparison. He had died too young, long before his time. Legolas had spent many dark hours alone in that glade trying to discern some reason behind the senselessness of their deaths, some pattern that would ease the burden of his family's loss.
But he knew that was not the only reason the memory was so stirring. On his patrols, how many times had Legolas stooped over the bloodless bodies his fallen companions beneath the darkening boughs of his forest? Soldiers and friends and kin they had been to him, immortal lives cut short by the growing evil that lurked at the borders of their homeland.
Legolas ground his teeth in frustration. He would not feel despair at the death of those dwarves. They were the ones who had mined Moria past its limits and had stirred the evil of that dark place. However glorious Moria might once have been it was nothing but a shell of its former glory now. Gandalf's final words would perhaps have better served the dwarves that had awoken that long sleeping evil. They should have flown before their own hammers sealed their fate. The stubbornness of the dwarves had once again disastrously altered the course of Middle Earth.
And yet a shadow of doubt crossed his mind. Was it folly to not flee when the growing shades of evil pressed in around you? Was it not only the stubbornness of the elves that kept Mirkwood from falling into the clutches of Dol Guldur? Their home was also beset by darkness and the elves did not flee, nor would they while strength was left to them. Legolas felt his stomach lurch. Moria was only a shell perhaps, but if so, then what was Mirkwood? His home shared little in common with the kingdom Oropher had strived to establish. He had labored most of his adult life to cling to the precious memory of once glorious Eryn Galen, so that one day it might be restored. It was an uplifting thought, but as the years had passed, it had felt more like an impossible dream. Every spider attack and every retreat had felt like sand slipping between their fingers. If the Quest should fail, then Mirkwood would fall. And what hope did the Quest have without Mithrandir?
A cold wind pulled him suddenly to the present and he noted with annoyance that he was the focus of Gimli's attention now. The elf narrowed his eyes in attempt to rid himself of the dwarven gaze. They had glared across camp at one another many times before this night. But this time, beneath the deep seated hatred of one another, Legolas was shocked to see his own grief and loss mirrored in the dwarf's eyes. Pity and a deep understanding shuddered through him at that moment. Startled and exasperated with sitting still any longer, the elf clutched his bow and rose swiftly to his feet, not breaking eye contact with Gimli as he did so. This at least had the effect of stirring the Company slightly.
"Master Dwarf". His tone was harsher than he had intended. Aragorn looked up wincing, seemingly pleading with Legolas to not act on his animosity now. Even Boromir had ceased his muttering and turned to see what would unfold, a scowl marring his noble face.
Legolas clutched the grip of the bow while struggling to tame the whirlwind of emotions he felt. The familiar touch of the wood was comforting, reassuring and a reminder of the home he loved. The scrutiny of the entire Fellowship was upon him. Even Pippen had stirred from his sleep and was watching with fearful and expectant eyes. There could be no turning back from what he intended to say. Breathing deeply, he spoke again, and this time his voice was softer, not much more than a whisper above the wind.
"Master Dwarf, I am sorry." after a pause and difficult swallow he continued "I am sorry for the loss of your kin, and the loss of their home."
Utter silence fell over the group. Pippin looked as though he thought he might still be dreaming, Boromir's scowl deepened, Aragorn's eyes went wide and Sam's mouth dropped open. Gimli didn't answer, or acknowledge any of the others, but the raise of his brow suggested that he was just as surprised as the rest. The look only lasted a moment before he narrowed his eyes again as if suspecting a trap of some kind.
Legolas swore inwardly at Gimli's distrust and anger flashed dangerously in his eyes. Accursed fool he was to think that there was anything to be gained by treating with the stunted, bearded naugrim that sat in their midst! The whole lot of that race could plunge into darkness and Middle Earth would be better off for it. It had been nonsense to see any likeness of that ruthless dark hole to the woodland kingdom of his home. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be Gimli, for his wretched kind's release of the monster that had robbed Middle Earth of Mithrandir!
Mithrandir. Antagonism and indignant scorn of the dwarf was usually a balm for his spirit, but tonight it only deepened the growing ache of grief in his chest. Unable to bear the heavy glances of his companions any longer, he spun on heel and turned stalking into the darkness, in search of pattering made by little bare feet.
One of the themes that Tolkien introduces is the loss of home. Every major character feels it: most obviously, if Suaron gets the Ring then everyone in Middle Earth loses their home. But there are more immediate threats than that. Aragorn fears for the North in Eriador, and his home in the South (Gondor) which Boromir also fears for. Legolas has been fighting the evil of Dol Guldur on his borders for however long. Gimli may not lose any homeland of his own, but he sees the loss of Erebor and of Moria in the past 100 years or so. Gandalf is a protector of Arda which is threatened. And in the final chapters of the LotR, the Hobbits find that the peaceful Shire is not how they left it.
Not to mention the Elves. If the One Ring is destroyed, then Rivendell and Lothlorien fall because they are protected by the lesser rings.
So mightn't this be something that Legolas could connect with in Gimli?
I'm of the belief that the Mirkwood elves would have more children than was common in other areas. Their sons were required to go to war, and thus, each elf might have had more children. This is how I explain the fact that Legolas had multiple brothers (hopefully to make appearances in future stories.)
I admit that this might be slightly AU because Tolkien did not write about any substantial halt in the Fellowship's journey between Moria and Lothlorien.
I hope you enjoy it