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DISCLAIMER: The Professor’s wonderful characters don’t belong to me; I just get to think about them day and night.
Legolas paused in his stroll about the deck to examine the carving on the mainmast. The thick pole had become much more than the merely strong and functional support he had crafted in Ithilien, as during the past days it had been carefully smoothed, polished, and engraved with a delicate tracery of leaves and vines as far up as a Dwarf’s hands could reach. The crude but serviceable benches on the deck were also now works of art, carved most pleasingly and inlaid with bits of silver.
He has been tireless in occupying himself, Legolas thought, yet there he stands, idle. Perhaps he is running short on projects on which to spend his time ‘ere we come to land. I cannot let his mind and hands grow idle. The risk is too great.
He walked over to Gimli, who was leaning on the forward rail and gazing out over the seemingly endless water.
“Have you begun the hobbits’ gifts yet?” Legolas asked casually.
Startled, Gimli looked up at his friend, his eyes pained.
“Legolas,” he said quietly, “you know as well as I that there is almost no chance Frodo and Sam are still alive.”
“Think you so?” Legolas asked. He ran a finger along the wooden railing, admiring a beautifully carved flock of gulls that hadn’t been there two days ago. “You are 262 years old, and still robust, however often you mutter about the rocking of the ship or how quickly you would sink into Ulmo’s infinite depths should you be pitched overboard. Frodo would be 173 this year, and Sam 161. Remember that Gollum was of hobbit-kind, and a Ring-bearer. Gandalf told us that he lived 500 years without the favor of the Powers with which Frodo and Sam were gifted.”
“How do you know how old I am?” Gimli asked suspiciously.
“And so,” Legolas continued, “I wondered if you had started on their gifts? If the hobbits do await us on the dock, do you plan to bring them nothing from the lands they loved so deeply? You have tools a-plenty, and there is here no lack of wood, twine, cloth, metals, and glue which you might utilize.” He was smiling, but Gimli recognized concern in his friend’s eyes.
He fears for me, Gimli realized suddenly. This voyage is a new beginning for him, the fulfillment of a longing suppressed for many years. But he believes I am steeling myself for an ending, a sadness of leaving home, friends, and kin, dying in a land where few will mourn, and where the bones of no others of my kind will ever rest. And so he tries to distract me, give me purpose, remind me that there are those who might be joyed by my decision to sail, who would welcome what I can offer. He looked back out over the water. But I am not sad, nor at the end of my purpose. The Powers are kind to allow me to approach their realm. What other dwarf has been granted such a boon? I doubt not that the Lady’s entreaties brought this about, or perhaps the hobbits hunger for another mortal to share their lives. Who better would understand and anchor them, adrift as they are in a land of immortal beings? I am at home wherever it pleases Mahal to plant me; stone is stone, whether behind or before me, and I will continue to learn what I can on whatever shore. It is only this expanse of water that is a bit unnerving. But Legolas is long-lived, and wise... perhaps I do need a new task with which to occupy myself until we reach the farthest shore, but not for the reason he believes. Just to keep my mind and skills nimble. And perhaps he knows something I do not. Could the hobbits indeed still live, and await us? How wonderful that would be!
Gimli gave a small chuckle. “Very well, you insufferable elf; in the unlikely event that at the moment we arrive two small, dear friends will be pouncing upon my luggage in search of gifts, I will prepare something for each of them.”
Legolas smiled broadly, greatly relieved. He fully believed that the hobbits were alive and well because Arwen had sensed it, and told him it was so, before she departed from the city overshadowed by her sorrow. He turned to go.
But what of you, my friend? Gimli wondered. Each day you grow more anxious, although you hide it well. You wonder if this venture will succeed, if I will last through the journey, and if your restless heart will know peace in the West, as you hope.
“What of you?” Gimli asked out loud, and Legolas stopped in surprise.
“Aye,” Gimli said. “What of your gifts for the hobbits? I have not seen you preparing them."
“I have seen your sketches, and they are pleasing. Will you deny the hobbits a glimpse of those things and people only you can bring them?” Gimli grinned mischievously. “There is here no lack of parchment, charcoal, and paints which you might utilize. Would Frodo and Samwise not appreciate drawings depicting Ithilien in its glory, the King and Queen with their children, the view from the White Mountains, the saplings taking root in the Black Lands? After all, Elves claim to have memory perfect in every detail, holding in clear aspect every person and event, tree and hill they encounter.”
“You are correct,” Legolas admitted. “I have been preoccupied with my own concerns, and took no thought to other matters. I will begin this very day.”
“As will I, my friend.” Gimli smiled gently. “Legolas, all will be well. The stars you love will shine even more brightly upon the end of your road, and your heart will know peace.”
“Thank you,” Legolas said, laying a hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder. “And I am certain that you will be gifted with renewed strength and hope, and a warm welcome, in the lands we approach.”
“May it be so,” Gimli said, his fingers already itching to craft something new. “Shall I see you at supper?”
“Of course. Unless, that is, we are both so busy in our new tasks that there is no thought of food this evening.”
“What are you saying? Skipping meals would hardly honor the hobbits!”
“You have grown in wisdom indeed.” The Elf smiled broadly, and took his leave.
The next morning, Legolas looked up from the sketch he was making of Eldarion’s coronation to gaze appraisingly at the cloth strips Gimli was painting.
“Perhaps more green,” he suggested. “Hobbits like green.”
“Of course there will be more green,” Gimli declared huffily. “Who knows more than I about what hobbits like?”
“My apologies.” Hiding a grin, Legolas returned to his sketch.
“Hmmph,” Gimli muttered. “Meddling elf.” When was certain Legolas was no longer watching, he used one foot to surreptitiously pull the pot of green paint closer.
It was Alcarinquë, deep-sea fishing east of the Lonely Isle, who first spotted the small ship in the distance. At first mistrusting even his own far-seeing vision, he shook his head in amusement as the tiny shape grew closer. Surely no vessel had ever approached Tol Eressëa sporting decorations such as these! Not since he had been an elfling had he seen such things, and never as large, or as colorful. He called out to his brother to join him on deck, and as they watched the craft sail slowly towards Avallónë, smiles came unbidden to their lips, for fully a dozen brightly-painted kites soared aloft from the deck. They watched with delight as birds, fish, trees, and even several strange gray creatures with enormous ears and snake-like noses flew and dipped to and fro with the breeze. The sight brought a lightness to their spirit, and, as one, they moved quickly to pull in their lines. Whoever was arriving from the lands east of the Sea surely had both a childlike heart and an artist’s hand, and they wished to be among the first to claim the honor and joy of bidding them welcome.
** END **
NOTE: In my stories “Starship” and “Healing the Blessed Isle”, Frodo and Sam are alive and well when Gimli and Legolas arrive in the West.
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