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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

A Conversation with the Dead

Summary: Legolas converses with an absent Gimli. Second place in the Teitho contest ‘One Voice’.


Tol Eressëa:

Legolas came to the tomb every fourth Valanya, carefully tending the small garden that surrounded the oblong block of granite in which his friend lay. The garden was a profusion of color and pleasing scents that attracted bees and butterflies. They provided a nice contrast to the dark gray of the stone. He would have liked to come more often, but his friends discouraged him, saying it was ‘unnatural’. He had tried to argue otherwise, but when Elrond insisted that he limit his visits and concentrate on the living, he capitulated, little though he liked it.

Yet, in truth, he realized that they were perhaps right. He had noticed that even those who had known the Hobbits did not visit the fane where they lay side-by-side very often, perhaps on the anniversary of their deaths, but otherwise....

Yet, somehow it seemed different with Gimli. None of the others knew the Dwarf and most had been rather scandalized by his presence. Only the Lady Galadriel and Lord Elrond had welcomed him warmly, but even they could not be said to have known Gimli as well as Legolas had.

And, of course, the old Dwarf had died not long after their arrival, for the crossing had been taxing on Gimli’s strength. It had been a frailer Dwarf who hobbled down the wharf by Legolas’ side as they were courteously greeted by a Maia who brought them to the house where they would reside, a house that overlooked the harbor of Avallónë. Gimli had lived only a few short months after that and when he died just before the winter solstice, for the first time in over a hundred and twenty years, Legolas was once again alone.

He’d spent the winter lovingly carving his friend’s tomb and by the time the first crocuses and tulips began to appear, he had finished, placing the granite sepulcher on a plot of land that he had chosen beforehand. It was a hidden dell situated north of the city where the highlands began. He’d made enquiries and had been assured that the dell belonged to no one and so he had cleared it of underbrush, trimmed back some of the trees and once the tomb had been placed there, he’d begun the garden. His friends had only allowed him to come twice a week to tend the garden for the first month but afterwards insisted he come no oftener than once a month.

And now, here it was, the tail-end of summer. He knew his friends disapproved of his coming here, but it did not matter to him. Gimli was all that mattered. He made his way into the dell, a small clearing in the woods surrounded by birch, elm and oak. There was a serenity to the place that always soothed Legolas’ spirit. However troubled he might be, once inside the dell he felt calmer and more at peace.

Always, he came bearing gifts: flowers or herbs with which to grace the garden. Once he’d even brought a small willow sapling and placed it just far enough from the tomb that when it grew it would provide his friend with shade. Glancing at it as he entered the dell he was pleased to see that it had grown some since his last visit. This time he was bringing a small lavender plant.

"Good morning, Gimli," he greeted the Dwarf as he always did whenever he came to the tomb. "Look what I brought." He held the lavender plant up to show the Dwarf knowing how foolish he was being, yet he could not help himself.

And just what is that you’ve got, laddie? the Dwarf asked as he sat on top of his tomb smoking.

"It’s lavender," Legolas replied, even as he knelt before a bare spot of earth, removing the satchel he had slung over his shoulder, taking out a trowel he had brought with him to dig up the soil. Carefully unwrapping the herb from the burlap protecting its roots and placing it in the ground, he replaced the soil. Then he fished out a cup from the satchel and went into the woods to where a rill of water trickled out of the ground, filling the cup and bringing it back to water the plant. He cast a critical eye over the rest of the garden, deadheading some marigolds and picking out stray leaves that had blown from the trees that were only just beginning to change color. Satisfied that the garden was doing well, he put away trowel and cup and sat on the grass, his arms around his knees, gazing at Gimli still calmly sitting on his grave, smoking as usual.

"So, how have you been, my friend?" Legolas asked softly, as he always did.

Well enough, the Dwarf replied. Being dead has its advantages, he said, his eyes twinkling with humor. I don’t mind the wait between visits.

"I’m sorry I didn’t come last month," Legolas said apologetically. "Elrond insisted I attend some stupid garden party."

Ah... Was anyone there whom I know? the Dwarf asked, casting a knowing look at his friend.

Legolas shrugged. "Elrond, of course, and Celebrían, and Erestor. Everyone else was a stranger to me."

So why did Elrond insist you accompany him?

Legolas gave a snort of disgust. "Why do you think? Stupid, simpering ellith." He scowled down at his knees and then his expression turned malicious and he pitched his voice to a higher register. "Oh, Prince Legolas. Is it true that you fought against nasty orcs? I don’t know what I would do if I were confronted with a nasty orc."

Gimli chuckled around his pipe as Legolas continued. "And is it true you consorted with... with Mortals? How...very brave of you." Legolas rolled his eyes and threw his hands up.

Gimli took the pipe out of his mouth and laughed, slapping his knees. Legolas gave him a sour look.

"Go ahead and laugh, my friend," he groused. "You weren’t there."

Ah, but I wished I’d been there, just to see your expression, the Dwarf countered.

Legolas sighed and closed his eyes. "Listening to them prattle about absolutely nothing was bad enough, but they all wanted me to partner them in the dancing."

You like dancing, Gimli pointed out.

Legolas nodded. "But not with ellith who are throwing themselves at me, or more correctly, are being thrown at me by people who I thought were my friends."

Ah....Gimli said, giving his friend a sympathetic look. So how did you answer these ellith?

"I told them that I’d sooner dance with an orc than with any of them and then I made my excuses to Elrond and left," Legolas replied with a huff. He gave Gimli an embarrassed look. "Yes, I know. I was being very rude."

I didn’t say a thing, Legolas, the Dwarf said sympathetically. Were these ellith really that bad? Ugly, were they?

Legolas looked at Gimli in surprise. "Ugly? How can any Elf be ugly? No, they were beauty personified. I just resented being put on display. I resent Elrond and Celebrían and Mithrandir and everyone else insisting I stop mourning and start living. I don’t know what they want from me, Gimli," he protested. "I do what they tell me. I don’t come here all the time and I even stuck to my schedule and did not come earlier even though I felt that I’d been cheated out of my time with you."

You know you can talk to me anywhere and anytime, don’t you, laddie? Gimli asked.

Legolas nodded. "Oh, yes, I know, but... I feel closer to you here and there’s no one around to disapprove."

How did Elrond react to your... um... sudden departure? Gimli enquired, giving him a shrewd look.

Legolas scowled, his face reddening. "He wasn’t happy, to say the least. Celebrían wouldn’t speak to me for days afterward."

And that plaguey Wizard? What did he have to say about all this?

Now Legolas grinned. "He just threw up his hands, rolled his eyes and muttered something about elflings who should know better."

Ha! I can just imagine, Gimli said with a grin. But beyond that, what did he say?

"What do you mean?"

Come, my friend. I know you better than you know yourself, and I remember Gandalf well enough. I’m sure he gave you a talking to after you insulted the fair maidens of Tol Eressëa.

Legolas sighed, looking chagrined as well as embarrassed. "He didn’t yell at me, if that’s what you’re asking. Frankly, I think I would prefer him yelling at me instead of trying to be sympathetic. I don’t want sympathy, Gimli."

What do you want?

"I want to be left alone," the Elf exclaimed angrily, jumping to his feet. "I want to be allowed to mourn for as long as I wish and not have to pretend that everything is fine when it’s not."

And whose fault is that? Gimli retorted. Look, Legolas, he continued, not giving his friend a chance to answer, I’m gratified that you still miss me. I’m pleased that you like to come and visit with me here, though I do wish you would stop bringing all these plaguey plants.

Legolas raised an eyebrow. "But?"

Gimli nodded. But... Elrond and Gandalf are correct. It’s time for you to move on. It’s time for you to find your way to a new life without me.

Legolas cast his eyes down. "Do you... do you miss me?" he asked hesitantly.

I’m dead, laddie. I don’t miss anyone, came the reply.

Legolas raised his head to stare skyward, fighting back tears. "It’s so hard, Gimli. It’s so very hard. I go through my day and start to say something to you about something only to remember at the last minute that you’re no longer there and I find myself grieving all over again."

I’ll always be there with you, Legolas, the Dwarf said kindly. In your heart where death cannot go, I’ll always be there.

"It’s not enough," Legolas retorted harshly, scowling at the Dwarf. "It’s not enough."

But it’s all you have left, Gimli said. It will have to be enough. In the meantime, you know what you need to do.

"And what is that?" Legolas demanded, refusing to acknowledge his friend’s words.

Gimli gave him a smirk. You either have to find an orc to dance with or you start dancing with the pretty ellith.

Legolas stared at him in disbelief. "You’re impossible, you know that?"

It takes one to know one, Gimli said with a shrug.

Legolas let out a huff but didn’t contradict him. He glanced idly at the sky, marking the sun’s position and sighed. "Well, I have to go, my friend. I promised Elrond I would return early as Celebrían wished to go sailing and then have a picnic on some beach."

Sounds like fun, Gimli said with a nod. Are there going to be any ellith on the beach? he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.

Legolas shook his head. "Valar! I hope not. If there are I think I’ll throw myself into the ocean and be done with it."

Now, that’s pure foolishness, laddie, Gimli said sternly, shaking his pipe at him. You go sailing and enjoy the picnic and if there are any ellith on the beach, you can throw them into the ocean and see if they can swim.

Legolas stared at his friend for a moment and then threw back his head and laughed. "Oh Gimli, how I miss you," he said once he calmed down, wiping tears from his eyes.

You’d best be on your way, was the Dwarf’s only reply. You don’t want to miss the picnic.

Legolas nodded, stooping down to pick up the satchel, slinging it over his shoulders. "You’ll be here?" He always asked that as he was leaving.

Gimli nodded. I’ll be here. Then he stuck his pipe back into his mouth and faded away.

"Namárië, meldonya," Legolas said with a sigh as he made his way back out of the dell, already anxious for the four weeks to be up so he could visit again.


Unclad, Olórin and Lord Irmo stood watching the ellon leave the dell, the Maia’s aura fluctuating with worry while the Vala’s aura was calmer.

*And he does this every fourth Valanya without fail?* Irmo asked.

Olórin’s aura shifted slightly towards the green spectrum to indicate assent. *When Elrond and others are not able to convince him otherwise.*

*And he always speaks out loud to himself?* Irmo asked.

Olórin indicated assent. *And notice how he pauses as if he’s actually hearing the Dwarf speak.*

*Yes, I noticed that,* the Lord of Lórien replied. *Interesting that the pauses are never the same length. Hmmm....*

Irmo then wove a fana around him and Olórin followed suit. The Lord of Lórien walked over to the tomb, gazing fondly at the flowers surrounding it, brushing a hand idly over the words carved deeply into the granite. "And you are concerned," he finally said, turning his eyes to Olórin.

"Shouldn’t I be, Lord?" the Maia asked with a frown. "Shouldn’t his friends be?"

Irmo shrugged. "He functions well enough otherwise, doesn’t he? He has not retreated into himself or attempted to fade?"

"No, he has not, but that is not to say he has been living either," the Maia replied with a scowl. "I promised Gimli...."

"Ah.... that’s it, isn’t it?"

"What is, Lord?" The Maia gave the Vala a puzzled look.

"You feel that Legolas’ unwillingness to enter fully into the life of his fellow Elves is a failure on your part."

Olórin scowled. "It’s been nearly a year...."

"Olórin, you more than most know that grief knows no time but its own. A year, a century. Legolas will take as much time as he needs to come to terms with what has happened." The Vala gave Olórin a shrewd look. "And forcing him to dance with the pretty ellith is not the way to bring him out of his state."

The Maia actually blushed. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Irmo nodded, walking away from the tomb to visit the willow sapling, silently encouraging it to grow tall. Then he turned to look at the Maia. "Is his conversation...."

"You mean monologue," Olórin interrupted.

Irmo shrugged. "Is it always the same?"

"No. It’s never the same, except in certain parts," Olórin answered. "He always shows Gimli his latest plant that he’s brought and he always asks how the Dwarf is and always asks if he will still be there when next he visits, but in between he speaks about the events that happened since his last visit."

"And you don’t see what he’s really doing, do you?" Irmo said with a gentle smile.

"I’m not sure I understand," Olórin replied hesitantly.

"What is his state of mind when he returns from his visits?"

Olórin shrugged. "He seems... calmer, I suppose, not quite as withdrawn. When he first started visiting this place he would come back silent and brooding and it was with some difficulty that we would get him to respond to anything."

"And now?"

"And now, he seems... less so."

"And there’s your answer," Irmo said with a satisfied nod. "He’s processing. He’s working through his grief in a manner that is comfortable to him, speaking to Gimli about his life, trying to make sense of it and putting it into context."

"So we should not be concerned?" Olórin asked, looking dubious.

Irmo shrugged. "As long as he does no harm to himself or others, I don’t see the problem. Let him continue as he has." He chuckled.

"What is it, Lord?" Olórin asked.

"Oh, I was just wondering what the Dwarf said that caused Legolas to laugh." He gave Olórin a sly grin.

The Maia raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps someday we’ll find out."

"Perhaps someday we will," the Vala said with a nod and then both of them shed their fanar, leaving the dell to its single inhabitant still calmly sitting on his tomb, smoking, waiting for his friend’s next visit.


Words are Quenya unless otherwise noted.

Valanya: ‘Powers-day’, the High Day of the Valarin 6-day week, equivalent to the Sabbath-day.

Ellith: (Eldarin) Plural of elleth: Female Elf.

Namárië, meldonya: ‘Farewell, my friend’.

Fana: The ‘raiment’ in which the Valar and the Maiar present themselves to physical eyes, the bodies in which they are self-incarnated. The plural is fanar.

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