“Gimli, would you cease? We are getting worn out just watching you.” Aragorn’s plea brought the dwarf to a halt. Gimli had tired of story telling and begun pacing - a minimally successful ploy - to relieve his urge to charge into the forest. So great was the dwarf’s agitation, he had even refused Gandalf’s offer of the spare pipe the wizard carried.
Gimli, about to demand the wizard do something more than calmly blow smoke rings, held his tongue as the Huorns once again shuffled apart, and Long-Stride emerged from their depths. The giant strode to the waiting party and announced, “I have returned.”
“We can see that, you great lumbering log! You were supposed to be fetching us our elf - where is he?” Gimli’s roar had the Riders blanching; even Gandalf raised an eyebrow at the dwarf’s belligerence. The Ent, however, seemed unperturbed. Keeping his smile, he lowered himself on one knee to better face his interrogator. Gimli stood his ground, though he paled slightly at being nearly eye level to a being whose eye was the size of the dwarf’s head.
Frowning, Gimli was preparing another verbal assault when he noticed motion over the Ent’s head. The next moment, a portion detached from the leafy green mass and launched at the dwarf. Gimli was knocked flat on his back, breath escaping in a whuff. As the dwarf gasped air back in his deprived lungs, his mind vaguely registered that the projectile resting atop him was strangely warm and pliant. Gimli blinked furiously, trying to focus the blur of something pale - almost luminous - on the near end of the ‘attack branch’, surrounded by a golden halo, and from which shone two small orbs of bright blue. Then from this apparition rang a familiar and much too cheery voice. “Gimli! Did you miss me?”
None could miss how the dwarf’s face lit with the joy of recognition, though that visage was replaced almost immediately by the more typical scowl. “Insolent twig of an Elf! Get off!” Gimli made to shove the elf over, but Legolas had intuitively sprung up and darted to a position of relative safety behind one of Long-Stride’s legs. From that vantage point, he watched in amusement as the dwarf regained his feet.
Blasted elf jumps about like a flea. I should have taken hold of him while I had the opportunity. Gimli decided he had poor chance of catching the elf in a chase and instead attempted to wheedle the wary being back into arms’ reach. “Aye, I suppose I mayhap gotten used to my peace and quiet oft disrupted by that unintelligible warbling you call singing - at sun, moon, or whatever strikes the fancy at any hour of day or night.” He paused as the elf took on a pout and the others made efforts to mute their snickers. Gimli forced a none-too-convincing smile on his face. “As you may have noted, I have not great talent for professing compliments. Come close, so I might speak privately and more at ease.”
Legolas’ eyes narrowed and the corners of his lips upturned. “Nay, from your present position you need only speak softly so the others not hear - I shall, having these sharp ‘pointy ears’, you know.” The elf’s grin grew as the dwarf’s disappeared; the following dwarvish grumblings were heard, if not translated, by all, while the foiled stout being stomped back and forth in frustration. So focused on the dwarf’s antics was Legolas, he failed to notice the Ranger’s stealthy approach. The elf was suddenly whirled around and clasped in a strong embrace, which he returned fervently.
“We all missed you,” Aragorn whispered before taking a step back and accessing his heart-brother with a ‘healer’s eye’; while the Ranger sensed a genuine apology in the elf’s manner, the blue eyes gleaming back at him had regained their accustomed liveliness and mischief. Legolas has obviously recovered whatever he had thought to be lost…mayhap rather had it been merely hidden from plain view for a time. “We are exceedingly glad to have you returned from your foray.” Gripping the elf’s shoulders, the Ranger gave his friend a brief teeth-rattling shake. “Never go off and give us such worry again!”
When that seemed the extent of the reprimand, Gimli exploded with more dwarvish cursing, which halted at catching the man’s deliberate wink.
“You did not allow me to finish.” So saying, Aragorn dipped and snagged the unprepared elf at the knees, hoisting the lightweight being up and over a broad shoulder. Pinning the startled captive in place, the Ranger faced a chortling Gimli. “Now that we do have him, I am open to suggestions of what we should do with him.”
“Umm, might I propose you put me down?” A hopeful voice sounded from behind the Ranger.
“You might…but I shan’t. My suggestion to you is be silent and behave while we decide your means of reparation.” Aragorn staggered slightly as the back of his head received a back handed swat. “That shall earn you no favorable points.” The Ranger tightened his grip on the squirming elf, fingers moving to specific areas along the lean ribs and pressing lightly in warning. Legolas ceased moving, but Aragorn was not done; the burdened man stepped towards a gaping Eomer and his equally transfigured Riders. “Good Marshall, Riders…friends and allies - upon short but serious consideration, I believe I shall grant you revelation of a little known secret that mayhap ultimately be valuable to future safeguarding of your kingdom and selves. And the essence of that secret would be: how to tame a wild Wood Elf.”
Legolas, who had been listening with as much curiosity as the rest, tensed at those final words. “Wretched Ranger, you will not dare…!”
Aragorn guffawed in reply to the indignant Prince. “Alas, you must be bereft of the fabled long memory of Elves! Surely you are not forgetting so many of my formative years with those twin terrors I call ‘brothers’ who would set me dares on a regular basis; and that I would take them all, willingly if not wisely. So do I accept your challenge now.” Once more the Ranger addressed the eagerly awaiting Rohirrim. “Once you have snared your subject, as shown for example, you may keep him subdued and manageable by simply…”
The man was interrupted by the sensation of a body going completely limp over his shoulder, followed by words spoken in an incredibly doleful voice. “You win. I yield. Have mercy.”
Smiling smugly, Aragorn eased the passive elf to the ground and gave an apologetic shrug to the Riders. “Mayhap I overestimated the need for the aforementioned revelation; on further thought, I believe I shall keep the secret as such for now.”
Eomer watched in fascination as the elf continued to somehow
gracefully ooze downward to end sitting cross-legged and bowed forward, long
blond hair obscuring the fair face; the sight mostly distracted the
Legolas’ kept his position for some seconds; then, not wishing to create more undue concern, the elf raised his head to the patiently waiting Ranger. Leaning back on his palms and stretching out his long legs, the elf gave a hearty sigh. “I am truly sorry for the trouble I caused…twas never my intent. I hereby consent to whatever penance you deem reasonable.” Though his tone was light, the intensity of his gaze gave evidence of utmost sincerity.
I have no desire to mete punishment for one wanting only surcease of his sorrows; yet must I impress that, at least during this mission, one must not act so spontaneously on his urges or ideas. Aragorn contemplated his heart-brother with an equal mix of fondness and exasperation. For all his years on Arda, Legolas can still finely imitate an elfling awaiting chastisement for some mischief done. Ah, and so he provides me with my decision. “As our elf has demonstrated his tendency to…‘flightiness’ I have heard it called, I decree that he should be appointed a guardian who shall accompany him at all times, and have authority in matters of dispute if such arise.”
Legolas released his held breath in a gasp at the unexpected pronouncement. “I am to be…nannied?” The elf glared incredulously as the Ranger nodded. A moment later, he gloated as the man’s smirk faded, both beings thinking the same thing: who in a right mind would take on such a task?
Aragorn’s concern was reinforced at spying the surreptitious glances between the Rohirrim. Though any one of these good men may consider such an ‘honor’ a worthy challenge, I fear he would soon feel himself unfairly punished. The man sighed inwardly. I should just appoint myself to the task, as I have prior experience and some expertise in the ‘care and training’ of our Greenleaf; then I must be more diligent in future observation of him.
“I volunteer for that position.” Aragorn’s mouth snapped shut in surprise as Gimli stepped forward. “I will deliver to this elf his orders and insure his obedience; at all times will I stick to him like glue…or…mud.” Legolas, already discomfited at the idea of being under the dwarf’s authority, became more flustered as a staring Gimli began laughing. With some difficulty, the dwarf controlled his mirth enough to state to the confused elf and puzzled companions, “Here are we granted a sight even rarer than a walking, talking tree.” A thick finger poked carefully at a begrimed cheek. “A filthy Elf!” The dwarf almost doubled over in laughter at the look on Legolas’ face.
Legolas was rendered temporarily speechless, for Gimli’s ‘insult’ was true; the elf’s sojourn in the Huorns’ pit had transformed his usual pristine appearance to a most uncharacteristically dirty one. Even as the elf exhibited the expected outwardly responses, inwardly Legolas realized just how much he would have missed this very type of camaraderie had he not been returned to his companions. Still, reputation must be upheld; our dwarf ‘jester’ shall not have the last word in this matter. The chortling dwarf missed the calculating glower the elf shot him, but noticed as Legolas rose smoothly, face set in bland disregard of the others’ amusement, and dusted himself off. “You are quite correct, Master Dwarf, and the disparity will be amended as soon as possible.”
Gimli and Aragorn both watched suspiciously, senses alerted to some trickery, as Legolas turned and made a slight bow to Eomer. “My Lord, if we might be granted use of the facilities, we shall take our leave and make ourselves more presentable for our hosts’ company.”
Eomer blinked, amazed and a bit envious at how the Prince,
even in his present condition, could exude such a ‘royal’ aura. “You are quite
welcome to them - I proffer to you use of the officers’ spa, amazingly still in
good condition.” The
“We accept your generous offer.” Legolas made another small bow, then turned and motioned imperiously to Gimli. “Come, we shall avail ourselves of this amenity straight away.”
The dwarf huffed and blocked the elf’s path. “You can dispense with the uppity airs…‘we’ are not fooled. If you are thinking you will elude me by sneaking off while bathing, think again! I’ll not be shy of watching you closely the whole time; in fact, I might verify the rumor that naught but elves heads grow hair.” Gimli’s boastful swell halted as Legolas remained unbothered by that threat, for Elves largely are neither prideful nor shy of their natural states. The dwarf further felt deflated as the Prince gave an almost wicked smile before replying.
“And I may verify the rumor that dwarves, save parts of their faces, are covered all in hair; for my previous use of ‘we’ was not being ‘uppity’ - you shall be not only watching me, you will be joining me in the spa.” At Gimli’s sputtered objections, the elf affected a pained façade. “Why, Gimli, never would I have thought you not a dwarf of your word!” As his friend’s face suffused redly, Legolas nearly purred. “Did you not just say, in front of all these witnesses…” the elf waved grandly at the assemblage around them “…that you would ‘stick to me like glue’? In my experience, to accomplish such an objective, one must be in very close contact to another.” Feeling a tiny tremor of concern as the dwarf began to resemble a beet, Legolas hurriedly offered a small concession. “Of course, we need not be so literal in interpretation…yet if you would remain apart too far, I might chance to swim beyond your attending.”
Gimli looked a bit wildly at the others, meeting Aragorn’s gaze last. The Ranger, near overwhelmed by amusement and envy of the Prince’s plotting, managed to speak coherently to the stout being. “I’m afraid he’s right; those were your exact words, and we all heard them.” He flinched as the dwarf took a deep breath, expecting to be cursed soundly, but Gimli merely exhaled in a flustered whuff before sending a daggered look back to the elf.
“Fine, then,” he growled. “I’ll have no one saying I break my pledge. Besides, it’s not as if dwarves disdain baths - we are just…conservative of water.” Encouraged by the elf’s expression of astonishment at that revelation, Gimli strove to have the last word for a change. Once again he blocked the elf to deliver an ultimatum. “However, I’ll not put up with those fripperies you have a preference for; none of those…bubbles, or…perfumeries.”
And once again Legolas feigned a pain, clutching at his chest with a light gasp. “Gimli, I am shocked you would consider such items so ignobly; are you not aware of their medicinal properties?” At the dwarf’s puzzled frown, he elaborated, “The foaming salts - bubbles - are for relaxing tight, sore muscles, and are mildly antiseptic for the cleansing of minor scrapes and shallow cuts. The…perfumeries - herbals along with floral ingredients - are to soothe and relax the spirit, with which the body soon follows. Aragorn will vouchsafe my words.”
The Ranger quickly affirmed the statement. “Aye, he speaks true; Lord Elrond himself keeps a store of those very items, among others, for just such usage.”
The teasing tone left the elf’s voice, replaced by earnest desire to offer a simple but thorough comfort. “Surely you would approve such deserved respite for any warrior, including yourself, after a hard-won battle.”
Gimli blinked, pleased beyond imagining as he realized the depth of his friend’s offer. Legolas would share with me what he personally considers a glorious rite; mayhap I might find by sharing his experience of it, it shall become so to me. At the very least, these stiff muscles could use some relaxing! Still, I must not appear to give in too easily, or our princeling will think he may make all manner of demand on me. “Very well…I would not gainsay Lord Elrond, as I have personally seen evidence of his healing expertise. Let us get this over with then, Elf.”
Legolas was elated at the dwarf’s acquiescence. “As you wish; in the words of a wise being I know: ‘soonest begun, soonest done’.” The elf gave a quick parting wink to Long-Stride, who had been watching the theatrics all along with great interest.
Gimli scuffed steadily beside his long-legged companion as Legolas strolled toward the Keep. Rounding the boulder put the two out of sight of those remaining behind, though the murmuring of dwarf and elf was heard for awhile longer. Yet when it seemed the voices at last faded to silence, one final plaintive protest wafted back: “But, Legolas, dwarves are not supposed to smell like flowers!” A soft musical laugh was the only audible response.
Eomer dismissed his men with a casual warning to keep the
episode they’d witnessed to themselves for the time being. As the Riders
departed in various directions, Aragorn approached the
Only the companionable arm slung around his shoulder kept
Eomer moving. The
Left alone, Gandalf was presented with Legolas’ knives recovered from the Huorns. “He shall be ecstatic to regain these.” The wizard accepted the weapons gratefully, as well as Long-Stride’s assurance that more Ents would soon be among the Huorns to prevent another ‘incident’. “That is a great relief, for the company I shall be leading through your forest this evening shall be nervous enough of our mission to confront Saruman.” Gandalf and Long-Stride further negotiated that the other Treeherds would remain hidden as much as possible. “I fear knowledge of their presence might be fierce temptation for Legolas to fall behind.” The wizard smiled, shaking his head at the Prince’s often mercurial moods. “My thanks again, good friend, for all your services; you see plainly how important our Elf is to us.”
“He is important to many.” The Ent smiled wistfully, giving a quick glance at the milling Huorns behind him. “The Prince promised at first opportunity to return to them, mayhap with friends. Such promise, as he, is cherished - it gives my tendlings a goal better and beyond the harsh one that serves now.”
The wizard nodded. “His promise does not surprise me. Rest assured he will do all in his power to keep it. I myself look forward to that fine day when we may gather together just to visit and while away the hours. You and I might not get to see that day, yet we may strive mightily to bring it nearer to gain of our ‘children’.” He tamped his pipe and carefully stowed it away. “But there is much to be done ere that day arrives, and I must attend now to some of my part. I hereby bid you fare well, old friend, till we meet again.”
“Fare you also well, Gandalf White Rider; may our next meeting be of good tidings and pleasant pursuits.” So parted Wizard and Ent for a time, each to the nurture of his own hopes for a brighter future.