Well, this is a fine way to spend out the day…with an absent-minded elf.
“Come on, lad!” I look up, jarring him with an elbow to knock his head from the clouds. “Where’s your mind gone to? Have you not heard a word I’ve said?”
For the past hour, I’ve been trying to tell him as subtly as possible that he should be more alert in these trees. The air is too close, the branches too dark for my liking. Legolas’ party and our company of dwarves met up at the borders of Mirkwood, and though there was a sliver of tension between the two, not enough to warrant escape. He was restless though, and after a day of slow journeying, he suggested that he and I go ahead. His excuse was to ‘scout the area’, but in his condition, I doubt he’s ‘scouted’ anything at all.
In all my travels with him, he’s been like this. Legolas is a steady, warm beam of light and a flighty breeze whirled into one. Some days he’s at nowhere but the moment, all eyes and ears, alert and ready like a nervous sparrow. But then again, when the sun shines particularly bright, when the warbles in the trees reach a crescendo, he’s like this…eyes flitting about as carefree as a humming bird.
“Gimli…” he merely replies, as if I’d said nothing. He walks along beside, an almost infinitesimal bounce in his step, “You must tell me. What is it like to dream?”
“…dream?” The question takes me by surprise. “Haven’t you ever dreamt before, elf?”
“Aye, I have…” He slows, pausing as if to think. For a moment, not even the squirrel chattering at him from a nearby branch distracts him, “…but not in the way you do, I think. What is it like?”
“Well, I…uh, I suppose…” I stop, and I find I can’t quite gather the words to describe it. How does one go about explaining a dream, anyway? “It’s like- no, no. Well, you see…Ah, no, not that either.” As it turns out I can’t, and after spluttering in frustration, stomping the path down with a booted foot, I twist around to look at him. “Well what do you wanna know about ‘em for in the first place?”
He quirks an angular brow, a mysterious smirk on his face. He shrugs a little though, slowing at the forest trailside, and I sigh, reaching out and grasping his arm.
“All right, Legolas...” It isn’t often that I use the elf’s name, but when I do, I mean it. “Now tell me what all this is about. You’ve been a little queer, if ya don’t mind my saying so, ever since we left. And why did you do that, by the way, lad? There’s safety in numbers, you know.”
I look around the leafed limbs arching overhead where they throw long shadows along the ground, interspersed in dappled light. Odd creaks and groans fill the treetops, and the soft moan of wind through the branches is constant. The place gives me the willies, to be honest, but the elf doesn’t seem to notice.
“Come, do not worry so, my friend.” Legolas waves a hand, “We are far too near the city. We are safe.” With that, he walks lightly from the winding trail and once leaving it, spins about. There’s something new here though, I think. There’s a vigor in his eyes.
“Very well then, my stout friend, I will tell you!”
I wasn’t expecting it, but I brighten a little. Finally! The elf is stilted and nimble, as if itching to be anywhere else, but he seats himself on a fallen log and stays there. With that, he draws his legs up under him in the shape of a diamond, resting his hands atop, and after breathing a hard sigh, fidgeting with his cuffs, looking ready to leap up at any moment again…he spills out. “I had a…dream….that has bothered me for days.”
He casts a glance, as if expecting this to shock me. I merely grunt, stroking a stray braid of beard, and he must take this as sign to continue.
“I told you of the yrch attack, of the white burst of light and the arrow? If not for that…light, it almost certainly would have struck, Gimli.”
“Good thing too,” I snort, wagging a gloved finger at him, “Or I’d never forgive you, elf.”
He sighs, “I am not sure what to do with all this, truthfully.”
“So do nothing.” I shrug. “Leave well enough alone, Legolas.” I nod to the sun coasting its waning path across the sky, “’Sides, whatever happened to arriving in time for yer’ begetting day? At this rate, we’ll not be there by nightfall, and yer Father’s already preparing for it.”
He sighs, “I know! It has been months since I have seen him, and I miss him. I do but…but I simply cannot forget.” He drops his eyes, almost ashamed, before shifting as if an ant had crawled up his back and he wasn’t quite willing to scratch at it. “I-I simply cannot rid myself of it! It was so real... I could not rest again the entire night.”
I take the packet of weed from my pocket and its pipe, casting a glance, “And?”
“And…” he squints, sliding a strand of flaxen hair from gusting between his lips, “…and what, Gimli?”
. The moist air clings to the wood, and I set to lighting it. Slowly, the pipe glows to life, and I rest on one arm, puffing a few gusts of smoke out before answering. “And what’s made ye so flittish, then?”
After all, how disturbing can some silly dream be?
“But I have told you!” he sits up, darting his eyes through the trees, back and forth, “I cannot rid it from my head! She is all I can think of. She was so real. There have been so many strange things, Gimli. There’s something that I miss, something important, and I cannot think of what!”
I pause at that, eyeing a suspicious lump of moss at my feet, and everything begins making sense, “She, eh?”
He stares at me sidelong, before nodding, “Aye…it was a she. At least-” he stops, eyes faltering, and the storm of wonder, curiosity that I saw there fades a little, like when a whip of wind holds a roll of thunderheads at bay. “- at least I believe it was a she. In any case, I think she wants me to find her, Gimli.” He gets to his feet and begins pacing, vehement, “I must find her! I must.”
I snort with all the refinement I have, “Aye, laddie. Your mysterious dream girl wishes ye to come and rescue her…right.”
At times like these, it’s hard to believe the elf’s seen more summers than I have tankards of ale. It’s a fine thing, too, because it’s gonna have to be me who straightens him out.
“Now tell me, how will I go about finding her? You must help me, Gimli.”
“I must, eh? I fear you’ve lost your mind.”
“I…I what?” he stares, and I merely shrug.
“Perhaps you’ve been in the sun too long.” I shift atop the rotting wood, glancing about, “It is hot, I’ll give ye that, and the air in these trees is dense enough to gag a maggot.”
“These trees, Gimli, are my home.” Despite the snap of anger in his eyes, when I squint upward, I see something else too. He walks back, placing one boot in front of the other, pondering, thinking hard.
“I am not mad.” He says finally, folding his arms, “And I cannot forget her. Am I to believe it was nothing but a phantom? A vision?” He shakes his head, “I have never heard of such things! I am not a seer, and this was not a dream. It was…different.”
“I’m sure, laddy.” I wish I could take his words seriously. Truly I do, but when that dreamy, clouded expression falls over his face again, the puff of smoke I blow out seems more interesting. It shivers and trembles in the humid air, forming a rapidly widening O that frays at the edges and drifts away on the wind, until it’s disappeared into nothingness.
“And besides…” I grunt once it does, “…even if this dream was something like a…a vision, why wouldn’t ye remember it better?”
He stares, “You do not believe me then, Gimli?”
If it weren’t so surprised, I’d actually thing there was anger there.
“Come now,” I shuffle to face him, plucking the pipe stem from my mouth and setting to knocking the loose ashes out. “Doesn’t it seem a bit unlikely?”
He doesn’t answer for a long minute, but when I look up again, pausing, I nearly curse. Well, that’s fine! I’ve gone and hurt him.
“Well I have proof.” He digs under his shirt for something, frustrated, and I squint against the sunlight.
At this rate, we the supposed ‘scouts’ are going to fall behind the rest. They’ll be along any minute…and what is he doing? Going on about ‘proof’ and spirit women. Finally, he succeeds in pulling a chain loose from his chest, and after disentangling a stray strand of hair from it, extends the pendant.
“I… was given this.”
When he lowers it into view, revealing a moon shaped crescent in his fingers, I can’t help letting the pipe go slack in my teeth. Not just the solid blue gem cut into its face, but the very silver where it lays seems to glow in his palm… Flecks of sparkling silver dot its depths like starlight. The rays of sun seem to gather along its edges until they shine, and though it’s small, not even the size of a finger, it draws the eyes from all else.
Well, it’s pretty. I’ll give him that.
“What does that prove?” I snap out of my stupor, tearing away and puffing more vigorously. “All I see is a nice necklace. I think ye should just forget the whole thing, lad, for your own sake.”
“But Gimli,” He struggles a moment to pull it free of his hair, using both hands to loose it from his neck, before holding it into the light. “Look at it. ‘Tis warm to the touch, glows in my fingers. There is an essence here; I can feel it. It could be nothing but elven make. I’ve seen naught like it. Have you? Have you seen its match?”
It takes a few minutes of examining, once he gathers the chain and drops it in my hands, but I have to admit…it is unique. My race are craftsmen, born and bred of stone. We mold it as it molded us in the beginning. Yet still, we’ve never mined, never sculpted a stone like this.
“I’ll admit, laddie, I’ve never seen this gem. Light as mithril, darker than silver, and harder than gold…where did you get it?” I set the pipe down, tossing it carefully and examining the chain from all angles, “Don’t mind saying I’d like to get my hands on more of this.”
He sighs, and only when he leans back, sliding back on the wet wood, I look up. A frown darkens his face, and his eyes dart in my direction, jaw clamped in the way he does when conflicted. “I… know not.” He recaptures the necklace from my grasp and spins it round and round in his fingers, “I do not even know who gave it.”
And then, the pieces fall into place, “And you think this…she-elf…was the one who gave it to you?”
He shrugs, glancing up at the sound of light footsteps approaching, and the heavier trod of leather behind it. “Who else but?”
“Well, I don’t know lad,” I glance to the approaching party, “…but you’re a little too late to talk of it now.”
He stares an instant, before nodding and looking away.
I watch their arrival, sitting by the path, and I notice nearly half Legolas’s company are she-elves…fair she-elves. Nothing compared to the little hairy women of my kind, or the regal kind of beauty that is the Lady of the Wood’s, but well enough. The glances thrown the elf prince don’t seem particularly unfavorable either, I think, watching them pass. A few even linger to wait for him…guards, I suppose. Still, I’d think he would know it if one of his sentries snuck up on him in the night and hung some chain around his neck.
“Legolas, have ye thought perhaps that it wasn’t an…” I nudge his side with an elbow, picking up and shouldering my axe, before nodding to the dark head walking ahead of us. I don’t dare speak more, knowing the uncanny hearing of the pointy-eared creatures, but he catches my drift.
I shrug, “Could be.”
“Then what, Gimli?”
I don’t answer a little while, and I wonder if it was best even to mention it. I wasn’t serious, of course. Now that I think of it though, I wouldn’t put it past the elf to take it so.
“Gimli…” he extends a hand, motioning for us to stop, “Tell me…please.”
“Well,” I plant the axe handle in the dirt, folding my hands atop. I don’t like planting such ideas in his head, but in the last few months, I’ve seen things that I never would have believed, things that were true. Nothing seems too ridiculous to mention.
“Well, lad…perhaps what ye think ye saw wasn’t altogether real.”
He arches a skeptical brow, and before he has time to protest, I cut him off, shaking my head.
“Now, now… hear me out. In the old days, long before my father Gloin set out for the mountain, he told a tale of his ancestor, Buhren.” I walk on, but slower, not quite willing to lose sight of the group of dwarves plodding ahead. If something were to attack in these trees, it would be nice to have help.
“He was but a lad of twenty at the time, hardly old enough to wield an axe, but he had a stout heart and a will about him. Anyways, in the middle of wild and uncharted mountains, miles from home, orch filth attacked his group. He was the only survivor, and he wandered a month and a day, half-delirious with hunger.”
The elf walks beside, bow in hand, and for once, I think I have his whole attention.
“When he was nigh unto death…” It’s here that I drop my voice, “…they say a spirit came to him. He called him a Darzh, ‘fairy’ in the common tongue. He led the child to the parties looking for him, and though none believed his tale, he swore on his grave that it was true.”
A long while passes, in which I’m not quite sure what the elf is thinking, but finally, he pauses. In his eyes is the storm of wonder again, and at the same time, a resolution.
“I swear this day, my stout friend, I will find whomever…or whatever…soul gave this, and why they want me to do it. Perhaps then, we’ll know if your story is true.”
“Well,” I sigh, “If that be your wish, I’d best see it through. Else…” I lift a finger, “…you’ll not have the time to keep your oath, elf, and I’ll have come to this Greenwood for nothing. You’re not getting out of seeing my home.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.”