"The city is at it's best, Legolas!" The Dwarf exclaimed as he leaned over the balcony studying the streets below. "Aragorn has excelled himself. It will be a party to write home about tomorrow night."
"Ah well, I must trust you in that, Gimli." The elf uncurled himself from his position on the windowsill and leapt lightly to the ground. "I have never been to one of these Mannish celebrations for the New Year. I wonder if it is similar to those we have for the solstice? I cannot imagine Aragorn allowing that." A frown graced his face as he puzzled over it.
"Cannot imagine Aragorn allowing what? Just what do you do in those forests of yours, Legolas?"
"You will find out, Gimli!" Suddenly the elf was all smiles and glee. "I will make sure you visit for the solstice and you will see for yourself."
"I am not sure I want to find out," the dwarf muttered under his breath and of course Legolas heard him. He knew that from the most unelven chuckle that sounded behind him. Why did the dratted creature have to have such good hearing? He attempted to change the subject for Aule knows what those wild elves got up to when they partied.
"Will you be making a resolution for the New Year tomorrow, Legolas?" He asked. "Do you have it planned?"
"A resolution?" The elf's brow creased in thought. "What do you mean? Is this part of the celebrations Aragorn has neglected to tell me?"
"A vow," Gimli explained patiently, "You must swear to something. Aragorn will be I am sure. Tradition dictates it. And so will I. I thought I would—" but he did not get the chance to wax lyrical on his plans to give up eating quite so many sweet cakes for Legolas was suddenly—unexpectedly—agitated.
"An oath?" He cried, "You plan to swear an oath?"
"Well that is perhaps a rather dramatic way of putting it but I suppose it is like an oath but I would not—"
"You must not, Gimli." Legolas clutched at Gimli's hands in distress. Why would he not let him complete even a single sentence? "You must not! And Aragorn, he must not also. You are sure he plans to join you?"
"Well his will be different of course, but yes I would expect it. Legolas, I do not think you are understanding me."
But he had no chance to explain it simply involved giving something up, bettering yourself, and usually resulted in failure a week or two after New Year for at his words Legolas was off.
"I must do something about this! Aragorn must not be allowed to commit this folly," was the last thing Gimli heard as the door slammed shut behind his friend. Ah well, he thought. Let Aragorn explain it to him since he will not listen to me. And he took the opportunity at the absence of his friend to roll himself some lovely longbottom leaf. It was some very satisfying pipeweed indeed, all the more so for lack of Legolas' usual complaining.
It was late when the twins peace was interrupted by a knock at the door. An agitated, urgent knock.
"Who comes knocking at this time of night?" Elrohir complained from his place in front of the fire.
"Who ever it is, it sounds urgent," Elladan replied, "Perhaps there is trouble?"
He was most surprised when he opened the door and an agitated, panicked woodelf tumbled in. It was the last thing he expected.
"Legolas! What time do you call this for visiting?" He exclaimed, "Is something wrong?"
That something was obviously wrong did not pass him by. Legolas was wide eyed and anxious, and the mere fact he had come to the twins door when their relationship was somewhat strained to say the least spoke to there being a problem.
"I could not wait." Legolas pulled himself together somewhat as he spoke. "This is urgent and I assumed you would wish to know. He is your brother after all, and if he involves Arwen in this.... Though I do wonder why she does not put a stop to it herself?"
"Involves Arwen in what?" At the sound of his sisters name Elrohir was on his feet. "You talk in riddles, Legolas. If you are going to bother us late at night at least make sure you talk sense. I know it is difficult for you normally."
Elladan frowned at his brother. Snide comments were not helpful. But it seemed, today, Legolas would ignore them.
"Aragorn plans to swear an oath!" He blurted out. "An oath, Elladan! Did your father teach him nothing? He cannot be allowed to. We must put a stop to it. I thought. . . I came to you because you understand, of course, the seriousness of this."
"An oath?" Elrohir exclaimed in horror, all thought of insults gone. "You cannot be serious!"
"I am serious. Deadly serious. He plans it for tomorrow. Him and Gimli both. Gimli himself told me, of course I do not expect Gimli to understand how bad this could be. He is only a dwarf after all. . . but Aragorn? He should know better. How do we stop him?"
"You must have misunderstood, Legolas." Elladan tried desperately to regain some control of the situation for Elrohir was pacing and Elrohir pacing was always bad. "Estel knows our history. Father was raised by Maglor Feanorian himself. He knows the damage the oaths wrecked upon the Son's of Feanor. He knows that. . . And your people as well, of course." He hurriedly added before things could deteriorate into an argument of whose ancestors suffered most damage. They must remain on the same page in this. " You have misheard Gimli." He added hopefully.
"No." Legolas shook his head forcefully. "I did not mishear him. I asked him clearly, did he plan to swear an oath and he agreed."
"Has Estel lost his mind?" Elrohir turned to Elladan then. "Has he even told Arwen this for she would surely not agree to it?"
Elladan felt things begin to spiral out of his control and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it. This could not be true and yet. . .
"Look," he said in the end, trying to calm his brother and Legolas both, "You say they plan this for tomorrow? Then we have time. I will speak with Estel in the morning—first thing in the morning and we will sort this out. It is too late now."
"What if you are too late and they have gone—"
"We should go now! We should not leave this a minute longer, Elladan—"
Legolas and Elrohir spoke in unison and Elladan was fast getting a headache. It had been such a peaceful evening too. Damn Estel and his oathswearing. Had he lost all sense?
"Not now." He said forcefully. "He will be in bed, if not asleep. I will be up at dawn. We will not be too late." In fact he thought, watching Elrohir's anxiety, it was now unlikely he would get any sleep at all. Estel had better appreciate Elladan sacrificing his good nights sleep for his account.
He had a lot to answer for.
It was still dark when Aragorn was awoken by a kerfuffle outside his door. Really, could they not be quiet this morning of all mornings? he thought as he hauled himself out of bed to investigate. There had been so much to do planning these celebrations.... Was he not even allowed sleep now? He could hear raised voices as he pulled on his shirt.
"It is too early to disturb him My Lords," That was the guard. At least he was putting up a good fight. He must remember to keep him on.
"This is an emergency!" And that was Elrohir. What on earth could he be so wound up about, Aragorn thought, and this early in the morning. "You must let us in! I command you!"
"All due respect My Lord, but My Lord Elessar commands me, not you."
Oh yes, definitely keep this guard on, Aragorn decided. Anyone who could stand up to an angry Son of Elrond was worth having. Still he had better put him out of his misery and let Elrohir in he supposed. He would certainly not go away if he was determined.
The guard turned round in shock as Aragorn opened the door.
"My Lord!" He stammered, "I was trying to send them away but they would not listen."
Elrohir allowed no chance for chitchat, barging through the door, Elladan following sheepishly in his wake.
"Sorry," he hissed as he moved past Aragorn. "He is in a state. I held him as long as I could....I blame Legolas."
Aragorn glanced down the corridor, bemused, for Legolas was not here at all.
"Have you lost your mind?" Aragorn had hardly got the door closed when Elrohir was in his face. "Are you completely crazy?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he replied smoothly. "It is you rampaging round my corridors in the middle of the night waking people for no good reason."
"Wait, wait!" Elladan, ever the peacemaker stepped in between them, "Let me handle this Elrohir."
"Handle what?" Aragorn folded his arms. What he had done to deserve this he did not know.
"Brother. . ." Elladan put a reassuring hand upon his shoulder, "Forgive us this interruption but we do have important matters to discuss."
"This had better not be more about what wine you want at tonight's feast," Aragorn complained, "because that ship has sailed."
"No! More important than that."
"You cannot do this, Estel!" Elrohir cried behind his brother.
"Shut up Elrohir!" Elladan hissed, obviously most frustrated. "It has been a long night," he explained turning back towards Aragorn. "Elrohir has been rather upset—"
"And you are not?" Elrohir was still interrupting.
"Yes, yes, I am as well." It was then Aragorn remembered Legolas. What had he done this time?
"What has Legolas to do with this?" His eyes narrowed, "What has he done?"
"He says you are to swear an oath....today!" Elrohir could not contain himself. "You cannot do it, Brother. Have you forgotten everything Elrond taught you? Elves and oaths just do not mix. Promise me you will cease this nonsense."
"Firstly, I will point out I am not an elf, but besides that nor do I have any intention to swear any oath. I am not an idiot, Elrohir. You cannot believe everything Legolas tells you. He has been mocking you and your Noldor heritage most likely." Just wait until he got his hands on Legolas, he thought. Just wait.
"Are you sure, Estel?" Elladan said with a frown. "Legolas was very distressed himself and to be honest I do not think he was mischief-making. He said Gimli had told him the two of you were to have some kind of oath-swearing tonight. He was convinced of it and in almost as bad a state about it as. . ." He indictated the pacing Elrohir with his hand. "The Sindar suffered for the Oath too you see." He trailed off for Aragorn looked most displeased.
"What goes on Estel?" It was Arwen. Blinking in the light as if she had just awoken, "It is so early. Why are the three of you arguing this soon in the day, could it not have waited?"
"We are here to save his soul!" Elrohir cried rather over dramatically, "He intended to swear an oath, we got wind of it and we will put a stop to it."
"An oath? Estel!" Arwen looked most horrified.
"For the last time. I am not swearing any oath. I well know the dangers of them. You should know by now, Brothers, to take anything Legolas and Gimli say with a grain of salt. I have no idea what they may be going on about but believe me, I will find out!"
Arwen put a hand gently on his arm then,
"Do not be too harsh with Legolas, Estel" she said. Her soft spot for Legolas was a mile wide.
And Aragorn sighed. Why had he been fated to be surrounded by Elves? How could his brothers ever have believed he would take himself off to swear an Oath with a dwarf?
What were Legolas and Gimli thinking?
He found Legolas in the gardens—of course. He was busying himself destroying Arwens garden. It was his latest project.
The city had created a garden for its elven queen. Manicured, beautiful, perfect in its exactness, it was a calm and peaceful oasis. Now Legolas turned it wild, with vines, bright random colour and foliage everywhere while the guards watched him, disbelievingly.
"They think you mad." Aragorn said as he stood behind his friend who was kneeling, arm deep in mud. "It is a perfectly good garden already."
Legolas did not react to his voice, he was not surprised, he did not look up. He had known he was there all along of course.
"It is not the garden for Arwen. She needs a Lothlorien garden to soothe her soul. I do not know why they insist on constraining these plants. It is ugly to my eyes."
It is a Mannish garden," Aragorn said gently, "They think it beautiful. I do too."
"Arwen has lived with the silvan of Lothlorien. She will have a silvan garden. She needs her own space, Aragorn, in this city of yours. An elven space."
"You could find this garden in Imladris, Legolas."
"And that is why I do not like Imladris!"
Aragorn gave up then. He would never win this argument. His elven friend turned to look up at him suddenly tense.
"Has Elladan been to see you?"
"Oh I am glad you bring that up." Aragorn could not believe his luck. He did not even have to raise the subject. "Elladan has been to see me. And Elrohir, at the crack of dawn."
"They got there in time then? You have not sworn any oath? They have talked you out of it?" Legolas' agitation flickered just below the surface. So Elladan was right then, Legolas did truly believe this rubbish about the oath. It seemed Gimli was the culprit here.
"I have not sworn any oath, Legolas." He said patiently, dropping to his knees beside his anxious friend. "I was raised by Elrond Maglorion. I know all about the devastation wrecked upon the Sons of Feanor due to their oath taking."
"Not to mention the devastation wrecked upon Doriath by Maglor Feanorion." Legolas bit back.
"Yes that as well. We are not going to argue about this when we are on the same side."
"And it is Elrond Eärendilion anyway." He heard Legolas mutter under his breath. He always had to get the last word in. It was a serious weakness of his but Aragorn would not be drawn into a disagreement today.
"Let us allow my foster father to chose his own name shall we. What matters is this, that whatever Gimli told you, I have not sworn an oath, I will not be swearing an oath and I do not intend to swear an oath at any time in the future. Is that quite clear?"
"Why would he say such a thing then, Aragorn? I did not misunderstand him ." Legolas hung his head and frowned in consternation.
"Perhaps to tease?"
"Then it was a cruel joke, Aragorn."
"Have you told him, Legolas, of how the Oath affected your people? Have you spoken, the two of you about the silmarils and the kinslaying?"
"No!" The elf was horrified with the idea. "Remember, Aragorn, the dwarves killed our King for those jewels! Why would Gimli and I discuss it? It would only lead to bad feeling between us."
"Then how would he know?" Aragorn placed a hand gently on his friends shoulder. "How would Gimli have any idea such a joke would hurt?"
"Ah, I suppose you are right, Aragorn." Legolas shrugged his shoulders halfheartedly. "I should probably talk to him."
"Not now!" The thought of an elven dwarvish confrontation filled Aragorn with alarm—it was the last thing he wanted on this particular day. "I will speak with him, Legolas. I was the one who missed out on sleep this morning after all."
"So likely the Elrondionath are upset with me also." Legolas said with a sigh. "But what is new." And he turned back to his wild tangle of plants. Head bent, concentration returned.
"It has a beauty of its own—your garden, Legolas," Aragorn told him as he left for he felt a sudden need to comfort.
And the surprised smile he received in response was a dazzling one.
Gimli was at the gates, admiring their workmanship with a glow of pride.
"They do you proud, my friend." Aragorn called out as he approached him.
"A finer pair of gates you never will see, Aragorn. All set for your celebrations this evening." The dwarf puffed out his chest proudly but then raised his eyebrows in surprise as he looked at the king. "What have you been doing?" He asked, "You look as if you have been crawling through the dirt! Not very kingly, I must say."
"I have been with Legolas."
"Ah," Gimli turned back to his gates, curiosity instantly satisfied. "So I suppose he continues his quest to turn that garden into a wilderness then."
"He will not give up on it. Still, I am here to speak to you about him. Seriously, Gimli. Walk with me."
"Walk with you?" The dwarf looked around in alarm. "What is wrong with him?"
"He is miserable about that joke you played upon him yesterday. It was cruel, Gimli, and it has hurt him."
"What joke?" The dwarf stopped dead in his tracks so suddenly he caused Aragorn to stumble. "I have played no joke on him."
"Apparently you told him you and I planned to swear an oath together. It is plainly not true and so it must have been in jest. Elves and oaths do not mix well. Gimli."
"I did not!" Gimli cried indignantly. "I did not tell him that. He twisted my words and then ran off in a panic without listening. I was talking about our New Years resolutions. He did not understand and so I described them as a vow....in retrospect perhaps not the best description. It was Legolas who decided a vow was an oath and he would not let me explain, Aragorn. I know as well as you do of elves and oaths. They slaughtered us for the sake of those gems of theirs!"
The one thing Aragorn did not want to do was open up the Pandora's box of the dwarves and the silmarils. That could only go badly so he made a noncommittal grunt and desperately hoped Gimli would think that acceptable. He did not want to find himself quoted to Legolas in some later dispute.
"He is a nightmare to communicate with, Aragorn." Gimli continued his grumbling. "I do not understand that flighty mind. You think you are speaking of one thing and he is hearing something completely different."
"Well it has spiralled out of control, Gimli. I had my brothers banging down my door at the crack of dawn, arguing with the guards, waking us all up because they were convinced you and I were about to sentence ourselves to a fate worse than death!"
"Ai, he has not involved those glaring Sons of Elrond has he? Why did he do that? The fool! And why did they listen to him? I thought they had some intelligence."
"You have to understand," Aragorn said with a sigh, "Their father was raised by a Feanorian. They are touchy about oaths."
"They are all touchy." Gimli grumbled. "Touched in the head, the lot of them. Why do we do it, Aragorn? Why do we surround ourselves with these strange creatures, I ask you? "
"He was upset because he cares for you, Gimli, and he did not wish you to come to harm. And now he is hurt because he thinks you made fun of him deliberately."
"I need to talk to him then," the dwarf hung his head and stared at his feet. "And hope he does not misunderstand me yet again."
"You do." Aragorn could not agree more. "You need to talk with him."
And hopefully that would be the end of that.
The elf did not raise his head in response to his name. He did not look up from his fiddling with plants.
Oh I am in serious trouble here. Gimli thought to himself.
"Legolas, come on now. We need to talk."
"Do we?" The reply was terse, tight and very, very hurt.
"Yes we do." The dwarf plonked himself down on the grass beside his friend. If he was going to have to compete with the plants for attention he had to get lower.
"Why did you do it, Gimli?" Legolas still wouldn't look at him. "Why did you make a fool of me.....in front of the Elrondionath too!" He dug angrily in the dirt, each trowel full deeper than the one before.
"Now, to be honest, lad, I did not tell you to go to them."
"It was cruel, Gimli."
"It was a misunderstanding, Legolas." Gimli took a deep breath. He had to keep his cool here or everything would just get worse.
"I did not mention oaths, I did not mean that. If you think back it was you who bought that up, and you rushed off before I could explain. I am sorry it upset you. I did not mean to, and I definitely did not mean you to involve that pair of monosyllabic twins. They have no sense of humour."
There was—despite himself, Gimli thought—a splutter of elven laughter at that statement and finally Legolas turned to look at him.
"What did you mean then, Gimli?"
"A New Years resolution is a promise....to yourself to do something better, or not do something you shouldn't. I am going to give up on eating sweet cakes."
"But you like sweet cakes!" Legolas looked at him in confusion.
"Well of course I like them. But perhaps I eat more of them than I need to. So I resolve to not eat them at all!"
"You will never succeed at that Gimli," Legolas frowned.
"But that is the point, lad!"
"The point is to promise something you know you won't achieve and in the process give up something you really like? It is a strange tradition. What is Aragorn's resolution then?"
"I do not know. He has not told me, perhaps he resolves to keep his distance from Wood-Elves who cause him far too much trouble!"
He held his breath at that. It could go either way. Had Legolas forgiven him enough to laugh?
"He can try! Why do you both chose things you will fail at?" There was a chuckle, and the hint of a smile, and Gimli relaxed. He was forgiven.
Legolas bent forward and picked up his trowel again then, fiddling in the dirt.
"What should my resolution be I wonder?" He mused.
"You could stop sneaking up on people scaring the living daylights out of them. That would be a good one."
"I like doing that, Gimli," Legolas laughed. It is one of the best advantages to being an elf!"
"Well it must be something that would be the right thing to do." Gimli was beginning to feel a bit uneasy at the thought of what Legolas may come up with. "And I would advise you, whatever your resolution is, not to involve the Son's of Elrond." He felt he needed to make that quite clear after this last time.
"No chance of that Gimli. They will not be talking to me after I told them Aragorn had an oath to swear." Legolas leapt to his feet casually brushing the dirt from his knees as if he did not care less what those scowling twins thought of him but Gimli thought otherwise. Gimli thought it quite likely Legolas cared very, very, much.
"Now I must be off."Changeable as the wind, Legolas was flitting off into another direction. "I have things to do for this resolution."
"It is not something you need to prepare for Legolas!" Gimli cried in alarm. "Just a simple promise is enough. You need not even tell anyone." Surely Legolas hadn't got the wrong end of the stick again?
"Do not worry, friend, Gimli. It is as you say, something very beneficial. All will be well!" He gifted Gimli with a brilliant smile as he danced away, but for some reason Gimli found he wasn't so convinced as to the accuracy of those last words.
"The fireworks are splendid, Aragorn." Legolas pulled himself lightly on to the railings surrounding the balcony for a better look. "Not as good as Gandalf's but impressive all the same!"
"It is hard to compete with a wizard . . . Legolas, will you come down . . . Now!"
Aragorn's voice was strangled with anxiety as he watched the woodelf dance along the balustrades.
"Oh, it is quite safe, really." Legolas smiled as he moved further away from them leaning out for a better look at the streets below. "I am a Woodelf, remember. We never fall." He turned around with a bright grin and at that very moment, attention diverted he toppled over the edge and out of view.
"Legolas!" Aragorn cried in desperation but it was Elrohir who was there first, with his elven reflexes and he was greeted by a bright cheeky face as Legolas dangled himself from the railings, feet swinging in the air below.
"You are an idiot." The Noldor snapped, "That is not funny."
"Just demonstrating to Aragorn how completely safe I am." Legolas hauled himself up still making it look as if it involved no effort what so ever, his face split with a grin but Aragorn was white faced and unimpressed.
"I agree with Elrohir." he said tightly, "Do not do it again."
"Very well," Legolas sighed "But really your fear of heights can be wearying."
"I am not afraid of heights. I am afraid of your reckless behaviour upon them."
"It is best just to ignore him when he is up there." Gimli, intervened. "Aragorn, you will not stop him climbing. Just try not look at him when he does so. I have learned that is the best tactic. But Legolas, pretending to fall . . . That is not good for our hearts and some of us here are mortal." He turned to the tense and uneasy King beside him. "Come, Aragorn, enough fireworks. It is cold out here if you are not an elf, let us go inside and have us some nice pipeweed to calm our nerves after that display of agility."
"Well excuse us if we do not join you, when you pollute yourselves with that toxic weed," Elladan frowned. "No chance of you giving it up for New Year, Estel?"
"No chance! Living so close to a Wood-elf I need it. I would rather give up the elf than the pipe weed."
"I am hurt Aragorn!" Legolas leaned back against the balcony he so recently dangled from. "It was you who asked me to move here after all." But he did not look hurt, in fact he looked like butter would not melt in his mouth which was never a good sign.
"I do not understand how you smoke that, brother." Elrohir's beautiful face crumpled into a look of pure disgust. " I tried it once, it was truly awful. It tastes worse than it smells."
" You tried it?" Elladan gasped.
"With the Dunedain. I was curious. I do not recommend it."
"Where was I?" Elladan looked horrified by this latest revelation.
"Around." Elrohir shrugged his shoulders halfheartedly. "It was one puff, brother . . . Maybe two . . . Anyway, it was horrid."
"Philistines!" The dwarf huffed. "None of you would know good pipeweed if you fell over it. It is an acquired taste, I'll have you know."
"And I have some of the best, Gimli." Aragorn drew Gimli inside, both because he was cold, and to avoid any further deterioration in dwarven/elvish relations. "Finest longbottom leaf, Merry gave it to me and I have been saving it for a special occasion, and what is more special than the new year."
"Ah," Gimli relaxed with a sigh of anticipation, back into a chair, "Merry, always has the best. You have been hiding this from me Aragorn!"
"Well not hiding it from you as such. It is right here in my top drawer." Aragorn reached into his desk with a smile. He was quite looking forward to this himself. But then he stopped, a sudden frown upon his face. "It is not there! It must have been the second drawer." But it was not in the second drawer either, or the third, or under the desk, or on his bookshelves, or under the chairs which Gimli randomly insisted on searching.
The bright sound of elven laughter from the balcony stopped the pair of them in their increasingly desperate search.
"Legolas. . . . Legolas! Where is my pipeweed?" Aragorn roared and the laughter only intensified. He was sure it was more than one of them laughing now. "Elladan . . .Elrohir. . . What have you done with it?"
"It is my New Years resolution, Aragorn," Legolas spluttered between giggles. "That you and Gimli shall cease inflicting that noxious smoke upon us."
"It is supposed to be you giving something up, you fool elf!" Gimli cried, "Not other people!"
But by the time the two of them got themselves out onto the balcony, Legolas was halfway down the wall, the two Noldor following rapidly after.
"Don't look, Aragorn!" The cry floated up to reach them."I am climbing, I know it upsets you!"
"I knew it! I knew I should have given elves up for the New Year, " Aragorn sighed as he turned, defeated to Gimli, for there was no point chasing them down the walls. "They are all more trouble than they are worth. Why did I ever let Arwen talk me out of it?"
"Because she is an elf, herself perhaps? The dwarf smiled,
“And there you have it, Gimli,” Aragorn raised his hands in defeat.
“I have no chance. That was the best pipeweed I have ever got my hands on and they have destroyed it, yet I am fated to be forever surrounded by them.”
“But would you want it any other way, Aragorn? They are infuriating, sickeningly perfect, impossible to communicate clearly with, but would you ever have it any other way?”
And Aragorn had to admit—pipeweed or no pipeweed—the dwarf was right.