Not in the same story arc as Deeper.
BETA by the wonderful Anarithilien, who spared me time for this even though busy with her own fabulously mysterious 'Dark Forest.' Go and read it if you haven't already.
WARNING :Rating T in first (although it isn't really even a T but I want to alert you to the warning in chapter 2). M rating for second chapter Het erotic encounter.
Disclaimer: Tolkien's –all his. Me just mucking up the storyline and characters..I have taken shocking liberties with both characters and the timeline in the interests of a tender little romance between Eowyn and Legolas.
Chapter One: Rohan's Gold
Meduseld. It remained impossibly unscathed, though the rest of Rohan lay bruised and scarred by the battle at Helm's Deep and the skirmishes that surrounded it. Théoden's riders were returning home, the smell of horses and sweat of their riders, and the pounding hooves on the dusty road lay thickly upon them. Théoden's banner snapped and streamed in the wind.
Behind Legolas, Gimli leaned heavily against his back, breaths slow and deep. The dwarf had not spoken for a while now, except to ask if they were yet in sight of Edoras and Legolas guessed he dozed lightly.
A bay horse pulled up alongside him. Aragorn, dust on his boots and cloak and sweat beading on his skin. 'Legolas? Can you see - are we almost there?' he asked. Legolas said nothing but smiled. Shading his eyes with his long hand, he gazed ahead.
'Yes. I see Meduseld.'
Aragorn smiled wearily and rode alongside him for a while as they approached the hill upon which Meduseld lay.
The Golden Hall shone in the sun. Legolas had not appreciated it last time, only listened to Gimli's muttered observations that it didn't look much like a golden hall. But now he knew the gold here was not what was found on the roof, but deeper, in its heart.
He closed his eyes briefly and breathed in the clean air of the open steppe, remembering when first he looked up at the doors of Meduseld flung open wide to let in the wind, and saw her. Her white gown had billowed in the wind and flattened around her form, curving round her breasts and belly, her girdle about her hips, accentuating, drawing the eye. Proud and defiant she gazed across the steppe, her long golden hair streamed behind her. And she met his gaze and held him. He had stared then, and now hoarded the memory like treasure.
That had only been days ago but the memory warmed him, sustained him, and his blood thrilled at the thought of her again. Bright she was, like burnished steel, but he had no illusions. She gazed at Aragorn like he could feed her hunger and she did not see him standing behind.
Now as this day ended, they returned from Helm's Deep, triumphant. He looked for her on the steps to the Golden Hall but did not see her, so many faces crowded to greet their loved ones. The press of horses and bodies was almost too much, the smell of humanity, of blood pumping and sweat, and the muttering of the dwarf pressed to his back, which he could no longer ignore.
'Come Legolas. Let us dismount. I cannot feel my toes and I need the good earth beneath my feet.'
Arod had halted and stood patiently. A woman looked up and asked Legolas something but he did not understand and could only shake his head and shrug. She went to the next rider, asking the same anxious question, and the next.
Legolas held the dwarf's arm while he slid from the horse, for it was a long way down for a dwarf. Gimli stamped his feet and swung his arms.
And then he saw her.
She stood partway up the steps, poised mid-flight, her lips parted and eyes shining. She fled into her brother's arms and almost wept, almost. Legolas drank in the sight of her as she turned and spoke to Théoden, her eyes filled with joy and relief. He could not hear what she said and did not know the rolling speech of the Rohirrim.
She frowned slightly and turned to search the crowd, Legolas looked to try to catch her gaze but she had caught on something, someone else instead. She stopped. Her eyes fastened and her smile was warm, excited… elated. Her hand lifted the edge of her white gown from the dust and dirt, as she moved through the crowds, and stopped beside a bay horse. Looking up at the rider her face was filled with joy. Aragorn.
Legolas paused. He glanced at Aragorn and saw the hesitation, saw his hand reach down to her and then withdraw, saw the longing on the woman's face as she sought his gaze but it slid away. She put her hand on the shoulder of his horse, close to his knee and he had to look at her then. It seemed to Legolas that she leaned towards Aragorn even closer, even hungrier.
Legolas looked away. What did he expect? Really?
'Ach. Not good.' Gimli stroked his beard. He too watched the exchange.
'This will only end in a rockslide,' murmured the dwarf as Aragorn dismounted, his back to Eowyn and loosening the horse's girth.
The elf paused and then he too dismounted. Arod pushed his head against the elf where he stood looking back towards Aragorn. The man was close to Eowyn, his head bent slightly to listen to her words.
A strange, unfamiliar squeeze began in Legolas' chest and he wondered at this new sensation. He rubbed his hand over his chest and looked down. Dust on his boots. Sweat between his shoulder blades. There was still dried blood on his tunic where an orc had drawn a scimitar over his ribs and sliced through his tunic, his skin. Hardly presentable. And he admitted to himself that it hurt that she had barely noticed him; it was Aragorn whose face she gazed upon, Aragorn she offered the cup of wine to, Aragorn she followed now into the Great Hall. And, he was sure, it was Aragorn she had waited for.
He leaned against the cool stone, and closed his eyes briefly. He breathed in deeply, trying to clear his mind of golden hair and cool soft skin. In his chest, when he thought of her, there was pain. And when he thought how Aragorn's gaze slid away from her elusively, there was pain for her too. He shook his head. He was his father's son and no fool. He would not fade for an unrequited fancy. But he was drawn like a moth to the flame that was Mortality… it drew him on. Their brightness and vibrance burned him. And each moment he spent with them, he knew he burned a little more.
Gimli pushed wide the door of their small chamber, and saw the elf standing near the open window. The cold wind streamed through the room, flapping the curtains and lifting the covers on the beds, like an intrusive stranger.
'Home sweet home,' grimaced the dwarf ironically, sparing a glance at his tall companion. He was quiet and Gimli had not missed that look when Legolas saw the way Aragorn had greeted the Lady Eowyn. 'It is good to be off a horse and on my own two worthy feet.'
Gimli sighed and draped his cloak over one of the small pallet beds in the room. He unbuckled his belt and laid it carefully over a chair that stood in the corner, thinking about the look in her eyes, the look in Aragorn's eyes and the way Legolas had quickly averted his own gaze. It was complicated to be sure.
He unhitched the small throwing axes in the belt's loops and placed them carefully beside his axe. He took off the round helm and looked around the room for somewhere suitable, seeing nothing he put it under the chair. Then he lifted his chainmail and shrugged out of it. This he lay over the back of the chair. He unstrapped the gauntlets and greaves and then finally, with a sigh, he settled on the bed and took off his heavy steel capped boots.
Unbraiding his beard, he stroked his fingers thoughtfully through the silky fur and spread it out over his chest, then he did the same to his long wiry hair. Now he felt lighter, more at ease and glanced around the room for water to bathe his head, beard and hair. There was none, of course.
'Where can we bathe, Legolas?' he asked.
The elf turned towards Gimli, his green eyes were opaque and dream-filled. He seemed to abruptly shake himself and blinked slowly, his eyes cleared and he smiled. Gimli was relieved, the last thing he needed was a fretful elf on his hands.
Gimli had seen Legolas like this before, a lingering sense of quiet loss. He had been like this when they left Lothlorien. And when Boromir had been killed. Gimli decided he must be homesick, for it was long since they had had any reliable news of home. The Dúnedain had not delivered the news they had both hoped for and he too was a little heart sore. Secretly, Gimli stroked the small leather pouch at his throat where he kept his own precious gold.
Gimli happened to glance up and catch Legolas watching him with a slight smile on his lips. He hastily moved his hand from the pouch.
Legolas averted his eyes more tactfully than usual, Gimli thought, and said with a brightness Gimli thought a little forced, 'There are some bath houses I think, somewhere in Meduseld, but I am not sure where.'
Gimli looked at the elf from the corner of his eye. ' Come then, I need a bath and I need to be cleaned of orc blood and sweat and grime and … well, everything, I need to be clean. '
'Very well.' Abruptly Legolas strode over to the door and threw it open. 'Come then.'
Gimli shook his head exasperated. 'Why the hurry all of a sudden,' he grumbled. He was given a flash of teeth and a grin that did not have quite the usual exuberance.
They passed Aragorn in the corridor but Legolas barely paused in his stride, calling as he passed.' Come Aragorn, The dwarf needs a bath… And so do you.'
Gimli stopped, catching at Legolas' arm and pulling him to a halt. 'We will wait.'
Legolas faltered and rubbed his hand over his eyes and Gimli thought how tired he must be, that they all were. He pushed the elf slightly. 'Go. I will wait for Aragorn.' And he watched Legolas stride away, straight-backed, tall, strong. Long pale hair swept down his back.
Gimli wandered back to their shared room, wondering what he should say to Aragorn. He was uneasy about what he had seen between Eowyn and the Ranger. He had a softness for the girl. He could not blame her for her infatuation, but he could blame Aragorn for fostering it. He thought Legolas too was concerned for Eowyn, for he had spoken of her gently.
Aragorn had cast off his cloak and tunic and was turning to follow Gimli. He grinned at the dwarf and slapped him on the shoulder.
'Legolas is desperate to get there before we muddy that bathwater?' he joked.
Gimli smiled less convivially. 'Perhaps.'
'Let's make sure he is disappointed!' Aragorn's voice was tired too and he looked so vulnerable that Gimli did not have the heart to chide him either. Instead he allowed the man past him and to hurry out of the room and down the corridor.
Berating himself for his soft heart, Gimli turned more slowly and followed Aragorn from the room, passing the Great Hall and into a small passageway. They could hear voices and the air became steamy and warm. Gimli's skin tingled with the prospect of being immersed in hot water and lather. He frowned, he had missed his chance to speak with Aragorn but it just did not seem the time. Resolving to have it out with both of them later, he followed the man into the bath house.
A large man, his copper hair woven into two braids in the Rohirrim style, smiled and nodded at them. Waving them into the changing rooms he said something Gimli did not understand but Aragorn laughed tiredly and replied in the same language.
He bowed at Gimli and spoke haltingly 'Welcome, my lord Stanbealdres,' and waved them towards one of the rooms where steam drifted and curled lazily.
Aragorn looked at Gimli as they smiled and nodded their thanks. 'Do you know their name for you?'
Gimli looked up in surprise. 'Their name for me? I have heard them call me Stonefist and Ironfist.'
'Yes. Did you not just hear him say it? They call you Stana Bealdres. It means Stone Master, or Stone Lord-master.'
Gimli stoked his beard, mildly flattered and pleased.
To Gimli's surprise, the changing rooms to the baths were tiled with some sort of earth-brown clay tiles and there were channels in the floor for the over-spilling water to sluice out. Smooth wooden benches lined the wall, and pegs held a number of tunics and cloaks. Gimli felt a pleasure that things were so well ordered.
At the far end, hung a sueded moss-green tunic and fine white shirt. Leather boots had been shoved carelessly under the bench and a brown leather belt embossed with twisting oak leaves and vines had been flung over the tunic.
A guffaw of laughter sounded from within and steam drifted gently from one of the many doors. Aragorn grinned again at Gimli, unbuckling his wide leather belt and throwing it over Legolas' tunic. His boots already lay carelessly on the floor.
'I can already feel the dirt peeling off my skin!' he said, pulling his shirt over his head. He struggled out of his breeches and shoved them with his tunic that he had thrown onto the bench. 'I will have to ask Eomer for some clean clothes.'
Gimli grimaced. 'I am constantly surprised by the lack of hygiene of men,' he said. 'Boromir was just the same. And as for Gandalf! I can't imagine those new white robes staying clean very long.'
Gimli had turned his back and undressed carefully and modestly. He hooked a wide linen cloth that hung nearby which he wound carefully around his waist. He did not really approve of this lack of modesty from the man, and the elf was no better. And as for Hobbits…He turned, saw Aragorn stark naked, and gave a long suffering sigh.
They entered a large room lined with wooden benches where a number of men lounged in the steam. It was so close Gimli wondered if he could bear it but Aragorn seemed to relish it and breathed deeply. Gimli stood close to Aragorn and wished he were not quite so naked. Any of them. It was not seemly. He patted the linen towel round his waist as if worried it might come loose of its own accord.
One of the men sprawling on a bench nearest them called to Aragorn. 'Du gen asecan Glaedan Sigecempa?'
To Gimli it sounded like 'dugan askan gleden siggy sempa.'
The man smoothed his long gold-bronze hair over his broad shoulder.
Gimli frowned. 'Why can't they speak Westron like everyone else?' he muttered to Aragorn. Then he spoke loudly and slowly. ' We are looking for our friend,' he began. He held his hand up to show Legolas' height and made a gesture like someone firing an arrow. The men looked puzzled.
Aragorn laughed and said, 'Gestaellan sy ofer wseterdelp?'
The other man, whom Gimli recognised as one of the Eomer's men, pointed away, further into the steam. Aragorn smiled and nodded his thanks.
'I suppose they have a name for the elf too.' Gimli said, following Aragorn deeper into the curling damp steam.
'I suppose they have.'
'And did they just use it?' he sniffed.
'Yes.' Aragorn tried not to smile, 'And they told me where he is.'
'And does their name for him mean 'Good–for-nothing-but-singing-to-trees? Or Glib Smug Simperer? That's what it sounded like anyway.' Gimli said, patting the linen cloth nervously and making sure it lay modestly over his flat stomach.
Aragorn glanced down at the linen towel and grinned, 'Not exactly'.
'Close enough though.' Gimli looked at him from the corner of his eye. The man laughed aloud then and the years and cares seemed to fall away.
The steam was denser here and Gimli inhaled deeply. There was the smell of mint and lavender, he thought, and some other scent, familiar, cedar and something else…it reminded him of the damp woods, where ferns grew by clear streams running cold over grey granite rocks.
He saw the tall elf then, one arm draped along the back of a wooden bench, long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. His head tipped back against the wall and long pale hair clung to his skin.
A slit of green gleamed between his eyelids at their approach but he did not speak.
Aragorn threw himself beside his friend and sighed, letting his limbs unwind and stretched his back. Neither seemed at all concerned by their nakedness or their proximity to each other's nakedness.
'Ahhhhhh, that is better.' Aragorn ran his fingers through his tangled hair, drew in a deep breath. He looked at Gimli with amusement as the dwarf settled himself with the linen towel carefully over himself on an opposite bench. 'Are you quite comfortable over there, Gimli? You seem very far away,' he observed drily.
Legolas opened his long green eyes sleepily and gazed in that unflinching way he had. A smile teased about his lips. But Gimli was used to them both and took no notice.
'I am quite comfortable thank you.' Gimli said firmly, watching his two friends and comparing the long athletic body of one with the powerful muscular frame of the other. He felt a little sorry for them that neither of them had enough hair to be considered really handsome. Settling himself more comfortably on the wooden bench he stretched out his own legs, well shaped, beautifully muscled and stocky, he contemplated himself with satisfaction. Sweat trickled nicely between his shoulder blades and his hair and beard curled in the steam. He smoothed his hair back from his face so it lay sleek and damp around his strong skull, and he closed his eyes.
He awoke later without having been aware that he had drifted off. He cracked open one eye and saw Legolas, still seated but leaning over Aragorn, his hand hovering over Aragorn's heart. Long pale hair swept over his shoulder and clung to his damp skin. Aragorn's head was bent towards the elf's. Their faces were close, too close and Legolas's eyes were cast down, his long lashes over his cheek.
Gimli closed his eyes quickly, a little shocked and unsure what to do. He should have known this was bound to happen. So far from home, and in the aftermath of war when you want to grab at life with both hands, prove to yourself you are alive
Then he peered again and saw that Legolas cradled the pendant around Aragorn's neck, his eyes not on the Ranger but on the slender chain. He spoke quietly in his own tongue and he sounded sad. Aragorn lifted his hand to the elf's shoulder.
Gimli closed his eyes again relieved. He had never really thought anything else, he told himself. And he closed his eyes again, just for a moment… and drifted comfortably on the muted sound of their voices and the scent of cedar and something else. Camomile. Perhaps camomile, he thought.
Aragorn watched, amused, as Gimli was awoken by a sudden sensation of something sliding across his lap and started awake just in time to see Legolas had flicked away his linen and was balling it up to throw to Aragorn.
'Here! Give me that!' Gimli shouted and leapt up, then quickly sat down again, covering himself. Aragorn had no intention of getting between the elf and dwarf. Throwing an amused look at Legolas, who was still laughing, he grabbed the towel from the elf and threw it back towards Gimli. Gimli snatched it and bundled the linen round himself once more. The dwarf glared at Legolas who merely laughed. 'You two have no respect,' he told them sternly, 'I hope you can both behave yourselves tonight at this feast.'
His earth-brown eyes were serious though and both his tall companions paused.
'Do you have something to say, Gimli?' Aragorn inclined his head slightly, and his fine features were soft with concern and with some small trace of hurt.
The dwarf paused. Then he stood and placed his hand gently on Aragorn's arm. 'Be kind in your actions. These Rohirrim have a great love for heroes.'
'I am no hero,' Aragorn looked down at the dwarf's strong hand. Legolas frowned but said nothing. Aragorn continued quietly, 'But I know of whom you speak. I will be careful of her heart.'
'And yours too, my friend.'
Aragorn inclined his head, but he did not tell Gimli that Legolas had said the same in the steam room, albeit in more words and in a less direct way, for he was an elf. But the sentiment was the same; Arwen stood between them all, like a banner, like an emblem of his heritage and his promises.
'Come then, to the feast and let us forget ourselves in a cup of wine,' Gimli urged. He looked up at Legolas with a glint in his earth-brown eyes, 'I think Woodelves do not have the stamina to match a dwarf of the Iron Hills and Erebor.'
'Is that a challenge?' asked Legolas gamely, 'I will show you how the Woodelves celebrate.'
Gimli grinned widely and clapped the elf on the back but Aragorn was not fooled. He paused and his healer's eyes travelled up and down the elf with concern. Legolas did not flinch and Aragorn said nothing. He knew Legolas well enough by now not to interfere. But their conversation in the steam room lingered. He met Legolas's gaze but the elf glanced away quickly.
They had spoken of mortality and death; Arwen would die. Aragorn would die. And Gimli… Eowyn. They would all die. And Legolas would go on, forever, immortal and alone. Aragorn understood more than any how it was to live so close with those other than you. For Legolas was no longer as he was, and in the way that Aragorn himself had been touched by the elves, Legolas was touched by humanity and lured towards the bright flame of their mortality.
Reviews are really nice -reward your writer today. Don't be shy.
There is very little Rohirric I can find so I used Old English, which is what Tolkien used as a source. This is not a work of scholarship so I am happy for anyone to put this into the correct case/ tense etc. I have used only strong masculine forms of nouns and adjectives and mainly the nominative case as I can't remember my Latin grammar well enough (although I am sure it should be accusative). But any AS scholars, I would be really interested in getting in touch.
'Du gen asecan Glaedan Sigecempa…'
Do you ask for/seek the Gilded Warrior-Hero?
You can use Champion instead of Warrior-Hero and I thought the Rohirrim might well see Legolas as Aragorn's champion in the medieval sense.
'…gestaellan sy ofer wseterdelp...'
'Can he be found over there, in the place of steam? (Literally)
Or in context: 'Is he over there, in the steam room?'