|Author: Athea (email@example.com)
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Title: New Beginnings, part six
Summary: After the announcement, the watcher makes a discovery.
Date: 14 April 2002
I listened in as I did each meal from the small attic that lay hidden in the eaves. It was easy to hear the various conversations since I had no trouble separating the different voices and accents. That ability has stood me in good stead over the centuries and I listened to the announcement with interest.
It seemed that one of our old potions had survived. I thought back to a summer when the herbs were fresh and the wine base had tasted sweeter from my lover's lips than from the goblet where we'd mixed it all together. That memory was bittersweet after all the lonely years that had passed since I was young and carefree.
The silence brought me back to the here and now. Silently, I moved to one side so I could watch them below me through the gauze panel that mimicked painted wood. Their looks ranged from bewildered to calculating. I raised an eyebrow and watched one of them quickly hide what he was feeling under a look of concern. I'd noticed him before and I made a mental note to follow him for a few days.
I listened to the hum of conversation and nodded when the cook offered to make cranberry bread for the Prince. He was a good Man and a more than adequate chef for this small community. He'd noticed the disappearance of the occasional food dish but he just smiled and made a little extra of whatever he was cooking, setting it aside where it could be easily retrieved.
He probably thought that one of the others got hungry and snitched it while he wasn't looking. But I was enjoying food cooked by someone other than myself after so long. I'd forgotten how fresh dishes could taste. I'd grown bored with cooking and had taken to eating nothing more than a few simple dishes. My palate had grown stale but he was reviving it with his recipes.
The others began to leave for their homes and I silently left the attic and moved through the treetops to the house where the odd Man lived. Creeping into that hidden attic took some finesse but I was in place when he walked through the front door. His housemate hadn't returned with him so I was witness to his true reaction to the announcement.
"You're mine, Prince Legolas." Dark eyes glittered with madness. "I will rid you of this abomination and the filthy creature who dared to take you and force his spawn upon you. This I promise you for you are mine."
Legolas was tired and his shoulders slumped just a little when we reached our home. He wearily removed his warm cape and hung it next to mine. I coaxed him down to the bench near the front door so I could kneel and remove his snow-caked boots. He dropped a kiss on my head and I placed one carefully into his palm.
"Well, I guess it went all right. No one leapt up and denounced us."
"It will take a little time for them to come to terms with it. The main problem right now is there are no women among us." I stood and pulled him up and into the warmer front room. "Once Rheanas' wife and daughter arrive it will be a little more balanced. Did I tell you that our healer had a letter from Basteal, the Dwarven healer he spoke of? He's coming to join us, too."
My lover sank down into the chair by the fire and pulled me next to him. I hugged him close and stroked his stomach tenderly. "I was afraid that he would say no and leave us guessing."
"That was my fear as well." I finally admitted. "We are so new to Middle-earth that it seems sometimes as if no one understands us."
"Love is something that everyone understands, beloved Gimli. Part of me wishes that we could have kept it a secret a little longer." His hand joined mine on the mound that swelled above his slender hips. "But our babes are no longer content to hide. I have slowed to the point that I may not leave our home until these children are born. I shall become a hermit like the presence Frodo and I feel here."
I looked up expecting to see a smile but he seemed to be serious. "You will do whatever you wish, Legolas. I will back any action you desire."
His eyes filled with tears but he kept them from falling. "I'm sorry, love. I feel oppressed as if danger threatened but I know not any enemy left in this New World of ours."
My own danger alarm seemed to be ringing as well but I didn't want him to worry. Not now when the babies needed so much of his energy. "I will watch for danger, my love. But for the moment, why don't I run a hot bath and give you a nice massage to relax you?"
He smiled tenderly at me, his fears forgotten for the moment. "You always know exactly what I need, beloved. That sounds wonderful."
I pulled him to his feet and led him to our bedroom where I undressed him like the beautiful gift that he was to me. We bathed each other and I took him to bed where I pampered him with everything I could think of. By the time we slept, he seemed to be in a better frame of mind.
Three days later, I was tapping on an intriguing vein that I'd found in the third tunnel up from our original entry to White Cap. The snow had mostly melted but the harvesting was done for now and we'd gone back to what we'd been doing before the weather began to change. Legolas was translating back in the archive with Frodo for a companion. Rheanas' wife Lorel and his daughter Miriel had arrived the day before and it really did make a difference having females about the place.
I chuckled and moved down the tunnel that looked like it had been shaped by water action in the ancient past. Another tap or two and I found myself in a vast cavern that my small lantern could only partially illuminate. Stalagmites rose from the slippery floor to tower above me and I wished that I could see the ceiling far above me. Checking the floor in front of me, I cautiously stepped out into the cavern.
Two steps later, I was at the first pillar in time to hear an ominous rumble behind me. Whirling, I got no more than a step back towards the tunnel when an explosion cloud of dust and rubble threw me against the column of glittering stone and I blacked out.
I thing it was some time before I came to myself and the velvet darkness that entombed me. Putting out a hand, I searched for the lantern I'd been carrying. It wasn't within easy reach so I paused to sit up, resting against the pillar. Dust was everywhere and I felt it clog my lungs with its dryness. I coughed over and over until I could breathe a little easier.
I had a headache but that was nothing compared to the knowledge that I was trapped underground and Legolas would be beside himself with fear. That wasn't good for him or me either so I rose to my hands and knees to search for my lantern. As if called to me, I found it almost at once. Using the striker I kept in my belt pouch, I soon had it relit. Standing made me dizzy but it was momentary and I was soon back at the tunnel entrance.
Or I would have been had it still been there. The outer tunnel was gone. All that was left was a pile of rubble cutting off the only escape route I knew. But I was determined not to give in to fear. I knew the underworld of mountains from the time I could walk and this one would yield up another exit or I would know the reason why. My lantern flame flickered a little so air was getting in from somewhere.
If need be I'd dig my way out but hopefully it wouldn't come to that. With determination, I kept one hand on the wall while I picked my way around the outer limits of the cave. It was bigger than I'd first believed but on the south wall the air current grew in intensity so I raised my lantern high to see if I could see another tunnel entrance.
But it was only a crack, dashing my hopes harder than I liked. I wanted with every fiber of my being to be out of this dangerous place and back with my lover. Closing my eyes, I pictured him sitting at the table he'd taken as his in the archives with Frodo at his side. They'd both be reading and writing with one of them occasionally reading a paragraph aloud to the other.
I growled in frustration and continued my journey around the cave. But there was no other tunnel or anything that might even conceivably be an exit. I shivered suddenly and realized that the cold would soon be sapping my strength. Setting the lantern aside, I began to move the larger rocks from the tunnel through which I'd entered. The back-breaking work would help keep me warm.
The sibilant cry came from above me and I whirled, my eyes straining to see up. "Where are you? Who are you?"
"Above. Can you climb a rope?"
His accent was odd, not one that I'd heard before. "Yes, do you have one?"
The chuckle might have sounded sinister but not with the pale length of rope that had suddenly appeared before me. "Climb, Dwarf, if you would keep your Prince from the pain of losing you."
I growled and hooked the lantern to my belt, pulling my gloves on so the rope wouldn't cut my hands. Then I began the climb that would hopefully get me out of my unexpected tomb. Up ... then a little more ... ten feet behind me ... up ... rest again after the twenty-foot marker ... up again. It seemed like I'd been attached to that damn rope for an eternity and my arms were beginning to shake with the strain. But Legolas' tear stained face kept me moving towards safety.
"Watch yourself, Dwarf. This was no accident." The odd accent filtered through the roaring in my ears. A long arm stretched down and a tight grip pulled me the last few feet unto solid ground. I lay flat and panted while my arms tingled and my hands burned. When I opened my eyes to see my rescuer, I found myself alone. Sitting up, I looked around but there was no one there, no one at all. He'd disappeared like the ghost he seemed to be.
Shaking my head, I struggled to my feet and made my way to the sunlight that I could see up ahead. The cold brisk air felt like a magic potion, reviving me like nothing else could. I was further east than I thought I was but I could see the meadow below where we'd so recently raked hay. Taking a very careful look around so I could find this upper cave again, I began the careful trip down the mountain.
The last thing I needed right now was to slip and break something. I had to get to Legolas before some fool told him that I was dead. Once in the valley, I hurried as quickly as I could but when I saw Merry crying and walking towards the Hobbit home, I knew that the news had already beaten me back. His eyes widened when he saw me but he yelped and hugged me briefly before dashing inside to spread the word.
I ran as I'd never run before and arrived panting at the door to our home. I heard Rheanas' soothing tones but it was the sobs from my love that nearly broke my heart. Taking a deep breath, I went in past a startled Miriel to the back bedroom where Legolas lay on our bed.
"Beloved, I'm fine." I reassured him with my voice while our healer turned and broke into a relieved smile.
"Gimli?" Legolas arose on one elbow and gazed at me as if I was an apparition. I crossed to his side and hugged him tightly.
"Gimli, you're hurt." Rheanas' concerned voice broke into my attempt to re-implant all the lovely Legolas scents that kept me sane.
"Beloved? You look like a mountain fell on you." His hands were moving over me as if to ensure that I was really there.
"Well, it tried but our ..." I fumbled for a word to describe my rescuer. "Our resident ghost got me out. I'm fine."
"No, you're not, Gimli. It looks like you've got several cuts that need cleaning. Stay there while I get my emergency kit. And Legolas, lay back down right now." His voice was firm and we both obeyed him automatically.
Legolas was paler than he'd been before and I pushed him back down to the pillow. "Lie back, beloved. I am here. I am safe and I now know another way out of White Cap."
"Don't joke, Gimli, you could have died." His shaky hands held onto me and I kissed every bit of skin that I found. "What happened?"
The ghost's words echoed in my head but I would not share them just yet. "I don't know, my love. A rock fall perhaps or maybe an earth tremor, I just don't know. Balik and I will investigate. We none of us want any more accidents."
"You're sure it was an accident?" He was calming down but his grip was still tight on my hand.
"What else could it be?" I put on my most innocent look. "It certainly wasn't our ghost since he's the one who saved me from having to dig my way out."
"He has my most fervent thanks then. Whatever he wants is his if he ever comes forward." Legolas looked every inch the prince that the Council had named him.
Rheanas came in then with a basin of warm water and I endured his cleaning my cuts. But when he pressed against the spot where my hard head had hit the rock pillar, I couldn't hold back a grimace of pain. "Ah, I can feel a rather large bump here. I think an ice pack and a cup of white willow bark tea will help the headache. Your pupils look all right but concussion is still a possibility. Miriel, if you would be so kind?"
That's when I noticed the young Elf who'd been hovering over her father's shoulder. She nodded and left quietly. I needed to ask why he was so adamant about Legolas not getting up. "Rheanas, ouch! I have enough bruises without you adding more. Why won't you let Legolas up?"
Elven hands were busy pulling off my coat, weskit and shirt. "Prince Legolas suffered a dizzy spell at about the same moment you had your . . . accident. Goodness, you do indeed have a wonderful set of bruises. Some comfrey compresses will help with them. Luckily, he didn't fall far and Frodo came to get me at once. I'd just put him to bed when word came down from the mountain."
"Who brought word of the accident? Do you remember?" I tried to ask casually but his sharp eyes shot me a look of warning.
"Balik told Elrohir who ran to get me. It was simply unfortunate that I happened to be with Legolas when that happened." He had a pad of something that stung and burned the cut above my eye.
"Ouch." I gripped Legolas' hand a little harder. "I can tell that you're one of those healers who likes to ask sweetly 'does this hurt' right after you press hard on a wound."
"Yes, indeed, we learn that at healer's school. Don't we, Miriel?" He turned towards his daughter, who I hadn't even heard come back in.
"But of course, Father. Beginning Healing was one of my favorite classes." Her innocent look was perfect. "Pressing on wounds, shining a bright light into dilated eyes and asking in a cheerful loud voice 'how are we this morning'."
Legolas chuckled and the sound was music to my ears. "I always knew that somewhere there was a class like that, Miriel. It matters not whether the healer be Elf, Dwarf or Man, you are very much the same."
I took the cup of tea that she handed me and drank it down in practically a single gulp. The headache had returned with a vengeance and the pounding pain was annoying. Rheanas seemed to know and his hands finished binding the worst cut at my temple before he sent his daughter away with a whispered instruction to make sure that everyone knew that I was all right.
Once she was gone, he finished undressing me and helped me into bed. He fussed for a moment with the ice pack that he wedged between the pillow and my head but the blessed coolness seemed to help the throbbing. With a soft admonition to rest, he left us alone.
Legolas slid his arms around me and cradled my head against his shoulder. "Sleep now, my love. I'll keep you safe."
"Always, beloved." My eyes felt so heavy that they closed on their own. "Love you."
"I love you too, Gimli. Now sleep and dream only of me." His long fingers stroked my hair and he began to hum a melody that I recognized.
I'd have to find out why he knew a Dwarf lullaby but I could ask him later. Right now, I was falling fast asleep. Safe, I was safe.