Fathers and Sons
Late April, 3019*
Merry sat on the deck of the boat, puffing on a pipe, his feet propped
up on a lower railing. The large smoke rings he emitted were quickly
snatched away by the brisk breeze. As he lowered his eyelids, the city
of Osgiliath diminished from his view, the rowers working against the
strong current of Anduin bearing the ship toward Cair Andros.
Reveling in the pleasant weather, he closed his eyes as he basked in the
sun, sinking ever further into his hobbit-sized chair.
"Do all of your kind take to smoking at such a young age?"
The hobbit started, and one of his golden-haired feet dropped to the
deck with a loud thud.
"Legolas!" he spluttered, wrenching his head to the side. "Haven't you
learned that it isn't polite to sneak up on people?"
A mischevious smile crossed the Elf's face. "On this journey from Minas
Tirith, stealth is not my intention."
Merry muttered under his breath about Elves moving like shadows, then
repositioned himself to his former comfortable position. Legolas stepped
over to the railing and held it, his gaze focused on the tree-filled
island to their north.
"As to your question, I can't answer for all hobbits, of course," Merry
began, "but the Brandybuck fathers offer both pipeweed and ale to their
sons when they feel they will not overindulge. Or if they do," he
grinned, "they shan't soon forget it."
Merry happily clenched his teeth on his pipe, wriggling his toes in the
warm air, ensconced in a fond memory.
"And what of the daughters?" Legolas asked, turning his head from their
eventual destination to his green-eyed companion.
"Daughters?" Merry coughed, removing his pipe and gazing down on the
swift-moving waters below them. After a thoughtful pause, he raised his
eyes. "Well, some hobbit women do smoke, it's true." The wind off the
river caught his shirt sleeves, which billowed as he ran a hand through
his hair. "Yes, some do," he repeated. "And most are as fond of ale as
any hobbit worth his soles."
"Worth his souls?" Legolas' eyes sparkled with curiosity.
Merry tilted his head to look back at Legolas, whose reaction surprised
him. Suddenly he realised he'd been misunderstood.
"Soles!" he exclaimed, lifting a foot from the railing and waving it in
the Elf's direction. "Without our sturdy feet, well, I suppose we
wouldn't be hobbits, now would we?"
Both he and Legolas looked at his unshod foot for a moment, then Legolas
readdressed his attentions to the front of the boat without a reply.
Merry crossed his leg, placing his foot on his knee, puffing on his pipe
again to ensure that it didn't go out. As he did, savoring the flavor in
his mouth, a question seared itself in his mind. He took some time to
think of all of his encounters with Elves during his trials and travels,
and, satisfied in his memories, took the pipe from his mouth.
"Why don't the Elves smoke? You all are ancient folk."
Legolas returned his steady gaze to the hobbit, turning to lean his back
against the side of the boat. There was a sharp crack as one of the
sails snapped in the wind.
In the lengthening silence, Merry stammered, "I mean, we hobbits have
perfected the fine art of growing and drying pipeweed, but wouldn't the
Elves have done the same for ages past?"
Legolas continued to stare at Merry, who began to regret having asked
the question. The Elf pursed his lips, then shrugged. "I have no answer.
Perhaps it was a habit of my ancestors, but none do so now." With an
indulgent smile, he leaned in toward the hobbit. "For those in Mirkwood,
we nurture the trees and plants, we do not set their leaves alight for
Merry chuckled, feeling a bit sheepish. "Ah well, 'tis a loss for the
Elves." He studied Legolas for a moment, sensing something different
about him. Abruptly he sat up straight, placing both feet on the wooden
deck and jabbing toward Legolas with his pipe. "Where's Gimli?"
Since their time in Lothlórien, the two were rarely seen apart. They
still bickered and suffered many challenges of misunderstanding, but for
the most part, they seemed truly to enjoy each other's company.
Legolas emitted a soft sigh. "Minas Tirith. He does not have a fondness
for boat travel."
Merry looked quizzically back at him. "But he didn't make one complaint
during those days on the river, not like Sam."
Legolas shifted his stance against the boat side. "No, he did not. I
suspect you do not know Gimli as well as I."
The hobbit nodded in acquiescence. "I was separated from you for a
A solemn expression crossed Legolas' face and he titled his head.
"Indeed." He paused. "As for Gimli, it is not that he dislikes water, it
is that it reminds him of his separation from Galadriel."
Merry's eyes widened. "He's still thinking about her?" He shook his head
in disbelief. "You're right; I don't know him like you do. I would never
have guessed that was the reason."
"Truth be told," Legolas confided, "I think he also wished to spend some
more time with Pippin. Since only you were summoned to deliver the goods
we are taking to the island, he decided to remain with your companion.
Though he may not say so in words, he has become very fond of your young
Merry laughed. "Pip has caused him much grief, but he's almost
impossible to dislike." More reservedly, he added, "I'm glad we'll only
be away a few days. After all we've been through, I don't want to be
gone for long."
Legolas leaned back from the railing and placed a hand on the hobbit's
shoulder. "Neither do I," he replied. Then he walked away to the front
of the ship.
"Legolas!" Merry called, and the Elf turned. "Why did you come? I didn't
think they required that you go."
"To see the trees," he replied. "Though not as old as Fangorn, they too
are of old stock."
Merry nodded his head, looking again across the waters to the shores of
"And to keep an eye on you!"
Merry whipped his head in the direction of Legolas' voice, but the lone
Elf was no longer to be seen. The hobbit shrugged. "Galadriel!" he
muttered to himself as another smoke ring drifted into the wind.
Several days later Merry and Legolas returned to Minas Tirith in
mid-afternoon. They walked up the many levels to the Houses of Healing,
but found none of their companions. Ioreth, as busy and as talkative as
ever, waylaid the two for quite some time as she explained in restrained
tones that the Halfling Prince and Bergil were giving the two new
periannath an extended tour of the city. The Dwarf, who had been running
his hands along the walls and stomping down the corridors, disturbing
her patients, was off with two more of his kind. The Lady Éowyn, though
her arm was healing well, had become very quiet and wouldn't heed the
call from King Éomer to join him, and -
"There are more Dwarves in the city?"
"Éowyn isn't with Éomer?"
The tandem exclamations shot into the air, silencing the Healer. Elf and
hobbit looked at each other.
"I must go find Gimli!"
"I must see to Éowyn!"
Their verbal ejaculations of enthusiasm and worry jumbled into each
other. As they again opened their mouths to speak at once, Merry
hurriedly said, "You first."
Ioreth glanced from one to the other, her expression a mixture of
annoyance and amusement. She placed her finger to her lips, then turned
back around to attend to her many charges.
"I have an idea of where I can find Gimli," Legolas said, his voice
hushed as they left the room. "Now that the war is over, I suspect he is
making great plans of repair and construction. I shall go to Fen Hollen,
where fell the Steward Denethor."
Merry shuddered. "Elves and Dwarves have strong stomachs. I've enjoyed
getting to know Steward Faramir, and I do not ever wish to go into that
place." He gazed worriedly at Legolas. "I don't like what I hear about
Éowyn, and I think I should go see her. Surely she will not mind my
Legolas shrugged his shoulders, his long hair waving across his back.
"You know her well, not I."
They both turned and went in opposite directions.
After investigating the Rath Dínen and breathing in the haunted air of
the House of the Stewards, Legolas continued his search for Gimli. He
paused for a few moments in the doorway of the sturdily built sepulcher,
held transfixed by the lingering echo of tragedy. He murmured a brief
utterance for the passing of Denethor, whose fiery presence still
scarred the blackened floor before walking on to the next level of the
It was out in the courtyard of the seventh level where Legolas found his
companion. Ioreth's words had been correct. Gimli stood - or rather,
crouched - at the wall, pointing at some intricate carvings and speaking
to two other Dwarves next to him, who also squatted on their heels. As
Legolas approached, he heard more of what Gimli said, but couldn't
recognise even a syllable. He stood for a moment, fascinated by the
rising and falling phrases of the two unknown Dwarves and Gimli, who,
after many months, was at last able to speak in his native tongue. Their
punctuated guttural exchanges sounded to Legolas like rocks tumbling in
a stream but also punctuated with sparkling clarity of hidden gems
whispering in ancient hills. If Elvish is the language of the stars,
Legolas mused, then the Dwarf-language truly echoes it as the song of
He waited patiently until the Dwarves stood and Gimli noticed him
"Legolas!" he exclaimed. "You have returned! Were the trees all that you
had hoped for?"
Legolas smiled. "Though fair enough to look upon, I more anticipate our
return visit to Fangorn Forest. You have not changed your mind about
those particular travels, have you?"
Gimli made an affronted harumph!-ing sound. "Ah! I have not introduced
you to my comrades. Khali, Frain, this is Legolas of Mirkwood."
A Dwarf with a silver beard wearing two thickly-roped golden necklaces
standing to Gimli's right bowed, then the one to Gimli's left did the
same. The second Dwarf had a full russet beard with several plaits, each
tied with a thin leather thong. He appeared to be from a well-situated
line, as he wore a cloak of rich brown velvet the color of owl's eyes.
As this Dwarf held Legolas' attention from under his deep set gaze, the
Elf felt disconcertedly as though he were being stared straight through
by such a night-fowl.
Legolas bowed deeply to the trio. Placing his right hand atop his heart,
he spoke clearly. "Legolas, son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood. It is a
pleasure to meet any friend of Gimli's."
The Dwarves flanking Gimli nodded in appreciation. Gimli gawked for a
moment before recomposing his face and shutting his gaping mouth.
Frain turned to Gimli. "I would not have expected an Elf of Mirkwood to
be so respectful." He raised a bushy eyebrow and winked. "You must have
made an impression on him during your travels to this place."
The Dwarf with the mithril-colored beard clapped Gimli fondly on the
back. "Frain and I must be off to other levels of this city. It is of
good stone, as you said. I am sure that many of our folk from the Lonely
Mountain will be glad to make the journey and keep our hands and tools
busy here for some time."
Frain bowed slightly to Gimli, then Legolas. "I trust we shall see you
at the Coronation, Elf of Mirkwood."
In a graceful gesture evocative of rushes waving in water, Legolas bowed
again as the two Dwarves made their way down the cobbled path. The
background cacophony of horses' hooves on stone and quotidian
conversations drifted around Legolas and Gimli, the latter fixating his
attentions on his friend.
"My apologies, Legolas," Gimli began. "I did not fully explain my
companions. Khali is a master craftsman of stonework from west of the
Iron Hills, and a distant relative to my father Glóin, I believe." He
paused briefly. "Frain is his wife, and an excellent lapidarist."
At this, Legolas stood silent for several moments, his face like carved
"Wife," he finally muttered.
Gimli nodded enthusiastically. "Quite a Dwarf woman, too. Many keep to
themselves, but she has always smashed the mould, as our saying goes.
She believes that she should have gone to ruin Smaug instead of her son
Bombur, though he did bring honour to his family in the end."
Legolas absently rubbed his hands together. His gaze meandered over the
still-scorched lands outside of Minas Tirith, as though by his staring
he could remove himself from the walls and circle above the ground like
a hawk carried on the wind.
"I'm surprised that you have some sense of Dwarvish manners," Gimli
finally said, his hand resting as it often did, on the tip of his axe,
his toughened fingers caressing the battle-worn iron. "That's more than
I can say for anyone else of your father's halls!"
Legolas pressed the tips of his fingers together with such steady force
that his fingertips turned white under the nails. He turned to look at
Gimli, ire flickering in his gaze though his voice was carefully
measured. "I am sure that you did not intend to insult me, my family,
and all Elves of Mirkwood. I assure you that despite your father's
perceptions on the matter, we are known for our hospitality and
graciousness with all save our most hated enemies."
"My father did most certainly tell a different tale," Gimli said hotly,
then reached into a pack tied at his waist, producing his pipe and an
exquisitely carved tinderbox. "Thrown into a prison cell and told he and
his companions would stay there for a hundred years if Thorin would not
explain his presence in the forest. Not allowed to speak to his
comrades! Nothing to do but sit, and wait." He struck a match against
the stone wall, lit his pipe and began puffing on it.
"They trespassed, Gimli," Legolas said, motioning down the path and
beginning to walk. "They provoked the spiders, bringing them closer to
our gate. In such perilous times, those Dwarves should have been dealt
with facing our arrows."
"Should have been
" Gimli growled, grinding his teeth against his pipe.
"Instead they were merely escorted in blindfolds, given clean rooms,
plenty of food and drink, and were kept in comfort."
"They were imprisoned!" Gimli shouted.
At Gimli's outburst, a nearby shaggy-haired youth with a bandaged knee
stopped, mouth gaping at Elf and Dwarf until his guardian knocked at his
shoulder to regain his attention.
"I visited them regularly when not out on patrol," Legolas continued,
"making sure for myself that they were not lacking any basic need."
"Except for their freedom."
"That was not mine to give, and even had it been, I was of the same mind
as my father. There were increased numbers of orcs and foul creatures
from Dol Guldur, and the nearby Dwarves, while mostly incorruptible,
refused their assistance."
"It could have been me," Gimli seethed. "Had Glóin not said I was too
young, even at sixty-two, I would have been in their number. And had I
been kept in a cell in your father's halls-"
"Who was in prison?" A familiar and inquisitive voice interrupted him.
"His father," Legolas replied evenly.
"Locked up by his father!" Gimli followed, jabbing his pipe at Legolas.
"Oh," Merry said, reaching into his breeches' pocket for his own
tinderbox. "That explains a lot about you two." He lit his pipe and took
a deep puff on it, causing the contents in the bowl to glow vividly.
"It most certainly does not!" Gimli blurted out.
"Oh, I think it does," Merry said, nodding sagely. "And both of your
fathers have come out all right after the battles, haven't they?"
There was silence as Legolas and Gimli looked at each other, breathing
in the air of growing dusk, richly suffused with hope for the future.
"Yes," Gimli said grudgingly. "Frain brought news that he survived the
siege and is contentedly making repairs at the Mountain."
"I, too, have heard that Thranduil is well, though grieving the loss of
so many trees," Legolas said. "Fire ravaged our forests, but I hope that
Galadriel will see fit to visit Mirkwood's damaged lands and heal them
as only someone of her power can."
"And what of you?" Gimli asked as the trio sat on a stone bench next to
a large pile of marble rubble.
Merry looked at him, resignation in his expression. "There's no news
from Buckland, or the Shire. But it's so far away, perhaps they haven't
been affected. They may not even know that there's been a war at all."
He shook his head pensively before inhaling on his pipe. "Now that would
be odd, going through all of this, only to get back and have folk think
you were mad. Half of them might'nt even believe us." Brightening, he
added, "But there's lots of celebrating to do before we go back. I don't
know about you two, but I think an ale would hit the spot." He got up
and began to walk away before turning around. "Well, aren't you coming?"
Legolas looked at Gimli, who gave an indecipherable grunt. "We'll follow
you in not too long."
Merry made a jaunty salute with his pipe, then headed back toward the
upper level of the city.
Moments passed with only the foot- and hoof-steps of the citizens of the
White City heading to their still-ruined homes. Legolas and Gimli sat in
the relative quiet of the advancing night, watching as first one, then
another star began twinkling faintly in the deepening dark.
"Hobbits truly are amazing. Surprisingly sturdy, and resilient. Almost
Dwarf-like," Gimli said proudly with a chuckle.
Legolas arched an eyebrow. "An interesting comparison. I suspect that
Merry and Pippin would not be offended by it." He turned to look at
Gimli, who was scowling in the increasing shadows. "They certainly have
no Elvish qualities."
Gimli snorted. "They might take insult to that." He tapped out his pipe,
then rose, knees creaking, to his feet. "A tankard of ale does indeed
sound like a fine thing. Would you care to go back?"
The Elf nodded, drinking in the sparkling patterns that continued to
bloom overhead. "Perhaps someday, Gimli, you will come to Mirkwood. The
stars there are so bright."
"Me? Come to Mirkwood?" Gimli was incredulous. "Well, possibly. Maybe
*From "The Steward and the King:" The days that followed were golden,
And tidings now came by swift riders from Cair Andros of all that was
done, and the City made ready for the coming of the King. Merry was
summoned and rode away with the wains that took store of goods to
Osgiliath and thence by ship to Cair Andros.
The reference to Gimli not being included in group of Dwarves in The
Hobbit comes from Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor":
earlier, when Gandalf ceased speaking, Frodo records that Gimli laughed.
'It still sounds absurd,' he said, 'even now that all has turned out
more than well. I knew Thorin, of course; and I wish I had been there,
but I was away at the time of your first visit to us. And I was not
allowed to go on the quest: too young, they said, though as sixty-two I
thought myself fit for anything. Well, I am glad to have heard the full
tale. If it is full. I do not really suppose that even now you are
telling us all you know.'
'Of course not,' said Gandalf.
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