Hard to Forgive, Hard to Forget - Chapter 3; Reunions and Introductions

They continued their steady pace north, the mountains which held the Elven King's halls could be clearly seen in the distance. Legolas expertly guided Arod through a forest of tall beech trees. He knew these path ways like the back of his hand, even the ones that weren't obvious to the eye, he felt confident enough to navigate them in the dead of night but he had long decided to make one final camp before going home, besides the dwarf would adamantly refuse to continue riding through the night. He smiled to himself, tonight he would introduce Gimli to some of Mirkwood's finest warriors.

They made another brief stop near a small natural spring and had some cool water to drink along with the remainder of the elf's berries. Legolas made sure Arod had his fill of the refreshing water then they filled their water skins and set off once again.

"How long do you think it will be before Aragorn will get here ?" the dwarf enquired.

"I expect he will be no more than two days behind us, assuming all goes to plan, why ? Are you anxious to leave my home before you have even arrived ?" the elf asked with mock indignation.

"What ?! No, I was merely curious, no need to get your leggings in a knot ! You elves can be so touchy, tis no wonder you hide yourselves in trees from others, probably faint at the merest insult !" Gimli accused.

"So you did intend to insult my home ?" the elf questioned softly, feigning hurt .

"What ?! Now that is not what I meant and you know it, just like an elf to twist your words and turn them against you when you are simply making conversation, why I even bother when all I get ....." Gimli paused and frowned as he watched the elf's shoulders shudder almost imperceptibly, "....you are laughing at me aren't you ?" he demanded.

Once he was discovered the elf felt no need to stifle his merriment any longer and filled the air with his musical laughter.

"Oh Gimli my friend you make it so easy, if I am to allow elves to be branded as touchy then you must concede to dwarves being easily duped !" Legolas bargained between giggles.

"Elf I sincerely hope that father of yours is aware of your ruthless negotiating skills, it would do him well to use you when dealing with the men of Lake town !"
Gimli advised practically growling at his friend's back, but he could not keep up the charade any longer than the elf and he too succumbed to laughter.

As for Aragorn, the elf was reasonably accurate in predicting his imminent arrival. Both Aragorn and Arwen were to follow Legolas and Gimli within days of their departure. There were some small matters of state to settle first and instructions to be left with Faramir during the King's absence. Aragorn knew the young Steward was more than capable of governing in his stead and besides there were many, too many perhaps, counsellors and advisors waiting by to lend support should they be needed. The royal couple were travelling directly to Rivendell. It was there that Arwen would stay and visit her family for a time while her husband travelled with his friends, after which they would all return to Gondor together.


As Anor sank behind the distant horizon, Legolas watched the sky's myriad pallet of colours change and gradually darken. Soon the heavens would be littered with the stars he loved so much and the jewelled light of Eärendil would once again offer hope and courage to all in need.
He remained high up in the tree gazing into the heavens until his nose caught the putrid stench of pipe weed wafting up through the tree's branches.

It was a ritual the companions had easily slipped into while travelling together, Legolas would watch the sun set, preferably from a height while Gimli made himself comfortable below and engaged in a bit of pipe smoking.

As the cloud of offensive smoke gathered about him the elf knew it was time to return to his friend below. Before he made his way silently down the tree he apologised to the ancient oak for tainting the air surrounding it, then he began leaping from branch to branch until he landed on the soft earth protecting the tree's roots.
The sudden appearance of the elf always caught Gimli by surprise but by now he had mastered the art of schooling his features so that outwardly he appeared almost bored while inside his heart pounded from the sudden burst of adrenaline and his limbs longed to leap into action.

"Well Master Elf I take it all is right with the world and the sun managed to set under your expert guidance once again ?!" the dwarf asked between puffs, teasing his friend in payment for startling his wits.

Legolas cast his friend, what Gimli would rate as, a mild elven glare, the one he usually reserved to demonstrate wordlessly how unamused he was.
"Aye Master Dwarf, all seems quiet and the trees are at peace though like me they do not share your enthusiasm for pipe weed," he replied bluntly.

"Legolas surely you do not expect me to believe these little conservations you have with these blasted trees and now you expect me to extinguish my pipe because the trees do not like it !" Gimli's disbelieving eyes looked up at his friend from beneath unruly bushy eyebrows.

"Believe what you may Master Dwarf," the Prince answered quietly as he sat down beside his friend, " but answer me this, have I ever lied to you before ?"

Poor Gimli found himself at a loss for words, so he merely grumbled under his breath and continued to puff on his beloved pipe.
Then he remembered the way the trees seemed to act strangely in Fangorn Forest and how the elf claimed to know what they were feeling and what they were saying to each other and strangely enough he couldn't recall Aragorn disputing any of those claims.

Reluctantly he took one final puff then removed his beloved pipe from his mouth and knocked it gently against the side of his boot, emptying the precious weed onto the forest floor.
He sighed loudly as he extinguished the tiny glowing embers to make sure his friend was aware of the seriousness of his sacrifice.

"Happy now ?!" he demanded of the tree as he glared up into the oak's sprawling branches.

Legolas could only smile in appreciation at the dwarf's actions. He could not imagine any other dwarf in all of Arda doing what his friend had just done.

"Thank you my friend.....", he said with earnest to his stout companion as he bowed his head in gratitude, "we both thank you," he continued as he gestured to the tree towering above them.

"Tell another soul I did this elf and I will declare you to be insane then I will use this axe of mine to cut every golden hair from your crazed head !" Gimli warned with equal earnest.

"Not a word my friend," the elf promised as his smile grew.

"I'm serious !" Gimli warned again, not liking the elf's light hearted reply.

"Peace Gimli I believe you, not a word I promise," he pledged once more but he could not totally wipe the smile from his face for he knew that there must be several other wood elves carefully concealed in the trees surrounding them ,seeing as they were so close to his father's stronghold.
He wondered what they would make of such a selfless act coming from a dwarf... for a tree !

Gimli continued to watch his friend suspiciously and watched as his bright eyes twinkled in the growing dark.
One word, he thought, just one word elf and you shall know a dwarf's ire.

As the night progressed Ithil climbed high into the twinkling sky and cast the forest in a faint shimmering silver light. Night creatures ventured out to forage for food, large moths and insects filled the air with a cacophony of strange sounds and somewhere out in the dense forest an owl called out to no one in particular.

The friends spoke of many things while Arod rested nearby and Gimli watched as ever with fascination as his friend's aura once again began to steadily glow in the moonlight.
It was just one of the many strange things about his friend that was so unique to elves and so foreign to dwarves.
And though he was no expert on elves, Mahal forbid, he believed this curious phenomenon was even more pronounced amongst the wood elves for he was certain none of the elves in Imladris shared his friend's level of radiance, unless it is something which can be controlled, he mused ....well use my head as an anvil who would have thought a dwarf could waste so much energy pondering over the peculiar nature of elves. Maybe I will ask Legolas about it someday, he decided.

"Take your rest my friend," the Prince instructed, "we are safe here in these woods, there shall be no need to stand watch this night."

"Nonsense elf we shall operate the watches as normal, no offence but I do not share your feelings of security....", the dwarf countered as he moved to get at his bed roll, "..you shall take first watch as usual and I shall take second."

"Really Gimli there is no need."

"We are alone elf," he said as if stating the obvious to a child, "and I for one would feel better knowing that at least one of us is awake and alert at all times."

"What makes you think we are alone my friend ?" Legolas enquired as his eyes sparkled with mischief.

Suddenly Gimli began to think his friend had lost his mind, he became quite flustered and started to gesture about wildly.
"There is no one else here that I can see!"

"Ah yes, I forgot, you have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox, but not the eyes and ears of an elf my friend. We have been observed since entering my father's realm, even now we are being watched over," Legolas calmly informed the dwarf.

The look on Gimli's face could not be bought with the finest mithril and it would forever stay in the young Prince's memory. The elf smiled broadly at his stunned friend and gripped him gently on the shoulder.

"Perhaps it is time to meet some of our secret guardians."

Gimli's voice failed him, he could only look up into his friend's dancing eyes and mutter some unintelligible rumblings.

The Prince stood up effortlessly once more and placed his hands to his face and used his fair voice to imitate something that sounded a lot like bird calls. As he tilted his head to the night sky he closed his eyes and concentrated on the sounds coming from the forest.
Within seconds his call was answered by a similar bird call coming from just two trees to the left. Gimli jumped up at this, his grip automatically tightening on his sturdy axe, as he realised how close the wood elves had been all along. He honestly had no idea that they had been there.

The Prince's smile brightened even more once his call was answered, he recognised instantly who had replied to his signal. He called again using bird code, inviting his friend to join them.

Without even the barest rustle of leaves an elf suddenly jumped from an oak tree nearby, landing noiselessly and safely on the ground far below.

Gimli watched intently as the elf approached, he moved with the gait of a predator stalking its prey as he appeared to glide over the forest floor. He was clad in a functional, plain garment made from a strange cloth which appeared to be several colours all at once, greens melted into browns then greys, it made for excellent camouflage.
He was heavily armed, on his back he carried a quiver laden with arrows, similar to the ones Legolas had with him until they reached Lothlórien. The quiver also supported twin knife sheaths and a dark wooden bow, a leather belt surrounded his waist and from this he carried a large dagger on each hip.

Gilmli thought he caught a glimpse of something else protruding from the tops of each of the soft brown leather boots he wore and in his right hand he carried a long wooden handled spear which resembled the legendary Aiglos (King Gil-galad's spear).
It looked capable of cleaving an orc in two, in the right hands it could even do fatal damage to a charging warg and this elf gave the impression that he knew exactly how to use such a formidable weapon.

Gimli noted that he was taller than Legolas by possibly two or three inches, he had long fair hair tied in the warrior braids favoured by his friend and he was much older than any elf he had ever seen before, definitely older than Lord Elrond, but it was the elf's eyes which gripped the dwarf's attention, they resembled the precious emeralds he had mined from the bowels of Erebor before the War of the Ring, they were ancient and fierce and they seemed to pierce his soul, coldly and calmly assessing him in the briefest of glances.

As the elf approached the pair he stopped two paces away and rammed the base of his spear into the soft earth allowing it to stand freely on its own.
Then he placed his right hand over his heart and swept it out before him as he bowed low in front of the young Prince.

"Mae govannen Ernil nîn. Nae saian luume," he greeted softly but with much feeling. (Welcome my Prince. It has been too long.)

As he raised his head the warrior and the Prince locked gazes and grasped each other firmly on opposite shoulders. It was plain to Gimli that this older elf meant a great deal to his friend for his eyes shone brightly with much affection and respect. Equally the ancient warrior's eyes flashed with much pride and relief at seeing the young Prince again.

"It gladdens my heart to see you again Sindadur, it is good to be finally home," Legolas greeted in return, "what act of good fortune has allowed us to cross paths my friend ?"

"My patrol and I are returning from our tour of the eastern borders, we have spent the last six months securing the area and eliminating any lingering threats," he explained.

Sindadur then signalled to the members of his patrol which were hidden nearby, the remainder had been tasked with patrolling the perimeter.

It was then that Legolas could clearly make out the smiles of many familiar faces from their revealed positions high above in the tree tops, each warrior bowing their head respectfully as they silently welcomed their Prince home. Gimli watched dumb struck as his friend graciously returned each greeting.

"Our relief arrived last week and we were steadily making our way home when we spotted you and your companion, we have been shadowing you ever since," the warrior paused then smiled teasingly at the younger elf, "it would not look well if our hero Prince survived the throes of Mordor only to come to harm in his own forest."

"It has been many years since I have had need of a nurse maid," the Prince laughed lightly, "though I appreciate the sentiment old man."

The happy reunion was suddenly interrupted by the gruff tones of a slightly irked dwarf.

"Didn't your mother ever teacher you manners elf ?, introduce me !" Gimli demanded of his friend.

The Prince turned at once to face the dwarf and Gimli was surprised at the look of pain that flashed across the young elf's delicate features, while his face seemed to suddenly pale in the moonlight and he could not help but catch the swift movement of the elder warrior as he reacquainted his hand with the deadly looking spear.
Sindadur's green orbs burned with anger and insult as they sought to level the dwarf with a fierce glare, as he began to advance on the dwarf he was stopped in his tracks by the Prince's hand.

"Sîdh mellon-nîn. E ú-ista," he quietly informed his old friend. (Peace my friend. He does not know.)

Once Gimli managed to tear his eyes away from Sindadur he looked back to his companion some what confused but the Prince was once again his normal stoic self and all evidence of hurt was washed away as if it had never been there.

Legolas moved to stand beside his burly friend and once again gripped him on the shoulder to show the old warrior that he held no bad feelings towards the dwarf.

"Apologies my good friend, allow me to introduce you, Gimli this is Sindadur, a very close friend of mine, a Captain in my father's guard, an excellent weapons instructor and quite possibly the second best archer in Mirkwood....", the last comment caused the seasoned warrior to raise a sceptical eye brow but Legolas smiled innocently as he continued, "Sindadur before you stands Gimli, son of Glóin, a member of the nine walkers, my close friend and companion and an expert axe wielder."

The warrior bowed respectfully in honour of the great deeds achieved by the Fellowship.

"Welcome to Eryn Lasgalen Master Dwarf, the free peoples of Middle-earth owe much to the Fellowship of the ring. It is an honour," he stated sincerely yet his burning eyes still displayed traces of anger and warned of trouble should the dwarf speak disrespectfully to his Prince once more.

Gimli kept his voice as neutral as possible as he greeted the border guard in return but any further comment was cut short by the Prince's enquiry.

"How many Sindadur ?" he asked anxiously, without further explanation, for the warrior would know well what he meant.

The older elf's expression became grave and he glanced quickly at the forest floor before staring intently at his Prince.

"In the east forty five, twice as many in the south, ten in the north with several wounded on all sides my Lord."

"One hundred and forty five........," Legolas whispered as his mind tried to comprehend such losses while his wounded heart tried to come to terms with the death of so many fellow warriors, ".....and for you my friend, what was the count ?"

Sindadur knew the archer would specifically ask after the welfare of his own patrol as it was the same one the young Prince travelled with when on boarder duty.
Legolas had many close friends within the tight knit group, many of whom he had known since he was an elfling and had trained with from the very beginning of his own career as a warrior. People you relied on to watch your back in battle became like family, so he was most reluctant to deliver the sad news to his former student for he knew it would effect the Prince deeply.

The Prince noted his old tutor's hesitance and he braced himself for the answer.

"Please Sindadur, tell me, I have to know," he pleaded, while at the same time he did not think his heart could bear to hear the news of the deaths of any of his close fellow warriors.

"Three," came the hushed reply, as the elder elf's eyes softened and apologised for bearing such ill news.

It felt like an arrow had pierced his chest.

Three, he thought...three of my friends.....three elves that shall never again walk under the trees of home and rejoice in their song.
He suddenly felt as if he were being crushed under a great weight, grief and guilt washed over him in tempestuous waves.
He should have been here, he should never have left with Frodo, his people and his fellow warrior's had needed him at home.

Sindadur watched as emotions flickered across the Prince's face, he had been with the elf his entire life and could read him like an open book. It was painfully clear what was going through the young archers mind.
He moved to stand close beside his Prince as he placed a comforting arm over the grief stricken elf's right shoulder.

"Legolas there was nothing that could have been done to prevent this tragedy, you must not blame yourself, you made the right decision to escort the ring-bearer, by doing so you have helped to rid these lands of a great evil, you have helped to make these woods, your home a safer place..... You have prevented the loss of many lives my Prince, we are.....I am..... very proud of you."

These heartfelt words of comfort meant a great deal to Legolas but they did not lessen the pain in his heart nor ease the sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach and the worse was yet to come.
He looked at Sindadur with fearful eyes that threatened to fill with tears, silently they asked him to reveal the names of the fallen dead while they begged him to say that it was all just a terrible mistake.

"Tathordur.......Gildil......and.....I am truly sorry my Prince but we lost Galadon also."

Some invisible force had just viciously twisted that arrow in his chest and used it to shred his heart into a million pieces.
The names of his dead friends resounded in his mind over and over again blocking out the sounds of the living forest surrounding him. His senses became strangely dulled as the grief and pain gripped him once more and threatened to cruelly strangle his life force from within.

He was vaguely aware of movement around him and it seemed as though both Gimli and Sindadur were speaking to him but he could not hear their concerned words as he started vacantly ahead, seeing nothing except the faces of his dead companions.

"Legolas, ...Legolas," the dwarf called as he tried in vain to get his friend's attention while he shook the stunned elf by the arm.
Sindadur was intrigued by Gimli's show of concern and watched him closely as he became increasingly worried for the young elf.

"All will be well Master Dwarf, our friend has just heard some grievous news, he will soon recover from the initial shock, fear not, he is a most resilient elf," Sindadur informed the troubled dwarf.

The old tutor gripped his former charge by the shoulders and shook him gently until the Prince's eyes gradually began to focus on him.

"Legolas my child listen to me," he instructed gently, "do not lose yourself in this grief, what has happened cannot be undone. Your friends died well defending a home they loved and swore to protect, their sacrifice was not in vain. Their actions saved the lives of many. They fought bravely Legolas and destroyed many of Sauron's foul creatures, you would have been very proud of their deeds."

"I am," came the hushed reply, "but I would much rather tell them in person."

Sindadur nodded his head in agreement and understanding then called out to one of the elves hidden within the branches of a nearby oak.

"Galathil bring me two skins," he ordered.

In moments another similarly clad elf appeared beside them and bowed before his Prince then he offered his Captain two full skins.

"Hannon le Galathil," the old warrior thanked the wood elf, then he offered both Legolas and Gimli a skin each.

"Drink some, it will do you good," he instructed the Prince, "I'll wager it has been some time since you have had the pleasure of tasting Brass (White Heat)."

Then he turned to Gimli.

"Try it Master dwarf, it may surprise you, you may even like it," he challenged lightly.

The two companions opened the skins and while Legolas drank the offering straight away yet sparingly, the dwarf paused to sniff the skin's contents.

"What is it ?" he asked.

"Just an elvish cordial Master Dwarf, made from some fruits and a few other secret ingredients," Sindadur supplied with a touch of mystery.

It certainly smelled fruity the dwarf thought as he sniffed the container once more, probably just like miruvor, the cordial of Lord Elrond. Not wanting to appear weak in front of this intimidating elf, Gimli took several large swallows of the mystery liquid.

All at once his insides were burning, the sweet drink filled him like liquid fire, he did his utmost best to refrain from coughing and spitting the cordial back out but alas his reflexes got the better of him and lost the battle against the liquid lava.
Several smothered coughs escaped while he quickly wiped his teary eyes with his sleeve.
Gimli's reaction seemed to momentarily distract Legolas from his despair and the young elf smiled as he began to slap his struggling friend on the back which only opened the flood gates to more coughing.

"I am fine, I'm fine elf leave me be !" he spluttered, "I think some went done the wrong way that is all," he hurriedly declared, trying to salvage his wounded pride.

"It is best taken in small sips my friend," Legolas warned a little to late, "it has quite a kick does it not ?"

Gimli did not trust himself to speak too much just yet so he settled for a growl instead while sensation returned to his tongue.

"My thanks Sindadur, indeed I had forgotten the special qualities of you home brew," the Prince said with a weak smile as he returned the skin to the Captain.

He then turned to Gimli with downcast eyes, he had a difficult request to ask of his friend.

"Gimli my friend I fear I must leave you for a short time, I need to be alone to gather my thoughts for a while, I hope you understand elvellon," he pleaded, then risked a glance at his loyal companion.
"Sindadur will see to any of your needs while I am gone."

The dwarf gazed up at his friend's stoic countenance, at a glance it would seem that all was well with him but Gimli knew the elf better than that. He had witnessed the elf in a similar state while the fellowship rested in Lothlórien after the fall of Gandalf.
He could see the internal struggle for control, the tenseness in the archer's posture and most obviously the hurt in his expressive sapphire eyes. If the elf needed some time alone to deal with his grief in private then he was not going to deny him, even if it did mean he would be left alone with a bunch of fierce warrior elves he didn't know and didn't trust and who probably felt the exact same way about him.

"Of course I understand Legolas, you go and do what you need to do my friend, do not worry about me I shall be fine here," he assured his friend.

"Thank you Gimli," the Prince bowed his head then turned to his old tutor, "I shall not go far Sindadur, there will be no need to follow, I will return at dawn."

He glanced once more at is dwarven friend, smiled, then began walking away from their camp and gradually disappeared from sight as even his luminescence was swallowed up by the forest.

Once the Prince was out of plain sight Sindadur gave Galathil his spear then he freed his bow from his quiver and began to follow the Prince.

"What do you think you're doing Master Elf ?" Gimli questioned, unable to hide the suspicion from his gruff voice.

"I am about to follow him Master Dwarf, what does it look like ?" the warrior answered caustically.

"He did not request your company elf !" Gimli retorted angrily, pointing at the warrior.

"I have yet to obey any order from him which I feel compromises his security dwarf and I am not about to start this night especially when grief has dulled his senses so."

The warrior's voice was cold and threatening and Gimli knew instantly that this elf was unaccustomed to having his actions questioned. Sindadur turned once more and silently headed out into the forest after Legolas.

"I shall come with you !" Gimli shouted after him and made to move.

"Do not be ridiculous," came the harsh reply.

The old warrior had not even looked back at the dwarf and continued on his way.

"Why you....." Gimli began, furiously.

"Peace Master Gimli, please stay here," pleaded Galathil, "he has the Prince's best interests at heart as I am sure you do too but if you are to follow...well.... sounds travel easily in the dead of night," he reasoned with the dwarf as diplomatically as he could, ".......the Prince would hear you coming and we both know he needs to deal with the deaths of his friends."

Gimli eyed the young elf who was doing his best to make him see sense. He was as physically different to Legolas as the sun is to the moon. He appeared quite shorter than most elves he had encountered and yet still towered over the dwarf, his long wavy hair was black as night and his gentle eyes resembled twinkling grey granite.
He was handsome, as are all elves it would seem but his face was marred by a faint scar which travelled from his high forehead to his left cheek and left an unusual gap in his left eyebrow.
As with Sindadur the elf was armed to the teeth but he carried coils of fine elven rope on each hip instead of daggers. Gimli knew the elf was right, Legolas could hear him coming a mile away in the midst of day never mind in the dead of night. He decided it would be best if he waited here after all but still he did not appreciate the superior attitude of the Captain and he wouldn't be long about telling him so on his return.

"Very well, though it does not please me I shall remain here," Gimli stated loudly as he pounded the earth with the shaft of his axe.

Galathil bowed in thanks then called out to some of the other members of the patrol.

"Alatalad, Tirdil, Luinorn."

Three fair elves made their soundless approach to Galathil. They all glanced at the dwarf and gave courteous nods of greeting, yet Gimli detected their lack of warmth and knew the greetings had been little more than formalities and so he nodded wordlessly in return.

"We are to stay here this night, the Prince shall not return until dawn. Alatalad set up camp and get a fire going, have Mithmor help you, Tirdil notify the scouts of our situation then organise the watch, Luinorn take Farothel with you and hunt some fresh game for the morning meal."

The young Lieutenant efficiently organised the members of the patrol and arranged for several more tasks to be seen to, as was the custom when their Captain was otherwise engaged.
The role was still quite new to him as it had been previously been occupied by the Prince's best friend Galadon but he performed it capably despite his youth. All three warriors nodded then turned to carry out their duties.
Within moments the area was awash with eerily silent activity as the various elves performed their assigned tasks. Galathil and Gimli looked on in silence while camp preparations were quickly and efficiently carried out. Finally the young warrior broke the silence....

"Would you care to take your rest now Master Dwarf ?" Galathil asked Gimli, "the area is quite secure I can assure you, it would be a shame to waste the few remaining hours of darkness."

"May hap I shall Master elf but first tell me of these friends of Legolas," the dwarf requested.

Galathil looked warily at Gimli.

"What is it you wish to hear ? Is it not enough to know that they are dead ?" he asked as a hint of iciness crept into his tone.

"I mean no disrespect Master elf , I am merely concerned for my friend. It seems as though he was very close to those that were slain," Gimli explained calmly, not wanting to upset the elf any further, after all he seemed to be the only hospitable one here.

The young Lieutenant took a moment to study the dwarf, gazing at him intently. Gimli forced himself not to look away while Galathil came to a decision. The elf looked deep into the eyes of his Prince's friend and saw nothing but genuine sincerity and deep concern.
The son of Thranduil had always been a good judge of character, if this dwarf was his friend then Galathil would accept him also, he just hoped he was not over stepping any boundaries by discussing his Prince's relationship with the dead members of his patrol.
Decision made he asked Gimli to follow him over to the steadily growing camp fire.

"Here Master Dwarf sit down and we shall speak," Galathil gestured to a place by the fire then he offered the dwarf some elvish way bread who took it graciously.

Galathil sat down by the dwarf and stared a while at the burning flames as if considering how much he should reveal. Gimli said naught, he merely waited until the elf was ready to speak, until that time he watched the reflections of the amber flames dance across the elf's serious countenance.
Finally........

"As you have already guessed my Prince knew the warriors very well, when on boarder duty he travels with this very patrol. We are all extremely close, like brothers if you will. Battle and violent skirmishes create close bonds. But the Prince knew these elves long before his warrior days....especially Galadon. They grew up together, he was the son of one of the King's advisors. They shared many adventures and got into trouble together numerous times when they were elflings or so I am told," he added with a slight smile.

Gimli also smiled, he suspected someone as wilful and daring as Legolas was destined to be trouble as a youth.

"It is possible you met Galadon Master Dwarf for he travelled to Imladris with the Prince and was present at Lord Elrond's council," the elf informed Gimli.

Gimli was not about to tell the Lieutenant that he had paid little heed to the other elves present at the council once he discovered the son of his father's jail keeper was there.

"Aye it is possible," he agreed timidly.

"They were virtually inseparable and travelled everywhere together. I remember Galadon when he returned home, he was both furious and anxious over the Prince's decision to journey with the ring bearer. It was the first time they were to be separated since they met in childhood. I know Galadon missed him terribly."

Gimli suspected the same was true of his companion. Although Legolas had never mentioned his warrior friends in keeping with his quiet and private nature, Gimli knew his friend was capable of deep emotion and potent feelings.

"How did he die ?" the dwarf asked tentatively.

Pain flashed across the young Lieutenant's face as he recalled the all too clear memory of what happened to his fellow warrior.

"It was during the long battle under the trees. Our borders were attacked regularly by Sauron's servants and allies. The forests were being burned, we were stationed in the east repelling the advance of the hoards of foul creatures. During one skirmish an archer named Gildil was hit by an orc arrow and fell from his tree. Galadon was nearest to him and saw it happen, without a care for his own safety he jumped from his own concealed position to offer aid. As he was dragging Gildil to safety he too was hit but the wound he received was more grievous and he died within moments. Tragically Gildil did not recover from his wounds,..... the dark poison was too great," he hissed angrily, "Tathordur was cut down by an orc scimitar almost two weeks later. Thankfully we had no further losses, though many others died elsewhere."

"Aye Master Elf the losses were great amongst all the peoples of Middle-earth. I saw many men of Gondor and Rohan cut down in battle and worse still women and children. Even my own kin in Khazad-dûm did not escape evil's wrath. It has been a time of great sacrifice and suffering and it shall not be soon forgotten," Gimli declared sadly.

Galathil nodded wordlessly in agreement.

As the pair sat quietly by the crackling fire two elves appeared with a freshly killed wild boar. One began to construct a spit while the other skilfully skinned and cleaned the carcass.

"A successful hunt Luinorn, my thanks to you and Farothel, we shall all dine well at day break, it has been some time since we have all eaten so well," Galathil praised the members of his patrol.

With in moments the boar was roasting on the spit, its heavenly scent made Gimli's mouth water, it would be difficult to sleep while such culinary delights were being prepared, not that he didn't appreciate Legolas' hare but boar......now that was real meat on the bone.

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