Just as Legolas had predicted, the three companions (Maedhros had joined them) reached the palace three hours after the sun’s high. They were greeted by a group consisting of King Thranduil, a tall, dark-haired Elf who resembled Legolas, and several other Elves, apparently Thranduil’s advisors.
Legolas bowed before his father, who smiled at him fondly and clasped his arm affectionately. The dark-haired elf, his older brother Felagund, greeted him next.
The king then turned to Gimli, with some mistrust in his eyes. Legolas saw the direction of his glance and hurried to explain.
‘Ada, mellon nin Gimli Gloinen. O í Company.” The king did not look pleased, but nodded and spoke.
“I have heard much of you, Gimli, son of Gloin. You are welcome to my home.”
Gimli bowed to him. “I thank you, my lord Thranduil, though I do not plan to intrude upon your hospitality for long. I have a somewhat pressing errand to my kin in the Lonely Mountain and beyond.” The king looked surprised at his courtesy but quickly concealed it. They entered the great gated, and Gimli looked about him in amazement.
They were in a large stone cavern, cunningly shaped with skill that threatened to surpass that of the Dwarves’. The roof was supported with slender pillars, intricately worked with fair Elven patterns.
Legolas was busily conversing with his family and did not notice the Dwarf’s ill-concealed surprise and admiration. After a moment, Legolas turned to Gimli.
“Forgive me, my friend. I have been caught up in my family’s news and had nearly forgotten that you were here also. I will show you to your room-or do you wish to share mine?” Gimli looked up at the elf.
“I will most certainly share yours. I have no desire to stay in one alone, in a cavern filled with strange Elves. Besides, I have grown used to your company. We have traveled together for nigh on three years, and not a night has there been when we have not been forced to sleep beside one another!”
“I did not think you would desire such a thing,” Legoals laughed. “Therefore I will take you to my old room, and then I will show you about the halls of my father, if you wish it. There is to be a High Feast in our honor tonight.”
Gimli glanced over at Thranduil, who was far enough away that there was no danger of him overhearing. “Our honor or your honor, Legolas? If you will excuse my saying so, your father does not seem to like the fact that you brought me along when you returned to your home.
“True,” the Elf agreed easily as they walked along a corridor, ignoring the open stares that came their way. “But then, he has not had much dealings with Dwarves, and our races are not by nature trusting of each other. I think, given time, he will grow to understand the bond between us.”
“Perhaps,” Gimli growled, “but time is the one thing we cannot very easily spare. How long are you planning to stay here at your home before we leave for the Mountain?” Legolas thought a moment.
“A fortnight, maybe. I think I could gather some of my kin and prepare for the next leg of the journey in that amount of time.” Gimli muttered something into his beard and spoke.
“We’re not in so much of a hurry that you only have two weeks to spend with your family. We can stay for at least a fortnight and a half. Maybe a full month.” Legolas looked at him and smiled, touched by the Dwarf’s concern.
“I thought you were not at home among my people.” They had reached the chamber, and Gimli sat down upon one of the beautifully detailed chairs with a sigh.
“No, not really, but this is a good stone palace. And you will not be at home among my people when we reach the Mountain, either. Anyway, you have not seen your family for over two years. They will want time with you.”
“Then we will stay three weeks,” Legolas grinned. “And now shall I show you how Elves build their homes? Or would you rather unpack?” Gimli hastily dropped his large, heavy pack and rose.
“I will see your home. There is good rock here. But you Elves spend too much time decorating.” Legolas laughed merrily as they left the room.
“And Dwarves do not? I saw exceedingly intricate detailing on even the topmost parts of the pillars in Khazad-dum!”
“That is…different. Khazad-dum is our greatest kingdom. Besides, at the time it was built there was still friendship between the dwarves and the Elves of Hollin. Is it not written on the Door ‘…Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs‘? No doubt some of the decoration was the Elvish influence.”
Legolas made no reply, but when Gimli looked up at him, he could see that the Elf was attempting to hold back his laughter.
“I mean it!” the dwarf protested. “You Elves spend far too much time decorating. We dwarves are much more sensible. We spend our spare time carving out new rooms in the rock.” Legolas snorted, a very unusual action for him.
They walked for some time, Legolas with an eager eye for the familiar walls of his home; Gimli pondering the stone-work.
‘Ada, mellon nin Gimli Gloinin.‘ ~ ‘Father, my friend Gimli son of Gloin.’
‘O í Company.‘ ~ ‘Of the Company.’