Title: Amrâlimê 3: The Ring
Art: g-love99, link to art post: AO3
Series Order: 3
Prompt: Every Fandom Bang 2021
Fandom: Lord of the Rings, Sentinel
Relationship(s): fem Gimli/Legolas, past fem Narví/Celebrimbor
Content Rating: R
Word Count: 20166
Warnings: AU, implied & explicit character death, canon level violence, graphic violence, brief sex-interlude, discussions of murder and torture, mind manipulation, kidnapping, One Ring shenanigans
Summary: With dragon dead and Erebor more-or-less secure for the moment, Gimli decided to take the Ring from Bilbo, just like she promised in Esgaroth, and together with her sentinel set out to Mordor to destroy it. And of course, their journey wouldn’t run smoothly.
AN: Translations: Lukhdel = light of all lights, Izgilê = my moon, Izgil = moon (bright silver-coloured one), amrâlimê = my love (love of mine), Ylva = wolf, Eirik = eternal ruler
AN2: To awesome g-love99. Thank you for your hard work on the art for this story. It’s wonderful and brilliant and I fell in love with every picture as soon as I saw them.
The world has changed.
With the death of the bonded pair of Celebrimbor and Narví, evil got a foothold in our realm and spread its influence far and wide, damaging it almost irreparably. Sauron, empowered by One Ring, led the first attack against the elves of Eregion. His reasons were two-fold. First, it was to punish Celebrimbor’s realm for the elf’s audacity to reject him and his efforts at influencing him and second, to break their strong alliance with the dwarrow of Khazad-dûm.
Mordor’s darkness spread unchecked in Arda, mercilessly smothering rare lights of resistance in the hearts of men, dwarrow and elves. One by one the free cities on both sides of Misty Mountains fell under Sauron’s might until only a handful of free strongholds in Eriador were left standing and resisting. The last king of Men, the rulers of elf realms and the third incarnation of Durin concocted a desperate plan to turn the tide of war in their favour.
The Last Alliance of elves, men and dwarrow made their last stand on the plains north of the Morannon in what would become later known as the Battle of Dagorlad. With most elvish gifted sailing into Valinor after Morgoth’s defeat, it fell to the younger races to take up the mantle and stand against the darkness. During the war at the cost of great sacrifices, a sentinel from the race of man, the last living son of the High King of men, managed to successfully part the Dark Lord from his ring and broke his power over the dark armies. The Alliance celebrated the victory over their most hated enemy.
Too soon, as it turned out.
The influence of Sauron’s ring was insidious and twisted the intentions of the victorious sentinel. It stayed his hand at the last possible moment before he was able to destroy it in the depths of Mount Doom. The prince of men took the ring as a trophy to show off his victory over the Dark Lord of Mordor. Ignoring the objections of his former allies, he returned to Minas Tirith with it.
And so the ring lived and gradually all knowledge of its existence amongst humans faded into the mists of time.
However, the ring sensed its master was still alive, gathering his strength in the ruins of Dol Guldur. So, it used one of the human sentinel’s unsuspecting descendants and left the White city of men. With the fall of the human High kings, the darkness spread in the lands once again, unnoticed and unchecked, as the spiders, the spawn of Ungoliant, attacked the Mirkwood, slowly smothering all life in the forest. The last dragon came from the Northern Wastes to take the proud dwarrow city of Erebor as his own.
During those turbulent times, new beacons of hope emerged.
The Valar, seeing the damage Sauron’s second rise would cause, implored star-crossed lovers Celebrimbor and Narví for help. The gifted pair, torn apart centuries ago by death and longing deeply for their other half, agreed to the bargain to stand against Sauron’s evil in exchange for a second chance to meet and bond again. And so they were reborn.
A daughter of deposed Durin Line, and a son of elf king of Mirkwood.
Gimli, daughter of Gloín, and Legolas, son of Thranduil.
A dwarf guide and an elf sentinel.
The corridors were empty. It was downright spooky to be walking through the city, long abandoned by the dwarrow, as her steps echoed hollowly in the silence. Barely a week passed since the dragon was killed, and Gimli was already fed up with her fellow dwarrow, especially her father, who insisted on interrupting Legolas and her as often as possible. She was on the verge of dragging her elf back to Esgaroth to get some peace, quiet and privacy.
The recurring nightmare of Bilbo’s ring woke the dam again from a deep sleep. It was getting ridiculous. How was she supposed to function without rest? No wonder she was getting irritable. Even her cousins decided it was better to leave her alone for the moment if they didn’t want to incur her wrath. Also, Ylva was stubbornly keeping quiet and she was tired of playing the guessing game. And the ring’s presence in newly-won Erebor was making her nervous. The urgency of getting it away from the kingdom was almost unbearable. It led her exactly to the place she was currently.
Gimli opened the door cautiously, praying it didn’t creak and sneaked inside the chambers Bilbo and Thorin claimed for themselves. It was a minor miracle she didn’t wake up the sleeping sentinel-guide pair. All of them were in a constant state of alert, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Gimli did something highly unethical, that if her mother was present she would have whooped her ass for it, and hit Bilbo and Thorin with a potent cocktail of sleepiness, tiredness and exhaustion, to make them go deeper into sleep. Gimli was nauseous at the thought that she was going to have to touch the tainted gold, currently in Bilbo’s possession. Unerringly, she crossed the room, sensing the exact location where the hobbit put the cursed ring. It was time to take it away, as she promised to Bilbo and deal with it, as she vowed to Valar.
She was lucky that the ring didn’t protest its removal from Bilbo’s presence. The psionic shielding she did for the hobbit probably helped a lot, so the ring didn’t get any hooks in his mind, or worse – Thorin’s. The sliver of Sauron’s dark soul attached to the ring had to be ecstatic when it sensed her determination to get it away from the formidable walls of the dwarf city back into the world, to get back to its master. Soundlessly, Gimli left her cousin and his guide sleeping and came out the door, clutching the ring in her hand, as she tried to close the door to the bedroom.
“Going somewhere?” A voice whispering behind her back scared at least a decade out of her life.
Gimli jumped, barely managing to stifle a scream, and turned around, swiftly bringing out her favourite dagger, ready to defend herself. She recognized the long shadow lurking in the dark alcove, and exhaled in relief, stowing the dagger back inside her clothes. “Ah, Legolas. That’s only you?”
The moment of slight inattention cost her, as the ring broke briefly from her control, and attacked the shields caging it in its prison. The dam bared her teeth in a snarl and instinctively tightened her hold on the ring. She had to be careful with that thing because of the taint befouling the piece of jewellery. The psionic energy flashed briefly in her eyes, as she subdued the ring’s influence.
Legolas walked out of the shadows he was lurking in when he sensed something trying to intrude on their bond. It was sudden and startling to feel it, even briefly; calling to the surface traumatic memory of their bond breaking in the previous life. Legolas narrowed his eyes at her still a bit glowing fist and asked. “What do you have there, Gimli?”
“Not your business.” She said through her teeth and searched hastily rebuilt ring’s cage for any holes. Thank Mahal, there wasn’t one.
Legolas frowned, unsettled by an unseen threat to their newly-affirmed bond, and demanded impatiently. “Gimli, show me.”
The dwarrowdam reluctantly opened her palm, unwrapped the cloth and there it laid. Seemingly innocent, a plain band of gold, fairly glowing with his guide’s psionic energy, as it was fighting against the fiery spell, engraved into its surface. A ring of power. The One Ring.
Legolas took a step back, a terror gripping his lung, making it hard to breathe, as Celebrimbor’s greatest failure stared at him accusingly from his guide’s palm. “Are you out of your mind, Gimli? One Ring? Where did you get it, anyways? I thought it was lost for good.”
The dam’s face tightened and she cautiously wrapped the ring back into the cloth and put another psionic barrier around it for a good measure. “It came to Bilbo during our journey through the Misty Mountains. I realized fairly quickly what it was. But then, there wasn’t any time to do something about it. We’ve just met again and there was still a dragon to consider. The most I could do was to use the psionic energy to dampen its influence on its bearer and anyone in his vicinity. And of course, I promised Bilbo that as soon as we deal with Smaug, I’ll relieve him of the burden of bearing the ring.”
“What are you going to do with it?” Legolas asked, half-afraid of Gimli’s answer. It didn’t escape his notice the dam was wearing her travelling clothes, and her weapons and knapsack were laying on the ground outside the dwarf king’s chambers, tucked out of sight.
The dam lifted her chin defiantly and declared. “I’m going to Mordor to get rid of it once for all.”
Legolas figured she was determined enough to go through her foolishly suicidal plan alone and scowled darkly. “I’m not letting you.”
Gimli narrowed her eyes at her sentinel and growled out, putting the ring back under his nose. “Do you see this? This desecration of Celebrimbor’s anniversary gift to Narví? I’m not going to let Sauron continue getting away with this travesty. Besides, the ring was mine, once. Well, Narví’s, but the same difference. And she, nor I, has never relinquished ownership of it, no matter what anyone thinks. According to the dwarf laws, it still belongs to Narví, therefore it’s my property and I’m entitled to do with it what I want.”
Legolas winced. “Lukh…”
“Don’t you dare to use my secret name around the ring?” The dam reprimanded him sharply, motioning at tightly packaged jewellery. “It doesn’t need any help with its attempts to subvert me. Even with all of my power and drawing on yours through our bond, it’s been a fight to keep it subdued.”
“Fine. Gimli.” Legolas emphasized her name. “But you aren’t going anywhere without me. I hope you didn’t think I would let go alone.” Spying the dam’s guilty face, he just rolled his eyes. “At least, I don’t have to track you down. Besides, I also have a score to settle with that dark bastard.”
“Well, hurry then. The dawn is coming in a few hours, and I want to be as far away from Erebor as possible by then.” The dam waved her hand, gathered her weapons and pre-prepared supplies, before walking out.
“Hey, wait for me,” Legolas shouted after dam’s retreating back and hurried up after her.
“Why exactly are we dragging all of those bags filled with gold with us?” The elf complained the entire way they had spent climbing down the sharp path from the secret entrance back to the Esgaroth.
“Thorin and others will need something to eat. It’s a sign of goodwill and Bard is shrewd enough to understand. With the dragon dead and an alpha pair taking up residence in the Mountain, it’ll be interesting several weeks, before everything settles down. Also, Daín and Iron Hills are several weeks away from rendering any assistance to Thorin. And of course, the rest of Longbreads won’t get here for several more months.”
“And your cousin? How will he know about the bargain, you are going to strike with humans?” Legolas asked curiously. He was glad, at least Gimli was thinking ahead, trying to avoid issues with the food shortage in the Mountain.
“Well, that’s easy. I left them a message, explaining I was going on the extended trip and what I did to secure the Mountain. Bilbo will understand the rest and make sure others won’t follow after us. He understands exactly what is at stake. There is so much work to do, it’ll be a minor miracle if they’ll manage to find any time to eat and sleep. The front gate is completely destroyed, most of the city is full of debris and filth, it may take years to clean up.”
Wincing, Legolas objected. “I don’t think your father will give up on you so quickly. I foresee several angry ravens bearing even angrier messages to us.”
Gimli cringed. She was actively trying not to think about it. Her father, if she returns from this quest, was going to wring her neck. And then, he’ll ground her for years. “I see your point.” She murmured. “But I’m not going to take unnecessary risks and return to Erebor. Adad will have to wait until we get back from Mordor to scold me personally.”
“Glad, you are aware of the upcoming issues. No good deed is without consequences.” Legolas replied and bowed his head to the human impatiently waiting for an acknowledgement. “Good morning, Bard.”
“Good morning.” Gimli followed her sentinel’s example and greeted the human, while she dropped one of the bags filled with gold at his feet.
The human sentinel raised his eyebrow in surprise at the newly bonded pair. “Good morning, Master Gimli, Master Legolas. I see you’ve succeeded in killing off the dragon.”
Gimli nodded empathically. “Of course, we did. Thanks to your pointing out Smaug’s weakness and with some guide magic and archer skills, it was a child-play to deal with him. More-or-less.” She bragged.
The man’s eyebrow raised higher at her exclamation and he eyed the dwarf guide accusingly. “It’s awfully nice of you to mention. And late. The dragon was killed about a week ago, shortly before several gifted pairs bonded.”
“All you need to know Erebor is back in the hands of Durin line, headed by my cousin Thorin and his hobbit guide.” Gimli motioned at the sack. “The gold is a payment for the food I need you to bring in several hours to Dale. You’ll meet with the envoy there, with another payment and a contract detailing the further needs for food deliveries.”
“That’s acceptable.” The man nodded. “It shouldn’t strain our own stores to feed a few more. I think we’ll be able to buy from elves, barring that Rohan traders are always welcome in Esgaroth if it turns out it’s not enough.”
“Excellent plan. We’ll leave the details to you to re-negotiate with Thorin at your leisure.” Gimli said and grabbed her sentinel’s hand to drag him away from the too-perceptive-for-his-own-good human.
“And just where are you going?” The man frowned, something not setting with him right. The elf and the dwarf were anxious to leave and it was making him vary in the light of the dwarrow reclaiming their Halls in the Mountain.
Legolas cocked his head and scanned the other sentinel to assess the danger he posed to their Valar-appointed quest. Gimli shook her head at the elf and tapped into Narví’s experience, to fool human’s sentinel’s senses. “We are going to visit my kin in the Iron Hills and ask for help with resettling of Erebor. There is just so much work it isn’t funny.”
The guide wasn’t lying, at least according to his senses, but still… Her answer didn’t ring true to Bard. She had the same expression on her face as his daughter, Tilda, often wore when she was trying to get away with some mischief. It was making him curious about what they were hiding and how the dwarf female managed to successfully fool his senses. He waved his hand, completely unconvinced by her reasons. But in the end, he decided, it wasn’t any of his business. “Well then, good luck on your journey.” He wished them and took the sacks filled with gold.
It’s too soon for them to go to Mordor. Their bond isn’t quite settled, yet. Eirik hummed, while he and his mate observed their charge’s exchange with the Esgaroth’s sentinel.
Didn’t you say it wasn’t our place to interfere? Ylva asked impertinently, reminding Eirik of their previous conversation scant days previous.
Her mate pouted. That was before your Gimli decided to foolishly follow up on her nightmares as soon as possible, instead of making sure first Legolas and her were as tightly bonded as they could ever be.
I think that’s probably more of Valars’ fault. Ylva objected. I suspect they were forcing Narví’s memories concerning that ring forefront in Gimli’s mind during the last several nights and causing her to relive them in the nightmares. I think she took that ring in self-defence.
Perhaps. But still… I think it’s foolish of them to do it alone. Too many things depend on their success of being able to walk into Mordor unnoticed. Sauron was weakened by the efforts of the White Council, but he retreated back in the seat of his power and even without that ring, he is gathering his strength much too quickly.
I’m also worried about them, Eirik. Don’t think, I’m not. Ylva started. But I believe they can do it. And they too had to believe it, to be successful in their quest.
The most direct path to Mount Doom might be shorter than from Ered Luin to Erebor, but it’s wrought with far more danger. The Mirkwood elves are still in an uproar over Thranduil’s fate, no matter what their gifted are saying. The judgement rendered on him was harsh and exactly what he deserved, but many don’t agree with it. There are also Gundabad orcs. Azog’s son is foaming at his mouth to get his hands on any of Erebor dwarrow.
Fine. You may have a point. They will have to overcome a lot of obstacles just to get to Mordor. But you forget one thing, Eirik. They won’t give up. For anything and anyone. They were bold enough to bargain with Valar to grant them their new lives. And I don’t see just giving up their second chance at life and love without a fight. Ylva summarized, convinced she was right.
They were fine. More than fine. Or not. Gimli pouted, while she tightened the reins on her pony. Of course, her elf had to decide that they needed some mode of transportation and the four-legged animal was the fastest way. Fortunately, she was rather used to ponies, unlike Narví who hated riding. With some persuasion, Bard was kind enough to part with a pair of them, otherwise, they would have spent months on foot. Not that the journey wouldn’t be finished any quicker on the ponies. But at least at the end of the quest, they wouldn’t have sore feet.
Gimli was resigned to several months of travelling. From what she could remember of her geography lessons the distance between Erebor and Mordor was roughly the same as the distance between Shire and Erebor. Taking into consideration the burden of carrying the One Ring, the path seemed much longer suddenly. The dam patted her pocket and nodded to herself. The ring didn’t stop trying to wear her down. No. It wouldn’t be easy at all. And to think she was worried about defeating the dragon. The golden band currently in her possession was probably more dangerous than a dozen of Smaugs at any given time.
“Are you worried, meleth?” Her sentinel brought her back to present with his inquiries. Thank Mahal, Legolas refrained from using her secret name. She smiled at the endearment. The elf could be very sweet when he wanted.
“Of course, I am. What we are doing is very dangerous. One could say it’s foolish to even try.” Gimli stated earnestly and patted her pony’s mane absently. “The fate of Arda is hanging on our success.”
“So… No pressure.” The elf remarked dryly, as the enormousness of their task finally registered in his mind. Although, he wasn’t going to give up. He… well Celebrimbor… had some unfinished business to discuss with the fallen Maia.
The dam smirked and agreed. “No pressure.”
“Was that the reason why we left the mountain before anyone was wiser?” He cocked an eyebrow and asked, as halted his pony. It was an evening and they should rest before they resumed their journey. The little clearing was tucked out of the sight of the main road and ideal for their purposes. Stretching out his senses, Legolas was sure they were alone for miles. He climbed down from his pony and helped his guide on the ground.
Gimli stretched, carefully considering her answer. She was stiff, sore and tired after the hours spent in the saddle. “Yes, of course, I had the reasons. The Company isn’t in any way ready to take on another quest so soon, no matter what they think. Even if they didn’t directly partake in the dragon killing, the entire journey was too exhausting with orcs trying to get us killed at every turn and the elves interfering when it wasn’t desired. Taking back the mountain was Thorin’s fondest wish. Now that the dragon is dead, they’ll be thoroughly distracted by the insane amount of work needed to make Erebor livable again. They’ll be too busy to worry about me. Really. It’s a perfect time to slip out and take care of the ring.”
Legolas sighed. “I’m not entirely sure about it. Your father particularly wasn’t keen on our bonding. I wonder what he will do now, that we left more-or-less without a word.”
The dam winced. It wasn’t going to be pretty if… when… they would return back to Erebor. She was already in the hot water with her father because of her stunt with the dragon. His obvious displeasure was compounded by the fact that out of all available options she chose to bond with elvish sentinel. When he learns she was going to Mordor to stop Sauron from re-embodying, she would be grounded for all eternity at best. But it was of no use to dwell on it right now; not when they had more important things to attend to, like lighting the fire and making something to eat. Her growling stomach was in agreement with that train of thought.
Gimi froze when she felt a tip of a dagger pressing into her throat threateningly. “Stay where you are, dwarf.”
Legolas’s head whipped out and he snarled at the elf holding a weapon dangerously close to his guide’s skin, his feral side coming to the surface. “Let go of her. Immediately.”
The guard averted his eyes quickly, his hand trembling at the thought of enraging a sentinel. “I’m afraid he can’t, my prince. The dwarf is wanted for questioning about recent events.” Galion said silkily, as he stepped out of the shadows. “Princess Rían ordered her capture.”
Gimli stiffened, recognizing the danger in the elf’s voice. She didn’t like the look in his eyes and itched to assess him with her empathy. The dam freed a sliver of her power to take a measure of a situation they had found themselves in and promptly stumbled when she was hit with a powerful blast of rage steeped in the corruption coming from Galion. On her mental map, she marked other elves lurking amongst the trees all around them, no sentinel or guide in sight of course.
We are surrounded, sentinel mine. Gimli sent the warning down their bond. No sudden moves. Let’s see what your sister wants. Just keep an eye on Galion. I don’t like his emotional landscape. I don’t know what he has in mind for me… us… but he is corrupted to bone.
Understood. Legolas replied the feral edge retreating. When he stretched his senses out, he could feel the faint presence of several elves. The sentinel frowned. It was like something was obstructing his view.
“Disarm yourself,” Galion ordered, Thranduil’s haughtiness echoing in his voice. “That goes for you too, Prince Legolas. Your role in the entire mess is very unclear and Princess Rían wants answers. The sooner, the better.”
“No funny business, dwarf.” The dam’s captor nudged her harshly, as she slowly divested herself from the weapons. Deferring to his guide, Legolas followed her example and put down most of his weapons.
Galion’s eyebrow went up at the small pile of the bladed weapons. “I see the dwarves are as brutish as we’ve always known them to be.”
“My father believes in being prepared for every situation. And I like to make my point as sharply as possible.” Gimli smirked, feeling elves’ collective blanch at the clear implication in her voice.
Being dragged back into Thranduil’s palace for questioning was the last thing Gimli wished to endure, so soon after the quest for One Ring’s destruction started. The walls of the palace bore down on her uncomfortably, and she tightened her hold on the empathy to forego the unnecessary angst. The dam frowned and clamped down with her empathy on the tainted jewellery. It somehow sensed the darker emotions coating the atmosphere, even through several layers of protection, and started acting out, trying to lure some unsuspecting victim to take it from her.
The dam grimaced when she recognized the path she was escorted through. She and her sentinel were unceremoniously shown into the familiar throne room. Fortunately, there was pretty she-elf sitting imperiously on the throne, and instead of Thranduil himself. The dam’s awareness pinged with recognition when several sentinels and guides brushed against her shields curiously. She deftly pushed them away, feeling their astonishment at the ease she used her gifts.
Legolas hurried up towards his sister and whispered something urgently to her. The princess Rían, if Gimli wasn’t wrong. The dam craned her head, trying to catch at least some of the conversation between the siblings.
“Gimli of the Line of Durin is accused of an attempted assassination of our father. Don’t you want to change your mind in the light of it? If she is found guilty, she’ll be put to death. Please, Legolas. Reconsider.” Rían whispered urgently to her youngest brother. Gimli’s face smoothed, as she frantically tried to find a solution to her predicament. It seemed the elf superiority was in the play and the millennia of bigotry was going to be her end if she didn’t come up with something good.
The sentinel shook his head vehemently and almost shouted his next words, fairly vibrating with agitation. “I can’t, Rían. You don’t understand. She is my one love, my guide. Our souls are forever tied together. So, whatever fate befalls on her, I’ll be sharing it with her.” He finished quietly. “I won’t be parted from her ever again.”
“Oh, Legolas.” Rían was saddened. What a grave thing to learn of her dear brother’s fate. “I suppose she doesn’t know.”
“No. Not yet. I’ll tell her when the time is right.” He replied in the same tone and left his sister sitting alone on their father’s throne and took his place beside his guide.
“Right.” Rían smoothed down her dress absentmindedly and sat back on the throne thinking heavily about the twist Legolas threw into her carefully made plans. “Gimli of the Line of Durin. You are accused of grievously harming the rightful king of Mirkwood, rendering him into the state of continued unconsciousness necessitating his quick evacuation to Valinor. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Gimli raised her chin up, her entire posture screaming defiance. She could see right through the elleth and her intentions and she wasn’t to make it easy for the princess. The dam laced her words with the guide voice and proclaimed steadily. “Princess Rían, I have to insist on using my correct titles in the proceedings.” The elleth nodded uneasily. She wasn’t aware the dwarf was a noble. It complicated things a great deal. She flashed a glare in her brother’s direction because he failed to mention it.
“Princess Gimli, daughter of Gloín, fifth in the line for the throne of Erebor, Alpha Guide of Rhovanion and Prince Legolas’s bonded.” The dam announced, shocking the entire room in silence. She smirked, thanking silently to aunt Dís, her mentor in diplomacy and politics, and continued blithely. “Thranduil, former king of Mirkwood and dormant guide, was found guilty of suppressing a sentinel with ill intent, and a pair-bond interference. His own spirit animal left him for those transgressions. The judgement for his misdeeds was rendered by a higher power and accepted as just by several witnesses, including several gifted.”
The truth of her words resonated through everyone present eliciting mixed reactions. Rían clutched her chest and tears streaked her cheeks. She refused to believe the dwarf’s words on principle. Her father wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t. Several elf sentinels, lurking around the throne room snarled with anger and put their guides behind them, while they looked for the danger that just wasn’t there anymore. Their alpha’s accusations against the former king were grave and resonated with truth.
“Lies. All lies.” Redfaced Galion shouted into stupefied silence that enveloped the room as soon as Gimli finished with her defence. “I’ll cut off your lying tongue, dwarf, if you don’t retract those lies.”
“I can confirm that alpha guide Gimli is telling the truth.” Several Mirkwood gifted said simultaneously and glared at Galion for his blatant attempt at getting the dwarf guide in trouble. He was Thranduil’s right-hand and probably complicit in the atrocities the former king was judged for and found guilty.
Rían took hold of herself and sharply motioned for everyone to silence. “Guide Gimli. We heard your impressive defence.” She paused for effect. “Unfortunately, it isn’t the place of the dwarf of Line of Durin to render judgement over the elf king of Mirkwood.” The princess announced, freezing the blood in Gimli’s and Legolas’s veins.
“RÍAN!” Legolas called out from his guide’s side, glaring at his sister. She had some nerve meddling in things that weren’t in her purview. And the disrespect shown to his guide by his sister took the cake.
Gimli just cocked her head and asked insolently. “And whose place it should be, Princess Rían? Can you tell us? Who has more right to make a judgement over a guide, no matter his status, if not Rhovanion’s strongest gifted pair?”
The princess straightened, completely dismissing her brother and focused on his guide before she said slyly. “But you weren’t bonded at the time of my father’s judgement.”
Gimli smirked. “I said the strongest pair, not the strongest bonded pair, princess. Anyways, it’s a moot point now. Your brother and I are bonded, as every gifted in this room can affirm.”
Rían frowned at the reminder of her brother’s foolishness. She didn’t need to look around to see all Mirkwood sentinels and guides nodding in agreement with the dwarf’s eloquent speech. Legolas’s word was enough for her. “I am aware of your circumstances, Guide Gimli.” Rían’s continuing disrespect was too blatant for Mirkwood’s gifted to stomach. It seemed the former king’s prejudice against their king poisoned even his successor. They would be looking for a new home, probably taking refuge with Lady Galadriel in Lothlórien or Lord Elrond in Imladris.
The elleth tapped her lip in contemplation and finally decided the fate of the dwarf guide and her brother. “Alright. Guide Gimli, Princess of the Line of Durin, hear my judgement. We, the elves of Mirkwood, acknowledge the judgement rendered upon the dormant guide residing in our borders. However, according to my information and his own admission, Prince Legolas aided you in an escape attempt that cost several of Mirkwood guards their lives. Therefore, I regret to inform you of this. Prince Legolas, you and your guide are forevermore banned from Mirkwood with exception of using Old Forest Road. Further, Legolas, you are stripped from all of your titles, status and privileges you’ve enjoyed as the youngest son of the late king Thranduil. Please, escort Legolas and his guide outside of our borders.”
“Nice fellows, your kin,” Gimli said to her sentinel quietly as soon as they were out of sight of the palace. The dam sensed they were followed by some non-gifted Mirkwood guards but they were keeping themselves at a respectful distance. Rían had enough respect for her brother not to visibly escort them out of her domain.
“We’ve got out lightly,” Legolas murmured. He wasn’t very close to his older siblings and it showed. And maybe there was some lingering resentment towards him. It was hard to say. “It’s uncanny how Rían mirrors our father in temperament. I just didn’t expect her to surrender to peer pressure so easily. She was always a strong presence in the court, opinionated and headstrong, and I think ada prefered her as his heir.”
The dam sighed. “I hate politics. There is always so much going on in the background it’s hard to guess which way the wind blows. Rían is a woman with power. It’s a dangerous position to assume. There has to be some concessions she was required to do in order to ascend your father’s throne. It doesn’t matter that she was Thranduil’s chosen heir. I think you and I were just convenient targets for everyone’s ire at the outcome of your father’s actions. But Legolas… Your sister didn’t win any allies amongst Mirkwood gifted with her attitude. I wouldn’t be surprised when we establish ourselves, they would meander our way.”
“I had hoped for better outcomes. Well, no… Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn’t predict Rían’s stance.” Legolas objected, his heart breaking at the thought of never being allowed back in his homeland. The trees of Mirkwood were the sights he was used to, as he spent most of his life amongst them. It would be difficult to find his home in a different part of Arda. Thank Valar for small mercies, he was the alpha sentinel of the entire region, so he wasn’t as tightly bonded to a singular territory as other sentinels often were. It would make it quite easy for him to establish himself anywhere, as long as he stayed on this side of Misty Mountains; all thanks to Celebrimbor’s experiences forefront on his mind building a new settlement, after centuries spent on governing Ost-in-Edhil, was going to be a child-play.
“I don’t know how to ease you,” Gimi said and patted her elf, bringing him back from his dark thoughts to the present. “The dwarrow, my kin, when we were made to leave Erebor after the dragon’s attack, we weren’t alone. While I admit we were out of our depth, and a lot of refugees were quite young by any reasonable standards, we had our leader in Thorin. He led us to the west and together we were able to establish ourselves in Ered Luin.”
“Why are we even fighting? For the greed and corruption and the unending prejudices pervading the relations between the races. Where are the friendships between the elves and the dwarrow and the men that allowed for Sauron to be defeated at the end of the Second Age?” Legolas asked nobody in particular. Things have changed in an unrecognizable way since then, and not for the better. If not for their bargain with Valar to stand against Sauron in exchange for getting another shot at a new life with his guide, he would have taken Gimli as soon as they met and escaped this mess with her as far away as possible.
“We are fighting for the entirety of Middle Earth. For every sentient being on this side of the sea. For our families and our friends. For the hope and the future and everything in-between.” Gimli exclaimed passionately. “For Celebrimbor and Narví. For Eirik and Ylva. For us.” She finished with a soft whisper.
“Amrâlimê,” Legolas murmured, twisting his tongue around the blocky vowels of the Khuzdul endearment with the dedication of one daring to love a dwarf with all of his heart and soul in two lifetimes.
“Your accent is still terrible,” Gimli complained with a small secret smile. She leaned up and stole a kiss from her elf’s lips. “But I love you.”
“And I love you.” The elf replied helplessly, and pulled up his woman for another kiss, losing himself in the feel of her pleasure. The dam was his only reason for daring to stand up and fight against Sauron’s darkness.
Shouldn’t we warn them? Eirik nuzzled his mate, as he observed their charges to forget the world around them for a little while.
No, Eirik. After the last time, we were expressly forbidden by Valar to meddle anymore, no matter how tempting it is sometimes. Ylva volleyed back. But that ring worries me. Did you notice?
Of course, I did. What do you take me for? Eirik huffed, deeply offended at the insinuation. It clouds their perception. Even through the psionic cage and various shields Gimli piled up on the ring, its influence is still reaching out. The ring managed to somewhat mute Legolas’s senses and poor Gimli is investing a lot of her power in keeping it contained, so she isn’t in any position to use her abilities to their full extent. And it shows. Their enemies are circling around and they are clueless.
Ylva nipped her mate playfully. Don’t be so pessimistic. Didn’t we agree to let them make their own mistakes, so they could grow together as the bonded pair?
Yes. But that was before they foolishly decided to make the journey to the heart of fallen Maia’s land without anyone knowing and with hardly any preparations made. What if…
Hush. Don’t even think about it. Ylva said sharply, as she went on alert. Pay attention, Eirik. Something is going on. Be prepared to render your assistance, as needed.
A veritable orc army crashed on the bonded pair’s heated make-out session. Gimli tore her lips from her sentinel and cursed foully, while she took out her axe and dagger. “How in Morgoth’s name, did they manage to sneak up on us?” The dam mused and blanched when it occurred to her what the most obvious answer was. The damned ring.
“I thought only your king had problems with orc admirers. For Eru’s sake. What did Durin’s line do to orcs for them to pursue you so ardently across half of the continent and intent on ending your line?” Legolas complained as he drew his sword, standing back-to-back to his guide.
“Not my fault.” The dam murmured, warily eyeing the orcs surrounding them. “Azog had a hard-on for Thorin. More exactly, to ensure his drawn up and painful death. It was unseemly how obsessed he was with my cousin. At least, Thorin clearly expressed his opinion of Ayo’s crush on him and managed to cut his head off.”
“Get them. Bolg would like to have a word with them.” The especially ugly orc, probably their leader, snarled and then he pointed at Gimi. “He wants the dwarf.”
The leader snapped out the rest of his orders in the Black Speech, preventing the bonded pair from anticipating his strategy. Gimli and Legolas were attacked in neverending waves. Cut one orc and two more took their place.
“Gundabad orcs.” Gimli quietly warned her sentinel when she recognized the orc leader’s accent. She was about to pray to Valar to show them a way out of the mess. Too late. Somewhere between the Misty Mountains and Celduín, they got smart. Their leader was uncommonly shrewd, for an orc, and that was dangerous. He was ruthless enough to sacrifice several of his subordinates, just to get an upper hand on Legolas and her, to split them up and subdue them more easily.
The dam fought like possessed. She was tiring quickly and there were still numerous orcs to kill. It was a hopeless struggle, but she wasn’t going to let them take her without paying dearly for it. The ring’s bloodthirstiness spiked, momentarily distracting Gimli. And it cost her dearly. In the next moment, she was disarmed by a lucky hit and mobbed. She was restrained and dragged towards the head orc.
He looked her up and down slowly and smirked sinisterly. Gimli was resisting the temptation to take a peek into his emotions. By his pleased countenance, she guessed she was in real trouble. “We don’t need the elf anymore. Kill him.” He ordered, and snatched the dam, unceremoniously throwing her face down over the back of his warg.
“Legolas.” She cried out in warning. The elf was getting overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and she was unable to help him. Gimli struggled wildly trying to escape back to her sentinel’s side to no avail. “Be still, dwarf.” The orc snarled at her. The dam stubbornly intensified her efforts to free herself. She bit viciously into the orc’s arm in an attempt to make him let her go. He hissed and hit her viciously. Her cheek throbbed with pain and the world swirled out of focus. The last thing the dam saw was Legolas falling on the ground, their bond shrieking with pain.
The world swam back and Legolas cursed viciously, clutching his head. The injury he sustained wasn’t as life-threatening as the orcs assumed when they left him, thinking him dead, and took off with his guide. Their bond was muted, probably because of the distance between them, but pulsing with Gimli’s fear and anger. It was getting him riled up and he couldn’t afford to lose it right now, not when his guide was in grave danger.
Gundabad, Gimli said to him. The most sacred dwarrow place in Arda, the birthplace of the oldest child of Mahal, the first Durin. It had to rankle the dwarrow to let the mountain in the orcs’ hands. They waged several campaigns to get it back without any success. And now his guide was taken there. It didn’t bode well for Gimli’s continuing health. On the bright side, at least it wasn’t Moria if the rumours of the balrog living in the mines had any credence.
The sentinel collected his and Gimli’s weapons, which were discarded negligently all around the clearing and promptly grimaced. They would need extensive cleaning before they were going to be used again. He didn’t have time for it right now, and hopefully, Gimli would forgive him for it, mostly because the orc pack with his abducted guide was moving more and more away with each passing second. The sentinel hastily wiped the weapons and secured them on his person. and started to follow the procession on foot.
Legolas hesitated after turning back to take a look at Mirkwood. Rían had forbidden him to ever enter the forest. But… His guide was in danger and the orcs went right in, not caring about trespassing. The sentinel cocked his head and spread out his senses. It was more difficult without the grounding presence of his guide, but he managed. Fortunately, it seemed the nearest elf patrol was about two hours away from his current position and every sentinel-guide pair was still confined in the palace.
Delving deeply into the rhyme of Mirkwood’s life, Legolas scourged for the best way to catch up to the escaping orcs. Going along the Forest River was probably his best bet. It would take him uncomfortably near the palace again, but there wasn’t much of a choice. He was positive, he could avoid other elves easily. It was a risk, but his guide’s life depended on it. Taking a deep breath, Legolas ran into the forest.
That could have gone better. Eirik complained, staring at the sentinel’s retreating back. The wolf couldn’t bring himself to follow Legolas back inside Thranduil’s realm, and his form started flickering.
Go. I’ll look after him. Ylva sighed, knowing exactly why her mate was reluctant, choosing to retreat back into the psionic plane. Eirik pushed gratitude towards her and returned to their den on the psionic realm. Ylva shrugged and ran, following Legolas’s tracks.
Weeks of travel in the orc’s company didn’t lift Gimli’s mood any. She was on the verge of doing something ill-advised. Only a steady determination pulsing along with her bond to Legolas held her back. Her sentinel was alive and probably well and following them, as quickly as possible while he had to conceal his presence from the patrols. Although, that begged the question of why the orc pack, keeping her captive, nor Legolas, weren’t stopped by Mirkwood’s elves. As Princess Rían had explicitly forbidden them to step back into her domain.
The dam refrained herself from stretching the empathy to get a feel of their surroundings. It was a hard decision on her part but she had several valid reasons. Some of it was because of the ring’s continued attempts to free itself from her, some because she wasn’t certain she was prepared to face the continued indifference of Legoas’s kin, with exception of sentinels and guides, towards her fate, and some because she wasn’t interested in tainting her mind with orcs.
Gimli frowned at the majestic mountain standing proudly, at the point of convergence of Grey Mountains and Misty Mountains, dividing Northern Waste from inhabited regions of Eriador and Rhovanion further in the south. They were at Mount Gundabad, the strategic stronghold of non-Mordor orcs in Arda. She spied the impressive dwarf-wrought gate some hundred feet away from their group, guarded by some of the fiercest wargs and orc warriors she had ever seen. And she was counting in centuries of Narví’s memories.
There wasn’t much time left before the Mountain swallowed her whole. If Legolas didn’t catch up before the gates closed behind her, she was fairly certain it would mean her death. She sent a burst of anxious urgency to her sentinel. It seemed to kick him up to gear, as he sacrificed secrecy for speed. Something was going on with Gimli that caused her to allow the distress to slip from her side of the bond.
The Mirkwood trees straightened up dangerously, leering towards the feeling sentinel. Legolas cursed. That was the reason he spent so much time trying to blend in, as not to incur the wrath of his sister as the new ruler of the forest. Abandoning the last vestiges of his cover, the sentinel ducked between the almost alive branches and roots, trying to trap him, and swiftly ran. Gimli’s apprehension spiked and it made him almost reckless with a need to immediately reach her.
The gates of the old dwarf city opened abruptly with a bang, and the miasma of deep-rooted corruption flooded out in the form of a pack of orcs, led by young Azog’s look-a-like. Gimli cringed. The orc bore an uncanny resemblance to the late orc, whom Thorin was kind enough to dispose of. There were rumours the pale orc had sired a son on some unfortunate soul but nobody was taking it seriously. A mistake, as she learnt. Bolg was tainted by his father, making it difficult for her to tolerate his presence. And that cursed bit of gold weighing on her certainly didn’t help things.
Gimli took in a shuddering breath. She was in real trouble now. Bolg was glaring at her with almost palpable hatred and the dam was powerless to shield herself against it. The combination of drugs keeping her abilities locked and the ring sapping most of her strength, it was probably a miracle she wasn’t already halfway mad. The only link to her sanity was provided by her sentinel who was waiting at the edge of the forest and soon would intercept them.
At last. It was a bit longer than she guessed but finally, her sentinel was almost here. Hopefully, before Bolg managed to drag her inside the Mountain. Otherwise, the mountain would become her tomb and the chance to get rid of the One Ring once for all would be lost forever.
“Dwarf.” The pale orc sniffed and smirked. “A Durin.”
“Orc.” She replied insolently, drawing his attention to herself to buy her sentinel more time. Legolas was sneaking around the pack, trying to find the best place from where to attack. Her purpose was to distract them until her sentinel was prepared to take them down. She readied herself for the retaliation and wasn’t disappointed. The orc hit her across the face brutally, causing her to stumble back, with her cheek throbbing. Gimli glared up at the orc hatefully, sending a desperate plea to her sentinel to wait for an opportune moment.
“Scum. You dare?” He prepared to hit her again. The dam stared unflinchingly into his eyes alight with cruel intent and just raised an eyebrow. Her injured cheek darkened with a bruise and Gimi was looking forward to killing the orc for daring to touch her. If only Legolas would be amenable to let her avenge herself. Sometimes, her elf seemed to be under the impression, or more like under the influence of Celebrimbor’s memories, confusing her with much sheltered and privileged stonemason of Khazad-dûm, not a strong warrior raised in almost-poverty she was now.
“Yes.” The dam raised her eyebrow challengingly, not taking her eyes from the orc looming over her and braced herself for another blow. Her hand twitched when she felt Ylva nosing around her bonds. The dagger pressed in her palm was ready to make a quick work of the rope and smirked darkly. “Afraid of little old me?”
Bolg leaned in creepily, taking a deep breath of her sent, trying to intimidate the captive dwarf. “Not in the slightest.”
“Your mistake,” Gimli replied evenly. Twisting quickly the dagger in her hand, she cut off her bindings and in the next instant, she buried the dagger in the orc’s eye.
Gimli jumped back grinning ferally, as the corpse crumbled on the ground, and armed herself with Bolg’s sword in the next moment. It was a bit heavier weapon than her favourite axe, but she compensated for it admirably. She danced around the rest of her captors, a bloodthirsty glint in her eyes, leaving a swath of death behind her, as she cut them down mercilessly. Her elf used the distraction provided by her recklessness and shot several orcs in quick succession.
“Not much of a challenge.” The sentinel commented as he looked over Gimli. Touching the blooming bruise on her cheek, he scowled darkly. “I didn’t kill them quick enough. I will need to take care of it before it swells and impedes your vision.”
Gimli rolled her eyes at the overprotective elf. “I had worse. And I was able to take care of Bolg quite easily. He underestimated me. By the way, thanks for your help with the rest of the pack.”
“You are welcome. Although, I would prefer if you wouldn’t antagonize any more orcs.”
The entrance gate behind them groaned and opened. Several orc packs rushed out furiously waving their weapons in their direction. “Now, we are in trouble,” Gimli murmured and tightened her hold on Bolg’s weapon. It occurred to her she maybe shouldn’t take it from his corpse, but she refused to be left defenceless in the face of the veritable oncoming army.
“Don’t you say,” Legolas murmured dryly, as he fired several arrows in a row. His efforts managed to thin the orc ranks a bit, but there were still too many of them for the gifted pair to get out of the trouble with their skin intact.
The Valar had to be closely watching over them, and for once deigned to nudge the things in the right way, because a snarling bear interfered and ran directly into the orc’s path. His intervention neatly cut off orcs from reaching them directly. The packs scattered and it made it easier to pick them off one by one.
“Beorn. Thank Mahal.” Gimli shouted when she recognized the large bear tearing ferally through the hordes of orcs around them. Legolas was thinning the orc ranks with well-placed arrows. His speciality in long-ranged weapons came in handy and he just refused to let the fell creatures reach his guide. The thought of his mate back in their grasp was nauseating.
The fight was slowly winding down and few still-alive orcs swarmed the unlikely trio in the last desperate attempt to kill them off. Gimli danced around two males, her skill in bladed weapons outshining the elf and the skin-changer, as she took out more of the orcs than two of them combined. She fought fiercely, taking enemies left and right.
“Guide, are you in need of some help?” The skin-changer growled out the question after he took on his more human-like appearance. He leisurely tore a head from another orc, while he waited for the dwarf guide to answer him. “By the way, what did you do to them? They are attacking you like mad. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Your help is appreciated, Beorn,” Gimli smirked and buried her axe in the skull of another orc. “My cousin Thorin killed their leader. And his son wanted to have words with me in that mountain his pack is infesting. I decided to decline his invitation and buried my dagger in his head.” The orcs were trying to herd them towards the chasm yawning between the mountains. It seemed they were of a mind not to let them leave alive if they couldn’t kill them.
“That ever-frowning dark-haired dwarf? That’s your cousin?” The skin-changer asked, a memory of their visit in his humble home still fresh in mind. Gimli nodded and ducked under the swipe of another orc trying to part her head from her body. She twirled and simultaneously dispatched two orcs uncomfortably bearing on them. Beorn grinned. “I don’t like dwarves, but you, my dear, you are an exception.”
Gimli smiled bloodthirstily at him, the adrenaline singing in her veins, as she continued on her rampage. “You are not bad yourself, Beorn. But please, pay attention. I wouldn’t want to be one to tell Bilbo what became of you.”
“Don’t worry about me, little guide. I can take care of myself.” The skin-changer just shrugged. The fight was over in the next moment when the last corpse fell on the ground. His unexpected help was instrumental in dealing with the orcs. And Gimli was glad for it. She didn’t fancy their chances if not for Beorn’s timely arrival.
“Are you both all right?” Legolas worried about his guide and the man-bear he recognized as a dweller of a hut outside of Mirkwood’s borders.
“Never better. Although… I’m worried. How are we going to make up for so much lost time? We veered off the path. And I don’t think we are going to catch up anytime soon.” Gimli pointed out, slightly out of breath. She raised her eyebrow at her sentinel.
Legolas frowned and mused aloud. “We are too far away to ask for help from any of the elf or dwarf kingdoms. I think we should retrace my steps and return back to Esgaroth and then continue south.”
“I might be able to help.” Beorn butted in. He kind of respected the strength the unlikely gifted pair demonstrated. “If you need to go south there is a perfect river nearby and several boats.”
“Anduín. I almost forgot.” Gimli hit her forehead, at the obvious way to catch up or even get ahead of their plan to reach Mordor before the winter hit the region. She bowed to Beorn. “Master Beorn. If you could be so kind as to lead us towards the boats, we’ll be very grateful.”
“Of course, little guide. Follow me. And try to keep up.” The man-bear shouted over his shoulder as he changed mid-way and ran. The sentinel-guide pair looked at each other, exchanged smirks, and raised to the skin-changer’s challenge.
Are you trying to get locked up in the psionic realm for good, Ylva? Eirik huffed angrily at his mate. She was reckless and interfered directly with her guide, although she promised the Valar she wouldn’t meddle anymore.
Don’t worry, Eirik. I’m not going to be punished for a little push in the right direction. Besides, Gimli managed quite well on her own. She was almost free of her bonds before I even got near to her. The she-wolf retorted haughtily and disappeared into their den.
That won’t end well if she would continue pushing against the rules the Valar put down. Eirik mused, taking the last look at the elf and his dam before they disappeared in the foliage.
Sailing was never going to be Gimli’s favourite mode of transportation. She was faring better than during the mad escape from Mirkwood, but it was still very exhausting to attempt ignoring swiftly moving water under their boat. She was completely at the mercy of her sentinel and wasn’t even ashamed to admit it. Fortunately, Legolas was adept at navigating the boat and she trusted him to get them safely to Lothlórien.
In truth, Gimli would have never chosen to go west; a completely opposite way from Mount Doom. She thought it counterproductive. But at least her abduction was good for something. Travelling down the river Anduín was fast and it cut down her estimations for how long it would take them to get to Mordor by weeks if not months. Even if she hated the thought of being on the water for most of the journey. More importantly, it was almost impossible for anyone to ambush them when their boat moved so fast down the river.
The dam consulted her pilfered map so often, she had it almost memorized. Unfortunately, she had an idea where they were going to make their next stop. And she wasn’t thrilled with seeing the meddling elf queen again. She was quite put off to realize, courtesy of her half-forgotten lessons on the current political climate on both sides of Misty Mountains Lady Dís tried to hammer in her head, that Celebrimbor’s cousin was still ruling her provincial little forest and probably still loved to meddle with other people’s fates.
Gimli didn’t dare to ask her sentinel what he thought about their next stop in Lothlórien. He seemed to be quite content to ignore Celebrimbor’s memories until they were sorely needed. Although, if she had to take a guess Legolas wasn’t quite as successful in this endeavour as he pretended, judging by the complicated mess of emotions he was inadvertently sending to her since he realized their most likely destination.
As if hearing her thoughts, although Gimli was certain she was currently shielding their link, Legolas looked up from his work and frowned, his head swivelling to the shore. They weren’t far away from Caras Galadhon, the seat of power of Lothrórien rulers. Swiftly, the sentinel navigated the boat to the shore to other boats already moored there and jumped into the shallow water. Gimli stood up and let him help her down, as soon as the ship was anchored.
“Sweet solid ground. Thank Mahal and all of his brethren.” Gimli moaned, as her queasy stomach finally settled down and she could finally concentrate on the feeling that was niggling at her senses. “Sanctuary,” Gimli shouted the first words coming to her mind when she sensed a familiar presence, stalking towards them. “We seek the sanctuary in your woods, Lady Galadriel.”
She smirked at her unsettled sentinel. True to her words, the elf queen emerged from the trees, followed dutifully by her husband and several guards. Legolas was aware someone was closely following their progress down the river but he wasn’t quite ready to meet the famous elleth, one of few ancients still lingering on this side of the sea that remembered Celebrimbor (him) at the height of his power. He wasn’t sure what he should feel towards her. On one hand, she featured prominently in his memories, as Celebrimbor was very fond of his cousin. On the other hand, there was a deep disdain and distrust for Noldor elves his ada taught him from the cradle. In the end, he chose to say nothing and let his guide take the lead.
Lukhdel. A feminine voice entered the dam’s thoughts, taking care not to intrude on the bond. Experience taught her it was inadvisable to touch the link tying a sentinel and a guide together, especially those two. Welcome to Lothlórien. You and your sentinel, both. It was much too long since your light left this world. I’ve missed you.
Please, let’s speak out loud, Galadriel. For my sentinel’s sake, as I’m sure you remember, Celebrimbor wasn’t very fond of your mind-speech after he bonded with Narví.
Very well, my friend. We’ll talk later, then. Find me at my mirror this evening. I’ll make sure we won’t be disturbed. We have many things to discuss without being overheard by curious sentinels. The elleth cautioned.
Gimli inclined her head imperceptibly in agreement. Later.
“Sanctuary granted. Prince Legolas, Gimli. Welcome to Lothlórien.” The Lady of the Golden Wood opened her arms theatrically, as she repeated her greeting for everyone to hear. Gimli just rolled her eyes at the silly elleth. She wasn’t impressed with the elf queen when she first met her as Narví, and she certainly wasn’t impressed now. Galadriel grew on her, after some time spent in her company, but still… Too much drama, for her tastes. The queen raised her eyebrow, waiting for the dam’s acknowledgement.
Gimli bowed her head. “Thank you, my Lady. We appreciate your hospitality. Our journey was very dangerous and full of unexpected surprises, so I’m glad to take a little break before the more dangerous part of the journey that still awaits us.”
“Come,” Celeborn murmured, waving regally at the hidden path to their city. “Your talan and the refreshments are ready for you in Caras Galadhon.”
Gimli smiled brilliantly at Galadriel’s husband and nudged her own sentinel to follow after their hosts. She was so looking forward to the luxury of a bed and her sentinel in it. Their young bond needed reaffirmation.
Ylva took her place beside her charge. Gimli was much too trusting of the elf queen’s word, considering what she was carrying around. Fortunately, it was one of the she-wolf’s main concerns to see to her charge’s safety. With how sharp the dam’s tongue was, she had the work cut for her. Legolas was relaxing in their talan with Eirik, trying to gather his strength for the next leg of their journey.
“Galadriel. Why am I here?” The dam demanded as soon as the elleth joined her in the courtyard. She wanted some answers and the elf queen was going to provide them, or else. Ylva bristled from her side, glaring at Galadriel. The spirit animal was known to the elf queen, as she was previously acquainted with Narví.
Lukhdel. The elf queen sighed heavily at the hostility directed at her and touched the surface of the water in the basin. “You weren’t supposed to. The ring was supposed to stay in Bilbo Baggin’s hands until the autumn years of his life. He would have subdued the ring’s power, making it easier for its next bearer to destroy it once for all. As such, it was his son’s destiny to carry the ring to Mordor and defeat Sauron. You’ve changed everything with your interference.”
“It’s called free will, Galadriel. With a fair amount of Valar’s meddling thrown in for a good measure.” The dam raised her eyebrow and replied insolently. She was kind of tired of everyone behaving like they knew better than her. “What did you expect? That I would leave that… that… murderer to continue desecrating Celebrimbor’s gift with his foul soul. Never. Not for all treasures of Khazad-dûm.”
So, it’s true. The One Ring was Celebrimbor’s work. I hoped it was only some unfounded rumours trying to besmirch his name. Galadriel flicked her wrist and the water swirled violently, showing the events of the past in fragmented pictures. The elf couldn’t make sense of it before.
It’s not what you think. Gimli cringed and immediately corrected Galadriel’s assumptions. While it is true the ring was forged by Celebrimbor, using some of Annantar’s teachings, he would have never allowed anyone to take it. The ring was crafted for me for our anniversary. I don’t know how it ended up in Sauron’s hands but it probably happened after our death.
The water stilled abruptly and images of Narví’s and Celebrimbor’s last moments came in quick succession, collaborating the dam’s insistent defence of her once-and-future husband. I see. The elleth said contemplatively when she could finally see the complete picture of the past events leading them to this moment. I suppose that’s one of the reasons you were allowed to be reborn.
Valars weren’t that hard to convince they should leave the ring’s destruction to Legolas and me. Gimli explained and grinned viciously. We have some unfinished business with Sauron.
“The future is in flux. It’s hard to see the most favourable outcome. One wrong step and everything will be lost.” Galadriel cautioned, even as she attempted to catch the ever-elusive thread of Vairë’s intent in her mirror, Nenya shining brightly on her finger, lending its power to the elleth. The queen sighed and waved her hand over the surface. “I’m virtually blind to what is to come. I just hope you know what you are doing.”
“For everyone’s sake, I hope so, too,” Gimli murmured, as she turned to walk away. She had more important matters to attend this evening, like her sentinel needs for example than humouring Galadriel.
The elleth just waved her away mutely, as something in her mirror caught her attention. A flash of something that looked like a happy future for the reborn sentinel-guide pair. She looked up from the mirror at Gimli’s retreating back and smiled mysteriously.
That was unhelpful. Ylva said and walked up to her mate. She wasn’t going to follow Gimli back to her sentinel. Not when she had a quite accurate idea of how the dam was going to spend the rest of the evening.
Was she ever helpful? With all of her cryptic warnings and obscure references? I don’t think so. Eirik nuzzled the she-wolf, trying to calm down her agitation.
She could have told Gimli of her last vision. So, they would know they would succeed. That the Valar didn’t send them on a suicidal mission, no matter how it looks right now. The worst is only coming and they could use the hope. Ylva complained.
The future of this world is in their hands. The Valar was clear on it. And no interference, as they stressed out several times already. Eirik reminded her uncompromisingly.
The she-wolf huffed at her mate’s stance and shimmered out of the sight. If he could, Eirik would have rolled his eyes. Females. And followed her to their den on the psionic plane.
“What did my cous… Lady Galadriel want from you?” Legolas asked his guide, as soon as she came in. He was curious about elleth’s reasons for wanting to speak with his guide. But not that curious that he was forced to confront his conflicted feelings towards the ancient female ruler. It was better for his peace of mind when his guide took the initiative and spoke with the queen.
“Same old. Same old. Beware of the danger. The future is unclear. And so on…” Gimli waved his concerns away, as she shrugged off her clothes. She smiled seductively at her sentinel and sat on his lap. “Besides, do you really want to keep speaking about Galadriel when we can spend time more pleasantly? Didn’t I promise to give you my undivided attention as soon as we get some privacy?”
Legolas gulped heavily as he read the lustful intent in Gimli’s eyes. Any coherent thought flew out of his mind when Gimli plopped on his lap and put his hands on her naked hips. She wriggled, trying to make herself comfortable on her perch, bringing their attention to his neglected erection. “Tease.” He rasped out, as Gimli sank on his engorged cock.
Gimli moaned and rocked on his lap, chasing the relief. To go without the intimacy with her sentinel for so long was unbearable. The long journey fraught with danger wasn’t conducive to getting laid.
It was going to be over much too soon, the dam realized. Weeks of the desire shimmering under the layers of ruthless self-control erupted in a brilliant fire between the sentinel and the guide.
With another loud moan, Gimli collapsed on Legolas’s chest, trying to catch her breath. She could already feel the stirrings of arousal, signalling it wouldn’t be their only lovemaking that night. It was just taking an edge of the pent-up desire. The morning was so far away, and they had a lot to catch up on. As if hearing her thoughts, the dam found herself under the reassuring weight of her sentinel. Her lips were too busy with a fiery kiss to protest the abrupt change of position and in the next instant, as Legolas moved against her body, she forgot about any complaints whatsoever.
Gimli was getting uneasy. Such a long period of peace, they enjoyed in the elf realm, didn’t sit well with her. The tranquilness of Lothlórien was making her itchy to do something inadvisable. It was probably the unfinished task and the looming danger of going into Mordor. For the better or the worse, today they were going to continue on their journey. The dam wasn’t very enthusiastic about going back to the flimsy piece of wood that Legolas insisted was a boat, and sailing down the river until they reached Emyn Muil. Then the more perilous leg of their journey would begin. They would have to abandon the boat and continue on foot down the valley through Emyn Muil. Then the path would open directly to Dead Marches and after that far in the distance stood Morannon, their way into Mordor.
At least Legolas was able to make peace with Galadriel. She wasn’t privy to the contents of the discussion between the elves but her sentinel returned to her one evening finally at ease with his current circumstances. Celebrimbor’s memories were no longer burdening him with the pictures of the life long gone and regrets for the things that were allowed to happen to him. To them.
“No more attempts at last minute wisdom to give, Galadriel?” Gimli teased the other female with a knowing smirk plastered on her face, standing on the board of the boat.
“Not particularly.” The elf shrugged inelegantly and returned the dam’s smirk. “I trust you will handle everything on your path. Valar bless you, Gimli. You and your sentinel. You are going to need it.”
“We’ll manage. Don’t worry.” The dam bowed before taking the last shot at annoying elleth. “Just try to think up a better wedding gift than the one you gave us before.”
“Return back from your journey in one piece, and we’ll see what can be done.” Galadriel bantered back. She would miss Gimli and the witty company she provided to ease the monotonousness that went on day in, day out in Caras Galadhon. Sometimes, it was too much for the elf queen to bear the weight of endless years stretching into the distant past with a prospect to see more of war and heartache in the future.
“Shouldn’t be much of a problem. It’s only Mordor.” The dam tried to lighten the sudden sombre mood of their farewell to Lothlórien.
“Please, do be careful. Both of you.” Galadriel took the chance to warn them. The haze over the future lifted for a moment, allowing her a glimpse of a terrible danger they were heading towards. “Sauron’s most powerful servant is awake and searching for you on the behalf of his master.”
“We’ll be careful,” Gimli promised and waved irreverently for the last time, before her sentinel untied their boat from the mooring, so they were able to continue on the way down the river.
“Namárië,” Legolas shouted his farewell and waved towards Lothlórien elves, for as long as they were in their sight. He was kind of relieved to be finally free of his once-cousin’s and her husband’s well-meaning presence. And their quiet disbelief he would dare to tread back on the familiar path of bonding with a female dwarf guide, although he knew how it ended last time. He refused to explain again and again to his fellow elves how terrible the loneliness of an unbonded sentinel was, how affected he was, missing half of his soul and not knowing it until he was unceremoniously hit in the face with his own past and his father’s misdeeds.
“The visit wasn’t as painful as I feared.” Gimli shared her impressions from their little breather in the famous elven realm, in the silence between them. She was getting some complicated feelings from Legolas’s side of the bond. Untangling them was going to be work for hours and she wasn’t certain their circumstances would allow for such a distraction.
“Hmm. What?” Legolas turned to her. His attention was caught by a strange noise he was trying to identify. Somewhat familiar flapping noise was rapidly approaching their boat. Legolas’s senses registered its presence almost as soon as they left the borders of Galadriel’s domain. It was worrying the elf that Gimli didn’t notice it just yet.
The dam cocked her head as an uncomfortably high concentration of oppressive maliciousness penetrated her carefully constructed shields. A spark of recognition was pointing her to the conclusion, she didn’t dare to voice out loud without further confirmation. Gimli was caught off guard for once and found that was a very unpleasant experience. How should she know Galadriel’s warnings were going to be proven right as soon as they left her realm.
“A ringwraith,” Gimli warned, refusing to use the proper name for the abomination heading towards them. The flapping of the beast’s wings and the distinctive corruption running deep in the leader of Nine was undeniable. She sensed that exact mix of undeadness, corruption and general maliciousness only once, but it was forever engraved in her soul. The last moments in her life as Narví, after an orc ambush. She had wondered how the ancient dam’s anniversary gift ended up in Sauron’s hands, who proceeded to befoul it with his twisted soul.
“Which one is it?” Legolas inquired while he prepared his bow and arrows. It didn’t matter to him which one was following them. All of them were awful to be around, at least that was what the participants of the Last Alliance said when they were deep in the cups and not caring if their talk was appropriate for little elfling’s ears. But one of the Ringwraith was much worse than the others. Hopefully, it wasn’t who was tracking them. No such luck.
“Sauron’s strongest. Witchking of Angmar.” The dam murmured distractedly, naming their adversary. The Black rider was trying to wear down her shields, flooding them with intense fear from afar, and intruded on her bond with Legolas. It smelled of Sauron’s foul tactics, at least those that were known to Gimli.
“Of course, who else it would be if not the dark lord’s most devoted slave,” Legolas commented dryly, his eyes trained on the black spot in the sky. That presence lingered on the edges when Narví and Celebrimbor were killed in their previous life to make room for Sauron to grow in his powers unhindered. And both of them knew how it ended – with the necessity of the trip to Mordor to get rid of the ring and the fallen Maia’s being once for all.
“Get ready,” Gimli warned unnecessarily. The suffocating evilness spread around them. The ringwraith was almost there. The pair could almost taste it. “And please. Try not to get injured from his weapons. I’m in no way equipped to attempt such in-depth healing, should the worst happen.”
“Will do.” Legolas retorted, and took a shot at the intangible presence, bearing on them threateningly. It was hard to breathe in the air heavy with maliciousness and evil freely spreading from Sauron’s servant.
The wraith veered slightly to the left and deftly avoided getting hit by the elf’s arrow. He screeched, sending a bout of dread into the hearts of the bonded couple. They managed to shrug his attack off, but the moment of inattention cost them. The black rider got pretty close, almost touching the deck. He was circling them, trying to hone on something known only to him.
Gimli frowned and stealthily palmed her daggers, ready for everything. The wraith flew directly over their heads on the other side of the boat, making it lurch dangerously. The dam cursed, as she turned on her heel, a bit wobbly perhaps but not falling on her ass like someone she wouldn’t name, and with a flick of her wrists sent the daggers flying at Witchking.
The fell beast was nimbly manoeuvred out of the way of her weapons. Unfortunate, but how should she know the wraith would react so quickly and decisively. Gimli glanced at her sentinel. He rebalanced himself quickly and took aim with another arrow. The dam ducked to the side, barely being missed by the flying beast’s sharp talons, the axe finding its way into her hands, as she gave up the daggers as a loss.
“Look out, Gimli,” Legolas shouted and jumped in front of the dam, trying to shield her from another aerial assault. The rider and his fell beast swept down, deftly avoided him and tried to get to Gimli. They were somehow attracted to his guide. As if they were sensing that cursed trinket despite several layers of protection in which most of Gimli’s powers were invested. It was worrisome. If Sauron’s servant was able to feel the ring, then the chances of them sneaking in Mordor unnoticed by the Dark Lord went from negligible to nill, no matter what the Valar, Eirik and Ylva, even his guide promised.
The dwarf guide weaved around the flying beast’s forelegs, twirling her favourite axe in her hands. She danced under his snapping teeth, aiming for her vulnerable neck, and struck quickly. The axe neatly severed the beast’s neck.
For a moment everything stood still.
And then the Witchking plummeted down in the river, screeching threats in the Black Speech of Mordor. At least, Gimli was guessing it was the Black Speech, because of its inherent foulness grating against her ears and sudden uneasiness at the continuing stream of words the ringwraith spewed in their direction. She was so relieved when Sauron’s servant disappeared from their gazes, after their boat continued sailing down the river, it was no wonder she started laughing almost hysterically, clutching the axe for dear life.
Phew. It was a near thing. I thought for a moment they wouldn’t be able to handle Witchking and get themselves killed before they even reached Mordor. Eirik complained from his place at Ylva’s side.
But they’ve managed, somehow. No thanks to Valar. Ylva grumbled, even if she was obviously relieved. They were confined to the psionic realm and couldn’t interfere because of those ancient busybodies, pretending to be higher beings, and it almost cost the sentinel – guide pair their lives.
Ylva. Legolas’s wolf tried to reprimand his mate. Speaking of Valar in such a manner could get them in more trouble.
What? You are thinking along the same lines. Don’t bother to deny it. I can feel it, Eirik. Ylva huffed indignantly.
But I’m not always in their faces berating them for their actions. Or the lack of them. Do you want to make them angry enough to confine you to the psionic realm indefinitely?
They wouldn’t dare. Ylva murmured, a little more peacefully. They owe us. Narví and Celebrimbor were hit by their previous apathy toward Free People on this side of the Great Sea the most. Just remember how it turned out the last time.
I know. I know. Eirik tried to shush her. He hated to feel helpless but it was nothing in comparison to Ylva’s rage. She lost any respect towards Valar after they sacrificed the ancient bonded pair in an effort to reveal Sauron’s dealings to the entirety of Middle Earth. They just didn’t count on his deviousness and his eagerness to act as soon as possible against the pair and as consequence becoming much more powerful. Their next pawns didn’t fare much better, in what was now known as the Last Alliance, and Valar had to call on the dwarf and elf pair, the ones with the greatest chance to stand up against Sauron and get rid of him once for all.
Ylva was incensed when she found out the cruelness Valar were capable of lowering themselves when they leveraged the sacred bond between sentinel and guide in life and vowed to let them come together in death, should the worst come. No more prospect to spend eternity, mourning the other half of their soul amongst the members of their respective races who wouldn’t be able to understand them.
Just don’t try to defend them in front of me, please. I can’t bear their hypocrisy. Ylva pleaded, almost crying.
Alright, love. I promise. No more defending the undefendable. Eirik cuddled his mate. The she-wolf snuggled to his side, taking comfort in the other wolf’s strength, her worries soothed for a moment.
If the days sailing on the boat from Gundabad to Lothlórien passed too quickly by Gimli’s estimation, it was nothing how fast the rest of their journey down the river went. Well… after they threw off the Witchking from their tracks, of course. He was stuck somewhere north of their current position, in Dol Guldur, Gimli guessed and Ylva managed to affirm that before she was forced to stop. On one hand, the dam was grateful, Legolas snd she would finally abandon the boat, the shaky piece of wood between them and certain death, and continue on foot. On the other hand, it was getting harder to shield the ring from the fallen Maia and the journey would get more perilous.
Not something, Gimli was keen on advertising. And she kind of resented Valar’s stance on the all Sauron issue. From what she could discern, they washed their hands of the entire affair as soon as they pushed her and her sentinel to be reborn to deal with Sauron in their stead. The dam frowned. And instead of helping them, or at least not hindering them (and their spirit animals), they were keen on interfering with their bond with Ylva and Eirik. Gimli had a feeling the wolves knew more than they were allowed to reveal and Ylva, mostly, chafed under those restrictions, often ending up being forced back on the psionic plane before she could advise them. Valar’s general unhelpfulness was unfathomable in the face of the events Vairë warned them of. It was starting to piss off Gimli. What was worse, the details from their deal with them were starting to escape her. It pointed to something she didn’t want to contemplate. Not yet, at least. Not, when she and her sentinel were still in such a precarious position, heading towards more danger. Not, when their allies were scarce and their future unknown.
“Alright there, Gimli?” Legolas asked when his guide inadvertently sent her troubled feelings down their bond. She was strong, his Gimli, stubborn to a fault and convinced she knew the best. Sometimes he just wished she would unbend a little and ask for his help. It was driving him mad that she was so used to doing things her own way. A leftover from their previous life, perhaps, as Narví was set in her way when she bonded to her elf sentinel.
“Of course,” the dam plastered a smile on her lips in an attempt to cover her worries. Not that she was fooling her elf, but he wisely decided not to pursue that train of thought anymore. She would tell him all about it when she was good and ready. Probably. Because as he learnt the hard way his guide liked to hoard the secrets and guarded them jealously, like a dragon his treasure.
The boat was floating smoothly down the river. The sun was annoyingly burning in the sky, turning her skin red and the entire day was much too pleasant for Gimli’s peace of mind. She scowled darkly, looking uncannily like her royal cousin. The current lull was highly suspicious, in comparison to how their entire journey went. They were due to some unwelcome visitors soon. The question was… just who. They had no shortage of enemies – ranging from the orc packs enraged by their audacity to kill off their leaders to Witchking and Sauron single-mindedly lusting for the One Ring.
Legolas skillfully manoeuvred their boat to the shore. The wooden structure, much too unstable in the dam’s opinion, stopped gently in the shallow water. They were there. Emyn Muil. A small mountain range, unlike the majestic Misty Mountains, Narví’s former home, nor newly reclaimed Erebor. Yet, the mountains were in a large obstacle their way and Valar knew what threats were lurking in their shadows.
Gimli wasn’t so sure now that she wanted to get off the ship, no matter how disagreeable the entire experience was. Unfortunately, according to her map, going further to the south wasn’t advisable. Mostly because they would get too close to Minas Morgul, the seat of the second strongest ringwraith. And one of those creatures on their trail was more than enough for her. She shuddered at the thought of Witching. A great deal of luck contributed to their successful escape from his clutches.
Wincing, the dam jumped in the shallow water and practically ran to the solid ground, hoping there wouldn’t be any unpleasantness waiting for them. The unnatural stillness didn’t add confidence in their chances to get through the Emyn Muil in one piece. She closed her eyes briefly and spread her empathy for as far as she dared. Which in hindsight wasn’t far, as most of her innate power was tied in keeping that cursed trinket under control.
“Pay attention,” Legolas warned his guide. His senses were pinging with familiar impressions of several someones lurking near the narrow pass between the mountains, several hundred feet ahead of their current position.
“Why?” Gimli asked, instantly on guard because of her sentinel’s reaction to something she wasn’t able to see. That damned ring was making it hard for her to detect the danger.
“I think we are walking right into an ambush,” Legolas whispered, his hand tightening on his sword. The foul stench of orcs invaded his nose, confirming his hunch. “Orcs ahead of us. Be ready. The orcs are moving towards us. Probably because they realized we detected their presence.”
“Orcs? Where did they come from? They couldn’t be from Gundabad.” The dam mused. They left that tribe leaderless after they relieved Azog and his heir Bolg of their heads in relatively quick succession.
“No. Not Gundabad.” Legolas replied quietly as he recognized a distinct stench of sulphur and ashes lacing the scent-pile of their pursuers. “They come from Khazad-dûm.”
Gimli winced. Narví’s former home was overrun with orcs and worse, a balrog made its home deep in the mines. She was thoroughly educated about the exact reasons why Durin VI. was forced to abandon his kingdom and why there wasn’t any attempt at regaining those Halls back by Longbeards. The dragon was the lesser evil in those circumstances and in the end, he proved to be not as formidable as she feared. He was quite easily overcome by the combination of Legolas’s and her skills.
“How many?” Gimli asked, readying for another attack. She was starting to be tired of always fighting for her life during this quest. It was like everything that could go wrong on the quest, went wrong and they were stumbling over the enemies at the most inconvenient places. Like now, for example.
Legolas cocked his head and spread his senses to cover several hundred feet in every direction. He tugged at his bond with Gimli to get a clear picture of the number of orcs lying in wait for them. “A dozen, at least. Probably no more than fifteen.”
“The best one wins?” The dam smiled bloodthirstily and slipped her favourite axe into her hands, swinging it back and forth. A little exercise before the axe’s heavy use was always a great idea, as Dwalin tried to beat into her head when she stubbornly insisted she would be joining warrior training under his guidance alongside her royal cousins Fíli and Kíli.
Legolas smirked back, his hatred for the orcs for their role in the unfortunate events of his life flashing momentarily in his eyes when he readied his bow and arrows. “A side bet. The loser gets to tell your parents, we are not going to settle down in Erebor, or anywhere else, anytime soon. After all of this mess with the ring is resolved to our satisfaction, of course.”
Gimli cringed. She completely forgot about her parents. Her adad was going to ground her until she was old and grey. The dam was now aware she was on thin ice because of her elf bonded. Looking back it wasn’t probably her best idea that Legolas and she vanished with the ring in the middle of the night, with one measly letter of explanation for their hasty actions. And the dam counted herself lucky her amad wasn’t inclined to join the quest of Erebor. She would not get away with her shenanigans if her amad was there. Gimli was all for delaying their return to Erebor for as long as possible to avoid her parents. Although, if she won now she would be able to use her sentinel shamelessly as a shield against her parents’ displeasure. Very tempting.
“Agreed.” The dwarf shouted and threw herself in the fray of oncoming orcs. “One.” She started, her voice rang clearly through the sudden fight. Gimli twisted her body from the oncoming orc blade and swiftly beheaded the offender. “Two.”
“Three. Four.” Legolas quipped back in quick succession. His preferred weapon and accuracy proved to be Valar-send in his quest to best his guide. Although, it was getting harder to aim, as his guide was getting in his way. With a sigh, the elf stowed away the bow and drew his sword in the next moment, following his guide in the fray. Legolas loved his bow, but there was something primally satisfying to the close-ranged combat. His sentinel side loved to get his hands dirty.
Gimli glared at her elf and stepped up to the challenge posed by him. Dam’s body was almost a blur with how quickly was moving through the incoming orcs. “Four. Five.” She shouted back. The orcs were falling like flies around them. It was astounding how quickly they fell into the familiarity of fighting beside a partner attuned to them.
“Seven.” Both of them cried out at the same time, as the last of their opponents fell dead on the ground at their feet. The sentinel in their pairing swept the impromptu battlefield and their immediate surroundings with his enhanced senses to check if there weren’t any more surprises hidden nearby.
“All clear,” Legolas called out, half-relieved, half-pouting. “And it’s a tie.”
The elf didn’t expect Gimli to be so good at fighting, no matter how much time she had devoted to the training. Perhaps, he should have taken into account that according to Celebrimbor’s memories even in her previous incarnation, the dam was obsessively honing her craft until she was the Master in her chosen craft. In this, Gimli was so much like Narví, it was eerie. But in the others it was very clear she was still so very young, barely of age and it proved to be an advantage because she was adaptive to her ever-changing circumstances.
“Yeah. It’s a bit disappointing. I thought they were better trained than this. It was too easy to get rid of them.” Gimli agreed, trying to catch her breath, excitement singing along her veins and bouncing from one side of their bond to the other and back again. Then she made a mistake and looked up at her sentinel. The wild look in his eyes, flush high on his cheeks and hands trembling with adrenaline. It was his own fault for looking too tasty for his own good. For dwarrow, there was nothing more attractive than their One drunk on the adrenaline high after a win.
Gimli dropped her axe, uncaring where it fell and dragged her elf down by his tunic. “I’m going to kiss you now.” She declared, before boldly pressing her lips against her elf mouth. Legolas gasped out, as his guide’s desire flooded the bond, enhanced by the high of a successful fight. The dam took advantage and sneaked her tongue inside his mouth, coaxing her elf into a passionate kiss.
The world narrowed down to the two of them, the feel of longing and relief, the adrenaline and desire, spiralling in the intense cocktail of passion, as they forgot the dangers waiting ahead of them in the darkness of Mordor.
Everything was well in their world.
At least for a little while.
There was a reason, and quite a good one, that wandering into Dead Marches wasn’t much advisable, Gimli realized, as soon as they stepped onto the cursed plain. The sense of ancient pain, greed, despair and hopelessness, the entire place practically drowned in, was almost too much for the poor dam. With the burden of the ring straining her gifts, she was unable to shield herself much against the sudden onslaught of negative emotions. As much as it rubbed her wrong, she was forced to rely on her sentinel to maintain the primary defence of her mind while she concentrated on keeping that damned trinket from unduly influencing them.
“Death. There is nothing to be found here. Only death.” Legolas noted sadly. The smell of decomposing bodies, suspended forever by Sauron’s malice saturated most of his senses, rendering him almost useless. Not a feeling, the elf prince was accustomed to. He wasn’t pleased to learn how much he depended on the information he was able to gather using his advanced senses. The bond with his guide was instrumental in stabilizing him, so he wouldn’t be caught up in the perpetual feedback from his over-saturated senses. That was too dangerous for a sentinel, and with actual threats and Mordor looming over them, he couldn’t afford to be distracted.
Gimli took a shuddering breath, as the desolation of the ancient battlefield got to her. “What a waste.” She murmured, as she daintily stepped around someone’s cut off limbs. The dam grimaced, trying to find out a way out of this Valar’s forsaken swamp without wading in too much filth. “After all of this unpleasantness is dealt with, we are going to take a long vacation. Just you and me.” She promised heartfeltly, determined to see it through.
“Beautiful dream.” Legolas sighed and pushed a red curl from the dam’s forehead. Their future was so far away, a little light flickering in the all-encompassing darkness, that it was almost impossible to imagine their happy ending.
“Something to look forward to,” Gimli murmured, getting lost in her sentinel’s blue eyes. She was blessed with her One who would follow her anywhere on Arda, and beyond. “No more responsibilities, no world-ending threats, no dark lords. Just you and me, free to explore the world. It would be so nice.”
“Yes, it would be.” The sentinel stared at his guide, heart in his eyes. Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone around to call him on his besotted behaviour. It was impossible to resist her when she got like this – so invested in something and it didn’t matter at all what it was.
“And maybe when we’ll have enough wandering we’ll build our home somewhere. On some land, unclaimed and unexplored by dwarrow, humans or elves; with abundance trees for your kind to feel at home.” Gimli spoke up confidently, as a fleeting vision of a glittering city flashed in front of her eyes. A promise of better tomorrows, maybe,. At least that was her hope. Legolas deserved a proper home for everything he was willing to give up for her sake, for every injustice he was forced to endure in this life and previous one. “I’m pretty sure we’ll find the perfect place. We’ll have enough time after the ring is destroyed.”
“Meleth.” The dam blushed lightly at the endearment falling from the elf’s lips. It was heart-warming how he loved her despite everything. “One day.” He agreed quietly, eyes sparkling with hope. The home was something he longed to build with his guide, free of the prejudices that followed them from their first life, through the death into their current life. It was disheartening to realize that virtual strangers were more accepting of their circumstances than their family and friends. And hard to accept too. He struggled a lot with those realizations and only his guide’s fierce presence in his life stopped him from spiralling down. One doesn’t have to look far – for his father’s and sister’s unforgivable interference was plain to see in comparison to the grudging acceptance of dwarrow and humans.
I hear Rohan is nice this time of the year. Ylva suggested slyly, as she padded up to her guide. The she-wolf was getting better at that cryptic nonsense the Valar were so fond of spouting. And look at this… No rebuke. Nothing too specific or she would dearly pay for it, but this… This snippet of knowledge for her to tease Gimli with was allowed.
Why Rohan in particular? Gimli cocked her head curiously and buried her fingers in she-wolf’s fur. The dam was quite aware Ylva was playing games; with her or with Valar – it was hard to say. It’s mostly flat land, a domain of horse lords. Nothing interesting to see, as far as I know.
Maybe yes. Maybe no. Ylva shrugged noncommittally, as her mate appeared at her side. But there is a fairly large and mostly unexplored mountain range in Rohan’s southern border. The wolf strongly hinted.
Ylva. Eirik admonished his mate. She was on the thin ice with Valar and he didn’t want to see her being punished further. What she revealed skirted much to the line they were forbidden to cross.
What? I didn’t reveal anything I shouldn’t, as you know. The Valar can’t punish me for this. They don’t have a leg to stand on, so they can shove it. Ylva retorted tartly, fluffing her tail primly and closed her eyes in delight when Gimli petted her fur.
Eirik? Legolas raised his eyebrow. The sentinel knew their wolves often knew more than they were allowed to reveal. Juxaspotation was a thing, the elf learnt. It was almost eerie, how the wolves exchanged their places. Ylva took Eirik’s place, as her hot-headedness and know-it-all attitude was apparent and often interfered with their mission, much to their detriment. Eirik was a voice of reason, much to his surprise. Perhaps, the trauma of losing their previous charges was so great that it changed them all permanently. He refused to speculate anymore, but it was highly probable. His bond with Gimli ached sometimes with the phantom pain of being broken.
The wolf pouted and turned his head away obstinately. Ylva said too much. I don’t care much for Valar but they still have some measure of power over all of us because of the deal you swore to uphold.
Even if we don’t exactly know anymore what we agreed to? Isn’t it a bit unfair? Gimli inquired, pouting at her spirit animal. It bothered her quite a lot that she was missing some things. She should have insisted on getting everything in writing.
It is unfair, but try to explain it to Valar. Ylva shrugged. It’s a waste of time. They won’t relent on their stance. Too set in their ways and their vision of what is the best for the world. And look how it backfired. They had to practically beg Narví and Celebrimbor to let themselves be reborn to deal with their mistake. And they can’t help but interfere in matters better left for their chosen to solve on their own.
“The Valar might have taken turns in trying to convince both of us to return back but it was Aulë who finally got us to agree,” Legolas admitted, as the ancient elf smith’s memories indicated something startling.
Gimli nodded, sensing the truthfulness of Legolas’s statement. It kind of made sense in some twisted way. The fallen Maiar was a disciple of Mahal who in turn was both – a father of the entire dwarrow race and the mentor of the first great elf smith, Celebrimbor’s own grandfather. It wasn’t a coincidence that fate, or Vairë perhaps, pitched them against Sauron.
Look out. Ylva cried out and pushed Gimli out of the way. The black sword had missed the dam’s neck by inches. They were so invested in their conversation they didn’t notice the enemy approaching. And they didn’t expect to be ambushed almost back to back from a previous encounter with the orc pack. That was a mistake they were paying for now.
Gimli gasped out and clutched her chest in a sudden burst of pain, stumbling towards Ylva. The she-wolf was laying on the ground motionlessly, a black wound on her side oozing with malice. Her mate was nosing around the wound, his hackles raised threateningly as he growled at the wraith.
“Eirik. Take Ylva and go.” The dam ordered sharply, hoping the male wolf would listen to her and retreat with Ylva to the psionic plane. “Go. We’ll take care of Witchking.” She vowed.
Eirik took one look at his charge, torn between staying and dragging his mate to safety. Legolas nodded in agreement with his guide’s words. The wolves in their current state would be a distraction they couldn’t afford if they wanted to have a chance against Sauron’s strongest servant. Both spirit animals, unconscious Ylva and worried Eirik vanished in a blaze of psionic power, reluctantly leaving their charges behind to take care of the threat.
How, for Morgoth’s sake, did he manage to sneak up on us? The strong evil aura almost drowned them in despair and fear, feeding on the residual bleakness of the ancient battlefield. The answer to her own question came swiftly. Gimli scowled and clamped down on the ring. The persistent thing was getting stronger with each passing day. It won’t happen again. The dam vowed and turned to the ringwraith, wrath written in every line of her body. The ring’s subtle influence masked Witchking’s presence from their senses and that was what caused them to be caught off guard.
The axes spun in Gimli’s hands, as she blocked a vicious attack from the Witchking. He was aiming to take her head. The force of their clash reverberated through the air as they were blown apart for several feet. The female rolled away from another blow from Sauron’s servant, losing the grip on her axes in the process.
“It’s not going to work. Legolas, try to distract him.” Gimli shouted and desperately searched her clothes for a weapon against the ringwraith. He was intimidating, as he deliberately unmounted the flying beast and walked towards her, and Gimli didn’t even have to use her abilities to see in his black and shrivelled heart. The intent to take the ring was radiating from him.
The arrow swished through the air and hit the wraith directly in the middle of his chest. It dissolved into nothingness in the next moment after the goal of thoroughly distracting the ringwraith was met. He screeched angrily at the elf interference. Legolas refused to quiver under his glare, notched another arrow and shot. The same thing happened again, from getting Sauron’s servant hit to arrow subsequently dissolving.
“No living man can kill me.” The Witchking sneered, dismissed the elf as a nuisance and advanced towards Gimli. The dwarf was his true target. The Master’s ring was insistent in calling him to help it rejoin with the Dark Lord, the dwarf’s desperate efforts at shielding notwithstanding.
“I’m no man in any sense of that word.” Gimli spat out and threw a dagger, that she found during distraction Legolas provided, directly at the intimidating darkness of wraith’s hood. She didn’t wait to see if her weapon struck true and immediately rolled away from him to avoid getting quashed by him if her aim was true. The Black breath missed her by inches and the dam sighed in relief. She wasn’t certain if the elves could heal that injury and she couldn’t heal herself with her own power. It was a downside of her abilities.
The Witchking screeched, as her dagger blazed with as much power as Gimli could spare, and sliced through the dark hood. For a brief moment, the guide was forced to gaze at the purest corruption in the face before the most powerful Ringwraith’s foul presence vanished from Arda, never to be seen again.
“I could have told him that.” Legolas commented dryly. “You are in no way a member of a human race, my guide. And I thoroughly inspected every inch of your body. Several times and in-depth. You are female through and through.”
The dam raised her eyebrow and smirked saucily at her elf, the relief of getting rid of the Witchking bouncing along with the bond between the elf sentinel and her. “That you did.”
The ring was sapping all of her strength. Gimli noticed her elf’s worried glances in her direction, the closer they got to the volcano. She couldn’t sleep or eat for the worry the ring would overwhelm her. It was getting stronger the deeper they went to the middle of Sauron’s domain. And the Fallen Maia… That was another complication in an already much dangerous situation.
Gimli shuddered. Sauron’s presence was suffocating. As soon as they sneaked through Morannon into Mordor, the dam had a hard time keeping the ring intruding on her bond with her sentinel. The closer they got to Mount Doom, the worse it was. Fortunately, Sauron, in a terrifying form of a large flame eyeball suspended in the air, didn’t seem to notice them, as his attention was consumed by directing his slaves to build some kind of ugly tower, north of the volcano. To make things worse, the ring longed to join his master. It was full-time work to dampen its insistent calls. And she was very lucky it didn’t break her concentration so far.
The orcs and goblins, and some kind of unholy cross-breed between them that only Sauron could have thought up, were patrolling the plains between Mount Doom and Morannon with increased frequency. It was getting exhausting trying to find a hiding place every time an orc pack came upon them. Thank Mahal for the early warnings provided by the sentinel’s senses. If not for him, they would be found out as soon as they stepped in Mordor. And Gimli didn’t fancy meeting Sauron anytime soon. Or ever, really.
“Not long now.” Legolas sighed out. Gimli winced, and clutched the ring in her fist, harshly whispering something in Khuzdul. It was happening more and more often, and he was very worried. The dam was investing a lot of her power into containing the ring. It was ridiculous how powerful she was. And intimidating. Very intimidating. He was sure even Narví wasn’t as powerful as Gimli was now, and that was saying something, considering once the sentinels and guides from the entire Eriador answered to her.
But perhaps it was precisely what was needed for the task. Strength and stubbornness of a dwarf guide, when a well-meaning human sentinel failed before. Legolas eyed the volcano, their destination, taking in the distance. Heightening his sight, the elf sentinel noticed an almost invisible dusty road in the inhospitable wasteland. The uneven path was leading directly into a cave several hundred feet above them. Focusing more, he tried to discern if the cave was safe. No unexpected surprises, like the nest of enormous spiders in Morannon, for example.
“Legolas. Legolas. Amrâlimê. Come back to me.” Gimli’s worried voice cut through his concentration. The dam patted his cheek gently. “There you are. Where did you get lost?”
The elf tangled his fingers in Gimli’s dishevelled hair and took a deep breath. He dismissed the stench of Mordor and its foul inhabitants, choosing to focus on his guide. On her smell, on her heartbeat. “I spotted a cave relatively near our location. It’s deep, probably leading directly into the heart of the mountain.”
Gimli’s eyes shined with relief. Finally some good news. She took initiative and tugged her elf in the direction, she was guessing the cave was located. Legolas just smiled indulgently. “Other way, meleth.”
“So, show me.” She pouted petulantly. The sentinel smirked and gently guided her on the right path. Gimli pouted, as the previously unnoticeable way spread in front of her. She squinted. Yes. It led directly to the cave Legolas mentioned. Fortunately, the orcs were disinclined to climb up, so it was free of their presence. The road was steep and dangerous, the unsteadiness threatening to push them downhill. Not something the dwarrowdam desired to experience on her own skin but with no other option, she walked up.
Gimli drew strength from her sentinel, revelling in the sense of safety he excluded. It was hateful sometimes how sure-footed and graceful he seemed to be on the uneven path. The cave was jawing and suddenly the dam wasn’t much eager to enter. Something was tugging at her empathy, warning her of impending danger.
“Give me my precious.” A strangled voice hissed at them from the cave’s entrance.
Gimli raised her eyebrow at her sentinel and commented dryly. “No danger, you said.”
Legolas suppressed the need to massage his temples at Gimli’s sass. “None, I could sense before he revealed himself.”
“What the fuck is this?” Gimli almost screeched, when a twisted presence touched her unshielded mind. Something akin to a hobbit appeared at the mouth of the cave and it stared at her unblinkingly. The wretched creature snarled and jumped on her, aiming to take the ring for itself. It was attracted to the ring’s calls. Gimli stepped aside at the last moment, dodging the thing’s claws, and drew out her favourite axe from the holster.
“I don’t know, and certainly don’t care,” Legolas replied, as he brought out his sword in a defensive position.
“Give me back my precious.” The maybe-hobbit hissed angrily, reaching for Gimli.
“Stand back.” The dam ordered, her hand steady and stance ready to defend herself from the creature.
“Give it back. Give it back.” The creature repeated around, dangerously closing on the female guide with each word he uttered.
Legolas had enough. Enough of orcs and elves. Of dark wraiths and twisted creatures attacking his guide for the trinket, she was carrying. With a flick of his hand, he neatly relieved the poor former-hobbit of its head. He shrugged at Gimli’s scowling face and explained. “He was threatening you. So obviously, he had to go.”
“I could have done it myself, Legolas.” The dam remarked although she was secretly pleased with her sentinel’s fiercely protective nature.
“I know. But why take unnecessary risks when we are so close to completing our quest.”
“Fine, you unfairly reasonable elf.” The dam murmured and searched the dark cave with her empathy. She was relieved there weren’t any more surprises awaiting them inside. Without another word, she entered, with her sentinel following closely behind her.
The ring was shaking frantically, trying to slip out of her grasp, sensing its imminent destruction, as the dwarf guide and her elf sentinel continued to descend into the heart of the volcano. The dam was breathing heavily and sweating profusely because of the hot air hitting her continuously. It was a very unpleasant experience. The shades of orange, yellow and deep red from the melted stone illuminated their path in Mount Doom’s bowels.
“Careful now,” Legolas warned his guide. They were almost there. The cave led to the narrow platform, which tilted dangerously over the pool of magma several feet under them.
The heat was unbearable and the ring was getting heavier with each step Gimli took to the edge. The ring’s cries and pleas were overwhelming, but the dam held on. She refused to let it subvert her will like that poor human sentinel an Age ago when she was so close to destroying it. The piece of Sauron’s soul was struggling with increasing desperation, as its end was inching closer. Gimli opened her palm over the chasm, the golden band burning her flesh. She hissed in pain and glared at it with all the hatred gathered through two lifetimes. The ring used a moment of inattention and shattered all the barriers keeping it subdued, and immediately attracted Sauron’s eye. Maia’s power froze her in place, making it impossible to move to destroy the ring. A sharp pain lanced through Gimli’s mind, as he tried to invade her thoughts.
“Let it go, meleth.” Legolas coaxed his guide, not understanding why Gimli stopped. It was unlike her to hesitate when she was the one who insisted on destroying that ring.
The dam shifted her glare from the annoying gold trinket to her sentinel and said snidely. “What do you think I’m trying to do? Little help would be appreciated.”
Legolas put his hand over his guide’s wrist and gently turned it upside down. Gimli sighed in relief when the burden finally went over the edge. Both of them carefully leaned over to watch its descent. The ring fell and fell. It felt like millennia passed since it was dropped into the pool of melted rock. When the ring hit the surface of magma, it fought against its pull briefly, before it finally sank down. The psionic power, embedded into the ring with Celebrimor’s love for Narví, was finally released and instantly cleansed in the fire. Sauron screeched in pain, as the last tether to the mortal plane was irrevocably destroyed, and his spirit was sealed away in the Void.
“We did it. We did it. We have won.” Gimli shouted and wildly peppered her elf’s lips with kisses. Legolas happily laughed, took the dam into his arms and twirled her around. He too couldn’t believe that they had won. The bane of their existence was finally defeated.
Suddenly the ground started to shake violently, almost knocking them down. Large stones started to fall freely from the ceiling, and the platform was beginning to crumble under their feet. The magma was violently roiling and splashing out against the volcano walls.
“Mount Doom is going to erupt,” Gimli shouted with growing horror, as she understood their precarious position. “We are going to die, Legolas.” She added in resignation, her eyes shining with tears.
“No. I refuse, meleth.” Legolas declared resolutely. “We didn’t set out to destroy that damn ring to give up now.” He snatched Gimli into his arms and ran for their lives.
The dam was right. The volcano was erupting around them. The ground was trembling violently and large slabs of stone were falling on their heads. It was very difficult to avoid them, continue running. The magma was devouring the cave, only several feet behind them. Legolas deftly ducked and jumped down on the large boulder several feet down from the cave mouth. Just in time. The magma spewed out of the cave, flowing downhill.
“We are going to die,” Gimli repeated her earlier words, while she trailed her fingers down her sentinel’s face. Their world was going to end in fire. And she was so tired. Fending off Sauron’s mental attack took a lot from her. It was a minor miracle she didn’t crash as soon as the ring was destroyed.
“Don’t dare to give up!” Legolas cried out and burrowed his face in Gimli’s locks. “Please Gimli, hold on. Just a little longer.”
“What for. Look around us.” The dam waved her hand around exasperatedly. “We are trapped with no way out.”
The rivers of melted stone confined them to the boulder, Legolas jumped on during their furious escape from inside the mountain. As the volcano spewed more and more lava, their little safe island was getting smaller and smaller. It was only a matter of time before they were swallowed by it. “I’ll wait for you. Forever and always I am yours. I’ll wait for you on the other side.” The dam bravely promised to her sentinel with a tear-stricken face. Hopefully, Valar would be merciful enough to let them be together in the afterlife this time around.
“No, Gimli.” Legolas refused to entertain the thought that he was going to lose his guide. Not when they were so close to being rescued. He caught a glimpse of the arriving pair of Great Eagles through the thick smoke and dark clouds. They were almost there. “Galadriel came through. She sent the help as she had promised. Do you hear me, Gimli? The Eagles are here. We are saved.” Legolas rejoiced.
“Saved,” Gimli repeated quietly, as the last of her strength finally left her, and she fainted.
The eagles flew down, barely avoiding the debris tainting the air. Legolas relinquished his hold on his guide and entrusted her safety to Gwaihir before he climbed up on the other eagle’s back. The great birds soared high over the skies of Sauron’s former domain. And the last sight Legolas was granted was the ground breaking down and swallowing every fell creature, ending the threat of Mordor once for all.
Gimli sank her fingers into her sentinel’s hair with a content sigh and muttered a question that was niggling at her mind in the last several days. “Do you regret it sometimes?”
Legolas lifted his head, opened his eyes lazily and stared up at his guide. He couldn’t be bothered to leave Gimli’s lap. It was a warm evening and the dam’s fingers were pure magic when massaging his scalp. “Regret what?”
The dam stilled her ministrations before she elaborated. “Our bonding. In this life and in the previous one. Your exile. That it took us so long to finally defeat Sauron’s darkness shrouding the world for two Ages. All of those lives lost needlessly in one man’s pursuit of power. Take your pick.”
The elf sat up, taking Gimli into his arms and tangled their fingers together, resting them on her stomach. “Ah, Lukhdel. This again? You shouldn’t let it bother you.”
Gimli sniffed haughtily and looked down at their tangled fingers. “It’s hard. And with the recent developments…”
The elf smiled smugly. “Our child.” And he continued, splaying his hands protectively over the dam’s slightly protruded stomach. “To answer your questions… Not really. I don’t regret anything. I made my home in Fangorn forest with the Ent’s leave, only a few days’ ride from your city. I have my friends there, and my siblings, at least those who saw the reason, often come to visit. And most of all I have you.” He got serious and posed the same question. “What about you? Do you regret anything, Lady of Aglarond?”
The dam shook her head. “Of course not. Not when my reward is you. Although…” She glared up at the ceiling and then back at her stomach, soothing the agitated child in her womb. “I could have done without Mahal’s sense of humour. I, for once, didn’t expect to be the mother of the next incarnation of Durin.” She smirked suddenly. “What do you think… how he would like to have pointy ears?”
Legolas glared at her playfully. “Do you have something against pointed ears?”
“No. Just trying to imagine his disgruntled face.” She said, her smirk deepening.
The elf lips stretched into a similar smirk at that thought. “You are right. It’s a bit funny.”
It was a long time coming. Ylva remarked, snuggling deeper into her mate’s side.
What do you mean? Eirik raised his head inquiringly, looking at the couple cuddling in front of the fireplace.
Their happiness. I don’t know why Valar insisted on them suffering through all of these hardships. And that Ring. I was so afraid that they wouldn’t make it out of the volcano. Fortunately, Galadriel sent the Eagles to get them. And then Legolas was forever banished from his homeland for not giving up his guide. It was foolish of them to make him choose. She is his everything, his One, as dwarrow say.
Eirik got serious, a flash of Vairë’s tapestry on his mind. There are still more things at work than we know. And I’m afraid it’ll be on Durin to make the right choice. He’ll be a great king with two of them as his parents. And for once, I have great hopes for the future.
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