Title: Burdens Shared for Kaylee Arafinwiel
Theme: Yule Fic Exchange 2012
Elements: “I would like a story with Gimli adjusting to life (for however long that lasts) in the West. I’m wondering particularly what “Mahal” would think of this ‘son’ being able to come where no other Dwarf has gone before.”
Beta: None – all errors are mine alone – good and bad
Word Count: 6337
Author’s Notes: Disclaimer: Tolkien built the sand box; I only play with the bucket and shovel that he left for me. No money, profit or non, is made from the publication of this story.
Gimli sighed as he hung the hammer on the wall hook behind him. Walking to the corner, he took the broom and dustpan into his hands and advanced towards the anvil. A metal band lay upon its surface; its twisted angles glimmered in the light of the cooling coals, mocking him.
“This is mere child's play,” he grumbled as he began to sweep up the metal scraps and filings from around the workbench and forge. “Such a simple thing. It shouldn't be giving me these problems.” Pausing as he wiped sweat from his forehead with his arm, he returned to his task, never noticing the shadow that had been darkening the forge door.
* * *
Legolas walked away from the small forge, deep in thought. The workshop was situated in a small dell near the woods where he and his people had settled. The elves had looked upon the tall, proud trees with joy and the trees in turn had welcomed them. But Gimli had found adapting to the Uttermost West to be a more difficult task.
Legolas looked around, getting his bearings. Without conscious thought he had walked to Gimli's small, cozy house located near his own flet. He took a moment to peek in through the windows. The house seemed unusually cluttered; clothing was strewn around and the dishes were unwashed.
He often ignores general housekeeping when he is busy on a new project, but this just doesn't feel the same. Something is wrong and I don't know what to do about it. Gimli has lost interest. His excitement about what waits around the next corner is gone and nothing had come to take its place. How can I help him recover his joy? Who can advise me? I must find a way.
He walked on focused on his troubled thoughts and headed towards the swift creek that created the northern border of the territory of the Woodland elves. Finding a large flattened stone warmed by the sun's rays, he jumped onto its top and sat down. Facing the stream he listened to the waters while he tried to think of possible solutions for his friend's depression.
“Why so deep in thought, young one?” a friendly voice called out from upstream.
Looking up, Legolas saw a figure standing in the middle of the stream casting a fishing line into the cold, rushing waters.
“Sometimes it can be helpful to talk things out with someone who is distanced from the problem,” the fisherman continued.
“I dislike burdening others with my problems, good sir,” Legolas responded, shifting his gaze back to the stream where the ripples and droplets were now shimmering like small diamonds in the light.
“But a burden shared is a burden lightened,” the strange elf said, and Legolas, looking once again at the fisherman, saw that he was walking toward the bank. “I will offer you a bargain, young elf. I have caught more fish than I can eat this day. I will share them with you if you help me clean them, and while cleaning them we can talk about what has made you so distressed on a beautiful day like this.”
“I will gladly assist you, sir, although I am still divided about sharing my thoughts with you while I do so.”
“One step at a time, young elf. Here, I have an extra knife that you can use.”
“Not necessary. I have my own blade, forged by my good friend, a dwarf from Middle-earth. I'm sure it is up to cleaning fish, it certainly gutted many an orc in days past.” Legolas rose from his seat and lightly jumped down from the rock. He strode up the stream bank towards the other elf.
They settled down on opposite sides of an open patch of ground, the fish in a creel to Legolas's right. Each taking their knives in hand, they began beheading and cleaning the fish.
“Orcs, huh? I imagine life here in the West must be rather boring in comparison to your past adventures.”
“Well, it does seem to move at a slower pace, and it is hard to get out of the habit of checking and double-checking over our shoulders and up into the tree branches for enemies at all times.” Legolas sliced up the belly of his fish, looked up, and noticed that his companion had eyes of brilliant sapphire blue. He looked back down and continued. “The elves of my people – those of the Woodland realms – seem to be settling in well. Those who wished for more adventure and possible danger have volunteered to help guard the southern realms against creatures of the dark that are still on Arda, even here in Valinor. The elves who are living here among the trees asked my grandfather to lead them but he refused, saying that his leadership ended at the Black Gates of Mordor. They then asked me and I accepted with the understanding that when my father arrives, he will take over. I am not half the king that my father is.”
“Are you not? Why do you say that?”
Legolas once again raised his eyes and met his new companion's arrow-sharp gaze. “My father would have had an answer for my dilemma; how to resolve my best friend's depression. Atar would have known what task to assign or story to tell that would help Gimli to feel at home here, rather than a stranger to all, even in his own forge.”
“He has a forge, this friend of yours? This Gimli? Unusual name, that...”
“Gimli, son of Glóin of the Lonely Mountain, formerly of the Ered Luin is his full name, and it is a proud heritage.”
“That is not an elvish name.”
“No, my friend is a dwarf of Middle-earth. A king in his own right, he was allowed passage West with me because of our great friendship and with the sponsorship of Lady Galadriel. He left everything he knew behind him to sail with me.” Legolas sat back on his heels, eyes focused on the ground in front of him. “Now I wish I had been stronger.”
“Aye. The sea longing was pulsing within me. I managed, with difficulty, to hold it back until all of my mortal friends, nay my near-brothers, had passed the Circles of the World. Only Gimli still lived, and even though he had aged he still had years of life left to him. I tried to hold on, but was too weak. I had to pass West or die. I chose to sail, but it might have been better for my friend if I had tried harder to stay in Ithilien. He would not be so alone now.”
“And could you have remained in Middle-earth? Would you have been able to continue to live until your friend finally died?”
“I don't know.”
“Be honest with yourself.”
“NO!” Legolas suddenly jumped to his feet and walked away, wrapping his arms around himself tightly. He shook his head. “No. I would not have survived,” he said. A single tear traced its way down his cheek.
“Friends help friends, and your companion, Gimli, knew that. He sailed with you both to stay with his best friend as well as to save your life.”
“And what have you done for this boon companion, this friend who gave up so much for you?”
Legolas turned towards the older elf once again, staring at him, a flash of anger in his green eyes. “Are you accusing me of not having done enough for Gimli? I have done everything I can think of to make him feel at home, comfortable and welcome. We built him a cozy house and helped him construct a well-appointed forge nearby in an open glade. It's in a beautiful location with ample sunshine, rushing water and stone.”
“But does he have purpose? Has he had an opportunity to roam this land for new metals, to learn new techniques, even to meet his creator, Mahal?”
“Mahal? You mean Lord Aulë?” Legolas walked back to his unknown companion and picked up another fish, resuming his task. “In truth, I never dreamed of contacting any of the Valar. I too am from Middle-earth and the closest we came to the Valar in the Greenwood was through prayers and dreams.”
“Yet here you are, living in their lands – lands that they not only oversee, but also roam.”
The younger elf kept his head down while he thought over his companion's words. He blindly reached into the creel for another fish, unconscious to the fact that the creel held as many fish now as when they had started their task.
“Gimli said that he loves the forge that we built for him here, but he now seems unable to make the simplest things, items that he would have made without thought in the past. I wonder if…no, it would be asking too much.”
“If what, young one. How can you know what any being will do unless you ask?” The young Prince raised his head and looked up and into the face of the older elf opposite him.
“I wonder if Lord Aulë would come and bless Gimli's forge. I know that Gimli did his own blessing ceremony, he would never have raised hammer without it, but ...” He shook his head. “I am unused to being in the land of the Valar. Speaking to one of them on Gimli's behest simply hadn't occurred to me before now.”
“Perhaps you should consider it then, young one.” The fisherman got to his feet and picked up his creel. “A smith who does such fine work as that knife you've been using would certainly capture Lord Aulë's attention. Think about how to resolve this burden. Share it with one who can help. The fish you have cleaned are yours to share with your people.”
“Thank you, sir, for the advice and the conversation,” Looking around he realized that he was alone and although his fish were piled in front of him, their heads and guts were no longer littering the banks of the stream. In fact, everything looked untouched, as if his previous actions had never occurred.
Well, that was unusual. He cleaned, dried and sheathed his knife, then collected the fish, wrapping them into his cloak. Walking towards the small settlement he wondered, how does one go about asking Lord Aulë for a blessing?
That night, as the elves and one dwarf gathered for their evening meal, Legolas looked across the fire and carefully studied his friend. I must do something quickly. He is regretting his journey here and I do not want him to end his life wishing he had remained behind in Middle-earth.
Before retiring for the night he sent a message to Elrond tied to the feet of a swift owl. The note asked for his advice on how to find and petition Lord Aulë. As he climbed up to the top branches of the tree that held his flet, he thought, “Perhaps a welcoming feast for all of us combined with a blessing for Gimli's forge might work. We have never been directly welcomed to Valinor by those who were already living here or by the Valar.
The next day brought a return message from the former Master of Imladris. “I have been seeking a reason to journey south. Expect me accompanied by an old friend within six days.”
* * *
Several days later a scout brought news of visitors entering Legolas's lands. “Only two, my Lord,” the scout said. “They are just crossing the river and should be here within the hour.”
Mounting a nearby horse, Legolas rode from the small settlement towards the river. Soon he saw two forms on horseback approaching him. He leaped off the horse and ran up to them. “Master Elrond, it is good to see you again.”
The black-haired elf dismounted and embraced his younger Woodland counterpart. Over many years of alliances between Imladris and the Greenwood the two had developed a strong friendship even though Legolas was closer in age to his sons. “Prince Legolas, you are looking well.”
“No greetings for me, Thranduilion?” Elrond's companion asked.
Legolas turned and took a closer look at the second rider. “Mithrandir ... I … please forgive me. I had hardly expected that Master Elrond's companion would be you.”
A second, equally heartfelt greeting followed as the two friends embraced, broad smiles on both faces.
“I hope that both of you can advise me,” Legolas began as the three companions resumed walking their horses towards the small elvish settlement. He briefly explained the situation to them. “If Gimli was an elf, I would say that he is fading. But in truth, he is not. He just seems desperately unhappy. If I had thought for one moment that he would be feeling this way I would never have asked him to accompany me into the West.”
“Do you have any ideas for what might make him happy here in the West?” Mithrandir asked.
“An elf suggested that perhaps Lord Aulë might come and bless Gimli's forge. I know Gimli would be honored beyond speech, both to meet his maker Mahal and to receive such a blessing, but I am new to these lands myself. I have no idea how to contact the Valar or even if there would be interest in doing such a thing. I was thinking about holding a feast for my people to welcome them to the West and our new home. I could invite Lord Aulë to be one of the honored guests gathered to welcome us to Valinor.”
“That actually sounds like a good idea, Legolas,” Elrond said. “And the Valar aren't as difficult to contact as you seem to be thinking.”
“Easy or difficult, it all seems the same to me at this point. I have no idea how to even go about doing such a thing,” Legolas said. He sighed, and then brightened a bit as the three companions passed through the ring of guarding trees, entering into his small realm of soaring boughs and sparkling sunlit glades. “Here is my home, please be welcome.”
Legolas showed his two guests to their choice of accommodation offering them either a guest flet or a small cottage. Both Elrond and Mithrandir opted for the cottage. “My old bones like to sit close to the earth,” Mithrandir said while Elrond nodded in agreement.
“Rest and refresh yourselves. I'll return in time to escort you to dinner. Some food and drink will be brought to you directly so that you can eat lightly before tonight.” Legolas turned and taking the horses began leading them to a nearby pasture.
That night as the two guests were led towards a large fire in the center of the trees they heard a voice roar out a greeting. “Elrond! Gandalf! When did you get here? No one mentioned you had arrived for a visit.” Gimli ran up to them and grasping each one by the hand, pumped their arms enthusiastically.
Eyebrows raised on both guest's faces at such a demonstration from the dwarf, but smiles were on their faces. They seated themselves and began passing food, eating and catching up on news.
Late that night as the revelry died down, the two were in their cottage, discussing the evening. “Legolas is right,” Mithrandir said. “It's not brilliantly clear but Gimli is trying to put on a brave front. He is feeling out of place here.”
“I think we need to speak with Lord Aulë,” said Elrond, spreading his bedroll onto the soft ground cover that had been made available for their use.
“A visitation by some of the Valar to officially welcome the Woodland elves and Gimli would be reasonable. I’m sure that several of the Valar will be happy to participate and will want to make sure that these new residents do not feel like afterthoughts,” Mithrandir said as he settled down to sleep.
“Good idea. Let's explore tomorrow and talk with some of the other elves. It may be the best solution all around.”
The next day was spent with Legolas and Gimli, receiving a tour through the small town in the treetops as well as a thorough tour of Gimli's forge. In the late afternoon Mithrandir and Gimli sat together talking quietly. They were seated on a rocky outcrop overlooking the settlement.
“You look tired, my friend,” the wizard started. “Are things not going well for you here? Are you not welcome and happy?”
“Legolas is happy to have me here, and many of the elves are also very kind to me, but there is no one here who works with metals and fire in the manner that I do. I have seen marvelous workings in metal when I still lived in Middle-earth. There are superb smiths among the elves, or at least there were. But they are not here and I cannot talk about alloys or adding this rock or that to a design with those who are only concerned about how well their trees will bear up under the snows of winter or the winds of the summer storms.”
Gimli sighed. “It's not that I don't appreciate what has been offered to me here. That I, a dwarf, could come to the Undying Lands – the first and possibly last of my race to do so – is unprecedented. But where the elves are content with the song of the wind through the branches of the trees, I need the song of the hammer and anvil. I need to speak with someone who understands what it is to be a dwarf.”
Looking sharply at the Maia seated next to him, he continued. “It took many years for Legolas to even scratch the surface of what it means to be of the house of Durin. My family finally accepted him and adopted him as my brother. He was then permitted to participate or watch some of our most intimate ceremonies. He even met my mother and sister. But no other person here in Valinor can understand a dwarf. I live in isolation in the middle of a community of caring elves.”
“I may have a solution for you, my friend. I can't say more just yet, but have hope. You are not alone in Valinor. You are loved and cherished and the embodiment of a dream long held.”
The wizard got to his feet and strode away. Gimli watched him go, a low flame of hope having been lighted in his heart, a faint smile on his lips.
* * *
Several days later invitations had been composed and sent and the elves of the small woodland community were beginning to stockpile foods for a Festival of Welcome. Mithrandir left on a journey and was gone for two weeks riding into lands unknown. Messenger birds were flying in and out again both day and night. Everyone was called in to help in the preparations including one dwarf.
“Gimli,” Legolas said. He was on his way into the forest to hunt for wild pig to be roasted, but turned aside to speak with his friend. “We will be having six honored guests attending the feast as well as several notable elves. Could you...would you be willing to…” The elf paused, gathered his thoughts and continued, “I'm hoping you would consent to make small keepsake items for three male and three female guests of honor.”
“Of course I would be happy to do so. But what could I possibly make that could not be made better by your own smiths?”
“Each of these guests would welcome something that came from your hands and your heritage, my friend. These will be highly treasured by each one because they were from your forge. Are you willing? Anything you need – ore, coal for your fire, liquids for coloration – we will fetch for you. The feast is set for the next full moon, twenty days from now.”
“I would be honored to do this for you, my friend,” Gimli said. He walked away deep in thought and Legolas heard him muttering “Three males and three females. Perhaps small blades for the men and charms for the women. Where did I put my paper and drawing stick? Only twenty days.”
Over the next few days several more conversations were held between Legolas and Gimli about the guests and their preferences. The sound of Gimli's hammer pounding against the anvil rang from the small forge in the glen. Brightness returned to the dwarf's eyes although the shadow didn’t completely disappear. The elves sharing his new home rejoiced to see the improvement.
The guests began to arrive. Among the first to ride in were two elven ladies atop beautiful, gentle palfreys. Their smiles as they greeted Legolas and Gimli were almost as brilliant as their hair which glistened silver and gleamed gold.
“Welcome to Valinor, Prince Legolas, Lord Gimli,” silver-haired Celebrían said, curtseying deeply in front of the two.
Legolas reached out, taking her hand and raising her to her feet. “Lady, there is no need for you, indeed for anyone, to bow in front of me. I am the Prince of a land left far behind and only lead these elves by their own request.” He kissed the back of her hand, and then turned to his right. “But here is one who has been missing you.”
Elrond strode forward, embracing his wife and holding her close to him. The couple stayed entwined for a short time, then separated and walked to stand next to Legolas. Ahead of them, Gimli was bowing deeply in front of the golden-haired Lady of Lothlórien.
Galadriel smiled and reached out, taking Gimli's hands into her own.
A flush stole up his cheeks almost hidden by the full beard of dusty russet with streaks of white. “Oh, Lady, you should not be holding my hands. They are rough and calloused from the forge, not suitable to be held by hands as soft as your own.”
“I have always honored those who work with their hands, Gimli, Lord of the Glittering Caves. I have a request of you. Would you show me your forge during my visit here? I have been curious to see how similar it is to Fëanor’s forge as I remember it from the days of my youth.”
“Lady, it would be my honor to do so anytime you wish,” he responded and bowed deeply again. The small group walked slowly back to the settlement getting reacquainted as they went. Legolas saw everyone settled but was called away time after time to greet new arrivals at the river's ford.
As the day progressed more and more guests arrived. Legolas took most of them in stride, but the arrival of the Kings of Tirion and Alqualondë shook him a bit. He grabbed the wizard by the arm and pulled him aside. “Mithrandir, these are Kings of legend. How do I welcome them to a simple forest feast?”
“My dear boy, they are fellow rulers who have come in friendship to show their respect for you and all of your people. The know stories of what the elves endured in Middle-earth, but have no personal experience of the dangers all of you faced on a daily basis. They want to find out more since they need to interact more and more with those who are coming to these Blessed Lands. Just welcome them. They pull on their small clothes one leg at a time as does everyone else.”
Legolas laughed. “Yes, they might do that. But I'm quite sure that they haven't had to launder those small clothes in many years, whereas I did my own just a few short weeks ago while we were hunting.”
“Ha! You're probably quite right about that, my boy. Now, come and greet the kings.”
The guests were all welcomed and settled into their guest flets or cottages. The next day in the late afternoon the elves began to gather together for the Welcoming Feast. Gimli walked up to Legolas and Gandalf who were standing to one side watching as the guests gathered and took their seats along the ground cloths. The sideboards were groaning with a variety of foods and pitchers of wine and juice had been placed down the center of the cloths along with salt cellars and dipping bowls. “I have the gifts you asked me to forge here, my friend. Where would you like me to put them?” He was holding a small bundle wrapped in deer skin.
“Excellent. Would you please hold on to them for just a little while longer? I'll ask for them at the appropriate time.”
Gimli nodded and then sat down next to Lady Galadriel as she had requested. Legolas would be seated on his other side.
“Now he is starting to feel nervous about the items he crafted, Mithrandir.”
“Yes. Let's start this Feast, Legolas. The Valar will arrive when they deem it timely. None can anticipate their thoughts.”
Legolas and the Maia approached the end of the ground cloth. Mithrandir seated himself opposite Gimli and the young prince remained standing, facing the gathered elves and guests. He raised his hands for silence which spread like ripples in a pond. In a short time all was quiet and all eyes were on him.
“My friends and honored guests, welcome to our new home. In the Greenwood we always began our feasts with a song of honoring and celebration. I ask that you join us in that song as we lift our voices this night.”
He turned to face west and raised his clear voice in a song of thanks to Ilúvatar. He was quickly joined by the voices of his people. The clear voice of Galadriel joined in, as well as the twinned dulcet tones of the tenor and alto possessed by Elrond and Celebrían. The baritone of Gimli joined in at the first chorus. By the end of the final refrain additional voices of almost unbearable sweetness had joined the choir.
When Legolas opened his eyes and looked ahead he saw six tall and beautifully formed beings arrayed in pairs in front of a small crescent-shaped table. Elaborate chairs were placed for each one in front of the table so that each being would face the elves while eating. The flickering flame of the cook fire which was off to the side of the clearing teased sharpened features from each shadowed face.
Although Legolas had known that several of the Valar would join them, having them actually stand in front of him shook his composure. He immediately fell upon one knee and bowed deeply, trying to achieve a sense of calm before he greeted his newest guests. Each elf in the clearing also bowed deeply, as did the other guests of honor and Gimli.
Elegant hands reached down to grasp his in a firm grip and a rich voice said “Rise, son of Thranduil, grandson of Oropher. Thou art most welcome to these shores and it is with great joy that I finally have an opportunity to meet you and your people.”
Taking a deep breath for courage, Legolas raised his eyes and gazed into the sapphire eyes of Manwë the most powerful of the Valar as he rose to his feet. Looking at the being standing in front of him he quailed; yet hundreds of years of hiding his emotions while he stood by the side of his father's throne came to his rescue and his voice showed no sign of his unease as he spoke. “Lord Manwë, thank you for your welcome as well as your permission to bring my people and my heart's brother, the dwarf Gimli, to Valinor's shores.”
The Vala nodded, acknowledging his words. He then spoke in a voice that carried throughout the ranks of bowing elves. “Rise, all of you. This night we shall feast, dance and celebrate your arrival upon the shores of Valinor. We look forward to meeting many of you tonight and in the future. I extend an invitation to all of you. Wander through our lands. Allow us to welcome you as you begin to meet and speak with those who live in the cities and farmlands. There is much to see and adventure to be had if you desire, but for those who wish quiet and beauty, there is also much of that.
“Before we settle down to eat and talk, allow me to introduce my companions. My wife, Varda, she who is often called Elbereth.”
A serene and slender woman with long sable hair that covered with a loose net of twinkling diamonds walked to Manwë's side. “Legolas and Gimli,. I am filled with delight to meet both of you at last. Welcome to both of you and all who are gathered here today,” she said.
Lord Manwë gestured as a second man joined the two Vala. “This is Lord Oromë, he who originally led your ancestors from the lakeshore of Cuiviénen to the shores of the great Sundering Sea and across the waters to the Uttermost West. He is accompanied by his spouse, Lady Vána,” Manwë said as he continued the introductions. Excited whispering followed his words as the two Vala nodded, acknowledging the bows of the elves.
“Welcome to the West Legolas of the Greenwood and Gimli of the Glittering Caves. It has been long since I last walked the lands of Middle-earth, but I remember its beauty as well as the grace of your ancestors. My eyes are wide with delight to see you here, today,” Oromë said as he acknowledged the young elven Prince and his companions.
“Welcome,” his spouse said. “Share our joy in your presence today with food and drink, song and dance.”
Manwë continued. “And the last of those who will be joining you this night has prayed for this day for a very long time. Here are Lord Aulë and his spouse, Lady Yavanna.”
“I am pleased beyond measure to meet such able caretakers of the great forests of Middle-earth,” Lady Yavanna said as she walked to face Legolas. “You stood firm against great evil to protect those who could not move elsewhere. You treasured each sapling, each new leaf and each growing branch. I applaud you and your people, young Prince.”
Excited whispers greeted her words because Lady Yavanna had long been cherished by the woodland elves as the originator of the trees that they loved so well. The whispers grew silent as they watched Lord Aulë approach Gimli who was still kneeling with his eyes directed downward.
The Vala knelt before the dwarf and reached out gently. As his hand came to rest on Gimli's shoulder he said, “Long have I desired this moment, Gimli. To have one of Dwarven blood alive in Valinor and standing in front of me is the fulfillment of my dearest dream. I hope that we may become firm friends who will share fire and iron throughout the remainder of your life. I pray that we may raise our hammers together with joy.”
“Lord Mahal...” Gimli's voice failed him, but his eyes seemed to shine. He cleared his throat and looking up, spoke again. “Lord Mahal, that you would even consider raising your hammer next to mine is a dream that I never dared to have and that any dwarf would welcome. You honor me highly, yet you know nothing of my skills or lack thereof.”
“He has great vision and the talent to make it live in metal and gems,” Legolas said. “Now is the time, Gimli. Give me the bundle containing the gifts that I asked you to make.”
“What? No, Legolas. Had I any idea of who these were made for I would have turned you down. My poor efforts are not good enough to be gifts for the Valar!” Leaving the bundle containing the forged items behind at his seat, Gimli suddenly sprang to his feet and fled the glade, running in the darkness toward a rock wall in the secluded grove near his forge. Reaching it he found a narrow crack in the rock and wiggled into it, coming out the other side in a small cave he had found several weeks earlier. Crystals studded the walls and a rich vein of gold ran across one wall before meeting the earth and diving down at the back.
Gimli knew that he wasn’t actually underground when in his cave, but in this city of tree-loving elves it was as close as he could find. He missed the song of the earth, the heartbeat that dwarves hear with the same clarity as the elves hear the voices of the trees and wind. He closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to control his emotions.
After a short time a soft voice spoke from the crack that served as the cave entrance. “Gimli, may I please come in?” There was a long pause, and then the voice continued. “I don’t know if you realize how much it means to me to have you here, so please let me try to explain.” The Vala stepped into the cave and sat down on the ground facing the dwarf.
“Eru requested a world readied for the Children to come, those who are called elves. We labored long to bring beauty and life to Arda and then we waited. Eons passed between the time of the creation of Arda and the awakening of the elves on the shores of that far eastern lake. I was impatient and desired children of my own making. I worked in secret in deep caves below mountains that no longer exist. I made your ancestors, the seven fathers of the dwarves. I loved them as fiercely as if they were my own children although life was not within them.
“Eru found me there, surrounded by the seven in my hidden workshop, and He forbade me from bringing them into the world. But He stayed my hand when I would have destroyed them, infusing them instead with the breath of life and removed them from my workshop. He secreted them in scattered places where He would awaken them at a later time of His own choosing. I never had an opportunity to see my dwarves again, nor to speak with them.
“The only dwarves to have come to Valinor before you are those who have died. When dwarves die they pass on to my brother Námo’s Halls where they remain, awaiting the call to fight in the Final Battle at end of Arda. But throughout all of these long years I have had no chance to speak with any dwarves since the day they were awakened in my workshop.”
The Vala looked at Gimli who was still seated across from him in the small, glittering cave. He then looked down and pulled a small blade from his wide belt. He sat and turned the knife over and over in his hands, testing the balance and examining the detailed, incised designs on the intricately wrapped handle.
“This is masterfully made, Gimli, both beautifully balanced and decorated. It would give me joy beyond your imagining if we could share conversation and time together. It would be the culmination of a dream I have held since before Durin first drew breath.”
Gimli’s voice came from the other side of the cave, echoing in the small crystalline chamber. “My Lord Mahal, it would be my deep honor to share time, speech, and my forge with you whenever you wish, although I am sure my small workspace is but a poor thing compared to your workshop.”
“Would you show me your forge, Gimli? Would you allow me into your heart’s love?”
“Gladly, Lord.” Gimli rose to his feet and walked to the seated Vala. “I could show you now if you would like, and then we can rejoin the feast and you can tell me about your own workshop.”
Lord Aulë rose to his feet and indicated that Gimli should exit from the cave first. He followed closely behind.
* * *
The two of them began walking to Gimli’s small forge in the dell, and talk of alloys and designs as well as a quick burst of laughter from the Vala reached the ears of Legolas and Mithrandir who had been secreted nearby.
Legolas rose from his hiding place with a smile. “I haven’t seen Gimli so animated and joyful since he was first attempting to slowly settle and improve the Glittering Caves.”
“Lord Aulë has wanted to spend time with the dwarves since he first crafted them yet he has never had the chance before now. I think you may have a Vala living with you on an unofficial basis, my friend,” Gandalf said.
“If that is the case, he is more than welcome. I suspect that the two may be close to inseparable and that Gimli and Lord Aulë will travel back and forth from their workshops often while Gimli lives,” Legolas said. “Let’s return to the feast. We have five other Vala to feast with.”
Gandalf put his arm around the young Prince’s shoulder. “Will you mind losing your best friend to Lord Aulë?” he asked as they walked back to the larger glade.
“I am losing nothing, Mithrandir. Rather I am gaining another brother who just happens to be of the Valar.”
Legolas stopped just before they entered the feasting area and turned to the Maia. “Do you think Lord Aulë is as stubborn as dwarves?” Mithrandir began to laugh so hard that as he was lowering himself to his assigned seat, he almost missed and ended up halfway in Celebrían’s lap before regaining his balance and his dignity.
Legolas allowed his thoughts to wander back to another pair of sapphire eyes that he had met over a basket of fish as he turned to Lord Manwë. “Not only ruling but also roaming the land, huh?” Lord Manwë winked.
Just a quick edit for italics that didn't come through when it was posted...