Axe & Bow Archive Entry


The Wine and the Moon

by Mantida

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JRR Tolkien. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.

Many thanks for Mogs for beta-reading.

"It is us, the wine, the music, and this run-down corner..." from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Edward FitzGerald's translation.

Life was never perfect, Belgor had known this fact from his early childhood. Some folk might think that after destruction of the Enemy and return of the rightful king of Gondor there would not be much left to trouble oneself about but Belgor knew better. There were always the customers, for example. Some of them never seemed to know when enough was enough, and drank as if there was no tomorrow. Understandable, perhaps, a couple of months ago, but now?

One of the guests in particular was the cause of his concern. At first he had been proud and gratified when King Elessar's friends from the races unseen in Gondor for years, the renowned pair of warriors from the Pellenor Fields, had visited his place. The tavern, placed in one of the external circles of Minas Tirith, rarely, if ever, saw such eminent guests, although Belgor prided himself on the quality of wine and spirits he served.

They had been pleasant company, too. The Dwarf had taken the lyre from the boy (admitedly inept at his task) Belgor was resigned to employ now as a musician, and had played very skillfully for a while. Afterwards the Elf had sung some songs in the clearest voice Belgor had ever heard. They had even made some music together. So far, so good. But now he started to wish he had never sat his eyes on the pair.

Not that the Dwarf worried him. He had ordered a glass of grape spirit and was sitting with his back to the wall, drinking slowly, looking at his Elvish companion and listening now in silence to him. The Elf actually had not caused yet any trouble as such, either, but Belgor was convinced it was only a matter of time, considering the speed at which the wine in front of him vanished. Granted, when many people would have been already lying under the table, the Elf was still sitting straight. The only visible effect of the consumed wine was his slightly quickened speech and warm flush Belgor observed when serving them, but this happy state of affairs could not possibly last forever.

Now, the unknown factor was how much wine an Elf could drink and still be able to walk himself home. At any rate, Belgor strongly supected that whatever that amount was, it would be outreached sooner rather than later if the Elf didn't slow the pace. Even his Dwarvish companion was starting to watch him with unease. To be sure, they had a spare room for such occasions but Belgor was confident that it would be filled anyway, considering the amount of drinks other people imbibed. And would it be proper to put the King's personal friend in the same room as common drunkards? And an Elf, into the bargain? Should Belgor offer him his own room? And if so, how to phrase this proposition and not cause offence? Why on earth did he have to have come to his tavern in the first place? Plenty of other hostelries in Minas Tirith to get oneself drunk.

Gimli's own concerns were not unlike the innkeeper's. At first he had been amused, seeing his normally circumspect friend drinking one glass of wine after another, but now he was starting to feel decidedly worried. They had been sitting in the inn for three hours now and Legolas had ignored all hints of leaving. Fortunately, Legolas drunk only wine and didn't take to this strange liquor they served there, which looked like water, smelled like wine, and tasted like liquid fire, because otherwise Legolas leaving by his own means would probably be no longer an option. Even so, one more hour like that, and the matters might get complicated. Holding the Elf in his arms might have been the substance of his unspoken dreams for months now, but the vision of carrying him uphill all the way to their quarters in the second city circle somehow never figured in them and he found the prospect rather daunting. Not that he had any doubts on his ability to do so. As most Dwarves, Gimli prided himself on his lifting strength, but he could hardly picture how to carry someone that tall and not hurt him on the way. And that would be the last thing he wanted, even if it would be ultimately Legolas's own fault.

Gimli realized that Legolas, after a prolonged period of reciting something that sounded like Elvish poetry, had been addressing him.

"I need to see the moon, Gimli. Will you come with me to watch the White Tower shining in the moonlight?"

Gimli had a vaque impression that there were clouds that night but any pretext to separate Legolas and wine had appeal for him at this stage. If the Elf wanted to leave by his own choice and watch the landscape, all the better, moonlight or no moonlight.

Belgor drew a deep breath of relief as he watched the odd pair finally leaving. Amazingly, the Elf seemed still able to walk straight, although he kept putting the hand on the arm of the Dwarf to steady himself. Time to call it a night.

"All right folks, finish your drinks. We are closing in a quarter of an hour."

The sky was not overcast anymore. The stars were clearly visible, and produced enough light for Gimli to see his way as they went through the narrow, steep streets. Very fortunately, since there was scarcely a lamp lit in the town. Minas Tirith had gone to sleep early that night, perhaps in preparation for the upcoming wedding of its king. The air was warm but not still. After several hot days, Gimli could feel the waves of warmth coming from the walls and the stones under his feet.

Legolas was looking around as they walked, probably admiring the contrast between the starred sky and the dark stone buildings. He strode steadily and actually didn't look that drunk at all. He was singing softly and laughing to himself but then he was prone to do it in any case. Although he was chattering far more than usual.

"Look, Gimli, there is new moon tonight."

There was actually the moon visible, just a narrow golden crescent between the clear silhouette of the White Tower of Ecthelion and the black bulk of Mount Mindolluin.

"Arwen will be pleased," continued Legolas. "She will have her golden moon in her new home, too."

For a moment the hair of his Elf seemed to produce as much light as the moon when the glow from one of the few lighted lanterns fell on his head. Gimli felt again this strange pain coming on him all too frequently lately. No, Legolas was his comrade, even his friend, but never his Elf. Had he drunk too much himself? He normally guarded carefully his thoughts not to stray in this path. What good could possibly come out of that?

"They lack trees here. A moon like that should shine through green and golden birch leaves. When you come with me to the forest, we will sit in the moonlight sifted through the leaves. On the moss."

Legolas suddenly stopped in his track, almost causing Gimli to collide with him.

"You will come with me, won't you?"

"I will," answered Gimli hoarsely. Although what he would do after they parted, he dared not think.

"And we will come to your caves, too," said Legolas slowly. "Can one see the moon in the caves? Never mind, we will bring enough light of our own."

If you come, we won't need any other light.

Legolas still didn't move, looking intensely at Gimli, as if he could read his throughts. Some unknown feeling gripped the Dwarf's heart. Fear? Impossible! And not unpleasant fear, either.

Legolas knelt unhurriedly in front of him, put his hands on both Gimli's shoulders, and drew a long breath.

"Please forgive what I will say now, friend, if the words offend you. For tonight wine flows strongly in my blood and the moon sings to me."

Gimli couldn't answer. He couldn't even breathe. Legolas was locking his eyes with him and the longing in the Elf's eyes was suddenly the same as the one in his own.

"Gimli, you stood by me in many battles, we have lived together through days of sorrow and of mirth. I have come to love you with my heart as my friend. But it is not enough for me now. Will you allow me to love you with my body as my mate?"

The world stood still. Only the stars seem to dance. Gimli caught his breath and swallowed.

"Yes. Ai, Legolas."

Legolas looked at him with with an odd expression. Was that astonishment? Gratitude? And admiration? Strange. And yet...

"Gimli. Ai, Gimli. I never dared to speak those words to you. For how may a Dwarf love an Elf?"

Gimli laughed but the sound was unfamiliar even to his ears.

"And how may an Elf love a Dwarf?"

"Yet they do." Legolas whispered with reverence.

Gimli felt himself tightening the grip on Legolas's arms. And when had he put his hands there? What was happening to him?

"How it is possible? You have been drinking, and my head is spinning."

The Elf laughed and his eyes lost their awe-inspired expression -- they were open now, smiling and inviting. None of them would remember afterwards who had made the first move. But Gimli knew then and always that they had shared their first kiss on an unlit street in Minas Tirith and that Legolas's lips had tasted of golden moon and birch leaves and, just a bit, of wine.

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