Of Myth and Memory by Karri

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"You're here!" You're here!"

Legolas grinned broadly in response to the enthusiasm and readied himself, just in time, to be pounced on by the whirlwind of color and noise and excitement that was by others called dwarflings.

"You took ever so long to get here! We'd decided you weren't coming? Did you have any adventures on the way? Did King Elessar like our drawings? Did he send us anything? Did you bring us any gifts?
What about those elvish treats you brought last time, did you bring some of those? Are you going to stay long?" came an expected flurry of questions, so fast that Legolas barely managed to catch them all!

"So many questions, young ones," he responded, laughingly. "Which shall I answer first?"

The cacophony of words began again, but was soon hushed as a loud, deep voice rose above them to reply, "The latter, would be my preference."

"Gimli Elvellon!" Legolas greeted, bobbing around and stepping over the throng of small bodies to reach his friend. "So good to see you again! I have missed you."

"And I, you, my friend," Gimli returned, grinning around his pipe as he stuck it back in his mouth. "You've impeccable timing," he announcing, slapping his friend's back a time or two, before leaving it there to guide his friend through the 'maze' of dwarf tunnels.

"Oh?" queried Legolas.

"Hmmm," huffed Gimli, before removing his pipe to respond properly. "You've a knack for arriving just as feast begins," he explained, tossing his friend a wink. "Every time! It's uncanny, really."

Legolas laughed, heartily. "Well, you know elves, Gimli… We may not enjoy food quite so much as our little Hobbit friends, but we do enjoy a party ever so much," he declared, returning the wink and earning a chuckle from his friend.

"Hurry, Legolas," came several small voices from behind, though soon they were swirling around him and Gimli like the eddying currents of a fast moving stream. "Lord Gimli is going to tell the story of the stone giants as we feast!"

"Stone giants?" Legolas repeated, peering at Gimli and raising his brow in curiosity.

"Tris saw a trinket hanging above the Lord's desk when she…" a single voice from the throng began to explain, then paused hesitantly—a boy's voice, Legolas speculated, though he wasn't certain; he'd gotten better at telling male dwarfling from female over the years, but still erred more often than he liked.

As the dwarfling's pause stretched overlong, Gimli interjected, "When she was snooping, instead of finishing her day's lessons, as she should have been."

"Yes," agreed the child, before hurrying on. "Tris saw the trinket, and Bricla asked the Lord about it, and the Lord promised to show us all the trinket at the feast and the tell us the tale of it! The tale of the stone giants!"

"Do you know the tale? Do you want to hear it? Will you sit with us?" began the cacophony once again.

"Yes, yes, of course, I'll sit with you," Legolas assured, cheerfully. "No, I don't know this tale. Yes, I would very much like to hear it."

"Come on, then," barked Gimli, with a laugh. "Let's get to it, then. I know how much you elves enjoy legendary tales of heroic dwarves," he added, tossing out another wink and earning a chuckle from his friend.

The children nearly carried the pair into the feasting hall on a wave of excitement, depositing dwarf and elf at the 'big' table. Quickly finding seats of their own on laps and low chairs and the floor all around, the throng of small faces soon peered up at their Lord with unbridled enthusiasm.

"Alright, alright," Gimli said, with amusement, in response to the pleading, impatient gazes. He reached into his jerkin for awaited trinket and pulled it out, slowly and dramatically, adding just a bit of flourish as it made its appearance.

Legolas grinned at the chorus of oooohs and aaaaahs that greeted the object. To him, the thing looked like nothing more than a chip of granite that might have fallen along the path as one hiked through the Misty Mountains or strode up the narrow road to the doors of Erebor. Legolas could tell that to the children, though, it looked like an adventure, and he leaned back against the feasting table to better enjoy the tale he was about to hear.

"It was a summer," Gimli began, and a hush fell over the children, once more. Handing the trinket to the nearest dwarfling, he gestured for them to pass it around the circle of listeners, and then continued, "The party had left the grand elven home of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, just after midsummer…"

Ah, thought Legolas. It is a tale of Thorin and company; this should be interesting…

"Thus, it should have been a pleasant enough stroll, even in those mountains, for we, dwarves, are a hardy, fearless lot, as you well know, and we are well-used to all perils of stone and earth." Gimli winked at Legolas, as the children nodded knowingly. "Yet on this dark and stormy night, a gale raged that was so fierce even the mighty Gandalf quaked." Another round of ooooohs and aaaaaahs followed the declaration, and Gimli smiled appreciatively at his rapt audience. "The rain poured and poured, and the sky echoed with thunder so fierce it shook the stone and earth all the way down into the deepest valleys." Gimli paused, as several pairs of young eyes grew wide and a few jaws fell agape, then continued, "Lightening rent the sky with blinding flashes of fire so bright it seemed they would splinter the very peaks above their heads, but Thorin and company… Did they waver?"

Several small heads shook definitively as a chorus of voices replied, "Nooooo!"

"No, of course, they didn't!" assured Gimli, with a grin. "On they trod, heads bowed, plowing forward through the wind and the rain, overwhelming noise and sudden light all but blinding their senses."

Legolas fought the urge to roll his eyes. He had not heard this tale, but he had met Thorin and company, and hardy though they were, he doubted they were so indomitable as all that—after all, they hadn't even made it through Mirkwood unassisted… He was distracted from the urge, though, as the trinket was passed to him to inspect.

Hello, he thought, as the stone sang in his hand. You are full of memory and tales of your own, aren't you? The stone fairly buzzed in agreement.Sing to me, then, he requested of the trinket. I can listen to you both and compare the tale…

"And then, even as they concentrated on moving forward, step by step, one foot in front of another," Gimli continued. "From nowhere came a crash of stone, showering down sharp pebbles and chips on their heads as it splintered on the mountainside."

Another chorus of ooohs followed. "Was the trinket one of those? Did it fall on their heads? Who picked it up?" asked a flurry of little voices.

"Indeed!" answered Gimli, raising his hands to hush the children. "This is one of those very chips of rocked that rain down upon them."

Legolas grinned, choking down a chuckle as the stone sang to him of being picked up rather perfunctorily by a dwarf as the company sheltered beneath a shallow overhang. The day was grey and hazy amidst a late summer thunderstorm, you say? Leaving the company miserable and wet and refusing to budge until the rain had passed…

"And what do you think had sent the stone a-crashing?" asked Gimli, mysteriously.

"A stone giant," one of the children whispered in wonder.

"Just so," replied Gimli, dramatically. "For there they were, mighty stone giants, all around Thorin and Company. The children gasped, and Gimli paused a moment to build the suspense, before adding, "For there they were-blinded by lightening, deafened by thunder, soaked threw with rain, and nearly blown over by wind—and landed right in the center of a battle between stone giants!"

The children gasped and oooooohed, and Legolas smiled, for the stone sang still. Across the valley, you say?"

"Now what were they to do?" asked Gimli, rhetorically. "No shelter in sight, no path of escape… What could they do? For all around them the stone giants battled, determined to destroy one another, and not caring a jot if a company of dwarves and one hobbit and one wizard were destroyed, as well."

Playing? Legolas grinned. Really? The stone giants were merely playing a hardy game of catch between them?

"Were they frightened?" asked a dwarfling.

"Not Thorin! He weren't scared of anything!" replied another, earning several approving nods, and a slight, subtle eye-roll from Legolas.

"Wasn't scared of anything," corrected Gimli. "And indeed, right you are! Nor did he, or any of them have time to ponder if they might be, for they had only just comprehended the danger when the stone beneath their feet began to shift and rise, and they realized, to their astonishment, that the stone on which they stood was not simply granite, as they'd believed, but was…" Gimli paused, drawing out the suspense, "ANOTHER stone giant, eager to join in the fight against it fellows."

"Ooooh! Aaaaah! What did they do? Did they fall off? Did it try to squash them? Did they kill it? What HAPPENED!" came a cacophony of awe-struck questions.

Never even drew near enough to notice the company? Legolas smirked at the continuing stone-song.

"There they were!" continued Gimli, dramatically. "The stone beneath them writhing and undulating, threatening to smash them between its mighty limbs as it battled its foes, or buck them off and send them to their deaths in the deep valley below. But did this daunt Thorin and Company?"

"Nooooo!" came an assured chorus of young voices.

"No, indeed!" declared Gimli. "On they held, until, at last the battle was over. His foe was defeated! Down it fell into the dark depths of the valley below, and the company stood, once again, on steady ground!"

Ran away? Legolas choked back a laugh, then glanced around and was relieved to see no one seemed to have noticed. Sent the youngest out to find better shelter to bide their time in and ended up camped out on the Goblin King's front porch?

"And that, children, is how this chip of rock giant came into the possession of my father, and thus down to me," Gimli finished, reclaiming the trinket from Legolas with a flourish. "Now, off you go, children!" Gimli insisted, with a light-hearted shooing motion. "I, myself, am overdue for my dinner, and so are you!"

He laughed as the children scampered away to their parents, before turning toward Legolas and, with an amused raise of the brow, asked, "And what was all of the that about? Do you not believe the tale?"

Legolas ducked his head in chagrin, comprehending that his friend had heard his choked laughter, after all. "My apologies, friend Gimli. I meant no offense, truly."

"None has been taken," assured Gimli. "Though it might yet be if you answer not the question."

Legolas thought a moment, then remembered the question and replied, "I believe you have told the tale as it was told to you."

Gimli laughed. "That's a very diplomatic answer, my friend." Legolas tossed him a half-smile to acknowledge the barb. "Translated in plain speak, I believe it means you, indeed, do not believe the tale is true."

Legolas quirked his head in thought, before responding, "I think…I think that the memory is a…fallible chronicler of truth, especially when the tale is passed from one to another. There is some truth that remains in each telling, but equally some…embellishments get folded into the tale, as well, until, in the end, the legend that remains is more fable than history."

"Hmmm," replied Gimli, sucking again on his pipe.

"But, in the end, I think it matters not so much that the memory is true, or that the tale is believed, but that it inspires those who hear it," Legolas mused. "And that, my friend, your tale has most certainly done!"

Gimli let out quick bark of laughter. "Elves…," he murmured in mock exasperation. "Never a simple yes or no when a paragraph will better disguise the answer." Gimli finished with a wink, and Legolas laughed. "But enough talk! Let's feast!"

"Let's feast!" agreed Legolas, and turned to tuck in beside his friend and share between as they ate memories of their own—a few perhaps that might, someday, turn into legend, or myth, or fable…but would most definitely inspire and entertain, at the very least.

The end.

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