There is nothing I hate more than waiting.
It eats into my time and destroys it, it forces me to stillness, it bores me.
Waiting in Imladris, I find, is even more tedious for there is nothing to do here. The world passes by in a stilted, artificial way that grates on the soul. No action, no danger, nothing. I know my father looks with deep resentment upon Elrond and his ring of power, why do Elrond's people deserve protection and his own do not he thinks, he sees it as an insult. But I have decided it is a blessing, I would not change one blade of grass of my wild, exotic homeland for the pristine perfection that exists here. I miss the trees, the glades, the haphazardness of it all. I even miss the heavy weight of threat that dogs me there, not a day exists that I do not wake and wonder if I may end that day in Mandos' Halls. There is no chance of that happening here. It should be a relief, but in fact has made every day without purpose.
Waiting in Imladris is no fun at all.
I am attempting to amuse myself fletching arrows for my journey home when the dwarf approaches me. I am aggrieved that Elrond will not let me leave. I have said my piece, delivered my message and now I should be off. Back to my people who need me. We do not all have the luxury of time Elrond has, hiding here in his bolt hole.
I sense the dwarvish presence long before he reaches me, and lift my head from my work to watch him. His face is grim and determined, he is obviously on a mission and it appears it involves me. Why that would be I do not know, but then I know hardly anything about him, nor do I want to. My previous contact with dwarves has not filled me with any desire to learn more about them, on the contrary, I would be quite happy if I never saw another dwarf again.
He draws to a stop in front of me, and speaks. It is Westron he uses, the one language we share, but with his accent it sounds different from the Westron my tutors taught me, and from that spoken by the lake men I usually converse with. I am not that good at understanding it at the best of times, I get muddled as I translate the words to Silvan in my head. They all speak it so fast. The way the dwarf says the words makes them almost unintelligible.
"We should let bygones be bygones elf." He says abruptly, at least that is what I think he said, it is what I heard, although it makes no sense to me.
What is a bygone? It is a word I have never heard before, an animal perhaps? A dwarven word for goblin? I run through the options in my head. Some kind of weapon? Does he think I have been touching his bygones for it seems he is warning me to leave them alone. He must have mistaken me for someone else.
I sit and stare as I contemplate his meaning. It would not do to get this wrong and create a scene in the middle of Imladris, but I will not let myself be accused of something I have not done.
He holds his hand out to me as if he wants something from me and I am not sure why but it is clear that he is expectant. Am I supposed to give him a gift? a token to apologise for what ever it is he thinks has happened with these bygones he is so concerned about?
I look around me anxiously then for I have nothing to give him and to give nothing is obviously going to cause offence. There is the dagger I am using but even in Imladris there is no way I am going to hand a dagger to a dwarf and it is my very best anyway, a gift from my father, he cannot have that.
My eyes alight on my pile of arrows, they are all I have and truly they are fine arrows indeed. I do not like to boast but I am skilled when it comes to fletching. Surely even a dwarf will be able to appreciate the workmanship.
I pick out the most immaculate from the top of the pile and slowly, gently, place it in his hand.
There is a second, then, that I think I have done the right thing as he gazes at it wide eyed, but it is only the briefest of moments before he erupts in anger.
"What is this? A threat? I come offering peace and you suggest war! I should have known you would only insult me."
He kicks out with his feet and sends my neat and tidy pile of arrows flying, stamping deliberately on several as he does so.
"This is what I think of your insult." He cries and he snaps my offering, my beautiful arrow, in two and throws it on the ground in disgust before he storms away.
"You are just like your father," he spits over his shoulder in parting and it leaves me even more confused than before, for my father is a great man, to be compared to him, an honor, and he is wrong, I am nothing like him, I fall far short. But the dwarf is clearly angry so why does he attempt to compliment me?
I give up trying to understand him and stare at my arrows in dismay, for there is hours of work here now scattered in a mess of destruction across the grass. Why did I ever try to communicate with a dwarf?
"What did you do to offend him?" The voice startles me out of my reverie. It is the man, Aragorn, the one they say is Isildur's heir.
At least he speaks Sindarin although it is with the heavily affected Imladrian accent I find so condescending. Why does he assume I did anything? Why must it be me who is in the wrong? He does not trust me.....does not trust my people, he made that quite apparent during Elrond's council. I must admit I only heard but a fraction of that council, it was too long, too much discussing endlessly around the same subject to hold my attention, but I remember the accusation he threw at us. I will not forget that.
So I say nothing. To my mind he does not deserve a response, instead silently I kneel and begin the slow process of sorting the arrows, those that have survived unscathed from those which are damaged or broken beyond repair.
I am surprised when, without a word, he joins me on the ground, aiding me in my task. We continue in silence for a while, neither speaking, both of us working, when it comes to me, perhaps he can explain this to me?
"What is a bygone?" I ask him, I use the Westron word the dwarf used for I do not know it's Sindarin equivalent.
He leans back on his heels and looks at me intently,
"That is a strange question."
"The dwarf wished me to leave his alone. But I have not been near him, he must be mistaken, unless I have harmed them unknowingly?"
He is thinking, I can tell that, yet I cannot read his eyes.
"What did he say to you? Tell me what he said, as exactly as you can."
"He said, we must let bygones be bygones. Well I am hardly going to try and change them when I do not know what they are! Are they some kind of animal?"
Aragorn smiles then, and it changes his grim face dramatically. Before my eyes he becomes almost unrecognisable from the stern ranger I have seen before now.
"He means what has happened in the past must stay in the past. What quarrels there are between your peoples should not come between the two of you. A bygone, you could say, is a hurt from long ago that has never been forgotten."
I am astonished.
"Are you sure?"
"I am sure. That is exactly what he meant."
"Is that why he wished for a gift then? A peace offering? A sign of my goodwill?"
Aragorn's brows meet in the middle of his forehead as he frowns,
"He asked you for a gift?"
I think on it carefully, what exactly had he done?
"He did not ask but he wanted one I think. He held out his hand. He was waiting for something from me."
"And what did you do then?"
"I had nothing to give him!" I hold out my hands to show how empty they are. "I only had my arrows and so I gave him one of them. They are well crafted, I thought they would do well enough. What choice did I have?"
The smile then becomes a laugh,
"He suggested bygones be bygones and you gave him an arrow! Legolas, he would have assumed you threw back his goodwill in his face, He will have seen that as a challenge. No wonder your arrows came to such a violent end here in the dust!"
And suddenly I can see how that might be true. To be brave enough to offer peace and have me give a weapon of war in return. No wonder I raised his ire.
"I did not know!" I cry and try to defend myself for I do not want this mortal to think that I am uneducated. "I understand Westron but his accent is so thick....and I have never heard that word before, we do not use it. What should I have done then? Given him nothing..... surely that would have been just as insulting?"
"All he wished was for you to shake his hand."
I remember then, the strange rituals of the Lakemen. The way they needed this physical contact at the end of negotiation to seal a deal. They insisted we all shake their hands then too. It makes no sense to me really, but my father has attempted to explain it to me. He says they cannot touch our fea, they cannot discern our goodwill through the spirit and so they need this strange physical connection instead. So that was what the dwarf wished for. A handshake to seal his deal. Why had I not thought of that. Now this Man would think me completely naive.
"Ah..." I say quickly, "I have heard of that. It slipped my mind."
He stands then, the smile lingering on his face.
"Well I am pleased to have been some assistance. If you need any help with translation in the future do not hesitate to ask."
I wonder why he thinks I will be seeing him in the future at all, for I will return to the forest and he will surely go wherever the One Ring goes, but I let that slide.
"Your help was much appreciated," I call after him as he strides off, and I bend down over my arrows once again. I will be all afternoon fixing this mess. Now, I suppose I must go to the dwarf and apologise for my unintended insult. I do not relish doing that. Perhaps I can let it go, I think, for when Elrond finally releases me it is highly unlikely I will ever see that dwarf again.
My father will never find out, and he will not mind me insulting a dwarf anyway.
It is then I remember the dwarf thought me to be like my father. Despite the arrow he still wished to pay me compliments.
He must not have been as offended as all that after all.
I think I will ignore this entire incident then for I would not wish to cause him embarrassment by resurrecting it.
I smile to myself as I think of my solution.
I will simply make sure to thank him graciously for his compliment this evening.
I am sure that will go down well. I can imagine the scene now. Magnanimously putting aside the damage done to my arrows and heaping thanks upon him instead. Everyone will see my regal good manners.
Perhaps I am not so bad at this communicating with dwarves after all.
More Three Hunters, at the very beginning.