Written for Chocolate Box Exchange 2016.
Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.
-from The Two Towers, "Treebeard"
"Are you certain this is the right course?" Gimli asked at last. They had been sailing for days over a trackless ocean with no guide but the stars at night, and still there was nothing but more ocean ahead of them.
"We go to the ancient home of my people," Legolas replied. "I cannot mistake the way, Gimli."
"You have spoken of the straight road," Gimli said, finally speaking of what had troubled him. "And you have said that every Elf can find it, whether he has been there or no. But what if the straight road will not open to the ship that carries a Dwarf?" If the straight road was denied to them, a large and well-provisioned ship might eventually reach whatever mortal lands lay westward across the Sea. But their small craft was neither. To sail on and on, until they ran out of food and water, and then a terrible death from thirst—Gimli could not forgive himself if he brought such a fate upon Legolas.
"It is said that Idril reached the West with her beloved Tuor," Legolas said, "and he was a mortal Man."
"It is said," Gimli muttered. "But who says it? For who has returned to tell of it?"
"If you doubt their tale, yet you cannot doubt that the Half-Elven, Elwing and Eärendil, came to Valinor; for the proof is above us." Legolas pointed upward at the brightest star in the sky.
Gimli had met Elrond of Rivendell and knew he was flesh and blood, no creature out of legend, no matter what strange tales might be told of his parents. "This matter of women turning into birds and men becoming stars—since you say it is so, I will not doubt you, but a Dwarf prefers to keep his feet on the firm earth."
"Yet it is Eärendil who must guide us now," Legolas returned, "upon the path that we now take. And do not fear," he added lightly. "Have you forgotten our friends the Hobbits? They are not Dwarves, it is true, but neither are they Elves, and surely Elrond and Mithrandir would not have brought them on such a journey if there were no hope of them arriving safely. But in truth, it matters not," he added, looking at Gimli with affection. "If I cannot reach the West with you in my company, I would choose not to reach it at all."
Gimli was not convinced that the cases were the same—for who would refuse a ship carrying the Lady Galadriel, Gandalf and Elrond, and so many others of high nobility and power? Yet for Legolas's sake, he tried to keep his remaining doubts from his face, even if he could not entirely suppress them in his heart. "I will not dispute it further," he said. "I will trust you once again, as I have so often before; and never yet have you cheated my hope."
Legolas smiled, looking out into the moonlit waves as he guided the boat. He had never seemed so fair to Gimli's eyes, with his flowing hair lit by the silver rays. They remained for a time in silence, until Legolas said urgently, "Gimli!" and reached for his hand. Gimli grasped it, feeling the grip of Legolas's strong fingers. And then the boat was tilting, and it seemed as if all the stars were flying down to meet them in long streaks of silver. Gimli blinked, trying to clear his vision. Their small craft shuddered, and impossibly, Gimli would almost have said it was moving upward. He felt a sudden strong wind blowing around them, stirring his hair and beard. The world spun, and for a moment, he could not tell which way was up or down. He braced his feet against the deck and kept a firm grip on Legolas's hand.
Then things steadied once again, and there was no more motion than the boat moving gently up and down with the swell of the waves.
"We have found it," Legolas said joyfully. He stooped suddenly to press a quick kiss to Gimli's mouth.
When Legolas straightened again, Gimli looked around. "I cannot see anything different," he said. Perhaps the stars were brighter, but he was not certain.
"We sail now on the Straight Road; and in the morning, even a Dwarf's eyes will see Valinor."
"This Dwarf is weary," said Gimli, "and cannot remain all night with open eyes, as is the way of Elves."
"Sleep if you wish," Legolas said. "We will not reach land before morning."
Gimli instead moved closer to Legolas and wrapped an arm around his waist. Legolas sighed softly, leaning into him, and began to sing in his fair Elvish voice, while the waves whispered softly around their boat.
After a time, Gimli lay down. He drifted into sleep to the sound of Legolas's singing.
The Sun's rays woke him in the morning, and he sat up and looked about him attentively. He had thought that Elvenhome might be like Fangorn with its close and stifling air, or Lothlórien where time flowed away uncounted as in a dream; but instead, everything seemed more clear and solid, as when he walked in Dwarvish halls and knew there was good stone above and below him.
Gimli rose and went to stand beside Legolas, looking out over the sunlit waves. To their right was an island, and it seemed fair enough. But beyond it, in the distance—
Gimli drew in his breath in wonder. "You did not tell me of these mountains." Gimli had heard Legolas and his folk sing of Amon Uilos, Mount Everwhite where the Star-queen and her consort dwelt. But neither in word or song had Gimli heard of this mighty range of mountains, greater than any in Middle-earth. For a moment, it seemed to Gimli that he breathed in clear, cold air touched with frost, such a breeze as might have come from those mountains in the ancient time before Sun or Moon, when the fathers of his people first woke and were laid to sleep.
"The Pelóri," Legolas said quietly. "Our tales say that it was raised by the Powers long ago to defend Valinor from the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron was but a servant."
"It was Mahal himself who raised it," Gimli said. He was certain of it in his bones. It was not only the mountains' height, soaring upward to the heavens. They were shaped by the hand of a master-craftsman, neither too even nor too jagged, and more than that, there was a rightness about them. They were made to seem beautiful to Dwarvish eyes—or in the eyes of him who had made mountains and Dwarves alike. He could tell by the shape of them that they were good stone, sound stone that would sing under the hammer; and Gimli felt his own heart sing in answer.
Gimli would have followed Legolas into the West even were there nothing but Elvish forests forever, but now he felt that not all things here would be strange and alien to him. He gazed long at the mountains' blue shadow in the distance, but broke his silence at last to say, "I could live content within sight of such mountains."
"I will live content, wherever you are," Legolas said. "But my heart is eager to walk beneath the trees of Tol Eressëa and tread green grass once more." He rested a hand on Gimli's shoulder, the touch warm and comforting, and looked out again across the waves. "See!" he said. "A ship has set sail from the harbor. They are coming to greet us."
Mahal: the Dwarves' name for the Vala Aulë, who made them.