Dwarves and Elves
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Wine, Women, Song...and Gimli: 1. Wine, Women, Song...and Gimli
Gimli, son of Gloin, glared into his own suspicious eyes,
reflected back at him from the bowl of dark vintage he currently held in-hand.
There had to be something more to the wine. There was
no other explanation for *his* behavior.
The Dwarf glanced from side to side, but his wariness
was a fairly futile thing. When surrounded by better than five-score of whirling
fair-haired heads and dancing bodies, trying to remain on alert against one
insane Elf out was as futile as trying to pick a single crow from a flock
on the wing at midnight.
If it were possible, he'd looked forward to this visit
even less than keeping his oath to ride to Fangorn Forest, with its dratted
unnatural tree-shepherds. Trees, even those that moved and spoke, weren't
so keen to aim a bow at strangers as a Mirkwood Elf. Nor had Gimli spent
years at his father's side hearing about the prickly pride and generally
unreasonable temperaments of trees. Beyond that, it was one matter to befriend
a single Elf after you had shared hardship and peril together, quite another
to come right into the middle of a den of them.
Gimli grumbled into his beard. It had been, of course,
impossible to avoid this. Legolas had kept every promise that he had made
thus far, proving himself a fine and true friend. It was through no fault
of his own that Legolas was an Elf, after all, and he couldn't be blamed
for it...well, not much, anyway. It was just that Legolas's own adherence
to his oath made it impossible for Gimli to shy away from his own and keep
his honor intact.
Drat the Elves anyway for being on such good behavior!
Annoyed, Gimli set the silver bowl back onto the long table with a thump.
It was impossible to hold a comfortable grudge when the Elves insisted on
being perfect hosts. The most that Gimli could complain of so far were the
several askance looks that he'd received from the guards of the caves that
served as palace to Thranduil, King of Mirkwood. Even the suspicious gaze
of the guards, however, had quickly turned away at the displeased return-glare
of Legolas, who had not cared to have any companion of his looked upon with
The half-heartbeat between the hail and the attack was
all the time Gimli had to prepare himself. This was not quite sufficient
to bring his axe to bear, so the Dwarf had to settle for throwing words at
"Set me down, you mad Elf!" he bellowed, as Legolas,
prince of Mirkwood, son of Thranduil, and one of the Nine Walkers swept him
up for the third time in the course of an hour and hauled him towards the
nearest ring of dancers.
"I shall not! As I've said to you more than once this
night, you are far too somber and sober both for such a celebration! The
Ring is destroyed, Sauron defeated, and the shadow over Mirkwood grows lesser
"And you have returned home in as fair a state as you
left it, Prince Legolas!" one merry-maker called out, being either danced
with or vied over by the Elf-male and the Elf-maid on either of her arms.
"Though with unexpected baggage!"
"It is not every day that we have cause for such a revel,"
Legolas continued, as if she had not spoken, "and, as our people continue
to depart these shores, we will likely not have cause for such again! You
should enjoy this while you may! There shall not come another chance for
it, I'd wager."
"I *was* enjoying myself! Your father sets a fine table.
I simply have not yet become a wine-skin on two legs, as some I observe!"
The Elven prince only laughed at the Dwarf's growling, which caused Gimli's
face to become as dark and threatening as a thunderhead. Legolas had been
as formal and dignified as once might please when he'd introduced Gimli to
his father and family within the palace but, once the celebration had started,
it seemed that Gimli's companion had gone quite out of his mind. "I say again,
set me down!"
Legolas's blue eyes darted over Gimli's shoulder, and
the Elf's merry face took on an impish cast. "As you will, Master Leadfoot!"
He carefully set his friend back on his feet. Within the next second, the
prince had been carried away by the circling and seemingly tireless dancers.
Gimli fumed silently, helpless to do more at the moment
than glare at the Elf's retreating back. Yes, there had to be something more
to the wine.
"I beg your pardon."
Gimli turned, eyes already heading upward to meet the
face of whatever elf hailed him...and, for a moment, he froze. The Elf-maid
that stood before him was not anywhere near the peerless beauty of Galadriel
-- there was nothing that could ever match what the Elven queen had awakened
in Gimli's heart -- but she was not at all something that eyes appreciative
of beauty would be quick to stray from. For the life of him, Gimli could
not bring to mind her name, let alone return the greeting. He could recall
only that she was elder sister to Legolas.
"Yes, m'lady?" he finally managed.
She smiled at him, an expression as lovely as the opening
of a fresh bloom. "Aside from my brother's harassment, I have noted that
you've sat alone through the whole of the festivities. It is not right that
a guest of our house should be so neglected." She offered him her smooth,
white hand. "Would you do me the honor of joining me in the dance, Gimli,
son of Gloin?"
Forgetting his suspicion, his general annoyance with
Elves, and any plans he'd had for whittling Legolas down until they were
of a height, Gimli bowed deeply and accepted her hand.
"The honor is mine."
As his partner pulled him into the nearest ring, Gimli
finally conceded the possibility that the wine was not wholly at fault.
King Thranduil of Mirkwood stared down the long table,
frowning slightly, his mind both settled and freshly disturbed by the sight
of his youngest daughter dancing with the Dwarf. Guest or no, he was not
quick to trust the Children of Aulë. There had too often been clashes
and insults between their people. That, coupled with the many years of long
silence given each side to nurse their grudges, there was little enough
confidence between the Elves and Dwarves. Often had Thranduil spoken to his
son about the treachery of Dwarves in the past, and now Legolas returned
after many, many months from what should have been a simple message-carry
to Imladris with a Dwarf in tow. A Dwarf that had not even been blindfolded
on the path leading to the palace...!
Thranduil shook his head. This boded ill, of that he
"You have a face like a long, cold winter of poor hunting,"
the guard at his side informed him, an Elven woman so pale that the line
of the scar across her cheek seemed dark against her skin. "Hardly befitting
this celebration. I offer remedy." She held up a deep flagon of the best
vintage to her king, looking at him innocently with her night-hued blue eyes.
"I have want of a clear head for the moment." He shot
her an annoyed look. "I blame you for it."
"I?" Her eyes followed the pensive gaze of her king.
"I have never said anything kinder about Dwarves than they have almost as
strong a love for their kin as they do for their gold. I do not see how our
son's current choice of companions is any more or less my fault than yours."
"Nonetheless, I am certain that I shall come up with
a reason presently, Maradë." Thranduil accepted the flagon, his fingers
brushing affectionately against those of his dark-haired wife, though he
still did not drink. Maradë was of the Moriquendi, the Dark Elves that
had never seen the light of the Two Trees. Theirs had hardly been a conventional
courtship, nor had it been a particularly easy marriage. So odd and fierce
was Maradë's love for Thranduil that, less than a fortnight after their
marriage, she'd insisted that she was far better suited to being the king's
guard than his queen, and nothing could disuade her from her decision.
"Perhaps you should simply ask."
"Pardon?" Thranduil, who had turned back towards the
dancing, looked to his guard-wife so sharply that the crown of silvery leaves
and wildflowers atop his golden hair tilted forward.
"The...unclear nature of Legolas's relationship with
the Dwarf troubles you, my lord. It might settle your mind to ask them of
it yourself and do away with the uncertainty."
Thranduil was silent and continued to watch their youngest
daughter frolic with the dwarf. The look on his face indicated displeasure
with his mate's suggested course of action.
"Or you might simply sit there with a sour face until
our youngest son and Master Gimli announce their intentions to set up
housekeeping together in Ithilien."
Thranduil had been through more than one war with a cool
head, but the suggestion that his wife-guard had just thrown at his feet
made him twitch. Finally, the Elvenking sighed deeply.
"I suppose I could always name this as one more unhappiness
that has befallen our people as a result of Sauron's evil," he finally muttered.
"You are determined to be difficult this eve," sighed
Maradë. "But it matters not -- see? They approach."
Indeed, during their conversation, the dance had ended
and a new one had been taken up. In the brief interim between, Legolas had
taken possession of the Dwarf's elbow and was steering him towards the head
of the table. It seemed uncertain as to whether or not the Elf would succeed
in his task. Legolas was slightly unsteady on his feet and Gimli seemed less
than eager to accompany him.
"The news will grow no easier to tell in time, Gimli,
and I am filled with courage at present."
"You are too filled with strong wine, and haven't the
faintest idea of what you are doing! I have no desire to find myself facing
the spears and bows of outraged Elves in a similar state!"
Maradë hid her smile behind one hand as the unwilling
Dwarf was dragged closer, his heels digging furrows in the earth. Even Thranduil
was having some effort keeping his face schooled into neutrality, and he
had several centuries of experience over those present.
"Legolas, have you words to share with us?" the Elvenking
asked as they drew near.
"Yes, Father, Mother..." The fair prince bowed his head
to each of his parents in turn. "...though they may not be precisely pleasing
to you." Legolas settled his hand upon the Dwarf's shoulder, as if to reassure
his companion. For his part, Gimli looked as if he might have bitten off
his companion's fingers had he not been in circumstances that required a
modicum of polite behavior.
"Gimli and I have shared in many dangers together during
the quest to destroy the One Ring," Legolas continued. "During our travels
together, I have come to recognize in him a kindred spirit, whose appreciation
of the world's beauty would be hard pressed to find its equal, even in the
hearts of our own kind. It is not a common situation, I will grant that,
but what we have found together cannot be denied. Father, Mother, Gimli and
I have found in each other a deep understanding, though our blood does not
flow from the same source. He is more than elf-friend, he is brother to me
and will have him named as such."
As Legolas fell silent, two sets of eyes, one the green
of new leaves, the other blue, flicked over to the Dwarf.
"Is this true, Gimli?" asked Thranduil.
Beneath his beard, the Dwarf's jaw unclenched. Though
the Children of Aulë had passions that ran as deep as the Earth's
foundations, they were not typically given to demonstrativeness before strangers.
"It is, your highness, though I would have picked other circumstances in
which to relay the news."
"I do not believe there could have been better circumstances
than a revel." Thranduil smiled slightly. "I could not have foreseen this,
but I will not say that I disapprove of it."
"There!" Legolas folded his arms over his chest, his
manner that of one who'd known that he was right all along. "You had no reason
to grumble so."
The Dwarf declined to respond and took his leave as quickly
as he could without giving offence. Legolas grinned after him, waved quickly
to his father and mother, then found his way back to the dancing.
"If you are planning to gloat, Maradë, I would suggest
you do so now, while I am still dizzy with relief."
"My lord, I would not dream of acting in such an impertinent
manner. I must, however, admit to some confusion as to your sudden ease."
Thranduil looked over at her curiously. "Why is this?"
"The end result of the confession is the same is it not?"
The Elf-woman's face was a smooth mask of perfect innocence. "There is now
a Dwarf attached to our family's lineage."
Thranduil blinked once, stared down into his untouched
silver flagon for several long moments, then drained a good measure of it
in one long pull. He set it firmly down onto the long table with a thump.
"Come, Maradë." Thranduil rose to his feet, his
forest-green cloak swirling about his body as he did. He offered his wife
his hand. "Perhaps if your feet are kept busy, your tongue will be still."
Smiling, the two of them went to join the dancers.
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