Title: The Manners of a Dwarf
Genre: Humor, General
Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and all peoples/places therein are the property of Tolkien Enterprises.
Summary: Gimli brings Legolas to visit Lonely Mountain for the first time, and the elf discovers that dwarf manners are more complicated than they appear. Third-place winner of the May Teitho contest.
Note: I do not know much about dwarvish customs, so please excuse me if some of this story is inaccurate.
Some facts in this story were taken from the appendice to Lord of the Rings. The Thorin mention in this story is Thorin Stonehelm, who became the king of the dwarves in Lonely Mountain after the War of the Ring, not Thorin Oakenshield of The Hobbit.
"And you will see the riches of our kingdom!" Gimli said, a bit loudly. "The grand halls...the masterpieces of the dwarves! Indeed, Legolas, I cannot believe you have never seen the halls of Lonely Mountain before."
The elf stoically withheld his sigh, wincing a bit as he shifted on the horse. He could have sworn Gimli's grip grew tighter each time the dwarf elaborated on another famed aspect of the mountain halls. It seemed despite everything they had been through, the dwarf was still an uneasy horseman.
"I have not visited, Master Dwarf, because I would not have been welcomed," he called back.
Gimli laughed heartily. "Aye...the son of Thranduil would not have been such an honored guest in some years past. But this time you are my guest, and you need not fear."
Legolas nearly harrumphed, holding his impatience in check. "I fear nothing, Gimli," he replied. "If your people take me prisoner my father shall learn of it. I believe the Elvenking is still more feared among the dwarf-folk than the King Under the Mountain."
He grinned as Gimli blustered for a few moments, until the dwarf finally caught his joking tone. "Do not be so sure, Elf," Gimli growled. "Had it not been for the lake-men my people would have been quite secure in the mountain."
The elf laughed. "But my people would have simply waited," he retorted. "Long as you may have been able to hold out, you would have grown bored with your lives within the mountain long before we would have been bored without."
Gimli chortled at his friend's comeback. "Aye, 'tis a good thing we do not need to decide such a matter. It has been many years since our people were at war."
Legolas smiled. "And I am glad, Master Dwarf."
He heard Gimli groan. "Do not be so sentimental, Master Elf! Sentimentality may be a virtue among your kind, but among mine it is not!"
"I will try to remember that," Legolas replied, fighting valiantly to keep his tone serious. Gimli had been trying to teach him about dwarven manners for the past few hours, but Legolas could barely pay attention. Mostly because "you have the manners of a dwarf!" was a common scolding used by mothers among his people, and every time Gimli had tried to explain some point of dwarvish manners Legolas would have to bite his tongue to keep his mirth withheld.
"Not so fast, Legolas!" Gimli protested as the elf nudged the horse to quicken his pace. Legolas grinned again, whispering to Arod to move a bit faster. He knew the horse would never unseat the dwarf, but he also knew that Gimli was not so sure.
"I suggest you relax, Master Dwarf," he called, wincing a bit as Gimli's grip tightened to bruising levels. "You would not want your kin to think you afraid, would you?"
Gimli grumbled again, but loosened his hold slightly. Legolas sighed in relief.
They were approaching the great halls of Lonely Mountain now, and Gimli was excitedly pointing out things he remembered. Legolas smiled secretly...one would think the dwarf had been away from his home for decades rather than a little more than a year.
They reached the doors to the palace and two dwarf guards stepped forward, axes held menacingly high. Legolas swallowed with a bit of apprehension. "Gimli? You did send a message that we were coming?"
The dwarf grunted. "Of course I did," he exclaimed, sliding off the back of the horse. He stomped around Arod, facing down the guards that approached.
Upon seeing Gimli, the dwarves relaxed and stepped back. "Welcome, Gimli," one of the dwarves said. "The king has been awaiting your presence, and your...companion's as well."
Gimli nodded, turning to beckon Legolas forward. With some trepidation, Legolas dismounted and let one of the dwarf-guards lead Arod away, and slowly followed Gimli into the hall.
"Stay close, Laddie," Gimli whispered. "There are those among my people who will not look kindly to your presence, it's best if you're seen with me."
Legolas nodded in agreement. He had told Gimli much the same thing when they visited his father's palace. He followed Gimli closely, casting his eyes aside to the marvelous sculptures that adorned the hall of the dwarf palace. The construction was indeed magnificent—more so, he had to admit, than that of his home.
Gimli led the way confidently, as though he could have walked the hall with his eyes closed. He nodded to the guards they passed, halting in front of the grand doors that led to the throne room.
"Remember what I told you," Gimli hissed as the attendants opened the doors.
Legolas' heart quickened—what had Gimli told him? He couldn't remember...was there some custom he had to follow?
Before he had time to ask Gimli, the dwarf was already before the king, beckoning for Legolas to join him.
"Gimli, son of Glóin, at your service," he said in a loud voice, bowing low before the king.
Legolas looked up. Seated on a magnificent throne was Thorin Stonehelm, son of Dáin Ironfoot, King Under the Mountain. He caught a glance from Gimli and nearly blushed. "Legolas Thranduilion, at your service," he muttered, managing a bow despite his embarrassment.
King Thorin nodded, welcoming the two visitors to his realm. Attendants scuttled forward, bringing low chairs for the guests to sit upon. Legolas sat down with a sigh, thankful that he had at least given the proper greeting to the king.
Gimli, however, was snickering. Legolas glanced at him askance, wondering what could have humored the dwarf so. "What is it?" he whispered, seeing that the king was busy with other matters.
"You should not have said Thranduilion, Legolas," he replied, hardly able to speak above his laughter.
"Why not?" Legolas asked with a frown.
"Ah, Legolas, it sets you apart as an elf. You should have named yourself as the son of Thranduil."
Legolas shook his head. "I do not see the difference."
"It is all the difference to a dwarf." Gimli seemed to quiet, but apparently he thought of what Legolas had said again and burst into a new round of snickers.
The king did not seem to notice Gimli's mirth, or if he did he ignored it. Legolas studied the court in fascination, marveling as treaties, negotiations, and even squabbles were brought before the king and decided. Thranduil had never done any of these things so publicly, nor had he made honored guests wait in the throne room except by their own desire.
His study of dwarf customs was interrupted when the king suddenly stood, and all in the throne room stood with him.
"It is time for the evening meal," Gimli whispered. "We will dine with the king," he added as they followed the attendants out of the throne room. "I am sure he will ask about our journey here and the Quest...just follow my lead."
Legolas nodded, puzzled, quietly standing behind his chair at the royal table. King Thorin was still standing, so he did not dare to sit. A throat cleared on the other side of the table, someone fidgeted. Legolas glanced up and noticed that many of the dwarves were staring at him. What now? Had he done something?
He looked up at the king, wondering why he was still standing as well. Gimli tugged on his sleeve to get his attention. "You're the honored guest, Lad," the dwarf whispered.
"I don't understand," Legolas replied.
Gimli snorted again, and Legolas could see the mirth in his eyes. "Forgive me, Legolas—it is custom for the guest to be seated before the king."
Legolas' eyes widened, and he quickly dropped into his chair, eyes downcast. The other dwarves sat, and muffled laughter echoed around the table. Gimli patted his shoulder heartily, and he caught a smile from another dwarf. Well, at least he did not seem to be insulting the dwarves too terribly, even if he was making a fool of himself.
Sturdy tankards of beer were thunked onto the table as more attendants scurried around. Legolas grimaced. Of all the beverages...it had to be beer. Ale he could endure, and wine he enjoyed...but beer...
The king raised his tankard solemnly. "To friendship," he announced, nodding in Legolas and Gimli's direction.
The dwarves around the table echoed the sentiment, and drank deeply from their tankards.
Legolas politely sipped from his, watching in mild amusement as every dwarf around the table drained his beer. He started to set his tankard down, only to find Gimli grabbing his elbow.
"Empty it, Lad!" Gimli whispered with a note of panic in his voice. "The whole thing! Drink it!"
Too surprised at his friend's insistence to protest, Legolas tilted the tankard back and, with a grimace, swallowed its contents. He dropped the empty mug onto the table with concealed distaste, inwardly wincing at the taste.
Gimli sighed in relief. "I should have warned you," he muttered.
"Let me guess," Legolas whispered, a bit wryly, "another dwarvish custom?"
"Aye," Gimli chuckled.
"Are there any more I should know about?" he asked as the attendants brought platters of food and fresh mugs of beer to the table.
"Just remember to belch when you're finished," the dwarf said, eagerly tearing food off of the platter in the center of the table.
Legolas froze. "What?"
"Compliment to the cooks," Gimli explained, his mouth half-full.
The elf was panicked by now. "Gimli," he hissed, reaching for food as his friend prodded him. "I am an elf."
Gimli stared at him for a moment, as though to ask what his point was.
"Elves do not belch."
The dwarf swallowed hastily, draining another mug of beer before bursting into laughter. "You'll have to learn," he whispered.
Legolas paled, his appetite suddenly lessened. He could not...would not...do such a thing, and certainly not in front of so many dwarves. He looked down at his plate as Gimli discreetly piled more onto it, and slowly began eating. Legolas was sure that refusing to eat would be another social mistake, and he had already made too many of those.
"Master Elf," the king called. "We have heard much of your skill in battle, and how you fought alongside Gimli, son of Glóin," he began, clearly leaving an opening for Legolas to tell some tale.
"Aye," Gimli interrupted. "He is a fierce warrior. In one battle I saw him slay two hundred foes!"
Legolas colored, wondering if the dwarf was somehow mocking him as whispers ran around the table. "Nay, Gimli," he began quietly, not wanting to appear haughty in the eyes of the dwarves. "It was not two hundred."
Gimli tugged on his sleeve again, a slightly panicked look on his face. Legolas' eyes widened imperceptibly as he remembered yet another of the dwarf's cautions. "It was more like three hundred," he amended lamely. Gimli relaxed, shaking his head just slightly before launching into an exaggerated tale of the battle at Helm's Deep.
The elf sighed and slumped a little in his chair. He feared he would never adjust to these strange dwarven customs. He could not understand why a tale told over dinner should be greatly exaggerated, while one told at any other time should not...among his people such signs of bravado were considered foolhardy rather than honored. Legolas shook his head, pushing his food around on his plate with a fork. He hoped he could adjust to the customs of Gimli's people before he accidentally caused another war between elves and dwarves.
All too soon, it seemed, Gimli's story ended, and the dwarves called for another. Gimli gladly obliged, carrying on now about their journey through the Paths of the Dead and the voyage upon the Corsairs of Umbar. With some coaxing, Legolas was able to add to the tales and soon entered the spirit of the storytelling.
Then, King Thorin pushed his plate forward and let out a tremendous belch.
Legolas blanched as other dwarves around the table followed suit, some patting their bellies and groaning in contentment. He could feel all eyes upon him, and wished nothing more than to disappear under the table.
"Just do it, Lad," Gimli whispered encouragingly, patting him on the back.
"I can't," he whispered back. Apart from it being frowned upon in elven society, Legolas simply did not have it within himself to belch upon command.
He heard Gimli snort again, and a faint blush stole into his cheeks. At least he was amusement for his friend. "Just open your mouth," the dwarf whispered, ducking under the table as though he had dropped something.
Legolas did as he was told, and his blush deepened as a sudden belch echoed loudly throughout the room. A few of the dwarves snickered, but more merely turned their attention elsewhere.
Gimli reappeared, straightening his beard as though he had done nothing. "Thank you, Gimli," Legolas whispered.
The dwarf merely chuckled, patting Legolas on the arm. "Any time, Master Elf. Now stand, so we can leave."
Legolas complied, though his legs were a bit weak by this time. He followed the king's attendants out, relieved to have Gimli at his side. Perhaps, just perhaps, he could finish this evening without making an utter fool of himself.
They did not return to the throne room, but instead entered a room very similar to the Hall of Fire in Rivendell. Cushions and chairs were scattered about the room, and Legolas followed Gimli to a spot near the roaring fire. "They'll want the tale of the Quest now," Gimli whispered, bringing out his pipe and tobacco pouch. "You tell it...you can tell it as plainly as you wish, they know you're a warrior now."
Legolas nodded, grimacing a little as the dwarves around the room filled and lit their pipes. "I don't have to smoke, do I?" he asked in a low tone, fearful that that was another custom he had to follow.
"No," Gimli shook his head. "But, if someone were to offer it to you..."
The elf sighed, straightening up a bit as the king called for the story of the Quest. He had grown accustomed to the smell of Aragorn's pipe, and even of Gimli's, but could not imagine inhaling such a thing himself.
Trying to ignore the smoke around him, he launched into the story of the Council of Elrond and the forming of the Fellowship. He told great detail of the Fellowship's journey through Moria, pausing to pay honor to the dwarven realm. He smiled slightly when he saw how he had captured the dwarves' attention, and relaxed a bit. Now this was something he could do. He had retold this story many time since Aragorn's coronation.
Gimli took up the tale after the siege of Minas Tirith, finally ending it with their visit to Greenwood and the ride to Lonely Mountain.
Legolas sat back, listening to his friend and watching the dwarves around them. Many had pipes smoldering in their hands, forgotten during the course of the tale.
Perhaps dwarves were not so different from elves after all, he mused. Granted, their customs were strange, but he supposed the elves' customs must have seemed strange to Gimli.
The dwarf finished the tale with a flourish, even standing and bowing as the dwarves applauded. "Well told, my friend," Legolas muttered with a grin, leaning away from Gimli to cough discreetly into his hand. The smoke from the pipes was getting a bit overpowering.
"Oh, pardon me, Master Elf!" a dwarf beside Gimli suddenly cried. "We had almost forgotten about you...does anyone have a spare pipe?"
Legolas whitened as several hands suddenly extended, each holding an empty pipe. He looked at Gimli in panic, slightly angered to see the smile on his friend's face.
"You'd best take it, Laddie," the dwarf whispered. "Puff on it once, and then you can merely hold it."
The elf nodded, tentatively taking one of the pipes offered to him. With Gimli's help he filled the pipe and lit it, coughing as he tried to draw smoke from it.
The pipeweed filled his nostrils, the smoke burning his eyes, and he began to cough fiercely. Gimli patted his back, and several dwarves also rushed to aid him.
Legolas could only cough piteously, the smoke seemingly caught in the back of his throat. He could feel himself growing lightheaded, as though he could not breathe. He could barely hear the dwarves talking around him, and nearly pitched forward onto his face as several began to heartily pound on his back.
Then, mercifully, the pounding ceased and he heard Gimli's distinct voice telling the dwarves to give him room. "Are you all right, Legolas?" the dwarf whispered, hands gripping his shoulders tightly.
He tried to nod, but at that moment his stomach roiled and he could only shake his head and fight to regain his feet. "Ex-excuse me," he managed to stammer before rushing blindly for the door, dropping the pipe on his way out.
Legolas fell to his knees in the hall, breath coming in ragged gasps. He had never felt so sick in his life, except perhaps when suffering from some orc-poison.
He had never been so relieved to hear the dwarf. "Gimli..." He swallowed thickly, arms clamped around his stomach as his dinner tried to fight its way free of his stomach.
"Let it out, Lad," Gimli said kindly, dropping an odd-looking wooden bucket in front of Legolas.
The elf shivered, shaking his head. "I will be fine if I can get some air," he said weakly.
Gimli grunted. "Can you walk?"
Legolas hesitated, slowly pushing himself up. Gimli extended an arm, and he gratefully accepted the dwarf's help. His knees felt uncommonly unsteady, and he might have fallen otherwise. "Let's go find you some air, Master Elf," the dwarf said cheerily, easily helping support Legolas' slight weight.
Gimli took him not to the outer doors, but to a nearby window that had been left open to let the summer breeze in. Leaving Legolas resting against the windowsill he disappeared for a moment, reappearing to press a mug into Legolas' hands.
The elf took a hesitant sip, expecting more beer, but was relieved to find water.
"I am sorry, Laddie," Gimli said contritely, gently patting Legolas' back as he coughed again. "I should have told them elves did not smoke."
Legolas waved away his apology, slowly drinking the water Gimli had given him. "I did not want to offend your people any more," he managed to gasp, wiping his eyes and trying to clear the muddled feeling from his head.
"Offend my people any more?" Gimli asked in astonishment. "You have not offended them at all!"
The elf stared at his friend. "But Gimli," he protested. "Dinner...the toast...greeting the king...almost everything I have done has gone amiss."
To his disconcertment, Gimli burst out laughing. "Legolas," the dwarf finally gasped after a moment, "my people know you are not a dwarf, they do not expect you to know how to act as one."
Legolas' eyes widened. "Then why were you so concerned about my behavior?" he asked, his voice slightly hurt. He had been so worried about offending the dwarves, and Gimli was saying it wasn't even necessary. Had the dwarf been laughing at him?
"Forgive me," Gimli patted his arm gently. "I should have told you. By trying to follow our customs you have done us a great honor...you have shown the king and my people that you do not hold yourself higher than any dwarf, save in stature alone."
The elf sighed, sinking back against the frame of the window. "I wish you had told me that," he muttered.
"I would have," Gimli said sincerely. "But Aragorn suggested it might be more amusing to keep this from you," he added with a grin.
"Aragorn?" Legolas straightened up in shock, his eyes narrowing. "You mean he was behind this?"
The dwarf nodded, barely holding back a snicker. "At least you can go back and tell him you have the manners of a dwarf," he offered.
Legolas just shook his head. "I think I will tell him more than that," he mumbled, leaning back against the window frame, visions of retribution dancing in his head.
Gimli's grin widened and he guffawed loudly. "I'm sure you will, Master Elf," he chuckled.
The next morning found a rather subdued Legolas following Gimli once again into the dining room. The previous night's smoking incident had left him with a bit of lingering hoarseness but had proved to esteem him to the dwarves. Whether this was because Gimli had used this opportunity to extol his elf friend to the rest of the dwarves or because the dwarves had truly been honored by Legolas' attempts to follow their customs he did not know.
Either way, he suddenly found himself accepted among the dwarves.
It seemed strange to him that he could be so easily accepted while his own people could not accept Gimli, despite the fact that Gimli had spent more time in Greenwood than Legolas had in Lonely Mountain.
Legolas took his place beside Gimli, smiling with a hint of embarrassment at the snickers of the dwarves at the table. Some, it seemed, had not forgotten the events of the night before—though their laughter was friendly rather than malicious. He dutifully raised his tankard as Thorin called for a toast and drained it with a withheld grimace, setting it down almost in time with the other dwarves.
He heard Gimli's low chuckle beside him and smiled. The servants brought around the platters of food, placing newly-filled tankards of beer at the places around the table.
Except in front of Legolas. The elf's eyes widened in surprise when one of the servants placed a finely-carved wooden goblet at his place. He glanced up, catching a smile from the king. "Gimli?"
The dwarf looked up. "You act as though you haven't seen wine before."
"I did not think your people drank wine."
Legolas blinked in surprise at the dwarf's answer. "The king had it sent up from Dale," Gimli explained.
"To feed the ponies, Lad—for you!" the dwarf shook his head. "Don't be daft. Every dwarf here knows elves prefer wine."
The elf sighed at his friend's answer. "He did not have to do that," he muttered.
Gimli snorted. "Oh, we should have told Thorin that. Would have saved him a deal of trouble. He should have known more than to try to give an elf some comfort of home after spending an evening watching him try to follow dwarvish customs."
Legolas smiled quietly. "Ah, Gimli...I did not expected such courtesy from dwarves," he explained as he studied the wine, grimacing at the scowl that crossed his friend's face. "I meant that I did not expect to be so welcomed among your people so quickly, Gimli."
The dwarf's scowl seemed to darken for a moment before he broke into a smile. "This should show you, Lad," he said in a gruff tone.
"What do you mean?"
The dwarf chuckled for a moment. "The next time one of your father's councilors tells you that you have the manners of a dwarf, take it as a compliment."
Legolas shook his head and laughed. "Indeed I shall, Master Gimli," he said, eyes twinkling in merriment, though there was a serious note in his voice. "Indeed I shall."
Reviews? Flames? No Tar and Feathers today, please...I just spent the last ten hours processing health insurance applications.
AN: All right...I suppose I can tell you my first idea, now. I originall wanted to write a story where Gimli visited the wood-elves, but considering one of my main reasons for wanting to write the story (everyone's favorite elf: Belegdur) was also one of my more distinctive original characters, I decided to change pace instead. I still might do a story about Gimli's visit to Greenwood (formerly Mirkwood by this time) in the future, though.