Written for the Middle-earth Express Prompt Challenge #82: music.
Dance of the Deer and Mûmak
Year 3019, Third Age
Gimli tipped back his bowl, downed the deep purple wine, and grimaced at the taste. He thought ale would be better, but tonight, only wine was served - dark, tangy, strong wine. He wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve, seeing no cloths provided for such. Only elves would be able to drink and eat and not need cloths for cleaning.His eyebrows raised, however, as he saw an elf also wipe his own mouth on his sleeve. The elf grinned at him when their eyes met. Gimli grinned back, or did his best to do so considering the uncomfortable circumstances.
The clearing was large, decorated gaily with streamers hanging from branches of nearby trees and silver lanterns set on long poles. The grass was still green here. Scattered tables held the remains of the feast (Gimli no longer winced at the sight of half eaten spiders) and barrels held wine in plenty. But it was the trees that kept distracting him from the festivities. The giant boles surrounding the space towered up into the sky, dwarfing him. Gimli laughed at his pun. I do not need trees to dwarf me! I am the best Dwarf here, after all. He chuckled some more as he recalled he was also the only dwarf here, but then sobered. By all that is stone, who would have ever thought to find a dwarf at an elvish merry making? Gimli snorted. True, it was to celebrate the return of the king's son, but it was a merry making nonetheless.
Gimli shook his head, allowing his eyes to search the glade for his friend. The bonfire burned cheerfully in the center of the clearing, its light unlike any fire Gimli had ever seen before. His eyes strayed from the red flames to the group of musicians playing a lively tune off to one side. The flutes, harps, drums, and a few instruments he did not recognize, blended to make a distinctly elvishharmony: beautiful, but strange to him. These Mirkwood elves were much different from their Lothlórien cousins, he thought, remembering the haunting songs from their stay during the quest. The music here was energetic and vivacious, causing even his foot to tap in time with the song.
Shifting on the bench where he was seated, he looked among the revelers dancing around the fire. Colors flashed, gold and silver hair tossed, and bare feet skimmed over the grass, the blades not seeming to even quiver under their movement. He would never find Legolas in all of that! Men and women mixed freely in the dance, laughing, leaping and spinning partners around, though not all danced with another. There seemed to be no order to the dance. It was so unlike the ceremonies of the Dwarves, where males and females never danced together, but in separate circles; and even different from Men, whose dances were well ordered, the genders sharing only brief touches as they moved through a set. But here, everything was foreign, and he was reminded once more how different and strange his friend was.
A distinctive flash of silvery gold caught his eye, and he could not help but smile as his eyes landed on Legolas. The Elf laughed happily as he leapt into the air, landed, spun around and leapt again in a new direction. Only a miracle keeps those squirrels from smashing into one another! But Gimli found himself appreciating the movements as he watched Legolas shift in the strange dance. Not squirrels, more like deer, bounding happily in a meadow, or ponies frolicking in a pasture when the weather turns cool.
Gimli pulled his cloak around himself a little more firmly. The night air was turning crisp, and when the autumn wind swept through the open space, he became downright cold! How do they stand it; dancing out there with no cloak and bare feet? He grunted to himself, downed some more wine and snuggled further down into his cloak. He felt he would soon become numb and wondered if it would disappoint Legolas very much if he slipped away and back to his warm room in the caves. The feast had begun just after sundown – apparently wood-elves celebrate under the stars – and would not end until sunrise. Gimli knew he would never last that long; in fact, he was hardly making it through three hours! The dancing had only just begun.
The voice drew him out of his contemplations, and he looked up to see Legolas standing before him: face flushed, breathing hard. "What?" he asked, not understanding what the Elf wanted.
"Come dance, my friend. It is invigorating and will warm you up. You are turning blue!"
"I am not cold! Dwarves do not get cold so easily, you pointy-eared…"
"Then, come and dance anyway! The night is lovely for it!" Legolas reached out and tugged on his arm.
But Gimli was adamant that he would not make such a fool of himself. It had been difficult enough being here among the elves, most of whom watched him with suspicion or even fear. And then there was Legolas' family…. No, he would not give them fuel for their cutting remarks. He stiffened as a voice behind him spoke.
"Perhaps dwarves do not dance. I can hardly imagine it since they are always so dour and grumpy."
Gimli turned slowly and lifted his head. The eyes glittering back at him were a deep emerald green, cold and stern. Gimli was surprised that instead of one of Legolas's brothers, it was his father making such a remark. That haughty, churlish, ill-mannered king!
"Perhaps you are correct, Adar. Dwarves are so clumsy after all. How could I have possibly thought they could dance?" Legolas smirked, and was immediately flanked by his two older brothers, whose arms were folded over their chests.
Confronted by all the males in his friend's family, including his so called friend, Gimli glared at Legolas. Why that no-good, low-down, pointy-eared ELF! "Who are you saying cannot dance? I sure as well can do so. Dance your flighty, hopping, bare-feet into the ground!"
He could have kicked himself as soon as he had said it, or rather, as soon as Legolas gave him that feral grin of his. They set me up! But it was too late. He had boasted, and now he had to prove himself. He stood, threw off his cloak, ignoring the chill from a gust of breeze, and marched over to the dancers with Legolas in tow.
Gimli stood for a moment, watching the others move about the fire. He was not sure he could merge with that crowd, so instead he halted just outside the leaping, twirling, bodies. He listened to the music, allowed the beat to fill him, and then….
Legolas stood amazed and awed at what he was witnessing. He had never seen a dwarf dance before, for Gimli had declined to dance at the festivities in Gondor. And perhaps for good reason, as the dance Gimli was performing could hardly be done with a lady.
Gimli had his hands on his hips. He stepped forward onto his left foot, did a slight bounce on it and shifted his weight back to his right. As his weight came back forward to his left foot again, his right stepped forward and into a complicated pattern of steps, heavy stomping steps, but still graceful and so very dwarvish. Always his hands remained on his hips, until the song changed and Gimli folded them over his chest. His feet moved in new diverse and difficult steps, the beauty of which took Legolas' breath away.
The music never stopped, but soon, Legolas noticed the dancers had. Most stood staring at the Dwarf, his eyes now closed as his feet carried him through a large square pattern, always bringing him back to his starting point. Can he tell where he is from just the feel of the earth beneath him? How does he do that?
Others seemed to be wondering as well, from the confused, yet admiring looks. There were some who looked down their noses and sneered, Legolas noticed, but they were in the minority. Even the king appeared suitably impressed, and Anoriel laughed and began to clap her hands to the beat. Soon the others joined in and one by one the instruments dropped out of the music, leaving only a complex rhythm of drums. And not once did Gimli falter.
When the drums finally stopped, Gimli opened his eyes…and jerked in shock. He had not noticed he was being observed, or that the elves were clapping, so lost was he in the beat of the drums and the thrum of the living earth. Now the elves were cheering and whistling and asking him for more. He felt his face grow warmer than it had been from his dancing.
"Yes, Gimli!" Legolas laughed, as he came to stand beside him, "You must teach us some of those steps, my friend."
"Why?" Gimli asked, completely baffled. His eyes jumped from elf to elf, noting the admiration and appreciation in many eyes, though he also noted the disdainful looks from a few, not the least, Legolas's brothers.
"Because it was beautiful and inspiring - so earthy!" a woman's voice called out.
Gimli turned to find Anoriel grinning at him. The woman who had glared at him and cast fearful looks towards Legolas when they had first arrived, but now there was no apprehension in her face as she moved forward with a group of ladies.
"I have never seen such a moving dance," she said coming to stand before him. "How fascinating are the ways of Durin's Folk! I would know more." There was still the slightest flicker of uncertainty in her eyes, but Anoriel was making an effort at friendliness, at least.
Well, it seems I have won over one member of Legolas' family. And with just a dance! Father will surely find that amusing. Gimli met her eyes and grinned. "Indeed we do, lass, although much different from you fey folk. How about I teach you one of our dances, and you teach me one of yours…a simple one, mind! I am not about to go bounding all over the place like a deer!"
There was much laughter at that, and Legolas laughed the hardest. "If we are deer, then you, my friend, are a mûmak!"
"Watch it, Elf!" Gimli could not fathom how he could be compared to such an animal.
But Legolas just laughed. "I mean no offense, Gimli. While their size differs greatly from your race, they are…burly and heavy-footed, yet graceful and beautiful to watch, especially in battle."
Gimli felt his face flush. Is that how he sees me?
"Enough talk!" someone yelled out.
"Come on!" called another, "start the music and let us dance!"
The drums took up a new rhythm, and Gimli listened for a moment, getting a feel for it through the vibrations in the air and the matching heartbeat of the earth. Then placing his hands on his hips, he began to dance.
And the elves joined him.
Mûmak- singular. An Oliphaunt. Plural is Mûmakil
(in order of birth)
Faeliûl – eldest son. Killed during the Battle of Dagorlad
Belthul – eldest living son
Orthoron – son
Anoriel – daughter
Legolas – youngest son