Summary: Gimli always knew that wood-elves were strange, but just how strange, he never fathomed. Can he make it through the feast without insulting the Elvenking and his people? Or will the outlandish customs of the elves be too much for a stout dwarf like Gimli?
2ND PLACE MARCH 2009 TEITHO CONTEST 'EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY'
What's for Dinner?
by Nieriel Raina
Gimli cleaned the gore from his axe and tucked it back into his belt. He glanced around at the elven patrol moving about the trees. They had materialized out of nowhere when the spiders had attacked. He had found their sudden appearance almost as disconcerting as the spiders dropping from the trees.
Legolas was speaking to a dark-haired elf, whom, from the elf's demeanor, Gimli took to be the leader of the patrol. As they spoke, Legolas made motioning gestures with his hands that Gimli did not even attempt to interpret. Turning away from them, he pulled a cloth from a leather pouch on his belt and mopped at his face, removing sweat and splatters of black blood. The blasted gunk stung!
Tucking the cloth back in his pouch, he surveyed the scene around him. From what he could see (it was hard to get an exact number from the jumble of black legs), it appeared the kill stood at seven to eight of the giant spiders. A shiver ran down his spine. Even though he had heard the stories of his father's journey with Bilbo and their encounter with the foul beasts, he had never encountered the creatures himself in his rare journeys through Mirkwood.
Glóin's description had been enough to have him looking over his shoulder his whole first trip along the Old Forest Road, but the spiders his father and company had described did not match the sight that met his eyes. A nagging suspicion tugged at his mind. He swallowed hard and glanced around again. These creatures were clearly two to three times the size of what had been described to him by his kin. Bilbo and the dwarves had fought mere spiderlings on that trip to the Lonely Mountain. It was the only explanation. If they had encountered such beasts as these…
A foul taste rose up in his throat, and he struggled to swallow it back down. Trying to distract his thoughts by observing the elves' movements, he glanced about to see if he could assist in destroying the carcasses. But the elves were not preparing a pyre to burn the beasts nor digging pits to bury them. Rather, several of the elves slipped away and returned with long, sturdy branches that they trimmed to poles with sharp knives and small hatchets.
Near him, a silver-haired elf stood over one of the spiders, shaking his head and casting Gimli a disapproving look. The monster had been Gimli's kill, but he had no idea why the elf was displeased.
"You took off several legs."
The sudden voice beside him caused Gimli to jump and look up, his hand already on his axe. The speaker was another dark-haired elf. It seemed to Gimli, as this was his first time encountering elves in Mirkwood, that the Fair Folk of the forest lands were not all golden haired like his friend as he had imagined. In fact, only Legolas bore such sunny locks. The others ranged from dark brown to black with a few silvery-haired elves wandering the glen. Gimli wondered if golden hair was a trait found in only Thranduil's line… Then he realized what the elf was implying.
"What do you mean," he grumbled suspiciously, looking back at the spider he had taken down.
"You took off several legs with your axe," the elf repeated. "Makes carrying them difficult."
Gimli surveyed the dead spiders once more, this time noting more closely how the elves had dispatched the beasts. In the confusion of the attack, he had hardly noticed that only Legolas had drawn a blade. The others all hunted with long spears, making their kills cleanly and without causing any damage to the legs of the spiders. But while Gimli could see the strategy in using spears to hunt such creatures, he could not fathom why they would carry the beasts anywhere. Or worry about detached legs.
"Beg pardon?" he asked, his brow furrowing as he glanced up at the elf.
But his companion was walking away, shaking his head. For a moment, Gimli thought he heard the elf mutter, "Hard to cook that way...."
Gimli stared hard at the elf's back a moment, then blinked and shook off the odd feeling that had caused his stomach to lurch. He must have misunderstood. Yes, the elf had simply slipped back into his strange native tongue, and Gimli had not heard correctly. He let out a harsh breath and glanced around for Legolas.
The elves were lashing the spiders onto the poles with silvery cords. As the first one was tied, two of the elves hoisted the pole onto their shoulders in the manner of hunters returning with fresh game. Why, you would think it were a stag they carried by the merry looks on their faces and the song that sprang up among them! Gimli chuckled. Elves were strange folk. Apparently there was some odd ritual involved in disposing of these beasts. They probably did not want them tainting the forest and their precious trees. He would just bet they had a stone quarry where they dumped the monsters. Typical. Elves had little appreciation for things of true value!
In a matter of minutes, all the spiders had been lifted, and Gimli found himself marching along in the midst of them, carrying the severed legs. Legolas had bound them together with the curious cord and handed them to over before taking the end of one long pole and raising it up onto his shoulder, joining in the song.
Gimli had taken them without question, but as he walked, he could not help but glance around him at the dark carcasses. After all he had seen during the Quest, entering the dark emptiness of Khazad-dum, running across the plains of Rohan, walking the paths of the Dead, even standing before the Black Gates did not compare to the unusual feeling he now felt as he walked through the wood beside his strange friend, his eyes never leaving the swaying, black bodies of the spiders. He avoided looking down at his own load.
Another cold finger of some odd emotion curled in his belly. "Hard to cook that way.* The words rang over and over in Gimli's head. Had he heard true? But…
He shook his head to clear it. No. No, he had not. He was imagining things. He had been far too long on the road spending time with elves and hobbits. One batty elf in particular. He nearly laughed at his own silliness.
Blasted elf's flightiness is rubbing off on me!
Legolas seemed to pick up on his thoughts for the elf glanced down and grinned. But the look in those merry, grey eyes further unsettled Gimli, and he turned his head forward and looked no longer at the repugnant burden the elves bore. He would be glad to dispose of their burdens and continue the trek to the Elvenking's halls. There, Legolas had promised that Gimli would be welcomed as a guest, and they would feast and make merry, celebrating the lifting of the darkness and the prince's return to his home and family.
To Gimli's surprise, they marched for a couple of hours. He was dismayed to see the great ruin of fire that had damaged the wood, but already Mahal's Lady was at work, restoring the forest. Green shoots popped out of half burned trees and animals scurried about through the thick layer of soot, and Gimli could not tell if they were the great black squirrels or regular ones turned dark from the ash.
Gimli trudged along with the elves. He had thought they would dump the carcasses down some cliff long before then. Ahead, the trees began to thin out and a wide path opened up before them, bordered by rows of old beech trees. The elves' song grew in volume, and Gimli realized that others had also begun to sing. Glancing up into the nearby trees, he caught glimpses of wooden platforms — telain, Legolas called them. Gimli would never have seen them if he had not spent so much time with the elf in Lothlórien, but now he spotted them easily enough.
In twos and threes elves materialized out of the trees around them, laughing and greeting the newly arrived patrol. Many came forward to relieve them of the poles and the black burdens they had carried, jaunting off with them into the wood one after another. As long as they were out of sight, Gimli did not care what became of them. Let the elves keep their secrets.
Legolas had joined in the happy greetings as many more joined the gathered throng. He was passed around his folk, reminding Gimli of a popular game of the Shire that Pippin had taught him. It involved a hot rock and a group of people gathered in a circle. One had to throw the rock to another in the circle before their hands were burned, and another had to catch it without dropping it. So Legolas was passed from one set of arms to another; many laughing, crying, kissing his cheek, and some of the maids stealing a bolder kiss. It was quite different from a reunion among Gimli's own people.
After a few minutes, as Legolas was passed further and further away from him, Gimli became aware of the fact that he had become the focus of many suspicious elven eyes. Deciding it best to stick closer to his friend, he brushed through the throng, catching sight of Legolas just as a path opened through the crowd on the opposite side. Through it strode another dark-haired elf. Though dressed in similar attire to the others, there was something about this one that struck Gimli as different.
He had his answer a moment later when Legolas's happy smile turned to a brilliant grin. "Belthul!" Legolas cried, racing forward into the other's waiting arms.
Gimli harrumphed, having heard much about Legolas's brothers and sister during their travels. So much for thinking that all the king's kin would be golden-haired. He held back, allowing Legolas his reunion with his kin, but as the stares again bored into him, he shifted closer and cleared his throat.
Turning with a smile, Legolas motioned him over. "Come, Gimli! Meet my eldest brother, Belthul."
Gimli bowed low. "Gimli Glóin's son, at your service." As he straightened, he could see the shock in the elder prince's eyes.
Belthul stood as if frozen, until Legolas placed a well aimed elbow into his ribs. "Ooof." Color seeped into the elf's cheeks, and he inclined his head. "Belthul Thranduilion at yours and your family's." Though the prince used the proper dwarven greeting, Gimli noted the words were said through gritted teeth, and he did not miss the hard look Belthul gave his younger brother.
"Father has heard word of your arrival and awaits you," Belthul said, turning his back on Gimli. "There will be a welcoming feast tonight, but he would meet with you now. Come." He walked back down the path without a backwards glance.
Legolas cast Gimli an apologetic look and inclined his head towards his departing brother's back. "Forgive him. He has not had pleasant experiences with dwarves, I fear."
Gimli smirked up at his friend. "He reminds me of you when we first met."
Legolas threw back his head and laughed. "Indeed," he agreed.
Together they followed Belthul's retreating form. The path led them to a rushing river, where the trees on either side lined the banks and even dipped into the swirling waters. Across the stream stretched a stone bridge leading up to a gaping cavern mouth, flanked by huge wooden doors. It was just as Bilbo had described it. Feeling an unexpected exhilaration at entering underground as a guest where his father had been taken as a prisoner, Gimli walked briskly beside Legolas, admiring the stonework of the bridge and the beauty of the carved gates.
Just before the great hall, Belthul stood with a golden haired elf that so resembled Legolas that Gimli suspected he was Orthoron, Legolas's other living brother. Piercing green eyes bore into him as Legolas introduced them, and Gimli felt pleased to learn he had been correct. Orthoron treated him in the same rude manner as Belthul, but Gimli managed to hold down his ire at such treatment, having expected far worse.
"Legolas!" The cry was followed by the sound of rustling skirts, and Legolas spun around and nearly tripped as he scrambled towards a lady hurrying to him. A lovely vision in a muted green gown, Gimli noted that she had dark hair, rather than gold, and Legolas's grey eyes.
After she had fussed over him for many minutes, Legolas led the lady over to where Gimli and his brothers stood watching the reunion. "Gimli, I would like you to meet my sister, Anoriel."
Gimli bowed but was disheartened to find himself the object of the lady's glare. She curtsied, replying in a pleasant enough voice, "A pleasure to meet you, son of Glóin." But she also cast a fearful gaze at Legolas. It seemed all of Legolas's family disliked him.
"And you, princess," he said, bowing at the waist, and giving her a cheerful smile which he hoped would relieve some of her apprehension.
"Come," Belthul said, walking to two tall doors. The guards standing on either side pulled them open and a herald announced the princes and princess as well as the visitor to the realm.
Their meeting with Thranduil was formal and cool. If the Elvenking was shocked at Gimli's presence, the elf did not show it. Gimli wondered if perhaps the trees had informed Thranduil that his son traveled with a dwarf, then chastised himself for having such thoughts. By Mahal! He had been away from his kin too long.
After a long stony stare, the king spoke. "We welcome you, Gimli Glóin's son," Thranduil intoned from his carved throne. "Honored are we to have another of the Nine Walkers among us. You will sit as a guest at Our table this eve as we celebrate the return of Our son to Eryn Lasgalen." Though the words were polite enough, Gimli felt as if a cold wind had pierced him and he wished to be away from the imposing presence of his friend's father.
Thranduil's eyes drifted back to Legolas and gazed with longing at his son. His words, however, were still for Gimli. "I will see you are led to the guest quarters. Surely you would like to rest after your journey, and," his eyes cut sharply to Gimli's, "will understand my need to welcome my son privately. Galion!" He gestured to the side and a dark-haired elf stepped forward.
Gimli bowed and, with a last glance at Legolas, followed Galion from the room, grateful to be away from Legolas's family for now. Galion did not seem to be much warmer towards him, but he did not have the same icy look of the Elvenking and his elder sons. No words did they speak on their way through the winding corridors, but it was just as well, since Gimli spent the time gaping at the workmanship of the halls.
The chambers to which Gimli was led proved more than adequate, and to his pleasure, a steaming tub of water awaited him in one corner. Galion showed him where to find a special bell pull for when he was ready to have the tub removed and bowed, leaving him to his ablutions. Quickly stripping out of his filthy mail and clothing, Gimli stepped into the tub and settled back with a sigh. Now this was nice. He reached to a small table nearby and lifted a goblet of dark wine and picked up a slice of cheese from a small tray. Who would have thought a dwarf could be treated with such luxury in the halls of the Elvenking? He grinned to himself, finished eating and then set about washing his hair and beard.
Once he was clean and his hair and beard were braided and scented with fragrant oil, Gimli set out his clothes for the feast and began cleaning his chain mail. It would not do to have that foul blood set on it. No doubt it would pit the metal with its acidity. Once that was complete, he checked his axe and used his stone to work out a small burr on the blade.
When a knock sounded sometime later, he was dressed and ready for the feast. He tugged open the door, almost surprised to find Legolas had come for him. The elf grinned as he looked around the room, his eyes settling on Gimli's sparking mail. "Everything to your liking then?"
Gimli nodded. "It's satisfactory."
Chuckling, Legolas led the way through many halls and corridors, until they passed through the great front hall and out the magnificent gates. Darkness had fallen on the forest, and torches cast warm circles of light along intervals of the stone bridge. They walked across it, Gimli stopping midway to glance up and downstream. The nearly full moon, rising just above the tree line, shone down on the gurgling waters, bathing them in a beautiful he and his people lived underground and rejoiced in stonework, dwarves had a great appreciation for nature, just not in the same manner as the elves. They had no desire to live in it, to be a part of it. Instead, Gimli drank in the vista, planning carvings he could devise into stone panels.
"I love to stand here on nights such as this," Legolas said softly from beside him.
Gimli glanced up at his friend, noting that Legolas's eyes were focused above on the stars. A cool breeze stirred the elf's golden locks, left loose for the celebration. Indeed, the night was quite pleasant: Cool but not cold as autumn nights often were, though as the night advanced the fires would be welcome. He took a deep breath of the fresh air, enjoying the smells of the forest and the singing of the elves from nearby. "You have a lovely home," Gimli said, surprising himself with his comment.
Legolas glanced down, a delighted smile on his fair face. "Thank you, elvellon." He gestured with a tilt of his head. "Come, let us join the others. I can smell the feast and my stomach rumbles!"
Gimli's own stomach complained as he caught a whiff of a delicious smell. They strode in haste the remaining length of the bridge and down the wide path. Soon, Legolas turned off it onto a smaller footpath that wove among the beeches. They walked in silence for a few minutes until the path opened up to a large clearing.
The glen was decorated with garlands of dried flowers and the first blush of changing leaves. Strange, smokeless torches lit the area, giving off a red glow. Elves were everywhere! A trio of elflings played some sort of game at one edge of the clearing, while on the other side many adults had gathered and sat on the ground singing a compelling song that caused joy to rise in Gimli's chest. Others bustled about the many tables set up, calling merry greetings and exchanging news, while some hurried out of the light carrying empty platters. Gimli's stomach rumbled again. He hoped they had gone to get the food he could smell wafting from somewhere nearby.
Soon he found himself seated at the largest table with Legolas on one side and some lord whose name Gimli had not quite caught seated on his other side. At least he had not been seated by either of Legolas's brothers. The older princes sat on the Elvenking's right side, far enough away that Gimli hoped he would not need to converse with them.
Belthul had given him hostile looks since his arrival not many minutes after he and Legolas sat at the table, while Orthoron toyed with a knife with an odd smile on his face. Anoriel, seated on Legolas's other side, smiled at him, but then lowered her head to speak softly to Legolas, who bowed his head to listen.
Gimli amused himself by looking down at his plate. He eyed the strange utensils laying beside it. Dwarves ate with a simple knife they carried on their belts. But it appeared the elves, so strange in all their ways, also had odd ways of eating. He fingered a small, wooden mallet, his brow furrowing. Then he picked up a curious hinged metal implement. One would think they would be working, not eating! He chuckled at his private joke, then he caught Legolas grinning at him. Gimli set the strange utensil back down.
Thranduil, seated between Belthul and Anoriel at the center of the table, stood and held his arms wide. "Tonight we celebrate the defeat of the Dark Lord. Our lands, so long covered by Shadow have begun to heal, and we see hope of all traces of darkness being wiped from our great forest!" Many of the elves cheered at this, and the Elvenking had to pause a moment before continuing. "What more, having achieved much glory and honor for his part in the War, Prince Legolas returns to his father's table, bringing much joy to Our hearts." More cheers arose from the crowd and again the king paused, his tone changing just slightly. "Further, we are pleased to welcome Gimli Glóin's son, of the Nine Walkers and Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain to Our table."
The silence that followed that announcement was loud. Somewhere in the crowd, a child loudly whispered, "But Naneth! I want to see the dwarf!" The small voice was followed by hushing sounds.
"Let the feast begin!" This announcement was followed by more cheering and Thranduil sat back down, looking relieved. Gimli felt uncomfortable, but he allowed that a dwarf feasting with the Elvenking was not something that happened every day and so the people would find it strange.
Legolas leaned over to whisper, "They will warm up to you, Gimli. You will see."
Gimli grunted and lifted his goblet to sip at the fine purple wine. He sat it back down and said, "It is all right, Legolas. You would receive the same kind of welcome in the Lonely Mountain, I fear." He glanced up and down the table. So far, the only dishes that had been placed about were bowls of fruits and nuts. Legolas was nibbling on a handful of cherries. Gimli preferred to wait for something more satisfying: venison roast, or stuffed fowl, or perhaps fish stew. His stomach rumbled again. Legolas pushed the fruit bowl closer, and Gimli, to keep from being rude, snatched up a few grapes and popped them in his mouth.
A cheer rose from the crowd. Gimli glanced up to see elves trickling into the clearing bearing platters and tureens with steaming foods, the like of which Gimli was unfamiliar. There were no venison roasts, no stuffed fowl, though the strange looking lumps of white meat in a creamy sauce with slivered almonds might be fish stew. It did not smell like fish, however. It smelled like nothing Gimli had smelled before, but his stomach rumbled and he figured he would try just about anything at this point.
The platters and tureens were placed up and down the tables, and Gimli had just taken hold of the ladle for the strange looking stew when another cheer arose. Perhaps now the main courses were being brought out! He hoped so. He had a real hankering for meat this night, not the strange looking dishes he had seen so far. He looked up and this time gaped. The ladle dropped from his fingers and back into the stew as his eyes met a most astounding sight. One by one, five of the giant spiders had been carried into the clearing on their long poles. Only they were steaming, and were no longer black. Instead, the heat had turned their shells from black to a dark shimmery blue with light purple spots.
From beside him, Legolas nudged him with an elbow. "It is a true feast tonight, my friend!"
Gimli's head spun around so fast to look at his friend that he had a sudden feeling of being dizzy. Oh no. No, Legolas could not mean…
"We are doubly fortunate!" the elf continued. "Not only did we have our own kill, but another patrol stumbled upon a nest with spiderlings! They are the best. They are captured and cooked live, so their meat is the sweetest. They are my favorite."
A clunk on the table in front of them had Gimli's head spinning again as he jerked it back around to gape. And there, on a platter set between Legolas and himself, within easy reach, were piled many steaming spiderlings about a half foot in diameter including legs. These were brighter in color than the adults that the crowds were attacking with gusto. He watched in horror as Legolas reached for a steaming spiderling and brought it to his plate.
"There is a special way to eat them, but do not worry, Gimli. I will teach you!" Legolas then looked up at him with a bright smile that faded as their eyes met. The elf's brow furrowed and his smile turned to a look of concern. "Are you feeling all right? You are not eating."
The blood had drained from Gimli's face, and indeed, he felt quite ill. His stomach churned as he eyed the spiderlings. The steaming spiders gazed back at him with their multiple eyes, milky white from being cooked. Gimli feared he might be sick.
A loud crack sounded on his other side. He turned to see Lord What's-his-name using the strange little wooden mallet and metal utensil to crack the legs open on one of the beasts. Then the elf pulled a long piece of steaming white meat from the shell with gusto, dipping it into a bowl of some kind of sauce before biting into it. Gimli jerked his head back around towards Legolas.
"You cannot mean me to eat that! I won't! Ye hear me? I won't!" he hissed.
Up and down their table, the merry talk suddenly stilled. Legolas turned very pale. The elf's eyes moved surreptitiously to his father He gulped, smiled what Gimli could see was a very false smile and cracked one of his own spider's legs open. As he removed the meat, he whispered back to Gimli through clenched teeth. "You must! To refuse is to insult the king!"
Gimli felt his face heat. His stomach flipped over, and he tried hard not to look at what Legolas was eating. Is this why the dwarves had claimed the elves had starved them when they had been captured all those years ago? Had they been offered spiders to eat? Was there more to the story than what Bilbo and his father had said? He gulped and glanced at Thranduil. The Elvenking was not eating. He was watching Gimli, his hands folded on the table before his empty plate.
Legolas leaned closer to whisper again. "You are a guest of honor. The king will not eat until you do. Take something and eat it! The spiderlings are very good, but perhaps you'd prefer the stew?"
The stew! Gimli nodded, remembering his earlier wish to try the dish. He reached for the ladle again and dished up a generous portion into a bowl. Setting it on his plate, he dipped his spoon into the creamy broth and lifted a chunk of the strange white meat to his lips.
The spoon and its contents dropped back into his bowl. "Legolas?" Gimli hissed at his friend. "What is this exactly?"
"I would say at this point you most likely do not wish to know." Legolas cast another look at the king who still had not touched any of the food. "Eat Gimli! It is very good. I assure you that you will find it quite enjoyable. Just do not think about what it is."
Gimli could suddenly see himself being carted off to the dungeons. And there was no hobbit along to help him escape! He would waste away, being locked in a small room with nothing to eat but spiders! He wondered if the elves ate rat as well. He would never see the Lonely Mountain again! Never see his father, his rooms, his favorite gems! No!
With shaking fingers, Gimli again lifted the spoon to his lips, forcing his lips apart and sipping the tiniest amount of broth. To his surprise, the sauce was very good. Mild, but tasty. Feeling a bit braver, and noting that his sip did not seem to count as the Elvenking still sat watching him, Gimli lifted a small chunk of the meat. After all, the crowd of elves were digging into the steaming spiders placed around the clearing and nothing bad seemed to be happening to them.
Biting into the meat, he found it tasted every bit as good as he had anticipated before finding out what he was eating. Or at least what he suspected he was eating. He kept his eyes on his bowl and took another bite. He feared if he took another look at the spiderlings that he might be sick despite it all. Around him, conversations resumed, and to Gimli's relief, Thranduil finally reached for… No! He would not look!
As he finished his bowl of stew and reached for a slice of nut bread, he noticed Legolas starting on his second spider. Somehow, as Gimli had eaten, or perhaps it was due to the three goblets of wine he had downed while consuming his stew, he had become less disturbed by the courses served and more interested in them. He reached for another dish containing chunks of white meat wrapped in bright green leaves with some kind of thick paste. The rolls were sliced into inch wide chunks and Gimli took three, finding them to be quite good.
Legolas, having broken off and eaten all the legs from his third spiderling, flipped the spider over. This time Gimli watched fascinated as, with the precision of a dwarf, the elf opened the body shell. Getting the meat inside out proved more challenging than the legs, and Legolas used a small fork to jab at the chunks of meat, wiping off some kind of greasy yellowish substance that Gimli refrained from asking about, and popping the meat chunks in his mouth.
"Want to try it?" Legolas asked around a mouthful of spider. Gimli shook his head, reaching for another slice of nut bread. "Oh, come Gimli! You must try at least a leg!"
"Perhaps he is afraid of them, Legolas!" Belthul smirked at him over his goblet. "Though in my experience, dwarves are quick to boast that they fear nothing."
Gimli inwardly fumed, but he met Belthul's gaze evenly and even smirked as he reached out and snatched up a spiderling, plopping it onto his plate. He had watched Legolas eat three of the things and had a pretty good idea how to eat them now. He snapped off a leg and reached for the strange tool, cracking the leg between the steel hinges like he had been doing it all his life. With deft fingers, he extracted the meat in one long piece, noting as he did so that Legolas threw him an admiring look.
"Most guests take much practice to be able to so easily remove the meat!" Legolas laughed, giving his brother a gloating smile.
"Most guests are not dwarves," Gimli replied, dipping the meat into the bowl of sauce between him and Legolas and gingerly bit into it. The meat was exquisite! Such a mild, almost sweet flavor. As he gobbled up the rest of the leg, Orthoron gave him a respectful nod with a raised brow, though Belthul frowned and looked away. Gimli grinned at Legolas and reached for the next leg, quickly devoured all seven of them and, with Legolas's help, managed to polish off the remaining edible parts of the spider.
As they ate, occasionally wiping their fingers on dampened cloths set along the table for that purpose, Legolas explained how the elves had begun to eat the beasts that hunted their lands: "When the spiders first came north, we killed them as we found them, for they had no qualms attacking us. But unfortunately, they reproduce in great numbers. As they came closer and closer to our halls, the deer and other game became scarce. We had to range further and further in search of fresh meat, though there's always fish, but even those became depleted. During a drought many years before the Watchful Peace, our people often went hungry for there was little to eat. It was during that time, we discovered that the spiders were good for food." Legolas grinned at him. "The saying is true. If you get hungry enough, you will eat just about anything!"
Gimli chuckled and reached for another spider as a server placed a new batch of steaming spiderlings on the table. "Indeed." And like one who had been doing it for years, he snapped off another leg and cracked it open, pulling out another long chunk of meat.
Over Legolas's head, the Elvenking lifted his goblet to Gimli. "Well done, Master Dwarf!" the king said, reaching for another spider himself.
Elves might be strange, Gimli thought, and were definitely flighty; but they did have good taste in food.
Thank you for reading!