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Author name: pizzamargherita
Recipient's name: Kaylee Arafinwiel
Title: Strange Folks
Rating: G
Request: I would like a story about a truce between otherwise warring Elves and Dwarves at the winter holiday. Age of Arda and particular clans of Elves/Dwarves is left up to the author.
Author's notes: It’s not literally a truce in the middle of war, but I bet when a certain dwarfling tells the story a few decades later, it might come across as one.
Summary: Diplomatic journeys are a boring business, especially if you ask Legolas Thranduilion. The royal offspring of Erebor, however, know their very own way of passing long winter’s days.



-x-x-x-x-

"Blasted spawn of Mordor! May Mahal's axe chop off your tail!" The voice of Thráin, son of Thrór, echoed in the halls and tunnels of Erebor and made every Dwarf within a mile's radius cringe. The king's son shot a murderous glare at the furry little creature he had just tripped over on entering his study. He watched as it leapt swiftly on the mantlepiece of the fireplace and licked its paw, observing him with emerald eyes full of condescension. Thráin uttered a grumble worthy of Durin's Bane, grabbed his axe off the wall and hurled it towards the cat with a deafening battle cry.


He missed. He always did. The axe demolished the carving of the mantlepiece, but the cat jumped down gracefully and gave him a last victorious glance before it strode out of the door. Thráin's eyes followed it – and widened when they came to rest on his wife leaning in the doorframe, arms crossed, assessing him sceptically with an almost invisible smirk playing around her lips.

"Fine strike, my lord," she mocked him, "those carvings did not stand a chance."

"Bloody cats shall rot in the Timeless Void," Thráin muttered. "I almost broke my neck!"

His wife gave him another appraising look, then she pointed out, "You either bear with them or you starve – I don't suppose you fancy catching the mice in the granary yourself. Have you seen the children?"

Thráin blinked twice while trying to process this abrupt and painfully pragmatic change of topic. "I... uhm, I saw Thorin lurking around not far from here with Dwalin, but where the little ones are, I don't know. Thorin!" he roared, making the mighty pillars of Erebor tremble for the third time this morning.

His wife shook her head and twisted a braid of her beard between her fingers. "I have turned every stone in the mountain in search of them. They have to try on the new cloaks I had made for them for the Yule celebration."

Before she could go on ranting, their eldest son stepped into the study and looked back and forth between his parents. "You called me, Father?"

Thráin's eyebrows shot up at the sight offered to him. "What in Durin's name have you lads been up to?"

"Studying the lore," his son gave back a little too quickly.

"Indeed," his mother remarked, "these days books aren't what they used to be." She pointed at Thorin's nose, where a thin trickle of blood emerged and made its way down into his beard. The boy quickly wiped it away and his cheeks turned crimson.

"I hope you didn't blunt my axe again like the last time you and Dwalin pretended to slay Orcs," she added. "Don't think I didn't notice you taking it." Before her son could mumble an apology, she cut him short, "Never mind! Have you seen Frerin and Dís?"

He gulped and brought himself to mumble, "They're chasing cats again, I think. Dwalin said he saw them on the road down to the city." He shrugged, his face still red.

Thráin exchanged a glance with his wife and did not need to ask in order to understand what she would have him do. "No! I'm not leaving this darned mountain as long as the Elves are in town!" he declared. An encounter with the inhabitants of the neighbouring realm – mostly its infamous king – was the last thing he needed right before Yule. "I can't! I have to, uhm... finish a letter to our kin in the North!" He grabbed the next best piece of parchment off the table and held it under her nose.

"Telling them last year’s prices of iron ore, I see," she read from the parchment, not even trying to conceal her grin. Thráin tossed his excuse back on the table and let out a snort.

"Fine, I'm going," he grumbled. Experience had taught him that arguing would be fruitless. "But you're coming with me," he added to Thorin, who pouted for a moment but did not protest.

-x-x-x-x-

Legolas Thranduilion kicked a clump of frozen mud out of his way. It slid off the path and landed in the middle of the ice-covered pond he was currently contemplating. It was a quiet place, as opposed to the busy centre of Dale where people were preparing the upcoming Yule celebrations, putting up garlands and wreaths of holly on their doors, carrying food from here to there and tuning the most peculiar musical instruments. Men were strange folks indeed – Legolas could not wonder enough at their altogether unfamiliar customs.

Before ending up by the pond, he had wandered the streets of Dale for hours, waiting for his father to conclude negotiations with the city's lord and the representatives of the merchants' guild. How long could it possibly take to renew a simple trade agreement for wine and grain that had been standing for two hundred years?

A sigh of frustration escaped him and he glanced at the Chief of the Royal Guard, who had been following him for the last two hours like a dutiful but not overly enthusiastic herding dog. “Why did I have to come here in the first place while my brother gets to watch the realm?” the prince muttered under his breath.

The Chief of Guards internally thanked the Valar for King Thranduil’s wisdom in that matter. It was widely established that his younger son’s blades sometimes tended to be quicker – and sharper – than his judgement. The soldier put on the most diplomatic face he could manage and replied, “The king wants you to learn about commerce and foreign relations.”

“Yes, he told me that much,” Legolas snapped, “but walking through a frozen dwelling of Men in Yule fever is not a particularly instructive experience, I must say. If he wants to educate me, why did he kick me out of the negotiations?”

Now the Chief of Guards was at a loss of words. “Your father… removed you because Lord Girion was rather… irritated by your remarks.” He pretended a sudden interest in the heap of snow at the side of the path opposite the pond.

Legolas frowned and nodded. “He is quite touchy, that Lord of Dale, isn’t he? How was I supposed to know that my question about the ridiculously poor quality of the linen made in this town would offend him so? I asked out of genuine interest.”

Torn between his sense of duty and an overwhelming urge to laugh, the soldier uttered, “I believe it is considered common sense… my lord.”
The prince raised an eyebrow at him, but a moment later he started grinning as well. “All right, all right. But still, Men are strange creatures, wouldn’t you agr…”

He did not come any further because seemingly out of nowhere a snowball hit the side of his head. “Elbereth Gilthoniel! What in the names of all the Ainur…”

“My lord – please!” the Chief of Guards interrupted the tirade, looking around nervously, but the few people within earshot did not appear to care much about a snow-covered elven prince desecrating the names of the Valar.

Having removed most of the snow from his hair and his collar, Legolas regained his composure and apologised. “I’m sorry, may They forgive my slip of tongue. But who threw that snowball?”

The Chief of Guards glanced in the direction the missile had come from, but all he saw was the massive wall of heaped up snow. Although the incident was more amusing than alarming, he decided to investigate for the fun of it and approached the side of the path. Muffled giggles and a sharp ‘Shh!’ told him that the culprits were still at the scene of the crime. As expected, another snowball soon flew towards him from behind the heap. He bent slightly to the right and avoided it by an inch.

“Enough with the crossfire, we yield!” he said in Westron, earning a disapproving glare from his prince that almost made him burst out laughing again.

The response that came from behind the snow heap, however, wiped the grin right off his face. “You better! You can drag your pointy ears and silken robes straight back to your haunted forest, where you belong. I bet your spider friends miss you.”

Legolas and the Chief of Guards exchanged a look of utter bewilderment. Before they could process what they had just heard, two children climbed on top of the snow heap – two very short children clad in colourful, fur-trimmed cloaks and sporting large amounts of fuzzy hair on both their heads and their faces.

“Aulë’s anvil,” the Chief of Guards sighed with an abhorred glance at the dwarflings.

“Captain – please!” Legolas could not resist imitating his earlier reprimand.

Meanwhile the children inspected the two strangers with unveiled curiosity. “They don’t look as evil as Grandfather describes them,” the shorter one pointed out as if Legolas and the Chief of Guards were not even present.

“That’s the dangerous thing about Elves,” the other gave back gravely with a scowl full of contempt, “they pretend to be all harmless and polite, and then they bewitch you. Thorin told me all about it, he read it – in a book!” The smaller child’s eyes widened in awe. Neither Legolas nor the soldier were sure whether to be indignant or amused.

“Where are your beards?” the little Dwarf wanted to know next, sizing up the two Elves with a critical gaze.

Before they could even think of an answer, the taller one weighed in again, “Elves don’t have beards! Don’t you ever listen to anything I tell you?”

“Be quiet, Frerin!” was the immediate reply, accompanied by a solid nudge in the ribs. Legolas and the Chief of Guards observed the spectacle in silent amazement, like scholars would study an unknown species.

As the curious stares became more impertinent with every second, the prince finally addressed the children, “Obviously you two are from Erebor. What are you doing here and do your parents know about your outing?”

“We are chasing cats!” the smaller Dwarf blurted proudly and held up a handful of red ribbons. “It’s a game: The one who ties the most ribbons around cats’ tails wins. So far my brother holds the record, but I’m gaining on him. There are so many cats in the mountain because of the mice in the granary, but sometimes they run outside, you know.”

Legolas did certainly not know. “I see,” he answered nevertheless, “a somewhat gruesome game, at least for the cats. We shall leave you to it.” He turned around and signalled the Chief of Guards to follow him.

“It seems they are indeed born like that, bearded, rude and violent,” the soldier muttered under his breath in Sindarin.

Legolas pondered the notion. “Apparently, yes. It is quite fascinating – in a grotesque way, I mean.”

He could not help throwing another glance over his shoulder, but to his astonishment the dwarflings were already gone. He could hear their footsteps in the mud behind the snow heap, along with the older one’s muttering, “You can’t just talk to Elves like that! They aren’t to be trusted!” The prince rolled his eyes and walked on.

To kill some more time while keeping a healthy distance to the noisy townsfolk, the Elves started circling the pond. When they had done about half a round, they spotted a black and white cat that seemed to be entranced by some fish moving slowly under the frozen surface. It walked on the ice and started pawing and jumping around in a futile attempt to catch a nice dinner. Legolas and the Chief of Guards observed the entertaining display for a while, but soon an all too familiar voice disturbed their contemplation.

“There it is!” one of the Dwarf children shouted and darted towards the pond, followed by his companion who was still holding the handful of ribbons. The cat, undoubtedly no stranger to their game, immediately abandoned its fishing trip and took to its heels, making for the middle of the pond where it probably hoped the Dwarves would not follow. Far from it! While the taller one stopped at the edge of the water and checked the stability of the ice with one foot, the little one did not bother with safety issues and ran straight towards the cat. From their spot on the opposite side of the pond, Legolas and the Chief of Guards could only exchange an alarmed glance and did not even get the chance to shout a warning before the ice gave way under the heavy boots of the dwarfling.

“Dís, stop!” the other child exclaimed, but it was too late. A loud crack, a shriek and the little Dwarf sunk into the water a good ten steps from the edge of the pond.

“For real?” the Chief of Guards groaned in utter disbelief and turned to Legolas. “What would you say, how decent a swimmer is the average Dwarf?”

The prince did not listen to him. Instead he observed the other child who made an attempt to step on the ice himself while screaming his lungs out for help. “Oh, for Eru’s sake…” Legolas muttered and rolled his eyes. “Hold this!” He took off his cloak and the belt with his knives attached to it and handed everything to the astonished soldier.

“My lord, are you seriously considering…” the Chief of Guards started, but not for the first time his prince’s rash decision making was immune to the voice of reason. So he could do nothing but hope that not a word of this extraordinary undertaking would ever reach the king’s ears.

In the meantime Legolas stepped on the ice and tried to get the attention of the dwarfling on the opposite edge by gesturing and instructing him to stay where he was. The other child was clinging to a floe for dear life, but the soaked cloak and boots were of no help. Legolas, to whom it had always been a curiosity why mortals could not walk on ice and snow, now came to appreciate one of the less obvious advantages of being an Elf as he crossed the distance between the edge of the pond and the little Dwarf with ease. He knelt down, grabbed the child by the collar and pulled – what he had not anticipated, however, were the laws of gravity.

The ice cracked even more as soon as the Dwarf tried to climb out, resulting in both of them falling through this time. Fortunately the water barely reached Legolas’ chin. Still, with a frightened Dwarf child clinging to his neck and considering the temperature, he felt the rather urgent wish to be freed from this compromising position. “Captain, would you mind?” he called with some difficulty, given the dwarfling’s death grip around his throat.

The Chief of Guards took his time and Legolas could clearly read the unsaid ‘I told you so’ from his face. The second dwarfling, on the other hand, showed a surprising presence of mind: He ran to the spot where the distance between the waterside and the unfortunate victims was the shortest, ripped off the sturdy leather belt that was wrapped around his waist several times in Ereborian fashion and flung it towards Legolas, who caught the end. Finally the Chief of Guards acknowledged that a little help might be in order, joined the Dwarf and together they managed to end the wet and cold adventure.

“Durin’s beard, Dís, what were you thinking?” the taller Dwarf barked immediately, but instead of an answer the little one only burst out in heartbreaking sobs.

“There, there,” the Chief of Guards tried for lack of better ideas, “can’t this wait? Give your brother a moment to calm down!”

At that, both dwarflings granted him an outraged stare. “My sister!” the taller one corrected him, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Legolas, despite the fact that he was slowly turning into an ice block, grinned at the Chief of Guards’ astonished expression.

“Don’t tell me you would have known,” the soldier grumbled in Sindarin while wrapping his own cloak around the wet Dwarf. “Come now, let’s find somewhere warm and dry!”

-x-x-x-x-

“I assure you, I have no idea where your children might be, nor can I imagine any of the townspeople doing them harm, but I will order the city watch to launch a search,” Lord Girion of Dale repeated for the third time. A panic-stricken Dwarf prince standing in his town hall and holding a battle axe was not something to be taken lightly, as he had learned from experience.

Thráin glared up at the Man and nodded begrudgingly. “Then pray do it quickly,” he demanded. Girion hurried to fulfil the request by passing the order on to the watchman standing at the door.

Oh, the day had begun so promisingly, but of course there was always a catch. First it had been the annoying remarks of that completely insensitive elven prince, but luckily the King of the Woodland Realm had demonstrated enough delicacy to get rid of his misbehaving offspring. Then, when the negotiations had finally come to a mutually satisfying or at least bearable ending, the heir to the throne of Erebor had burst into the room, followed by his eldest son, both armed to the teeth and looking rather bloodthirsty, demanding to know the whereabouts of their youngest family members. As if managing a town in the middle of the annual Yule madness was not trying enough! Girion let out a deep breath and sank on his chair.

“Wine, anyone?” was his weak attempt to defuse the situation. The Elvenking and his counsellor accepted the offer, whereas the two Dwarves stayed immobile at the door, glaring warily at the guests from the Woodland Realm. Girion pretended not to notice their animosity and busied himself filling his and the Elves’ cups. He faked a smile and drank while making up his mind about some innocent remark about the weather, but his honourable intentions were rendered mute by Thráin.

“What made you crawl out of your treehouse?” he snarled at the Elvenking.

Thranduil quirked an eyebrow ever so slightly and gave the Dwarf a long, appraising look before he graced him with a reply. “Seeing the world of mortals now and then helps us put our own vexations into perspective.” Girion ignored the implied slight to his own people, knowing that the king had most likely not even noticed. Thráin and his son displayed their excellent skills in dwarven scowling.

“Let’s hope Frerin and Dís have stayed away from these folks,” the young Dwarf murmured in his father’s ear, making not too big an effort to let his remark go unheard.

Thranduil pursed his lips and took a sip of wine, then he leaned over to his counsellor and whispered in Sindarin, “As if anyone would voluntarily touch his brood…” The other Elf nodded knowingly.

The two Dwarves exchanged a confused look. “What was that?” Thráin spat. “Are you too cowardly to insult us in words we can understand?”

Lord Girion weighed in hesitantly, “I am sure no one means to insult anyone…” But neither the Elves nor the Dwarves paid attention to him, so he simply refilled his cup and leaned back in his chair in resignation.

“Dear Lord Thráin, I have lived long enough to ponder very carefully who is worthy of my insults and who is not,” the king pointed out in a voice as sweet as honey, “and I have found that your people replace each other too quickly as to concern myself with each one of your individual quirks.” Next to him, the counsellor and Lord Girion cringed simultaneously.

That was too much for Thorin. He had held it together bravely until now, but watching this beardless pointy-ear disgracing his kin was beyond bearable. He let out a snort, marched to the table, slammed his fist on the polished wood and started rattling off every Khuzdul curse that came to his mind. His father let a good while pass before he walked up to him and made a half-hearted attempt to soothe him, while Lord Girion wished nothing more than to become invisible. The Elvenking and his counsellor only watched the tirade in mild disgust.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Thorin’s outburst was interrupted by the entrance of two city guards. “My lord, we have found the children,” one of them addressed Girion, “and also two of our guests…”

The astonishing sight offered to them the next moment made the self-proclaimed warlords fall silent. Two Dwarf children, one of them wrapped in an elven cloak and soaking wet, appeared in the doorframe, followed by the Chief of the Royal Guard of Greenwood and the elven prince, who was in a similar state as the dwarfling.

“Dís! Frerin! There you are!” the dwarven father exclaimed and suddenly all his grim demeanour was gone as he embraced his children. Thorin joined the family reunion and both children started chattering at once, telling the tale of their adventure.

Legolas and the Chief of Guards, however, stayed immobile and examined the tips of their boots thoroughly, feeling the king’s stare on them. Finally Thranduil gave an exhausted sigh and said, “Would either of you care to explain this extravaganza?”

Legolas gulped, straightened his shoulders and tried to look as serious as his current state allowed it. “The captain and I witnessed this Dwarf falling into the pond, so we offered our assistance,” he answered. Keeping it as short as possible was probably his best bet.

The king’s eyes shifted from his son to the soldier, whose cheeks turned crimson on the spot. “It was entirely my idea,” Legolas hurried to add. He owed his loyal companion that much.

“I do not doubt that,” Thranduil remarked, leaving it to Legolas to determine the implication. “I must say, ion nín, even while knowing your inclination to misplaced heroism, you astonish me.” He assessed the noisy dwarflings in bewilderment.

“Adar, this is a child!” Legolas protested. “Should I have watched her drown?” He felt an unexpected wave of anger rising in him. Fine, one less Dwarf to wander the world might not have been a great loss, but it was certainly not the fault of these children that their ancestors’ outrageous behaviour made it impossible to live in peace with them.

Thranduil hesitated a moment, then he shrugged. “By all means, rescue as many Dwarves as you wish, but unlike the many strange pets you brought home from the forest as a child, you may not keep this one.” He tried to sound sincere, but Legolas did not fail to notice the glint of amusement in his eyes.

The next turn of events came as a surprise to everyone: Dís, the little Dwarf girl, waddled towards Legolas, nearly tripping over the captain’s cloak, and flung her arms around his legs. “Thank you!” she said and smiled up at him.

The faces of the Elvenking, Thráin and Thorin reflected their perplexity, whereas Lord Girion, the Chief of Guards and the king’s counsellor did their best not to start grinning. After a short, awkward silence Thráin cleared his throat and took a few reluctant steps towards Legolas. He scowled at him once more, but then he forced his face to look friendly and uttered, “I thank you for your help.” It almost caused him physical pain, but he even stretched out his hand to the Elf.

Legolas looked at the Dwarf’s hand in confusion until the Chief of Guards nudged him discreetly and signalled him to shake it. The prince did as he was told, wondering what this strange custom might be about. “It, uhm… it was my pleasure,” he stuttered for lack of more fitting words.

When Thráin had finished squeezing the life out of Legolas’ fingers, he turned to Thranduil. “Apparently you did something right in this one’s upbringing,” he muttered with a jerk of his head in Legolas’ direction, and although it took more willpower than he thought he possessed, he brought himself to add, “I apologise for my earlier mistrust. And so does my son – right, Thorin?” The boy nodded reluctantly and even managed a half-grin after his little brother had kicked him in the shin to fuel his enthusiasm.

Thranduil blinked several times and looked back and forth between Thráin, Thorin and Legolas, who was still held captive by the Dwarf girl. “I accept your apology and offer you my sincere regret for slighting your people,” he eventually stated, hoping that Thráin would not insist on shaking his hand as well.

The little Dwarf boy broke the resulting silence by asking, “Father, can we invite the Elves to our Yule celebration?”

‘Eru, have mercy,’ Thranduil thought, but he kept his prayer to himself.

Fortunately none of the concerned parties seemed too thrilled by the idea and both sides made various excuses. “If they are still here by then, you can come back tomorrow and bring them some of the Yule cake you and your mother have made,” Thráin offered his children instead.

The compromise was gladly accepted and although neither Legolas nor Thranduil were overly keen on trying the announced dwarven specialty, they could not deny the unfamiliar feeling of warmth that overcame them when they watched the Dwarves leave eventually. The two children waved back at them several times and Legolas even caught himself wanting to return the gesture, but for the sake of dignity he resisted and only smiled at them.

“How does it feel to have a dwarven admirer, my lord?” the Chief of Guards teased the prince. “I bet this little one will one day tell her children and grandchildren about the Elf who saved her from drowning.”

Legolas gave him a slap on the shoulder. “Perhaps, I don’t mind. You and I certainly did a good deed today – isn’t that what this festivity of the mortals is about?” The Chief of Guards shrugged cluelessly and Legolas added with a grin, “Happy Yuletide, Captain!”

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
kayleelupin
Jan. 1st, 2015 07:53 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Ce hannon, mellon nin, this tale was just perfect from beginning to end! :)

Kaylee Arafinwiel
pizzamargherita
Jan. 2nd, 2015 09:19 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it despite the fact that my interpretation of the "truce" was a little... loose ;)
kayleelupin
Jan. 6th, 2015 03:55 pm (UTC)
It's even better on subsequent re-reads :) I'm feeling sick right now but this story makes me smile.

Kaylee Arafinwiel
pizzamargherita
Jan. 7th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC)
Great, so it serves a good purpose :) Get well soon!
lignota
Jan. 1st, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
This story made me smile. I'm glad it ended happily for everyone.
pizzamargherita
Jan. 2nd, 2015 09:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! Everyone except the cats of Erebor, I guess :)
dreamflower02
Jan. 1st, 2015 08:20 pm (UTC)
What a fun story!
pizzamargherita
Jan. 2nd, 2015 09:22 am (UTC)
Thanks - it was a lot of fun to write as well. There is nothing like grumpy Dwarves versus haughty Elves.
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2015 08:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, but I love this! Legolas has managed to do well by the Dwarves in spite of himself! Well done!
pizzamargherita
Jan. 2nd, 2015 09:24 am (UTC)
Thank you! It's a pity his attitude towards Dwarves was not completely reformed yet, but I bet once he tells this story to Gimli they will have a good laugh.
(Deleted comment)
pizzamargherita
Jan. 2nd, 2015 09:26 am (UTC)
Thank you and happy New Year!
talullahred
Jan. 3rd, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC)
This was so funny!! I loved every character, but Legolas, in particular, was all kinds of awesome! :)
pizzamargherita
Jan. 4th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was fun to write, too. Charmingly imperfect Elves rule :)
ysilme
Jan. 13th, 2015 12:51 am (UTC)
This was a joy to read, and such fun! Seeing Thorin and his siblings as children was a delight, particularly since they were so well done. And Legolas to the rescue - awesome! :o) I like your characterisations, particularly of Thorin's mother and Legolas, and young Dís.
pizzamargherita
Jan. 13th, 2015 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading. It was interesting to explore some new aspects of these characters (and meet one character who is never mentioned at all). I'm glad you liked my version of them.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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