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Beautiful

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You are an Elf. You were born into a beautiful world, into a beautiful race.

Or so you have always thought.

You defined beauty as you had been taught. The rush of water over stone; the grace of an arrow's flight; jewels shining in sunlight or moonlight, and the Elven maidens who wore them.

You cannot be sure when the meaning of the word changed for you, but you know that the quest caused it.

Now the laughter of hobbits is beautiful to you. The sight of mithril gleaming in the darkness takes your breath away. Death--that enemy, even of Elves--has its own strange beauty, you learn when you watch two cherished comrades say goodbye to each other.

In the midst of all these new discoveries, it takes some time for you to realize what is perhaps the greatest of them.

The solid presence against your front while riding, the same comforting bulk against your back while sleeping? Beautiful.

A blustery voice that shouts challenges and laughter at the same high volume, habitually gruff to disguise the warm heart beneath? Beautiful.

The impulsiveness that leads a Dwarf off of parapets and into Fellowships? The generosity that learns to befriend members of a detested race? The soul that mourns those long dead and comforts those newly grieved?

Indeed. Beautiful.

"What are you staring at?" Gimli snarls. "Is there dirt on my face? Damned pristine Elf."

And you laugh, because finding a Dwarf's temper beautiful should be beyond even your new understanding. "You are a creature of beauty as always, my friend," you tell him, and leave him sputtering as you go to saddle your horse.

There is no need for him to know it is true.