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The Sound Between The Rests

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 Marcato: (in music) Marked, accented, emphatic, stressed.

If you had asked Legolas before the quest if he thought Erebor could be a lively place, he would have said no. Busy, perhaps, but that no place dug into cold, dead stone could truly be lively.

Now as he stood in the very belly of Erebor, he could not help but smile in private amusement at what a foolish elf he had been. Erebor was more than lively; it was vibrant.

Legolas watched various dwarves bustle back and forth across the great hall as they busied themselves with preparations for the night’s celebration. He made note of every Dwarrow he recognised, and felt some pride that the number was growing. After a few initial awkward days in which no one in the mountain seemed to know what to do with the elf in their midst, he found himself starting to settle into a comfortable niche. It almost felt like the dwarves were starting to carve a little spot for Legolas to fit into their daily lives, if only because Gimli showed them how to do it first.

A Dwarrowdam with her arms overflowing with colorful fabric was rapidly approaching the spot along the wall where Legolas was loitering. He ducked out of her way quickly and began to stroll along the perimeter of the great hall.

A part of him wanted to offer his help to the busy Dwarrowdam, but he had learned very quickly that these dwarves knew what they were doing. Worse, they knew what he was doing wrong. There were times to be helpful, and times to stay out of the way, and Legolas knew exactly what time it was now.

Legolas continued his circuit around the hall until he finally came to the area where Gimli was working, busily arranging benches in a semicircle pattern in one corner. A pile of half-unpacked crates stuffed full of things Legolas could only barely recognize sat off to one side.

Letting his curiosity get the better of him, Legolas peered into a crate furthest from where Gimli was working. His brows drew together as he spied sheafs of paper covered in strange markings; little dots and dashes. He picked up a piece of the paper, running bow-callused fingertips over the strange markings.

He knew he shouldn’t bother Gimli, not when he was so intent on making sure his part of the preparations were perfect. But still… Legolas had never been very good at denying his curiosity (a certain incident with a locket came to mind). At least Gimli was more inclined to forgive him for interrupting than other dwarves.

“Gimli, can you tell me what this says? I can’t read it.”

Without looking up from his task, setting sturdy stands in front of the benches, Gimli replied, “You know I can’t tell you what Khuzdul means.”

Legolas huffed, “I may be no scholar, but I can recognize Khuzdul when I see it, and this is not Khuzdul. Neither is it Westron or any other words of Man.”

Gimli made an interested noise and, with one more adjustment to a stand, trotted over to see the paper that confused his friend.

“It’s music,” he said with a nod, “written music.”

“You write music?”

“Of course. How else can you remember the notes?”

“Elvish songmasters travel to listen to others singing or playing and practice with them,” Legolas paused to consider something, “although, I suppose they have more time to commit them to memory.”

Gimli just rolled his eyes.

“I just can’t figure out how you write in music,” Legolas continued.

Gimli pointed to one of the little dots. “Each one of these is a note. Its position tells you how high or low it is. And these markings tell you how loud it is, how long to hold it, and other things like that.”

Legolas nodded, but Gimli could see that his friend was still puzzled.

“One moment,” Gimli said. He spun to one of the crates and carefully lifted what appeared to be a set of bells. Gimli motioned to Legolas. “Now hold the paper where I can see.”

Legolas complied and held the paper closer for Gimli to study. After a second to familiarize himself with the song, he tapped out the first few notes, using the ring on his finger in place of a mallet.

Legolas’s eyes flickered back and forth between Gimli’s hand and the paper as he tried to connect the two. He couldn’t believe that the dwarves had created a way to write in music.

“I knew you sang, but I never knew you played as well,” he said as Gimli set the bells aside, “Will you be performing tonight?”

“I’ve always been a better dancer than musician,” Gimli said, grabbing another stand, “but just wait until you hear the music tonight! The very finest Erebor has to offer.”

Gimli tossed a grin at Legolas.

“You’ve never heard anything like it!”

Legolas returned the smile.

“I can hardly wait.”

………………………………………………………………………………….............................

The celebration was in full swing, a riot of movement, color, and sound. Oh, the sound!

Gimli had been correct when he said it would be like nothing Legolas had ever heard.

Complex layers of music wove in and out of each other; rich horns, stringed instruments of all sizes, drums played with heavy mallets, pipes in every shape imaginable, bells, and chimes, and singers with full voices all building on each other to create a veritable tapestry of sound that echoed throughout the great hall.

Legolas cringed as another verse started.

At the beginning of the night, Legolas had watched the performers with fascination. He had even taken a few turns on dance floor, despite how difficult it was to do traditional dwarvish dance with his long legs.

But the music just kept building and building until it began to hurt his ears. Dwarvish music was full of accented notes and sharp dynamic changes that sent his head throbbing. It was all so loud and so sudden. He would get lulled into a sense of safety by runs of notes that gently flowed into the next when it would unexpectedly switch to harsh accented notes.

He almost whimpered as the entrance of the drum sent pain lancing deeper into his skull. It was just too loud, too much.

Legolas didn’t want to do anything that could mar the celebrations- after all the darkness the Dwarrows of Erebor deserved a little revelry. The last thing he wanted to do was give anyone the impression he was snubbing their festivities, but…

By the Valar, it hurt!

As quickly and unobtrusively as he could, Legolas exited the great hall. He didn’t know which hall he was heading down, but he didn’t care. He just kept going until the noise was too soft for even his ears to hear and slumped against a smoothly carved wall.

He slid down to the ground, gripping at his ears as he tried to breathe through the throbbing behind his eyes. The bite of his fingernails digging into his skin was almost a welcome distraction.

There was a persistent shrill ringing in his ears that just would not subside and made him want to cry out in frustration. One of the nine walkers, who faced down the forces of Sauron, nearly undone by a few songs.

He didn’t know how long he sat in that dim hallway, clutching his head and trying to will the pain away. The only thing that registered outside of his throbbing head was the sound of feet thumping down the hall. Even with the steel-toed boots the dwarves of Erebor seemed to favor, Legolas would swear footsteps had never sounded so loud before.

“Legolas,” a voice echoed through the hall to rattle in his skull, “Where did you go, elf?”

Legolas did not reply, even though he recognized Gimli’s voice. The thought of making anymore noise made him cringe.

“Aha! There you are!” Gimli called out, finally spotting the wayward elf, “I wondered what you were doing when Farun said he saw you heading towards the metalworks.”

Legolas grimaced as Gimli’s exclamation sent the pain in his ears spiking.

Gimli caught the movement, his brows furrowing.

“Legolas?” he asked, moving to sit beside the curled up elf. “What’s wrong?”

Legolas felt a warm hand settle on his shoulder as notes of concern seeped into Gimli’s voice. He took a slow breath in and released it through his nose to ready himself to speak. The task was much more daunting than he was used to.

“Peace, my friend,” he breathed, hardly enough sound behind the words to call them whispers, “I just needed some time away from all the noise.”

Thankfully, Gimli followed his cues and lowered his voice in return.

“This is not like you, Legolas. You look like you’re in pain.”

Legolas turned to look at his worried friend, obviously not content with Legolas’s simple explanation.

“It’s my ears, Gimli. The great hall is just too noisy,” he explained, “Every sound seems magnified tenfold and it pains my ears.”

He sighed, dropping his head to his knees.

“I am sorry. I did not want to spoil the celebrations for you.”

Gimli shifted closer and squeezed the elf’s shoulder.

“None of that, now,” he said, “I should have remembered those sensitive ears of yours, but it cannot be helped, so you and I shall enjoy the quiet for a while.”

Legolas offered him a grateful smile, “Do not miss the party on my account.”

“Nonsense. I much prefer the company here,” Gimli replied.

Legolas recalled Gimli’s brilliant smile as he had trotted across the dance floor; the way he laughed as he spun to the music, weaving his steps in patterns as bold and complex as the sounds filling the great hall.

“I wish I could hear your music as you do,” he whispered into the quiet hallway, and found he sincerely meant it.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Semitonal: (in music) a musical pitch halfway between two whole tones of a scale

Gimli couldn’t help but note that celebrations in the Greenwood were exceedingly more pleasant when one was invited to them. He chuckled to himself as he took another sip of the Dorwinion in his cup. Yes, this was certainly far better than the stories his father told him of the encounters Thorin’s company had had. The fires were warm, the tables were full, and the cups never emptied, even if he would have preferred a good Dwarven ale to Elvish wine.

Gimli noted that the music was also an improvement to that of Gloin’s stories. He had always been told that Elvish music was dull and dreary, but this was surprisingly lively. Every so often, little groups of elves would start up a tune on their instruments of choice and raised voices.

His hand itched for a pen and paper to sketch the strange instruments he saw. A few were familiar, such as their harps and pipes, but there were some he’d never seen before. His interest was particularly caught by a set of delicate crystal vessels played by running fingers along the edges, and a two stringed instrument with a slender neck and a bow trapped between the strings.

There was also an unexpected amount of drums. Gimli observed that they, like every other instrument in the Greenwood, were all small enough to travel easily with. He glanced at where Legolas beat his drum amongst six other musicians. It almost made him wish that Legolas would have brought it on the quest.

Gimli tapped his foot along to the last few verses of the song, wondering at how unstructured the Elven performances seemed. There was no set order of songs or designated performers as far as he could tell. It gave an almost casual air to the whole affair.

After the final notes faded and a few friendly words were traded Legolas ambled over, drum tucked under his arm as he sat next to Gimli.

“That was a fine tune, lad,” Gimli commented as Legolas reached for the cup of wine he’d settled amongst the roots of the tree they’d claimed for the night, “Where did you learn it?”

Legolas took a sip before answering, “A travelling bard who stayed for a while when I was young. He stayed for a few centuries to listen to and learn from our musicians and share some of his own works.”

“And none of it’s ever written down?” Gimli asked, still trying to come to grips with the fact.

“If there are words sometimes they are written down,” Legolas conceded, “but the music is learned by hearing and repeating. Some elves spend their whole lives studying under as many songmasters as they can meet.”

Legolas nodded towards an elleth standing a few trees away, “Some, like Geliril there, become talented enough to lead the grand songs and starlight choruses.”

Gimli studied the elf and searched his memory, but could not place her among any of the performers he had heard tonight and she had no instrument he could see.

“I don’t believe I’ve heard her play yet,” he admitted.

Legolas nodded, “I believe she is preparing herself for the starlight song tonight.”

A grin spread across Legolas’s face.

“Just wait until you hear it, Gimli! The truest form of Elvish song, and every elf in the forest will join together in it!”

“I look forward to it,” Gimli replied, grinning back at the elf.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gimli stared around at all of the elves surrounding him. Legolas had not been exaggerating when he claimed every elf in the forest would have a part. Every elf from the lowest servant to the highest royalty had gathered in the clearing.

The elleth Legolas pointed out before stood in the center of the group where all eyes could see her. Gimli watched eagerly as she she picked up a strange silver fork hanging from a chain around her neck. She tapped it against the palm of her hand and lifted it to one pointed ear, listening to some sound Gimli could not hear.

She moved her hand in a gentle motion, letting the forked pendant drop and Gimli realized he could hear a voice. It took him off guard that he couldn’t pinpoint when the sound had started.

The note seemed to grow, swelling with more voices before it shifted into a whole set of notes. The spaces between them seemed too small to truly be different notes, but the way they fit together was not like two of the same note either. The way they rubbed together sounded strange and unsettling to his ear.

Gimli was startled to notice that Legolas had started singing at some point. The elf’s eyes seemed glazed over, almost as they were in reverie, and wordless notes seemed to spill from his throat with no effort on his part.

In the center of it all, the elleth’s hands kept moving in sweeping motions that Gimli could make no sense of. An errant thought flew through his head that she must be weaving a spell over all present.

An uncomfortable tingling seemed to run along his skin as notes of the song glided into one another, flowing like water. Sometimes notes would break away like a stream divided by a rock before it reformed into one singular body again.

Gimli felt his breath growing short and shallow. How could there be enough room for air when so much sound was all around them? It filled every space it could and completely surrounded Gimli.

He looked up at the stars above and his mind nearly boggled as he saw them spinning above him. Or was he spinning below them? It could be either, for he was sure he had come unpinned from the ground; come unpinned from the very march of time itself!

Gimli’s heart was racing in his chest as he felt the world close in upon him. He was going to drown in the sound!

He did not know how long he was in that state before he realized that the music that had swamped him was gone and a voice was calling his name. He blinked several times, slowly recognizing the feel of the ground below him and a bow-calloused hand in his.

Legolas crouched before him, softly calling his name as his eyes searched his face.

It took Gimli a moment to gather his bearings. They were far from the fires now, their distant glow somewhere over Gimli’s left shoulder. The small clearing they stood in relied chiefly on the cool stars to light it. How they got there, Gimli couldn’t say, but he guessed Legolas must have lead him there while he was insensate.

“Gimli, meleth-nin, do you hear me?” Legolas asked, running his thumbs over Gimli’s hands.

Gimli found it in himself to manage a nod as he tried to gather the breath to speak, but this seemed to be enough to ease some of the tension in Legolas’s shoulders.

“Legolas, what…” he tried, his voice coming more breathily than was familiar.

Legolas seemed to understand him, shaking his head as he replied, “I do not know, my friend. I have heard of elves losing themselves in the songs, but you seemed as if you were waiting for a battle, or already in one.”

“It was like…” Gimli searched for a way to describe it, “the sound became some living thing that swallowed me up. Like the world stopped existing around me.”

He swallowed and tried to get his heart and breath back under control, focusing on the feel of Legolas’s hands gripped so tightly in his own.

“Come, sit with me,” Legolas said, leading him to sit by the base of a thick beech tree, “We will camp here for a while as we did in Fangorn until the morning breaks.”

“You should not let me keep you from the celebrations,” he protested.

“I have had enough singing tonight,” Legolas said, smiling gently at him, “I would much rather enjoy the stars, and the company.”

Gimli did not speak his thanks as he settled beside Legolas, but he did squeeze his hand and knew it was understood.

“I would have liked to appreciate your grand song,” he admitted quietly.

Legolas sighed, “I would have liked that too.”

………………………………........................................................................................................

 

Resolve: (in music) to progress from dissonance (an unstable chord) to consonance (a more final and stable chord)

For six years they had a tacit understanding that when the music picked up during Dwarven celebrations, Legolas would excuse himself from the gathering, and Gimli would do the same once the grand songs started during Elvish gatherings.

At first they tried to always leave as a pair, but there were too many times when at least one of them was expected to attend. Now was one of those times.

Gimli sighed as he watched dwarrows whirl around the hall in a wild dance to the thundering beat of the music. The night never seemed as enjoyable after Legolas left. Even the songs Gimli used to look forward to failed to lift his mood.Every time they were played, all he could think of was how much he wanted to be able to dance to them with his elf in his arms.

He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat, picturing the way Legolas would look. He would jump into the dances with as much vigour as he did in battle. His brow would furrow in concentration as he tried to watch and execute the steps simultaneously. He wouldn’t stumble, but he would misstep trying to get his legs to keep up with the shorter steps.

Just then, a hand landed on his shoulder, startling him out of his daydream. He was shocked to see Legolas standing there, a grin as bright as a midday in summer on his face.

“Legolas! I thought you went back to the rooms. What are you doing here?”

Legolas’s grin widened.

“I came back to enjoy the music!” he shouted, uncharacteristically loud.

“You’re ears! Love, you know I’d want you here, but the last time your headache wouldn’t leave for a day,” Gimli said, setting aside his ale so he could shepherd his foolish husband somewhere quieter.

“That’s the brilliance of it,” Legolas laughed, “This time there won’t be a headache!”

“What?”

“Look,” Legolas said, brushing some hair away from a pointed ear.

“Wax plugs like they use in the forges,” he explained excitedly before Gimli could get a good look, “Your mother thought they might dampen the music enough for me to stay!”

Gimli felt Legolas’s enthusiasm infect him as he laughed aloud.

“This way I can still hear the music and it should not hurt my ears.”

“Are you sure?” Gimli asked, barely daring to hope.

“No,” Legolas admitted, “but I would rather risk it if it means being a part of this with you.”

Gimli felt a fierce adoration for his husband as a new song was struck up. He grasped Legolas's hand and gestured to the couples whirling around the dance floor with the other.

"Then if we are going to make the most of this night, can a poor dwarf have a dance with his husband?" he asked.

Legolas looked over the dancers with his eyebrows slightly raised and a crooked smile upon his lips.

"If that dwarf will excuse his poor husband's legs for being too old to learn Dwarvish dance steps with any speed."

Gimli grinned, pulling Legolas towards the dancers.

"We'll stick to the edges of the dance floor for a bit!"

What followed was a bit of dance, a touch of dance lesson, and a lot of enthusiastic effort, but as Gimli watched Legolas's hair flying behind him as he attempted a low spin, he thought he'd never had a dance more perfect.

Legolas stumbled as he tried to pullout of the spin, laughing as Gimli reached out to stabilize him.

"This is wonderful, Gimli," he shouted.

Gimli tried very hard to keep himself from laughing at how loud his elf was with the ear plugs in.

"It's like the music is dancing with us!" he continued, gripping Gimli's shoulders.

"And the way all of the parts fit together! It's like they were woven together in some huge tapestry of music."

Legolas closed his eyes, reveling in the sounds.

"I'm so glad I get to hear it."

Gimli wrapped an arm around his waist.

"As am I," Gimli replied, leading them back into the dance.

.....................................................................................................................................................

It had been more difficult to find a solution that would allow Gimli to remain during the Grand Elven Songs.

Legolas had been hesitant to try given how unsettling the results of the first time had been, however Gimli was insistent. If they could find a solution for Legolas's issue there had to be one for Gimli's.

It took several trials, but the results were worth it.

Gimli breathed deeply, listening to the sound of hundreds of Elven voices rising a falling together like a sweeping wave, trying to pick out which notes took the chord from familiar to fantastic.

He found that trying to break the songs down to their component-parts helped to keep him from being overwhelmed by them.

The soft ground beneath his hands helped as well, he thought, flexing his fingers in the warm soil.

Of course the greatest help was being able to lean back against Legolas's chest as they sat, the vibrations of the music underscored by the beating of Legolas’s heart.

Gimli smiled to himself, thoroughly pleased with the way things had turned out, and started planning how he could incorporate the strange Elvish harmonies into a Dwarven song.

END.