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“Are you sure about this?” Gimli himself could hear the suspicion fairly reeking from his voice.
After months of travel, shared deprivation and danger and finally facing death side-by-side, he had no doubt as to the Elf's integrity. As for the halflings – well, they were like small brothers, mischievous but courageous and loyal. Even Peregrin Took, in his most playful moments, could scarcely deceive Gimli – they all knew each other too well.
But this stranger, Imrahil, be he prince or not – what did Gimli know of him? The fact that he was lord of a mighty city, liegeman to Aragorn, and kinsman of Boromir the Bold meant little. Truth be told, Gimli had felt a bit disappointed in Boromir, his weakness at the test, and how so much ill had come of his failing. But now was not the time to dwell on those thoughts, for here was the Prince, smiling and holding out this loathsome object. For Gimli it was the moment of decision.
“Let me try it first,” Legolas said softly, reaching for the tray. There was at first a faint flicker of - what? surprise? distaste? and a barely perceptible twitch to his nose, but then suddenly a blissful smile, a deep sigh.
“That was.. unbelievable. I would never have imagined...may I have another?”
Imrahil's pretty daughter clapped her hands. “Aren't they the most delicious things? I wait all year for them to come into season, and then I want to have them at every meal for a week.”
By now, Gimli had had enough. Silvan elves and gently-reared young girls – surely the thing could not be as repellant as it looked. “No, it's my turn. Let me have a taste before they're all gone between the lot of you. Now, how do I...”
“Stick your knife between the two halves, and twist them apart...” Imrahil had the knife handy.
“Then a squeeze of lemon ...” Lotheriel's fingers were pale and shriveled, her dress splattered. A heap of lemon rinds were scattered all about her on the ground.
“Toss your head back, and just let it slide on down...” Merry instructed.
“But don't chew it! Because then you'll realize how disgusting it really is,” Pippin chimed in, as Merry howled with laughter.
Gimli sliced, squeezed, tossed, swallowed. The first thing he noticed was, oh, the sliminess of the thing, it was like eating – but then the sudden and surprising burst of lemon, and something that he had never before encountered, but recognized at once: the scent and taste of the sea. And then he knew why Legolas had smiled.
“Delicious!” He roared; his companions shouted with glee. A wench came along, carrying a wooden tray full of tankards of ale; host Imrahil passed them all around.
“To Dol Amroth oysters!” Merry and Pippin shouted in unison.
“To Dol Amroth!” Imrahil and his daughter laughed together, clinking their tankards.
“To the sea!” Gimli said, catching Legolas's eye.
The elf paused, just a moment, “To the sea,” he murmured, raising his tankard, and drank.
A birthday gift for Branwyn, October 2007
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