A Dragons’ Banquet 2: Dwarven Tableware at an Elves’ Table

This is a series of exerpts taken from The Life Of A Dragon to prove that gastronomy can be discreetly introduced in any story or novel, be it fiction or not!

The Elf Forest was in an uproar.
Wilfred had arrived the previous day with a group of the eleven of the strangest creatures Elves had ever met in their Realm, or so to speak outside. Creatures of legend they were. The tall people of the woods had a lot of prejudices against the other races, but the Dwarves evidently provoked extreme reactions with their short stocky bodies, their beards and their enormous feet that could be heard trample the soft forest soil from miles away.
Queen Ellana had sternly warned her subjects to behave in the most respectful and welcoming manner, but some individuals were sorely tried in their personal feelings. On the other hand, their Queen had proved the perfect host.
Her grace, gentility and deference had left the Dwarves dazzled and speechless. Fortunately, Numnir had smoothly assumed the role of the guests on their behalf, or the Elves would have thought his companions mute or dumb. The Court had a fair knowledge of the common language, so communication had not become much of a problem when tongues started to loose later.
The Dwarves had retired early as they certainly needed rest after having crossed half the Forest before reaching Queen Ellana’s Court.
Tents had been prepared for them, but it would take a long time for the inhabitants of the mountains to get comfortable under such flimsy protection in spite of the very clement climate.
The following day witnessed unusual activity. Queen Ellana had ordered a large tent to be erected to house all the guests at the banquet offered in the honor of their special visitors. The occasion in itself was not of great import as Elves were fond of revelry and never missed an opportunity to celebrate. What started to rouse the interest of the denizens of the Forest was that everybody had been firmly asked out of the tent just before the festivities were supposed to begin. Ellana’s subjects’ curiosity was further exacerbated when the Dwarves appeared, carrying boxes of all kinds and sizes out of their own abodes into the banquet tent.
Questions flew but no answers came. Everybody understood they would have to wait until the feast began and the usually staid Elves were openly fidgeting.

Their plight was mercifully ended just as the sun started sinking behind the trees when a herald announced the banquet was ready. Even so, proper decorum forced everyone to enter the cloth hall in a single file and in the order of his status. The Queen, Dargelblad and Numnir, as well the Prince Consort and the Dwarves were already seated, clearly demonstrating the importance accorded to the guests to the detriment and chagrin of the Elf nobility. The latter, to the last man and woman, had to walk to the Royal Seat to salute their sovereign before proceeding to his and her predetermined place along the banquet table. But once seated, every Elf could not help but observe and become further intrigued by a white silk cloth covering their dinner set, whereas Ellana, Aerdhel, the Dragons and the Dwarves were facing an uncovered set of elven-made plate, fork, knife, chopsticks, spoon and glasses. The Dwarves did not show any curiosity at their outlandish dining set as they had had plenty of time to examine and train with such unusual utensils before coming to the Elf Forest.
When at last all the guests had been seated, Queen Ellana rose up and addressed the assembly:
“Honored guests, faithful servants of the Forest! As I may presume you all know, we are here assembled today to welcome the vanguard and illustrious ambassadors of a great Race whose very existence we had all forgotten in our ignorance and self-centered pride! When I say vanguard, it is my sincere belief we are witnessing the advent of a very long and fruitful relation between our two people. By illustrious, this is how you shall call our guests once you have seen what they had brought us, in spite of what some of you might have thought or said, for which I wish to offer my heartfelt apologies!”
The Queen was not known to apologize or reckon her faults if she ever had any, and her words put a few of her courtiers to shame on that day. Some could feel her displeasure and discovered they would be accounted for.
“But I am quite certain that all who had doubted our guests’ intentions and abilities will be the first to offer their thanks and friendship!”
The sarcasm was not lost. What was supposed to be a source of festivities was quickly turning into a masterly remonstrance of her subjects.
“I know Dwarves are people of few words but of great deeds. Why do you not lift the napkin in front of you to discover what presents they have brought all the way from the Iron Crags for your sole pleasure!”

Every courtier, with as much grace and restraint they could muster, obeyed their Queen to unveil what was under their napkins.
Few people in Alymndes could boast they had ever seen a truly astonished Elf in their life. But what the Dwarves were witnessing was the whole of the Forest nobility and authority gaping in mute surprise and wonder.
The knife, the fork and spoon were lying in their normal place, but each plate was of enameled pottery with patterns, motifs and colors of their own. The Dwarves had chosen subjects drawn and submitted to their skills by Numnir, as the Dwarves knew so little about the outside world before they began to heat their kilns. Some nobles were lovingly tracing their fingers along the leaves, fruit and plants so dear to them. Next, as their eyes went beyond their plates, they discovered a pair of chopsticks made of a substance they had never seen. Pottery they knew, although enamel was a discovery, but glass intrigued them endlessly. Each set of chopsticks was made of that substance in many colors interlacing each other as if they were flowing through and away. Next as each napkin was completely lifted, a drinking glass appeared to further heighten the astonishment of his recipient. Each drinking vessel had been manufactured with flash glass of two different tinted layers over a transparent one. Motifs had been cut and carved out the glass at varying depths to make them appear in rich lights and shades. Every Elf was holding his glass in front of his eyes, unendingly twirling it in the light of the fire globes hung to the roof of the tent which soon resonated with the amazed exclamations of joy of the happy Elves.

Those, who just a short while ago had come to sneer at their visitors or worse mock them, were presently unashamedly vying for their attentions, full of praise and questions, although Court rules prevented them to leave their seats and join the beaming Dwarves.
Ellana raised her hands to command silence.
“Gentlemen, Ladies! Are you forgetting your station and manners?”
She continued in a thinly veiled mocking tone:
“Behold! Long have I waited to witness the flower of the servants of the Forest throw their reserve and pride to the winds and at last show some true admiration and modesty for something not of their own making! I shall cherish this precious moment for the rest of my life! I hereby pray the Kingdom Under The Mountain to accept my humble thanks and proclaim all Dwarves Elf-friends!”
Turning to Numnir:
“But words are only words. Dear Flint Ironfoot, Ambassador of Drumbeat Hammerblow, King of all Dwarven Races, would you be as kind to repeat for the benefit of our audience what you so eloquently advocated to us last night?”
Numnir stood up and bowed to the Queen.
“Your Majesty is too kind when she praises the Dwarves for something they have done all their lives. We have come to your Forest, not only to offer you our crafts, but also to discover your arts and culture and propose an exchange of skills as well as combine our efforts into the creation of new artworks.”
The assembly went silent for real. Numnir had the satisfaction to discover he had struck a chord in the Elves’ hearts. He had their attention riveted to his words of art and crafts. However, there were other aspects he wished to discuss.
“I sense that my speech is of some appeal to you, so if you would allow me to continue in spite of all the great food and drink waiting for us, I shall make an outline of what we would like to submit to your judgment. The material used to manufacture the chopsticks and wine cups is called glass. The technique, as for enamel, the material covering your plates, is not too hard to replicate. The problem resides in the forges, ovens and intense heat needed for long periods to achieve perfection. As far as I know, only Dwarves can endure long exposure to such extremes in temperature. Natural crystals holds few secrets for you, but they are brittle and hard to fashion, whereas glass, although breakable, can be molded into any shape and tinted in any color. It is easy to polish, cut or carve. We dwarves are proficient with knives, chisels and hammers, but when it comes to minute details or treating silver or other soft metals, our big hands are too clumsy. Now for a start, if we could for example fashion chopsticks, wine glasses and mirrors with silver or copper holds and frames, we would create an unequaled product to sell or barter. We have already seen how quickly our crafts have become popular and in demand in Dunlago and Beaucastel, and our kin there have standing orders for at least a year. I know your love of the wines of Beaulieu, the spices of Dunlago and the soft skins of the Steppes. Shall I continue? As a last word, I have to confess trade is the main reason why we Dwarves have decided to come out of our mountains!”
The Elves were gaping at the Flint Dragon’s words. Rarely had anybody brought them to think and reevaluate so suddenly that they had great difficulties to organize their thoughts and to formulate the questions that crowded their heads. Their Queen saved them from more confusion
“Flint Ironfoot, Ambassador of the Kingdom Under The Mountain, many of us, if not all, will remember this day when somebody had to come among us from so far to provide our Forest with some greatly needed challenge and mettle! Why do we not start celebrating our good fortune? Gentle servants, bring us drink and food! Musicians, to your instruments!”

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