Disclaimer: I wished I may, I wished I might, own these characters I wrote of tonight (or morning as the case may be). Sadly, it didn't work. They're Tolkien's.
Additional disclaimer: 'Tig' is the property of Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin.
This story was inspired by the extra features on the extended 'Fellowship of the Ring' dvd and is for anyone who has sat through the highly entertaining actors' commentary. Enjoy!
Summary: Legolas is rather puzzled by the behaviour of the hobbits. Aragorn does not help. It's a long walk to Mordor…
Games People Play
Chapter 1: Tig
"What are they doing?"
Aragorn, son of Arathorn, glanced up from where he sat cleaning his sword to see Legolas, prince of Mirkwood, leaning back against a nearby tree, arms folded and gaze fixed on something just within the rough boundaries of their temporary campsite.
Legolas gestured eastwards with a slender motion. "The periannath. What are they doing?"
Aragorn looked in the direction which the elf had indicated to see the hobbit cousins, Merry and Pippin, running around seemingly without point or purpose. Occasionally a shout would ring out and the two would reverse direction and come scurrying back the other way. The ranger glanced up at his elven friend and shrugged. "Playing," he replied in answer to the elf's question.
"Playing?" Legolas echoed, eyes leaving the energetic cousins for a brief moment to focus on the ranger.
"And what are they playing precisely?"
"A game," the man answered simply, returning his attention to his sword.
Legolas frowned. "Aragorn, you realise that you are not helping."
The ranger smirked. "I am not trying to."
Giving up on his infuriating friend, the elf turned to survey the rest of the fellowship where they sat distributed throughout the campsite. His gaze settled on the back of the wizard, Gandalf, who was resting on a broken tree trunk chewing on the long stem of his pipe, blue-grey eyes fastened intently on the playing hobbits. The soft wind which ruffled through the camp every now and again brought to Legolas the smoky but distinct bite of the hobbits' leaf as it curled and blackened in the wizard's pipe- a scent which lingered around far too many members of the fellowship for the elf's liking. Yet Legolas allowed himself only one swift, disapproving glance at the thick grey haze that was emerging from the wooden bowl, deciding that any comment about the foulness of the habit at that particular time would likely do nothing more but place the answers he sought in jeopardy. With a few silent steps the prince moved so he stood just behind Gandalf's cloaked form, which was huddled against the cool evening breeze. Yet before he could even open his mouth to inquire as to what it was that the hobbits were doing, the Maia opened his.
"Do not think to ask a mere wizard about the antics of those hobbits," the Istari grumbled without looking up. "For those two are more of a puzzle than all the mysteries buried in the deepest caverns of Middle Earth put together." The robed figure subsided into brooding silence once more, leaving a perplexed elf prince to stare at the hunched grey form in bewilderment.
Legolas eyed the wizard for a long moment, during which the grey smoke rings which rose from above the bent figure's head seemed to increase both in number and intensity. Finally, he stepped away and glanced once more around the area which he, Gandalf and Aragorn had chosen for that night's camp. His blue eyes darted over the remaining members of the fellowship as he examined each in turn.
The dwarf had perched himself on a large boulder almost twice his size. However, thought the elf silently, such a comparison said little for the size of the boulder. The barest hint of a smirk crept over the ethereal being's pale face as he watched the son of Gloin, who, like the wizard, was huffing away on a pipe. Legolas' smirk deepened as the dwarf cast a quick, suspicious glance in his direction, one clearly intended to be far less conspicuous than it was to the elf's sharp eyes. Of course, thought Legolas with no small sense of regret, the dwarf's suspicions were completely unfounded. After all, it had not been his fault that the dwarf's pack had somehow found its way onto a rather high tree branch the previous night. Moreover, it certainly was not his fault that he, the only wood-elf in the company, had been absent scouting when the dwarf realised its whereabouts, meaning that Aragorn had had to climb up the uncommonly smooth, not to mention narrow, tree in order to retrieve it.
A glint appeared in Legolas' eyes as the memory of a dark night in Rivendell came to him as clear as the event itself, when beings of many races had gathered before a dancing fire that lit a great hall, when a son of Thranduil had triumphed over a son of Gloin.+ The glint in the blue eyes developed into a merry gleam of mischief as the elf wondered curiously whether such victory could be achieved again with as little difficulty as the first occasion. Certain that it could, he fixed a calm gaze on the dwarf's blocky form, and made sure to catch the other's eyes when he next glanced over.
Gimli jumped slightly as cold blue eyes met his. He looked away hurriedly, fixing his gaze on a handy bush a few feet distant. After some minutes had passed, he glanced over again only to see the icy orbs of the elf still focused intently upon him. Unnerved he looked away again, for longer this time, then back to meet the same impenetrable stare. His anger mounting rapidly, Gimli levered himself off of his boulder and marched across the campsite to where the elf stood watching him, determined to put a stop to the nonsense once and for all.
"What do you think you're doing, elf?" he demanded loudly, so loudly in fact that the heads of the rest of the fellowship turned in unison towards the two mismatched figures. Even Merry and Pippin stopped their game for a moment to stare at them curiously. Gimli blinked, realising what he had done, then squared his shoulders, forcefully ignoring the developing grins on the faces of all those around him. All of them, that was, except for the elf, who was looking at him questioningly with an innocent expression on his fair features.
"Why, whatever do you mean, Master Dwarf?" the elf asked politely, blue eyes widening slightly.
Gimli puffed up his chest angrily. How dare the elf pretend he was innocent! "You know very well what you were doing," he growled roughly, taking a short step forward and glaring up at the twig-like creature furiously. "And if you don't stop it of your own accord, my axe will be only too happy to assist you!"
The elf glanced round at the rest of the company as though asking for support against the obviously mad dwarf who was threatening him. "I am sorry," he replied, his expression troubled. "It was not my intention to offend you. I was doing nothing more but simply standing here."
Aragorn snorted to himself quietly. Even if he hadn't seen the elven prince staring intently at the dwarf for some minutes, the very fact that Legolas was not affronted by the dwarf's accusations but was instead protesting his innocence suggested to him that the elf was somewhat guiltier than he claimed. Yet the ranger chose not to intervene and instead stayed seated, deciding to let them fight this one out for themselves, or at least let someone else take the responsibility for once of keeping peace amongst the various members of the fellowship. Besides, he reasoned, the past few days had been rather monotonous as the company continued their long march to Mordor and to be honest, he rather enjoyed the amusement that the frequent fights between elf and dwarf provided.
Affairs were advancing little further as the dwarf continued his declarations that the elf had been purposefully provoking him and the elf continued to protest his open-eyed innocence. Finally, just as Aragorn was getting properly into the rhythm of the debate, the deep rumble of Gandalf brought it to an abrupt halt.
"Master Gimli." The wizard's voice was calm but had an iron edge which, Aragorn well knew, indicated danger. "As this debate seems to be going nowhere fast, perhaps you will tell us what it was that Prince Legolas was doing?"
The dwarf did not respond immediately and the wizard raised his eyebrows.
"He was looking at me," came the muttered words.
Bushy eyebrows rose even further. "He was looking at you."
Gimli shuffled his feet, unwilling to meet the wizard's eyes. "Well, it wasn't so much what he was doing, it was how he was doing it!" he blustered suddenly.
"Indeed." The wizard's sharp eyes rested on the innocent-eyed son of Thranduil then fell back onto the red-faced dwarf. "If it does not inconvenience you, Master Gimli, I would appreciate it if you would not make up excuses to get into another of those childish disputes which you and the prince insist on having. Instead, might I suggest that you put your attentions to something that is more productive. Getting some rest for example, so that you will be ready for tomorrow's march."
His expression fighting between fury and incredulity, Gimli stared flabbergasted at the back of the wizard, who had turned back to his pipe. However, when no response was imminent he instead cast a stony-eyed glare at the prince of Mirkwood, who flashed a swift, triumphant smirk at him before his face returned to its usual serene calm. Angrily, Gimli stomped over to Aragorn who was now sharpening his sword with a whetstone, knowing that the ranger would put a stop to any more of the elf's behaviour if only to keep peace amongst the fellowship.
Legolas sighed softly as the dwarf lowered himself down next to Aragorn, knowing full well what the short creature was doing. He debated with himself about trying for yet another victory yet at a sharp look from Gandalf he quickly decided to wait for a more suitable time. At that momenta loud yelp from Pippin caught his attention and he turned his thoughts to the problem at hand, figuring out what it was that the hobbits were doing.
Reasoning that the other periannath in the party were the most likely to be able to explain what their kinsmen were doing, he turned his gaze to Frodo and Sam. The two friends were sitting a little way off next to the small campfire over which one of Sam's kettles was boiling merrily. They too were watching the pair, laughing occasionally at the more humorous antics of the two cousins. As the sound of Frodo's laugh rang out over the camp, Legolas decided at once not to disturb them as the merry sound was becoming all too rare as the fellowship drew closer to Mordor.
Instead, Legolas turned his attention to the only other human in the party apart from Aragorn, Lord Boromir of Gondor. The man sat a little removed from the rest of the fellowship, his shield and pack laid neatly behind him to rest against a tree. A broad smile was on his bearded face as he watched the two hobbits playing, yet the smile soon faded into a look of concern as the cousins drew near him and began to use his broad figure as an object to shelter behind.
Deciding to wait and see how the situation played itself out, Legolas wandered back over to Aragorn and folded himself to the ground, happily observing that the dwarf had risen at his approach, stomping over to the protection which Gandalf provided. With a look at the elf that was tinted with amusement, Aragorn rummaged abut in his pack and drew out another whetstone, flipping it to his friend. Reaching behind his head, Legolas drew out one of his long knives and ran the stone carefully down its edge, honing the blade to a sharp keenness. When he next glanced over at the cousins, he was amused to see that their game had progressed to the stage where they were alternately pleading and ordering the man of Gondor to join them in their game, for, they claimed, three was a crowd and therefore much more fun than only two. Boromir was looking around the fellowship for support, yet there was none to be found. Indeed, Aragorn was grinning openly at him, enjoying the chance to see a member of the party apart from himself in strife with the hobbits for once.
"Come on, Boromir," Merry was saying. "It'll be fun!"
"He's right, you know," added Pippin, nodding his curly head earnestly. "For once."
Merry turned to face his cousin with a frown. "And what's that supposed to mean exactly?" he accused.
"Well," began Pippin after a moment's quick thought, "What I meant was-"
As the two hobbits began to argue, Boromir leant back against his tree with a relieved sigh, throwing a triumphant glance at Aragorn who merely shrugged and returned to his sword, a knowing smile upon his face. Sure enough, after little more than a minute's furious discussion over what exactly it was that Pippin had meant, the two cousins returned once more to persuading the Gondorian to join them in their game.
The warrior looked pleadingly at Aragorn for a second time yet the ranger pointedly ignored him. By this time Merry and Pippin had each seized a strong arm and were attempting to tug the man to his feet. Finally Boromir relented with a laugh.
"Very well, master hobbits," he chuckled. "I shall join you as long as you promise to leave me in peace after our game."
"On our word as hobbits of the Shire," Merry promised solemnly. At the man's nod, the two cousins cheered and eagerly began to explain the various rules and regulations which governed their game. His curiosity once again awakened, Legolas sheathed his knife and rose to his feet in one fluid movement. Aware that he would likely be dragged into the game if he approached too closely, he innocently wandered a few steps nearer and came to a halt by a nearby tree. Leaning back against it so that he was half-hidden from the hobbits' sight, he tried to make sense of the confusing two-sided conversation.
Legolas recognised the game as similar to one that elflings played in Mirkwood. The aim was for one person, who was 'It', to catch the other person and touch, or 'tig', him. It was then the 'tigged' person's turn to chase after the other players in order to do the same to them. Yet, he reflected silently, this version of the hobbits' seemed to be far more complicated than the one that he had played as a child. The lengthy, not to mention confusing, explanation seemed to be too quick for Boromir also, who looked rather dubious as he took his position on the makeshift playing field and the game began.
It was only seconds before play halted and the two hobbits turned to Boromir as one.
"You can't tig on a tog, Boromir," explained Pippin patiently. "It's not allowed."
The warrior nodded slowly. "My apologies, little ones. Perhaps if we begin again?"
The hobbits nodded and turned away to take up their positions. Aragorn, the only member of the fellowship in a position to see their faces, noticed that the cousins exchanged a quick grin before turning back to the Gondorian.
Play resumed only to be interrupted a few moments later by another cry of protest from the hobbits.
"I do not seem to be very good at this game," remarked Boromir to no one in particular.
"You'll get the hang of it soon," said Merry encouragingly and with a quick wink at Pippin that only Aragorn witnessed.
Boromir nodded uncertainly and sure enough another cry echoed throughout the camp seconds later.
"No, Boromir!" exclaimed Merry. "You can't double tig a tag!"
The Gondorian halted abruptly and turned to the two innocent-eyed hobbits with a suspicious look on his face. "Remind me, what is a 'tag' precisely?"
Merry and Pippin glanced at each other simultaneously and exchanged a long-suffering sigh.
"We told you already, Boromir," Merry reminded him.
The Gondorian looked to Aragorn once again for support, but the ranger merely nodded in confirmation of the hobbit's words. "He speaks the truth, Master Boromir. Merry and Pippin explained their rules before the game began."
The warrior grunted, casting a dark glare at the ranger. "It seems that I was the only one who missed them," he muttered under his breath.
"Aye," Aragorn responded happily, his sharp ears easily catching the man's words. "It seems as though you were." He returned to his sword, the corners of his mouth twitching slightly.
Once more the game resumed and once more it was interrupted by a shout from one of the hobbits. "Boromir, you can't tag a tog! Now you have to do an Oliphaunt impression!"
Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, came to an abrupt halt. He stared at Merry in disbelief. "I beg your pardon?"
"You have to do an Oliphaunt impression." repeated the hobbit more slowly. "Because you tagged a tog."
The man gave a rather stunned yet determined shake of his head. "I am not going to impersonate an Oliphaunt," he stated firmly.
"It's easy," replied Pippin brightly and he let out a strange sort of trumpeting snort which sent a few birds fluttering from nearby trees.
Merry eyed him, impressed. "Nice one, Pip."
"Why, thank you, Merry. Now you try, Boromir."
Seeing the look of disbelief mixed with sheer stubbornness that was fixed on the Gondorian's face, Gimli let out a loud snort of laughter, only to have Merry eye him appreciatively, much as he had Pippin. "There, see?" he said to Boromir. "Gimli can do it!"
Peals of laughter from the watching elf rang out over the camp as Gimli stared open-mouthed at the two hobbits. The shoulders of the ranger, who was still huddled over his sword, were shaking slightly as the man struggled to hide his laughter. Even Gandalf's mouth was twitching as he stared steadfastly at the fire, still chewing on his pipe. With a muttered oath, Gimli jumped heavily to his feet and stomped off into the surrounding trees, grumbling something about firewood. Merry and Pippin watched him go with identical expressions of confusion on their faces, then they turned back to Boromir simultaneously.
"It's part of the game!"
"That's quite enough for now, Master Hobbits." The gruff voice of Gandalf interrupted the hobbits' cajoling voices and they turned to stare at him in annoyance. "I need this particular son of the steward to have a scout around and ensure the safety of our camp tonight."
"No, Master Meriadoc."
"You can't just-"
"I already have, Peregrin Took."
Boromir gave the wizard such a grateful look that Gandalf could not help but think that maybe it had been slightly cruel to have waited so long to intervene. The hobbits, however, were eying him suspiciously.
"I thought that Strider or Legolas usually scouted at night," began Pippin and the rough voice of the ranger cut in smoothly.
"I shall be only too happy to relieve Boromir of his duty tonight, in order that he and the hobbits may finish their game," Aragorn said, and he began to get up from where he sat.
Boromir threw the smirking ranger such a dark look that Gandalf resolved to keep an eye on the two of them that night. He did not want to be responsible for the death of the heir to Gondor's throne, even indirectly, particularly if it was the son of the guardian of the throne who killed said heir. "Although I appreciate the offer, Master Ranger," he countered dryly, "I believe that it is Boromir's responsibility this evening. Both you and Legolas take on that duty far too often."
About to protest, Aragorn was subjected to such a glare from the wizard that he quietened immediately and sank back down to the ground. Boromir, with an expression of complete relief on his face, disappeared into the melting darkness to make a wide circle around the camp in order to ensure that there were no unwanted visitors anywhere near.
As darkness fell Gandalf called an end to the hobbits' game. Merry and Pippin threw themselves down, panting, near to where Frodo and Sam had unrolled their own blankets. A good while after the hobbits had fallen asleep Boromir returned to camp, yet he seemed wary of being drawn into any discussion for he settled down almost immediately after bidding a quick goodnight to his companions.
Aragorn, not ready for sleep just yet, settled down on the fallen tree which Gandalf had vacated and drew his cloak about him to ward off the chill of the deepening night. Becoming aware of a presence behind him, he shifted along the log, allowing the elf room to sit down.
Firelight danced lightly over the pale face of the prince of Mirkwood as he watched the flames leaping and twirling among the charred wood. "Sometimes I do not understand the periannath."
"Few people do," replied Aragorn. "And I have good reason to believe that these particular hobbits whom we are travelling with are somewhat harder to understand than most."
The crackling of the fire interspersed with the regular snores of the sleeping dwarf were the only sounds which could be heard as an easy silence fell between the two friends. As he reached forward to throw another branch on the flickering flames from the pile which Gimli had dumped next to him, Aragorn reflected with a strange kind of sadness that this was likely to be one of the last times in which he would sit in this situation, his best friend close by him as they aimlessly watched firewood blacken and burn. He knew that whatever came of the quest, such treasured times were becoming all too rare.
The elf's mind however, appeared to be on other matters as he continued his musings about the hobbits. "They often act as children would," continued Legolas thoughtfully. "Yet they volunteered for this quest when no obligation lay upon them to do so, knowing of the dangers they would face. Well," he added upon reflection of his words, "most of them knew."
A smile drew at the corners of the ranger's mouth as he reached into his pocket to draw out his pipe. Legolas eyed it disapprovingly yet Aragorn ignored him with an ease born of practice, reaching into another pocket and bringing out a small pouch of leaf.
"You lived on the borders of the Shire for some years, did you not?" questioned the elf, with a sidelong glance at the ranger next to him. "Surely you must have gained some knowledge of these creatures."
"Knowledge, yes. Understanding, no," the ranger replied, taking his time in packing the small wooden bowl before him. "I can tell you of their favourite foods, of their fondness for pipeweed and merrymaking, but as for how their minds work? Nay. Even Gandalf, who has studied them, if you can call it that, for a number of years, does not claim to fully understand the Shirefolk." Finally satisfied with his work, Aragorn reached towards the fire and, drawing out a small burning twig, used it to light his pipe. After a couple of experimental puffs, he settled back with a satisfied sigh and continued. "He told me once that no matter how long a time you spend with hobbits, in one moment they can surprise you and make you think that you never knew anything about them at all."
Legolas nodded slowly, watching the smoke that was beginning to rise out of the ranger's pipe distastefully. "They are strange folk," he murmured. "Merry, but strange."
"This coming from an elf?"
Legolas turned to see the shadowed face of his friend lit by a grin. Not deigning to reply, the elf instead gestured to the pipe held loosely in the man's hand. "I do not know how you can do that," he said, changing the topic abruptly. "You are aware that it is one of the foulest habits in all of Middle Earth?"
"Ah, but that is where you are wrong, mellon nin," the ranger replied easily, drawing on his pipe once more. "It is an art."
"Aye, and most find the aroma very pleasant and soothing, whether they be hobbit, Istari or dwarf."
"My apologies, I did not realise. If the dwarves do it, it must be enjoyable."
"Mockery does not suit you, Legolas," the ranger replied offhandedly.
"Stop smoking and I will mock you less."
"You know as well as I do, mellon nin, that neither of those will ever happen." Aragorn smirked as the elf sent a daggered glare his way and settled back to enjoy his pipe. With a sigh Legolas rose smoothly to his feet, cuffing the ranger lightly on the back of the head as he did so. "I will see you in the morning, human."
"Quel du, mellon nin."
The elf moved away, swiftly scaling nearby tree, and Aragorn smiled to himself as he watched the dimly glowing form of his friend settle down amongst the branches. Knowing that Legolas would keep watch that night, Aragorn took his time finishing his pipe before moving off of his log and lying down near Frodo.
The hobbit's blue eyes opened as Aragorn approached and the ranger nodded gently to the ringbearer. "Go to sleep, Frodo."
The hobbit nodded and closed his eyes once more, hoping that he would fall more easily into sleep than he had the past few nights. Once again however, his thoughts strayed towards the gold ring which clung to a chain round his neck. Unconsciously, his fingers moved to close around it, yet they dropped away quickly as the ranger's voice rumbled into the darkness, clearing away the shadows with its sound.
"That game which Merry and Pippin were playing…"
"Is that a real game?"
Frodo paused. "That rather depends on whom you ask," he replied carefully.
"And if I were to ask anyone but Merry and Pippin?"
"Then the answer would probably be no."
"Ah. Thank you, Frodo." The ranger settled down, wrapping a light blanket over himself as he pulled his pack towards him to use as a headrest.
"You're welcome, Strider." Frodo closed his eyes for the final time that night and quickly dropped into a welcome sleep.
Mellon nin- my friend
Quel du- rest well
+refers to my other story, "In Imladris"
A/N: My apologies to any pipe smokers out there if anything that Aragorn did was incorrect! I do not smoke and though I did look into how to smoke a pipe, it seemed rather involved for this story so I simplified it somewhat. (For the record, this author does not endorse smoking in any way, shape or form hehe!)
Next Chapter: Aragorn and Legolas become rather competitive over a simple game of catch.
Thanks for reading everyone! Hope you enjoyed it and please review!