Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me except the plot.
Summary: Legolas and Gimli were each suffering from an unpleasant experience. What's the best way for them to forget those unpleasantries? They engage in a little competition.
A/N: This story was written for the Teitho Contest theme: Competitions.
THE ART OF THE TOSS
by White Wolf
Legolas had just left the Throne Room after being in yet another argument with his father over his friendship with the dwarf, Gimli.
Thranduil had understood his son's feelings toward the stout creature, and he even admitted that Gimli had done an admirable job with the Fellowship, during the War of the Ring. But, why did Legolas have to befriend a dwarf, of all people. And not just any dwarf but the son of Gloin, who had been a prisoner in this very palace years before.
The king sighed. There was another admission he had been forced to make. Legolas was way too old to be told who he could be friends with and who he couldn't. Even as the king, Thranduil couldn't order his son, who was also his subject, to spurn the dwarf. For one thing, Gimli had already been named Elf-friend. That was a revered title that was not given lightly and could not be easily taken back.
Thranduil had long ago been forced, by his love for his son, to accept the human, Aragorn, or Estel as Legolas called him. Now, it was this dwarf. He sighed again. Hadn't he tried to instill independence in Legolas from the time he had been an elfling? Now, it seemed, his son was yet again showing just how well he had learned that lesson.
x x x x x
Gimli had heard the argument between Legolas and his father. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but he had been waiting for Legolas outside of the Throne Room. The door had been left ajar, and well, the voices of the two elves had carried. Gimli knew enough Sindarin and had heard his name spoken often enough to know exactly what the argument was about.
The dwarf hadn't expected to be welcomed into the elven realm with open arms, and in that, he hadn't been disappointed. At least, he had been treated with formal decorum and a grudging respect, by most of the elves anyway. That last had surprised him a little, though in his heart he knew he had earned that respect.
What upset the dwarf more than anything was that he was the cause of dissention between Legolas and his father. He knew that the king had accepted the prince's friendship with Aragorn, so with time, maybe he would be accepted, as well.
x x x x x
When Legolas found Gimli, the dwarf was sitting on a log just inside the forest.
He approached on silent elven feet and watched his friend toss a small stone at a larger, flat one half buried in the ground. It was hard to read the dwarf's face from the side and behind the stout being. His abundant hair, full beard and mustache was not helping the elf's attempt at observation.
With a cheerfulness he didn't really feel, Legolas said, "There you are, Master Dwarf. I thought you were going to wait for me by the palace doors?"
Gimli, after close association with the stealthy elf, just barely avoided jumping from surprise. He didn't want his friend to know how he was feeling, which would have necessitated him having to admit that he had overheard the argument in the Throne Room. That was an admission he was not willing to make, even to his best friend.
Though his eavesdropping had not been an intentional indiscretion, and he had been the subject of the 'discussion', the words spoken between father and son had been private. Some secrets just plain needed to be kept secret.
With his own false cheerfulness, Gimli smiled and replied, "I was drawn to the fine day out here in your beautiful woods." He hoped his explanation sounded acceptable, despite the implausibility of the remark.
Thankfully, Legolas chose to ignore the statement. Though he had no clue Gimli had overheard the heated words between him and his father, he did know his friend felt ill at ease, and the elf wanted to take Gimli's mind off of the reason for it. He also wanted to forget it himself. So, he asked lightly, "What are you doing?"
Gimli was grateful for the change of subject and decided to pursue the new topic and thus avoid any hint of awkwardness that might follow the reason for his real presence here in a place he had often ridiculed, even in jest.
"Tossing small stones."
Pretending he hadn't seen the dwarf doing just that, Legolas pursued the same line of questioning. "For what purpose?"
"Just honing my tossing skills." The answer sounded somewhat noncommittal.
"Might I join you?"
Gimli laughed. "Could I really keep you from it, elf? It is your forest, after all."
Legolas took no notice of the seemingly brusque remarks and sat down on the same log a couple of feet from the dwarf. He looked at the ground between his feet. It was covered with small stones of varying sizes, shapes and colors.
Reaching down and running his long fingers over the little stones, he picked up one that was to his liking, held it between his right thumb and forefinger and then bent his wrist, curling his hand toward him. With a deft snap of his wrist, he uncurled his hand and flung the stone toward the flat rock a good ten feet away.
The stone hit the front edge of the six inch top of the buried rock, skidded across the flat surface and teetered on the far edge until it finally settled back on the top.
"Fine shot," Gimli said admiringly. "But, you've not quite got the hang of it."
"Oh really? And just where did your last toss go?" the elf asked with raised eyebrows.
"It skidded over the far side." Then, he hastily added, "But, it was only an idle toss. I was not trying to stop it on the rock. I only wanted to hit it."
"Pick another stone then," Legolas urged. "Let us see if you can keep your next shot on the rock."
"That sounds suspiciously like a challenge," came the dwarf's deep baritone voice.
"If you choose to take it that way, then so be it." The elf's tone was definitely challenging.
Gimli narrowed his eyes. He was a dwarf and dwarves lived and worked with stone. And for certain, there was no way a treehugging, pointy-eared elven princeling was going to beat him in a stone- tossing contest.
Legolas had to grin when he saw the look of pure determinationon Gimli's face. The dwarf's inborn love of competition of any kind had taken over his entire countenance. All else, including his feeling of not being welcome here, was completely forgotten.
Selecting his own stone from among those in front of him, Gimli sized up the distance, the size of the target rock, the trajectory needed and even the wind, though there was not any to speak of.
When he heard a sigh of impatience from Legolas, Gimli turned his head and glared at the elf. "Don't you take time to figure in all the things that will affect your arrow shots?"
"I did not say a word," Legolas replied in his own defense. Of course, he wasn't above giving the dwarf a bit of verbal jab. "Take all the time you think you will need to try and place that stone on that very flat rock mere feet away."
Narrowing his eyes until they were tiny slits in his round, hairy face, the dwarf sent imaginary daggers in the elf's direction.
Legolas returned the glare with the wide-eyed, innocent look he was famous for. He used it on his father, on Aragorn, even on Lord Elrond, not to mention anyone else he wanted to convince of his total lack of guilt in whatever situation existed at the time. The funny thing was that the guiltier he really was, the more innocent he tried to appear.
Well aware of the ploy, Gimli rolled his eyes, then turned back to the situation at hand. He started his calculations all over again, further delaying his toss and hoping to annoy the elf even more.
Suddenly, he sent the stone flying through the air. It hit the flat rock, skidded across and then hit Legolas's stone, sending it flying. They both landed with a soft plop in the dirt, sending up tiny plumes of fine dust.
Legolas stood up. "You did that deliberately," the elf yelled.
"Of course, I did," Gimli confirmed smugly. "We never made a rule that you couldn't knock off the stone that was already there."
Now it was Legolas's turn to narrow his eyes. 'So that is how you wish to play it,' he told the dwarf, though Gimli couldn't hear the silent declaration.
Before Legolas could make any kind of verbal pronouncement, Gimli shouted, "I won!"
The elf stared at the red-haired being. "What do you mean, you won? I have yet to toss my second stone."
"Second stone? I tossed one, and you tossed one. Mine stayed on top, and yours did not. Therefore, I won."
"You have a very short memory, dwarf. You tossed two stones."
"I did not!" Gimli was trying very hard to keep his temper in check. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then in a very calm voice, as if explaining something to a very young child, he said, "None of the stones I tossed before you sat down were part of the game. You were not even here for any of them."
"I was here for the one you tossed before I revealed my presence to you," Legolas explained in an equally calm voice. "At no time did we say when the contest was to start, and since we were both here, that toss counts as a turn. The one you just made makes two turns. Now, I am entitled to my second one."
This time, Gimli was not able to control his temper. "You illogical, flighty-brained, pointy-eared..." More names to call the elf totally failed him. "You just don't want to admit you lost." In a soft but condescending tone, he added, "It's no disgrace, laddie. After all, you spend your time talking to trees and singing to stars. I am a dwarf, used to working with stone, be it a mountain or a pebble."
"You are a dwarf used to cheating, you mean." Legolas knew exactly how to get Gimli really wound up, and he was not shy about doing just that.
"Cheating!" the dwarf screamed, as he rose to his feet. His face had turned as red as his hair.
"I just explained it to you, but being a thickheaded dwarf, you obviously need it explained to you again. You took two tosses, while you say I can have but one. That is clearly cheating."
The elf folded his arms across his chest in a gesture that dared the dwarf to disagree with him.
The gesture was lost on Gimli. "I do NOT cheat!"
"Then you concede that I am due another toss," Legolas stated flatly, while smiling sweetly. "That is all I want, Master Dwarf. Fair is fair, and now you see the right of it. I will now take my second turn."
With that said, Legolas sat back down and began running his fingers over the little stones again. His lips began to move, though no sound came out.
Gimli jabbed a forefinger in the elf's direction. "No spell casting."
"I do not cast spells. That would be Gandalf, and he is not here, unless you think you need his help." All the while Legolas spoke, his head was down, scrutinizing the stones at his feet.
"Hmph," was all that the dwarf could manage. "No dwarf needs help with a stone," he muttered, almost to himself.
Finally choosing the one he wanted, the elf held it up ostensibly for a closer examination, but in truth, he was making sure that Gimli got a good look at it.
Thinking that the elf had made a strategic mistake, Gimli couldn't hold back a broad grin. "You don't really intend to toss that stone, do you?" the dwarf asked incredulously. "It's round like a ball. It'll just roll off, no matter how cleverly you think you can toss it." He quickly shut up, afraid that he might talk the elf out of tossing that obviously inadequate stone.
His grin grew even broader when Legolas tossed the round stone, which hit the rock, rolled across the flat surface, hit Gimli's stone, and drove both of them off the far side.
Seeing his stone hit the dirt was not enough to keep a laugh from escaping the sturdy dwarf's lips. Legolas had failed with his round stone, and that was priceless to the dwarf. "I knew that would happen," Gimli said smugly.
"So did I," was the elf's comeback.
That remark suddenly made Gimli a little nervous. He was beginning to suspect some kind of trick, but he couldn't figure out what it might possibly be, since Legolas's stone had also landed on the ground.
The elf reached down and picked up another stone.
"Stop right there," the dwarf said, holding up a hand. "You just tossed. It's my turn now."
"You went first both previous turns," Legolas protested. "You go after me this time."
Hearing the elf's statements and seeing the self-satisfied grin on his face, Gimli was sure there was some kind of sneaky, elven trick coming.
Legolas once again chose a small stone from the ones on the ground between his feet.
When he held up his new selection, Gimli saw that it was not round, as the previous one had been but was perfectly flat on both sides.
Expecting the elf to toss the stone in the same manner they both had been doing, Gimli was surprised when Legolas tossed the stone straight up into a high arc.
The stone landed on the front edge of the flat rock. It didn't skid, skip or roll. It stopped right where it landed with its near edge slightly extended over the front edge of the rock.
Instead of looking like he had made another mistake, Gimli saw that Legolas had actually put the stone exactly where he wanted it. The round stone he tossed earlier had been chosen deliberately to knock the dwarf's stone onto the ground.
Gimli would now have to toss his stone straight, with no arc in its trajectory, so that it hit Legolas's square on the leading edge with enough force to push it across and over the other side, while stopping short before falling off itself. He sighed, hating to admit it but knowing just the same that he wasn't good enough to make a shot like that. The elf had made sure his stone stayed on top in a position virtually impossible to dislodge, thus winning the game. That was the trick, and the dwarf had to admire it. He just wished he had thought of it first.
Gimli shook his head. He was not going to lose this stone-tossing contest to an elf! He would just have to try and make the shot as best he could.
The dwarf's stone flew straight enough but a little too high. It bounced off of Legolas's stone. The dwarf held his breath, as it skidded and skidded and... It stopped, staying put on the far edge.
"It's a tie," Gimli declared. He wasn't happy, though, because normally, he would never have settled for anything short of a victory, or even a loss. Finishing with no clear decision just did not sit well with him.
Legolas knew how his friend felt about competitions. Even so, he was not willing to just give the game away, for he knew that Gimli would hate that, and his own pride would never allow him to do that, either. So, he said, "Let us toss again."
During the next round, both stones fell off the rock. During the round after that, both stones stayed on the rock. Over and over they tossed, each trying to employ some kind of strategy, yet over and over, they tied.
Things became frantic and finally reached the point where they were grabbing stones and tossing them before the other's stone had come to rest on either the rock or the ground.
Still they tied.
With the heat of competition in full bloom, neither elf nor dwarf was willing to give an inch to the other. Even the setting of the sun and the rising of the full moon, which provided enough light to see by, could bring the contest to a halt.
"Ah ha, I win," came a gruff voice through the trees.
"No, you did not win," came a melodic but determined voice.
"Get another stone, and I'll show you," the gruff voice demanded.
"I have one right here, ready and waiting."
Then, there was a pause that dragged on for several moments.
"Maybe, we should bend down and toss between our legs."
"Move farther back."
"Turn our backs and toss over our heads."
"We did that already and tied then, as well."
"Right. Well, why don't we...?"
The End, for us, at least. However, the elf and the dwarf may still be going at it.