The large open wooden doors at the end of the white stone corridor had never seemed so far away. Or daunting.
Right, this is your last chance to turn back.
And be known as a coward? I think not. It's time to show that dwarf how elves drink. Again.
Forcing his body to co-operate, Legolas squared his shoulders and continued to walk forward, his face expressionless. Even from the end of the corridor Legolas could hear the voices carrying through, full of merriment and laughter.
The smell of venison and game as he entered the great hall told him that food had been served onto the tables. Looking to his right near the doors, he saw three large wooden tables laid with the most delicious looking foods, ranging from mouth-watering venison and other meats to juicy fruits, both large and small.
The hall was busy, filled with men and women from all over the city. When Legolas had first entered the hall, the volume of the voices laughing and chatting had almost been too much for his sharp ears, but the uncomfortable feeling had soon gone when he grew accustomed to it.
Looking over the many heads and listening out over the many voices, Legolas spotted King, Dwarf and Steward chatting to a pair of familiar identical elves, and a richly dressed man with blonde hair, whom he approached in a resolute and graceful manner.
The two elves, three men and dwarf continued their light-hearted conversation, apparently not noticing the approaching Mirkwood Elf. Until that is the twin sons of Elrond turned in unison as Legolas approached, smiles lighting up their faces.
"Legolas, it has been too long," Elrohir greeted, nodding his head in the direction of the blonde elf, a gesture Elladan and Eomer imitated.
"Aye," Legolas said nodding his head in return as he smiled a warm smile. "It has been long indeed."
"Oh, enough of the formalities," Elrohir said laughing. "Come here!"
Legolas momentarily froze as the younger twin warmly embraced him, but as the sudden shock wore off, he smiled and embraced Elrohir back, returning the gesture to Elladan, who embraced Legolas just as tightly.
"Lord Legolas, I hope you are well?" Eomer asked with a tilt of his head.
Legolas placed his hand on his heart and swept it towards the King of Rohan with grace. "That I am, Eomer King. I trust the Lady Lothiriel and yourself are too?"
Eomer beamed. "We are thank you. Though I am afraid she remains in Rohan, as she did not wish for her people to be parted from both her King and Queen. But she did however express her regret at not coming, Elessar."
Aragorn waved the last comment away. "Do not worry, she is both wise and beautiful, and knows what is best for her kingdom. She is also a woman, so, naturally, she would be correct." He grinned at the fellow king, but stopped short when Arwen walked over, a suspicious expression on her face.
"And how, pray tell, would being a woman help, my love?" she asked sweetly as she narrowed her bright eyes.
Aragorn coughed and shifted uncomfortably under her gaze. "Well, you are always wise and beautiful. And... correct."
"Correct," Arwen replied with a smile. "And you ought to remember that once in a while."
Forgetting where he was, or the company he was in, Aragorn began to protest. "I always heed your advice in court! I could never doubt or question the eternal wisdom of the Evenstar."
Arwen gave a laugh and held his hand within her own. "I should hope so. Now, is this how you plan on entertaining your guests?"
Aragorn tore his eyes away from her loving ones and faced his companions, a slight blush on his cheeks as she left
"Yes, sorry." He cleared his throat, and soon enough his voice was back to normal. "As you know, Gimli has challenged Legolas to another drinking game, seeing as he lost last time."
"I did not lose! That pointed eared princeling over there cheated somehow!"
Aragorn raised his hand slightly. "Peace, Gimli. I thought it could be tonight, as this feast had already been arranged, which would be the perfect time. Not only that, but then our guests could have definitely arrived." He looked to each of his friends, smiling. "So," he said, clapping his hands, which to Legolas seemed like a countdown to his impending doom. "Shall we begin?"
Thankfully, the cheery replies from men, dwarf and fellow elves drowned Legolas' almost silent groan. The butterflies from earlier had made themselves known again as he approached two chairs to one side of the room.
The chairs were sat facing each other, with just a wooden table in-between them, which the elf noticed, was played host to a large looking keg in the middle of it, with two tankards beside it.
Raising his chin, Legolas walked over to his seat and sat opposite the dwarf who was now looking very smug and bored. Regardless of Gimli's great beard, the elf could tell that his small friend was smirking at him.
"So tell me, young princeling," Gimli asked the elf opposite him as he leant forwards to rest his elbows on the table. "How many pints of ale did you drink last night?"
Legolas froze and widened his eyes. Gimli apparently noticed this, as he leant back into the chair, smiling smugly again.
Aragorn, who had been filling up the two tankards in the middle of the banter, lowered his head slightly, and seemed suddenly quite absorbed with his task. Feeling sharp blue eyes on him, Aragorn looked at the elf and gave a nervous smile. "I didn't think he would, you know, remember. What I told him."
Legolas narrowed his eyes at his friend's betrayal, before resting them on Gimli. "I would have you know, friend Gimli, that I had seven pints of this vile concoction that you call ale, and was not even tipsy." A small snigger came form Aragorn's direction, which the elf ignored. "And how many, pray tell, did you have?"
Gimli leant forwards again and lowered his voice so that it was just loud enough for the small group to hear.
A tankard filled to the brim with frothing ale was placed in front of the now speechless elf.
"So then, you know the rules, same as last time. Oh, and may the best dwarf win!" Gimli toasted as Eomer handed him his drink.
The elf felt several hands clap him on the back as he watched in horror and disbelief as the dwarf only half his size that was sat before him, downed the ale before letting out a rich burp. Faramir immediately grabbed the now empty tankard and filled it to the brim again, before sliding it across the table to the smiling dwarf.
"You can start now, you know," one of the twins whispered to Legolas. He didn't know which twin, but right now, he couldn't really care.
Looking down at his tankard, Legolas brought up an arm and grasped the warm wood between his fingers. He brought it closer, watching it swish dangerously over the brim as though it were a poison. In his mind, it was.
Staring at the yellowy froth, as though willing it to go away, Legolas brought it to his nose and gave a small sniff, trying hard not to pull away in disgust. He let out a small sigh, and closed his eyes, bringing the offending tasting ale closer and closer to his lips. He stopped when the wood rested on his bottom lip, before cautiously opening his lips and taking a large mouthful of the dwarven atrocity.
Legolas swallowed instantly, and the look of disdain on his face made his friends laugh as the full flavour exploded in his mouth, followed swiftly by a bitter taste that, unfortunately, remained.
He looked at the dwarf over his tankard who was now on his third pint, and grimaced.
Remind me again why I agreed to this?
Because dignity and a challenge are not things you tend to dismiss.
With a deep breath, Legolas opened his lips and allowed the ale to pass right through down his throat. Taking large gulps, he continued on until the tankard was finally empty - only to have it swiftly refilled by Faramir who seemed intent on keeping the ale flowing.
One down, Valar knows how many more to go….
"Wouldn't it be easier, Faramir, if we had more than one tankard each?" Legolas asked as he watched the Steward refill his fifth pint.
Faramir glanced at the tankard that he was holding mid way between Legolas and himself, and looked at Gimli's which was being drained. "That's not such a bad idea. Saves me having to count each pint," he said, nodding his head. "But I'll need a hand. Gimli is already on his seventh, and I think we'll be requiring quite a few more tankards…"
All eyes turned to Gimli, who was so engrossed in downing his ale that he was completely oblivious to all else going on around him. The fact the he hadn't said a word for the past ten minutes began to make Legolas wonder with a small amount of hope if the dwarf was already drunk. The chances of this, however, were slim.
"I'll need some help though," Faramir continued, interrupting Legolas' thoughts.
Taking a large gulp from his own tankard, Eomer swallowed and pointed it at his brother-in-law. "I'll come with you and give you a hand."
"Whilst we continue counting the pints," Elladan said with a grin as he raised his own wine glass.
"Very well. We shan't be long!" Faramir called as he walked away with Eomer to the kitchens.
There was silence for all of two seconds before Gimli broke it, bringing his tankard away from his face, revealing a rather red looking dwarf. "Keep them coming, there's a good lad!"
Aragorn laughed and reached out to give the dwarf his refill. Legolas on the other hand gave an inward sigh.
The dwarf did not appear to be even tipsy. His speech was non-slurred and he was downing his ale like a hobbit with food. The only give away to the amount that Gimli had drunk was his red face and his slightly droopy looking eyes.
The only ray of hope Legolas had to go by now was the fact that the dwarf had yet to stand. Saying that, that was his only plan as well, but surely they could not remain seated for the entire night! Soon enough, one of them was going to have to stand, and that person, either elf or dwarf, would surely feel the impact of the alcohol.
With inward acceptance of how this was likely to turn out, Legolas drained the remainder of his bitter ale and held it out to Elrohir who instantly brought it to the keg to refill.
The bitter taste that remained in his mouth was truly disgusting. Ai, what he would give for a sip of sweet Dorwinion wine…. Actually, what he would give for anything that was not ale.
As he thought this, his gaze turned to the glass of wine in Elladan's hand, which was waving about as he conversed with Aragorn. The way the ruby red of the handpicked grape swirled in the glass, leaving legs on the walls of its confinement, a visual taste of its fruity flavour and sweetness….
"I propose a drink trade."
Legolas' voice caused the two elves, dwarf and man to stop what they were doing.
"You can't do that in a drinking game!"
Legolas laid his eyes on the dwarf and arched an eyebrow, hoping against hope that the dwarf was tipsy enough to forget a certain rule that he was currently breaking. "Actually, master dwarf, I can. The rules as you may recall, are that there are no spills or regurgitation. There are no rules stating that I or any other person cannot swap drinks." Thank the Valar that Eomer went with Faramir!
Gimli narrowed his eyes and stroked his beard. "I am sure, princeling, that there was another rule…."
Legolas tried his best to keep his expression and tone of voice neutral as the dwarf eyed him suspiciously. "Are you suggesting that I cheat? Or is it that the ale is already beginning to intoxicate you and your senses?"
Both elf and dwarf continued to start at each other, until Aragorn raised both of his hands. "I think I'll play judge with this one. You can exchange five pints of ale for the equivalent in wine. I suppose Legolas would like to salvage his taste buds, and not only that, but I think it will turn out to be rather humorous."
Aragorn received a few odd looks at his last comment, until Gimli raised three fingers. "Three swaps, not five," he said, eyes back on Legolas.
"One?! Fine, three."
"Three it is then," Aragorn declared. "Three pints worth of Dorwinion then, Legolas?"
Legolas crossed his arms. "Yes." That familiar feeling of Aragorn knowing something that he didn't crept into the back of his mind as a look of contemplation followed by amusement ran across Aragorn's face.
"Elrohir, once Legolas has finished this new pint, I don't suppose you could grab us a few bottles of Dorwinion from that table over there?" Aragorn grinned.
Elrohir arched a dark eyebrow at his younger brother's amused tone of voice before complying. As he left, he shot a look of confusion over to Elladan, who returned the expression.
Aragorn, meanwhile, was refilling Gimli's tankard, and passed it to the dwarf who smirked at the elf and straightaway began drinking it as though someone possessed.
"Mellon, what happened to 'no pauses'?" Aragorn grinned in Legolas' ear.
Legolas cast an indignant look before changing it to an innocent one. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"And are you sure you want to go from dwarven ale to Dorwinion?"
"Yes! Why wouldn't I want to?"
Aragorn gave a sigh and raised his eyebrows, with an if-you-really-want smile.
Seconds later, Elrohir returned with three well-balanced bottles of the Mirkwood wine. Each of which were placed in front of the golden haired elf who eyed them with longing.
With a pained expression, Legolas raised his tankard and drank the contents in five mouthfuls before pushing it towards the Dorwinion in disgust.
"Right," he grimaced, "a pint of wine if you please."
Over his own tankard, Gimli looked at the elf, who could have sworn he could see the laughter lines near his eyes become more obvious. Aragorn also glanced at the elf and then back at the dwarf.
"If you are really sure?"
"Yes!" Legolas replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Aragorn shrugged in response, and proceeded to carry out the elf's bidding.
As Legolas' eyes rested on the tankard being filled with wine before him, something clicked in his brain.
Legolas knew Dorwinion was highly potent, but he also knew that he had a rather high resistance to that potency, like other elves. He was also nervously aware that he had had six pints of Gimli's ale. Last night he had had but seven, and yet he struggled to remember events…. Dorwinion is fine. I can handle it. Just don't stand up for a while. But this was his seventh pint. He had not got further than seven pints in the tavern, and he had been tipsy. Beyond this seventh one of his, he was entering the unknown.
"Remember, Legolas," Aragorn said quietly, "no pauses."
Legolas raised the aromatic wine filled tankard in a cheers and greedily gulped it down, savouring the taste as it passed down his throat leaving a slight burning sensation in its wake.
"Second pint of wine, coming up," he heard Elladan say as the tankard was taken from his hand.
As he watched Elladan fill his tankard to the brim again, Legolas saw Gimli out of the corner of his eye begin to drink his pint. That dwarf is drinking himself into oblivion…!
Around him, the feast was still going on, though much of the food that had been on the tables was now gone, as were a fair few people. Legolas cast his eyes over to the door and back to the table, only to blink and look back to the door again when he saw Faramir and Eomer enter with a rather large sheet between them.
Faramir had been true to his word and had had got as many tankards as possible, enough for at least twenty pints each!
"Still going?" he heard Eomer call as they approached the table.
"Aye," Aragorn replied. "Give it a few more, and I think we'll start to see the alcohol taking over!"
Faramir and Eomer both laughed, but were cut short when they spotted the wine Legolas was now being handed, which he straightaway began to drink.
"Legolas?" Faramir asked slightly amazed.
"Is that…" He blinked in disbelief as he started splitting the pile of tankards into two. "Are you drinking ale and wine?"
Legolas lowered his tankard and looked at the Steward as though he was going mad. "I am. Why?"
Both Eomer and Faramir cast amazed looks at Aragorn, who tried hard to remain straight-faced. When he started to shake his head in a fairly subtle way, Faramir dropped it. Legolas, however, was now holding his tankard out for his final Dorwinion pint. "Nothing, I was just wondering why you had started drinking wine instead."
"Leave the lad to it," Gimli's called out, the mirth was obvious. "Let him drink, let him drink."
The Mirkwood elf was doing precisely that. When the final drop of wine left the tankard, Legolas slammed it down with more force than he had intended. His companion's eyes turned towards him, but Legolas was now paying no attention.
The elf felt his eyes and head droop slightly as a wave of light-headedness passed through. He placed his elbows on the table, now opting for leaning rather than sitting up.
"And there," Eomer said between sniggers, "is the slight tingling. Though this time, it's not just in your fingers, is it, Legolas?"
The elf in question shot a dark look at the Rohan King, whose sniggers turned to laughter. "Top up, Elladan, please."
Elladan grabbed one of the tankards and automatically filled it with ale, trying hard to suppress a smile.
Legolas fought the urge not to grimace at the vulgar ale when the dark haired elf handed it back, but instead took a deep breath and allowed the drink to fall down his throat.
"When do you think we'll start to see the effects?" Eomer whispered as Legolas became engrossed in his task of emptying his tankard.
"I reckon in the next three or four pints," Aragorn replied quietly, leaning in.
"How many times have you seen Legolas intoxicated, Estel?" Elrohir joined in as he stepped besides Aragorn.
Aragorn squinted his eyes as he tried to recollect. "Once, maybe twice… he had drunk loads before showing any signs of even being tipsy!"
"Well," Elladan said in an equally low voice, "Legolas is very good at hiding it all when he can. With ale, however –"
"He cannot hold back the side affects, just like with all elves," Elrohir finished.
Faramir crept besides the elf. "So are you saying he may be tipsy already?" he asked, looking from Elrohir to Legolas.
The men and elves shared knowing looks and smiles when Legolas once again slammed down his tankard with more force than usual. Legolas, however, remained oblivious.
"And another, Elladan pleashe." Legolas broke off and frowned. "Please! I said please!"
Kings, twins, Steward and dwarf stopped and looked at the elf in slight shock and raised eyebrows. Elladan walked forwards to grab a tankard and brought it the keg, a smile tugging on his lips.
Legolas just slumped back in his chair, deciding to slouch rather than obtain his usual position of sitting up straight. This small movement alone caused the elf to gasp quietly as the whole room and all its people momentarily became one big blur as the all of the colours merged together and began to spin. Groaning, Legolas rested his head on his hands and did not even respond when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Do you wish to continue, mellon-nin?" he heard Aragorn ask quietly.
Legolas was about to nod in response, but at the last minute thought against the idea. Instead he slowly raised his head so that his slightly unfocused eyes met Aragorn's grey ones.
"But the last one standing wins," he slurred, smiling lopsidedly.
As he felt Aragorn remove his hand to go and fill another tankard, Legolas gave a gasp and sat up straight, once again earning him some highly amused looks.
"Last one standing wins!" Legolas exclaimed, looking at his friends with wide eyes. "But Aragorn, I, I am not stood up!"
Aragorn looked at his elven friend with false shock and was about to answer, until Gimli spoke up.
"Lad, you're right!" he grinned as Legolas continued to glance around in surprise. Gimli winked at Aragorn and replaced his grin with a look of false shock. "We must stand up immediately, else the game will be forfeit!"
Legolas' eyes widened even more and he gasped loudly. "Never!" he near shouted, slamming his hand down on the table before him.
Before the elf himself realised what he was doing, Legolas pushed himself up from the chair he was sitting on and instantly reached out for the table for support as his unnaturally heavy legs gave way.
His friends were silent for a moment as they observed the odd sight before them – Legolas, an elf of grace, semi-slumped on the table before him. Slowly, that silence became laughter as Legolas looked around dazedly.
The twins stepped forwards and pulled Legolas up to a standing position, as he smiled lopsidedly again until he looked at the laughing dwarf before him. His expression turned to shock as he looked at Gimli who was wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, and pointed a slightly trembling finger to where he thought the dwarf was sitting.
"Gimli, your eyes! They are, they are leaking!" Legolas looked around him to try and get Aragorn's attention, as he urged his slow brain and sluggish body to co-operate. "Stop laughing! Gimili is leaking water!"
Roars of laughter surrounded him as Legolas tried in vain to get his friends to see the seriousness of the situation. "Gimili!"
Fresh howls of laughter erupted as Legolas continued to call Gimli's name. In desperation, he spun round a little too quickly and grabbed the nearest person by the shoulders, who turned out to be Elladan.
"Elaro, Elar, El-a-roow-hir, you must help the dwarf!"
Elladan fought hard to keep a face of serenity, but Legolas' actions were causing him to fail.
"I'm Elladan, Legolas. Elrohir is stood here."
Legolas tilted his head in shocked confusion, and squinted at the two elves, Gimli forgotten at this latest revelation. "Noo," he said deeply in disbelief. "No, you are… oh."
Legolas pulled away slightly, to look at both elves. He frowned in agitation. "Stop, stop moving."
The twins looked at each other, smiles adorning their faces, and looked back at Legolas, their eyes slightly narrowed.
"We're not moving," laughed Elrohir, enjoying the rare scene of a drunk Legolas.
Legolas gave a nervous laugh. "Yes yare!" he looked to the floor, and back up to the faces of the dark haired elves, who were now sure enough, swaying on the spot. He let out a snort of laughter, and, to a reason unknown to him, began laughing uncontrollably. "Yare!"
He rested his head on his arms that were still on the twin's shoulders as his legs began to buckle. Legolas removed his hands from Elladan's shoulders in an attempt to stand up himself, but quickly found himself unable to do so as he staggered towards the table.
A feeling of dread hit Legolas as he found his body was not co-operating in any way with his mind.
Laughing, Aragorn stepped forwards and lifted the semi-limp elf who was giggling feebly, and held him up for support.
"You know, Legolas, I think you may have had enough for now."
Legolas straightened up and cast a look of indignation and anger at the man. "Are you saying I am a drunk?"
Aragorn laughed at the look on Eomer and Faramir's face before replying. "You are drunk, an-"
"Liar!" Legolas called out dramatically. "I am an elf who does not get drunk!"
"I would argue differently," Gimli chortled from his seat, earning himself a pair of annoyed, and also very unfocused, set of usually sharp eyes.
"Yes, but you are a dwarf!" Legolas exclaimed in an exasperated voice. "Therefore, yes," he finished in an uncertain tone.
"Very well," laughed the dwarf, "if you are able to walk to me unaided, then I will agree that you are not drunk and that this game will be a draw."
"If you walk to me by yourself, then you are not drunk and we both win," Gimli said, rolling his eyes.
"Oh," Legolas answered with a smile.
He straightened his back and looked at Aragorn. "Step back, I am an elf!"
With a glance at Gimli, Legolas smiled smugly, and proceeded to lift his right foot and move it forward.
But the rest of him followed.
With an 'ow' and a thump, Legolas found himself blinking confusedly at the boots of his friend's. "Aragorn," he whispered loudly from the floor above the laughter, "don't tell the dwarf, but I think I'm drunk."
Snorts of laughter broke out again at the elf's revelation. "I hate to say this, Legolas, but I told you so!" Aragorn laughed as he crouched down besides the Mirkwood elf.
The elf felt a sudden tiredness sweep over him as he laid there, and closed his eyes as they began to feel heavy. With dulled senses, he was also aware of two pairs of hands lifting him to his feet.
"Oh, but I want to sleep," he moaned as his legs went limp beneath him. Luckily, both Aragorn and Faramir had one of his arms over their shoulders as they proceeded to half drag him out of the hall, his head hanging limply with his hair curtaining his face.
Many faces of amusement and shock were cast their way as they made their way over to the doors, but both King and Steward continued walking out. The smiles on their faces, however, were obvious to all.
"So," Faramir began as they moved through the cool halls towards Legolas' bedchamber. "I take it Gimli won?"
Aragorn laughed. "Aye, I reckon so! Though how much of this night Legolas will remember I don't know. I don't think he has ever drunk so much ale before!"
They turned left down a smaller corridor and continued on, their voices echoing. The quiet sound of Legolas' booted feet being dragged along the marbled floor provided a consistent backdrop noise.
They stopped briefly and looked at each other when they heard another noise accompanying them.
"Is Legolas, humming?" Faramir asked with a surprised laugh.
Aragorn's face broke out into yet another grin as they continued on. "Why yes, I think he is!"
Both Faramir and Aragorn stopped soon again when they reached the four steps before them that led to the bedchamber doors.
"Er," Aragorn said as he looked from the steps to the limp elf besides him. "If you take his legs, I'll take his arms."
"Agreed," Faramir said with a nod.
Aragorn shuffled to the left, and placed his forearms under the elf's armpits, supporting him as Faramir moved round and picked up the elf's legs.
"He's a bit heavier than he looks!" Faramir said in surprise as they carried the no longer humming Legolas up the stairs.
They continued along the candlelit corridor and stopped when they reached Legolas' bedchamber door. Faramir gently put down Legolas' legs and quickly opened the door before picking them back up and proceeding with Aragorn to the elf's bed.
They carefully laid Legolas down who was fast asleep with his eyes closed, and tugged off his boots and undid his belt. Aragorn brought up the folded sheets and laid them over his elven friend, who shifted to his front, his arm dangling off of the large bed and his mouth slightly open.
Just for caution, Faramir brought over Legolas' now empty water basin and placed it on the small table besides the bed. "Just for precaution," he smiled. "After all, mixing ale with wine – what was he thinking!"
"He didn't know," Aragorn grinned.
Both Faramir and Aragorn stepped back and looked at the sleeping, and thoroughly drunk, elf.
"You know, tomorrow is going to be a good day for us all and our elven friend here," Aragorn said with a grin.
Faramir looked at his king and cast a sympathetic look at the oblivious Legolas before them. "Don't be too mean on him," he said with a smile, "as no doubt Gimli will be nice on him tomorrow as well."
"Of that I have no doubt," Aragorn laughed.
Legolas stirred slightly at the sound, but made no further movement as Faramir and Aragorn left the room and closed the door quietly behind them.
"Well, Gimli is probably drinking himself to nothing at his little victory, and Iruthel's hang-over cure is waiting patiently in the kitchen for many men – and elf," Aragorn said, his laughter echoing off the walls as they both made their way back to the Great Hall.
Sorry this took an age to post, so for that I am writing up an epilogue for you all
Hope you are enjoying the story!