1. Wreathed in Smoke
Gimli, looking at his friend through tears of mirth, felt a faint tendril of worry sneak through the guffaws. The elf was still shaking with violent coughs and did not seem to be able to breathe. The dwarf wiped tears from his eyes and tried to school his face into a serious expression, but the chuckles that kept bursting from his lips made it difficult. "Are you all right?"
Unable to answer verbally, the elf shook his head wildly. Swallowing his laughter, Gimli thumped him a few times on his shaking back. Unbraced as Legolas was for the assault, the supposedly helpful blows knocked him sprawling. The hobbits howled even harder, rolling on the ground. Legolas tried to speak, probably to rebuke the dwarf, but could not manage it without air.
Gimli hauled the slight form back upright, trying not to chuckle, and resumed his ministrations, this time a bit lighter. He kept a firm grip on the elf's thin shoulder with his other hand to hold him in place.
Merry, laughing so hard he could hardly crawl over to them, held out a water skin. Legolas reached for it with trembling hands to bring it to his lips. He was still coughing so hard that he sloshed a goodly portion over his hands and down the front of his tunic until Gimli, now giving up entirely on his efforts to restrain his amusement, helped steady it. Legolas managed to swallow a gulp and sputtered, spilling more water down his chin. The liquid cooled his burning throat, however, and he managed to gasp a weak breath. Ignoring the others' laughter, the elf took a few moments to just concentrate on the feeling of drawing sweet air into his lungs. After he got used to breathing again, he shook off the dwarf and turned a furious glare on his companions. This made them laugh all the harder—which did nothing to help.
He now thoroughly regretted his rash act. Finally succumbing to their merciless badgering, the elf had at last agreed—surprising all four of them—to a single puff on a pipe, simply to prove that he forewent their favored pastime out of distaste for it, not fear of "elven haughtiness." All three had instantly offered their precious pipes for the adventure, eager to see Legolas's reaction. Already regretting his hasty tongue but unwilling to back down, the elf had accepted Merry's, thinking that it appeared to be slightly smaller than the others. He had no sooner begun to inhale than he had doubled over in coughing—which had caused his three friends to double over in laughter.
They were just recovering from their helpless mirth. Feeling he now had enough breath to talk, Legolas treated them all in turn to an accusatory glare. "What…did you…put in that?" he wheezed faintly through a throat that still felt scorched and raw.
"Finest weed from the Southfarthing!" Pippin said proudly as Merry nodded in agreement.
Legolas's teary eyes widened in shock. "That…cannot be…your normal leaf!" he gasped in shock.
The others laughed. "Would you like to compare the herbs, for peace of mind?" Gimli asked, kindly holding his pipe out.
"Come near me with that pipe, dwarf," the elf rasped coldly, "and I shall shave off your beard and braid it into a rope to strangle you with."
Not frightened by the dire threat, Gimli chuckled as he took back the offending object. Legolas turned an offended glare on the three conspirators and rose slowly on trembling legs. The tears still streaming down his pale cheeks somewhat muted its potency. Head high, trying not to gasp, the elf prince ignored the fresh burst of mirth behind him as he stalked away.
Aragorn froze, whetstone halfway down Andúril's blade. He blinked owlishly, trying to make some sense of the strange sight before him. Legolas, tears streaming down his cheeks, tunic wet at the sleeves and front, hair in disarray (or as close as elven hair ever got to disarray), walked by slowly, shaking his head and rubbing his throat.
"Legolas?" he asked hesitantly once he had found his voice again.
"Do not speak of it," the elf rasped harshly. "We will never speak of it again."
The Ranger blinked in confusion at his friend's retreating back. He wondered what he had missed this time, and if he even wanted to know.
Deciding ignorance was probably safer, Aragorn shook his head and returned to his sharpening, trying to tune out the bursts of laughter that came from the woods to his left.
He really, really didn't want to know…
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.