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The Dispute - By Lyrian

The dispute, or rather the Dispute, occurred in Minas Tirith during the early years of King Elessar's long reign. After the fall of Sauron and the sweeping of the dark from the world, the people who had survived the titanic battles were left the task of rebuilding. The renowned warriors, Gimli Gloin's son and Legolas Greenleaf both remained true to their promise to the new king and returned to the White City to take up arms, not in defence of its gates but for the beautification of its streets and parks.

The residents of Minas Tirith were a bit suspicious at first of the pair's marvelous plans for their capital but soon it became apparent that everything the dwarf and elf devised couldn't be criticized in any way. Legolas and his kin brought gorgeous trees and plants, creating havens for the city folk weary of grey walls and Gimli and his craftsmen brought a different kind of beauty, one of sweeping facades and warm, living stone carved with meticulous care.

They had been in the city for nearly half a year before the incident occurred, oddly enough over a tiny plot of land wedged between two towers at the Fourth gate. It was a dingy little courtyard, only seeing the sunlight perhaps once a day for an hour or two at the most. It had not been at the top of either friend's list of Things to Do and so both were a little surprised to meet each other there one fine autumn day.

"Ho, Legolas," Gimli called to his friend as he approached. "What brings you here? I thought you were working on the Lower Gardens."

"Well, the fountain has been completed and there is really nothing more for me to do that my kinsmen can't, so I came here to do some surveying." Legolas told him, smiling.

"Oh, so you've heard!" the dwarf said in surprise. "Come to help, have you?"

"Come to help with what?"

"The overpass I am going to build here to save on walking distance between the towers."

"Nay, Master Dwarf," the elf told him. "This plot is reserved for a garden, lined with beech trees and fragrant herbs for people to sit in and take their ease."

"They will have need of ease after they have walked up and down the myriad of stairs," Gimli complained. "This area should be used for an overpass to bridge the gap and ease the burden on people. Look, I all ready have the plans."

Gimli proudly unfurled the designs he had made for a glorious walkway wrought of stone and engraved with all manner of mythical beasts. Legolas raised his eyebrows and nodded in appreciation; it certainly was beautiful.

"But I too have made sketches of the area," the elf told his friend, spreading out his own blueprint for the garden. Gimli had seen many of the comrade's designs for the greening of Minas Tirith and after a while, he had to confess, they had seemed to blend into one. But this one was especially handsome. He could almost smell the fragrant herbs. Still, there were all ready hundreds of little gardens in the White City. Practicality indicated that his foot bridge was preferable.

"It's pretty," he conceded. "But I don't know whether it's really appropriate for the area."

Legolas raised one eyebrow. "And you are saying that the smell coming from the Third Gate slaughter houses is sweeter than that fragrant plants?"

"Well, if you asked the people which they would prefer, they would probably choose something that would ease the burden on their feet, rather than their noses."

"There is all ready enough stone in this city!" Legolas told him, annoyance slightly marring his brow. "Let us have something living for a change."

Gimli lost his temper. He was very proud of his designs for the area and it rankled him that his friend was not seeing things his way.

"You Elves!" he told Legolas angrily. "All you want to do is fill everything up with trees! You just want to make another Mirkwood!"

"Well, it would be a lot better than making another Moria!" Legolas snapped back.

Gimli's face turned an apoplectic red. "Don't you dare bring that up again! It was a legitimate option at the time and it would have been much better than going to the Gap of Rohan! How was I to know that the re-colonisation had failed?!"

"You didn't realise something was wrong after no one had sent any messages for how many years?" Legolas exclaimed incredulously. "'Oh of course, come to Moria. My cousin Balin has this huge hall and it is wonderful. He'll look after us.' Hah!"

"Well, I certainly didn't see you offering any suggestions. And the closest beings to Moria are the elves. Why didn't your kindred know something about the failed attempt, hmm? Because you're too busy gazing up at the stars and going off prancing around under a mess of weeds you call a forest! Since when have your kind done anything to help anyone unless it was for your own benefit?"

Pink spots began to form on Legolas's cheeks and Gimli was pleased to see that a barb had struck home.

"You couldn't begin to understand the undertakings of the Firstborn."

"Oh, you think you're all so much better than everyone else. If your smiths hadn't undertaken a certain commission from a late Dark Lord who will remain nameless, nearly everything that happened this past Age could have been avoided."

"Well let me tell you something," Legolas shot back. "At least the Elven Rings were never touched by Sauron. And since we're discussing the past, it was because of the gluttony of your precious ancestors the Silmaril was lost and all your halls and cities under the Earth were destroyed. So who's more at fault?"

"You sanctimonious, prancing…" Gimli spluttered, searching for the right words. "Pointy-eared tree hugger!"

"You deformed… grasping… short little dirt-heaver!" Legolas shouted back, his face now as red as his friend's.

Gimli opened his mouth to retaliate when the dwarf and elf became aware of an audience. The residents of Gondor had heard the ruckus and they were now staring wide-eyed at the insults that had been thrown among two of the King's most favoured friends. Gimli and Legolas glanced surreptitiously sideways at each other and, gathering up their dignity and papers, they marched out of the square.

Of course word reached King Elessar about the altercation and it was all Aragorn could do not to pinch the bridge of his nose in vexation. It was as if the pair had returned to the early days of the Fellowship, only now it was made worse by the fact that they were, or had been, such close friends.

Dirt heaver and tree hugger? He wondered in disbelief. And they say Men are infantile.

"When did this occur?" he asked Faramir.

"Just this afternoon," his Steward told him. "They were discussing their plans for the area between the two marble towers near the Fourth Gate and suddenly they just started shouting at each other."

"Over what?"

"Evidently, they disagreed with the other's proposal."

"They've disagreed before."

"Not like this, Your Majesty," Faramir told him, fervently. He had been a witness to the quarrel during his rounds of the city and while he had seen many of Legolas and Gimli's arguments in the past (often with amusement at what was obviously two very good friends enjoying themselves), the fury of their countenances and the insults they had shouted at one another were disturbing and needed to be sorted out as soon as possible.

"I shall see them both immediately, Faramir," he told his Steward. A gentle hand rested on Aragorn's arm.

"My lord," the Queen said quietly, drawing both men's instant attention. "I do not think that is wise, so soon after the altercation. The meeting would only devolve into a hurling of insults. May I suggest you give them a few days space. Perhaps they will calm down and find their own way past this… disagreement."

Elessar smiled at Arwen, thanking the Valar again for bestowing the most wondrous creature on Earth to him. He nodded, grateful not to have to face either combatant immediately.

"Would you have me do anything, Your Majesty?" Faramir asked.

"No. I think Arwen has it right. Most likely they will have sorted themselves out by tomorrow and all will be as it was." The dark-haired man nodded to himself. Yes, he would wait until tomorrow. That was the best course of action.

However, when the following day came, there was still no reconciliation between the Dwarf and Elf and by the next he was beginning to grow concerned. When the fourth day presented itself, Elessar decided that the entire situation was ridiculous and took matters into his own hands.

He ordered the pair of them to the audience chamber of Minas Tirith, making it abundantly clear that not only would they be in the presence of one another but also that there would be discussion of the plot of land in question. When the appointed time came, the guards admitted Legolas and Gimli into the large hall and the Elf and Dwarf entered in unison so perfect Aragorn would have smiled on any other occasion.

Gimli stumped along, his usual glowering countenance replaced with a mask of stone. It was as if he was made from the cold, unmovable material. Legolas was everything a young Elf Lord should be proud, poised and as untouchable as the stars. Elessar looked at them both gloomily. He had hoped that one or both had realised the ridiculousness of their frosty silence and had come to their senses but Aragorn knew it had been a vain hope. Each was as proud and stubborn as the other and even if one had felt regret, they would never have let the other see it.

They stood side by side with stony faces, completely ignoring the other. The King tried to break the glacier.

"Gimli, Legolas. I have summoned you both here to discuss the plans for the small area of land on the Fourth Gate," he paused, waiting for some response. His friends just looked at him impassively.

Neither of them were willing to make the first move. Fine, Aragorn thought. They wanted to be difficult? Time to bring this absurdity to an end. He adopted his remotest, kingly tone.

"As you both are at an impasse as to what is to be done, I have asked Commander Berengil to take over the plot and construct a building of his choice on the land."

That certainly provoked a response.

"Berengil!" They both exclaimed in outrage.

"Berengil's hopeless!" Legolas went on. "At least Gimli has some sense of the aesthetic. Berengil will just build some hideous grain store there. At least Gimli won't make an eye-sore out of it and the craftsmanship will be superb!"

"And he doesn't have any organisation skills!" Gimli continued. "He'll just trundle all his workers and supplies through the city groves and Legolas took months to get them all perfect. Aragorn, how could you make such a terrible choice?"

Elessar raised one eyebrow and smiled. "Because my two friends were so busy ignoring the other's existence that the only way to make them see sense was to do something as absurd as appoint a veteran soldier with no construction ability whatsoever to the area."

The pair in front of him had the decency to look ashamed. Arwen had hid her smile behind her hand and Faramir's mouth was twitching. Aragorn took pity on them.

"I think the two of you should have a long conversation to make up of the four days you weren't speaking to each other. You are dismissed."

As the odd pairing walked slowly out of the audience chamber and the doors closed behind them, Aragorn rested his head on the palm of one hand and sighed. A smile tugged at his lips and finally, unable to contain themselves any longer, the King, Queen and Steward burst out laughing.

Outside, the pair who had caused such merriment had adjourned to the parapet of Minas Tirith and were staring moodily out over the landscape, saying nothing. In unison they turned to one another, opening their mouths to speak before realising the absurdity of the situation and gave a self-depreciating laugh. It felt good to be merry again. They returned to their gazing but in a comfortable silence, much different than the one before.

"I'm sorry I called you a dirt heaver," Legolas apologised.

"And I'm sorry I called you a pointy-eared tree hugger," Gimli rejoined.

"Well, it is true. We do have pointy ears, although I've never heard it put quite that way before. And I'm sorry I said all those things about Moria; that wasn't fair. Moria was nobody's fault and it was wrong of my to say it was yours."

"And I'm sorry about what I said about the Rings of Power. Everyone was taken in by Sauron, not just the Elves."

"If the past is dredged up, no race is free of blame. Especially the Elves," Legolas agreed despondently.

"Mirkwood isn't a mess of trees," Gimli told him shyly. "Actually it wasn't so bad once you got used to it."

They turned back to each other tentatively.

"Friends again?" Legolas asked.

"Friends," Gimli told him, thankfully. They smiled at each other, relieved.

"You know, I think the herb garden you were talking about would be a great idea," the Dwarf said after a moment.

"No, no. You were completely right about the walkway. That's needed more than another garden."

"But that place is so dull. If I build the walkway, it will just blend in. The garden will add some colour."

"But the people won't care about a garden when they have to climb up and down all those stairs."

"Listen," stated Gimli, growing irritated. "The garden is a better idea than the walkway. You can have the plot."

"I don't want to have the plot," Legolas told him, his voice rising. "It's more sensible to have a walkway!"

The pair glared at each other for a moment before sighing.

"Let's not have an argument over what not to do with it now," the Elf complained.

They both turned back to the battlements again. Below them, a gardener was tending to the potted plants on a balcony beneath them, humming to himself. Legolas, while trying to block out the man's off-key singing, noted the way the different layers of plants created a pleasant screen on the small palisade and Gimli was impressed by the techniques used by the stonemason to aid in water runoff.

They contemplated the scene for a moment before the dwarf spoke up.

"You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Mmhm," Legolas told him. "We need a piece of paper, quick."

Gimli looked a little ashamed as he pulled some sheets out of his doublet. "I thought that Aragorn would be choosing me for the job," he explained sheepishly.

Legolas smiled, just as embarrassed as he too, brought out his plans. Gimli stared at him for a moment before bursting out in laughter.

"What a pair we make!" he grinned. They turned their papers over and began to sketch out the burgeoning ideas. Their voices drifted up from the battlements and away into the air.

"If we take your original drawings for the walkway and change them a little "

"We'll need to curve it to allow for runoff "

"And if we grade the channels into hollow steps then we can add trees as well as the herbs "

"We can also cut benches into the stone to sit on "

A few floors above them on another balcony, Aragorn turned to Arwen and smiled. She returned it and leaned her head against his shoulder. They both hoped the pair wouldn't take too long deciding the particulars before they began the walkway sounded amazing.

Indeed, in a few months, the walkway between the two towers of the Fourth Gate was certainly one of the most beautiful structures that was ever built in Minas Tirith by Legolas and Gimli. It was gracefully curved, supported on three beautifully carved pillars. Beech trees lined the pathway, surrounded by fragrant herbs that bloomed both night and day.

It was a place to escape the heat of summer and the chill of winter as the beautiful white stone that had been used seemed to absorb extreme temperatures and the flowering plants created a bower of beauty that protected as it soothed.

Legolas and Gimli could not have been more happy with the final product and they were even more delighted when beneath the walkway was made into a simple grassed area for the children to play on as they had when there was nothing but a depressing courtyard.

Soon, the argument about the land disappeared in the memories of the citizens of Minas Tirith but now and again it could be noted that the King, Queen and Steward would smile faintly when they heard the inordinate amount of praise its creators received and privately laugh at the memory of Gimli and Legolas's Dispute.

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