Title: Contest of Camaraderie
Character/s: Leon, Gwaine, Elyan
Summary: Leon joins in on a game for the sake of camaraderie.
Word Count: 1,040
Prompt: # 332: Contest
Author’s Notes: Sorry for being late. I had trouble getting it to post.
Leon approached the gathering of knights, many in various states undress, jostling for a glimpse at the makeshift target.
He bit his tongue, a discussion with Arthur still fresh in his mind. Camaraderie and morale were both important to the spirit of a fighting force and – as Arthur had gone out of his way to point out – good-natured rows, wagers, and contests were activities that helped build camaraderie and morale. Training was over and the men were allowed to spend their time as they wished, regardless of Leon’s opinions.
A collective groan broke through the general noise of the gathering. Leon chose the lull that followed in which to make his announcement.
“Good work today,” he said loudly, catching the attention of the crowd. “Speak with Kay before you leave to find out what patrol you’re on this week; not knowing your assignment isn’t an excuse for shirking your duties. Have a good evening.”
Leon paused, taking a moment to internalize his exasperation before turning to see Gwaine stepping through the group.
Gwaine grinned, an expression which rarely boded well for Leon.
“You’re not going to take a turn?” he asked.
Gwaine gestured over his shoulder at the damaged and soon-to-be-retired target dummy that was the center of the knight’s attention. Lacking arms or a shield, the dummy’s wooden torso was peppered with puncture holes rippling out from a short charcoal line drawn in the middle of its chest. The game was easy to determine based on the knife Gwaine flourished in his hand.
“No,” Leon answered, waving off the offer. “I’ll leave you to it.”
“Come on.” Gwaine sauntered towards Leon, every gaze on the pitch focused on their interaction. He spun the knife in his hand, holding the handle out to Leon. “It’s just for fun. We’ve all had a turn.”
“I’m not required to participate simply because you’ve all had a turn.”
“No, but nothing’s stopping you from joining either.”
“I don’t like bets.”
“There’s no money, only bragging rights.”
“No, thank you.”
Gwaine shook his head, a soft huff of breath escaping as he seemed to deflate at the rejection. He gave a shrug to the other knights as Arthur’s words echoed in Leon’s mind over the dispirited murmur of the men.
As captain, Leon was responsible for cultivating camaraderie and morale.
“Can I use my knife?” he asked.
Gwaine spun around, a myriad of expressions crossing his face before a delight that made Leon uneasy settled in his eyes. He strode back to Leon and placed the formerly offered knife in his hand.
“No, you have to use this one. We all used this one.”
Leon weighed the knife in his hand. It was well made and well balanced even if it had signs of wear and was a little short for his hand. He assumed it belonged to Gwaine but the detailed crest branded into the leather handle made him second-guess himself.
“The target is the drawn line on the dummy,” Gwaine explained, using a light touch to push Leon back behind a mark they’d kicked into the grass. “You have to throw from behind this mark and whoever gets closest is the winner. I’m in the lead right now,” he said with a wink.
“Gwaine’s throw landed within a finger of the line,” Elyan added.
Leon turned the knife in his hand so he held the blade between his fingers. “How many attempts do I get?”
Gwaine grinned. “One.”
He pinched the knife blade between his fingers, letting the handle swing back and forth as he studied the target. The dummy was square in front of him, the distance between them lined by the other knights, some of whom had never seen Leon indulge in boisterous campfire stories let alone a good-natured contest. He’d thought it was his duty to train and lead with confidence on the battlefield but – as Arthur had stressed – his role extended beyond fighting prowess. He noted the light breeze that moved the grass at the base of the dummy-
“We do want to make dinner, Leon,” Gwaine said loudly, prompting the other knights to laugh.
Leon shook his head, adjusting his hold on the knife.
He took two steps back, bringing his shoulder in line with the middle of the dummy. He stepped into the throw, remembering the shorter length of the knife as he released it, his feet still behind the kick mark in the grass.
The knife landed in the dummy with a solid thunk, much like the sound of every knife Leon had thrown at the trees surrounding his family home as a child.
The knights closest to the dummy ran up to inspect the result.
“How close is it?”
“Where’s the line?”
“The knife’s in it. He’s hit it on the line.”
“See for yourself.”
Each knight, including Gwaine, took a turn inspecting the throw, their general noise growing as each of them saw it with their own eyes. Percy, Elyan, and a handful of the older knights came up to Leon to congratulate him as Leon tried to insist that it wasn’t that impressive, he’d simply got lucky. Some of the younger knights seemed to take his reminder to check their patrol assignments with more enthusiasm than they had only a short while ago.
Gwaine had pulled the knife from the dummy and stood looking at Leon with an expression he couldn’t decipher.
“How did you…?”
Leon shrugged. “Lots of practice as you would with most skills. And a little luck.”
Gwaine cracked a smile. “I thought you didn’t believe in luck.”
“I don’t think anyone should depend on luck but I don’t disregard it.” The new expression grew on Gwaine’s face as Leon looked for an opportunity to excuse himself.
“Don’t forget to speak with Kay about your patrol assignment.”
“Okay, sure,” Gwaine said in an unconvincing but comforting way.
Leon laughed. “Have a good evening.”
He had almost left the pitch when Gwaine shouted at him for the second time that afternoon.
Not wanting to shout, Leon made a gesture to indicate he was listenting.
“Next week, spears!”