After a disastrous incident in the mountains Elrond's past experience allows him to help Thranduil and Legolas cope with the aftermath.
Categories: Fiction Characters:
Aragorn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Gandalf, Glorfindel, Legolas, Thranduil
The Greenwood Chronicles
April 30, 2017 Updated:
December 31, 2017
1. Rockslide by Starfox
2. Desperation by Starfox
3. Rescue by Starfox
4. Fight for Life by Starfox
5. Fight For Life II by Starfox
6. Thranduil by Starfox
7. Waking by Starfox
8. Nightmares by Starfox
9. Slow Recovery by Starfox
10. Conversations by Starfox
11. Estel by Starfox
The sun shone warmly on the damp earth which was steaming with humidity. It was the first clear day after countless days of rain. The sunlight glistened on the white peaks of the Hithaeglir and made the water droplets in the trees shine like tiny diamonds.
The elves that had left the high pass behind and slowly made their way down to the foothills of the Hithaeglir enjoyed this show of nature. They enjoyed even more being dry for the first time in many days. The rain had steadily drenched them for several days.
Tinwion rode forwards, drawing his horse next to Legolas'. "Thank the Valar that it stopped raining. I felt like a prune, all shriveled and wrinkled."
Legolas laughed. "Indeed. It seemed like the downpour would never end." He patted his horse affectionately. "I really had doubts if I would survive Baranon's bad mood." His stallion snorted and he laughed once more, addressing his steed. "You really were insufferable, my friend."
"You should have taken Thúlon," Tinwion said, ignoring Baranon's offended snort.
"My father asked me to breed him to some mares, so he had better things to do," Legolas explained. "Unfortunately he also is slowly getting past his prime." He knew that at some point in the future he would have to say goodbye to his longtime friend.
Tinwion noted his pensive mood, so he only clasped his shoulder in sympathy.
They continued on their way, basking in the warming rays of the sun. Legolas sighed in contentment. It would only be two more days until they reached Imladris. His last visit there had been years ago. After the battle of the five armies it had taken a long time to recover from their losses, reorganize their forces, integrate new members in the patrols and once more strengthen their defenses. Now, two years later, Thranduil finally felt confident that they had put the worst behind them and sent Legolas to Imladris for some much needed rest.
They had already left the high pass behind them and the path slowly wound down from the mountain. The elves were looking forward to the calm serenity of Imladris. Legolas let his thoughts drift, remembering the last months at home. It had been nearly constant work and his father had been right in his assessment. He was weary and needed some rest.
Suddenly a low rumble caught his attention. He looked up at the mountainside and saw a fast moving dust-cloud. It took a moment for him to comprehend what it was he was seeing. Obviously the constant rain had loosened the rock and now a part of the mountainside had come loose, heading straight in their direction.
"Ride," he shouted, slapping Tinwion's horse on the rump. He turned Baranon around, checking the positions of the other warriors. "This way," he pointed ahead, urging his escort to make their way to safety. They thundered past him and his horse, desperately trying to escape.
He urged Baranon forward, but a quick check showed him that they would never make it if they continued in the direction the others had gone. The rockslide was too near already so he turned his horse right, down the mountainside, diagonally to the rockslide. It was a slim chance but it was a chance. Baranon gave his best to keep his footing, thundering down the steep mountainside. They made it to the edge of the rockslide before it hit them. Small stones pelted down on them, larger stones hit Baranon's legs. The stallion whinnied panicked and finally he lost his footing, falling on his side. Legolas was thrown clear as his stallion fell, otherwise he would have been crushed beneath his steed. He hit the ground with brutal force, feeling a terrible pain in his left arm. Stones and pebbles rained down on him, a few rocks rolled past him, then all went silent.
Legolas slowly pushed himself up, barely noticing the debris that rolled off of him. His left arm was hurting fiercely, he ached all over but these were minor hurts in comparison to his arm. He examined it and discovered to his dismay that it was broken. The bones had shifted so that it would need to be set. He struggled to his feet, wavering for a moment until he managed to gain his footing. He lifted a hand to his hurting head. There was a bleeding gash at his temple. Obviously he had hit a stone in his fall. It seemed like a wonder that he hadn't sustained more serious injuries and that his bow and quiver had survived the fall undamaged.
After he got his bearings he slowly turned in a circle, searching for his horse. "Baranon," he called hoarsely.
A whinny answered him and his stallion came limping around a big boulder. His right leg was covered in blood and he moved very carefully.
"You are hurt," Legolas exclaimed. He hurried over to his horse and bent down to examine the leg. "Let me see," he muttered.
Baranon lifted his leg and Legolas examined the bleeding wound. Luckily the leg wasn't broken but had only been deeply cut by some stone. Baranon wouldn't be able to carry him but he would recover with time. Legolas marveled that the stallion had survived the brutal fall with only a slight injury.
He tended to the wound as best as he could then he patted his stallion reassuringly. Finally he straightened and started to take in his surroundings, trying to decide on the best course of action.
They were cut off from his warriors and he suspected that they would concentrate their search at the site of the rockslide. If they all had made it out. He was fairly certain the elves in the lead made it to safety but he wasn't so sure about the rest. So it could very well be that they had their hands full with rescuing and tending to the warriors who were hurt or caught in the rockslide.
There was no other choice, he was on his own for now and would have to try to make his way either to his warriors or to Imladris.
"Come, my friend," he addressed Baranon, "let's try to get from this mountain." He started to move in the direction they had been going before.
His stallion snorted softly and followed him slowly, his limp heavily pronounced. Their progress was slow. Legolas had to consider Baranon's injury and he still felt dizzy, his whole body aching. There was no way that they could move fast.
Their luck ran out after maybe half an hour of walking. Legolas suddenly heard noises in the distance. Gazing in that direction, he couldn't suppress a sound of dismay. Still a fair distance away, but unmistakably approaching, he discovered a group of orcs. Obviously the rockslide had chased them out of their caves and driven them into the open.
Legolas watched the orcs with dread. They shouted something in their crude language and started to run in their direction. He turned to Baranon. "Go," he shouted.
Baranon made no move to depart. He snorted and stamped a hoof impatiently in a silent request for Legolas to mount.
"Please," Legolas begged desperately. "You are injured, you can't bear me. You would only die needlessly. Find the others. If you can't find them, go to Imladris, try to get help."
The stallion stood indecisively for a moment, then he whinnied softly at his master, turned and trotted away in the direction they had come from. Legolas only hoped he would find a way to escape the orcs. Baranon slowly picked up speed until he fell into a light canter.
Legolas watched him leave. "Be well, my friend," he murmured. To his dismay two orcs broke from the main group and pursued his stallion. He hoped that they wouldn't catch him, despite his injury.
For a moment his hand went to the leaf shaped pendant he was carrying as he considered his options. Dol Guldur was far away, so there was no danger in ending up there and hopefully at least some of his warriors had survived the rockslide. The outlook was grim, but not hopeless. He tucked the necklace securely back beneath his shirt before he turned and faced his opponents.
Normally, a band of 16 orcs would have been manageable but with his broken hand his bow was useless and he could only use one of his knives - and that only in close combat. His chances of surviving this encounter were slim. Grimly, he discarded his bow and drew one of his knives.
It didn't take long for the orc horde to reach him. The battle was fierce and at first he managed to hold his own, but soon his injury put him at a serious disadvantage. One orc managed to get past his defenses and dealt him a deep stab wound to his left side. He hissed through clenched teeth and managed to evade another blade as one of his opponents lunged at him. But that was how far luck would help him. Another orc attacked and hit him in his thigh. It was another deep wound and Legolas felt himself falter.
Then suddenly there was a blinding pain in his head as he was hit with the blunt edge of a scimitar from an orc that had managed to get behind him. His vision went black and he toppled unconscious to the floor.
This chapter contains torture and violence. The orcs are not nice creatures after all.
Awakening was not a pleasant experience. His head hurt fiercely, his body throbbed, especially his left side and thigh. As his muddled mind cleared a bit he noticed that his hands were tied behind his back, with no regard or care for his broken arm. With the pain came the memory. He recalled the rock fall and the ensuing events. He knew that he was in a desperate situation. Nobody knew what had happened to him and there was no guarantee that Baranon had managed to escape for good and would find somebody in time. The orcs would show him no mercy, of that he was sure.
Heavy steps neared him and an iron shod boot kicked him fiercely in the side. His eyes shot open and he suppressed a gasp of pain. His captors didn't stop with that, instead more kicks rained down on him, hitting him in his back, his sides and his ribs. He suppressed a moan of pain, not willing to give the orcs the satisfaction.
After a while they stopped and one of the ugly creatures stepped in front of him. He bent down and stared at him. His face bore ugly scars and he emanated a smell that made Legolas nearly gag. His eyes appraised his captive and he smiled cruelly. Legolas fought the urge to draw back and glared back defiantly. Without warning, the orc grabbed his hair, pulled his head up and punched him in the face. "So the elf is awake," he said in crude Westron. "Time to play with him, then. You killed several of my men."
He knew he shouldn't provoke the orcs but he also knew that they would hurt him, no matter what he did. So he couldn't stop himself. "A pity that you weren't amidst them," he snarled back.
The beast roared in anger and his reward for provoking the foul creature were more punches and kicks. The orc grabbed him, claws digging deeply into his skin, and hauled him over to a tree. He pulled him up roughly and slashed his bonds with a knife, only to grab his hands and pull them up over his head. The bones in Legolas' broken arm were jarred and he hissed in pain. The orc tied his hands above his head to a tree branch, pulling him up so high that he could barely stand. The other orcs crowded around them, jeering and snarling. He looked around the camp, noting that the orcs had chosen a clearing. It was late in the day and a fire was burning a short distance away. To his relief there was no sign of Baranon, alive or dead.
The one who seemed to be the leader grabbed him by the throat, staring into his face, eyes glinting menacingly. "Time to have some fun." He tore Legolas' shirt and tunic apart, baring his back, then he went over to a space near the fire, bent down and picked something up. As he came near again, Legolas saw that he carried a whip. He wasn't unfamiliar with the things the orcs did to their prisoners. More than one warrior of Mirkwood had been captured by orcs. Some times they were lucky and could rescue them, more times than that they could only recover the remains. He knew that the orcs liked to inflict pain in their prisoners, so he braced himself.
He would never forget the whistling noise the whip made as it sliced the air. The first lash hit him and he hissed as sharp pinpricks of pain coursed through his body. Not wanting to give them the satisfaction, he gritted his teeth to prevent himself from showing pain or crying out. The next lashes fell fast and hard and his back felt like it was on fire. He couldn't prevent himself from flinching away, causing the orc to cackle in glee. The lashing went on, the strokes hitting his back and sides with brutal force. His whole back was covered with red, angry welts. As it went on, the whip broke his skin, causing blood to well up and slowly run down his back. Despite the pain, he endured silently while the brutal lashing went on for several minutes. By the time the orc finished, Legolas' back was bleeding profusely and he was hanging from the ropes keeping him upright. His broken arm was pure agony, rivaling with the pain of the weals on his back.
The orc threw the whip down and grabbed him by his hair, pulling his head up. "Not so feisty anymore, are you?" His face was mere inches from Legolas' and he could see the sharp, blackened teeth. The archer thought he would pass out from the stench. The creature punched him in the face, causing his head to snap back. Suddenly it lifted a knife and cut the rope binding him to the tree, causing him to crumble to the floor and land hard on his back. He couldn't suppress a cry of pain and the orc laughed cruelly. "Tie him up," he ordered his minions, "we will have more fun with him later."
Two orcs grabbed him, pulled his hands behind his back roughly and bound him again. They kicked him a few times then they left to join their comrades eating their meal.
Legolas rolled onto his side, breathing through the pain. His back hurt fiercely and his wounds throbbed, a clear signal that the weapons had been poisoned. His situation was more than dire. He knew the orcs wouldn't stop with the whipping. Who knew what their cruel minds would come up with. He heard the orcs speaking in black speech and it hurt to hear this foul language. After a while, heavy footsteps came near again and he tensed in anticipation.
Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Lord Elrond of Imladris, had decided to join Glorfindel and his warriors on a patrol to the Hithaeglir. They regularly went on patrols in an attempt to keep the orc population at a manageable level. This time they wanted to check out a few known hiding spots. They also expected to meet Legolas and his escort on their way to Imladris. They would join them and accompany them the last leg of the journey. The twins were looking forward to meeting their friend once more. It had been years since they had last seen each other.
They made good progress as they followed the path winding its way through the foothills, the weather was nice and so they were in a good mood as they slowly made their way up the mountain. Glorfindel, who took the lead, suddenly stiffened and listened. The others watched him tensely.
"Hoofbeats," he explained, "they are fast approaching, someone is in a hurry."
They watched the path in anticipation, waiting for the rider to approach.
The noise was now clearly discernible and it didn't take long for a rider to appear on the path in front of them, drawing near fast. They all could see that he was wearing the colors of Mirkwood and they looked at each other warily, knowing that it didn't bode well for a single rider to head for Imladris in a rush.
Elrohir finally recognized him. "Amarthon," he murmured. The warrior had accompanied Legolas on his last visit to Imladris.
Amarthon stopped his horse in front of them. He looked deeply troubled. "Lord Glorfindel, Lords Elladan and Elrohir," he greeted. "It is good to see you again. In fact it is a most lucky circumstance that you are here." He pointed at the path behind him. "We were surprised by a rockfall yesterday and we need help."
Apprehensive murmurs from the Imladrian elves followed his announcement and Glorfindel immediately took charge. "What do you need?" he inquired.
"We have a few warriors with minor injuries, three are seriously injured and we lost two horses." He took a deep breath. "Our prince was the first to notice the rockslide. He saw to it that everybody made it to safety..." Amarthon gestured helplessly with his hands. "We lost track of him," he whispered. "We don't know if he was buried beneath the stones or made his escape in another direction."
Glorfindel and the twins exchanged dismayed and alarmed gazes.
"Show us the place," Glorfindel ordered.
Amarthon turned his horse around and started to lead the group to where the other Mirkwood warriors tended their injured and searched desperately for their prince.
The footsteps halted next to him and someone gripped his hair and pulled his head up. Once more Legolas saw the ugly face of the leader. The malice in the orc's eyes made him shudder inwardly. He tried to hide his apprehension, putting up a front of defiance.
The orc was playing with a knife, running his misshapen fingers along its edge. He stared at his captive considering, obviously thinking about what to do next. "Well, elf, time for some more fun," he growled. His gaze wandered over his captive. "Looks like we missed your right side." He bent down and slowly ran his hand along Legolas' chest and ribs. The elf had to suppress a shudder at the touch. Suddenly the knife drove down, piercing Legolas' right side, the orc pressing down hard on it. Legolas gasped in shock, trying instinctively to pull back but he was pinned to the floor. Fiery pain flooded him as the knife was driven deep into his flesh. The hand holding it was not giving an inch, the orc laughing cruelly as he watched the elf struggle. He pulled the knife back a bit and shoved it back in, twisting it in the wound to cause more pain.
By now Legolas was panting, dark spots dancing in front of his vision. He couldn't suppress a moan as the knife was twisted in his wound. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the orc pulled the knife back, standing over his captive and admiring his handiwork as blood poured from the wound. His minions cackled gleefully, finding pleasure in the suffering their leader caused the elf. He kicked Legolas in the ribs a few times for good measure, then he looked around, considering what to do next.
As the elves reached the scene of the rockslide, Glorfindel could see the extent of rubble. The whole pace was blocked with a wall of smaller and bigger stones, big boulders and rubble. The Mirkwood warriors had set up camp a short distance away. Four warriors cared for the injured, while five more were working at the scene, searching for Legolas and trying to clear the rubble so far that a passage was possible. There was an air of desperation about them.
Tinwion, who was working with the other elves on clearing the path, turned around as they approached and came to greet them.
"My Lords, I don't know what fortunate occurrence brought you here, but we need every help we can get."
Glorfindel wasted no time. "Amarthon told us what happened." He turned to his warriors and motioned for them to dismount and make themselves useful. Then he returned his attention back to Tinwion. "Amarthon said that Legolas is missing?"
Tinwion swallowed visibly. "Yes. He was the first to notice what happened and stayed back to make sure we all made for safety. We didn't see what happened to him but he didn't make it to this side." The look he gave Glorfindel was full of horror and dread. "We fear for him. Please help us searching."
Elrohir dismounted and went to the rubble, surveying the extent of the rockslide. "How much time was left before it hit the path?" he asked.
Tinwion thought for a moment. "It all happened pretty fast, enough time for Legolas to call a warning and to spur us on. Maybe ten to fifteen seconds."
Elladan joined his brother. "What do you think?"
"Legolas is smart. We should consider that he went in another direction. Let's take a few warriors and try to bypass this part of the path. Maybe he went down the mountain, trying to outrun the rockslide."
Glorfindel looked down the mountain thoughtfully. "It's steep, but maybe a horse could manage. At least it would have been a chance." He suddenly sprang into action, turning and going back to his horse. "We will leave most warriors to help you, while we go and search for him." He turned to his warriors. "Istaon, Latharo, you are with us. The rest, do what Tinwion tells you to do."
Tinwion nodded gratefully. "I pray to the Valar that he isn't beneath this rubble. May you succeed in your search. Please send word immediately."
"Of course," Glorfindel assured him. The five elves turned their horses around and made their way back the path, searching for a good spot to go down the mountain.
By now Legolas was certain that he would die at the hands of the orcs. It had been at least a day since they had captured him and it seemed that there was no hope left. His strength was leaving him rapidly and he felt the poison spreading in his body. The blood from the stab wound slowly drenched the ground. He thought about his father and felt deep sorrow. There was a good chance that Thranduil would never know what had happened to him and the uncertainty would haunt his father. He hoped that he would think that Legolas had perished in the rockslide and would never discover the truth. He also hoped that he would endure, for their people's sake. Mirkwood needed its king.
The orcs had left him alone for a few hours after another beating but now it seemed they were bored again.
Heavy footsteps neared him and suddenly sharp claws gripped his shoulders and he was dragged over to the fire. The orc dropped him there, not caring that he fell onto his injured side. He gritted his teeth, trying not to let them see his pain because he knew that would only encourage them further.
The orcs talked in black speech with each other for a moment, then the leader bent over him. "My men want their fun with you too, Narthzug came up with a most interesting idea." He grinned maliciously, exposing his blackened teeth. Legolas tried not to gag at the stench.
The orc the leader had indicated bared his teeth at Legolas, then he bent down and put the blade of a knife into the fire.
Legolas had a dark suspicion what they intended. He felt dread rising and didn't know how much longer he would be able to endure their torture with some dignity. He didn't want to show them fear, knowing they would show him no mercy and only relish in his pain and terror.
After a few minutes Narthzug took the knife by the hilt, pulling it out of the flames. The blade had been heated to a glowing red. The orc stepped over to him and knelt down beside him. Three others held him down firmly. Despite his bound hands he tried to struggle, but one orc dealt him a blow to his head, temporarily stunning him. Narthzug grinned at him and said something in black speech. Finally he lowered the knife and pressed the side of the hot blade firmly against his ribcage.
At first Legolas felt only a slight warmth, but after a moment the pain erupted, the hot blade searing his skin. The smell of burning flesh permeated the air and the pain lanced through him, leaving him breathless. His mouth opened in a silent scream and he couldn't draw breath for the pain paralyzed him. His whole body seemed to be on fire.
The orcs laughed cruelly and Narthzug once again said something in their crude language.
The leader laughed approvingly and turned to Legolas. "Don't think that was all, elf," he growled. Narthzug just made a very good suggestion. He barked something that seemed to be an order and two orcs pulled Legolas' boots off. "We don't want you to be able to escape somehow, don't we?" He touched the burned skin and pressed down cruelly, leaving Legolas gasping with pain.
By now Legolas only wished that it would end soon. The agony was pulsing through him, making his wounds throb. He wished for the darkness to claim him, to send him into oblivion.
The orcs didn't do him the favor. After the knife was reheated, two orcs grabbed his right leg and Narthzug pressed the blade to the sole of his foot. The pain was even worse than the first time they burned him, the nerves in his sole increasing the torture. The orcs laughed maliciously at the elf that writhed in agony on the ground. Later he wouldn't remember if he screamed, he only remembered the fire that seemed to alight his body. He barely noticed as they moved to his left foot, causing the same damage as before. Finally, the pain was getting too much and a black abyss rose up to swallow him.
The search party had to backtrack a bit but now they were on a path a bit further down the mountain. They kept their eyes open, searching for the smallest signs of recent passage. Suddenly something further down caught Elrohir's attention. He could hear a noise, an uneven thumping. His sight was blocked by trees, so he couldn't see where the noise emanated. He motioned to Glorfindel and went down the mountain to examine more closely.
Glorfindel and Elladan exchanged glances and followed him.
Elrohir carefully made his way down to the path below. The trail led through a copse of trees, and there, limping heavily, trotting slowly along the way, was a brown horse. The horse stopped as it noticed him and horse and elf stared at each other for a moment. Noise behind him alerted Elrohir to the arrival of Glorfindel and Elladan.
Glorfindel stepped in front of Elrohir and approached the stallion slowly. "That is Baranon," he murmured, "the horse Elrond gifted to Legolas." He stopped in front of the animal. "You have grown, my friend."
Baranon nickered softly and pawed the ground with his hoof. He threw his head back and snorted, his demeanor suddenly changing to urgency.
"He is hurt," Elladan observed, noticing the wound on the right leg of the stallion. "What is he doing here on his own? Where is Legolas?"
At the name of his master the stallion grew agitated and turned around, clearly expecting them to follow him. Glorfindel observed him thoughtfully. "Seems that they at least escaped the rockslide. Maybe Legolas was injured? Let's track his path back. Then we should be able to find Legolas." He turned and whistled and shortly after Istaon and Latharo appeared with the horses.
"Istaon, take Baranon and bring him to the camp," Glorfindel ordered, pointing at the stallion. At Baranon's indignant snort he turned to the horse. "You are injured, you would only slow us down. We will find your master."
The stallion snorted again but he went over to Istaon obediently. The warrior patted him lightly and led him along the path, searching for a way the injured horse could manage easily.
The other mounted their horses and followed Baranon's trail, which was easily to see for most of the time. Only occasionally had one of them to dismount to search more intently for traces of the stallion's passage. They finally came to a place where he had descended the mountain, following his path further up again and wondering about the odd changes in direction his tracks indicated.
After a while they came to a scene which filled them with dread. Suddenly they knew what must have happened. Dead orcs littered the path. Obviously Legolas and his horse had survived the rockfall only to run into a group of orcs later. It looked like Legolas had sent his horse away. Glorfindel had known Baranon only as a colt but if the stallion had developed as expected, he wouldn't have left his master willingly.
Grimly, Glorfindel examined the dead orcs, noting that they were all killed with a knife, not with arrows. That confirmed his suspicion that Legolas had been injured. Of course Legolas' bow could have been damaged in the rockslide.
Elrohir bent down and picked something up, closing his eyes for a moment. "Glorfindel," he called. As the older elf turned around, he held Legolas' bow up.
Glorfindel stood and went over to the twin. He took the weapon and examined it, noting that it was undamaged. He met Elrohir's eyes. "It looks like he was injured before he met the orcs, which would put him at a disadvantage."
There was grim determination in Elrohir's eyes. "We will find him."
They searched the bodies and the site thoroughly, dreading to find the body of their friend. To their relief they only found dead orcs, there was no sign of Legolas.
Finally Glorfindel found a spot where red blood stains had dried up. He crouched down and examined more closely. "Looks like they captured him." He looked up at Elladan and Elrohir and they exchanged dismayed glances. They all remembered too well finding the twins' mother after she had been captured and tortured by orcs. "We have to hurry, the orcs are dead for at least a day." They knew what could happen in a day in the hands of orcs.
With rising dread they followed the track leading away from the scene. The orcs hadn't bothered hiding their tracks and why would they? They didn't expect somebody to follow them.
Uzshak, the orc leader, was disappointed as the elf finally passed out. He let his men vent their frustrations by hitting and kicking him again. It had been fun to play with their captive but he didn't think the elf would regain consciousness enough to care what happened to him. The poison and his wounds had finally done their work. It was time to slowly end this.
"So boys, who wants to cut his ears off?" he asked, knowing that it would ensure the loyalty of his remaining men if he let them have some fun, too.
There was a scuffle as the others tried to decide who would have the pleasure of doing the next damage. Finally Ratsnik succeeded in beating the others into submission. He kicked the senseless elf in the side and as he didn't move he looked disappointed. "It would be more fun to hear him squeak." He picked his knife up from the ground, bent over the unconscious body and grabbed the elf's head. He gripped his hair, pulled his head up and was about to start cutting at his ear when suddenly he groaned and fell back, an arrow sticking out from his chest.
Uzshak stared disbelievingly at the other orc for a moment, then he whirled around to rally his men against their attackers. Before he could do any more, he felt a searing pain as an arrow cut through his throat.
Glorfindel, the twins and Latharo had dismounted as it seemed that the tracks were fresher and led to a location where the orcs could have camped. Leaving the horses in a sheltered spot they silently and warily made their way forward, listening intently to every noise.
They came around a slight bend in the path and could see the shine of a fire in the distance. Slowly they crept closer and before long they could hear loud jeering and snarling. Exchanging glances, they used the cover the undergrowth and trees offered and silently made their way closer to the orc camp. Finally they came to the edge of a clearing and crouched in the cover of a few bushes.
What they saw nearly caused Elrohir to attack the orcs on the spot. A group of orcs surrounded something next to the fire. As they watched, the orcs hit and kicked a figure on the ground. They couldn't see details but they could make out the blond hair of the captive and presumed that it was Legolas. Glorfindel barely managed to keep Elrohir back. "Wait. Let's first check how many we have to deal with and if there are any guards."
They silently counted the orcs, noting that all in all there were only eleven left, so it shouldn't be too hard to defeat them. They only had to be fast about it, since there was the possibility that they would kill Legolas when they noticed that they were attacked.
Elrohir and Elladan silently drew their bows and nocked arrows. Glorfindel and Latharo unsheathed their swords and crept closer to the group.
Finally the orcs had stopped hitting the archer and there seemed to be a scuffle. At last one of the orcs kicked him in the side, then the beast drew a knife and bent down over the motionless archer. He grabbed his head and pulled it up, about to place his knife against Legolas' ear.
Elrohir had enough. He loosed his arrow, hitting the orc in the chest, causing him to fall back with a choked cry. Another orc whirled around and started to bellow something, only to end up with an arrow through his throat.
Elladan and Elrohir shot more arrows in rapid succession, while Glorfindel and Latharo attacked from the side. The orcs were in chaos, trying to run and not noticing that it were only four elves that attacked them.
One of them tried to kill their captive, but by now Glorfindel and Latharo had made their way over to the fire. Glorfindel dispatched the orc with a stroke of his sword, nearly decapitating him.
Legolas remained motionless through all the mayhem. They didn't know if he was unconscious or already dead.
Glorfindel was the first to reach him. He knelt down beside Legolas and gasped as he took in the battered form. Swiftly he drew his knife and cut the ropes which were cutting cruelly into his flesh. By the time he could do a more thorough examination, Elrohir and Elladan had joined him, having killed the last of the orcs. Both gasped in shock as they saw what the orcs had done.
An eerie feeling of déjà vu came over them. They remembered the time only too well when they had found Celebrian, the twins' mother. She too had been abducted and tortured by orcs.
Glorfindel carefully removed what was left of Legolas' tunic and shirt, then he checked for broken bones, finding three fractured ribs and noticing his broken arm. His gaze fell onto the leaf pendant Legolas was wearing and he took and examined it, much to the twins' curiosity. Finally he lowered it, with a muttered "Thank the Valar". He didn't elaborate further, leaving the twins' curiosity unsatisfied. They also checked the numerous other injuries, noting that he already had a high fever. Glorfindel exchanged a dismayed look with the twins. "He needs your father as soon as possible. Let's treat the worst of it and then we'll take him to Imladris."
The twins nodded and they gently lifted the archer and carried him to a place a bit apart from the orc camp. Latharo had already called the horses, now he built a new fire and put a few blankets on the ground so that they could lay Legolas down on something soft.
Elrohir heated water in a bowl, then he took a piece of cloth and gently cleaned Legolas' back, while Glorfindel examined the stab wounds. "There is poison in his wounds," he finally stated grimly.
Elladan, who was mixing a herbal paste, grimaced. "We only have our field packs, we don't have any antidotes with us. Let's hope he'll endure until we can bring him to father."
They tended to his wounds as best as they could, cleaning and dressing them for now, leaving the real work for later, when they could tend them properly. Elladan set the broken arm and splinted it.
Glorfindel, who had continued to search the archer for more injuries, suddenly hissed angrily. At the twins' curious looks, he pointed at his feet. As they checked, they saw the deep burns on his soles. Elrohir closed his eyes for a moment. He felt sick. What Legolas must have endured during his time of captivity was beyond his comprehension. They knew how cruel the orcs were but to bear once more witness to it left him deeply shaken.
Glorfindel checked Legolas' pulse and frowned worriedly. He put a hand on the archer's brow and closed his eyes for a moment, obviously concentrating. A faint light emanated from him. As he withdrew his hand, the younger elf's breaths seemed to be a bit deeper. Glorfindel carefully wrapped him in a blanket, then he lifted the injured elf into his arms.
The balrog slayer stood slowly and called his horse. "Come, let's waste no time. We need to bring him to Imladris so that we can properly care for him."
He passed Legolas over to Elrohir, then he mounted his horse and gestured to the twins to lift Legolas up to him. After the younger elf was settled securely in front of him, the twins and Latharo mounted too and the small group set out. Glorfindel could feel the heat of the younger elf's fever through the blanket and he silently prayed to the Valar that the archer would survive this ordeal. Legolas sat slumped against him, his head resting against his shoulder. Only the firm grip Glorfindel had on him was holding him upright.
As they came to the location where they had found Baranon, Latharo parted from them. He would inform the other elves that they had found Legolas, so that they could stop the search and come to Imladris. Since they had the injured elves and Baranon with them, they would travel slow.
Glorfindel and the twins for their part traveled nearly without rest, intent on getting to Imladris as fast as possible and getting Legolas the help he needed. They only made short stops, giving the horses the chance to rest. Finally, in the afternoon of the next day they passed into the valley of Imladris. As they neared their target, Elrohir rode ahead to alert Elrond of their coming.
Fight for Life by Starfox
Elrond, Lord of Imladris, was deep in conversation with Gandalf, who had unexpectedly turned up the day before. The Istar had brought many news and so they had a lot to talk about.
Suddenly the door was pushed open without knocking. Elrond turned towards it to reprimand whoever dared to intrude so rudely when he caught sight of his son.
Elrohir halted after a few steps in the room. "Adar, Mithrandir, forgive me for intruding." He turned to his father. "Adar, we need to prepare the healing halls immediately. We found Legolas in the foothills of the Hithaeglir." He took a deep breath. "He has been tortured by orcs."
Elrond and Gandalf exchanged alarmed looks. Elrond rose to his feet immediately and strode over to his son.
"It's bad," Elrohir said softly.
Gandalf also got up. "Go," he said. "I'll see you later."
Elrond inclined his head, then he and Elrohir hurried out of the room.
Half an hour after Elrohir's arrival the rescue party reached Imladris and rode into the courtyard.
Elladan slid off his horse and went over to Glorfindel. Positioning himself next to the horse, he raised his arms, ready to relieve the seneschal of his burden.
Glorfindel passed the limp form carefully down to Elladan before he dismounted. He fell in step next to Elladan who carried Legolas toward the house. The blanket had fallen open, exposing the archer to the gazes of the elves present.
Elrond awaited them on the stairs, an anxious Elrohir at his side. He watched them approach and gasped as he saw the blood stained bandages that covered Legolas' torso, the torn and blood stained leggings, the translucent skin and the bruises all over his body. Although he had expected the worst after Elrohir's report, the reality was even more disturbing than he had imagined.
"He lives," Glorfindel said, while still keeping up with Elladan. "Although it doesn't look good."
Elrond preceded them as they hurriedly made their way to the healing rooms. He opened the doors and motioned his son through to one of the private rooms, leading off from the main room.
Elladan gently laid Legolas down on an examination table and Elrond felt himself thrown back into the past, as another hurt and broken body had been brought to Imladris. Celebrian, his wife, had fallen into the hands of orcs and been tortured. Although he could heal her wounds, her spirit had been wounded too severely, so she decided to depart over the sea and seek healing in Valinor.
Carefully he started to examine the prince, removing the bandages that covered his torso and exposing the injuries beneath. He closed his eyes for a moment as he discovered the whip marks, stab wounds, broken ribs and the burned skin. It was obvious that Legolas had been tortured. He started to clean the wounds with warm water, ordering Elladan to prepare an ointment for the burns. The stab wounds were clearly poisoned, the skin around them was discolored and fine dark lines spread out from them. One of them was especially nasty. It looked as if the knife had been twisted deliberately to maximize the damage. To make matters worse, the younger elf was burning up with fever. Elrond's gaze fell on the necklace Legolas was wearing and he reached for it.
Glorfindel hat seen the movement and knew what Elrond wanted to know. "No, he didn't take it, I checked."
The healer took a deep breath. "At least we don't have to deal with that but it's worse enough. It is a wonder he survived the trip to Imladris."
Elladan returned with the ointment and he and his father started to apply the salve to the burned skin. Elrond also added pain dulling herbs to the burns and the bloody welts on the stricken elf's back. Then they turned to the stab wounds, cleaning, stitching and bandaging them and the broken ribs. After that Elrond undid the splint on Legolas' broken arm and examined it. Elladan had done a fine job setting it, so Elrond just resplinted it so that the bones could heal.
Glorfindel had tended to the wound in Legolas' thigh, now he was removing the bandages around his feet. "They burned his soles to prevent him from escaping," he explained through clenched teeth. The rage he felt was unmistakable, Elrond could nearly feel it bodily. It seemed to roll off of him in big waves.
The Lord of Imladris examined the burns and couldn't suppress a gasp. They were deep and angry looking. It must have caused considerable pain when they were inflicted.
"I would like to revive them and kill them again, slowly and painfully," Glorfindel hissed.
"This will take a while to heal," Elrond commented quietly. He took a deep breath. All in all Legolas was in dire condition. The poison coursing through his veins caused havoc on his body. It had had ample time to spread and Elrond didn't know if the antidotes he could try would be sufficient to stop it in time. Legolas was very weak and the fever was sapping the last of his strength.
Sighing, he started to clean the burns on Legolas' feet and applied an ointment to them as well, bandaging them after he finished.
He took a cup from Elrohir, who had prepared the antidote while the others tended to the prince. Carefully Glorfindel lifted Legolas a bit and Elrond put the cup against his lips, slowly feeding him the antidote.
Finally they had done all they could for the time being and dressed Legolas in loose fitting pants, leaving his upper body bare, since they would have to redress the wounds regularly. Glorfindel gently lifted the younger elf from the table and carried him to a bed. They carefully settled him, covering him with warm blankets and putting a pillow beneath his broken arm.
Elrond looked at his sons and his friend. "I know you want to stay but you had an exhausting journey. Try to get some sleep, you need rest. I'll watch over him." Sensing their reluctance, he added, "You can come back in the morning."
Elladan and Elrohir gave their friend one last look, then they slowly departed. The seneschal stepped closer to the bed and laid one hand on the younger elf's forehead. Frowning, he cast a worried look at Elrond.
Elrond nodded reassuringly. "If his condition changes, I'll get you."
The balrog slayer inclined his head, then he too, departed.
Elrond sighed and sat down in a chair next to the bed. It would be a long night, of that he was sure.
During the night Legolas' fever had risen even more. The younger elf had fever dreams, he was restlessly tossing around and murmuring incoherently. The raging fever sapped his last strength and by morning, he was so weak that Elrond feared for his live.
More than once did the Lord of Imladris use his not inconsiderable power to strengthen him but even that didn't seem to be enough and it exhausted the healer. At the moment he wiped Legolas' face with a cool cloth. The archer had quieted down a bit, laying limply and exhausted beneath the covers. Elrond put a hand against his cheek to check his temperature and Legolas turned into the touch, whispering weakly, "Ada."
Elrond clenched his teeth. He wished desperately that Thranduil could be there. Seeing Legolas so ill and knowing that there was a great possibility that he could die, without his father being able to be there for him, was hard.
Trying to comfort the prince he silently stroked his forehead. Legolas slipped deeper into fitful slumber, relaxing a bit beneath the calming hands.
A knock sounded at the door. Elrond went to answer it and found Gandalf standing before him. "Mithrandir," he greeted softly.
The wizard gave him an inquiring gaze, then his attention turned to the bed and its sole occupant. "How is he?" he asked gruffly.
Elrond sighed. There was no need to soften the truth with Gandalf. "Not good." He turned and went over to the bed. "He still has a high fever and his strength is all but spent. When his fever doesn't break soon, he will die." He looked at Gandalf, anguish in his eyes. "He called for his father during the night. I wish Thranduil could be here. What am I to do? Even if I write Thranduil, by the time the message reaches him, Legolas' fate will be decided, one way or the other. But then, how can I NOT notify him? If Legolas survives this, he will need his father's support."
Gandalf could see the shadow of memory in Elrond's eyes. He knew that the healer was remembering the time after Celebrian had been rescued from the orcs. It had not been easy for Elrond and his children.
"Hmm," he made noncommittally. An idea was forming in his head. He kept his silence about that and gazed at the sick elf. Legolas was ashen, his skin nearly translucent, except for the fever spots on his cheeks and the bruises that marred his skin. Gandalf put one hand on his brow, the other on his chest, and used his powers to transfer some of his strength to the prince. He supposed that Glorfindel and Elrond had already done the same. Legolas had been lucky that he had been found by the balrog slayer and the sons of Elrond, otherwise he wouldn't have made it to Imladris.
Elrond had moved to a table and was mixing herbs with water. He neared the bed and sat down beside the sick elf. "Help me raise him," he requested from Gandalf.
The Istar gently took Legolas by the shoulders and slipped an arm behind his back. He lifted the prince from the pillows, letting his head rest against his shoulder. Elrond slowly fed him the fever-reducing medicine, praying to the Valar that it would take effect soon.
After the cup was empty, they carefully resettled Legolas back on the mattress, rearranging his body so that he didn't rest on one of his wounds. Elrond once again felt his forehead, noting with dismay that the fever was still as high as during the night. He sighed deeply.
Gandalf saw the worry on the elven lord's face. "Legolas is strong. And stubborn," he added after a moment. "Don't give up on him yet. He might surprise us all." He stood, looking down at the elf with a fond gaze. "I'll come back later, I have to talk to a friend now." Ignoring Elrond's quizzical look, he left.
A short time later, the door opened again and Elladan and Elrohir entered. They silently neared the bed, looking down at their friend and checking his appearance. "Good morning, Ada," Elladan greeted. "How was the night?"
Elrond sighed. "His fever is still very high. I just gave him medicine to lower it. Let's hope it works." He looked at his sons, noting that they too, looked worried. "Let's check his wounds and change the bandages," he suggested.
The twins nodded silently and they started to work. They treated the burns and whip marks again with salve and checked the other wounds for infection. At least in this aspect they were lucky, there was no sign of it.
After they had settled their patient again as comfortable as possible, Elladan put his hand on his father's arm. "You look tired, Ada. Go, get some rest. Elrohir and I will watch over him."
Before Elrond could answer there was a knock at the door. Erestor entered, taking in the scene in front of him and moving to stand in front of the healer. He gazed at Legolas for a moment before turning his attention back to Elrond. "The patrol has arrived, along with the warriors of Mirkwood. Since a few of them are injured, they are on their way to the healing rooms."
"Thank you, Erestor," Elrond said, before moving to the door. "I presume they want to know how their prince fares." He left, silently pulling the door closed behind him.
The injured Mirkwood warriors were already being tended to by the healers as Elrond entered the main room. Tinwion had sustained a large gash to his forearm and a healer was in the process of cleaning and bandaging the wound. As he noticed the Lord of Imladris, he abruptly stood and went over to Elrond, ignoring the protests of the healer.
"My Lord," he greeted, bowing to Elrond. "Thank you for your hospitality." He hesitated for a moment, then he asked: "Our prince, is he...?"
Elrond smiled reassuringly. "He is alive and well cared for. My sons are with him at the moment." He didn't mention Legolas' dire condition, deciding that there was time for that later.
Tinwion breathed a sigh of relief and sagged slightly. His exhaustion and worry were clearly visible now.
Elrond regarded his wound. "Why don't you let Labolon finish and I'll bring you to him?"
Tinwion smiled sheepishly at the healer but addressed Elrond. "Thank you, my Lord." He sat down and let the other elf continue to tend to his wound.
Finally Labolon finished and bandaged the wound. "Come back tomorrow and I'll check how it processes. My Lord," he inclined his head to Elrond, then he left them and turned his attention to another patient.
Tinwion stood, the barely suppressed anxiety clearly visible in his face.
"Come," Elrond said, turning in the direction of Legolas' room.
Tinwion followed him, eager to see how Legolas fared. He stepped into the room behind the Lord of Imladris and stopped abruptly a few steps before the bed in which his friend rested. He silently took Legolas' appearance in and turned worried eyes to Elrond.
"I'm sure Latharo already told you most of what happened," Elrond started. "He was captured and tortured by orcs," he explained. "Glorfindel and my sons met Baranon and followed his tracks, that way they managed to find him. He has been unconscious since they found him so we don't know exactly what happened."
Tinwion stepped closer to the bed. "We were supposed to protect him," he whispered. "Instead he made sure that we made it to safety."
Elrohir, who had watched silently, along with Elladan, put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Nobody could foresee what happened. Don't blame yourself for it."
The warrior took a deep, shuddering breath. "Will he be all right?"
"We are doing what we can," Elrond assured him.
"Our king needs to know," Tinwion murmured.
"We sent a bird with a message. Although it will take a few days to reach him."
Tinwion drew a hand over his face. He was obviously shaken.
"Come," Elladan said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Let's see to your warriors. We will take care of your prince." He steered the unresisting warrior to the door, throwing a concerned gaze back to his father and brother. They all were worried about what would happen if Legolas didn't recover.
After the door closed behind them, Elrond sighed deeply and sat down heavily in the chair at the bedside.
Elrohir wet a cloth and put it on Legolas' forehead. "The fever still hasn't abated," he said quietly. "Go to bed, Adar, I fear it will be a long day and night and we'll need you later."
Elrond pushed himself to his feet tiredly. "If his condition changes, call me." He left the room and made his way to the family wing and his rooms.
As he crossed the hall, he nearly collided with a young boy who rushed out of a corridor. "Estel," he chided, "look where you are going."
"Sorry, Ada," the youth replied sheepishly. "I missed you at breakfast. Where were you?"
Elrond put an arm around his shoulders while they walked slowly towards the family quarters. "I had a patient. Have you seen the patrol return and that we have visitors?"
"Yes," Estel nodded eagerly. "There were strange elves with them."
"One of them is very ill, so I had to take care of him."
"But elves don't get sick," Estel replied with unfailing logic.
Elrond sighed. Trust his foster son to find the fault in his explanation. "He was caught in a rockslide and then injured by orcs." He didn't want Estel to know too much yet, he was still quite young with his twelve years.
Obviously Estel was content with that answer. "And Elladan and Elrohir? I wanted to ask them if they want to go riding but I can't find them."
"Forgive us, Estel," Elrond apologized. We will be busy for the next few days. I'll ask Glorfindel to appoint one of his warriors to you, to start training you with the sword." He stalled Estel's shout of delight with a raised hand. "Only if you do well in your lessons with Erestor."
For a moment Estel pouted, but then his joy at the thought of starting his training won. "Of course, Ada, Erestor will have no reason to complain."
I hope so, my son," Elrond smiled.
They reached Estel's room and with one quick embrace to his foster father he disappeared into his room.
Elrond sighed. Now he just needed to explain to Gilraen why he thought her son ready to start his training. She possibly wouldn't like it but Estel was indeed old enough now. If they wanted to prepare him as best as they could, they would have to start some time.
He proceeded to his rooms and was finally able to lay down. It didn't take long for him to fall into elven dreams.
Fight For Life II by Starfox
Elrohir looked up as the door to the healing room was pushed open, expecting his brother. Instead Glorfindel entered. He closed the door quietly and came over to the bed, watching the younger elf intently. Legolas was still white as a sheet, the bruises on his face and the wound on his temple standing out in stark contrast. He was covered in sweat and as Glorfindel touched him, he could feel the heat emanating from him. "The fever is still high," he commented softly. "Normally the antidote should work by now."
Elrohir nodded. "I think we should try another. Even if it's risky I don't see that we have another choice."
Legolas was obviously caught in fever dreams, he tossed his head and mumbled quietly. It was so low that even their elven hearing couldn't catch his words but they could imagine that he dreamed of his time with the orcs.
Elrohir gazed at his friend and couldn't help seeing another broken and tortured body before him. He and Elladan had found their mother in the den of the orcs several centuries ago. It had been a horrible experience and he felt thrown back to this time.
After Celebrian had finally decided to sail to Valinor, the twins had lost all reason for a long time. They had sworn revenge to the orcs of the mountains and hunted them relentlessly. They were often abroad and on the hunt, much to their father's worry and chagrin. Elrond was concerned about them and they had many arguments and quarrels about the twin's ventures. Finally they settled somewhat, refraining from setting out alone and joining the rangers instead for longer periods of times.
Thus the way they had found Legolas served to bring back a lot of bad memories.
Glorfindel took Legolas' wrist. The younger elf's pulse was weak and unsteady. His breathing was shallow. He noted that the bed sheets were twisted and uncomfortably clammy. He lowered Legolas' hand back onto the bed, went over to the neighboring bed and drew the covers back. "Let's put him here, it'll be a bit more comfortable."
Elrohir nodded in agreement and gently they lifted Legolas, mindful of his injuries, and transferred him to the other bed.
While Glorfindel settled him as comfortable as possible, Elrohir began to take herbs from a cabinet and started to mix another antidote.
The door opened and Elladan entered. "The uninjured Mirkwood warriors are settled in the guest quarters," he reported. Seeing what his brother was doing and which herbs he used he raised an eyebrow. "Another antidote?" he questioned.
Elrohir nodded his head. "I don't think that we have another option. It doesn't seem as if the one we gave him is working. He is growing weaker and the fever is still as high as yesterday."
Elladan joined his brother at the table, pulled a mortar over to himself and started to crush herbs with a pestle.
Glorfindel had finished settling Legolas, now he pulled a chair over and sank down into it. He put one hand on Legolas' brow, the other on his chest, then he closed his eyes and concentrated. His consciousness sank deep into the younger elf. He could feel his injuries, the losing battle with the poison and his waning strength. He poured his energy into the failing body, encouraging him to keep fighting, giving him the strength he needed to hold on and cling to life.
After a while he slowly came back to himself. As he checked Legolas' pulse again, it was a bit stronger, his breathing deeper and more even. For the moment it was enough. They still had a chance.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and started. He had been so deep in concentration that he hadn't felt Elrohir approach.
Both of them stared down at the unconscious elf. "If it's hard for me, it must be even more so for the both of you," Glorfindel observed, "reminding you of your mother."
Elrohir sighed. "It is," he admitted. "I was so angry after what happened with mother. You know how we were." He sat down next to Glorfindel. "And now, seeing him, I ask myself if we could have prevented it if we had continued that way."
Glorfindel snorted. "You would have been killed a long time ago. The way you were was unhealthy and self-destructive. Sooner or later you would have ended as your father feared."
Elrohir shook his head in memory. "I don't know how father managed during this time. First losing mother and then the constant quarrels with us. It must have been hard, especially since Arwen was no support either."
Glorfindel studied him, seeing the remorse in his eyes. "It was very hard for him. Some times I wanted to take you both and knock some sense into you. You should have supported each other, instead everything deteriorated into arguments and accusations every time you showed up. You have no idea how your father suffered."
Elladan had finished with preparing the antidote and came over to them. The twins exchanged pained looks. After their mother had sailed they had only paid attention to their own pain and their thirst for revenge, they hadn't considered their father's feelings.
"Luckily, you two finally saw reason, so do not spoil it yet, no matter what happens," Glorfindel continued. "Nobody can keep the mountains completely clear of orcs. They multiply like rabbits."
A low moan drew their attention back to their patient and the present.
Elrond awoke in the afternoon, feeling refreshed. His first intention was to check on Legolas. Since nobody had come to get him, he hoped that he would be a bit better.
As he entered Legolas' room his hope was dashed immediately. The archer still looked like he was just one step from death's door. Elladan was busy wiping him down with a cool cloth.
Elrond stepped closer and laid a hand on the younger elf's brow, feeling the heat of the fever that still ravaged his body. It didn't seem to have abated much.
Elrohir rubbed his face with his hand wearily. "We gave him another antidote. I hope this one works."
Elrond took Legolas' wrist and felt the fluttering pulse there. "His strength is all but spent but he still clings to life. I fear we will lose him if we can't get this fever under control soon." He laid his hand on the archer's forehead again and concentrated. He could feel the younger elf's struggle, could feel the poison ravaging his body. He also sensed a familiar energy and looked up at his sons. "Has Glorfindel been here?"
"Yes," Elladan confirmed, rewetting the cloth in cold water and stroking it over Legolas' chest. "Whatever he did, it helped a bit. His pulse is stronger than it has been."
Elrond nodded. Glorfindel didn't have the healing abilities he had but he possessed powers of his own. He poured some of his own healing energy into the prince, hoping that it was enough to sustain him until the fever abated.
He checked his wounds, noting with relief that they were still clear of infection. Aside from that they didn't look different from when they had first been inflicted. Legolas' body spent so much of his energy on fighting the poison and fever that his healing was impaired.
Elrond sighed, stroking the younger elf's hair back from his face. He took a cup of miruvor from the bedside table, lifted the prince's head slightly and slowly fed him the potion. He managed to get a few sips into him, then he gently lowered him back down onto the pillow.
The door opened and Erestor entered. He looked slightly stunned. "Elrond, maybe you could come to the courtyard? We have a visitor." At Elrond and the twins' curious looks he added, "One of the great eagles has just landed. I think it's Gwaihir."
Elrond and his sons exchanged disbelieving glances then the healer strode to the door. Erestor followed, curious.
As Elrond entered the courtyard, Gandalf was already there, speaking with the eagle.
Gwaihir was truly a majestic sight. He towered over the wizard and the elves that had gathered in the courtyard, watching, seemed dwarfed by him.
Elrond strode nearer until he came to stand beside Gandalf. He inclined his head to the eagle. "Greetings, Windlord, it is good to see you. I hope you and your kin are well?"
The eagle turned his attention to the Lord of Imladris. "Greetings, Lord Elrond. Thank you, we are well."
Gandalf turned to Elrond. "I just told Gwaihir what happened and that I would ask a favor of him."
Gwaihir chimed in. "The elves of Mirkwood are our allies and the prince saved one of my kin in the battle at Erebor. I'll take a message to them and return with the king if he is willing to travel with me."
Elrond sighed. "Thank you, Gwaihir. That is a great relief. The prince was seriously hurt and it would be good if his father arrives as soon as possible."
"Then I will tarry no longer," Gwaihir replied, stretching his giant wings and starting to push himself into the air. "Look out for me in three days." With a rush of air, he departed, quickly disappearing into the sky.
The elves and the wizard looked after him, then Elrond turned around to Erestor. "Please see to it that Thranduil's rooms are ready when he arrives."
Erestor nodded affirmatively and went to check the guest quarters Thranduil had used during his last visit, which had been at least a century ago. Since he also thought that Thranduil would leave Mirkwood on very short notice, he would have to take care that clothes and other necessities were provided for him.
Elrond and Gandalf turned to leave as well, when Elrond's gaze fell on Estel, who stood open mouthed on the steps to the house.
"Estel," he called his foster son.
The boy came over to him, awe still clearly written on his face. "What was that?" he asked.
"That, my boy, was Gwaihir, lord of the great eagles of the north and ally to me and the elves," Gandalf explained.
"He is magnificent," Estel enthused.
Gandalf smiled. "That he is indeed. "Without the eagles the battle at Erebor would have ended badly. Luckily they were there to help."
"Can you tell me about it?" Estel asked eagerly. "He beamed at the wizard, eager to hear the stories the Istar had to tell.
Gandalf met Elrond's disapproving look and shrugged his shoulders, silently communicating that Estel was old enough to hear what went on in the world. They couldn't always shelter him.
"Come with me and I'll tell you all about it," he encouraged the boy. "Let's go somewhere where we can sit in peace and I can smoke my pipe."
They departed, followed by Elrond's gaze. He had to admit it to himself: Estel's childhood was nearing its end, it was time to prepare him for the future.
Thranduil leaned back in his chair, stretching his back and trying to ease his muscles. He had worked on his paperwork for hours. Finalizing trade agreements, reading reports, petitions and other correspondence and generally having his hands full with running the kingdom was tedious and exhausting work.
Luckily his assistant Dilloth had diligently prepared the trade agreements, so all that was needed was reading them to make sure everything was in order and signing them.
Finally finished with the day's work, he sighed, stacked everything together for Galion to find and pass on in the morning, rose from his chair and slowly walked to the door. He decided on a last glass of wine before he would retire for the night.
He went to the royal family's sitting room, hoping to find one of his friends there. Feron, Celairdir, Angon and Dilloth had rooms near the family wing and were always welcome there. Since Legolas' departure it had been entirely too quiet in the family wing. As he entered the room, Feron and Celairdir looked up from a game of chess they were playing.
"There you are finally," Feron greeted. "If you hadn't shown up within the next half hour I would have dragged you out of your study."
Thranduil smiled at his longtime friend and head advisor, glad he didn't have to spend the evening alone. "I just finished," he announced. "Pass the wine, would you?"
Feron poured him a goblet of wine and handed it to him.
With a sigh Thranduil sank down into an armchair and took a sip. He stretched his legs out in front of him and relaxed into his seat. For a while he silently watched the others play, noting that Celairdir had an advantage at the moment.
Finally Feron broke the silence. "So what do the reports say?"
Thranduil sighed contentedly and leaned back in his chair. "The southern patrol encountered a few spiders' nests and destroyed them. Orc activity is thankfully still extremely low. We were able to regain some parts of the forest south of the elf path."
"Sounds good, " Feron commented. "Since the necromancer is gone, the darkness lifts slowly from the forest."
Thranduil thoughtfully looked into the darkening sky out on the balcony. "I fear it is just a short time of respite."
"You are ever the optimist, Thranduil," Celairdir chimed in, throwing him a disapproving look.
"Merely a realist," the king replied calmly. "We know that it was Sauron who dwelled in Dol Guldur until the white council drove him out. Do you really belief that we will have peace now? He merely gathers his might and when he finally makes his move, it will be bad."
"I know," the healer conceded. "But let's enjoy the short reprieve we have."
"Yes," Thranduil sighed, "however long it will last."
Companionable silence reigned, while Feron and Celairdir continued their game and Thranduil mused about his schedule for the next days.
The next day Thranduil and Feron were just on their way to the king's study to meet with Angon, when Galion intercepted them.
"My Lord," the elf said slightly nervous, addressing Thranduil, "There is a disturbance in the courtyard."
Thranduil and Feron exchanged a glance then both headed to the entrance of the stronghold. A guard came running, stopping as he recognized Thranduil. "Sire," he bowed slightly, "Gwaihir has landed in the courtyard and asks to speak with you."
"Thank you," Thranduil replied. He exchanged an inquisitive look with Feron then both elves quickened their steps.
As they neared the courtyard, they could hear murmurs and whispers from the elves nearby.
Gwaihir was indeed waiting for him. The eagle's feathers gleamed in the sun and he looked truly majestic. The elves of Mirkwood and the great eagles had fought together in the war at Erebor and they kept exchanging news and sightings of orcs. But so far Gwaihir himself hadn't visited the realm.
Thranduil stopped in front of the eagle and bowed slightly. "Greetings, Windlord."
The eagle inclined his head. "Greetings, King of the Greenwood. I have an urgent message from Lord Elrond of Imladris."
Until this moment Thranduil hadn't suspected that something was wrong. Now he felt dread slam into him like a bucket of ice water had been emptied over him. He could hear Feron beside him exhale loudly, obviously feeling the same sense of wrongness that he did.
Gwaihir lowered his voice and continued. "Your son has been attacked by orcs and seriously injured. Lord Elrond asks for you to come to Imladris. I have agreed to take you there, if you agree."
Thranduil swayed slightly. He felt Feron gripping his elbow, steadying him. "How bad is it?" he managed, inwardly knowing that it was a stupid question. Elrond wouldn't have bothered Gwaihir if it wasn't urgent.
The eagle seemed to feel his agitation. His voice was compassionate as he answered. "I don't know the details but it seemed to be bad."
Thranduil was in a daze. For a moment he wasn't able to think clearly. Feron turned around, shouting for an elf to fetch Galion. As the butler appeared, he ordered him to pack a bag for the king and to fetch his weapons. Finally he turned to the distraught father. "You have to go, Thranduil. Angon and I will manage everything until your return."
Thranduil nodded silently. Inwardly he felt numb. He had trouble comprehending what he had just heard. Gradually the numbness receded and an icy fear gripped him. What had happened? His mind was in turmoil, painting the worst scenarios before his inner eye.
After a seemingly endless time of waiting, what in reality hadn't been so long at all, Galion returned, carrying a pack and Thranduil's weapons.
He donned his weapons and took the pack from Galion then he turned to Feron.
His friend put a hand on his shoulder. "Have faith, my friend. You know that Elrond is a great healer. Don't worry about the kingdom during your absence, we will manage."
Thranduil nodded again and turned to Gwaihir, but Feron held him back for a moment. "I'll send a troop of warriors after you to escort you back when Legolas has recovered." He put emphasis on the word when, letting the king know that he believed in this event.
"Thank you," Thranduil managed, squeezing Feron's arm in gratitude before he turned to Gwaihir again.
The eagle lowered his wing, making it easy for the king to climb onto his back. After he made sure that Thranduil was settled, he spread his wings and within a few moments and with a great gust of wind they were gone.
In Imladris the fight for Legolas' life continued. The second antidote finally worked and his fever went down slowly. Without the help from Elrond, Gandalf and Glorfindel he would have perished. As it was, they replenished his strength enough to keep him alive.
On the morning of the third day after Gwaihir's departure, the fever finally broke. Elladan and Elrohir were with him at that time. Legolas was limp as a rag doll as the twins gently cleaned his sweat covered body and transferred him to another bed with clean sheets and linens.
Elrohir breathed a sigh of relief. "Finally. I nearly lost hope that he would recover."
"He is not out of danger, yet," Elladan cautioned.
"I know, but with the fever gone, it is one problem less he has to deal with."
"His wounds haven't really started healing yet," Elladan observed. "I hope that will change now."
Elrohir sat down tiredly. "Do you think he will sail? He was tortured badly, like mother."
His twin sat down on the bedside, silently studying the still form on the bed. "I don't know. He is at least used to violence, which mother was not. I can't imagine what Thranduil would do if Legolas does need to sail." He shook his head. "Only time will tell. Father will do everything to help them, of that I'm sure."
Elrohir sighed. "I'm sick of these beasts causing havoc." He balled his fists angrily. "What they did to our family, what they did to him. It's unimaginable."
Elladan put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "At least we don't have to tell his father that he perished. There is hope for them."
The door opened and Glorfindel and their father entered, talking quietly.
Elrond, noting the somber mood of his sons and that they had placed Legolas in the other bed, stopped. "What's wrong?"
"Elladan hastened to reassure him. "Nothing. On the contrary, his fever broke finally."
Their father came near and laid a hand on Legolas' forehead, checking his temperature. "Finally, it's about time." He took his wrist and checked the pulse, noticing that it was a bit stronger than the last time he checked. "Did you check his wounds?"
"Yes," Elrohir confirmed. "The welts on his back look a bit better although the stab wounds and burns haven't improved much."
Elrond carefully lifted the blankets and pulled the bandage around Legolas' chest back, exposing the stab wounds and the burn the orcs had inflicted. "These will need a longer time to heal." He gently examined the stab wound to Legolas' right side. "This one is especially nasty. It looks like the knife was twisted." He pulled the bandage back in place. "How are his feet?"
Elladan shrugged. "We put salve on them again. The burns still look bad."
Elrond moved to the foot of the bed and examined the feet of the younger elf. Elladan was right, the burns still were bad. The skin was red and blistered, partially charred. Carefully he replaced the bandage. "Keep giving him pain medication, otherwise he will be in considerable pain once he wakes."
Glorfindel had silently watched, now he sat down in the chair by the bedside, taking in the ashen complexion of the archer and his gaunt appearance. It was unnerving to see the younger elf in this state. The last time Legolas had visited Imladris, he had been weighted down by the shadow that encroached on his homeland but he had always exuded vitality. Now he was severely diminished.
The door opened and Erestor entered. He addressed Elrond. "The sentinels have spotted something in the sky. They think it could be Gwaihir."
"Good," Elrond said. "I'll go and meet Thranduil."
He left the room and strode through the corridors, making a detour to the library, where he found Gandalf engrossed in a book.
"Mithrandir, it looks like Gwaihir has returned."
Gandalf looked up and got to his feet. "That's good. Three days, just as he told us. How is young Legolas doing?"
"A bit better, his fever finally broke." Elrond filled Gandalf in on Legolas' condition while they strode towards the courtyard.
As they arrived, the guards watched a fast moving spot in the sky that became rapidly bigger and took on the shape of an eagle. Gwaihir circled once and then descended toward the courtyard. With a rush of wind he landed and folded his wings together so that they could see the figure on his back. After they came to a complete standstill Gwaihir extended his wing and let Thranduil climb down.
As soon as he hit the ground, the king turned to Elrond and Gandalf. Before he could say anything, Elrond took the initiative. "Welcome to Imladris," he greeted. Upon seeing Thranduil's anxious gaze, he assured quickly: "He lives."
Thranduil closed his eyes in relief then he turned to Gwaihir. "I'm in your debt, Windlord," he said, bowing slightly.
"There is no debt between friends," the eagle returned. "I hope your son will be well, he is a friend of the eagles."
Gwaihir turned his attention to Elrond and Gandalf. "Lord Elrond, Mithrandir, if you have need of my help again, just call me."
"My thanks, Windlord," Gandalf replied. "I wish you a swift and safe journey."
Gwaihir inclined his head, then he spread his wings and took off, rapidly gaining speed.
Gandalf, Elrond and Thranduil watched him until he was a mere spot in the vast sky, then Elrond turned to Thranduil. "Come," he said. "I'll bring you to him." He led the way into the house and to the healing halls. Passing through the larger room, they finally approached their target. Before he opened the door, Elrond turned to the king. "Prepare yourself," he warned softly. "He is seriously hurt and he looks like it."
Thranduil felt his anxiety rising. He nodded, unable to hide his dread.
Elrond returned the nod, turning around and opening the door.
Glorfindel, Elladan and Elrohir had stayed. As they entered, Glorfindel stood, freeing the chair for the king and moving to the head of the bed. He inclined his head in greeting but Thranduil didn't really take notice of him and the twins.
The elvenking slowly neared the bed, unable to suppress a shocked gasp as he caught sight of his son.
Legolas looked near death. His face was ashen, his cheeks hollow, his eyes were closed and there were dark circles beneath them. Dark bruises covered the right side of his face. His body was covered with blankets, except for his left arm, which rested on a pillow on top of the covers. The arm was splinted and bandaged.
Elrond came to stand next to him, speaking in a soft voice. "He had a high fever for quite some time but it finally broke this morning. He is very weak and his wounds are many."
Thranduil took a shuddering breath. "What happened to him?"
Elrond gazed at his sons and Glorfindel, silently asking them to leave him and Thranduil alone. After they had retreated, he gently pushed Thranduil into a chair and carefully lifted the blankets, letting the king see the extent of Legolas' injuries.
Thranduil gasped in shock as he saw the bruises and the bandages that covered his son's torso.
"He was tortured by orcs," Elrond said softly. He explained what had happened and then the nature and extent of Legolas' injuries to Thranduil. As he finally finished, the king was ashen and visibly shaken. He lifted anguished eyes to Elrond. The healer answered the question before Thranduil could voice it. "We feared for his life until this morning. He is very weak and will need a lot of care but I have hope now that he will recover."
Thranduil lifted a shaking hand and stroked his son's cheek. Legolas was still slightly warm to the touch. His skin was nearly translucent, the bruises standing out all the more in his pale face. Thranduil's voice was only a whisper as he spoke. "In the battle at Erebor we lost many warriors. He and Angon worked tirelessly for several months to reorganize our forces, rebuild the patrols and strengthen our defenses again. I sent him to Imladris so he could rest for a while." His voice broke and he took a few shuddering breaths. Seeing his son so broken and ill was more than he could bear. "He is all I have left. I can't lose him too."
Elrond had been there when Thranduil had lost his father and had witnessed how the death of his wife had affected him. He knew how deeply the king cared for his son. Losing him would destroy him. There would be nothing left to fight for and that could prove the downfall for the woodland realm.
"We will do everything in our power to prevent that," he assured the distraught father. He squeezed his shoulder sympathetically. "I'll leave you alone with him for a moment but with the condition he is in, we need to keep watch over him constantly for now. Elladan and Elrohir will be with you shortly."
Thranduil nodded silently, unable to tear his eyes off his son. His thoughts were a whirling mass of anguish, guilt and sorrow. He didn't notice Elrond leaving the room silently and pulling the door closed behind him. The king studied his motionless son, gently touching the bruises that marred his face. Legolas' eyes were tightly closed, silent testimony to his injured state.
He didn't know how long he sat there, deep in anguished thoughts, when the door opened and the twins entered.
"My Lord Thranduil," Elladan greeted politely, inclining his head respectfully, while Elrohir nodded courteously and came over to the bed.
"Elladan and Elrohir, it has been a long time since I last saw you," Thranduil greeted. "There is no need for formalities, I know you since you were children, after all."
"Indeed it has been a long time," Elrohir agreed, wisely keeping from pointing out that they had seen each other barely half an hour before. "I wish this meeting would be under happier circumstances."
Thranduil sighed and turned back to his son. He closed a hand around Legolas' wrist, feeling the slow and weak beat of his pulse. "I wish that it were so." He lifted his head. "Elrond told me that you and Glorfindel found him?"
"Yes," Elrohir confirmed. We found Baranon and followed his tracks to the battle scene. From there we could follow the tracks of the orcs."
"I'm in your debt. I don't know what I would do if you hadn't rescued him." His voice broke and he turned back to his son, studying the still form once more. "I'm sorry," he said after a while. "That must have brought back bad memories."
Elladan came over to him, standing at the bedside and looking down at his friend. "We are glad that we could help, although we couldn't prevent what happened."
"At least they paid," Elrohir said grimly. "None of them survived."
"I thank you for that, too." Thranduil gazed at the twins with gratitude in his eyes. "When do you think he will wake?"
"It will take a while," Elladan answered. "His fever broke this morning and he is very weak. At least he is resting now and regaining strength, now that his body doesn't have to fight the poison any longer. I would estimate several hours up to one or two days."
Thranduil sighed. He wished nothing more than for his son to wake so that he could see that he was really going to be alright.
Elrohir took a chair and placed it on the other side of the bed. He sank into it. "Have faith," he encouraged the older elf. "A few days ago we didn't think it possible that he would survive."
Thranduil shuddered. It had been so close and he hadn't even been aware of it.
Elladan put a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeezed, then he joined his brother and sat down next to him. They kept their voices low as they filled the king in on what they knew had happened and how his warriors were doing.
After a few hours Elrond came to relieve the twins and take over the watch. Evening turned into night and still they waited for Legolas to wake up.
He woke slowly, like fighting his way through molasses. He felt and heard everything as if from a long distance. His body felt numb, his senses dulled nearly to nothing. There was something soft beneath him, it seemed as if he was lying in a bed. He heard soft voices in the distance but at first he couldn't make out what they were saying. His eyes were closed, which was another cause for consternation. He couldn't remember where he was or what had happened. Normally, opening his eyes should be easy, but now it proved almost too much. Even with his still sluggish mind he noted with dismay that he didn't have any strength at all.
Gradually his mind cleared a bit, his senses returned, even though his body still felt numb. He now could make out two voices but still they made no sense to him.
Again he tried to open his eyes, succeeding in lifting his lids a bit. He moved his head slowly and abruptly the voices fell silent. There was another noise, it sounded like footsteps. They stopped near him and suddenly he felt a hand on his brow.
"Legolas?" a voice inquired softly.
He felt another presence as someone sat down beside him on the bed, making the mattress dip slightly. Somebody took his hand, squeezing gently. "Can you hear us?" a second voice asked.
He recognized the deep timbre and his unease immediately lessened. He still couldn't remember what had happened and how he came to be in this situation but he identified his father and his comforting presence.
"Ada," he breathed, his voice barely more than a whisper.
His hand was squeezed again. "Yes, I am here," came Thranduil's soothing voice. "Can you open your eyes?"
He tried again, encouraged by the request. It took some effort but slowly his lids lifted. He blinked a few times and his blurred sight gradually sharpened. A face came into view, but it wasn't his father. Instead he recognized the Lord of Imladris. "Lord Elrond," he greeted, his voice once again barely audible.
Elrond's warm gray eyes held concern and he smiled softly while he brushed a strand of hair from Legolas' forehead. "Welcome back, Legolas. You had us worried for a while."
Legolas furrowed his brow in bewilderment. He still couldn't remember. It was hard to keep his eyes open but a movement at his side drew his attention. His father still held his hand, his warm grip reassuring in all the confusion. Thranduil smiled at him but Legolas could see the deep worry in his eyes. His father looked haggard, as if he hadn't slept in a while.
He smiled tiredly, trying to ease his father's worry. He tried to squeeze the hand back that was holding his own, but he lacked the strength to do so properly.
Elrond took a cup from the table beside the bed, stirred the contents and gently lifted him a bit to let him drink. He swallowed the medicine, then he was lowered back onto the soft pillow.
His exhaustion increased even more, making his eyelids droop.
Thranduil stroked his cheek. "Sleep now, you need rest."
Finally unable to keep his eyes open any longer, he did as his father told him and fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
Elrond put the cup back on the table and turned to Thranduil. "He'll sleep for at least a few hours. The medicine dulls the pain so he can rest. I suggest you retire also, you need rest, too."
Thranduil wanted to decline but Elrond was determined. "Go, take some rest. We'll use the time to transfer him to his rooms. Now that he is on his way to recovery, he will be more comfortable there."
Legolas' rooms also offered more privacy and the healer knew that the prince would hate it for others to witness his pain and weakness. Only a few selected elves he trusted would have entrance to his quarters, unlike to the busy healing halls.
Thranduil sighed and gave in. He stood up, his gaze lingering on his son a while longer until finally he turned around and left the room.
Elrond wasted no time to order servants to ready the prince's quarters and to ensure the help of his sons and Glorfindel to move the younger elf as careful as possible. Legolas slept deeply and showed no signs of waking or taking notice of what happened.
They settled him comfortably, then Glorfindel and Elrohir took over the watch while Elrond used the opportunity to get some sleep himself.
Before he finally went to bed he couldn't help but think about the way ahead of them. He knew that the next days and weeks wouldn't be easy. Legolas had survived the encounter with the orcs but he still had a lot of healing to do, both physically and mentally. He especially worried about his mental state. After the experience with his wife he knew how what Legolas had to go through could affect somebody. He needed to talk with Thranduil about what to expect.
As Elrond checked on his patient the next morning, Legolas showed signs of improvement. His wounds were finally starting to heal, now that his body didn't need all its strength to fight the fever and poison. He shifted in his sleep, showing the first signs of waking.
Elrond ordered a servant to bring some broth, hoping that they would get some nourishment into the younger elf.
The door opened and Thranduil entered. He looked a bit better, the sleep had obviously done him good.
"Good morning," the healer greeted. "I see you were able to find some rest, you look better."
"A good morning to you, too," Thranduil replied. He went to the bed and checked on his son. "How is he?" he inquired.
"His wounds are finally starting to heal. I also think he'll wake soon," Elrond reassured him. "He needs to eat something to regain his strength."
Thranduil sat down in the chair at the bedside and took Legolas' hand into his own. Studying his face intently, he watched for signs of waking.
Time passed slowly and Thranduil waited patiently. Legolas moved restlessly, his head shifting on the pillow. Finally his eyelids started to flutter and with what seemed like a tremendous effort, his lids lifted. His eyes were slightly glazed, and he blinked a few times.
Thranduil leaned over him, anxiously waiting for signs of recognition.
Legolas blinked once more, then slowly his eyes cleared and his mouth curled up in a weak smile. "Adar," he whispered. "I thought it was a dream."
Thranduil had to swallow hard to keep his emotions in check. He squeezed his son's hand gently. "No, it wasn't a dream. I'm here." He lifted a hand up and tenderly stroked Legolas' hair back. "Do you remember what happened?"
Legolas stared at the ceiling for a moment, gathering his thoughts. Finally the memory of the recent events surfaced and he shuddered. "There was a rockslide," he said softly. "We made it out but Baranon was injured. Is he..."
"He is fine," Elrond, who had come over to the bed, assured him. "His leg needs time to heal but he will recover fully." He smiled gently at Legolas, then he took a bowl and spooned some of the broth into it. "I want you to eat this. You need some nourishment to regain your strength."
Legolas tried to raise himself but as soon as he shifted he hissed in pain as his injuries made themselves known.
"Don't try to move," Elrond advised him. "We'll help you."
Thranduil gently lifted Legolas by the shoulders and slipped behind him, mindful of his injured back. He let his son rest against him, took the bowl from Elrond and lifted it to Legolas' lips. His son slowly sipped the liquid. He managed half the bowl before he turned his head away, already exhausted again.
His lids slipped closed and he rested his head against his father's shoulder. "How did we get here?" he asked softly.
Elrond sat down on the bedside and studied his patient. Legolas was still very weak and he didn't know if it was a good idea to talk about what had happened now. But since the archer wanted to know he decided to tell him what had occurred.
"Glorfindel and the twins went on a patrol to check on a few orc hideouts. They also intended to meet you and your warriors on the way and return with you to Imladris. Instead they met Amarthon who came to get help and who told them what happened. They left most of the warriors to help with the cleanup and went to search for you. They found Baranon and followed his tracks back to the place where you met the orcs. From there they followed their tracks."
Legolas remained motionless and for a moment they didn't know if he had fallen asleep again. Then he turned his head slightly, opening his eyes and gazing up at his father. "How come you're here? Have I been ill that long?"
Thranduil smiled. "Mithrandir is here. He asked Gwaihir for a favor as he learned what happened."
Legolas blinked tiredly. It was becoming hard to think and it took him a moment to get the meaning of what his father told him. "You came here on Gwaihir?"
"Yes," the older elf confirmed. "It did not even take us two days to reach Imladris."
Elrond decided to interfere since Legolas was fading fast. He took a glass with pain medication from the bedside table and handed it to Thranduil. "You need rest, Legolas. I want you to drink this before you fall asleep."
Thranduil held the glass to his son's lips, letting him sip the liquid. Legolas' eyes fell shut and after a moment his breathing deepened. His father gently slipped out from behind him and lowered him back onto the pillow.
Elrond turned to Thranduil. "I'll ask Glorfindel to watch over him. I need to speak with you."
Thranduil noted the serious tone of the healer and felt a pang of apprehension. He nodded silently.
Elrond went to the door and asked a passing servant to send for Glorfindel.
As the seneschal entered, he threw them a curious look and went over to the bed. "How is he?" he asked.
"A bit better," Elrond replied. "He woke for a few minutes and I expect him to sleep for the next few hours. Can you stay with him? I need to talk with Thranduil."
"Of course," Glorfindel agreed. He sank down into the chair by the bedside and eyed the stack of books lying on the table.
Thranduil threw a last glance at his son then he followed Elrond out of the room.
They retreated to Elrond's study, where the healer silently opened a bottle of wine and poured two goblets, handing one to Thranduil. He motioned for the king to join him in the comfortable seats in front of the fireplace.
Thranduil sat down in one of the armchairs, while Elrond lowered himself onto the divan, stretching his long legs out in front of him.
Elrond stared into his goblet for a moment before he began. "Legolas is going to recover physically, even if it will take a while. I expect him to get frustrated, since he will need help a while longer. His feet are badly burned and because of his broken arm, he can't use crutches to get around."
Thranduil nodded, listening silently.
"Another matter is how he will cope with what he endured psychically." Elrond looked up and fixed Thranduil with an intense gaze. "Don't think that it will be easy for him. He was tortured and suffered the orcs' cruelty, that's not something one easily forgets or copes with."
Thranduil could see the shadows of memory and of a past hurt in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, "this can't be easy for you. After what your wife endured, to have us in a similar situation." He looked down apprehensively. "Do you think Legolas will sail?"
Elrond swirled the wine in his goblet, remembering how hard he had tried to help Celebrian. He had been able to heal her wounds, but her spirit had not fully recovered. His gentle wife had never been exposed to the atrocities the orcs were capable of and she wasn't able to overcome that experience. Despite everything Elrond and their children tried, in the end she had to sail to seek healing in Valinor. It had been a very hard time for the family. Despite the fact that he knew one day he would see her again, he missed her terribly.
He took a sip before he answered. "Legolas is a warrior, he is used to injuries and to the cruelty of the orcs. It's not the first time that he has witnessed their atrocities, although it's the first time that he was victim to them to this extent. I think he will recover, even if it will take a while." He fixed Thranduil with his eyes. "He will need your help and support."
"What can we expect?" Thranduil asked.
"From my experience with Celebrian there will be mood swings. One moment he will appear to be fine, the next moment he can be ill tempered for no apparent reason. During his time in captivity, he was helpless, he didn't have any control. So don't try to dictate his actions. Ask him what he would prefer, even if it is as simple as what he wants for his next meal." He stopped for a moment, letting Thranduil digest his words.
"He will also need to talk about what happened, although I'm quite sure he will try to avoid that. Try to get him to talk, it'll help. As much as you want to stay with him, try not to hover too much or crowd him. Once he is a bit better, he will need time for himself, to think and to come to terms with what happened. There will also be things that he would rather talk to his friends about, not to his father."
Thranduil listened attentively, trying to digest what Elrond told him. It dawned on him that it wouldn't be so easy as Legolas recovering from his injuries. It seemed as if they had a longer road ahead of them than he had anticipated.
Elrond noted his pensive mood and squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'm certain he will be fine, even if it will take some time."
Thranduil took a shaky breath. "I hope so. He is all I have left." He pushed his hands through his hair, trying to hide his agitation. "Thank you. For your help and for being there for us."
The Lord of Imladris clapped him on the shoulder. "You would do the same for me. Now go, see to your son."
With a grateful smile, Thranduil drained the last of his wine, then he put the goblet on a table and left.
During the next three days, Legolas only managed to stay awake for a few minutes at a time. Elrond kept dosing him with pain medication to minimize his discomfort. They also managed to get some food into him during his short times of wakefulness, so he was slowly getting stronger.
There was still somebody with him day and night and so it was Elrond who was there when the first nightmare happened.
The prince started to shift restlessly, tossing his head, mumbling quietly. His breathing quickened slightly.
Elrond laid a hand on his brow and carefully entered his mind, not enough to intrude, just enough to discern what was going on. He could feel Legolas' unease and the growing terror of a dark dream. He gently brushed against his mind, sending him a dreamscape filled with forests and meadows, a small river running and birds chirping in the air. The scene was utterly peaceful and he felt Legolas responding to it, slowly sinking deeper into sleep, now dreaming peacefully.
Elrond slowly withdrew from the younger elf's mind. He sighed softly. Nightmares were to be expected but he had hoped that the archer would have been spared a while longer. In his momentary condition he couldn't control his dreams but he desperately needed rest to regain his strength and to heal. If his sleep was disturbed by nightmares that would impair his recovery seriously. This time he had been there and had prevented Legolas drifting into the nightmare but he couldn't be there all the time. This could prove a problem. He would need to alert Thranduil to the situation.
Unfortunately Elrond was right and there were more nightmares. The healer always kept a fresh bowl of athelas in the room, hoping that the uplifting fragrance of the leaves would help to ease Legolas into pleasant dreams.
Still the elf's dreams were often troubled but his injuries continued to heal, albeit at a slower pace as was normal. He was slowly growing stronger and managed to stay awake for longer periods of time.
Now that he was a bit better the memories returned full force to haunt him, not only in his dreams. Each movement still caused pain and reminded him of what the orcs did to him. He didn't talk to his father about what happened, maybe to spare him the pain of the details. Elrond had been right in the assumption that it would be hard to get him to talk about his experience.
It was a beautiful morning a few days after Legolas woke up for the first time. He sat propped up against a mount of pillows, a tablet with his breakfast in front of him. By now he had regained enough strength to eat unassisted.
Thranduil was keeping him company, filling him in on what had happened in Mirkwood during his absence and on which of the warriors of his escort had been injured and how they were faring.
There was a knock on the door and Elrond entered. He took in the sight of father and son for a moment, feeling relief that things were looking a lot better than a few days previously.
"Good morning," he greeted. He came over to the bed and surveyed his patient critically.
Thranduil inclined his head in acknowledgement. "Good morning," he replied. "I hope your night was restful."
Legolas nodded his head in greeting.
Elrond sat down next to him. "How do you feel?"
Legolas shrugged. "A bit better." He shifted to face the healer and winced. "It still hurts," he admitted.
"That's to be expected, although your wounds have improved over the past days." Elrond took in the archer's condition. Legolas was still pale and gaunt and there were shadows in his eyes. His appearance bore silent testimony to what he had been through even if he looked a bit better. The bruises on his face were nearly faded and he had regained a little color.
Legolas sighed. "I long for a bath."
Elrond nodded sympathetically. Until now Legolas hadn't been able to get out of bed so bed baths had to be enough. It was understandable that he longed for a real bath. He decided that his injuries had improved enough to allow such an endeavor. "I think you are healed enough that we can risk it." He went over to the bathing chamber and opened the faucet. Imladris had hot springs and due to a clever plumbing system, hot water was available easily. He waited for the tub to fill, added bath oil and healing herbs to the water and went back into the bedroom.
Thranduil had put the tablet on a table and helped his son to move to the side of the bed. Now Legolas was sitting slightly hunched over, his wounds obviously still paining him. As the king made a move to bent down and lift his son Elrond shook his head imperceptibly. He sat down in front of Legolas and studied him critically. "Your feet are a bit better, but it will be painful if you walk on them. Do you want to walk or shall we carry you?"
Thranduil first wanted to protest, sure that it would be pure agony for his son to walk even the short distance to the bathing chamber, but then he remembered Elrond's advise to let Legolas decide. So he kept his peace and waited for his son's reply.
Legolas took a deep breath, bracing himself. "I will walk," he answered, knowing that it wouldn't be a pleasant experience. He was sick of being laid up in bed, barely able to move without pain.
Elrond nodded. He had expected as much. He stood, walked over to a closet and took a pair of slippers out of it. "I asked our seamstress to make these for you. They are padded, to help with the pressure on your burns."
Legolas knew he shouldn't be surprised, Elrond was a healer after all and always a very considerate elf. But the thoughtful gesture nearly undid him and filled him with gratitude.
Thranduil mouthed a silent 'thank you' at Elrond, taking the shoes and slipping them onto his son's feet.
They positioned themselves to Legolas' left and right then they carefully helped him to his feet.
"Careful," Elrond cautioned.
Legolas paled considerably and took a moment to get his bearings, then, supported firmly on each side by one of the older elves, he slowly made his way to the bathing chamber.
By the time they arrived there he was sweaty and shaking. The short way had taken its toll on him.
Elrond and Thranduil gently lowered him onto a padded bench, then the healer removed the bandages from Legolas' torso. They let him rest for a moment before Thranduil helped him to his feet, then he assisted him in shedding the rest of his clothes and removing the bandage around his thigh. The tub was sunken, so it was easy to access. Thranduil carefully helped his son to manage the steps, then Legolas lowered himself down, resting his broken arm on the side of the tub and sighing in pleasure and exhaustion.
Elrond left father and son alone to gather the healing supplies he needed for treating Legolas' wounds after his bath.
Thranduil let Legolas relax for a while, then he took a pitcher from a nearby table, which also contained bath oils, soap, sponges and other utensils.
He tapped Legolas on the arm to get his attention. As his son turned his head and looked at him he gently ordered, "Lean forward."
Legolas obliged and Thranduil filled the pitcher with warm water and emptied it over his son's head, wetting his hair. He repeated the procedure then he took shampoo from the table and thoroughly lathered his son's hair. Legolas kept his head bent forwards and his eyes closed. Finally Thranduil rinsed his hair until the shampoo was gone and pulled the tresses out of his son's face. He handed him the soap. "Do you need help?"
"Legolas shook his head. "I can manage on my own."
Thranduil knew that it had to be galling to his son to need help with nearly everything. Legolas was fiercely independent so the current situation went against everything he was comfortable with. He let him clean himself, using the time to gather clean clothes.
Elrond returned, carrying bandages and healing supplies. They helped Legolas out of the bath, wrapping a towel around his waist and his head. Thranduil sat him down on the bench and started toweling and combing his hair.
As Thranduil was done Elrond examined Legolas' wounds, noting that the welts on his back looked better. The broken skin was healing and the angry red marks had faded significantly. Some were already healed, so that only scars remained, which would fade with time. His stab wounds had improved too, although they would need more time to heal completely, especially the deep one. The burn on his right side was slowly getting better as well. Gentle hands carefully felt the ribcage of the younger elf. Elrond could feel the mending ribs. He bandaged them again, estimating that it would take a while longer for them to heal enough that the bandages were no longer necessary. The worst injury were his feet. It would take the longest for them to heal. All in all it was luck that Legolas was an elf and healed relatively fast. A human would have needed a much longer time to recover.
Legolas endured Elrond's ministrations silently, although he had paled considerably, his face looking pinched and wan. They helped him dress in a shirt and pants and he leaned heavily against his father, eyes half closed in exhaustion.
"Legolas?" Thranduil asked, trying to rouse him a bit.
"Hmmm," his son murmured tiredly.
Thranduil put an arm around Legolas' waist, looking questioningly at Elrond and the healer nodded. On his silent approval, the king gently lifted his son into his arms, carrying him to his bedroom. There was not even a token protest from Legolas. He was already half asleep, the normally simple action of walking and taking a bath having drained him completely.
Elrond lifted the blankets and Thranduil carefully laid his son down. Legolas shifted a bit to get more comfortable, then he drifted fully into sleep, not even noticing that they spread the covers over him and put a pillow beneath his broken arm.
Elrond placed a hand on Legolas' brow and brushed against his mind, trying to prevent him from slipping into a nightmare by sending him another tranquil scene. He kept the light connection until he was sure that Legolas was slipping into deeper sleep, undisturbed from bad dreams, then he severed the link and turned to Thranduil.
"He should rest peacefully now. He needs rest to recover so the nightmares still hinder his healing."
Thank you," Thranduil said softly. "For everything."
Elrond nodded and put a hand on Thranduil's shoulder in silent acknowledgement, then he left, leaving father and son alone.
Since Legolas was out of danger, but still could only walk with assistance and for short distances, Elrond decided that somebody would still stay with him for the night, in case he needed something or was plagued by nightmares. But whoever stayed with him would now sleep in Legolas' sitting room with the door to the sleeping room slightly ajar. That way they gave him some privacy but were there if needed.
Glorfindel was with him as the next nightmare occurred.
The seneschal had been sleeping when a noise from the adjoining room woke him. He sat up and listened. Legolas was tossing in his sleep, a slight moan escaping him. Glorfindel waited for a moment if he would quiet down again, then, as it became apparent that the nightmare was not over, he went to the sleeping room and gently shook the archer awake.
Legolas bolted upright with a gasp, his body protesting the movement fiercely as his broken ribs and other wounds made themselves known.
"Shh, it's me, Glorfindel. You had a nightmare."
Legolas sighed and rubbed his face wearily with his hands. He let them drop down and drew a shaky breath. The torture and his sickness had left him shaken and unable to control his emotions as he normally could, so for a moment he had to fight with himself to remain calm.
Glorfindel noted the younger elf's shaken appearance and sat down on the bedside, facing Legolas. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Legolas shook his head. "You know what happened."
"Yes and it's no shame to suffer from the memories. After what you have endured it is only natural that you have some lasting effects." His eyes clouded over for a moment, he was obviously lost in memories.
Legolas gave him a considering look. Then he obviously decided to go ahead. "What happened to you was much worse. Can you remember it? How did you cope with that?"
Glorfindel gathered his thoughts for a moment. "I remember the fight against the balrog and the fall." The expression on his face was a testimony to the fact that it was a troubling memory. "After I was released from the Halls of Mandos it haunted me for a while. Although I had a new body, the memories didn't subside. For some reason I couldn't control my dreams and I had nightmares, not only of the balrog but also of what happened in Gondolin. So many elves died, it was a terrible slaughter. It took me a while to deal with the memories and everything else." He laid a hand on Legolas' shoulder. "They will not get better over night but they will get better. Did you talk with Elrond or your father about what happened?"
"No, " Legolas shook his head again. "My father doesn't need to know exactly what happened. It's enough that he saw the wounds."
Glorfindel leaned forward slightly, scrutinizing the younger elf critically. The firm refusal showed him that Legolas wasn't ready to face what had happened. That he thought he could deal with it on his own. Glorfindel seriously doubted that.
"Keeping everything inside will not help dealing with these memories," he admonished gently.
"Burdening my father with it will not help either," Legolas retorted.
Glorfindel sighed, trust Legolas to be stubborn. "He would want you to talk to him."
"It's over, what use would there be to dwell on it?"
"All right, have it your way." The balrog slayer admitted defeat. At the moment it was no use trying to convince Legolas otherwise. He stood, went over to the hearth and added a few logs to the embers. Then he hung a pot of water over the reawakened fire.
The prince watched him silently. Legolas was tired of the dreams. Over and over again he saw the ugly faces of the orcs and relieved his time in the camp. He just wanted to forget it, to put it behind him and go on with his life.
Glorfindel put herbs in a cup, took the pot from the fire and poured the hot water into the cup. He let it steep for a while, then he took it and carried it over to Legolas. "Here, drink this."
Legolas accepted the cup and sniffed the contents suspiciously. Noting that it were only chamomile and lemon balm, he nodded his thanks at the older elf and slowly drank the tea. He was fairly sure that he would not be able to go back to sleep for a time, despite the calming brew. "How was Gondolin? I only read about it so far."
Glorfindel sat down again, scrutinizing him. "Lie down and I will tell you about it."
Legolas complied, settling himself comfortably.
"It was stunning," Glorfindel began, "The houses were beautiful and shining white, there were fountains everywhere..." He told Legolas about the beauty of the city, of the trees of silver and gold who were made in memory of the two trees of Valinor, of the great white towers made of marble and the many other wonders.
Legolas listened intently, but after a while he felt exhaustion claim him again, his concentration wavering. He suppressed a yawn but couldn't prevent Glorfindel from noticing.
The older elf softened his voice deliberately, waiting for the prince to succumb to his tiredness and fall asleep.
Finally, Legolas' eyes glazed over in sleep. Glorfindel talked for a few more minutes, to make sure he stayed asleep, then he silently got to his feet and withdrew to the sitting room, hoping that the rest of the night would pass uninterrupted.
The next day was beautiful and sunny, there was a mild breeze in the air, birds were chirping and the sunlight glittered in the waterfalls, creating rainbows in the mist above the falls.
Legolas was settled on a settee on his balcony. He had finally convinced Elrond to let him out of bed, for he couldn't stand it any longer to stay in bed the whole day. Due to his injured feet his movement was very limited but he was content for the moment to be on the balcony and being able to enjoy the spectacular view.
For a while his father had kept him company, but Thranduil had left a short while ago, stating that he had to discuss something with Elrond, so he was alone at the moment. He knew that it would not be long until one of the others would show up but for the moment he enjoyed the short moment in which he could gather his thoughts and didn't need to pay attention to anybody.
He knew they meant well and that he simply still needed help but it was tiring to have constant company. He turned his face toward the sun, enjoying the warmth on his face. He sighed. It was good to finally have some time to himself to think about what had happened and try to come to terms with it. The memories hovered just below the surface but he was determined not to let them rule his every waking and sleeping hour. During his waking hours he could avoid them, pushing them firmly away, but his sleep was still ruled by dreams of his captivity.
He considered Glorfindel's advise but he couldn't bring himself to talk about what had happened. He didn't want to dwell on it. Like he had told Glorfindel: It was over and done with. What use was there to dwell on it?
He shifted a little to get more comfortable and hissed through his teeth as his ribs and his feet complained against the movement. He was sick of the constant pain. Even though Elrond continued to give him medication against the pain, it only dulled it. At least his back and most of the stab wounds were better. The bones and burns would need longer to mend. He was sick of it and his temper was starting to fray. Never being one to enjoy a longer period of inactivity, the current situation was hard for him.
As he had suspected, his short period of solitude didn't last long. There was a knock at the outer doors.
"Enter," he called.
The door opened and he heard footsteps. "Legolas," Elladan called.
"Out here," he answered.
The footsteps came closer and finally the twins entered the balcony.
"Here you are," Elrohir greeted.
"Where else would I be?" Legolas asked sarcastically.
At the consternated looks of the twins he sighed. "Forgive me, I'm just sick of not being able to leave these rooms."
The twins exchanged a glance, then Elladan sat down in a chair next to Legolas while Elrohir leaned against the balcony railing, his dark hair glinting in the sun.
"Well, we're glad that you're still here and able to complain about it," Elladan said wryly.
"Have patience, my friend," Elrohir chimed in. "Not much longer and you will be able to walk longer distances. What did father say?"
"The same as you," Legolas answered morosely. "To have patience and give myself time to heal."
"Good advise," Elladan teased. Sobering, he searched Legolas' gaze. "That poison nearly killed you. In addition to that you lost a lot of blood. It is a wonder you survived at all. It takes some time to recover from that, so don't get impatient. I'm sure that father will let you out of here soon."
Legolas sighed. "I know. Forgive me for my bad mood, I'm not used to inactivity."
"But you have been injured before and needed time to heal," Elrohir pointed out. What if it were one of your warriors? Wouldn't you order him to listen to the healers and to give himself time to get well?"
Legolas couldn't argue this point. Elrohir was right, he would do exactly that. He sighed again, he seemed to be doing that a lot lately. "You're right," he admitted. He looked out at the scenery for a moment. "At least that's better than being in bed the whole day." He gazed at the twins and saw their sympathetic looks. "I didn't thank you yet. Without you and Glorfindel I would have died."
Elladan reached over and squeezed his arm. "We are glad that we were there in time, although we would have liked to prevent what happened."
Legolas looked down for a moment, knowing he hit a difficult topic. "I'm sorry if that brought back bad memories."
"It's not your fault that you were captured by orcs and what happened to our mother happened a long time ago," Elrohir reassured gently. "Yes, your ordeal reminded us of her but don't blame yourself for it." He pushed off from the railing and stepped closer, his gray eyes holding understanding and concern.
"So," Elladan said, "how are you really?"
Legolas shrugged. "Slowly getting better."
Elladan snorted. "Don't try to fool us. We know your wounds still pain you and that you have nightmares."
Legolas gave them an exasperated look. "Did somebody put up an announcement?"
Elrohir chuckled, despite the annoyance that was clearly visible on Legolas' face. "You are in a really cheerful mood today." He sat down opposite from Legolas and became serious again. "Talk to us, my friend."
The archer hesitated. It was hard for him to admit to anything that he considered a weakness. Seeing the compassionate and concerned gazes of the twins he finally relented. "My side and feet still pain me." He took a deep breath. "I'm so sick of not being able to walk."
"These wounds were deep," Elrohir explained. "Trust the orcs to come up with new ways of torture. I can't imagine how much it must have hurt as they were inflicted." He kept his gaze on Legolas and noticed his reaction. The other elf looked down and couldn't suppress a shudder.
"I don't want to talk about it," Legolas whispered.
"I don't think you can avoid it," Elrohir insisted gently. "It will only fester if you don't deal with it."
Legolas looked up and they could see the haunted look in his eyes. "I can't," he said, swallowing hard. "I just want to forget it."
"It doesn't work that way," Elrohir admonished. "Sooner or later you have to deal with it."
Elladan, seeing the shaken and lost look on Legolas' face, silently shook his head at his brother. It was no use to press the issue further, they would only manage to make him feel cornered and to close up even more. He laid a hand on the younger elf's forearm, squeezing gently. "If you ever want to talk, we're here."
"I know," Legolas said quietly. "Thank you."
Elladan nodded and leaned back in his chair. "So," he said, "since you're stuck here with us, what would you like to do?"
The archer considered that for a moment. "What about a card game?"
Elrohir rose and clapped him on the shoulder. "That's a very good idea. I'll get the cards."
Soon the three elves were engrossed in their game and later, when Glorfindel appeared to check on them, it didn't take long for him to join them.
It was hard for the prince to be forced to inactivity. As much as he longed for times of solitude, he also longed for distraction from his brooding when alone. He had already read all available books in his room and so he decided to go to Elrond's library to look for new ones. Since his chambers were in the family wing of the Last Homely House, the library was just a short distance away.
It was the first time after his injury that he attempted a longer walk. He slowly made his way down the corridor when suddenly the door to his father's chambers opened and Thranduil nearly walked into him.
The king eyed him in surprise. "Legolas, what are you doing out here?" he asked, his tone clearly disapproving.
Legolas leaned against the wall, trying to ease the pressure on his feet. "I just wanted to go to the library, to find something to read."
For a moment it looked as if Thranduil wanted to say something, but finally he just sighed. "I'll accompany you."
Knowing when it was futile to argue, Legolas pushed himself from the wall and they made their way towards the library.
They had nearly reached their goal when suddenly pain lanced through Legolas, so unexpectedly that he couldn't suppress a gasp. He felt hot and dizzy and his strength seemed to have left him abruptly. Thranduil turned around, facing him, a worried frown on his face. He reached for him and Legolas clutched at his father's forearms, slowly sinking to his knees. Blood rushed through his ears and his heart beat so furiously that it nearly drowned out the worried voice calling his name.
Thranduil had gone down with Legolas, now kneeling opposite his son, holding him by the shoulders. Once again he called his name but judging by the glazed look on his son's face, Legolas didn't hear him.
He looked around frantically, trying to decide what to do but before he could formulate a thought, Elrond came upon them.
The healer had been in his study and had been alerted by Thranduil's calls. He took in the scene in front of him, then he advanced, helping Thranduil to ease Legolas against the wall, straightening his legs out in front of him. "What happened? he asked.
"I'm not quite sure," the king answered, still kneeling anxiously beside his son, trying to get his attention.
Legolas breathed heavily through gritted teeth. For a few moments he had feared to pass out. Finally, the bout of dizziness passed and the hot flashes and the weakness that had suddenly engulfed him receded slowly. His breathing slowed and he was finally able to focus again. His eyes met the worried gazes of his father and the Lord of Imladris.
"Just a dizzy spell," he tried to reassure them, resting his head against the wall.
Elrond looked skeptical. "What caused this? Did you feel any pain?"
Legolas avoided his gaze, looking up to the ceiling. "There was a sudden flash of pain," he admitted.
Elrond took his chin in hand and forced him to look at him, gauging his appearance. "Wait here for a moment," he ordered, then he stood and went to his study.
Legolas let his head fall back again, breathing deeply. He balled his hand into a fist, hitting the floor once in frustration. "I hate this," he hissed.
His father put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. Before he could say anything, Elrond returned, carrying a flask and a glass. He knelt down beside Legolas, opened the flask and handed it to the younger elf. "Only a sip," he cautioned.
Legolas took the flask and swallowed. Warmth spread through him and he felt renewed strength. He breathed deeply, finally regaining his equilibrium.
Elrond took the flask and handed him the glass instead. At his questioning gaze the healer raised an eyebrow, clearly expecting him to drink the liquid. He sighed and slowly emptied the glass.
"Good," The older elf commented. "Do you think you can get up?"
"Yes." Legolas slowly pushed himself to his feet, supported by the other two elves. A new wave of dizziness hit him as he stood but it passed quickly. He met the worried glances of the older elves and nodded silently.
Elrond noted that the archer had paled considerably and he tightened his grip. Slowly they made their way back to Legolas' chambers. Once there, they settled him on the divan in the sitting room. Thranduil stood beside him while Elrond knelt down in front of him. "Show me your feet," he ordered.
Obediently Legolas slipped off the shoes.
Elrond gently examined his feet, noting the red color of the burns and the heat emanating from them. "I think you overdid it," he commented softly. He looked up at Thranduil. "Can you fetch me the blue jar from the table beside his bed?"
The king nodded, went into the sleeping chamber and returned shortly after, handing the jar to Elrond.
The healer took a generous amount of salve and treated the burns with it. "That should help with the discomfort." He looked up at the younger elf. "It's not wise to strain yourself so much," he chided gently.
"I just wanted to visit the library." Legolas defended himself. "That's hardly strenuous activity."
"You are still recovering from serious trauma," Elrond explained. "I told you that you have to be patient and let yourself heal. Your body needs time to recover." He met the archer's gaze, his eyes showing compassion and a mild reproach. "Lie down, please."
Legolas obeyed. Elrond lifted his shirt, gentle fingers examining his ribs and wound. "Luckily you didn't injure yourself further." He rose to his feet. "I want you to rest for the remainder of the day."
The archer sighed and nodded resignedly.
Thranduil went to the sleeping room, snatching a book lying on the table. He returned and pulled an armchair over to the table near the divan. "I'll stay."
Legolas wanted to protest, telling him that it wasn't necessary but after what had just happened that argument would be futile. Besides, the episode had drained him, so he couldn't rouse himself to make an effort with arguing.
"Good," Elrond approved. "I'll send a servant with something to eat for the evening meal." He turned to Legolas. "No more excursions to the library until I say so."
The prince nodded silently, shifting to get more comfortable.
Elrond nodded to Thranduil, then he left.
A comfortable silence ensued, only broken by the slight rustling when Thranduil turned a page. It didn't take long for Legolas to succumb to his weariness and fall asleep, his body demanding the rest he so desperately needed.
Following Elrond's advise Thranduil tried not to hover too much and left Legolas' side occasionally to give him the chance to be alone or to talk with Glorfindel, the twins or Elrond without him present. So far Legolas had refused to talk about what had happened in the orc camp. Thranduil knew that the memories and dreams haunted him and affected him more than he let on but at the moment he was at his wits' end. He couldn't force his son to talk to him so he had to wait patiently until Legolas saw reason.
He had retreated with Elrond to the Lord of Imladris' sitting room. Both elves hadn't had time yet to really talk with each other. The worry about Legolas had taken precedence. He still was their main concern but it was time for Thranduil to take some time to relax, at least that was what Elrond had suggested.
Elrond poured them both a goblet of wine, then he sat down opposite Thranduil who had settled on the divan. "How fares your home?" he asked. "It has been a few years since Sauron has been driven from Dol Guldur."
"The wood is slowly recovering. We managed to regain territory that we lost in previous times." Thranduil took a sip of his wine. He stared into his goblet for a moment. "At the moment we have a reprieve but it cost us dearly. Many orcs, goblins and other foul creatures perished in the battle at Erebor but we lost a lot of warriors too."
"How do you get along with the dwarves?"
Thranduil grimaced. "We managed to come to an agreement about the dealings with each other. We also started some trade recently, so things could be worse. At least the borders in the north are more secure since Smaug is gone and the dwarves repopulated Erebor. Orcs and goblins will have a hard time to settle in the vicinity."
"That's a small mercy," Elrond commented. "At least you don't have to worry about the north." He poured himself another goblet of wine and offered the bottle to Thranduil, who held his goblet out for a refill with a silent nod of thanks.
"At the moment it's relatively quiet concerning orc activity. We still have to deal with the spiders but we managed to drive them back. Feron assured me that he and Angon would manage everything during my absence. That reminds me; he sent warriors after me, since we didn't know what happened to Legolas' escort. I expect them to arrive any day now."
"I will ask Erestor to prepare quarters for them." Elrond assured. "We sent a bird immediately after Legolas' escort arrived in Imladris, so their families will have been informed about what happened."
"That's good," Thranduil approved. "I wouldn't want them to worry unduly." He took another sip of wine. "I didn't intend on intruding on your hospitality so much."
Elrond leaned back and stretched his legs in front of him. "We are glad to have you here, although I would have wished for happier circumstances. Your son is always a delight to have around, especially since he is good friends with Elladan and Elrohir."
Thranduil smiled. "He has a talent for making others like him, even if he doesn't do it on purpose. He is well liked by our people. You still owe me the story how he ended up with a horse from you. He told me you made it look like he was doing you a favor."
Elrond chuckled. "As he met Baranon there was an instant connection..." He told Thranduil how they had put Baranon in the stable next to Thúlon and manipulated Legolas to spend time with the colt up to the evening before his departure, when Elrond gifted the horse to him.
The king listened attentively and smiled affectionately. "He has a way with animals. When he was a child there were always some close to him when he was outside."
The healer took a sip of his wine and put the goblet on the table. "Baranon grew into a fine stallion. Legolas took good care of him."
Thranduil nodded. "I'm glad he will recover. It would have been a heavy blow to Legolas if he had lost him. Thúlon is slowly getting old, it will be hard enough for him when his time has come."
Their conversation turned to other matters and after a pleasant afternoon they parted ways. Elrond to negotiate with a trade delegation and Thranduil to check on his son.
The orc's visage loomed in front of him and the beast jeered at him. He was firmly pressed down to the ground, unable to defend himself. The red hot blade of the knife came slowly closer and finally connected with his ribcage. Pain erupted and overwhelmed everything else.
Legolas jerked awake with a gasp. He still couldn't control his dreams and so once more he had had a nightmare about his time in the orc camp. He sat up in bed, still reeling from the dream. His heart was racing in his chest and he had to take several deep breaths to calm himself.
A sudden noise caught his attention. He looked beside him and met the worried gaze of his father.
Thranduil had an open book in his hand which he placed carefully on the bedside table. Still meeting his son's gaze, he laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "You dreamed," he stated softly.
Legolas took a shuddering breath. "It's nothing."
Thranduil snorted. "You do have a talent for understatement." He leaned forward and fixed his son with a stern gaze. "Legolas, don't try to fool me. You sleep poorly. You still have no control over your dreams and you have nightmares, reliving your time with the orcs. So don't tell me it's nothing."
Legolas looked away, fiddling with the blanket that covered him. He couldn't meet his father's gaze, knowing that the sympathy he would find there would undo him. He just wished he could forget everything, put it past him and move on. He had experienced much in his long live, had fought numerous battles, had been wounded more times than he cared to remember, but never before had he been this helpless and been subjected to such cruelty. He had a hard time to come to terms with that and he was still reeling from the experience.
His father stood, went to the fireplace and put a few more logs onto the fire. He then walked to the bedside table and poured a glass of water.
"When we returned from Dagorlad," Thranduil said quietly, "I just wanted to forget everything. The loss of your grandfather, the many atrocities I witnessed, the warriors we lost in horrible ways. I tried to forget and to bury everything deep within me." He turned around and saw that Legolas was watching him intently. "Naturally, it didn't work very well." He smiled wryly. "Luckily I had your mother and Feron to help me. Your poor mother had to suffer through quite a lot with me. I felt such a rage and despair that I had unpredictable mood swings. I wasn't able to rest properly, always seeing the things I tried to forget."
He sat down again and handed Legolas the glass. "Your mother finally couldn't take it any longer. She asked Feron for help and the two cornered me and made me talk about it. First I resisted, but it actually helped."
Thranduil stopped and waited how his son would react to his story.
Legolas met the intense gaze of his father. He knew why he had told him this. He knew what Thranduil intended. But it was hard. He had kept everything he had endured to himself, even after his conversations with Glorfindel and the twins. Hoping to forget, not wanting to trouble anyone with the details of his torment and not wanting to have to face what had happened again.
He stalled for time by raising the glass and drinking slowly. Finally he handed it back to his father and looked down at the blankets. Forcing himself to talk about it was hard. He didn't really want to. He could still remember their cruelty, their hands as they had pinned him to the floor and the orc had burned his feet. The smell of his scorched skin… He shoved the memories forcefully aside. But his father was sitting silently, patiently, waiting for him to react, to begin. He would not let him avoid this any longer.
He took a deep breath. "As the rockslide happened..." Haltingly he started to tell his father what had happened. He didn't look up, didn't meet Thranduil's compassionate gaze.
As he came to the events in the orc camp, he started to tremble with the memory of the torture that had been inflicted on him. His voice faltered and he had to take a number of deep breaths to be able to continue.
As he told about the burnings he had to stop several times. Finally Thranduil couldn't stand it anymore and gathered his son into his arms, soothingly stroking his back, blinking away tears of sorrow and rage. Legolas, shivering with the memory, leaned against his father, allowing himself the comfort of his embrace. Strong arms held him tightly, and his father murmured soft, calming words to him. The familiar odor of pine, oak and sandalwood surrounded him, driving out the memory of the smell of his burned flesh, while a gentle hand was rubbing soothing circles on his back.
As Elrond entered the room two hours later, Legolas was asleep. For the first time he seemed peaceful, not tossing around restlessly. Thranduil stood at the window, looking out into the evening sky that was streaked with clouds, painted in beautiful red and orange from the setting sun as if nature wanted to mock the somber mood that permeated the room.
The healer threw a glance in Thranduil's direction, then he went over to the bed, lightly resting a hand on Legolas' brow.
Thranduil turned around and gave him an inquiring look.
"He is resting more deeply," Elrond murmured. "Looks like he finally found some peace." He met Thranduil's gaze and saw the various emotions there. The king looked relieved, but there was also sorrow and rage.
"He told me what happened and what the orcs did to him," Thranduil said. He came over to the bed and looked down at his son. "I wish I could hunt them down and kill them one by one." He couldn't suppress the rage he felt.
"I know how you feel." Elrond gave him a sympathetic look. "They are dead, that is the important thing."
"That's not enough," Thranduil hissed. "They deserved to suffer for what they did. I would like to tear them apart limb by limb. Instead they are just dead." He stopped, breathing heavily. He had no outlet for the rage he felt. He felt like hitting somebody or smashing things but he had to be quiet because he didn't want to disturb his sleeping son.
"What did he ever do to deserve that?" He kept his voice low but the force behind his words was not to be missed. "Nearly his whole live he had to fight for our home. He never complains but does what he perceives as his duty. What thanks does he get? More fighting and hardship." Thranduil lifted a hand to his head and massaged his temple. "I'm tired, Elrond. Tired of seeing him weary, hurt, exhausted beyond belief and despairing of the situation ever getting better."
Elrond put a hand on his shoulder. "I understand how you feel. After what happened with Celebrian, I felt the same. I wanted to tear these orcs to shreds, to mutilate them, make them suffer at least as much as they made her suffer." He squeezed Thranduil's shoulder. "Concentrate on Legolas. He needs us now to get through this. Even if his wounds are getting better, it will take time for him to come to terms with what happened."
Thranduil sighed. "He is proud. He doesn't like to admit weaknesses."
The healer smiled wryly. "Of whom does that remind me?"
The king couldn't suppress a chuckle. "We are more alike than we would care to admit."
"I believe that you are right with that assessment," Elrond teased. "You are both stubborn and proud. Although you are more hot headed."
Thranduil gave him a mock offended look. "I want you to know that Feron and Celairdir think me very level headed."
"Then they're either very mistaken or think that because they had to deal with Oropher before you," Elrond countered, a twinkle in his eyes.
Thranduil huffed. Turning back to Legolas he asked, "When do you think his feet will be healed enough that he will be able to walk longer distances?"
"It will take at least a few more days. They were badly burned and the more pressure he puts on them, the slower they will heal. You saw what happened as he overdid it. Maybe in a few days he will be able to go down to the gardens."
The other elf sighed. "It will be a relief for him and for us."
Elrond gave him a knowing smile. "A lot of his warriors asked to be allowed to visit, maybe that will distract him. When he feels better we can also introduce him to Estel, that should keep him busy."
Thranduil chuckled. "I didn't think that your foster son would be such a handful."
"Oh he isn't," Elrond confirmed. "He is just really curious and has a tendency to ask a lot of questions, so once you have his attention, he won't let you go for a while."
The king chuckled. "I think we will start with a visit from his warriors. It'll do him good to see them and ease their guilt when they see that he is going to be well. They apologized to me for not being able to keep him safe."
Elrond threw him a sharp look. "Do you blame them?"
"Of course not. Tinwion told me what happened and Legolas confirmed it. Nobody could know what would come to pass. They did their best, that is all that I can ask."
The Lord of Imladris nodded. "Thank the Valar that Glorfindel and the twins found Legolas in time."
Thranduil turned back to Legolas, once more studying his sleeping son's features.
Elrond put a hand on his arm. "Today was a start. To be honest I nearly despaired of him ever opening up. Now the true healing can begin."
"I hope so," Thranduil murmured. "What these creatures did to him is not something one easily forgets."
"He is strong, in body and mind. Have faith in him. Even if it takes time, I'm sure that he will be all right."
"We owe you a great debt, all of you," Thranduil whispered. He brushed a strand of hair out of Legolas' face, his hand lingering for a moment on his cheek.
Elrond shook his head. "What did Gwaihir tell you? There is no debt between friends. Besides, Legolas saved Elladan's life the last time he visited." At Thranduil's surprised look, he grimaced. "He didn't tell you? Somehow that doesn't surprise me. I don't know if he is too modest or if he didn't want to tell you that he went on an orc raid with us."
On Thranduil's incredulous look he chuckled lightly. "So he didn't tell you about that, too."
The king gazed down at Legolas. "It seems that he didn't tell me a lot. He has some explaining to do."
"Don't be too hard on him, I'm sure he wanted to spare you unnecessary worries."
"Oh I'm sure of that," Thranduil answered wryly. "I think if I knew everything he did I wouldn't be able to sleep at night."
Elrond eyed the leaf pendant with the concealed vial laying on the bedside table and couldn't suppress the thought how right Thranduil was. Legolas still refused to let his father know about the hidden poison in it. He faltered for a moment, considering to tell Thranduil about it but decided against it. He couldn't risk losing Legolas' trust, especially not at the moment, when the younger elf was in such a vulnerable state.
Seeing that Legolas was moving slightly, he lowered his voice. "Come, let him rest."
Thranduil sank down in the chair next to the bed. "I'll stay for a while."
"I didn't really expect anything else." Elrond turned to go. "I'll send some food for the both of you. Try to get him to eat something."
He left, closing the door silently behind himself.
Legolas stood at the railing of his balcony, gazing out at the landscape without really seeing anything. Finally the splint on his broken arm had been removed, the bones having healed sufficiently that it was no longer necessary. Although he should be glad that he was one step closer to be back to full health, he couldn't really feel that way. His feet were still not fully healed, so walking longer distances was still hard and painful. The burn on his ribcage and the stab wound on his right side also still caused a considerable amount of pain.
The memories of the torture still haunted him, although he slept better, once more being able to control his dreams. His confidence was shaken after the experience and that along with the memories and pain he still felt made him ill tempered. More than once he had snapped at one of the others, immediately regretting it afterwards but not being able to control himself.
He was so deep in thought that he didn't hear somebody enter until a hand touched his shoulder, making him whirl around in surprise.
Elrond lifted both hands in a calming gesture. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to startle you."
Legolas took a deep breath. "I was in thought so I didn't hear you approach."
The healer smiled wryly. "I noticed that." His gaze took in the archer's appearance, his eyes missing nothing. Legolas' face was still pale and drawn. His ordeal had left its mark on him. He sighed silently. Like he had predicted, it would take a while for the prince to heal physically and mentally. "Come, sit with me," he invited, pointing to the set of chairs and the settee that were invitingly arranged on the balcony.
Legolas reluctantly stepped away from the railing and gingerly lowered himself into a chair.
Elrond sat down opposite him, settling comfortably in an armchair. "So you finally told your father what happened. How do you feel now?"
Legolas shrugged. "I sleep better."
"But that's not all," Elrond prodded gently. "It seems that you can't control your temper."
Legolas flushed guiltily.
The healer's eyes held nothing but understanding. "That's not uncommon after what you went through. Although it shows that you haven't dealt with your feelings."
The archer lowered his gaze to the floor. "I hate them," he whispered. "At home we have to deal with orcs and their cruelty often enough. But now..."
"It's hard to comprehend that creatures can be so unreasonably cruel. They torture just for their enjoyment, for no other reason," Elrond finished his thought. He took Legolas by the chin and forced him to meet his eyes. "But there is still more to it. Am I right that you feel that shouldn't have happened?"
Legolas tried to avoid his gaze but the healer's grip was firm. "I shouldn't have let them get to me," he finally admitted his thoughts.
Elrond shook his head slightly, glad that they were finally getting to the heart of the matter. "So you beat yourself up because you couldn't fight them properly with one broken arm? Legolas, you still killed a fair number of orcs, even while facing superior numbers and severely hindered by your injury. Do you really berate yourself for getting captured? What should you have done differently, taken the poison? You wouldn't be alive now, do you really think that outcome preferable?"
He released Legolas' chin and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "What of your father? Do you think Thranduil blames you for getting yourself injured and captured?"
Legolas' head shot up. "Of course not," he replied indignantly.
Elrond smiled kindly. "So if your father doesn't find fault with you, why do you do so yourself?"
Once again the healer's unfailing logic and ability to steer the conversation in the intended direction did the trick. Legolas fell silent, considering what they had just talked about. After a while he looked up into Elrond's sympathetic eyes. "I still feel I should have done something different," he admitted.
The older elf nodded understandingly. "I think that's because you felt helpless. They tortured you and there was nothing you could do. Nobody likes that and it's hard to accept that there really was no other way. Instead of dwelling on this be proud that you withstood them and that you live while they perished."
Once again Legolas was quiet, contemplating the healer's words. After a while he smiled hesitantly. "No wonder they call you 'the Wise'."
Elrond returned the smile, his eyes holding warm affection. "Then I hope you listen to my counsel." He squeezed Legolas' shoulder again. "Sometimes it will still haunt you, but please know that we are here for you. Glorfindel, Thranduil and I know what you feel right now, so talk to us if it gets too much."
The prince took a deep breath, trying to battle his emotions. "Thank you," he whispered.
Elrond decided that it was time to break the somber mood. "I also came to tell you that I think it's time that you are allowed to go outside." He smiled at the undisguised delight in Legolas' eyes. "If you feel up to it, you can take the evening meal with us in the great hall. A lot of elves would be glad to see you."
"I would love to," the younger elf agreed enthusiastically.
The healer nodded and gave him a satisfied smile. He had expected nothing else. "I had a pair of padded boots made for you. These are better suited for outside than the other shoes. I'll send a servant to deliver them."
Once more Legolas could only thank him, which seemed inadequate, considering everything that Elrond had done for him.
The older elf got up. "I'm glad that you're feeling better. We will see how your arm continues to heal. Maybe in one or two weeks you can start to train again. I'll see you at the evening meal." With these words he left, knowing that Legolas had a lot to think about.
At the time of the evening meal Thranduil knocked on Legolas' door.
"Enter," his son called from within.
The king opened the door and went inside. Legolas appeared from the bedchamber, fastening the laces of his tunic. Thranduil mustered him appraisingly. He was dressed in charcoal leggings, a light blue shirt, a dark blue tunic with silver embroidery and light gray boots. His hair was once again braided in his usual style, something he hadn't been able to do properly until the removal of the splint.
If somebody didn't know what had happened, he looked almost normal, the only hints of his ordeal his still pale complexion and his gaunt face.
"Are you ready?" Thranduil asked.
Legolas drew a deep breath. It would be the first time since the incident that he would be with a large gathering of people again. "Yes, I'm ready."
They left Legolas' chambers together, walking at a leisurely path in the direction of the great hall. Thranduil surreptitiously watching his son for signs of pain or discomfort.
As they entered the great hall they first went to the Mirkwood warriors sitting on two big tables. The group that Feron had sent after Thranduil had arrived a while ago. Many of the warriors hadn't seen Legolas since the incident so they greeted him warmly and with much relief.
Thranduil and Legolas' places were at Elrond's table. The Lord of Imladris smiled as they approached. "Welcome, Legolas, I'm glad you could join us." He gestured to the two empty seats to his right. "Please, sit down."
Thranduil sat down next to Elrond, Legolas in the place beside him. To his right were the twins and next to them sat a young human boy who eyed him curiously.
Elrohir clasped his wrist. "It's good to see you about."
"Yeah," came the heartfelt reply. "You can't imagine how glad I am that your father finally let me outside."
"I hope that will improve your temper," Elrohir teased.
At Legolas' guilty look Elladan decided to have pity. "Legolas, I think you haven't met our foster brother yet." Indicating the boy next to him he introduced. "This is Estel. Estel, this is Legolas, son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood."
Estel's eyes grew big. "Is it true what they say about Mirkwood? That there are giant spiders?"
Legolas smiled at the curiosity of the boy. "Yes, it's true. We have to fight them, along with other unpleasant inhabitants of our wood."
Estel seemed excited. "Other inhabitants? What other creatures?"
"Orcs, wargs and bats. But at the moment the orcs are diminished and the spiders are the biggest problem."
"You certainly can't visit there until you are much older," Elrohir told the eager youth.
Estel pouted, obviously disappointed. Being used to the safe environment of Imladris, the tales that were told about Mirkwood were fascinating to him.
Elladan turned to Estel. "Did you know that Legolas is a very good archer? He beat Elrohir hands down the last time he visited."
Estel turned to Legolas, a pleading look on his face. "Can you teach me?"
Elrohir huffed. "Need I remind you that it was you whose life he saved during the orc attack?"
Legolas ignored the twins' banter. "I can show you the basics. Unfortunately I can't use my bow at the moment." He massaged his healing arm. "Your father estimated that in one or two weeks I can start training again."
Estel beamed at him. "That would be great," he enthused. "When can we start?"
"Not so fast, Estel," Elladan chided. "You heard that Legolas is still recovering from injuries. You have to wait until father says he is ready."
At the youth's disappointed look Legolas smiled. "Why don't you visit me tomorrow and I'll tell you about life in Mirkwood?"
Estel nodded eagerly.
"How does your training with the sword go?" Elrohir asked him.
"Glorfindel says I'm doing good." Estel seemed slightly subdued.
"You are doing good," Glorfindel, who sat opposite Legolas, chimed in. "You can't expect to become a master swordsman in only a few weeks. That takes lots and lots of training."
"You have an excellent teacher, Estel," Legolas said. "He will make a good swordsman out of you."
They were interrupted by the serving staff bringing the first course of the meal. A thick, rich mushroom soup was served and conversation at the table fell silent as they started to eat.
Glorfindel took a piece of bread and wiped his bowl out, then he addressed Legolas. "As I heard, Thorin Oakenshield and his company gave you some trouble."
Legolas gazed at his father, but Thranduil was in conversation with Elrond and didn't hear the comment. "That incident is something that will especially haunt Galion for quite some time. My father was not pleased that the dwarves escaped."
"Did you ever figure out how they managed to escape?" Elrohir asked.
We believe that the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, had something to do with that. Although I can't imagine how he managed to stay hidden the whole time." Turning in the direction of Gandalf, who sat next to Glorfindel, he added: "My father blames Mithrandir for the whole mess."
The wizard looked slightly guilty and harrumphed but refrained from further comment.
"At least the dragon is dead," Glorfindel said with quiet satisfaction.
"Yes," Legolas agreed. "But at a high price. Laketown was destroyed and in the ensuing battle for the mountain we lost many warriors."
There was a sympathetic silence for a moment. Then the serving staff brought plates of roasted meat, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and bread.
The meal continued with pleasant conversation. Legolas enjoyed the company and to partake in a normal activity again.
After the meal Thranduil and Legolas slowly made their way back to their chambers. Legolas couldn't suppress a yawn. He felt weary, his body still weakened from his ordeal.
"It was a nice evening," Thranduil commented. "But I think it's time for you to rest."
Legolas didn't argue, he just nodded tiredly.
As they reached Legolas' quarters, his father accompanied him inside. Legolas gathered his sleeping clothes and went into the bathing chamber to ready himself for bed while Thranduil knelt down in front of the hearth and lighted the fire. He then went to the bed and turned down the covers.
Legolas emerged from the bathing chamber, yawning again. He went to the bed and lay down, blinking sleepily.
Thranduil pulled the blanket over him. "Good night, sleep well."
"Good night, Ada," Legolas replied, nearly falling asleep on the spot.
Thranduil waited a moment, making certain that his son was sleeping peacefully, then he left for his own chambers.
The next afternoon was sunny and clear. Enjoying the beautiful weather Legolas had settled down in the garden behind the house. He was resting in the shadow of a big oak, listening to the sounds of nature around him. It was his first time outside in much too long a time and he intended to fully enjoy it.
The peaceful silence was disturbed by hoofbeats and an indignant outburst. "What are you two doing? You can't bring a horse into the garden."
Legolas recognized the voice as Erestor's. Curious, he straightened up and glanced in the direction of the voice. To his surprise he saw the twins approaching with a well known bay horse in tow.
He pushed himself to his feet, unable to hide his grin of delight. "Baranon," he called, causing his stallion to gaze in his direction, throw his head and fall into a quick trot.
Ignoring the smirking twins and the outraged Erestor, Legolas met his horse, who nearly bowled him over in his eagerness to see him. Baranon neighed softly and Legolas laughed, embracing him firmly.
"I wanted to see you but the stables are too far for the moment," he greeted his stallion. Bending down, he examined his leg, noting with satisfaction that the wound was nearly healed.
The twins came closer, watching the reunion between horse and master with big smiles. Erestor, too, observed the meeting and decided that there were more important things than a well kept garden.
"He was eager to see you," Elladan explained.
Legolas turned to the twins, still patting Baranon's neck. "Thank you for bringing him here."
Elrohir stepped closer, stroking the stallion's flank. "Our stable master took good care of him although he obviously missed you."
"I missed you too," Legolas told his horse, stroking his muzzle before sitting down again.
Baranon started to graze next to him while the twins joined him on the ground.
"I'll arrange for something to eat," Erestor told them before he turned to go. "If your father wonders about the horse in his garden, I was not involved."
The younger elves laughed.
"Erestor, would you be so kind to ask Estel if he would like to join us?" Legolas asked. "I think I owe him a few stories."
The advisor nodded. "He should be finished with training so I'll send him over." He left, silently wishing he could see Elrond's face when he discovered the scene in his garden.
Legolas watched him go and turned to the twins. "So Estel is the son of Arathorn?"
"Yes," Elrohir confirmed. "After Arathorn was killed father took Gilraen and him in. He doesn't know his real name. He is the last of his line and the enemy is searching for the heir of Isildur, so it's dangerous to use his real name."
Legolas leaned back against the oak. "Arathorn was a good man. I would have liked to meet him again."
The twins shared a pained look, remembering the death of their friend.
"His death hit his wife hard. Estel was only two years old as it happened, so we brought them here," Elladan explained.
"Does Estel know how his father died?"
"Only that he was killed by orcs."
They were interrupted by the object of their discussion. Estel entered the garden, stopped and watched amazed how Baranon calmly grazed next to the patches of flowers.
"Estel," Legolas called, "come, join us. I promised you a few stories."
The youth came over and dropped down into the grass. "I heard many things about your home."
Legolas threw the twins a glance. "I can imagine."
Elrohir lifted his hands. "We only told him the truth."
"Yeah?" Legolas asked sarcastically. "Did you tell him of your encounter with the spiders?"
He turned to Estel, who had listened to the exchange with growing curiosity. "Your brothers thought we were jesting when we told them about the size of the spiders we have to deal with..."
Half an hour later Elrond entered the garden in search of his sons. Following their voices, he found all three of them and Legolas sitting on blankets and sharing a picnic while Legolas' stallion stood nearby and munched contentedly on the grass.
He decided that he really didn't want to know, so he turned around and left for his study.
Like he had promised Estel, Legolas went to the archery range with him to show him the basics. He still couldn't use his bow to show the boy something, but they would make do without that.
The youth was enthusiastic and Legolas felt infected by his good mood. It had been some time since he had taught somebody archery, so he looked forward to the experience.
First he showed Estel how to stand and to draw the bow, then he stepped behind him and corrected his stance.
"Take the bow a bit higher," he instructed, sighting over Estel's shoulder at the target. "Shift your left leg a bit, yes like that." He checked once more and then ordered: "Release."
The arrow shot forward and hit the target on the edge. Estel turned around, beaming up at Legolas.
"Very good for a first shot," Legolas praised. "Come, try again."
Estel resumed his stance and once again they went through a few corrections, then he released his second arrow. Again he hit the target although it was still at the corner. The next three tries went well as well.
"Now let's try faster, try to adjust your stance as you draw. Don't try to think too much about it. With enough training it will come to you naturally."
The first few times Estel missed but after a while he managed to hit the target at least a few times. Legolas encouraged him. "That was very good for today. With training you will fast improve."
"Do you think that I can become a good archer? Elrohir said nobody in Imladris is as good as you."
Legolas smirked. "At least he didn't manage to beat me yet." He turned serious. "I had ample time to practice. It is a matter of survival in my home to master one's weapons. But I think that if you practice enough, yes, you can become a good archer."
Estel's delighted smile made Legolas smile in return.
They stored the training weapon and walked slowly back to the house.
"How much longer are you staying?" Estel asked.
"I don't know. Maybe a few more weeks. My father can't stay away from our home for too long and I don't think that he will leave without me." He was fairly certain that his father wouldn't let him out of his sight for some time after the worry he had caused him. He also knew that Elrond wouldn't let him leave until he deemed him ready.
Estel seemed disappointed. "That's not really long."
"No, but we will make the best of it. Archery takes a lot of training so you have to train regularly if you want to make progress. Maybe your brothers can continue to teach you."
They had reached the outer garden and Estel spied Elrohir and Elladan walking to the stables. Legolas noticed his excitement and encouraged him. "Go, tell your brothers how your training went."
Barely remembering his manners, Estel turned to him. "Thank you for taking the time." With that he took off in the direction of the twins.
Legolas watched him go then he went to a bench standing next to the path beneath a birch tree. He stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned against the backrest. He was more exhausted than he wanted to admit. His feet ached after he had been standing for such a long time and he was relieved that he could sit down for a while.
The smell of pipeweed wafted towards him and soft footsteps approached.
"Mithrandir," he greeted, without turning around.
Gandalf slowly came nearer and sat down beside him. Legolas hadn't seen much of him since he had woken in Imladris. In fact, he hadn't spoken with him since the wizard had left after the battle at Erebor.
For a moment the Istar didn't say anything, just smoking his pipe contentedly. After a few more moments he commented softly: "So, young Estel has managed to lure you into teaching him how to use the bow."
"He has potential," Legolas observed. "His first lesson went very well today."
Gandalf blew a smoke ring into the air. "He will need to be skilled with weapons. It's dangerous to be the heir of Isildur."
Legolas turned towards the wizard. "When will Elrond tell him who he is?"
"Not for a few more years. Let him grow up in peace. He will be burdened with the knowledge soon enough."
The elf leaned back. "It won't be easy for him."
"No," the wizard agreed, "it will not. Knowing the weakness of his forbearer and knowing that he is hunted will be a heavy burden."
He gave the elf a searching look. "And you, what about you? How do you fare?"
Legolas sighed. "Somehow everybody likes to ask that question."
"That's because we care about you, so you better take it with good grace," the Istar admonished.
The elf looked sheepish. "I know," he admitted. "And I'm thankful for that. It's just... sometimes it's too much."
Gandalf nodded understandingly. "They mean well. We nearly lost you, so it's understandable that they are concerned with your wellbeing."
Legolas sighed tiredly and nodded. "I try to keep that in mind." He looked at the wizard. "My father told me that you asked Gwaihir to bring him here."
Gandalf blew another smoke ring into the air. "You needed him," he stated calmly. "It was the fastest way to get him to Imladris."
Legolas couldn't argue with that. Thranduil's presence upon his waking and during his recovery had been a great comfort. It was touching that the Istar knew how much they cared for each other. "I thank you for that," he said softly.
The wizard shook his head. "Not for that. Besides I think I owed you at least that much after what happened with the dwarves."
Legolas laughed. "I think it will take a lot more than that for my father to forgive you."
Gandalf gave him a shrewd look. "You think so, eh?"
They were interrupted as Estel and the twins came in their direction, Estel talking animatedly to his brothers.
"Legolas, Mithrandir," Elrohir greeted. "come, it's nearly time for the evening meal."
Mithrandir stood and Legolas pushed himself to his feet, surreptitiously helped by the wizard as he swayed for a moment.
They joined the brothers on the path and together they made their way towards the house.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.