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Chapter 1

The year 1739 of the Third Age

Legolas tried not to fall asleep as he sat, his blond head propped up by his elbow. As his eyes started to unfocus he was abruptly awakened by Aearion's sharp elbow in his ribs. He looked over sharply at his father's chief advisor. Aearion nodded toward the king, wordlessly reminding Legolas where his attention should be directed. He sat up with a start and tried to listen to his father drone on. In his opinion, nothing was worse than attending Court. It was long and dull and made the morning drag on for an eternity as it seemed that all anyone ever did was take turns talking about the same things over and over. But as the youngest son of King Thranduil, it wasn't as though he had a choice. He had a duty to the Realm as its Prince and as his father was apt to remind him he was still very young. Legolas had just come of age just two months earlier but his father thought that he was too inexperienced to leave home and fight the Evil creeping its way into the Woodland Realm like his older brother Camthalion. Thranduil thought that Legolas needed some experience serving the Realm at home and that he was too impulsive, too eager for adventure to serve in the dangerous South. Legolas found the entire situation unfair and thought that his father was being completely unreasonable. He thought that Thranduil would never see him as anything more than a helpless elfling and struggled to find his way out of his father's overbearing grip. Camthalion had been sympathetic but told Legolas that he preferred his brother safe and whole if only for a few more years.

The present case finally ended and the next one was quickly brought forth. Two neighbors were once again quarreling over the borders of their homesteads. Legolas was annoyed that something so petty was taking up valuable Court time. This wasn't first and most likely not the last time these two ellyn would appear before The King. There would be no hope of finishing before mid day now. The young Prince audibly sighed before he could stop himself. The feuding elves glanced his way, stopping in midsentence. Legolas shifted uncomfortably in his seat, knowing that everyone was staring at him. Aearion squeezed his arm, warning him that his behavior was inappropriate for the setting. Slowly, he shifted his gaze toward his father, who was sitting on his throne. Thranduil's blue eyes flashed with irritation down at him. Legolas quickly looked down at the parchment on the desk in front of him and deliberately avoided looking at anyone. He knew that Thranduil was at best annoyed with him and would have a few things to say at the first available opportunity. The Elvenking was well known for his outspoken, blunt manner. But Thranduil said nothing and motioned for the ellyn to continue. After another long hour Court disassembled for the week. Edhil milled about afterward, chatting for a few minutes before going home to their mid-day meals. Legolas inwardly groaned as his father made his way down from his throne and approached him, looking rather unhappy.

"Walk with me, iôn nín" Thranduil said as he firmly placed a hand on Legolas's back and steered him out of the Great Hall and into the antechamber so that he had little choice but to comply.

"Adar," Legolas began as they walked toward the private area of the Palace. He felt the need to start explaining himself before his father could start to scold, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be disrespectful. But you know how I feel about attending Court. It is more useful for me to serve the Realm as a soldier. I am never going to be an advisor and I have no desire to do so. I find it all so dull."

"I understand that," Thranduil said, his voice was surprisingly gentle, despite the fact they had a similar conversation nearly every day "But you are my son and that bears other responsibilities as well. Yes, you are a gifted soldier. But you are still so young and impulsive. It often gets you into trouble, does it not?"

Legolas grimaced and reluctantly nodded, hating to admit that more than once he and his friends Sellion and Valen had gotten into trouble. Ever since they had completed their soldier training and joined The Elvenking's Army just a few weeks past, the three of them had been disciplined twice for insubordination and horseplay. Thranduil had not been pleased and had wholeheartedly supported the harsh discipline that the increasingly exasperated Captain had set.

"Furthermore," Thranduil continued his lecture as they arrived in the Dining Hall and took their seats, "Until you can show some restraint with these childish impulses you will remain here at the Palace where I can keep an eye on you. Learning to serve the Realm here will allow you to learn some patience and self-control which I don't need to remind you will be very valuable when it is time for you to serve in the South. Right now, young one, there are things you must learn here before you are ready to go. The consequences of you going South now could be disastrous. I could not bear it if anything were to happen to you, Legolas. It is unthinkable."

Legolas gave his father a small smile and bit back the retort that was on the tip of his tongue. There was no need for arguing as he had no chance in changing Thranduil's mind. He was incredibly headstrong and stubborn. Legolas hated adding to his father's immense stress and worry. He knew that Thranduil was currently under a lot of strain. Once again Evil was spreading from Dol Guldur and inching closer to the King's Stronghold each day, infesting the Forest with orcs, spiders, and Shadow. Legolas' older brother Camthalion commanded the Realm's forces. The current climate in the South had turned so serious that Camthalion had to tend to it himself. He had been away for several months now, trying in vain drive back the Shadow. His letters home had been vague and short and that alone spoke volumes. The family shared the close familial bonds common among The Eldar. Each felt his absence and constantly worried about the relentless danger he was in.

"Forgive me for being so late!" a soft, feminine voice jerked Legolas from these sobering thoughts. Amoniel, Camthalion's wife, appeared and took her usual seat across from Legolas. "I was so wrapped up in the preparations for the feast that I did not realize it was already mid-day!"

"No harm done," Thranduil said with a smile as the servants brought forth the meal, "How are things coming along?" he asked as he piled venison and greens on a plate and handed it to Amoniel.

"There is still so much to do," Amoniel gushed happily, her gray eyes sparkled with excitement as she accepted the plate and began to uncover the silverware from the napkin in front of her, "But we still have a couple of days to get it all together. I think Tarnin Austa will be even more grand than last year! Then she suddenly turned her attention to Legolas."What are you doing this afternoon, Legolas?" she asked casually. Legolas tried not to smirk. He loved Amoniel dearly. She was beautiful and kind. But he also knew that she was quite bossy and was going to try to recruit him into helping her with the feast preparations.

"I am going on a patrol this afternoon," Legolas quickly replied, relieved that he had something to do to get out of Amoniel's grasp, "We are scouting to make sure the area for the feast is safe. There have been a few spider colonies found close by."

Amoniel nodded, accepting his excuse. Legolas and Thranduil finished their meal in almost complete silence as Amoniel went on and on, endlessly chattering about the feast preparations, what she needed the palace staff to do to complete her vision, and what she thought they could do to make it even better the following year. At long last, the meal concluded, much to Thranduil and Legolas' relief. Legolas quickly bid them both a good afternoon went directly to his bedchambers. He grabbed his sword then shouldered his quiver and bow before he quickly made his way out to the Common Greens where the Military Headquarters was located. In the large common room, several other soldiers were already there waiting for their afternoon assignments. Sellion and Valen were standing in a group of newly minted soldiers and laughing over something someone had said.

"Mae govannen, Legolas," Valen called out when he saw his friend approaching. Legolas grinned at his good friend and returned the greeting. He approached the group and joined in the good natured banter. They only had to wait a few minutes before the new Lieutenant, Glandur, approached them and began to call out the names of those he had chosen to accompany him on the patrol. Glandur was very eager to prove himself in his first leadership position. He chose Legolas, Sellion, Valen and a new soldier named Locien to be part of the patrol. The four younglings were pleased by Glandur's choices. He was the newest Lieutenant in the Realm and much more easy going than the more seasoned officers. The rest of the group was casting envious glances at Legolas and his friends, wishing they had been chosen to go instead of being assigned to a dull afternoon of guard duty at the Palace.

The small patrol made their way into the forest, walking on the Elf Path for several minutes before veering off deeper into the forest. Nearly half an hour passed before they noted a change in the Song of the Forest, warning them of the danger ahead. The Elves immediately took to the trees and silently but quickly climbed high into the canopy to take cover. Legolas instantly saw that a few yards away that there were a number large nests with spiders in them. The nests were silent and free of any noticeable activity. Glandur studied the spiders for a while and decided that since they appeared to be asleep they could take care of the solution rather easily from their current position. Legolas and Valen grinned at each other, happy not only to have the opportunity to be a part of the limited action near the Stronghold but also to have an exhilarating tale to share back at the Headquarters. Legolas could not help but smile as he thought about recounting the afternoon's events to his father at the evening meal. There was no way now Thranduil could doubt his ability to serve the Realm abroad. Legolas and the others unshouldered their bows and notched an arrow. The young Prince sat in nervous anticipation from where he perched. After spending the morning sitting behind a desk with Aearion a chance to do something physical was just what he needed. They watched Glandur and awaited the signal to proceed with the attack. Finally, after several minutes of observing the colony, he gave it. Arrows flew through the air and accurately found their targets. Several spiders screamed and fell to their deaths before they could even leave the nests. Suddenly, without warning, more spiders appeared from nowhere, clearly roused when they heard the screams of their comrades. Glandur cursed, angry with himself for making such a mistake in his haste. He knew that he should have created a perimeter around the colony but it was too late now.

"Legolas and Valen stay where you are and continue loosing arrows," Glandur ordered the more skilled archers of the group, "Sellion and Locien draw your swords and follow me!"

Following orders, they all did as they were told. On the ground Glandur, Sellion and Locien were successfully cutting down the spiders few spiders that managed to make it to the ground without being impaled with Elvish arrows. The three ellyn were soon splattered with the vile, stinking, black blood. Up in the trees Legolas and Valen, both accomplished archers, had quickly and easily cleared the trees of the spiders. In no time the nests were empty and silent. Legolas scanned the ground for any remaining spiders and saw that the last of them had been killed. The only things moving on the ground were Glandur, Locien and Sellion wiping off their blood splattered swords. To his right he suddenly heard Valen, who had loosed all of his arrows, unsheathe his sword and shout. Legolas quickly looked over at his friend and saw something large and black rapidly swinging toward him. Before he could think to react the large spider hit him with such a force that it knocked him from the tree. Legolas, terrified, felt himself falling and tried in vain to grab at a branch on the way down but the force of the impact was too much for even Elven agility to manage. The large, ancient beech tree cried out in dismay and tried to use its limbs to catch him but he was falling too fast to seize anything. Moments later he felt a blast of pain as he hit a large limb. The pain radiated from his spine and ribs and took his breath before he hit the ground with a sickening crunch. There was a bright explosion in his head and then he knew no more.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Valen dropped his sword and cried out as he lunged toward Legolas. He tried to grab him before he could tumble but he failed. His fingertips just grazed Legolas's boot. His stomach turned when he heard Legolas hit the forest floor. Glandur, Sellion, and Locien each notched an arrow and sent it into the spider. It was dead before it hit the ground. Valen sat on his tree branch for a moment with his hand over his mouth, his dark eyes wide in disbelief, his breath coming in gasps of shock at what just happened. He gathered himself together and timidly he peered down where his friend had fallen. Legolas was unconscious and his legs were lying at impossible angles, unmistakably fractured. Valen felt his heart race and he scurried down the tree as fast as he could and ran to his friend. Legolas's eyes were closed and blood was seeping from his left ear. His chest rose and fell with shallow, abrupt breaths, otherwise he was completely still.

"Legolas!" Valen shouted as he tried to revive him by lightly slapping his face, his voice shaking nearly as much as his hands.

"Move, fool, before you injure him further!" Glandur hissed as he forcefully shoved Valen aside hard enough to knock him over so he could get a better look at Legolas. Valen glanced up at Sellion and Locien from where he was sitting on the forest floor. Their pale faces echoed his with disbelief. Locien nervously scanned the trees as if he expected another attack while Sellion couldn't take his eyes from his friend. Glandur was gently probing Legolas' neck, using the limited medical training he received over his years of service to The Realm. He looked up hopefully.

"I do not believe his neck is broken, thank the Valar," he said, relief evident on his face "We must quickly get him back to the Palace." He bent down and carefully picked Legolas up, trying not to cause additional damage to the young prince.

"Follow me!" Glandur ordered, "And keep your guard up. We do not know if that was the last of the spiders."

The three quickly followed suit behind Glandur with their swords drawn and ready for any sudden attack. They ran the rest of the way back to the Palace without incident though the journey back seemed to stretch into endless minutes. When they arrived they ran over the bridge and straight to the Great Doors. Glandur let out a small sigh of relief to be home where there were healers, Elves who were far more capable of trying to repair Legolas than he. His heart dropped as soon as they burst through the Great Doors to the entry hall. The King and Amoniel were standing just inside affectionately greeting Camthalion who had clearly just arrived a short time before. All three's expression turned from the joy of a family member returning from danger to the horror of seeing another critically hurt. Amoniel immediately began to sob in her husband's arms. She adored Legolas. Having married Camthalion over three centuries before Legolas was born, Amoniel had known him all his life. Thranduil crossed the distance between Glandur and himself in three great strides, his heart pounding in his chest as he took the scene in front of him. His son was too quiet, too still. His bond to Legolas was silent, nearly lifeless though the thread of connection remained, the only thing that told him Legolas was still alive.

"Give him to me" The King commanded as he gently took his child from the visibly upset Lieutenant.

"It was a giant spider, Aran nín," Glandur said, unable to look his King in the eyes, "It ambushed Legolas and Valen from behind and knocked him out of the tree."

Thranduil did not wait for Glandur's explanation. He was already sprinting down the corridor and shouting for a healer. Camthalion let go of Amoniel and approached Glandur.

"Go back to headquarters and write a report," he commanded, as he mentally willed his heart to stop beating as though it was going to burst from his chest "I will join you later when I can."

"Yes, my lord," Glandur replied and hurried off toward the Headquarters with a look of complete regret on his face.

Camthalion placed a hand on both Sellion and Valen's shoulders. "I will notify you about how Legolas is faring once we know more," he said gently, knowing how upset they were witnessing their good friend injured so grievously, "For now go and assist Glandur with the report."

"Yes, my lord," they murmured, touched by Camthalion's kindness. In addition to being their Commander, Camthalion was many centuries older than they were and they did not know him that well. Most of their memories of him consisted of him scolding them and rolling his eyes at them during their adolescence.

The Crown Prince abruptly turned and ran after his father. He stopped when he got to Legolas's chambers, knowing that is where Legolas has most likely been taken. Amoniel was standing in the corridor outside the room; her long, waist length chestnut curls trembled as she wept. Wordlessly, Camthalion pulled her into his strong arms. She leaned onto his chest and snuggled up close to him, drawing strength just from his mere presence, knowing that no words needed to be said. After a few moments, he leaned down and kissed her cheek.

"Wait here," he said finally, not wanting Amoniel to see the unpleasant scene that was undoubtedly unfolding on the other side of the door, "I will check on Legolas."

Camthalion quietly opened the door and stepped inside. There was a flurry of activity in the room. He could not see Legolas as the healers were surrounding the bed, giving orders and retrieving supplies. Thranduil stood by Legolas's head. He was gently caressing Legolas's brow and murmuring soft, comforting words in his ear. Camthalion slowly approached the bedside and placed a hand on his father's shoulder, trying to offer him any amount of comfort that he could. Thranduil reached over, placed his arm around his shoulders and pulled his oldest son close to him without taking his eyes off of his youngest. Camthalion leaned on his father, drawing a small amount of comfort from the physical contact.

Camthalion felt his stomach lurch as his eyes swept over Legolas. Over centuries of service to the Realm he had fought in many battles and had witnessed many gory, horrific deaths of his comrades and innocents alike. But he could not take seeing his little brother in such a condition. Tears swarmed his eyes as he watched the healers do their work. As he took in the scene in front of him he felt as though he was going to be sick. They cut Legolas's trousers up to his knees revealing a rainbow of colors; black, blue, purple and red as blood slowly oozed out where the white bones had broken through the smooth skin. Another healer removed Legolas's jerkin and tunic. She swiftly felt up and down his sides.

"Many of his ribs are broken," the healer announced with a sad shake of her head. She gently turned Legolas over on his side and ran her deft fingers up and down his spine and looked up hopefully, "Astonishingly his spine is not fractured from falling at such a height! He is very fortunate."

Thranduil nodded, grateful that at least something was not broken and to receive a small amount of encouraging news. Then the healer gently lifted up Legolas's eyelids and peered into his eyes. His pupils were dilated and his eyes were rolling back into his skull. "He has a serious head injury. He may be unconscious for some time, my lords," the healer said as she shot Thranduil and Camthalion a look filled with pity and worry, "Until then we may not know the extent of the damage."

Two healers at the foot at the bed began twisting and pushing Legolas's legs, trying to set the broken bones back into their place. Once more, Camthalion thought he was going to be sick and fought to keep the contents of his stomach. His baby brother looked so broken that it seemed inconceivable that he could be put back together again. He wiped the tears that managed to escape from his blue eyes. It just did not seem real. He was supposed to come home and everything was supposed to go back to normal. He felt dizzy as he replayed the past hour in his head over and over. How could this be the homecoming he received? Thranduil sensed his eldest's distress, pulled his son into a strong embrace and held him for a long moment, feeling nothing but absolute relief that this son had once again returned home to him alive and whole. He held Camthalion's dark head in his hands and looked into the identical blue eyes. Camthalion looked exhausted and frightened.

"Go back to your chambers to bathe and rest, iôn nín," The King said firmly, "You have just made a long journey back from the South. I will come and talk to you when they are finished with Legolas."

Camthalion looked at his father then at his brother. "Adar," he finally said though it sounded more like a plea, "What if…." He didn't seem to be able to finish his sentence. But he knew his father understood, just as he always did.

"You need to take care of yourself, Camthalion," Thranduil said in a firm tone that clearly implied that there would be no debating the matter, "Do not make me worry for you as well," he added more softly.

"Yes, Adar," Camthalion relented, unwilling to cause his father any unnecessary distress. He leaned down and gingerly stroked his brother's cheek, afraid that even the gentlest touch would harm him further then quietly exited the room.

*****

Camthalion hurriedly bathed and changed into clean clothing, not wanting to miss an update on his brother. When he emerged from the adjoining washroom he found Amoniel lounging on their bed waiting for him. Wordlessly he walked over and reclined next to her. Camthalion softly sighed. He had been so happy to get away from the terrible Evil and the creatures that flourished under it. His very feä had rejoiced to be no longer plagued by Shadow, Darkness and the sick Forest and to be home where he belonged. Though he still had the burden of commanding the defense of the Realm he was looking forward to seeing his family every day. He had missed them every moment he had been gone. He had thought that Legolas serving the Realm under their adar's watchful eye would keep him from danger, if only for a few years and now he saw that danger lurked at home too. Amoniel cuddled next to him and he instinctively put his arms around her, grateful for her company. She always brought him comfort when he was most troubled. At that moment he could have wept with gratitude to have the elleth that stole his heart over three centuries before next to him. He buried his face in her hair and inhaled the familiar scent of the lavender soap that she favored. He felt himself begin to relax and his heart warmed with love as he felt his feä begin to sing in harmony with Amoniel's. He was truly Home, each of them half of one. She turned her face up toward him and he gently lowered his lips to hers, savoring the familiar taste of her mouth. Suddenly there was a soft knock at the door, interrupting the intimate moment, followed by Thranduil entering the room looking upset and weary. Camthalion sat up quickly.

"How is Legolas?" Amoniel asked in a shaky voice. She was on the verge of tears again and fumbled for Camthalion's hand.

"He has also broken his left arm and his pelvis," Thranduil answered, still looking stunned over the recent events, "The healers are worried about the head injury. They are uncertain how long he will be unconscious. All we can do now is wait. They have repaired everything that they can."

Camthalion nodded. "Legolas is young and strong, Adar," he reasoned not only for Amoniel and Thranduil's sake but for his own as well, "He will heal from these injuries and will soon be back to his normal cheerful self and getting into trouble with Valen and Sellion."

"I hope that you are right," Thranduil said with a small, sad smile, "I am going to sit with Legolas in case he awakens. I don't want him to be alone and in pain."

"I will come with you, Adar" Amoniel generously offered as she rose and joined her father-in-law in the doorway.

"I have to see to the report then I will join you," Camthalion said as he reached for his boots, "I want to know how this happened."

*****

The buzzing conversation in Military Headquarters immediately stopped when Camthalion entered, slamming the door behind him. The only sound heard was the scraping of chairs as everyone rose to their feet to salute the Commander. He ignored them and went directly to the desk at which Glandur sat, nervously writing his report. Without a word, Camthalion reached over and snatched the report from Glandur and read it. His face and ears flushed red and the veins in his neck became visible, the perfect likeness of his father. He was obviously displeased. Without a word or command from Camthalion, the headquarters quickly emptied, save the officers and those writing the report.

"You completed soldier training, Glandur, did you not?" Camthalion asked severely. His eyes were boring holes into the younger ellon.

"Yes, my lord," Glandur replied, only daring to look up at his commanding officer briefly.

"Then can you explain to me how you made such a foolish error? You must have learned in your training that you should never jump in and ambush these spider colonies without knowing precisely how many there are and exactly where they are located!" Camthalion all but shouted, angry at how needless Legolas' injuries seemed especially now, "Furthermore why in Arda would you choose so many young and inexperienced soldiers? All four of them have scarcely left childhood!"

"Yes, Commander," Glandur answered anxiously, "There appeared to be few of them and they also appeared to be asleep. I thought we could overtake them easily and quickly. I should have created a perimeter."

"That much is obvious. How do you expect to lead soldiers when you show such an appalling lack of judgment? One of those you were leading is seriously injured and you are fortunate that more did not meet the same fate due to your laziness!" Camthalion spat heatedly, "This was supposed to be a simple patrol."

"Yes, my lord," Glandur replied meekly, "I understand that I have made a serious error."

"Good," Camthalion barked, "Until you can convince me that you have better sense you will no longer lead any sort of mission. I can assure you that His Majesty is not pleased with your reckless management of his soldiers. Therefore, you are immediately demoted and I will be finding your replacement directly. You can finish your shift standing guard at the Great Doors!"

"Yes, my lord," Glandur, accepting his punishment and jumping up to obey the Commander before he could think of anything additional to add on. Glandur already felt miserable about what happened and knew stewing over it all afternoon as he stood guard was just going to make him feel even worse.

As Camthalion turned to Sellion and Valen, the anger disappeared from his face and he spoke to them very gravely, "Legolas is seriously injured as you well know. He has fractured several bones and ribs. Worse yet, he has a head injury and the healers are unsure how long he will remain unconscious. We are waiting to see how well he heals."

"Thank you, my lord," Sellion replied, "We will visit Legolas as soon as he is up to having visitors. Give him our best."

Camthalion gave him a quick, sad smile then he left the building and returned to the Palace. Once there, he joined his father in Legolas's bedchambers. Since he had last seen his brother bruises and swelling had time to form on Legolas's fair face. His left eye was swollen shut. Scratches, where he had been struck by small limbs, graced his face, arms, and chest. His left arm and both of his legs had been set and were insecure splints. His ribs were tightly wrapped with linen and his breathing was short and jagged. Camthalion stood next to his father and took in the sad, battered form on the bed.

"He will be in considerable pain when he awakens," Camthalion stated regrettably.

Thranduil nodded ruefully but said nothing.

"I will sit with him, Adar," he said, "You should get something to eat. I know that you did have not eaten anything since mid-day. There isn't likely to be any change for some time."

Thranduil considered his eldest son's proposal. He was obviously torn. "I will return soon," he said finally. He bent down and kissed Legolas's brow before exiting the room.

Camthalion took his father's seat and held his brother's hand. He felt so though he must physically hold on to Legolas or else he might slip away. After sitting in silence for a few minutes Camthalion began to tell Legolas about the events in the South, knowing how much Legolas had always enjoyed listening to his experiences in combat. A healer quietly slipped into the room and checked the head injury by rolling up Legolas' eyelids to peer at his pupils. Camthalion looked up hopefully.

"There is no change, my lord," he said, "We will not know how severe the head trauma is until he regains consciousness." Then the healer took his leave and again the brothers were alone once more.

The room was silent for several long minutes before Legolas's breathing suddenly changed. Camthalion watched his younger brother struggle to maintain steady breaths. Each breath was still coming in painful, shallow gasps. Camthalion firmly grasped Legolas's hand and gently laid the other on his chest.

"Everything is fine, little brother," he said soothingly as he tried to ease Legolas's suffering, "I am here. Adar and I will stay with you through the night. Rest and heal. This will all be behind us soon."

He reached up and caressed Legolas's swollen, bruised cheek. It seemed as though Legolas sensed his brother and heard him through the thick fog of pain. After a few minutes of Camthalion repeating this mantra over and over, though still uneven and shallow, the breathing slowed and was less rapid. Thranduil entered the room a moment later and pulled up a chair next to Camthalion.

"You are a good brother," Thranduil said as he tried to get comfortable in the too small chair.

"A good brother would never have let him be under the leadership of Glandur. It would have been better to have let an elfling lead the patrol," Camthalion told him bitterly. He was tired, worried and the stress of the situation was beginning to wear on him.

"These things happen. Yes, I am sure there were things that Glandur should have done differently. But it was an accident. They were ambushed. Valen is fortunate that he was not thrown from the tree as well. This is not your fault, iôn nín," Thranduil said firmly.

Camthalion said nothing but watched Legolas's face.

"You should retire for the night," Thranduil said, "You have traveled far the past few days and have been deprived of a bed during your time in the South. You are understandably exhausted. Go on to bed and I will stay with Legolas."

"I told him that I would stay with him, Adar," Camthalion said defiantly. "I have never broken my word to him," he added.

Thranduil nodded, giving in. The King was glad that someone would be with him for he did not know what the night would bring. Though he would never admit it, he did not want to face it alone.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Camthalion awoke with a start. His neck and back throbbed from sleeping in the uncomfortable, under-sized chair and he stood up to try to rub some of the ache away. Thranduil was sitting at Legolas's bedside holding his hand and looking as though he never moved in the night.

"What time is it, Adar?" he asked, his voice was raspy from sleep, as he stretched some of the kinks out of his muscles.

"It will be midday soon," Thranduil replied as he looked up at him.

"You should have woken me at dawn," Camthalion stated as he continued to stretch and yawn.

"It was nearly dawn before you finally fell asleep. You needed the rest," Thranduil countered unapologetically.

Camthalion found that he couldn't argue. Even now the large down mattress and soft pillows from his bedchambers down the corridor beckoned to him invitingly. But they would have to wait. There were things that needed to be done.

"I'm afraid that I have pressing work that I must attend to this afternoon," Camthalion said unhappily after looking at Legolas and seeing that he remained in the same state, "I need to find Glandur's replacement and I am also going to reevaluate some of the trainings. I do not want a repeat of yesterday's patrol. I will return in a couple of hours."

"Take as long as you need. Amoniel and I will stay with Legolas," Thranduil said before returning his attention back to his youngest. He tried not to show his frustration that Legolas had not so much as twitched through the night, apart from each shallow breath that he took. "I also want you to order from the kitchens. You haven't eaten since you returned home."

"Yes, Adar," Camthalion said automatically as he reached over and gave Legolas's shoulder a gentle squeeze. He hoped that his face did not betray the disappointment and fear that he felt. He had thought that Legolas would have surely regained consciousness by morning.

"We need to give Legolas time to heal," Thranduil said, reading his son's thoughts and giving him a warm smile, "His body has suffered considerable trauma. It will need time to rest and heal before Legolas can awaken." He didn't want to mention that the injuries would have undoubtedly killed a mortal.

"I will remember that," Camthalion replied before exiting the room and grudgingly making his way to his office, ignoring his father's instructions to eat.

Camthalion returned to Legolas's chambers as the afternoon was slowly fading into evening. He found Amoniel sitting with his brother, reading aloud from one of her favorite books of poetry. Thranduil was nowhere in sight. Camthalion stood in the doorway and listened to her sweet, melodious voice for a few moments before going into the room.

"Where is Adar?" Camthalion asked after he kissed her cheek in greeting and taking the chair opposite her.

"I finally convinced him to rest for a while," she answered with a smile, "He was falling asleep in the chair. He is exhausted and sick with worry."

"I am surprised that you persuaded him. Usually when Adar sets his mind to something no one can convince him otherwise" Camthalion replied, "Is there any change with Legolas?"

"No, he is the same," Amoniel replied seriously as she carefully reached over stroked Legolas's cheek, "The healers just examined him about an hour ago."

Camthalion sighed forcefully, airing his frustration with the situation.

"We must be patient, meleth," Amoniel said earnestly as she touched his arm with her slender, soft hand, "Legolas will awaken when he is ready."

Camthalion sighed again. He could try to be patient but patience was a quality that he did not really strive to perfect. He definitely was his father's son.

*****

Two more days and nights passed much like the first. Legolas remained soundly unconscious. He had briefly opened his eyes when a healer was examining him. But he had not responded to their commands and his eyes had fluttered shut almost as soon as they had opened. There had been nothing more since then. But his family did not give up hope that he would awaken soon. He was never left alone. A family member remained at his side at all times. They spoke to him about the everyday comings and goings of Palace life, passed on the well wishes of his friends and fellow soldiers and they read to him often. Thranduil stopped going to meetings with his advisors all together and asked to be disturbed only if the matter was important. He spent almost every moment at his son's bedside, except to bathe and when Amoniel or Camthalion convinced him to get something to eat, working from the chair he never seemed to be able to leave.

On the third day, Thranduil was standing in Legolas's doorway signing some long overdue paperwork for a clerk.

"My lord!" a healer called from inside Legolas's bedchamber, "He is stirring!"

Thranduil shoved the parchments without a sound back in the clerk's arms and hurried to Legolas's bedside. "Legolas," he called as he grasped his hand. For a moment he thought that the healers must have been mistaken. But a few seconds later Legolas's eyes fluttered and he let out a soft moan as he closed them again. "Legolas," Thranduil called again as he cradled Legolas's head in his hand.

The healers crowded around the bed with hopeful expressions on their faces. Legolas opened his eyes halfway. His blue eyes were dull and he was disoriented. He remained that way for a few moments. Then his eyes slowly shifted upward and fixed on Thranduil.

"Ada?" he whispered.

"I am right here, iôn nín," Thranduil said as he leaned closer to Legolas, still cupping his cheek. Legolas closed his eyes again. For a few minutes, he remained that way.

"Ada?" he suddenly whispered again.

"I am here, Legolas" Thranduil repeated as he gently moved Legolas's face toward him so that he could see him better.

Legolas's eyes slowly opened and he regarded his father for several long moments. Then his gaze slowly shifted to the healers standing around his bed. Confusion clouded his fair face.

"What...happened?" he asked slowly, his brow slightly furrowed and his speech slurred.

"You were involved in an accident on patrol. You were thrown from a tree," Thranduil replied frankly, in his usual brisk manner.

Legolas stared blankly at his father with half lowered lids and tried to process what was just said to him. But it proved too difficult as his head continued to throb horribly. His vision was blurred and he was so dizzy he felt as though he was going to lose the meager contents of his stomach.

"What...happened?" he asked again, as though no one had answered him.

Thranduil glanced worriedly at the healers.

"That is normal, my lord," one of them, Aranhil, said, "With this severe of a head injury he will be drowsy and confused for a few days."

Thranduil looked back down at Legolas who was struggling to keep his composure as the healers examined and probed at him. A whimper escaped from his lips as he could no longer take the persistent pain racking his body.

"Ada?" he weakly cried again. It was all Thranduil could do to keep his composure. His son was crying out for him and he could not get him to understand that he was there, beside him. He tried to reach out to his son through their bond but the connection still felt distant and weak. Despite its feebleness, Thranduil hummed a gentle, reassuring Melody from his fëa hoping to bring his youngest some comfort. A healer handed the King a cup with a small amount of a dark concoction in it.

"This will help him with the pain, my lord," Aranhil said, "But it will make him lethargic, which is not necessarily bad because he will be in a great deal of pain if he is awake and he should only move if it is absolutely necessary."

Another healer gently lifted Legolas's head and shoulders off the bed. He was unable to support his head and it lolled drunkenly over to the side, making him even dizzier.

"Give it to him slowly, my lord," he instructed, "he is disoriented and we need to keep his weight off of his waist so that his pelvis does not need reset."

Thranduil tried to hold the cup up to Legolas's mouth but Legolas groaned and tried to turn his face away. "Drink," Thranduil told him, "It will make you feel better."

Legolas was still and Thranduil used that opportunity to slowly pour a small amount of the liquid into Legolas's mouth until it was gone. The tonic acted quickly. Legolas felt himself floating away as the healer laid him back against the pillows. He scarcely felt his father kiss his fevered forehead. Darkness came swiftly and he had no choice but to welcome it.

"He is very weak and confused," Thranduil stated as he continued to watch his son.

"That is to be expected," Aranhil replied as he pulled the quilt up to Legolas's chest, "His mind will be muddled for a while until it heals. He will probably ask for things to be repeated over and over. He may have trouble recognizing even those he is close to. We just need to be patient. As for the fractures, they appear to be on the mend, though I daresay, are still quite painful. I am going to have to readjust the splints soon."

Thranduil shook his head, hating that his son was in pain. He would have gladly switched places with Legolas if he could. Aranhil smiled knowingly at him.

"Do not worry, Aran nîn," he said, "I will see to it that Lord Legolas's discomfort is minimal. We have some of the most effective pain remedy available. It's something that has just been discovered and made from the pods of a beautiful flower. It works quickly and is very effective with pain management."

"Good" Thranduil replied, "He has been through enough pain. I don't think I can bear seeing my child in such torment."

Aranhil bowed and took his leave. After the healer left Thranduil sighed and sat down in the chair beside the bed. The tightness around his heart eased a little now that Legolas had regained consciousness, even as brief as it had been. Now that he wasn't terrified that his youngest son was beyond repair he felt the strain and the lack of sleep of the past several days. The King slouched back and reclined his golden head on the back of the chair. Within moments his blue eyes lost focus and he was soundly asleep.

*****

Camthalion arrived at his brother's chambers over an hour later and was disappointed to learn that he had missed Legolas regaining consciousness.

"I am not leaving this room until I see him awake," he declared stubbornly as he threw himself into the nearest chair.

"If you need to go to your office to get your work done, Camthalion, then that is what you should do," Thranduil replied as he looked up from the large stack of proposals he was reading.

"I literally have not spoken with my brother in nearly a year and a few days ago I was unsure when or if he was even going to regain consciousness. I want to be here the next time that he does," Camthalion said earnestly, but his jaw was jutted out with determination and defiance, "Besides, it is not as though you are following your own advice. Are those proposals I see over there?"

Thranduil raised his eyebrows at the impertinent tone, not used to this particular son being the one in need of a reminder of his place.

"I beg your pardon, Adar," Camthalion immediately said, looking properly shamed, "I should not have been rude. I know you are every bit as worried about Legolas as I am, if not more. I just want to be here when he wakes."

"Fine," Thranduil relented and returned his attention to the thick stack of parchments in his hand. He just did not have the energy to argue with his stubborn eldest son. He didn't want to admit to himself, as his wife had always humorously told him, that the acorn certainly didn't fall far from the tree where Camthalion was concerned.

*****

The afternoon slowly came and went. Sometime after dusk, Legolas began to stir again while Thranduil and Amoniel were having their evening meal and Camthalion was sitting with Legolas.

"Legolas!" Camthalion cried as he jumped to Legolas's bedside and grabbed his hand. It was one of the happiest moments in Camthalion's life when his brother looked up at him, much like he had done the day he was born some fifty years before.

"You have really done it this time, Legolas," Camthalion said, his voice quivering with emotion "You gave us quite a scare."

"Hmm?" Legolas managed to croak with a confused look on his face, after slowly processing what was just said to him.

"Did Adar not tell you?" Camthalion asked, "You fell from a tree a few days ago."

Legolas's brain slowly attempted to process this information. But it proved to be difficult with the thick fog of confusion that addled his brain. Then he suddenly seemed to recognize the figure standing over him because his dull eyes lit up slightly and he feebly tried to reach up with his uninjured arm to his brother in an attempt to pull him into a hug. Camthalion leaned down and hugged Legolas as gently as he could before giving him an affectionate kiss on the forehead.

"I have missed you, little brother," he said, emotion creeping back into his voice.

Legolas looked like he was trying to speak. "You…were...gone," he replied slowly, making it sound more like a question than a statement.

Camthalion laughed, the first he had in days.

"Yes, I was," Camthalion said, still smiling, "I came back as soon as I could."

Legolas looked as though he had not heard him and closed his eyes once again. He was completely still. Camthalion was just about to sit back down, assuming his brother had fallen back asleep.

"Ada?" Legolas softly called out.

Camthalion gripped his brother's hand once more. "Do you want me to get Adar?" he asked. Legolas looked blankly up at him with dull eyes.

"Cam.." he began but stopped and seemed to forget what he was trying to say.

"I am right here," Camthalion replied. He was beginning to feel frightened at Legolas's inability to hold even a simple conversation. He was relieved that Thranduil returned at that moment. "He is asking for you, Adar," he told him.

Thranduil smiled as he stepped further into the room and up to his youngest's beside.

"How do you feel?" he asked as he reached down and stroked Legolas's brow. He frowned at the stubborn fever still radiating from it. Legolas's eyes suddenly snapped open. He looked up at his father as though he were a stranger. Thranduil's smile slightly faltered as his heart sank. He had known this child since he was in his mother's womb and it was unsettling that Legolas could not recognize him.

"Ada?"

Thranduil turned his son's face toward him and leaned down closer so he could see him better. "Ada is right here, iôn nín," he assured him.

"I am going to get Aranhil," Camthalion said in a low tone then exited quietly at his father's nod.

Legolas's eyes closed and he softly whimpered despite obvious attempts to conceal it.

"You are in pain," Thranduil stated as he reached for Legolas's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, "Aranhil is on his way. He will get you sorted out quickly. Then you may rest again."

Legolas said nothing and was not altogether successful in biting back another moan as the pain continued to assault his body. Everything hurt so badly. He looked down and noticed that his right arm was shaking uncontrollably. The pain was making him confused and dizzy. He had not known it was possible to feel such agonizing pain. It was so great he could not locate a single source of it, only that he had seemed to be radiating from every part of his mangled body. Moments later Camthalion hurried in the room with Aranhil and another healer behind him.

"Ada," he weakly called out again. It broke Thranduil's heart to see his son calling for him and not realize he was beside him and holding his hand. Again, he reached out to their bond and once more it still felt thin and distant that. He gently nudged his son's fëa with his and once more Sang the simple, soothing tune that told him that his adar was there with him and he was not alone.

"We will give you something for the pain, my lord," the healer said cheerfully as she mixed a pain tonic, "It will be ready momentarily."

Legolas gasped as Aranhil evaluated his injuries. The slightest touch sent waves of agony ripping through his slender body and Aranhil was poking and probing his abused body and moving his throbbing head.

"Hurts" Legolas whimpered.

"I am sorry, Your Highness," Aranhil said as he replaced the blankets back over his patient, "but I am finished."

The other healer appeared with a small vial in her hand. Aranhil gently supported Legolas's shoulders so that he could drink the tonic. After a few moments, he still felt light-headed and dizzy but the pain had begun to steadily disappear until it was nothing more than a bad memory. The feeling was phenomenal. Fighting the pain exhausted him and now that it was nearly gone Legolas could have sobbed with relief.

"That's better," Thranduil approved, smiling at the fact that Legolas's face was no longer twisted in pain, as he gently caressed his brow to comfort him.

The healers bowed then quietly exited the room. Legolas relaxed into the soft pillows and felt himself slowly float away. Within moments he felt himself begin to fall in a deep sleep. He embraced the dark oblivion, knowing it was far better than he would feel if we were awake.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The next day passed very much like the previous one. Legolas spent most of his time unconscious but regularly woke every few hours. Each time that he did he was confused and in a great deal of pain. Again and again, he asked where he was or asked what had happened. Even worse, there was the return of him continually calling for his father. Thranduil, following Aranhil's advise, calmly and briefly explained to him what had occurred on the ill-fated patrol. He repeatedly reassured his ailing son that he was there beside him. He tenderly stroked his hair or gripped his hand tightly until he sank back into merciful oblivion. Each time Legolas nodded like he understood but seemed to keep forgetting it quickly. His family still kept their vigil at his bedside. Thranduil stubbornly continued to stay in the room, only leaving to attend to absolute necessities. Camthalion and Amoniel could not convince him to stay at night in his own chambers or at least alternate nights with Camthalion in Legolas' room. He seemed to think that something terrible would happen if he were to leave for more than a few minutes. So he stubbornly worked from the beside, picked at the meals the servants brought to him and received very little sleep from the chair next to the bed.

But the slow, terrifying days of worry were not to last forever. After several long days, Legolas made slow but steady progress. As his head injury healed he was able to maintain consciousness for longer periods of time and he was less and less confused. The healers proclaimed him well on the mend when he was able to carry on a conversation though he was unable to recollect anything that had happened since his injury. Although he was healing he was still in pain and the healers continued to dose him with tonic every few hours to manage it so that Legolas could rest and heal. Overall, seemed as though the danger had passed and all would return to normal in time. Thranduil finally breathed a sigh of relief when Legolas was able to lay reclined on pillows and accept a few mouthfuls of bland food. It seemed that his son would survive and it left him dizzy with relief. He knew he would have gone mad had he lost his child, what was by far most precious to him. It was only then that the exhaustion of the ordeal hit him and he allowed himself to be coaxed to his own rooms for true rest.

*****

Legolas looked up at the sound of a knock at the door. Since he had made so much progress his father would finally allow himself to be dragged away to work for an hour or two before checking in on him.

"Come in," Legolas called, expecting to see Thranduil. Surprised, he smiled broadly when his visitors walked into his bedchamber.

"Legolas!" Valen sprang upon him in a fierce hug. Legolas nearly cried out from the pain the force of the impact caused but he was too happy to see his friends to care.

"Valen, get a hold of yourself," Sellion chided as he pulled Valen off of Legolas and shoved him into a chair beside the bed.

Valen looked horrified and cast Legolas a guilty look. "I am so sorry," he said sincerely as he visibly cringed at the painful look on Legolas's face, "But if you could have seen the condition you were in the last time we saw you…" Valen's voice trailed off and shook his dark head at the gruesome memory.

"How are you feeling?" Sellion asked him as he surveyed the splints and the yellowing bruises on his face. He too was vividly recalling seeing his best friend nearly lifeless on the Forest floor.

"I feel better," Legolas answered truthfully, "until the tonic wears off then the pain is awful."

Both of his friends gave him empathetic looks. Considering the injuries Legolas received it was quite easy to sympathize with the amount of agony he had to have suffered.

"My adar finally left my chamber for more than a few minutes this morning," Legolas told them as he rolled his eyes, "He had to attend Court. Camthalion is working in his office and Amoniel is entertaining her guests. I am finally alone! It is wonderful!"

"His Majesty did not even attend the feast last week," Valen informed him, always the one up to date on local gossip, "Camthalion and Amoniel only stayed briefly. It was not much fun without you, Legolas. But you will be healed by the next one." Then his green eyes suddenly lit up, "Sellion was dancing with your adar's stable master's daugh…"

They were interrupted by a forceful knock at the door. Thranduil entered but did not seem surprised to see Sellion and Valen. They both rose and respectfully greeted The King.

"Good day to you, my lord," they chorused with strained smiles gracing their faces.

"Mae govannen," Thranduil returned their greeting as leaned down and quickly kissed Legolas's forehead. He frowned at how warm it still felt and brought his hand up to his son's brow to check for continued fever, "How are you feeling, elfling?" he asked affectionately, as he took a seat in the chair that Sellion had been sitting in.

Legolas pursed his lips in annoyance at being treated like a child, which his father was prone to do, even in the presence of his friends. Valen softly snickered behind The King's back and Legolas shot him a murderous look. Sellion nudged Valen in the ribs with his elbow and was relieved when his rash friend took the hint and swiftly neutralized his features.

Legolas forced a smile on his face, "I am fine, Adar," he said as calmly as he could manage.

Thranduil nodded before turning his stern gaze on Legolas's friends. Valen smiled nervously, knowing that Thranduil had probably heard him. They had always sworn when they were very young that The King must have eyes on the back of his head. He always seemed to know instantly when they had done something their parents would not have approved.

"We should leave so you can spend time with your adar," Sellion quickly told Legolas as he took hold of Valen's tunic sleeve and began to steer him back toward the door, "We will come back and visit soon. See you tomorrow, Legolas. Good day, my lord."

"Make certain that you do," Legolas called with a perceptive smile. He knew they were leaving because Thranduil made them nervous. Over the years the three of them had been admonished by The King more times than they could remember. Given Thranduil's bold manner and strong personality, they were in no hurry to be in that position again. Thranduil tried, unsuccessfully, to hide a grin, knowing full well the reason for Sellion and Valen's abrupt departure. It wasn't the first time it had happened and was certain to happen again.

"I need help," Legolas said suddenly, looking a bit exasperated.

Thranduil nodded and came forth to carefully pick Legolas up and help him into the bath chamber so that he could use the lavatory. Legolas hated to ask for help. However, he still could not walk even though his injuries were in the process of healing. It was embarrassing to be carried around like an invalid and even more so to be helped with intimate things like using the lavatory and bathing. Usually, his father helped him but occasionally when he was busy Camthalion or Aranhil was there to aid him as well. Though they were gentle with him, being picked up and carried also jostled his slim frame. It caused him great pain not only in his limbs but his ribs and hips as well. By the time Thranduil gently placed Legolas back into bed, he was sweating due to the pain. Sharp, jagged waves of agony throbbed from each injury site and radiated through the surrounding areas. It made his stomach hurt and he felt ill. Legolas mentally tried to ease his breathing. He felt aggravated and weary of pain. It always seemed as though he had just gotten somewhat comfortable when he needed to be moved or a healer come in to poke and probe at him or to ask him annoying, redundant questions. It was a grueling cycle that never seemed to end.

"I will get a healer," Thranduil told him as he looked at the pain glazed blue eyes.

Legolas nodded as he watched his father leave. Unlike previous injuries, these ones caused him considerably more pain and discomfort so he began accepting pain relief regularly. Initially, the pain tonic had taken almost all of his pain away and made him slip into unconsciousness. Now that his head injury had improved he was far more aware of a dull throb that was always present even when he took the medication. At his request, the Palace healers began to make the tonic marginally stronger so that he could rest and be free from torment.

"You look well today, my lord," Aranhil observed, as he entered the room with the King behind him. With a smile, he began to mix up the tonic. Legolas said nothing and watched him carefully measure out white powder before combining it with a dark liquid and bringing it over to him. Legolas eagerly accepted it and quickly took the tonic. Within minutes he was feeling much better. The edge was taken off of the pain and the nausea had disappeared. He relaxed in his soft bed, feeling grateful for the absence of discomfort. His condition was wearing on him mentally. The anxiety caused by the unyielding pain followed by immediate foggy feelings that the tonic often made him irritable, an abrupt departure from his normally sweet spirit.

"When can I get these ghastly splints off and get out of bed?" Legolas asked, interrupting the conversation that the healer and his father were having in soft, low tones.

Aranhil quickly turned to him with a shocked expression on his face. "You are not to be getting out of that bed until you are completely healed," he ordered and looked over at Thranduil for support, "If you try to walk too soon the injuries will be aggravated and you will have to spend even more time in bed. Those were complex fractures, my lord. You must patient and give yourself time to heal. These things can not be rushed."

Legolas's eyes shifted over to his father. Thranduil was giving him a look that clearly stated that the healer's orders were going to be followed. Aranhil relaxed slightly and began to clean up and gather his supplies.

Legolas sighed in defeat. He reached over and grabbed a book from the stack on the nightstand next to his bed. He glanced down at the pages for only a moment. The tonic was starting to take hold and the text on the pages shook slightly to the point he could not read it. Legolas looked up at his father again. Thranduil had taken a seat at his bedside and was reading some sort of trade agreement with the men of Lake-Town.

"Ada," Legolas said as charmingly as he could muster, "Can you not carry me outside to read in the gardens? I could still rest there."

"Absolutely not," Thranduil answered him without looking up, "Did you not just hear Aranhil? You are not to get out of that bed."

Legolas glared at Thranduil, knowing it was childish, but he didn't care. Thranduil set the parchment down. He held Legolas' gaze and returned a stern look. Legolas knew he wasn't going to win a battle of wills against his obstinate father. With a frustrated cry, he flung the book against the wall, narrowly missing the back of Aranhil's head as he walked out of his bedchamber. Aranhil jumped and hurried out of the room, shaking his head as he went. Legolas turned his head and refused to look at his father, he was so angry and frustrated. He felt this father was being dismissive of his feelings and had he been the one confined to bed he would feel the same way.

"Legolas!" Thranduil said severely after he recovered from moment of shock, "I have not seen such a rude display from you in some years! That will be quite enough! You are going to have to be patient. There is nothing more you can do, iôn nín ."

Legolas still refused to look at his father, as anger once more lashed out from his heart, even stronger than before. Thranduil sighed, put down the parchments he was holding and sat on the bed next to Legolas. He put his arm around Legolas's shoulders and gently drew him close to him.

"I understand that you are frustrated," Thranduil soothed him in a surprisingly gentle voice that Legolas did not expect, "Soon enough you will be ready to go back on patrol. If you listen to the healers and obey their orders that time will be here sooner than you think. Now, I want you to promise me that you will do just that. I know you don't want to injure yourself again and prolong your convalescence."

Legolas felt comforted to be in the familiar embrace of his father but he still did not look at him or answer him. After several long moments of silence, Thranduil took Legolas's chin in his hand and forced him to look up at him.

"Do not pretend that you did not hear me. I know that you did," Thranduil said seriously as he looked deep into Legolas's eyes.

"Yes, Adar," Legolas muttered and tried to look away.

"Yes, what?" Thranduil prompted, gently guiding his son's face back toward him. In the past, Thranduil had always found that his sons tended to be more obedient when the rules were set down with direct eye contact.

"I will do as the healers say," Legolas finally answered with a frustrated sigh. His father was greatly adding to his annoyance by treating him like a child. The frustration never seemed to end.

"Good," Thranduil said as he released his hold on Legolas's chin.

Legolas allowed his father to keep his arm around him. It helped ease the tension and aggravation. Unconsciously, he leaned into the embrace and rested his blond head on his father's shoulder. He let out a deep breath as he felt the strong presence of the bond he shared with his father. He brought him a soothing comfort that nothing else could with its steadfast, unwavering love and devotion. Some time passed and they sat in silence, both deep in thought. Legolas knew quite well that his father was just trying to make sure that he obeyed Aranhil. Now that the heat of the moment had passed, Legolas could see that they both were right. If he inadvertently injured himself further by being too active too soon then he would be confined to his bed indefinitely and that was something he knew he couldn't do. Finally, Legolas sighed with contentment and looked up at his father and gave him a genuine smile. His father returned the smile and leaned in and kissed his brow.

"Do you feel better?" Thranduil asked him.

"Yes," Legolas answered honestly.

"Good," Thranduil replied as he got up and returned to his paperwork, "Perhaps you would like something else to read."

Legolas shook his head. "I have read all I want to today," he said.

"The healers will be glad of that." Thranduil quipped with an amused grin.

*****

Later that evening Aranhil and two other healers interrupted Camthalion's recounting of the feast. He had just come to the part that Valen had been telling Legolas about earlier in the day involving Sellion and the stable master's daughter when the healers knocked and entered the room.

"It is time to readjust the splints, my lord," Aranhil said as they gathered around the bed, "We must make certain that the bones heal straight. This may cause you some discomfort but I will need you to lay still. We will be quick."

Legolas nodded, feeling very apprehensive as he looked at the two healers. A feeling of dread washed over him as he could tell by their seriousness that what was about to happen was likely to be very painful. Camthalion rose from his chair and stood next to Legolas. He already didn't like the sound of the readjustments. Camathalion gently helped his brother lay back down onto the pillows. Legolas watched as the healers loosened the splints on his legs. They probed at the site of the fractures and moved his legs to check the status of their healing. Before he could stop himself Legolas let out an agonizing moan and tried to sit up to stop them from hurting him further. Camthalion firmly grabbed his shoulders and tried to push back down onto the bed.

"I am sorry, my lord," Aranhil apologized, "but the splints must be adjusted. We are trying to hurry. I know it hurts but please try to be still."

Camthalion could feel Legolas's shoulders quivering in his grasp. Legolas let out another cry of anguish as they finished with his right leg. Hot, angry needles of pain shot through his entire leg and up his spine. Again he tried to push his brother's hands away so he could sit up.

"Make them stop, Camthalion!" he wailed helplessly and again struggled in his brother's grasp. Another wave of agony hit him and nearly took his breath. He was so very, very sick of pain. His fëa was weary of the heavy burden. He felt like he was about to lose the small amount of food he had managed to eat for his evening meal.

"Hurry this up! Can you not see what it is doing to him?" Camthalion said sharply to the healers, "You are torturing him!"

"We are working as swiftly, Your Highness," one healer said, her face was full sympathy, "If we do not reset his legs they may not heal straight. If that happens he may need them to be refractured or even have a permanent deformity. As painful as it is, this procedure is necessary."

Camthalion ignored her and pulled Legolas into a strong embrace and he held him tight to his chest. Making comforting sounds, he stroked his brother's blond head. "It is nearly over," he crooned as he continued to stroke Legolas's hair, "Just a little more and they will be finished and it will all be over."

Legolas was still trembling. He wanted to weep it hurt so much but found he could not. The pain seemed to have paralyzed his lungs, his breaths came in heaving gasps. He could hear the frenzied drumming of his own heart. His eyes were a blur of unshed tears. Without any warning, he felt a sharp tug on his left leg and he cried out in torment again. Why must he always be in pain? It was consuming him. He felt so mentally wore down that he stopped fighting wave after wave of fresh torment. Somewhere in all the chaos, he could hear his brother's calm voice. He tried in vain to draw comfort from Camthalion's presence but the pain was too great. With one last tug of the splints, it was finally over.

"They are finished, Legolas," Camthalion told him softly, "It is all over now." He kissed the top of Legolas's head. Legolas made no response. Camthalion gently pulled Legolas's face from his chest, believing that he had slipped into shock and passed out from the ordeal. Legolas's face was beaded with sweat. His blue eyes were teary and glazed with pain. His entire face was still twisted in agony. Camthalion glared at the healer as she handed him a damp cloth to wipe Legolas's face, still angry about the situation though the more rational side of him knew the healers were only helping his brother and took no joy in what they had to do. He blotted Legolas's face with the cloth then gently laid him back down on the bed. Legolas's breathing was still coming in painful gasps and he whimpered when he could get his breath. Camthalion stroked Legolas's brow as he watched the healer make more pain tonic. He noticed that they made it considerably stronger. The healer brought it over and administered it with shaky hands. Camthalion was clearly making her nervous.

"I know that was agonizing," the healer said as she looked at them, "for both of you. The fractures were complex and severe and they caused some tissue and nerve damage which made it more difficult to reset. I am sorry that it hurt so badly. Let us hope that they will not need to be reset again. We did not expect him to be in this much pain." She gave Legolas's shoulder a gentle squeeze and flashed a warm smile then left.

Camthalion dropped into the chair at Legolas's bedside and sat with his head in his hand. It had hurt him nearly as much as it did Legolas. He felt helpless to ease his suffering. But Legolas did not notice. The tonic had taken effect. The pain gradually melted away then was forgotten. Suddenly he felt a sensation that he had never felt before. The room was slightly spinning and his spirits soared. He had not felt so happy in such a long time. He was utterly and completely free of pain. He closed his eyes and relished it. The burden that had been heavy on his mind had lifted. It felt extraordinary.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Over the following week Aranhil had to painfully readjust the splints twice more. However, each time that he did it hurt far less than the previous readjustment, though still quite painful. But Legolas was beginning to feel normal again. The arm, rib and pelvic fractures had already completely healed since they were not as complex as the fractures in his legs. His head injury had also mended. Legolas no longer experienced any confusion but the events that occurred during the patrol and the following days remained lost to him and he preferred it that way. The entire experience was upsetting enough without having flashbacks and dwelling on unpleasant memories. But his legs still caused him discomfort. They always seemed to have a dull ache throbbing from them constantly that only disappeared when he took the tonic.

But worst yet, he was still confined to his bedchambers. There was only so much reading Legolas could tolerate each day to fill the long hours in between visits from his family, friends and the healers. Furthermore, his father was hovering incessantly and treating him like a baby, much to Legolas's irritation. He had fussed endlessly about making sure Legolas was eating and sleeping enough and following the healer's orders. Legolas was already counting down the days until he could go about his normal routine. He loved his father but had had his fill of Thranduil's mollycoddling.

*****

Aranhil ran his deft fingers down Legolas's leg. The bones had healed nice and straight but the muscles around them were weak from injury and disuse. The healer glanced up at Legolas who was looking at him with hopeful eyes.

"Well," Aranhil said with a smile as he pulled Legolas's trouser legs back down and straightened up, "I do believe that you are healed enough to start walking again."

Legolas's blue eyes lit up. "Did you hear that, Adar?" he asked excitedly as he looked up at his father.

"I heard," Thranduil answered from his place at the bedside, "Are you sure it is not too soon?" he asked as he abruptly turned his attention to the healer.

"No, I do not," Aranhil replied, "The longer he does not use his muscles the weaker they will become. Even now he is going to have be careful not to exert himself."

Thranduil nodded reluctantly, accepting the healer's evaluation, though he didn't look entirely convinced.

"I am sure now, Prince Legolas, that you can appreciate your father making sure that you followed all of our orders," Aranhil said, turning to Legolas once again, "Because you did as we asked you have healed well."

Legolas nodded as he inwardly groaned. Of course, Aranhil would have to say something like that in front of Thranduil, who did not need any encouragement regarding his role in his Legolas's recovery. He already fretted and meddled far too much for Legolas's liking. He didn't look over at his father. He didn't trust himself not to say anything impertinent about the smug look that was most assuredly gracing his father's handsome face. Instead focused his attention on Aranhil "When can I get out of bed?"

"You may do so now. But I warn you, you must take only a few steps at a time and you will tire quickly," Aranhil advised him, "You will need support for a few days. You must take it slowly."

Legolas swung his legs over the side of the bed and placed his hands into Aranhil's outstretched hands. Aranhil gently pulled Legolas to his feet. Legolas wobbled slightly before catching himself. He was surprised at how weak and unsteady he felt just by standing and struggled to keep it from showing on his face. Aranhil moved to his side and placed an arm around him.

"Place your arm over my shoulder and I will help you take a few steps," Aranhil instructed. Legolas obeyed and very slowly he put one foot in front of the other, tentatively balancing only some of his weight on each foot as he brought it to the floor, almost anticipating an explosion of pain. He was grateful that Aranhil was there to lean on as he took each uneven step. When they made it halfway across the room Aranhil stopped and turned them so that they could make their way back toward the bed.

"Good," Aranhil approved as they began their trek, "Take it nice and slow."

Legolas's legs felt like mush as Aranhil tried to help him lower himself onto the bed. "No!" Legolas suddenly cried, "I have spent enough time in bed. I will sit in the chair." Aranhil chuckled and guided the young prince to the overstuffed chair before lowering him gently into it. Legolas grimaced. He was surprised at how lightheaded he felt.

"Did you see, Adar?" Legolas asked happily as he smiled up at his father. His smile faltered when he saw that his father wasn't even watching. Instead, Thranduil's attention was focused on the proposal in his hand. Legolas instantly felt irritated. His father was always busy and his mind was often elsewhere.

"Very good," Thranduil placated him absently after he finally looked up and returned his son's happy smile.

"You did well," Aranhil told him, "Now you need to rest and I will come by later to help you again. I will have more vials of pain relief sent up here. As you use your muscles more and more you will most likely be in some pain."

Legolas nodded "When are you coming back?" he asked. He couldn't wait to get up out of bed again.

"It will late this afternoon. Until then, my lord, I beg you to stay in bed. You should not be walking around without support. You could fall and injure yourself," Aranhil answered him.

"He will do just that," Thranduil assured the healer as he motioned him out into the hall.

Legolas rolled his eyes and glared at his father's back as Thranduil and Aranhil went out into the corridor. He was annoyed that they were going to talk about him. He knew his father was going to want to know every last detail of Aranhil's plans regarding his youngest son. Legolas did not think it was fair. His friends' parents were not this overprotective. Though in all fairness his friends' parents were not The King either. Legolas reclined back in the chair and his thoughts drifted to his father. He was a complex creature. On one hand, the Elvenking had a reputation of being a forceful, arrogant and proud Elf who had a habit of overindulging in wine and a lust for jewels. Despite all his faults the fall of Doriath, the Battle of Dagorlad, as well as the loss of his adar and wife had placed a scar on The King's heart, each leaving an everlasting mark on him that time had been unable to fade.

On the other hand, Legolas pondered, Thranduil was shouldering an immense responsibility alone. He worked hard and tirelessly to protect the Realm. Legolas knew that his father was fighting a losing battle against The Shadow that he had seen return again and again over his long life. It put a lot of strain on The King to finance this war and to do so without a Ring of Power, as though he was determined to combat the Evil by his own sheer brute force. It seemed as though other kingdoms were relatively untouched by Shadow while Mirkwood was struggling just to survive and drive back the Shadow that crept closer and closer to the Stronghold each day.

But Legolas knew his father's heart. He remembered well the unending love and devotion his father had held for their mother. He knew that Thranduil loved, valued and cherished him and his brother not only by his words and actions but through the bond he shared with him. All he had to do was close his eyes and he could feel the securely tethered connection to his father's strong fëa. 'I am here. I love you," the Song sang to him in its soothing melody that was uniquely Thranduil. It brought him strength when he was weary and soothed away the worst of the jagged pain that remained.

Legolas shook his head. He couldn't be angry with his father now. Thranduil only wanted what was best for him, he was certain of that. Legolas just wished that his father trusted him enough to know that for himself as he did with Camthalion. He wondered if his father had been this overbearing to his firstborn. A sudden rap at the door made him jump, rudely disrupting his thoughts.

"Come in."

Legolas was surprised to look over and see Glandur enter the room.

"Mae govannen, my lord" Glandur greeted him sheepishly as he gently pulled the door shut behind him.

"Mae govannen," Legolas returned as he gestured Glandur farther into the room, instead of leaving him hovering by the door. Glandur took the chair that Legolas had indicated beside him.

"You are looking well," Glandur said after a few moments of awkward silence. He found it hard not to recall the vivid memories of carrying Legolas home that terrible day. Since then he had repeatedly heard the sound of the young prince hitting the ground and the sight of his own clothes stained with his bright red blood, "You seem to be healing."

"I am, at last," Legolas replied. Glandur fidgeted uncomfortably and continually glanced at Legolas. He was clearly trying to say something and seemed not to know how to start. "What is it, Glandur?"

"I wanted to you to know that I regret my role in the events that caused you to be so grievously injured," Glandur said, finally looking up and into Legolas's eyes, "I am truly sorry that I did not use more caution and better sense."

More caution and better sense? Legolas knew that remark had come straight from the Commander's lips. He had heard it directed at himself all too often.

"Glandur, please do not blame yourself," Legolas told him earnestly, "I do not recall what happened but from what I have been told you did not purposefully put us into danger. We did not know there was another colony that close. I know that if you had knowledge of it you would have done things differently."

Glandur blinked in surprise. Legolas seemed far more willing to forgive his transgression than his older brother had been and he was the one who had suffered such terrible pain and agony. "Thank you," Glandur replied, smiling genuinely, "This is a lesson well learned. If I ever get a leadership position back I will make good use of it."

"What? You were demoted?" Legolas asked sharply, surprised at the very thought of it.

Glandur nodded miserably. Legolas bit back a rather critical remark about the Commander's decision. He knew that The King would not be happy if he knew he was openly criticizing Camthalion's judgment, something that Thranduil did not do himself.

"I had better go," Glandur said, as he started to rise from his chair.

"Please stay," Legolas bid him, "I would enjoy the company."

Glandur nodded and sat back down. He had to admit he was still rather surprised at how easily Legolas had forgiven him, something Camthalion and the Captains did not seem capable of doing. He had expected to be shouted at and then sent from The Palace in disgrace.

"Tell me, how are things over at the Headquarters? I have not seen Valen in a few days so I have heard nothing," Legolas said easily.

"Well, things have been pretty quiet. There have been no new spider colonies discovered," Glandur told him thoughtfully, "We have a new tactical training to attend in..."

A knock interrupted them followed by The King entering. Glandur immediately rose to his feet.

"Aran nín," he murmured meekly. He had not seen The King since he had placed his broken son in his arms. Thranduil nodded in acknowledgment. Glandur quickly looked up at him then adverted his gaze, uncomfortable and intimidated, and began to slowly back toward the door. "I-I was just leaving! Good day to you both!" Then he was out of sight before either could reply.

"I assume he was here to apologize to you," Thranduil said as he glanced at the door where Glandur's retreating form at been only moments before then seated himself across from his son.

Legolas nodded, "I told him I knew he didn't do it intentionally and not to dwell on it. Besides, I am nearly healed."

"You are not nearly healed," Thranduil snapped in exasperation, not for the first time. "How many times do I have to tell you that Aranhil is the one who will decide when you are well?"

"Fine" Legolas relented. He was just not in the mood to argue with his father and knew he would most likely come out on the losing end. "Did you know that Camthalion stripped Glandur of his rank?"

"Yes, I did," Thranduil answered, instantly not liking where this conversation was heading. He gave his son a pointed look which Legolas chose to ignore.

"It's not fair!" Legolas growled, "Battles are unpredictable! It isn't as though Glandur planned for me to fall out of the tree!"

"It is not your decision, Legolas," Thranduil said in a warning tone.

"But you are The King," Legolas argued, "You could make him let Glandur be a Lieutenant again."

Thranduil nearly laughed out loud at his son. He found it humorous that Legolas insisted that he be treated like an adult then at the same time he still held on to the childish notion that Ada could fix anything. "As I said, iôn nín, promotions and demotions are at the Commander's discretion, not mine, and certainly not yours."

Legolas sighed. He knew he wasn't going to win. He didn't have the energy to argue further on what was undeniably a losing battle.

"Come," Thranduil said as he motioned him to stand, "You need to rest. Aranhil will be back later and you will want to be ready for him."

Legolas wanted to argue further but stopped himself. He physically felt drained just from walking the short distance. The dull throb in his legs had grown persistent and a nap truly sounded wonderful. He placed his hand in his father's and let him pull him to his feet. He leaned on Thranduil as he guided him the few steps to the bed and sank down gratefully into the soft quilts.

"It hurts, Adar," he murmured softly as he pulled the sheet up over him and snuggled into the soft, down pillows.

"I imagine it does and it probably will for some time," Thranduil told him sympathetically, "I don't want you to exert yourself." He took a few steps over to the nightstand and retrieved a vial of pain tonic. "Here, drink this and you will feel better," he said as he handed it to Legolas.

Legolas quickly obeyed and handed the empty vial back to his father.

"I am going to be hearing petitions in The Great Hall," Thranduil informed him, "Be sure to call for me if you need me."

Legolas nodded. As he turned on his side he felt his father lovingly run his hand over his head. He wanted to tell him that he wasn't an elfling that needed to be tucked in but the tonic has started to take effect. As he watched Thranduil leave he became aware of an elevated sensation looming within him. The dull ache in his legs slowly but steadily ebbed away. He closed his eyes and it felt as though the bed was spinning, starting slowly at first and then getting more and more swift. Only when he opened his eyes did Legolas realize he wasn't moving. His vision slightly swam but quickly, he fell into a dreamless sleep.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Legolas tried to keep his features neutral as he stiffly walked the three paces from the door to his chair. Aranhil was studying him closely and he knew it. When he got within reach the healer placed his arm around Legolas's shoulders and helped him slowly lower himself into the chair. Legolas sighed with relief. Everything hurt. Initially, he hadn't realized that relearning to walk would be so painful. The muscles and bones in his legs ached and throbbed viciously. By the end of each day his even his spine twinged horribly due to his careful, uneven gait. It was a grueling cycle that never seemed to end.

"I will make you something for the pain," Aranhil said quietly. Legolas nodded as he watched the healer walk over to the bureau to measure out some white power carefully before mixing it with a dark liquid and bringing it over to him, "Here you are, Your Highness."

Legolas took the cup and quickly swallowed the small amount of liquid. "Thank you," he replied and he meant it wholeheartedly. He was tired of pain. He was in some form of discomfort every day, especially now that he was up on his feet.

"You have done well today. I believe that you will be able to tolerate walking short distances now," Aranhil told him, emphasizing the word short, "I will report your progress to His Majesty."

Legolas grinned, happy that all the hard work and pain had, at last, started to pay off. He relaxed into the chair and began to feel the tonic take effect. The room began to slightly spin and he started to float away as Aranhil took his leave. His eyes lost focus before the healer had shut the door.

*****

Legolas slowly walked into the Dining Hall at mid-day, taking each step slowly and gingerly. He found his family already seated and waiting for the meal to be served. At the sound of his soft steps, his father looked over at him and smiled.

"It is good to see you up and walking, Legolas," he said as he watched his son slowly take his seat beside him.

"Thank you, Adar," Legolas replied as he carefully sat down, "I am grateful to be able to walk on my own. I didn't think I would ever be able to again!"

"Well, I am glad to see you back at The King's table," Camthalion told him with a sly grin, "It is much too quiet without you."

The servants came in, interrupting their conversation, and served the meal. After a few moments, Thranduil sat back and watched his youngest son for a moment. Legolas was laughing at something Camthalion had just said, looking far more light hearted than he had seen him in weeks. They had much for which to be grateful. Though still recovering his son was alive and nearly whole again. Legolas was going to be fine which meant they all were going to be fine. Life was going to return to normal. Feeling his father's gaze upon him, Legolas looked over into the eyes that were the same shape and color of his own and instantly knew what Thranduil was thinking. He smiled and wordlessly reached over on the table to give his father's hand a gentle squeeze before returning to his meal. Thranduil picked up his fork and speared some roasted duck, feeling much lighter than he had since Legolas's accident.

"I am going to work in the gardens this afternoon," Amoniel announced at the conclusion of the meal, "Perhaps you would like to join me, Legolas."

"I would love to," Legolas immediately replied. He had been out of doors only a few times since his accident when his father had had time to carry him out to their private gardens.

"Wonderful," Amoniel approved as she rose and leaned over so Camthalion could kiss her cheek before departing for the afternoon. She walked over to Legolas and took his offered arm and slowly walked with him out to the gardens, chattering endlessly about her plans for pruning the roses.

Two hours later Legolas was lounging on one of the benches while Amoniel continued to prattle on and on about her flowers. She was beginning to make his head hurt and he wondered how his brother could tolerate her endless need to be engaged in some sort of verbal exchange. The sun was shining warmly overhead and a gentle breeze carried with it the smell of the roses in full bloom. But Legolas was unable to draw any comfort from it. He felt strange and he was unable to explain it. He had longed to be outdoors to feel the sun upon his face and to hear the Song of the Trees. But now that he was in the gardens he felt anything but soothed. At first, he tried to ignore it. But as the afternoon waned it was growing more and more difficult.

He quickly sat up. He looked over to Amoniel who was sitting gracefully beside a large bush of yellow roses. She lovingly trimmed each branch with a sharp snap of the shears. She was currently gossiping happily about one of her friends who was expecting her first elfling any day. "I am going inside," he announced gloomily, interrupting her.

"You should rest for a while," Amoniel suggested as she brushed a stray ringlet of curls from her face and studied him for a moment, "You look a little peaked."

"I will," Legolas promised as he got up from the bench and walked into The Palace. He didn't stop until he reached his bedchamber and he laid down on the bed. His legs ached and his head throbbed, making it impossible to find rest. His blue eyes slowly shifted over to the bureau where there were several small vials of pain tonic sitting on it. Since the healers did not need to visit his bedchambers several times a day now they had left him several doses of tonic for him to take when he experienced any pain. He didn't know why but the tonic seemed to be the answer to what was bothering him. Legolas sat up and walked the few paces over to his bureau and took one of the vials in his hand. He studied it for a moment before quickly swallowing the small amount of liquid. He placed the empty vial back on the bureau and laid back down on the bed. As always, within a few minutes, any discomfort he had ebbed away and the room began to spin. The nagging, nervous feeling abruptly left and he smiled as he began to relax. The next thing he knew his father was standing over him and shaking him gently.

"Legolas," he said, "you are late for the evening meal."

Legolas sat up. He slumped over to the side, unexpectedly feeling a little dizzy. "How long have been asleep?" he asked as he rubbed his eyes.

"Since this late afternoon," Thranduil answered as he gently smoothed his son's sleep rumpled hair, "You must have been tired. I think you are pushing yourself too hard."

"I'm fine, Adar," Legolas mumbled in reply as he irritably moved Thranduil's hand from his head. Thranduil complied and instead took Legolas's hand and pulled him off of the bed and to his feet. It took Legolas a few moments to regain his composure and he had to grip Thranduil's arm to steady himself. His father slowly walked with him to the Dining Hall. When they arrived they found that Camthalion and Amoniel were waiting on them. As soon as Legolas and Thranduil took their seats the servants brought forth the meal. Legolas sat and watched the others be served. He really didn't feel hungry. He felt muddled like he had too much sleep and something else that he couldn't quite describe. He felt ill tempered and wished he could just return to his bedchamber. He slightly startled when his father set his plate in front of him. He looked at the meat, vegetables and freshly baked bread. Steam curled off of the meal but to Legolas it looked anything but appetizing. He sat silently for a few moments as he listened to his family pleasantly converse as they ate.

"How do you feel today, Legolas?" Camthalion asked him suddenly as he reached for another slice of bread.

"I am fine," Legolas replied automatically as he played with the vegetables on his plate with his fork, "I was able to spend some time in the gardens today. I have missed being outdoors."

"Of course you have," Thranduil said from the head of the table, "I am glad that you decided to listen to the healers. Now you can enjoy being the out of your bed."

"As though there was any other choice," Legolas muttered crossly as he glared at his plate.

Camthalion quickly looked at Thranduil. Fortunately, he was engrossed in a conversation with Amoniel and did not notice. Provoking their father's famous temper was never a good idea. Without thinking Camthalion kicked Legolas under the table as he had always done to warn Legolas he was about to get into trouble.

"Camthalion!" Legolas howled as pain flared from his shin, dropping his fork onto his plate with a loud clatter. The sharpness of the pain made his stomach turn, "What is the matter with you?"

Thranduil and Amoniel jumped at Legolas's shouts and looked over at them.

"I am so sorry, Legolas," Camthalion said sincerely, "It was an accident."

Legolas cradled his leg and glared at his older brother. He knew his brother's actions were not malicious but none the less he couldn't help but feel angry and resentful.

"Camthalion, you need to pay a better mind where your feet are," Amoniel scolded, "Legolas's legs are not yet completely healed."

"I am sorry," Camthalion said again miserably, "Legolas, I know that that must have hurt."

"It is fine," Legolas said through clenched teeth as he continued to glower at Camthalion, despite his brother looking completely remorseful.

Thranduil looked at Legolas's pale face then eyed his full plate. "Are you finished, Legolas?" he asked, though he knew what the answer would be.

"Yes, Adar," Legolas answered his father immediately.

"I will help you to your bedchambers," Thranduil told him as he rose and motioned for Legolas to do the same.

Legolas hobbled over to his father. Thranduil supported him as he limped down the corridor to his bedchambers. Wordlessly, Legolas sat on his bed and pulled off his tunic. Thranduil opened the wardrobe and took out a sleep shirt and handed it to his son. After Legolas pulled it over his head he helped Legolas out of his trousers. Legolas hated getting dressed and undressed every day. His legs still throbbed continually and the motion of taking the trousers on and off aggravated the situation but tonight, thanks to Camthalion, the process was even more uncomfortable. Sharp needles of pain flared from his bones again and again where his brother's boot had made an impact.

"Where did he kick you?" Thranduil asked, mentally cursing his eldest son's thoughtless behavior.

"There," Legolas pointed to his lower left calf. Thranduil carefully took Legolas's leg in his hand and gently touched where Legolas had indicated. Legolas winced.

"I will call for a healer," Thranduil decided, after observing a large bruise beginning to form.

"No, Adar," Legolas replied, "I will be fine if I stay in bed for the night."

Thranduil looked at him for a moment then nodded. Legolas let out a small sigh of relief. He hated having his father continually fuss over him. He knew that Thranduil had not been ready to let him go into the world of adulthood and often still had difficulty remembering that his baby was no longer a child. But Legolas had worked very hard to get him to treat him like an adult most of the time. He did not want to lose that now. Sometimes he allowed Thranduil to treat him a bit like an elfling but that was only when Legolas was in a really good mood and he did not protest because he did not want to hurt Thranduil's feelings. It was just an unfortunate drawback of being the family baby. Legolas laid back into bed and bit his bottom lip as Thranduil pulled the silk sheets and quilt over him. It was not worth getting into an argument over tonight and it was nice to feel so loved sometimes.

"Do you need some pain relief?" Thranduil asked him, after studying his face briefly.

"Yes, Adar," Legolas replied as he watched his father retrieve it for him.

He quickly took the tonic and waited for the feeling that it brought to begin. He was vaguely aware of his father bidding him goodnight and feeling him place a tender kiss on his brow. But the tonic quickly drowned everything out. It was like nothing else he had ever experienced. It seemed impossible to feel pain, disappointment or unhappiness. He wished his real life was like that. In real life he had endless duties being The King's son and his father was constantly scrutinizing his every move. He smiled as he enjoyed the escape of from his less than perfect life.

*****

The next morning Legolas awoke with a headache and a foggy mind. He laid in bed for a few minutes, trying to recall last night's events. Then he remembered Camthalion kicking him under the table. His leg only hurt as much as it normally did so he knew there was no lasting damage. He slowly slid from his bed and went over to his wardrobe and opened it. After several minutes of debating he chose a pair of trousers and a tunic. He dressed as swiftly as he could to minimize the amount of discomfort he would feel. After he pulled on his boots he took a vial of tonic before he made his way to the Dining Hall for breakfast. Halfway there he began to feel like he was floating and the exceptional feeling returned to him. He could not help but smile as he entered the Hall.

"What are you so happy about, little brother?" Camthalion asked from his place between Thranduil and Amoniel.

"I'm just grateful that my leg is still attached after last night," Legolas answered somewhat dramatically as he seated himself and began to pick at what had been placed on his plate. Despite not having an evening meal the previous day he did not have much of an appetite.

Camthalion had a remorseful look on his face but said nothing.

"What are your plans for the day, Legolas?" Thranduil asked as he tried to change the subject. He was not in the mood to mediate an argument between his sons the first thing in the morning.

"I am going to go riding with Valen and Sellion," Legolas announced happily.

"You most certainly are not," Thranduil instantly replied, "You are not well enough yet."

"Riding a horse will not put any strain on my legs, Adar," Legolas argued, immediately annoyed with his father. Honestly, he felt that Thranduil was a bit over opinionated on such matters especially when he was not trained as a healer. But Legolas knew better than to tell him he felt so.

"You always find trouble when you are with Valen and Sellion. Besides, you are not well enough to be that far from The Palace," Thranduil countered.

"I am so!" Legolas all but shouted. As soon as he said it he regretted it. He had no idea why he had reacted so strongly.

His father's blue eyes narrowed dangerously at him. He looked very displeased. Camthalion and Amoniel were staring at him; their eyes were wide in disbelief.

"I am so sorry, Adar," Legolas immediately mumbled meekly, unable to meet his father's eyes, "I did not mean to be rude."

"I should hope so," Thranduil said as he nodded, accepting the apology, "You are excused."

Legolas got up without a word and left the Dining Hall. He went into his bedchamber and found that the servants had tidied the room. On the table he saw that he had only four vials of pain tonic left. For some reason that made him uneasy. Then he reclined on his bed and waited for the healers, who examined him each morning after breakfast. A quarter of an hour later Aranhil knocked and entered his chamber.

"Good morning, Your Highness," he greeted Legolas merrily, "Let us see how you are mending today."

He pulled the legs of Legolas's trousers up and ran his nimble fingers down the shins.

"They are healing nice and straight. I am sure that now you can appreciate the readjustments that had to be made," Aranhil smiled at him, recalling all too well the painful scenes in the weeks prior, "How did you get this?" he asked as he frowned at the purple mottled bruise on Legolas's left leg.

"My brother is clumsy," Legolas answered him without offering any further explanation.

Aranhil nodded in agreement. "Brothers are like that sometimes. Are you still experiencing pain?" he inquired.

"Some," Legolas answered honestly, "But I do feel much better. When can I leave The Palace?"

"Give yourself another week," Aranhil told him "With fractures as bad as those were, their healing cannot be rushed. You should take advantage of this opportunity to relax for a few weeks."

Legolas did not look happy.

"I will bring you some more pain relief this afternoon when it is time to exercise your legs," Aranhil said as he ignored the scowling ellon in front of him, "Until then remember to walk only short distances if you are by yourself."

Legolas bit back several choice words about what he was allowed to do. Of course, he would remember. There was always someone there to remind him precisely what he could and couldn't do. It was maddening. Aranhil concluded his examination and left the bedchambers. Legolas relaxed on the bed and began to read a book. Too soon that nagging feeling that could not be ignored returned. Legolas pondered what this insidious sensation could be. It always seemed to creep up on him and now it was growing more and more bold. The tonic always made it go away. But now it took more tonic to silence it and when it returned it was more demanding than the last. He wanted to ask Aranhil about it but hesitated to do so. If there were any complications with his recovery he might not be able to return to his patrol. He even now he would trade in a long morning in Court for this long, dreary convalescence. As he got up to take another vial he noticed that his hands were slightly shaking. Part of him was concerned but a bigger part just wanted to do anything to get back to his life. He quickly swallowed the contents of the vial and laid back onto his bed and awaited the now all too familiar sensation of the tonic to take him.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

The following two weeks were long and difficult for Legolas. Each day was filled with tiresome physical activity to work the injured and underused bones and muscles. Some nights Legolas was so uncomfortable that it took him hours to fall asleep. Each time it woke him he would get up and take three vials of pain tonic so that he could finally slip into a gratifying unconsciousness. Despite the pain and discomfort, Legolas was experiencing, he knew he needed to push forward if he ever wanted to go back to Patrol. Instead of focusing on the pain he channeled all of his energy into achieving his goal, knowing it would all pay off in the end. Finally, after countless hours of hard work and exhaustion, Aranhil seemed ready to pronounce him healed.

"Well, my Ernil," the healer said with a smile after he completed his final examination, "It has been a long, difficult road but you have made it. I feel that your bones and muscles healed well and are now strong enough to return to active duty."

Legolas smiled at him, hardly believing what he was hearing. After being denied so many times before it was difficult to believe that he was finally getting released. "Good," he said, "be certain to tell The King just that."

"Do not worry," the healer assured him as he chuckled, "I will be sure to inform His Majesty immediately."

Legolas returned his grin, looking pleased. He looked forward with pleasure of settling back into his old routine.

"I will bring some more pain tonic to your chambers," Aranhil continued, interrupting his thoughts, "If you are especially active during the day you may need to continue to take it at night for a time. I will bring it shortly."

Legolas merrily bid him a good day and made his way back from the Healing Wards. He knew since he was released for duty his father would be expecting him to attend Court. So he walked to the Great Hall and took his seat just as the session was about to begin. His father's senior advisor, Aearion, smiled at him and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. "It is good to see you back, my lord," he said sincerely.

"Thank you," Legolas replied, "I never thought I would say this but I am truly glad to be back."

Aearion chuckled as he set out several parchments on the table in front of them. He knew that the active ellon beside him constantly longed to be outdoors and resented the long hours that his father forced him to spend in the Great Hall. Despite the fact that he had to constantly redirect Legolas's attention, he found that he had grown fond of the youngling and had missed his company.

An hour later Legolas wasn't feeling as enthusiastic. He felt restless. His head had begun to ache and his mouth felt very dry. He suddenly wanted to be anywhere except in his father's Court. Without meaning to he began to fidget restlessly and he mentally tried to calm himself over and over. He had no recollection what the current petition was about and he found that the only thing he was concerned with was getting to his bedchamber so that he could take a vial of tonic to calm himself. Aearion noticed the constant restlessness and placed a gentle hand on Legolas's arm to quiet him. He pointed to the top of the parchment to silently redirect Legolas's attention to the matter at hand. Despite his best efforts, Legolas seemed unable to concentrate. When The King finally dismissed everyone Legolas darted out of the Great Hall before Aearion or Thranduil could say anything to him. He very nearly ran down the corridor toward his rooms wrenched open the door and slammed it shut before hurrying over to the bureau. His heart began to race when he did not see the vials on top of it where he had left them that morning. Frantically, he looked around his room and sighed with relief when he saw them on the nightstand beside his bed. One of the maids must have moved them when she came in to clean. Legolas downed one vial and after a moment's consideration, he took another. He slowly sat down on the edge of his bed and took a deep breath. He held his head in his hand and tried to collect himself. The thought of someone taking the tonic was unsettling and something he did not want to experience again. A sudden thought struck him. He stood up and gathered all of the small vials and arranged them in the back of his wardrobe. He placed some clothing in front of them, obstructing them from view. Feeling temporarily secure, he went out into the corridor. A sudden idea struck him when he saw Aranhil walking toward him, carrying an armful of books and scrolls.

"Aranhil, did you deliver the tonic yet?" Legolas asked as he arranged his face in his best attempts to look innocent.

"Yes, my lord, I did. Were they not on the table where I left them?" Aranhil stopped to ask Legolas, shifting his burden in his arms lest he drop them in the corridor.

Legolas shook his head.

"I will order more to be made," Aranhil easily replied, "Perhaps one of the maids brought them back to the Healing Ward after she tidied your rooms."

"Thank you," Legolas said. That had not been as difficult as he had imagined.

"It will be there when you return this evening," Aranhil called as he began his trek back to work, "Good afternoon, Prince Legolas!"

Satisfied, Legolas made his way to the Dining Hall for his mid-day meal.

"You are late," an authoritative voice stated as he entered.

"My apologies, Adar," Legolas said as he took his usual seat, "But I had to get ready for Patrol this afternoon."

"Yes, I hear congratulations are in order," Thranduil replied with a knowing smile, "I want you to promise me that you will not push yourself too far. If you experience any pain you are to let your commanding officer know immediately. Is that understood?"

Legolas wanted to scream. Why did his father think him a simpleton? Why must he always state the obvious as if Legolas had no idea how to conduct himself even in the most trivial of matters?

"I know that," Legolas managed to say through gritted teeth, betraying his annoyance.

"Watch your tone, Legolas," Thranduil snapped back as he glared at his son. When no apology seemed forthcoming he added, "Well?"

"I beg your pardon, Adar" Legolas muttered as he stared down at the table. His father always commanded complete obedience and respect. Legolas felt rebellion stirring within him and was unsure why. It seemed extreme emotions were always bubbling within him recently. "Where are Camthalion and Amoniel?" he asked, as he nodded toward their places at the table.

Thranduil relaxed visibly at the change of subject. "They decided to dine with Amoniel's adar and naneth," he informed Legolas, "so it is just you and me this afternoon."

Legolas nodded as he smiled. Getting to spend time alone with his father was rare. There was always someone to interrupt with messages, meetings or one thing or another that required The King's attention. Moments later servants brought forth the mid-day meal and quietly exited, leaving father and son alone. Thranduil handed Legolas a plate of fish and fresh greens.

"I'm happy for you, iôn nín," Thranduil said after he had taken a couple of bites, "I was young and impatient once, too. I know these past few weeks have been anything but easy. "

"Thank you," Legolas replied unenthusiastically as he played with the food before him. He slumped over the table, propped up by his elbow as he moved the food around on his plate. He didn't feel hungry in the least. He suddenly wanted to go back to his bed, pull the covers over his head and sleep the afternoon away.

"Legolas?"

"Legolas?"

"Legolas," Thranduil repeated loudly when he didn't get a response. He watched his youngest son startle slightly and his raise an eyebrow at him inquisitively. "In case you have forgotten you are at my table. Sit up!" Thranduil barked. He watched Legolas scowl at him for a moment and heave a great, dramatic sigh before obeying. "Now pick up your fork and eat what is on your plate. It will be time for you to report to the Headquarters shortly."

Legolas managed to choke down a few bites, enough to please his father. Thranduil had tried to engage him in a conversation several times but it was clear Legolas wasn't in the mood. Legolas felt a little tired and drowsy. It was difficult for him to focus on what his father was saying. When the meal finally concluded he bid Thranduil a good afternoon and collected his things before heading out of The Great Doors and made his way out onto the Greens. Valen, his ever exuberant friend, gave him a crushing hug when he walked into the Military Headquarters' common room for his assignment. The other soldiers extended their congratulations on his return and welcomed him back enthusiastically. Legolas didn't have to wait long before the commanding officer, Neurion, began to give everyone their assignments. Legolas was assigned to an afternoon of guard duty before the Great Doors with Locien. He was irritated. Valen and Sellion were going on a short riding patrol around The Stronghold. He didn't think it was fair.

"Was this at the Commander or the King's request?" Legolas asked Neurion. Several soldiers standing close enough to overhear widened their eyes in disbelief at the youngling's questioning of the assignment and watched the scene nervously.

"I was not aware of your promotion in rank, Legolas," Neurion snapped, "Tell me, since when do you have the authority to question an order given by a Captain?"

"You didn't answer me! Did the…" he was cut off by Neurion holding up a hand to silence him.

"Look, there's the Commander. Why don't you ask him yourself?" Neurion motioned over toward Camthalion who had just entered the building and had witnessed the latter half of the exchange.

"Ask me what?" Camthalion asked as he stalked over to them. All the other soldiers in the vicinity quietly left and shut the door behind them.

"Legolas seems to think there is some sort of conspiracy behind where he is assigned. I wasn't aware of any plans of subterfuge from you or His Majesty," Neurion answered him as he glared at Legolas.

Camthalion turned to his brother who was looking back at him expectantly as if waiting for an answer. He was instantly annoyed. Legolas knew better than to openly question an order.

"Are you unhappy with the assignment given to you by your Captain?" Camthalion asked him, making a visible attempt to reign in his temper.

"Yes, because it is probably from Ad…"

"Then you are going to be extremely unhappy with what I am going to do with you," Camthalion interrupted.

Legolas opened his mouth to protest but stopped with the look on Camthalion's face. He looked dangerously identical to Adar when he was angry. That was never a good sign.

"Yes, Commander," he replied meekly as he could manage and followed him reluctantly, a feeling of dread forming in the pit of his stomach. Camthalion led him to his office and closed the door behind them. He said nothing as he seated himself at his desk. He opened up one of the drawers and searched through it until he found what he was looking for.

"Do you see these?" He asked as he waved the two parchments in front of him. Legolas nodded. "These are two disciplinary reports that you have earned in the past few months. Now a third is about to be added. I gather from your behavior earlier that you have not learned your lesson, young one."

"But…"

"Silence!" Camthalion shouted, "Do not speak until you are given permission to do so. Since you insist on acting like an undisciplined elfling I am going to have to remedy that. You are going to report directly to me this afternoon. I will find plenty of productive things for you to do since you find guard duty so dull. You may start by delivering this message to His Majesty."

Camthalion reached into his desk and pulled out a sealed message. Legolas bit his lower lip. If he were to deliver the message his father would inquire why he wasn't out on patrol or on guard duty. Slowly, Legolas reached out and took the parchment from Camthalion's hand.

"Wait for a reply then return here at once," the Troop Commander instructed before dismissing him with a disgusted wave of his hand.

"Yes, my lord," Legolas replied and went out the door. As he walked the well worn path from The Commons to The Palace he thought about what got him into this predicament. He had spoken rashly without thinking. Again. He had disappointed his brother. Again. His father wasn't going to be pleased and Legolas could only imagine what the outspoken King was going to have to say on the matter. Unfortunately for Legolas, his father was in a Council meeting when he arrived at The Palace and he had to stand in the antechamber for over an hour until it was dismissed. When Thranduil finally emerged from his the Council Chambers he looked surprised to see Legolas.

"Are you hurt?" he asked as he quickly surveyed him for any signs of injury or pain.

"No, Aran nín," Legolas replied, not able to meet his father's eye, "Lord Camthalion commanded me to bring you a message."

Thranduil looked down at the parchment in Legolas' hands. He knew by the formal manner of address that Legolas was here as a soldier of the Realm and not as his son. Thranduil extended his hand and Legolas placed the message in it, still refusing to look up. He did so only when he heard his father break the seal and unfold the parchment. Thranduil's face was completely impassive. He quickly read the message before he looked over at Legolas and motioned for him to follow him into his office. Once inside, Thranduil shut the door.

"Why are you the one delivering a simple message?" Thranduil asked as he poured himself a goblet of wine and took a seat in the ornate chair behind his desk, "Why are you not out on patrol?"

Legolas shifted slightly where he stood. It was tempting to only tell a portion of the truth. But he knew all Thranduil would have to do is ask Camthalion to get the whole story and then would be even angrier if he thought Legolas had been deceitful. The last time he had been caught in a lie Thranduil had confined him to his bedchambers for two weeks, except to go to the library for his lessons with his tutor. It had been a lesson well learned.

"I questioned an assignment," Legolas simply said, at last, eyes downcast.

Thranduil sighed and shook his head. Sometimes Legolas was simply too bold for his own good. As annoyed as he was, he clearly recalled another King saying the exact same thing to his son several millennia before. He just hoped Legolas was more receptive to his advice than he had been to Oropher's. It would save him a lot of trouble.

"You, penneth, need to learn your place," he lectured sternly, "Do you need to be reminded of the consequences of questioning a commanding officer during a battle?"

"No, my lord."

"I should hope not," Thranduil continued after pausing for a deep swallow of wine, "This is your first day back on duty and already you have to be disciplined. And not for the first time, I might add."

Legolas continued to stare at the floor, feeling worse by the minute. Thranduil was making him feel even guiltier.

"Look at me," The King commanded. Legolas lifted his eyes to meet his father's. Thranduil held his gaze for a long moment. Legolas was unsure how to read the look in his eyes. He seemed to be pondering something and was uncertain about it. Whatever it was Thranduil must have pushed it from his mind because he picked up a quill and scribbled his answer down quickly. He folded up the parchment and handed it back to Legolas.

"I am very disappointed in you, Legolas," he simply said, "I would have thought that I taught you better self-control than this. Valar knows that I tried. I expect you to bear whatever punishment The Commander deems appropriate with good grace. That is all."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Legolas answered and began to make his way back to Camthalion. He almost wished his father would have shouted at him. The look of disappointment on Thranduil's face made him sick to his stomach.

When he returned to his brother's office he found that Camthalion had stepped out. Again, he had to stand and wait at the door. He was just about to lean on the wall for support when Camthalion returned. He snatched the message out of Legolas's hands wordlessly and motioned for him to follow him into his office as he read the reply, just like The King had done. He left Legolas standing before him while he finished reading the message and wrote something on a fresh sheet of parchment that Legolas could not make out from where he was standing. However, it was clear that whatever the message contained it was of small importance yet Camthalion seemed reluctant to turn his attention to the disgraced soldier in front of him. Legolas could tell that Camthalion was making an effort to rein in his anger.

"Let's see what else you can do to make yourself useful," Camthalion pondered aloud, "I believe it has been a while since my floor has been scrubbed. I think that would be a suitable punishment for you."

Legolas sighed. This was turning out to be a very bad day.

*****

It was nearly dusk when he all but limped home. He felt some of the tension leave as Camthalion put an affectionate arm around his shoulders. He was glad Camthalion could now be his older brother and not the Realm's Commander.

"Let's hope you have a better day tomorrow, Legolas," he said as he steered his little brother toward The Palace, "Remember that there is always something more unpleasant than the task you are assigned. I have had to learn that lesson a few times myself."

"I will remember," Legolas promised. He knew he would. Between the hours spent standing, playing the role of messenger, being sent to fetch trivial items, or on his hands and knees with a brush scrubbing his brother's office floor Legolas was tried and sore. His knees and legs throbbed painfully in a way that they had not since he got first gotten out of bed after being injured. They parted ways once in The Palace in order to wash up before the evening meal. Legolas entered his bedchamber and went directly into the adjoining bath chamber. He saw that the servants had drawn him a hot bath. Steam curled invitingly from the large tub and the soft scent of jasmine filled the small room. Legolas went back into his bedchamber and rummaged in the bureau drawer until he pulled out two vials of tonic. Without a thought he swallowed them and then began to disrobe, leaving a trail of dirty clothing all the way back into the bath chamber. He sighed with contentment as he sank down into the warm water, leaning back against the tub. He closed his eyes as he felt most of his pain slowly fade away. He didn't know how long he had remained that way until he heard loud knocking on the door.

"Legolas?" his brother's voice called to him.

"What?"

"Hurry up! You are late for the evening meal. Adar sent me to fetch you," Camthalion rudely opened the bath chamber door and by doing so let in a cool draft that contrasted greatly with the warm room.

"Hand me a towel, will you?" Legolas asked as he motioned to the stack of fluffy towels stored on the set of shelves by the door. He wobbled a bit as he climbed out of the tub and took the offered towel. "Close the door! You are letting in cold air!" he snapped as he began to dry himself off.

"Adar isn't happy so you best hurry. We are waiting on you and I am hungry," Camthalion replied, a bit taken back by the sudden sharp tone. With that, he left to return to the Dining Hall.

Legolas hurriedly finished drying himself off and went into his bedchamber. He quickly dressed and began to comb his hair. As he looked in the mirror and drew the comb through his long, blond hair he saw that Aranhil had kept his promise and left several vials of pain tonic on the small table beside his bed. He took them and placed them with the others in the back of the drawer. Finally, he took a moment to compose himself. The second vial of pain tonic made him feel as though he was walking on uneven, slippery ground. He carefully walked to the Dining Hall, muttered his apologies, and took his seat next to his father.

"Being late seems to be becoming a habit for you, iôn nín," Thranduil commented as the meal was served.

"I am sorry," Legolas repeated for what felt the hundredth time that day, "It will not happen again."

"See that it doesn't," Thranduil said before returning his attention to Camthalion.

Legolas picked at the food before him. He forced himself to eat at least one mouthful of everything and drank a couple goblets of wine. He felt exhausted. The tonic and wine clouded his mind and he was finding it increasingly difficult to follow the conversation.

"Adar?" Legolas interrupted Amoniel and his father's conversation, "May I be excused?"

Thranduil fought the urge to snap at him that he was being impolite. But when he glanced at his son he decided to just let him retire for the evening. Legolas looked pale and tired.

"Goodnight, Legolas," Thranduil bid him as he watched his son rise slightly ungracefully and very nearly limp over to him.

"Goodnight," Legolas returned and bent down to kiss his father's cheek before making his way to bed.

Thranduil watched him and frowned. Perhaps Legolas was simply tired and had indulged in a little too much wine. Thranduil tried to reason with himself. But he was worried. Legolas's behavior earlier in the day was out of character for him and even now he seemed sullen and withdrawn. Perhaps the rough day he had weighed heavily upon him. But Thranduil couldn't completely silence a small voice in the back of his mind that though there might be something else bothering his youngest son.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

In the days following Legolas did his best to be where he was supposed to be and doing what he was assigned to do. He sat through Court each morning and then accepted his assignments at the Military Headquarters each afternoon with no comment. Legolas was not in any hurry to get into any more trouble. After spending the afternoon on his hands and knees scrubbing his brother's office floor and running back and forth between the Commander and the Captains as a messenger it had taken nearly two days before the ache in his legs had been reduced to a dull throb.

Each day as soon as he was dressed Legolas took a vial of pain tonic and then usually two at night when he was in discomfort from the day's activities. Now more often he took three to bring the elevated sensations. He was painfully aware that he was taking more and more tonic. It was something he didn't like to think about, not that he had much time to dwell on it. The tonic made him sleep more than he normally would. It clouded his mind and it often took hours before he felt the fog of the tonic begin to lift. By that time he would feel a need to take another vial...or two.

Soon enough there were only two vials left. Legolas felt his heart flop with fear. Two would only be enough to last the day. What would tomorrow bring? It was something he didn't like to felt a tightness in his chest as his mind frantically tried to find a way to obtain some more tonic. He knew the healers wouldn't just keep giving him vial after vial when he asked for it. They kept the white powder locked up in the infirmary with all their other herbs, tonics, and potions. He tried to push that thought from his mind as he pulled on his boots. He quickly took one vial of tonic and made his way to the Dining Hall for breakfast. Once again he was late. He knew it was from oversleeping and then spending so much time fretting over the tonic. He grinned sheepishly as his father glared at him as he took his seat. He quickly exchanged "good mornings" with Amoniel and Camthalion, who were already seated and eating.

"Again you are late, iôn nín," Thranduil said with an annoyed tone as he refilled his goblet from the elegant glass decanter.

"I am sorry, Adar. It won't happen again," Legolas replied, looking down at the empty bowl in front of him.

"See that it doesn't," Thranduil barked from his seat at the head of the table. He forcefully scooped up some porridge from the crock in the middle of the table and slapped into Legolas's bowl, "If you are going to be late again then don't bother coming at all."

"Yes, Adar," Legolas said meekly in response to his father's obvious irritation. He reached over toward the pitcher of cream and looked over at his father. Thranduil's blue eyes softened slightly and he nodded. Legolas poured some cream over the porridge and stirred it together before taking a bite. He let the hot cereal sit in his mouth for a moment before chewing and swallowing. Already under the effects of the tonic, his appetite disappeared. He took another mouthful and then pushed his bowl away.

"Aren't you going to eat, little brother?" Camthalion asked as he eyed the nearly untouched bowl.

Legolas shook his head. He felt muddled and what he really wanted to do was go back to bed for the day. But as The King's son that out of the question. He nearly groaned when he realized that Court would be held within the hour. It was the last place he wanted to be. He would have rather stood guard at The Great Doors all day. Not for the first time he wished his father would release him from attending him in the mornings and allow him to report for active duty the entire day as Camthalion did.

"You need to eat what is placed in front of you, Legolas," Thranduil lectured, "Obviously, you have no idea what it is like to be hungry."

Legolas stared at the bowl for a moment and then heaved a great, dramatic sigh and picked up his spoon. He glanced up at his father and held his steely gaze for a defiant moment before starting to play with the porridge. He scooped up a large spoonful and watched it fall off of his spoon and back into the bowl. He knew he should be grateful that his family never had to worry about their next meal but he really wasn't hungry and his stomach felt slightly queasy.

"Legolas you are excused," Thranduil snapped, "Go and take your place beside Aearion."

"But Adar..."

"I said go!" Thranduil shouted at him, his patience at long last had run out.

Legolas's blue eyes widened. His father rarely shouted at him and he found it unnerving. Without a word Legolas stood and exited the Dining Hall without looking back.

"What was that all about?" Camthalion wondered aloud as he reached over and took his brother's uneaten breakfast and began to spoon up the porridge.

"I'm not sure," Thranduil answered him as he stared at the door where his younger son had just passed through, "Legolas has been acting strange since his accident. Hopefully, it will go away with time."

"And patience," Camthalion added, as he scraped up another mouthful of porridge. He grinned cheekily at the annoyed look Thranduil gave him.

"Yes and that as well," Thranduil quickly replied as he stood, "I should be getting to The Great Hall. Good day."

Amoniel and Camthalion stood and watched Thranduil leave. Amoniel looked up at her husband and he smiled down at her.

"Do you think Adar is right?" she asked, her brow furrowed in worry, "Do you think that Legolas's strange behavior will go away in time?"

Camthalion considered it for a moment. Legolas was indeed acting strangely. He was consistently late. He was being sullen and withdrawn most of the time and choosing to speak out at the most inappropriate times. But he was still so young. There was still much for him to learn. Had he really been so different at that age one and a half millennia before?

"Yes, I do," Camthalion answered her before kissing her cheek, "We just need to be patient with him and soon he will be back to his old self, just as Adar says."

Amoniel returned his smile. Her husband and father in law seemed sure of it. But why did she feel that something just was not right? She tried to push those somber thoughts away and bid Camthalion a good day before making her way out of the Dining Hall and headed toward the gardens.

*****

The soft conversation in The Great Hall immediately stopped and every one rose as The King entered. He sat on his throne and his bright blue eyes swept over the room, lingering momentarily over his youngest son. Legolas quickly looked down and then took his seat. Clearly, his father was still angry.

"Bring forth the first proceeding" Thranduil ordered as he looked over at his chief advisor.

"Yes, Aran nín," Aearion said from his place beside Legolas, "This morning we will be hearing..."

Legolas drowned out what Aearion was saying. It was of no importance to him. His main concern was on the single vial of tonic that was hidden in the back of this top bureau drawer. He knew that if he didn't get more of it he would feel upset and that there would absolutely be no way he would be able to sleep. He did not fancy a long night of tossing and turning in his bed. He feared that the pain would return without the tonic there to drive it away. But how would he get more? The healers had given him several additional doses already.

Legolas startled when Aearion nudged him in the ribs. Legolas looked over at the dark haired adviser.

"Here we are, my lord Legolas," he murmured quietly and pointed to the parchment in front of him, "Let us give His Majesty our full attention."

Legolas nodded. He glanced where Aearion had indicated for a moment before his mind once again wondered to the pain tonic. The tightness in his chest rose again. What was he to do? Without the tonic his pain would return and he would be in such agony once again. The tonic always made him feel better and always brought the sound, dreamless sleep. He needed that tonic. But how would he get it? Where could he get it? The band around his chest suddenly pulled even tighter as desperation flared in his stomach. He felt sick.

Again Aearion nudged him and pointed to the parchment. Legolas could tell that the normally patient advisor was beginning to feel exasperated.

"Is there a problem, Aearion?" an authoritative voice suddenly boomed.

"No, Your Majesty," Aearion jumped slightly before hastily answered The King, "We await your judgment."

Legolas could feel his father's gaze upon him and knew that though Thranduil had asked Aearion the question was clearly meant for him. He did not take his eyes off of the parchment. Then a thought abruptly dawned on him. He could get more tonic if he were injured. The moment the thought entered his head he burned with shame. Legolas ignored it as he made up his mind. He would do what he needed to do. There was no other choice.

The rest of the morning dragged on slowly and finally, Court dismissed for the week. Thranduil made his way down from his throne and saw Legolas had already started to leave The Great Hall.

"Prince Legolas."

Legolas stopped where he was when he heard his father's voice. It sounded very neutral. That was an encouraging sign. He slowly turned and approached Thranduil.

"Don't be late," was all The King said.

"I won't. I will be there momentarily," Legolas promised and then turned and walked straight to his chambers, ignoring everyone he met along the way.

He walked over to the bureau drawer and downed the last remaining vial in one gulp. He sat on his bed and waited a few moments. Soon came the warm rush of the tonic. Satisfied, he stood and walked unsteadily over toward his bath chamber. He placed his left hand in the door jamb and in one swift motion slammed the heavy door shut. He gasped when he felt the sharp snap of his fingers as the bones fractured. He bit his lip and pain radiated from his fingertips and up his arm. He opened the door and regarded his hand curiously. His index finger was turned grotesquely to the side. The nail of his middle finger was black and blood was running down it and onto his palm. Not a serious injury but certainly one that would warrant some pain relief. With a pleased smile, he swallowed down the nausea that festered in his empty stomach and headed toward the infirmary.

*****

Camthalion eyed Legolas's empty seat nervously. He knew his father was angry, angrier than he had ever seen him with his little brother.

"Where is your brother?" Thranduil snapped at last in clipped tones with as much self control as he could muster.

"I don't know, Adar. I haven't seen Legolas since our morning meal," Camthalion answered carefully. From past experience, he knew that when his father got to this level of anger nothing good was going to happen. Mentally, he cursed his brother's lax attitude. Legolas really just did not seem to care about being punctual or about provoking their father's famous ire.

Moments later a servant brought forth the meal, setting the large bowl of stew in the middle of the table.

"Find my youngest son," Thranduil told him.

The servant bowed and left. Thranduil sat in his chair with his arms crossed and did not even attempt to serve the meal. He was radiating annoyance and frustration.

"You and Amoniel should eat," Thranduil told his son, "I am going to have a conversation with Legolas. There is no need for you both to miss a meal simply because your brother has no respect or consideration for any of us."

Without a word, Camthalion served Amoniel and then himself. The only sound in the room was their cutlery scraping the bottom of their bowls. It seemed best not to say anything.

"King Thranduil?"

Thranduil looked over to the doorway as the servant had returned. He raised an eyebrow inquisitively.

"Lord Legolas is in the infirmary. He has been injured."

"How? What happened?" Thranduil immediately stood. He had just seen him in the Great Hall not twenty minutes prior.

"I do not know, my lord. I am only telling you what I was told," the servant answered honestly.

Thranduil didn't reply but instead made his way out of the Dining Hall and down the long corridor to the Infirmary. As soon as one of the healers noticed him she directed him to one of the small rooms where Legolas had been taken. Thranduil entered the room and saw his son was sitting on the edge of the bed, cradling his arm to his chest.

"What happened?" Thranduil asked as he took hold of Legolas's arm and moved it out toward him so he could see for himself. He grimaced when he observed the visible injury.

Legolas shrugged in response.

"Legolas, I asked you a question. I would like to know how you were injured," Thranduil replied sternly, indicating that there would be no debate in the matter.

Legolas looked up at his father and Thranduil was startled at the look in his eyes. Something wasn't right. He could see pain and something similar to fear in his son's blue eyes. Legolas shrugged and shook his head as he cradled his injured hand to his chest once more. He didn't know what to say. He hadn't expected his father to find out so quickly and he had no excuse ready for him. He wanted to kick himself. In his haste to acquire the tonic he forgot to rehearse a cover story.

"What happened, iôn nín," Thranduil said in a softer tone as he placed his hand on Legolas's shoulder.

"It was an accident, Adar," Legolas replied quietly as he stared at his boots. He hated himself for the lie he was telling his father. It most certainly wasn't an accident but he decided to tell him truthfully how his hand became injured. "I shut it in the bath chamber door."

Thranduil cringed as he looked again at the injury. The hand certainly looked as though it had been shut in the door. Before he could inquire any further Aranhil entered the room and shut the door behind him.

"I hear you have injured yourself, my lord," he said after bowing respectfully to The King, "May I see it?"

Legolas, still looking down at his boots, wordlessly held out his hand to the healer. Aranhil gently took Legolas's wrist in both of his skilled hands and turned it slightly to the side to get a better look at the hand.

"Oh yes, you definitely have a couple of fractures," he said empathetically, "We will need to set them. That must hurt terribly. We will give you something to make you more comfortable so I can examine your hand better. I will be back momentarily with the necessary supplies."

Legolas nodded as the healer gently laid his arm back against his chest. He watched Aranhil take his leave.

"I'm sorry, Adar," he said softly, still unable to look at his father. He was remorseful but he had no other way out of his situation.

"You don't have anything to be sorry about," Thranduil told him as he gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, "It was an accident."

He knew Thranduil was trying to comfort him. But his father's words made him feel worse. He didn't even want to think about what Thranduil would say if he knew the truth of the situation. They waited in silence for a few minutes and Aranhil returned with a tray full of the supplies that he needed.

"Here you are," he said as he handed Legolas a vial containing a large dose of tonic, "It will make you drowsy but it will also take away most of the pain. Then I can set the broken bones. "

Legolas wordlessly drank the dark liquid in the vial and handed it back to the healer. Aranhil returned it to the tray and then turned back to his patient. "Lay back. The tonic will start to take effect soon."

Legolas tried to obey but the new large dose of tonic combined with the two vials he had already taken that day took hold of him more quickly and forcefully than he had anticipated. He slumped ungracefully to the side and his father caught him and helped ease him back in a reclined position on the bed. Legolas felt as though he were floating. He felt warm and comfortable as the pain had completely disappeared. He felt himself slowly yet steadily sink into oblivion and let out a slow sigh as his eyes closed. Thranduil watched as his son's breathing became slow and steady, even as Aranhil picked up his hand and manipulated the wrist, hand, and fingers. Legolas didn't even twitch.

"Good news, my lord," the healer smiled at The King, "These fractures are clean. They should heal quickly. No other part of his hand fractured. He is fortunate it is just these two fingers that were injured. There should be no permanent damage."

Thranduil nodded as he watched the healer skillfully set the broken fingers. When he was done he gently laid Legolas's hand down on the bed next to him.

"He will need to be on light duty until he is healed," Aranhil said as he began to clean up the supplies he had used, "He will be in some pain and I'll make up a few vials of tonic for him. He can leave as soon as he regains consciousness. But he will be a bit hazy for a few hours until the tonic wears off."

"Thank you," Thranduil told the healer as he took a seat next to the bed.

"It was my pleasure, Aran nín," Aranhil replied with a slight bow and then left.

Thranduil shook his head as he reached over and gently caressed his son's brow. Legolas felt quite warm but he looked very peaceful. He couldn't remember Legolas being this clumsy in the past but he supposed there was a first time for everything.

*****

A couple of hours later Legolas's mind was fuzzy. He felt tired but he realized the tonic must be starting to wear off. He knew his father had been called away for something and he had vaguely heard him promise to return and collect him in a while. But Legolas had lost all track of time in his limbo between unconsciousness and this semi sleep state that he was currently lingering in. Very slowly he felt more aware and then he felt a dull throb in his hand. But he didn't care. It was worth it to get the tonic. Besides, with more tonic, it would go away. Suddenly, he heard voices out in the corridor outside the room.

"...pain tonic."

"Yes," Aranhil's voice could be heard "Make up five or six vials for Lord Legolas with the last of the powder. We will need to contact Rilien for another shipment."

"Rilien?"

"He is an ellon who lives in the eastern part of the forest. He cultivates the flowers needed to make the powder," Aranhil explained before opening the door to Legolas's room.

"Are you awake, my lord?" he asked cheerfully as he stepped over to the bedside.

"Yes," Legolas answered groggily as Aranhil helped him sit up. But inside he was rejoicing at this sudden stroke of luck. He now knew where he could get the tonic and fill his desperate need. The thought of not having to struggle to find ways to get it almost made him giddy with relief. He could hear Aranhil giving him instructions on how to care for his injury but he didn't pay him any mind. He was too busy focusing on his small victory.

Suddenly his father unexpectedly appeared. "Are you ready to go back to your bedchambers?" he asked.

Legolas nodded and clumsily attempted to get to his feet. He accepted his father's help when he swayed a little. Thranduil put his arm around his son and started to guide him towards the door.

"I'll deliver the pain relief as soon as I make them up," Aranhil informed them.

Thranduil nodded before thanking the healer for his services and steered Legolas out of the door. As they slowly made their way back toward Legolas's chambers Thranduil looked over at his son. Legolas looked pale. But that could be attributed to the pain he had been in. But whatever had been bothering him earlier seemed to have vanished. His son looked serene, albeit groggy. As they entered the room Thranduil helped Legolas lower himself onto the bed. Legolas tried to remove his boots but his hands felt heavy and clumsy. Tranquil gently pushed his hands out of the way and helped him remove his boots and his jerkin. Then he guided him to lay back in bed and pulled the sheet and quilt up over his son.

"You need to be more careful, Legolas," he lectured as he straightened back up, "You may rest the remainder of the afternoon. I have work to do in my office. Be sure to call for me if you need anything."

"I'm fine, Adar," Legolas said softly as he curled up on his side and snuggled down into the bed.

Thranduil nodded and took his leave, quietly closing the door behind him. Legolas smiled as he felt his eyes start to lose focus. Maybe now things would get better. He could stop worrying about the tonic. Now he had control over that part of his life again. Maybe now it was time to take charge of every aspect of his life. He just hoped his father would be reasonable. But then Thranduil Oropherion wasn't exactly known to be a reasonable ellon. But none of that mattered now. All Legolas cared about was enjoying the sensation of the tonic while it lasted. Despite having a couple of broken bones it had been a very productive day.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

The next day Legolas awoke to a dull throb in his hand. He groaned softly as he sat up in bed. His head ached miserably and he felt extremely thirsty. He sighed and gingerly held his head in his hands as he thought about the events of the previous day. He couldn't believe that he had purposefully injured himself just to get more of the tonic. Worse yet, he had lied to his father. His stomach turned as he yet again thought about what his father would think if he knew what really had happened. He recalled how worried Thranduil had looked when he walked in the small exam room in the Infirmary and then the relief that had flooded his fair face when he saw that the wounds were minor. He had been very understanding and supportive and Legolas felt guilt twist in his gut again. His father had excused him from the evening meal and Legolas had spent the remainder of the day in bed floating in and out of dreamless sleep. Recalling the missed evening meal reminded him that he couldn't be late for breakfast. He jumped out of bed and hurried over to the large wardrobe and threw the doors open. He pulled out the nearest tunic, jerkin, and leggings. After quickly dressing he took a few moments to comb and braid his long, blond hair. The task took longer than usual due to his broken fingers. Finally, he opened the top bureau drawer and took two vials of tonic. He hesitated briefly and then took a third. As he made his way to the Dining Hall the tonic hit him halfway there. He stopped and leaned against the wall for a moment as he tried to compose himself. He felt warm and the dull throb in his hand and the ache in his head had completely disappeared. But the floor felt as though it would open and swallow him. He took each step carefully until he arrived at his destination.

Thranduil looked up at the sound of his youngest son approaching and frowned as he watched him walk carefully to his seat. Legolas sat down and returned his father's greeting, mumbling a half hearted reply.

"How are you feeling, iôn nín?" Thranduil asked him as he studied the pale face beside him.

Legolas shrugged. "Fine," he said and looked up to meet his father's gaze for the first time. He tried to smile at him reassuringly but his heart just wasn't in it and it quickly faltered from his face.

"Are you certain?" Thranduil gently prodded, frowning at the strange behavior.

"Yes."

Thranduil nodded and let the subject drop as Camthalion and Amoniel arrived and took their seats. Camthalion breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he saw Legolas. It seemed that his brother was finally taking his responsibilities seriously and had even arrived at a meal on time.

"Good morning, brother," he greeted cheerfully as the servants brought in the meal and set it on the table, "how are you feeling?"

Legolas sighed forcefully. "Why does everyone always have to ask me that?" he snapped irritably.

Camthalion's eyes widened in shock at the sudden appearance of anger. He had simply inquired after Legolas's well being, as was his habit every morning.

"Legolas," Thranduil said, a clear note of warning in his voice.

Legolas said nothing and accepted the platter of toasted bread that Amoniel offered him. She was looking at him with timid gray eyes, obviously upset at his outburst. He said nothing as placed a slice on his plate and passed the platter on to his father. He briefly made eye contact with Thranduil before setting about buttering the toasted bread and then spreading marmalade on top. He took a small bite and mechanically began to chew without thinking about it. Vaguely he could hear his family's voices but he really couldn't follow them. He felt dizzy and tired. His mind was dark and he just wanted to go to bed. He took another bite and wondered why he was even eating. He wasn't hungry at all. Having breakfast with his family seemed to take up too much of his waning energy.

"Legolas?"

At the sound of his name, Legolas startled and looked over at his father.

"What is wrong?" Thranduil asked earnestly.

Legolas looked over at Camthalion and Amoniel. They had all stopped eating and were looking at him. He could see concern written on all of their faces. He merely shrugged. "Nothing," he mumbled.

"I think there is," Thranduil gently prodded, "Are you feeling well?"

"I'm just tired, Adar," Legolas replied. He squirmed slightly under his father's scrutinizing gaze. Thranduil took in his son's peaked face and glassy eyes. He did indeed look tired. In fact, Legolas looked as though he was about to nod off.

"Go back to bed," Thranduil told him at last, "I'll look in on you in a while."

Camthalion nearly choked on his tea. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He certainly was never given a day off just because he was tired. But Thranduil had always mollycoddled Legolas and clearly, this was an advantage to being the youngest. Legolas didn't need to be told twice. He quickly exited the Dining Hall without another word.

"Really, Adar? He gets to go back to bed?" Camthalion asked once he was sure Legolas was out of earshot. He scoffed as he shook his head in disbelief.

"It is not your affair," Thranduil stated firmly, "Legolas is my son and I will handle him how I see fit. I want him excused from military duty today."

Camthalion opened his mouth to argue further but stopped when he felt Amoniel squeeze his hand under the table. "What do you think is wrong with him?" he asked instead.

"I don't know," Thranduil answered him as he resumed eating his breakfast, "But I plan to speak with him later this afternoon."

Camthalion nodded. He hoped Thranduil could get to the bottom of the situation. Legolas's strange behavior was becoming unpredictable and even worse it all seemed to be forming into a nasty habit, one that needed to be broken.

*****

Legolas shut his bedchamber door with a soft thud. He leaned back against it and waited for the next wave of dizziness to pass before making his way over to his bed, clumsily removing his jerkin and boots as he did so. He sank down in his bed gratefully, glad that the maids hadn't been to his chambers yet to make the bed. He sighed as his head made contact with the soft pillows. He laid there for a few moments before lazily reaching down to pull the sheets and quilt over him. It took several attempts as his arms felt heavy and useless. He closed his eyes and felt the room continue to spin as he slowly drifted toward unconsciousness. Sometime later he heard his chamber door open and he sensed his father enter the darkened room. Legolas heard his soft footsteps as he approached the bed. He felt Thranduil pull the quilts up over his chest and then quietly exit the room. Legolas was glad he had left. He simply didn't feel like talking. He just wanted to sleep and he allowed himself to doze off peacefully.

When he awoke he realized that he had missed the midday meal. A tray of food was sitting on his bedside table. Legolas briefly picked at the fruit and cheese with disinterest as he redressed himself. Then he went into the bath chamber and splashed cool water on his face from the large flagon on the table in an attempt to rouse himself. Lastly, he replaited his hair before going out into the corridor.

It was quiet in mid afternoon at The Palace. Servants were going about their duties, hardly paying the young Prince any mind. As Legolas approached the Antechamber he found it was empty and did not linger as he continued out the Great Doors. He stopped as soon as he felt a warm embrace of the late summer sun upon his face. Smiling, he continued on his way to the stables. He met his adar's stable master at the door.

"Mae govannen, my lord," Maeron greeted him cheerfully, "How do you fare on this fine afternoon?"

"Mae govannen," Legolas returned with a smile, "I fare well. I would like my horse."

"Of course," Maeron said with a slight bow and disappeared back into the stables. Legolas stood outside and continued to soak in the sun's rays. He was interrupted several minutes later when Maeron returned leading a beautiful chestnut stallion out the doors.

"Mae govannen, Tegalad," Legolas said as he ran his hand down the horse's glossy dark mane and flank, "Would you like to go riding today, mellon nín?"

Tegalad responded by nipping him playfully on the ear. Legolas laughed and mounted the steed and bid Maeron a good afternoon before riding off toward the Forest. He slowed Tegalad to a leisurely walk after they traveled a short distance off of the Elf Path. He closed his eyes and felt his fëa rejoice as it sang in tune with the Song of Arda. After spending so much time convalescing indoors he felt nothing but gratitude to be in his adar's Forest that afternoon. He could hear the birds singing overhead and the gentle humming of the trees surrounding him. A warm, gentle breeze softly rustled the dense canopy of the Greenwood, bringing with it the scent of honeysuckle and the earthy aroma of the Forest. He remained in this transcendental state for nearly an hour before a sudden twitch of restlessness deep within him reminded him of his mission. He urged Tegalad further east at a slow trot until nearly half an hour later when he arrived at his destination.

A small cabin sat nestled between two large, ancient oaks. Behind it was rows and rows of plants at various stages of maturity; some were delicate seedlings while others had grown with large pods and still others that had bright, red flowers in full bloom. Legolas dismounted and studied the cabin for a moment. He couldn't believe what he was about to do or that he would even need to do it. He burned with shame but at the same time, he knew of no other way to get out of the situation. Another band of anxiety wrapped itself around his chest. Legolas took a deep breath and patted Tegalad's neck. It was best to just get it over with. He could feel guilty about it later. He walked up to the cabin and knocked on the door. It was quiet for a long moment and Legolas was about to knock again before he heard movement within. The door opened a crack and Legolas could see that it was dark inside. Then the door was pulled the rest of the way open, revealing a tall dark haired ellon. He looked surprised to see Legolas at his door and peered around him as if he expected to see someone else with him. When he saw that Legolas was alone he shrugged and turned his attention to the ellon in front of him.

"Does your father know you are here, young Thranduilion?" he asked.

"I would hope not," Legolas answered with a smirk. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few coins and held him out to Rilien. He held Rilien's gaze for what felt like an eternity. Rilien sensed the young one's desperation and accepted the coins before he went back in the cabin. Legolas glanced back at Tegalad. The horse was happily eating some grass, blissfully unaware of the seriousness of what was transpiring. He turned back to the cabin just as Rilien returned with a small white sack in his hand.

"I trust you know what to do with that," he said as he handed it to Legolas.

"I trust you will be here next week," Legolas retorted as he placed the bag in his pocket.

"Of course, my lord," Rilien promised, "You know where to find me."

Legolas nodded. He turned and walked back to his horse, lightly running his hand across one of the great oaks as he passed by. As Rilien watched him leave, he found himself in an unexpected situation. The Kings's son would be able to afford the powder, at least for some time. That would help his financial situation greatly. But the fact remained that Legolas was The King's son and he shuttered to think what Thranduil would do to him if he learned of this transaction. Rilien shrugged and went back into his cabin. If he had not been feeling the elevated sensations himself he would have almost felt guilty.

*****

Tegalad seemed glad to be leaving. He trotted happily as they made their way back home. Legolas returned the horse to the stable hand and then went directly back to his bedchambers. He knew it would be time for the evening meal soon. He took the bag of powder and placed it in his hiding place in the back of the top drawer of his wardrobe. He took one of the last two vials of tonic and quickly downed it. He picked up the second and was about to drink it too but there was a sudden, unexpected knock at the door. He jumped, nearly dropping the precious tonic to the floor. After steadying himself, he put it back beside the power and slammed the drawer shut. He walked over to the door and opened it.

"Adar."

Thranduil smiled at him. "May I come in? I wish to speak to you."

Legolas opened the door wider so that his father could step in the room. Thranduil walked past Legolas and sat down on the edge of his bed. Legolas closed the door and took a seat beside his father when he beckoned him. "What is it?" he inquired.

"I am worried about you," Thranduil said, looking straight into his eyes, "Something is bothering you. I know that there is. "

"No, I'm fine," Legolas said for what seemed to be the thousandth time in the past few weeks.

"I don't think that you are," Thranduil replied, "You are not yourself."

"I don't know what you are talking about," Legolas argued. Despite the fact that he didn't really want to talk to his father the tonic was beginning to take effect and he could feel his need steadily quiet until he could focus on Thranduil.

"You are quick to anger. You were rude to your brother this morning," Thranduil pointed out.

"I was tired," Legolas tried to placate him, "The pain in my hand kept waking me during the night."

"Look at me," Thranduil bid him. Legolas obeyed and looked over at his father. Thranduil considered his son. He seemed much different than he had been that morning. Legolas's face was serene as he looked at him expectantly. He seemed alert and had no sign of discomfort. Thranduil couldn't find anything that reminded him of the irritable ellon that had been sulking at the table during the morning meal. Perhaps Legolas was right and they were merely exaggerating the entire situation. Thranduil was not one inclined to borrow trouble.

"Adar?"

"Don't be late for the evening meal," was all Thranduil said before he stood up and left, closing the door behind him.

*****

Camthalion found his father relaxing in the sitting room before the evening meal was served.

"Good evening, Adar," he greeted him.

"Come in Camthalion and pour yourself some wine," Thranduil bid his eldest son with a smile.

Camthalion smiled as he stepped into the room. He walked over to the small table that held a large decanter of Dorwinion. He poured some in a goblet and sat down beside Thranduil on the settee. He drank deeply and sighed. It had been a very long day and a few goblets of wine seemed to be the best remedy for it.

"Have you talked to Legolas?" Camthalion asked casually, not wanting to start an argument, especially before having to sit through a meal with his father.

"Yes," Thranduil answered, "I spoke with him late this afternoon. Everything is fine. There is no need to worry."

"Are you certain?" Camthalion asked doubtfully, "That is not what I would have thought after seeing him this morning."

"He was tired," Thranduil replied, "His sleep has been interrupted from the pain of his hand."

"I think it is more than that," Camthalion cautiously pressed. He was trying to tread carefully. His father never took kindly to any type of interference, especially with anything regarding his children.

"Your brother is going to be fine," Thranduil told him firmly. A warning was evident in his voice, telling Camthalion he was very close to stepping over his boundary. "He has gone through a traumatic ordeal which has caused him to be in chronic pain. He is healing. He will be back to old self soon."

"That is what you truly believe?" Camthalion tried, unsuccessfully trying to hide his skepticism.

"Yes, it is," Thranduil snapped, "In case you have forgotten, I am his father and you are not. I am telling you for the final time. Legolas will be fine. It is nothing time and patience can't mend."

"Yes, Adar," Camthalion said stiffly. He drained the last of the wine from his goblet and got up to pour another glass. He sighed as he watched the crimson fluid rise in his goblet. He wished that his father wasn't so obstinate. Part of him thought that his father was trivializing the situation but a larger part hoped that Thranduil was right. He supposed that only time would tell.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Soon another season was upon them. The dense canopy of The Greenwood was ablaze with bright colors of reds, golds, fiery oranges and yellows. The Silvan were busily bringing in their harvest in preparation for the long, meager winter months ahead. Every nut, seed, fruit, and grain was carefully gathered and laid away. Meats of all kinds were smoked and hung while fields of vegetables were collected. Once all the preparations were meticulously made it was time to celebrate all that Arda had provided them for another year.

Aran Thranduil watched as Elves milled about on the Green, too occupied with getting things ready for the feast to do more than dip their heads respectfully at The King as they hurried past. Thranduil could not help but smile ruefully as he watched Amoniel standing in the middle of the frenzy of activity, parchment in hand, giving out orders and watching it come together with a critical eye. His eldest son had certainly married a very bossy elleth. But she had a talent for such things. She always seemed to make each feast as memorable as the last. Such was the way of the long, immortal life of The Eldar. Woodelves, in particular, always found a way to celebrate and take joy in something as simple as the changing of seasons.

"Adar."

Thranduil turned to see his sons walking toward him. Legolas watched Amoniel for a moment then glanced at his father knowingly. The smirks on his father and brother's faces did not escape Camthalion. But he did little more than roll his eyes, knowing full well his wife was in her element as she directed a group of ellyn who were erecting a large pavilion in the center of the Common Greens. He smiled tenderly at her as she finished giving her orders and start a trek toward the kitchens where he was sure the kitchen staff would be getting an earful. He truly would not want her any other way, even when her strong opinions were directed toward him.

"What are your plans this afternoon?" his father inquired, interrupting his quiet musings, since both his sons had missed the morning and the midday meals.

"We are going to finish patrolling the area," Camthalion answered for both of them, "We have found more webs this morning even this close to The Stronghold."

"How many?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary," Camthalion reassured him, "Most of the spiders we have come across are not yet fully grown. I don't believe we have anything to worry about. We have found no sign of orcs or wargs."

Thranduil nodded, accepting his assessment. He could not help but feel resentful at the Evil presence in his Wood. He remembered a time, long ago when his father was The Elvenking, when they did not have to worry about such dangers. He had many fond memories of feasts filled with music, songs and laughter lasting well into the night and laying afterward under the stars, gazing up as they burned brightly overhead, feeling safe and at peace. He hoped his sons would one day know carefree days as he had when he was Ernil.

"Be careful," he bid them as he did each time they went on patrol. His wife had been killed no more than five leagues from The Palace. Though he knew his sons were capable soldiers he still worried whenever they had to venture away from home, no matter how short the distance may be. It had only been nearly thirty summers since The Queen had been killed. But Thranduil still felt an intense fear that what was most precious to him could be unexpectedly be taken. His sons took their leave and started to walk toward the Military Headquarters.

"We will, Adar," Legolas replied, turning to give him an easy smile, "See you this evening.

Thranduil watched them until he could see them no more before starting back to go into The Palace. He saw Aearion standing at the Gates with what looked like a thick stack of proposals in his hand. He inwardly sighed. His advisor always seemed to find him whenever he managed to slip out undetected. It was going to be a long afternoon.

*****

Legolas walked in formation behind Neurion as they stalked through the Eastern part of the Forest. It had been a very long, busy day. The patrols had been out before dawn and had searched a wide perimeter around The Stronghold for any creatures of Shadow. But this far North the Forest was far less corrupted and they only encountered the occasional spider colony which they cut from the trees and burned along with the bodies of the spiders that had nested in them. As the afternoon sun blazed directly overhead the Song of the Forest changed alerting the Elves to the danger that lurked nearby. They took to the trees and quickly located the webs clustered in the trees ahead. Legolas patiently waited for Neurion's signal before releasing arrows into the nest. Several spiders fell to their death, spraying the Forest floor with foul black blood that poured from the wounds the Elvish arrows had made when they pierced them. Sellion and Locien began the task of cutting the webs and egg sacs from the boughs of the trees while those on the ground started piling what fell into a large mound while others gathered branches to start a fire. A couple of spiders managed to escape the onslaught but were chased down. Legolas swiftly followed one of them, notching his last arrow as he nimbly ran from limb to limb and tree to tree. As he leaped onto the branch of an ancient beech he loosed his arrow and it swiftly found its mark. He allowed himself a satisfied smile as the spider screamed once and fell to the ground with a deadly crunch.

Legolas gracefully descended to the Forest floor beside the body grimacing in disgust at the eight curled legs. He hated to even touch the nasty beasts. It was something he couldn't get used to and no matter how many times he threw one of the disgusting corpses onto the pyre he still shuddered. He looked around and saw that he was alone and further he realized he was very close to Rilien's cabin. He deliberated only for a moment before taking off in a quick sprint turning slightly North. He could complete his transaction quickly and Neurion would be none the wiser. Within minutes he arrived at his destination and walked between the two large oaks that stood in front of the cabin. As was his custom he lightly ran his right hand over the trunk of one as he passed. He rapped on the door impatiently and it opened moments later. Rilien didn't seem surprised to see him. Legolas knew he was meeting him more frequently than he had been. Part of him was ashamed as he stood and waited for Rilien to return to the door with a small bag. He knew he was supposed to be serving the Realm, not purchasing powder for his own use. He tried not to picture what his father would say if he knew what was transpiring at that moment. Rilien returned and handed him the small white sack. Feeling that it was heavy with powder loosened the anxiety in Legolas' chest. He handed Rilien his payment, turned and left. He didn't have time for small talk today. As soon as he passed through the oaks he took off running back to the spider's corpse and began to quickly drag it back to the others.

"Where have you been?"

Legolas grimaced as he flung the spider upon the large stack of burning refuse.

"Not far," he answered the Captain, "I had to bring this one back, didn't I?"

Neurion nodded. "That is the last of the spiders. Well done, Legolas. Once the fires burn out we can return home."

Legolas breathed a small sigh of relief that his absence was somewhat falsely accounted for. Again, his father would be disappointed if he knew how deceitful he had been, especially to a Captain. He pretended not to notice Valen give him a look of admiration. Deep inside he knew he had done nothing that afternoon that was deserving of praise. He ignored everyone as he stood and watched the last of the debris burn as tried to ignore the rancid odor emitting from the flames. Some days he hated himself. He hardly knew who that was anymore.

*****

Later as he emerged from the bath chamber he thought about his current dilemma. He felt the tug of need deep in his gut and removed the bag of powder from its hiding place in his wardrobe. He would have to take a small amount before the feast or he would begin to feel very uncomfortable and itch and fidget which would most definitely cause unwanted attention. He quickly dressed in the formal outfit that had been laid out for him. He sat in front of the mirror at his bureau to begin to plait his hair. He looked down at the long, golden tresses that flowed between his fingers as he braided it. It was identical to his father's. But he was nothing like his father. Thranduil would never buy such a substance because he was afraid to feel pain or enjoyed elevated feelings. His father was strong and brave and he knew he could never be half the ellon that Thranduil was. Legolas took his circlet from where it lay on the bureau and placed it on his brow. He refused to look at his reflection as he scraped a thin line of powder on a small handheld mirror. He swiftly drew it into his nose and closed his eyes against the intense yet familiar burn through his sinus. He laid his head on the bureau as the room spun slightly. He had misjudged the dosage again. He closed his eyes and felt his mind cloud. He had no idea how long he stayed that way before he jerked awake with a start. He instantly knew he was late. He hastily cleaned the mirror of any lingering residue with his sleeve and then grabbed the bag of powder. In his clumsy haste tripped over the chair. His heart dropped but he quickly sighed with relief when he saw that bag was still intact and not a single grain of powder had spilled. He replaced it in the hiding place and made his way out into the corridor

It was empty and he allowed a moment to compose himself. He took a deep breath and let it out before he made his way out of The Great Doors and onto the Commons. He was far later than he realized. His father had already given the blessing over the feast. Everyone was eating and paid little mind to the slender figure that quickly moved along the side and up to The King's table. Legolas sat down at his usual place on Thranduil's left. He stared at his plate and could feel his father seething with anger.

"Prince Legolas," Thranduil said smoothly as he refilled his wine glass from the crystal decanter in front of them before filling the goblet at Legolas' plate, "I trust you have a good reason for your tardiness."

"I beg your pardon, my lord father," Legolas replied meekly, "I lost track of time." He finally raised his eyes to meet his father's gaze and instantly looked back down as the blue eyes narrowed with irritation. Clearly, Thranduil was not going to accept that excuse. Legolas did not blame him for it sounded hollow even to his own ears.

"Once again I am disappointed in you, iôn nín," Thranduil snapped, "I am beginning to wonder if I am doomed to feel anything but where you are concerned."

Legolas felt a sudden, intense anger surge through him. He was doing the best he could given the circumstances. His father acted like he was trying to anger him on purpose.

"Adar…" He began but was quickly silenced with another stern look.

"I don't want to hear it, I am sure," Thranduil cut him off as he returned to his meal.

"If you don't want to hear it then why did you ask?" Legolas snarled before he could stop himself and in a much louder volume than he had intended. Camthalion leaned back in his chair and met his brother's gaze behind their father's back. He shook his head slightly in warning. His brother was treading on dangerous ground. The few other elves that were close enough to hear the young Prince's impudence looked at each other with wide eyes.

"I never spoke to my father in such a manner," Thranduil hissed as he grabbed Legolas's arm none too gently. Legolas jerked his arm from his grasp and it took every bit of self control he had not to roll his eyes. He found that rather hard to believe. He knew his father was Oropher's only child and he had heard many tales of how spoiled he had been in his youth as the son of a wealthy Prince of Doriath, long before they came to The Greenwood. He thought his father was being rather hypocritical and arbitrary.

"Again, I must beg your pardon, my lord" Legolas finally ground out making it clear he was anything but remorseful. He refused to look at anything but the wine glass in front of him.

Thranduil continued to glare at him. "I would give it to you if I believed you," he said before turning his back on him and ignoring his youngest son. He didn't trust himself to say anything more in the current moment, as having a family squabble in public was out of the question.

Legolas said nothing. He looked down at his plate for several long minutes. It as full of good things to eat; boar that had been roasted on the open fire pits that very afternoon, fresh greens and roasted squash, a dressing of mushrooms and acorns. He wasn't hungry after inhaling the powder, not even for the things he liked best to eat. Soon honey cakes were brought out as well as fruit pies and pastries filled with hazelnuts and cream. But it did nothing to tempt his pitiful appetite. After a while, everyone had eaten their fill and the minstrels began to play. Tables were moved to make way for dancing. Amoniel smiled sweetly up at Camthalion and he smiled back at his wife.

"You honor me, my lady," he said as he stood and extended his hand to her. She laughed as she took it and allowed him to lead her out among the dancers.

Legolas stared blankly out at them. He didn't distinguish one Elf from the other and his vision blurred slightly as gowns and tunics of gold, greens and browns gracefully swept past him. His anger had left as quickly as it had appeared, leaving him feeling hollow and deflated. He only wished to be in bed. He paid no notice as several ellith gazed over at him, trying to catch his eye in hopes that the young Ernil would grant them a dance or two. Finally, he glanced over at his father and who was watching the dancers as well. Thranduil looked pained, as though lost in his own reminiscing. Legolas knew he was missing his mother. The King had not danced for many years now, not since his wife had died. Legolas felt even more guilty for his impertinence. Thranduil was having a difficult enough time without him making it unnecessarily worse.

"Adar?" he said softly.

Thranduil startled slightly and looked over at him, raising an eyebrow inquisitively. He looked almost wary, as though he were expecting another argument.

"I wish to retire for the evening."

Thranduil looked down and saw naught had been touched on the plate in front of Legolas tough the goblet of wine had been drained. "You haven't eaten anything," he observed. That was odd in itself as the feast had been full of fine sweet and savory dishes.

Legolas shook his head in answer. "I just want to go home."

"Go." Thranduil dismissed him with a wave of his hand.

Legolas did not wait for an elaboration. He stood and bowed slightly to his father and left The Greens without looking back. Thranduil watched him go and noticed that he wasn't moving with his usual grace. He hadn't observed Legolas overindulge in wine. In fact, he didn't recall him ever reaching for the decanter. He was troubled yet again over his youngest son's behavior. He tried to push it from his mind and smiled as he watched his eldest dance with his wife. Camthalion leaned down and whispered tenderly Amoniel's ear and was rewarded with a smile that clearly foretold that the evening would end passionately. Thranduil tried to squash the feelings of jealousy that rose from his broken heart. He missed Faelwen. He missed her scent and the way her untamable dark hair had always smelled of lavender. Her merry dark eyes had always shone with mirth unless she was angry when they blazed with fury. Even when he was the target of her anger he had always found it difficult not to smile at her, finding her beautiful even when she was taking him to task. She had always laughed openly and freely, especially when she told him he was far too serious. When he closed his eyes he could recall the way she felt in his arms when they had danced at many feasts much like their son and his wife were going now. He ached for the intimate connection they had shared for several millennia. He wondered if his splintered fëa would ever feel complete again. It felt wounded and repeatedly reached out to try to find its missing half. His chest still felt as though it had a huge, gaping hole in it where his heart was supposed to be. Faelwen would have known how to handle their youngest son. He tried to ponder what she would say to Legolas but the grief of her passing still clouded his mind and he was unable to grasp anything. He knew he was alone. With that last depressing thought, he drained his goblet and started to walk home, unaccompanied, feeling very lonely and desolate.

He reached The Palace quickly, having encountered no one as most were still at the feast. The King quietly made his way through the Antechamber and toward their personal quarters. He stopped in front of Legolas' rooms and knocked lightly on the door. There was no answer. He frowned. As angry as he was at his son he still could not shake the uneasy feeling. He knocked again, this time a little louder and still no answer came. So Thranduil opened the door and stepped inside the dark room sitting room and then let himself into the bedchamber. The floor was littered with Legolas's formal robes and boots where he had haphazardly thrown them as he had disrobed. Thranduil could make out the figure in the bed and hear his son's slow and steady breaths. As he silently crept to the bed and took in the sleeping form he still could not dismiss the feeling that something was wrong. But Legolas looked peaceful in his slumber, making him almost push away his uneasiness. Thranduil reached down and smoothed some of the hair off of his face and frowned. He felt quite warm. He placed his hand on his son's brow to check again when Legolas's eyes suddenly focused.

"Adar?" he mumbled sleepily, sounding confused.

"Yes," Thranduil answered as he sat down beside him on the bed, "I was just checking in on you. You don't appear to be feeling well. You didn't eat anything at the feast and you feel warm to touch."

Legolas dismissed the concern. He seemed slightly muddled and then the evening's events came crashing back to his powder addled mind. "I truly am sorry, Adar. I had no right to speak to you in such a way."

"You are forgiven, dear one," Thranduil reassured him and leaned down to kiss his brow. Again Legolas felt rather warm but yet did not look uncomfortable. His son's eyes quickly lost focus and as he found the Elven Dream Path once again. Thranduil rose and watched him in concern for a few more moments before pulling one of the heavy quilts off of his son and draping it at the foot of the bed.

He made his way out of the room and across the corridor to his own private chambers. He readied himself for sleep, his mind on Legolas. Finally, he lay in the large, empty bed and let his mind wander one last time over what had happened earlier in the evening. It was worrisome as he realized it truly wasn't something out of the ordinary anymore. Things had not been quite right for some months now. Legolas seemed quick to anger frequently and did not seem to be happy. He did not have much of an appetite and picked at what was served at meals. As Thranduil thought about it he could not recall the last time Legolas had eaten a full meal. At first, Thranduil had dismissed it as trauma from his accident that would soon fade but now he was not so certain. He had tried to talk to his son several times but Legolas seemed to resent the intrusion and had assured him that he was fine. As he drifted into an uneasy sleep he thought perhaps Camthalion was right, there was possibly something more to this behavior. With one last thought before his eyes began to lose their focus and he resolved to get to the bottom of it once and for all starting at first light.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Early the next morning The King found himself knocking on his youngest son's bedchambers. He had not slept well as his mind had been on Legolas. He knocked on the door and received no answer much like he had the previous night. So he decided to forgo propriety and opened the door without knocking again. He stepped into the sitting room and saw that it was empty before entering the bedchamber. He quickly crossed it and walked through the open door of the adjoining bath chamber. It too was empty. As Thranduil turned to go he surveyed the room and shook his head. His youngest always had been a bit untidy. The bed was unmade and clothes he had worn the night before still littered the floor. But nothing in the room seemed amiss or gave him any clue as to what could have been bothering Legolas.

So Thranduil made his way to the Dining Hall, his thoughts still lingering on the feast. He hesitated in the doorway when he saw Legolas sitting at the table, uncharacteristically the first to arrive.

"Good morning, Adar," he greeted quietly as his father took his seat.

Thranduil watched as Legolas's eyes met his for only a moment before looking down again. He was clearly feeling upset about his behavior the previous evening.

"Good morning, iôn nín," he replied easily as though nothing was amiss, "Did you sleep well?"

"Yes," Legolas answered.

Thranduil wasn't surprised when he didn't elaborate. Legolas tended to brood lately and was not as forthcoming as he had once been.

"Good morning."

Camthalion and Amoniel entered the Hall and took their usual seats. Thranduil returned their greetings as the meal was brought forth and served. Camthalion looked at his brother who mumbled a half hearted acknowledgment. He choose not to comment on it, not wanting to start an argument first thing in the morning.

"Well, I think last night's feast was very memorable," Amoniel said brightly as she placed an apple next to her bowl of porridge, trying to ease the tension, "I think the cooks have outdone themselves!"

Legolas ate quietly as he listened to his family talk about the feast. Thankfully they didn't bring up the argument he had had with his father. Soon the conversation turned to the day's schedule. Legolas didn't pay much attention as he picked at the fruit on his plate until a deep voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Legolas?"

He turned toward his father. "Yes, Adar?"

"As you know Court is not in session today," Thranduil began.

Legolas nodded and tried not to smile so obviously. He was extremely grateful for that fact. His head ached and he knew he sitting in the Great Hall for hours would only make it worse. He had plans to meet Valen and Sellion.

"Since your morning is free I would like you to attend the meeting in my Council Chamber," Thranduil told him.

"Must I?" he asked in what was very close to a whine.

"I would like you to be in attendance," Thranduil replied, sending his son a warning look.

Legolas sulked for a moment, his lips pursed in annoyance. It wasn't fair. He was supposed to have the morning free out in the Forest with his friends, not sitting in the Council Chambers for a stupid, boring meeting. "Why?" he finally ground out.

"Because you need to learn how to conduct such meetings," Thranduil snapped, "and moreover because I told you to be there."

"My friends never have to attend Court or Council meetings," Legolas argued, knowing full well how childish he sounded.

"Your friends are not the Princes of this Realm," Thranduil dismissed the argument, "Unlike you, they do not owe duty."

"Let Camthalion attend if you need someone there," Legolas said, "After all, he is the Crown Prince."

"I have attended countless meetings, penneth," Camthalion replied, emphasizing the last word in an attempt to aggravate his brother further, "Besides, I have my own duties to attend."

"Quite right," Thranduil readily agreed, "Your brother learned to do such things centuries ago. Now it is your turn. Besides, it is vital for you to know how to conduct the Realm. One day you may unexpectedly find yourself King. I certainly did."

Legolas slammed his fork down on his plate with a loud clatter, causing Amoniel to jump in her seat, startled at his sudden outburst. "Adar! I don't want to!"

Thranduil looked at him in stunned silence for a long moment. "I don't recall asking you if you wanted to," he said icily, "I told you to be there and so you will. I am afraid you have been a very spoiled elfling, Legolas, and it is about time I took you in hand."

Legolas glared at his father. Then to Thranduil's amazement, he actually rolled his eyes. He had never struck either of children and for one wild moment his right hand itched to remove the rebellious look from his youngest's face. Camthalion and Amoniel traded identical dumbfounded looks. They could not remember Legolas ever before being this impertinent, not even during his horrible, hormone driven adolescence. Legolas looked at his family. They were all staring at him as though he had gone mad. The very thought fueled another wave of rage through him. His father opened his mouth to say something but before he could Legolas spat a vulgar expletive and threw his napkin down, pushing away from the table with such a force that it knocked his chair over as he stood. He ignored his father's angry command to return to his place. He nearly ran to his chambers. He felt annoyed at himself for not inhaling a line of powder. He had planned to do it after breakfast, before meeting his friends. He knew he needed to do so now that he was going to have to be present for the Council meeting. He quickly placed a small, thin line of powder on the mirror before replacing the bag in the back of the wardrobe drawer. He sat down at the bureau, swiftly inhaled it and closed his eyes. He felt a slight burn and smiled in relief that he had taken just the right amount. He knew he would now be able to attend The King at the meeting. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out and felt his rash anger deflate as well.

Without warning his bedchamber door swung open. Legolas's eyes flew open and he instantly turned the mirror he held in his hand over so that the glass was facing the top of the bureau, away from prying eyes.

"Your behavior is completely unacceptable!"

Legolas turned and looked at his irate father. Inwardly he cringed as Thranduil grabbed him by the tunic and pulled him close so that they were nearly nose to nose.

"You will speak to me with respect," he all but shouted at his son.

Legolas swallowed hard as his father released him. He had never seen him so angry. But he didn't blame him. He had no idea what possessed him to speak Thranduil the way that he did. He stepped back and shakily got down on his knees before The King.

"Forgive me, Aran nín," he said as steadily as he could, his eyes trained on the floor, "You are my father and King. I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for you. I rose above my station and I beseech your pardon."

Thranduil regarded his son for a moment. Legolas's fists were clenched and he was slightly trembling as tears of frustration pooled in his eyes. He felt his anger melt away as he took in the forlorn figure on the floor in front of him.

"My pardon is granted," he said at last, "You may rise, Legolas."

Legolas did as he was bid and was astonished when his father pulled him into a comforting embrace, the last thing he had expected the one he had wronged to do. Legolas leaned into it, surprising Thranduil and didn't pull away as he rested his head on his father's strong shoulder. Thranduil wrapped one arm around his son and the other rested on the back of his head, stroking the silky blond hair.

"Something is wrong, iôn nín. I can feel it," he said softly.

Legolas said nothing. Instead, he desperately tried to draw comfort from the familiar embrace and scent of his father. All his life he had sought solace there and though now grown it was no different. He sighed and then slightly pulled away so he could look at Thranduil.

"Please tell me," Thranduil pleaded as he looked deep into the tear filled, blue eyes that were so like his own.

Legolas ached to tell him. He wanted to sob and cry "Ada, help me!" He wanted to tell him about the immense pain from the accident and sleepless nights and the nightmares. He wanted to tell him how the vials of tonic suddenly turned into the powder. He wanted to tell him about the elevated feelings and how the powder made his troubles and sadness go away. He wanted to confide in him how frightened he was to be without the powder and that no matter how much he tried not to he always used it. But he didn't know how. He didn't know where to start. He didn't know how to explain how he had gotten to this point or the terrible things he had done along the way. He knew he would do nothing but anger and disappoint his father and he had already done far too much of that recently.

"Legolas?"

Legolas leaned back into his father's arms and sighed.

"I love you, Adar," he said simply, as he rapidly blinked away the moisture from his eyes.

Thranduil tightened his arms around his son protectively. Whatever he had expected Legolas to say, that had not been it. He brushed his lips lightly over his son's forehead. "I love you, too," he softly replied.

Legolas pulled away and gave Thranduil a forced smile. "We are going to be late for the Council meeting," he said.

*****

Aearion was surprised when the young Prince entered The King's Council Chamber behind his father. He seemed somber and said nothing as he took a seat next to the chief advisor. He only nodded in silent greeting when the Aearion bid him a good morning. But Aearion did not have time to dwell on it as The King took his seat at the head of the long table and called the assembly to order.

Legolas sat quietly as the meeting droned on and on. He tried to listen to The King and his advisors but he was having difficulty. He felt heartsick over the way he had spoken to his father. Further, his head ached to the point he felt slightly dizzy. He tried to ignore it and shut it out to concentrate on the matter at hand. But he could not. His mouth felt very dry and he wanted nothing more than a tall glass of cool water to quench his desperate thirst. The voices around him blurred as another flare burned up his sinus and nearly caused him to moan at the unexpected pain. He closed his eyes against it and mentally willed it to go away.

"Your Highness, are you well?" Aearion whispered to him, jolting him out of his melancholy thoughts.

Legolas opened his eyes to see another drop of blood fall to the parchment in front of him with an audible splat. Startled, he realized his nose was bleeding and took the handkerchief the advisor was holding out to him. He wiped his nose and stared at the ample amount of blood on the soft, white cloth.

"Aran nín!"

Legolas was dismayed when he heard Aearion's shout. The last thing he wanted was his father to meddle. He had just convinced him nothing was wrong. Thranduil glowered at the sudden interruption. But when his gaze shifted from his advisor to his son his expression changed to one of concern.

"Legolas," he said as he stood and made his way around the table. His heart leaped as he took in the blood staining the parchment on the table to his son's tunic to the saturated handkerchief he was holding up to his nose. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Legolas answered truthfully, "It just started bleeding."

"I want you to go to the infirmary," Thranduil replied, not liking how much blood still seemed to be flowing.

"I am fine, Ad...my lord," Legolas said, hastily remembering the formal setting.

"I said go to the infirmary," Thranduil ordered firmly, "I will join you there soon."

Legolas said nothing but nodded. He stood, aware everyone was watching him and made his way out into the corridor.

*****

Unfortunately for Legolas, he had to wait to be seen a by a healer. Two younglings had been injured in a sword training exercise and required the healers' immediate attention. So Legolas had to wait. Just as the assistant came out of an exam room and told him he could come back, his father appeared. Legolas held back a groan but said nothing as he followed her into the small room and sat on the table as she indicated. He was relieved when his father chose to sit in a chair rather than hover like he tended to do. Almost instantly to door opened and Aranhil entered.

"What happened, my lord?" he asked, after he quickly bowed to The King, grimacing as he pulled down the handkerchief.

"It just started to bleed," Legolas answered him as the healer titled his head back to get a better look.

"When did it start?" Aranhil asked as he felt the bridge of his nose.

"Perhaps twenty minutes ago," Legolas replied, hastily wiping the blood that continued to flow before it could run down over his lip.

"Are you in pain?" The healer frowned at finding no obvious cause to the sudden bleeding.

"No."

"This is odd," Aranhil told him as he placed another cloth up to Legolas's face and then positioned him so that he was leaning forward, "Your nose is not broken and too much time has passed from your head injury to cause a nose bleed this severe. Have you been hit in the face recently?"

Legolas jumped on the suggestion. It would be a perfect explanation and mentally he thanked the healer for providing it. "I engaged in combat with spiders on patrol yesterday," he said without adding any further details. Technically, he reasoned to himself, that was not untruthful.

Aranhil nodded. "It should stop on its own soon. I want you to hold this cloth here and pinch your nose," he instructed as he replaced his hand with Legolas's, "Do not lay down and I will be back in a few minutes to see if it has stopped."

He quietly exited the room. Thranduil stood up and approached his son. He reached out and tipped his head back to get a look for himself. He saw no swelling, bruising or anything that would indicate trauma. "You need to be more careful, Legolas," he gently admonished, "Now hold this up to your nose or you will get more blood on your tunic."

Legolas signed forcibly. He hated being treated like a dimwitted child, something he was convinced he would forever be in his adar's eyes.

"If you would exercise more caution then I wouldn't have to say anything," Thranduil snapped when he noticed his son's annoyance.

Not wanting another scene like they had had that morning Legolas nodded. He felt it was just easier to humor his father. Several minutes later Aranhil returned and was pleased to see the bleeding had stopped. He allowed Legolas to leave with the promise he would return if the bleeding resumed and instructions not to exert himself for the remainder of the day. Legolas swallowed another flare of annoyance as Thranduil followed him from the infirmary to his bedchambers.

"That tunic is ruined," Thranduil observed as he stepped toward the wardrobe.

Legolas felt panic swell in his chest at the sight of his father opening up the wardrobe. He knew that the powder was hidden safely away in the top drawer but it was too close for comfort. He shuddered to think with the King would do if he would inadvertently stumble upon it. "I can do it, Adar," he declared, "I am not an elfling, you know."

"Very well," Thranduil relented, stepping away from the wardrobe and turning to face his son, "but you need to be resting in bed as soon as you have changed."

"I will," Legolas promised, yielding only to get him out of his room.

"I am meeting with my stable master this afternoon," Thranduil told him as he headed toward the door, "But you can send for me if you need me."

"Yes, Adar," Legolas swiftly promised him. He breathed a sigh of relief after his father left. He exchanged the soiled ivory tunic he was wearing for a clean one and when he carelessly tossed it onto the floor he was amazed at how much blood stained the front of it. He knew inhaling the powder had caused it. Pushing those jarring thoughts from his mind he quickly inhaled another thin line of powder and replaced it back in the wardrobe though this time he checked several times to make sure it was completely hidden. He still felt uneasy about anybody discovering it. Turning, he walked clumsily to his bed and laid his aching head on the soft pillow. He closed his eyes and let unconsciousness slowly but steadily take him.

*****

The doors of the Military Headquarters swung open and Thranduil stepped inside, bringing with him a brisk autumn breeze. Every ellon and elleth in the room stood and saluted The Elvenking, bowing slightly as he passed by them and stalked down the corridor until he reached the Commander's office. He knocked on the door and crossed the threshold when the room's occupant bid him to enter. Camthalion looked up from where he was busily responding to a dispatch report. He dropped his quill and stood to salute The King.

"Your Majesty," he said, surprised. The King usually sent messengers to him when he worked in his office rather walking all the way to The Greens when he needed to speak to his Troop Commander. "How can I serve you?"

"Sit down, iôn nín," Thranduil said as he took the chair opposite him, "I want to talk to you about your brother."

Camthalion raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "What about Legolas?"

"I am concerned about him," Thranduil explained, "He has been very sullen and angry lately. He isn't himself."

Camthalion nodded in agreement, happy that at last, his father was taking his concerns into consideration instead of seeing it as interference. "I am appalled at how he conducted himself at breakfast this morning, especially after his outburst at the feast last night."

"I am as well," Thranduil said as he nodded "I talked with him about it and he is insisting he is fine but I'm not sure that I believe that."

"How was the Council meeting?" Camthalion inquired, "He certainly made it known he didn't want to attend."

"He sulked through it. He never said a word," Thranduil answered him, "but then his nose started bleeding."

"What? What happened?" Camthalion asked sharply, taken off guard.

"I don't know," Thranduil shrugged, "Aearion called for my attention and Legolas had blood flowing from his nose. He had been well just a short time before."

"How bad was it?"

"It had saturated a handkerchief and his tunic. I sent him to the infirmary but the healer couldn't find a cause and it stopped soon after," Thranduil reassured him, "Aranhil seems to think it isn't serious and he is to rest for the remainder of the day and may return to duties tomorrow."

Camthalion nodded.

"Who is Legolas most often assigned with?" Thranduil abruptly asked.

"Neurion. Why do you ask?"

"I want to speak to him," Thranduil told him, "I have some questions he may be able to answer. Bring him to me."

"As you command, my lord," Camthalion rose and stepped out into the corridor. He returned a moment later with the Captain.

"Your Majesty," Neurion said as he saluted then bowed.

"I wish to speak to you," Thranduil told him as he gestured to the chair beside him.

"Yes, Aran nín," Neurion said as he eased himself in the chair, wondering what The King could want from him.

"I would like to know how my son is doing," Thranduil told him, "How is he attending to his duties?"

"As you know, my lord, when he first joined the ranks in the spring he did have some discipline issues that had continued into the summer," Neurion truthfully replied, "But since he returned from being injured I have found no issue with him."

"How so?" Thranduil asked, raising an eyebrow inquisitively.

"He seems more serious about his duties," Neurion explained, "There has been less horseplay and he has completed every task he has been assigned. He is very gifted with the sword and bow. Just yesterday he tracked and shot down a fleeing spider that had escaped."

"So you are pleased with his performance?" Camthalion asked.

"Yes, Commander. I have no complaint," Neurion assured him.

"Thank you, Captain. You may go," Thranduil dismissed him as he exchanged a long look with his eldest son.

Neurion bowed and took his leave.

"What do you make of that?" Camthalion asked his father as soon as the door gently closed behind Neurion.

"I am still not certain," Thranduil said with a furrow in his brow, "Neurion has nothing but praise for him. The healer examined him today and said he is fine. But his behavior..."

"It is like he isn't Legolas," Camthalion finished for him. Thranduil nodded ruefully. "What are you going to do, Adar?"

Thranduil was silent for a moment, deep in thought. He sighed and wiped his face with his hand. "At the moment, nothing. I have talked to him about his behavior and he is insisting he is fine. But I know something is bothering him. I can feel it."

"But what can we do?" Camthalion asked miserably, "It seems no one else shares these concerns."

"No one else is his father. I am bonded to him the same way I am bonded to you," Thranduil explained, "I can feel that he is stressed and unhappy. As much as I don't want to I am going to have to wait for him to come to me."

Camthalion nodded. He didn't see anything else that could be done. He just hoped his brother would find it in his heart to confide in their father.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

The autumn quickly disappeared and turned into a harsh, early Winter. The crisp, colorful leaves soon vanished under deep, heavy snow. Everything was blanketed in white and it seemed as though it was to last until the Spring. Thranduil couldn't recall a more bitterly cold Winter in all his long millennia. He stood at The Great Doors warily eyeing the storm clouds that had eclipsed the early afternoon sun. Another blizzard would soon be upon them. He wished that his sons would return home. Most of The Palace was hurriedly dispersing, trying to get home before the snow and ice enveloped them yet again.

"Are they home yet, Adar?"

Thranduil turned to see Amoniel hurrying toward him, drawing her shawl more tightly around her slender shoulders in an effort to ward off the brisk chill of the antechamber.

"No," he answered, "But I am expecting them at any time. Come, this is a cold place to wait. Let us go to the sitting room by the fire."

Amoniel smiled in agreement and took her father-in-law's arm, allowing him to guide her away toward their private quarters. "With weather such as this it seems we will all have a quiet afternoon," she said.

"That will be a welcome change," Thranduil replied. Most of his days were spent in negotiations and meetings and holding Court. There never seemed to be an end of something or someone needing his attention. An afternoon dozing by the fire with a good book sounded perfect to him. When they reached the sitting room he busied himself by feeding the flames in the fireplace. Even standing in front of the Great Doors for just a few minutes had chilled him. He sat in his usual chair by the fire and warmed his hands.

"It is so cold," Amoniel absently commented as she placed a wool throw blanket over her lap and reached for her knitting in the basket on the floor next to the divan.

"It is," Thranduil agreed as a servant came in with an armful of wood.

"I am sorry to interrupt my lord and lady," he said as he dropped the wood onto the rack with a loud thump, "but we are using much more fuel to feed the fires. It is challenging to ward such frigid cold!"

"I can feel it creeping into The Palace," Amoniel replied as she began to cast stitches onto her knitting needles, "It seems as though no matter how often the fires are fed there is still a draft lingering." The servant nodded in agreement as he tidied the wood rack before hurrying off to attend to his duties. "I wish Camthalion and Legolas were here," Amoniel fretted in between counting stitches.

"I would have thought they would be home by now," Thranduil said, his brow furrowed with worry "Perhaps they were held up."

*****

Legolas shook the snow off of his cloak as he stepped inside the Military Headquarters, trying not to shiver as he walked over to the fire to warm himself. He was grateful that the patrol had been called off early as the storm clouds had rolled in. The day had been very cold and wet from first light. The large, airy common room was a bustle of activity as many soldiers collected their things and warmed themselves by the fire before hurrying home. Legolas walked down the corridor to his brother's office and found the door slightly ajar. Camthalion was sitting at his desk reading a parchment. He smiled when he looked up and found his little brother at the door.

"I'm going home," Legolas told him, "Are you coming?"

"Yes," Camthalion said, craning his neck to peer out the window. He frowned as he realized what had been a steady but gentle snowfall had increased significantly over the past few minutes. "Let me reply to this and then we can go."

Legolas sighed. "Well, hurry up," he said before swiftly adding "please" when Camthalion scowled at him. He lingered at the door for a few moments then went back to the fire in the common room when he realized they would not be departing immediately. Neurion, one of the last to leave, came out of the Captains' office securing his cloak.

"Are you going home, Legolas?" he asked as he quickly put on his gloves, "It is going to get very nasty."

"I am waiting on my brother," Legolas told him, making no attempt to mask his annoyance.

Neurion nodded as he reached for the door. "You best hurry. This blizzard won't hold much longer."

"Yes, Captain," Legolas replied before turning back to the fire, away from the bitter gust of wind Neurion's departure brought into the building. He stared at the flames, feeling tired and wondering how long he could wait before he would need to use the powder again. He had inhaled some on two occasions since he woke just after dawn and he knew that the urge to intake more would not stay quiet long. The short patrol he had been on after the midday meal had left him feeling chilled and exhausted and he wanted nothing more than to return to his rooms.

"I'm sorry, Legolas," Camthalion said, interrupting his quiet musing, "Let's go. I hope we can get home before this breaks loose."

Legolas said nothing and followed his brother out the door. As soon as his foot touched the top step a gust of wind hit him so hard he staggered. It felt like a blow to the chest. He ungracefully stumbled down the rest of the steps and hurried to catch up to Camthalion. After only a couple of minutes, the frigid cold began to seep into his bones. He quickly lost any feeling in his ears, nose, and extremities.

"This is all your fault, Camthalion," he snapped, unable to contain his anger any longer.

"I am sorry! But that dispatch was important!"

Legolas looked at him with disgust. "All you care about is your duties! No wonder Adar says it is a miracle you found a wife!"

Camthalion stopped walking. "What?" he said, shocked, "Adar said that?"

Legolas didn't hear him as the wind picked up even more and the snow started falling so hard that he could barely make out the cloaked form only a couple of feet away. Cursing under his breath, he started to make his way toward the Palace once more. It proved to be far more difficult than he anticipated as the wind mercilessly blasted them with ice and snow. Step after agonizing step he walked, thankful, that unlike mortals The Eldar did not have to wade through the deep snow. By the time they had made it to the bridge, Camthalion could only assume Legolas was beside him as he could not see more than a few inches from his face and could hear nothing except the roar of the wind. A moment later he collided into something solid that he stumbled over it bringing it with him into the deep, cold snow. He quickly disentangled himself from Legolas and pulled his little brother to his feet. He kept hold of his arm and started to pull him toward The Palace. Thankfully, they reached the Great Doors only a few minutes later and fell heavily into the Antechamber.

*****

Thranduil gasped when his sons ungracefully limped into the sitting room. They both looked weary and chilled to the bone. His heart lurched when he saw his youngest shivering violently, his face pale. But worst of all his lips were tinted blue, a clear testament to how low his body temperature had dropped.

"Legolas, sit here," Thranduil commanded as he vacated his warm seat by the fire and guided Legolas into it. He tugged the cloak and gloves off of him and took the blanket Amoniel was offering him. He draped it over his son then looked down at the cloak he was holding in his hands. It was bitterly cold and compacted with snow and ice that the wind had driven into it. He carelessly tossed it on the floor and reached over to his oldest son. "Here, Camthalion. You need to get warm," he said as he gently pushed him down on the end of the divan closest to the fire.

Camthalion did not argue and did as his father bid. He sighed with relief as he relaxed onto the comfortable divan while his father draped a warm, wool throw blanket over him. He grimaced as the unpleasant sting that traveled through his chilled body began to throb earnestly. "I'm sorry, Adar. I held us up. I should have started for home sooner." He looked over at his little brother. Despite being near the fire and being wrapped in the blanket Legolas continued to shiver violently and did not seem to be warming up as quickly as he should. "Are you well, Legolas?" he asked.

Legolas nodded. Most of his body felt heavy and useless. His entire body was enveloped in an intense stinging sensation as it slowly readjusted to the warmer temperature.

"I will get us something hot to drink," Amoniel said, as she headed for the door, "That will help warm you both up properly!"

Camthalion leaned forward and started to remove his cold, wet boots. As soon as he removed them his feet began to thaw and he started to feel sensation in them again. He tossed them in front of the fire to dry. He looked over and saw his brother struggling with his own boots. It was painfully obvious he was far more affected by the blizzard than Camthalion had been.

"Here, Legolas," he said as he stood and knelt in front of his brother. He pushed his hands out of the way, frowning at how icy the pale flesh felt, "Let me help you."

Legolas said nothing, though he felt his father watching them from where he was gracefully perched on the settee, and allowed Camthalion to assist him. His own hands felt clumsy and stung so badly that he knew that they would be useless in removing his boots. He watched his brother set them beside his own and a small puddle of water formed under them as the ice and snow melted from the fire's blazing heat. Amoniel returned a few minutes later carrying a tray with a teapot and cups on it. Steam curled out of the pot's spout and the room was filled with a spicy aroma.

"This should help you two get a little more comfortable," Amoniel said, watching as she filled each of the cups with a soft chortle. When each cup was full of warm, mulled cider she made to hand one to Thranduil first out of respect but he motioned toward his sons to be served first. Camthalion accepted his gratefully, placing his thawing hands around the pleasantly hot cup. But when she handed one to Legolas he was still shivering violently with cold. When the warm cup touched his cold, trembling hands it caused him to drop it and it fell to the stone floor, shattering into many pieces. He cursed as the hot liquid spilled and spread around the chair.

"It is fine, my sweet" Amoniel gently told him before he could get too upset, "I can easily clean this up. It was an accident."

"Come here, Legolas," Thranduil bid as he reached out toward him from where he sat on the settee opposite of Camthalion.

Legolas stood and shakily walked over and sat beside his father, careful to step over the shards of broken crockery. Thranduil covered him with the wool blanket Amoniel had been using earlier. Legolas continued to shiver as he curled up next to Thranduil, bringing his legs and feet up on the settee to rest under the blanket. Thranduil put an arm around him and pulled him close.

"Here, iôn," he said as he handed him his own cup of cider.

Legolas's hands were still trembling so he did not mind his father assisting him to take a couple of long swallows of the hot liquid. He felt as though he would never feel warm again. Thranduil took a sip and then set it down on the end table beside the settee.

"I-I-I am c-c-cold, Adar," Legolas struggled to say, his teeth still clattering.

"I can feel that you are," Thranduil replied empathetically as he tightened his grip on his son, "How long were you out in the blizzard?"

"It started as soon as we stepped out of The Headquarters," Camthalion answered before taking another drink of cider, "It is all my fault. We should have left when Legolas wanted to. I made him wait until I answered a dispatch."

Thranduil nodded but didn't seem surprised.

"I didn't expect it to get that bad so quickly," Camthalion felt the need to explain further, "That wind is terrible. It feels like it cuts through you like a knife."

"Well, I am just happy you and your brother are home where it is safe and warm," Amoniel said from her place beside him on the divan, "Adar and I were worried."

"I am sorry, meleth," Camthalion said as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. She squawked softly as his cold nose touched her cheek then laughed before giving him a quick peck on the lips, "It won't happen again."

"You are both home safe and that is what matters," Thranduil said.

Legolas nodded and cuddled up even closer against him, clearly trying to use his body heat to help warm him up. Thranduil didn't like how cold his son still felt. It worried him how badly the short time they had been exposed to the blizzard had affected Legolas. Camthalion was no longer visibly shivering and seemed nearly comfortable. Thranduil reached around to the back of the settee and took the other blanket that was folded long it. He shook it open and placed it over Legolas before pulling him tightly against him once more. He rested his cheek on top of his son's golden head and ran his hand down his back comfortingly. He instantly frowned. Legolas felt very thin. He could feel the bones of his back, even through the jerkin and tunic. While Legolas had always been tall and slender, much like Thranduil, he had never been skeletal.

"You need to eat more," Thranduil murmured into the soft, blond hair, "You are too thin."

"I w-will, Ad-dar," Legolas replied as he continued to shiver and nestled down even deeper into his father's warm embrace.

Thranduil nuzzled the top of his head for a moment before reaching over and taking a book off of the stack on the table side. Keeping one arm around Legolas he held the book with his other hand and settled in to read. Soon the only sound was whisper of pages as they were turned and the clicking of Amoniel's knitting needles. Every now and then a log crackled cozily in the fireplace. Thranduil quickly noticed that Legolas's head had become heavy where it lay on his shoulder and his breath was even and deep.

"Is he asleep?" he asked quietly, unable to easily see Legolas's face from that angle.

Camthalion looked up from his book and smiled. "Yes."

Thranduil nodded and returned to his reading. He didn't mind that his son was laying heavily on him and making him uncomfortably hot. He was just glad Legolas had stopped shivering and finally felt warm.

"Adar?"

Thranduil looked up and raised an eyebrow.

"Do you think that Legolas was affected far more than he should have been by the blizzard?" Camthalion asked as he observed the sleeping figure.

"I do," Thranduil answered him, "It took him far too long for him to recover from the exposure to the wind and snow. That is not normal for The Firstborn to be so easily afflicted merely by bad weather. "

"Why do you think that is?"

"I'm not sure," Thranduil replied, as he ran his hand over Legolas's spine again, "But he is too thin. But I don't see how that could be the only reason." He closed his eyes and reached out to the fëar bond he shared with his youngest son. He could feel the same stress and anxiety that he had been feeling for months. He couldn't feel anything else except the immense unconditional love his son held for him. For some reason that brought tears to his eyes and he kissed the top of Legolas's head. He opened his eyes and sighed. He could not understand what was wrong. It frustrated him beyond words.

Camthalion looked at him expectantly, knowing what his father had done. The King shook his head and shrugged. It was Camthalion's turn to sigh. He knew beyond doubt something was wrong with Legolas. He just didn't know what it was or how to find out.

*****

Legolas's eyes slowly came into focus. The first thing he was aware of was that he was finally warm and comfortable. The deep, chilling cold didn't have hold on him anymore. Then he inhaled the familiar scent of mint and rosemary; the soap his adar always used. Without a word he sat upright and pulled the blankets off of him. As he stretched the kinks out of his muscles he felt his father shift next to him. Absently, he noted that Camthalion and Amoniel were no longer there.

"How are you feeling, Legolas," Thranduil asked, as he affectionately smiled at his son's sleep tousled hair and the crease on his cheek made from where his face had laid on his tunic.

"Fine," Legolas yawned, feeling a little annoyed that he had slept away his afternoon. It was a rare gift to be given an entire afternoon free from duty and obligation.

"Are you warm enough?"

Legolas nodded. He didn't want to draw attention to how cold he had been and how he struggled to regulate his body temperature, something that was very obvious, especially since Camthalion had not.

"You have just enough time to bathe before the evening meal," Thranduil told him.

Again, Legolas had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Really, would his father ever see him as anything but a baby? He swallowed the sharp reply he wanted to give and instead he simply said "Yes, Adar."

As soon as he stepped into the corridor the sudden, deep pull of need hit him squarely in the gut. Wasting no time to dwell on it he immediately made his way to his bed chambers. He was pleased to see the bath chamber was open and lit and a hot bath had been drawn for him. Before going in he detoured over to his wardrobe. He opened up the top drawer and pawed through the stockings and underclothing to find the small, white bag hidden carefully underneath. He sat down at the bureau and carefully measured out a small line of powder onto the mirror. Without thinking much about it inhaled the powder and then patiently waited for the burn in his sinus cavity. He closed his eyes and slowly counted to ten. He opened them and sighed with satisfaction as the intense craving began its retreat. He replaced the bag and the mirror back in the top drawer before pulling open the large doors on the wardrobe and took out clean clothes to change into after his bath.

Legolas padded into the bath chamber and closed the door to keep the room warm. He carelessly threw the clean clothes he was holding on the floor by the door and then made his way over to the large tub. Steam curled off of it invitingly. He stripped off his clothing and then hesitated before getting into the tub. He looked down at his bare body and winced. Remembering his father's comments earlier, he could see why Thranduil had said what he had. His frame was slight and angular. He found nothing about it appealing. Pushing those negative thoughts to the back of his mind, he climbed in. He laid back, resting against the back of the tub and soaked in the warm, scented water. It helped to loosen his muscles that were strained after an afternoon of sleeping curled up against his father. He stayed that way until the water began to cool before he picked up the flannel and began to clean himself.

Legolas quickly washed then he got out of the tub and hurried to dry. He felt a slight chill so he dressed as swiftly as he could before he went back out into his bedchamber to sit by the fireplace for a few minutes. He put his boots on and then warmed his hands until he felt more comfortable. He sighed. He knew it was getting very close to the time the evening meal would be served. After inhaling the powder his appetite had vanished. He tried to remember what he had eaten earlier in the day but it hardly seemed worth the effort. Instead, he forced himself to rise and walk to the Dining Hall.

*****

When he arrived he was relieved that while he was the last to take his seat at The King's table he was not considered late. He sat at his usual place beside his father and across from his brother. As soon as he took his seat the servants brought forth the meal. Legolas looked at it with disinterest. He wished he could retire for the night. Knowing that was out of the question he poured himself a goblet of wine instead. He held his plate up and watched as his father placed a generous serving on it.

"Thank you, Adar," he said before sitting the plate in front of him and picked up the silverware. Legolas ate a few small bites as he listened to his family make small talk as they ate, but did not make any contribution. He picked up his goblet and drank deeply. Not for the first time, he was grateful his father had such excellent taste in wine. He felt satisfied and pushed his plate away.

"You need to eat, Legolas," Thranduil said firmly, noticing immediately when his son stopped eating.

Legolas saw that everyone else was well into their meal. He looked down at the fine food on the plate. There was roasted rabbit and topped with a rich gravy as well as herbed potatoes and parsnips and fresh bread. "I'm finished," he told Thranduil.

"No, you're not," Thranduil told him bluntly, "You need to finish what is on that plate."

"But Adar," he whined, "I'm not hungry."

"I fail to see why you have no appetite," his father replied, in between bites of his own dinner.

"Really, Legolas," Camthalion said as he held his plate out so his father could place a second serving on it, "How are you not hungry? I am starving."

"Of course," Legolas replied nastily, feeling very resentful of what he felt was his family prying, "You always are."

Camthalion glared at him but chose not to reply and instead resumed eating, determined not to let his brother's bad attitude ruin the meal.

"Eat, Legolas," Thranduil commanded, setting down his own fork and giving his son a stern look.

"Adar..."

"If you don't have an appetite, iôn nín, then that is a problem," Thranduil interrupted him in an almost conversational tone, "If you are not going to eat then I am concerned and I will be happy to take you to the infirmary for an examination."

"That is not necessary," Legolas scowled, shaking his head in disbelief at how dramatic his father was being, especially over something that did not concern him. He didn't understand why his father took it so personally whether his stomach was empty or full.

"Then eat," Thranduil snapped before finally resuming his own meal.

Legolas sighed forcibly to show Thranduil how annoyed he was with him before tugging his plate back in front of him and starting to slowly eat again. Mouthful after mouthful he forced himself to chew and swallow. Within in minutes, his stomach began to feel uncomfortably full. The conversation flowed around him and again he paid little attention to it. He set his fork down once more when the plate was half empty.

"Clean your plate, Legolas," Thranduil said, his voice had heavy notes of impatience and anger to it.

"Adar!"

"Do not argue with me!" Thranduil snapped, "You will sit there until that plate is clean."

Legolas stared at him in shock. His father had not said that to him since before his twentieth begetting day. Like he had then, he longed to swipe the plate and its contents onto the floor. Instead, he roughly picked up the fork and slowly resumed eating again. He refused to look at anyone and sat sulking as he entertained himself with unkind thoughts about Thranduil.

"What's wrong, little brother?" Camthalion asked him in genuine concern.

"Shut up," Legolas said rudely.

"Legolas, I don't want to hear another word out of you," Thranduil commanded, as he refilled his goblet of wine for the second time. He absently noted that if his son continued to behave the way he was, it wouldn't be the last goblet he would need. "You will sit there and finish your meal in complete silence."

Legolas said nothing more, slowly forcing himself to eat another minuscule mouthful. He felt sick; his stomach full and uncomfortable. He could not remember when he had last eaten so much. He knew it was a losing battle and threw his fork down on the table.

"I am growing weary of this," Thranduil said severely.

Legolas ignored him and tried to take a deep breath as he sat hunched over in his chair. He felt himself break out in a cold sweat and saliva collected in his mouth as he struggled to his feet. Before he could get out of his chair he lost the contents of his stomach onto the floor next to his chair. Thranduil was instantly at his side.

"Well, I'm glad I am finished eating," Camthalion said sarcastically and was silenced by one stern look from his father.

"Come," Thranduil said as he placed his arm around Legolas's shoulders and led him out of the room, "Let us get you to the infirmary."

"I'm fine," Legolas argued shakily, "I told you I wasn't hungry."

"I am sorry," Thranduil soothed him, feeling guilty for being so overbearing and not listening to his son when he had tried to tell him he could not eat anymore.

"I don't need to go to the infirmary," Legolas firmly stated, stopping to face his father "I am tired and I was not very hungry. But you insisted that I eat and so I was sick."

Thranduil looked remorseful. "I just wanted to make sure that you are eating enough," he said somewhat defensively, "I don't like how slight you have become."

"I am an adult, Adar," Legolas replied in exasperation, "I can judge that for myself."

Thranduil stared at him for a long moment. He felt torn. He was afraid for Legolas though he had no idea what to fear. But at the same time his son would be fifty one years old in the Spring. He was of age and was capable of making his own decisions and deserved the chance to do so.

"I am worried about you," he said softly, " I know something is wrong. I can feel it. Please, I ask that you go to the infirmary."

"I am fine!" Legolas very nearly snapped at him, "There is no need for you to worry. I am not an elfling!"

Thranduil sighed as he took in the angry face and placed a gentle hand on his son's shoulder. "One day, my child, you may be a father and it is then you will understand that a father will never stop worrying for his children, even when they are grown."

Legolas scoffed at the very idea. Thranduil hid his amusement with some difficulty. He remembered being young once many, many centuries before when the thought of being bonded and having elfings had disgusted him. But the moment he met Faelwen that had all changed. The very domestic life that he had spurned for so long had brought him the greatest joys of his long, immortal existence. But he knew that was something Legolas would have to learn on his own, just as he had. He could see in his mind's eye his own adar telling him that very thing though Oropher had made no effort to hide his mirth, much to the young Ernil's annoyance.

"I am fine, Adar," Legolas said, interrupting his reminiscing, "I promise. I am fine!"

"I want you to know, my dear one, that you can confide in me about anything," Thranduil told him seriously, moving his hand up to cup the smooth cheek and looked deep into his blue eyes, "I love you and your brother beyond measure. There is nothing that could ever change that."

"I know that," Legolas replied before stepping forward to kiss his father's cheek, "Goodnight, Adar."

Thranduil watched him walk away, toward his bedchambers while he didn't know the cause of Legolas's strange behavior; he knew his son, without doubt, had just looked him in the face and lied to him.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

"As you can see, Aran nín, the stores are holding," Galion said as he led Thranduil through the maze of storerooms beneath the Palace, "But I must say that I don't recall ever seeing them this barren this early into the Winter."

Thranduil nodded at his steward, thoroughly agreeing with his assessment. The first snow storm had been upon them by mid October, cutting the harvest drastically short. This shortage was to be expected.

"What about the wine?" he asked as they approached the wine cellar.

Galion allowed himself a small smirk; he had served their Sindar lords since they first came to the Greenwood ages before and knew well this particular King's affinity for Dorwinion.

"They should hold, my lord."

Thranduil tried not to make his relief apparent. If his youngest son continued to conduct himself the way he was currently, he knew he would need every last cask before Winter's end.

"This way, hîr nín, and I will show you what is left of the nonconsumable stores," Galion said as he gestured toward yet another storeroom.

Thranduil followed him further into the labyrinth. He was only half listening to the steward as his mind once again drifted to his son. That very morning Legolas had been cross and sullen for no reason that Thranduil could discern. He had been nearly mute at breakfast and had not even seemed to be paying attention during the Council meeting. Thranduil felt a flare of concern in his gut once again. He had been a father for many centuries now and every instinct he had was telling him something was very wrong. But he had to push that to the back of his mind for now. He was also The King of the Woodland Realm and his people needed him too. His attention had to be currently focused on how they would survive the long Winter months still ahead. Not for the first time he wished he could just be ada instead of Aran Thranduil Oropherion. With that last sobering thought, he took a deep breath and continued to follow Galion even deeper into the underground bowels of the Stronghold.

*****

"Sellion!"

The dark haired ellon looked up at the sound of his name from where he stood in the cold Antechamber.

"Mae govannen, Legolas!" he merrily greeted his friend, happy that something was breaking up the monotony of morning guard duty at The Palace. Even though The Palace had a lot of comings and goings each day guard duty could still be incredibly dull.

Legolas returned the greeting. Sellion's green eyes immediately searched his face. He had been friends with Legolas since he could remember. He knew by his friend's tone and posture that something was amiss.

"Will you trade shifts with me?" Legolas asked him, "I am supposed to be going on patrol this afternoon but I need to do something. I can take your shift tomorrow."

"That is fine," Sellion readily agreed, "Is everything all right?"

"Yes," Legolas hastily told him, "I just have something I need to do. Neurion gave his permission for us to trade if you are willing."

"Of course," Sellion started to say, "What…"

He blinked as he watched Legolas abruptly turn away, heading toward the Royal Quarters. He knew something had been bothering his friend for months. Legolas had been increasingly withdrawn and quiet and did not seek his company as regularly as he used to. When they had been assigned to the same patrols and duties his friend was quiet and pensive, not at all his usual self. Both he and Valen were concerned though Legolas had brushed it off whenever they tried to speak to him about this sudden change. It was clear Legolas wasn't ready to talk about it yet. Sellion decided to wait patiently until his friend approached him. If Sellion was one thing he was patient. He only had a few minutes to mull over his thoughts before his relief came to take his place. Happy to be released from duty, he hurried to go home to prep for the unexpected patrol he was going on after his midday meal, wondering what it was Legolas needed to do all the while.

*****

Legolas tried to focus his attention on the bowl of steaming soup in front of him. It was difficult as he had unexpectedly run out of powder early in the morning. He had turned his rooms upside down trying to find just a little to tide him over until after his patrol in the afternoon when he could slip away to purchase more. But none was to be found. He was startled to realize how much he was using, much more than he had thought. He had tried to get through the morning after inhaling only one, small line. But now it was midday and he was feeling restless and upset. His head ached and worse yet his entire body was enveloped in a horrible itching sensation. He drank another goblet of water to try to quench his thirst and settle his stomach but it did little to alleviate his discomfort. His only thought was to get through the meal as quickly as possible so he could get to Rilien and purchase what he needed. With every moment that passed his need was becoming more and more great.

"Why aren't you eating?"

Legolas visibly startled at the sound of his father's voice. He looked from his untouched bowl to Thranduil's face. He looked annoyed. Legolas shrugged. He didn't know what to say.

"I asked you a question!" Thranduil snapped, "And stop shrugging! That's bad manners and it implies softness of the head."

Legolas sighed. In the past few weeks, his father had backed off considerably and had reined in his incessant hovering. He had stopped commenting on how much he ate and slept and with what was obvious great difficulty he had started treating him more like he did Camthalion. But Legolas could always feel his eyes on him. He knew though Thranduil was trying to treat him like an adult he was still scrutinizing his every move from a distance.

"I'm not hungry," he mumbled at last, feeling too unwell to even try to invent an excuse.

"You didn't eat much breakfast," Thranduil commented, as he slathered another slice of fresh bread with butter, "I don't understand how you have no appetite."

"Valar, Adar!" Legolas's temper snapped at last, "Must you nag so?"

As soon as he said it he regretted it. He heard his brother and sister in law gasp but he refused to look over at them. He could just imagine the looks they were giving him. He wished everyone would just leave him alone and let him be.

"You are excused!" Thranduil very nearly shouted at him.

Legolas stood and threw his napkin on the table. "Good! I didn't want it anyway!" he retorted, fully aware of the unmasked contempt in his voice.

As he started to walk toward the door Thranduil grabbed his arm and roughly jerked him a couple of steps toward him.

"Do you need another reminder of your place, penneth?" he asked, his blue eyes dangerously narrow, "I have grown very weary of your insubordination and impertinence! You would be wise to remember whose son you are because I am not going to tolerate this much longer. I have indulged you for far too long!"

"No, I do not," Legolas growled as he wrenched his arm from his father's rough grasp. With a disgusted shake of his head he started to walk to his chambers. He didn't look back and slammed the door shut behind him with much more force than was necessary.

"What is wrong with him, Adar?" Camthalion asked, upset by yet another unpleasant scene that was becoming all too regular.

"I don't know," Thranduil replied miserably as he pushed his own bowl away, unable to finish his meal, "I don't know what else to do. He won't tell me. I thought if I let him be he would come to me willingly. But obviously, he isn't going to."

"Would you like me to talk to him?"

Both Camthalion and Thranduil looked over at Amoniel, clearly surprised at her offer.

"I am not sure how he would receive that," Thranduil said thoughtfully, "He has become increasingly possessive of his privacy and is very resentful of anything he views as the slightest intrusion."

"I know that, Adar," Amoniel told him with a gentle smile, "But with all due respect, you and Camthalion are ellyn. Legolas might see it differently coming from an elleth."

Both Thranduil and Camthalion looked at each other as they considered Amoniel's offer. Camthalion raised an eyebrow at his father. What she said was true. Amoniel had married Camthalion nearly two and a half centuries before Legolas was born and had always been a gentle, loving presence in his life that had turned more maternal after Faelwen had been killed. Maybe what he needed only she could give him.

"Very well," Thranduil relented, "What do we have to lose?"

"True," Amoniel nodded, "I will wait until he collects himself. Right now he is too angry to listen to anyone."

Thranduil smiled approvingly, encouraged by her insight. Perhaps this would work well to their advantage.

"I married a wise elleth," Camthalion said as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. She beamed at his praise as she accepted the endearment. Camthalion quickly drained the last of his soup. "I need to get back to my office," he said, "I should be ready to meet with you in a couple of hours, Adar."

Thranduil nodded. "Very well. Bring the Captains with you. We need better strategics as to how we are managing the border patrols. Far too many orcs and spiders are getting past them."

Camthalion bit his tongue at the criticism. He was doing his best. But there were too few Elves and the Evil too great. But he said nothing and took his leave, his heart burdened by more than just orcs and spiders.

*****

Camthalion entered the Military Headquarters and ignored the soldiers that stood to salute their Commander. As he scanned the room he noticed that his brother wasn't present. He had planned to have a stern talk with him about treating their father with such blatant disrespect. It was about time the youngling learned how to disagree with their formidable father without provoking his famous temper. But Legolas was nowhere to be seen. He watched with a small frown as the Captains began to divide those on duty into patrols.

"Lord Camthalion?"

He looked over at Neurion who was approaching him, parchment in hand.

"Where is Lord Legolas?"

"What do you mean?" Camthalion asked, "He should be here."

"Yes, my lord," Neurion agreed, "But he has not shown up. He is on my list to go out on patrol today."

"That is odd," Camthalion told him, "We were both just at The King's table at midday and he didn't mention anything about not going on your patrol."

"Captain?" a hesitant voice interrupted them.

Both commanding officers turned to Sellion who was nervously approaching them. It was clear that he had overheard their brief exchange.

"Sellion? You are supposed to have the afternoon free," Neurion said with a frown as he quickly scanned the parchment again for confirmation.

"Yes, Captain," Sellion told him timidly, "But Legolas and I traded shifts. He said he will take my patrol tomorrow. He said you gave your permission to do so."

"Is that so?" Neurion snapped, "I most certainly did not give him permission to trade patrols with you."

Sellion bit his bottom lip nervously, not knowing what more to say. He didn't want to get his friend into any more trouble. It startled him to think that Legolas would make up such a thing. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding.

"When did he ask you to trade?" Camthalion asked him.

"Just this morning," Sellion answered honestly, "He said that he had something he needed to do."

"What was it?" Camthalion asked, puzzled by what it could be.

"I don't know. He didn't tell me," Sellion said, nervous at the anger in the Commander's voice.

"Well, since you are here you may as well gather your gear and go out on the patrol," Camthalion told Sellion. He found he could not be angry with him since he was clearly as surprised as they were. He was certain had deceit been used Sellion had not been part of it.

The young ellon nodded. "Yes, my lord," he said as he hurried to obey, eager to get far away from the situation.

"Legolas never spoke to you?" Camthalion asked Neurion once again.

"No, I haven't seen him since yesterday's patrol," Neurion confirmed, "He hardly said a word through the whole afternoon."

"Very well," Camthalion grimly nodded, "After you return you are to write up a report with disciplinary recommendation. Then we will go to meet with His Majesty."

"Yes, Commander," Neurion said as he took his leave to join his patrol.

Camthalion let out an aggravated sigh and shook his head before making his way to his office. He sat at his desk and stared at the light snowfall through the window, shocked at the feelings of anger and disappointment toward Legolas. It was something he would have never thought would be possible. Most days his baby brother felt like a stranger to him. Gone was the little blond haired sprite whose blue eyes always lit up with excitement just from his adored elder brother's mere presence. He easily recalled how the small, soft little hand had fit so perfectly in his larger one and the feeling of sticky kisses pressed on his cheek. He remembered so well how his brother had always managed to find joy even in the most ordinary of things. Though Legolas closely resembled their father, he had always reminded Camthalion of their mother. He would do anything to have that small elfling back. But now he was gone and was replaced with an angry, moody and irresponsible ellon. But he couldn't recall how this change had happened. It left a sad, aching feeling in his chest. Who had his brother become? After Legolas's rude outburst at the midday meal, he had not been anticipating for him to do something as bold as trade shifts without first seeking permission. He knew better than to do such a thing. But he didn't seem to care about anything anymore. For what seemed the thousandth time that week he wondered what was wrong with his little brother.

*****

A couple of hours later Camthalion looked up at the sudden knock at his office door.

"Come!" he called as he continued to write up his report, the last he needed to take with him to meet with The King.

He wasn't surprised to see Neurion standing in the doorway. But the Captain's face and posture caused him to drop his quill, spilling droplets of ink onto his neat penmanship. It was obvious he had been in some sort of violent skirmish.

"What is it?" Camthalion asked quickly.

As Neurion closed his eyes and took a deep breath before stepping further into the room and closed the door softly behind him, Camthalion felt a feeling of dread wash over him. Mentally, he steeled himself for what his Captain was about to say and he was certain he didn't want to know the answer to his question.

*****

Rilien opened the door of his cottage to the impatient rapping sound echoing from the wooden door.

"My lord?" he said when it was revealed that it was the young Ernil demanding his attention.

"Mae govannen," Legolas said miserably, pulling his cloak tightly around his thin frame to ward off the cold. "I require another bag of powder."

Rilien held his gaze for a moment and then nodded and opened the door the rest of the way. "Come in out of the cold, Your Highness," he bid gently.

Legolas nodded and followed him into the warm cabin and allowed Rilien to guide him toward the table and into a chair before the fireplace. He said nothing but continued to shiver as he watched Rilien set before him a dose of powder.

"This should take the edge off," he told him quietly before going into another room of the cottage.

Legolas paid him no mind, his attention solely on the white substance in front of him. He quickly inhaled it and closed his eyes as soon as the familiar burn tingled his sinus. He jumped when he felt a sudden hand on his shoulder.

"Here," Rilien said as he placed a white bag in front of him on the table, "Give it a minute and you should start to feel better."

"Thank you," Legolas said as he took some coins out of his pocket and handed it to Rilien with shaking hands, "I don't know how I ran out of it. I didn't think I would get so ill so soon."

Rilien nodded sympathetically as he sat down in the chair beside him and started to prepare a line of powder for himself.

"Try to take smaller, more frequent doses," he advised before inhaling the thin line, "It is easier to manage than with larger doses. It is safer, too. Too much can make you even more ill than too little and even kill you."

Legolas nodded after considering the idea. Rilien watched him closely for a moment. He was so young, scarcely out of childhood. He looked miserable and ill as he sat before him, still visibly shaking.

"Why did you start inhaling the powder, Prince Legolas?" he asked, unsure of what the answer could be. It didn't seem likely that the son of The King would get so entangled in such things. But just looking at the poor, wretched Elf made it clear just how deep the powder had hold of him.

"Last summer I was badly injured. The pain tonic the healers used was the only thing that helped," Legolas explained briefly, leaving out some of the more unpleasant details, "Then one day it wasn't enough. Now the powder is what I have to use."

Rilien nodded, feeling as though he were looking into the past of his own existence.

"How long have you used it?" Legolas asked him suddenly.

Rilien opened his mouth to answer him as his brain searched for the answer. "I don't remember anymore," he softly admitted.

Legolas nodded, though he was frightened that he would suffer the same fate. His life had been revolving around the powder for what seemed an eternity. There was no room for anything else.

"Does anyone know that you are using it?" Rilien inquired though he was fairly sure he knew the answer. He was certain his life would not be so quiet if anyone was aware of what transpired there each week.

"No," Legolas replied, "The King would be very displeased."

Rilien agreed wholeheartedly. "I imagine he would."

"Do you know him, then?" Legolas asked, realizing he didn't know much at all about Rilien.

"I met him long ago," Rilien answered with a faraway look in his eyes, "But that was before your father was The King. But now I don't like to venture far from The Forest.

Legolas nodded, fully understanding for The Forest was balm for his own troubled spirit. The trees always hummed soothingly along to the melancholy melody that sang from his fëa. He stood and wrapped his cloak tightly around him.

"I should get back to The Palace before they notice that I am not on patrol," he said.

Rilien stood and walked him to the door. "Good day to you, my lord," he told him, "And remember what I told you. Use smaller doses. It is safer that way."

"I will," Legolas promised him. He grimaced as the cold enveloped him once more as soon as he was out of the cabin. He started to make his way back home, hoping that no one would notice that he wasn't where he was supposed to be.

*****

Camthalion knocked on his brother's bedchambers door. He was met with unexpected silence. He knocked again more loudly. Again, it was silent.

"Are you looking for your brother, my lord?" asked servant asked as she paused outside The King's chambers.

"Yes, I am," he answered.

"He isn't in there," she told him, "I just finished cleaning his rooms a few minutes ago."

Camthalion thanked her and then turned to walk back down the corridor. He desperately needed to find his brother but realized he had absolutely no idea where he could be. He debated on going to see his father first. Just as the thought entered his head he spotted Legolas walking toward him.

"Brother!" he called, "Where have you been?"

"Out," Legolas replied, offering no further explanation.

"Come," Camthalion said, gesturing toward his brother's rooms, "We need to talk."

"Why?" Legolas asked innocently as he walked beside him the rest of the short distance to his chambers.

"Why weren't you on patrol this afternoon?" Camthalion asked him as they removed their cloaks.

"I traded shifts with Sellion," Legolas replied as he carefully hung his cloak in his wardrobe.

"It is customary to get approval from your commanding officer before doing so," Camthalion told him as he sat on the edge of the bed.

"I did," Legolas said as though it were obvious.

"Neurion said that you did not have his permission," Camthalion replied with a frown.

"Well, he is mistaken because I asked him yesterday and he said yes," Legolas outright lied.

Camthalion nodded. He didn't know who to believe. He would have to sort it all out later. Right now there was a more serious matter to discuss. "Come here, little brother," he bid. He reached out and took his brother's hand and guided him over to sit beside him.

Legolas looked at him suspiciously. Something was wrong. Camthalion looked sad, not angry, and he had not let go of his hand.

"What is it?" Legolas asked, slowly certain that it was more than just trading shifts.

"There is no easy way to tell you this," Camthalion said gently, "The patrol this afternoon unexpectedly encountered a large band of orcs. There were several injuries and two casualties. One of the casualties was Sellion."

Legolas was aware of nothing but a sudden ringing in his ears. He suddenly felt numb. "What?" he asked in a soft voice that didn't sound like his own.

"I am sorry but Sellion was killed on duty this afternoon," Camthalion said, his face full of sadness and concern.

Legolas tried to take in what his brother was saying. It was making him feel dizzy with disbelief. His breath became ragged as he fought the sob that caught in his throat. "He...he wasn't supposed to be there," he said in a strangled voice.

"No! It is not your fault!" Camthalion immediately tried to reassure him, instantly feeling shame in thinking he was glad his little brother was not on the patrol and could have easily been among the dead or injured.

"Leave!" Legolas suddenly snapped.

"Please, Legolas..." Camthalion began as he tried to pull his little brother to his chest to offer what little comfort he could.

"No!"

He instantly let go when he felt Legolas begin to struggle against his grip and start to weep earnestly.

"Just leave me alone, Camthalion! I want to be alone!" he sobbed.

Camthalion nodded as he stood. He had not been expecting this type of reaction and he felt at a loss of what to do.

"I will go get Adar," he said as tears swam in his eyes as he watched his brother grieve. He quietly exited the room and stood against the door for a moment. His heart was heavy with sadness as he thought about Sellion. He had known him since he was an elfling. He was his brother's best friend. He was frightened at how this was going to affect whatever was wrong with Legolas. He knew in his heart things were about to go from bad to worse.

*****

"Come in!"

Camthalion opened the door to The King's office and stepped inside before closing the door behind him with a soft click.

"I don't like to be kept waiting, Commander," Thranduil snapped impatiently from where he sat behind his desk. "Did I not tell you to bring your Captains?"

"I come here as your son, my lord father," Camthalion told him steadily but quietly, his voice empty of its usual confidence.

The anger instantly disappeared from Thranduil's face. "What is it, iôn nín?" he asked in a much gentler voice.

"Adar..." Camthalion began but stopped and did not seem to be able to continue.

Thranduil stood and came around the desk to place his hands on his eldest son's shoulders. "What is it?" he repeated, feeling more alarmed by the moment.

"It is Sellion," Camthalion said with mournful blue eyes, "He is dead."

Thranduil was grateful that his heavy, oak desk was behind him to catch him as he sat down in shock. "How? What happened?" he asked, feeling heartsick.

"The patrol he was on this afternoon encountered a large band of orcs. They were outnumbered. He took a deep scimitar wound to the chest. There was nothing they could do. He was nearly dead before the medic could even get to him."

Thranduil closed his eyes as he tried not to picture Sellion's last moments. He shook his head in shock again. Sellion had just bid him a good day that very morning while he had been stationed for guard duty in the Antechamber. It did not seem real that the young ellon was now on his journey to Mandos.

"Have you told your brother?"

"Yes, Adar," Camthalion answered him, "But he is taking it badly. He was the one who was supposed to be on this patrol. They had traded shifts."

Thranduil looked at him in dismay. "Is he blaming himself?" he asked though he knew the answer.

"Yes," Camthalion replied, "That is the first thing he said. He wanted me to leave him. He refused to allow me to comfort him or even touch him. I have never seen him act like this before. I am worried about him."

Thranduil sighed as he thought about the present situation, visibly mentally debating his options. Then suddenly he stood and started toward the door.

"Are you going to talk to Legolas?" Camthalion asked.

"Yes," his father answered as he reached for the doorknob, "I don't know what kind of reception I will receive but I need to see to him. It isn't good for him to be alone."

Camthalion nodded in agreement as he watched Thranduil disappear. As The King strolled down the corridor toward his son's room he thought about what he could say to him. He knew what it was like to have close friends die. He had lost most of his friends at Dagorlad. He knew all too well the pain of that type of loss and the weariness it placed upon his fëa. He felt almost ashamed as he thought of Sellion's grieving parents and could not imagine the agony they must currently be experiencing but feeling grateful that his own precious child had not suffered the same fate. He found himself hesitating outside his son's rooms. He raised his fist to knock but something stopped him. He felt uneasy as he tentatively reached out to the bond he shared with Legolas. He drew in an uneasy breath as he was assaulted with immense feelings of guilt, sadness, and sorrow. His child was suffering. He raised a determined hand and knocked, unsure of what awaited him.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

Thranduil knocked on his son's door and was not surprised when he was met with silence. He debated on knocking again but decided to open the door anyway. He knew Legolas was not likely going to invite him in. As soon as he stepped into the small sitting room he could hear his son weeping from the adjoining bedchamber. It made him feel physically ill; he had wanted so much to shield his children from the horrors of war. But he knew that was impossible. He stopped for a moment and closed his eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to prepare himself for what may come. He reached out and quietly opened the ornate door and let himself in. Legolas was curled into a compact ball on his bed, his slim frame shaking with each sob that tore through it.

"Iôn?" Thranduil called softly as he sat down beside him on the bed.

Legolas did not seem to realize he was there until he reached out and gently placed a hand between his shoulder blades. He gasped and turned his head to look at his father with tear stained blue eyes.

"Come here, Legolas," Thranduil commanded gently, holding his arms open to him.

"No."

"Please," Thranduil bid him as he reached out and caressed the back his son's golden head.

Legolas shook his head again and maneuvered away from him. "No."

"Please, son," Thranduil begged him, reaching out once more in an attempt to hold his child, "I know it hurts."

"Leave me alone," Legolas snapped and roughly shoved his father's hands away from him.

Thranduil blinked, startled and hurt at the forceful reaction. Camthalion had warned him that Legolas was acting strangely but he had not expected it to be this severe or aggressive. He sighed and wiped his hand over his face wearily. He watched his son's pain filled face for a moment. The horrible sobs had stopped and now Legolas laid curled in on himself staring blankly at the wall as noiseless tears slowly fell from his eyes and disappeared onto the quilt. Thranduil decided it was best to leave him as he wished. Perhaps after he had some time to grieve alone he would accept what little comfort he could offer him. He stood and watched him for another long moment before leaning down and grabbing the folded blanket at the end of the bed. He quietly draped it over his son before pressing a light kiss to his temple.

"Don't," Legolas said bitterly, sounding exhausted.

"I will check on you again later," Thranduil quietly told him before turning and leaving him alone as he had wished.

Legolas let out a relieved sigh when he heard the door softly click shut. He turned his face into his mattress and began to sob earnestly once more.

Thranduil stood in the sitting room just outside the door and listened to Legolas start to cry again. It hurt him beyond words to know his child was in such pain and there wasn't anything he could say or do to take it away. Even worse, Legolas wouldn't even allow him to attempt to ease some of his grief. He had never before felt so distant and helpless. He closed his eyes and focused on the fëa bond he and Legolas shared. It was so clouded with pain that Thranduil drew a sharp breath. He fought the tears that flooded his vision. He wished with all his being he could ease his son's suffering. He would do anything but he had no idea what that could be. He took another shuddering breath and blinked back his tears before once again donning the indifferent mask of the Elvenking while the father in him was anything but.

*****

Camthalion pushed the meat pie around on his plate. For once, he had no appetite. He felt sorrow not only for the loss of Sellion but also for the devastating effect it was having on his brother. He was worried, especially after Thranduil had told him how Legolas had reacted to his presence in his chambers. The Dining Hall was almost silent. The only sound was the family's occasional, quiet small talk and the scraping of cutlery as they forced themselves to eat the meal that was served. He placed a small bite in his mouth and mechanically started to chew. His eyes glanced yet again across the table at his younger brother's usual seat. It felt so quiet and empty; he would even welcome Legolas's unpredictable behavior.

"I am going to place Legolas and Valen on a week's leave, Adar," he said, breaking the silence, "I don't think either of them will be able to perform their duties."

"That is well within your authority to do so if you think it best," Thranduil told him as he emptied his wine glass, "But I agree with you wholeheartedly. It is going to take both of them some time to get through this tragedy."

Camthalion nodded, glad that he and his father were thinking alike on the delicate matter.

"I will go to see Sellion's adar and naneth tomorrow morning," Amoniel announced softly, "Do you think Legolas would want to join me?"

"I'm not sure," Thranduil told her, "He doesn't seem to want to be around anyone presently. I would not be surprised if he refuses."

Amoniel nodded. "I can understand that," she said, "But I will ask him anyway in the morning. He may feel differently then."

Thranduil nodded and then pushed away his half eaten dinner. "I think I will check on him again," he said, unable to stay away any longer. The past few hours had been long and difficult as he had had a hard time focusing on his work and his thoughts had constantly strayed to Legolas.

He quietly made his way back to his son's rooms and again was met with silence when he knocked on the door just as he had earlier that afternoon. When he entered the sleeping chamber he noticed the fire was low and the room dark and cold. In the dim light, he could make out Legolas's huddled sleeping form on his bed, seemingly unmoved in the hours since he had left him there. The tray of food and wine he had sent to his son's room was untouched, sitting on the bedside table. Thranduil walked over to the fireplace and built up the fire, trying to get some light and warmth back into the room. As he approached the bed he noticed his son's breaths were slow and deep. He reached out to move the hair from his face and frowned when he felt warm, clammy skin. He let his hand linger for a moment. Legolas seemed fevered and flushed, unlike what he should have been considering how cold the room was and he was uncovered. The fire steadily grew from the fireplace, allowing Thranduil to see his Legolas's face better. He looked ill and miserable. As he attempted to pull on the bed covers so that he could cover Legolas, his son began to fitfully stir. He eyes slowly opened, blinking blearily at dim light. Thranduil braced himself for sharp words and rough hands pushing him away. But instead, Legolas only looked at him through glassy eyes.

"I came to check on you," Thranduil told him softly.

Legolas said nothing and only nodded after a long moment's pause. His eyes shifted slowly as he watched his father retrieve a sleep tunic from the wardrobe.

"Here," Thranduil said as he took his hand and gently pulled him into a sitting position and placed the sleep tunic in his hands, "Ready yourself for sleep."

Legolas said nothing and continued to watch Thranduil as he took the uneaten dinner tray to the door and called for a servant. When he came back into the room empty handed only a moment or two later he saw that Legolas still hadn't moved.

"Legolas...Legolas," he repeated loudly when he received no response. Finally, Legolas slowly turned his head and made eye contact with him. He slowly raised an eyebrow inquisitively. "Come now, it's time to get ready for sleep."

Legolas nodded lazily. But instead of doing as his father had bid he closed his eyes and relished the elevated sensations the powder was bringing him. He felt completely numb, just as he had longed to feel, a welcome relief from reality. Thranduil pulled the heavy quilts and sheets down from the bed before turning to his son again and saw that Legolas had not even started to undress.

"Iôn," he sighed as he reached over and started to undo the clasps of his tunic. He frowned when Legolas didn't move and didn't seem to realize he was even there. Once more, he reached out and touched his brow and found it to be too warm. "Do you feel well?" he asked, concerned.

He received no reply.

"Legolas!"

The young ellon visibly startled and finally opened his eyes, blinking up at Thranduil.

"Adar?"

"Are you well?" Thranduil asked him again as he started to help him out of his tunic. Legolas mumbled something unintelligible. "I can't hear you," Thranduil said as he bent his head lower to hear better. He sighed when the only word he could discern was 'sleep'. "You can sleep in a moment," he told him.

Once he had removed his son's tunic he stopped and looked in dismay at how slight Legolas was. His small frame was angular and sharp in a most unhealthy way. It frightened him. He would see to it that Legolas ate more he decided as he pulled the sleep tunic down over his head. Legolas's head lulled drunkenly at the sudden movement as he made feeble attempts to get his arm through the sleeves. Thranduil caught his hand and helped it through the sleeve before repeating it for the other. Lastly, Thranduil removed his boots and leggings before helping him back into bed. As soon as Legolas's head made contact with the pillow he was asleep. Thranduil watched him in concern for a few more minutes. He wondered at this unexpected behavior. Legolas was acting as if he had overindulged in wine though Thranduil could not smell it on him. He watched his son's breathing slow again as he slipped deeper into slumber. He pulled the bedding up over Legolas's chest before standing and going back to tend to the fire one last time. As he made his way to the bedchamber door he paused again and looked back at his sleeping son. He could not ignore the warning that was flickering in his father's heart.

*****

"Legolas?"

The young Ernil looked up at the incessant, loud rapping on his chambers door. He groaned and ignored it, pulling his pillow over his head and he tried to find the Elven Dream Path once more.

"Legolas?"

The voice had become louder and the rapping more insistent. Again, Legolas ignored it, hoping it would go away and pushed himself deeper into his warm bed.

"Legolas? I am coming in!"

He said nothing and heard soft steps cross the sitting room and his bedchamber door opened. He suddenly found himself looking at Amoniel as she lifted the pillow from his face.

"There you are," she said cheerfully, "It is nearly mid morning."

Legolas nodded, glad she was at least acting normally. The last thing he wanted was for Amoniel to come in to fret and hover over him. He was in misery and he wanted to weather it alone.

"I'm going to Sellion's adar and naneth's," she told him quietly. She frowned when he suddenly stilled; his face was twisted with grief as he drew in a shaky breath. "Would you like to join me?"

"No."

"I am sure Sellion's family would find comfort in your presence," Amoniel gently pressed him, "When we lose someone we love it helps to have others with us. It will help his family, knowing that they do not grieve alone and that Sellion was loved by many others as well."

Legolas shook his head. "They would not want me there."

'Why ever not, dearest?" she asked, frowning in confusion. She believed quite the opposite, that they would draw comfort from their son's closest friends. She knew Sellion, Valen, and Legolas had been friends for nearly half a century since they were very young elflings and had often frequented each other's homes. From experience, Amoniel had always found that being alone after such a death only made the heartache worse and that simple acknowledgment that the grief was shared by others made the burden easier to bear. When she was young she had seen an elleth fade from despair after her son had been killed. It had been something so tragic it had made an impression on her young heart and now many, many years later she could not forget. It frightened her that Legolas would now have to add grief to whatever else was afflicting him. She could only hope that it would not be too much for him to endure.

Legolas shrugged before turning his face back into the pillow. He had neither the heart nor the energy to try to explain it to Amoniel. Once more his fëa cried out in agony and he wished for nothing more than to use the powder so that he could sink back into merciful, dark oblivion.

"Come with me, it may ease your heart," she bid him softly, as she reached out to gently brush back the golden strands that covered his face.

But he found he didn't want to feel better. He wanted solitude and his family seemed unwilling to give him that. His patience for their overbearing presence had, at last, reached an end. Without warning, he roughly grabbed her hand and wrenched it away from him.

"Just leave me alone!" he uncharacteristically shouted.

Tears strung Amoniel's gray eyes; Legolas had never before treated her in such a manner. As much as it hurt she wasn't surprised after what her husband and father in law had told her of Legolas's recent behavior.

"If that is what you wish," she said in a small voice. He turned his head sharply at her and she was startled at the amount of anger and pain held in his eyes. Without another word she quietly left him as he had asked, resolved to come back later and attempt to comfort the young ellon who she loved as though he were her own son. She made her way to get ready to leave The Palace, her heart heavy with sadness and defeat.

*****

Thranduil stood quietly as he listened as edhil stepped forward one by one to talk about Sellion. He had already shared his own memories of the young ellon. He had recalled some of Sellion's more humorous antics of childhood, the loyal friend he had been to his son and his gratitude to the soldier he had become who had pledged his life to The Realm and his King. As his eyes surveyed Sellion's parents' cramped sitting room his youngest son was nowhere in sight. Just an hour before he had stopped at Legolas's bedchambers and found him getting dressed to go to the funeral. Thranduil had been surprised that he had needed no encouragement to attend. He had seemed quiet and weary with sorrow and requested that the family go ahead of him and he would follow as soon as he was ready. So they had, respecting his right to privacy. But Thranduil was beginning to regret that decision. He was worried about his son in his current state. He couldn't push the uneasiness from his mind as he tried to focus once more on the proceedings.

Thranduil excused himself as soon as he could. He didn't want his presence to overshadow Sellion's memory. He quietly extended his sympathies to Sellion's parents and younger brothers before returning to The Palace. With each step, his worry increased. There had been several inquiries about Legolas and he had been unable to answer them because he himself did not know. Fortunately, he was The King and no one would question him further.

When he arrived at Legolas's rooms he found it empty. His heart dropped as he looked around the dark bed and bath chambers. He went next to the sitting room and it too was empty. He had no idea where Legolas could be and his anxiety began to escalate. As he made his way back out to the Antechamber he mentally began to make a list of places he thought Legolas could be.

"Has Lord Legolas come through here?" he asked the nearest guard.

The guard bowed slightly. "Yes, Aran nîn," she said, "He went through the Great Doors nearly an hour ago."

"Did he say where he was going?" Thranduil inquired, knowing most likely he did not.

"No, my lord, he said nothing," the guard answered.

Thranduil nodded and walked out the Doors and was greeted by a sharp gust of frigid wind. He went directly to the stables and found Tegalad happily munching on oats in the stall next to his own horse. The dappled stallion's ears instantly perked up at the sight of Thranduil and he leaned over the door to affectionately nip his ear.

"Mae govannen, Sírdal," Thranduil bid him as he reached up to stroke the velvety muzzle, "Would you like to go for a ride? I need to find Legolas."

Sírdal snorted impatiently in answer. Thranduil smiled. "You have my thanks, mellon nín," he said as he reached out to open the stall door. After the horse obediently stepped forward he quickly set about saddling and bridling Sírdal.

"Aran nín!"

Thranduil turned toward the sound and found Maeron hurrying toward him looking dismayed.

"Please, hîr nín, allow me to serve you," the stable master said as he took the bridle from The King's hand, "I beg your pardon for not being here to prepare your horse for you."

"There is no need for a fuss," Thranduil impatiently told him, "I don't have time to indulge it. I am trying to find Lord Legolas. Has he been here?"

"I have not seen him, my lord," Maeron told him as he swiftly completed his task, "I have been occupied since before dawn with a mare who is having a difficult labor."

Thranduil nodded, expecting as much. He mounted the steed and rode him into the stable yard. He hesitated for a moment and thought about his son. Legolas had been very reclusive since Sellion had been killed, refusing all food and company. They had respected his wishes, as difficult as it had been because it seemed to only make matters worse if they tried to speak to him. He tried to think of where his son would go. He was so much like his mother and Thranduil suddenly had the feeling he would likely find him in The Forest. Sírdal, eager to begin, took off at a brisk trot heading toward the well traveled path at the edge of the Forest. They had only crossed the bridge when he heard a shout.

"Aran nín!"

He turned to find Camthalion standing just beyond the stone bridge gazing at him, eyes widened, with a look of incredulity on his fair face.

"What is it?" Thranduil asked impatiently.

"Where are you going?" Camthalion asked as he crossed the bridge to stand beside his father. Absently, he reached up and stroked Sírdal's glossy mane.

"To find your brother," Thranduil answered him, "He isn't in The Palace."

"Where is your Guard?" Camthalion demanded, shocked that his father would do something as foolish as going into the Forest unprotected.

"This is a private matter," Thranduil dismissed his concern, "I have no need for them. Legolas could not have gotten far on foot."

"But Adar there are creatures of Shadow in the Forest. You know that! Naneth and Sellion were both killed a short distance from The Stronghold!"

"Enough!" Thranduil snapped at the mention of his wife. He took a deep breath when Camthalion's blue eyes flashed with pain. "That is enough, Camthalion," he said more gently, "I am perfectly capable of managing to locate your brother and drag him home."

Camthalion hesitated before nodding, clearly not comfortable with the idea. "Do you at least have a weapon?"

"Of course. I have not survived over six millennia in Arda by being foolish," Thranduil reassured him with an arrogant smirk as he tapped the hilt of his sword.

Camthalion knew there was nothing that he could say to change his father's mind. He was stubborn in that way much like his father before him. "Please be careful, Adar."

"I will return soon with your brother," Thranduil said in an exasperated tone.

Camthalion nodded miserably.

"There is no need to worry, iôn," he said as he reached out to give his eldest an affectionate pat on the cheek.

Camthalion stood on the bridge and watched his father until he could see him no more. He could not help but worry. It was getting late and the sun would soon be setting on yet another cold, bitter day. They had just come from the funeral of a warrior that had been ruthlessly cut down less than a thirty minute walk into the very Forest in which his father and brother were currently alone and unguarded. He stood, rooted on the spot until his ears and nose became numb from cold. As he turned to walk home he tried to shake the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had lost his mother and his greatest fear was losing his father or brother. He knew his heart could not take another loss. As he walked up the steps of The Stronghold he stopped at the top to turn and look toward The Forest in the distance once again. All seemed well. He shook his head and went through the Great Doors, eager to be in front of the warm fireplace and wait for his father to bring his wayward brother home.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Legolas sat on the cold ground, numb in both in both mind and body as he stared unseeingly at the disturbed snow. It was still stained black and red with the blood of orcs and Elves alike. It had been three days since that terrible ambush that claimed his friend's life and still the evidence was clearly visible. He could not help but wish yet again that he had been the one to die instead of kind and gentle Sellion. Legolas couldn't imagine Sellion ever being in the position in which he currently found himself trapped or doing the things that he had done to get the powder. He roughly wiped at his eyes with his sleeve as fresh tears began to fall again and once more another crushing wave of misery washed over him. He felt as though he was drowning and he had little hope he would ever know what it was like not to feel so desolate and desperate.

He knew had been a terrible friend; it was no use denying it. All of the things he did or didn't do or should have done constantly assaulted his mind as he rehashed it over and over in an inescapable vicious cycle that even plagued his dreams. For months he had shunned his closest friends to use the powder. He had outright lied to get Sellion to switch shifts with him just to satisfy his own selfish cravings. His friend had been needlessly been placed in danger and his young life had been cut short as that orc's scimitar pierced his heart and Sellion's life's blood had poured onto the Forest's floor. The amount of blood still present told him his friend had suffered a very grisly death. He wondered what Sellion's last thoughts were, knowing that he was beyond aid and there was nothing anyone could do but helplessly look on as his life faded with each feeble beat of his faltering heart. He prayed that he had not been frightened as his eyes darkened and he felt the pull to Mandos. He hoped with all his being he had not been in pain, though when presented with the evidence in front of him he rather doubted it.

Legolas recalled how Sellion had been hopelessly enamored with Maeron's, The King's stable master, daughter and she with him. It was clear that the two would soon be betrothed. Now he would never have the opportunity to wed or raise a family of his own or even spend another day under the boughs of the Forest that he loved. Legolas felt as though he had not only robbed Sellion of his friendship but that of his very life, every bit a kinslayer as the faithless Fëanorians. He drew his knees up to his chin and laid his head on them, closing his eyes. He choked down another agonizing sob as and tried to ignore the concerned whispering of the trees. He just wanted to be alone he thought as he was assaulted with another gust of icy wind. It felt as though it ripped through his broken heart. But he didn't care. Not for the first time he wished for the end of his own miserable existence.

*****

Thranduil did not need to urge Sírdal forward. Despite the cold temperature, the stallion seemed pleased to be trotting along the Elf Path, the snow crunching beneath his hooves with each merry step. Thranduil had not seen any sign of his son. The Forest was snow laden and cold. It was nearly silent except for the occasional snap of a twig or sudden movement of the brush as a rabbit or deer ran by. As the minutes went by without finding Legolas he began to worry. It was bitterly cold and the sky would soon darken. After several more minutes with no trace of his son, he brought Sírdal to a halt in the middle of the Path. It would be of little use to wander around aimlessly. He focused on the fëa bond he shared with his youngest child. Unsurprisingly, he could feel nothing but wave after wave of suffocating grief, pain, and anxiety. He closed his eyes against it, feeling desperate and at a loss of what to do. Then his thoughts drifted back to his son. Legolas was so unlike him. He was affable and humble. He laughed freely with an infectious smile. He made friends easily and the Sindar and Silvan alike adored the young Ernil. Every day he reminded Thranduil of his late wife. As soon as his thoughts strayed to Faelwen he instantly knew where to find their son. He urged Sírdal forward, veering off the Elf Path and deeper into The Forest.

The King traveled only a short distance before he found him. Thranduil dismounted and absently patted Sírdal's neck, never taking his eyes off of his son. He silently crossed the short distance between them, dismayed to see that while Legolas had dressed for the funeral he had neglected to wear gloves or even a cloak. He sat shivering and pale, staring the blood in the snow. Thranduil winced as he gracefully lowered himself beside him, the cold instantly seeping through his own leggings and cloak.

"Legolas?" he called softly. He was met with silence. "Legolas?" he repeated.

Legolas startled slightly, noticing for the first time he wasn't alone, before lifting his head and looking over at him. Thranduil's heart sank even further as Legolas's eyes returned to the ground without a hint of recognition for his father. Thranduil quickly surveyed the forlorn, broken figure next to him. Legolas's face was peaked and lips were tinted blue. The smooth skin of his cheeks was raw where tears had frozen to his face. Thranduil reached out and tenderly brushed his fingertips over the broken skin, not liking how cold it felt. Without a word, he picked up Legolas's icy hand, not surprised that it too was bloodlessly pale with blue tinged fingernails, and held it between his hands in a pitiful attempt to warm them. Legolas continued to stare at the blood stained snow as his father pulled him close and enveloped him in his own fine, wool cloak, holding him close to his body. He said nothing as his father's arm wrapped around him and his cheek came to rest on top of his head. Thranduil remained silent, using his presence rather than words to try to soothe his son. He started to relax slightly when Legolas, unlike the previous days, allowed the physical contact.

"I'm s-s-sorry, Ad-dar," he murmured, through clattering teeth, finally breaking the silence, though his eyes remained glued to the spot where Sellion had died.

"I couldn't find you," Thranduil replied, keeping his voice neutral "I was worried."

"I'm s-sorry," Legolas whispered, "I t-tried but I c-couldn't go."

"Attending a funeral is not required," Thranduil told him, "We all grieve differently. Sellion's family understands that."

"I want-ted to g-go," Legolas tried to explain, "But I c-couldn't."

"You are not dressed for outdoors," Thranduil quietly observed, trying not to convey how disturbed he was by it.

"I d-don't c-care," Legolas said flatly, his voice sounded weak. He looked down at his trembling hands and noticed for the first time that he was desperately cold. Even his fëa felt frozen within his hröa.

"You don't care that you are dangerously cold?" Thranduil asked. He could feel his son's fëa tremble. He knew he must do something quickly before it departed the body. Through their bond, he could sense that one was not securely anchored to the other.

Legolas shook his head, his eyes still on the remnants of the scene of the battle. No, he didn't care. It required too much effort and he was more weary than he had ever felt in his short life. Thranduil closed his eyes briefly before they drifted from his son for the first time since he found him to the blood stained snow a few feet in front of them. He instinctively tightened his hold on Legolas, his mind once again acknowledging that he could easily have been the one grieving for his son rather than Sellion's parents.

"There is no need to punish yourself," Thranduil finally said, "You are not to blame for what happened, iôn nín."

"It s-should have been m-me," Legolas told him, looking over at him again, "I w-was sup-p-posed to be here."

"No," Thranduil instantly replied, "It is not your fault."

Legolas made no reply and returned his gaze to the ground. Thranduil took a deep breath, knowing he was getting nowhere with his son. As he started to gather his thoughts he noticed that not only had the sky darkened considerably but the snow had begun to fall steadily. He felt chilled to the bone and it frightened him that Legolas had been exposed to the elements far longer than he had.

"Let's go home," he said quietly but firmly, wishing that he could get through to Legolas but he realized that the temperature would be dropping even further soon and he was already dangerously cold. He could have a conversation with Legolas when he was home, safe and warm.

Legolas nodded, unwilling to let his father suffer the biting cold a moment longer due to his own misery. Without a word he allowed Thranduil to pull him to his feet and lead him back home.

*****

Camthalion jumped up from the settee when he saw his father walk by the sitting room with his arm around his little brother. He had been gone far longer than Camthalion had expected and he had been debating on going out to look for them himself once the sun had set without their return. His eyes widened as he stood in the doorway and got a closer look. His father looked quite chilled but his brother looked absolutely wretched.

"Legolas!" he cried as he stepped out into the corridor, "Did you not wear your cloak? Where were you?"

Thranduil held up a hand to silence him, worried that his questioning might upset Legolas into anger. "I will take care of this, Camthalion," he said as they paused on their trek momentarily, "Go to the Dining Hall with Amoniel for the evening meal. There is no need to delay it any longer."

"But…"

"Do as I say," Thranduil interrupted him, his voice was suddenly authoritative and left little doubt that there would be no debating the matter.

"As you wish, my lord father," Camthalion replied stiffly, stung by the sudden sharp word though he knew Thranduil said it out of fear rather than anger. Without another word, he turned back into the sitting room to collect his wife.

Thranduil continued to lead Legolas back to his rooms. He was shivering violently with cold, making it difficult for him to take a single step unguided. Thranduil directed him to sit on his bed once they were in the bedchamber. Silently, Legolas began to take off his icy, cold boots and clothing, a difficult task as he continued to suffer the effects of exposure to cold. Determinedly, he shakily removed each article of clothing and let it fall unceremoniously to the floor in an untidy pile. As Thranduil retrieved a sleep shirt for him he glanced at the fireplace and was grateful that the fire was burning bright and warm. He handed the clothing to Legolas who took it with shaking hands.

"Would you like some tea?" he asked as he assisted his son on getting the garment over his head.

Legolas shrugged. Thranduil chose to interpret that as an affirmative and went out into the hall to summon an attendant to bring tea service to the room. When he returned to the bedchamber he was glad to see Legolas in his bed, huddled under the thick blankets. He still looked pale and unwell as he continued to shiver. Unsure at what the reception would be he shrugged off his damp, cold cloak and boots then sat next to his son. He tentatively reached out and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Would you like to talk about it?" he asked softly.

Again Legolas shrugged. "What good will it do?" he asked bitterly, "Sellion will still be dead."

"Yes, he will," Thranduil sadly agreed, "but you are not."

"I should be," Legolas said, "I should have been the one there. He should have been home. He had told me he was teaching his brothers how to fletch arrows. Now he can't."

Thranduil's heart clenched at how despondent he looked and sounded. It sent another jolt of fear through his heart as he looked at his son who was now sick with grief in addition to whatever else that had been plaguing him for months. His thoughts were interrupted by a servant bringing the tea. He rose and took the tray from her to give Legolas privacy from prying eyes.

"Come," he said as he set about preparing two cups for them, "This should make you feel better."

Legolas didn't offer any argument and sat up, leaning back on the pillows. He watched as his father added a splash of milk to each cup before handing one to him and accepted it wordlessly. Thranduil returned to his place beside his son, wondering how long he would have before Legolas became angry and demand that he leave. For several minutes he let them sit in silence, each of them sipping on the hot liquid gratefully. Legolas drank most of what was in the cup before handing it back to his father with still shaking hands. Thranduil took it without commenting on it and sat the cups on the bedside table. He reclined beside him and when he was not met with resistance he placed an arm around him and gently drew him close once more. It was frightening him at how sickly Legolas had become in just the three days since Sellion had died. He was deteriorating rapidly. He felt frail and thin as he leaned, still shivering, against his father. Thranduil noticed his coloring was not improving even after their considerable time indoors and he was becoming frightened that his son would soon fade. It seemed that losing his friend had pushed him beyond what he could endure, especially after suffering the loss of his mother and the mysterious problems he had been experiencing for months.

"It's not fair, Adar," Legolas said suddenly in an exhausted, weary voice.

"Death is not unavoidable, not even for The Eldar. Sellion knew this when he joined the ranks in defense of The Realm just as I did when I joined when my adar was The Elvenking," Thranduil replied, as he reached up and began to gently stroke his son's hair.

Legolas stared up at him. He knew father had been crippled by his adar's death and did not speak of Oropher often as it was painful for him when he did.

"I have lived long in Arda, Legolas. I have witnessed countless untimely deaths." Thranduil continued with a faraway look in his blue eyes, "I have seen friends and my own family dead from dwarvish axes and Noldor swords and orcish arrows. I have seen my comrades and my own adar die on the battlefield. I have not seen my naneth in many millennia because she could not suffer it on this shore any longer."

Thranduil paused to take in a trembling breath and blink back the tears that filled his eyes. "Your mother was killed unexpectedly and brutally," he continued, "and even now sometimes it is almost more than I can bear. Please, son, I am begging you. Do not give into despair. I can not take another loss. It will be the death of me to lose you. Please don't leave me here alone."

His father's palpable fear and pain shook him to his core. Thranduil had never before spoken so openly about the past nor had Legolas seen him this emotional since those hazy, painful days following the death of The Queen. Guilt churned in Legolas's stomach. He did not want to be the cause of his father's distress. He had suffered enough without having his son needlessly cause him fear and pain. Legolas swallowed hard again the lump rising in his throat and pushed it down to sit with the guilt and sorrow that resided in his gut.

"I won't, Adar," he said, making a great effort to speak with strength and determination, "Everything will be fine. I promise." He leaned forward and kissed Thranduil's cheek.

Thranduil seemed not to be able to speak for a moment. He stubbornly swallowed his tears before taking another shuddering, deep breath. Legolas said nothing more and laid his head back on his father's shoulder. Thranduil pulled him into an almost painfully tight embrace. He rested his cheek on the crown of Legolas's head and breathed in his scent, feeling eternally grateful for his wife's wisdom to have one more child. He closed his eyes and recalled the night they conceived their youngest son. Faelwen had wanted another child since Camthalion had reached his centennial. But Thranduil had had no desire for another. He was The King and he had provided an heir. That had been enough. Being an only child himself he had been content with just one offspring. But he could never deny Faelwen anything she wanted if it was in his power to provide and eventually, after several centuries, he relented. He remembered her face shining with joy and anticipation as they lay afterward tangled in the disturbed bedding, her dark hair disheveled though he thought she never looked more beautiful. He could not help but smile at her as she talked about how their lives would be all the richer due to the existence of this little one. And she had been right. As he held his now grown son he wondered how he could have ever thought differently. His sons were his light, his breath and the only reason for his continued existence. This son needed him now more than he ever had and Thranduil vowed he would see him through to better days.

A short time later the bedchamber door opened and Camthalion stepped in. His eyes widened in shock as he looked at the bed. His father was reclined against the plump pillows, his eyes glazed in sleep with his arms protectively around Legolas who was sleeping curled up against him with his head on Thranduil's chest. Camthalion smiled slightly, relieved that things seemed to be beginning to improve at long last. At least Legolas was allowing their father to comfort him. He reached down and pulled the bed covers over them and dimmed the light from the oil lamp before quietly closing the door behind him.

*****

Amoniel and Camthalion looked up at the sound of someone entering the Dining Hall.

"Good morning, Adar," they both said as Thranduil took his seat at the head of the table.

"Good morning," he returned and motioned for the servants to bring forth the meal. They quietly put platters of fruit and a large crock of porridge on the table before offering The King a small bow and walking away.

"How is Legolas this morning?" Camthalion asked as he accepted the crock of porridge that his father handed him while Amoniel busied herself in preparing them all a cup of strong tea.

"He was still asleep when I awoke," Thranduil answered as he accepted the cup of tea from his daughter-in-law "I will look in on him later."

Camthalion nodded. "Do you think..." he began but was interrupted by a slim figure walking into the Hall and up to the table. He tried not to gape in shock when Legolas took his usual place beside their father.

"Good morning, iôn," Thranduil carefully bid him, "Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, Adar" Legolas replied as he began to set about preparing himself a bowl of porridge.

Thranduil rather doubted it. Legolas still looked peaked and dark circles remained prominent under his eyes. Even more concerning he still radiated a resigned sort of sadness. No one commented further as they watched him slowly start to eat the small portion in front of him, the first he had eaten in days. After a few tense moments, the atmosphere began to relax as the family resumed their meal.

Camthalion noticed that his brother was not only eating again but his hair was combed and braided and he was dressed to report to the Military Headquarters, though his clothes were hanging rather loosely on his slight frame. Again, he wondered what their father had said to him to cause such an abrupt change since the previous evening.

"What are you going to do today, little brother?" he asked casually, trying to behave as though it was a typical morning.

"I am to report as usual," Legolas answered him as though the answer was obvious.

"I gave you and Valen the week off," Camthalion replied, "There is no need to report."

"I want to," Legolas said as he made eye contact with his brother for the first time since he told him of Sellion's death. The amount of pain they still held startled the elder ellon, "There is no need to stay in my rooms all day."

Camthalion looked to their father for support but Thranduil too looked uncertain. While he thought that getting back into his routine might be good for Legolas it was still very evident that he was sick with grief and unable to serve in his normal capacity.

"Your position has been filled for the week as well as Valen's," Camthalion told him, "Why don't you serve as my aide for the remainder of the week and then next week you may rejoin your patrol."

Legolas's eyes instantly narrowed at what he perceived as his older brother patronizing him. "I am not a baby," he said sullenly, "I can report as usual."

"I never said that you were," Camthalion soothed him, "All I am saying is that your position is already filled so I would be happy to work with you for the week. In fact, I would appreciate the help."

Legolas thought about it for a moment. He hated office work but working in Camthalion's office was much better than working with The King in endless meetings, councils, and debates. It was clearly the better choice and reluctantly he nodded his head before returning to scrape up the last bit of porridge from his bowl.

"I think that is a good solution," Thranduil said diplomatically after he released the breath he didn't know he was holding. He had expected Legolas to become angry and rude as had become his custom at the slightest comment or suggestion from his family. But he didn't seem to have enough energy to argue. "Are you finished?" he asked as he looked at the empty bowl. Legolas had not eaten nearly enough for his liking but it was still a great improvement from the previous days.

Legolas nodded.

"Get ready to go with your brother," Thranduil said ignoring the flare of annoyance on Legolas's face. He knew his son didn't need to be told to get ready as though he were an elfling. But he wanted to speak to his older son without Legolas present and it was the easiest way to dismiss him. "Have a good day, Legolas."

Legolas nodded again and silently exited the Dining Hall. His family watched him go and waited until he was out of earshot before speaking again.

"Well, that is unexpected," Amoniel said brightly, clearly a weight was lifted from her after spending days endlessly worrying about Legolas.

"I am sure you noticed he is ill," Thranduil said.

"Yes, anyone can see that by looking at him. He is not fit for duty," Camthalion replied.

"No, he is not. I want you to give him the lightest of duties and keep him out of the cold as much as possible," Thranduil replied.

"Of course, Adar," Camthalion said. He usually didn't like any interference with how he managed his responsibilities as Commander but he knew his father was very concerned as were all of them and he didn't disagree with his suggestion. "I will keep an eye on him." He quickly swallowed the last of his tea before giving his wife a quick kiss. "I will go collect Legolas and we will return at midday."

Thranduil watched his older son depart and hoped with all his being that the arrangement would not be too taxing on Legolas. He knew that Legolas would only brood should he attend Court or Council and he feared it would just make the situation even worse. Once again, he didn't know what to do regarding his youngest and he felt like he was failing his son.

*****

Camthalion rubbed his temples to try to ease some of the tension that seemed to permanently reside there. It had been a long and trying week. He was still worried. Legolas had reported for duty as he had agreed and completed whatever task that had been set before him with no comment or complaint. Camthalion was concerned about how withdrawn and quiet he had become. He was so sullen that everyone had given him wide berth. As both Legolas's brother and Commander, he was treading carefully, unsure at what to say or do and second guessing every word he spoke.

Since the moment he first held his brother, just minutes after he was born, Camthalion had felt an immediate and profound sense of unconditional love and duty. He closed his eyes and felt his breath hitch in his chest as he recalled the moment his father placed his swaddled baby brother in his arms. Legolas had been asleep but his long, dark eyelashes had fluttered open to reveal bright blue eyes that regarded him with a sense of familiarity as though he knew Camthalion was his elder brother. He could vividly recall the sweet scent of him as he leaned down to press a kiss in the soft, downy hair on his head. He had felt himself being observed and he looked up to see their mother watching them with exhausted dark eyes that shone with love and pride. At that moment he knew that his parents could never have bestowed a greater gift upon him than that of his little brother. At that moment he had promised Legolas to always love and protect him. It was now 50 short years later. Naneth was gone. Adar was changed. Something insidious was tearing at the seams of what remained of his family. Camthlion was desperately trying to keep his promise to his brother but he felt lost and helpless. He knew he was failing. Once more his breath unexpectedly hitched in his chest.

"Commander?"

Camthalion's eyes instantly shot open. Neurion was standing in the doorway looking at him with concern.

"Are you well, my lord?" he asked.

"Yes, of course," Camthalion hastily replied as he composed himself almost instantly. "Come in," he bid as he gestured toward a chair before his desk.

Neurion took the offered seat and observed the ellon in front of him. Camthalion looked anything but well. He could sense the stress the Commander was feeling and see the tension radiating from his shoulders.

"Legolas should be returning soon," Camthalion told him, "I see you have written up the report."

"Yes," Neurion replied as he placed the parchment on the desk in front of him, "If my lord would rather…"

"No," Camthalion instantly interrupted him, "It does not matter that Legolas is His Majesty's son. He must abide by the same governance and discipline as any other soldier."

"Yes, Commander," Neurion replied and dismissed any other intentions of trying to persuade him otherwise. Legolas entered the room moments later and Neurion was relieved that it was apparent that the young ellon had not heard any of their conversation.

"Legolas, please sit down. We need to have a conversation," Camthalion said neutrally as he pointed to the chair beside Neurion.

"Why?" Legolas asked in a lifeless monotone voice that startled the Captain. Neurion's eyes widened slightly at the young one's flippancy.

"Sit," Camthalion said, slightly more sharply.

Legolas wordlessly did as he was told. He knew why the Captain was there and the topic they wanted to discuss. His heart sank. He didn't want to think about that terrible day. Every waking moment he tried to distract himself from it and yet it haunted his restless slumber each night.

"We need to discuss the shift change and you and Sellion had made," Camthalion told him, "Your commanding officer was unaware that you requested it. When I spoke to Sellion he seemed to think that it had been approved and cleared."

Legolas swallowed and stared hard at the parchment on the desk. "It was," he said gruffly.

Camthalion and Neurion exchanged a long look.

"When?" Neurion asked him.

"When what?" Legolas said rather snidely and it was clear to all in the room that he knew exactly what Neurion was asking him.

"I want to remind you, Legolas, that Neurion is your Captain and you will treat him with the respect his station commands. Is that clear?" Camthalion said firmly yet not unkindly, trying desperately to keep the situation under his control.

"Yes, my lord," Legolas muttered before turning to Neurion, "You said it was approved...Captain." he said still somewhat impertinently.

Neurion looked at him incredulously. "When? When did I tell you that?" he asked as he furrowed his brow trying to recall that conversation.

"The previous day, at shift change," Legolas said, his stomach twisted as he forced his features into a neutral countenance and looked the Captain in the face as he willingly told him the well rehearsed lie.

"I do not recall you asking me," Neurion told him earnestly, wanting to believe him.

"I asked you before I left to attend The King," Legolas told him, "You were in the Common Room and I asked you and you told me yes."

Neurion frowned. He could not remember any such thing. But shift changes were busy times. Soldiers were leaving and some were reporting, creating a lot of noise and commotion. He supposed it was quite possible he had granted it and had quickly forgotten. Legolas had never had issues with attendance in the past so he was inclined to agree. "I believe you," he said at last with a nod, "The matter is settled and there will be no disciplinary action."

Legolas nodded, relieved that his story had not been subjected to further questioning, started to rise, believing the conversation was over.

"There is one more issue we need to discuss," Camthalion told him.

"What?" Legolas asked suspiciously as he slowly lowered himself back down into the chair. He didn't like the way they were looking at him.

"We need to discuss your duties," Neurion told him.

"What about it? Have I displeased you in some way?" he asked, looking wary yet confused.

"No," Neurion assured him, "I am concerned about you. Sellion was your close friend."

"I don't want to talk about him," Legolas snapped, his heart lurching with pain at the mention of his name.

"Legolas," Camthalion said, "This is important. It is affecting your ability to serve in your patrol."

"How?"

"You are unwell," Neurion's voice was gentle, "You are ill with grief."

"No! I am not!" Legolas's voice was beginning to rise as he started to get upset, "It will be fine!"

"Legolas," Neurion said as he reached over to touch his arm, "There is no way you can meet the demands of your role in your current state. You will serve as The Commander's aide until you heal enough to return to our patrol. This is not a punishment. There is no reason to be angry or ashamed."

"No! This is absurd!" Legolas nearly shouted, wrenching his arm roughly out of Neurion's grasp. His heart began to race as he felt swift, righteous anger wash over him. He turned his gaze to his brother. "This was your idea, wasn't it?"

Both Neurion and Camthalion jumped at the loud volume and the amount of pain and anger twisted on Legolas's young, fair face.

"You are out of line!" Camthalion snapped back, "Do I…"

"I don't care!" Legolas shouted back at him, "I am not doing it!"

"Lego…" Camthalion said as he rose to his feet. He had never had to deal with such blatant insubordination from a soldier before in all his long years.

"I'm telling Adar!" Legolas shouted, interrupting Camthalion, as he stood and unceremoniously slammed the door shut, hard enough to make a tapestry fall from the wall.

Neurion sat stunned for a long moment. He had known Legolas since he was a small elfling. He had always found him to be an animated, engaging child and when he joined the ranks he had found no fault with his performance and enjoyed serving with him. He had never expected him to behave in such a way. He has served as a Captain for nearly an Age and he had never seen such uncouth behavior. He looked timidly at the Commander. Camthalion looked as stunned as he felt. Finally, the Commander blinked then scoffed. He didn't understand. Legolas had been so determined that he was fine one moment and the next acting like an elfling running home to tattle to Ada.

"I will handle this," he told the Captain, "you are dismissed."

Neurion nodded and stood to salute. Not for the first time, he was glad he was not the one in command of The Realm's forces he mused as he watched Camthalion leave, his shoulders still radiating tension and anger.

*****

"Adar!"

Thranduil frowned at the loud, interrupting voice that was accompanying the forceful thumping on his office door. He instantly recognized the voice as his youngest son's. The door swung open before he could reply and Legolas entered looking as angry as Thranduil had ever seen him.

"What is it?" Thranduil asked him, taken back at the sudden explosive emotion after days of him being withdrawn and nearly mute.

"I will not do it, Adar!" Legolas said bitterly as he watched Thranduil rise from his desk and walk over to him, "Tell him I don't have to!"

"Tell who?" Thranduil asked as he placed a steadying hand on the thin shoulder, "What don't you want to do?"

Before he could answer the door swung open again and Camthalion stood before them looking even more angry than Legolas.

"Have you taken leave of your senses?" he shouted at his brother as he reached over and roughly wrenched him from their father's gentle grasp. It was all he could do not to shake him like a rag doll, "You will do as I command without question. Is that clear?"

The rage in Legolas's face frightened him and caused him to loosen his grip on his shoulders slightly. He wasn't prepared for the rough shove that Legolas dealt him and staggered back a couple of steps.

"I don't care what you say," Legolas shouted back, "I will not do it. Adar won't let you!"

Camthalion roughly grabbed his arm again and forcefully jerked him closer again. "If you wish to stay in His Majesty's ranks you will do as you are commanded, child." he hissed, emphasizing the last word.

Legolas pushed back against him again before Thranduil stepped in. He roughly pushed his older son away from his youngest. "That is enough," he said harshly. He could feel Legolas trembling where his hand rested on his shoulder. He looked pale and sick and at the end of his endurance now that his anger was nearly spent. "I want you to go to your chambers and rest," Thranduil commanded.

"But Adar..."

"You are not well," Thranduil told him, "I will come to speak to you later."

Legolas nodded. He refused to look at his brother as he did as his father had bid, surprisingly, with no argument.

"What is the meaning of this?" Thranduil snapped as he turned to face Camthalion. "What did you do?"

"Why are you blaming me?" Camthalion snapped back at him, hurt and angered that their father would assume he was the one at fault.

"Because whatever upset him you seem to be the source of it. Do I need to remind you that Legolas is in a fragile state and things were finally starting to improve until you upset him," Thranduil answered as he returned to his desk to pour them each a goblet of wine, "And if you ever manhandle your brother like that again you will be very sorry."

Camthalion gaped at him for a long moment, hardly believing what he was hearing. "Well, I am so sorry, Ada, that I hurt your spoiled little baby" he sneered sarcastically, feeling attacked and resentful.

Thranduil's eyes narrowed dangerously as he sat back down in his chair. "I advise you to collect yourself, iôn nín," he warned him in a low, dangerous tone.

"Why? Why are you taking his side?" Camthlion ignored the warning and continued his tirade, "He has conducted himself shamefully and there you sit blaming me and making excuses for him!" Camthalion did not realize his voice was rising as his temper finally snapped, "When did you ever do that for me? You never did! You spoil him because Naneth is dead and you feel guilty. Your indulgence will be his undoing!"

He was not aware that his father had risen from behind his desk until he felt him grab him by his tunic and roughly pull him close to his face.

"I am not going to listen to another word of this nonsense!" Thranduil shouted, "It seems that you too, son, have forgotten your place."

Camthalion took in a shuddering breath. Then to his dismay, angry tears welled up in his eyes. He had not meant to shout at his father. He definitely had not meant to bring up his mother. But he felt so desperate to make his father understand. He felt hopeless and as childish as it made him feel he longed for Thranduil to tell him that everything was well and that he knew how to fix Legolas. He took in another unsteady breath and was mortified as a single hot, angry tear ran down his cheek. He descended to his knees before The King for the defiance of his authority.

"Forgive me, Aran nîn, I beg your forgiveness," he said hoarsely as he stared at Thranduil's boots, "It is not my place to render judgment or criticism. I am, as always, your loyal servant and son."

He knelt, keeping his eyes trained on the floor and forced his breathing to return to normal and the tears to disappear from his eyes.

"Rise."

Camthalion did as he was bid and was surprised that his father looked sad rather than angry. Wordlessly, he held his arms out and Camthalion stepped into them gratefully.

"I am sorry, Adar," he said miserably, "I don't know what came over me. I am so ashamed of myself for the way I spoke to you."

Thranduil said nothing for a moment, holding his son more tightly to his chest. He reached out to his eldest through their fëa bond to tell him silently that all was forgiven and to soothe Camthalion's troubled soul. He was angry but not at his son. He was angry with himself for failing Camthalion. He was grateful for this not-so-subtle reminder that he was this often overlooked ellon's father as well.

"I am sorry," Thranduil said at last before pressing his lips to the dark hair, "Sometimes, Camthalion, I am so worried about your brother that I forget that this affects you as well. Please forgive me for neglecting you so shamelessly."

"There is nothing to forgive, Adar," Camthalion assured him, leaning further into the embrace, "We are all worried about Legolas."

"Yes," Thranduil agreed before taking his son's chin in his hand and forcing him to look him in the eye, "I do not love him best," he said forcefully and earnestly, looking deep into the dark blue eyes "I love you both equally and I would give my life for you both. But it is difficult to raise a child and even harder to do it alone. I did not intend for that to be perceived that I love him more and you less. No father has ever been more proud of his son than I am of you."

Camthalion felt his eyes fill with tears instantly at the mention of his mother. Since the day had she died he had forced most of his grief deep, down in his heart and kept it there so that he could attend to his duties as a son, brother, husband and Crown Prince. But currently, with emotions running high and the constant strain and worry over Legolas, he was finding it far more difficult to control. He felt worn down to almost nothing. He tried in vain to successfully swallow his tears once more.

"You take far too much upon yourself," Thranduil told him, feeling his own heart sink at the unmasked grief and sadness on his eldest's face. "Let go, iôn nín," he bid softly.

Camthalion couldn't have stopped the tears if he had tried. He wept as he had not done in years. Thranduil said nothing but offered him his comforting presence and touch, mentally cursing himself for allowing Camthalion to think that he was less important or less loved than his brother. After several long minutes, Camthalion slowly regained his composure, taking in several shaky breaths. He drew comfort from his father's scent and presence as he held him and stroked his hair. He looked down as Thranduil ran his hand gently down the long, dark locks.

"You have your mother's hair," Thranduil said, smiling ruefully, as he ran the silky strands between his fingers. Faelwen's hair had fallen the same way down her back and reflected the light just as Camthalion's was now. Camthalion nodded, he did indeed remember his mother's hair; dark and unmanageable and utterly Silvan. Just thinking of it sent such a dull ache of grief through his chest that he had to mentally cast it away.

"Now, tell me, what happened this afternoon," Thranduil commanded continued to stare off at nothing and stroke Camthalion's hair as he quietly listened to him recount what had occurred. Finally, he nodded. "You are right. He can not go back to patrol. Mentally and physically he simply is unable to and I completely support your decision."

"You do?" Camthalion asked, shocked at how easily he had convinced him and had required no long explanations or lengthy justifications.

"Yes," Thranduil said as Camthalion straightened, breaking their embrace, "You are right. He is being insubordinate and that can not be tolerated. He can either serve the way you see fit or he can spend his days with me. It will be his choice."

"He is not going to be happy," Camthalion replied as internally he cringed at what Legolas might say or do.

"No, he won't," Thranduil agreed, "But he is going to have to learn that it is not my place to question the Troop Commander's decisions. I am going to go have a long discussion with him. These past few months have been hard for all of us. I do not know what is to come but I am grateful that at long last you and I have an understanding as we move forward."

"Really?" Camthalion said in disbelief at how his father now seemed to value his opinion.

"Of course, iôn nín, there is no one I entrust this with more than you," Thranduil said, turning to smile sadly at him as he walked out the door.

Camthalion blinked and felt a flare of pride. He had not expected his father to say that as he seemed to trust no one where Legolas was concerned. It made him feel that though they may be facing darker days at least they would face it together.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Camthalion watched his father leave then took a deep breath and wearily wiped his face with his hand. He knew he should feel better but he still felt unhappy and exhausted in a way he had not felt in years. He summoned what energy remained and stepped out into the corridor, closing the door behind him. He had not taken two steps before he saw his wife rushing toward him.

"Meleth," she breathed as she threw her arms around him. She withdrew and looked up at his fair face with tear treks still visible. "Come," she quietly bid him as she took his hand and started to lead him toward their quarters.

"I can not," Camthalion told her as he stood rooted on the spot, "I need to get back to my office."

"The office can wait," Amoniel told him firmly, her voice taking a bossy edge as she was prone to do, as she tugged on his hand, "I am sure they can manage one afternoon without you. Come, let us go somewhere more private."

Camthalion nodded. Feeling emotionally drained after his confrontation with his brother and the argument with his father, he simply did not have the will to argue and allowed her to lead him through the winding corridors, glad that in his current state that they did not meet many edhil along the way. He didn't want inquiries or whispers about his red eyes or tear stained face. They simply bowed to their Crown Prince and he ignored him, keeping his eyes on the floor in front of him. Amoniel quickly led him through their sitting room and into the bedchamber. One there, she pointed to their soft, large bed.

"You need to rest," she told him, "I can feel how weary you are."

He didn't argue further. It would be of little use for he knew he could hide nothing from her. He sat on the edge of the bed and removed his cloak and boots before shrugging out of the green jerkin he was wearing and laid back on the bed clad only in his tunic and leggings. He smiled sadly as Amoniel reclined beside him. She sat up slightly and peered down at him before reaching out to touch the delicate skin under his red, swollen eyes.

"You are sad," she said simply as she lovingly ran a hand over his hair.

"It will be fine," he immediately assured her as he reached up and grasped her small, smooth hand in his larger one and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"It is Legolas, isn't it?" she asked softly.

"How do you know?" he asked her, looking up in mild surprise.

"I heard him shouting," Amoniel told him, "and he slammed his chamber doors so forcefully I thought it would come off of the hinges. I passed Adar in the corridor minutes ago and he doesn't look happy."

"He isn't," Camthalion replied with a resigned, sad sigh, "None of us are."

"My love," she said mournfully as she moved to lay with her head on his chest, "You take too much upon yourself."

"Adar just told me that," he sighed as he closed his eyes and burrowed deeper into the soft, down pillows, feeling grateful that she convinced him to skive off work.

Amoniel closed her eyes as Camthalion enveloped her in his strong arms. She listened to the sound of his steady pulse, feeling the misery radiating from him. His fëa was crying out in despair. It was so strong that tears stung her eyes and she had not felt him in such a state since the day his mother had been killed. Silently, she focused on the bond she shared with him. Their fëar sang together, intertwined for all of Time. She hummed a soothing, gentle Melody from her fëa until the overwhelming melancholy slowly faded into a dull ache. She felt him gradually relax and the tension leave him muscle by muscle.

"I love you," he murmured as he turned his face into her fragrant hair. He felt an immense sense of gratitude for his wife. He was Home with her and she with him. As long as his and Amoniel's fëar ebbed in Harmony to the Song he knew he could face whatever was to come for with her they were one.

"Are you are well?" she asked him, as she reached up to caress the side of his face.

Rather than answer, he began to trail soft kisses down the side of her face and then lower down her long, graceful neck. She turned her face up toward him and their lips met. She closed her eyes and savored the familiar taste of his mouth. Her lips curled into a smile as his hands began to wander briefly and then swiftly unravel the numerous buttons on the back of her gown. She reached up and quickly opened his tunic and ran her hand over his smooth chest, allowing it to come to rest over his beating heart.

"Camthalion?" she gasped softly as she arched into his touch.

"Hmmm?" he grunted, more interested in removing her clothing than in having a conversation.

"You know what I want," she said quietly with a distinct yearning in her voice.

He promptly removed his dark head from her cleavage and looked down into her gray eyes. The naked longing in them sent a jolt of pain through his heart.

"Meleth…" he began and stopped when she tried to hide her sadness behind a small smile, "It is not the right time."

She heaved a great, long suffering sigh. He had been saying the same thing for many, many years. "When? When will it be the right time?" she questioned him.

"I don't know," he slowly replied, "There is Darkness over the Forest. It isn't safe. They are calling it the Mirkwood. Besides, there is something wrong with Legolas. We need to focus on that first before starting our family."

"We have been married for over three and a half centuries," Amoniel told him as she cupped his cheek and looked up into his eyes, "I want a child."

He looked down at her and felt another pang of sadness. It really wasn't fair to deny her heart's desire. Most of their friends had started their families many years prior and some even had grandchildren. After a century of marriage, even his mother had jokingly commented several times that she wanted grandchildren. He knew, deep in his heart, that if they waited for things to be perfect then they would never have children. Once more he looked down at his wife. She was beautiful, kind and patient. She would be a wonderful mother, he had no doubt. Countless times over the years of his marriage he had pictured her holding their children. The vision always warmed his heart. His thoughts took him back to how she had been with Legolas when he was an elfling. He had clearly adored her and he still did. Then suddenly his thoughts strayed to Legolas's current condition. It also wasn't fair to Amoniel to make her wait even longer because his brother wanted to act like a spoiled brat. Not wanting to think about his brother, he pushed those thoughts away and focused on his wife who was lying beneath him with her eyes shining bright with love and hope.

Wordlessly, he nodded, giving his consent to the question she had been asking him for over two centuries. Her eyes widened and he felt a wave of sheer exhilaration wash over their bond. At that moment he knew it was the right decision. Before he could say another word she reached up and pulled him back down on top of her and sought out his lips.

*****

Thranduil entered Legolas's rooms without bothering to knock. He was pushed beyond propriety in his current state of annoyance and was well prepared for a lengthy argument with his errant son. Fortunately, Legolas didn't comment on the unexpected intrusion. He was sitting on his bed, attempting to take the braids out of his hair. He looked up when he heard the door open and then resumed his task.

"Mae govannen, Adar," he said cheekily, knowing at best his father was irritated with the unpleasant scene in his office.

Thranduil gave him a look that told him he was swiftly running out of patience. Legolas smiled meekly in response, all traces of impertinence swiftly vanished. Thranduil watched him for a long moment. He was still unnaturally pale and his hands were shaking, making the task far more difficult than it should have been.

"Here," Thranduil said as he sat beside him and gently moved his hands away, "allow me."

Legolas said nothing but was still as Thranduil gently began to unravel each tight plait of flaxen hair.

"I am not pleased with your behavior," Thranduil stated mildly, careful to keep his voice calm, "I know you are not happy with the decision of the Troop Commander but his orders are not to be questioned."

"I don't want to work in his office," Legolas replied bitterly, "He and Neurion are being rather dramatic."

"I understand that," Thranduil replied as he smoothed the unraveled hair with his fingers before moving on to the larger herringbone plait in the middle, "But when the Commander and the Captain give you an order it is to be obeyed without question. You know this."

"But Adar..."

"I did not come in here to argue with you," Thranduil told him firmly, "I am not going to interfere in this matter, Legolas. It is not my place."

"You are The King, Adar," Legolas reminded him after quickly glancing back at him, "It is Your Majesty's Forces, after all. You could make them assign me back to patrol."

"It is indeed The Elvenking's Army," Thranduil agreed as he moved to the last braid, "And I will not allow such blatant disrespect and insubordination to my Troop Commander."

"Now you are the one being dramatic," Legolas sighed in frustration. He felt his father give his braid a deliberate, sharp tug. "Ouch," he said tonelessly.

Thranduil rolled his eyes. "I am quite serious, son," he said as he reached over to pick up the hairbrush on the bedside table and began to gently run it through the long, silky fair hair.

Legolas sighed. He knew by his father's tone that the matter had been discussed and the decision had been reached. Trying to argue would be useless.

"It's not fair! Why should I have to give up being on patrol? Valen doesn't!," Legolas said, making one last futile effort to change his father's mind.

"You could refuse to do it," Thranduil acknowledged as he continued to gently brush Legolas's hair.

"Really?"

"Yes," Thranduil told him as he leaned over to set the brush on the bedside table, "If you are not going to serve in The Realm's forces then you may attend to me every day."

Legolas looked at him sharply. He instantly felt angered. It was obvious that Thranduil was well aware that he would not appreciate either option he was being given.

"The choice is yours, iôn nín," Thranduil told him frankly.

"What kind of choice is that?" Legolas scoffed.

"It is yours," his father replied, "You are one of Greenwood's Princes. You owe duty to your King and to this Realm. You may complete your obligation by serving in my Army or you may personally serve me. Which will it be?"

Thranduil watched him carefully for a moment and felt a flare of annoyance at the dark look on Legolas's face and the way he grit his teeth in agitation.

"No..."

"Fine! I gave you a chance to choose, penneth," Thranduil interrupted forcefully, "But since you are insisting on behaving like a petulant child I am going to make the decision for you."

"Adar..."

"You will attend to me every day for the next two months," Thranduil continued loudly, "Then if I think you are capable of a small amount of maturity and self control, you may go back to serve in the Army in whatever capacity the Troop Commander sees fit."

"That's not..."

"It is your King's command," Thranduil vehemently told him.

Legolas looked at him in dismay for several long seconds, looking searchingly at his father's face for any sign that he may relent. Upon seeing none he sighed dejectedly and hung his head. Thranduil watched as a curtain of golden hair fell forward and obstructed his view of his son's face. He heard Legolas mutter under his breath.

"What did you say?" Thranduil asked, straining to keep a reign on his patience, "I can not hear you if you are going to mumble."

"I said," Legolas sighed in exasperation, "that it will be my pleasure to attend you, Aran nín. "

"Good," Thranduil told him matter of factly, "I look forward to it." For once he was grateful for Legolas's surliness. It afforded him the opportunity to make the decision himself. He wanted his ill son under his close supervision and in the Palace where he could make sure that he was not exposed to the cold Winter elements or doing anything that might compromise his health. "Now I want to talk to you about the way you treated your brother," he said unexpectedly.

"What are you talking about?" Legolas asked, "He is the one who was shouting and acting like an idiot."

"You were both acting like idiots," Thranduil corrected him, once more having to make a conscious effort to keep the annoyance out of his voice, "And I am not going to allow the two of you to engage in such disgraceful behavior. This arguing and shoving stops right now. I am not going to tolerate it."

"I would not have shoved him if he had not grabbed my arm," Legolas said defensively, "He was the one who was out of control."

"I have talked to Camthalion about that," Thranduil assured him, "and he was very remorseful about his reaction today."

"I can't believe you are taking his side!"

Thranduil sighed. "I am not taking anyone's side," he snapped, "I am just informing you that you both are not to behave that way again."

"Yes, Adar," Legolas said as he dropped his gaze once more in shame.

"You are fortunate to have a brother," Thranduil continued his lecture, "Camthalion loves you and he is a good brother to you. He was far more lenient with you today than I would have been if I had been the Troop Commander. You would do well to remember that the next time you feel the need to question his authority. I expect you to apologize to him with good grace."

"Yes, Adar."

Thranduil watched Legolas for a moment as silence enveloped them. He was staring at his shaking hands on his lap, looking miserable. He let out a melancholy, defeated sigh.

"You do not look well," Thranduil told him, allowing his voice to become far more gentle than it had been.

"I am tired," Legolas replied softly, still refusing to meet his gaze. "And sad," he softly added after a few moments of silence.

Thranduil's heart broke at how much pain the admission contained. "You will be for some time. Grief is a heavy burden on both the soul and the body," he said, "But one day the wound will not be so raw and you will find your strength once more."

Legolas looked up at him hopefully. He wanted so badly to believe his father, who he knew was speaking from his own experiences. But at the moment he could feel nothing but being weighed down with craving and sorrow. It felt as though he was drowning and had neither the will nor the strength to try to save himself.

"Come," Thranduil gently commanded as he pulled down the bedding, "You need to rest before dinner. All of this arguing and upset has exhausted you."

Legolas nodded and crawled forward to get into under the covers. Thranduil was relieved for he had been expecting his son to deny it and argue that he was fine. That in itself was evident to how ill he truly was.

"Are you very angry with me, Adar?" he asked sleepily as he settled down into the pillows.

"Of course not," Thranduil told him, as he tenderly pushed back the loose tendrils of hair that had settled on his face.

Legolas made a noncommittal noise as he felt his eyes almost instantly become heavy and start to cloud over in Elven sleep. Thranduil watched his son swiftly fall asleep, still shivering slightly. He frowned and reached down to the foot of the bed for another quilt to lay over top of him. As he gently smoothed it over his sleeping son, again he could feel the frailty of his frame and the weakness of his spirit. Not for the first time, his heart lurched in fear.

He watched him closely for several long minutes and once more, as he had done countless times, he tried to determine what was afflicting Legolas. He was not so sure it was merely grief. Certainly, it compounded the situation but the root of the problem had yet to be revealed. Thranduil felt as though it was something that was festering over time and whatever it was his son was desperately trying to keep it a secret. It seemed that with each passing day the situation was becoming more dire. He watched as the thin chest rose and fell with each deep breath. Again, he searched his memory. He could not pinpoint what happened or when but he had a feeling of trepidation that something elusive and insidious lurked just far enough away that he could not recognize it. It was maddening.

A sudden surge of paternal protectiveness flared from his heart. He reached out and touched the gaunt, pale cheek. Something just was not right. Even now Legolas's skin was cool to touch and he shivered fretfully in his uneasy sleep. He pondered what he should do. Camthalion had been right when he had angrily told him that he indulged Legolas. Thranduil knew that he had and that he tended to coddle him in a way he never did his eldest. He recognized that he had a difficult time seeing Legolas as a grown ellon. Each time he looked at him he saw his baby, his and Faelwen's last child. He knew it frequently annoyed Legolas but with the current state of things he could not help but be overprotective. He sighed wearily, no closer to discovering the truth, as he gracefully got to his feet. He knew he had urgent work to attend to, especially after having to put it off to address the situation with his sons. He reached down and pulled the bedding further up over Legolas's shoulders and then pressed a quick kiss on the smooth skin of his cool forehead. Another wave of fear washed over him. He had never had the gift of foresight but one would have to be blind not to see that something was terribly wrong.

*****

Camthalion moaned in total ecstasy, climaxing violently as bright lights assaulted his vision. He caught himself with his elbows just before he heavily fell on top of Amoniel. He turned his face into her neck as he listened to his heart drum wildly in his chest. He took several heaving gulps of air as he felt the delicious waves of euphoria slowly subside. He vaguely felt her hands on his sweaty back before she turned her head to kiss his cheek. After several long seconds, he rolled over onto bed to lay beside her. They were both quiet as they laid for a moment to catch their breaths. Amoniel fumbled for his hand, interlacing their fingers, and placed on it a soft, feathery kiss.

"I am happy," she said breathlessly.

He smiled warmly at her in response as she took his hand and placed it over her stomach. "Our baby," she gushed, radiating pure and unrestrained joy.

For a moment he could have sworn he could feel the new life taking hold in her womb. Then suddenly, without warning, he was certain. He felt a sudden, new connection to his fëa and it instantly began to pulse with life. It was there beneath his hand, the child they had just created. It was so very different from the bond he had to his parents. This connection had a vague familiarity to it and he quickly recognized it as Amoniel. He felt a sense of awe and protectiveness of this precious little one that they had been gifted. They laid quietly for several long moments, each focusing on their new child until Amoniel stirred and started to get up. She sat on the edge of the bed before looking back at Camthalion. She smiled at him, relieved that the sadness on his face had been replaced with contentment. He met her gaze and raised a dark eyebrow seductively at her.

"I think not," she laughed as she plucked her gown and stockings from the floor, "Thrice in one afternoon is quite enough, my lord husband."

She rolled her eyes at the arrogant, smug look on his face. He was, unmistakably, quite pleased with his performance. As she walked into the bath chamber she called over her shoulder, "Don't even think about going to sleep. Get dressed. It will be time for dinner soon."

"Yes, dear," he sighed affectionately as he pulled one of the plump pillows over his head.

*****

Thranduil looked up at the sound of movement. He watched Camthalion and Amoniel take their usual seats. They were surprisingly late. He said nothing for it was not their habit and his elder son looked serene, unlike what he had been when he had last seen him earlier that afternoon. It was an unexpected yet welcome change. Instead of commenting, he merely signaled to the servants to bring forth the meal.

"You're late," Legolas commented nastily, as he placed roasted pheasant on his plate, "Adar and I have been sitting here for nearly a quarter of an hour waiting on you."

"That is too bad," Camthalion retorted sarcastically as he took the platter from his brother none too gently, "Now you know how it is for all of us when we must delay every meal because of you."

Legolas scowled and opened his mouth to reply.

"Enough!" Thranduil snapped, "We are not going to continue this. We are going to have a nice, quiet meal. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Adar."

"Yes, Adar."

"Good," Thranduil shot them both a warning look before filling up his wine goblet. He swirled the crimson liquid and watched it settle before taking a deep drink. They ate quietly for a few minutes with tension palpable in the air.

"I don't think I should have to apologize to him," Legolas suddenly blurted out after giving his brother a dark look.

"Legolas..." Thranduil began as a look of exasperation clouded his face.

"Well, I don't," Legolas interrupted, "Why should I have to tell him I am sorry when I'm not! He's the one who was shouting and being aggressive."

"Legolas..." Thranduil said firmly. He took in a deep breath and drained his wine goblet before refilling it. His patience was being tested and he was at his limit.

"But Adar..."

"Enough!" Thranduil snapped, raising his voice, "I have told you there is to be no arguing at the table." He glared at his youngest son until he was certain he was going to be obeyed. When Legolas resumed eating he finally picked up his own fork once more. Typically, he would banish him from the table for his insolence but for once Legolas seemed to have somewhat of an appetite and Thranduil did not want to discourage it.

"Aren't you going to apologize to me?" Legolas suddenly growled at his brother.

"No, why would I?" Camthalion replied.

"We've had this discussion, Legolas," Thranduil told him, "Isn't there something you wish to say to your brother?"

"No," Legolas said, "I wouldn't have shoved him if he wouldn't have grabbed my arm and shouted."

"I wouldn't have had to do that if you possessed just an ounce of discipline" Camthalion retorted, completely unconcerned about his brother's rising temper, "Since you do not you are going to have to face the consequences of that."

Thranduil closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. A headache was beginning to form. He sighed heavily and once more drained the contents of his goblet before emptying the decanter in front of him to refill it. Sighing again in frustration he barked at the nearest servant to bring more wine to the table before returning his attention to the escalating argument.

"This is all of your fault!" Legolas argued, "Because of you I am going to have to attend our lord father for two months!"

"Really?" Camthalion said with a scornful, delighted smile "I am pleased with The King's decision. Now I will not have to suffer your presence every day."

"Stop this instant!" Thranduil suddenly shouted over both of them as he brought his fist down on the table with such force that the plates clattered and wine sloshed precariously in the glasses.

Amoniel, who had gripped Camthalion's arm in an attempt to calm him, startled and turned to look at her formidable father in law with wide, timid eyes. She had never heard his voice reach that volume before or seen him so angry with his sons. But she was weary of the arguing and she hoped that he would put a stop to it.

"You do not need to shout," Legolas muttered crossly, "We are sitting right here."

"Apparently, I do," Thranduil snapped, "For this is the second time today I have had to mediate an argument between the two of you."

"Adar..." Camthalion began.

"I don't want to hear it," Thranduil told him, "I am tired. I have been awake since long before dawn and I have had a full day of trade negotiations and military reports and Court and Council. I have more work waiting to be completed because I have had to spend the majority of the afternoon managing my ill mannered children. Is it too much to ask that we have a simple, quiet meal?"

"No, Adar."

"Well..."

"Shut up!" Camthalion snapped at his brother irritably, "Why must you always have to say something?"

Thranduil raised his eyes to the ceiling and begged the Valar to intercede and grant him just a little more patience. He feared what he would do or say should the situation continue. Amoniel watched him for a moment. His face was red, flushed with anger and he looked as though he was moments away from losing his infamous temper. He must have felt her eyes on him because his piercing gaze fell on her. In that instant, she could feel how frustrated and exhausted he felt. She smiled gently at him.

"Camthalion and I are going to have a baby, Adar," she crowed proudly.

Thranduil's eyes widened in shock. It was the last thing he had expected her to say. "What?" he asked, certain that he had misheard.

"Meleth!" Camthalion gasped, "We agreed not to tell anyone yet!"

"I'm sorry," Amoniel said, completely unapologetic, "But someone needed to say something to diffuse the situation."

"You have made me very happy, daughter," Thranduil told her as he stood and walked the few steps to kiss her cheek. As he turned to return to his place at the head of the table he leaned down and kissed the top of Camthalion's dark head, "And you as well, iôn nín. You are going to be an excellent father."

"Thank you, Adar," Camthalion told him, "I have your good example to follow."

Thranduil gave him a pleased smile as he took his seat. Legolas rolled his eyes. Of course, his brother would say something like that to appease their father. It set his teeth on edge how their father's praise and approval seemed to be so important to Camthalion. Now that he was giving Thranduil something he wanted Legolas was convinced that he would be siding with Camthalion over their latest argument.

"Legolas," Amoniel asked suddenly, trying to draw him into the conversation, "are you glad that you will be an uncle soon?"

Legolas shrugged. He had never really thought much about it. He had not been around babies very often. His mother's family did not live near The Stronghold and he was the youngest out of all of his cousins. Valen, like himself, was the youngest in his family. But Sellion had two younger brothers. Legolas had always found them supremely annoying. Whenever he and his friends had been playing at Sellion's house the babies had cried all the time and did disgusting things like spit up and drool. Then when they were a little older they had tried to follow them everywhere and constantly asked why and tended to wreck anything they had tried to do. He vividly recalled one afternoon when he had been 25 years old they had been driven indoors due to a thunderstorm. The twins had come into Sellion's room no matter how many times they had shooed them away until Sellion's naneth had said they had to let the toddlers play with them. Not only were their hands sticky and grabbing everything, including Legolas's hair, but one of them had sat down on Valen's lap and wet himself, drenching a horrified Valen in the process. Legolas remembered going home that day glad that his own brother was an adult.

"I suppose so," he answered her. Then he quickly decided that a baby living in The Palace might possibly be a good thing. His father would be occupied with his first grandchild and would have to less time to micromanage his life. It would also be nice not to be the youngest. Perhaps then his family would finally treat him like an adult. "When will he be born?"

"In about a year," Amoniel told him, "How do you know the baby will be a boy? You may be getting a niece."

"When will you know if it is a boy or a girl?" Legolas asked, realizing he didn't know much of anything about babies.

"In a few months when the bond develops stronger as the baby grows," Amoniel told him.

"Are you going to vomit?" Legolas asked her, "Sellion's mother did when she was pregnant with his brothers."

"Legolas," Thranduil said, the anger gone from his voice, "That is not something we need to discuss, especially at the table."

"It's is fine, Adar," Amoniel said before turning to Legolas, "I might. But I hope I don't. I remember my mother being ill when she carried both my brother and my sister."

Legolas gave her a sympathetic look before he noticed his brother was watching him. He instantly felt irritated again. "Well, I hope he is nothing like you," he said rudely.

He expected his brother to give him an angry retort but instead, his blue eyes widened in alarm. For a moment Legolas wondered what could have caused such a strange reaction but the next he felt something warm gush from his nose. Instinctively, he brought his hand to his face and when he pulled it away his fingers were covered in a substantial amount of blood. His father was instantly at his side and pressing one of the linen napkins in his hand. Legolas brought it up to his face. He knew his nose was bleeding due to inhaling the powder before coming to the Dining Hall. He had taken Rilien's advise and had been inhaling smaller, more frequent doses and found that he had been right. It made it much easier to function during the day and when he wanted to feel the elevated sensation he simply inhaled more which is typically did at night. But he noticed that more and more frequently his nose would randomly bleed. Fortunately the last few times it had he had been alone and it was easily managed. But it seemed his luck had run out.

"I think you need to see a healer," Thranduil said, "That is bleeding pretty heavily."

"It's fine, Adar," Legolas said dismissively.

"No," Thranduil told him, "You are not well. I want you to see a healer."

"But.."

"I will not bend on this, Legolas," Thranduil said, "Let's go."

Legolas glared as he stared at the table in front of him and set his jaw in defiance. He wished everyone would just leave him alone. The thought of anyone finding out about him using the powder frightened him. He didn't even want to think about what his father would do if he was to learn who his son truly was.

"Let's go," Thranduil repeated firmly.

Legolas didn't move but suddenly his father's hand was on his upper arm and he pulled him out of his chair. Once Legolas was upright he pulled the napkin away from his face and was startled to find blood still flowing from his nose. He wanted to argue further but couldn't think of anything that even stood a chance of convincing his father he didn't need medical attention. With Thranduil's firm grip on his arm, he allowed himself to be steered out of the Dining Hall and led toward the infirmary.

"Good evening, hîr nín Legolas," Aranhil said as he stepped into the small exam room. He spotted Thranduil standing beside the examination table where Legolas was perched, "Aran nín," he said with a bow. "I see your nose is bleeding again," he said as he turned his attention back to his Prince.

"It's not really that bad," Legolas told him, as the healer tipped his head back to look at his nose.

The bleeding had stopped, much to the healer's relief. Aranhil frowned as once more he could find no reason for a nose bleed heavy enough to saturate the cloth Legolas was clutching.

"I am not certain what is happening," Aranhil said, his brow furrowed thoughtfully, "When did this start?"

"About 15 minutes ago in the Dining Hall," Legolas answered.

"Sometimes these things just happen," Aranhil told him, before glancing at The King "Are you suffering from anything else?"

Legolas shook his head.

"Actually, yes," Thranduil spoke up. Legolas felt his heart sink. Why must his father constantly interfere? It was like it was some sort of compulsion Thranduil seemed unable to control. "He has lost a considerable amount of weight and he is exhausted much of the time."

Aranhil nodded in agreement. "Please remove your tunic, hîr nín," he requested, "So I may determine what might be afflicting you."

Legolas wordlessly began to fumble with the clasps on his tunic with shaking hands. Aranhil frowned as he reached out and took Legolas's hand in his own.

"You are trembling," he observed, as he ran nimble fingers over the cold, quivering hand, "Does this happen frequently?"

Legolas shrugged.

"Yes," Thranduil told him, "I have noticed it has become very pronounced recently."

Aranhil nodded as he helped Legolas out of his tunic. He looked at the slight, thin frame. The young Ernil was sharp and angular. The healer was surprised at how slight he was, even for one so tall and slender. He pushed him forward slightly to look at his back. He was startled to see his vertebrae and shoulder blades protruding from the smooth skin. When he placed his hands on him the skin was cool and he could sense how weak he truly was. Troubled by these discoveries, he reached out again and took Legolas's trembling hand again to check his pulse at his wrist. He found it to be slow.

"You are too thin," he observed, "Are you eating regularly?"

"Sometimes," Legolas admitted, feeling that he was being pressured to be honest since his father was standing there and knew the truth, "I just don't feel hungry."

"You are not sleeping well," Aranhil said, as he reached out to gently tilt his head back again so that he could look into his glassy eyes. The amount of weariness and exhaustion they held was unnerving.

Thranduil noticed it was a statement rather than a question. But Legolas just shrugged in response.

"You are very pale and the dark circles under your eyes are telling me that you are not getting the sleep that you need," the healer said. Again, Legolas shrugged. "You are in need of far more rest than you are currently acquiring."

"I try to sleep but I always seem to wake up several times," Legolas said.

"I see," Aranhil told him gently, "I think this may be related to Sellion's death. Grief can make edhil ill."

Legolas suddenly became still and stared at the floor. Pity stirred in the healer's heart for the young ellon in front of him. The suffering was so apparent. He was starting to shiver even more profoundly.

"You may get redressed," Aranhil said before turning to Thranduil while Legolas put his tunic back on, "I believe this to be a direct result of grief." He looked back at Legolas. "You can not return to patrol in your current state."

"The Troop Commander has removed me from active duty," Legolas informed him, "I am to attend Our King for two months."

"That is good," Aranhil approved, nodding, "I want you to eat at each meal, even if you don't feel like it. You will be surprised at the difference it will make in a short period of time."

Legolas sighed in defeat but nodded.

"I also think, Aran nín," he continued as he turned back to Thranduil, "That he should rest for a couple of hours each day after the midday meal. I can give him something to help him sleep more deeply at night. I am sure with rest and better nutrition he will soon be much more himself."

"It will be done," Thranduil assured him.

"Rest and heal, my lord," Aranhil said as he placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, "My assistant will make up something for you to take at night so you can sleep uninterrupted. I will look in on you later in the week."

Legolas nodded. "Thank you, Aranhil," he muttered softly.

The healer gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze, "It was my pleasure," he said with a sympathetic smile before gesturing to Thranduil to step out into the corridor.

Once the door closed behind them with a soft click Aranhil turned to face The King.

"Are you certain that this is from grief?" Thranduil asked him. The worry in his voice did not go unnoticed.

"I do. He is showing all of the symptoms of the anxiety and sorrow induced by grief. If he does as I have suggested he should recover in time and return to active duty in a couple of months," Aranhil replied.

"But this seems to have started before Sellion died," Thranduil said skeptically, "He has not been himself for months."

"He has had a rough year, my lord," Aranhil explained, "He suffered some extensive injuries that took a very long time to heal. Now, one of his closest friends has died. That is a lot of hardship in such a short period of time."

"But this seems to be beyond that," Thranduil argued, "I can feel it in our bond. He feels distant...almost silent. The bond itself feels strained."

"It is most likely the strain on his spirit," Aranhil told him, "I know it is hard but give him time, Aran nín. Make sure that he is following my advise and try to be understanding and patient with him. Things are difficult for him."

"Do you think that he will improve soon?" Thranduil asked, hoping that the healer was right and Legolas could recover in time.

"He should," Aranhil answered enthusiastically, "As long as he rests and eats his strength should return. Also, talk to him. Reassure him that better times are ahead and this sorrow will not last forever. Sometimes when one is in so much pain it is hard to imagine that it could get any better."

Thranduil nodded. Perhaps the healer was right. It had been a difficult year, especially for his son. A year full of physical and emotional agonies would have such a detrimental effect on the fëa. Maybe that was all that was to it. It made sense. Thranduil took a deep breath. Time and patience would help heal Legolas's wounds. He would see to it. He smiled slightly in relief. The day had started out so bleak but things seemed to be turning around for them. Aranhil was certain Legolas would be fine and soon they would be welcoming another member of their family. As exhausted and tired as he felt the day had finally ended on a positive note. As he opened the door to collect his son he felt his heart lift. Certainly, better days were ahead.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Spring came slowly but steadily that year. At long last, the cold, dark Winter retreated and withdrew its icy grip on The Woodland Realm. The ice melted allowing the streams and river to flow once more. The large snow drifts slowly disappeared and in its place wildflowers emerged from the green grass. The howl of the relentless winds was replaced by the croaking of frogs and merry chirping of birds. The ancient Wood gradually awakened from its long Winter sleep. The Woodelves rejoiced and once more prepared to celebrate their connection to Arda as it renewed itself. The harsh Winter was over and it was time to celebrate rebirth.

The Elvenking stood at the crest of the small hill, his long golden hair swaying with a gentle breeze that brought with it the damp smell of green things, and watched as edhil busily prepared for the Spring feast that evening. Some were at the roasting pits, laboring over the fires as they turned the spits that contained several large boar and deer carcasses. Others were erecting pavilions and tables while others still were setting up the area for the musicians and dancing. Thranduil watched as the most active figure stood in the middle with a rather critical eye pointing as she directed the ellyn where she wanted the tables set while her hand rested on her barely concealed pregnancy. It was clear his daughter in law had very distinct opinions on such matters and no one dared argue with her. Thranduil smirked as he watched his steward, Galion, scramble to do as he was told wordlessly.

"Do your advisors know you are out here?" a sudden, amused voice asked.

Thranduil turned to face his son. "I hope not," he answered with a grin, "If they do one of them will be dragging me back into Council Chambers soon."

Camthalion laughed. "Don't worry, Adar. I sent Aearion looking in the opposite direction."

"And I appreciate that," Thranduil said as he laughed though he still glanced behind him toward the Great Doors to make sure all was clear, "It is such a nice day. I couldn't bear to be indoors a moment longer."

"You are starting to sound like Legolas."

"So I do," Thranduil agreed, his fair face still lit with mirth, "I wish my work took me out of The Palace more often. When I was Commander I think I took it for granted, being able to work outdoors and spending time each day in The Forest. My adar used to tell me how lucky I was but until I became The King I did not fully appreciate the freedom that I had."

Camthalion nodded. He knew his father often became frustrated from the long hours spent indoors in meetings and delegations and court. Thranduil had once said how unnatural it was to sit at a desk or table all day and that edhil were meant to be under the stars and not in cave fortresses. Camthalion had always wondered if his father even wanted to be King. It seemed to be something done out of duty rather than pleasure. He had heard his father say more than once that in all of his life he had never expected to be a King. But Camthalion knew that his father bore his obligations seriously and was completely devoted to The Realm. Even though born during the First Age in Doriath into a noble Sindar family, The Elvenking seemed to now be truly home among The Silvan. He seemed no less a son of this Forest than the Silvan who had lived under its canopy since the first Nandor arrived. The King went about his duties with a willing heart and was loved well by his people but Camthalion often wondered if there were other things he would have wanted to do with his life if he had been given the opportunity.

"Adar?"

Thranduil raised a dark eyebrow inquisitively at him.

"What would you have wanted to do if you did not have to take The Crown?" Camthalion asked.

Thranduil laughed. "When I was very young, around Legolas's age, I wanted to be a minstrel and I loathed every moment I was forced to spend in my uncle's court. But my father did not think that becoming a minstrel was appropriate employment for a Sindar Prince. I'm sure you can imagine the rebellious streak that followed." "My poor parents," he added with an amused shake of his head as he recalled some of their more lively arguments.

"A minstrel? Really?" Camthalion laughed along with him as he thought about the serious, formidable ellon standing next to him, "That doesn't seem like something you would ever do, Adar. How did Grandfather change your mind?"

"He didn't," Thranduil answered him, his smile instantly losing its mirth, "Morgoth returned and then soon after so did the Sons of Fëanor. War made that decision for me. By the time the War was over, I no longer had a desire for the fancies of youth."

Camthalion stopped smiling as well. A flare of compassion and regret swelled in his heart on his father's behalf. He knew Thranduil had been a small elfling when his family and home had been destroyed by the dwarves of Nograd. Then, later, he survived the Second Kinslaying. He had been only a few years older than Legolas when he had been horribly injured by Morgoth's dragons in The War of Wrath. He had only seen the scars his father diligently kept concealed a few times in his life and each time he did Camthalion marveled at how strong Thranduil's will must be to survive such hideous, torturous pain when he was barely more than a child and not have to sail to seek healing in Aman.

"Do not be sad for me, iôn nín," Thranduil said with a gentle smile as he reached over and placed a hand on his son's shoulder, "If those things never happened we would have never come to the Greenwood. I would have never met your mother and would never have had you or Legolas. I regret nothing and instead, I feel absolute gratitude for the path that led me here. Despite the constant battle with Shadow, we have a good life here under the boughs of The Greenwood and tonight we celebrate that connection we have to it."

"How did you get to be so wise?" Camthalion asked to ease some of the seriousness of the mood.

"When you have lived as long as me you will have learned a thing or two," Thranduil told him. "Now look there," he said nodding toward Amoniel who was now forcing the ellyn to put the tables back from where she had just instructed them to move them, "Nothing is going to stop her from managing the whole affair."

"Nothing," Camthalion agreed with a laugh, "But at least she is no longer feeling sick each day."

"Yes," Thranduil said, "Your mother was sick when she was pregnant with both you and your brother. It was a helpless feeling watching her in her miseries but she always smiled and told me not to fret for the best of things would come from it. She, as she always was, was right."

"That sounds like Naneth," Camthalion said with a sad smile, thinking yet again how his mother would have loved to be a grandmother and taken such joy from it.

"Do you know if the child is male or female yet? Amoniel is about at the point in her pregnancy that Faelwen was when we knew that we were having sons," Thranduil asked.

"No, not yet," Camthalion told him, "But each day I feel the bond getting stronger. I think we will know soon. They are already taking wagers at the Military Headquarters."

Thranduil laughed. "Of course they are. They…."

Camthalion looked in the same direction as his father when he suddenly stopped talking. He saw a small convoy emerging from the Elf Path at the edge of The Forest and immediately recognized one of the Captains, Andaer, from the South. They had with them several injured soldiers on litters.

"I should go see to this," Camthalion said, looking over the travel weary faces, "This doesn't look good."

"Aran nín!"

Thranduil grimaced as he instantly recognized Aearion's shrill voice. "It looks as though I am about to be busy as well. I will see you this evening. Good day, iôn."

"Good day, Adar," Camthalion returned as he watched his father and his advisor make their way back into the Palace. He took a deep breath as he watched Andaer make his way toward him, grim faced and barely concealing his limp. He was carrying a messenger bag full of correspondence. It was clear he was bringing bad tidings.

"Hîr nín Camthalion," he said as he stopped a couple of feet away and saluted the Commander.

"Come," Camthalion bid him as he gestured toward the Military Headquarters, "Let us go speak in my office."

"Yes, my lord," Andaer said with a weary dip of his head and followed the taller ellon as they started their trek across the Greens.

*****

"Come in," Camthalion called as the knock on his office door sounded.

The door opened and Legolas stepped into the room. "You wanted to see me?" he asked.

"Yes," Camthalion answered him, "Take a seat. There are things we need to discuss."

Legolas said nothing as he seated himself in the chair in front of his brother's desk. He had been expecting this conversation to happen soon. He had been attending The King each day for well over three months, longer than the original agreement.

"I will be leaving," Camthalion informed him, "The southern border patrol is nearly overrun with orcs and other filth from Shadow and is in dire need of assistance."

"When are you leaving?" Legolas asked him, "How long will you be gone?"

"I will be leading a battalion of reinforcements," Camthalion replied, "We will be leaving in 3 days and we will be gone as long as it takes to manage the situation."

Legolas nodded.

"I am preparing a list of those I am taking with me," Camthalion explained, "Since I will be taking a considerable number of soldiers with me I am forced to put you back on active duty."

Legolas scowled. "I was ready to come back to duty weeks ago."

"And I do not agree," Camthalion said matter of factly, "But we are at war with Shadow and sacrifices must be made. So in my absence, you will report to Neurion and do as he bids."

"What?" Legolas asked in disbelief, "Why can't I go with you?"

"I think we both know the reason for that," Camthalion replied, not liking where the conversation was heading, "I have already selected who will be assigned to go. Neurion is commanding the forces here and will answer directly to Our King until I return."

Legolas's eyes dropped from his brother's face to the sheet of parchment on the desk containing a long list of names. Quickly he reached out and snatched it from the desk. Camthalion anticipated what he was about to do and tried to take it from Legolas's hand but was moments to slow.

"Return that to me at once!" he ordered, "You know that you are not privy to this information!"

Legolas ignored him and quickly scanned the list before Camthalion roughly wrenched it from his grasp, tearing the parchment in two.

"I can't believe this!" he snapped, "You have Valen and Locien on the list! Why do they get to go and I don't?"

"I only answer to His Majesty," Camthalion told him coldly, "I do not have to justify my decision to you, penneth."

"I don't understand why I have to stay here," Legolas said, ignoring the warning he had just been given, "I am the same age as many of these soldiers."

"Age has nothing to do with it," Camthalion replied, "As your Commander, I think that your health is still questionable. I also do not like how insubordinate you are and how you question orders and whine like an elfling any time you are forced to do something you don't want to do. I do not believe you have the maturity to be stationed in a more dangerous patrol." Camthalion ignored the look of shock and outrage on Legolas's face. "And as your brother, I think you are a spoiled brat who has been overindulged by his ada for far too long."

"That is absurd!" Legolas snapped, raising his voice, "How would you know anything about my health? You are no healer! I have done everything that was asked of me and now that I have you are not willing to keep your part of the arrangement!"

"Enough!" Camthalion shouted over him, "You are not going and that is final. You will report to Neurion and do as he commands. Is that clear?"

Camthalion felt another wave of annoyance as he watched Legolas set his jaw defiantly and stare at the ripped parchment on the desk, ignoring his question.

"I asked you a question!" Camthalion snapped, "This is exactly what I am talking about. I am about to lead a dangerous mission in the South. I have no time to accommodate such an undisciplined soldier. You would be a hindrance to the mission. You will remain here and do as you are told. Do you understand?"

Legolas still refused to look at him and remained silent.

"Answer me!"

Legolas jumped at sudden loud volume. He was sure that anyone in the common room had heard the Commander shout.

"Yes, my lord," he muttered.

"You are dismissed," Camthalion barked, still seething in anger, "Go and report to His Majesty. I have no more use of you today."

Legolas stood and looked his older brother squarely in the eye. "I hate you," he snarled before stomping out of the room and slamming the door shut behind him.

*****

Thranduil sat at the head table with his sons seated at each side. Both of them radiated tension and refused to look or speak to the other. He had been surprised when Legolas had appeared before him in The Great Hall before he had been expected. He had been clearly angry and had remained sullen the remainder of the afternoon. When Thranduil had met with the Troop Commander and Captains his eldest son was just as unhappy. Afterward, when he had questioned him, Camthalion had vaguely stated that Legolas had been displeased that he had not been assigned to the mission and had not elaborated further.

Thranduil sighed. The Spring feast was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Spring was to officially begin that very night as soon the Moon was visible. It was a time of rejoicing and celebrating the renewal of life. They had spent so many months of that bitter, long Winter huddled indoors with meager portions of salted meats, grains, dried fruits, and pickled vegetables. As the Winter stubbornly held on each meal became leaner and leaner. But now there were the early, tender greens to enjoy and fresh meat from the Forest and River. Now they could eat without abandon and give gratitude for that which Arda gifted them with each changing season. As dusk fell, lanterns and large bonfires were erected to ward off the evening chill as the meal began to come to a close.

"Would you like something more, Legolas?" Thranduil asked as he surveyed his son's plate. Legolas had not eaten as much as he would have liked and was more or less picking at his meal and pushing it around on his plate.

"No, thank you, Adar," Legolas answered as the question had pulled him from his melancholy thoughts. "Might I be excused?" he asked as he nodded toward where Valen and his family were sitting.

"Of course," Thranduil replied, feeling as though it might do Legolas some good to spend a carefree evening with his closest friend.

Camthalion said nothing as he watched his little brother take his leave. It was difficult not to feel resentful. He had most certainly never been able to run off with his friends once he came of age. He was expected to attend The King at all times. Though his father had tried to assure him months ago that he loved both of his sons equally Camthalion was unable to ignore the flare of doubt in his heart. He knew it was futile to be jealous of his father's favoritism but he could not help but feel so. He knew he may never have a close relationship with Thranduil that Legolas shared but he could still make his father proud. Once more, he resolved to return home from the South victorious.

"Are you well, iôn?" Thranduil suddenly asked, "You are very quiet tonight."

"Of course," Camthalion instantly assured him. He met his father's piercing blue gaze uneasily. "Look," he said to quickly change the subject as he gestured toward the darkening sky, "The first rays of the Moon are near."

Thranduil shifted his eyes upward and saw that Camthalion was indeed correct. Silence suddenly spread over the gathering as all of the edhil stood and looked upward as the first Stars emerged. Moments later the clouds parted and the first rays of the Moon shone down upon them. Instantly, the Woodelves raised their voices in song and welcomed the long awaited Spring. As soon as the last note of their melodious voices faded into the new Spring night the minstrels began to play and many grabbed a partner to dance out on the green.

"Come, husband," Amoniel bid as she tugged on Camthalion's cloak, "By the midsummer feast I may be too big to dance!"

Camthalion took her hand and brought it to his lips for a light kiss. "If you will excuse us, Adar," he said.

Thranduil smiled and nodded as Camthalion led his wife out among the dancers. He watched them for a moment. They were so natural together and Amoniel truly made his son happy. He had worried that his eldest was never going to find a spouse, especially after he had reached his millennial. Camthalion was had always been very hardworking and had been so committed that he had obtained military promotions very early in his career. But fate seemed to have had different ideas when Amoniel's family had moved near The Stronghold. Thranduil smiled as he watched Camthalion gracefully move with his wife in his arms. When the song ended he took a couple of steps toward the head table but Amoniel tugged on his hand and gave him a beseeching look. He smiled indulgently at her and then took her into his arms once more. Thranduil then noticed another set of dancers as they sailed into his line of vision. Legolas was dancing with Aearion's youngest granddaughter. While he had never seen the two together before he was glad that Legolas seemed to be doing better. It seemed as though things were going to go back to normal. He had followed all of Aranhil's orders and had done as Thranduil had asked if not always with a good attitude. Thranduil had seen such improvement in him since the dark days following Sellion's death that his heart so longer constricted in fear each time he laid eyes on him. Thranduil leaned back in his chair and drank from his goblet of wine as he watched his sons. Paternal affection blossomed in his heart and for the first time in months, he felt that things were going to be fine. He let his heart release some of the burdens of worry that had he had carried for months and allowed the joy and elation of the celebration to lift his spirits if only for the night.

*****

The following days flew by as preparations were made for the relief mission to the South, bringing with it fresh soldiers, horses, and supplies. All too soon Camthalion found himself standing before The Great Doors with those assigned to go with him. He watched as each soldier's family bid them farewell, savoring those last sweet moments together, not knowing if it was to be the last. There were husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, siblings, grandparents, and friends. Many of the ellith were shedding tears while the ellyn wore strained, sad smiles.

"Camthalion!"

He turned to see his wife rushing down the steps toward him. She carried a wrapped package in her arms and quickly set about loading it in the pack on his horse.

"I baked you some honey cakes. You are accustomed to eating at The King's table and Valar knows what they serve at those border patrol camps," Amoniel explained as she launched herself into his arms, instantly losing her courageous battle with tears, "Please look after yourself and come home to us."

"You know I will," he murmured as he buried his face in her hair, "I will be home before you know it." She nodded yet continued to sob. He reached down and placed his hand on the slight swell of her gown. "Take care of our little one," he said softly. He closed his eyes for a moment and felt the fragile new life beneath his hand.

"We will be here waiting for you to return," Amoniel told him as she placed her hand over his and turned her head up to kiss him through her tears.

When they parted Camthalion saw his father and one of his Guards standing discreetly a few feet away. Thranduil stepped forward and took his son in his arms. He held him tightly for a long moment before bringing his hand up to stroke the back of the dark head.

"Stay safe, iôn nín," he said earnestly before releasing him, "and come home to us hale and whole."

"Don't worry, Adar, I will," Camthalion replied, as he looked behind his father, "Where's Legolas?"

"He hasn't been here?" Thranduil asked in disbelief.

"No," Camthalion replied as his heart sank, "He hasn't spoken to me since I told him he was to remain here."

"I see," Thranduil said, his dark brows furrowed in displeasure. He shook his head and then gestured to the ellon standing behind him. "Feren is going to accompany you."

"But he is your personal Guard, Adar," Camthalion said in surprise, "He is needed here to protect The King."

"You are going South and will have far greater need of his services," Thranduil told him pointedly, "I have assigned him to you personally. This is my command, my Ernil, and I will not waiver on this."

"As you wish," Camthalion acquiesced as he motioned Feren forward. He quickly kissed his wife one last time more before mounting his horse. The others followed his example and the mass of soldiers sat on their steeds before Thranduil.

"We await your command, Aran nín," Camthalion said as he formally saluted.

"Go now and do your duty to The Realm and take with you the blessings of the Valar and the gratitude of your King," Thranduil told them.

Camthalion placed his hand on his heart and bowed to the Elvenking and the others followed soon after. When he straightened he made eye contact with his father for several seconds before he turned and urged his horse forward. Thranduil stood and watched the Troop Commander lead the soldiers over the bridge and down the well traveled path into The Forest. They were leaving the safety of home and riding headlong into danger. The King stood and watched until long after the last soldier was out of sight. He sent a silent prayer to the Valar to keep his son safe and knew there was nothing more he could do. As he turned to escort Amoniel back inside the Palace he was forced to swallow down a sudden, dull ache in his chest. He sighed softly and resigned himself to it. He could not help but worry for a piece of his heart would be missing until Camthalion was home.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Life continued normally around the Elvenking's Stronghold in the following weeks. The Woodelves went about their labors during the day and at night sang and danced under the Stars much as they had done before the first rising of the Sun and Moon. Spring now had fully come to the Woodland. The vast, ancient Wood fully burgeoned as its trees shed its beautiful white and pink blossoms and the think, green canopy sheltered them once more.

But life was not as simple for all of the Woodleves. It's young Ernil found himself busy from sunup to sundown. He reported dutifully each day to Neurion who had all but taken up residence in the Troop Commander's office. After the first week, he had marveled at how his older brother managed all of his duties. They never seemed to end. He had not known how much responsibility Camthalion shouldered and how every soldier looked to him for leadership. Working directly under Neurion in the office allowed Legolas to learn how much his brother had to oversee, how difficult it was to answer to the demanding King and how many edhil a day either corresponded or met personally with the Commander in his office. Camthalion managed all military aspects of the war torn Realm and astonishingly, to Legolas, did so effortlessly. There was always someone or something that demanded their attention. It was overwhelming. Legolas found himself frequently sneaking off or inventing excuses to leave the office to inhale small amounts of powder. If he failed to do so he found himself quickly ill and unable to manage the stress of his current position.

"Legolas, please copy these lists for the blacksmiths," Neurion said from behind Camthalion's desks as he wiped his hand over his face, "They should have been handed over to them yesterday."

"I thought we had to meet with the Combat Masters," Legolas reminded him, looking up from where he was busily scribbling with his quill as he added the sums needed to be taken to the Treasury to be dispersed for soldiers' wages later in the week, "The King demanded the list of the novices who would be joining His Army. He said we are to have it ready by tomorrow morning. We have an audience with him before midday."

Neurion let out an exasperated sigh. "So we do," he said, as he drained his cup of tea, "I had almost forgotten. Right, well, we will have to meet with them first and then afterward you can make the lists. But it must be done today. The Border Patrols are in great need of weaponry."

"The Archery Master stopped by while you were out," Legolas informed him, "He said you have yet to approve his new training exercise that he wants to implement and that he put in an order for several dozen youth bows and has not received them yet." Neurion opened his mouth to acknowledge the comment but before he could Legolas continued speaking. "Your wife was here earlier. She said to tell you that you are to go home for your midday meal or she is coming to retrieve you herself. Oh and Maeron also stopped by and said that you were supposed to be at the stables earlier and that you didn't show up. He said he needs you to let him know which horses are to be selected as replacements for those stationed in the North. Then…"

Neurion held up a hand. "Stop right there," he said, as he stood and went to the door and shouted for a tea service to be brought back to the office, "You know, Legolas, I believe I now drink my weight in tea every day."

Legolas smirked. It was true, they went through several pots a day, especially when they worked past sundown. Legolas's days had been so filled that he had no time to go home for most meals and had to eat most midday and evening meals at The Military Headquarters with the other soldiers on duty. He found what was served there was not nearly as luxurious as what the cooks in the King's kitchens laid out at each meal.

"Perhaps you could ask The King for use of a scribe," Legolas suggested, "That would free up some of our time without the burden of recording all of this ourselves."

"After the dressing down I received from His Majesty just this morning, I don't think he would be in a benevolent mood to give us anything," Neurion said with a grimace. He shuddered at the memory of it and was grateful that Thranduil was not his father. He felt another surge of sympathy for Camthalion and Legolas.

"Perhaps he will," Legolas replied, "Surely he must be made to realize that the Troop Commander took with him much of our numbers and that there is no one here to be spared for time consuming tasks and we have a great need for a scribe."

Neurion considered it for a moment. What Legolas said was true. At the moment The Troop Commander's two aides were currently out on Patrol, leaving them with even more tedious work. But his thoughts were interrupted when a messenger appeared at the door. She was wearing a travel stained cloak and carried with her a satchel full of correspondence.

"Captain," she said as she formally saluted and then she looked over and saw Legolas, "Your Highness," she bowed slightly before turning back to Neurion, "I bring good tidings from our Commander."

"Oh?" Neurion asked hopefully as he reached out to take the satchel.

"After weeks of relentless combat he will be returning," the messenger told him. "He also said to inform you personally and he also said that you will be very pleased."

Neurion laughed. "Lord Camthalion is indeed correct. I am counting the days until his return," he said, "You are dismissed. Go home and rest. You have had a long journey."

"Long but thankfully uneventful, " The messenger replied with a smile before she saluted and then walked out of the office, closing the door quietly behind her. Neurion grinned at Legolas as the younger ellon started to sort the messages in the bag into neat piles on the desk before the Captain.

Neurion picked up the one with Camthalion's handwriting. He broke the seal and quickly read over it.

"It is most definitely good news," he told Legolas eagerly, "They have successfully pushed back several large bands of Orcs south of the Mountains and cleared a large perimeter of the Woods of filth. He said there have been few casualties and most injured will not require transport home. But he did say he is going to double the numbers at the patrol for the time being. He said to expect him to return within the week."

"That is good news," Legolas said, "Should we request that audience with The King now?"

"Yes," Neurion said as he stood, "Let us finally give him some good news. It might convince him to lend us one of his scribes."

Legolas smiled as he followed his Captain out of the office. His felt his heart lift as they walked out of the Military Headquarters and into the beautiful late spring afternoon. The sun seemed to shine brighter and the breeze gently caressed them as they started their trek toward The Palace. Legolas wanted nothing more than to see his brother again. He longed to tell him how much he regretted his hasty, angry words. Once more in his mind's eye, he saw the disbelief in Camthalion's blue eyes that quickly turned to hurt. He wanted to tell his brother that he had not meant to take his frustrations out on him and that he had missed him each day that he was gone. It was a burden he had carried with him since the Spring feast and for the first time since his heart felt lighter.

*****

Several days had passed since they had received Camthalion's message and nothing more had come since then. Quickly a week had gone by with no sign of those returning. Each passing day the tension around The Stronghold grew as their eyes frequently turned West, looking for any sign of the late convoy.

Legolas awoke early. He sighed miserably as eyes slowly came into focus in the dark room. He laid still for a few minutes as uneasiness settled once more in his chest. He could not help but feel something was wrong. He slowly sat up and for a long moment recalled the previous night's evening meal. He had come in late from working in the Troop Commander's office with Neurion to find his father and sister in law sitting at the table in The Dining Hall. Both had full plates and were sitting in silence with faraway looks in their eyes. The fear and tension in the room had been palpable. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.

With that sobering thought, he got out of bed and padded over to the wardrobe and set about getting dressed for the day. After he pulled on his boots he sat down at the bureau with a weary sigh. He didn't feel like spending another long day with Neurion barricaded in Camthalion's office. They were buried in work but it did little to relieve the worry that was growing as each hour passed with no word from the Troop Commander. Everyday mail and foot traffic piled up in the office, making his absence felt even more profoundly. Legolas felt he would go mad if he had to explain to just one more person that no, Lord Camthalion had not returned yet and that he was expected at any time and that no, they did not know for certain when. Softly groaning, he quickly set up a thin line of white powder, the only thing he knew that would help him through another long and overwhelming day. He closed his eyes as the familiar tingle settled into his sinus. As he sat and relished the sensation his thoughts strayed once more to his brother and anxiety flared again in his stomach, stronger than ever. He pocketed some powder and then made his way out into the corridor. It was quite early and The Palace was dark and quiet except for the occasional soldier patrolling on guard duty. He walked the short distance to the family's sitting room and found it completely dark and empty. He immediately stepped back out into the corridor and met Galion.

"Has the King risen yet?" Legolas asked the steward as he passed.

"His Majesty never retired last night, my lord" Galion told him, concern evident on his ageless face as he had personally served Thranduil since the first day he arrived in The Greenwood several millennia before, "I went into his rooms to attend him after the evening meal and he was not there. He has been at the Great Doors all night. I can not convince him to rest."

"He is still out there?" Legolas asked, wide eyed.

"He is, my lord," Galion answered him, "Our King is troubled. Perhaps you can go to him and convince him to take a short respite before the morning meal."

"Thank you, Galion," Legolas replied as he nodded. He made his way to The Great Doors which stood ajar. The two guards standing before it looked relieved to see him and he could sense from their reaction that they too were worried about The King. He walked down the steps into the cool late Spring morning. The Moon and Stars were still shining in the dark predawn sky. "Adar?"

Thranduil was standing at the foot of the steps in the same clothes he had worn the day before and staring out into the darkness toward The Forest where the Path opened up into The Greens. "You are up and about early this morning, iôn," he stated mildly.

"I can't sleep," Legolas said as he came to stand beside his father staring out in the same direction as Thranduil, hoping with all his being that Camthalion would appear from the darkness and ease their minds. But all was dark and still.

"Neither can I," Thranduil softly replied.

"You are worried," Legolas said, "Why do you think Camthalion is so late?"

"At first I thought he may have merely been delayed," Thranduil answered, the faraway look returning to his blue eyes, "But in times past he has always sent a messenger ahead. He has never before been this late. It's been three days since he was expected to return."

"Do you think something happened?" Legolas asked, the very thought of something bad happening to his brother making him feel sick to his stomach.

"I have been feeling uneasy for days," Thranduil replied, "The bond is distant and I know he is in distress."

"Doesn't it always feel that way when he is away in the south?" Legolas asked, trying to find any sort of reasonable explanation for the delay. The alternative was unthinkable. "Perhaps he departed later than what he had written in his message."

"This is different," Thranduil tried to explain, "Yes, I felt his stress when he was away but now the bond...it feels...thin...feeble. It is not as strong as it always is. He's frightened. I can feel it."

"I am afraid for him, Adar."

"So am I," Thranduil said before turning back to stare into the darkness again. They stayed that way for several long minutes before Legolas glanced over at his father again. His face was drawn with distress and near panic then without warning, it was suddenly replaced with resolve and determination. He turned and hurried purposefully up the steps. "Come, Legolas," he commanded. Legolas quickly followed behind him. "I want you to go and wake Neurion. Tell him I want fifty soldiers armed and on steeds ready to leave in less than two hours."

"Yes, Aran nín," Legolas said, recognizing the seriousness of the command he had just been given, as he hurried forward. He turned back and looked back at his father.

"Tell him I will be waiting with Elros at The Great Doors," Thranduil said, as he stalked down the corridor and shouted for Galion.

"As you command, my lord," Legolas said as Galion appeared and bowed, ready and eager, as always, to serve The King.

"Get your armor and your sword, iôn nín," Thranduil told him, not stopping for a moment as he continued toward his rooms, "We are going to go find your brother."

*****

The sun was just beginning to rise when The Elvenking led the party into The Forest. Behind him rode Neurion, Legolas and The King's personal Guard, Elros. It was all they could do to keep up with him as he urged his horse forward in a single minded determination. Finally, Legolas had to beg him to stop to rest the horses who could not go another step without rest. Though the horses were seasoned and fit they were simply unable to ride so hard for such a long period of time. Thranduil clearly wasn't happy but stopped to allow the horses to rest briefly and to allow the soldiers to tend to them and have a quick meal of lembas and water.

The King himself ate nothing. He stood by Sírdal as Elros cared for him and stared down the Elf Path, never taking his eyes from the road ahead. Legolas had never been under his father's command before and had never seen him lead a war party. But he knew that Thranduil had been a warrior for many millennia and had faced Evil again and again and lived to tell the tale. He knew that his Warrior King father was more than capable of leading them on their mission but he could not help but feel Thranduil's emotions were starting to get into the way of reason. All those with them were afraid to approach him or even speak in his presence.

Seeing that his father was preoccupied with his own miseries Legolas quickly slipped away unnoticed a short distance into The Forest, away from the Path. With trembling hands, he reached into his pocket and pulled out some powder. He set it up as quickly as he could, taking great care with the dosage so that he would still be able to function normally, and inhaled it. While it did little to ease his anxiety, within minutes his aching head and dry mouth eased somewhat.

He leaned back against a large oak tree as he gained his equilibrium once more. The power worked its magic quickly and soon he felt in control once again. He drank from his waterskin before resolving himself to this unpleasant task. He knew his adar needed him and he felt a sudden need to be near him. The bond he shared with him was more uneasy than he had ever felt it. Silently, he made his way back the short distance to where the party was resting and was relieved that most of the shaking in his hands had ceased. He walked up to Tegalad who looked refreshed and ready to move out again. As he absently pet the horse's soft muzzle, Legolas looked at his father who was still standing in the same position he was when he had slipped away. Elros stood at a short distance away, alert and ready to protect The King with his life. Legolas glanced back at the ranks who were talking quietly among themselves and looking nervously at The King. He could hear snatches of their low toned conversations and whispers.

..."Look at His Majesty…"

...never seen him like this before…"

..."What do you expect? Lord Camthalion is his son…"

…"What do you think happened?...

…"dead?"...

..."Shhh! Lord Legolas will hear you!...

Legolas could take no more. He didn't like what he was overhearing though he knew he had thought those very things several times over the past few days. He walked the few steps up to his father to stand close to his side.

"We await you, Aran nín," he said formally before lowering his voice, "Adar? Can you still feel your bond with Camthalion?"

Thranduil gave him a strained smile. "We are moving out," he simply said.

Legolas wasn't comforted by his father's avoidance of his question. He knew the situation was becoming more bleak by the minute. Neurion, who had been standing within earshot, turned and called for everyone to mount their horses and move out. Legolas quickly followed suit and within moments found himself once again struggling to keep up with his father as they plunged deeper into The Forest with no sign of the missing convoy.

*****

Thranduil urged Sírdal forward, not caring if those behind him could keep up. His only thoughts were on his firstborn and the promise he had made to his daughter in law that he would bring Camthalion home. The morning sun shone brightly in the mid-morning sky when the Path veered South. He traveled only a short distance before he finally pulled the stallion to a halt once more. Trepidation and fear increased tenfold across the party. The trees were humming a mournful song, one that sent chills down Thranduil's spine. The sky ahead was filled with the dark bodies and loud caws of carrion birds, darkening what should have been a beautiful morning.

"Aran nín?" Neurion said hesitantly after exchanging a long, pointed look with Elros.

Thranduil ignored him and compelled the horse forward once more, determined to find his son. What he found was carnage. He slid from Sírdal in momentary shock as he took in the gruesome sight. The stench of death and decay hit him so strongly he had to fight the urge to vomit. Corpses laid strewn over The Path in what had been clearly an ambush though it was currently eerily calm. His stomach recoiled once more when he suddenly heard a familiar clicking sound and for the first time, he noticed that spiders had come to feed on the dead. Elvish arrows flew past him with deadly accuracy and killed them on the spot. They were dead before they could do more than shriek. Thranduil wasted no time lamenting the horrible scene. He began to search for Camthalion among the sea of bodies, blood, and gore. He went from body to body, almost grateful that each was not his son. His father's heart told him Camthalion was there and alive. He was determined to find him though he feared what he may find.

His heart lurched as he saw that spiders were not the only scavengers that had already been to the scene. He tried not to look at anything other than each dead Elf's face. Many of the corpses were mutilated with missing limbs and crudely removed organs. As he came upon each bloated, stinking corpse he tried to determine its identity and some he was unable. He hurried forward checking every corpse that he came across, stepping in slippery pools of blood and offal. Finally, after several minutes, he paused momentarily and looked around, overwhelmed by the grisly scene of death and his inability to locate Camthalion. Panic swelled in his gut as he watched as soldiers began to move the decaying Elvish bodies away from the corpses of orcs and wargs, laying them a respectful distance away in a line beside their fallen comrades. Cries and wails of grief began to rise as those accompanying him found friends and loved ones among the fallen. Panic once more, stronger than ever, washed over him as his eyes darted over the scene. No matter how many times he had been in similar circumstances, he never got used to it. He was thankful that at that moment Legolas came to stand beside him.

"Adar?"

Thranduil put an arm around him. "We will find him," he said with a surety he didn't feel, "Come. Keep looking."

Minutes later he was still searching. He stood in the middle of the Path and concentrated on the bond he had with Camthalion. For the first time since his son's conception, he had to search for it. It was weak and in agony. Instinctively, Thranduil slowly opened his eyes and turned his head to the right. He saw a familiar, tall ellon with dark hair laying sprawled over another several feet away. With a cry of anguish, he ran over to him and fell to his knees.

"Camthalion!" Thranduil cried as he reached over and gently pulled him into his arms. He absentmindedly noticed that it was Feren who was lying beneath his son. Thranduil could feel the burning fever radiating from him before he even touched him. His once fair face was swollen and covered in dark bruises. Dried blood pooled at his nose and mouth and down his neck. "Camthalion!" he desperately said again as he tapped his cheek in an attempt to rouse him. He was met with complete silence. Camthalion was utterly still. Thranduil startled as a pair of hands started to assess the injuries. He had not noticed that a medic and Legolas were kneeling next to him on the blood soaked ground.

"He has a sword wound to the abdomen, my lord," she said, "He had laid here so long the tunic is embedded in it. If I remove it it will open the wound again and that will most likely kill him. He has already lost so much blood. It's best for it to remain like it is until he can reach the healers."

Thranduil looked down at the once silver tunic Camthalion was wearing. It was now covered in blood and gore. As he looked down he realized that his son had been stripped as he lay dying. He was wearing only a tunic and leggings. The orcs had taken his armor, weapons and even his jerkin and boots. Thranduil felt anger coil in his stomach as he looked around nearby and could not locate the beautiful sword he had had made for Camthalion's 50th begetting day. But miraculously his gold wedding band was still on his right hand. It was then Thranduil noticed that the other bodies had suffered the same fate and that all of the weapons, supplies, and horses were gone too. The orcs had taken everything of value to them. Thranduil knew that it was a stroke of luck that while the orcs surely had realized that by the value of Camthalion,'s weapons and armor and the fine material of his clothing that he was of the Elvish nobility, they failed to recognize that he was the Crown Prince. Thranduil knew that had they known that the ellon leading the convoy was The Elvenking's son he would have been mercilessly tortured then executed in ways too horrible to imagine.

"Hold his head steady please, Aran nín," the medic instructed clinically, "I must administer miruvor to give him the best chance of surviving the journey home."

Thranduil said nothing but adjusted his grip on Camthalion to support his lulling head while the medic attempted to open his mouth and pour some of the miruvor in. Most of it leaked out of his mouth and onto his soiled tunic.

"Let's try this again," the medic said calmly. She took his chin in hand and opened his mouth and poured a very small amount of the reviving cordial. When he remained completely still she started to stroke his throat to try to stimulate his swallowing reflex. "Come on, my lord," she murmured.

Thranduil watched helplessly as the medic tried again to get Camthalion to swallow the miruvor that he desperately needed. It was in vain. The cordial again slowly dropped out of his mouth and ran down his chin.

"We are wasting time," the medic said, "He needs to get to The Stronghold as quickly as possible."

"Elros!"

"Yes, my lord?" Elros said as he came to a halt in front of The King.

"We are leaving now," Thranduil commanded him, "Bring my horse."

Elros quickly bowed and ran off to do as he was bid.

"Ride as quick as you can, Aran nín," the medic told him, "I don't know if he is going to survive the journey. The sooner you can get him back to The Stronghold the better his chances are." She then turned her attention to Feren who was lying beside them. "Feren is alive!" she called out in amazement. Neurion hurried forward to assist her in administering miruvor to Feren as he called out for his swiftest rider to accompany The King.

Thranduil suddenly remembered Legolas was beside him. With dread he looked over at his youngest son, knowing well the pain and fear that he was going to see in his eyes.

"Adar?" Legolas asked. Thranduil winced at how small and frightened his voice sounded. "Do you think Sírdal can make it back home? He has already run most of the morning."

"He is going to have to," Thranduil answered, "I am not stopping until we get back to The Palace."

Legolas nodded, never taking his eyes from Camthalion's still form. Elros appeared leading his and Thranduil's horses. Thranduil stood, still holding his son and placed him in Legolas's arms while he mounted his horse. Legolas never took his eyes from Camthalion's bloody face and fear settled into his gut at the intense fever radiating from him. As soon as Thranduil was on Sírdal he gently replaced his brother into their father's strong arms.

"Aran Thranduil!"

Annoyed at the interruption Thranduil turned his head toward the sound of the medic's voice. She was mounting a horse a few feet away.

"I am coming with you, my lord," she said, "Lord Camthalion and Feren are the only survivors. You will need a medic with you on the journey back to The Stronghold."

Thranduil nodded his consent. "Keep up if you can," he said before turning to his youngest, "Stay safe, iôn nín and come back home as soon as you are able."

"Yes, my lord father," Legolas instantly answered. He knew despite the grave situation with his brother that Thranduil was going to worry about his safety every moment until he crossed the threshold of The Palace.

"Neurion!"

"Yes, my lord?" Neurion came rushing forward.

"I want someone assigned to Prince Legolas," Thranduil commanded, "He is to have a guard stationed with him at all times."

Legolas stared wide-eyed but did not argue. There were far more important matters at hand than hurt pride.

"Glandur!" Neurion called after he hastily scanned the battalion and motioned him forward.

Glandur ran the short distance over to them and bowed to The King.

"Glandur is quite skilled with the sword and excelled at hand to hand combat in his training, Your Majesty," Neurion told him, "He would make an excellent guard for the Ernil."

"So be it," Thranduil agreed before turning to the Elf standing in shock beside the Captain, "I am entrusting to you to protect Our Prince, Glandur," he told him seriously, "Do not leave his side and do what you must to make sure he enters My Halls safely."

"I will protect your son with my life, Aran nín," Glandur said as he saluted the King.

"I expect nothing less."

With that, The King urged his horse forward as fast as Sírdal could carry him and the precious burden in his arms. The three ellyn watched until they could see them no more.

"Well, let's finish this unhappy task," Neurion said miserably.

Legolas said nothing and followed the Captain, all the while wondering if he would ever see his brother alive again.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Thranduil urged Sírdal ahead on The Path, pushing the stallion to the end of his endurance. They had raced toward The Palace until the horses could go no further, making excellent time. It was all the others could do to keep up with The King. Finally, Sírdal slowed to a gallop and then eventually came to a halt in the middle of The Path. His sides heaved as he struggled for breath. His sleek flank was thick with perspiration and foam. The poor stallion's mouth was open as he tried to draw in an exhausted breath. He had given all he could and was simply unable to take a step further without rest and water. Thranduil sighed in exasperation as he adjusted his grip on his son. He knew it would be cruel to force the horse forward and would swiftly lead to his death. The beautiful dappled stallion had known nothing but kindness and was well cared for and though a fit and seasoned steed he was unused to such forceful treatment. Thranduil knew Sírdal had given him his best. He could ask no more of him. Sírdal had run since before the first rays of the Sun and carried had him quickly to his fallen son nearly 10 leagues away from home. The horse had loyally accepted the heavy burden of carrying two fully grown ellyn and by some miracle had been able to carry them much further than he should. He knew he had no choice but to stop. The others came to an abrupt stop beside him. Wordlessly, Elros immediately slid from his horse and was at The King's side. He held out his arms to gently take Camthalion from his father's protective grasp. Thranduil allowed the transfer with great reluctance. The minute Camthalion was out of his arms his anxiety increased tenfold. His arms felt weak and trembled slightly once they were released from their burden.

As Thranduil and the medic instantly went to Camthalion and Feren's side Elros stepped away to help the remaining soldier care for the weary horses. Thranduil watched helplessly as he and the medic tried in vain once more to get miruvor and water into Camthalion. Sighing in frustration, she dipped her fingers into the cordial and tried to get the few precious drops under Camthalion's tongue and then repeated the process with Feren.

"That's better than nothing," she said more to herself than anyone. She suddenly stood, "With your permission, my lord, I would like to divide the rest of the miruvor among the horses. It will help them recover and be ready to ride again. I can not get any more into Our Ernil. He is simply too weak to ingest anything. It may be best to use it to get him to The Palace as soon as we possibly can."

"Do it," Thranduil replied tonelessly, never taking his eyes from Camthalion's face.

As she walked away he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wet it with the remaining water from his waterskin. He used it to gently wet his son's dry lips and fevered brow. He quietly repeated the process with Feren. Both ellyn were obviously very dehydrated. Suddenly a hand was pressing a nearly empty waterskin into his hand.

"Please, Aran nín, drink," Elros bid him quietly.

Thranduil didn't reply but took a long, grateful drink of cool water. He had not realized how desperately thirsty he was. He felt exhausted and weighed down with such profound panic he could feel nothing else. He was more than frightened. He was terrified. He thought about all the times in his life when he had been afraid. One of his earliest memories was holding tight to his father as they fled Menegroth, Oropher doing his best to shield his small elfling in his arms from the grisly scenes that no child should witness. He thought about the slaughter years later and the sound of Quenya and the clash of Noldor swords in the air as they ran from Doriath into the bitterly cold Winter night, their people forever shattered along with his innocence. He could never forget that sudden, blinding flash of the inferno of dragon fire so bright and intense that it knocked him flat on his back and melted his helm. He recalled, days later, gazing up in a haze of agony, half blinded and nearly mad from pain, at his parents' frightened, mortified faces as the healer removed his bandages. He had felt frightened at the tears that fell from his father's blue eyes and his mother's pitiful cry about her beautiful boy. He did not even remember feeling so frightened in those last tense moments before they charged the field at Dagorlad when he had been certain that he would not be returning home to Faelwen. Those moments, that once stood out so vividly in his long, immortal life, paled in comparison to watching his firstborn slowly die. He leaned down and kissed Camthalion's grimy brow, startled once more at the intense fever radiating from it. They were running out of time. He knew well the consequences of a fever this high for this long. He tried to push those thoughts from his mind and focus on the task of getting them home.

"We are almost home, iôn nín, " he said softly in Camthalion's ear, "Just a little further and we will get you sorted out."

Gathering what remained of his strength and determination he stood and walked over to the others. He looked at Sírdal. While the horse looked better than he had just a short time ago Thranduil knew there was no way he was going to be able to run the remaining distance to The Palace. He was just simply too exhausted despite their best efforts to revive him. His heart sank as Sírdal seemed to sense his sadness and nuzzled the side of his face. He knew the stallion was giving him his best and was forgiving to the miseries he was being subjected to. But Thranduil still felt a stab of guilt. He was fond of the horse but if it came down to choosing between Sírdal's welfare and his son's he knew which choice he would make.

"We are moving out," he commanded.

They packed up in a matter of minutes and were traveling again. All too soon he started to feel Sírdal slow once more. Cursing to himself brought the stallion to a halt. Poor Sírdal looked wretched. As soon as he was off the horse Sírdal immediately went to his knees. Elros was behind him in a moment and his steed was in the same condition. He instantly began to give the horses the remaining water. Thranduil looked back on The Path. He could see the medic coming and even further back the rider who was holding Feren. Their horses were in even worse shape than his and Elros's.

"We are so close!" the medic cried as she gratefully leaped from her bay mare, "We are perhaps a little more than an hour by horse from The Stronghold." She tossed Elros her waterskin and then started to rummage through her pack. "I don't have anything for them. They are going to have to rest," she stated regretfully.

"It can't be helped," Thranduil told her, "We have come far but we will have to run the rest of the way."

"Yes, my lord," Elros said as he took Feren into his arms and eased him onto the ground beside Camthalion, "It will delay us but it isn't impossible."

"Allow me to run ahead, Aran nín," the medic bid him, "I should meet a patrol soon. I have done all I can in the field for them but I will leave my pack. I am swift, my lord. I think I can bring aid to you quickly. Please. Allow me to try."

"Go and take your bow," Thranduil told her, "There are spider colonies even this close to The Stronghold."

"Yes, my lord," the medic quickly grabbed her bow and quiver. She took two extra knives from her pack and concealed them on her person before throwing the pack to Elros. She took off down the Path ahead and was quickly out of sight.

Thranduil watched her go. She had not been deceitful. She was light and swift. He prayed she would not have to run the rest of the way to The Stronghold before she found aide.

"Leave all that can be spared," Thranduil said. They swiftly went through their packs, taking only weapons. Thranduil noticed that the water skins were empty. But it had been a sacrifice they had to make. By giving it to the horses they were able to get closer to home more quickly. "I hate to leave you," Thranduil told Sírdal as he knelt beside him and stroked the sweat slicked face, "Come home when you are able. Thank you, mellon nín." The horse gave an exhausted, soft whinny and then laid his head back down. Thranduil stood and shouldered his bow and quiver before he went over to his son and took him into his arms. "We are moving out," he said.

Elros took the lead, ready to protect The King from whatever may come while Feren was placed in the other soldier's arms. They ran as fast as their legs could take them for nearly an hour. All too soon Thranduil could feel himself slowing. He could hear Elros and the soldier beside him panting for breath. He was exhausted. He had not slept in days. He could not remember when he had last eaten and they had no water. The afternoon was turning hot and humid, making it difficult to draw in a full breath. His jerkin and tunic were plastered to him and his hair was heavy and wet from the profuse sweat that poured from his aching body. Camthalion, lifeless and limp, was becoming heavier by the minute. His arms were protesting the weight they carried and his hröa cried out in desperate thirst. Mentally he willed himself to take another step and another and yet another. His son's life depended on it. There was no option of stopping to rest. It would be the death of Camthalion and Feren. Just when he felt as though he was going to fall to ground Elros suddenly came to an abrupt stop and he turned to Thranduil looking nearly dizzy with relief.

"Listen!" he gasped as he pointed down the Path in front of them, "Horses!"

Thranduil wanted to weep. Sure enough, the sound of multiple sets of hooves on the Path could clearly be heard. Within moments a small patrol being led by the medic burst onto the scene.

"My lord!" one of the Lieutenants said as he saluted, "We have water and medical packs!"

"There is no time," Thranduil told him, "They are too far gone and we must get to The Palace immediately."

They wasted no time mounting the fresh steeds. He ignored the looks of shock on the soldiers' faces and was racing toward The Palace only moments later. The horses ran at breakneck speed, flying down The Path. He held his son tightly to his chest and mentally willed him to hang on just a while longer.

"We are almost there, Camthalion," he murmured into his ear, "We will be home very soon."

Minutes later they burst from the edge of The Forest and into the clearing of The Greens. Thranduil did not slow the horse until they were over the bridge and in front of The Great Doors. Aranhil and several healers had obviously been alerted and were waiting at the Doors. As soon as the horses were skidded to a stop they stepped forward.

"Give him to me, my lord," Aranhil commanded gently, equally shocked at the state of The King. Just by looking at Thranduil he knew that the situation was quite grim.

Thranduil nodded but said nothing and allowed his son to be taken from his protective grasp. Once relieved of his precious burden his arms felt suddenly empty and hollow. Another strong wave of exhaustion washed over him. But he refused to acknowledge it and hurried into The Palace. Now that they were home it did nothing to alleviate his fear. He had not missed the looks the healers had given each other. As he entered the Healing Ward he was terrified at what he might find.

*****

The Sun blazed high in the late afternoon sky. Grimacing, Legolas wiped the sweat from his dank brow. The day had grown very warm and humid, a sure sign Summer was very nearly upon them. Even the thick canopy of the Wood, though it blocked the intense rays of the Sun, it could not keep all of the heat at bay. They had worked diligently all afternoon discarding and burning the foul orc, warg and spider carcasses and tending to the fallen Eldar. It weighed heavily on Legolas's heart. He had never seen bodies so violated and dismembered and he knew it would be something he would never forget. He shuddered, hoping that they had already been dead when such vile deeds had been carried out. His thoughts once again wandered to his older brother. Camthalion had laid there for days. Legolas tried not to imagine what his brother had seen and heard and once again marveled at Camthalion's sheer luck. He had somehow been spared such horrors. But what torment he was currently experiencing was uncertain and he ached to know Camthalion's fate.

As the afternoon passed they took time for a short hunt and to prepare a simple meal. It would be a few more hours before relief would arrive with shrouds and carts to transport the dead's hröar back home. Their families and loved ones would come to claim them and then hold a memorial service for each one. Legolas did not know most of those slain and those he did recognize he was merely acquainted. It had been a small convoy of fewer than twenty soldiers and all had been stationed South for some time and had been coming home for an extended leave. It was a cruel fate to be stationed so close to Shadow and in unrelenting danger each day only to be killed less than 10 leagues from home. Legolas had feared that Valen and Locien would be among the dead. Being so young and inexperienced, it was surprising that The Commander left them in the South. But his decision had spared their lives and for it Legolas was grateful. He did not think his heart could take the death of another friend.

With each passing moment, Legolas began to feel increasingly anxious. The nagging itch of need had started gently around midday but now his body was all but screaming for powder. Glandur had been annoyingly glued to his side since The King had departed. He could not turn around without bumping into him and it was beginning to wear on his patience. He tried to wait patiently for an opportunity to slip away but as time slowly dragged on he knew he must ingest some powder quickly or he was going to become quite ill which would require some fast talking to justify. Finally, it came while he and Glandur were tending to their horses. Neurion approached them and began to issue orders to Glandur about the transport of the deceased. Legolas stepped behind Tegalad and silently slipped into The Forest. He traveled a short distance and fell in an ungraceful heap at the trunk of a large, silvery beech tree. He inhaled a line of powder as swiftly as his shaking hands would allow him. Relief came almost instantly. He leaned his head back against the tree and took a deep breath. It had been a close call but he was going to be fine. He focused on taking deep breaths while his body began to feel stable once more. The intense anxiety and nausea slowly but steadily ebbed away as he used his sleeve to wipe his sweaty brow once more.

"Prince Legolas!"

Legolas's eyes snapped open and let loose an irritated huff. Of course, Glandur would be searching for him. He cursed under his breath. He had been unaccounted for a very short time. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore the increasingly frantic calls.

"Prince Legolas!"

Glandur was getting closer, much to Legolas's annoyance. He would find him soon. Quickly, placing what remained of his powder in his pocket, he stood, glad that he felt secure and stable on his feet. He was getting better at taking smaller doses that allowed him to function normally. He started to walk toward the sound of Glandur's voice. He did not have to take many steps before he found him. Relief was visible on Glandur's face when he laid eyes on him.

"My lord!" he gasped when he caught up to the young Ernil, "I could not find you!"

"I had to answer a call of nature," Legolas easily lied.

"I understand," Glandur said with a nod, "But please tell me when you are leaving the campsite. His Majesty has commanded me to keep you safe. I can not do that if I don't know where you are, my lord."

Legolas rolled his eyes. "My father is rather dramatic," he sneered dismissively, "But I don't believe he intended for you to take his words so seriously."

"With all due respect, Prince Legolas," Glandur said, eyes widened at the flippancy, "But I am not sure The King would agree."

"Well, The King is not here."

"Just the same, let us go back to the campsite. Neurion will be wondering where we are," Glandur said as he gestured back toward the camp.

Legolas ignored him, saying nothing and refusing to look at him as he began to walk toward the camp. It was almost evening now. He knew it wouldn't be much longer before their relief came. He was glad of it. He was sick of death and carnage. Though it made him feel childish he wanted to go home. He knew things were not going well. Whenever he concentrated on the bond he shared with his father it felt so uneasy and anxious that it frightened him.

"Please don't be angry, my lord," Glandur said as they approached the camp.

"I'm not," Legolas said as he turned to face him, "I'm-"

He suddenly felt himself be roughly thrown to the ground. A moment later a black arrow flew overhead, exactly where he had been standing only moments before. It only took an instant for him to realize that orcs had returned to the scene to scavenge again. He turned his head and saw Glandur beside him, unharmed. Without a moment's hesitation, they both leaped to their feet and ran into the fray. Legolas was unable to keep track of where Glandur was fighting. His attention was solely focused on each orc that crossed his path. Moving with speed and agility only the Eldar could possess he cut down orc after orc, deflecting and dodging their crudely made scimitars while impaling or decapitating most with a graceful thrust of his sword. Soon he was splattered in stinking, black blood. Pushing down his disgust, he ignored it and continued to cut his way through the band of orcs. Minutes later, the intensity of the battle had eased somewhat and he could spare a look around. Though they had been caught unaware they had quickly recovered from the ambush. Fortunately, some of the archers were able to take to the trees and empty their quivers into the orcs, taking out a substantial number of them rather quickly. As he gazed across The Path he saw that a particularly large orc was carrying a very beautiful sword of Elvish make. He instantly recognized it as Camthalion's. From where he stood he could see the mithril laid into the hilt and the protective runes woven through the blade. The sword was too large for the orc but made perfectly for his tall, strong older brother. Just seeing the beautiful weapon in its foul hand was enough to make Legolas's blood boil.

The large orc suddenly made eye contact with him and smiled, baring his rotten, pointed teeth at him. He started to run toward him but Legolas met him halfway there, clashing swords the moment he was in striking distance. The blow was unexpectedly forceful and caused him to stagger back a couple of steps. He deflected another heavy stroke and another. He leaped out of the way just as the orc brought the sword down yet again but was not prepared for the heavy clout to his face. It stunned him only momentarily. Spitting out a mouthful of blood, he attacked the orc with a series of swift movements, managing a deep slice to his shoulder, revealing tendons and bone. But it was not enough to incapacitate it. Just as the orc raised the sword again 3 elvish arrows impaled his chest, effectively taking him down. Curling his bloody lip in repulsion, Legolas turned just in time to see a smaller orc mere inches behind him with his scimitar raised, ready to deal a deadly blow. But moments later a blade erupted through his chest. Glandur shook his head in disgust as he tossed the orc carelessly to the ground, effectively removing him from his sword.

"Are you well, hîr nín?" he asked Legolas, quickly looking him up and down for signs of injury.

Legolas nodded. "Your arm will need tending," he said motioning to the large crimson stain on Glandur's tunic that ran down his bicep.

"It is only minor," Glandur replied dismissively, "Your face looks terrible."

Legolas made a noncommittal noise as he shrugged his shoulders. He bent down and removed the sword from the large orc's limp hand. "Look!" he said triumphantly, holding up the weapon, "It is The Commander's sword!"

Glandur's eyes widened. "These orcs have been here before," he said, trying not to shudder, "They must have been coming back to feed off of the bodies."

Legolas said nothing and looked away. Glandur instantly regretted the image his hasty words had created and reached out to timidly give his young charge's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Let's get you to the medic," he said.

"You need the medic far more than I do," Legolas replied as he wiped his sleeve across his face in a poor attempt to clean off the blood, "This is nothing."

Neurion approached them looking slightly disheveled but unhurt. "They clearly were not expecting us to be here and in this number," he said, looking over each of them quickly, "Glandur, I want you and Legolas to see the medic and then I want you to escort him back to The Palace."

"What? Why?" Legolas asked, shocked, "It is merely a bloody nose and lip!"

"More orcs may come when these do not return with spoils," Neurion answered him, "Your father is going to want you returned safely to him."

"I am to be treated like anyone else!" Legolas snapped in annoyance, "I was under the impression that was made clear to you, Captain."

"But you are not just anyone, Legolas," Neurion replied gently, trying to soothe the ruffled feathers. After working with the young ellon for weeks in The Commander's office he had grown quite fond of him, "You are our Prince."

"All the more reason for me to stay."

"Please, Legolas," Neurion said as he placed his hands on his shoulders and gently turned him so he could look him in the eye, "The King may well lose one son today. Please don't make him lose another. I don't think his heart could take it. I don't send you home because I doubt your skill. I do it for love of Our King. Please, hîr nín, do this for your adar. He needs you."

Legolas nodded once and turned to walk toward the medic, roughly wrenching his arm away from Glandur when he reached out to guide him. He knew it wasn't Glandur's fault but the stress of the day was wearing hard on him. He thought it could perhaps be almost as bad as the day Naneth had been killed but then realized his brother may already be on his way to Mandos. The thought sickened him. He allowed the medic to briefly fuss over him and shot Glandur an annoyed, triumphant look when he was proclaimed to be fine, receiving only superficial wounds to his face. Glandur, on the other hand, was going to require stitching. Legolas sat beside him and waited quietly while the wound was being tended. As soon as he was seated he felt exhausted and the enormity of the day hit him. He looked around the camp in mild disbelief. This wasn't how he expected to spend his day. He had planned on long office hours with Neurion, trying to fill in for their Commander. Once more, his thoughts strayed to Camthalion. He knew by now they had reached The Palace. But he wondered if his brother survived the journey home. Was he alive? Was he in agony? Did he even want to see his errant younger brother? He closed his eyes and focused on the fëa bond he shared with his father once more. His eyes instantly shot open. The bond felt frightened...strained...thin. Something was so terribly wrong. Their bond had never before felt this way. Something happened to Thranduil, he was sure of it. He wanted his adar. He needed to be near his family and he suddenly felt very alone and isolated. He argued no further and quickly helped Glandur pack up as soon as the medic stitched his arm back together in a neat row of tight sutures. Legolas made no protest to Neurion when he assigned an additional 10 soldiers to accompany him. He was completely silent as they raced toward the Palace as quickly as their horses could carry them. His only thoughts were on his father and brother. Nothing else mattered now.

*****

Thranduil burst into the infirmary only moments after the healers. They had placed Camthalion on the bed in the nearest empty room. Thranduil stood back slightly to try to stay as much out of the way as possible. In front of him was a flurry of activity. Aranhil was giving rapid orders to those in the room and shouting for an apprentice to bring him herbs and water and bandages.

"Has his fever risen, my lord?" he asked as he started to cut Camthalion's clothing off of him, "What else did the medic do to try to bring it down besides removing his armor and clothing? I will need to know what medication he was given."

"This is how we found him," Thranduil answered softly, his voice sounding empty of his usual confidence and vanity, "She couldn't get him to ingest anything. We tried several times."

The healers all stopped momentarily and shared a worried look.

"Come, Aran nín," Aranhil said as he motioned him forward, "Hold his hand so he can sense your presence while we work. He needs to know his adar is here."

Thranduil did as he was asked and took the over warm hand in both of his, gently running his thumb over the torn skin of Camthalion's fingers hoping to bring him some small measure of comfort. He wasn't certain Camthalion knew he was even there. Since the moment he found him he hadn't so much as twitched. Thranduil's stomach dropped as Aranhil tugged the embedded tunic out of the wound and his son's nude body was bared before him. Everyone in the room gasped.

"Elbereth," Aranhil breathed in momentary shock, "What did they do to you, Ernil nín?"

Camthalion's body was covered in blood and bruises as though that were the true hue of his skin. He was littered in scratches and insect bites, a testament to how long he had laid on The Path and Thranduil once more cursed himself for not going to find him sooner. But worst yet was the sword wound to the lower abdomen. When Aranhil was forced to pull the embedded tunic out of wound he had pulled innards out with it. Blood and infection poured from it, turning Thranduil's stomach. The wound was a terrible sight to behold and even worse there was a strange smell over that of the familiar scent of blood and infection. All around the red, irritated edges of the wound the skin was black. Everyone again stopped working and looked at one another.

"My lord," Aranhil said in a voice full of dread, "The wound is poisoned."

Thranduil was silent for a moment as he stared at Camthalion's bruised and swollen face. "Do whatever you must do," he said.

"But my lord…"

"I said do whatever you must do," Thranduil nearly shouted at him, raising his eyes to meet the healer's. "Please, just save my boy," he said more softly.

Aranhil looked into the frightened blue eyes. Gone was the arrogant, formidable Elvenking and standing before him was merely a father pleading with him to pull his son back from Death's firm grip. Despite his many millennia serving as a healer and the extensive skills he had acquired through war and the slow passage of Time, he didn't know if it was even possible to save Camthalion. Sorrow hit him squarely in the chest. He remembered well attending The Queen in her labors in birthing the long awaited heir. He recalled afterward she had bid him to hold the new little Prince. As he took the feather light bundle in his arms he had felt a sense of wonder. He had delivered countless elfings and even a few adanath. But this baby was special. He was the first of the Royal Family to be born in The Greenwood. He truly belonged to the Woodland, half Silvan, and very much the people's Prince. Camthalion had not cried and regarded him solemnly and seemed to recognize the healer as the one who had helped guide him from the safety of his mother's womb and into this bright, new Arda. Looking down at Camthalion he saw in his mind's eye once more that sweet, precious infant that had made his fëa blossom with joy. He knew he had to try.

"I will use whatever means necessary to save our Prince," Aranhil told him, "But I must warn you it most likely will not be enough. The wound is old, my lord. He laid out there for days and he is riddled with infection. His fever is so high I fear what it may do to his mind. I don't even know the extent of the damage to his organs. I will-"

They were interrupted by a torturous cry of pure grief, one that sent a pang of sadness through each of their hearts.

"Camthalion!"

Amoniel took one look at her husband and her legs buckled as she began to sob hysterically. Thranduil lunged forward and caught her just before she hit the stone floor.

"Camthalion," she moaned as though she were in mortal agony, "Adar," She started to sob hysterically into his chest. "Adar, the bond! His fëa! I can't find it! Oh, Valar...I can not feel him!"

She looked up at him with such desperation that it made him feel physically ill. She looked lost and half dead herself, a feeling he was all too familiar with. He closed his eyes and tried to push away the memory of his own fëa being ripped in two the moment Faelwen died. He had been just going out of the stables for his afternoon ride and the sudden, searing pain erupting from his fëa had stolen his breath. He had abruptly fallen from the steed and laid on the ground desperately searching for the lost half of his fëa. All he found was darkness...emptiness...a bottomless chasm. Her sweet Melody no longer Sang with his and all was silent. He had been unable to stop the grief filled sobs that erupted from his chest, his hröa feeling like an empty shell. He remembered Feren and Elros kneeling over him looking frightened and begging him to tell them what was ailing him. Unable to understand anything but his own pain he could not put into words the despair he was drowning in. Feren had finally run and retrieved the one edhil who was able to break through the wall of agony. The first thing Thranduil remembered seeing was Camthalion's terrified, tear stained face as the bond he had with him finally broke through the darkness and he could breathe again.

"Calm down, Amoniel," he told her gently, "He is going to be fine. I will make sure of it."

Amoniel shook her head and continued to sob, almost to the point of hyperventilating. "How?" she cried, "Look at him!"

"Eleniel, please escort Lady Amoniel back to her rooms," Aranhil said to his apprentice, "She should not be upset like this in her current condition. Please take her to her rooms to rest."

"No! I need to be here," Amoniel argued almost hysterically.

"My lady," Eleniel said softly as she placed a gentle hand on her arm, "Please think of the baby. It will not do either one of you any good for you to be upset like this. Come and rest. I will come to get you once we have finished with His Highness."

Amoniel's hands unconsciously creep upward to rest on her swollen stomach to the innocent life underneath the small bulge of her gown. She keenly recalled Camthalion asking her to look after their baby. "You will stay with him, Adar?" she asked shakily.

"Of course," he instantly promised, "I will not leave his side."

Amoniel nodded her consent and allowed herself to be pulled from the room. Thranduil watched her go and felt yet another wave of fear hit him. If the unthinkable happened to his son he was frightened for Amoniel and his unborn grandchild. He wasn't certain she could survive such a loss. But that worry would have to be dealt with later. Right now he had to help his son survive. Exhaustedly, he turned and gripped Camthalion's limp hand once more as Aranhil concluded his examination.

"Aran nín?"

Thranduil looked up at the sound of the healer's voice.

"I need to perform a surgery," Aranhil told him, "The wound needs thoroughly cleaned and his bowels need to be returned to their proper place."

"Then do it," Thranduil replied, never taking his eyes from his son's face.

"I am afraid he is not going to survive such an invasive procedure," Aranhil said regrettably, "He is far too weak from fever and infection and blood loss. Then, of course, there is the complication of the poison. I am worried that the wound I would create with the surgery would not clot well or heal properly."

"But…"

"My lord," Aranhil interrupted quietly, "Please let him go. Do not put him through tortuous, hopeless medical procedures. Look at him. He isn't going to last the hour."

Tears swarmed Thranduil's eyes as he looked down at his too still son. His face was bloodlessly pale and each breath he took seemed to be more shallow than the last. It was obvious to any who looked at him that he was dying.

"Hold his hand and sing to him," the healer suggested in a shaky voice, "Let him begin his journey to Mandos surrounded by your love. With everything he has been through he would welcome the release."

"I can not do that," Thranduil replied stubbornly.

"I am sorry, hîr nín," Aranhil said, "But there is nothing more I can do. I simply do not have the skill to heal a wound this severe on a body in such a weakened state. No one can heal him. I am so terribly sorry."

"I know you have done your best, mellon nín," Thranduil said, his eyes still on Camthalion, "You are a healer and perhaps there is nothing more you can do. But I am his father. I have been bonded to him since the moment he was conceived. There is certainly something I can do."

Aranhil's downcast eyes came up sharply to look at The King. "Perhaps that might be of some use," the healer pondered softly, a note of hope evident in his voice, "But I must caution you. I am still not certain it will be enough."

"I must try," Thranduil told him vehemently, "If this doesn't work then I can accept that we have done everything possible to help him."

"Please, my lord, be careful," Aranhil replied, "You are exhausted. Do not give too much of yourself."

"You don't have any children, Aranhil," Thranduil told him bluntly, "You don't understand. A father would give his life to save his child."

Aranhil nodded, accepting the rebuke. "Please be cautious," he begged him once more, "You are exhausted and not well yourself. Do what you must, Aran nín, but remember your people need you too."

Thranduil didn't respond. He gripped Camthalion's hand even tighter and leaned down until their foreheads touched. The immense fever radiating from him was so strong that Thranduil felt as though he had touched a smithy's anvil. Closing his eyes he reached out for the bond. He was met with void. He searched again desperately and again found only darkness. Despair overwhelmed him. It was too late. Since the moment he and Faelwen had created the precious new life he had felt an immediate, paternal bond to Camthalion. He could recall that instant when their fëar first touched and life pulsed, half himself and half Faelwen, but someone entirely new who had yet to be revealed. Over one and half millennia had gone by since that joyous moment and for the first time, the bond was silent. Camthalion was so like him and his Melody so similar to Thranduil's that is had always felt familiar and constant. Its absence was felt so profoundly that it brought him physical pain. His eldest. His first child. Gone. It felt so unnatural that his fëa rebelled against it, unwilling to accept the loss and frantically searched for it one last time. Reaching out through the void he focused on his son and the bond they shared and suddenly he felt the slightest nudge of Camthalion's fëa. He quickly latched on to that last fragile, delicate thread. He refused to let go as he flowed energy from his own fëa into that of his son's. Keeping a desperate hold on the feeble bond he continued, willingly giving all of himself to his dying child. The depletion came quickly and swiftly and he was ill prepared for it. He lost his grip and their fëar were pulled apart. He felt himself fall and all went dark.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

Aranhil was not prepared for Thranduil to fall so quickly. It all seemed to happen in an instant. He knew the moment that Thranduil had given too much of himself. Without warning, the glamour spell fell, revealing Age old scars, remnants of dragon fire. Aranhil was not much younger than The King and had healed him countless times from wounds he received in defense of The Realm both as its Crown Prince and its King. He was familiar with the scarring and paid it no mind. He had seen them countless times in the past. But he had not expected him to collapse so suddenly. He knew Thranduil was already exhausted and dehydrated but was unprepared to catch him before he fell to the floor.

"Aran nín!" he shouted as he lunged to the side to try to break the fall but failing to get there in time.

Elros heard the shout and burst into the room. He was instantly on the floor at The King's side.

"What happened to him?" he asked in stunned disbelief. Despite the condition they had all arrived in they had all been standing, and seeing Thranduil unconscious on the floor was startling.

"He transferred energy to Lord Camthalion using their fëa bond," Aranhil said as he quickly looked over The King, "It has weakened him into unconsciousness. I was not expecting it to happen so suddenly. "

"So he will be well?" Elros asked, looking up at the healer.

"I believe so. I will examine him after I tend to Lord Camthalion. He would never forgive me if I delayed the Ernil's treatment to tend to him," Aranhil said, "Would you please take him to the next room? I will come to look at him as soon as I am able."

Elros nodded. Then he bent and easily took The King in his arms and carried him from the room. It wasn't the first time he carried an unconscious, injured Thranduil. Eleniel met them in the doorway.

"What happened to The King?" she gasped, eyes wide in shock, as Elros brushed past her.

"He gave his son most of his fëa energy," Aranhil explained as he motioned her forward, "Though he is extensively weakened him I believe it will allow us to attempt a surgery on Lord Camthalion."

"I have never seen that done before," Eleniel said regrettably, "I am sure it was a wonder to witness!"

"We are healers. We may mend bones and soothe wounds and heal the hröa. We use herbs and tools and spells," Aranhil told her, "But don't underestimate love. The King knew well what the consequences would be if he used the bond but his love for his son far outweighed anything he might have to suffer himself." Eleniel nodded thoughtfully. "Come, penneth," Aranhil said motioning her over to his side, "I know you have only been apprenticed a few weeks but today you will learn how to assist in a surgery."

Eleniel did as she was bid and stood next to Aranhil. She respected the master healer. He was kind and compassionate and possessed a seemingly endless wealth of knowledge. She knew she could learn much from him and his vast millennia of experience as both a wartime and peacetime healer. "What should I do?" she asked as she approached the bed and looked down at the critically injured Prince.

"First, we must prepare him for surgery," Aranhil told her, "I want you to bathe him well in water with a strong infusion of calendula and goldenseal. We must try to make the area as sterile as possible before opening the wound further."

Eleniel nodded and set about her task while Aranhil gave orders to the others the room to retrieve the tools and specific herbs that may be needed to complete the surgery. The room was a flurry of activity. Eleniel retrieved a large pan and filled it with warm water from the hearth before adding the flowers and roots that Aranhil had indicated, watching them swirl through the water as she stirred it, releasing their healing properties. Then she approached the bedside and looked down at The Crown Prince. She had always been in awe of him, almost as much as The King himself. Like his father, he was a very tall and fair ellon. He had always appeared endlessly strong with a fëa that seemed lit from a fire within and a fierce determination to see Shadow driven from The Woodland. But now he seemed almost small and very frail making him seem much younger than he truly was.

She quietly cleaned the dried blood and gore from his face, revealing the extent of the damage. His handsome features were lost among the extensive swelling and bruising. If she had not been told she would not have known the injured Elf on the bed was Lord Camthalion. As she wrung out the cloth and washed the dried blood from his neck she began to hum a gentle, soothing tune, hoping to give him any sort of comfort if he could hear her. As she moved downward to wash his arms and hands she was surprised at the number of wounds he had sustained. His arms were black and blue. His hands were swollen and bruised and the skin of his knuckles and fingers were torn bloody. She cocked her head to the side as she studied the unexpected injury.

"When we see injuries to the hands like that it is a sign of fierce hand to hand combat," Aranhil said as he came to stand beside her.

"It must have been very violent," Eleniel said as she took Camthalion's hand in hers and gently but thoroughly cleansed the wounds.

"Judging by the extent of the injuries I would say that he has very desperate," Aranhil told her regretfully.

Eleniel shuddered as she tried not to visualize the battle scene. "It isn't fair that this happened to him. He and his wife were just gifted a baby. It hasn't even been born yet."

"If there is one thing I have learned in my long life, penneth, it is that life isn't always fair or just," Aranhil told her gently, "But our Prince is very noble just like his adar. He doesn't hesitate to be the first to put himself in danger. He leads our troops in battle, often putting his own safety at risk. He is fortunate that Our King had the wisdom to assign Feren to guard him. He would most likely be dead if he had not."

Eleniel nodded and continued the task she was assigned. When she reached the sword wound not for the first time her stomach turned. It was a hideous thing. She swallowed the bile that had crept up her throat and with a tentative, shaky hand washed around it thoroughly. She felt ill. Seeing ellyn come in torn to pieces and more dead than alive made her fëa cry out in grief. She had only come of age a couple of short months before and had started her apprenticeship learning to set simple fractures and to suture shallow wounds. She had once observed Aranhil deliver a baby. Never before had she witnessed such gruesome wounds as the Crown Prince's and the violence and pain he must have suffered shook her to her core.

"Are you well, Eleniel?" Aranhil asked her. She nodded, never looking up from her task. "This is graphic and a very complex surgery. You do not have to attend if you do not feel ready."

"I will attend!" she cried looking up at her mentor, "We are at war with Shadow. That will not be put on hold until I am older. I need to learn these things now and use every opportunity that I can. From the looks of things, my skills are going to be needed in the future if this Evil continues to thrive and The Forest remains sick. Please, allow me to attend the surgery!"

"Of course you may stay," Aranhil replied, "Hurry and finish bathing him thoroughly but quickly. We need to start the surgery immediately."

Eleniel nodded and returned to her task, completing it as swiftly as possible. Aranhil pointed, indicating for her to stand up by the Prince's head where she would see what was happening yet be out of their way. She watched as they covered his now cleansed body with crisp white sheets. Just as Aranhil secured one around his waist, suddenly, without warning Camthalion began to have convulsions. Her heart leaped at this unexpected turn of events. She found herself at a loss of what to do.

"Eleniel," Aranhil stated calmly," Please mix a paste of mugwort and skullcap. Add in some carandol for good measure. His fever is so high it is causing convulsions. Quickly now! We can not operate until he is stable."

Eleniel ran over to the table and scanned the herbs that had been laid out. Fortunately, all three Aranhil had requested had already been brought to the room. She placed the appropriate herbs and ingredients into the mortar and pestle and quickly ground them into a paste. She brought it over to the table.

"Place it under his tongue," Aranhil instructed, "It can be absorbed quickly there. Right now he is too weak to swallow anything."

Eleniel did as she was bid, hoping that no one noticed her shaking hands. She was frightened. She had never seen anyone so ill before and Lord Camthalion seemed to be getting worse by the minute. She felt at a loss of what to do to help him. She hated feeling so helpless and useless.

"Eleniel!" one of the other healers barked at her, "Bathe his face and neck in a cold compress! We need to try to get the fever down as quickly as possible!"

Eleniel's face burned as she jumped to obey. She knew she should not have to be told to do something so simple but she felt so afraid to do the wrong thing and cause him further harm.

"Tell a servant to bring ice," the healer snapped again as though it were obvious, "Really, Eleniel! We don't have time to tell you everything that you need to do. You are seriously lacking in initiative!"

Tears sprung to Eleniel's dark eyes. She was doing her best. She was new to such traumatic injuries and she had only been apprenticed a very short time. She was feeling very overwhelmed by the fast pace of the activity in the room and the high emotions that were palpable in the air.

"Let's all just calm down," Aranhil said gently as he placed a hand on Camthalion's fevered brow, "I know the situation is grave and this is Our Prince. But getting upset will not help him. Eleniel, his fever is high. It will probably rise further from stress and trauma this surgery will create on his hröa. We need you to ask a servant to have ice brought here so that we can attempt to control his body temperature when the surgery is over."

Eleniel suddenly felt calm once more. She noticed that another healer had lit a small cauldron and placed fresh athelas leaves in the boiling water. A pleasant aroma wafted through the air, relieving much of the stress and tension in her head and shoulders. After taking in a deep breath she quickly ran from the room. Fortunately, she found a servant a very short distance outside the infirmary and was assured that ice would be brought as soon as it was needed. She sprinted back to the room just in time to witness the latter half of Aranhil's healing song, as he channeled his energy and skill into the task about to be performed. She stood motionless for a moment. She had never seen a healing spell performed. The energy of Aranhil's Will and Magic could be felt and seen. Both healer and patient glowed as the healing energy flowed between them. As soon as the spell was canceled Camthalion returned to his colorless hue.

"Let's begin," Aranhil said, "Eleniel I would like you to make a tonic of mirvour and alfirin. Feed it to him slowly, drop by drop. He is going to need it to help him cope with what we are about to do."

Eleniel hurried to obey, mixing the ingredients together. She had worked in the apothecary in her first month of apprenticeship and was familiar with mixing the ingredients. She placed it in a small vial and returned to her original position by his head, placing drop by drop of the precious tonic on his tongue with infinite patience and determination to get the full dose into him. She glanced downward and saw Aranhil was bathing the would in a strong infusion of athelas and yarrow. She grimaced as he picked up the intestines that were laying on Camthalion's abdomen and began to examine them.

"The tissue of his bowels is irritated where the wound attempted to heal with his tunic embedded in it but I do not see any tears or holes so far," he said before looking at Eleniel, "If the bowels are ruptured that will be the death of him. No one can mend a wound that severe."

Eleniel nodded as she returned to her task. She alternated between placing drops of tonic on his tongue and bathing his head and neck with a cold compress. She watched in fascination when Aranhil picked up a scalpel, held it briefly as he beseeched The Valar to guide him and have mercy on their Prince before he used it to open and then elongate the wound. The other two healers reached in and held it open, widening it as far as they could. Almost instantly the smell hit her squarely in the face. The warm, coppery metallic scent of blood she had expected. But the scent of the open wound nearly sent her to her knees. It smelled of decay and rot and waste. It was so strong she thought she could taste it. She blinked rapidly and tried to think of pleasant smelling things like wild honeysuckle, the sweet scent of sun dried clothing and the smell of her grandmother's house on baking day.

"Our hröar do not smell nice on the inside, penneth," Aranhil said calmly, "But this is especially nasty. Poor Lord Camthalion looks as though he laid out there for days with this terrible infection."

Eleniel swallowed against the lump her throat. She dry heaved again as infection poured from the incision. It was a vile thing to witness as green and yellow infection mixed with blood flowed out of the large hole in the Prince's abdomen and onto the healers' hands. Aranhil used the athelas and yarrow soaked muslin cloths to patiently wipe away the infection. It seemed as soon as he had cleared it away more appeared to take its place.

"If you want, Eleniel, you may wait outside," the healer told her kindly, never taking his eyes from the wound, "This is very graphic and serious and you are young and unaccustomed to such hurts. There is no shame in not being ready to assist in aggressive treatment such as this."

"I will stay," she assured him immediately in a shaky voice as she placed the last couple of drops from the vial onto Camthalion's tongue, "You need someone to monitor his vital signs and help get medication into him."

"Very well but if you start to feel faint then go wait out in the hall for us to finish," Aranhil told her.

All was quiet while they cleaned the infection that erupted from the wound. Eleniel was beginning to relax again when she jumped at the sudden loud, irritated shout.

"Damn it all!" Aranhil spat in an uncharacteristic sharp voice.

"What is it?" Eleniel asked in a timid voice.

"This blasted poison that vile orc filth likes to use," Aranhil told her, "They smear it on their weapons so that when it penetrates the skin the blood won't clot well and the victim is subjected to even greater blood loss. It complicates our situation."

"Can we manage it?" Eleniel asked, unsure of what they would do if they could not.

"It won't be easy as he has already suffered the full effect of it," Aranhil explained, "It has already had time to go through his body. Now we have to counter it with medications to help him make more blood and of course, I will clean out any remnants in the wound.'

Eleniel watched as the healer placed his already bloodstained hands inside the open wound. She watched in gruesome fascination and wondered how she would ever be able to do such a thing.

"I am just exploring his abdominal cavity," Aranhil explained as he worked, "I am looking for organ damage. He must have turned or stepped back at just the right time. Though his injury is infected and poisoned and deep I am not seeing any ruptures in his intestines. So that means I might be able to treat the wound. I am going to deeply clean this out and remove all visible debris and infection."

Eleniel retrieved the clean linen from the table when her mentor nodded toward it. When she brought it over to him she peered down into the wound. She thought she would lose the contents of her stomach. She could see his innards surrounded by green infection and a sticky sap like substance which she assumed was the poison from the orc's blade. The smell was even stronger and she wondered at how the others could tolerate it with little effort. Moments later Camthalion began to convulse again, stopping all progress.

"Place another large dose of mugwort and skullcap under his tongue," Aranhil said, "and then continue to bathe him in cool compresses.

Eleniel hurried up to the top of the bed and scooped out a dose of onto her fingers from the pestle on the table beside the bed. She gently pried the Prince's mouth open and administered the medication as she had been instructed. It absorbed quickly and the convulsions slowly eased. She wrung out the cloth in cold water and again resumed bathing his forehead and neck. She had never felt fever so high and fierce and worried about the side effects it may have on him.

Aranhil resumed the procedure as soon as it was safe to do so.

"I think I have removed all that I can manually," he said to the others, "Hold that open tightly. I am going to irrigate the wound. Eleniel, bring me some fresh warm water heavily infused with athelas and yarrow."

Eleniel left the cool compress on Camthalion's brow and went over to the table to prepare the water. Again, as soon as the athelas hit the water and released its aroma she felt her tension disappear and she was able to take a deep breath. She brought the bowl over to Aranhil who took it into his blood slicked hands. He poured it into the open body cavity. Infection and debris in the wound instantly came to the surface.

"Be ready with more," he told his apprentice, "We are going to repeat this until the wound is clear."

She ran back over to the table to prepare another bowl of water, looking up from time to time to observe the seasoned healers a work. While still holding the wound open they slightly lifted and turned Camthalion so that most of the water poured out of the wound. When they laid him back down she brought over another bowl of warm infused water. Once more, infection instantly rose to the surface of the wound.

"Again," Aranhil toward her, nodding over toward the table.

They repeated this several more times until at last the healer proclaimed that it was as clean as they were able to achieve.

"Bring me one last bowl, Eleniel," he said as he wiped the sweat from his brow on the sleeve of his tunic, "And bring some soft cloths too."

She quickly obeyed and then stood beside him to watch him take the cloths and remove what water remained pooled in the wound. Then he took a clean cloth, dipped it in the water and gently cleaned the exposed intestines.

"There," he said as he threw the now soiled cloth back in the bowl, "We have removed all visible infection and poison. So now I am going to take his bowels and put them back where they belong."

Eleniel watched as he quite literally picked up the intestines and shoved them back into the gaping wound to lay where they should. One of the healers approached the bed holding a needle and thread. The young elleth watched carefully as she threaded the needle and started to stitch the muscle and skin back together. Aranhil stood beside her, explaining what she was doing and how to do it best with deep wounds and surgical sites.

He went over to a basin on the table and started to wash his crimson hands.

"Come here, Eleniel," he said as he dried them on a towel, "We are going to prepare a salve to put on the wound. Mix some athelas and niphredil to help prevent infection and to encourage the blood to clot." Eleniel did as she was asked and beamed up at him when he complimented her technique. "Now smear that over the stitching and then we will cover the wound."

Eleniel took the salve over to the bed. She looked down at the tight, neat row of stitches poking up through the blackened skin. Blood was slowly dripping from the gaps between the individual sutures. Her hands still shaking, she applied the salve liberally over the surgical site. She stood back and watched as the slave turned a rusty color from the blood but the niphredil did its work and no more dripped from the wound. One of the healers carefully nudged her out of the way so they could cover the wound with fresh, clean bandages.

"What do we do now?" Eleniel asked as she returned to her mentor's side. He was mixing another salve concoction in the mortar and pestle. She could smell the pleasant scent of lavender waft from it, a welcome change from the present odor of the small room.

"He is littered in scratches and insect bites and small wounds," Aranhil said, "We will put this on him to ease them and prevent any complications like infection. Add some chamomile and aloe to this if you would."

Eleniel placed a small amount of each in the mortar, adding more until a large amount of thick paste was formed. Aranhil motioned her to the bed. He took the surgical sheet off of the Prince, baring his body once again. He discarded the stained sheet onto the large pile of soiled linen that had been required during the procedure. Together, they treated the smaller hurts that covered the majority of his body.

"Do we need to dress him now?" Eleniel asked.

"No, his fever is far too high," Aranhil said, "We will preserve his modesty with a light sheet."

Without being told Eleniel went over to the cupboard and brought over a thin muslin sheet and placed it on him, covering his lower half.

"Now, we need to work on this fever," Aranhil said, "The infection was allowed to run unchecked and has caused it to soar and having a surgery did not help matters. I am going to mix a tonic of elderflower and lemon balm. I would like you to keep bathing him in cold water. Then ask the servants to bring in the ice. We are going to surround him with it. The fever has to lower immediately. He is still in grave danger from that alone."

Eleniel swiftly bathed his head, neck, and chest in the cool water and left cold compresses on him while she retrieved the servant. When she returned she met Aranhil in the corridor. While he had cleaned his hands thoroughly the front of him was covered in the Prince's blood.

"The others are administering the cold compresses and medicines for his fever," he told her, "I am going to tend to His Majesty. Take a brief rest. You have more than earned it."

Eleniel nodded and sat down on a partially secluded bench at the end of the corridor, not far from the door to Lord Camthalion's room. She looked down at the apron that covered her gown. It was stained with herbs and had visible damp spots from the sloshing water. There was a single smear of blood where she had wiped her hands after applying the salve. She looked at her still shaking hands and willed them to stop. But they kept on shaking as her fëa cried out against the needless suffering and violence the Crown Prince had endured. She had never seen so much blood or smelled death before. She had never seen an ellon so ill and helpless. She had never seen Evil this closely. She buried her face into her hands and began to weep.

*****

Elros looked up from where he sat at Thranduil's bedside. Aranhil gave him a small, sad smile as he entered and closed the door behind him.

"How is he?" the healer asked as Elros stood and got out of his way so that he could get closer to examine The King.

"It has been quiet," Elros answered, "He has been soundly unconscious. How is Lord Camthalion?"

"He survived the surgery," Aranhil said as he took Thranduil's pulse at his wrist before placing a hand on his chest and leaning forward to monitor his breathing with a well trained ear, "It is still very grave."

Elros nodded. "Did His Majesty give too much of himself?" he asked as he watched Aranhil placed his hand on Thranduil brow and then pulled up his eyelids to peer at his eyes.

"He ignored my advice, as usual," Aranhil said as he turned to give the Guard a flash of a rueful grin, "I think he gave Lord Camthalion everything he had left. He was already exhausted and dehydrated. Ordinarily, I would let him sleep it off but after seeing the condition he arrived in I don't want him to go without hydration for that long. I will return shortly with some supplies."

Elros returned to the bedside chair and took over watch of The King once more. He wasn't surprised. He knew how much Thranduil loved his sons and that if it came down to it he would have gladly given his life for that of The Crown Prince's. Aranhil returned quickly with a basket filled with bottles and herbs.

"He is going to be fine, old friend," he said as he started to empty the basket onto the small table, "He just needs some rest and time to recover his strength. Have you seen to your own needs yet?"

Elros shook his head. "I didn't want to leave The King," he said simply, "My place, as always, is here beside him."

"You are not going to be any good to him half dead," Aranhil told him, "You are also dehydrated and weary. Here, I want you to take this and drink some water."

Elros took the vial that was being offered and quickly swallowed the contents, wincing at the familiar strong taste of miruvor and alfirin. He quickly washed it down with the glass of cool water. Aranhil reached over and filled his cup up again from the pitcher of water in his hand. He drank it more slowly than the first. Steadily the ache in his head and stomach eased along with some of his exhaustion, a welcome change from the hours he spent anxiously waiting with The King.

"Better?" Aranhil asked as he finished mixing a tonic and placed it in a couple of small vials.

"Much," Elros answered as he set the cup down on the table.

"Good," Aranhil said as he walked over to the bed, "Help me with His Majesty, please. Hold him up steady. I need to get this tonic into him."

Elros sat down next to Thranduil on the bed and supported the unconscious ellon against his body, using his hands to support his lolling head. Aranhil reached out and poured a very small amount into Thranduil's mouth and waited for him to reflexively swallow before giving him more, emptying the first vial. After a couple of minutes, Thranduil began to stir.

"My lord?"

"My lord?"

"Aran nín?"

Thranduil grimaced at the sound of Aranhil's muddled voice. He felt so exhausted. He could not recall ever feeling so completely devoid of energy in all of his long years. His head and body ached fiercely and did not seem to want to obey. Once more he tried to open his eyes but the dim light in the room made his head pound even more. Groaning he tried to turn his head away from it, causing even more discomfort from the sudden movement.

"My lord? Can you hear me?" Aranhil asked again, a little more urgently this time.

"Yes," Thranduil's voice came out in a breathy whisper.

"Good," the healer replied, smiling in relief, "Now I need you to take the rest of this tonic. It will help restore your strength."

Thranduil didn't reply but swallowed the medication as it was slowly poured into his mouth. After a couple of moments, it began to take full effect and the past few hours came back to him swiftly. Fear swelled in his heart, jolting him roughly toward consciousness. He had no idea where he was or how much time had passed. But this immense weariness made it difficult for him to even form a coherent thought.

"Camthalion?"

"He has survived the surgery, thanks to you, Aran nín," Aranhil told him as he gently patted the slender, cool hand, "Right now we are battling fever and infection. I will stay with him through the night. You are to stay here and rest. You are not going to be able to get out of bed until at least tomorrow morning."

"No…" he tried to argue but it took too much effort.

"I will be with him, my lord," Aranhil promised as he lifted a cup of water to Thranduil's lips, "I promise I will come and get you if there is a change in his condition."

Thranduil didn't argue further and instead drank the water that was being offered. After going so long without water it tasted wonderful and soothed his dry, aching throat. Unexpectedly, what little energy he had left him and his head started to lull forward as unconsciousness abruptly began to overtake him once more. He was so exhausted he had no choice but to welcome it.

"Let him rest but continue to wake him and give him water regularly," Aranhil told Elros, "I will be back soon with another dose of mirvuor and alfirin. That goes for both of you. You are not well either."

Elros grinned sheepishly at the pointed look Aranhil gave him. In times past he and Thranduil tended to ignore the healer's orders. He allowed Aranhil to help him settle Thranduil back on the bed. After watching the healer leave the room he sat back down in the chair at the bedside. He let out a sigh of relief. The King was going to be fine. But the Guard could not help but still worry for Camthalion. He was fond of the Prince and remembered the little dark haired sprite that was always merry, his infectious smile always reaching his blue eyes and he had often reached for Elros's hand when he was guarding his adar and would chatter on animatedly about his day, often subjecting the Guard to an endless, excited line of questioning. He smiled as he remembered more than once looking to Thranduil to rescue him from his inquisitive son but received only a smirk instead and was left to deal with the elfling himself, much to The King's amusement. He let out another exhausted sigh and wiped a hand over his weary face. He didn't know what would happen should the Crown Prince die. He tried to push those macabre thoughts from his mind as he leaned his head back against the chair. He almost instantly felt his eyes cloud over in sleep as he could no longer deny his hröa its needs.

*****

Aranhil stepped back out into the corridor and walked the few steps toward the room next door where the Crown Prince lay, hesitating when he reached for the doorknob. He heard a stifled sob. He turned his head in the direction of the sound and saw Eleniel sitting on a secluded bench in the corner wiping tears from her eyes. He went over and sat down beside her.

"What is it, penneth?" he asked gently when she did not acknowledge his presence.

"I don't think I can do this," she whispered miserably, "I will never get used to seeing soldiers come in with such Evil things done to them."

"I think all healers have had those same thoughts at one time or another when they were first apprenticed," Aranhil told her, "I certainly did."

"You did?" Eleniel asked in shock. Aranhil seemed so knowledgeable and wise. He always seemed to know what to do and have complete control of the situation.

"Oh yes," he replied, "But over time you learn to harden your heart to it, enough to get the job done, and then when you are alone you can release your grief."

"I don't know if I can do that," Eleniel said, fresh tears pouring from her dark eyes, "I was so afraid of hurting him. It feels like no matter what I do it isn't enough!"

"I am afraid for Prince Camthalion, too," Aranhil admitted quietly, "Even now I don't know what the outcome will be. All I can do is use what I know to give him the best chance of survival currently, even if that means I have to cause him pain to do it."

"I didn't know you are afraid," Eleniel told him, "You seemed so sure of yourself."

"I am very fond of His Highness," Aranhil said, "I fear he might not live and even more so I fear for The King should he lose his son. It is a frightening thought. But I have to push that away so that I can do what needs to be done to help him and think objectively."

"I can't believe how badly I was shaking and I nearly vomited. I am so ashamed of myself," Eleniel said miserably, as she once more buried her face in her hands, "I didn't think it would be this difficult, even in the beginning."

"Becoming a healer is one of the hardest things you can do. We often see the very worst of life. Pain. Suffering. Death. Grief," Aranhil replied, "But we also get to be there for the very best, too. We get to see a precious new elfling draw its first breath. We get to witness the determination and strength of edhil as they fight and claw their way back to life. Just today we got to witness a father's absolute and unconditional love for his son, willingly giving all that he could just so he would have a chance to live. Those are some of the purest, most beautiful things one can see and each time I do I cherish it and count myself blessed. So you see the good far outweighs the bad."

Eleniel nodded as she wiped the away the tears staining her young face.

"Don't be so hard on yourself, penneth," the old healer told her as he placed a compassionate hand on her shoulder, "You are so young and this is the very first time you have seen first hand how dangerous and Evil the world can be. Don't compare yourself to me. I have had millennia of experience while you have only had a few weeks. You did well for someone with such little experience in wartime healing. You stayed. You showed a dying ellon compassion and you did all that was asked of you without question. You played a vital role in helping heal Our Ernil. You attempted to control his fever and you managed to get medication that he desperately needed into him. Because of your actions we were able to complete a successful surgery today. We are very appreciative of your efforts and The King is as well. You are going to make a fine healer."

Eleniel gave him a hesitant smile, feeling much more at ease.

"One day you will be telling your own apprentice how you nearly vomited at your first smell of guts," Aranhil told her with a smirk.

Eleniel laughed, feeling much better. Aranhil stood and offered her his hand and pulled her to her feet.

"Come," he said, "The night is long and Our Ernil still needs us. We still have work to do."

Eleniel nodded. "I am ready," she said as she followed her mentor back into Lord Camthalion's room, this time with confidence in each step.

*****

Aranhil stood at the infirmary doors, leaning heavily into the archway. He had been alerted that Legolas had just returned. He was tired. It was very late and he had been on his feet working tirelessly for hours. He just wanted the nightmare to end and his worries to ease. But his respite was to be brief. Moments later Legolas came rushing down the corridor with another soldier at his heels, interrupting his thoughts.

"It gladdens me to see you alive, Ernil nín, if not unscathed," the healer said as he slightly bowed his head, "Do you require medical attention?"

"It's nothing," Legolas said impatiently, "My brother…"

"Both he and Feren are alive," Aranhil replied, "But their conditions are very grave."

"How grave?" Legolas asked as panic jolted through his heart.

"I can only promise that I will do all within my power to heal him," Aranhil answered gently, "Lady Amoniel is with him right now. I will take you to see your adar."

"Why isn't he with Camthalion?" Legolas asked, immediately suspicious. His father tended to hover endlessly whenever one of them came back injured.

Rather than answer, Aranhil beckoned him to follow him down the long corridor. Legolas turned and hastily dismissed Glandur before hurrying to catch up with the healer. Aranhil stopped outside a room only a few feet away.

"I must warn you," he said, "But your father gave much of his strength through his fëa bond. It allowed us to be able to perform the surgery on Lord Camthalion. But it has cost The King dearly. He is weak and exhausted. Don't be alarmed but his glamour spell has failed and his scars are fully visible."

Legolas nodded. While he had never seen his father's scars before he remembered Thranduil telling him about them and how he received them but being the vain ellon he was, refused to show him. Legolas was certain very few edhil had ever seen them.

"I will be next door with Lord Camthalion if you need me," Aranhil told him quietly, as he gestured toward the room next to The King's.

Legolas slowly opened the door and stepped into the dimly lit room. Elros jolted awake from his light doze in the chair at the bedside. He glanced toward the door, blinking warily. When he saw The Prince in the doorway he got to his feet.

"I will give you some privacy, my lord," he said in a sleep rasped voice, taking his leave.

Legolas said nothing, his eyes trained the bed. Thranduil suddenly startled awake at the sound of voices in the room. Assuming it was Aranhil with yet another dose of medication and water, he was surprised to hear his youngest son's exhausted and frightened voice.

"Are you all right, Adar?" Legolas asked, failing to keep his voice steady.

"Come here and I will be," Thranduil replied in a soft, weak voice. Legolas had never heard his voice ever sound anything but authoritative. It frightened him to see him so weak.

Thranduil held an unsteady arm to him and Legolas all but ran to him. He hesitated only a moment upon seeing Thranduil's true face for the very first time. His father was an undeniably beautiful ellon. Legolas had seen countless ellith and even adanath cast lustful glances at The King. His bright, blue eyes stood in the middle of his graceful features, framed by a long fall of silky golden hair on a tall and slender but strong frame. He was a vision of a time long past, a warrior King of The Eldar Days, every bit as beautiful as the Calaquendi of old. Looking at the ruin of Thranduil's fair, ageless face Legolas could not fathom how he could have endured such pain when he was only a few years older than himself and Legolas had not known he was even blind in his left eye. He had never seen anyone so scarred and injured live let alone stay in Arda. As a small child, he had always thought that his father was the strongest ellon he knew and now as an adult, he knew that to be true, the proof undeniable in front of him.

"Adar, are you all right?" Legolas asked again, desperately needing reassurance that his only remaining parent was alive and well.

Thranduil put his arms around his youngest son as he slid onto the bed next to him. He could feel the fear radiating off of him. He drew him close and Legolas all but melted into the embrace. His son had had a very difficult time following the unexpected death of his mother. She had been killed when he was with his tutor and the shock of such a detrimental loss at such a tender age had shaken the 20 year old elfling to his core, so much so they had feared he would fade from grief. It took years before Legolas would even sleep in his own bed or would allow himself to be without with father's presence for more than an hour or so. Thranduil knew Legolas still feared he would lose his father as well, even if he would not voice his concerns any longer.

"Of course I am," he said as he placed a gentle kiss on Legolas's forehead before resting his cheek on the crown of his head, "As you can see I have endured far worse than this."

"Adar...Camthalion…" Legolas's voice was beginning to tremble again.

"We can not dwell on what might happen," Thranduil told him, pulling him into an even tighter embrace as he nuzzled the top of the fair head, "All we can do is recognize that presently Aranhil is doing everything that he can to help your brother have the best chance of survival and hope that it will be enough."

Legolas said nothing and it was quiet for a few moments. Then Thranduil heard him sniffle and felt a stifled sob tear through the slender frame as he stubbornly refused to release it. It was swiftly followed by another and yet another.

"Please don't let him die like Naneth," Legolas begged softly, as he at last succeeded in gaining his composure, swallowing down the last, quiet sob.

"It will be all right, my dearest one, "Thranduil crooned to him softly, surprised at the amount of trust and faith his son still had in him. He vividly recalled being young and believing without question that ada could do anything, even long after he reached his majority. Dagorlad was a sobering reminder that that innocent, childish notion was nothing more than a cruel illusion. "Camthalion is strong and stubborn. He has been injured before and he has always pulled through. You will see in time that all will be well."

Legolas nodded. Thranduil could still feel the misery radiating off of his youngest son. He could feel Legolas's fëa nudge his over and over as though he was reassuring himself that his father was indeed still alive. He thought his son too young to have such heavy burdens. He knew first hand the cost of having wartime trauma on such a young fëa. Not for the first time, he lamented being unable to shield his children from the horrors of war and being left with no choice but the send them out the fight Shadow the moment they came of age. It simply wasn't fair. He was weary of ellyn and ellith coming home wounded or never returning home at all. It felt as though the more soldiers he sent out in defense of The Realm the stronger the Shadow became.

"What happened to your face?" Thranduil asked, trying to change the subject, "You weren't injured when I left you."

"It isn't much of an injury," Legolas told him as Thranduil brought his hand up to lightly caress the mottled bruising on his face, "The orcs came back to scavenge again. They were not expecting a battalion of Elves to be there." He paused for a moment as he felt his adar shudder, knowing he was trying not to picture the scene. "One of them had Camthalion's sword. I brought it home."

"Thank you, iôn nín," Thranduil said, feeling his energy once more begin to wane, "Your brother will be happy that he hasn't lost his sword."

"You should rest, Adar," Legolas replied, craning his neck to look up into his father's scarred and drawn face, "You are weary."

"So are you," Thranduil replied as he settled down into the pillows, pulling Legolas gently with him. He smiled as Legolas instantly rested his head on his chest and let out a contented sigh as he listened to the steady beat of his adar's heart. Thranduil pressed another kiss on the top of his head as he listened to his son's breathing become slow and regular. Their fëar bond settled back into its comforting, familiar rhythm. I am here, I love you it sang strong and steady. A weight lifted from Thranduil's heart and his eyes lost focus and he allowed darkness to take him once again.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

Legolas startled awake, feeling muddled and confused. It took him a moment to get his bearings. He was lying in a bed in the infirmary. He had not remembered falling asleep. His father was sitting up and arguing with Aranhil in low tones, both obviously trying not to disturb him.

"Please my lord," Aranhil was saying, "You need more rest. Lord Camthalion is still in the same condition he was the last time I spoke to you. There is nothing more we can do but wait and see how he responds to the surgery and the medications. There is nothing to be gained by sitting in a chair all night at the bedside further exhausting yourself."

"I need to be with my son," Thranduil said, having none of it. He grimaced at how weak he still felt when he tried to get off of the bed. Thinking better of it instead he irritability handed the empty medication vial back to the healer in a mild show of temper. He was tired of the strong taste of miruvor and alfirin but he had to admit it was helping him recover far more swiftly than he had expected. So he tolerated it. His only thoughts were to get enough strength back as quickly as possible so that he could get to Camthalion.

"I promised you I would stay with him and I will, hîr nín" Aranhil argued, completely unaffected by Thranduil's temper. He had known him for several millennia and had not been intimidated by it since his youth. "Please, do as I beg you. You have only been resting a couple of hours. It will take time to recover your strength. You are going to injure yourself further if you do not rest and what good will that do Lord Camthalion?"

Thranduil opened his mouth to give a sharp reply but a soft, sleepy voice interrupted him.

"Adar?"

"Go back to sleep, iôn," Thranduil told Legolas, his voice losing its hard edge instantly.

"Adar?"

"Everything is fine," Thranduil told him, "Go back to sleep. It isn't even morning yet."

Legolas said nothing but tugged impatiently on his father's sleeve. He knew Thranduil should be resting. It was obvious he was still exhausted enough that his scars were still visible, though not as clearly as before. Legolas knew Thranduil needed the rest more than he did he but also knew he couldn't order him to do so.

"Please?"

Thranduil heaved a great sigh but said nothing. Instead, he laid back down on the bed, resigned that it was one battle he wasn't going to win. Aranhil kept his smirk well hidden and extinguished the lamp in the room before exiting quietly. Thranduil settled back down onto the pillows and smiled as Legolas instantly laid his head on his chest. He was more exhausted than he cared to admit. He was still frightened for his eldest but having his youngest next to him comforted him in a way he did not expect. He nuzzled the top of the blond head and inhaled his familiar scent before laying a soft kiss in the silky, fair hair. He felt nothing but gratitude for this rash, impulsive being who made his life so very colorful. He felt their fëar flow in that same consistent, familiar Song that brought him security and peace. He laid quietly and listened as Legolas's breaths became slow and deep as he succumbed to sleep once more. Once he was certain Legolas was sleeping soundly he allowed himself to finally slip back into the deep slumber he desperately needed.

He woke several hours later feeling much more himself. He looked down and smiled when he found Legolas still sleeping in the same position curled up against him with his head on his chest. As he laid quietly for a moment he pondered how he could get out of the bed without waking him. Legolas was stressed, tired and exhausted. Thranduil knew he was frightened for not only his brother but for his father as well. He had been so young to lose his mother, the most important edhil in his life, and it had left its mark on him. Thranduil knew that this past trauma was weighing heavily on him and he feared he would lose his father and brother. Not wanting to wake him, he carefully maneuvered his body to try to transfer Legolas smoothly onto the pillow. But Legolas's eyes instantly came into focus.

"Adar?" he asked frantically, "What is it? Is it…"

"Everything is fine," Thranduil assured him instantly as he affectionately swept back the loose tendrils of Legolas's hair that escaped his braids while they slept, "I merely awoke. That is all."

Legolas nodded, looking relieved. He looked up into his father's face. "You look much more like yourself," he told him.

Thranduil smiled at him. "That is good to hear," he said, as he stretched some of the kinks out of his muscles, "I do not like the scarring on full display."

"You are still beautiful, Adar," Legolas said, "scarred or not."

"Thank you, iôn," Thranduil said mildly, "But I am sure you are only saying that because you look like me."

"Perhaps I am," Legolas replied with a grin as his father rolled his eyes.

"Let's go see how your brother is faring," Thranduil said, the seriousness of their situation swiftly coming back to him.

Nodding, Legolas climbed out of bed and followed his father out in the corridor. Elros was standing guard outside the room and as soon as he laid eyes on The King he looked relieved.

"You did well yesterday, mellon nín," Thranduil told him, "It eases my mind to know you are always beside me. But take today and rest. I will not be leaving The Palace."

"It is, as always, been my privilege, Aran nín," Elros replied as he bowed.

"Go home," Thranduil told him with a grin, "I know your naneth will be coming for you if I don't release you soon."

Elros laughed tiredly. Both of them had been subjected to his mother's overbearing nature more than once over the past several millennia. He saluted The King and departed, on a one way trek to his own bed.

*****

Eleniel didn't look up when she heard the door open, assuming Aranhil had returned. She continued to sing softly as she held The Crown Prince's hand with her left hand and bathed his face with the cool water with her right.

"His mother always sang that song to him when he was small," Thranduil said, instantly recognizing the ancient, Silvan lullaby. His broken heart gave a painful lurch as the grief he tried to keep hidden, deep down in it flared at the unexpected reminder of The Queen.

Eleniel gasped and turned sharply to see The King and young Prince standing in the doorway.

"My lords," she said hastily as she stood and gave a small bow, "I am sorry but I thought you were Aranhil."

Thranduil dismissed her unnecessary apology. "How is my son?" he asked as he walked up to the bedside.

"Do you want to talk to the healer, my lord? I am only an apprentice," she told him, "I can quickly retrieve Aranhil. He had to take Lady Amoniel to her rooms. She nearly fainted from exhaustion and grief. He felt she needed to go to her rooms to rest for a while."

"You attended to Lord Camthalion did you not?" Thranduil asked her, his intense blue gaze making her look away after a moment. Elenial nodded nervously. "Then I am asking you."

"We are trying to bring down his fever. It is still dangerously high," she explained, trying to remember every detail, "We have been using medication and ice to try to control it. But several times he has convulsed because it has been so high. Right now I am trying to improve the swelling and bruising on his face by bathing it in cool rose water."

"Has he been awake at any point?" Thranduil asked her.

"No, Aran nín," Eleniel replied, finding the ellon too intimidating to look him in the face, "He has been soundly unconscious."

"I see," Thranduil said as he took the seat she had just vacated. He reached out and took his son's over warm hand in his. It was silent in the room for a moment, the only sound was each gasping breath that Camthalion took.

"It is almost time to bring in more ice," Eleniel said, "I will go and make those arrangements."

Thranduil nodded but never took his eyes from his son. Legolas came to stand beside him and could not believe it was his brother laying on the bed. It didn't even look like him. His face was swollen and distorted. Every part of his exposed skin was covered in small wounds or bruising. Legolas was glad that the sword wound was wrapped with bandages. He wasn't sure he wanted to see all that his brother had suffered. He leaned down and kissed Camthalion's brow.

"Adar," Legolas said in a shaky voice as tears swarmed his eyes, "That fever is so high!"

"It is," Thranduil replied in a controlled and calm voice, "But we will do everything we can to bring it down. He has a severe infection so that may take some time."

"But Adar," Legolas said, "What if…"

"Your brother is strong," Thranduil said as he gently laid Camthalion's hand on the bed and took Legolas's and gave it a gentle squeeze. He looked up at Legolas's teary, disbelieving eyes. Thranduil knew he was taking the entire situation very hard and felt that currently, the infirmary wasn't the best place for him. "I want you to go and check on Amoniel. She needs someone to be with her."

Legolas took in a shaky breath. As much as he wanted to stay with his brother he was starting to feel overwhelmed again. He nodded and made his way toward the door, meeting Aranhil and Eleniel in the doorway.

"Are you well, my lord?" Aranhil asked as he looked at the visibly upset young ellon.

"Yes," Legolas replied testily, "I am going to see Amoniel."

"Good," Aranhil approved, ignoring the sharp tone, "That will do her some good. She shouldn't be so upset in her condition."

Legolas said nothing and quickly exited, feeling the need to put some distance between himself and the infirmary. He walked down the corridor toward his brother's rooms but before he could get there the sudden, unexpected flare of need hit him directly in the stomach, making him feel like he was going to vomit. He detoured to his rooms and took the small amount of powder from his pocket and quickly inhaled it. It was enough to make his discomfort go away for a short time. He sat for a quietly, allowing the powder to do its magic and make him feel stable and secure once again. Then he walked over to the wardrobe and rifled through it looking for more. He sighed dejectedly when he saw the amount that was left. He had no idea how he was going through it so quickly. It seemed to disappear as quickly as he bought it. Feeling desperate, he went through his bureau and took out all the coins he could find, placing them in his pocket. He slipped out of The Palace easily unnoticed. Most edhil were preoccupied with the tragic events of the past day to pay him any mind. He burned with shame as he quietly made his way to collect Tegalad. He knew what he was doing was reprehensible especially as his brother lay dying and his father had asked him to be with his sister in law. But as much as he wanted to see Amoniel there was someone he needed to see more.

*****

Aranhil came to stand beside The King and reached out to place a hand on Camthalion's brow. He shook his head.

"This fever is very stubborn," he told Thranduil regrettably, "It is not responding to any of my methods. "

"Would you like me to prepare a tincture of elderflower, white willow, and carandôl?" Eleniel asked her mentor.

"If you would," Aranhil replied with an approving smile, "Put it in a tea this time. We need to try to get some more fluid into him." Eleniel nodded and went about her task. Aranhil turned back to Thranduil. "I have given him my best. I have tried everything I know to do to try to treat his injuries but my fear is that it has not been enough. He is seriously wounded and ill, my lord."

"I know," Thranduil said softly, "and I know you have done your best for my son. I can ask no more of you."

It was quiet while Eleniel brought the medication over to the bedside and patiently administered it drop by drop. Thranduil briefly closed his eyes and reached out for his bond with his eldest. Again, he had to search for it and found it faint and weak. It did not bring him any comfort and once more he found himself feeling overwhelmingly frightened. A brief, loud knock interrupted his thoughts. Aranhil opened the door to admit the servants carrying buckets of ice.

"We will surround him with ice," Aranhil told Thranduil, "I am forced to resort to external methods to bringing down this fever. It is too strong to rely on herbs alone."

"Do whatever you must do," Thranduil replied as he watched Aranhil bring the sheet up to Camthalion's chest. Then he and Eleniel took bucket after bucket of ice and surrounded Camthalion with it. Thranduil picked up the cloth that Eleniel had been using and continued to use it to bath his son's face and neck. Eleniel retrieved a fresh bowl of cold water and she and Aranhil used it to bathe The Prince's chest and extremities. Soon Camthalion started to shiver like a beaten animal. Thranduil's heart broke at the sight of it. His strong, handsome son had been beaten unrecognizable and now lay shivering helplessly and fighting for each ragged, gasping breath he took. They continued bathing him in cold water until Aranhil called them to stop, afraid of sending The Prince into shock. After he and Eleniel collected the remaining ice and wet bedding, Aranhil replaced the thin sheet covering Camthalion and covered him from the waist down.

"Eleniel, prepare another salve of niphredil and athelas," he ordered, "We need to cleanse the wound."

Eleniel did as she was bid with an able and precise hand and brought the small bowl over to her mentor. Aranhil removed the bandages from the surgical site. All three gasped as they took in the gruesome sight. Aranhil felt his heart drop. The wound was seeping blood once more. The linen they had wrapped it in was smeared with fresh blood and yellow infection. Worse yet, Camthalion's abdomen was swollen and the skin surrounding the wound was darkened and streaked red. Aranhil washed the area with another cloth infused with calendula and goldenseal and when he finished Eleniel applied the salve thickly over the stitching.

"It feels hot," she said, looking up at her mentor with a slight frown on her face, "It is the infection?"

"I am afraid so," Aranhil replied before turning to The King, "If he doesn't improve in the next few hours I am going to have to perform another surgery. This infection is very serious, my lord, and I will have to resort to manually taking it out of him if the medication can not do it on its own. This infection is one of the most severe I have ever seen and it has festered in that wound for days. It may take more invasive methods to treat it and I am not sure Lord Camthalion is strong enough to endure the treatment."

"I understand," Thranduil said, unable to tear his eyes away from the deadly wound, "I don't care what you have to do. Just do what is necessary to save his life."

"You know I will do everything within my abilities to save Our Ernil, Aran nín," Aranhil told him earnestly.

"I do. I trust no one else with his care but you, mellon nín," Thranduil told him as he watched Eleniel wrap the wound carefully in fresh bandages.

Aranhil bowed and then motioned Eleniel toward him. "We will need to go to the apothecary and replenish our supplies and prepare a few more tonics. We will return shortly. If anything happens there are healers stationed in the entrance of the infirmary."

Thranduil nodded but said nothing. He couldn't take his eyes from his son. He sank wearily back down in the chair and took Camthalion's hand in his. He stared intently at the swollen, abused face and had to blink hard several times to prevent the tears that formed in his eyes from falling. He tried to drown out the sound of each rasping, shallow gasp of breath that Camthalion fought so hard to take. Thranduil leaned forward and placed his hand on his brow. The fever seemed completely unaffected by their extensive efforts to bring it down. He lightly stroked the fevered brow in a comforting manner. What had his poor child been through? Not for the first time, Thranduil felt a wave of self loathing wash over him. Camthalion deserved a much better father than the one he received. Thranduil cursed himself yet again for not going sooner to find him, feeling as though if he had left just a couple hours before he had then his son would not be in such a critical state. As he looked down at the wretched figure in the bed he thought about how much he had come to depend on Camthalion, especially since Faelwen died. He realized with a startling jolt of shame how much he took him for granted and held him accountable to unrealistic expectations. But his responsible son never complained, was always eager to please. He always took The King's sharp criticism with good grace, always begging his forgiveness for his perceived failures and promising to do better. Thranduil suddenly realized he rarely had to command Camthalion to do anything. His considerate, dependable son always asked him how he could serve The King. He felt blessed to have been gifted such a son. Looking down at him he saw not his grown son but the little princeling that had forever changed his life and who first made him a father.

Faelwen gave a primal cry as she pushed one last time, using what remained of her waning energy. Thranduil hoped it would be enough. She had been laboring for hours and was exhausted. Their son seemed to want to stay in the warm safety of his mother's womb. But after hours of wave after painful wave of contractions and the careful attention of the healer, it seemed The Woodland Realm would finally get its Prince. A piercing cry rent through the air and Faelwen gave an exhausted sigh as she ungracefully fell the short distance back onto her pillows, looking up at Thranduil with a look of sheer happiness.

"We have a Prince," Aranhil said excitedly, his face shining with joy as he held up the small, wet wriggling infant before placing him on his mother's breast. The angry, frantic cries stopped instantly at his mother's touch. His sweet face tilted up at her with a look of peaceful recognition.

"Ada and I have been waiting for you, little one," Faelwen cooed through her tears as she stroked the smooth cheek, "You are even more beautiful than we dreamed."

The midwife rushed forward and began to clean the princeling with the soft towel, making him cry out in protest. "Allow me to clean him up, my lady," she said as she reached over and took him from his mother, unable to do anything but smile down at the newest Royal.

She returned him a couple of minutes later and placed him in his father's arms. Thranduil looked down at the infant wrapped in the blanket that his mother had painstakingly knitted for him. He ran his hand over the wet, dark hair. A sense of profound and absolute love that he had never felt before erupted from his heart and the Song that flowed from his fëa rejoiced for the existence of this innocent little being. He knew he would, without hesitation, give his own life for this precious new gift. He had never felt such an intense, paternal love like this and he knew he was never going to be the same ellon he had been only minutes before. He smiled down at the baby who was gazing back at him quietly. Thranduil drank in the small features and laughed when he the only thing he saw of himself was bright blue eyes and a miniature version of his nose.

"He looks like you, meleth," Thranduil told his wife fondly as looked over at her smiling, proud face.

"He does," Faelwen crowed proudly, "But he is going to be tall and strong like his Ada."

Thranduil leaned forward and kissed his son's brow as he had done for the very first time over 16 centuries before. Strong. That is what Faelwen had said their son would be. He hoped she was right. She usually was. His heart ached at the void of her absence and he wished she was there to help guide their son back to this side of the grave.

"Adar?"

Thranduil looked up through weary, tear filled eyes at the soft, interrupting voice. Unexpectedly, Amoniel was standing beside him looking frightened. He had been so preoccupied with his thoughts he had not heard her enter the small room.

"Are you well?" Thranduil asked her, instantly getting out of the chair and guiding her into it, "I was told that you nearly fainted."

"I am fine," she assured him, "I'm just more frightened than I have ever been. It is making me feel ill."

"I am too," Thranduil admitted as he retrieved another chair from close by and placed it next to Amoniel before sitting on it, "And our little one?"

"Restless," Amoniel replied, "I think my emotions are affecting it. I am sure the baby feels a shift in the bond with Camthalion."

"You are nearly halfway through your pregnancy," Thranduil told her as he looked down at the small swell of her gown, "Surely you know by now if the child is male or female."

Amoniel smiled through her obvious sadness and brought her hands up to rest lovingly on her swollen stomach. "I do. I became aware of it just a few days ago," she said with obvious joy, "I am sure Camthalion knows too. But I will let him tell you if we are having a son or a daughter."

"I look forward to it," Thranduil replied with a smile, "Did Legolas retire to his rooms?"

"Legolas?" Amoniel said with a frown, "I was not aware he had returned."

"I sent him to check on you about an hour ago," Thranduil replied, wondering where in Arda his son could be.

"I have not seen him since he was leaving with you early yesterday morning to find Camthalion," Amoniel said.

"I see," Thranduil replied in an unreadable voice.

Amoniel watched her father in law closely for a moment. Aranhil had told her how he had given Camthalion his strength, allowing him to have the surgery he desperately needed. She knew that was the only reason her husband was still alive. But there was a flurry of emotions on Thranduil's fair face in addition to the weariness from his fëa depletion. He looked sad and riddled with guilt as he sat at the bedside and stroked Camthalion's dark hair.

"You have done everything you could possibly do, Adar," she said quietly.

"It isn't enough," Thranduil replied, never taking his eyes from his son.

"No one else could have saved him," Amoniel said, "Aranhil told me he would never have been able to operate if you hadn't done what you did."

"I am a bad father," Thranduil replied, shocking Amoniel.

She sharply turned her head to look at him with wide eyes. "What are you talking about?" she asked, confused at why he would ever think such a thing.

"I am too hard on him," Thranduil answered her, not trusting himself to look at anything but the figure in the bed as he continued to stroke the dark hair, "I demand perfection from him. I hold him accountable for things out of his control. He has the hardest, most thankless job in The Realm and he does it with a willing heart and good grace."

"He worries about you," Amoniel gently explained, "He just wants to help you by sharing your burdens, especially now that Naneth has died. He just wants to see you happy again. He loves you."

"He asks far too much of himself."

"Yes," Amoniel agreed wholeheartedly, "And he worries that he is failing you."

"That is why this is my fault. If I didn't make him feel this way he would not have felt the need to go South himself. He could have sent others to deal with the situation but he seems to hold himself responsible for every inch of Forest we lose and for the death of each soldier," Thranduil told her. She nodded in agreement. "He thinks I love Legolas more," Thranduil replied bluntly, as the guilt and remorse in his gut grew at her revelation.

"He does," Amoniel admitted quietly, "He has never said that but I can feel it in his fëa."

"It is not true," Thranduil said almost sharply as he turned to her with a look that was begging for understanding, "They are very different edhil. Legolas is so impulsive and demanding. I have had to raise him alone and I fear I have spoiled him in a most unbecoming way. Camthalion is so different. Unlike Legolas, he was able to grow up with his mother's care. He was such a good elfling. He was always so serious and responsible that he needed little guidance from his mother and me. I fear I have always let the duties of being King overshadow the duties I have to my children."

"Do not feel so!" Amoniel cried as she grabbed his hand and looked up into his face, "Both of them love you! They know well the heavy burden you carry and they do not hold it against you!"

Thranduil didn't trust himself to reply. Oropher had managed the Kingdom and he had still found time for his son. Thranduil could not help but feel he was somehow disappointing his father. It only added to the sorrow he felt for his adar's death. Instead, he sat with his melancholy thoughts and held his ailing son's hand, vowing that when he woke he would never again doubt his value or his father's love.

*****

Hours later Aranhil concluded his examination and straightened to look at The King.

"It is as I feared, Aran nín," he said, "The medications have had little impact on this infection and fever. He is going to require another surgery to irrigate the wound again. If I don't he will probably die within a day or two."

"Then do it," Thranduil told him. After having spent every moment since he had awoken at Camthalion's bedside with Amoniel he was not surprised at the healer's assessment.

"I fear he is not strong enough to have such an invasive procedure," Aranhil replied gravely, "This infection has run unchecked for days. I have no idea how long he laid out on the Path in the elements but it was long enough for this infection to take a strong hold on him. He hasn't eaten since before they were ambushed so he is very weak. I can not keep him hydrated. I can not control his intense fever."

Thranduil briefly closed his eyes. He tried to push away the vision of his son convulsing due to his high fever. The first time he had witnessed it he had been terrified and each time afterward as the day waned it still startled him. He knew Aranhil was not exaggerating. It was obvious his son was dying.

"So doing nothing will kill him and if you operate the treatment will kill him?" Amoniel asked incredulously.

"I am afraid so, my lady," Aranhil said with a slight dip of his head, "I am so very sorry."

"What about administering more miruvor?" Amoniel asked.

"I have been dosing him with everything I can," Aranhil answered her, "I have given him herbs to strengthen him. I have made tonic after tonic to treat his fever and battle the infection and to stop the convulsions. I have even given him herbs to increase the potency of the medications. I have tried external methods. This infection and fever simply will not respond. The only other treatment available is another surgery."

"If he could have the surgery will he survive?" Amoniel asked in a quivering voice.

"I can not guarantee that," Aranhil replied honestly, "But I do believe if he would benefit from another surgery."

"Then I will lend him strength through our bond," Amoniel said firmly.

Aranhil opened his mouth to protest but Thranduil beat him to it." No!" he replied, "You can not do that in your condition!"

"He is right, my lady," Aranhil said as Amoniel looked ready to argue, "You are incubating Life. That is requiring most of your energy. You will not have any to spare Lord Camthalion."

"But.." Amoniel started to say but burst into tears, "But…"

"I will do it," Thranduil said firmly.

"I do not advise that my lord," Aranhil replied, "You have already depleted your energy and you still have not fully recovered from it."

"I don't care," Thranduil said fervently, "You just said that my son needs this surgery to survive and he can't have the surgery without him having another transfer of fëar energy. I will do it. I don't care what happens to me as long as Camthalion survives."

"But Aran nín! I don't..." Aranhil started to argue.

"I am not asking you if you advise it," Thranduil snapped, talking over the healer, "I am simply telling you that I am going to do it with or without your approval."

Aranhil nodded. "As you command, my lord," he said meekly, "We will make the preparations and should be ready to operate within the hour. You are going to need more miruvor and alfirin."

Thranduil nodded as he watched Aranhil bow to him before motioning his young apprentice to follow him out of the door.

"Adar are you certain?" Amoniel asked through her tears.

"Absolutely."

"But what if this kills you?" Amoniel asked him as she reached over and grabbed his hand.

"Then it kills me," he replied seemingly unconcerned about himself, "I have lived a long life. But Camthalion's years are short compared to mine. He is needed here far more than I am. He is about to be a father and his child deserves to grow up with its father."

"I am afraid," Amoniel wept, unable to contain her sobs any longer, "For Camthalion...and for you."

"There is nothing to be afraid of," Thranduil said as he pulled her to his chest in a paternal embrace, "I have survived dragon fire. A little exhaustion pales in comparison to that. Pay Aranhil no mind. I have known him for several millennia. He tends to fall prey to theatrics."

"I'm still frightened that it won't be enough," Amoniel sobbed into his chest, "Look at Camthalion. I have never seen anyone so hurt before."

"I will do all that I possibly can to ensure he has the best chance of survival. I promised you I would bring him home and now I am promising you that if required I will gladly give my life for his. I promise you, you will not be a widow. The two of you will have an immortal lifetime together."

Amoniel could not reply and continued to weep. "I love you, Adar," she said between sobs once she could catch her breath.

"And I love you, iell nín," he said before giving her a gentle kiss on the forehead, "Now, go and rest in your rooms until the surgery is over. You are upset again and that is not good for you or the baby. I will have Aranhil send for you when he is finished."

Amoniel nodded. She went to the bedside and kissed Camthalion's dry, fever cracked lips before turning with resolve and walking toward the door.

"If you see Legolas please send him to me," Thranduil bid as he watched her go, "and don't worry. Everything will be fine."

"Yes, Adar," Amoniel said as she gave him a forced smile before giving her husband once last, long look filled with worry. She took a deep breath and closed the door quietly behind her.

*****

"Eleniel."

The young apprentice looked up at the sound of her name, stopping momentarily in her patient efforts to give Prince Camthalion yet another tonic of alfirin and miruvor.

"Come and attend," Aranhil bid her as he quickly sterilized the exposed area with a strong infusion of goldenseal and calendula.

Eleniel looked from her mentor to the healer standing across from him with wide eyes. "You believe I am ready?"

"Yes," Aranhil told her with a gentle smile, "You have been assisting with Our Ernil since his father brought him back home. You have earned the right of attending this second surgery."

Eleniel handed the tonic to the healer who smiled encouragingly at her as she took the vial and took over giving Camthalion the medication. Eleniel took her place opposite of Aranhil and smiled nervously at him.

"Don't worry, penneth. If I didn't think you were ready I would have asked you to attend," Aranhil told her, "Now, I have cleaned the area and we are ready to begin."

Eleniel nodded and took a deep breath, wishing she felt as confident as Aranhil seemed to be.

"I'm here and I will step in and take charge if I need to," Aranhil assured her when he saw her nervously biting her lip and looking overwhelmed.

"I can't do it!" she cried as fresh tears pooled in her eyes, "I'm afraid I will hurt him!"

"You won't harm him," Aranhil replied gently, "I will be right here to guide you. You have performed wonderfully so far. I am confident in your abilities."

Eleniel shook her head in disbelief as she looked down at the ill ellon on the bed.

"Eleniel, look at me," Aranhil commanded her. He waited until she obeyed before continuing. "I understand that you are scared and nervous," he said seriously, looking her straight in the eyes, "But what happens to Lord Camthalion if you do nothing?"

"He will die," Eleniel whispered as she glanced at The Prince's abused face, "and The King's sacrifice will have been in vain."

"Yes," Aranhil agreed, "So we must push our fear aside and do what must be done to save Lord Camthalion. He is dependent on us to tend to his injuries. The King trusts us with the care of his son which is something he does not do lightly."

Eleniel looked back up at Aranhil for a long moment before she nodded again, this time with resolve and determination. "What do I need to do?"

"We need to start by opening the wound," Aranhil said as he handed her a small pair of scissors, "Don't worry. I am here and I will guide you one step at a time."

Eleniel took them and easily snipped each of the sutures. The wound instantly opened up and looked at as though they had not operated the day before. There was no change in the wound despite their diligent efforts to regularly cleanse it and the salves they had meticulously placed on it each time they had cleaned it.

"Now clear out the infection," Aranhil told her, "Use athelas and yarrow soaked cloths."

Eleniel took a deep breath and tried to ignore the horrible smell the wound was emitting. She reached over and took a strip of clean cloth and dipped it into the warm water that had a strong infusion of the antiseptic herbs. Aranhil reached over and held the wound open. With hands now only slightly shaking she reached in and started the long process of cleaning all visible infection. Her stomach turned as warm blood and infection pooled around her fingers. But she pushed it aside. This poor ellon needed her and she had to try to heal his hurts.

"It looks as bad as it did yesterday," Eleniel observed as she tossed yet another soiled cloth to the floor.

"Yes," Aranhil agreed, "This infection is severe and the poison only served to complicate matters. But while he is bleeding more than I would like it has improved from yesterday."

"I am not seeing any poison in here," Eleniel commented as she cleaned up the last of the visible infection.

"I am confident we removed what had remained," Aranhil replied, "Now let's irrigate the wound."

"Athelas and yarrow?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered, "That will cleanse the area and promote healing. Hold the wound open for me and I will pour it in."

Eleniel did as he asked her and watched as he poured the warm liquid in the gaping wound. She watched as more infection instantly rose to the surface.

"Help me turn him," Aranhil said as he gripped the slim, pale torso.

Eleniel pushed The Prince toward Aranhil and watched as the wound emptied most of the infection laden water onto the thick towels that Aranhil had placed along his side.

"There is still more to be removed," she observed, peering into the open wound.

"Correct," Aranhil told her as he stepped over to get another bowl of water, "We need to do this until there is no more visible infection."

Eleniel nodded. They repeated the process countless times until the water that ran from the wound was only tinged with bright, red blood.

"I think it's time to close the wound," she suggested though it sounded more like a question than a statement.

"Very good," Aranhil approved as he handed her a clean, dry cloth, "Remove any remaining water pooled in the wound."

Eleniel gently blotted at the small amount of water that was unable to escape the wound when they had irrigated it.

"What do you see?"

"I don't see any visible infection," Eleniel told him, "His intestines look intact and are where they should be." Aranhil nodded. "What about the skin around the wound? It is still dark."

"Due to the poison and the infection his flesh was starting to decompose," Aranhil explained as he pointed to the unhealthy areas, "It will look like this until the infection is under control and he is able to begin to heal. It doesn't look worse than it did yesterday and that is an encouraging sign. Now, stitch him up while I prepare a salve of niphredil and athelas."

Eleniel quickly set about threading the needle and started to stitch the angry flesh back together. After a few sutures, she noticed that her hands were not shaking anymore. She finished stitching up the wound with a more confident hand and smiled when Aranhil complimented her technique. She took the salve from him and thickly smeared it over the row of sutures. She stepped back and observed the wound. Only a very small amount of blood escaped through the stitching but it did not drip through the salve. Satisfied, she nodded and helped Aranhil wrap the wound.

"What do you recommend now?" Aranhil asked her.

"Continuing the treat the fever with elderflower and white willow bark in combination with cold compresses," Eleniel told him, "Using skullcap and mugwort if he continues to convulse. I would also give him a strong tonic of miruvor and carandôl to help build him up so he can fight the infection."

"Excellent," Aranhil replied, smiling with approval, "Now I will leave you to see to that and I will attend to The King."

Amoniel went over to the table and thoroughly washed her bloody hands before setting about mixing up the tonics that she would need. Aranhil washed his hands in the basin beside her.

"I forgot to mention, penneth," he said with a mischevious grin, "But the smell will be on your hands for days no matter how much you wash them."

He laughed outright at the startled look on her face that quickly changed to disgust as she brought her slender hands to her face and sniffed.

"Lovely."

Chuckling, he walked toward the door then looked back at his apprentice. Eleniel was now busily measuring out the ingredients, her brow furrowed in concentration.

"You did well, penneth," he told her with a smile, "I know I am leaving Our Ernil in good hands."

Eleniel smiled proudly as she looked up from her work. Aranhil opened the door and stepped out into the quiet corridor. He leaned against it for a long moment. He was exhausted. He had been attending to Lord Camthalion since he had been brought to the infirmary since the previous afternoon. He was going to require some rest soon but he knew Thranduil needed his attention. He walked the short distance to the room next door and took a deep breath. Twice now Thranduil had depleted his fëa of nearly all of his strength. Aranhil had never heard of anyone giving so much energy in such a short period of time and he was unsure of what effect it would have on The King. As he reached for the doorknob a sudden thought hit him. Where was Lord Legolas?

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

"Ada?"

"Ada?" the high pitched, childish voice became more insistent, "Wake up!"

Thranduil smiled as he felt the mattress shift as his small son climbed up onto the foot of the bed and began to crawl forward. Without warning, Thranduil grabbed the elfling by his waist and tossed him into the air. Camthalion squealed with joy as his father easily caught him and pulled him down to sit on his chest.

"You frightened me!" Camthalion told him as he cuddled up against the warm body and leaned forward to kiss his father.

"I'm sorry, iôn," Thranduil replied after accepting the quick peck on his lips, "But that is what happens when you creep in here before the first rays of the Sun."

Camthalion looked up at him, his blue eyes glittering with mirth. "Do it again!" he cried.

Thranduil could never deny his son anything and complied. Camthalion shrieked again as his father caught him and planted several quick kisses over his face, causing the elfling to laugh, a pure, innocent sound filled with unrestrained joy.

"Can we play outside after our morning meal? It snowed last night. We can use my new sled." Camthalion eagerly asked as he settled between his parents and snuggled under the warm furs.

"I would like nothing more than to play with you, iôn nín" Thranduil answered him, his face full of regret, "But I have to meet with my War Council today."

"One day I am going to be a warrior in your Army, Ada," Camthalion seriously declared as he looked up at him.

"You are?"

"Yes, I will be big like you. I will slay many orcs with my sword and I will not be afraid," Camthalion told him.

"I am sure you will," Thranduil replied as he cuddled his son against his chest. He hoped in vain that Camthalion would never know a day on the battlefield. But he knew these carefree days would not last forever and in four short decades, this child would take his warrior oath to The Elvenking. Thranduil wished he could keep Camthalion little and safe forever.

"Ada?"

"Ada?"

"Adar?"

Thranduil felt consciousness claim him, the dream slowly faded away as he forced his eyes open with great effort. He was suddenly aware that he was lying in a bed in a small, dim room in the infirmary and he wasn't alone.

"Adar, are you well?"

"Legolas?" he grimaced at the sound of his faint, weak voice. He let his eyes fall closed again as a sharp pain erupted across his brow.

"I am here," Legolas replied and Thranduil felt him grip his hand, "How are you feeling?"

Thranduil didn't answer him. He was lightheaded. His entire body ached miserably. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed and go back to sleep. He struggled to sit up and had to accept his son's help to get into a sitting position, causing another wave of dizziness to hit him.

"I am going to get Aranhil," Legolas told him after he helped his father remain steady and upright.

Thranduil wanted to tell him not to bother but he was gone before he could reply. He let out an irritated sigh as he held his head in his hands. As the room continued to spin, he willed himself to get more control of his hröa. He felt terrible. He ached from head to toe. Pushing his hurts aside, his mind wondered at his dream. Even now, he could vividly recall that Winter morning long ago when he had pushed his young son aside in favor of duty. Camthalion had not yet seen his 6th begetting day. That precious time of childhood had passed so quickly. Thranduil sighed miserably. More than 16 centuries had passed since that cold predawn morning and once more he was reminded that his son had fought countless battles and yet again came home maimed and injured, this time far worse than he ever had in the past. He sat and brought forth all his perceived shortcomings as a father and could not help but feel an immense wave of guilt over what his eldest was currently suffering. He looked up only when he heard the door open and Legolas returned with the healer.

"I hear you are in need of my services, Aran nín," Aranhil said with a small bow as he approached the bed.

"It's not as bad as that," Thranduil quietly replied as he fought to keep his face indifferent.

"I must say I have not seen you look this poorly in quite some time," Aranhil said as he reached out to examine The King. Thranduil irritably shoved his hands away and dismissed his efforts. "Well, if I may say so, my lord, you are doing better than I feared if you are able to be this stubborn so soon."

Thranduil gave him an arrogant smirk as he watched Aranhil walk over to the small table and prepare a tonic for him.

"Here, my lord," he said as he gently placed it in Thranduil's shaking hands and helped him take a few swallows. Thranduil immediately recognized the taste of miruvor. But after a few sips of the tonic, he started to feel more steady and stable. Aranhil nodded, pleased that though severely weakened, Thranduil was at least responding to the treatment. "You must be thirsty. I will get you some water."

Thranduil nodded and said nothing before draining the last of the tonic and exchanged the small cup for a large goblet. He gratefully drank the cool water, sitting silently for a long moment. He felt a little stronger though he still felt quite weak and ill.

"Are you feeling better?" Aranhil asked as he watched him closely.

"Yes," Thranduil answered, relieved that he sounded a little more like himself, "How is Camthalion?"

"The second surgery we performed was successful, my lord," Aranhil said, "We removed more infection and he tolerated the surgery well. It has only been a few hours since we reopened the wound and he has not convulsed again."

"And the fever?"

"It still rages, my lord," Aranhil replied, "I am still treating him with herbs and bathing him in cold water. While it is high it has not risen since the surgery."

Thranduil nodded, glad at least to have some good news. "What time is it?" he asked.

"It is nearly midday," Aranhil answered him.

Thranduil started to get out of bed, dismayed that he had been unconscious for so long.

"Aran nín!" Aranhil gasped as he reached forward to steady him, "Please! Stay in bed. You are not well! Getting out of bed is only going to aggravate the situation. I beg you to rest!"

"I know!" Thranduil snapped, accepting the healer's assistance, "Believe me, I know! But my son needs me more."

"My lord!"

Thranduil gave him a pointed stare, one that clearly stated he was going to see his son regardless of the healers' opinion on the matter. Aranhil threw his hands up in defeat and turned back to the table to clean up his supplies. "I don't know why I even try," he muttered to himself, "You haven't heeded my advice for over an Age so why would today be any different?"

"Adar, are you certain you are well enough?" Legolas asked as he stepped up to the bed, disregarding the annoyed healer. He feared his father would be angry at Aranhil's barely audible mutterings, something few would be brave enough to do in the presence of The Elvenking, but instead Thranduil looked amused, "You look terrible."

"Where have you been, Legolas?" Thranduil asked, ignoring the comment as his attention was brought back to his youngest son.

"I have been right here," Legolas replied with his best attempt at innocence, "I came to see how you are faring."

"That is not what I am talking about and you know it," Thranduil said irritably, "I sent you to look after Amoniel and you disappeared for the day. Where were you?"

"Oh, that," Legolas stammered. He hadn't realized anyone had accounted for his long absence and reported back to his father. He had spent most of the day inhaling powder with Rilien. They had inhaled too much and had fallen asleep at the table, leaving Legolas floating in a dark oblivion that was mercifully free of fear and anxiety over his brother. When they had awoken Legolas had purchased as much powder as he had the funds to buy. He didn't know when he would have time to slip away again and did not want to find himself without powder.

"Yes, that," Thranduil replied in an annoyed tone of voice, "Where were you?"

"I needed to be in The Forest," Legolas explained, reasoning that it was not untruthful. Technically, he had ridden out into The Forest to meet with Rilien. "My fëa was troubled."

"You were in The Forest alone?" Thranduil asked incredulously, "Did you not see what happened to your brother and he was with a battalion of soldiers! I do not want you out there by yourself!"

"I'm not a baby, Adar!"

"I didn't say that you were," Thranduil replied, "But you are not to go into The Forest again without my consent!"

"Adar!"

"I am serious, iôn nín," Thranduil said firmly, "It has nothing to do with you being treated like an elfing. Your brother has been a soldier for over one and a half millennia and we found him grievously injured on The Path. How many years have you been a soldier, Legolas?"

"One," Legolas muttered begrudgingly.

"Exactly," Thranduil quipped, "You are not to be out there alone. It is too dangerous. I know that you are angry. I would much rather have you angry at me than injured or dead. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Adar."

"Good," Thranduil said as he shakily got to his feet, "Come, let's go see Camthalion."

Legolas stepped forward to support his father and help guide him to the next room. He carefully concealed his annoyance. Thranduil was unknowingly making it far more difficult for him to procure more powder. While he had enough stored in his room to last several days he knew he would have to devise a plan to obtain more soon. But he would think about that later. Right now he had a critically injured brother and an ill father to occupy his time.

*****

Thranduil looked down at his eldest son. Camthalion looked unchanged from the last time he saw him the previous evening. He shivered fitfully as he took in each hard won, gasping breath. It was difficult for Thranduil to see his strong, beautiful son look so wretched and frail. He swallowed hard against the lump in his throat before ungracefully lowering himself in the chair at the bedside and taking Camthalion's over warm hand in his. Aranhil entered a moment later and handed Thranduil a small basin of cool rose water. Thranduil wrung out the cloth within in it and gently bathed the sweat from Camthalion's abused face and then down his neck and chest before pressing a soft kiss to the fevered forehead. He tried to push away the feelings of hopelessness that assaulted him but it seemed that no matter what they did to combat the fever it was in vain. Aranhil lit a small cauldron near the bed and quickly set about boiling water.

"This should help ease his breathing," he told Thranduil as he added fresh athelas to the hot water, "He is struggling for breath and it is draining what is left of his strength."

Thranduil watched Camthalion closely as the pleasant scent of athelas filled the room. The King felt some of his weariness melt away and Camthalion's breath, though still shallow, seemed to come easier. Legolas took the chair next to him and looked at his brother worriedly.

"He has survived much," Thranduil told him quietly, "So we have to believe he will continue to be able to weather this."

Legolas looked over and into Thranduil's blue eyes. He saw in them a fierce determination and an absolute refusal to allow his son to die. In that moment Legolas felt most of his fear leave him. His brother would live. Their father would see to it. Thranduil gave him a small smile and then ran an affectionate hand over his hair. The door opened and Eleniel walked in, her arms laden with a large basket containing several bottles, linen, and herbs. She took it over to the table where Aranhil was working.

"It is time for His Highness to have another dose of elderflower and white willow," she told her mentor.

"So it is," he replied with a warm smile as she started to prepare the medication. He turned to The King and Prince. "Do you know my new apprentice, Eleniel, my lords? With all that has happened over the past couple of days, I have not had the time to introduce her yet."

Thranduil shook his head. Eleniel seemed familiar enough and he was sure that he had seen her at feasts. But she was barely more than a child and he had paid her no mind. But clearly his son was somewhat familiar with her.

"Yes," Legolas told Aranhil as Eleniel gave him a smile filled with friendly recognition. "Eleniel is Valen's cousin," Legolas told Thranduil.

"I see," Thranduil said in what he hoped was a neutral voice.

"Adar finds Valen supremely annoying," Legolas announced to Thranduil's dismay. Really, his youngest had absolutely no tact.

"Legolas."

"You aren't the first to feel that way, my lord, and certainly won't be the last," Eleniel laughed easily, thinking of the last time their extended family had gathered for a meal at their longmother's house just the previous week. Her cousin tended to talk far too much and he was extremely meddlesome. It wasn't a good combination. But if one wanted to know the latest gossip in the Realm they only had to speak to Valen. "The tonic is ready," she said to Aranhil.

Aranhil shook the tonic in the small vial, swirling its contents then brought it to his nose to smell. "Very good," he said, "You may administer it to him now. Then give him more water. With this fever he is very close to dehydration." Eleniel nodded and went about her assignment. "Eleniel has been a great help to me, Aran nín. When her training is complete I believe she may serve well as one of your personal physicians."

"Is that so?"

"Indeed, my lord," Aranhil replied proudly, "She has proven not only to have skill in medicine but she also has a kind and compassionate heart. She is going to be an excellent healer."

"Aranhil is rarely this generous with praise, penneth," Thranduil told Eleniel. She blushed furiously but was quite pleased with his assessment and The King's acceptance of it. "He has also told me how you have assisted in treating Our Ernil's wounds. I know it has not been easy. I am grateful for your efforts."

"I am honored to help treat Prince Camthalion," Eleniel replied, still blushing, "I will do whatever is needed to help him recover. As for yourself, Aran nín, you look like you are in need of my humble skills as well. As soon as I am finished here I will mix you up something to help you recover your strength swiftly and help you rest."

"There is no need for such a fuss," Thranduil immediately objected, "I will be fine. All efforts need to be concentrated on my son."

"With all due respect, Your Majesty," Eleniel argued gently, forcing herself to make eye contact with The King. She was treading carefully. She had overheard her mentor arguing with Thranduil a short time before and wholeheartedly agreed with his assessment that The King was dangerously weak, the full scarring on open display was a testament to that. But she knew how unlikely he was to heed her advice if he was refusing Aranhil's. "You are about to keel over. You have drained your fëa twice in a very short period of time. Your son needs you to be strong and whole. What would we do if he needs you to lend him more strength again and you have none? Allow me to help you rebuild it. Please, if not for own sake then do it for Lord Camthalion's."

Eleniel shifted slightly as Thranduil's weary gaze pierced her. In his current state, he wasn't quite as intimidating as he usually was and she was confident that even in her limited knowledge of medicine that he desperately needed to rest and was only harming himself further by being upright at the bedside. Finally, her words seemed to reach him when she mentioned his son and he nodded once in consent.

"Excellent," Eleniel smiled gently, never stopped from her task of administering the medication to Camthalion, "Hîr nín Legolas would you please help The King back to his room? We will be there as soon as I finish here."

Legolas sat for a moment, stunned, before helping his father raise shakily to his feet and allowing him to lean on him as he escorted him to the room next door. Aranhil grinned widely. The youngling, though clearly nervous to be in The King's presence, seemed to be able to hold her own against the formidable ellon.

"Well, don't get used to that, penneth," he laughed, "But The King is notorious for disregarding healers' orders. He must be very unwell to be this compliant. But I will leave him to you. I'm very interested to see how this will go!"

Eleniel shook her head at his obvious amusement. She was nervous. Before the previous day, she had never spoken directly to The King let alone touched him. But he was in need of medical care and it was her duty to make sure that he got it no matter how much he protested. But she was pleased with this first small victory. However, she was certain in the future she would not be so fortunate. She quickly finished with Camthalion before nervously walking over to the next room with Aranhil.

She was glad to see Legolas had already helped his father get settled on the bed. She peered down at The King. He was reclined back against the pillows with his eyes closed, almost as pale as his ailing son. To Eleniel he had always been a vision of perfection. He was always dressed impeccably and there never seemed to be a single strand of silky blond hair out of place. Currently, he looked so weary and disheveled he could have been mistaken for a common field hand. She briefly looked over at Aranhil who nodded encouragingly at her. She reached out a shaky hand and touched his cool, clammy brow. Thranduil's eyes shot open and he startled violently causing her to pull her hand back quickly as though she had been burned.

"I'm sorry, Aran nín," she murmured soothingly, "I did not mean to startle you."

"You didn't," he mumbled softly and allowed her to replace her hand on his brow.

"Of course not," she replied conversationally, as she moved her hand to cup his scarred cheek and gently guide his gaze up to her face, "But I was." He didn't reply and allowed her to take his pulse. "You are in pain," Eleniel stated. It wasn't a question. She knew by the elevated pulse and the look in his eyes that he was. "Allow me to give you something to help you sleep. When you wake up you will feel much better. Will you allow me to do that?" Thranduil looked ready to object. "I promise that Aranhil and I will stay with Lord Camthalion until you are able to rejoin him. Please, my lord, allow me to help you."

Thranduil wearily nodded and seemed to be near the end of his strength. He closed his eyes again as Eleniel walked over to the table and took the mortar and pestle in her hand.

"What do you recommend?" Aranhil quizzed her.

Eleniel scanned the herbs that were already laid out on the table. "I would give him a strong tonic of alfirin and miruvor to help him recover his strength. I would also add in a strong dose of valerian to aid him to sleep. Then add in a generous amount of carandôl. I think if he rests the remainder of the day until late tomorrow morning and gets a proper meal then he will be recovered enough to sit with Lord Camthalion."

Aranhil smiled. It was just what he had wanted to give Thranduil a short time before but he was stubbornly refused. "Prepare it quickly."

"Legolas."

Legolas hurried over to the bed at the sound of his father's sudden soft voice. "Yes, Adar?" he asked. He watched as Thranduil forced his eyes open and turned his exhausted gaze upon him. It was clear he was at the very end of his endurance.

"I want you to stay with your brother," Thranduil said with as much authority as he could muster. Legolas nodded. "I mean it, iôn nín. Do not leave his side until I return."

"I promise, Adar," Legolas assured him as he leaned down and kissed his father's cheek, "Rest well. Don't worry. I will stay with Camthalion."

Thranduil held his gaze for a long moment before nodding. Legolas turned to obey and go to sit at his brother's side. Thranduil watched him go until Eleniel stepped into his line of vision. In her hand was a small cup. Wordlessly, he accepted her help to get into a sitting position.

"Allow me to aid you," she said as she helped his shaking hands bring the cup to his lips. She smiled ruefully when he grimaced in disgust. "I am sorry, my lord. I know that must taste terrible but it will help you. Please drink the rest of it."

She guided him to help him drain the cup. The contents worked quickly as he struggled to keep his eyes open. He had no choice but to allow the young healer to help him lay back on the bed. He was deeply unconscious before he felt his head touch the pillows.

"Well done, penneth," Aranhil said as he came to her side and watched her pull the blankets up to The King's chest, "he should be out until tomorrow and that will do him a world of good."

"I was merely lucky," Eleniel replied, "Really, I have no idea how he was even able to sit at Lord Camthalion's bedside."

"He loves his son more than he loves himself," Aranhil stated.

"That is one thing I have learned about Aran Thranduil," Eleniel said as she looked down at the typically arrogant, formidable ellon sleeping on the bed, "He is a loving and devoted father."

"That he is."

*****

Thranduil entered Camthalion's room almost silently. Aranhil looked up from rolling the extra linens when he saw the door move from the corner of his eye.

"Good afternoon, my lord," he greeted quietly, "You look much more like yourself."

Thranduil had to agree with that statement wholeheartedly. After he had finally accepted the medicines, he had slept soundly through the remainder of the day and had not risen until the afternoon Sun blazed bright overhead. When he had awoken he had felt restored enough to bathe and then Amoniel had forced him to eat a plate of food that she had ordered from the kitchens and sent to his rooms.

"How is Camthalion faring?" Thranduil asked, not wanting to discuss his own health.

"The fever is still high," Aranhil answered him, "But it has lowered slightly. However, we are still struggling to control it. It seems to be responding at last just in the past hour or so. We must still wait before I can make speculation on his prognosis."

Thranduil approached the bedside. He smiled down at his youngest who for once in his life had obeyed his orders. Legolas was dozing lightly in a chair with his brother's hand in his. Thranduil gently shook his shoulder. Legolas awoke instantly, nearly jumping out of the chair at the unexpected touch.

"Thank you for staying with your brother," Thranduil told him as he watched Legolas blink sleepily up at him, "You may retire to your rooms. I will stay with Camthalion now."

"You look better, Adar," Legolas replied as he looked at him closely. He had never seen his father so ill and weak as he had yesterday and he was still worried about him. He wished Thranduil wouldn't be so obstinate about listening to the healers until he was in such a poor state and had very little choice.

Thranduil rolled his eyes. Why did everyone seem to feel the need to remind him how awful he looked? He was well aware that he had spent two days glued to his son's bedside except for when he had been unconscious from his fëa depletion.

"Thank you, iôn. Now be off with you."

"I will return later," Legolas promised before taking his leave.

Thranduil leaned down and placed a hand on Camthalion's brow. While he was still greatly fevered it seemed to him that the fever had lowered slightly. It made him hope that his son would finally start to gain some ground on his injuries. Cautiously hopeful, he sat down in the chair at the bedside and picked up the nearest book from the small stack on the bedside table and settled in to read to pass the long hours.

The remainder of the day passed by slowly. Thranduil and Amoniel spent their time at the bedside only leaving to attend to necessities. The day had been mercifully quiet and uneventful. Aranil and Eleniel dutifully came at regular intervals to administer treatment and evaluate the Crown Prince. They had no progress to report to them, but for the first time since he was brought to the Infirmary he did not deteriorate further. Aranhil was able to use that to get them to leave the Infirmary to attend a meal. Thranduil had asked for Legolas to attend the evening meal in The Dining Hall that evening and had once again found him missing. No one seemed to know where or when the young Ernil had disappeared. When Legolas had finally shown up at the end of the meal Thranduil had angrily dismissed him to his rooms when he was resentful of his father's questioning and had answered his inquiry cheekily. Thranduil was furious that Legolas would choose to deliberately disobey him, especially mere hours after he had been commanded that he was not to go off alone. Thranduil tried not to let it ruin his evening but his youngest's utter disregard for his own well being worried him. He would see to it that Legolas would not do it again. He had plans regarding his youngest son's safety and he would deal with it in the morning.

Thranduil returned the Infirmary to sit the night with Camthalion. Amoniel had wanted to join him but he had bid her to sleep in her bed. As she grew with child it was difficult for her to sit in the unyielding bedside chairs for hours and she was weary from the stress and grief of seeing her husband in such a state. She had reluctantly retired for the night only with Thranduil's promise to immediately send for her should Camthalion take a turn for the worse. He took his place at his son's bedside and slowly passed the time by reading to Camthalion or holding his hand and talking conversationally to him as though he were lucid and awake.

Around midnight Thranduil leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. He was weary of the entire situation. The past week seemed to have stretched on into an eternity. He felt himself start to float toward unconsciousness and he fought it. Only a moment later the haze of unconsciousness gently washed over him again. Without warning sudden, a subtle shift in his fëa jolted him fully awake. He was still for a moment, unsure of what had happened and began to think that he had imagined it. He was just about to close his eyes when he felt it once more. The bond he shared with Camthalion flared again. His son was searching for him, trying to find him while his fëa was lost in a sea of agony and pain. Thranduil knew that Camthalion's fëa and hröa were only tethered together by a fragile thread and feared it was about to break. He knocked over the chair as he quickly jumped up to stand at the bedside. He took his son's warm, battered hand in his.

"Camthalion?"

Thranduil stared in dismay as he remained unchanged. He placed a hand on his brow and was surprised to find that the fever had unexpectedly lowered somewhat since he had returned from the evening meal.

"Camthalion?" he called again.

He watched his son's face intently and suddenly a flash of azure blue eyes met his for an instant. Thranduil felt his heart leap.

"Camthalion," he said again as he gripped the slender hand more tightly. He turned toward the door as he heard Aranhil and Eleniel return.

"What is it?" Aranhil asked, instantly alarmed by the look on The King's face.

"He just opened his eyes."

Aranhil nearly ran to the bedside while Thranduil stepped out of the way to give them space. Aranhil took Camthalion's hand in his.

"My lord?"

All three edhil watched closely for a reaction. There was none. Camthalion remained still.

"Ernil nín?" Aranhil called to him more loudly.

Once more there was no reaction. Aranhil and Eleniel glanced at each other, both wondering if he had indeed opened his eyes or if it was just the imagination of a distressed father.

"Let's see if he reacts to pain," Aranhil said. "Prince Camthalion?" he said loudly as he roughly rubbed his knuckles on the ellon's exposed sternum. To their delight, a slight grimace erupted on his face and he softly moaned at the unexpected pain. Aranhil tried to get him to open his eyes several more times to no avail. "Sit with him, Aran nín. He may respond better to you."

Thranduil returned to his place at the bedside and sat down on the edge of the bed. With one hand he stroked Camthalion's hair and with the other, he held his hand.

"Iôn nín?" he called again, "Please open your eyes."

For one long moment, there was no change but suddenly Camthalion's eyes opened. He stared blankly up at this father and Thranduil could feel the slight nudge of their fëar.

"I am right here, iôn," he said softly, leaning down to place a kiss on his cheek as he fought to keep his voice steady.

Though Camthalion's stare was blank and it seemed as though he were staring through Thranduil he knew in his father's heart that his son understood and recognized him. Camthalion's eyes closed again and he sank deep into unconsciousness, his energy spent. Thranduil looked over at Aranhil. Both healers looked relieved and pleased with the current new development.

"We must be cautious," Aranhil said, breaking the silence, "But we may have hope yet that he will survive. This is encouraging. However, I must warn you, my lord, that the slightest complication could still take his life."

Thranduil didn't trust himself to speak. He knew his son would live. He had been bonded to this ellon for over 1600 years. He knew Camthalion as well as he knew himself. He could read every facial expression, the slightest change in his posture, the most minute shift in tone and inflection. He shared his joy as well as his sorrow. For the first time in nearly a week terror fled him. His son would survive and live to fight another day on the battlefield. He was sure of it.

*****

Glandur stood outside the doors of The Great Hall. He was nervous and tried not to fidget too obviously. He had never been summoned by The Elvenking and wondered what he wanted from him. The messenger had arrived at his house during the morning meal with a message written by Aearion, the chief advisor telling him to report to The Great Hall before King Thranduil instead of The Military Headquarters that morning. His mother had fussed over him endlessly, making sure his hair was plaited neatly and his tunic fee of wrinkles and that he looked presentable to be before The King. Being born into a poor, Silvan family he had had very little contact with the nobility and no one in his family had ever been personally summoned by The King before, making him feel very anxious. He heard the herald announce him, interrupting his nervous musing. He instantly corrected his posture and quickly smoothed down the front of his uniform so his mother's efforts would not be in vain. The doors opened and he stepped forward into the large room when he was beckoned forward by the herald. Step by step he forced himself to walk steadily until he reached a respectful distance from the dais where he bowed low to The Elvenking.

"Rise."

Glandur obeyed and looked up only briefly at Thranduil's piercing blue eyes. He felt as though The King could see through him.

"I am sure you are wondering why I asked to see you," Thranduil stated without preamble.

"Yes, Aran nín," Glandur answered, his mind racing for any reasonable explanation.

Before Thranduil could reply the doors opened again.

"Prince Legolas, Your Majesty, " the heard announced.

Legolas looked mildly confused as he approached. He too stopped beside Glandur and bowed. Thranduil wordlessly motioned for him to rise.

"Remind me, Glandur, you were the Lieutenant responsible for the patrol last summer when Prince Legolas was grievously injured were you not?" The King asked though it was fairly obvious he knew the answer.

Glandur felt the color drain from his face and his legs felt suddenly weak. He looked down at The King's boots. No one had mentioned that terrible incident to him since The Commander had stripped him of his rank nearly a year ago. It had caused him and his family much shame and dishonor though nobody spoke to them directly about it. "Yes, my lord," Glandur replied quietly.

"As I recall you were the one who placed my unconscious son in my arms," Thranduil said. It wasn't a question but a blunt statement being directed toward him. Legolas opened his mouth to speak up but was silenced with one stern look from his father.

"I was, my lord," Glandur said in an even smaller voice, still refusing to look up.

"Look at me."

It took all of Glandur's courage to look up into The King's face. Unexpectedly, the blue eyes softened as Thranduil looked at him earnestly. "I have been told that you saved Our Ernil twice from injury and likely death. I summoned you here to personally express my gratitude to you."

"I was only following your command, Aran nín," he said, struggling to maintain eye contact.

"And because you did my son is alive," Thranduil replied, "Neurion has turned in a very detailed report to me describing how you conducted yourself and how you obeyed my command without hesitation. I take such loyalty and obedience very seriously. He also told me that you were injured in defense of Prince Legolas."

"I was, my lord," Glandur said, "You told me not to leave his side and I did not."

"You have my thanks," Thranduil told him.

Glandur nodded. Of all the things he had expected The King to say he had not expected to be thanked after he had been hastily assigned to guard the young Prince at the last moment, merely out of convenience.

"Tell me Glandur, are you betrothed?" The King asked quite unexpectedly as his eyes sought the soldier's right hand, searching for a silver betrothal ring.

"No, my lord."

"How old are you?" Thranduil asked.

"I have seen 817 summers, my lord," Glandur replied, getting more confused by the line of questioning. He wondered why he was getting asked so many personal questions. Thranduil did not seem the type to meddle in others' affairs. He allowed himself a side glance at Legolas who looked as confused as he felt.

"Do you enjoy being assigned with Prince Legolas?"

"Yes, my lord, I have had no quarrel with him," Glandur answered honestly. Though he thought the young ellon beside him was rather undisciplined and outspoken, he also found him to be friendly and affable. He genuinely liked him.

"Then I have a proposal for you," Thranduil told him, "Despite my initial opinion, Glandur, your recent performance has left me with a favorable impression of you. I want to assign you as Lord Legolas's personal guard."

Glandur stood in place on for a long moment, stunned. Such a placement was a great honor reserved only for the most loyal and skilled of soldiers. Now the questioning made sense to him. Because of the nature of the placement Royal personal guards were always single and unattached.

"Adar...I mean, Aran nín, " Legolas started to say, quickly remembering the formal setting.

"Quiet," Thranduil snapped at him before turning back to Glandur, "This is not something to be undertaken lightly. I will not command you to take this assignment and I will hold no ill will against you should you refuse.

"Yes, my lord."

"I am not an easy ellon to please," Thranduil continued in his usual brisk manner, "I will expect steadfast devotion to our Prince. Every day your duty will begin and end with his. You will never be more than an arm's length away from him outside of The Palace. You must always be alert and ready to shield him from whatever may come. I'm sure I don't need to remind you what happened to Feren."

"I understand, my lord," Glandur said. No, he most certainly didn't need to be reminded. He wouldn't soon forget the condition in which they found Lord Camthalion and his guard on that fateful day.

"Then you must also understand that this a permanent assignment," Thranduil told him, "Elros has been with me since my adar was The Elvenking. He assigned Elros to me when we came to The Greenwood. That was well over 4,000 years ago."

"I understand, my lord."

"Such an assignment will require unwavering loyalty to the House of Oropher," Thranduil continued, " you will be privy to most of Lord Legolas's life and by extension that of the Crown Prince's and mine as well. All that you see and hear will be strictly confidential."

Silence enveloped them and Glandur realized Thranduil had said all he intended to say. "You honor me with your proposal, Aran nín," he said as he looked The King steadily in the eye, his voice now proud and clear as he got down on his knees, "I wholeheartedly accept this assignment. I will, my sovereign lord, protect your son as you have commanded. I will shield him from harm and willingly forfeit my life for his should the unfortunate situation arise. I pledge my unwavering loyalty and my life to that of your House."

"I accept that as your pledge. Rise," Thranduil stated as he held out his right hand. Glandur stepped forward and took The King's hand in his. He bent down and kissed the signet ring on his hand that contained the Crest of the Greenwood, sealing his Oath.

"Now, a change in your assignment comes with a pay raise," Thranduil told him as he motioned Aearion, who had been standing quietly a short distance away from the throne, to step forward. The advisor handed The King a roll of parchment. "I am prepared to compensate you for your time and the danger you will most assuredly place yourself in."

Thranduil held out the parchment to him. Glandur stepped forward and took it from him. He unrolled it and carefully read each word. The King had outlined very specifically what was expected from him and in what ways he would be compensated. His eyes widened as he read the amount of his new pay raise. He would receive in a month what would currently take him almost an entire year to earn. The King was also willing to compensate him in ways other the wages he earned. He would be given a horse, cloth for his uniforms, all of his weapons would be supplied and all would be replaced as needed. In the event of injury, he would have access to the Royal healers and all medical expenses would be covered by The King. There was even a clause about travel obligations and that the expenses for those the Crown would cover. The King was willing to pay his funeral costs if he ended up losing his life in defense of the Prince. His family would also receive a monetary settlement in the event of his death on duty.

"Step this way if you are ready to sign your contract," Aearion said as he gestured toward a table sitting a small distance away. Glandur followed him and signed his name at the bottom under Thranduil's. Aearion smiled at him and nodded before he quietly took the parchment and walked out to file it.

"I don't need a guard," Legolas said sullenly, completely unaffected by the seriousness of what had just transpired.

Glandur watched in trepidation as The King shot his son a look that very clearly a warning for him to be silent.

"And I disagree. Look what happened to your brother and that was a very short distance from The Palace. I will not allow that to happen again. You are far too precious to me, my ErniI," Thranduil told him matter of factly before turning back to Glandur," As you can see my children have been indulged, especially this one."

Legolas's mouth flew open in shock. Thranduil ignored him and continued to speak to the new Royal guard.

"I want this to be perfectly clear. You will answer to me and only me, Glandur," Thranduil told him, " your task is to do what you must to keep my son alive even if that means defying a direct order from a Captain or even The Troop Commander.

"Yes, Aran nín," Glandur replied. The very thought was disconcerting. Though he had great respect for The King he knew how critical and downright rude he could be. More than once he had seen several of the Captains and even the Troop Commander return from meeting with Thranduil and judging by the looks on their faces he had known when it had not gone well. Now he was about to be in that same position regularly. He didn't even want to think about what Lord Camthalion would say or do if he openly defied him.

The King turned a stern look upon his son who was once again trying to interrupt.

"I am perfectly serious," he said before looking back at Glandur once more, "You answer to me alone. You are not to answer to Lord Legolas. I am sure he will try to give you orders to leave him alone or for you to go along with things he knows I will not endorse. But pay him no heed. He may be your Prince but in matters of his safety he has absolutely no authority over you."

Legolas and Glandur gave each other a long look before turning their attention back to The King simultaneously.

"Furthermore, I expect you to help our young Ernil mature. I'm sure you have noticed that he is impulsive and is in great need of some discipline," Thranduil continued, completely unconcerned by the clear outrage on his son's face, "I've grown very weary of receiving disciplinary reports about him. I want you to help him learn to accept and follow orders without question and to quell his childish impulses."

"As you command, Aran nín," Glandur replied, knowing that it was the only acceptable response.

Thranduil smiled as he stood from his throne and gave his son a pointed look. He removed his crown and held it out as a servant rushed forth to take it from him and to remove the court robes from his slender shoulders.

"All I ask is that you bring my elfing home to his ada each day," Thranduil said with a smirk and reached out to affectionately pat Legolas on the cheek as he passed by.

Glandur bit his lip to stop himself from laughing outright. No matter what others said or thought about their formidable King it seemed he did have a sense of humor after all. Legolas glared at his father's back. He knew Thranduil had said that to deliberately embarrass him and thought himself quite humorous.

"Take your new guard to Galion, Legolas," Thranduil said as he turned back, still smirking as he waited for the herald to open the door for him, "he will get him what he needs. You may start tomorrow morning, Glandur."

"Yes, my lord."

Both Legolas and Glandur watched the King stalk out of the room before looking once more at each other.

"There is no changing my adar's mind when he gets like this. Come, let's find Galion. He manages most of the Household and personally attends The King," Legolas explained after he let out an exaggerated, put upon sigh.

"Yes, my lord," Glandur replied.

"I suppose it is just Legolas now," his young charge said, "There is no need for such formality. But don't expect my brother to allow you to call him anything but lord."

"Of course, Legolas," Glandur said with a smile as he followed The Prince toward the Royal Quarters of the Palace.

TBC...

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Glandur nervously walked through The Great Doors. He was still reeling in shock over what had transpired in the past day. He still couldn't believe that The King himself had selected him to personally guard the young Prince. Such an honor was rare and he took the immense trust Thranduil had placed in him very seriously. By the time he had returned home late the previous evening word had spread like wildfire. His parents had already learned of his promotion before he had even opened the front door. They were delighted for him and the shame of the accident the year before seemed to have been washed away now that The King seemed willing to forget it.

"Glandur!"

Glandur turned and saw Elros walking toward him. "Mae govannen," he greeted him with a compatriotic smile.

Elros returned the greeting, trying not to look as nervous as he felt.

"The King asked me to help you settle in," Elros said as he motioned for the younger ellon to follow him. They began to walk away from the public area of The Palace and toward the Royal Quarters.

"The King and Prince Legolas are at breakfast with Lady Amoniel," Elros explained, "We will wait outside the Dining Hall until they are finished. You normally would go with Lord Legolas either to stand guard over him inside The Great Hall if The King requires him there or to report to Military Headquarters and go with him to do whatever duty he is assigned. But with Lord Camthalion still in such poor condition, I look for him to stay near the Infirmary. Of course, it will just depend on what His Majesty wishes."

Glandur nodded.

"It is really quite simple. Just guard him. Do whatever you must to keep him safe. You will be with Our Ernil from his first to his last duty every day except when you are on official leave. Stay within arm's length of him outside of The Palace. Never let him from your sight even for a moment and be ready to draw your sword in an instant in his defense."

Glandur nodded again.

"In here with a heavy guard and The Great Doors you can relax a little," Elros continued as they took a seat on a bench outside the Dining Hall. "Just know where he is at all times and don't let him do anything too stupid that would annoy His Majesty. Within the confines of The Palace, you must walk a few feet behind him if The King or The Crown Prince is with him to give them some privacy. You must stand at attention directly behind him in The Great Hall or in The Council Chambers if his duty takes him there. But outside of here you will be assigned with him and will escort him everywhere he has to go until he crosses the threshold of The Palace. You must always know where he is and what he has been doing. The King will want to know and believe me, he will question you regularly."

"I understand. The King told me you have been his guard since he came to The Greenwood," Glandur told him.

"Yes, Oropher asked me to be his son's personal guard not long after they settled here and I have been at his side since that day," Elros replied, his gray eyes clouded in long memory, "The King was very young then. I have been with him through many, many centuries and I have not once regretted my decision to take this path in my military career. I have served him when he was our Crown Prince and now I continue to do so now that he is King. He is one of my oldest friends."

Glandur's eyes widened. The King was so serious and temperamental. He almost seemed so remote and isolated that it was hard to believe anyone would call themselves his friend.

"He wasn't always as he was now," Elros told him, with a sad smile, recognizing the look on Glandur's face, "He has seen far too many battles and wars. He has lost almost all of those dear to him. His adar...his naneth...Our Queen. The weight of the Crown takes its toll on him. He was once young like you when he smiled often and laughed easily. But much has changed since those glorious, peaceful days. Now his fëa is full of sorrow and burdened by duty."

"I am sorry for him."

"As am I," Elros replied, "I often miss the young Sinda Ernil that I mentored as he learned to become a son of these Woods. Though already scarred by war he was much less jaded than he is now. But he was happy here under The Greenwood. He learned our language and customs so quickly we soon forgot that he was born in Beleriand."

"You know him well," Glandur commented, feeling as though he would never have such intimate connection to Legolas.

"Don't worry if things are rough at first," Elros told him, "It will take some adjustment on both your parts. But with time I am sure you will learn to trust and rely on each other just as Thranduil and I have. When I accepted this position from Oropher, Thranduil wasn't happy. He didn't think he needed a guard and he tried to slip away from me constantly. I was always running after him and barking orders at him and telling him that he made my life difficult and The King angry. It wasn't working well. He was very resentful and suspicious of me. So I took a different approach. Instead of ordering him around like his jailer I started to treat him like I would my younger brother. I guided him. I encouraged his strengths and challenged him when he struggled. I celebrated his triumphs with him and stood beside him during hard times. When he saw that I was there to help him and support him he became very receptive to me and to this day we have a strong bond."

"Prince Legolas was not happy with this assignment," Glandur replied, "But I will keep your advice in mind in handling him."

"Oh no one envies you, Glandur," Elros said with a laugh, "That young princeling is really going to make you earn your wages. He is very spoiled and very undisciplined. You have your work cut out for you!"

"I know," Glandur groaned, "His Majesty told me as much yesterday after I signed the contract."

"You will find that The King tends to indulge his sons," Elros said not unkindly, "But with Prince Legolas, he has especially so. He tends to mollycoddle him and is extremely overprotective. Don't be surprised if he expects you to report to him every day."

Glandur groaned. The Elvenking was a very intimidating ellon. He didn't want to spend every evening reporting the Ernil's every move to him.

"You will be fine," Elros told him encouragingly, "Just do what is in Lord Legolas's best interests and everything else will fall into place. The King would never have asked you to do the job if he didn't think you were worthy of having such a vital role in his son's life."

Glandur nodded solemnly. He hoped that Thranduil's trust was not misplaced.

"The King has you and Feren to guard him and now Legolas has me," Glandur observed, "Why does Lord Camthalion not have a guard?"

"She was killed several centuries ago during an attack in the North. She saved Prince Camthalion from certain death, " Elros said seriously, "and the Ernil refused to accept another placement no matter what The King said. Besides, he was promoted to the rank of Commander and spends less time in combat so he has little need of a guard since so much of his work is from The Military Headquarters. But there are times when he does go out and The King typically makes him take Feren with him."

Glandur nodded yet again at the reminder of the danger he would place himself in. His somber musings were interrupted when the doors opened and Legolas stepped out into the corridor, causing the two guards to rise to their feet. Elros smirked at the suspicious look the young Prince gave him as though he knew they had been talking about him.

"Do try to remember my lord Legolas that today is Glandur's first day on duty," Elros gently teased with a wicked smile, "Please go easy on him."

"This is none of your affair, Elros," Legolas snapped irritably, "You are The King's guard and not mine!"

"I am only trying to help, my lord," Elros said innocently, still smirking.

"Legolas, stop being rude," Thranduil commanded as he stepped into the doorway, "I have had my fill of it today."

Glandur swallowed nervously at the impertinent look Legolas gave The King and it was clear he wanted to say much on the matter but wisely kept his mouth shut. Thranduil looked annoyed as he turned to Glandur.

"Since Legolas had decided that he doesn't owe his father and King obedience he is going to report to Neurion in the Commander's office this morning," Thranduil told him.

"Yes, Aran nín," Glandur replied with a slight bow.

Legolas looked at Thranduil sullenly for a long minute. Glandur was once again shocked at the lack of maturity and respect. By the time he was 50, he had learned to do as he was told and it would never have occurred to him to treat his father so disrespectfully.

"Good day, Adar," Legolas said finally, though it was clear to all he wasn't sincere. He turned and walked down the corridor without looking or saying anything to anyone. Glandur fell in step behind him. They walked away from The Great Doors and toward Legolas's rooms. "I have to retrieve my sword and bow before we can leave," he explained.

"Yes, my lord," Glandur replied instantly, glad that Legolas's rash anger was directed toward The King rather than at him.

"Remember it is just Legolas now," The Prince told him as he opened the door to the adjoining sitting room.

"Of course," Glandur replied as they went into the sleeping chamber. He tried not to gape so obviously and make his features neutral and he looked around the untidy room. The bed was unmade and it looked as though trolls had been wrestling on it. The floor was littered with clothing and some of the bedding. A trail of towels led into the bath chamber. A half empty decanter of wine and glasses were on the bedside table and every available surface contained an untidy stack of books.

"The maids have not come in today to clean yet," Legolas said somewhat defensively as he hurriedly tied his belt around his slim waist.

Glandur nodded. This young ellon's life was so very different from his. Perhaps that was why Thranduil chose him to be his son's guard. He had never seen such wealth as The Elvenking's. He had not realized how spoiled Legolas was and how he seemed to want for nothing. As he looked around the extravagance of the beautiful room he noticed that Legolas did not seem to notice it at all. He paid no mind to the expensive rugs on the floor, exquisite art that hung on the walls or the ornate furniture. By the time he had been Legolas's age, he had known how to clean up after himself. But Legolas didn't seem to know how to do that and had others that were willing to do it for him. Glandur wondered if he even knew how to dress himself. He sighed as he watched his Prince shoulder his bow. He had his work cut out of him that much was clear, just as Elros had said. Giving Legolas a small smile he followed him out of the room and started toward The Greens.

*****

Thranduil selected yet another roll of parchment from the thick stack on the bedside table. He was still unwilling to leave Camthalion's side. Just attending a simple meal in The Dining Hall caused him to be anxious and worry the short time he was gone. Camthalion's condition had not improved since he had opened his eyes the previous day. His fever had remained the same and he was soundly unconscious. He responded slightly to pain but Aranhil did not have the heart to subject him to it regularly. Thranduil and Amoniel had only been successful twice to get him to briefly open his eyes with that blank stare. Thranduil was trying to be patient. He knew his son should have died from his wounds. But he hadn't. It was going to take him a long time to recover. But the long hours at the bedside only have him time to dwell on it and it nearly drove him mad from idleness. So he started to work from the Infirmary to help pass the time.

"Good morning, Aran nín."

Thranduil looked up and returned Eleniel and Aranhil's greeting.

"We are going to change the dressing," Aranhil explained, "And then I would like to try to get some nutrition into him. He is wasting away with each passing day."

"Do what you must," Thranduil said. He agreed with the assessment. Camthalion had not taken in any nourishment for over a week. Each day he looked thinner and more frail as he used all of his reserves to battle fever and infection.

He watched as Eleniel pulled the thin sheet down to rest below the wound. As she did that Aranhil placed his hand on Camthalion's brow.

"It still burns."

"I figured as much," Thranduil replied, "But at least it is lower than it was a couple of days ago."

"Absolutely, my lord," Aranhil said as he watched Eleniel gently cut away the bandages. He grimaced as he observed the wound. "Cleanse it again," he told her.

"Goldenseal and calendula?"

"Yes," Aranhil answered her before turning back to Thranduil, "I can determine from examining the wound externally that it is still badly infected. His abdomen remains swollen with infection. It is still seeping from the wound." Thranduil grimaced as he looked down and watched Eleniel gently clean away the infection that had dried to the sutures. "But there is still cause to hope, my lord," Aranhil said with a smile, "Blood is no longer seeping from it. He has pulled through the complication from the poison. That is one less thing Our Prince has to suffer."

Thranduil sighed. His poor boy had suffered enough. He would do anything to be able to switch places with him. He would gladly do it in an instant. He watched as Eleniel spread a soothing, healing salve thickly over the red and blackened angry skin and then wrap it in a new, clean dressing.

"I have some chicken broth for him, hîr nín," she said, picking up the small bowl from the table, "I hope he can keep it down. It will help him regain some strength as he continues to battle this Infection."

She sat down on the edge of the bed and started to speak to him soothingly as she gently opened his mouth and fed him one small spoonful at a time. Thranduil appreciated her approach to his ailing son. She always spoke to him as though he were able to converse back, explaining what she was doing and why. She often sang to him to try to soothe away his hurts and held his hand when she knew she had to do something that would cause him pain. He was seriously thinking of offering her a position when her training was complete.

"He really needs the nutrition," Aranhil said, "It will help him fight this infection. We simply can not keep him hydrated with his fever this high for so long. It must lower soon. He can't keep on like he is much longer."

"I know, mellon nín," Thranduil said sadly, "And I do appreciate all your efforts and hard work that you have put into healing my son. I trust his care with no one but you."

"Thank you, my lord," Aranhil replied, "I am honored and humbled by your faith in my skills. I only wish I had more positive news to report to you."

"As hard as it is I will just have to wait," Thranduil said as he looked down at his broken son, "and as you know I am not a patient ellon."

Aranhil chuckled. No, he most certainly was not.

*****

Glandur stood to stretch some of his muscles. He wasn't used to sitting behind a desk all day. But Legolas had been commanded by The King to assist Neurion in the Commander's office and that was what they had to do. They were swamped with work. There seemed to be no end of paperwork or edhil filing into the office. But Neurion seemed very grateful to have him there to help. He seemed very stressed and feeling the pressure of the position in which he found himself.

"Do you think His Majesty will allow me to have an audience with him, Legolas?" Neurion asked as he organized the paperwork that littered The Commander's desk.

"No, he was going to sit with Camthalion for the day," Legolas replied as he handed him another sheet of parchment to add to his pile, "He is still unwell. The King won't leave the Infirmary unless there is something extremely urgent that requires his immediate attention. You may be able to speak to Aearion."

"I would rather not," Neurion quipped, wrinkling his nose in disgust. He and The King's advisor had never gotten along.

"Whyever not?" Legolas asked with obvious feigned innocence as he grinned at him.

Neurion was about to reply when a soldier appeared at the door.

"Captain you are needed to supervise the novice sword training exercise," she said.

"Are these the ones who will be joining the ranks next month?" Neurion asked, hoping they weren't and he could get out of it.

"Yes."

"I will be right there," he said with a sigh before turning to Legolas, "Well, I must go. Legolas, you will have to finish these dockets have them sent to the Treasury. I am sure everyone will want their wages this month. I will return this afternoon."

"Yes, Captain," Legolas replied as he got up and took Neurion's seat behind his brother's desk. He looked at the sea of parchment in front of him and didn't know where to begin. His head ached with a dull throb and he longed to inhale just one thin line of powder to chase it all away. Of course, he couldn't now that Glandur was glued to his side.

"This is boring," he complained grumpily.

"It is," Glandur agreed, wishing they could be out on patrol instead of trapped within the confines of the office, especially on such a beautiful Summer morning.

"I wish my adar would let me stay with my brother," Legolas said suddenly.

"I thought His Majesty ordered you here today because you have disappeared twice now," Glandur mildly commented.

"It is hard to be in the Infirmary for hours," Legolas scowled but then his face softened and he looked worried, "I hope Camthalion has not deteriorated further."

"I am sure if something happened your adar would have sent for you," Glandur tried to reassure him.

Legolas shrugged and then returned to his task. He started to add up the sums for the pay to be distributed within the week. He was glad of it. He was nearly out of funds and would need to purchase more powder. He worked quietly for nearly an hour before he came to Glandur's name. His eyes nearly fell from their sockets when he saw the amount that the Realm was paying his guard. Anger and resentment flared once more and he wished the ellon to be gone from his sight.

"It's nearly time for the midday meal," Legolas said casually, "You can go home to your meal early if you like."

"I am not supposed to leave you," Glandur replied, "You know that I have to make sure you make it back to The Palace."

"It is but a short walk from here," Legolas argued nodding in the direction of The Palace, "My brother and I walked it in a blizzard last Winter. It will be fine."

"Just the same, I will escort you," Glandur said firmly.

Legolas rolled his eyes and heaved a great put upon sigh. He returned to his work without saying a word. A few minutes later the insistent itch of need hit him again. With both Glandur and Neurion in the office, he had been unable to get away to inhale a small amount midway through the morning.

"Glandur?" he asked pleasantly.

"Yes?"

"Would you mind bringing me a cup of tea?" Legolas asked.

"Certainly," Glandur said, happy that Legolas's bad mood had vanished. He walked the short distance to the common room and poured a cup of tea from the communal pot. When he walked back down the corridor he saw that the door to the Commander's office was now closed. He reached out to open the door and found it locked.

"Legolas?" he called as he shook the door, "Legolas?"

There was no answer.

"Legolas!" he called more loudly as he knocked on the door, "Let me in!"

Again he was met with silence.

"Legolas!" he shouted, his patience had run out, "Open the door or I will kick it in!"

There was no response. He set the cup of tea down and considered the heavy ornate oak door in front of him. Focusing his strength he kicked it violently causing it to wobble slightly. It took two more attempts before the door jamb splintered and the door swung open with so much force it hit the wall. Glandur looked around the room angrily and felt a gentle breeze. The window was open and the room was now free of its occupant. He rushed over and stuck his head out the window, looking over the expanse of The Common Greens. The Prince was nowhere sight.

*****

"My lord?"

Thranduil looked up as Eleniel called to him from the door.

"A soldier is here and he said he needs to speak with you," she told him.

"Is it Neurion? Tell him I will not be taking audiences today," Thranduil told her.

"It isn't Neurion, my lord," Eleniel replied, "But I do not know his name."

Thranduil frowned. He had a feeling of dread which soldier would personally seek him out. Eleniel took his place at the bedside and he walked out to the entrance of the Infirmary. Glandur stood there looking to be near hyperventilation and downright ill with worry.

"Aran nín," he said hastily as he bowed, "I am so sorry but I have lost your son. I must humbly beg your pardon."

"What happened?" Thranduil demanded, swallowing a flare of annoyance.

"Neurion was called away and Legolas asked me to bring him some tea," Glandur explained, fearing what The King would say or do, "When I returned he had locked the door. I kicked it open and he had climbed out the window. I couldn't find anywhere on The Commons. I have looked everywhere and no one has seen him."

"Calm down," Thranduil said as he placed a hand on his shoulder, "I am not surprised at all. I knew he would try something like this."

Glandur nodded and took a deep breath, almost dizzy with relief that The King had not shouted at him or dismissed him from his service.

"Listen to me, Glandur," Thranduil said, "You are his guard and not his servant. You are not to be catering to his every whim." Glandur nodded. "Elros?" Thranduil called, not having to even look behind him to know his guard was there, "What would you say to me if I asked you to fetch me a cup of tea?"

"I would have said for you to get your own damned tea, my lord," Elros answered him, grinning.

"Quite right," Thranduil replied, giving him an amused glance before turning back to the younger guard, "Legolas has absolutely no authority over you in regards to his safety and what you must do to fulfill your duty to me. You are under no obligation to do his bidding. It is not your job to keep him happy. Your job is to keep him alive. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Aran nín," Glandur told him, "I am sorry."

"There is no need for an apology. I should have made your role more clear to both of you yesterday," Thranduil said regrettably.

"I will find him, my lord," Glandur said with a confidence he didn't feel. He had no idea where to even begin to search.

"Elros and I will help you," Thranduil replied, "He probably went out into The Forest. Come."

Glandur followed in step behind The King and beside Elros as he led them out The Great Doors toward the stables.

"Would you really say that to His Majesty?" Glandur quietly asked him in disbelief.

"Yes," Elros said with a smile, "I have before. My oath was sworn to King Oropher and I still hold to that. I promised him I would keep his son safe. Only my death will release me from that oath. Thranduil understands that."

Glandur nodded seriously. He was angry that Legolas had manipulated him so easily only after 3 hours on the job. He stood in the stables next to Elros while the stable hands prepared their horses. He felt so incredibly out of place and underqualified for the job. He felt anxious and wanted nothing more than to go home where everything was familiar. His family was poor and simple. Palace life was anything but. He was unused to such finery and having servants rushing about to do even the most trivial things for him. He was still nervous in the presence of The King. He felt as though he didn't belong.

"You are doing fine," Elros murmured as he placed a fraternal hand on his arm, "Thranduil was every bit as much trouble for me. Don't take it to heart. The King is angry but not with you."

Glandur nodded, sending him a grateful look. Elros's kind words of support made his burdened heart lift a little just when he needed it most.

"Let's go," Thranduil said as he mounted his horse, "I know he is armed but I don't want him alone in The Forest."

Elros and Glandur quickly followed suit and were soon under the dense canopy of The Greenwood. Thranduil rode Sírdal at an easy trot on The Path for several minutes before coming to a stop. There was nothing amiss. Everything was as it should be and there was no sign of the wayward Prince. The bond he shared with Legolas told him he was alive and unhurt.

"Do you think he went off of The Path, my lord?" Elros asked as he looked around.

"Most likely because he knows that would make it more difficult to find him," Thranduil answered him with no attempt to mask how annoyed he was with the situation. He sat for a moment and thought about his strong willed son. When he was troubled he always liked to be in the Woods. Thranduil realized he probably knew where he was. Without a word he veered off the Path, the two guards following behind him.

Thranduil's heart lurched when they arrived at their destination. He had retrieved his son from this very spot that horrible Winter day, the day Sellion had been buried when his fëa had been too consumed by guilt and grief to attend the funeral and he had sought solace among the trees. Thranduil dismounted as did the other two ellyn. They looked around and saw no sign of Legolas. Glandur bit his lip. The Prince had been missing now for well over an hour.

"Get down here," Thranduil suddenly barked, looking up into the thick leaves of the large mallorn tree. They were met with silence. The slightest rustle of the leaves could be heard, giving away that Legolas was nestled in the boughs. "Get down here now, son or I will come after you," Thranduil said in a steely voice that foretold that would be what indeed happened should he not be obeyed.

"Just go away, Adar," Legolas called down to him, "I want to be alone."

"Get down here," Thranduil shouted at him, "Now!"

"No." Elros and Glandur looked at each other with wide eyes, certain that The Elvenking's infamous temper was about to make an appearance.

"You are going to be very unhappy when I get up there," Thranduil warned him as he placed his hand on the nearest bough and made to haul himself up into the branches.

Suddenly there was movement overhead and Legolas gracefully made his way to the Forest's floor in only a few seconds.

"I am very disappointed in you," Thranduil said as he roughly grabbed him by his upper arm. Legolas tried to wrench himself from his father's grip but he held him firm, "Do you know that in some Mannish cultures it is perfectly acceptable to beat your children? I am starting to understand why."

Legolas's mouth dropped open in shock. His father had never once struck him or his brother and the fact that he was considering it made him feel sick.

"I just wanted to be alone!" he snapped back at Thranduil, "I have no need for a nursemaid. You can send Glandur home because I am not going to allow him to follow me everywhere like some hound."

"You will do as your King commands," Thranduil barked as him as he gripped his shoulders and gave him a firm shake, "You have little choice in the matter."

"I don't need him," Legolas griped, "Camthalion doesn't have a guard."

"Your brother is much older and far more experienced than you are. Can you recall him running off into The Forest to sulk because his ada made him angry?" Thranduil asked nastily, "And further, I do not have to justify my reasoning or decisions to you, penneth. I am your father and you are going to either obey me out of love and respect or you can do it out of fear. It is your choice."

Elros and Glandur looked at each other for a long moment before turning back to the heated argument. They knew they should move discreetly away but were too stunned to move.

"Once again I have thought you could not disappointment me further and yet again you prove me wrong," Thranduil lectured, "Your brother is grievously injured. I should be at his side. But where am I now? I have to chase you through the Wood to keep you from meeting that same fate! Do you have any idea what it would do to me if I lost you?"

"Adar," Legolas started to whine.

"I don't want to hear of it," Thranduil talked over him, "Your behavior serves as nothing but a testament to how much you need your guard."

Legolas turned his glare from his father to Glandur, "I suppose you ran off and tattled to The King."

"Silence!" Thranduil snapped, "He doesn't answer to you. He is not your personal valet and he is not to do your bidding. He is here to make sure you live to see another day." Legolas still looked rebellious and Thranduil itched to remove the look from his face. "Look at him," Thranduil commanded. Legolas defiantly looked down at his boots. Thranduil reached out and none too gently took his jaw in his hand and turned his face toward the guard.

"Look at him," he commanded again and this time Legolas obeyed. Glandur looked very stressed and anxious and guilt flared in his stomach for he personally liked him. Thranduil let go of his face. "This ellon has pledged a very serious oath. He is willing to die in your defense and shield you with his very life. He has already taken a wound for you. He deserves some gratitude and respect, does he not?"

It was silent for a long moment. Glandur could not believe how Thranduil came to his defense. It was unexpected but very much appreciated. Elros looked at The King and smiled sadly. He could have sworn it was Oropher himself standing before him.

Finally, Legolas nodded. "I am sorry, Glandur," he said softly as he looked him in the eye, "Please forgive me."

Glandur nodded. It was tempting to further ostracize the young Prince and tell him how his carelessness had caused him such fear and worry. But The King had already done that and Glandur recalled Elros's words early that morning. He took a deep breath and decided to react the same way he would if he had a little brother. "Come, Legolas," he replied easily, as he placed an arm around his shoulders and started to steer him toward The Path. Surprisingly, Legolas complied with no protest. "I don't know about you but I'm starving," he said in the same friendly tone. Legolas nodded in agreement and continued to allow himself to be led away.

"When we get to The Palace, Legolas, you are to go to your rooms and you are to stay there until I come for you," Thranduil commanded. "I am not going to chase you all over Arda this afternoon. I think you have taken up quite enough of my time for this nonsense."

"Yes, Adar," Legolas said meekly as he looked back over his shoulder, apparently subdued by his father's stern lecture.

"If you continue to elude your guard I will quite literally chain you to him," Thranduil replied, "I will not risk death or injury to you, iôn."

"I am sure that will not be necessary, Aran nín," Glandur said with a smile, "I think the first day is always the hardest. Tomorrow will be better."

Thranduil smiled approvingly. Glandur was proving to be every bit the ellon he had hoped that he was. He and Elros shared a knowing look and then started to make their way toward home.

*****

Thranduil wiped a hand over his face. He wished he could retire to his own bed. He was tired after the long, monotonous day and his back ached from all the hours spent sitting in the chair at the sickbed. He had not slept in a bed since he awoke from the healing sleep two days prior. Since then he had dozed in the chair when he could but he longed for rest on the soft, down pillows and large mattress on his bed. But he could not bring himself to leave his son. For now, it was quiet and he was alone. Once again, he had to all but command Amoniel to her rooms after the evening meal and the healers had already made their rounds, leaving father and son alone to the long, dark hours of the quiet night.

He looked down at Camthalion. His had improved in some ways and remained the same in others. The day had been much like all of the others since he had been brought in; filled with medications. cold compresses and dressing changes on a precisely timed schedule. Thranduil stood and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. He looked down closely at his son's face and saw that the swelling was at long last beginning to recede and the bruising was lighter and beginning to turn yellow, a sure sign of healing. He stroked still clammy, fevered brow. He missed his son. He ached for him. He longed once more just to hear his voice or to see his wife's smile on their son's face. It had been weeks since he had bid his eldest goodbye at The Great Doors before he set off for the South. The void it created had been replaced with terror for the past several days and it was taking its toll. He felt so weary and weighed down by every bit of his six and a half millennia. Thranduil closed his eyes and felt the slight brush of Camthalion's fëa. He quickly opened them and saw the familiar features of his son's face morph into a grimace and his ragged breathing came more rapidly.

"Camthalion?" Thranduil called to him as he took one of his hands in his.

Camthalion's eyes shot open. He quickly closed them again as he moaned in pain.

"Camthalion?" Thranduil said again, gripping the slender hand tighter.

"Ada?" it came out no more than a breathy whisper.

"I am right here, iôn nín," Thranduil said as he tenderly stroked the fevered brow, "Can you open your eyes again?"

Camthalion's eyes opened once more. The blank stare was gone and he focused on his father's face. "Ada?"

"I'm here," Thranduil reassured him as he failed to keep his voice steady. Not trusting himself to say anything further he leaned down and kissed his brow.

"Ada?' came the gravelly whisper again.

Thranduil cupped his cheek as he moaned yet again in agony. He looked down and saw that Camthalion's hand trembled where it lay in his.

"Are you in pain?" he asked him, though he knew the answer.

Camthalion looked at him for a long moment and seemed to need time to process what was being said to him. He didn't answer and let out another moan of torment.

"Ada?" he whispered again, "Ada?"

Thranduil tried to soothe him as he gently caressed his dark hair, "I am right here, iôn."

But he could not break through the wall of pain and fever as Camthalion continued to call for him in a weak, barely audible whisper. Thranduil could feel the repeated brush of his fëa, clearly searching for his father and not realizing he was sitting before him. Thranduil was about to go to retrieve Aranhil when the door opened the healer appeared with his sleep rumpled apprentice behind him.

"Is he awake?" Aranhil asked in surprise, nearly dropping the basket in his hands.

"Yes, he just woke," Thranduil answered him, as he gently replaced his son's hand on the bed and stepped out of the way so the healers could examine him, "He is in pain."

Eleniel's eyes widened and she hurried up to the bed, all thoughts of going back to sleep forgotten.

"Ernil nín?" she called as she took his hand in hers. She looked up hopefully at her mentor as his hand trembled in hers. "Open your eyes, my lord," she said.

Camthalion's blue eyes fluttered open. He stared up at her in a haze of agony. Eleniel could see from the look in his eyes that he did not recognize her and could not comprehend what was happening. She reached down to feel his brow. The minute her hand touched him he weakly jerked away at the unfamiliar touch and he moaned in torment again as pain assaulted him relentlessly.

"Shhhh, it's all right," she tried to soothe him, "I'm not going to hurt you, my lord."

She placed her hand on his brow once more and again he tried to avoid her touch, causing himself more pain each time he moved.

"He's delirious with fever," Eleniel told Aranhil, "I think a tea of white willow, lemon balm, yarrow, and honey would be best."

Aranhil nodded in agreement as he looked down at the ailing ellon. His dry, fever cracked lips parted as he took in each gasping breath which was clearly agony to his fractured ribs. His exposed skin was beaded with sweat. He was obviously dangerously dehydrated from all that he had suffered.

"I'll prepare the tea," Aranhil told her as he poured water into a small basin. He handed it to her along with a cloth, "You work on the fever. Once he has taken the tea we can give him something for pain."

Eleniel dipped the soft cloth into the basin and wrung it out. When she gently blotted at Camthalion's fevered brow he again startled violently and tried to evade her touch.

"Ada?" he whispered, trying in vain to find his father. His fëa cried out again, desperately searching for his adar's comforting presence. He had felt him a short time before but thought perhaps it was yet another cruel illusion. He was in so much pain it was difficult to understand what was happening around him. He didn't know where he was and he wished darkness would take him once more. It was all just too overwhelming and he longed to rest his exhausted hröa.

"Your adar is right here," Eleniel told him before turning to The King, "Sit here, my lord, if you would," she said him pointing to the edge of the bed, "Your presence may soothe him more than our medicines."

Thranduil did as he was asked. He sat down on the opposite side of the bed and took his son's hand in his. He reached out through their bond. I am here, my child. You are not alone.

"I am here, iôn," he said as he placed a light kiss on his son's hand, "Let's allow the healers to do their work."

Camthalion's gaze rested on Thranduil's face and seemed to draw comfort from it. Eleniel tentatively went about her task and bathed him in the cool water. But she was met with no resistance now that Thranduil was beside her. Aranhil returned to the bedside with a cup of liquid in his hand. Amoniel reached out and took it while he gently lifted Camthalion slightly off of the bed.

"It is all right, my lord," he said soothingly when the ill ellon grimaced in pain the movement caused, "This will help your fever."

Fortunately, Camthalion was able to accept small amounts of tea and swallow the medication on his own. It was a slow process but easier than when he was unconscious. Aranhil gently laid him back down onto the pillows.

"Very good, my lord," he told him, "I will mix you up something for the pain. It will make you sleep."

He walked over to the table and reached for a small vial when he heard Amoniel call out to him.

"A basin!" she cried, "he's becoming ill!"

Aranhil grabbed the empty basin on the table and rushed the few steps over to his patient. Camthalion was already retching by the time he held it up to his face. He and Amoniel lifted him as gently as they could and he cried out in pain before promptly vomiting the meager contents of his stomach. Aranhil tried not to show his frustration as all the medicinal tea that he desperately needed was brought back up. His heart sank when he looked in the basin and saw the regurgitated liquid was heavily tinged with bile and blood.

Camthalion's face was twisted in absolute agony. His shaking hands instantly went to his abdomen. He couldn't recall ever feeling such torment. It started from his lower stomach and radiated through every inch of his failing hröa. Tears swarmed his eyes as each gasping breath he took only served to increase the pain. Thranduil felt his son's fëa tremble. He hummed a soothing melody from their bond, hoping to bring him any sort of comfort.

"I will have relief momentarily, Ernil nín," Aranhil called from the table as he mixed the ingredients into the small vial.

He quickly finished and brought it over to the bedside. Eleniel reached out and supported his head so that Aranhil could swiftly empty the small, dark contents of the vial into his mouth.

"There," Aranhil said empathetically, "It should start working within a minute or two."

Thranduil watched as his son slowly went limp. The healers gently laid him down on the pillows. Camthalion turned his head toward his father and made eye contact with him for a long moment before his eyes closed. The planes of his face smoothed out and he was soundly unconscious once more. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

"He is going to be in chronic pain, my lord," Aranhil told Thranduil, "until the fever and infection recede and the wound closes. Until then he is going to rely on pain medications. As you can see this one works quickly and effectively. It is the same one that helped Lord Legolas when he was injured."

"Good," Thranduil said, recalling how the pain medication that Legolas had been given had seemed to take away all of his pain and helped him get the healing sleep that he had needed.

"Even though he is in severe pain this is progress," Aranhil said, "He was awake longer and he was much more coherent. However, my lord, I still must warn you that any complication could have dire consequences. But we must remain optimistic."

"I understand," Thranduil said, never taking his eyes from his son.

The healers took their leave to give him some privacy. Thranduil ignored them, his eyes trained on Camthalion's sleeping form. Swallowing hard against the lump in his throat he reached out and wiped away the tears that remained on his son's face. He felt useless and helpless as he could do nothing but stand by and watch Camthalion writhe in agony. Not for the first time, he wished he could trade places with him. Now that he was alone once more and his son soundly unconscious he finally let his own tears fall.

TBC...