‘I sent my son forth, unthanked, unblessed, out into needless peril, and here he lies with poison in his veins.’”--Denethor
The Siege of Gondor, Return of the King
Thranduil’s mind reeled as he bore his unconscious youngest son down the corridors of the outer palace. Time and reality seemed to have rearranged themselves, and it was as though he remembered nothing that had passed since Legolas had stormed out of the stables after that last quarrel. It seemed like that same night. The attendants came rushing to the prince’s chambers as Thranduil carried him through the door. “Where by the Valar is Eirien?!” he demanded, his throat tight with fear. “Find her! I need her!”
Trembling, he laid Legolas carefully upon the bed. It did not seem real. He had never seen his son’s eyes closed this way, and the dark lashes stood out starkly against his ashen skin. His pulse was weak and uneven; his breath seemed to grow more shallow with each passing second. Damp tendrils of hair clung to his sweaty face, and his forehead was burning hot to the touch. Elves did not come by fever naturally. “Oh, Legolas,” Thranduil whispered, his own heart hammering in his chest. “What happened to you?”
Berensul and Mithrandir came running through the door after him, wearing identical expressions of distress. Mithrandir saw that no healer had arrived yet and hurried to the ailing elf’s bedside. “We must awaken him, my lord. The shadow will pull him beyond a healer’s reach if we do not.”
Swallowing hard, Thranduil assisted Mithrandir in his attempts to rouse his son. The elven king had a strong belief in the maintenance of appearances, and at any other moment, he would have concerned himself with not showing weakness before the Maia. But in his long years, Thranduil had seen elves afflicted by all manner of injury and ailment, and he knew his child’s condition was grave. It was even possible that this malady might…the thought was not to be touched. Not again. And so Thranduil did not even notice how badly he trembled, nor how his voice cracked as he tried to awaken Legolas. Even if he had, it was unlikely that he would have cared.
Desperately, he shook Legolas, trying to elicit some kind of response. “Legolas? Legolas!” *This is not happening. This CANnot be happening! Not you too!* “Where is Eirien, Berensul?”
“She--she’s coming, Father. She should be here any minute,” Berensul’s voice was also trembling.
Thranduil seized one of the servants by the arm as he passed. “Dispatch messengers at once. Send one to Rivendell. Say that the King of Mirkwood begs Lord Elrond’s immediate assistance as a healer. Send another after Princess Limloeth. She is only a day or so down the trail, have her back as soon as possible. Go!”
“Yes, my lord!” the servant fled, white-faced.
It seemed that the hearts of all Mirkwood cried out against the possibility of the loss of another of Thranduil’s children. *No! No! Do not think of that!* But he was no fool, and the signs were very ill. *It cannot be! I cannot endure this again!* Legolas’s breathing was very weak, and growing worse. The unconscious state he was in…it was more like a coma than sleep. There was not a flicker of response to the outside world. His eyes were closed so tightly. *No! Legolas, open your eyes. Look at me! Hear me! Please!*
Where was Eirien? She was trained by Elrond; she would know how to cure him. *She must! A Elbereth, I cannot go through this again. I will not survive mourning another of my children. Legolas! Legolas, awaken! Ai, why did I ever speak so harshly to you that day! Please forgive me! This is my doing! My possessiveness. Wake up, Legolas! There is so much I must say…*
Gandalf heard an army of footsteps approaching down the corridor--in a loud, careless fashion very unlike elves--and before he could look up, he was all but shouldered aside. It was the Lady Eirien, Crown Princess, and a healer trained by Lord Elrond himself. She was the young prince’s best hope of survival. When King Thranduil raised his eyes from his son to speak to her, Gandalf was stunned. He had not been in Mirkwood at the time when three of Thranduil and Minuial’s children were slain in battle, but now the Maia suspected that the elven king must have looked then just as he did now. The desperation in the eyes of Legolas’s father tore at Gandalf’s heart. “Eirien?”
“Stand back, Father. Give me room.” The Princess was normally a soft-spoken, placid creature, but now her tone brooked no argument, and the elven king stepped quickly out of her way. But Gandalf heard her intake of breath as she hastily examined her brother-in-law’s unresponsive body. “How long has he been this way?” she asked the room in general.
“I found him on the edge of the wood this morning,” Gandalf spoke up quickly. “He was already burning and unable to move. It was only by a spell that I was able to keep him conscious until he reached the palace.”
“Help me, Mithrandir,” Eirien ordered. “We must rouse him.” She whirled back to the array of herbs and potions the other healers were bringing. Snatching up a vial, she attempted to pour the contents down Legolas’s throat. Unable to swallow, Legolas choked and gasped, and she cursed like a Rohirrim stable hand. Gandalf could see that the ailing elf barely had room to draw breath, let alone get a liquid down.
Thranduil’s eyes widened and he started forward. “Stand back!” Eirien snapped, in a tone that could probably render Galadriel docile. Bending over Legolas, she tried again to make him take the draught, then ran her hand along the muscles of his throat. All in the room could hear the son of Thranduil’s breathing becoming more and more distressed. Eirien’s expression remained fixed, and she moved swiftly around the bed, trying every smelling herb and potion that could be found to awaken Legolas or ease his breathing. But all could see the color beginning to drain from her face even as she worked frantically.
Gandalf’s heart sank as she shot him a quick, desperate glance. *She cannot save him. A Elbereth, no!* Berensul was against the wall keeping out of the healers’ way, but his eyes were wide with despair, and beginning to fill with tears. Eirien even tried forcing a remedy into Legolas with another sharpened thorn, but even the pain did not seem to have an effect. As the prince’s breathing slowed still more, Eirien’s breath caught; her hand touched Legolas’s chest again, and she stared in horror at what she felt. Gandalf caught his own breath in a great surge of grief, as Legolas’s breath rasped in his chest once more…then stopped.
All the assisting healers froze where they were, horror upon every face. None could make sense of it. Eirien dropped to her knees beside the bed and raised her eyes to the king. They brimmed with helpless tears, and in them was a silent plea for forgiveness for her failure. Berensul trembled as he sank into a chair, as though his legs would no longer support him. With all his heart, Gandalf wished it was within his power to turn back time, neutralize poison, heal a fatal wound…anything that would eliminate the death that now visited this family for the fifth time.
And then there was King Thranduil.
The elven king did not seem to see Eirien’s shame, or his son’s grief, or Gandalf’s sorrow. His eyes were locked, stunned, upon Legolas’s still, white face. “No…” Thranduil whispered.
Eirien choked on a sob, “Father--”
“NO!” Thranduil leapt forward and wrenched Legolas from the pillows, shaking the limp body desperately. “Legolas! Legolas, awaken! He is not dead! Legolas!”
With an effort, Berensul rose from the chair and pulled Eirien back from the bedside. She clutched her husband, choking back sobs of her own. Gandalf felt anguish rush through him anew, for the healers trained by Lord Elrond rarely lost patients. Legolas was Eirien’s first. Berensul raised a hand to Gandalf when the wizard reached out to try and stop the king’s hopeless efforts. It would do no good, but the Maia stood back as Thranduil attempted to force air into his son’s lungs. Staring at the young warrior’s limp body, Gandalf felt his own eyes stinging. *Forgive me, young Legolas. Would that I had come on horseback. Would that I had found you sooner, or carried more healing herbs of my own. Would that I had been able to do SOMETHING!*
Holding Legolas up in vain, Thranduil stared at his youngest son’s face, and the king’s breath began to choke from him. “Oh Legolas,” he whispered. Gandalf closed his eyes against the agonizing pain in the elven king’s voice, and respectfully stepped back toward the doorway. Thranduil did not seem to realize anyone else was in the room anymore. Tears slid from under his eyelids as he gently cradled his son against him, burying his face in Legolas’s golden hair. Holding Legolas closer still, Thranduil whispered something in his ear, so softly that neither the wizard, nor the weeping elves in the room heard what he said.
All at once, the soft sounds of the elves’ grief was shattered by a great, desperate gasp. Legolas’s eyes flew open, and he pulled back reflexively from his father’s grip in a frantic search for air. One breath, then another were pulled into his lungs, and his body went from dead limp to nearly rigid as elven stamina renewed the fight for life. For a split second, the witnesses could only stare, stunned. Thranduil looked into his son’s glassy, but open eyes, and whispered, “Legolas?”
Then Eirien jerked away from Berensul and sprang into action. Dashing a hand over her eyes, she snatched up a bottle of a particularly foul-smelling draught, diving for the bedside. Shock aside, Gandalf could see now that Legolas was still in trouble, and still burning with delirium. He flinched away from Eirien when she attempted to feed him the potion. “Hold him, Father,” she said to Thranduil. “He must take this quickly. He remains in grave danger.”
Thranduil snatched the bottle from her, pulling Legolas towards him. The young elf moaned in pain and confusion, still gasping for breath, and struggled against the arms trying to hold him. “Easy, Legolas,” Thranduil said soothingly. “Do not fight me.”
It was inconceivable that even an elf could recognize anything while running so high a fever, but it appeared to Gandalf that Legolas did relax slightly on hearing his father’s voice. No, there! He had not imagined it. Legolas turned his pale face towards Thranduil, and there did seem to be a flicker of recognition in his glazed eyes. “That’s it, little one. Come, you must have the potion. It will help. Drink, Legolas.” He raised the bottle to his son’s lips, and though Legolas’s breathing was still labored, he drank it.
“Give him all of it,” Eirien said from where she was mixing more herbs.
Thranduil kept Legolas swallowing the draught, pausing only to let him catch his breath and avoid choking him. At last, the young elf finished it, coughing and exhausted. His head dropped against his father’s shoulder. Gandalf leaned over the side of the bed and helped the king prop Legolas up. “He was wounded by a poisoned arrow. When I found him, he said something about mountain orcs.”
Eirien examined the arrow wound in the prince’s back, noting with an angry hiss the bloody welts left by orc lashes. “He is very far gone. I know many poisons that it could have been, but without knowing when and where he was taken, I cannot be sure.” Briskly, she turned back to the poultice she was preparing, adding more herbs and potions to it, and handed more herbs to the assistant healer who was helping with another draught.
Legolas moaned in delirious pain as Eirien cleansed the raw weals and secured the poultice to the arrow wound. “Do you think he will remember when and where it happened?” asked Berensul.
“Perhaps later, but at the moment I doubt if he remembers his own name,” Eirien said, laying a hand on her brother’s forehead. “Never have I seen an elf burn so.” She checked the draught being prepared, added more herbs, and carried it back to the king. “I know not which remedy to use, so this contains several.”
Thranduil took the vial, but tore his eyes from Legolas’s face to look worriedly at her. “So many? Is that safe?”
“Now it is more important to counteract the poison in his blood. The most the herbs might do is make him a little sick,” Eirien said firmly. “Give it to him.”
Nodding solemnly, the elven king gave Legolas the medicine. He did not have as much difficulty swallowing this one. It seemed to Gandalf that his breathing was also becoming easier. “I think it is working already.”
Eirien nodded, her hand gently touching Legolas’s neck. “The first draught eased his breathing, but that only bought us time. Father, has Lord Elrond been sent for?”
Taking a heavy breath, Thranduil nodded, rubbing his eyes. “Yes. And Limloeth.” Touching his son’s burning face, he spoke in a voice full of dread the question that weighed upon all their minds. “Will he live?”
Slowly, Eirien nodded. “I think the immediate danger is past, for now. But I fear we will not be able to counter the poison until we know what it is.”
“How will we find that out?” Berensul asked. “Do you think Lord Elrond will know?”
“Perhaps, but Legolas may be able to tell us sooner. It is safe for now, Father, he may sleep. We shall continue working to bring the fever down. Then when he is coherent, he may remember what happened. Knowing when and where he was taken would be enough.” Eirien ran thoughtful eyes over her patient, who was still being held in a sitting position, cradled gently against Thranduil’s chest. Though his eyes were open, they were glazed and barely responsive to the activity around him. The crown princess filled a cup and handed it to the king. “See if he will take some water. Then he should sleep.”
Thranduil took the cup and held it to his son’s lips. “Drink, Legolas,” he whispered when Legolas feebly resisted. “It is only water.”
At first, as yet another flow of some strange liquid attempted to force its way into his mouth, Legolas tried to pull away. In his fevered confusion, the foul-tasting stuff given him before had not been recognized as healing draught, and he feared it. But some vaguely familiar presence remained close to him, reassuring enough for Legolas to accept the rim of the cup at his lips.
This time it was water, cool, clear water that he recognized even in his delirium as something he desperately needed. His body and mind burned, but the cleansing liquid seemed to wash away some of his fear and confusion, enough to where he could remember something he needed to say. He had come a long way to find someone…who…where was he? It did not matter, for the one who…who?…the one he sought was here, he was sure of it. *Who was I seeking…what was I trying to say…why can I not remember?* Legolas wondered hazily. The cup was offered again, and he drank more, hearing a familiar voice speaking unintelligible words in his ear. He could make no sense of them, but the voice was so familiar, so comforting…
“Father?” he gasped out, his eyes trying bring the blurry figure before him into focus. Was it indeed him? It was, it had to be! And there was something he had to say…he could barely remember…Legolas tried to blurt out the message in his heart. “P-please, for-forgive m…” but the words could barely come together in his mind, let alone from his mouth.
Gentle hands eased him back against the pillow, stroking tendrils of hair from his sweaty face. “Shhhhh. Hush, my son. Hush. You are home.” That voice was so quiet and calming, triggering more vague memories. Oh, how he wanted the ability to speak, and he tried, but his father shushed him again. “It is all right. Be easy, there will be time for words later. There is much for us both to say.” A cool cloth blotted the sweat from his brow. “Rest, my son. I’ll not leave you. Sleep now, my Legolas.”
A hand gently covered his. Weariness claimed him, far less fearful now that he no longer had to fight for every breath. A less-threatening shadow rose up to cover him, and the words spoken softly around him lost their sense again. But the voice and gentle touch remained, even as his eyes drifted closed again, familiar and safe after the horrors the fever had inflicted upon his mind. They held him like a shield against the nightmares, and finally soothed Legolas into sleep.
The odors of Eirien’s herbs and potions hung heavily in Legolas’s chamber, for they dared not open the windows in the winter. The hours slid past, broken only by Eirien’s quiet movement with the other healers as they sought more remedies. Berensul sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from Thranduil, watching his brother’s struggle for life. And never in his own life had the crown prince of Mirkwood felt so helpless.
He had known such emotions before, but then it had been possible to use rational thought to push them away. Even in the long process of grieving for his mother, brother, and two sisters--a process that still had not ended--he had known despite the typical guilt that he could not change events that had happened in other parts of the world.
*And yet here lies my youngest brother, my last brother. He lies right here before me, dying before my eyes, and there is NAUGHT I can do! Curse the Valar, and whatever power that determines our fates! Did something decide that still now not enough sorrow had been visited upon our family?* Berensul was very much of his father’s mind concerning the manner of conducting oneself--that display of weakness was to be avoided at all costs. Nonetheless, also like Thranduil, his family was the one area in which he could never detach himself.
It did not help that the crown prince had not been resting very well since sending for Mithrandir. The anxiety of waiting for the Maia’s arrival had kept Berensul from sleeping easily, that and a strange sense of foreboding that had dogged him in recent days. Berensul, the eldest of Thranduil’s children, had been alive for a very long time, and had also learnt to trust his intuition. Now at last, too late, he understood the meaning of the ill portents his mind had sent him.
*Oh Legolas.* His brother’s still face suddenly blurred, and the tightness in his throat threatened to overwhelm him. Berensul saw movement out of the corner of his eye, and a hand rested upon his shoulder. He had been so fixated on Legolas that he had not even noticed Thranduil getting up.
“It is late, Berensul. You should retire soon.”
Without looking at the king, Berensul smiled grimly, “Do you intend to leave him and sleep?”
“Nay. But that is all the more reason why you must.” Startled, Berensul turned to stare at Thranduil, and was startled by his father’s face. There was a change, hard to place. Exhaustion, grief, and desperate worry shadowed Thranduil, making him seem considerably older, but at the same time, something reminded his eldest son of his own younger days. He was trying to comprehend it when the king spoke again. “Even in this desolate moment, the needs of our realm must be seen to, my son. I cannot leave Legolas’s side while he is in this condition, and I know you wish to stay, but the business of the realm must fall to you.”
Astonished, the crown prince stared at the elven king. “You wish me to hold the court of Mirkwood?”
Thranduil smiled, albeit rather humorlessly, “We have intended for you to begin taking up such duties for some time, and now I fear the time has come. I shall be here if you need my counsel, but until your brother is recovered, our people shall look to you for leadership.” His eyes shifted to rest upon Legolas again. “I will not leave him.”
Early the next morning…
Gandalf noticed even as he wandered the halls that many of the elves in the palace stood vigil that night, some simply walking through the trees, and others congregating in small groups, speaking in hushed, worried voices. The thoughts of all were focused on the royal chambers, where candles burned in Prince Legolas’s room through the night. King Thranduil had sent Berensul to bed around midnight. Eirien had stayed, keeping a close watch on her patient. Thranduil had not stirred from the bedside, but had sat in a chair, his hand upon his son’s.
Gandalf had left him alone soon after Berensul left. Glancing back at Thranduil, whose anguished eyes never left his son’s face, the Maia had marveled at the events of the day. He wondered how many elves could even claim to have seen the King of Mirkwood so reduced. He was not in the habit of revealing ANY sentiments except those that furthered some advantage, such as a show of anger in his court. Yet what Gandalf had seen last night was raw, unconfined emotion, something that many elves--even his own children--had begun to believe he was no longer capable of feeling.
*So, Thranduil, perhaps your heart is not quite so frozen after all.*
How strange it was, to see the elves of Mirkwood at a time like this. Few strangers, even other elves, were welcomed unreservedly into Mirkwood, and Gandalf could say for certain that he was the only non-Eldar in all Middle Earth who might have the chance to behold the wood elves at a time like this. And revealing as the experience was, he wholeheartedly wished that he had never had this chance.
The elven king’s halls and the trees surrounding them echoed with an eerie, fearful silence. Gandalf had been among the elves at moments of mourning before, and then songs of lament and sounds of tears told all the lands of their grief. But this…this was different. Silence was the sound of their waiting, their uncertainty. Few words were even spoken, and those that were came in tense whispers. Time and life seemed suspended, as all Mirkwood awaited the fate of the youngest son of Thranduil and Minuial. The wood elves had already mourned three of the King’s children, and then their Queen, and time had done little to blunt that pain. It was always so with the Eldar. Eternal mourning of the lost was a price of eternal life. Silence cried in a loud voice of their fear, of their helplessness.
*Uncertainty is a fearful thing to elves,* thought the wizard. *I do not much care for it myself.* Knowing Eirien’s skills far exceeded his own knowledge, Gandalf had left Legolas to her care. And along with many others, the Maia wished there was more he could do. But all that remained to be done was waiting. *The hardest thing of all.*
Suddenly the silence was broken by murmurs of excitement among the waiting elves. Gandalf heard light steps darting down the corridor, and he turned to see Princess Limloeth coming down the hall at a dead run. The elven king’s daughter looked disheveled and anxious, as though she had spent the night riding hard (not surprising at how fast she had gotten back to the palace.) Seeing the wizard, she stopped only briefly, out of breath, to ask urgently, “Where is he?”
“His chambers, my lady,” said Gandalf, and watched her dash by him.
Limloeth did not even pause to wipe the dust of travel from her face or push her unruly hair into order before bursting through the door of her brother’s chamber. When the messenger from the king had arrived on a lathered horse, bearing tidings that Legolas had returned--barely alive--Limloeth and her escort had nearly run their own mounts into the ground on the trip back. The grim, frightened faces of the elves who greeted her arrival made Limloeth fear the worst, too dreadful to imagine. *I cannot live through this again.*
Finally reaching her destination, the princess of Mirkwood leaned heavily in the doorframe, catching her breath and trying to stifle the sobs that instantly rose in her throat at the sight of her little brother. And she had thought he looked ill when he arrived in Lórien thirty years ago! She stumbled slightly as she forced her legs to carry her to his side, terrified of what she might find. It took her trembling hand feeling the slow beat of his heart to convince herself that Legolas was yet among the living. His breathing was frightfully shallow, and though he was clearly unconscious, the faint tension of his face told his sister he was in pain. Feeling weak herself, Limloeth sank onto the edge of the bed, her hand gently cupping his cheek. “What happened to him?” she whispered.
From his chair at the opposite side of the bed, King Thranduil had looked up at her only briefly when she came into the room. Now, with his eyes focused once again on his son, Thranduil murmured, “Orcs. Somewhere on the plains, or maybe the outer forest. Mithrandir found him. He almost…I am glad you are here, Daughter.”
A moan from Legolas caused both Limloeth and Thranduil to jump in surprise. Her heart thudding in her chest, the princess watched her brother. They hoped Legolas was awakening, but though his sleep grew more fitful, he showed no signs of returning to consciousness. Puzzled, Limloeth placed a hand on Legolas’s forehead, and grimaced. “His fever rises.”
“He was delirious before,” said Eirien, motioning Limloeth aside for a better look at Legolas. Her blue-gray eyes darkened with worry. “But we must keep this fever under control until the poison can be neutralized.” Calling for the aid of the other healers, she began working.
While Eirien prepared more potions, Limloeth and Thranduil assisted her by trying to cool Legolas’s burning face and body with damp cloths. They could feel the heat radiating still more from his body, and his sleep grew more disturbed. Limloeth had to bite her lip to keep from weeping as her little brother fell into delirium. He raved of many things, some she could not understand, others that did not surprise her: his mother and their family, the brother and two sisters he had never met, the lessons of the years of training as a novice, memories of his journey with the war party. Very often, his fevered thoughts turned to the king. “Father…where are…alone…forgive me…”
Thranduil quickly leaned over Legolas, turning his head at the same time so Limloeth could not quite see his face. “I am here, Legolas. Rest easy.”
That seemed to calm him for a few minutes, but his body still burned, sending his mind back down the tortured, confused paths of fever dreams. “Tathar…do not go…was my fault…Tathar…” Thranduil’s face was still turned from Limloeth, but she thought she saw him wince.
All day long, Legolas’s family struggled to hold at bay the poison that tried to burn the life out of him. Limloeth was conscious of nothing beyond the feel of the damp cloths she sponged her brother’s body with, and his tormented, pleading voice. Once or twice his eyes opened, but there was no awareness in them, no comprehension. All he saw were the phantoms of fever, no matter how hard his sisters and father tried to reach him.
Late that afternoon, Berensul returned from holding court in the halls. Thranduil tore himself away from Legolas long enough to speak with the crown prince. “There was little business, Father. Most of our people are as worried as we for my brother.”
Thranduil nodded, sighing wearily. Limloeth glanced up at him as Berensul walked over to place a nervous hand upon her shoulder. “How is he?”
“We are keeping the fever at bay,” said Eirien. “But he has improved little. I have given him all the draughts that I dare. Now we must wait for Lord Elrond’s arrival.”
“Father…” came a weak moan. Thranduil quickly returned to his son’s side.
Limloeth stepped back from the bed, leaning wearily against Berensul. Like his father, Berensul had always been more inclined to display anger than any emotion that might hint at weakness. But now he trembled, and swallowed repeatedly. “I hope Lord Elrond arrives soon,” he whispered, in a voice filled with anguish. “I do not know how much longer I can bear to see him like this.”
The next morning…
The mist hung silent among the beeches and elms of Mirkwood, like a white funeral shroud. And still the wood elves waited for news. Gandalf had spoken few words with any since his arrivals, but sensed gratitude in the eyes of all for his return with the prince. The second dawn since that night had brought little improvement in Legolas’s condition. Lady Eirien was growing exhausted from her endless vigil at the prince’s side, but none of her remedies yielded results. The only hope now lay in the skills of the best healer in all Middle Earth. If he could not restore Legolas to health…
Suddenly the silence of the outer palace halls was broken by a commotion outside. Gandalf joined a small crowd of elves running outside, seeking the source of this opening in the tension. He spotted young Candrochon and Lady Merilin, Legolas’s friends, nearby as he came out onto the outer palace steps. A troupe of riders was coming through the gates, and a collective cry of surprised relief identified them. “Lord Elrond!”
The Lord of Imladris swung down from his horse, his eyes immediately picking Gandalf out of the throng of elves. To the group in general, he asked without preamble, “Is Legolas here?”
“He is, my lord!” someone said, in a desperate tone that spoke volumes.
“Very! Please come in quickly!”
There was no way Elrond could have received Thranduil’s message and crossed the Misty Mountains and plains in less than forty-eight hours. Even Gandalf could not have managed that feat with Gwaihir the Great Eagle. “How did you know?” the wizard asked.
“Let me to him,” Elrond said pointedly, and explained himself as they hurried down the halls. “A letter arrived from King Thranduil to be delivered to Legolas a few days after he departed Rivendell. I suspected it was an urgent matter and set out after him, but we found signs in the mountains that he had been taken by orcs.”
Gandalf nodded absently, then urgently went on, “They poisoned him, but Lady Eirien cannot be sure what the identity of the agent. And we can determine nothing; Legolas is delirious.”
“I am not surprised. I found the remains of their camp; it was oil rendered from Monk’s Hood of the Dead Marshes,” said Elrond.
Gandalf winced; there were few plants in existence that could cause as much torment to a living being as Monk’s Hood. *Poor Legolas.* Had they forced him to swallow it, he would have died hideously in a matter of minutes. But the evil beasts were far too cruel and clever for that. “Is there aught you can do?”
“We shall see.” Lowering his voice, Elrond asked, “Where is King Thranduil?”
“With Legolas,” the wizard replied, and saw relief on the elven lord’s face. “In his chamber, this way.” He led Elrond into the room.
Thranduil sprang to his feet in astonishment. “Lord Elrond!” he exclaimed. Relief and confusion warred on the elven king’s face at the unexpected yet timely arrival. Relief won out, and he gestured urgently to Legolas. “Forgive the hasty welcome, my lord. My son needs your aid.”
Lord Elrond nodded in understanding and hastened to the bedside, his telling hands and keen eyes examining the still prince. Thranduil, and the Princesses Limloeth and Eirien stood to one side, obviously ready to offer their help with anything he needed. He beckoned to Eirien, “If you would assist me, my lady?” He rose then and met Thranduil’s eyes sincerely, “I will do all that I can.”
*All that I can, I only hope it will be enough,* thought Lord Elrond as he looked Legolas over. He had driven the company as hard as the horses could ride, following the prince’s trail, but as the days had passed, the Lord of Imladris had begun to despair. It seemed inconceivable that Legolas had made it all the way to Mirkwood after being poisoned so severely. To Mithrandir, he asked, “When did he reach Mirkwood?”
“I found him just within the forest yesterday afternoon, and we arrived at the palace in the evening,” the wizard’s expression grew thoughtful as though just processing what Elrond had said earlier, then he frowned in confusion. “You say he was attacked while still in the Misty Mountains? That cannot be possible; surely he would have made for Imladris rather than chance the journey all the way across the plains!”
Elrond shook his head, glancing at King Thranduil. “We discovered his bow and knives in the remnants of an orc camp on the eastern side of the mountains. There had--been a rockslide. They must have trapped him.” Both he and Mithrandir pretended not to hear the way Thranduil’s breath caught at those words.
Mithrandir looked at Legolas in amazement. “That is very strange. I had a mind to take him to Rivendell when I first found him, but he insisted on returning to the palace. He knew there was a much closer haven, yet he chanced the longer road to get home. He nearly did not survive the journey across the plains.” He turned his face back to meet Elrond’s gaze, but neither burdened the king of Mirkwood with their prying eyes. Thranduil had enough on his mind at these revelations.
Lord Elrond turned his attention back to Legolas. The young prince looked very ill indeed. The various draughts Eirien had administered had dropped him into a deep sleep, and his eyes were tightly closed. Dark shadows showed below them, and ugly bruises stood out against his pallid skin. It had been over a week since he had escaped the orcs, but the injuries had healed little thanks to the foul substance in his body. Raging fever left sweat beaded upon his burning forehead, and only Eirien’s determined ministrations had kept him from becoming dehydrated.
Opening a parcel of his own herbs, the Lord of Imladris prepared a draught to counteract the Monk’s Hood oil. “Will it still be effective?” Eirien asked him softly. That particular orc poison was rare; Mirkwood had not the proper herbs to neutralize it. And Legolas was very far gone.
But Elrond’s potion was strong, and the prince of Mirkwood had not managed to survive this long for naught. “I believe it will, Lady,” Lord Elrond replied, but he met Thranduil’s eyes as he spoke. And he distinctly saw the elven king fail to suppress a shudder of relief. “We must rouse him enough to take the draught.”
As Eirien worked, changing the dressings of his poisoned wounds, Legolas tossed and whimpered, clearly in a great deal of pain. The sounds hurt Elrond’s heart. He hastened to ready the potion, then bent over the bed, speaking softly to the feverish elf. Legolas relaxed slightly, and Elrond gently lifted his head up, his healing touch calming the feverish elf to where he could take the draught. Then the Lord of Imladris added more of the herbs to the dressings of his injuries, and examined the lash weals on his back. He allowed himself a sigh of relief. *Legolas is strong; he will recover,* he thought, but forced himself to wait before speaking such promises aloud. *In a few more hours, I will be able to say so with certainty. I would not dare take chances with his family.*
“How is he?” Limloeth asked softly from where she stood close to Thranduil.
Rising from the bedside, Elrond turned to the King and Princess. “The medicines must have time to do their work. In a few hours, we will know how he fares.” He ran critical eyes over Legolas, who had lapsed back into that deep, coma-like sleep. “He is as comfortable now as we can make him. The best thing would be to let him rest.”
Turning back to the prince’s family, he looked them over. Thranduil had returned to the chair beside the bed, his eyes fixed once again upon Legolas. *A Elbereth, do not let me fail in this. I fear to lose Legolas would also be a death sentence for his father.* It was true, the elven king looked very haggard. His eyes were red and shadowed, and the slight tremble of the hand that rested upon his son’s suggested that Thranduil had not slept or eaten since Legolas had returned. It must be Berensul who was holding the court of Mirkwood while the king remained here. Lady Limloeth was clad in riding clothes, and also did not appear to have left her brother’s side since she arrived. Eirien looked equally drained from her efforts. To Eirien, he said, “My lady, you should retire and get some rest. As a healer, you need your wits. I will watch over Legolas today.”
Eirien did not argue overmuch before going. Then, before Elrond even had the chance to open his mouth to suggest that other members of the family take some much-needed rest, King Thranduil shook his head and smiled, “Do not waste your time, my lord. I will not leave him.”
Elrond chuckled slightly, not the least bit surprised. *I cannot blame him; I know where I would be found if this were one of my children.* Aloud, he said, “As you will, my lord, but I would counsel you to sleep while you are with him. Legolas will not wake for some time yet.”
Thranduil sighed, looking still more weary, and presently, he nodded. Then he looked curiously at Elrond, “My lord, how did you get here so quickly? Were you abroad when my request for assistance reached you?”
Fighting the smile that tugged his lips, Elrond replied truthfully, “I never received that message, my lord. As it happened, I left Rivendell in pursuit of Legolas to deliver your letter to him. It came three days after he departed Imladris for Mirkwood, but I suspected your message was important.”
The urge to smile came again at the stunned expression on the elven king’s face. “You mean to say…Legolas was coming home before he received my letter?” Thranduil half-whispered, glancing in amazement at his sleeping son.
“Why, yes. Legolas arrived in Imladris with--one of my sons, and departed for Mirkwood the very next day. His friend Faron was due back from a patrol within a week, but Legolas would not be delayed.” With a wry chuckle, he shook his head. “Though I wish he would have returned to Imladris after escaping the orcs rather than risking the long journey across the plains. He might have spared himself a great deal of suffering if he had, for I was only three days behind him.” Thranduil was no longer looking at Elrond, but staring at Legolas as though seeing his son in a very different light.
Satisfied, Lord Elrond summoned one of the assistant healers. “I shall be back soon, if you would attend the prince until I return.” The healer took up a post near the doorway, consciously trying not to attract the king’s attention. Elrond glanced back from the doorway, seeing Thranduil seated in the chair with one hand resting lightly upon his son‘s, and suspected the elven king had already fallen asleep. He half-hoped Legolas might awaken before Thranduil did. *It would do him good to see this.*
Elrond had also re-assessed his opinion of Legolas during the journey across the plains. In such a condition, it seemed impossible that Legolas would be able to have make the crossing at the pace he did, but he had done it. AND reached Mirkwood still two days ahead of Elrond. The Lord of Imladris mentally shook his head. One had to admire that elf’s spirit. *When he has set his heart to a thing, there is naught that can turn him away or hold him back, even if it kills him.* He smiled to himself. *Like father, like son.*
Legolas was terrified, lost in a swirling, dark fog that kept him from seeing anything. Fearful voices and chilling phantoms reached out from the darkness to grab and tug at him, trying to pull him deeper. Pain, deep terrible pain, came in waves that broke over him with the blackness. He called out in desperation, not knowing exactly whose names he spoke, for the fever had taken most of the sense from his thoughts. So long, he had wandered alone, trying in vain to discover a way back to…wherever he had been before. He knew he had been somewhere else before, a place not horrific like this. A safe place. A familiar place. But though he could not remember it exactly, he was certain it was somewhere, if only he could escape this shadow, he would find it.
Moreover, from somewhere beyond the murk, he could hear voices calling back to him that were not specters. He could sense more than hear them, but just as he had known there was somewhere else that he should be, he also knew there was someone he had to find. Someone just beyond the darkness, if only he could breach it. At times they seemed so close, and he thought he could make out words through the shadows. Though they made no sense to him, they were comforting nonetheless--until they faded, and then he searched harder, crying out to find them again.
Now was one of those times. For awhile, the familiar presences had seemed very near, and he had struggled frantically to reach them. But something, some impenetrable barrier kept him trapped within the shadows, and he could not pass it. Legolas shivered in his dreams as the presences receded, abandoning him once again, alone in the dark. Would he be trapped here in this torment forever? Yet…this time was different. The pain did not come back as fiercely as before, and it seemed…the swirling black clouds were growing less. Was it possible that the shadows were finally releasing their hold on him?
Instead of fighting and trying to force his way out, as he had before, Legolas simply remained where he was as the clouds churned about him. Where before he had seemed to be sinking deeper, and struggled in terror, now he felt that he was floating, coming closer and closer to the end of this nightmare every moment. One who touched the warrior at that moment would have noticed that his body was beginning to cool. His fever was burning itself out at last, as the orc poison was conquered by the new potions in his body. For days he had burned, an unthinkable ordeal for one of the Eldar. But the tireless ministrations of those who loved him were finally bringing him back to the light.
Upward he drifted, passively accepting whatever awaited him. Above him, the shadows began to part, and light returned. Delirium faded. He was lying on his back, pain still racking him, still weak, but alive. Consciousness was coming back to him. There was someone near, no, several presences. And voices, the same ones that had distortedly reached him when he had been trapped in the darkness. For some time, he could not discern anything, but as his mind drifted closer and closer to coherence, the words began to make sense.
And he was able to remember who the speakers were. That voice was so familiar; Legolas struggled to pull his memories out of the shadows of fever. Who was…was it possible? Could it be that his father was with him? How? Where was he? He thought he recalled hearing Thranduil’s voice in his delirium, but had begun to think it was just another dream. Was it…was it possible that he was home?
“Legolas? Father, I think he is waking.” Eirien anxiously watched her brother-in-law’s eyes fluttering. He moaned weakly, but this time he did not seem to be falling back into delirium.
Lord Elrond moved beside her, placing a hand upon Legolas’s forehead. “Step back a moment, my lady, allow me. Yes, his fever is much diminished. He may at last be coming round.”
“Will he understand us, Lord Elrond?” Thranduil asked quietly.
“Perhaps, my lord. You may try.”
The elven king gently touched his son’s face, feeling at last that his skin had begun to cool. “Legolas? Can you hear me?”
Legolas moaned and fluttered his eyelids again. Thranduil could feel his own heart pounding within his chest. So many times over the past four days since Lord Elrond had arrived, they had thought Legolas was awakening, just to have his fever soar again. When his eyes had opened, there had been no awareness or recognition in them, only torment, and it had aged Thranduil every time to see his child in that state. But there seemed nothing he could do to bring Legolas out of it. Lord Elrond had counseled patience, saying Legolas would awaken when his body was ready. But to the elf’s father, such words gave little comfort.
*Now at last it comes.* “Legolas, awaken! Return to us, my son!” Thranduil squeezed his son’s hand and waited.
Legolas’s breath was slow and even again, finally. His family watched anxiously as the prince slowly fought his way back to consciousness. After an agonizing few minutes, his eyes slowly opened, and Thranduil heard Limloeth choke back a sob of relief to see, at last, lucidity in his face. The gray eyes were still glazed with illness and exhaustion, but as they traveled slowly about to rest upon each person in the room, they revealed recognition. Legolas knew them. They came to rest upon Thranduil’s face, and for a brief eternity, father and son simply stared at each other, neither able to find the strength for words. Then Legolas took a deep breath and spoke in a faint, raspy whisper. “Father? Where am I?”
Thranduil had to jam his teeth into his lower lip to keep from dissolving into sobs right then. Behind him, Limloeth was not so successful. Lord Elrond stepped forward, “You are in your father’s halls, Legolas. You are home.”
With a shaky intake of breath, Legolas closed his eyes, apparently uncertain of whether all this was a dream. He suddenly opened them again, his expression turning anxious, and started to speak. “Father, I--”
“Easy, young one,” Elrond said, casting a stern glance at the others while preventing Legolas from sitting up. “You must not overexert yourself. You have been very ill.”
Quietly, Thranduil moved up to the bedside. “I will see to it that he rests, my lord.” Then he turned and met the half-elf’s eyes. “But I should like to be alone with him.”
The two elven lords locked eyes for a long moment, and slowly, Lord Elrond nodded. He beckoned to Eirien, Limloeth, and the other healers as he headed for the door. Limloeth looked about to protest, but Elrond firmly took her arm and led her out. One did not argue the Lord of Imladris. The door closed behind them, and silence echoed in the chamber. Thranduil sat back down in his chair beside the bed, gazing at his son’s pale, drawn face. He still looked so ill and weak; it had been such a close call. The elven king swallowed hard. “How do you feel, my son?”
Perhaps it was the fever, but the expression in Legolas’s eyes nearly broke his father’s heart. He seemed so desperate, nearly starting from the bed. “Father, please--”
“Careful, Legolas!” Thranduil exclaimed, gently pushing Legolas back to the pillows. He let his hand rest upon his son’s shoulder, trying to comfort him. After all this, did Legolas truly still doubt Thranduil’s willingness to forgive him? Did he still doubt his father’s love? *Then again, how much does he remember? Still, I must not risk him upsetting himself. There will be time when he is stronger. For now, he must rest.* Taking a deep breath, he said softly, “I know we’ve much to speak of, but you are still weak. There is plenty of time--”
“--No,” Legolas said, frantically seizing his father’s arm. The urgency of the grip startled Thranduil. “It has already been too long. Please, Father, forgive me.”
Words seemed to tumble out, in a manner very unlike Legolas. *Who am I deceiving? I have not known what Legolas is like in a very long time.* But his son went on in an anguished voice, “I wronged you greatly, when we met long ago, and then again when I returned. Whatever our quarrel, I had no right to speak to you so. I did not mean it; I know why you raised me as you did. I was very unfair. Please forgive me, Father, I know I do not deserve it--”
The next thing Thranduil knew, he was crushing Legolas to him, in a grip as tight as he dared, muffling his son’s repentant words against his shoulder. Legolas raised his glassy, dark gray eyes to stare at his father’s face, almost as surprised as Thranduil was. The elven king smiled weakly against the sting of tears in his eyes, feeling the way his youngest child trembled with emotion and weariness. He shifted position to take more of his son’s weight, unable to speak past the lump in his throat. After a moment, he managed to say, “Hush now. You are still unwell; you must not distress yourself. Your brother and sisters would flay me alive.” There came a weak laugh in response, and Thranduil gently eased his son back to the pillows. “Legolas, I…” he trailed off, tongue-tied. *Are you too much of a coward to do what you know is right? To say what you know is true? He has given his apology. You know that you still owe one to him.* Thranduil swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “Legolas, my son, of course I forgive you. But we have both said many things that need forgiving. I cannot be easy until you have accepted my apology.”
His face racked with guilt, Legolas shook his head. “Nay, Father, you owe me nothing.”
“No,” the elven king wondered if Legolas’s fever was rising again, but the young elf would not be put off. “You were right, Father, you were right about everything.” His voice was rough with uncontrolled grief. “I was reckless, and foolish. Every time. I never had the courage to face our conflicts, and it was Tathar who paid for it.” Squeezing his eyes closed, Legolas whispered bitterly, “I was such a coward.”
“--I was! Always, I ran away, rather than face my troubles,” tears of shame and frustration glistened in his eyes. “Resentments of the past clouded my every thought. I blamed you for so long, but the fault was truly mine.”
“Legolas, listen to me!” Thranduil said urgently, cutting him off. “You are feverish and overwrought; I’ll not have you sickening yourself again.” He placed a hand on his son’s forehead, frowning as he did so, for it was still far too hot. “You have made your apology, there is no need of a confession,” he smiled ruefully. “I understand.” Legolas’s breath caught, and Thranduil gripped his good hand. “I too wronged you. I have said and done many things I regret. Forgive me, Legolas.”
His eyes brimming, yet smiling, Legolas nodded, looking as though he were fifty again. Thranduil blinked rapidly to clear his own eyes, and glanced toward the door as Lord Elrond tapped on it. “My lord?”
“Come in, Lord Elrond.”
The Lord of Imladris opened the door and cast an understanding glance from father to son and back again. “I am sure you’ve much to speak of, but Legolas is still at risk of relapsing. You should rest now,” he said directly to the prince.
Thranduil nodded. “Quite right, Lord Elrond.” Legolas looked about to protest, but the elven king firmly stopped him. Squeezing Legolas’s hand, he said, “I know there is more you wish to say. Our family has long been separated, and I would know you again, my son. But first you must heal.”
“Yes, Father,” said Legolas, seeming to suddenly realize how tired he was.
Adjusting the pillows to make his son more comfortable, Thranduil took Legolas’s hand again and said softly, “Sleep now. I will be here when you awaken.” There was a weak answering squeeze, then the grip slackened, and Legolas’s head drifted against the pillows as he fell back into unconsciousness. His eyes had closed again. *By the Valar, I shall rejoice to see you sleeping normally,* thought the elven king. But it would take time, as Elrond had repeatedly impressed upon them all. Legolas would probably sleep on and off for days now. Speaking of sleeping, with that in mind, Thranduil leaned back in his chair and let himself be carried into elvish dreams.
Berensul returned from holding court in the elven king’s stead to find Mithrandir, Limloeth, and Eirien outside the royal chambers. “Eregdos said Legolas is improving?” he asked hopefully.
His sister nodded, the relief on her face confirming what Berensul had prayed for. “He awakened this afternoon, far more lucid than he has been. He and Father spoke for a little while before Lord Elrond ordered them both to rest.”
They all knew what Berensul wanted to know when he said, “And?”
Mithrandir smiled, “The king remains at Legolas’s side, my lord. I think all is well with them.”
Berensul laughed with relief, “At last, as we are all thinking!” He sighed. “I wonder how much longer it will take Legolas to recover.”
“Even one as strong as Legolas will need time to heal from such a severe poisoning,” said Eirien. “Lord Elrond is with them now, and I will take up watch when he goes to rest. But we think Legolas will make a full recovery.”
“Thank the Valar,” said the crown prince. He grasped his wife and sister’s hands, feeling suddenly weary as the terrible tension of the past few days at last began to leave him. “I do not think I could have gone through this again.” Eirien and Limloeth nodded, understanding what he meant.
Gandalf watched the wordless exchange between the elves, and thanked the Valar himself for the many good fortunes that had allowed Legolas’s life to be spared. *For to be sure, had he died, Mirkwood would have been forced to mourn more than once in the coming days. It could easily have meant death for Thranduil as well, possibly even his siblings. Legolas finds himself in a strange fate, to be the youngest of a king’s children--traditionally of the least consequence--and yet it is him upon whom the hopes and dreams of so many depend. Born to save the life of an elven queen, and living to heal the wounds of his family made by the deaths of his brother and sisters. Thranduil should have named him Estel.*
Shouts down the corridor startled the Maia out of his thoughts, and then came the sound of running feet. What could it be now? Golwen’s voice floated down the hall, “Silivren! Come back here!”
Eirien and Berensul started as a fleet-footed, golden-haired elf child burst through a nearby door and sprinted headlong toward the royal chambers. Still more startling was the lack of mischief upon Silivren’s face; this was no childish prank. The determination in her blue eyes made her look like Legolas. “Silivren!” Eirien exclaimed, as she and her husband moved to intercept the girl.
But Silivren did not even slow down, and nearly knocked both father and mother off their feet as she dashed into the hallway--heading straight for Legolas’s room. “Sili! What are you doing?” Berensul, Eirien, Limloeth, and Golwen all charged after her, Gandalf trailing behind in amused curiosity.
Silivren stopped before the door and turned to face her pursuers. She folded her arms and fixed them all with a fierce little stare far too old for a child her age. “I want to see my uncle!” she announced clearly and coldly.
Motioning Golwen back, Eirien took the lead of the group. In a tone of motherly patience, she said gently, “We told you, Sili, Uncle Legolas is ill now. You cannot see him just yet.”
“Because…he cannot talk to you. He is asleep,” Berensul attempted to explain, glancing helplessly at the others. How did one explain to a child that a member of her family was practically upon his deathbed?
But Silivren, granddaughter of Thranduil and Minuial, possessed more than her share of elven understanding. The narrow-eyed glare she leveled at each and every one of them said all too clearly that she knew they were trying to hide her uncle’s condition. “So he can’t talk to me. That doesn’t mean I can’t sit with him!” With a defiant nod, she turned on her heel and stood on her toes to open the door of the youngest prince’s chamber.
“Sili!” hissed Berensul, trying to catch her, but the elfling ducked silently into the room before he could reach the door.
Gandalf and the others quietly entered the chamber after them. King Thranduil was sitting up in his chair beside the bed, and Lord Elrond stood at the end of the room, both peering in surprise at the small intruder. For her part, Silivren stopped a few feet from the bedside, irritated at finding herself too short to see the bed’s occupant. So, with a little huff of impatience, the child walked to where another chair sat empty at the opposite side of the bed. Berensul went to stop her, but Thranduil raised a hand, his dark eyes gravely watching Silivren as she carefully pulled herself up onto the chair and turned to look at her uncle.
Legolas’s life might be out of danger, but to look at him, one would not know it. The closed eyes and wan face of her beloved uncle should have sent a small child into hysterics, for Silivren had never seen any elf so ailing. But the daughter of Berensul simply stood there upon the chair, her eyes solemnly regarding the unconscious form, and then carefully climbed from the chair to sit upon the bed next to Legolas. Still completely silent, she bent carefully over Legolas and placed a gentle kiss upon his pale forehead.
The rest of Legolas’s family and Gandalf watched curiously. Slowly, Thranduil smiled at Silivren, and his eyes, so dark and shadowed with worry, began to lighten. He reached out and touched his granddaughter’s little hand. “Thank you, Sili. I think that will help your uncle Legolas very much.”
Sili looked up calmly from her uncle’s still face. Turning to cast a determined gaze on each person in the room, she announced clearly, “I want to stay with him.”
His eyes meeting Berensul’s over Sili’s head, Thranduil replied. “Of course. Perhaps that shall help him feel better sooner. Let us find you a more comfortable chair, and we shall both sit with him.”
A larger chair was soon brought, and the elven king settled into it with the little princess next to him, her hand lightly touching her uncle’s. Limloeth sat in the other chair with Berensul standing beside her, and Eirien took over for Lord Elrond. The Lord of Imladris met Gandalf’s eyes and headed quietly for the door. The Maia joined him. But just as Elrond reached for the handle, the faintest sound reached their ears, causing both to whirl around and every heart in the room to stop.
It was not even a vocal sound, rather the faint noise of the smallest-possible movement, the sound of a body shifting ever-so-slightly against the bedclothes that covered him. The watchers waited, and were rewarded by the sight of Legolas beginning to stir at last. No one spoke, not even Silivren, though she leaned forward next to Thranduil to stare at her uncle’s face. Thus it was she who Legolas first saw when he opened his eyes.
Legolas blinked. One would suppose that the small face of his niece was the absolute last thing he had expected to see when he awakened. But, after apparently determining that he was no longer dreaming, Legolas looked at Silivren, then past her at the faces of the rest of his family. Then he returned his eyes to her.
Silivren said simply, “Welcome home, Uncle Leg’las.”
Glancing at her little hand upon his, Legolas slowly smiled and returned her squeeze. “Thank you, Sili,” he replied softly. His eyes slid past her to rest upon Thranduil. “It is very good to be home.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.