10. Chapter 10: Healing, Tracking, and Oh My...
Disclaimer, Summary and Warning could be found in 1st chapter.
Chapter 10: Healing, Tracking, and Oh My…
Thranduil walked back toward the tent where Aragorn lay, and carefully observed the man in front of him.
The man, in some way, gave him hope; he could not explain how and why, but he just did, perhaps by being there.
Thranduil's vision blurred and a lone tear found its way down his cheek.
"Are you all right, Thranduil?" Haldir asked in concern.
"I will be, once my son is found," Thranduil replied, his voice resolute.
"We will find him. Do not lose hope, my friend." Elrohir's voice came from behind him. Thranduil turned to find the twins smiling. Elladan continued, "We saw with our own eyes. There is still hope."
"I will take your word on that, my friends," Thranduil released a tiny smile as he poured out his concerns of finding Legolas dead.
"We know," the twins reassured him, but their broad smiles never faded.
"See, you have nothing to worry about, Thranduil," Haldir told him, a smile of his own lighting up his face.
Thranduil scanned the March-warden's expression as he thought about the younger's elf optimism, then he nodded silently.
"I shall now go and check on Aragorn," Thranduil told them and left.
As Elladan watched the king leave the room, he commented, "I really hope that we will find Legolas in time or else…"
"We will not see Thranduil again," his twin finished.
"Good point," Haldir agreed, looking at the two.
Together, they walked toward the line of trees, listening as nature sang its sweet songs for them.
The twins could see that there was something bothering Haldir when the elf started humming along with the birds. True, it had been way long since they visited Lothlórien but they never remembered Haldir being that tense around them. Even Orophin seemed to have picked up on the tension as well.
"What is it on your mind Haldir?" Elladan asked for them.
"Nothing," Haldir replied but Elladan blocked his way. There was no way they would let him go without giving an honest answer.
"You are lying to us. Now, what is it?" Elrohir asked him, walking menacingly closer.
"It is about your father," Haldir sighed and replied, still trying not to give too much information just yet, "I just thought you might feel hurt if I asked about him."
"Ask what you want, and we swear that we will not hunt and kill you," Elladan said, grinning at him.
Haldir took a deep breath, glanced at the twins, then asked in a single breath, "What, in the name of the Valar, is wrong with your father?"
"See, that wasn't that hard, was it?" Elladan grinned, quite enjoying it.
"Very funny, Elladan, but what is wrong with him? He has never acted that way before," Haldir asked again.
"Nor have we ever seen him that way," Elladan agreed and thought for a moment before adding, " I believe that he fears losing Aragorn forever, and only Valar knows what that means. Elrond never told us about his fate, but he loves him the same as he loves us."
Haldir nodded, "Thank you, I believe that draws some light on what happened to your father, but I still need to know more."
"Well, Haldir, your curiosity has never stopped you before," Orophin reminded his brother, grinning.
"You are right, muindor," Haldir agreed with a grin of his own while glancing at the twins, who shrugged.
"As always, my brother," Orophin grinned, turning to find the twins chuckling.
Thranduil watched from the doorway as Galadriel placed the fresh leaves and herbs over the man's wounds.
"You can come in, Thranduil. He will be all right," Galadriel told him, her voice light as she looked at him. It was not hard to notice the pain that still laced his face.
"He does not look too good, Lady Galadriel," Thranduil said as he sat near the paler man.
"He will be just fine; give him time to heal," Galadriel told him, then added, "And you? Are you all right?"
"I will be when I will find my son alive and well," Thranduil replied and he sighed before continuing, "I cannot bear the thought of my son being out there in pain, and perhaps even dying alone."
"You must not fall into despair; fill your heart with hope and nothing less as you need to believe that Legolas is alive." In her mind's eye, Galadriel could see that anything else would lead to the crumble of Mirkwood under Sauron's assaulting might.
But Thranduil did not wish to speak of the clouds of despair that circled his heart at the thought of his precious son. Instead, he turned the conversation to Aragorn again.
"Will he survive the long journey?" he asked the Lady of light, his eyes fixed on Aragorn.
Galadriel sighed heavily as she sensed what the king was hiding. It was not for her to help him bear this burden but she could at least answer to his question.
"He will be all right, though if you notice that he is weak from the pain, some rest would be helpful."
Thranduil nodded, determined to give Legolas's friend his full care and attention.
"Will he remember how was he hurt?" Thranduil asked, breaking the silence that had formed.
"That depends on whether he wishes to remember it," Galadriel replied. "It is possible that he fears you would blame him for what has happened, therefore I suggest that you keep encouraging him and be there for him."
"I will do as you have said, my lady, with the hope of soon knowing what happened to them," Thranduil thanked her for her suggestion.
Galadriel watched the king, she noticed his frown and the growing concern that he had for his son, and she could feel the darkness around the king. If Legolas were found dead, Thranduil would be lost forever after losing every one of those whom he loved.
But Aragorn could hear their voices. He wanted to say something but he could only feel the darkness cripple and drain him with its burning pain. Finally he gave in.
"He is only resting," Galadriel assured the king, "The herbs will help him, you will see."
A few hours later Aragorn had woken from the darkness. The first person he saw was Thranduil watching him. The twins were near too; he could hear their voices.
"It's about time you woke up, little brother," Elrohir grinned at him while Elladan handed him a cup of water.
Aragorn thanked and drank gratefully, relieved that his throat didn't burn anymore.
"Leave… when?" Aragorn asked weakly.
Elladan caught the king's eyes, and grinned as he teased his youngest brother, "Do you want us to leave, little brother?"
"Ha ha…" Aragorn choked out, glaring at him.
"I am glad to see that you are feeling better, Estel," Thranduil told the injured man. Estel. He could do with some hope himself to believe that Legolas was still amongst the living.
"Thank you for your concern," Aragorn smiled, seeming not to have noticed anything. But he did realize that the room had fallen silent and he never liked that.
He tried to sit up but he could feel hands pushing him back down.
"Do not try to move, little brother, your body's still quite weak," Elladan reminded him.
"But… but…" Aragorn tried but he was silenced by Thranduil.
"You need first to be all right, my friend," Thranduil told him, his fingers moving toward the scars on the man's chest, "I need you to be in full strength and so does my son."
"But… I am fine…" Aragorn protested feebly.
"Famous last words…" Elrohir grinned at his brother and at Aragorn's frown, he continued, "But you are not fine. You are still in pain; I can see it in your eyes."
With a sigh, Aragorn conceded. "You are right," he said, closing his eyes wearily.
"Is it normal for your brother to admit it?" Thranduil asked the twins with concern.
"No," Elrohir replied, and the king could see the deep concern in his eyes, "He normally hides it till Adar finds out. The pain must be very great for him now."
Legolas felt the blood still dripping from his body. Each cold gust of wind shook his body and he could feel its chill ripple through every fiber. Why would it not end?
He could not bear staring at his friend, to face the guilt of what he had done; he could not bear looking at his father, to see the unspoken blame written so clearly in those eyes.
The Prince of Mirkwood lay on the blood-saturated ground, his eyes dark and blank as he waited for death to welcome him into Mandos' Hall, where the killers of the world were left behind. But there was nothing now, nothing but the numbness and the reflexive jerks of his body, as though trying to overrule his mind in its fight to stay on this realm, but there was no way Legolas could let that happen.
Haldir entered the tent, watching the others in silence till he sensed them gazing at him.
"What?" he asked innocently.
"How can we help you?" Thranduil asked him.
"I have been wondering…" Haldir replied tentatively.
"What have you been wondering about?" Thranduil asked.
"When can we leave?" Haldir asked.
"As soon as Aragorn is all right," Thranduil replied.
"How soon?" Haldir asked insistently.
"As soon as Thranduil lets me go…" Aragorn's weak voice could barely be heard and his eyes were still closed.
"Aragorn, you should rest," Thranduil's tone was concerned and firm. If there was one thing that Thranduil could not stand, it was to see his son's friend injured and in pain. He needed Aragorn alive and well if they were to find Legolas alive.
"But… what about your son? What about Legolas?" Aragorn tried to ask while ignoring the pain.
"You will find him. I trust you and I know that you will be the one who finds my son," Thranduil said as confidently as he could, putting all his trust in the man.
"Even if it was my fault?" Aragorn had to ask.
"I know that it was neither yours nor my son's fault," Thranduil replied and clasped Aragorn's shoulder reassuring. "I trust you. Therefore you should trust me as well, as I am speaking as a father and a friend rather than a king."
"Hannon-le, mellon-nin," Aragorn thanked him and rested his head on the soft ground, closing his eyes. He let himself drift into sleep, finally having a peaceful rest.
"Thranduil, you and your words will do us nothing but good," Elrohir grinned at the king.
"What did I do?" Thranduil asked the young elf.
"He is now sleeping better than he was before, and I think that you eased something from his heart. Perhaps he indeed believed that it was his fault," Elladan explained.
"I should have done it sooner, my friend," Thranduil sighed and then he added, "I should have said that to my son too, and now it seems too late."
"I should have done lots of things myself, but what I should and what I need are far different things, my friend. Adar once told me that I need to focus on what is happening in front of me, but as you can tell, I have not," Elladan admitted. "And your son, I should have taken better care of him when he needed me as a friend and I failed."
"We all failed him," Thranduil agreed.
Haldir coughed a little too conspicuously.
"What is it, Haldir?" Thranduil asked him.
"I did not fail him," Haldir replied with a little smile, hoping to lighten the atmosphere even if he did not know how they would react.
"We know that," Elladan grinned at Haldir.
Two days later they left Lothlórien heading toward Mirkwood, with the hope of making good speed to find any sign of Legolas.
Galdor was pleased to see that his king was back; keeping things in the land intact was hard enough without the king being there and Sauron had given them no respite with constant droves of orcs and spiders.
"Galdor," Thranduil called his loyal guard and friend, "Ready the guest rooms, we have company."
"As you wish, my king," Galdor bowed and left.
Thranduil sighed heavily at that.
"What is it, King Thranduil?" Elladan asked, grinning as he addressed Thranduil by his title the way he was used to.
"Nothing to be concerned with," Thranduil shook his head and caught up with Galdor.
Elrohir wanted to follow the king but his twin stopped him, "Let him be, muindor. I sense this is a matter between him and his guard." Instead, he motioned for them to follow the guards who were them their room.
Meanwhile, Galdor stopped as he sensed the king behind him.
"Is there something you wish for, my king?" Galdor asked.
"Aye," Thranduil replied. "I believed that I asked you not to be formal in my presence." He stared at his friend searching his gaze. "You are my friend, my truly loyal friend."
Galdor sighed, releasing the tension that he kept within him since his friend left his homeland, "Forgive me, my friend. Things in Mirkwood have been much tense lately with Sauron sending orcs here. Saelbeth and I have been trying our best."
"I know you have, my friend," Thranduil assured him, knowing how hard it was for him to keep the land in one piece. "Lothlórien's guards will help you today."
"Hannon-le," Galdor thanked him for the aid but felt that there was something more. "Can I trust the human that you brought?"
"You should. He is Legolas's friend, the one he kept talking about whenever he is back from Imladris," Thranduil replied with a smile.
"He is the one?" Galdor asked, as he remembered the adventures that the prince liked to share with him.
"Aye, he is," Thranduil replied and smiled as he noticed the joy in his friend's eyes and then he added, "Keep him in one piece, mellon-nin, he is still recovering."
"I will try, but I make you no promises, as I am eager to know his side of those tales that Legolas has told me," Galdor said excitedly.
Thranduil could not help smiling at that enthusiasm. "You can go now, my friend," Thranduil assured him and then he added, "Just be careful of the twins."
"Where will you be going?" Galdor asked with sudden concern.
"I will be in Legolas's room," Thranduil replied, the smile gone from his face as he left.
Galdor figured that his king might want to be alone, so he let him be and walked toward the guests' rooms instead.
"So you are Aragorn," Galdor found the man easily and instantly caught his attention.
"Do you know me?" Aragorn asked him, stepping forward and then he asked, rather curiously, "What has Thranduil told you about me?"
"I know about you from what Legolas used to tell me each time he was back with all his scratches and bruises," Galdor replied with a mysterious grin.
"What did he tell you about the fight in the trolls' cave?" Aragorn challenged the guard.
"There was no fight in the trolls' cave; they were orcs, not trolls," Galdor replied, not breaking eye contact with the man.
"It seems that Legolas did tell him quite a bit," Elladan commented.
"He is my friend even if he is a prince," Galdor explained to Aragorn and then he added, grinning, "I have always wanted to meet the man in the stories, though I do wish that we have met under other circumstances."
"Me too." Aragorn definitely agreed with the guard.
"Estel, you should rest," Elrohir interrupted them as his twin added, "You are still weak."
Galdor looked at the man as he did look paler and he nodded. "You should do as they tell you, young man. We'll save the stories for later," he added pleasantly as he walked toward the door. "I will see you all in the dinner hall then," he said.
"We'll be there," Elrohir confirmed with a smile.
Haldir walked toward Saelbeth with determination in his eyes as he saw how the Mirkwood elves tensed at every sound they heard.
Saelbeth instantly noticed the Lothlórien elf's gaze and faced him, "Is there anything I could help you with?"
"Aye, I have been wondering why you are so tense," Haldir replied and the Mirkwood guard could see that Haldir was honestly curious.
"Sauron sends the orcs each day here toward our homeland. And the spiders, too. We can feel them as they crawl nearer," Saelbeth told him, gazing on ahead, "The enemies are close by the door… very close…"
Haldir looked behind his shoulder. He could feel the air thick and heavy with the awful smell of filthy creatures. He could certainly sense their presence, growing nearer.
Then there was a brush of air near his face as the Mirkwood guards released their bows. Haldir turned around to see the dead orcs on the ground. He seemed to have lost his quick reflexes; he was certainly not as fast and alert as the Mirkwood elves, even if he still possessed his skills.
"Hannon-le," Haldir thanked them.
Saelbeth nodded. Now Haldir would understand why they were so tense.
"It might be good for you to have a few more lessons. Perhaps your senses and reflexes could be better honed. There is certainly room for improvement," Saelbeth advised.
"It seems so," Haldir agreed and then he added, "In that case, I will stay here with you."
Saelbeth nodded and smiled.
In the evening, everyone else in Mirkwood seem to be waiting for one particular elf to reach the Dinner Hall.
"Did someone notify Haldir?" Thranduil asked his guards.
"We did, and he told us that he will be here," Galdor replied. "I cannot think why he is taking so long."
As though on cue, Haldir finally arrived, tired and dirty.
"What happened to you mellon-nin?" Thranduil asked the March-warden.
"I seem to have forgotten about dinner as Saelbeth was training me…" Haldir replied, and was promptly interrupted by the king.
"Training you?" Thranduil asked, smiling. "Why should my guard be training you? Should you not be well-trained?"
"Haldir," Elladan caught the Lothlórien guard's attention before asking, "Is there something that you would like to tell us?"
Haldir stared at them, not quite ready for another one of the twins' interrogation session. All he wanted was to eat and sleep after a long tiring day, and be ready for next day.
But a short burst from Aragorn dashed his hopes. Between chuckles, the man said cryptically, "I believe you should inform the lord and lady about your lack of training…"
The elves laughed merrily and Haldir could only retort with a dry, mocking laugh, "Not funny."
Thranduil was certainly enjoying the light-hearted environment as he invited the others to eat. "The food is getting cold and our day is coming to end," he said.
The pleasant meal was over and the plates now empty. Thranduil rose from his chair and so did his guests and guards. Leaving the Dinner Hall, they went their separate ways, leaving Thranduil, the twins, Aragorn, Haldir and the ever faithful Galdor.
Then, all of sudden, Aragorn stopped near Legolas's room.
He turned to the king as he asked for permission, "May I enter his room?"
Thranduil sighed and reasoned that this might well be their chance to get what could be got from the man's memory. "My home is your home, Aragorn," he said, noticing the mere smile on the man's face, "I do hope that some of my son's belongings will bring the events to mind…"
Aragorn nodded and entered Legolas room, his gray eyes scanning the area. He could see the sword lying on the floor, the quivers of arrows barely empty and the bow leaning against the wall.
He knelt by the sword, compelled by some force to pick it up. He rose, stunned by the sight of dry blood and yet, as the gleam of the blade flashed before his eyes, he ran his hand along it, feeling it cut his skin, as he saw how everything had happened; he remembered the sharp pain from this same sword when it had struck him, he remembered falling and the cold air and snow that braced his fall.
Still caught in that dazed memory, Aragorn did not feel the blade slice his palm as he let the sword fall, nor did he hear it over the scene that replayed in his mind.
The twins, however, could see the sword turn in the air, hitting the ground point-first before spinning a little and finally lying on its side, devoid of life and movement. And they could see how the sword was still stained.
"The sword is very filthy," Elladan exclaimed even as his twin continued, "Why did he not clean it? He is always cleaning it after every fight."
"I believe that my son did not clean it as a remembrance of what occurred of what he did," Thranduil spoke gravely. He knelt beside the man, putting his hand on his shoulder. He saw Aragorn's hand moved subconsciously toward his wound, striking it slowly, as though remembering how the sword hits him.
He shook the man lightly. From the glazed expression in his open eyes, the king believed that Aragorn had recalled what happened. He could see the shadows in the man's eyes and shook him again.
"Aragorn, follow my voice," Thranduil told the man gently.
But the man did not respond.
"Aragorn," Thranduil tightened his grip on his shoulders.
Only after a long moment did Aragorn turn and stare at them, his expression still blank and unreadable.
"What is it, Estel?" Elladan asked in worry.
"It was just a simple mistake…" Aragorn finally mumbled, as the tears left his eyes. "Just a simple mistake…"
"What was it, son?" Thranduil asked.
"I need to find him…" Aragorn told them, his hands shaking as fought back his sobs. "I hope he will forgive me…"
"Of course he will," Thranduil assured the man, much as he wished to know what had occurred.
"I would not forgive myself, how could he forgive me?" Aragorn asked.
"He will, because you are the best of friends ever," Thranduil assured him.
"Why am I bleeding?" Aragorn finally asked as he unclenched his tense hand.
"Rest, brother, and I will tell you everything tomorrow," Elladan replied as his twin tied his hand with a makeshift bandage. They could fix that later on.
"Come, brother," Elladan helped his little brother stand. He could see that Aragorn was suddenly weak and could barely keep his balance. With Elrohir's help, they managed to walk him to his room. "For now," Elladan said, "you need to sleep and gather your strength. Everything's going to be alright."
Thranduil nodded. "We leave at dawn!"
Aragorn awoke sharply from his nightmare. He had seen the entire incident again, and with his mind foggy, he felt all the more confused.
He pushed himself up on the bed, his hands rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, but he stopped immediately as he felt something rough on his hand.
Aragorn glanced at the bandage on his palm. It seemed rather neat, even if it was soaked, and there might have been herbs in it as well – but he could not recall why his hand needed one. He certainly hoped that someone could answer all his confused questions.
Getting to his feet, he dressed himself, feeling somewhat refreshed and then stepped out of the palace. He had to shield his eyes from the blinding sunrays, and he blinked as he tried to make out what was happening. The elves were preparing to leave and he turned to find familiar faces.
Thranduil was there, and having sensed the human approach, he walked toward him. The king noticed the dark circles around the man's eyes and hoped he had gotten some rest. The more pressing issue, though, was redressing the man's wound; his bandaged was far too badly stained with blood.
"What is it, son?" Thranduil asked him.
"I don't recall hurting my hand. What happened?" Aragorn asked, still confused.
"You were cut when you held Legolas's sword," Thranduil explained, "and I hope your wound won't get infected because the sword was dirty."
Elladan and Elrohir joined them, clearly having noticed the same thing. Elrohir had brought some fresh herbs and bandages with him.
"Estel, you are awake," Elladan greeted him cheerfully. He unwrapped the dressing while his twin cleaned the wound and secured it with the fresh bandages. "Now your hand will be fine," he continued, "though I hope it will not be infected."
"Do you remember what happened back then?" Thranduil asked him.
Aragorn nodded and lowered his head in shame and guilt.
"You should not feel guilty, son. It was an accident; it's no one fault, you should remember that," Thranduil told him gently, tilting Aragorn's chin up to look at him. "We are a family, Aragorn, and a family stands with each other for better or for worse."
"Hannon-le," Aragorn managed.
Thranduil smiled, and glancing at the sky, he reminded them, "We should be leaving."
The twins nodded and helped Aragorn to his horse. Haldir joined them quickly and together, they rode, steadily, toward the fringes of Mirkwood, searching for any sign of Legolas. They could only hope to find him in Mirkwood and not outside; anything could happen - Legolas could be held hostage by Sauron's pressing forces, and that was not a fate they would wish even on their enemies.
Only an hour and half into the journey, Aragorn stopped his horse and dismounted, walking toward the mangled bushes where he saw some dried blood. Carefully, he tracked the trail, noticing that Thranduil and the others were following him closely.
At a sudden noise, Aragorn looked toward the sky, seeing the ravens and other birds yelling. And he started running. The last time he heard their dreadful screeching squawks, there had been a body lying just down the road. Aragorn just hoped that this time, it would not be Legolas's.
Then the ground shook, and Thranduil turned sharply. He could sense it in the air; something worse was yet to come.
Aragorn turned around and noticed the king's pale face, along with the knowing grimness of his brothers. Only the March-warden seemed as confused as him.
"What is it?"
"Elladan, Elrohir, prepare the arrows," Thranduil ordered and then he faced Haldir, "I hope that you will manage this."
"What will I manage? Who is attacking us?" Haldir asked in concern as he prepared his weapons along with the twins and Thranduil's guards.
"Wargs…" Thranduil replied and then he added, almost whispering, as if to the thin air that brushed his hair, "The only reason for them to come here is because there is a body somewhere, blood-stained. They have smelt the blood and have come to devour the body…"
"And they have probably smelt us too," Aragorn added, leaving the rest unsaid; no one wished to be food for the monstrous beasts. He swallowed hard, and mounted his horse in preparation.
"We meet them on horse-back. Kill as many as you can; make every arrow count," Thranduil advised, keeping the darker thoughts in his mind. Now, he could only pray that the Valar would not let the wargs be after his son's body.
Their horses had fallen tense and silent and before long, they heard the growls and howls of the beasts, mingled with the war-cry of the orcs and the shrieks of the birds.
Elladan shot the first arrow, felling an orc. Carefully, his twin took out the warg below it, hitting its weakest point with a single shot. The wargs seemed to be an endless stream. Despite the increasing number of carcasses on the ground, there were still more of them. But the elves were also fighting hard. Aragorn, weak as he was, managed to hack at a warg too close to him, whereupon Haldir finished the kill. They exchanged a brief smile, then Haldir turned to bring down another orc.
As the forest was cleared of the filthy creatures, Thranduil noticed something odd in the distance. Two wargs had caught his eye and his heart froze as he saw what they had found. They were leaving their gruesome teeth-marks on a body.
"Oh, please, Valar…" Thranduil collapsed on the ground, feeling his world torn apart, his lips parted in a heart-wrenching whisper, "Not my son, not like this, please, Valar…"
End of Chapter 10.
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.