7. Chapter 7: The One in the Middle
Chapter 7: The One in the Middle
Glorfindel walked into the house, bearing Thranduil's message for Elrond. The Balrog Slayer was most amused as he wondered how the lord would react.
Glorfindel knocked on the door and waited till the lord gave him permission to enter and he was pleased when Elladan came and opened the door.
"Elladan," he called, catching the young elf's eyes, and asked, "Could you leave us alone for a while?"
Elladan nodded and left the room, though not before turning around and casting one last look on Aragorn.
Elrond, meanwhile, did not know why his son had left him alone with the Balrog Slayer but he intended to find out.
"What is it, Glorfindel?" Elrond asked without turning around.
Glorfindel turned to his lord and coughed, "Thranduil dares you to meet him outside; he wants a duel with you."
"He wants what?" Elrond asked, clearly disliking Glorfindel's attention, though the Balrog Slayer could see how angry his lord was at the news.
"He wants to compete with you, and the winner will have few moments with Aragorn." Glorfindel went on to explain.
"And what about the loser?" Elrond asked, hoping that Thranduil had something in mind for the loser as well.
"Well, that was not concluded yet, but you can ask him, if you want." Glorfindel replied.
"He will not get anything that he wants in my land!"
"That is why Erestor and I are the judges, Lord Elrond."
"Judges of what, exactly?" Elrond asked, as the thought of strangling Thranduil crossed his mind.
"Contest of arrows," Glorfindel replied, and, as he saw how Elrond sighed heavily in acknowledgement that King Thranduil had an advantage, he added, "I am rooting for you to win, my lord."
Hopefully that would encourage his lord a little.
Elrond nodded and a determination showed through. He would not let Thranduil win the game so easily, not without putting up a valiant fight.
"So be it, and may the Valar help me."
"Hannon-le, hir-nin." Glorfindel thanked him for the unspoken understanding and then he left him alone with Aragorn.
"If that's what Thranduil wants, he will not see Aragorn again." Elrond decided – even if he needed to do something extreme.
Aragorn moaned then, and tried to move and as soon as Elrond noticed that, he moved closer to his son in an instant. "Do not move, Estel, you will hurt yourself more if you try to move too soon."
"Ada…" Aragorn called, the pain sounding clearly in his voice.
"What is it, my son?" Elrond urged, concerned about the man.
"Please… Make the pain stop…" Aragorn said, like the little boy he once was.
Elrond reached to wipe the lone tear away from his son's face, and moved his hand to feel his son's forehead. He could certainly feel the heat there, and yet he noticed how Aragorn pulled the blanket off himself, muttering though the pain, "Too hot… hot…"
"Estel, ion, listen to my voice," Elrond tried, though knowing that, with the fever rising in him, the man may not be able to listen, "It is the fever, son, do not let it overcome you, you are stronger than it."
"Hot…" Aragorn muttered, not seeming to have paid attention to his foster father.
"Listen to my voice, child." Elrond tried but his efforts fell on deaf ears.
Elrond sighed heavily, turning away for a moment as he could not bear to see the pain and suffering that engulfed his son. Then, having come to a decision, he rose and walked toward the door, opening it and calling for his sons as he deeply needed their help.
Elladan, who was waiting patiently outside, heard his father call and entered right away, knowing in his heart that his brother was out somewhere with Erestor and possibly Thranduil.
"Where is your brother?" Elrond asked his son immediately.
"Outside, with the rest of the elves and perhaps King Thranduil." Elladan replied.
"Your brother is a traitor now, Elladan." Elrond told his son, hoping Elladan would not act like his twin.
Elladan started at his father with a frown on his brow as he tried not to let the anger build in his body. He asked as softly as he could, "Why is that, adar? Is that because he may be with Thranduil?"
"Do not talk to me like this, I am your father and you will act toward me with respect." Elrond announced to his son.
"But you are making it hard for me to do so, father."
Elrond sighed heavily, then took a deep breath and told his son, "I will try not to, but I suggest both of us should drop this subject."
"Then Elrohir is not a traitor?" Elladan asked his father, determined to clear his brother's name.
"Traitor?" a new voice asked, and Elrond chided himself mentally for not sensing his other son as he entered the room.
"Elrohir…" Elrond tried to find a way to explain himself as he noticed how the usually calm blue eyes were now glaring at him like sharpened ice.
"Am I a traitor to you, adar?" Elrohir asked, not knowing what he was expected to make of what he overheard.
"I did not mean it that way." Elrond answered weakly.
"I would like a good explanation, then." Elrohir said, not even looking at his twin as his eyes locked with his father's.
Before Elrond could say anything, Elladan turned toward his brother and explained, "Ada asked me where you could have been as you did not come when he called us in, and I said that you were probably with the rest of the elves and possibly Thranduil as well."
Elrohir could not believe what he was hearing. Did sitting beside Thranduil make him a traitor?
"So be it," Elrohir said to his father, not breaking his gaze, "I am a traitor as I love sitting next to Thranduil and listening and sharing tales about Legolas. And I miss Legolas as well."
"Take back your words, my son," Elrond warned him and he added, "Can you not see what your friend did? Can you not see the way your brother is suffering all because of him?"
"No!" Elrohir responded loudly, and continued, "You are the one who should take your words back. You are the one who's making it all difficult for everyone; you are the one who started all the mess in the first place!" Without another word, Elrohir left the room.
Elrond saw how Elladan wanted to go after his brother, and, hearing as Aragorn was still moaning in pain as the fever was still flaring, he turned to his son.
"I need you to stay and help me with your brother," Elrond told him, and noticing his unconvinced look, he added, "Your brother is running a fever; it needs to be brought down or we might lose him."
Elladan was still torn, knowing that he needed to talk with his twin, but after glancing at his young brother and noticing the pained features on his pale face, his heart felt for him and he nodded.
"I will stay because of him. For now." Elladan said and walked to sit beside Aragorn, muttering reassurances to sooth him.
Elrohir was pacing outside, his eyes still cold as he fumed over what his father had said to him, so lost in thought that he did not feel the presence of Thranduil and Erestor as they neared.
"What is it, penneth, that troubles your heart?" Erestor asked, as he noticed how Elrohir's blue eyes were as ready as a knife to kill.
Elrohir tried to calm himself before he asked, "How do you know?"
"Well, as your father used to say," Thranduil spoke up instead, "The eyes, Master Elrohir, the eyes tell much indeed."
Elrohir sighed heavily.
"What is it?" Erestor asked gently, sensing the emotional war within the young elf.
"He called me a traitor." Elrohir said simply, and even Thranduil could see the cold flame burning within Elrohir's eyes.
" 'He'? Are you talking about your father?" Erestor asked, not believing his own ears.
"Who else could it be, Erestor?" Thranduil asked the advisor quietly.
Erestor shrugged, knowing that Elrond had crossed the line.
Elrohir turned toward Thranduil. "Only you can beat him, Thranduil," He said. "Show him that his words are not affecting you, and I hope he will soon learn that words hurt more than he thought they do."
Thranduil nodded and Elrohir carried on quietly. "I still cannot believe that he called me a traitor just because I am sitting here with you and Erestor."
"He will get what he deserved, Master Elrohir, and I will make sure of that." Thranduil assured him with a small smile.
Elrohir smiled in return, knowing that Thranduil did not smile much during these rough days.
But Thranduil's smile disappeared when he noticed horses riding hard toward them. They bore the insignia of his homeland and his heart clenched in fear that something might have had happened to his son.
The king walked toward the horses, his eyes wary. He noticed Saelbeth among the guards and addressed him.
"What is it?" Thranduil asked.
"It is your son, Your Highness," Saelbeth replied before he added, "He is gone, and his weapons were left on the bed. He had nothing with him, and his horse, he did not take his horse."
"What does that mean?" Elrohir asked, noticing the deep frown on the king's features.
"It means, Master Elrohir, that my son has set out to seek death," Thranduil replied and turned towards the horizon. "He is not coming back."
"What are you going to do?" Erestor asked.
"I am going to win this contest and speak with Aragorn, as he is the only who knows what happened, and can help to look for Legolas. I can only hope and pray to the Valar that I will not find my son de…" Thranduil realized he could not say the last word; it was far too painful.
"You will not." Elrohir tried to reassure the king, hoping with all his heart that Legolas would be alright.
"Erestor," Thranduil called, and catching the advisor's attention, he continued, "Let your lord know that the contest will begin tonight. I do not have time now if I wish to find my son."
Erestor nodded and left.
Thranduil then turned his gaze back to Saelbeth. "Rest first, and return to Mirkwood. Saelbeth, you will be in charge till I return."
"Yes, Your Highness," Saelbeth nodded and then he added, "I will see you before I leave, and I will send a messenger once we have news of Legolas."
"Hannon-le." Thranduil thanked him as he left.
Elrohir looked at Thranduil, wishing to help when he saw the king's emotions reflected even in the way he breathed.
"Will you sit with me?" Elrohir asked, looking warily at the king as he walked toward the garden.
"It will be my honor, young one." Thranduil replied, and following Elrohir, he sat beside him on the bare ground, careful not to ruin any flowers.
Only when they were both seated did Elrohir asked Thranduil, "How do you really feel?"
"Torn." Thranduil admitted.
"Once this is over, I will come with you as I cannot stand how my father acts anymore. Once some sense comes back to him, I might return, but not before." Elrohir voiced his thoughts aloud.
"It is your life to decide what you will, and I am not one to tell you otherwise." Thranduil said with grace.
"I thank you for this," Elrohir said with a smile and added honestly, "but I am also worried about the contest tonight."
"What worries you about it?" Thranduil asked.
"Your mind, Thranduil. Your mind is occupied with your son and not focused on the contest. I would hate to see you lose it." Elrohir replied.
"Do not worry, mellon-nin. It will be alright, you will see." Thranduil assured him, though in his mind, he was growing increasingly worried about his son's welfare.
Elrohir truly wished to believe that but he had guessed how Thranduil was feeling and his mind was not going to let it go just like that. He could see the mix of anger and worry, as though Thranduil wished to simply leave Imladris and look for his son, while on the other hand, he could not have Elrond think he was a coward for leaving, or let Elrond win the match. Elrohir was sure that all the king really wanted was to know what happened and look for his son – and there was little he could do to help.
While inside the house…
Erestor entered the healing wing as soon as he saw Elrond sitting there.
"My lord, Thranduil requests that you be at the garden as soon as night falls, to begin the contest," Erestor announced.
"Why?" Elrond asked, surprised by the change of time since he had expected for the contest to only begin at dawn the next day.
"Thranduil's guards arrived and they told him about his son…" But Erestor was interrupted by his lord.
"What about his son?" Elrond asked, the hatred clear in his voice.
"He has gone missing, taking nothing with him, not even his horse." Erestor replied.
Elrond only smiled. The only thought that crossed his mind then was that Thranduil would be worried about his son, which meant he would not perform as well during the contest.
"That is good news, good news indeed." Elrond said.
Elladan left his brother's side and walked decisively toward his father.
"How could you say this?" Elladan asked his father.
Now he knew how sorry he was about Thranduil and Legolas; he had been feeling like a traitor ever since Thranduil came. He should have been there with his twin when the king arrived, he should have sought for news about Legolas. Legolas was his friend as well.
"Why is that not true?" Elrond only asked, his smile still in place, if not wider.
"Do you not worry about Legolas?" Elladan asked, noticed his father's look, he added mockingly, "Forgive me, I thought I knew my father, but it seems that he is more evil than the darkest creatures that lurk in the shadows."
With that, Elladan returned to his brother's side, trying to sooth, or at least, take the pain away for a while.
"I am here, Estel, and so are Elrohir and Thranduil." He had to let his brother know who were the ones who cared for him, whether they were in the room or not.
Aragorn turned his head from side to side, still struggling to be free of the fever. "L… Legolas?" The name came out clearly nonetheless.
"He is not here, Estel. I wish we knew where he is." Elladan said honestly.
Elrond moved over, placing a hand on the man. "No…" Aragorn cried, as though in pain, jerking away.
"Aragorn!" Elrond's anger had barely subsided and his son's action had not helped. Getting a grip on himself, he added more softly, "It is the fever, my son, do not let it conquer your mind."
Still, the man was thrashing upon the bed, his moans and shouts now indistinct. The blanket that covered him soon fell onto the floor.
"You have to calm down, Aragorn," Elrond said firmly, but his words fell on deaf ears. "Aragorn," He called again.
Then, feeling Elladan's gaze on him, he turned around. "What are you standing there for? Help me cover your brother." He ordered.
Elladan picked up the blanket, doing as he was told. He would deal with his father later; now Aragorn was the one who needed his attention more.
"Feel better, Estel." Elladan said softly at Aragorn's ear, and then reached over to hold his brother's hand.
To his and Elrond's surprise, Aragorn did not jerk his hand away.
"Why did he not move away from you?" Elrond thought aloud.
Elladan stared at his adar briefly, then with a slight shrug, he replied, "Maybe he felt the anger behind your action."
"I will take that I did not hear you say that."
"Do what you want, but I do not know you anymore. You have changed," Elladan told his father, trying hard to keep his voice quiet and focused more on his brother instead.
Elrond was fuming by then, and as he saw how his son ignored him, he stormed out of the room.
Erestor was standing silently at the door then and he could feel the slam as the door rebounded against the wall. The advisor glanced at Elladan, then, giving one last look at the man lying in the bed, he left the brothers alone and caught up with his lord.
Elrond did not notice the darkness as he left the house. Right then, he was fuming at everything, but mostly at Thranduil. Ever since that elf came, everything had been going out of control.
He kept his pace as he stormed through the corridors, even as he saw his traitor son with Thranduil, sitting together and talking as though they had done nothing wrong.
"How does Aragorn fare?" Thranduil asked, and catching the glare from the elf-lord, and he turned to the advisor and addressed him, "Erestor, how does Aragorn fare?"
"Not good, Thranduil. He is having a bad fever, though seeing that Elladan is with him, he is in good hands." Erestor replied with a soft smile.
Thranduil turned toward Elrohir and asked him gently, "Why don't you go and help your brother?" Noticing the worried glance that Elrohir gave him, he added, "I will be alright. Now go, and be with your brothers."
Elrohir nodded gratefully and left, not bothered to speak to his father.
"What is the first contest?" Elrond asked.
"You will have to ask Glorfindel. He and Erestor are the judges though he would be presiding over the contest." Thranduil replied and then left, Erestor following by his side.
Elrond could felt how the anger was rising in his body. Elrohir did not even wish to speak to him, and now Thranduil was doing likewise.
The lord eventually found the Balrog Slayer in the garden, his eyes straying to gaze at the sky.
"What are you doing?" Elrond asked, having already lost his impatience.
"Searching for some clues." Glorfindel replied, not even turning to acknowledge his lord.
"Clues that will help me win this game?" Elrond asked with a hopeful smile.
"There will be no clues given," Glorfindel stared at his lord before he continued, "Especially not to you, my lord."
"How rude." Elrond muttered and left.
Glorfindel smiled, seemingly pleased with himself, and waited for his companion in judging to come and finalize some important rules.
Soon Erestor came with Thranduil, and Glorfindel could see the worry and desperation that haunted the Mirkwood king.
Glorfindel walked toward him, needing a confirmation before making arrangements with the rest of the elves to set up the contest.
"Are you certain you want to do this, Thranduil?" Glorfindel asked.
The king sighed heavily, reminded of the weight that bore upon him, the weight of pain, of losing something, someone of his own flesh and blood. "I am. I brought this up, and I hope I can make it through for the sake of both Aragorn and my son," He replied.
"Thank you. I do hope you will win this contest, and I hope you can forgive us for Lord Elrond's attitude."
"You need not ask for forgiveness, Glorfindel. The only one I can blame is Lord Elrond himself. I cannot blame anyone else, not even Aragorn, as I have not heard his tale of the matter." Thranduil told him, the understanding showing in his eyes.
Glorfindel nodded in comprehension. He was about to speak when Elrond returned, as angry as before when he saw Glorfindel nodding at Thranduil.
"Have you given him any clues?" Elrond asked Glorfindel mockingly.
"If you continue with this kind of attitude, I might, so be warned, my Lord Elrond, and behave as though this were any other competition, because I will not tolerate your insult on my character, do you understand?" Glorfindel asked him, pride and indignation mixed in his voice.
Elrond only nodded, saying nothing.
Glorfindel only stepped closer to him and repeated his question louder, "Do you understand?"
"I do, now can we start and get it over it?" Elrond was barely holding back his impatience. "Aragorn is having a bad fever and I do not wish to lose him because of some silly contest."
Glorfindel and Erestor nodded at the elves who were hidden within the forest as they set the first challenge up and prepared the targets.
"You've got to be kidding me," Elrond sneered at them and added, "Is this your contest?"
Glorfindel knew that he had to do something about his lord, but knowing that now was not the right moment, he held back, and replied his lord in a measured tone, "I am not joking with you, as you full well know. This first contest might seem easy but I assure you it is not so."
"And I am supposed to shoot my arrows at the target above the elves' heads?" Elrond asked, inwardly knowing that he had not tried this often, and, unless he aimed better, he might simply get more elves into the healing wings.
"Aye," Glorfindel replied with a large smile, knowing that the lord would have problem aiming with his current emotional state. He only hoped that Thranduil would have no problem with that. Turning to Mirkwood's king, he asked, "Are you comfortable with the challenge, Thranduil?"
Thranduil smiled as he replied, "It is. Thank you for arranging it, Glorfindel. Mirkwood invites you to set up a similar contest; I'm sure the elves would enjoy it."
"After all of this is over, I will accept your invitation happily. Perhaps some other elves would wish to join in as well." Glorfindel thanked him.
Thranduil nodded, and readied his weapon, noticing that Elrond did the same.
It was arranged that Erestor would announce who would start, how many points each of them gained, and the winner in each round.
"Thranduil will begin the contest as he is our guest." Erestor declared, ignoring his lord's curses.
Thranduil nodded at Elrond, and drew his bow for his first shot. He sighed in relief as he felt the wind to his favor and watched as the arrow found its way on the target.
Elrond succeeded in the first shooting as well, hitting right in the eye of the target.
"No winners for this round." Erestor said when they finished.
"Do you not have keen eyes?" Elrond asked Glorfindel, "You of all elves should know that the one who hits closest to the center wins the contest!"
But Elrond's efforts to claim victory for the first round fell upon deaf ears.
Then Glorfindel set up the next round. He glanced over at Thranduil, sensing how his worry deepened with each minute. The elf seemed torn by the pain and misery as his anxiety over his own child grew.
"Erestor, get Elrohir here. He is the only one who can get Thranduil to focus back on the contest. I do not wish for the king to lose because of the struggle he is feeling right now." Glorfindel told the advisor.
Erestor nodded and left.
"Where did he go?" Elrond asked at once, but received no reply.
Still, he was heartened as they continued the contest. Thranduil was starting to miss his targets.
Erestor soon burst into the healer's room.
"Erestor, what is the matter?" Elrohir asked immediately, noticing his twin turning to look at the advisor as well.
"It's Thranduil. His worry is starting to affect his performance in the contest," Erestor replied, sighing before he continued, "Glorfindel sent me to bring you, thinking you could do something about it."
Elrohir turned to his twin, searching for a reassurance, "Can you help Aragorn while I am out there?"
"Certainly, muindor. Go and may the Valar help you," Elladan blessed his brother.
Together, Erestor and Elrohir ran from the house, hoping to reach the others before the second round was over.
Legolas lay on the hard ground, and waited. He could feel his side burning, his hands numb. He closed his eyes, enduring the pain as he waited for his soul to be received. Would the soul of a murderer be welcome in the Hall of Mandos? He knew what the elves would do to his body but he could not care less. None of them would care for him. He was the one who had brought them shame when he hurt Aragorn so greatly.
"Forgive me, mellon-nin…" Legolas whispered, ignoring the lone tear that fell from his eyes, dampening the ground.
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.