This chapter will be the beginning of my somewhat divergence from movie canon. There will be elements of both movie and book verse here... as well as some completely AU elements. Nothing blatant in this chapter, except for one tiny part: I took the liberty of changing the "Morgul shaft" from the movie to a poisoned one. Made more sense to me, in that Morgul weapons were designed not to kill, but to enslave. Anyone wanting to discuss this further is welcome to comment or email. Another chapter in the works now! Thank you for reading!

NINETEEN

To say there was tension in Thranduil's posture would be an understatement. Legolas held his blade at the captured Orc's throat as Thranduil paced around and Tauriel looked on. "Such is the nature of evil. Out there in the vast ignorance of the world it festers and spreads, a shadow that grows in the dark. A sleepless malice as black as the oncoming wall of night. So it ever was; so will it always be. In time, all foul things come forth." Thranduil's words seemed to hang in the air for a moment.

Legolas spoke, his own voice sharp. "You were tracking a company of thirteen Dwarves. Why?"

The Orc grunted a laugh. "Not thirteen, not any more. The young one, the black haired archer, we stuck him with a poisoned shaft." Tauriel's face became taught with concern as it continued, sick humor in its voice. "The poison's in his blood. He'll be choking on it soon."

Her eyes narrowed. Kíli had been poisoned! Her friend was in danger. "Answer the question, filth," she snapped. It spat a stream of Orcish at her and she tightened her grip on her knife as Legolas shoved it back down, pressing his own blade even closer.

"I would not antagonize her," Legolas growled. Tauriel shifted suddenly.

"You like killing things, Orc?" she snarled. "You like death? Then let me give it to you!" She made a sudden lunge forward, knife in hand, but Thranduil's voice stopped her just short of the mark.

"Farn! Tauriel, ego! Gwao hi." She said nothing in return, simply acknowledging his order to leave by stalking out of the room. If he wanted her to leave, then leave she would. There was something more here, something she was missing. Surely this was a sign of a greater evil, something that should be addressed. To remain secure in their own borders while the rest of the world burned was unthinkable to her. She remained near enough to hear and yet out of sight of her king.

Thranduil watched her out of sight and turned his attention back to the Orc. "I do not care about one dead Dwarf. Answer the question. You have nothing to fear. Tell us what you know and I will set you free."

Legolas hid a wince at the disdain in his father's voice when he spoke of the Dwarf and instead bent the Orc's head back just a touch further. "You had orders to kill them. Why? What is Thorin Oakenshield to you?" he hissed angrily. And he couldn't allow himself to dwell on Tauriel's anger right now; this was more important, though he would seek her out as soon as they were finished here. There was more to it than just a simple Orc sullying Thranduil's domain, much more. Again he drew his attention back.

Again the thing snorted laughter. "The Dwarf runt will never be king."

"King? There is no king under the mountain nor will there ever be." What madness was this? Legolas tightened his grip yet again. "None would dare enter Erebor while the dragon lives."

This time the laughter was wicked, as though nothing could touch the thing. "You know nothing!" it spat, suddenly serious. "Your world will burn!"

"What are you talking about?" Legolas demanded with a snarl. "Speak!"

"Our time has come again," it spoke clearly, as though to a simple child. "My master serves the One. Do you understand now, Elfling? Death is upon you. The flames of war are upon you -"

There was a flurry of movement and the Orc's head remained in Legolas' hand as the rest of it slumped to the floor. Thranduil stood steady, sword in hand, while Legolas stared at him in consternation. "Why did you do that?" he growled. "You promised to set him free."

Thranduil regarded the body coolly. "And I did. I freed his wretched head from his miserable shoulders." He stomped on the still twitching leg to still it.

Legolas again hid a start of dismay. Why had his father done such a thing? It reeked of dishonor and yet there must be more to this. "There was more it could have told us."

"There is nothing more it could tell me." Thranduil turned to walk away, sheathing his sword in the process.

"What did it mean by 'the flames of war?'" Legolas questioned, determined to have answers. His father knew something more than he was telling, he was sure of it, and it was extremely ominous.

Thranduil barely paused. "It means they intend to unleash a weapon so great it will destroy all before it." He barely turned, addressing the guards. "I want the watch doubled at all our borders. All roads, all rivers. Nothing moves but I hear of it. No one enters this kingdom and no one leaves it."

Legolas acknowledged the order as well, his thoughts in disarray. Something sinister was at work here, he could feel it. His father's behavior was beyond odd, to say the least. Perhaps Tauriel could explain it to him.

He went to the gate and relayed Thranduil's instructions, only to be told Tauriel was outside. If they closed the gates, she would remain there until they were ordered open again, which could be a long time if Thranduil's mood was any indication.

He took in the direction the guard indicated and started walking. He needed to talk to Tauriel badly, and he was hoping they wouldn't deny him entrance on his return. If they did...

Enough. He would find Tauriel and try to unravel this madness and then worry about the result.