Disclaimer: See chapter 1

Beta: Trinka, thank you so much for your support and friendship! :)

A/N: Sorry, my faithful readers, it took me so long to update. RL was tough in the recent months, I simply didn't have time to write. Had to work overtime like you wouldn't believe it! Thanks for your patience and understanding!

And now on with the story… even if you'll still have to wait for real action and longer chapters… I promise I'll write more as soon as my RL job gets a little bit less stressful!

Chapter 3 – Painful memories

Thranduil was so surprised, and in some strange way relieved to see the twins from Imladris, that he forgot all formalities and clasped forearms with each elf in a warrior's greeting before they could so much as move to bow.

"What brings the two sons of Elrond here?" the king asked, forcing a polite smile on his lips that did not reach his eyes. "I thought you would be awaiting us in Imladris?"

"My Lord, we were in Caras Galadhon visiting our sister," Elladan explained, "when word reached us from our father that you and Legolas would join us on the hunting trip with Lord Glorfindel next week. We decided to ride to meet you so we could travel to Imladris together."

"But how did you find us here?" Thranduil interrogated, still struck by the surprise.

"We made camp not far from the bridge of the Old Forest Road in hopes of catching you on your way across the river," Elladan continued. "There, orcs fleeing southwards from the Northeast happened upon us. We decided to avoid a fight because we were not well-rested and there were too many for the two of us. We shot as many as we could from a safe distance, and then crossed the river and went further down the route we thought you would come. But we could find neither tracks of your party on either side of the Anduin nor any along the Road, although you should have reached the bridge ahead of us... at least according to Adar's letter. Some of the orcs had been injured, so we knew they had been involved in a battle earlier. We were afraid the band might have attacked you, so we followed their tracks back. That was how we found the battle field. One of the men seeing to the dead told us that both of you had been wounded and had been brought here. We came here three nights ago."

"Three nights ago?" Thranduil furrowed his brow. "Selmacas, have I been unconscious for such a long time?" He shot his warrior a dark glance over his shoulder.

"Yes, my Lord. You had lost a lot of blood, and the orc's scimitar with which you and Prince Legolas had been wounded was poisoned. You were running a high fever, and we had to sedate you to keep you from hurting yourself further."

"Legolas and I were wounded by the same orc?" Thranduil's features darkened more and more with each further piece of information. He saw Sel bite his lip and knew that the warrior was hiding something. Though he could not remember the last minutes of the fight in their entirety, realization slowly dawned on him and his heart quickened in anticipation.

Sel groaned inwardly. He had not intended to let the conversation run to such a point - loathed to telling the king exactly what had happened at the battle field. He knew Thranduil would only blame himself for the "incident" and that would do him no good in his weakened state of health.

"Selmacas, I want you to tell me what happened, every detail, now!" the king ordered sharply after a moment of awkward silence. He did not like it when his advisors, warriors and sometimes even his son tried to keep things away from him. He was not an old weak dodderer that had to be spared.

"My Lord, you were wounded. The orc was about to slay you and...well...Legolas must have seen that you were injured, had lost your sword and could no longer defend yourself, so he placed himself between you and the orc, and..."

"Took the blow, meant for me," Thranduil finished.

"Yes, my Lord. I am sorry. I have failed you. I know I should have looked after him, but in the heat of the clash we had been driven apart. I was too far away. I could not do anything, my Lord. Forgive me."

"There is no need to apologize, Selmacas." The king's face was pale and graved from the deep sorrow and guilt in his heart.

Cautiously he sat down on the edge of the bed and took his son's cold right hand in his own. "Legolas is no longer an elfling and there's no need to mother him, even not in battle." He paused. "If there's someone to blame here, it is me. I should have known better. He has always been overprotective of me since childhood on; since his naneth was killed."

He shook his head ever so slightly and smiled bitterly, staring down on Legolas' pale face. Elrohir stepped forward and laid a soothing hand on the father's shoulder.

Thranduil heaved a long sigh. "I should have never led him into this battle with me. I was a fool. I should have known he would watch over me rather than take care of himself."

Thranduil was overwhelmed by the odd mixture of gratefulness, love and guilt that swapped through him. He buried his face in his right hand and sighed, fighting back the horrifying memories that slowly crept back from the darkest corner of his mind into his consciousness.

"My Lord… - …Uncle Thranduil…" Elrohir squeezed the elder elf's shoulder sympathetically. He had known the elder elf all his life, and to see the usual strong and proud king in such a misery pained him. Even though they were not related by blood, the Mirkwood Royals were like an extended family to the twins - Thranduil like an uncle and Legolas like a cousin...no, even like a little brother. And both knew from their own experience how overprotective Legolas could be where those dear to him were concerned.

The younger elf had witnessed the murder of his mother and so it was only natural that he never wanted to see such a thing ever happen again to anyone he loved. Many years ago, the twins had once laughed about the seriousness with which the young novice – a 40 years old Legolas - had approached his role as a warrior so many years ago. But a few years later, fate struck a cruel blow, and tragically Elrohir and Elladan also learned first hand how it felt to lose one's mother. Celebrián had been kidnapped by orcs and hurt so terribly – her body as well as her soul – that she had sailed across the Sea to the West - to Valinor - to find peace of soul again. From that day on the two brothers shared the same pain and sorrow that Legolas carried in his heart, and because of it, their friendship had deepened.

"My Lord," Sel interjected, "Legolas wanted to help these people as much as you did, you know that. He urged you to help them. You must not blame yourself. He would not want you to."

Thranduil inhaled deeply, willing his confused emotions to settle down. He knew Selmacas was right. Legolas had begged him to help these people, and as soon as Thranduil had seen the hope and trust in the men's eyes as they saw the firstborn riding into their village he could have not denied them aid anymore.

"Will he live?" he hoarsely asked, turning his throbbing head to look up at Elrohir.

"He is strong. There is still hope." Elrohir wished he could simply say 'yes', but he had never seen someone injured as horribly as Legolas, and he did not even dare to think about what effects the injury might show if Legolas would ever awake.

"Tell me everything, Elrohir Elrondion. How are his chances to live?" Thranduil pierced the younger elf with his gaze. He would not accept any beating about the bush.

Elrohir sighed. "His skull is broken and he had a cerebral haemorrhage. We had to open his head to remove the blood and secretion from the injury because it was adding too much pressure on his brain... and because he had severe seizures from it. We do not know how bad his brain injury really is, because it is swollen, and so could not make out how deep the cut is. I think the true severity of the injury will only show if… w-when he awakes. The bleeding has stopped though. But even his smaller wounds – mere cuts and scratches – have not healed properly yet, most likely because of the orc's poison. We have done everything we could, but the human's healer is not as experienced or wise as our Adar, and unfortunately, neither are we." He tilted his head in Elladan's direction.

"We would have sent a messenger to Imladris to get Adar here, but the weather is so terrible that it is impossible to cross the mountains. Unfortunately these people here have no carrier hawks," Elladan completed.

"What about Radagast? Has anyone been sent to Rhosgobel? Radagast could send a hawk or even one of the gwaihir to Imladris," Thranduil suggested hastily.

"We have thought of that, too. But Radagast is not at home. We assume he has been summoned to a meeting with Curunír. Our daernaneth told us that Mithrandir had been in Lórien some time before we arrived there and that he was on his way to meet all the other Istari in Orthanc. We have sent word to daernaneth, but the storm will, no doubt, slow the messenger down. Let us hope he will make it there in good time so daernaneth can send word to Adar or even come here herself. But we have no idea how long that will take…" Elladan held his hands out in a surrendering gesture. They had tried everything, thought of every opportunity to get help, but at the moment there was nothing they could do but wait, pray and hope.

Thranduil nodded understandingly. He was grateful that the sons of Elrond had taken such good care of everything. These two, especially Elrohir, had learned a great deal about the healing arts from their father, and Thranduil was relieved that at least the sons of the famous healer were here. Tiredly the king rubbed his face with one slender hand and sighed again.

"My Lord, I think it would be best if you would go and rest. You are not fully recovered yet. I will inform you immediately should Legolas so much as blink. Elladan, go and see to our horses, please. There is a rainstorm raging and I do not want them to stay outside. I will stay with Legolas. Sel, maybe you could show King Thranduil to the other room and send the men's healer to me," Elrohir instructed everybody, and he looked amazingly like his father at that moment.

Selmacas, who had kept quiet during the whole exchange, nodded and approached Thranduil, but the king waved at him to stop.

"I will not leave my son's side," Thranduil stated calmly, his sorrow evident in his eyes.

"Well, all right then," Elrohir agreed exhaustedly. "But you should at least eat something and let the healer see to your wounds again."

Thranduil nodded.

"I will bring you something to eat, my Lord, and for you as well, muindor nin. I'll see to our horses now. Sel, maybe you can help. I am sure you don't want your horses left outside in that rainstorm, either." Elladan suggested in a low, soft voice.

"You are right. Let us go before the weather gets even worse." Sel nodded in agreement, took two cloaks from a nearby chair and gave one to Elladan.

After Elladan and Sel had left the room, Elrohir pulled the chair closer to the bed and dropped into it tiredly.

"Have you slept at all during the last three nights?" Thranduil interrogated, eyeing the younger elf carefully.

Elrohir shook is head and sighed. "Legolas had severe seizures and we couldn't dare to take a nap. Besides, I would have not been able to sleep, anyway." His gazed roamed over the injured elf on the bed. "You know what Legolas means to Elladan and me."

"Aye, and I could not ever be more grateful for your friendship."

to be continued…