A Long Time Ago

By Meisalliam and M Cross

Disclaimer: Only Tolkien's original characters do not belong to us. Any others belong as copyright to Meisalliam. If you wish to use them, please ask, don't just take. It hurts, as we know all too well now.

Chapter Fourteen

The healing wing at the Palace of Mirkwood was silent and still, but the air was charged with worry and a tense sense of expectation.

Lomion lay in his bed. He had spoken with Elardion earlier, after their father left, about the herbs that had been used on him. It really was getting ridiculous, to keep being drugged senseless when so much was going on.

He had also talked Elardion into letting him hold Legolas in his arms. The small Prince was likely to be very upset when he awoke and discovered what had happened. His brother was warm and the scents of the forest clung to him, that wonderful combination of warmth and sun mingled with the darkness and wet. The forest was like that, changing by the minute, depending where you were.

Mirkwood was still beautiful and still their home, even falling into darkness as it was.

Lomion just wished more and more each day that Legolas could see it as it had been and not as it was with the fell creatures moving in and growing more dangerous by the day.

Without even realising it, he began to sing the lullaby that he had used only a few years ago to soothe his little brother to sleep.

Hush little Greenleaf

Rest your head

Valar keep you safe

Warm in bed

Sleep now, Baby

I'll guard your rest

Trust your brother

He knows best

"It has been some time since I heard you sing that." Elardion stood by his side and looked down fondly at the blond mop of hair in his elder brother's arms.

"After Nana died and he was so distressed. I remember the way that Drowlin told Legolas that Nana had died. I have never been so angry at him in my life." He sighed. "I wish I could say it had not happened again."

"Drowlin does have that ability. I hope Ada is alright." Elardion hated this calm before the storm. He knew there would be injuries. There always were when spiders were involved.

"Timethlon is with him, as are Elrond, Glorfindel and Mithrandir. They will let nothing happen to him." Lomion tried to reassure his brother but he was just as worried.

"Sometimes that is not enough. You can have all the guards around you but one moment of inattention and all sorts of things can happen. Look at Legolas for example, all Drowlin had to do was distract the guards for moments, and Legolas was attacked." Elardion could still recall his own anger at Drowlin when he discovered his part in that particular plot. It amazed him that their brother was willing to fall so far into these things.

"He will be fine. He has to be fine." Lomion had not realised that he had spoken aloud.

Elardion was not sure who it was that Lomion was talking about.

"Who will be fine?" Nolvo had woken while they had been speaking.

"Adar." It was a sigh from Lomion.

"Where is he?" The younger twin looked around in search of his Adar. Whenever one of them was injured he was always here with them. For him not to be here was rather shocking.

"He has gone to confront Sslina. She has Alcarnor, Estel and Elladan. She wanted Legolas. Legolas was going to go to her by himself." Lomion still shook his head in wonder at that thought.

"But, he is not well enough!" Nolvo cried out, shocked at what he was hearing.

"You know that, I know that tithen gwador, but try telling Legolas that. He actually asked Ada for his bow. He was deadly serious." Elardion told him.

"What happened?" Elrohir sat up with a groan and Elardion moved to help him.

"How do you feel?" He touched the cool forehead, pleased that it was thus. With spider stings and bites you never knew.

"Sore, but alright. They have gone for Dan and the others?" Elrohir gratefully accepted the glass of water offered by Elardion.

"Yes, Legolas was going to go, as you heard. I ended up having to use a drug on Legolas that I rather would not have done. I could not let him go though. He will never forgive me!" Elardion whispered to the walls.

"He will, he will understand. You know Legolas. He has a heart of the softest, brightest gold." Lomion hugged his brother with one hand. "I wish I could have seen it though." His voice was wistful.

"It was incredible." Elardion smiled in wonder. "I think he would have taken on Melkor, if need be. He will be a very formidable warrior, in time."

"I would not wish that on him. He should be coddled and loved and not made to fight." Lomion's voice was stern.

"Do you really think that Legolas would let us do that to him?" Elardion looked at him in shock.

"No, but I can dream." Legolas murmured in his arms and sucked the thumb of his uninjured arm.

"It is a good dream." Nolvo admitted.

"Aye. Are you hungry?" Elardion asked them. They had missed the evening meal after all.

"Aye, a little. Ro?" Nolvo asked the Peredhil twin.

"I should not be, I am so worried for Estel and the others, but yes, I am hungry." He seemed almost embarrassed to admit this.

"He would not want you to starve yourself. He will be back here with us soon, they all will be." Elardion looked up at the darkening sky through the windows.

They had just finished their meal when they heard the shouts of the returning warriors…

Mithrandir reached the fallen King just as Sslina fell to one side, dead.

"Thranduil?" The King blinked at him sleepily. "Speak to me Thranduil!"

He paused when he saw the white froth erupt in a foaming stream from Thranduil's mouth.

"Elrond! Thranduil has been stung!" Elrond had been checking over the injured warriors. The rest of the spiders had fled the area the minute that Sslina had fallen. Without their leader they had no idea what to do and there were too many of the elves to re-group.

Elrond hurried to the Maia's side. "What has happened?"

"Bad sting, upper left chest. He is foaming." That was always a bad sign, but the worse sign was that Thranduil's foaming was in copious quantities.

Elrond reached for his healing pack and pulled out the herb and pre-made antidote that all of the healers in Mirkwood carried. So did the patrols that regularly came into contact with the massive arachnids.

He handed the tea to Mithrandir. "Get that into him, now!"

Mithrandir nodded and accepted the tea, knowing full well that time was of the essence.

"Ada, can I help?" A battered and tired looking Estel asked.

"Get me some hot water, Estel. You are not injured?"

"Nay, Ada, they were only looking to catch us and not harm us. I cannot believe that she would expect Thranduil to hand Legolas over." He moved to where a fire was already heating water. As soon as Thranduil had collapsed, Timethlon had ordered a fire started. They had other injured as well, but none as badly as their King.

"Thranduil would never contemplate that, Estel, although Legolas did try to leave and come here to face her. Elardion had to drug him to stop him.

"He did not!" There was amazed awe in his face as he handed Elrond the bowl of hot water.

"He did and he would have. I have never seen such determination in an elfling in my entire life. Estel, can you prepare some athelas? Thranduil will need it." Elrond was already washing the wound, as Mithrandir fed Thranduil the tea. It was slow and difficult. The foaming made it hard to get the tea down his throat, that and the paralysis caused by the poisons meant they had to stimulate his swallowing reflex by stroking his throat after each sip they got into him.

"Of course, Ada." He looked up in time to see Alcarnor fall to his knees beside his Adar.

"Ada?" He sounded terrified. Only Estel and Elladan had stopped him from rushing to his father's side during the battle. "Elrond?"

"I am trying. Saes, let me work." Elrond's voice was terse. Thranduil's condition was far from good.

"Can I stay?" Alcarnor held his father's hand tightly. Visions of his mother's death and the heartbreak they had all felt was still too fresh in his mind, even after all this time. Would Legolas survive if his father passed to Mandos' Halls?

"Yes, it may well help. Speak with him, keep him here with us." Elrond instructed. That would help greatly. Thranduil had much to keep him here on Middle-earth and yet so much to leave for as well. If he passed, he would be with Laurelin, happy with the elleth that he loved.

Alcarnor did as he was instructed and talked to Thranduil about everything and anything he could think of. Elrond worked diligently to keep his friend on Middle-earth. Finally, he sat back, exhausted, but satisfied that Thranduil was stabilised..

"We need to get him back to the Palace now, quickly. I do not wish him to spend any more time out here in the forest than we must." Thranduil's breathing was better and, although his pulse was still fast and furious, it was not as uneven and worrying as it had been.

Timethlon stepped up. "I will arrange a litter to carry him on the horses." He called some of the warriors over and soon they were hunting for fallen branches to use between cloaks. They were stopped by Elrond.

"Nay, he will ride in front of me, it will be faster and I would prefer to remain close to him. I suggest you break camp, while I ready him." Elrond suggested, not that it was really much of a camp, to be truthful.

By the time the moon was high in the sky, they were nearing the Palace. Mithrandir had brought the brothers and friends up to speed with what had happened in their absence.

It was full night when they arrived at the Palace. Torches and candles still shone brightly while the people awaited the return of their King.

As they pulled their horses to a stop at the front doors, Galion hurried to meet them. He blanched when he saw the condition of his King.

"Carry him to the Healing Wing. Elardion has the staff ready." He turned to look at the other warriors. "All those who are injured, meet in the healing halls. All those uninjured, cook has made food in readiness for your return, on the King's orders. It is being served in the main hall."

Elrond and Mithrandir had already carried Thranduil into the Palace. Alcarnor, Elladan and Estel followed closely behind them.

Elardion met them in the hallway. Although he was dismayed to see his father like this, he soon took control.

"Bring him in. I have a bed waiting next to Legolas and Lomion. How badly are the others injured?" He directed them to the bed.

"Not as badly as Thranduil, although he is better than he was. Sslina is dead. Thranduil fought her but she seemed determined that she was going to take your adar with her when she died." Elrond gently laid his friend down upon the bed.

"I was able to prevent that from happening. I greatly regret that I could not prevent her from stinging him." There was deep sorrow in Mithrandir's voice.

"No one could have reached him in time, Mithrandir. You have no need to blame yourself." Elrond was straightening the long limbs of the King.

"What happened?" Lomion asked, beside him the two pairs of twins and brothers were being reunited. He had already greeted Alcarnor and the others with quite relief.

"Sslina stabbed him deeply with her stinger. Before Mithrandir ended her miserable life." Elrond told him.

"Sslina is dead?" Lomion and Elardion asked at the same time.

"Aye, she will never trouble Legolas again." Mithrandir sounded smug.

"Good, I wish I had been there to see it." Lomion's voice was grim and then he brightened. "Legolas will never dream of her again!"

He looked down at his brother and smiled, already Legolas seemed to be sleeping more at ease, as if he knew he was safe.

"Indeed and he should be able to recover properly now as well. No more darkness targeted at him as it was." Mithrandir sounded happy at that fact. Once more they had come so close to losing Legolas, not once, but twice, and once more incredibly the elfling had survived.

"How is Ada?" Lomion sounded worried.

"He is very ill. Sslina managed to get a lot of venom into him. We gave him the antidote and treated the sting with athelas at the time. He is suffering from the usual paralysis and I would be amazed if he did not develop a fever, but I think he will recover. His pulse is settling nicely and already his breathing is easier and swallowing is returning." Elrond checked Thranduil's wound once more.

The chamber had tensed when he started speaking but relaxed with a relieved sigh as he finished speaking. They all erupted with relieved chatter.

Elrond could have stopped it, could have asked the uninjured family members to leave, but it was a relief to have the normalcy to tell the truth. Estel and Elladan had already had their bruises and scratches checked out and treated and Elardion was now seeing to Alcarnor who it turned out had received a nasty scratch to his leg and had hidden it very well.

By the time all of the injured had been seen to and settled, dawn was rising in the sky. Elardion had taken the time to step outside and watch the dawn rise. This was his favourite time of the day. As a trainee healer he had stood here every morning after working through a hard night, to watch and hear the forest come alive with the sounds of the day. It was something he did not think he would ever grow out of. He did not think he wanted to.

A hand on his shoulder made him jump and he turned to see Glorfindel. "The morn will be beautiful."

"Aye, you can almost feel the forest's relief on the wind." The entire forest seemed to rustle its joy at no longer having the threat to their Prince.

"I can sense some of it, but nothing like you or your brothers." Glorfindel was as relaxed as the others, now that the initial threat was over. He had not wanted to mention the remaining threat, the one who wanted to have Legolas to start with. For what purpose, they did not know, but the threat was still there. He would speak to Elrond, Mithrandir, Thranduil and Lomion when Thranduil was better. As long as they remained on the alert, he did not see that there would be too much of a problem.

"Legolas would be the one to tell you exactly what they are saying. He has such a wonderful gift, it us such a joy to see. Why would anyone want to hurt him? I do not understand it. Legolas would not hurt a fly."

"If only all were like him, it would make things so much easier, but that is not the way of things and we must make sure that he is not damaged by the ones that want to hurt him. Legolas will not change and he will always love you, even with what you had to do last night." Glorfindel seemed to know what was worrying the healer.

"I hope so. I do feel terrible about doing…."

Estel appeared at the door. "Elardion, Legolas is awake. He is calling for you."

"How is he?" Elardion seemed reluctant to move.

"He looks and sounds better. The sleep seems to have helped him. He is calling for you and wants to know why you are not there." Estel hurried to reassure him.

"I had better go to him then." Elardion still had not moved.

"Come, Elardion. He will not go away and the sooner you see him the sooner you will find relief." Glorfindel physically turned him and walked him to the doors. As they entered, they could hear Legolas' clear voice.

"Ada will be ok?" He sounded tearful.

"Yes, Penneth, he is just sleeping. He will be awake soon and you can hug him. How are you feeling?" Lomion once more hugged his baby brother to him.

"Want 'Dion, why is he not here?" There were more tears in Legolas voice. "Does he hate me too?"

That took the wind out of Elardion's fears. Legolas thought he hated him? He could not have that!

"I am here, Legolas. I was outside watching the dawn rise. I could never hate you. gwador-nin. We love you! You know that, surely?" Elardion could not hide his shock and neither could the others. Why on Arda would Legolas think they hated him?

"Drowlin does." The little lip quivered.

"Then he is the biggest fool going." Alcarnor spoke from Nolvo's side where he sat in bed.

"You love me?" It was tentative and shy.

"Leafie, we could never love you any more than we do. There is no more room in our hearts." Nolvo sounded tired but sure.

The smile that broke from Legolas was as bright to Elardion as all the dawns he had ever seen. It was brilliant and worth the worry of the night before and this morning, truth be told.

"Hug?" Legolas held out his good arm to Elardion.

He needed no second bidding. He gently lifted Legolas from Lomion and settled him onto his lap.

"She is gone." There was sudden wonder in Legolas' voice. "Sslina gone. How is she gone?"

"Ada went and sorted her out for you, Leafie. She will never, ever hurt you again. You are safe, Penneth." Elardion gently hugged him for emphasis.

"That how Ada hurt?" Legolas watched Thranduil carefully.

"Yes it was, Leafie, but he will be well. By this evening, he will be able to talk with you, I promise." Elardion ruffled his hair. "Are you hungry?"

"Yes." Legolas blinked surprised at that. He was hungry, really hungry for the first time in a long time.

"That is good. I will get you some food." Estel stood and made to leave the chamber. He stopped at the door and turned back. "I know it needs to be soft!"

That caused a ripple of laughter.

"Can I have a story later?" Legolas gently moved his splinted arm.

"I would like that. What about the rest of you?" He looked up and grinned to the chamber.

The murmurs of agreement only widened the smile, even Glorfindel seemed eager to hear a Knight Growly story.

"That is settled then. Once I have made sure that the others who were hurt last night are alright, have changed Nolvo's dressing and looked at Alcarnor's leg we will sit and have a Knight Growly story." Alcarnor knew that his duties would take him the biggest part of the morning.

"Alright." Legolas seemed happy with that. He tried to hug Elardion again and winced as his ribs protested.

"We need to give you some tea for that pain." Elrond had already anticipated the need and had the goblet of tea waiting. "Hannon-le. You need to drink this, Leafie."

By the time Estel had returned with a bowl of warm porridge sweetened with honey, Legolas had just finished the tea and was pulling a slight face at the sharp taste.

"Ah, here is your morning meal." The others would eat later at a more normal time, but Legolas had been missing meals regularly and needed the nourishment.

"Hungry." Legolas pulled himself gently upright, something they were all pleased to see. He seemed more like the Legolas they knew than he had in a long time. It was good to have their baby brother back.

The morning passed with a flurry of activity for Elardion. Most of the warriors were well enough to leave and return to their homes to finish their recuperation.

That left just the members of his family. The last few patrols that had returned had all reported the same things. The spiders seemed to be in hiding and no trace of them could be found. The carcasses had been burnt and the remnants of the webbing and nests destroyed. No further injuries had been garnered during the patrols. That in itself was unusual, but also welcome. It would appear that all the recent increase in trouble with the spiders was due to Sslina's evil influence.

Just to have his friends return uninjured for a change was a relief and Elardion was more thankful than he could say.

Legolas slept through the noonday meal as did Thranduil, who had yet to waken at all.

They had just settled down for the afternoon of talking and playing games (incoming injuries permitting, for Elardion) when Legolas woke. They persuaded him to have some stew.

Once he had finished it all, they all settled back with Legolas to hearElardion's new story. Lomion held Legolas on his lap.

"The day was warm and birds frolicked in the sky. The sound of laughter seemed to fill the air around them.

From between the trees appeared two horses and on them sat two very old and very good friends.

Knight Growly and Knight Las were returning from a visit to Growly's brother. It had been a nice visit and they had not wanted to return but their duties had to come first.

It was Las that saw the injured kitten first and he leapt from his horse to scoop it up and cradle it in his arms.

"It is badly injured." One of its back paws was bent at an awkward angle."

"That was how my arm was!" Legolas held up his splinted arm with a worried frown. "The poor little kitten, can I help him?"

"It is a story, Leafie, all will be well." Elardion and the others had to chuckle.

"Good. Go on." He told his brother, quite seriously.

"As you wish!" Even Elrond laughed at that.

"I wonder how it was hurt?" Growly dismounted and joined them. The kitten meowed pitifully at them.

"We should try to find the kitten's owner. They must be so worried." Las started to look around.

They looked until late afternoon and finally had to give up. There was no owner to be found. During this time Las had grown very fond of the little animal and was worried about what would happen to him.

"I cannot leave him, Growly. What will happen to him?" He asked worriedly.

"Why do we not take him home? You can nurse him better there and then find him a home." Growly suggested.

"That is a very good idea. We will do that." Las walked back to his horse and he mounted very gently so that the kitten would not be hurt. "We need a name for him."

Growly could not stop the grin that crossed his furry face. He knew all too well that the kitten had already found his new home.

The black-faced kitten nuzzled Las and meowed once more as if agreeing.

"I know! I will call him Blacky." With that, they continued on their way.

Blacky soon became a loving part of their home and they spent many happy years with him and when it was time for Blacky to go to Mandos' Halls, as all pets must, he left behind many other little black kittens so that his friends would not be sad and lonely." Elardion finished the tale and looked down at his brother.

Legolas sighed happily. "That was good. I am glad that the kitten was happy."

"It was good, was it not?" Lomion smiled down at him and then his face. He knew that his father intended to speak to Legolas about Scamp and Mousey as soon as he was well enough, but events had rather taken over and put it on hold. He at least could ready the ground. "Leafie, you do know that all of our pets die do you not?"

"Yes, like my horse." Legolas would never forget the first horse that he had helped overcome influenza, only for him to die tragically.

"That is right. It does not mean that they do not love you, they do. They can look down on us like Nana can and watch us as we grow." Lomion had a lump in his throat just at the thought.

"I am glad." Legolas turned bright blue eyes at his eldest brother and asked the only thing he could. "Has someone died?"

None of them were ready for the question and they all blinked. Legolas could be so intuitive at times, too intuitive.

It was not one of them that answered though, but a breathless Thranduil. He had woken while Elardion had been telling his story and Elrond, Mithrandir and Glorfindel had been the only one to notice. He had lain on the bed and been very happy just to listen to the sound of his family and friends, but he could not let Lomion take the responsibility to tell Legolas about his pets.

"Yes, Dian Las, I am afraid that someone has died."

"Ada!" Legolas sounded relieved to hear his father and see him awake but he also hesitated when he heard his father's words. "Who?" It was said so hesitantly that all the others held their breath.

Elrond and Glorfindel helped Thranduil to sit up while Mithrandir sorted out his pillows. Elardion lifted Legolas from Lomion's lap and carried him so that he could sit on his father's lap while he was told the news. Thranduil gave him a weak hug before he turned his attention to Legolas.

"It was Scamp and Mousey." Legolas' blue eyes filled with tears. "I have had them prepared so that when you are well enough we can give them a proper burial, is that alright?" Thranduil silently begged that Legolas would not ask what the two pets had died from.

His prayer was granted. "I would like that, Ada." A small hand touched his face. "Are you well?"

"I will be, Leafie. I will be." He could not believe the change in Legolas. This was the elfling he knew and loved, not the melancholy waif that he had become.

"I am glad, Ada. I was so scared when you were sleeping. I would not have wanted you to die as well." Legolas had more tears in his eyes.

"Oh, Leafie. I would never do that to you if I could help it. More importantly, how are you?" That, to Thranduil, was the most important question. He nodded to Mithrandir and the Maia slid silently from the chamber.

"I am good, Ada. Sslina has gone!" Legolas sounded so happy that Thranduil could only gently hug him.

"I know, Penneth. I told you that she would not harm you and I mean every one of my words." Thranduil had to smile at the happy innocent smile.

"I am glad, Ada. I did not like her at all. She scared me and she wanted to hurt all of you. I would not let her do that." Legolas told him in all seriousness and Thranduil could see that he meant every word that he had said.

"I know, Ion-nin, I know." Thranduil gave a tired happy sigh. He had his family with him safe and almost well. That was what counted.

Mithrandir slipped back into the chamber and hurried to Thranduil's side.

"Legolas, I found these two when I was traveling here. The mother has been injured and the babe is too young to survive alone. Would you look after them for me?" He held out the two mice that he had shown to Thranduil two days ago.

"They are beautiful." Legolas gently stroked the two of them and the mother raised her head and sniffed at Legolas' tiny hand before pushing her baby towards him with her nose.

"It would appear that she likes you, Penneth. What will you call her?" Mithrandir settled back into his chair.

Legolas sat and looked at her and seemed to be giving her much consideration. He then turned big blue eyes to him.

"She wants to be called Nosey."

That made them all laugh.

"Why is that?" Mithrandir chuckled.

"She likes to use her nose, she thought it good." Legolas wrinkled his nose delicately.

"Very well. Welcome Nosey and what about this little fellow?" Mithrandir stroked the tiny nose.

Again Legolas seemed to contemplate the tiny baby. Then he looked at its mother. "She thinks he would like to be called Penneth."

Laughter filled the chamber once more.

Unknown to all those in the chamber, they were being watched. Far away, in a large darkened chamber that seemed to flicker with flame, sat a large dark figure.

He was watching the scene and sneering.

"So you have killed my servant and think that all is well. Little do you know, I will only send darker and greater foes. I will have him as my own. I will use him as I want. Prepare to say goodbye to your son, Thranduil. He will never be yours. You will never see him again. Yes, I will grow more powerful with him at my side and Middle-earth will finally be mine!"

He stood and swept from the chamber. He had many plans to put into place…….

To be continued…….

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Mei, Shell and the gang