This chapter is dedicated to Leela74 for her seventeenth Birthday. Happy Birthday Leela! authors huggle Leela

Aa' lasser ne lle coia orn n' omenta gurtha! May the leaves of your life's tree never turn brown!(Gray Company Language) Enjoy.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

A Long Road

Glorfindel had figured one thing out in these past few days, which had been rather tense as a rule. He had learned that no matter how much you paced a room in any direction, it never changed anything and floor boards didn't wear down to nothing, at least not yet.

"Erestor, you are going to lose the bet," whined Glorfindel. He looked at the pale, shirtless Elf-lord that was lying on the bed in a deep sleep. He was clean now and if Glorfindel didn't know he was alive, he would say it looked like Erestor was ready to undergo embalming for his tomb.

Going over he clasped one of Erestor's hands. "Its warm," he said. "You can come back."

Erestor didn't even draw a deeper breath. He looked even further away.

Glorfindel got up and decided another round of pacing might calm his nerves. He was about ready to ask to be drugged…or perhaps killed. "You are an idiot, obnoxious twit, dull minded, devious hearted, heart attack inciting 'counselor' and…my best friend!" he cried towards the heavens. "What did I do to deserve this?"

"I don't know," a soft voice said. "Tormented me for half my life…"

"Who knows what they did to you Erestor!" wailed Glorfindel as he paced some more. "I should have stopped them…"

He quickly dodged a chair but banged into the corner of a table. Without stopped or going around he pushed around it and kept walking then turned back around when his toes touched the wall.

"That would have been nice…" said the other quietly.

"I am such a horrible guard! I deserve to lose the bet and wear pink!" he admitted to the air. Tears formed in his eyes and he let them fall. He had really messed up this time.

"You are, but that's beside the point….I think pink would bring out your eyes…"

"Erestor, if you would only wake up I would do anything, anything! You can't leave me alone with Ancú and the twins! And Estel! ERU! Do not forget Estel!" Then he laughed madly and moaned, "what about Elrond! Illuvater, he will slay me!"

"I think I might help him…" came the voice with a snicker weaved in it. Glorfindel turned around to look at his friend's forlorn body. But what he saw was a very pale and hardly alive counselor staring up at him with tired gray eyes.

"Erestor!" he cried and then he glared and said, "why didn't you tell me you were awake!" he asked in a growl.

"I tried, you didn't listen. Isn't my fault you are half-deaf," teased the raven-haired Elf around his pain. He winced as he wound caused a tremor of pain to shoot through his awareness. Glorfindel noticed his eyes glaze over and he as immediately at the dark-haired Elf's side.

"It's your wound, isn't it?" he asked mournfully. His moist blue eyes were narrowed and Erestor shut his own against the pain and the ill feeling he had. Glorfindel grabbed a cup of water from the nightstand and held the porcelain rim to the other's parched lips.

Erestor instantly opened his eyes and he tried to shrink away into the pillows. His face became fearful and he whispered, "I won't take anymore…never." He choked in terror and bit his lower lip so hard that Glorfindel gapped as he saw blood seep out in a single scarlet bead set against the grey-blue lips.

Glorfindel placed his hand on Erestor's perspiration damped brow and felt the dark-haired Elf spiking an ugly fever. Erestor twisted his head away and he whispered, "is so cold, cold…"

The change had been so sudden that Glorfindel was in shock. Erestor writhed on the bed and Glorfindel hastily pulled another quilt over his friend. The counselor opened his eyes and they were large with fear or pain, Glorfindel didn't know which until the ill Elf spoke. "Glorfindel, help me. I am sliding back into darkness."

Glorfindel held his hand tightly and whispered, "you will be fine, I think. But you need to flush this venom out of your system, my friend." He placed the water by Erestor's lips again and the adviser looked at it with unsure eyes and he had every reason to. He had been poisoned. Glorfindel as sure if he had been poisoned by being forced to swallow some vile brew then he would never drink a thing again.

Pulling the cup to his mouth the Gondolin Elf took a sip and said, "see? Its fine." He smiled and Erestor nodded as the water was offered again.

The raven-haired Elf-lord drew a slow sip and then he sighed contentedly. "You have no idea how good that tastes." Glorfindel felt his broken smile broaden and Erestor began to take gulps, long and drawn out. Frowning now, the golden-haired Elf pulled the cup away.

"You will make yourself throw up," he cautioned. Erestor gave him an angry glare. His grey eyes, though tired became contemptuous slits of withheld rage.

"Lord Glorfindel," he began thickly give me the cup-" suddenly his face went grey to white to red and then to white again in the remarkable span of a few seconds. He was going to retch. Feeling the vomit rising in the back of his throat, he looked to Glorfindel for help.

"Oh blessed Manwë!", said Glorfindel hurriedly and he grabbed a pan nearby that had been placed there for him when he was so anxiety filled he actually had started to throw up several times but never really gone through with it.

Erestor sat up and leaned over the edge of the bed groggily. Glorfindel came and put the pan below on the floor so that he could eject the contents of his stomach. Shivering, Erestor waited impatiently for the vomit to reach its peak and be expelled. His hair hung limply in his face and Glorfindel sat down behind his friend and pulled the ebony locks back like a mother would for a sick child.

Erestor breathed heavily in dread and pain and whispered, "Glorfindel-" suddenly he heaved and Glorfindel grimaced in disgust as he heard the barf hit the metal of the pan with a disgusting splatter. Patting Erestor's back to help everything come up and to comfort him, Glorfindel tried to think of happier things than illness and poison not mention mangling the body of Erestor's tormentor.

A moment later Erestor panted and then he retched once more. He was coughing and his wound convulsed torturously. Shivering violently, the counselor whispered, "I think that's all." Glorfindel let his hair loose and helped lower his friend back onto the bed slowly.

Once Erestor was lying on the bed again Glorfindel said, "I think I should like to see your wound." The dark-haired Elf muttered something that was utterly beyond one's range and so Glorfindel proceeded to remove the blankets and sheets that covered Erestor's abdomen.

The counselor quivered some more and when Glorfindel began to unwrap the bandage he jerked and hissed, "any chance your hands could be warmer?"

Glorfindel smiled wryly. "You're acting like Legolas or Estel." He went ahead and removed the swathe. The sight was enough to make Glorfindel want to vomit himself. Blood still was fresh on the wound and it obviously wasn't healing.

Erestor grimaced and plead, "it really hurts so please be careful." His grey eyes conveyed mortal pain and the golden-haired Elf-lord stopped examining the wound and looked into Erestor's face. To hear the proud Erestor begging was alarming but if Erestor was in that much pain Glorfindel was going to do what he could to relieve him.

"I am sorry Erestor, so sorry. If I had been there with you…" He choked off and diverted his eyes back to the wound. "Never mind."

Erestor smiled grimly through his agony. "I know you would have done everything in your power to prevent it."

Glorfindel didn't answer and he pressed around the wound's edges carefully scrutinizing for fever or other various infection signs. The edges of the wound were red and definitely inflamed. As he felt them he realized they were slightly hot to the touch.

Erestor winced and asked dryly, "are you almost finished?" His eyes looked at the ceiling as he grit his teeth to keep from crying out. It was almost too much to bear and he wondered how Legolas and Estel handled this all the time. They were surely insane, he saw with painful clarity.

Glorfindel shook his head. "I am going to bath it in cold Athelas water. It will burn, but it will ease the pain and cleanse the wound gradually."

How did Legolas and Aragorn do to survive this kind of treatment?

Erestor's eyes were closed and he murmured, "just do what you have to." His breathing hitched for a moment and Glorfindel feared he as leaving, but then Erestor drew another breath.

Glorfindel left for a moment, striding down the hall quickly, ignoring the strange looks he gathered from the young girl healers. They stared at each other in amazement and awe, wondering where he was going.

Minutes later, when Glorfindel reentered the room he found Erestor lying on the floor and his shoulders were shaking and his black hair hid his face but Glorfindel could hear sobs. He had never heard Erestor cry before save once. It was a frightening situation and he stopped short, watching as his friend wept on the floor.

"Lord Erestor?" he inquired in a quavering voice. His hands holding the Athelas powder and the water pitcher shook.

"Glorfindel, I am sorry," he said softly. "I didn't intend for you to find me thus." Erestor intentionally made sure that his face was hidden from view as he peered through his black strands of hair and Glorfindel crouched at his side.

Gently placing a hand on the ebony-haired Elf's shaking shoulder he commanded calmly, "look me in the eye and tell me what happened."

Erestor shook his head. Glorfindel didn't need to see his face, his shame filled eyes. He said thickly, "just help me up."

"Not until you tell me what happened."

Erestor sobbed and said, "I can't…I mean…I can't remember…remember how to…." He couldn't say it. It as too humiliating and it made him feel so weak. "I can't remember how to walk," he said quickly before he changed his mind about daring to admit the frightening fact.

Glorfindel was stunned. Apparently this poison hadn't done all its evil work but it had done enough. He said nothing and Erestor continued, "I tried and tried, but I fell and fell and I can't get back up again."

Glorfindel didn't know what to say and so he pulled his hurting friend close after setting his burdens down, regardless of the blood that got on his clothes. Wrapping his arms around Erestor's shaking shoulders, he comforted his frightened friend in a tight hug.

Erestor pressed his face into Glorfindel's tunic and the Gondolin Elf felt the moisture of the tears soak through. Patting Erestor's back reassuringly, he said, "the Elf-lord I knew would look at this in a defiant light."

Erestor mumbled into the tunic, "well things have obviously changed." His bitter response was too have been expected.

Erestor's body began to feel very cold and he was trembling more from cold than pain now. Glorfindel frowned, "you are going to get even more ill from that venom if you don't get back in bed."

Carefully he placed his arm under Erestor's knees and another around his shoulders. Erestor gasped as he was lifted from the ground. Looking up at Glorfindel's face he stammered, "put me down!"

Trying to keep a lurking smile away Glorfindel finally failed and he grinned. "If you can't walk, I will carry you." Erestor tried his best to scowl and act angry but he smiled.

"Glorfindel, I am glad you are my friend." The dark-haired Elf smiled and then suddenly he sighed wearily. Wrinkling his normally smooth forehead, the counselor said in a sorrowful voice. "I am sorry for needing you to carry me."

"Well it is slightly inconvenient..." teased the Balrog-Slayer with an impish grin. Seeing Erestor's dismay he added quickly, "but I really wouldn't have it any other way. If you can't walk, it is my responsibility as a friend to do what I can for you. Anyway, you hardly weigh a thing."

As Erestor felt the warm sheets touching his bare shoulders he relaxed and said, "when you are finished bathing my wound, would you please get me something hot to eat and then after that I want a back massage and to be fed peeled grapes one by one…"

Glorfindel picked up the disregarded pitcher and the Athelas powder. "Now you are making fun of me," he whined with a snicker.

Erestor sighed in mock exasperation, "well I certainly hope so, you are more boring than watching paint dry." He frowned and then said, "seriously, it is getting dull in here and if at all possible, could you take me out and let me get some fresh air? After I get some liquid, like hot broth, into me, of course."

Glorfindel smirked and asked as he placed the wet cloth against Erestor's stomach wound, "some chicken noodle soup sound appetizing?" The adviser smiled in dismembered fragments of tranquillity around grit teeth and a clenched jaw.

Caranfëa looked up at his father as he lay on a bed of the healing ward. His wrist was splinted and bound tightly in hopes it would heal straight in time. His red-hair spread out over the pillows. "Ada?" he asked softly. Celebalda smiled down brightly and frowned as Caranfëa asked, "how is Aredhel? What ahs changed since I have been away?"

"She is in love, but she will need all her strength to pull through," he finished sadly and looked at his feet. Silver tears came to his eyes. His heart was broken. His blinked and Caranfëa looked on anxiously, his red eyebrows awry.

"What has befallen her?" he asked. "If something evil has harmed her or cast a spell on her I would have you tell me." He loved his sister dearly and he would make whoever harmed her pay.

"There is nothing you can do. One of the Elves that came with me, Thalionril, was her fiancé. He was murdered by Calmir, whom Elméra killed." He touched his son's broken wrist tenderly. "You will mend well," he said tensely.

The father and son had grown so far apart and gone through so many different things they found they had nothing in common anymore save their attitudes; stubborn and overly proud at times.

"I knew Calmir, he was always insanely cruel. But he was her brother," informed the little red-haired Elf quietly as he gazed up at the ceiling with his bright green eyes. "Will Shaalth heal well?"

"He will, but he will never be the same," answered Celebalda softly.

"I have missed you so much Ada," whispered Caranfëa.

"I have missed you too son," Celebalda smiled down. He then leaned down and kissed Caranfëa's forehead. "Get some sleep and heal from your burdens, my son. I will come and check on you later." He didn't have to say it twice. Caranfëa's eyelids fluttered and he was already off into peaceful dreams such, as he had not experienced in many years.

For once he was safe. Nobody was threatening him or harming him. He was not in hiding, far from home in a cold, dank, dark place. He was lying in a soft featherbed with his father watching over him.

Celebalda watched as the care faded from his son's fair face. He got up to leave and as he left he whispered, "I am so glad to have found you at last. My little Hell Fire of an Elfling."

"Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable."

------Wizard of Oz ;)

Legolas opened up a set of bleary eyes and looked about him. He was lying on something soft, springy and rather comfortable now that he realized it was a feather down mattress. Relaxing gladly into the soft blankets and pillows, the Elf looked lazily up at the ceiling beams, wondering where he was.

However, he didn't really care, it was safe. It felt good to not be watching his back and just relax into laziness. He heard a snort and looked over to see Rothinzil, propped up in his bed, a wooden pipe in his hand and smoke billowing about his head.

"Roth!" hissed Legolas in surprise. "That is a filthy habit, you know."

"Legolas!" gasped Roth as he stammered. "I thought you were still asleep."

"I was until a few seconds ago," glared the prince. "For the Valar's sake! Put that pipe away!" he chided tersely. Then he mumbled in annoyance, "who ever heard of a smoking Elf!" Shaking his head, he smiled at his friend warmly.

"Sorry, an old habit from my time with men," explained Roth shamefully as he tucked the pipe under the bed's edge. "If Helluin knew, she would kill me."

"You never cease to amaze me Rothinzil," declared Legolas with a small chuckle. He then furrowed his brows and asked seriously, "how did we get here? All I can remember is pain and weariness and snow…" He tried in vain to bring his memory to their arrival.

Roth frowned and then said, "I managed to weasel that much out of Helluin before she drugged me into a stupor."

"We were seen by Caranfëa, for he saw the horses dancing around us and then we were brought here, to Farlost to heal."

Legolas scowled, "well that sure explains a lot." His voice changed to one of alarm as he felt panic and fear spiking up in his heart. "Where is Estel?"

"Beside you. He has yet to wake," replied Rothinzil sadly. His hazel eyes seemed to droop in sorrow and uncertainty.

Legolas looked over at Aragorn who lay in the same bed beside him.

The young ranger's face was pale and appeared lifeless except for the faint rising and falling of his chest, one would have never guessed he lived. Even his lips were pale and his face was drawn in what could be pain. Dark circles wreathed his eyes ominously. It was then that Legolas saw his youth revealed. It was a sad reminder that Aragorn was no more than a boy really.

Feeling his heart wrench, Legolas looked at Rothinzil, who was looking away. "She said he would wake up, Legolas," murmured the dark-haired Elf assuredly.

"Ah," said the prince. "And who might she be?"

"Helluin," came the curt reply.

"I might have known you would commit the greatest treason and marry one of the breed classified under the name 'healer'!" muttered Legolas as he looked with slight laughter in his eyes towards his friend.

Rothinzil felt himself getting hot and kicked off a blanket and then another when he still wasn't satisfied. His nightshirt had ridden up his chest some and Legolas saw the stitches on the long laceration he had received thanks to Calmir.

"Rothinzil!" scolded Legolas.

"It is nearly healed. Legolas, you need to go back to sleep. You and Aragorn need your rest as does everybody else," Roth argued. "Now shut your eyes…"

"Roth-" began Legolas.

"I am seriously going to ask Helluin to sedate you into the next age!" warned the other, interrupting. He began to pull the blankets back up to act as a shield against Legolas' wrath.

"I am the prince. I command you to silence!" growled Legolas in a jesting way. His blue eyes glowed with mirth. But he was feeling tired and that was disturbing.

A quiet voice muttered to his left, "good call Legolas, now if you don't mind, I am trying to sleep!"

Looking at Aragorn in astonishment, Legolas bit his lower lip to keep from scolding the ranger out of hand. Instead, he resembled a healer who had just realized he was treating a snake. "Trying to sleep? TRYING TO SLEEP? We thought you were dying!" he seethed.

"I guess I am well…" he started.

Legolas interrupted. "You were bitten by the snakes! I thought they were lethal!"

"They are…"

Legolas cut him off again. "Then how are you alive? If you were joking around ranger it wasn't amusing in the least. Wait until your brothers here about this!"

"Legolas…" Rothinzil tried to talk to his liege.

"Not now Roth! Now can either of you tell me how it is that he is not dead and we are all very much alive?" altercated Legolas without the slightest sign of relenting in this age.

"Legolas!" tried Rothinzil again, as he raised his head off his pillows long enough to glare at his rambling friend who was acting like he had never spoke. Lowering his head down again he rolled his eyes with annoyance. Stupid princling! He would teach him!

"I mean unless you are made of the antidote those snakes are lethal-" smack!

Legolas blinked a moment, his weary mind unraveling what had just happened. He had been beamed in the face by a pillow lobbed at him from Rothinzil who was glaring daggers of an irate demeanor.

"Legolas, I have been trying to tell you now for this past minute and a half you have been rambling!" explained Rothinzil as he picked his spare pillow off the floor and tossed it back onto his own bed before turning his annoyed expression back onto Legolas.

"Helluin weaseled an example of that herb from Master Ryxen, the one Aragorn was poisoned by before. It is the antidote. So literally speaking he is made of the stuff," explained the other wood-Elf wearily.

Aragorn looked form Legolas to Rothinzil with raised eyebrows in a nervous and amused fashion and a smile lurked in the corners of his mouth. Closing his eyes he mumbled or more accurately half yawned, "you Wood-Elves are insane…positively crazed."

He chuckled before falling into a light sleep and rolling over to his side, his back to the Elves, and muttered, "now quiet down before we are drugged into a waking stupor because of your loud mouths."

Smiling, Legolas relaxed back into his portion of the bed that they shared in the small room. He found it unfair Rothinzil had gotten his own. No -he found it highly unfair. Laughing inside, he thought of the revenge that was going to have to be placed in order.

Then he remembered something.

Rothinzil was mortal.

Legolas suddenly spoke and said, "I hope you can look me in the eye and tell me that you are happy now!"

"What?" asked Rothinzil as he looked at his friend with genuine confusion written all over his features.

"Do you not realize you are not going to live forever! You remember how we always used to talk about the Havens and going together? Building our own ship and leaving at the end of the world?" asked Legolas anxiously. "We know each other inside out!" he seethed astringently.

"Legolas, please don't be angry. I can't help it…" plead Rothinzil, avoiding the question that cut him deeply, like a Morgul knife. "I need your support. I am so afraid." His voice sounded like lost whimpering puppy and Legolas felt his heart melt. Rothinzil was still a child at heart.

"You know I'm not," came the response. "But you threw everything away. Nothing is the same. I can't protect you."

"Legolas…." Roth went quiet and then he said. "You will go to the West some day…I know you will. I have a gift for you."

Legolas sighed and said, "Rothinzil, nothing is going to heal the wound you have created! Did you think about me when you made your decision?"

"I am sorry. But in a way I did. See, when you go into the West, someday, when everything in Middle Earth fails you, then you may take with you any friend you want." Roth sighed heavily as though it hurt him to say what he was saying. "They can have my place."

"Anyone…say a dwarf?" asked Legolas, questioning the genuineness of the proposal. He highly doubted he would ever become that close with a dwarf. It would be the dwarves that would drive him to the West!

"I said anybody," came the terse reply.

"Roth, I am going to miss you."

Rothinzil smiled in the dark and said, "I know. I will miss you too."

Roth rose up and he tugged his bed over so it touched Legolas'. The beds in the healing ward were surprisingly light, made so that they could be shifted easily to new positions. Getting back in bed, he placed his hand over one of Legolas' before drifting off to sleep.

Legolas waited until his dark-haired friend's breathing was even. He watched Rothinzil's peaceful face and he felt hot tears choking him. That was his best friend! Right there! But soon, another century, and Roth would be dead. He felt something in his chest break and knew his heart had just shattered.

He was going to lose every close friend he had.

Aragorn murmured sleepily beside him, "Legolas, you had to let him go. He isn't the first and he won't be the last." There was a pause and Aragorn said, "I think that someday, when the world is changed, you will see him again."

Legolas smiled as hot tears ran down his cheek and he said, "you know not what a comfort you are to me, Estel."

He stared at the ceiling, wondering fi he could endure this. If Elves could die of a broken heart, he was well on his way.

The door opened and in came Helluin. She stopped short and going over to where Legolas lay she sat on the edge of the bed and reached over Rothinzil's still form to touch Legolas' shaking arm. "Legolas…"

"Helluin," he answered softly as he swallowed back a lump made of tears and congested sorrow.

"Legolas, I know this is hard for you," she began calmly, searching for the right words to say to an Elf who had lost his best friend…because of her.

"You have know idea," he mumbled in a voice that was near a sob.

"I will take good care of him. I promise you," she covenanted quietly.

There was an eerie silence and then Legolas said, " no, he is a warrior. He will look after you."

"You probably hate me," Helluin said sadly. She eyed Legolas as though he might suddenly attack her and as though she deserved to be loathed and rebuked. Keeping her eyes then to the bed spread, she began to pick at the threads as nonchalantly as possible.

"No, I do not. It isn't your fault. Fate wielded it this way. But I will tell you this. Don't you ever leave him or I will ensure you pay…dearly," threatened Legolas flatly. He swirled his blue eyes to look at her.

She smiled down at Rothinzil and said softly, "until death do we part."

Legolas smiled now and drew a hand across his face to wipe away his tears and heartache, "then My Lady, he has the greatest Daughter of Men to give his life up for." Frowning, he inquired quietly, "what day is it?"

"It is the New Year, Prince Legolas."

THE END!

Yup, sort of a bittersweet ending, huh? And wow! Glorfindel and Erestor understand one another! What in all Arda happened there? Hehehehe, Yes, Rothinzil is no longer immortal, but that won't stop him from continuing to have wild adventures! LOL Not as long as he has Legolas to egg him on.

Thanks for the reviews for our last chapter, please keep them coming. Yes, poor Rothinzil and Legolas. We agree, a lot of talking to come in the future. What? Only one of you apparently knows of Watership Down? Oh-well. Cookies for you Ragweed. :)

How will Erestor be healed? Will he be healed?

Of course he will get healed. Elrond is a very skilled and capable herbalist/therapist. However, it will be interesting to see him try and give Erestor therapy. Authors chuckleBut we are getting ahead of ourselves. Another fic, another time

Below is the preview for our next angsty/lengthy fic.

Title

Masquerade

Authors

Celebdil-Galad and Tinlaure

Summary

Captured as prisoners of war by the Haradrim, Legolas and Aragorn are tortured ruthlessly at the hands of their host. If things go as planned there will be no dawn for either Elf or ranger, but first one must break.

Though more than their lives and spirits are at stake, an ancient bond could be shattered and all Middle Earth could be condemned. But there are secrets that must be uncovered at great peril if they are so save all Middle Earth. The fates of many, rest squarely on the shoulders of Legolas and Aragorn, will they give under the pressure?

Rated

PG-13

Please do not forget to review. So long until our next story. Coming in February.