Deana : Always my 1st reviewer. Thanks, girl.
Keluin Lossehilin Yes, dear. Be prepared to laugh your heart out. Oh, have you got the pictures I sent you?
Beginning-end-314 : Oh, poor you.
Dur En Thurin Naur LOL! You got that right!
LegolasLover2003 I have bad news for you. Leggy doesn't like Josh Groban. He knows Josh sings better than he does! Didn't you know they once slugged each other behind stage during one of Leggy's concert? Our elf prince went berserk when Josh sang the national anthem before the concert began, hence stealing his thunder. Sorry. Just kidding. Where in the world did you get a Josh Groban bear? I want one!
Delano Indeed, little kids are cute…except for when they are bawling or fighting or making mess of themselves and us! I know, I have three nephews and a niece to prove it. Yep. Too late for you to have Kel.
BitterLee Repeat after me, 'This is a conclusion'.
Szhismine you are definitely right! The Simpsons? It has been years since I last saw that series about the demented family. I've even forgotten the father's name. Was it Bart or something?
Legosgurl Thank you for your recommendation. I'll go check her out.
Anmouneus Thank you. I will.
Legolas' journey home on the cart was not going as smoothly as everyone had planned.
The cart was so old and rickety that it shook violently every time it went over the dips and ruts along the trail. They even feared that it would crumble to pieces at one point, almost expecting to see Legolas being dumped unceremoniously onto the ground and buried under the debris.
Whenever they hit some bumps or ran over rocky surface, Legolas was tossed about in the cart, banging against the walls to his left and right. Keldarion and the twins quickly put packs and blankets around him to make padding to soften the blow, not that Legolas would care. Exhausted and still weak, he had promptly settled into deep oblivion the moment he was laid down on the hard wooden floor.
But it was not the rough uneven trail that was giving the elves such big headaches but the mule, the animal that was pulling the cart, the most stubborn and aggravating creature they had ever encountered in their long life.
"Ai! Stupid bloody animal! To the right, I said!" Elrohir—who drove the cart—yelled for the umpteenth time as he jerked at the reins.
Riding alongside the cart and leading the other two horses, Elladan reached down and swatted the mule's rump. "Come one. Get moving, you dummy!"
"I'm not a dummy!" Elrohir shouted back.
Elladan rolled his eyes. "Not you. I was talking to the blasted beast!"
Bringing the rear of the strange procession, Keldarion looked on with a slight grin, deeply amused in spite of his frustration at their slow progress. The mule had become more of an annoyance rather than a big help ever since they left the woods of Oak Byre. It refused to move faster than a snail, it happily dragged the cart all over the holes that they tried to avoid, it went left when it was told to go right, and vice versa. But the most exasperating thing was that it had this tendency to stop abruptly in the middle of everything to munch on some bushes that caught its fancy.
Still, Keldarion couldn't help but find the humorous side to all this. Imagine, here they were, still several leagues away from home with a terribly wounded companion, carried by none other than a very ancient cart that had seen better years and pulled by the most obstinate beast ever known in Middle-earth. In short, it was a total disaster on wheels.
At Legolas' sudden moan, Keldarion instantly kicked his mount to move closer. Leaning over the cart, he reached one hand to touch his brother's cheek. "Legolas? Have you awakened?"
Legolas' eyes fluttered open then. There was a glimpse of panic in his gaze as he stared at his brother. "Kel? What…What's happening? Earthquake?"
Keldarion chuckled before he squeezed Legolas' shoulder reassuringly. "No earthquake, brother. It's just this blasted old cart, that's all. Are you hurting?"
"Not really. I'm fine." Legolas shook his head and tightened his arms around Bobo, the stuffed bear that the girl had given him that morning. "Where are we?"
"We just passed through the Mirkwood borders. Won't be long now. We will be home before you know it."
Legolas shuddered involuntarily, looking so pitifully frail. Seeing this, Keldarion gathered the blanket much closer around his brother's body. "Still cold?"
"No, not that." Legolas stifled a grimace as he grinned weakly at the elder prince. "I'm wondering what father's reaction would be when he sees me in this condition."
Keldarion winced. "Ai. Don't remind me. I'm perfectly sure he won't be happy."
"That's an understatement. He will be furious."
"He will want my head."
The two brothers laughed, knowing what they were in for but were still able to make small jokes about it. Then, from up front, the twins suddenly went into another round of loud swearing when the mule stopped yet again to chomp on some foliage alongside the trail.
"Hot blast! Ai, this is madness! Madness I tell you!" Elladan yelled as he dragged the mule by its head back on course.
"Stupid bloody son of a warg!" Elrohir was fuming as he yanked at the reins in sheer exasperation. "Valar! I'll kill this blasted beast when we get back home! If we get there in one piece, that is."
They did manage to arrive at the Mirkwood palace in one piece, right after sundown. Elrohir didn't kill the mule, though. He was so exhausted he could only slump in his seat and watch with growing dread as the king emerged into the courtyard. Likewise, Elladan stayed mute and sent panic-stricken looks at Keldarion. Without speaking, Keldarion dismounted and waited anxiously for his father's imminent 'explosion'.
Thranduil frowned at them with great displeasure. He ran his eyes all over the youngsters' bedraggled condition before fixing his gaze on the pathetic looking cart. "What in Arda is that thing?" he barked, pointing at the mule.
They blinked back at him, a little unsure on how to reply. No one spoke for a long time afterwards, causing Thranduil's temper to climb up another notch. "Well? Are you deaf or have you all lost your tongue?"
"It's…it's a mule, my lord," Elrohir finally answered, looking extremely sheepish.
"I know that!" Thranduil sharply retorted. "But what is it doing here? Where have you all been? And where in Arda is Legolas?"
"Uh…I'm right here," came Legolas' timid response from the back of the cart.
The king's eyes narrowed. He rushed towards the vehicle and peered inside, only to find his youngest son lying there surrounded by packs and blankets and flowers, clutching at a stuffed bear.
"Legolas?" Thranduil was clearly flabbergasted.
"Hello, father," Legolas replied and tried to muster a smile.
"What happened to you?"
"I…I met an 'accident'." Legolas looked frantically to his brother for help.
"It was no accident, father," Keldarion explained. "The people of Oak Byre tried to burn him to death."
Thranduil stiffened, his eyes widening. He reached down and gently pulled one corner of the blanket that covered Legolas, and gasped in horror to see the extent of his son's injuries. His face pale, the king turned to give his eldest child a hard stare. "What were you doing in Oak Byre?"
Finding it hard to meet his father's eyes, Keldarion lowered his gaze and said nothing.
Confused and angry, Thranduil resisted the wild urge to throttle the boys' necks—Legolas' included. He swallowed down his rising fury and calmly ordered, "Upstairs. All of you."
Keldarion and the twins made a move to collect Legolas but the king waved them away. "I've got him. Just get this stupid cart off my property before it gives everyone else a scare," he said as he gathered his youngest son into his arms. "I want to see the three of you in Legolas' room as soon as you finish. You have lots of explaining to do."
With that, the king hurried inside with his ailing child, leaving the three young elves standing there in the middle of the courtyard with mixed reactions.
"Ai. We are dead," said Elladan, glumly.
"Your father is very angry, Kel," Elrohir stated next.
"And he is going to get angrier when he learns the entire story," Keldarion responded with a weary sigh. "Come along, my friends. Let us dispose of this cart before we meet our doom."
The prince beckoned the servants for some help with the horses as Elladan collected their belongings from the cart. Meanwhile, Elrohir approached the mule to give it his last 'sermon', but he had to jump back with a startled yell instead.
Its jaw opening wide as it brayed, making it look as if it was grinning, the mule cheerfully relieved itself onto the beautiful cobblestone of the courtyard, barely missing Elrohir's legs.
When Keldarion and Elrond's sons entered Legolas' chamber a short while later, Thranduil nearly bit their heads off, so furious the king was with them.
Legolas had told his father everything, from the very beginning to the end, and now he lay in his bed with the counterpane up to his ears. He tried to close his eyes and feign sleep, but he knew it was impossible, not with the tension so high. So he just lay there quietly and hoped that, somehow, the four of them would escape serious punishment.
"Sit!" Thranduil pointed at the long settee across the bed. "And start talking."
The three sat. And Keldarion began talking. He talked and talked, clearly aware that his father's face grew even redder by the minute.
But when Keldarion got to the part where they found Legolas burning at the stake, the prince stumbled in his speech, his face turning white. He glanced at Legolas, as if assuring himself that his brother still lived. When he reopened his mouth to continue, Thranduil interrupted, "You told the same story as Legolas."
Keldarion found that his father was staring intently back at him. "Because it is the truth."
"You don't deny pulling pranks on your brother?"
Elladan and Elrohir chose that moment to intervene. "My lord, we were also involved in this…"
"I'm asking my son, not you two," Thranduil cut in without looking at the twin. "Did you, Kel? Did you trick your brother into eating that spicy soup even when you knew he has never eaten anything like it before?"
Legolas voiced out then, "Actually, father…"
"You've had your chance explaining so sit there and shut up," Thranduil hissed with a glare, causing Legolas to shrink back into his pillows.
"Yes, father, I did," Keldarion responded as the king turned back to him. "And it was my idea that we went to Oak Byre."
Keldarion sat up straighter as he met his father's blue eyes, which were identical to his. "Because I wanted to get even with Legolas. He…he put leeches in my bed the night before."
Legolas cringed, knowing how childish that statement sounded.
Thranduil was not finish with his questioning. "Are you proud with what you've done?"
Keldarion glanced apologetically at his bed-ridded brother. "N…No. Not at all," he answered his voice breaking.
The king turned to the twins next. "And you two? How does all this make you feel?"
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged guilty looks before replying, "Awful, my lord."
"Good." Thranduil grimly nodded. "Let it be a reminder to you every time you want to pull stupid pranks on one another after this. Look, boys, I don't mind you playing around and having fun. But when it comes to practical joke like this, you have gone way out of line. Something that looks totally harmless could prove fatal without you knowing it. Someone might get hurt. And this time, Legolas did, although not directly caused by the three of you. But he did get hurt, and he very nearly died."
With a sigh, the king ran a hand down his face and shook his head. "Ai. I can't believe I'm giving this talk to four grown-up warriors. You all behaved like children, do you know that?"
The two pairs of brothers obediently nodded. Thranduil seemed at loss of anything more to say. He gazed at the young elves and realized how exhausted they looked in their travel stained clothes. "Go to your own rooms, get cleaned up, and get some rest. I will decide what to do with all of you for these latest antics of yours."
"Yes, my lord."
Keldarion and the twins stood and walked to the door, feeling a bit awkward. They expected a lot of shouting and ranting from the king, not this type of gentle reproach. But they were truly swamped with fatigue and they didn't care to wonder about it. Valar knew they couldn't sit through another lecture again. So, off to their chambers they went, their steps heavy and shoulders slumped.
As he stepped outside, Keldarion stole a glance over his shoulder towards his brother. Legolas opened his mouth, wanting to tell him something. But before he could, his brother was gone.
Thranduil had turned his full attention back onto his youngest son, fussing over him like a mother hen. After making sure that Legolas was comfortable, the king kissed his temple, wished him good night and left the room. It was time he comforted his other son.
At Keldarion's door, he paused before entering. He knew what he expected to find inside. He had seen the look on his elder son's face when he spoke of Legolas' burning. Keldarion might not say the exact words, but he was still blaming himself for his brother's near death.
Silently, the king pushed open the door. The room was still dark. The candles had not been lit. And then he knew why. Instead of changing his rumpled attire like he was told, his eldest son sat forlornly in one corner beside the bed, staring into space.
Knowing his eldest son, Thranduil was sure Keldarion had been keeping everything he felt bottled inside. The prince had appeared strong and calm in front of everyone else. But when he was alone within the privacy of his own chamber, all the demons escaped, making war with his conscience and pulling at his guilt.
That was Keldarion, ever loyal to his responsibilities, always quick to put blame on himself when he failed to protect those that he loved.
Thranduil stepped closer and knelt on one knee in front of his son. The prince slowly raised his head, looking so frail in the shadow.
"I saw him burn," Keldarion said, almost in a whisper.
"Yes, I know." Thranduil nodded, gripping his son's arm.
"He screamed and screamed. I can still hear it now." Keldarion was blinking back tears as he bit at his lower lip. "He was in so much pain. I can almost feel it."
"It's all over, Kel. It will take time, but with the twins' help, your brother will heal." Thranduil was now sitting next to his son, his arm draped over Keldarion's shoulders. "He is going to be fine."
"He will have nightmares."
"So will you."
Keldarion's tears fell then. His face crumpled as the first sob escaped his lips. "I will never forget it, father. I never will."
"I know," Thranduil quietly responded as he pulled his son into his embrace.
"I'm so sorry…" Keldarion's shoulders were shaking as he clung desperately to his father. "I nearly caused Legolas' death. He almost died because of my stupid pride."
"I know how you feel, Kel. Trust me, no one blames you."
"I shouldn't have taken him to Oak Byre. I shouldn't have been so…"
"Enough. There's no point talking about what you should or shouldn't have done." Thranduil drew back a little and gazed at Keldarion's tear stained face. "How many times have I told you, we can never change the past? Just learn from it, Kel. If this incident makes you become more protective of your brother then do so. I know how great your love is for him, so I know you never mean to cause him hurt. Do not let yourself drown in your guilt. It will achieve nothing but more and more pain."
Keldarion sniffed. Embarrassed, he turned away and wiped his tears. Smiling sheepishly, he quietly said, "I feel like we have gone through this a million times already. Legolas got hurt, I blamed myself, and then you lectured us and gave me this talk. Thank you, father, for always being there for me and my brother."
Thranduil raised one eyebrow. "Oh? Where else should I be if not with my two foolish children?"
Keldarion grinned. "You know, you could have sent us away to other families the minute we were born. Save you all the headaches you got watching us grow up."
Thranduil laughed. "I tried, believe me. Just my luck, though. I'm saddled with you both for the rest of my life."
As their laughter died down, Keldarion softly said, "I love you, father."
"I love you too, my son," Thranduil responded. Then, smiling mischievously, he inquired, "Say, how in Arda did you control that stupid mule?"
Three days later, after Legolas couldn't stop complaining about being confined like a prisoner in his room, they carried him outside into the garden and sat him down in a big chair.
With a warm blanket draped over his lap, Legolas leaned back, closed his eyes and smiled. "Ah. Sunshine. Beautiful, refreshing sunshine," he sighed, totally content.
The others grinned as they also took their seats, glad to see Legolas' obvious pleasure to be outside in the opened space. The servants were busy putting trays of delicacies and refreshments on the garden table. It was late in the morning but the air still carried the scent of last night's dew. The flowers were in full bloom, and the breeze was softly whispering among the trees. It was indeed a beautiful day, good for a convalescing wounded prince.
"Here. Drink your tonic." Thranduil pushed a mug filled with honey-laced aloera juice towards his younger son.
Legolas grimaced. "No, thank you. I drank it yesterday."
"This is for today," the king insisted. "You want to get better or not?"
"Yes, I do. But that thing tastes like mule piss!" Legolas whined. "Besides, how would it make me better if you keep torturing me to death with those exercises?"
Under the twins' supervision, Legolas had gone through some treatments to strengthen his leg muscles. The burnt flesh was healing, slowly yet steadily. For the time being, Elladan and Elrohir kept the therapy at minimum so as not to endanger the mending tissues. But it was still a painful process for Legolas, and it was common these days to hear his scream and curses within the palace walls every time the therapy was in session. He even punched Elladan's face at one time, sending the elder son of Elrond flat onto his back.
"Drink. Now." Thranduil's voice was stern as he frowned at his son.
"All right, all right." Grumbling under his breath, Legolas took the mug and drank. When he finished, he looked almost green. "Valar, I hate this bloody stuff," he complained.
"That bloody stuff is good for you. It helps you heal much quicker," Keldarion said as he lifted the tea pot. "Tea, father?"
Thranduil shook his head with a smile. "No, thank you. I just drank a big glass of orange juice before coming down here."
Keldarion served the tea for the twins before pouring himself a cup. The three instantly launched themselves into a discussion with the king, talking animatedly about current military news. Sulking, Legolas crossed his arms and glared at them all, annoyed that he was not included in the conversation.
Suddenly, his mouth fell open and he sat up straighter. Then he broke down laughing, clutching at his tummy.
Stupefied, Keldarion and the twins stared at him. "What's so funny?"
Legolas was laughing so hard he couldn't speak. He laughed and laughed, pointing his finger at them.
"What?" Elrohir was puzzled.
"He must be losing his mind," Elladan supplied, shaking his head at Legolas' weird behavior.
"Your…your mouth," Legolas managed to gasp between gales of laughter. "Look at your teeth!"
"What's wrong with our teeth?" Keldarion turned to his father. "Is there something in my teeth?"
To his surprise, though, Thranduil was almost red in the face trying to hold his laughter. Then one of the twins yelled, "Your teeth have turned black!"
Keldarion stared at the twins' mouth, his eyes widening. "So have yours!"
Thranduil couldn't hold it any longer. The king threw back his head and laughed out loud. Legolas chortled all the harder. Their eyes narrowing, Keldarion and the twins fixed their hard gaze at the two of them.
"Legolas, what did you do?" asked Keldarion, a hand covering his mouth.
"I didn't do anything!" Legolas protested, collapsing in his chair as he fought for breath, tears of mirth running down his face.
"It was me," Thranduil finally admitted. "I told the servants to 'accidentally' put in some ink into the tea pot."
Silence reigned for a full heartbeat. The all gaped at the king, completely stunned.
Then, with a loud roar, Keldarion leaped off his chair and lunged at his father, the twins right behind him. The four of them fell onto the lawn in a tangle of arms and legs, wrestling and pushing one another. Enjoying the sight, Legolas clapped his hands and burst out laughing all over again.
Commander Linden, Mirkwood's highest military officer, rushed into the garden when he saw the king being mauled by three young elves. Then he recognized who those youngsters were. Smiling, his head shaking, the commander turned around and faced the servants that had gathered to see.
"Move along, everyone," he told them. "Mind your own affairs. Let the king have some family time with his sons."
All kinds of Valar must be grinning from above when hearing that.
Some family time indeed.
Note : Yes. I did get the idea about the ink in the tea from watching 'The Patriot' movie. He he…
There goes another one! Now everyone lives happily ever after.
I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoy torturing Leggy and the gang. Thank you very much for reading and reviewing. And, as tradition, here are the faithful reviewers in alphabetical order : AbbyCat14; Acacia59601; Aly K; anmouneus; Aranel of Mirkwood; astalder27; Baby Blaize; Beginning-end-314; BitterLee; Brazgirl; butterfly-elf; Coolio02; DarkAngelPearl; Deana; Delano; Dur En Thurin Naur; effigy; Enigma Jade; Irish Anor; Jedi Gollum; Joee1; jubisaurus; kel; KeluinLossehilin; Kitty; Kuriei137; Legolas' Garden Light ; gina; Kelayna; Legolas Greenleaf; LegolasLover2003; Legosgurl; leralonde; Manders1953; Manwathiel; Mellaithwen; MoroTheWolfGod; Mystkyten; NessaThranduiliel; pavement; PL Wynter; Real Anonymous Fan; Sabrina; Sailor Elf; ScottyBaby; seeing-spots; Sesshyangel; Sindauviel; Star-Stallion; szhismine; TaniaNZ; tbiris; teddybear888; Trista; Willow Evenstar; (I hope no one is left out, but if I do please tell me!)
To my beta, Sara aka Aranel of Mirkwood, I love you more and more and more and…well, you know how it goes. Thanks, girl, for your proof reading. Now go feed Kimi and Leggy! You've been neglecting them and now they are starving!
Next, the coming attractions. Really, I don't know yet what I'm gonna put up for the next coming fic. There are several in mind—a chibi-Legolas, an LOTR, and also a short story about Keldarion's wedding (It's a disaster, I promise you!). Whatever it will be, just wait and see. I might surprise you with something else entirely. You know how unpredictable I am, right? LOL! And to those who I've promised the extended version of 'Trauma', please be assured that it will come your way soon. Just check your mailbox (if you have given me your e-mail address, that is) next week. I might drop an early Christmas present for you.
For those who love to read books like I do, I would like to recommend an author. Try Bernard Cornwell's Holy Grail Quest series. It's fantastic, I tell you! Consists of three books (The Archer's Tale aka Hallequin, Vagabond and Heretic), the trilogy tells the story about an English young archer named Thomas Hookton (Legolas anyone?). There are lots—and I mean lots—of battle scenes, action-adventure, drama, angst, and a bit—just a tiny bit—of romance. To all those battle lovers out there, get these books. You won't be disappointed, I promise you. Right now I'm reading The Last Kingdom, another latest masterpiece of his.
Before I leave, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
See you in 2005!
Adromir has left the building!