Oh wow. That was so TOTALLY more than I deserved. (sniffle)

Thanks for the reviews you guys, college is a b! when it comes to getting anything OTHER than schoolwork done... Plus as a violin major, you gotta practice, so NYA. Thanks for sticking around so long! I'm glad I made some people happy.

And I know, right? I couldn't really wait for Leggy to discover Estel either. So here it is! MWAHA! XD The thing is, Elrond has still eventually got to reveal who they are, and as for Legolas and Telerin's discussion before he died: I guess I'll explain that now...

DREAM SEQUENCE! (cue dramatic music)

Enjoy!

(Oh yes, and as for finishing fics, in accordance with the poll, I will finish this story before working on the others. Then either my VHD fic: 'Strength and Weakness' or my Moonchild fic: 'Best Kept Secret' will be finished next. To be honest, I haven't abandoned any of them. I just have the attention span of an amoeba so it's taking very-- very-- VERY long. Eep.)

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Chapter Five: Truths Revealed

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Telerin had forgotten his knife that day.

The camp they'd made in the trees that morning was secluded and quite sturdy, so they hadn't worried about it as they'd traveled through the trees, enjoying the day and occasionally stalking a rabbit or some other smallish game. Legolas had still ragged him about the missing weapon, however. This line of teasing was a popular pastime between the two of them, spanning a few centuries. Telerin was still defending himself adamantly:

"I remember quite a few times when you forgot your own boots, my lord," he emphasized, grumbling playfully. "A missing knife is nothing when you have a good arrow."

"And a bow counts for naught, I suppose?" Legolas said, deadpan.

A swipe at his arm. "You dolt. You know full well what I mean."

"Oh yes, of course," he continued. "With your skill and brute strength, jamming an arrowhead through into orc armor with your bare hands would be a trifle--"

Legolas ducked as the shorter elf smacked at him, chasing him up onto a higher branch and laughing when he almost hit his head on a low limb. The Silvan prince abruptly found himself blinded by clumps of green: his leap had taken him straight up so that his head was stuck into a plump gathering of new leaves. He looked as though he'd grown a giant shrub for a head.

Telerin snorted, then laughed himself silly. "You've gotten a new haircut, I see," he managed between guffaws.

"Ah yes. Lady Galadriel would envy hair like this. Who needs golden ringlets when you have a green puff?"

Telerin laughed so hard he actually fell off the branch, picturing the Lady of the Wood with a cloud of bright green hair. "Ha ha-- ah!"

With a thump, the elf caught himself on the next branch down, and began his descent. "I'd love to see you explain that one to Elrond about his mother-in-law," he mused. Telerin heard the rush of a river nearby and suddenly he wanted to go to it. Cool water was always a pleasure; perhaps they could even go for a swim.

"Legolas," he called, "Do you hear?"

Legolas plucked himself out of the foliage and nodded. "I'll follow you."

With grace like that of a leaping doe, Telerin jumped the rest of the way to the ground and landed lightly, not a sound under his feet as he rose, looking for Legolas among the treetops. He smiled when he jumped in the exact same fashion, grinning as he stood from his crouch. "I still say you should have kept to the trees," the prince said lightly. "You could hear that landing a mile away."

"Only if they didn't hear your mouth first, my lord." Legolas chuckled.

The two of them were side by side as they approached the river, and seeing the sparkling rivulets of water made their hearts swell with pleasure. It was beautiful, and the trees were echoing their feelings of contentment. "A current fit for Lord Elrond himself," remarked Telerin. "I doubt even Vilya could produce a flow of water this dazzling."

Legolas watched as fish jumped from the depths, landing with a splash of small diamonds around them, pure white foam frothing at the great boulders and going transparent over small stones beneath its surface. He silently agreed. "If Estel wished it, he'd make an ocean for him," he said softly, eyes reflecting the blue of the water.

They kept walking until they reached a sun-warmed boulder, Legolas sitting on its edge and Telerin occupying a flat rock at its base, peering up at Legolas as he watched the river's sparkling surface.

"...You think of him often, don't you?" Telerin ventured.

At first Legolas didn't speak.

"I do. I may not like it, but I do."

Telerin seemed troubled at his answer. "You could just refuse to see him," the elf offered seriously. "It is not my wish to see you pained, my lord."

Legolas moved his gaze to Telerin's face, noting the worried crease upon his brow. He smiled gently. "And you do not see me pained, my friend," he replied, shifting slightly. "It merely frustrates me that I feel so... weak... around him. Being near humans makes me... wary. And even though he is but a boy, Estel makes me feel susceptible, unprotected. It troubles me that this is possible."

Telerin was obviously even more distressed at hearing this. "There is no need to greet him or even look at him, Legolas," he implored, "if it is so painful simply to be near him. You have no obligation to do so. Let him be away from us when next we visit Imladris."

A bright smile lit the prince's features at Telerin's concern.

"But I cannot do that to him, my friend. He is but a child." The shorter elf blinked when Legolas answered in Westron. His eyes had grown somber, the change in tongue merely emphasizing his resolve, and the smile faded as he continued. "You cannot punish the many for the sins of the few. It is not his fault that he is human."

Telerin obliged him, answering in Westron. "I know, my lord. But... I cannot help but see how it bothers you," he insisted. "If Estel makes you uncomfortable, you should not have to associate with--"

He was cut off.

"It is not the boy that makes me uncomfortable. My own memories make it so," he said curtly. Telerin was a little startled by how vehement Legolas was in his words, but his air wasn't unsavory. He merely wanted to make Telerin understand, not yell at him: "It is up to me to rid myself of them. It would not be fair for me to alienate him simply because of his bloodline. Besides, Estel is as close to Elven as you can get in a human," he finished.

Telerin saw the light in his eyes as he thought of the boy, and sighed. "Well, it can't bother you that much if you're so fond of him," he muttered in Elvish. "Why don't you marry him now and get it over with?" Legolas laughed at the snippy comment as Telerin folded his arms and stuck his nose in the air.

Telerin had glanced at his friend as he cackled, cracking a smile, and was about to join him in his laughter when--

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!! Help me! PLEASE!"

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

He couldn't see. A blind panic seized him and he tried to thrash about, seeking to escape the bonds of searing heat scorching his body, but it was useless; he was held fast. Weakness unlike any he had experienced deprived him of the privilege of even moving his limbs, moaning quietly as pain blasted through him.

"Shh, dear, it's all right; you're all right-- shh..."

There was a cool, almost shocking touch of water and cloth on his skin, and he gasped, making his chest hurt worse. He realized only as he sank back down further into the pillow that it was a cold compress; he was being cared for.

A certain scent still lingering in the musty air made him sick with apprehension: where were they? Would they beat him today? Would they try to drown him? Give him the poison that made him so ill? Make him stand as they took out the spiked whip, shoving it in front of his eyes before they blindfolded him and demanded whether or not it felt good to his already charred skin?

Legolas felt his body reduced to uncontrollable shivering, and he gave a soft cry as hands connected with him, lifting a bandage from his shoulder.

"It's all right-- it's all right," a voice kept reassuring him.

The pain throughout his body said otherwise.

"Estel... Telerin," he mumbled incoherently, trying desperately to breathe without the invisible hand closing around his parched, aching throat. "Estel..."

The voice merely told him to sleep, and sleep he did, falling into shadow that offered no comfort but the promise of a painless void as he searched for his friend in the blackness...

...always in vain.

"Telerin..."

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Nothing, nothing--nothing! Elbereth, what was wrong with me that I couldn't see it? How could I have not known?

Estel had been kicking himself mentally for the better part of an hour. It was growing later, and he and Arad were sore and stiff from searching on hands and knees for the tell-tale white flowers. Thick underbrush and tall stalks carpeted the forest floor, which made it impossible to see the low growing weeds underneath waving blades of grass. The dark-haired boy was beginning to feel the onset of despair.

"Are you sure it only has white flowers?" Arad asked, wiping his sweat-soaked brow with a dirty hand.

Estel nodded violently. "I'm sure of it," he said tersely. "They're in bloom now, and I saw some just in the vale before we journeyed here. That was only days ago. There has to be some, there just has to be--"

A sharp pain went straight through his chest as he knelt, and he lurched forward, gritting his teeth.

Legolas--

"He is not well," Estel lamented. "I can feel it-- We have to find--"

"Here!"

Estel looked up with a gasp as Arad waved a small clump of vegetation at him, gathering more of the plant even as he spoke. It was true: there, hidden behind a small grove of trees with high roots sprang a collection of new leafy stems, bursting with white buds.

The boy could have cried for joy.

Snatching the bunch from Arad's grasp, the lithe youngster leaped up, still clutching his chest, and raced for the path back to Arad's house, much to the village boy's surprise:

"Estel--! Estel, wait for me!"

He paid him no heed.

Please Legolas, hold on-- don't die--

People were staring as he came barreling past them, tearing into the village at a reckless pace and showing no signs of stopping. A small cloud of dust went up at his diminutive heels, sweat dripping from his brow, a look of intense determination engulfing the childish face.

He just had to make it in time--

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Moments ago Maeri'd called for Alerenn; the elf's heart was beating erratically. He wasn't long for this world if it continued, she knew, and even after all this time, the woman was frightened. Alerenn had come in and half-heartedly tried to stimulate him into a regular pulse, draping more blankets and warmed towels around him to bring back some of his body heat, but now it was finally the end.

The tall hunter stood with his wife in his arms, bedraggled honey-blond hair hanging in his face. His expression was that of a spirit utterly defeated as he pressed his temple to the top of Maeri's head. She was trying desperately not to cry, clinging to him as though she were a young girl.

"Alerenn," she whispered.

"I know," he answered hoarsely. Legolas's almost non-existant breathing was the only sound in the deathly stillness while they watched him take his last breaths.

The heroic being that had saved their only child was about to die, alone and unaware. The unfairness, the tragedy, the purity of the soul about to flee was incomparable, and the pain he'd had to endure while in their home merely amplified their anguish. He had been so noble, even after being stabbed by their kinsman; the endless attachment to his deceased companion, the gratitude he'd expressed to them while lucid...

After a few minutes of looking mutely at the frail, abandoned form on the bed, Maeri couldn't take it; she bent and retrieved his hand from where it lay sprawled over his side, clenching her fingers defiantly over his. He at least deserved to know that someone was there with him.

"I'm so sorry," she mouthed, one sparkling tear streaking down her skin, fiery bangs falling into her eyes.

Alerenn was about to approach the cot behind her, when a soft but rapid pattering began to get steadily louder from behind. The hunter turned his head just as the sounds escalated into running footsteps directly at their doorstep.

The couple was stunned at what happened next:

With a startling bang, the wooden bar was thrown off the door as it burst open, and in rushed the boy visitor from their neighboring village, looking as if he'd just been running for his life: sweat-soaked, gasping for breath, blue eyes wide with fear.

Then he opened his mouth.

"Legolas!"

Alerenn and Maeri simultaneously did a double-take.

"Legolas...?" Maeri breathed. Understanding lit her eyes, and she whirled 'round to face her husband. "Alerenn--"

Before either of them could react, Estel was at Legolas's side, shaking him, yelling in a strange tongue: one that sounded achingly similar to how the elf had spoken in his delirium. It made their hair stand on end:

"No! Legolas! Legolas, dartho! U awartha i galad! Daro--! Legolas! Im Estel, mellon-nin! Dartho! Tolo dan non galad!!"

"He's..." he trailed off, watching in wonder and confusion as the boy began to rip apart a small bundle of plants still clenched in his fist, licking a broken leaf and tearing away at the bandages swathing the dying elf's chest. Panicked blue eyes lifted to his, pleading.

"Help me!"

That broke the paralysis induced by the child's coming.

The larger man strode forward and parted the bandages somewhat reticently, watching in soundless awe as Estel put his skilled fingers to work, bathing the wound in flowers and broken leaves, chanting all the while. He was halfway between tearing the boy away from the elf and shaking him, demanding an explanation, or curling up in the corner and rocking like a baby, disbelieving of the strength emanating from Estel's slight frame.

Not even flinching at the magnitude of the injury, Estel dug his fingertips into the mouth of the wound and shoved the herbs further into him, eyes focused on his work with an intensity that bordered on obsession.

"...Tolo dan non galad," he repeated, his voice monotone. "Tolo dan non galad..."

Maeri had been moved to one side and now she stood at the foot of the bed, her handkerchief covering her mouth as she looked on. She did not dare to hope that this could be the miracle she and Arad had so desperately prayed for, but as Estel continued his ministrations a tiny spark flared in her breast. Could it be...?

Moments after he'd begun chanting, her son came careening into the room, nearly hitting his shoulder on the doorframe in his rush to enter the house. "Mother," he panted, his hair a wild mess about his face.

Wordlessly she looked at him as he came to her, hands on his knees, completely winded.

The boy's green eyes were glued to where his new friend was treating Legolas. "Is he...?" he said breathlessly.

"Shh," she quieted, her own eyes fixed as well. "Come here." Maeri pulled her son into her lap, sitting as still as possible so as not to distract the strange boy from his work. Alerenn stood beside the bed, every muscle taut as a bowstring, praying as hard as he could with each passing second.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

It had been fifteen minutes.

Estel's face was soaked with perspiration; he looked almost as drained as the blond elf on the bed. He hadn't ceased his chanting for a moment, and the entire bundle of foliage was gone, applied to Legolas's wound. It was growing harder to see: Estel found his vision was beginning to blur. Exhaustion was setting into his little body.

It wasn't long before despair began to dig in its blade-like claws as well.

The boy quivered with exertion as he kept up the stream of words, his fingers still wedged deep into the wound: Oh please-- what if I was too late; what if his spirit's already gone? No, that can't be-- I feel him-- but I can't keep this up much longer! Come back, Legolas, please come back--

It seemed as if he still had Legolas within his grasp, but the face beneath him was grey-white and completely calm: expressionless. His heart had stopped, there was no breath moving the chest up and down, not even a whisper.

But what scared him most was that the body that his hand was still halfway buried in, was completely cold.

Fear gripped him like the giant, crushing fist of a cave troll.

"Legolas!" he screamed, breaking the chant with a cry much more vehement and determined than his previous utterances.

Arad would never be sure, but he swore he saw a faint flash of blue-white light pulse into the elf from between his friend's fingertips into his body. A moment passed, and another, and Arad was about to start crying again when Estel's eyes rolled back in his head, and he collapsed facedown onto the prince's unmoving chest, sprawled like a rag doll.

"Estel!" Arad cried out, rising just as his father reached the boy and checked his pulse.

"It's all right; he's breathing," the hunter answered in a clipped tone. "He's just unconscious, that's all."

"Poor dear," Maeri murmured, her hands to her mouth, silent tears coursing down her cheeks. "He so wanted to save him..."

Arad watched as the boy's hand fisted in Legolas's mane of pale gold. "Indeed," his father mused, green eyes piercing as they looked upon the boy's sleep-smoothed features. This was no ordinary child. Elrond would get an earful of questions when he returned...

He heard rustling behind him and turned to see his wife standing frozen, a look of utter shock overtaking her.

The man looked at her questioningly, but she put a hand on his elbow to stop him from speaking. Slowly approaching the bed, she pointed to where Estel's other hand was barely touching the elf's. Arad's heart stopped.

Legolas's fingers were curled around the boy's.

A closer look, and Maeri nearly collapsed into her husband's arms.

The elf was breathing.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

I will be trying to upload more during summer, starting May 5th, but for now, I will be TOTALLY bogged down with work. God help me. Everybody pray for me for finals and papers, yo. Plus juries for violin, and still teaching at the middle school 9:30 to 4 three days a week... woof.

P.S. I GOT MY NEXT PROGRAM TO JAPAN for SUMMER!! XD Trip no. 3, here I COME!!

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o