Elladan's Trials, For Estel

Chapter Fifteen

The Greatest of These is Love

A/N As we come to the end of this little tale, I want to thank all of you who have read and especially those of you who have taken the time to leave reviews. I started out to write a nice fluffy little story of about 3 or 4 chapters and look what happened? I hope that my getting "off message" from the original summary is not a problem. What I would like for all of us to take from this story is that love is more powerful than hatred, and that the love of a family can be the greatest love of all.

I hope now to finish the other two stories I'm working on, "The The King" and "Tristan's Story", and then I will be back to continue the tales of Estel and Legolas. Of course, my characters of Celos, Celon, Curufin, Helcar, Falathar, Beling, Illuin, and Sariboril will continue to make appearances in the coming stories.

Tenna' ento lye omenta, I Melain berio. Ithilvalon

Now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Elrohir supported Estel's weight in the bath while Legolas washed the child as gently as he could. He winced when Elrohir made him go back to more thoroughly clean a particularly nasty looking scratch on the child's upper leg. The Prince had treated many battlefield wounds on himself and his warriors, but never on a child and it pained him to think he was causing more hurt to the already traumatized child. Estel lay quietly in his brother's arms while Legolas worked on getting him clean.

"He is in shock, is he not?" queried the Prince softly.

Elrohir met his concerned gaze and simply nodded his head sadly.

"Were you able to get him to drink very much water?"

"A bit," admitted the twin worriedly. "Hurry, Legolas, I want to get some tea made to treat his fever."

"It is being prepared as we speak," came a weak voice from the doorway.

"Erestor!" breathed Legolas, raising his head from his work to peer over Elrohir's shoulder. "What are you doing out of bed."

"Forget that," insisted the seneschal as he made his way carefully over to the edge of the bath, "Estel, I need to see Estel."

"Careful, Lord Erestor," Elrohir said, as the seneschal leaned rather heavily on the twin's back. "I do not want you pulling your stitches." He looked up to see the Erestor's eyes swimming with tears. "It's true then, my little lamb is home. Hantale Valar. Blessed be the Valar."

O-o-O-o-O

Glorfindel pulled Elrond's arm over his shoulders and helped him to his feet. "Hadafang," cried the Elf Lord, looking back to where he'd dropped his sword. "Please, I cannot leave it out here."

"Worry not, I will come back for it and send warriors to retrieve Quenthar's body." He could feel the Elf tense. "Trust me on this, old friend."

The pair had laboriously moved only a few yards when the strength of the Elf Lord gave way and he surrendered to the blackness of unconsciousness.

"Finally, you stubborn Elf," grunted the warrior fondly, as he swept his friend up into his arms to carry him, grateful that he would be able to get the wounded Lord to the healer much more quickly.

As Glorfindel made his way through the garden with his precious cargo he picked up a protective entourage of warriors, who now made sure the path was clear and watched for any sign of attack. Seeing the Elf Lord in this state was a fearful thing. Any Elf in Imladris would gladly trade his life for that of his Lord.

At the hurried approach of the warriors, Celon, who had been making his way down the side of the house as he sampled the various flowers and fauna, raised his head from the roses to see what was going on, and sniffed the air. The stallion trotted over to the steps to add his support when he caught the scent of Lord Elrond, his master's sire.

"Back, you great brute," chided Glorfindel fondly as he rounded the corner. "This is Elves work, my friend."

Just outside the front entrance Helcar, who had deposited Elladan into the care of the healers and was in the process of returning to the archery field, met up with the pair. He blanched when he saw Lord Elrond being carried by his commander. "Ed' I'ear ar' elenea, Hîr nín!" exclaimed the shocked young warrior. Would this night get any worse?

"Avo 'osto, young one, fear not," soothed Glorfindel. "All will be well. It would take more than that nadorhuan to better the Lord of Imladris."

Glorfindel instructed Helcar to summon Sariboril to the third floor healing rooms, the rooms used by Elrond and his children. He hurried up the steps and down the hallway, past the family bedrooms, to the healing suite. As he passed Elrond's room, part of his brain registered the fact that Erestor was not in bed where he was supposed to be, but that was not his immediate concern. He made a mental note to revisit that "thought" later.

The family healing suite consisted of Lord Elrond's apothecary, a smaller storage room for linens and such, a laboratory, a small surgery, and the main room with four beds - two situated on each side. Glorfindel went straight to the surgery.

Gently laying his friend down onto the table, he pulled his dagger and began to quickly cut away the Lord's silk tunic to reveal the full extent of the wound to his side. That was the one that was most serious. There was a cut on the Lord's arm that would require stitches as well.

Sariboril, with two of her apprentices in tow, burst into the room muttering to herself. "I specifically told him not to do anything to make me regret helping him. Did he listen to me? No, they never listen!"

The healer stopped by the surgical table where Glorfindel had prepared Elrond for her the best that he could without leaving his Lord's side. "All right, mighty warrior, clear out. We'll take it from here."

As Glorfindel left the room, Sariboril could be heard barking orders at her apprentices.

O-o-O-o-O

Elrohir and Legolas finished bandaging every last cut or scrape on Estel's battered body. The boy was still unconscious, but he had suffered no more seizures, and Elrohir had been able to coax some herbal tea down his throat to bring down his fever.

Legolas rested his hand lightly on Estel's forehead and was gratified to find it markedly cooler. He smiled at Elrohir. "The fever has broken, my friend. I will take the little one in to Lord Elrond's bedroom and sit with him in that very comfortable looking chair. You go check on Elladan and your Ada. "

Elrohir was torn between staying with his baby brother and going to see for himself the condition of his brother and father.

"Trust me, mellon nin, I will keep Estel safe. Erestor will rest better with him near as well. Perhaps he will even stay in the bed and stop pestering us," he added with a melodious laugh.

"I heard that," came an indignant voice from the other room, though both younger elves ignored it.

Elrohir smiled at the prince, relief and gratitude evident in his swimming eyes. The twin blinked quickly, trying to banish the tears before the prince saw them. "Thank you, Legolas. My heart is troubled for Elladan and Ada, I won't lie, but they trust me to care for Estel."

"And you have," the prince assured him. "Now go, be with them and I will care for Estel. He will be safe in my arms the whole time, I promise you."

Elrohir nodded, his mind made up. "Thanks, Legolas, and don't worry about Erestor bothering you, I gave him a sleeping draught. He should be out any time now."

"You didn't!" a groggy voice sounded from the adjoining bedroom.

As Elrohir hurried from the room, Legolas settled into the overstuffed chair by Lord Elrond's bed, where Erestor currently slumbered. Legolas could not take his eyes off the small child, reliving the profound moment he had experienced earlier. This little one had touched him in a way he did not yet understand.

As Legolas watched, Estel's impossibly silver-blue eyes slowly opened. The child tensed for just a moment before slowing relaxing in prince's arms. "Peace little one," soothed Legolas, "you are home and you are safe."

"Ada?" asked the boy softly.

"Your Ada is in the healing wing with your brothers, tithen pen," Legolas replied. He hoped the child would think that his father and brothers were working as healers and not ask any more questions. The prince definitely did not want to frighten him with the whole truth. To his immense relief the child seemed to accept this explanation.

"The bad elf…" questioned the boy unsurely.

"He is gone, Estel. He will never hurt you again. That I promise you."

The child repeated his move from earlier in the night and reached up to touch Legolas on the cheek. A smile came to his face, as though he were greeting an old friend. "You're pretty."

Legolas laughed at those words and grimaced. "Do not let your brothers hear you say that, little one, for I will never hear the end of it if they do. It will be our secret."

"I keep good secrets. Restor told me a secret too." Estel frowned as he remembered the last time he'd seen the elf Lord.

Realizing what the child was remembering, Legolas quickly reassured him. "Lord Erestor is going to be quite well, Estel. He sleeps in your Ada's bed. See?" He held the child up slightly so that he could reassure himself that Lord Erestor was well.

Estel's eyes began to droop with weariness.

"Sleep, little one, sleep and dream happy dreams," soothed the Prince as he began to sing a soft lullaby that his mother used to sing to him.

Estel smiled sleepily. Reaching down he grasped hold of Legolas thumb and snuggled it into his chest as he drifted off to sleep.

O-o-O-o-O

One week later…

Mistress of all she surveyed, Sariboril stalked down the center of the smaller healing room on the third floor. A gentle breeze blew through sheer, gauzy curtains from the far end of the room, where the entire wall was opened to a balcony overlooking the Bruinen. In cold weather, the opening could be sealed by way of folding panels, which were currently hidden away, but now the weather was mild and the scent of roses from Erestor's prized beds below freshened the air.

Three of the beds in the room were currently occupied. Three fair beings sat on the remaining bed, while one leaned casually against the wall.

"We promise to be quiet," Elrohir begged. "Just let us stay a while longer."

The wily healer fixed the four Elves with a look that brokered no argument and made her pronouncement. "All right, but if I hear any one of you get rowdy, I'll toss three of you off the balcony, and that's a promise. And you," she added fixing Erestor with a stare, "I will put back into bed with a sleeping draught."

Glorfindel, from his position against the wall, held up both hands in a gesture of surrender, and Legolas just put on the most angelic and innocent look he could muster. Elrohir frowned, but nodded his head in agreement.

Erestor just smiled serenely at the healer. He had been allowed out of bed for the past three days and there was no way he was going to allow himself to be put back. "I promise you I will see that these three behave. I, myself, always behave with utmost decorum, Mistress Healer, as you well know."

Sariboril just snorted and walked out of the room.

Looking at the bed across from where he sat, Elrohir continued the running stream of questions he'd been asking the occupant, who was currently smirking back at him. Elladan was almost completely recovered from the injuries he'd received during his fight with Quenthar. The young elf had lost a lot of blood, but his only current complaint was the irritation he felt from the healing stitches he'd received.

Elrohir looked across the room to the two beds which held his father and younger brother, who were both asleep; the older one in the Elven fashion with his eyes open and the younger one in the way of the humans, with his eyes closed.

Elladan followed his twin's eyes and could not help but smile at the sight of his baby brother snuggled deeply within his sunshine blankey. "He's got it wrapped around him like a cocoon," he said softly. The Elf leaned up onto his elbow to get a better look at the tiny bundle. "He truly is healing, isn't he, Ro?"

Elrohir affected a dramatic sigh. "For the thousandth time, yes, brother, he is healing, as is Ada."

Nodding contentedly, Elladan settled back down onto his side once more. He propped his head up with his hand and leaned on his elbow as Legolas looked from one to the other.

"So go on with the story," Legolas urged, somewhat impatiently. "Someone, who shall remain nameless," he hastened to add, fixing Glorfindel with an intense stare, "would not allow me to return to the archery field and I missed the whole thing."

Glorfindel, for his part, simply ignored the seemingly still affronted young prince and smiled softly to himself. For the better part of an hour Elladan had been trying to describe to Legolas and Elrohir the fight he had witnessed between Lord Elrond and Quenthar.

"I tell you," Elladan continued with great enthusiasm, "you would not have believed it. I could scarcely trust what I was seeing. Ada had moves that I would not have even thought possible!"

Laughing softly, Glorfindel walked to the edge of his Lord's bed. When he was sure that Elrond was still in a light healing sleep he nodded contentedly to himself and resumed his easy stance by the wall. "Young ones, Your Ada was not just the herald for Gil-galad, he was his second in command…and for a good reason. Such was his skill with a blade that he stood on the front line of the Elven warriors where he carried no shield and wore no helmet. Hadhafang was his defense, and the hordes of Mordor found its deadly precision in your Ada's hands to be quite…shall we say…impressive."

Three young sets of eyes moved from Glorfindel to the bed where Lord Elrond now lay. Glorfindel and Erestor chuckled to themselves at the awe they could see in those eyes. For all their lives the young ones had seen Lord Elrond in his chosen role of father, healer and scholar, but he was once a great warrior and Glorfindel relished the ability to enlighten them as to his Lord's abilities.

Elladan broke the silence with his softly spoken, "Hadhafang was my defense too." In his mind's eye he could still see his father's sword protecting him from Quenthar's killing blow.

Elrohir looked back to his twin with concern in his warm brown eyes. He could feel the doubt his brother had buried since his ill fated battle with the evil Elf that had taken Estel and badly wounded Erestor.

"And it always will be, ion nin," promised a soft voice from across the room.

"Ada!" the twins both exclaimed at once.

"We're sorry, we didn't mean to awaken you!" cried Elrohir.

"Sariboril will kill us," croaked Elladan.

"I think not," assured the Elf Lord as he gingerly sat up in the bed. "Especially after her young healers spent so long sewing up your wounds."

Glorfindel walked over to add another pillow behind Elrond's back.

"I have it on good authority," interjected Erestor, "that your wounds took longer to repair."

"Ada?" chirped a soft voice from the adjoining bed at his side. Elrond smiled at Estel as his curly head popped out from under the yellow shield like a downy new chick emerging from its shell. Sleepy blue eyes regarded him seriously.

The Lord of Imladris did not need to hear the question, he simply held out his arms to the boy, and Estel scrambled out of his bed.

Glorfindel intercepted the boy before he could plow into his father's healing right side and deposited him into the crook of Elrond's left arm. The Elf Lord could not resist feeling of the boy's forehead to assure himself that his fever had finally broken.

"Elrohir, Legolas, you both did an excellent job of cleaning and treating Estel's cuts," praised Elrond. "They all appear to be mending nicely." He looked carefully at the healing wound to Estel's upper lip, which had finally been deemed sealed enough so that the bandage might be left off. "Estel, I should be able to remove the stitches next week. Will you be glad to have them gone?"

Estel frowned at the news. He would be glad to have the itchy things gone, but he feared that their removal would hurt. His bottom lip poked out as the regarded his Ada, and then ducked his head without answering.

Elrond tenderly ran his forefinger down Estel's cheek before gently gripping his chin and lifting his head so that their eyes could meet. "I will put clove oil on your lip, penneth. It will not hurt."

A little smile touched Estel's lips, but his father could easily discern that it did not quite reach his eyes. The sadness that still lingered there caused an ache in Elrond's heart, and he cradled Estel closer to him wishing that he could removed the shadow from his child's eyes.

"Ada, why didn't you come get me from the cloud?" yawned the child, as he struggled to wake up completely. "I heard you calling to me."

Elrond considered his son's words. "When did you hear me, ion nin?"

"I heard you when I was in the cloud; when the dark voices were calling me. El and Dan were there too. They called me back to stay with them."

The room had grown deathly still at the child's words as each was lost in his own imagination of what the child must have dreamed or hallucinated.

"I could not find you, Estel," the Lord replied. "Tell me what else you remember. What of the dark ones?"

Estel snuggled deeper into his Ada's comforting embrace as he thought back. "I saw the man with the arrow in his eye. And then I saw the bad ones…the ones from my bad dreams. The man wanted me to come, Ada. He said I would not have to be in the box anymore if I came."

The twins shared a glance at Estel's words. They had not thought that he had seen his father's death, but apparently they were wrong. At least the child did not seem to remember that is was his human father who had died in such a manner.

Elrond considered Estel's words and how best to reassure the boy as he gently stroked his downy hair. "The man who called you was not part of the dark ones, ion nin. He was a good man. Sometimes, when we are ill our minds confuse many memories and the good ones become entangled with the bad ones."

The moment was ended when Sariboril entered the room and began shooing out the visitors. "Out, out, I say," she commanded. "It's time for medicine and one last examination. Then, if all is well, I shall release my patients and they may sleep in their own rooms tonight."

Elrohir whooped at the news.

O-o-O-o-O

Legolas and Elrohir walked together to the stables. They had taken to feeding the horses and mucking out the stalls until a permanent replacement could be found for Quenthar. Elrohir lit the sconces on the walls while Legolas picked up a pitch fork and went to work. The pair worked in companionable silence for while until the mucking was complete and they had spread fresh hay to each stall.

"Falathar and I will be leaving in the morning," Legolas remarked as he brushed down Celon. From the adjoining stall, Celos was giving him eyes like he would also enjoy a nice rub down, but the prince was not about to fall for that old trick. He had been around Celos long enough to have been on the receiving end of several not so gentle nips from the brute.

Elrohir's head popped up from three stalls down where he was examining the hoof of his Ada's bay mare. "Why so soon?"

Legolas considered the question as he continued the rhythmic brushing. It was a comfort to just be doing regular things again. "My father gave us permission to come so that I could ease my heart's worries about you. Now that I know you are safe, we should be returning."

"Don't stay away so long this time," quipped Elrohir as he dropped the bucket he'd been carrying. "Ah Celos, is the prince ignoring you?"

Legolas snorted. "The last time you talked me into brushing him he bit a hole in my tunic."

Elrohir laughed as he picked up a brush and entered Celos' stall. "You should have seen the look on your face!" The twin gave the great horse a good scratching between his eyes, just where he liked it, and then began brushing the stallion in long, soothing strokes. "You were standing there with this astonished look on your face while Celos contentedly chewed on that piece of your tunic. The big dummy would have swallowed it too if you had not grabbed it before stalking out." Elrohir chuckled again at the memory and spoke tenderly to his brother's horse as he continued the brushing. "You would not have liked what that cloth did to your stomach, my ornery friend." The horse nickered in reply and shook his great head as though contradicting the twin.

Legolas finished his job and placed the brush back atop the shelf on the wall across from Celon's stall. "Come on, I've worked up an appetite. Let's go see what is being served for dinner."

O-o-O-o-O

Dawn was just breaking as Legolas walked out of the kitchen where he had retrieved the packs of extra rations he and Elrohir had prepared the night before. His glance was pulled to the outside where long fingers of pink and gold were just beginning to paint the valley in warm hues.

His farewells had been said the night before, but he decided to go upstairs one last time just to see if any of the family was awake before taking his leave. He took the stairs two at a time, his soft footfalls completely silent on the marble steps. Gaining the top step, he noticed Glorfindel standing just outside Lord Elrond's bedroom with a big smile on his face. All the other doors on the floor were closed. Legolas started down the hallway, intent upon saying good bye to the Balrog Slayer. As he neared, Glorfindel look his way and held up his finger to his lips, motioning for the prince to remain quiet.

Intrigued, Legolas stepped up to the doorway and glanced in to see what had so captivated the Elf. Legolas found a smile on his face as he took in the view. There, sprawled out asleep on Lord Elrond's massive bed, were the Elf Lord, Estel, and Elladan. Elrohir was sound asleep in the overstuffed chair beside the bed, his hand resting lightly on his brother's back.

"I came to make my farewells, Lord Glorfindel," Legolas whispered. "Will you tell them when they awaken?"

"I will, young prince," nodded the warrior. "Will you be returning to visit with us again soon, Thranduilion?"

Legolas glanced back inside to the bed. A bemused expression graced his fair face. "I will return in the spring, Lord Glorfindel. After all, I have a young human to get to know."

The End

Translations:

Penneth – Young one

Hantale Valar – Praised be the Valar

Avo 'osto – Fear not

Ed' I'ear ar' elenea, Hîr nín – By the sea and the stars, my Lord!

ion nin – My son

Nadorhuan – Cowardly dog

Tenna' ento lye omenta – Until next we meet.

I Melain berio – May the Valar keep you.

A/N Estel is going to have some emotional scars for a while. Elladan may have some questions and guilt of his own to deal with as well. Those will be examined in the next story.

Reviewer Responses:

For you lurkers: Thanks so much for reading.

Quickbeam1: Thank you so much for sticking with me throughout this story. Your words of encouragement have helped me, and it's always a pleasure to see reviewers point out their favorite lines. Your stories have always been an inspiration to me.

Viresse: I'm afraid that you, as an Elladan fan, may feel deprived with the end of this tale. In my own defense, I can only say that the plot took over and changed drastically from the story I started with. Hopefully you will continue to follow the next story as I seek to further delve into Estel's young life and the relationships that shaped the future King.

Mearas: You've been a faithful reviewer from the beginning, mellon nin. I adore Elrond in "Ada" mode and in "Warrior" mode and that is how I ended up writing him. What I hoped to show throughout this story was that love is more powerful than hatred.

RivendellsMistress: Thank you for reviewing and for the wonderful compliments. You made my day, truly.

Werewolflemming: Thank you for your congratulations. I thank you for sticking with me and reading the story.

Nienna Eleniel: Thanks, my friend. I appreciate you reading and reviewing.

Elwen: You were very right, even though I really didn't get the scene written. We ALL know that Sariboril gave him a good dose of his own vile tea, lol.

Someone Reading: What can I say? You amaze me time and again with your reviews, and about the time I think you cannot possibly surprise me any more you go and leave another amazing review. If I can claim any small part in bringing you from your self imposed exile then I am most happy and fortunate, for you have a gift, my friend. Quenthar was definitely evil, and I hoped to show that jealousy and all the other seemingly "small" negative feelings can all lead us down a slippery slope. In Quenthar's case it led him all the way to insanity. Thank you so much for your reviews, and I hope you'll stick with me in future stories! 

Slayer3: You are definitely my craziest reviewer and you always bring a smile to my face with your antics.

Viggomaniac: Have I ever mentioned that I love your name? Anyway, thank you for sticking with the story and especially for your kind and generous reviews. If I can please an Aragorn lover like you then I've succeeded.

Bubble-Sheep: Thanks for always being a faithful reviewer.

Drunken Landlord: Thanks for the wonderful compliment. I promise the story started out as all fluff, but then, well you know how it is!

IwishChan: I have a feeling that a lot of reader and writer alike would enjoy having Elrond as their Ada! I love this little family too. Thanks for taking the time to review.

Melannen Amarie: Thanks for stopping by and reviewing!