Healing Hope

Chapter One

A Day to Remember

"A friend is someone who knows the song of in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words." Unknown

A/N This WIP story is AU and is being written for enjoyment only. It is a sequel to "Elladan's Trials, For Estel."

DJSparkles is my incredible beta. When I feared to start another story, she kicked me in the backside and told me to post it, so if I am unable to post updates every week, it's her fault! Seriously, DJSparkles is a talented writer and a tremendous friend. She keeps me honest and buoys me when I'm doubtful. Thank you, mellon nín.

It had been a beautiful day in Imladris, the hidden sanctuary valley that housed Lord Elrond, his family and many other Noldor elves who had remained here over the years. Nestled in the Misty Mountains, bordered by the rushing Bruinen River, and protected by the Vilya, the powerful ring of the air worn by Lord Elrond, Imladris had been home to the elves for many millennia, ever since they had founded the refuge during the Second Age as a fortress against the assaults of Sauron in Eriador.

As the shadows of late afternoon stretched from the surrounding peaks, threatening to steal away the remaining warmth of the day, any thoughts of that long ago war were chased away by the air sweetly scented with the fragrance of gardenia carried from the many plants burgeoning with the white blossoms. The mistress of Imladris had loved gardenias and had brought many of the plants from Lindon when she came here to become wife to Lord Elrond. While Celebrían had reveled in the diverse and cultured Lindon, it was here, in Imladris, that she found her true peace and happiness in loving Elrond and raising his children, and with the aid of Erestor, she had created magnificent gardens, which accented the beauty and serenity of this sanctuary.

It was in this place she loved that the twins felt closest to their mother, and they often came here to enjoy the setting and be filled with the peace that her presence had always brought to them. It was here that they now brought Estel, for even though their mother had sailed long before the child's birth, her essence seemed to linger here and they hoped that some of the peace they felt here would translate itself to the child who was contentedly playing under the watchful eye of his foster brothers. Elladan and Elrohir each leaned back against a tree while Estel explored the garden for treasure. The child found delight in the simplest of pleasures…a tiny rock formed like a star, a fallen blossom still retaining scent, or best of all, an insect with multiple legs – the more the better.

Estel emerged from the bushes carrying a small kitten, newly weaned, from the looks of it. The feline was one little ball of the softest looking yellow fur that either of the twins had ever seen. Two blue eyes appeared from where the head and upper paws were sticking out from the crook of the boy's arm. The rest of the kitten was flopping around like a rag doll as the excited boy ran towards his brothers, followed closely by Celon and Celos, his self-appointed watch dogs, or in this case, watch horses. The incongruity of the scene never failed to amuse the twins as they watched the unlikely trio approach.

Standing a full seventeen hands, Elladan's stallion Celos was large, fierce and quite a handful for even Elladan to handle on occasion. Celos and Celon were, of course, identical like their masters. The stallions were snow white and the two of the most powerful elven horses in Rivendell. The pair had been a begetting day gift for the twins from Gandalf four years ago. Celon was everything that a good elven horse should be, but Celos seemed to have a mind of his own. Fiercely loyal to Elladan, he still could become feisty when the mood struck him.

But that was before a four year old bundle of energy had stolen their hearts and made them his. Two months ago an insane elf had stabbed Erestor in the back and kidnapped Estel. The child, already injured and suffering from a high fever, had been virtually buried alive…abandoned to his fate in a ruse to draw out Lord Elrond.

Driven to insanity by his jealousy, Quenthar had obtained a warrior's spell from a rogue blue wizard and used it to battle Elladan, seriously injuring him before Lord Elrond could intervene. When Quenthar finally came face to face with Elrond, he had met his match. The mighty elf lord had not been Gil-Galad's herald for many centuries, but his warrior's instincts were undiminished. In the end, although wounded himself, Lord Elrond had proven that a father's love was more powerful than Quenthar's hatred, even with the warrior's spell. While Prince Legolas, with the aid of the ancient trees, had rescued Estel, Elrond had battled and killed the elf that had brought so much harm to his family.

Erestor, Estel, Elladan and Lord Elrond had spent several days in the healing wing under the care of the healer Sariboril, while Legolas, Elrohir and Glorfindel had hovered nearby. One could almost believe, on such a beautiful day as this, that the incident was simply the result of a nightmare…the type of horror that vanished with the morning sun, but it was not so. The little boy still bore the emotional scars of being taken from his home and buried alive, suffering night mares and often becoming fearful and withdrawn.

Yet this had been a good day, a day the scars were not evident. This day delight was written all over the child as he ran to his brothers, followed closely by his four-legged guards. How the twin stallions had come to cherish and protect Estel was still a mystery to the elves. Perhaps it had started the day that Estel had fallen, sustaining a concussion and badly cutting his lip. Elladan had given the child a ride on Celos and Estel had fallen instantly in love with the animal and formed a bond with him. Perhaps the great steeds just instinctively knew the love their masters bore for the child. Whatever the case, much to the amusement of the elves of Imladris and the utter frustration of the inhabitants of the Last Homely House, the horses had taken to following Estel everywhere that he went, up to and including into the house, whenever they could get away with it.

"Erestor doesn't like cats," commented Elrohir as the two dark haired elves watched the boy approach. Identical, the twins were not only alike in appearance, but so alike in movement and demeanor that none outside their circle of family and friends could tell them apart. It was only in their respective personalities that their true individualism shone through.

"I know," snickered Elladan to his brother, "but are you going to disappoint that face? Besides, after shooing Celon and Celos out of the house repeatedly do you think he'll even notice something so small?"

Elrohir slowly shook his head, smiling at Estel as the child stopped in front of him. "What have you got there, little one?"

Estel smiled broadly at his brothers. "It's a kitty! I'm going to call him Blubby."

"Blubby?" questioned Elrohir.

"No," explained Estel with a slight frown on is face, "Blubby!"

"I think he mean's Fluffy," whispered Elladan from his side, as he fought to keep the grin from his face.

"Oh!" exclaimed Elrohir. "We really must help him work on his" f's," he added so that only his twin could hear. Elrohir looked back at Estel. "Fluffy is a perfect name for him, Estel. But do you not think he would rather stay with his mother?"

Estel considered the question as he proudly showed off his new treasure to Celos, who sniffed carefully and then slobbered over both the kitten and the boy with cordial impartiality, making the kitten squirm and sending the boy into a giggling fit.

"Daro, Celos, daro," demanded Elladan, laughing himself. "Ada shall have you pulling a cart if he sees you slobbering on Estel again! Was it not bad enough that you followed him into the Hall of Fire last night?"

"And you, my great beauty," added Elrohir to Celon, jumping up to nuzzle his horse and rub him between the eyes, just where he liked it best, "had better stop eating Erestor's roses or you will be pulling a cart beside your brother."

As though in answer to Elrohir's soft admonishment, Celon shook his great head and gave a nicker. Celos added his own reply in a manner not so refined, nor so fragrant.

"Daro, Celos," grimaced Elrohir, waving his hand back and forth in front of his face to dispel the odor. "What have you been feeding your horse, Elladan?"

"Not me, brother," Elladan laughed. "I think it was the marigolds from the side of the house. He ate them in protest after Ada ejected him from the Hall of Fire."

"No," decided Estel, ignoring the twins, "the kitty wants to live with me. I will be his Ada, and he can sleep on my sunshine blankey." With a determined little nod, the boy started up the path towards the house, followed closely by Celon and Celos.

"Well," yawned Elladan, rising from where he lounged under the tree, "I think I would like to see the look on Ada's face when Estel introduces him to Fluffy."

"I'm right behind you, brother," laughed Elrohir. "This should be good!"

O-o-O-o-O

Several miles from the border of Imladris a host of elven warriors were beginning to set up the camp. Quickly, and with great efficiency, the camp was erected and sentries set. The elven horses were allowed to roam free, for none would ever leave their master. The steeds would feed on the soft grasses of the meadow and take water from a nearby stream as they wished. Had these not been elves and possessed of incredible instincts, the horses could even have been used as sentries themselves, for nothing could sneak upon the camp unawares without the horses sensing it.

However, the being in the center of the camp was not in the least concerned about any threat approaching the group. The regal elf with the cascading silver hair was supremely confident in his entourage. After all, they were wood elves, the finest warriors and bowmen on earth, and they were sworn to protect him with their lives, for he was their king. Thranduil Oropherion was currently smiling at his son, Legolas, who was still somewhat disbelieving of how he happened to find himself here with his father. Thranduil did not leave Mirkwood…did not travel the earth to visit the other elves. It just was not done! Yet, unbelievably, here he was, nearly to Imladris. Legolas could not wait to see the looks on the twin's faces when he showed up with a full cadre of elven warriors arrayed in their ceremonial finest, the banners of Mirkwood prominently adorning the lances of the Royal Guard, and most unbelievable of all, the King of Mirkwood himself That would be a day to remember!

Oblivious to all the musing of his son stood Thranduil himself. Exceptionally tall, even for an elf, the king was arguably the most beautiful elf in all Middle Earth. The beauty of his features was complimented by strength of will and a determination that would rival any other. He was, quite literally, a force with which to be reckoned, one which few outside of Mirkwood ever encountered. Mirkwood observed almost a self-imposed exile, one that Thranduil fostered and enjoyed. Too many wounds resulted when his people mixed with the other elves. Too many deaths had occurred when the elves of Greenwood the Great, as it was known then, had flocked to Gil-Galad's call to join the War of the Last Alliance. When Thranduil made the sad journey home with his Adar's body and without two thirds of the elven warriors who had marched proudly beneath Greenwood's banner, it had done something to him. Oh, he knew what the elves of Middle Earth said about his father and about him. Quite frankly, he did not care. They said that his father was careless and hot headed. They said that Oropher's death and the devastation of the Greenwood warriors had made Thranduil bitter. They were wrong. Any bitterness Thranduil felt was aimed towards the humans, the hosts of Elendil who had failed to support his father's left flank, leaving him open for the crushing onslaught which had come from that direction. Never mind that Elendil had been in conference with the High King of the elves when Oropher had order the march, the edain commanders should have responded to Oropher's call.

The grieving son and new king of Greenwood had pulled out his remaining warriors and returned home because not to do so could have meant the end of his wood elves. There were few enough left to rebuild the kingdom and protect those who remained. A great many of the grief stricken relatives of the fallen had chosen to sail, further weakening the numbers of the once mighty kingdom of the wood elves. Thranduil had no ring of power such as was wielded by Elrond and Galadriel in the defense of their realms. Thranduil did not rue that fact…did not waste the energy, for it required all the cunning, fortitude, and strength of will he had to keep his kingdom strong. And every year, every day, it became more difficult.Inevitably the beautiful kingdom had fallen more and more into darkness until it become known as Mirkwood. The powers of darkness forever encroached upon his land, continually pushed back his warriors who clawed and fought back with everything they had, seeking to deny the darkness, and fighting to reclaim every yard, every inch of their land from the evil which threatened them. His kingdom was now only a fraction of what it had been, but the wood elves tenaciously clung to that part, refusing to be pushed back another further. He was proud of his warriors, and especially of his son.

Prince Legolas Thranduilion was Mirkwood's most accomplished warrior and its youngest. He was, in fact, the reason the King of Mirkwood now camped so far from his palace and so close to the realm of Lord Elrond Peredhil. Legolas had visited Imladris many times in his life. He was fast friends with Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir. It was for information about his friends that Legolas had journeyed to Rivendell just a few short months ago and been caught unarmed by a crazed elf who would have killed the crowned prince if not for the intervention of Elladan. Thranduil owed the Peredhil for his son's life and that was a debt that he would not leave unaddressed. He would personally thank the son of Elrond for his service and assure the young elf of his undying gratitude, for his only child was the most important thing in the world to Thranduil.

Had it been anything less than the life of his son, Thranduil would not have made this journey. He had not seen Elrond since the day that his Adar had fallen in battle and Elrond, acting as the Herald to Gil-Galad, had come to his tent to offer his own condolences and those of the High King. Angry and grief stricken, Thranduil had lashed out at Elrond, pouring out all the vitriol and anguish that filled his soul. Elrond had taken it as he took everything else in life, with calm acceptance and grace. It was not a memory that Thranduil was particularly fond of remembering, but he would swallow his pride and face Elrond again…for Legolas.

TBC

TRANSLATIONS:

DARO: Stop

ADAR: Father

PEREDHIL: Half-elven