Perennial
Prologue - 346 Years Ago
by Meimi

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Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with J.R.R. Tolkien or anyone who hold rights to Lord of the Rings. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.

Note #1: This story is basically Alternate Universe, though, perhaps I should say Alternate Timeline since it is still based in the same world, events just happen differently.

Note #2: Before any of you kill me for what happens here in the prologue go look up the story title in a dictionary. Trust me, there will be more than enough other things to kill me for.

Note #3: Book canon and movie canon tend to blend together in an unholy alliance in my head, so don't expect the story to follow one or the other (though, I've seen the movies more recently than I've read the books). However, I'm sure many facts may still get screwed up so feel free to bonk me on the head if I really mess it up.

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The cave, a much smaller offshoot of a larger cavern, was dark, cramped and dismal. Too small really for an elf's peace of mind, but peace had very little to do with this. He had never truly understood the Silvan's anathema to caves before, it had just seemed one of those oddities of their very distant kin. Now, however, oh, now, he understood at least some of it far more than he had ever wanted too. It felt as if the weight of the world was pressing down on them -a vast, empty world- smothering them, extinguishing their inner glow as it denied them the meager touch of light and life their spirits craved for nourishment. But no, the light he could do without, it would only herald more torment. No, he preferred the dark, deep and all-consuming though it was. He welcomed it. As long as there was no light then there was respite, something they both desperately needed, for when the light returned then it would all begin again, and this time he doubted that it would end before one of their deaths.

Elrohir stifled a heavy sigh, wincing as the arrested movement caused the ache in his chest to blossom into further agony. Or should that be aches? He wasn't really sure at this particular point, he hadn't actually wanted to examine his miseries too closely. He knew they was bad enough, he didn't need to further categorize and define them. He had another concern that was far more pressing than his own physical well-being.

Legolas had not stirred even once since the orcs had dumped them in their little hole in the wall after their latest bit of fun. Usually by this time his friend was awake -and in a great deal of pain-, but not so this time. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, their latest 'session' had seemed a bit more vicious than usual, but he couldn't help worrying all the more. He could not see in this level of darkness, but he had no need. He knew well the torment that had been visited upon Legolas's body, even could he not feel it, but feel it he did.

Every night since they were taken, Elrohir would gather Legolas to him and await his friend's awakening. Every night his fingers would ghost over broken skin, skin that had been far too pale when last it could be seen, but that was days ago before they had both been bathed in their own blood. Now, that which had been untouched by blade, whip or fire, and other things he did not wish to recall the names of -and really, there wasn't very much left untouched upon them at all-, was covered in dirt, things he didn't want to speculate upon, countless scabs and... free flowing blood.

Legolas was still bleeding.

Elrohir sighed worriedly, ignoring his own pain as best he could as he skirted his fingers over bloody, grime slick skin, searching for the source of his friend's continued blood loss and hoping that it was just one wound. He did not think he could apply enough pressure if there was more than one. He knew there had been something wrong with his left arm ever since the initial attack and it certainly had not had a chance to heal under the orcs' care, but he was not so bad off thanks to Legolas.

Ever since they had been taken whilst crossing the Misty Mountains, Legolas had done his level best to irritate and enrage their captors, thus focusing the orcs' ire more upon himself rather than Elrohir. Elrohir had a sneaking suspicion that such was not an unintended happenstance. It would just be like his friend to strive to protect Elrohir even to his own personal detriment.

"Idiot," Elrohir muttered fondly, his fingers finding the still open wound at last and pressing down, "I am the elder here. It is I who should be protecting you, little Greenleaf."

"I am not quite so little anymore," Legolas rasped out, stirring at last to some form of wakefulness thanks to Elrohir's rather painful ministrations. He grimaced, feeling no need to hide his 'discomfort' since he knew his friend could not see him, their elven luminescence had faded several days ago, and wondered briefly if he would die drowning in his own blood. There was a dangerous rattle in his lungs when he breathed and a weighted heaviness that did not belong there at all. Neither lung felt as if they had been punctured, but that didn't say much. He had long since passed the point where he could tell where and just how badly he was hurt. The pain he felt was sharp and unending and it was everywhere.

"Nay, not so little anymore," Elrohir murmured, a small smile gracing his lips at Legolas's returned consciousness, "But still young."

Legolas almost snorted in derision, but thought better of it at the last second, no need to fan the flames of agony, "I? Young? I am not the twin demon spawn who are constantly dragging innocent princes into one disaster after another. Elflings, the both of you."

"Yes, I suppose we have been rather uncharitable to a certain poor, defenseless woodland prince. Alas," Elrohir chuckled lightly, wincing as even that caused the ache to sharpen. Sighing soundlessly as the vague sense of humor swiftly fled him, Elrohir leaned forward, resting his cheek against dirty hair that had once been golden fair, streaked with a glimmer he had once heard compared to mithril, but was now dyed dead, ochre brown with clotted blood, matted and tangled in knots he feared would never come out.

"You should not have done it," Elrohir said woodenly as his thoughts wandered back to their original subject, "I am well capable of handling the pain they have visited upon you. You do not need to protect me."

"Do I not?" Legolas asked hazily, not expecting an answer nor waiting for one, "Nay, I must. I would not see you fall like this."

"We are not going to fall," Elrohir stated vehemently, "Elladan will find us before that happens." Closing his eyes, Elrohir focused on that one single, tiny grain of hope that he had nurtured away from the pain he felt. Elladan, his twin, his other half, had known their fate since their capture and had been frantically searching for them ever since. Elladan would not fail them, he could not. "Do not despair. He will come."

"I know, but he will not make it before one of us dies." Legolas reached up with quivering fingers, resting their tips against Elrohir's lips. "Do not argue with me about it. I have known this since the beginning and I would not see it be you." He allowed his fingers to drop as he felt what little strength he had left abandon him. "And I would not see your family fall with you. You know what would happen if you died. Your brother would be dragged into the darkness with you, for we both know he would not survive long without you. And then what? Your sister would grieve until the only choice she had left was to sail or wither and die in her sorrow. And your father? Your father would not sail. He would grieve until he faded and there would be nothing to stop it. No, this I must do and will continue to do. Do not expect me to do anything else."

"And what of you?" Elrohir accused hoarsely, doing his best to ignore the sting of tears sparking in his eyes, "Do you think I wish to see you die? And what of your family? You are the only thing your father has left. Do you think I wish to see whatever joy that remains to him fade and vanish from his life? There will be no Greenwood if you die. The trees would never cease grieving. And what of me? What of Elladan and father and Arwen? Do you think that your death would not affect them? Us? Me?" His cheeks were soaked by now, wet from that which was just as bad if not worse than blood, tears. "Perhaps we would survive," Elrohir whispered brokenly, " But we would not live."

Legolas stirred restlessly against him. "Father would continue. He must, too much depends upon him. But... you are right, I should not inflict such sorrow upon any of you. It is cruel of me to even consider it. Forgive me?"

"Of course," Elrohir murmured soothingly, "I could not hold it against you to succumb to the despair for a moment when I myself have done so several times. But you must not lose hope, Legolas, Elladan will come for us. We will both live to see the sky again and the stars. You must hold on a little longer." Shifting slightly, he placed a gentle kiss of comfort upon his friend's brow before settling back down.

"I know, I am sorry," Legolas whispered, brushing his fingers against the hand that still held pressure against a wound that he knew would stop bleeding soon, though not because it had clotted over, "I am simply weary... and I want to go home."

"Just a little longer."

---

Elrohir awoke to a chill that seeped out from his bones, an unfamiliar sensation that had become the norm the past two months. He would relive all that had happened while he slumbered in reverie -though perhaps it was a misnomer to call it such now- until his remembrance came to its inevitable conclusion and then he would awaken feeling cold. His father insisted it was just a lingering physical remnant of what he had endured, he was still healing after all. Elrond wanted to hope for the best, he could not fault his father for that, but he knew better.

Elrohir was healing. Nay, he was almost healed, physically, at least. There were several broken bones that were still causing problems, but they were improving day by day. His natural luminescence was even beginning to return, though it was nowhere near as strong as it had once been. Dragging his right arm out from beneath the blankets he cocooned himself within each night, Elrohir critically eyed the weak, glimmering sheen of ethereal light that once again graced his skin. He did not think it would ever be as strong as it had been, and truth be known, he wasn't sure that he wanted it to.

Shaking his head, Elrohir pushed the blankets back and gingerly sat up, frowning as his left arm began to ache again at the barest of movements. He rubbed absently at the bandages that covered the offending appendage as he scooted to the edge of his bed and lowered his feet to the floor. Grumbling at what he found -the stone floor felt warmer than his feet did- Elrohir stood, yanking the dark blue robe he had left at the foot of his bed along with him. The cold was aggravating. Shoving his arms into the robe, Elrohir cinched it tightly around his waist before he stumped over to the balcony. He wasn't going to get anymore rest this night, so he might as well wile away the hours until dawn out in the fresh air. Besides, the trees were rustling at him again.

It was strange. He was of the Noldor... and somewhat human if the particulars were necessary. Either way, the trees did not speak to either. If you wanted to converse with the trees, better hope you were born a woodelf or were an Ent, otherwise, it's just not going to happen. And going into specifics again, they didn't really speak to him per se. But it couldn't be said that they ignored him either, not since he had been brought home. They rustled their leaves at him, creaked their branches in his general direction, and pretty much did anything they felt like, short of speaking to him, to garner his attention.

At first he had thought they were angry with him. Elrohir wouldn't have blamed them if they had been, he personally felt a measure of blame that he had not returned to the Last Homely House with them, at least, not alive. But that didn't seem to be the case. There was an air of what almost seemed to be encouragement whenever he walked beneath their boughs. In fact, there had been several times where he had felt an odd desire to climb up amongst the branches and hide himself in the treetops. Fortunately, so far he had denied that particular urge, he didn't think he'd ever hear the end of it from his brother if he started climbing trees when he was still healing.

They were offering him comfort, to console him and hopefully return to him a measure of peace he knew he had lost. He appreciated the sentiment, was grateful, in fact. But it didn't change anything. Legolas was dead. He had not been able to help his friend hang on long enough for them to be freed. And he would have to live with that for the rest of his life, which he knew would be considerable since he would not allow himself to wallow in his sorrow long enough to fade. Oh, he grieved, but it was hard and it was cold. He refused to acknowledge the pain that went along with it, that would not serve his purpose. No, he had other plans for it.

All that was left now was for his physical aches and pains to heal fully. Once that was taken care of, Elrohir would be able to do what needed to be done.

---

There was an overwhelming sense of desolation in the air when Elladan woke, a sense of impending doom that he could not forestall. This was different. For the past six months he had become accustomed to the sensation of choking on his own tears upon his awakening. The grief was still much too close, much too sharp and cutting, and the self-blame that went along with it was stifling. He should have been faster. No, he should have insisted his father allow him to travel to Mirkwood with his brother and... Legolas. Having a slightly infected stab wound from their last hunting trip had ultimately been nothing compared to what had happened to them. Legolas was gone. He would not be coming back. And sometimes, sometimes he despaired that Elrohir would never return to them either.

Oh, Elrohir was present in body, healed now of the torture and torment it had suffered at the hands of the orcs. It had taken awhile, but his brother was physically hale, but only that. Emotionally, mentally, even Elladan couldn't say whether his twin was healing or not. They had always had a connection, he and Elrohir, they had always been able to sense what the other was feeling, what they were experiencing, in one form or another. But during that first month, after he had carried his brother home, broken and bleeding and hovering far too close to death for comfort, their connection had... frosted over, almost as if he were observing Elrohir from behind a glacier. There was something there, something that at least told him that his twin still walked among the living, but he couldn't fathom anything beyond that.

There was something broken deep within his brother, and Elladan wasn't sure if it could ever be fixed. He didn't even know what it was. All that he knew was that everything that Elrohir was had been shattered and lost and changed beyond his ability to recognize what it was so that he could fix it. There was nothing he could do, nothing that any of them could do it seemed.

Scowling at that hopeless thought, Elladan rolled onto his side, drawing his knees up near his chest. He did not like feeling this way. He did not like not knowing what to do. And he did not like the thought of losing his brother, the reality of losing Legolas had been hard enough. Closing his eyes tightly, Elladan fought back the urge to loose yet more tears.

Legolas was dead. He wasn't coming back. Elladan would never see him again. They would never again laugh at each other's jokes. They would never regale each other with tall tales. They would never pull pranks on each other, or get into arguments, or get into the rare fight or two, or go off hunting together. They would never laze around the waterfalls drinking wine and simply enjoying a clear summer day. They would never fill a spider so full of arrows it looked worse than a pincushion. They would never fall asleep in each other's room after enjoying one of their father's feasts far, far too much. They would never do anything together again. They would never be together again.

No. No, losing Legolas was far too hard to cope with as it was.

Scrubbing at his eyes with the palms of his hands, Elladan levered himself up into a sitting position on his bed. This wasn't working. The sensation of impending doom wasn't going anywhere and he was just making himself even more miserable by thinking about the recent past. No, he needed to focus on the present right now. What was wrong? There had to be something that was wrong to produce this abnormal feeling of despair. What was it?

Nothing seemed to be out of place in his room, nothing different. It had to be something from without, or perhaps from within, maybe this dread was coming through from his connection to Elrohir. Not that he could feel anything different in said connection, but that didn't necessarily mean that there couldn't be something wrong. Nodding resolutely to himself, Elladan slid off of his bed and padded across his room towards the door. There wouldn't be any harm in checking.

Elladan opened the door to his room slowly, not wishing the possibility of any squeaks echoing down the hallway to disturb anyone. The hinges on his door had not been oiled in quite awhile, there really hadn't been a need. He and Elrohir had gotten into the habit of oiling their doors frequently, moving silently was a necessary part of pulling pranks after all, but pulling pranks and thus the silence needed for them had been one of the farthest things from his mind the past six months. He briefly wondered whether any of them would ever feel like having that sort of fun ever again as he stepped out into the shadow draped hallway and quietly made his way towards his brother's room. It seemed unlikely that they would ever find joy again.

A sliver of flickering light was visible around the doorjamb when Elladan drew near to Elrohir's room. Well, it appeared that his brother was doing something, Elrohir usually didn't light any candles if he was just awake. Interesting. Knocking quietly, Elladan reached down and turned the latch, not waiting for any acknowledgment as he pushed the door open. If something truly was wrong -other than the usual-, his twin wouldn't care for his company anyway, so he might as well just forge on ahead and hope for the best.

The sight that greeted Elladan when the door was open enough for him to slip inside was rather shocking to say the least. Piles of supplies covered his brother's bed and dotted the floor. There were enough supplies in Elrohir's room for a very long, very extended hunting trip. Standing amidst all of this was his brother, who was dressed as if he were going on a hunting trip and was even now packing said supplies efficiently in as few packs as possible. What was all this?

"Is there something I can do for you, Elladan?" Elrohir asked evenly, not looking up as he sorted through a pile of woodworking tools, weeding out the best and pushing the rest off to the side. They would need to last quite awhile and he would definitely need reliable tools for arrow crafting, thus items of the best make and quality were a necessity. He could not do without a handy supplies of arrows, not where he was planning on going.

"What is all this?" Elladan demanded in growing confusion as he waved his hand vaguely around the room and carefully began to wend his way over and through the items scattered in piles across the floor. "What are you doing? What's going on?"

"I am packing," Elrohir answered simply as he continued to do just that. Equipment for making snares would be a good idea, keeping one's self fed was a necessary evil in any venture taken.

"I can see that," Elladan shot back acidly, "What I want to know is why you are packing."

"I would think it would be rather obvious," Elrohir said, his voice as deadpan as before, "I am going hunting."

"Why wasn't I told?" Elladan dithered as he reached up to rub his forehead. "I didn't know we were going anywhere. I haven't planned for anything. I haven't even started to prepare everything much less start packing."

"You were not told because you are not going," Elrohir stated icily as he finally turned to look over at his twin brother.

"What? What are you talking about? Of course I'm going with you. We always go together," Elladan kept on dithering, his thoughts becoming more and more perplexed as he lifted his bewildered, grey gaze up to meet his brother's. He flinched at what he saw there. Ice. There was ice unending there, ice and hardened steel that had never before been present in the eyes of his twin, not even after all that had happened with their mother. Elrohir had never looked at him that way before. Why was he doing so now?

"You are not going, Elladan, because you are staying here," Elrohir explained as if he were speaking to a young child.

There was a moment of utter, complete silence before Elladan exploded, "Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you shutting me out?"

"You are staying here because I cannot always watch out for you, eventually something would happen," Elrohir said smoothly as he glanced back down at the organized chaos on his bed, "I am going to kill them, Elladan, and I am going to keep killing them until they are all dead or I am. I cannot handle worrying about you on top of that."

"You will leave me alone then?" Elladan asked hopelessly as he grabbed his twin's shoulders and gave him a fierce shake. They were not having this conversation. This was not happening.

"You have been alone since you found us in that cave, Elladan, haven't you realized that yet?" Elrohir muttered wearily, his gaze melting just enough for his brother to see how much he had lost, how much was no longer there.

"I had hoped differently," Elladan whispered, a beaten, broken note insinuating itself into his voice as he released his twin and turned away.

"You will stay here. Do not leave Imladris," Elrohir said, his tone growing stronger and more even as he turned back to the task of packing for a journey he saw no end to, "If I can somehow find my way back, I will return to you. Do not make yourself hard to find."

"It is something to hope for at least," Elladan murmured quietly as he sank down onto the very edge of the bed and hung his head. He wiped absently at his cheeks. They were wet again. Would the tears ever stop falling? Surely they would, but he could not seem to make them stop.

"There is no hope left for us, Elladan," Elrohir elucidated as he finished stuffing another pack full of the necessary tools for the road ahead, "There is only time."