Title: Accident

Author: Jo Slater

Date: June 5th, 2006

Summary: Onduras gets a little too curious over his father's things – someone gets hurt. When he keeps it a secret, everything goes terribly wrong.

Time: July – about three months after "Returning Home". Twins are ten, Nethin is about to turn six.

FYI – Okay, so it's fairly late Monday night, but I got this chapter up! It turned out MUCH longer, and much more serious than I had originally anticipated, but I hope you like it. Enjoy!

Accident

Haldir

"C'mon honey, it's all right," Ashk said gently, trying her hardest to coax Nethin into the water. I looked to the Elfling. His arms were crossed and he shook his head stubbornly. Ashk sighed, giving me a look.

"Ambush!" I barely had time to flinch before a flying body crashed into the water near me, sloshing water into my face. A moment later, my eldest son surfaced; a beaming grin on his face. I moved as if to grab him and he squealed with laughter, darting under the water's rippling surface and swimming away.

"Look, Nethin, Pirate's in the water," Ana said, lending a hand to her mother's quest to teach our youngest child how to swim. Elves were naturally good swimmers, for the most part, but that didn't mean my stubborn child was going to sling himself into the quiet river like the rest of his family.

"Pirate's a dog, Ana," Nethin said, staying exactly where he was, standing on the river bank. The trousers he wore were dry and it was obvious he had no intention of getting them wet.

I sloshed my way over to my wife and daughter while Pirate happily swam circles around them.

"Well, Ada's in the water too," Ashk said. I looked to Nethin as he peered almost curiously at me. He looked warily at the water's surface.

"Come in, Nethin," I said, reaching forward. The Elfling looked painfully reluctant as he slowly, slowly inched towards me. I reached to take his arm before he suddenly bolted out of reach.

"Ada!" he whined, "I don't want to!"

"Well, why not? It's like a very big bath."

"It is not!"

Ah, Vala, did I not have this conversation only some centuries ago with my youngest brother, and not my youngest son? Of late, Nethin's likenesses to Rumil were becoming a bit alarming. Rumil, obviously, loved the prospect of having such an apprentice to his life.

Ana sighed dramatically. "Nethin! Stop being such a baby!"

"I'm not being a baby!" Nethin cried.

"Don't start – Either of you," I warned, knowing sibling rivalry had been scaling high all week with an I can do this better attitude.

Ana turned to her mother for support before Onduras appeared from the depths of the water beside her, spewing water from his mouth and onto his sister.

"Onduras!" Ashk scolded, but the two were oblivious to her as they sped off into the deeper water with Pirate struggling to keep up. She sighed, putting her hands on her hips and looking back to me.

I couldn't help but notice just how my wife's clothing clung to her. Although I was quite used to she and I having our own time swimming – without the hamper of clothing – the damp cloth was alluring to say the least.

"Haldir." The sharpness in her voice made me laugh, knowing she'd caught onto just what I had found myself thinking about.

"I'll just sit here," Nethin said calmly, sitting on the riverbank. I looked at him, raising a brow.

"But you will be bored," Ashk said, sloshing forward. I grabbed her arm, stopping her.

"Well," I said calmly, "If he wants to stay there, let him stay…While we have all the fun."

I glanced at Nethin, seeing him a bit more intrigued. Ashk did the same before her face lit up. She turned to me."Oh, right…I suppose."

My arm wrapped around Ashk's waist and I knelt down, making it appear to my five-year-old son that we were descending into the water. I pulled Ashk unnecessarily close as the water sloshed between us. She gave me a look, silently warning me she would take her revenge much later.

She turned her head to see Nethin. "Bye-bye, honey! We'll come back shortly."

I pulled us deeper into the water, nearly dunking us both under before Nethin sprang to a stand, "Wait – wait, Ama!"

My wife and I smiled at each other.

By the time we drew Nethin into the water, the Elfling reminded me of nothing more than Moss if we had done the same to him. He was clinging rigidly to me, and with no tunic to grab, he clung high on my shoulders.

Ashk laughed as I tried to pry him away from me. It was, of course, useless.

"Nethin, sweet, the point of swimming is to be in the water," Ashk said.

"Do I have to?" Nethin asked, giving his mother a look. I didn't give Ashk the chance to answer as I reached up, closing a hand over Nethin's mouth and nose, plummeting us both under the surface.

A moment later, we resurfaced and Nethin sputtered. I looked at him curiously before he suddenly grinned, releasing his death-grip on me. "Do that again, Ada!"

Ashk and I couldn't help but to laugh before I spotted Onduras running along the riverbank. I tensed, hoping he would not leap into the water near us. Not only was it shallow, but the splash would likely shock the life out of his much more timid brother.

"Onduras, where are you going?" Ashk called.

"Forgot my sword at home, Ama! I'llbeback!"

Ashk and I exchanged a look as Ana and Pirate swam towards us. Ashk turned, about to swim away, "If he joins the guard when he's older, I'm blaming you."

Nethin shifted in my arms. "Can I join the guard too, Ada?"

"…Son, perhaps you should master swimming first."

Onduras

I cringed as the door smacked loudly against the wall. Carefully checking to make sure it hadn't left a dent, I closed the door to home quietly before racing toward my room. Diving for the bed, I peered underneath into the depths beneath it. Scanning briefly, I frowned when I couldn't find my faithful sword.

I sat up, critically thinking just where I had put it last. If Nethin had taken it again, my brother would regret it…

Or perhaps I left it in Ama and Ada's room just before we left for the river.

Completely ignoring the fact that my trousers – designated for swimming only – had left a massive damp spot on my bedsheets, I left my room and started down the hall. I paused at the large, curved door leading into my parents room.

Since I was young, I had been warned against entering the bedroom of my parents without first knocking if the door was closed, and also only when they were home with me.

My face screwed up in thought and I glanced down the hall as if to see if someone was there. Moss, the family cat, sat passively at my sister's door. He looked at me before yawning.

Taking a deep breath, I slowly took ahold of the pale handle of the door and turned it downward. Slowly, I pushed it open.

Ama and Ada's room always had a particular smell to it. It was floral and sweet, like the keen scent of my mother, and yet airy and feral – much like my father. As I peered inside, I saw the huge four-poster bed was neatly made. Light from the balcony streamed inside, gliding over my mother's satin, green robe that was strewn on the bed.

My eyes darted along the bed and I moved inside to peer under it. But, my sword was no where to be seen.

I sighed, annoyed, and got up again.

I nearly left the room, timid enough to be uneasy there alone, before I spotted something down the short hall to my parent's wash room. Light from the balcony glimmered inside a cracked door in the wall itself…I'd never known the door to be there.

I glanced around the room, as if to assure myself no one was around. No one was, of course, and I walked down the small hall.

The light continued to glimmer, sparkling at me as I peered inside the crack of the door. I paused then gently opened it. I couldn't help but be a little awestruck – in what I had thought to be a wall my entire life, I found a wardrobe…But not just any wardrobe. It was my father's battle dress wardrobe.

I opened the door wide and gazed inside. The shining, silver and gold armor inside was spotlessly clean. The red March Warden's drape – which I had only seen my father wear during ceremonies and important dinners Ana, Nethin, and I were never allowed to go to – was hanging to the side. My hand reached out, touching the lavish material. It was soft and heavy.

I smiled, pushing open the next door only to find an array of fantastic weapons I had only seen sheathed and at a safe distance. I remembered the few times Ada had taken me to the training ranges – and only because he had to – when I had first seen such weapons at work.

High out of my reach, my father's bow hung. The carved, pale wood was so close I could read the words engraved on it had I taken the time. But, I ignored it as I spotted arrows, knives, and – finally – the ancient sword that belonged at Ada's side.

I swallowed, reaching forward. The sheath was just out of my reach. I strained, trying desperately to reach it, leaning on the tips of my toes. Yet, still, I couldn't pull the sword down…I just wanted to look at it.

Frustrated, I looked to find several short-knives hooked on the wardrobe wall. I plucked one carefully from its place. Pulling its sheath away, I looked at the sharp edge of the metal. It was nearly the size of my own toy sword…But what good was a toy when I had the real thing at hand?

I swung out, mimicking what I had seen on the training fields. And, with such an awesome weapon at hand, I backed several dozen imaginary Orcs down the hall, barricading them in the wash room.

Then, victory won, I brought the knife in front of me as I had seen my father do many times at the end of his own exercises. Holding the hilt tightly in my hands, I looked at the shining metal…Then, like Ada, I bowed my head to it.

Suddenly, something in my parents' bedroom fell over. I jolted, shocked enough to carelessly flinch and drop the knife, not noticing as Moss scampered across the room. The sharp blade tilted, slicing the delicate skin on my left arm and I cried out in shock.

Loudly, the knife clattered to the floor.

Had Ada come home to look for me!

Panicked, I grabbed the knife and ran to the wardrobe door – trying desperately not to shed my own blood on the ground. I sheathed it, hastily shoving it back into place in the wardrobe. Slamming the door shut, I almost darted out of the room before realizing I had left a trail of crimson blood on the floor. I gasped before running into my parents' wash room.

Oh, Ada was going to be so mad at me! I felt panic rising in my chest as I grabbed a white towel from a hook. Childish tears prickled at my eyes and I gasped as I breathed. The pure white of the towel began to smear with the blood from my arm. Dreadful, I took it away to see the wound. It was a clean cut…but it must have been deep. I never bled so badly.

Vala – What if I bled to death!

"Stop bleeding!" I demanded, trembling in terror, "Please, stop bleeding!"

Ada was going to be so mad at me! How many times had he warned me to stay away from weapons? How many times had he said I wasn't ready to bear arms? I was so stupid!

I paced, feeling every second that moved by. Annoyed, I scrubbed at my cheek when I felt a stray, panicked tear escape.

Then, finally, my arm slowed its bleeding. Warily, I inspected the cut. It wasn't bad, I assured myself. I then looked at the towel. There was a lot of blood on it…But not as much as I had feared – not enough to panic like I was. I needed to calm down.

I took a breath, sniffling and looking around. How was I going to cover it up? Ada couldn't know. I'd be in trouble for the next century.

I sighed, turning only to see my mother's powder box. Inside, pale powder that smelled of flowers filled it under a big, fluffy buffer. I stared at it a moment…Surely that could work until my arm was healed!

I admit - I went a bit mad with the powder. My arm, by the end, looked as though it hadn't seen the light of day all my life…That wouldn't do. Ada always noticed anything that was out of place. Ana had cut a lock of her hair last year and it had taken Ada the time from the beginning of dinner to the end to notice it.

I sighed. Warily, I put the buffer back into the powder box and closed it.

Grabbing the stained towel, I trekked out of my parents' washroom. I was sure to clean up the blood on the ground carefully before I left the bedroom and closed the door behind me. After failing to cover the wound up with a few dabs of creamy paint, I resorted to my last choice…A long-sleeved tunic in the middle of summer.

Just as I was about to leave my room, I spotted the stained towel on my bed. I quickly grabbed it and threw it under the bed.

I winced, the wound at my arm beginning to throb as I reach to close the door to the flet. Ada better never find out about this...

Haldir

I paused, having just stepped onto the riverbank as I saw Onduras finally returning. I frowned at him. He had changed from his swimwear into a long-sleeved tunic and trousers. I couldn't help but to think he also looked a bit pale.

"I was nearly ready to search for you," I said, the laughter of his siblings and mother behind me. Onduras looked at me, a flare of something in his eyes so like my own.

"I'm sorry, Ada. I couldn't find my sword anywhere."

I looked at him a moment. He looked uncomfortable. He then shifted.

"I'm tired of swimming today, Ada…Can I stay on the riverbank?"

Shocked, I didn't reply for a moment. Onduras was well known for his abundant energy and thrill at doing anything for fun or sport. Swimming, I knew, was one of his favorites. I cleared my throat, frowning at him.

"If that's what you want to do, son, that's fine…Are you certain?"

He nodded.

Still unsure what to think, I could only nod in reply. I reached out, ruffling his still damp hair as I said, "Is everything all right?"

He smiled at me. "Of course, Ada."

Having never had a reason to doubt my son – for he always eventually told me everything – I could only let his odd turn of attitude slide for now. No doubt, I would hear of just why it had changed later.

Onduras – Evening

"Onduras, what's wrong? You've barely touched your plate," Ama said, looking at me as she sat at the table once more.

I looked up at her guiltily. "Nothing, Ama. I'm not very hungry." It was the truth. I wasn't hungry at all. The throbbing pulse of my arm took all my concentration away from my grumbling belly. And, after having sneaked a look at it from the wash room and seeing the angry, red flesh around it, I had grown more than a little alarmed. I didn't know what was happening – I'd never seen anything like it…

What if my arm fell off?

My stomach turned warily and I forced a smile at Ama as she continued to stare at me. I shrugged. "Too much to snack on before dinner."

I didn't miss the look that passed between my parents. And I certainly didn't miss the boring stare my sister was giving me from across the table. Nethin sat happily oblivious beside me, but as Ana continued to stare at me, I became nervous. Did she know? Vala, Ana always knew everything about me...

Luckily, my sister didn't say anything and dinner casually went by – despite a brief battle between Moss and Pirate in the common room. After six years, the two still didn't quite get along.

Finally, as Ama rose to clear the table, I looked to Ada. "May I be excused?"

"Whose turn is it to help with the dishes?" Ada asked seriously, looking between Ana and I. I frowned. It was mine, of course.

"Mine," Ana said then, hopping off her chair. Ada looked at her, a bit surprised. He had, of course, known it was my turn.

Ada, looking a bit annoyed, looked to me. "Take Pirate out, Onduras."

"I want to help!" Nethin exclaimed, springing out of his chair.

"Can't Nethin take him?" I asked weakly.

Ada gave me one of his looks – the one that said I was pushing my luck. I hung my head, my arm still throbbing miserably at my side.

"Ada," Nethin whined, "You and I can take him! Please?"

Vala, if I ever blessed the world for having my brother in it, it was right then. I glanced up to see Ada looking stubbornly at my brother before sighing. My mother moved past him, reaching for a platter, and gave him a knowing smile.

"Please, please?" Nethin swung his feet anxiously.

"All right, Nethin."

My brother cried out in cheer and sprang off his chair. Ada looked at me. "Would you like to join us?"

I cringed. I liked to be with Ada when I could – he was gone too often for my own liking – but tonight I just wanted to lay down and wallow in the fact that my arm might as well just fall off.

"No thank you, Ada. I'm…tired."

I could almost feel my mother's curious gaze from the kitchener. Ada glanced up, obviously meeting her look, before he slowly stood.

"Very well," Ada said slowly as if waiting for me to change my mind. I couldn't help but feel he was a bit disappointed and that felt like a kick in the gut.

As soon as Ada and Nethin were out the door, I got up and brought my plate to Ama and Ana. Yet, as I was about to turn away, Ama laid her hand on my shoulder.

"Onduras, is everything all right?"

She was looking at me with concern and I felt the keen urge to at least tell her what had happened, perhaps she could make my arm stop hurting – for Ama always made everything stop hurting – and still not tell Ada…

"Everything is fine, Ama," I lied.

She stared at me, waiting for me to tell the truth.

I cleared my throat. "I'm going to go lay down for a while…"

I didn't bother to stay there, but instead immediately turned and walked away. Slowly, Ama and Ana went back to the dishes.

As soon as I had the door to my room closed, I dove onto my bed and buried my face in my pillow. Surely my arm was just going to burn off! I'd never felt anything so painful…Well, except perhaps for that time I landed squarely between my legs on that tree branch last year…

I grimaced, pulling back the sleeve to my tunic. Still, the redness of my skin screamed at me. Usually, and I didn't really know why, cuts and scrapes faded away within a day…But this cut – it was just getting worse. And though it was not bleeding, it was oozing a clear liquid. Timidly, I touched it; the skin all around the cut was burning hot.

This was bad.

Images of waking up with my arm limp as a noodle, or just plain gone – or rotting away – plummeted into my head. Within seconds, I was terrified again.

I rolled over, clutching my wounded arm to me. It would be better in the morning, I decided. After all, it couldn't get worse.

Ashk – Night

"Onduras has been acting strange today," Haldir said as I washed my face. I frowned, reaching for the towel only to find the hook empty. I sighed. Yet again, my husband had taken the towel without replacing it. Would he ever learn?

Finally, after finding a different towel, I opened the door to see Haldir standing casually at the balcony doors.

"He was fine this morning," I said lamely, knowing in my gut my son had not been himself for most of the day. And, it had been most unusual to find him fast asleep in his room not long after dinner; the boy was, after all, a bundle of energy.

Haldir shrugged as I approached him. His eyes were set out on the city outside the closed balcony doors. "Something is troubling him."

I couldn't help but smile affectionately at the concern in my husband's voice. I had known men to forget the date of his child's birth, much less know when something was troubling him or not. Our eldest were ten years old now, and the strength of Haldir's fatherhood seemed to grow stronger every year. I never ceased to be in some bit of awe of it.

"I know," I said, standing at his back and sliding my hands around his sides, embracing him from behind. "He doesn't keep secrets from us, Haldir; if he's truly bothered, he'll tell one of us."

Haldir nodded and I felt a trickle of worry seep into me. It was strictly a motherly worry – spawned by little, I assured myself. But, I couldn't help but wonder if it was something truly important troubling our son, and why.

Surely, it was nothing.

And yet, as Haldir went to the wash room a minute later, I glanced outside. My gut was churning, something whispering to me causing worry to boil inside me. I had been blessed that my children held the immunity to cold and sickness that Human children did not. I had no doubt that if any of my children had ever fallen ill, I would be beside myself in terror. I knew well that children were some of the first to die from sickness.

Unable to stop myself, I turned to the door and entered the hall. The flet was quiet with the sound of my sleeping children. It was nearing the late of night, but I couldn't help myself as I walked down the hall to Onduras's room.

I opened the door, peering inside. He was, of course, still lying on his bed sound asleep. I stared at him a moment as if his silence would tell me why my heart was twisting at the sight of him.

A few moments passed and finally I pried myself from the door, closing it quietly. I sighed, returning to the bedroom of my husband and I.

Onduras

Ana sprang from the shadows in my room onto my bed again. She would of been caught had we not heard Ama coming down the hall. If it had been Ada…We both would have been in big trouble for being up past bedtime.

"You better tell Ama and Ada what happened," Ana whispered to me.

When I had awoken to Ana sneaking into my room only a short while ago, I hadn't even realized I'd been asleep. I barely remembered changing into bedclothes.

"Your arm shouldn't look like that."

"Really?" I hissed, "I wouldn't have guessed."

Ana scowled at me. "Well, they're really going to know if it rots off," she growled back, "And Ada's going to be a lot more angry about that, I bet."

I scratched my head, frowning as I found my hair was damp...I was sweating.

I looked at Ana, finding her face a mirror of my own confusion. Finally, I huffed out a sigh. "It will be better in the morning," I told my sister, "Go back to your room, Ana."

"But, what if you fall into a lucid state?"

"A what?"

"Lady Galadriel has been teaching me abou-"

I sighed. "Ana, just go back to your room. I'll be fine!"

Ana was obviously unconvinced. However, a moment later, she hopped off of my bed and went to the door. She glanced back, a bit of worry on her face, before sneaking out and crossing the hall. I listened until I heard her crawl into her own bed.

With a muted sigh, I laid down again. Maybe I should stay up all night…Just to avoid any…lucidity…

Haldir - Morning

Returning into the bedroom, I smiled to see Ashk was awake. The bed was made and she was dressed, but she and Moss were laid curled up together atop the blankets.

"I swear I remember saying the animals would stay off the bed when I relented to having the brutes," I said as I closed the door to the quiet flet hallway.

Ashk looked up at me as I went to her. She rolled, opening her arms in a silent demand that I embrace her. I smiled, leaned down; wrapping my arms around her and dropping all my weight on her.

"Urgh! Haldir!" She groaned, suddenly realizing I had already come back from the training fields and was damp both with sweat and morning rain. I laughed as she struggled under me, trying to escape. Finally, she gave up and laid there. "You're the brute."

I looked at her, the two of us smiling. It was, perhaps, small moments such as this that reminded me just how much I loved my wife.

"Haldir, sweetheart, you're crushing me," she wheezed then and I laughed, rolling off of her. "Nethin's birthday is in three weeks," she said, climbing on top of me. She sat there, straddling my sides casually. "What should we do for him this year?"

I smiled at the twinkle in her eyes. My hand reached up, brushing against her cheek and she went on about a dozen ideas. It was only when we decided to transport our small family to Sarubrim to see Mari and her family – and Ashk's aging mother – for Nethin's birthday that she climbed off of me. I got up, going to the wash room to clean up.

"Orophin is bringing Litia to breakfast," Ashk said then as she was going out the door. I sighed.

"Ashk, must we constantly feed my brothers like they're starving?"

Ashk gave me an amused look before moving out the door. Whether she knew it or not, I was serious. I doubted two consecutive days had gone by without my brothers in my home at breakfast for the past nine years.

I paused at the washroom door, something catching my attention. A distinct smell…I frowned, looking around the hall I stood in. I knew that smell – It was blood. Old blood.

I turned, spotting the door to my weapons cabinet just narrowly open. I had taken several knives to be cleaned this morning…But I hadn't noticed that smell.

Gently, I opened the door, looking among the weapons as a slow dread began to build in me. It was not the scent of Orcish blood, but instead the smell of Elven.

Slowly, I looked through several of the weapons – unsheathing them to check the blades.

Then, with no small bit of horror, I took the sheath from a knife near the bottom of the cabinet. Smeared, dry, red blood stained the blade. Who could have possibly been in this cabinet besides myself?

My family, and namely my eldest son, immediately came to mind.

I immediately looked at the hilt and a red jewel glimmered at me – it marked that the blade had been used with poison…and poison, even after cleaning, could last years.

Throwing the weapon into the cabinet again, I slammed the door shut and rushed out of the room.

Ashk

Nethin tagged along after me as I knocked on Ana's door.

"I'm awake, Ama!" Ana shouted from inside. I smiled, turning to cross the hall as Nethin bounced along behind me. I looked back at him, smiling at my youngest child. It was no doubt he was one of the gleeful children I'd ever known in my life.

I knocked on Onduras's door, waiting for him to tell me he was awake as well.

I was replied to with silence.

"Onduras?"

Still, my son did not reply to me.

I reached for the door handle, pushing my way inside.

"Onduras, wake up!" Nethin shouted as he raced into the room. He jumped on the bed as I walked inside, and when my eldest son did not move nor react to the jarring of his bed, I felt my heart begin to trip.

Nethin's face immediately lost the glow of his constant grin.

"Onduras?" I reached the bedside in a few long strides. His body was turned away from me lying casually on the bed. My hand took his shoulder, pulling him to lie on his back. His head limply turned to me, the pallor of his face nothing less than terrifying, and the sweat that gleamed on his skin shocked me.

"Ama, what's wrong with him?" Nethin asked softly, nervous worry in his voice.

"Go to your room, Nethin," I breathed, my hand moving to Onduras's forehead. He was hot – burning hot – and I felt panic startle my fear.

Nethin hiccupped. "Ama?"

"Go to your room, Nethin," I repeated, my voice louder and more stern as I felt Onduras's burning face. Nethin whimpered, hurrying out of the room. I turned my head over my shoulder, "Haldir!"

Instantly, Haldir was at the door, narrowly avoiding our youngest child as he dashed inside. I looked at him desperately. "He's burning with fever!" I could hear the pure fear in my own voice, and perhaps that only served to terrify me more.

Haldir came beside me, feeling our son's fever. He said his name, his voice going from soft to stern trying to rouse him as I dug deep into my memory – past the terror – to remember how to deal with fever. Mother had always stripped us and put us in a bath…

I looked at the door when I heard something. Ana stood there, fear on her face. "Ana, stay with Nethin," I told her, my voice cracking with emotion as I spoke. Ana hesitated, then hurried to my bidding.

It was at the same time that Haldir and I saw our child's arm. We both froze briefly, the pure anger of the flesh there glaring at us. A cut screamed at us, but the discoloring of the skin around it, and the pure red of his entire arm was horrifying.

"Ah, Vala, no."

I jolted at Haldir's voice as he hissed between us. He took my place immediately, and pulled our son from his bed and into his arms.

"Wher-"

"Meet me at Erestal's, Ashk," he said, a breathlessness in his voice that was surely spawned from horror.

"Meet you!" Tears had found their way into my eyes, but I refused to let them slow me as I followed my husband out into the hall.

"You won't be able to keep up – Meet me there!" Haldir told me, rushing down the hall and past our two other children. I paused only briefly before following him.

Haldir

Vala, this couldn't be happening – not to my son. I could hear the shallowness of his breaths as I rushed through the kitchener. Ashk followed me, trying desperately to keep her terror at bay.

"He'll be all right," I told her, the desperate fear in me tightening my voice to a sharp edge. The door flung open just as I came to it and Rumil came inside, a bright grin on his face.

The grin disappeared as I pushed by him. "Haldir?"

I ignored him, taking the stairs as quickly as I could. I heard Ashk behind me, but I had no time to wait for her. The limpness of our son's body in my arms drove fear like searing fire into me. I shifted his body as I came to the forest floor, a sprint immediately claiming my feet and legs.

I barely heard as people tried to call out to me as I ran. I ignored them all, the weight of my child's body driving me to race through the city. The stairs to Erestal's flets flattened under my strides and I was throwing open the door an instant after I'd been on the forest floor.

Erestal jolted in shock, his conversation with another Healer falling immediately silent.

"Haldir-"

The first wave of my terror burst out of me in a hoarse shout aimed at the other Elf, "He's been poisoned!"

Ashk

The door to Erestal's flets was open as I ran inside. I nearly collided with a young looking Healer. She looked at me, wide-eyed for a moment. I grabbed her. "Haldir – where is he?"

Mute, she pointed to the stairs leading to the next level.

I sprinted upstairs, nearly stumbling on the last step as I ran. Erestal came rushing out of a room. He barely glanced at me as he raced to a cabinet at the far wall.

I'd forgotten I even saw him as I entered the room. Haldir and Erestal's apprentice, Leimahl, were taking Onduras's tunic off. I felt my heart sink into my stomach as my child's head leaned limply against his father's arm. Haldir's face was hard as a mountainside, but the fear in his eyes terrified me.

I rushed inside, my voice calling for my son. Erestal came back into the room, saying something I did not hear as Haldir laid our child back against the bed once again. My baby's face was frowning and the mother in me knew pain when she saw it.

Erestal pushed past me and Haldir took ahold of me, backing us both away. I looked at him, trembling. "What's happened?" I whispered.

My husband stared at me, and I didn't miss the raw guilt I saw explode in his eyes. I looked over his shoulder at our son and my terror doubled as Haldir's hands took my face, forcing me to look at him.

He whispered to me as he held me, "He hurt himself…He must have gotten into my weapons." He took a breath, his eyes leaving mine briefly only to return with such an unyielding grief that it made me want to step back, away from him. "He cut himself with a blade with poison on it, Ashk."

I stared at him. Surely I heard him wrong.

"Poisoned blades last years after they're cleaned, Ashk – I never thought he would get into the cabinet," he said then, his voice fast – or perhaps my mind was just slow – as he tried to explain to me. "It wasn't…He'll be fine. He'll be fine."

"Haldir, you should leave the room," Erestal said sternly. His eyes flickered over me. "Both of you."

"I'm not leaving," I told him, my voice little more than a growl among the grief that began to well in me.

My son had been poisoned.

"Haldir, you know—"

"We're not leaving," Haldir growled at him. The Healer looked between the two of us before I couldn't hold my ground any more. I pushed forward, moving to my child's side. A shaking hand touched his face, feeling the hot burn of his skin.

Erestal did not argue, but instead he and his healers worked around us.

Rumil

I sat outside with my niece and youngest nephew. The flets of Erestal had been too loud – too heartbreaking – to keep them inside. Ana had cried for her brother, and Nethin had wept in fear. Outside, it was quieter and the sun was friendly to the children. I knew they could barely hear what was happening inside.

I however – after years of training; of knowing how to focus on sounds from a distance – could hear everything. And, as my niece leaned against me and her younger brother slept, I listened.

"Hold him down!" Erestal demanded. I could hear the frantic flailing of my nephew, caught deep in his fever and fighting against the pain I had been blessed never to experience.

"Ashk – step back!" Haldir demanded.

"Stop! You're hurting him!" Immediately after his mother's voice, Onduras cried out. Ana jolted beside me, shocked as she heard her brother. I looked down at the little Elleth, offering her an assuring smile for what it was worth.

Ana's chin trembled and she looked away.

"Orophin, take her in the hall!" Haldir ordered of our brother. He had gone to join Haldir and Ashk not long ago.

"Ama!" Onduras cried.

The Elfling was lost in his fever, I knew this. I'd seen other Elves infected by poison many times. More often then not, they cried out for those they loved in the darkness they found themselves in. They hallucinated, often growing frightened with the demons that chased them under the weight of their fever.

And when I thought of my young nephew going through such terrors, I felt my stomach churn. I knew grown Elves who never coped with what they saw in the poisoned dreams. The acid was meant to frighten, to torment and after years of baring the weapon against us, the Galadhrim had made it against their enemies…Not against our children.

I continued to listen as Erestal, his healers, and Haldir struggled with Onduras. They tried to keep him calm, but the Elfling continued to weep and struggle. I could hear Ashk and Orophin in the hall, fighting with each other as Orophin tried to keep her at bay…I did not envy my brother in that.

Then, slowly, Onduras began to quiet. I knew he had grown tired, and I also knew it was this time that was the most dangerous…This was the time that proved if he would wake from his fever, or if it would drown him.

Haldir

I opened the door to see Ashk sitting on the floor and Orophin crouched over her. Orophin had Ashk wrapped in his arms, perhaps only to embrace her – or perhaps to bind her.

I looked behind me to see my son sleeping on the bed. Erestal and his two healers were speaking quietly.

I turned my head to see my wife again. "Ashk." I grimaced as my voice cracked. She looked up at me, her eyes red and seeing the heartbreak in her eyes forced me to look away for just a moment.

Orophin let her go and she rushed to me, pausing briefly before entering the room of her child.

I stood in the doorway, floored by what I had just seen.

My son had been in so much pain. He'd wept and fought against it as he thought he could. His eyes had opened a dozen times, looking around him with such a petrified expression that it had nearly broken me. He saw me once or twice, pled for me to help him. Valar, how the look in his eyes – the whisper in his voice – had twisted my soul.

"Haldir," Orophin said quietly. I ignored him.

Shouldn't my child be with his siblings, playing his games? I should be seeing him laughing, not hearing him crying…He was only a boy, he did not deserve such pain.

I cursed myself. I had been a fool to think none of my children would find the danger in the weapons I kept in my home. For my stupidity, I had witnessed the pure heartbreak of my wife and the painful cries of my child.

Ah, Vala, what if he did not recover? I'd known Elves to be left in the wake of poison for the rest of their lives. Some were crippled by it; others were warped in the mind.

I swallowed, closing my eyes and warding the thoughts away. That would not be my son's fate…it couldn't be.

Suddenly, I felt as Orophin pulled me to him. He embraced me as he had not in a long time – that hard, powerful embrace silently telling me he was there. And, instead of pushing away, I relished in my brother's sympathy for just a few moments. Only then, when I felt stronger than I had seconds before, I pulled away and looked my kin in the eye.

"He's your boy, Haldir…He'll be fine." Orophin's voice was strong, stern, and steady…But I couldn't help but think he was trying to convince himself more than I.

Ashk

It was nearing evening now and my son had still not awoken. His fever remained, and I ignored as healers and friends alike came in and out of the room. I stayed where I was, sitting beside my oldest son.

My poor baby…I could do nothing but watch as he turned fitfully in his sleep. Keeping a cool cloth to his head and murmuring quiet words were the best I could do…And it wasn't good enough. No where near good enough.

I refused to cry at his side. What would he think, waking up to see his mother an emotional wreck? No, I had to be strong for my boy because I wanted nothing more in that moment than to see him smile.

I listened to his muttering, feeling the pain in his voice as it shredding into my heart. I had risen only once when I heard Ana crying from downstairs, wanting to see her brother. I stood at the door, listening as her father calmed her and I couldn't manage to tear away from the room even then.

Haldir had come and sat beside me. He whispered to me, assuring me our son would be fine. He apologized as if this was his fault, and I had quieted him only with a silent look. I didn't have the will to argue, nor was I strong enough to convince him otherwise. We were both at fault for this – our child's suffering – for being careless enough to leave such things in our home…We were stupid to think our children, smart and cunning as they were, would not find hidden doors as the years went by.

And when I knew Haldir was nearing the break of his own control, I could only reach out and hold his hand as we sat there at our son's bedside.

As night began to settle, my husband pulled me closer. "You should eat something," he said seriously.

I shook my head, my eyes never leaving our boy as Erestal checked his breathing and pulse again. I looked at the wound on Onduras's arm, seeing the angry venom of it. I looked away quickly.

"I can't," I told Haldir.

"Ashk, Ana and Nethin want to see you," Haldir said softly. "Please go see them."

I turned my head, looking at my husband and seeing the pure wear in his eyes. He was still dressed in the clothes he'd come from the training fields with. His hand brushed against my cheek.

"We both need to get out of this room...Orophin will stay here."

I looked longingly back to my son. "What if he wakes up?"

Haldir didn't reply, but instead brought me to a stand. I was reluctant to move, still staring at my son, but Haldir's grip was strong and insistent. On shaking legs, I moved with him. Orophin entered the room silently behind us.

Downstairs, we walked in on Rumil and our two children. They were accompanied by Lord Celeborn himself. Ana was asleep in his arms.

Gods, why did Lady Galadriel have to be gone? She was in Rivendell once again this summer. I couldn't help but feel that her presence, her grace, would have spared us of this waiting and torment.

"Ama!" Nethin cried, leaping off of Rumil and running to me. He collided with me, a hug squeezing my legs in his arms. Only when he let go could I kneel down. He looked at me and frowned. "Ama, why are you so sad?"

"Is Onduras all right?" Ana asked, suddenly awake as she eased down from Celeborn's arms.

"He's going to be fine, sweet," I told her, motioning her to me. She hugged me with a fierceness I had never felt from Ana. The worry on my childrens' faces brought tears to my eyes.

I could feel Haldir's eyes on us and when I looked up to see him, he had a look in his gaze I'd never seen before. He immediately turned away.

"Ada and I are going to go home to eat…Would you like to come with us?" I asked my children. They both nodded passionately. I forced a smile and stood, walking to Haldir. My hand slid into his and it was I who pulled him along this time.

Celeborn stood as we walked by him. Although the good Lord had always been kind, the sheer empathy in his gaze was enough to break someone. He embraced me with a gentleness I never knew he had.

Only outside did I wiped away a stray tear. Haldir's hand squeezed mine.

Haldir

I paced the room, listening to the wheezing breaths of my son. It was midnight now – surely it had been a full day since Onduras's fever had taken him.

I had thanked the Valar when Ashk had fallen asleep; although it had been a heartbreaking sight. Her head was laid on his bed beside him and her hand still held his smaller one in grasp.

Gently, I had taken her from the room in my arms and placed her in a bed across the hall hoping she'd sleep through the night.

I, however, knew I would see no sleep this night. The images of my children's fear, my son's pained face, and my wife's heartbreak haunted me too gravely for sleep to visit me. I stood at the window, looking out to the waning moon outside. Only the light of candles glowed in the room I stood in, and somehow the silver light of the moon outside seemed cleaner, more hopeful than this room I stood in.

And it was then when I realized that this was the very room I had first seen my youngest child. Nethin had been born here, and I had stood at this very window with him that night.

Vala, I had welcomed one son in this room – don't make me say goodbye to another…

The thought gave a wicked blow to my stomach, churning it dangerously. I turned, looking back to Onduras. His dark hair was darker than normal with the dampness of sweat in it. His eyes were clenched tight, squinting against the pain I knew he felt. I had known the wicked kiss of poison more than once, and knowing that made me only fear for him more.

Walking to my son's bedside, I sat gently on the edge of the blankets.

I had nearly lost this child once…Gods knew I couldn't bear to lose him now. Somehow in the past ten years, he had become a constant ally – a friend – and a steady face to bring me joy in life. I often found myself wondering who he would be in the future, though I had little doubt that I didn't already know. He was bound to be a Warden, no doubt. His avid interest in my guard, in anything to do with it, had already claimed him. And though Ashk had often joked she wanted all her children to be city Elves – safe from the borders – she and I both knew better. Our children were destined for anything but an ordinary life.

I looked forward to the day I would welcome my son to the ranks of the Galadhrim. Even now, I felt the pride I knew would come with him…And I knew one day I would give him the blade of a Warden as I had to his uncles.

Gods, he had to pull through this…He had to bounce back to his life, fighting imaginary armies, recruiting his siblings to join him on quests, and mimicking me and my movements only when he thought I wasn't looking. He was a good boy – he didn't deserve this. Could I take his place, I would a thousand times over.

But, for now I could only stare at him in the night, listening to the wheezing of his breaths as he dragged in one painful slurp of air after the other.

And I waited for him to open his eyes.

I waited all night.

Ashk

Noon of my son's second day of his fever had come. Patiently, I squeezed a cloth of water over his mouth, letting drops of the cool liquid seep into his open mouth. His normally pink lips were pale, dry, and cracked. But, I spoke to him like none of that mattered. I had ignored the weary looks of the Healers that morning, and I ignored their warnings – their worry over his lack of recovery. I knew my boy. He'd be fine.

Wouldn't he?

"The wound is not healing…Perhaps it has been too long. It may even be the blood of Man in him that keeps us from healing him now. But…I'm sorry. I don't know what else to do for him," Erestal told Haldir and I and the force of Haldir's hand clenching mine made me flinch.

I blinked, swallowing past a dry and tight throat. Haldir had left only a short time ago to bathe and change his clothes. He had not slept all night, I knew. And I felt guilty for falling asleep and leaving him here alone…

"Your Ada's worried sick about you," I mentioned to my son. "And Ana just doesn't know what to do with herself; you two are far too close to be separated like this, Onduras."

I put down the cloth as I felt my control uprooting. Gods, why had he gone into that cabinet? Why had Haldir and I been so foolish as to think he never would? Now look what had happened! Vala, if I lost this boy I would lose my soul. My children were everything to me, losing any of them would murder me.

What if he never woke? What if Erestal's warnings came true? If we didn't feed him, he'd starve to death in a matter of days…What if he wasn't getting enough water to sustain himself?

What would happen if I walked into the room and did not see his little chest rising and falling?

"Ashk, sweetheart."

I didn't know I was weeping until Haldir came to me from the door, pulling me off the bed and into his lap as he sat down. He sat there, holding me as if I was no bigger than Ana. But, I didn't care. I wept into his shoulder, my fear no longer held at bay.

He whispered to me, murmuring words that were meant to assure me. His hand petted against my tangled hair as my tears smeared on his tunic.

Finally, I had cried myself dry, and I could only sit there in his arms. Neither of us moved as if we were unable to. And when I felt him trembling, I felt so very selfish. My hand raised, touching his cheek and stroking his skin under my hand. I comforted him in the only way I knew how; by just being there.

At least an hour had passed when Haldir took a great, deep breath and looked down at me. His trembling had stopped and he forced a painful smile at me. "He's going to be fine."

I gave him my own unworthy smile for that was all I could give.

Ana - Night

I listened to my uncles as they thought I was asleep. In my family's home, only Nethin and I were there with our two uncles. My brother was sleeping in my bed again tonight. He had refused to sleep alone.

I sat next to my bedroom door, listening to Uncle Rumil and Uncle Orophin. I had awoken to Uncle Orophin returning from taking Litia home.

"I've never seen either of them like this," Uncle Orophin said quietly. I could hear the despair in his voice, and the pulsing grief that poured off of him was enough to drown me. I was never more glad Lady Galadriel had taught me what a shield was than in that moment.

"He's their child, Orophin. They're scared."

They were taking about Onduras. I bit my lip, demanding it didn't tremble with tears. I missed my twin so…

There was silence in the kitchener for a time. Then, Uncle Orophin spoke again, his voice lower than ever, "Rumil, what if he doesn't wake from the fever?"

I held my breath, straining my ears. Yet, seconds went by and I did not hear Uncle Rumil reply.

Uncle Orophin went on, "Erestal is worried. He said it himself – the wound may not heal. Onduras is…too Human. I looked; Onduras's arm is no better than yesterday. Perhaps it was already too late when Haldir and Ashk found him."

"Don't say that," Uncle Rumil suddenly hissed, scaring me with the growl of his voice. "Onduras is going to be fine, Orophin. Don't doubt him – he's our brother's son. Valar knows how many times you and I guessed over Haldir's fate…and we were never disappointed. He always made it, and now his son will too."

This was all my fault. If I had just told on Onduras this once, none of this might of happened. I knew in my heart something was truly wrong with him – I knew that wound wasn't to be brushed aside. But, I said nothing. Gods knew that would never happen again!

Boy, when my brother woke up was I going to knock him straight onto his rump!

Why did he have to be so stupid? I knew Ada had his weapons at home, but I never dared play with them. They glowed with bad feelings…Why did my brother always have to do exactly what he wasn't supposed to do?

I sighed, wiping away a few tears and suddenly my door opened. I jumped in surprise only to see Uncle Orophin standing over me. He frowned.

"Ana, what are you doing awake?" He immediately picked me up like I was just a little girl. I didn't reply and scrubbed at my cheeks, trying to stop crying. Ada had told me I didn't need to cry for Onduras and that he would be home soon, and Ada always knew what was right.

"Did you hear us talking, Little Ana?" Uncle Orophin asked softly as he closed the door, seeing Nethin was still asleep.

After a moment, I nodded my head. My uncle sighed, smiling at me. "Don't listen to me, my princess. Doesn't your Ada tell you that?"

A slow smile came to my face. I nodded.

Uncle Orophin smiled brightly at me. "And you should listen to him. I was only thinking aloud."

I swallowed. "About Onduras?"

He nodded.

"Are you worried about him?"

Uncle Orophin opened his mouth to reply, then sighed. I knew he just thought better of lying to me. "Yes, Ana, I'm very worried about him…And your parents."

"Ama and Ada?"

He nodded, walking with me in his arms into the kitchener and sitting in Ada's chair. Uncle Rumil came from down the hall, out of the wash room. He frowned when he saw me.

"If anything happened to any of you, your Ama and Ada would be griefstricken."

"Griefstricken?" I'd never heard of that before.

"Very sad," Uncle Orophin told me.

I stared at my uncle briefly as Uncle Rumil sat at the table with us. Then, I sighed. "I wish I knew if Onduras was going to be all right…" I knew most things about my brother, but now I didn't know if Onduras would get better or not…and that scared me.

"He will be, my princess." Uncle Orophin tucked some of my hair behind my ear. "I know he'll be fine."

Uncle Orophin was lying to me…But I didn't say anything.

Ashk

I watched as Haldir squeezed water into our son's mouth. The night was nearly over, and Onduras had still not awoken. Tomorrow would be his third day bedridden.

The thought tore at me.

"…Ada?"

I felt my breath catch and Haldir froze. Instantly, I was at the sides of my husband and child. Onduras's eyes were open, staring blearily at his father.

"Ada, where am I?"

Relief so fierce it was crushing washed over me as Onduras looked slowly at me. "You're in Erestal's healing flet, Onduras," I told him, my hand running over his forehead and into his hair. I frowned. His fever was still burning hot, and his eyes were red and bleary.

Something inside me screamed.

He looked back to his father. "Ada…I've been dreaming about the sea."

I looked at Haldir and the pure look of dread that filled my husband's face struck me with horror.

Onduras had never seen the sea before…Is that why Haldir looked so stunned – so terrified suddenly?

Onduras's eyes began to close and Haldir grabbed him by his shoulders.

"Stay awake!" Haldir demanded, his voice booming. "Stay awake, Onduras!"

"Haldir!" I was shocked at his fierce voice. He turned his head, looking at me. "Fetch Erestal!"

The demand in his voice had my feet running immediately. I raced through the hall, down the stairs, and plowed into Erestal's personal chambers like the door hadn't existed.

He was already pushing by me, darting up the stairs.

I could hear Haldir yelling at our son from downstairs, and as I followed Erestal, I felt my stomach knotting dangerously.

"Stand back," Erestal told me seriously as another Healer came from downstairs, racing into the room in her bedclothes. I watched, horrified, as the three Elves – including my husband – suddenly worked furiously around my child.

Then, only minutes passed, and the Healers backed slowly away. I saw my husband standing over our son, grief being a hard look on his face. And our son – my baby – stared blankly into nothing. His eyes were vacant and when I realized I did not hear his wheezing breaths, my head grew light and I swayed when I moved forward toward him.

Gods, he wasn't breathing.

I said his name, or tried to, just as I felt my knees give out. And then, there was nothing.

Haldir – Morning

"Haldir."

The voice shocked me out of my thoughts and my bowed head rose. Lord Celeborn entered the room quietly. He looked warily at Onduras as he slowly neared. I moved to stand but his hand moved out, motioning that I stay seated.

"There were rumors…" Lord Celeborn said softly.

I nodded, already knowing this. There had been rumors my eldest son had died last night. And, for a moment, Ashk and I both thought we'd lost him. But, alas, no he was alive and still fighting to stay with us.

My poor wife had fainted dead away in the moment she thought her child had been ripped from the world. She'd awoken not long ago and I had to take her to him just to convince her it wasn't true. Onduras was alive.

Rumil and Orophin had come in a rush, hearing the rumors, only to find me right where I was then. They were downstairs with Ashk at the moment.

Lord Celeborn's hand rested on my shoulder.

"Have you slept?" he asked.

I cleared my throat. "Not lately." Not since my child had been placed in this room, was my real answer.

I heard Celeborn's throaty noise of disapproval, but he said nothing. He looked at Onduras, his open eyes covered with a damp cloth. I felt as his hand tightened on my shoulder.

Finally, after some time, Celeborn knelt down beside me. "Galadriel sends her wishes, Haldir. She will be here soon."

I didn't want to hear that the Lady of Light had ended her visit in Rivendell early on my behalf – or the behalf of my family – but I was silently grateful for it.

"She has with her Elrond."

I closed my eyes, a brief whisper of thanks falling past my lips. Word of a child's poisoning ran fast through the Elven kingdoms…And with the rare child that was born these late days, it was no doubt Elrond himself was bound to help.

And yet, I knew better than to think it was honor alone that brought Elrond East. The family of Elrond and my own had always been close…perhaps because of the uniqueness of them both.

"Have faith, Haldir. Help will soon be here."

Lord Celeborn left the room and I opened my eyes, my doubt getting the better of me. Would that help be soon enough?

Night

Midnight had come again. Ashk and I sat outside as Elrond and his company were among Erestal's flets. They had arrived only a short time ago, and we had sparsely been able to exchange words before they swarmed around my son.

A cool summer breeze passed us and Ashk shivered. I pulled her closer, resting my cheek against her head and closing my tired eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Ashk."

Her hand moved to my chest, just over my heart. "Don't be sorry, Haldir…This wasn't your fault." She pulled from me, looking me in the eye when I lift my heavy gaze. "It was an accident, sweetheart."

"One that could cost us dearly."

Something rippled in her confidence, but she held strong. "It could…But it won't. If anyone in the world could save our son, it's Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel."

She didn't know what poison could do to an Elf. Images of my son being crippled, or mute, or slower than his mind once was blared into my mind's eye. Dare I tell my wife such things? No. Not now.

"I love you, sweetheart."

She smiled slowly at me, the exhaustion and pure stress in her eyes almost twinkling as I had not seen them do in nearly four days. Her hand rose to my cheek, and she kissed me briefly.

"I love you…He's going to be all right…All of us are going to be all right."

In that moment, I let her words comfort me. And, in the quiet of the night, we sat there together and we waited another eve through.

Noon

Ashk entered the room again, clean and dressed once more. I looked up at her as she came to my side, past the Rivendell Elves in the room who looked at her curiously. From the balcony doors, Elrond looked at me with a knowing smile.

My wife sat quietly beside me, her hand in mine as we had for the last few days. The wheezing of our son's breaths did not haunt us now though, and the tremble in her hand seemed to be gone.

Had we finally reached the light in this dark nightmare?

The day moved on, and slowly the room emptied. Rumil and Orophin came and went, Galadriel entered once and left. Elrond was the last to leave as evening came once again.

And it was when I was standing at the window – the same I had stood at when I'd first held my youngest child – that I heard Onduras take a long, smooth breath. I turned, watching as Ashk stood, peering at our child. I saw her swallow, her eyes immediately glistening.

"Ama?"

Ashk smiled, her gaze darting up to mine as I reached the bed in three long strides. Onduras looked at me, the redness of his eyes gone and filled with confusion. He frowned. "Ada?"

"Welcome back, my boy," I said softly, my chest so tight it hurt as the fluttering of my stomach crashed into it.

Onduras swallowed and grimaced. I reached over to a table and gave him a glass of water a moment later. Ashk was brushing a loving hand through his matted hair as he drank greedily from the glass. I took it from him a moment later, wary of him drinking too much. "Easy now."

He looked at me, still a bit confused. "What happened?"

"You've been very sick," Ashk told him. Onduras frowned. "The knife you cut yourself with from Ada's cabinet?"

Guilt immediately bloomed on my son's face and he looked at me warily.

"It was poisoned…You've been in a fever for almost five days," Ashk continued as she sat on the bed's edge. Emotion hiccupped her voice as she said, "You had us all very worried, honey."

Onduras frowned, seeing a tear trickle down his mother's face. "Don't cry, Ama."

I smiled at my son as he struggled to sit up. I gently pushed him back down. "Don't try moving too much."

He was winded, and shocked, as he laid back down with a nod. My hand moved to his flushed cheek, turning his head to me. His tired eyes met mine. "You can never do that to us again."

He smiled weakly. "I hope not, Ada…I had wicked dreams."

I couldn't help the chuckle that came from me before emotion choked it. My son looked at me, a bit of fear coming into his eyes. "Ada, I had terrible dreams," he whispered.

"I know you did," I said softly, trying to assure him. "But you can forget them now…It's over." I brushed a tear from his face as he looked at his mother. I dreaded to know what he had dreamt of in those hours of tormenting fever.

He looked back to me, desperation suddenly as his eyes welled with tears. "None of it happened?" he whispered.

"None of it," Ashk told him. "Not a bit of it."

Suddenly – perhaps in joy or fear – my son burst into tears. Ashk immediately shifted, carefully pulling him into her lap as if he was as weak as a lamb. I moved, embracing them both as our child sobbed, telling us the horrors of his dreams.

And as even I shuddered with his words, I knew those dreams would not fade for some time.

But, Vala, my son was alive…And he was safe in his mother's arms.

One Month Later

Ashk

I walked onto the forest floor with Pirate trotting behind me. Nethin was in my arms and he made horse-shoe noises as I walked with an extra bounce in my step. And, as we came to the gardens, he yanked back on his invisible reins. I stopped obediently.

"You can put me down now, Ama," he said seriously. I smiled, putting him on the ground. He immediately sped off toward where he could hear his brother and sister playing. Pirate bounded after him in glee.

As I came around the bend, I smiled. Under the large, beautiful statues of their grandparents, my three children ran after each other. Pirate narrowly got out of the way as Nethin and Onduras ran after each other, nearly colliding with him.

I watched my eldest son carefully, looking for any sign of fatigue or stress. Yet, as he giggled with his siblings, the horrors of last month seemed to be gone completely. But still, at night, Haldir and I often woke to his struggling nightmares. I hoped Elrond was right, and those nightmares would one day fade.

Elrond and his company had only left last week. Perhaps he was shocked when I kissed his cheek with tears in my eyes, but the smile he gave me was warming. My thanks to him could not be expressed in words, but perhaps in that brief look he understood some of it.

Galadriel had stayed in Caras Galadhon after her son-in-law's departure. She had been a frequent visitor to our home ever since that terrible week.

But now, things seemed to be getting back to normal. Haldir had taken a month's absence from the borders since our son's …illness. I couldn't help but be glad for it. He was more attentive to his children than ever now, and somehow that near tragedy had brought us even closer than we could have imagined.

He had, of course, emptied the house of any weapons within a child's possible reach by any means. We'd also been recently debating if we should move to a larger home, where his study could be farther from the children and homelife than just the common room or bedroom. But, I doubted we'd leave that flet. It was home, and it had been for ten years…I was fairly certain I'd convinced him only to build onto it yet again.

I looked to my husband, sitting quietly on the bench swing we always sat on when in this garden. As if feeling my eyes, he looked to me and he smiled as I walked to him.

The night settled around us gently. The warm breeze of summer came and passed, leaving behind a fragrance of flowers. The pair of us swayed in the swing as our three children played among each other under our watchful and loving eyes.

Onduras suddenly paused in his laughter and looked at us. His giddy smile softened into a gentle softness a child his age should never bear. It was a wise, grateful smile a boy rarely bore before he was well into his years.

And then, he went on with his playing and Haldir suddenly kissed my cheek softly. I closed my eyes, smiling. I hoped one day I would forget the look of his grief and fear…but for now, it was as strong in me as the thought of his smile.

I only hoped I'd never see that look again.

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Sheesh! That turned out to be SO long. I hope you all enjoyed it though. I look forward to seeing what you thought of it. I'm have a great time tweaking and turning the children this way and that for the upcoming stories. Haldir and Ashk are more fun than ever to write.

As always, I owe you guys tons and tons of gratitude for all you wonderful comments! I love you!

I hope you enjoyed – Let me know what you think!

-Jo

Next Update: June 8th or June12th (real life is being needy this week)