Strange Guides

Imladris General series (new)

Sinister Sindar Sisters (M. Cross and B. Kennedy)

Summary: This series of tales will follow the trials and tribulations of the healers and patients in Middle-earth's premier health care centre. Starring all the Tolkien characters we love!

This series of scenes and stories is an unapologetic excuse for placing our favorite Middle-earth characters in hurt/care situations (mingled with our odd sense of humor). In other words, this is just for fun. It may possibly link to any of our other stories.

Disclaimer: They all belong to Tolkien and New Line Cinema and anyone they sell the rights to. We get no pay for this.

Feedback/Reviews: please. michelemichelecross. or on list

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Strange Guides

Chapter One – Fever Dreams

A bright early-autumn dawn heralded the closing of a long hot summer. The leaves on the tall trees were slowly beginning to change colour before their inevitable journey to the cooling ground.

Squirrels scurried to and fro in a rush of activity, preparing their caches for the long winter ahead. The winter was expected to be hard, considering that the summer had been an unusually languid and lazy one.

The hidden elven village of Imladris was a hive of activity as they also readied their food stores for the winter. Hunting parties left at various times to stock the stores of meat and groups were sent out to gather nuts and fruits, as well as the roots and herbs used both as medicines and for flavouring food.

Set aside from the hustle and bustle of the winter preparations and nestled in the quiet of a still-green copse stood the majestic Last Homely House, home of Elrond, Lord of Imladris.

Attached to the side of the house was the large House of Healing that served all of Imladris and the surrounding areas if healing was needed.

All seemed quiet. The doors stood open in case of need. The large windows were also opened to the warm rays of Anor and to catch the cooling breezes.

Inside, all was calm and peaceful for once. No pressing emergencies had presented themselves and not one patient currently resided in the healing wing. Due to this fact, not one of Imladris' ruling family was in attendance.

It was a most unusual happenstance, for the fact that for once the young Lords Elrohir and Elladan were currently at home, safe and sound, not off tempting the Valar with their antics. For this Elrond, Lord of Imladris, was inordinately pleased.

He, meanwhile, was taking the time to peruse his healing students' notes and making sure that their progress was as it should be and that they were also happy with their training and their tutors. This was something he insisted on, that they all had to be happy. In all his long years, he had only had to change a student and tutor team once and that had been due to a massive clash of personalities. It was something he was very proud of.

Elrond was engrossed in one of the trainee's rather hysterical, and not altogether correct, views on the use of athelas. He was trying not to laugh outright, obviously the ellon had tried, but he also seemed to have only the vaguest of ideas of what the herb was used for. He would have to speak with Master Healer Linnathon to find out what was happening with this young one. If there was a problem, they would all need to know. He was smothering a laugh when a knock on the door made him look up.

He somehow pulled himself together, and managed to look like the sober and proper Lord that he was, or rather should be. Only his sparkling grey eyes betrayed the fact that he was otherwise highly amused.

"Elrond?" A bright blond head poked around the door.

"Yes, Glorfindel?" A warm smile graced his face as he watched his old friend enter.

"We were going to make the advantage of Anor's warmth before it vanishes and go swimming. Would you join us?" Mischief sparkled in his eyes as he looked at his old friend.

"Come in, Glorfindel, and sit down." Glorfindel complied, noting the hint of humor in Elrond's voice.

"What is so amusing, mellon nin?" Glorfindel knew from just one look that Elrond was highly amused.

"This." He waved the parchment in his hands. "Most amusing. Did you know that athelas could cure Dragon Pox?"

"Dragon Pox? Ai, that sounds very dangerous!" Laughter filled the air.

"Very, considering that there is no such illness!" That set the two of them of into peals of laughter.

Once they had calmed down and taken deep breaths, Glorfindel asked once again. "Will you come to the lake with us?"

"That does sound nice. As you say, there will not be many more days like this before winter closes in about us. Yes, I will come."

"Good, we are meeting in an hour. The boys will be pleased that you are coming, especially Estel." Glorfindel teased.

"I am sure that he is!" Elrond remembered the last time they had gone swimming together. Estel had almost drowned.

"We were all glad that you were there that day." Glorfindel admitted. They had all thought that the young foster-son of Elrond was joking when he had not surfaced following the showy dive that he had worked so hard on.

"I was just as glad that Legolas was there. Without him we would not have realised in time that Estel was in trouble." Elrond's smile faded. Without the Mirkwood Prince's worry, they might not have realised that something was wrong until it was far too late.

"Aye, but you were both there to rescue him, for that we are all grateful." Glorfindel agreed.

"We have not had news from Mirkwood in quite some time. I hope all is well." Elrond was worried about their Woodland kin. They normally heard from either Thranduil or Legolas frequently. For them to go almost a month without word was unusual.

"They are probably busy. You know what it is like there now with the spreading Shadow and the fell creatures appearing everywhere. You heard what Estel said about the last visit he made to see Legolas." Glorfindel lead the way through the corridors to Elrond's chambers.

"Yes, his tales of the creeping darkness haunted me for weeks." Elrond shivered inadvertently. He could well remember when Greenwood the Great was lush and verdant. It was sad to think of it falling into darkness. At least Minerella was spared witnessing the decline of her beloved woods.

"As it did me. We will hear from them, I am sure. Ah, Erestor. We are going to enjoy the last of the summer sun. Will you join us?" The scholar had just exited the library, his arms full of books.

"I am sorry I must decline. I have much work to prepare for." He looked up and they could both see that he looked harassed. "Mithrandir sent a missive to me asking urgently for some information to help the Hobbits with a little problem that has arisen."

"One afternoon will not matter, Erestor. I am sure that Mithrandir will not mind." Elrond smiled at his friend. He took his duties far too seriously.

"The afternoon off sounds delightful but I fear it will delay matters all the more. I will try to finish this and then, if there is time, I may join you." Erestor promised them.

"Good, we will keep you to that!" They watched with some concern as Erestor moved off to finish the work that had been asked of him. Elrond then turned to Glorfindel. "Remind me to make certain that Erestor takes a few days off next week. I fear he is working too hard."

"I agree. He was still hard at work at midnight when I retired last evening." Glorfindel admitted. "I tried to convince him that he should retire but he told me he had too much work on to even contemplate it."

"Is that so? Well if I order it and then make sure that no work comes his way, perhaps he will listen." Elrond was determined that he would get his friend to rest, one way or another, through fair means or foul.

"I will help. Anything to make certain that he gets proper rest." They may always argue and act like an old married couple, but they were also friends deep down.

"Good, I will hold you to that. We can ask my sons for help. I am sure they will oblige." There was once more a twinkle in Elrond's eyes as they reached his chamber and entered.

Glorfindel watched as Elrond gathered the things he would need for the afternoon. "They will love that. Will you get them to rig his things with pranks?"

"That was part of the thought, the library door, anything to prevent him from trying to work." Elrond grinned. His sons' antics could be most amusing, although he could not always let them know that.

Glorfindel hid a mischievous grin at that. He and Elrond had been on the receiving end of the twin's pranks all too much in the past.

"Shall we go and meet them at the lake now?" Elrond was ready, with towel in hand.

The walk down to the lake was refreshing in itself. The cool breezes heralding the coming autumn made it much more comfortable than it had been lately.

As they neared the lake they could hear Elladan, Elrohir and Estel already at play in the large natural lake fed by the waterfall. They loved to dive from the rocks around the falls, despite the shock it always gave their father. Elrond of course, conveniently 'forgot' that he had done exactly the same kind of thing in the long past to his foster-father with his brother Elros and Thranduil.

"Ada, you came to join us!" Estel called happily as he swam towards the bank.

"As if I would not, on a fine day like this. Just make certain you do not get cold. The last thing you need is a chill." Elrond admonished, ever the worried father.

"I will not catch cold, Ada. It is still far too warm for that!" Estel sounded quite certain of that as he tread water and watched Elrond, unaware of the fact that Elladan was sneaking up on him submerged to pull him under. Elrond saw but said nothing. He just grinned as he removed his formal robes and continued speaking to Estel. "Make sure that…"

He stopped as Estel was pulled underwater with a shocked "Ahhhh!"

Elrond grinned and carried on talking, despite knowing Estel could not hear him now. "…you do not."

A spluttering Estel came up for air a moment later and glowered at Elladan. "Not fair! My attention was elsewhere!" Elrohir meanwhile was laughing too much to talk. "I will get you back!" It was growled playfully and Estel sent a huge wave of water at his eldest brother with a sweep of his arm.

Elladan gulped the water and thus began a great water fight. It was fought with a great deal of laughter mixed with good-humoured ribbing.

They all enjoyed the afternoon. It was a welcome break from their duties, either patrolling or treating the injured.

They were just about to pack up and head back to the Last Homely House when a shout caught everyone's attention.

The sight that greeted them was rare and as such made the shock all the greater. Erestor was sprinting toward them in a great rush, robes flapping about him, calling out and waving his arms to gain their attention. They all made for the bank and pulled themselves from the water long before he reached them.

"I wonder what has happened." Estel mused as he picked up his towel and wrapped it around his waist. He used another to dry his hair.

"I am sure we will find out." Elrond calmly responded as Erestor made his way to them. "What is it, mellon-nin?"

"You are needed! Wounded have been brought into the healing wing. Gailarphen sent me to get you!" Erestor was not even out of breath.

"What has happened?" Elrond was already dressing,

"Guests arrived, some injured, two seriously. You are needed." Erestor pulled on his arm.

"I am coming. Who are the injured? Do I know them?" Elrond and the others were all ready to go.

"Yes, unfortunately you do, now come!" Erestor was once more pulling on his arm.

"I am coming. You can tell me what happened on the way." It was nothing less than an order.

"They met with a band of orcs and wargs, a large band. They were the victors but they took some dire injuries. Bremoline has a nasty head wound and bite."

"Bremoline? They are from Mirkwood?" Estel asked, unnecessarily. If they were from Mirkwood then perhaps…

"Aye, Legolas was with them!" He glared at Elrond. "That is why I am trying to rush you. Legolas has been very badly injured."

Erestor found that he was suddenly talking to thin air as the others shared a glance and raced ahead.

"Very badly injured." He repeated to himself in a hushed whisper.

Elrond made it to the Last Homely House first, much to the surprise of his sons. They had expected it to be the other way around, after all. They were the young ones.

Elrond did not even slow down as he made his way inside and directly to the healing wing. It was no longer calm. Now a quiet urgency charged the air.

The outer chamber was filled with those less injured. It seemed to be most of the party.

"Hír Elrond, I am so pleased to see you." Rithlin, an archer of the Mirkwood Home Guard, looked up as they entered.

"I will speak with you later, Rithlin. We are needed within first." Elrond spared a look to him as he passed by, not slowing even slightly.

It did not stop Rithlin though. "Caun Legolas has been poisoned! The blade!"

As he disappeared within, Elrond waved a hand to show that he understood what the other had said.

Rithlin would never admit how relieved he was to see them all. They would help Legolas. They would make the Prince well. He could relax now. Even though he was not yet finished with his healer's training, he had done what he could for the Prince until they could get him here.

"Apart from this scratch, are you hurt?" Faelien, one of Imladris' Master Healers arrived to examine him.

"No, I am unhurt." Rithlin gave her his best winning smile, the one that seemed to work with all the ellith, most especially his bonded-to-be.

"I bet you say that to all the ellith. Does Palanwen know how you speak to all the other ellith?" Faelien could not help but grin as she examined him.

"No, but does she need to know?" He grinned impishly at her, knowing that she knew he meant nothing by it.

"I am glad that you are well." Faelien grinned. "I was worried when they brought you all in. How are the preparations going for the bonding ceremony?"

"I am fed up with them. When Aran Thranduil asked us to accompany Legolas, it seemed like a wonderful idea. I should have known better! At least I am only slightly injured." He decided to stop there and not push it further.

"Ah, pre-bonding jitters. We all get them." Faelien admitted. "Mine were terrible. Poor Nestoron could do nothing right, even breathing was the wrong thing to do." She smiled at the memory. Even though it had been so long ago now, it was still as fresh as if it were yesterday.

"We have not got there… yet." Rithlin sounded glum.

"I will not tempt fate then!" She reached for a cloth. "Let me clean that gash. I believe it will need stitching."

"Aye, thank Estë it was not on my face!" If anything, Rithlin grew glummer at the thought.

"No, just your arm!" What was it with ellyn and bonding? Anyone would think that they hated it, especially the ones being bonded.

"I should be grateful, I know. How are Legolas and Bremoline?" He looked towards the ominously closed doors to the inner, more intense, sanctum that Elrond kept for the more dangerously injured cases.

"I will find out when you and the others are seen to. Elrond has just arrived, as you are well aware." Faelien admitted. "Until he has seen Legolas, there is nothing that we can say."

"When that orc slashed him with the sword, I thought he was dead, the way he went down." Rithlin could not prevent a shudder.

"It can be scary, seeing someone hurt like that." She gave a shudder of her own at the memory of seeing Nestoron, her husband, so badly hurt, so long ago.

"I know." He felt bad about reminding her and then hissed as the athelas water stung his wound. "How are the babes?" He tried to divert her thoughts with a bit of light teasing.

"Hardly babes anymore. They are both fully grown and you know it!" She teased him back.

O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Elrond waved his hand absently to show that he understood Rithlin's words but he was intent to get to Legolas quickly.

The doors to the inner chamber were closed and that worried him. They were never closed unless…

He pushed them open and entered. While the outer sanctum was calm, the inner one certainly was not.

Nestoron and Gailarphen were bent intently over one of the beds while Linnathon was seeing to another, giving calm and poised instructions.

Gailarphen was not. He was unusually ruffled.

"Hold your finger firm there! No, there!" His back was to Elrond and had not seen him enter. "When Elrond gets here…"

"I am here." Elrond's voice remained calm. He had just seen who Linnathon's patient was and it was not Legolas. That meant…

"Good. About time too!" Gailarphen's voice was curt.

Elrond knew that Gailarphen did not mean anything by it. He was just stressed.

"What have we got?" Elrond was already washing his hands in a bowl of warm water available for that purpose.

"An arterial bleeder along with a nasty head wound." Gailarphen informed him.

"Alright. Let me see." He moved in beside them and nearly wished that he had not.

Nestoron appeared to have his hand deep within a gash on Legolas' thigh. "I am holding the artery." He answered Elrond's unasked question.

"Continue with that. It is the only thing keeping him here on Middle-earth." Elrond instructed. That much was obvious with the bright arterial blood. "He will need a blood replenishing tonic. What caused this?"

"Orc." It was hissed by Gailarphen. "Filthy creatures. Valar knows what was on the blade. He was knocked to the ground by a warg. How he has no other injuries…"

"You have checked?" Elrond smoothly changed places with Gailarphen then searched the wound. Gailarphen could now look at the head wound and check Legolas' level of consciousness, or lack of it, as the case was.

"Not yet. I thought the bleeding was a priority." Gailarphen reached for a lit candle to check the Prince's pupils.

"You were quite right. Do you know if he has been conscious since the incident? This will need a lot of suturing." Elrond was looking at the thigh wound and wincing at how deep the wound really was. The orcs were obviously aiming to maim and not pulling their punches.

"I have not had much chance to find out." Gailarphen had been more intent on keeping Legolas from bleeding to death.

"Talleth, find out for me?" One of the healers lingering near to aid them nodded and left the chamber.

"This is nasty." Elrond muttered to himself. "Whatever you do, Linnathon, do not move until I tell you." He did not even watch for the healer's nod. He felt for the cloths that he knew would be nearby and a bowl of athelas water to clean the wound with.

It did not take long for the water to become bloodied, but he needed the wound to be thoroughly cleaned. If this became infected further…

Finally, he was satisfied enough and he reached for the sharpened, specially-prepared thorn that he used as a needle for suturing. The thread, thick and black, was ready beside him.

It was the work of moments to thread it and begin the stitches that would save Legolas' life… he hoped.

First, with Linnathon's vital aid of holding the artery, he meticulously stitched it back together. He then brought the deep muscle together and then the thicker outer muscle. That way it would heal from the inside out and not the other way, presenting all the dangers if that happened. He then closed the skin. The wound still bled sluggishly after he had finished, which worried him slightly.

Elrond sighed as he wiped the last of the blood away. How did Legolas get into these positions? It never ceased to amaze him.

Linnathon was pleased to have his finger back now that the artery was sewn back together once more. "I will prepare a pressure bandage for you."

"Hennad. We will need plenty." He warned.

"I can see that."

Talleth returned to the chamber, more worried than ever before. "Rithlin says that Legolas never regained consciousness!"

"I was expecting that. He has a very bad concussion. Nothing more than that, I am sure, but that will be bad enough on top of this severe blood loss." Gailarphen searched through Legolas' normally-blond hair. A large swath of it was now darkened with dried blood.

"He needs to be watched carefully. I want a healer with him at all times." Actually, he intended to stay with him. "Glorfindel, hold Legolas' leg up for me?" They needed access to the entire leg to bandage it properly.

Between them they managed to bind the leg tightly to put pressure in the wound and stop the bleeding, anything to help with that at present.

"How is his pulse?" Elrond asked as he tied off the bandage. Nestoron reached for the limp wrist. Elrond glanced around. "I am surprised that Elladan and Elrohir are not underfoot, trying to see what is going on." He would have expected them to be in here.

Talleth smiled at him. "There are guards on the door, set by Glorfindel, to prevent them from coming in. They are most unhappy."

"I can imagine, but I am glad. They do not need to see this." Elrond finished with the bandage. "I need several pillows to rest this leg on."

Talleth nodded and gathered the pillows from the surrounding beds. He laid them beneath the wounded leg and Elrond settled it before checking that the circulation was as it should be. The foot was light pink and only just warm, but he was not overly worried. That would ease, now that the circulation had been re-connected and the wound closed.

"How is he?" He looked to Gailarphen.

"He will need sutures to this head wound and I want to keep a close eye on his conscious level. I am wary but happy." Gailarphen admitted, but something nagged at him. He could feel that something was not quite right, but what?

"Rithlin said that he had been wounded with a poisoned blade and I can believe it, having seen the wound. I do want to make sure that there are no other wounds. You know Legolas. If he had his way he would have hidden even these wounds!" There was no mirth in Elrond's voice.

"He has hidden worse." Glorfindel spoke from behind them.

"True." Elrond would never forget the battle that they had experienced with Legolas over his spider wound and subsequent massive infection. It was the only way that they could bear to think of the implantation of the spider within him, as a wound. They had come so close to losing Legolas once and for all that time.

"I just hope that this is not one of those times. We do not yet know the reason for this unexpected visit." Glorfindel warned them.

Elrond shook his head at the reminder. The last thing he wanted to think of was a major problem in Mirkwood. He could only hope that Thranduil was alright. But for now he had to concentrate on the Prince.

He put his efforts into removing Legolas' tunic with the help of Talleth. Glorfindel seemed to be reluctant to leave the door and come further into the chamber.

"There is a problem?" Elrond asked.

"Your sons were trying to get in to see Legolas. I do not think that the guards that I set will keep them out for much longer. They are terrified about Legolas." Glorfindel had not taken his eyes off of the Prince.

"They are not the only ones. He has a nasty thigh wound, an artery was cut and he lost a lot of blood." Elrond explained as he removed Legolas' tattered shirt.

The taut abdomen was unscarred apart from the one wound that they were aware of. That one was only minor thank Estë. But he could still see the white scar from the spider episode. Would that ever fade or heal? Legolas had been touched by great evil but it should have truly healed by this point. It was after all over three years ago and not just last year.

"He still bears the scar." Nestoron's voice was quiet.

"Aye, it would seem so." Elrond agreed.

"I wonder if Thranduil's has healed." Gailarphen spoke up from where he was suturing Legolas head.

"That is a very valid point. I will have to ask." Elrond looked up. "How soon before you are finished? I would like to check Legolas' back."

Elrond had learned long ago that if he wanted to know the true state of Legolas' health he would have to strip him and look him over inch by inch. There had been too many hidden injuries in the past to leave it alone.

"Just one more stitch and I am finished here, it is quite a gash." Gailarphen was already beginning the stitch.

"How many? Estel will want to know. His last head wound took eight to close it." Glorfindel tried to lighten the tense atmosphere.

"Twelve, I cannot believe that they still continue that game!" Gailarphen answered, shaking his head slightly.

This little game started when Estel was yet a teenager, when they would try to out-do each other with their wounds. It had never stopped, to Elrond's consternation.

"I doubt they will ever stop it. I swear that they go out of their way to find danger. It is a wonder I am not grey-haired. In fact it is a wonder I have not torn my hair out in exasperation!"

"You would not wish it anyway!" Glorfindel scolded him with a small grim grin. They had spoken about this before. "You never know which of them will carry the other home half-dead!"

Elrond shuddered at the thought. It was indeed a regular thing for the two friends to do.

"I wonder what Estel will say to that? Legolas has beaten him by three this time, and that is just the head wound. I dread to think what number you have put into his leg." Gailarphen commented as he wiped the head wound once more before straightening.

"He will say that the wound does not count as I did not count!" Elrond huffed in annoyance.

"That will not keep them from arguing over the fact though." Talleth told them wisely.

"You are all-too-correct in that assumption, mellon-nin. But for now, we need to turn him. Glorfindel, may I have your help as well, it will take all of us to carefully turn him."

Glorfindel nodded and joined them at the Prince's side.

Between them, they prepared to turn the limp Prince, careful to make certain that they did not disturb the damaged leg.

Their concentration was such that none of then noticed the door swing openly silently and a figure creep in, his head held low as he closed the door surreptitiously behind him.

"You think there may be other wounds?" Talleth asked as they worked together.

"If I know Legolas, yes." Elrond's voice held surety.

"How is Legolas?" The figure finally looked up to reveal black hair and grey eyes. He looked like a much younger version of Elrond.

"Elladan! How did you get in here?" Glorfindel asked.

"We wanted to see how Legolas was, but the guards would not let us in." Elladan admitted.

"So, how did you get in?" Elrond raised his eyebrow before returning to checking Legolas over. There were newly-healed scars on the thin back, Legolas was always thin and never seemed to gain weight, no matter how much food they tried to force into him. But the scars themselves were worrying, even if they were healed. It looked as if Legolas had been whipped.

"Elrohir and Estel distracted the guards so that I could slip by." Elladan admitted sheepishly.

"I see. I will be having words with them about this!" Glorfindel really was not impressed with this. The guards should know better, as should the sons of Elrond.

"We can deal with this later on." Elrond told him. Glorfindel did not miss the 'we'. "But for now we need to see to Legolas. Elladan, are any of the Mirkwood contingent awake out there?" There was a serious tone in his voice.

"Rithlin, although he is still being treated. Why?" Elladan had straightened unconsciously when Elrond spoke.

"I need you to go and ask him if Legolas has suffered a back injury recently and ask about these scars on his back. If necessary, he has my permission to come into the inner sanctum, your brothers as well, since I doubt that we can stop you, although we will have that discussion. Am I clear?" Elrond quirked an eyebrow at him, but his lips were thin with displeasure.

"Very clear, Ada. I am sorry. I will do as you ask." Elladan turned to the door, an anxious look at Legolas the only sign of his worry as he went.

"What is wrong?" It was, unsurprisingly, Master Healer Nestoron who asked. He too had suffered a very serious back injury in the past. He knew how debilitating they could be.

"I have found a hard lump that should not be there." Elrond knew how they would take this news. Hard lumps and Legolas would never be treated lightly again. That was how the entire spider episode had started.

Glorfindel shuddered at his friend's words. The memory alone was enough to make him feel ill.

Estel and Elrohir burst into the chamber and moved straight for them as Elladan hurried from the chamber. The guards had done their best to stop them, but Elladan waved them off. "Hard lump! Where, Ada, his abdomen? I will kill him!"

"No, relax, it is his back. I have sent Elladan to get Rithlin as Bremoline is still unconscious." Elrond was still examining the scarred back, following the play of the spine with his fingers for any clue as to what was going on.

"Thank the Valar!" Estel moved to Legolas' head and gently stroked the wet hair. Gailarphen had done his best to quickly remove the dried blood, but some still remained in the blond mane. "He looks so pale."

Elrond tilted his head. "Legolas has lost a lot of blood. Elrohir, can you ready a chair so Rithlin can sit down when he gets here? The last thing he needs is another injury that can be prevented."

"Of course, Ada. Is there anything else I can do?" Elrohir pulled a chair into place beside the bed.

"Some hot tea may be good for him, with plenty of sweetener, I am sure that he is shocked." Elrond had no doubt of that, especially since he was injured.

"Of course." Elrohir went to the preparation area where hot water and provisions were kept in the chamber for just such a need.

As he poured the water, Elladan returned, assisting a pale and heavily limping Rithlin.

"You have some questions for me, Hir-nin?" There were pain lines visible on his face.

"Yes, sit Rithlin, saes." Elrond finished his examination and gestured for them to roll Legolas gently back. He then looked up at Rithlin. "You have been seen to?"

"Aye, Hir nin."

"It is Elrond, as well you know." Elrond gave a reassuring smile.

"Of course, Elrond." There was that cheeky smile that they all knew so well. "I have been treated. What do you need of me?"

"You can tell me what you are doing here and what has happened to Legolas." Elrond did not beat about the bush.

"Of course, Elrond, Aran Thranduil knew that you would ask." Rithlin sighed.

"I am sure of that." Elrond grinned. He knew his old friend too well, especially where his only son was concerned.

"Legolas took out a regular patrol two months ago and they were attacked by spiders and orcs. They have taken to working together recently, vile creatures both of them. I lost some good friends that day and we almost lost Legolas once more. They are targeting him. I saw it myself when they attacked. They went straight for him." Rithlin began to explain.

"They attacked your group to get to Legolas?" Elrond wanted to confirm.

"Aye, that is why we were on our way here. Thranduil wanted him out of harm's way." Rithlin affirmed. "He was worried that Legolas' injuries would prevent him from fighting, from defending himself, if he stayed in Mirkwood."

"Injuries?" Elrond prompted him.

"Defending himself?" Estel's question came at the same time.

"Yes, to both questions, Legolas was even attacked in the healing wing. Doroniel and Calandor were both injured while protecting Legolas. So we were sent to bring him here. A messenger was sent ahead, but I assume that he did not make it?" Rithlin was saddened by that realization.

"Have this, mellon-nin." Elrohir handed Rithlin the goblet of plain sweet tea. He did not want to add any herbs, in case he had already had them. "It is warm and sweet and holds nothing more than tea."

"Hennad, Elrohir. That is most welcome." Rithlin accepted the goblet.

Elrond shook his head. A worried frown creased his brow. "No messenger has come from Mirkwood. I am sorry. How did Legolas get the wounds to his back, and what is this lump?" He needed that answer more than anything.

"When he was found, Legolas had fallen, or rather had been thrown from a height by the orc leader. The fall injured his back. Mealena kept him still for two weeks until he was certain that there was no lasting damage. Mealena assures us that the lump will go eventually, something about a collection of fluid that had affected the feeling in his legs. It frightened us greatly that for the first few days Legolas could not feel his legs." There was still a hint of fear and a lot of worry in the archer and healer's voice.

"That would have been frightening." Elrond murmured and the others agreed, aghast. Nestoron had gone white when he heard this, it was too much like his own experience, but then he relaxed slightly as he realised that the feeling in Legolas' legs must have returned. "How did Legolas and Thranduil take this?"

"They were justifiably terrified and then relieved as the feeling came back. He still has some loss of sensation. We were instructed to bring him here and make certain that he got here safely. I fear we failed in that duty." Rithlin was greatly upset at that salient point.

"You are not to blame for that. These are dangerous times, Sauron's…" Glorfindel began.

"Sauron's power is once more growing, trust me, we know." Rithlin closed his eyes as sudden dizziness assailed him.

"What has happened?" Elrond's voice was sharp.

"Dol Guldur is occupied once more." Rithlin's succinct reply was given in a hollow tone.

A gasp rang out in the chamber as the true extent of what had been said sunk in.

"By whom?" Glorfindel asked. He watched as Elrond changed the stained water and crushed fresh athelas. The fresh smell filled the air and lifted all their spirits.

"Wraiths, Úlairë, whatever you wish to call the foul creatures, and orcs, plenty of orcs. Even the spider population seems to have exploded in size and strength. We had to double our patrols to keep our people safe. That is another reason why we are here. Legolas was given a missive for you and Rochon carried one to Lothlórien." Rithlin stopped to sip the sweetened tea and he sighed at its welcome warmth.

"What can we do?" Elrond was more than aware that his Woodland kin had more pride than any of the other Elven Realms, they had to. They were not protected by a Ring of Power like Imladris and Lothlórien. That it had not fallen to the threatening darkness was a testament to the strength of their resistance and determination.

"We have need of aid, Hir Elrond, healers, warriors and supplies. Thranduil and Legolas would not ask but…" Rithlin stopped and bit at his lower lip. "We are struggling greatly in the fight at present."

"You have our aid. I will send to you all that I can, as I am sure that Galadriel and Celeborn will." Glorfindel nodded his agreement at Elrond's words.

"Hannon le, Hir Elrond, it will be accepted gratefully." Rithlin's voice was soft with relief.

"I know and we are pleased to offer that aide. Mirkwood has aided us when we needed it." Elrond smiled at him and then grew serious. "What about these scars on Legolas' back?" Elrond searched Legolas' legs and arms for wounds as he spoke.

"They were from the ill-treatment he received from the orcs. Some of them were so deep they had to be sutured." Rithlin shuddered at the memory.

Estel gently spoke to Legolas, despite the fact that he was unconscious. It had been drummed into them that the unconscious mind could still hear and understand. Hearing was also the last of the senses to truly go. So, if he could help Legolas by speaking to him, then he would.

"Hence the scarring." Elrond moved on to Legolas' right leg and found a deep wound on his calf. "This will need suturing as well. How is his head injury?" It worried Elrond that Legolas had shown no signs of returning consciousness.

"He seems to be stable. His pulse is a little fast though." Gailarphen told him from where he stood by the Prince' left side.

"Good, but a faster heart-beat is to be expected. I will deal with this." Elrond gestured to the leg.

"His fever is rising though. We need to observe him closely." Gailarphen warned.

"Aye." Elrond agreed to that as well. "A tea for the fever, Glorfindel?"

The Balrog Slayer nodded and walked to the herb table.

O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Elrond had almost finished when Legolas groaned. Hopefully, this heralded a return to consciousness for the Prince.

He was wrong. Legolas moaned again, deeper, seemingly in distress. He then mumbled. "Orc! Why an orc here? Estel?" He tossed his head as if looking for something, or someone.

"Sîdh, mellon-nin, you are in Imladris and we are helping you. Relax, you are safe." Estel tried to reassure his friend, but the sound of his voice only seemed to distress Legolas even more.

"Why should I trust an orc?" Legolas was still tossing his head and looking around, in search of what, they knew not.

"There is no orc here, penneth." Glorfindel tried to help as well and Elladan hurried to see if he could aid the young prince that they had come to love as their own blood-kin. He smiled encouragement at Estel and nodded him on.

"You all made it, Legolas. No one died." Estel told him seriously. He knew Legolas would worry about his escort.

O-o-o-o-o-o-o

He was in a clearing in the forest and he heard only the calling of the birds and the quiet murmur of the trees as they swayed in the slight summer wind.

He thought this would be the perfect place to spend the night. He went about gathering the bracken and deadwood that he could use as a small fire to both cook and keep the predators of the forest at bay.

As he bent, a sudden sharp pain filled him and took his breath away. It was gone a minute later and puzzled him. He was uninjured, after all.

He straightened, fully expecting the pain to return and he was pleased when it did not.

He looked around once, but then continued to prepare his dinner. He had shot some rabbits on the ride earlier and they would be good roasted.

Late afternoon faded into evening and he prepared himself for the night to come, keeping his bow, quiver of arrows, and his two knives nearby.

After the bright crescent of Ithil had risen in the night sky and the stars shone brightly, he settled on his bedding and prepared to sleep.

The snap of a twig woke him some time later and he realised that he had a thumping headache, something he rarely suffered, but he shrugged the thought to one side as he stood and gathered up his weapons to retreat into a tree to watch.

Finally, a lone orc wandered into the clearing and Legolas raised his ready bow. There would soon be one less orc to plague Middle-earth.

"Legolas, can you hear me?" The orc suddenly spoke and Legolas let the point of the arrow drop as he gaped. Why in the name of the Valar did it speak with Estel's voice?

The orc spoke again. "I know you cannot answer, mellon-nin, but you are in Imladris. We are taking care of you."

Legolas slipped silently from the tree and came to rest on the ground facing the orc.

"I am here to help you Legolas. To help you find your way back." The orc settled by the fire.

"Why would I need an orc's assistance?" There was a disbelieving sneer in Legolas' voice.

"Because, I am no ordinary orc. I am a creature that you have produced. Anything you wish I will become. Think of an item of clothing that you would wish for me to wear." It instructed Legolas.

Legolas frowned and then thought back to the Edain troop of entertainers that once had stopped in Mirkwood and had presented his father with a viewing of their production. It was a dance, one that none of them, except Mithrandir, had ever seen before.

They had all worn long stockings on their legs and the women had worn unusual skirts made of a light net-like material.

With a smile Legolas looked at the orc and suddenly the orc was wearing a short, bright-pink skirt with white lace underskirts and stockings, though it still wore the clumpy boots that the orcs favoured. It was such an unusual sight that Legolas laughed aloud.

O-o-o-o-o-o-o

"How is Bremoline?" Elrond's voice was soft as he spoke to Gailarphen.

"He will recover well. I had thought that his head injury was the worse of the two, but now?" Gailarphen shook his head.

"They will both recover, I am sure of it, although we really need to keep a close eye on both of them. I would rather not have any nasty shocks at this point in time. Legolas will need to have more of the antidote for the poison. He has been given the first dose." Elrond told him.

"I will see to the second. The fever is not helping his delusions. The head injury alone would not have helped, but the blood loss and poison on top?" Gailarphen shook his head.

"We need to inform Thranduil." Elrond hated this particular job.

"That I will leave in your capable hands, mellon-nin." Gailarphen was pleased that he did not have to see to that particular duty.

That earned him a sharp look from Elrond that soon softened as he saw the sincerity there.

"Pink… skirt?" Legolas sounded highly amused and then, to their surprise, Legolas laughed aloud.

Estel froze and then looked up, startled, to meet the others' stunned silence.

"Estel? Skirt?" Legolas was now quietly laughing rather than the mild hysteria of the moment before.

"What in Elbereth's name is he seeing?" Elrohir was as shocked as the others.

"Only Legolas can tell that. I must ask you all, every one of you, that this is no longer spoken of and that Legolas is not made aware of what has happened. Imagine yourself in his position. It would be highly embarrassing for you to hear what you had said when you were unaware." Elrond could well imagine how he would feel. He had heard many embarrassing ravings from fevered patients in his life.

"I agree, Ada. Legolas need never know we were here. Our lips are sealed, is that not right?" Elladan turned to look at his brothers, who nodded their agreement.

"Hannon le." Elrond gazed proudly at his sons.

"We would never willingly do anything to harm Legolas. He is our heart-brother." Elrohir was just as serious as his father.

"I know. I am very proud of all of you." Elrond smiled at the pleased looks that brought to their faces.

"Hennad, Ada. What can we do to aid Legolas? Tell us and we will see that it is done." Elladan glanced worriedly at Legolas.

Legolas stopped laughing and again moved his head as if he was either looking for something or indeed watching something move and talk.

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

"Do you believe me now, mellon-nin?" The orc did not seem perturbed to be wearing a bright pink skirt.

"Yes, I do. But why are you here?" Legolas could not deny what he saw.

"I told you. I am here to lead you out of here, all you have to do is trust me." The orc seemed to be serious as he spoke.

"Trust… you?" Legolas gaped at him. The orc may have Estel's voice, but it was not his friend.

"Yes, trust me. You must trust me fully and I will guide you from this place, back to your friends." The orc seemed quite persuasive.

For one second, Legolas faltered…

O-o-o-o-o-o-o

"Why should I trust you?" Legolas was having a conversation with no one. Nothing they did could get him to respond to them. To say they were worried would be an understatement.

"Ada?" There was fear in Estel's face as he looked at his father. They could not wake Legolas at all.

"It is a mixture, Estel, of blood loss, poison and head injury. It is taking its toll on Legolas. Once the fever and poison have broken and cleared, I think he will recover." Elrond tried to put all the reassurance he could into his voice.

"You think so?" Estel desperately wanted to believe that.

"I think so." Elrond had to keep their hope up, even if he was not so sure himself.

"You think so?" Elladan sounded incredulous at his father's words. He had never heard his father say that before about any medical matter.

"Yes, I think so. What do you want me to say? If I say with certainty that Legolas will live and he dies…" Elrond could only shake his head. In this case he really was not sure and did not want to promise something that could not be truthful.

"He may die?" Estel's voice was small and full of fear.

"It is a possibility, penneth, but I will do all I can to prevent that." Elrond made that promise with certainty. He would not let Legolas go without a huge fight. He owed it to both Thranduil and Legolas. They had all been through so much together in the past.

"I know, Ada. We all know." Elrohir tried to smile, even though it did not reach his bleak eyes.

"Then we are agreed that we fight for Legolas?" Glorfindel still stood beside Legolas, one hand on the Prince's shoulder.

"Was that ever in doubt" Elrond asked as Rithlin moved to protest.

"Nay, it was not." Glorfindel was adamant.

Rithlin settled back at that declaration. He would have made them fight for his friend, if only he did not feel so dizzy and ill…

"Good, if anyone doubts that, then they should leave this chamber and not return. Legolas needs friends who support him, not those who expect to see him fail." Elrond waited to see if anyone moved.

Not one of them twitched, apart from Estel, who was still trying to soothe his friend.

"Good, I am glad that we have that sorted out. I want you to listen and heed my orders." He looked at each in turn. They nodded at this and he continued.

"Estel, your sole duty is to keep speaking to Legolas. Try to get him to respond." Estel nodded and carried on with his appointed task. "Elrohir, I want you to make sure that we have all the herbs crushed and ready as they are needed, also that we have plenty of water at all times. I do not know what I will need until the need arises. We may not have the time to prepare them then." Elrond's voice was grim.

"Of course, Ada." Elrohir's mind was already thinking ahead to what they may need as he moved to the herb table.

"Hennad, ion-nin." Elrond turned to his eldest son. "Elladan, I want you to help Gailarphen look after Bremoline and Rithlin. They will be staying here for the time being. It would be cruel to move Rithlin now."

Rithlin tried to relax. "Hannon le, Elrond." There was relief in his voice, at least he would not be made to move, and he did not think he really could right now. Now that he had seen his Prince, he did not want to leave.

"You are welcome, but there is one condition." Elrond was taking Legolas' pulse.

"What is that?" There was worry and trepidation in Rithlin's voice.

"You must let Gailarphen and Elladan take a good look at you." Elrond was aware that Rithlin was not as well as he wanted them to think. He was sure that the archer was dizzy.

Rithlin rolled his eyes at this, but it was a small price to pay for staying with Legolas, it would aid his report to Thranduil.

"As you wish, Hir nin." He kept his voice neutral.

"I do so wish. Hennad, for humouring an old elf." That comment earned him a snort of laughter from Glorfindel. He turned to the blond warrior. "Glorfindel, I want you to set guards around the healing ward so that we can keep Legolas and the others safe. I will know if anything enters Imladris, but one can never be too careful, not where this penneth is concerned."

"I agree and I rather imagine that where Legolas goes, trouble will follow. Thranduil may have considered that in his desire to send Legolas here. He is very well-protected here." Glorfindel knew that Thranduil was content with knowing that Legolas would be protected by Vilya and all his friends. He knew that their friends in Imladris would protect him to the death and beyond, if that horror became necessary.

"Yes, he is, but I want just that little more." It worried Elrond that the orcs had managed to get into Legolas' well-protected chamber. It had to be via that blasted tree over his balcony. Soon, hopefully, Legolas would realise that it was an invitation to any trouble. But that would probably be the day he left Middle-earth, and knowing Legolas as he did, he would probably try and take the blasted thing with him.

The thought of Legolas leaving Middle-earth any time soon, in any shape or form, made Elrond physically shudder.

Glorfindel nodded. "I will see to that. I promise by all the Valar that I will die rather than let anything harm Legolas." It was a mighty vow, but it was sincere. It was not a vow to be taken lightly.

"I know, mellon-nin, I know. Hennad, you know that Thranduil would thank you as well if he was here. I wish he was here." There was a wistful sound to Elrond's voice.

"Knowing Thranduil as I do, I expect that he will be on his way here as soon as he can." There was a knowing grin on Glorfindel's visage.

"He hinted as much." Rithlin's voice sounded pained and Elrond frowned. He did not sound good.

"He did?" Glorfindel's smile widened. "I am not surprised."

Even for father and son, Legolas and Thranduil were unusually close. The loss of Minerella and their subsequent adventures in Fornost had forged that link, the fact that they had arguments notwithstanding. They were too alike in temperament for it not to happen.

"Me neither." Elrond agreed, still watching Rithlin. "Still, it would be good if he were here now."

"Legolas has us, Ada. We will help him. He is our brother." Elrohir looked up from where he was preparing the herbs and roots.

"We are lucky to have him." Elladan agreed. Every one of them in the chamber had had their lives saved at some time by Legolas' skill with both knife and bow.

Glorfindel could recall the first time he had seen Legolas shoot a bow. He had been a small elfling of around twenty-five years old. His skill even then was awe-inspiring.

"Yes we are, although I think he would argue the same about us. Rithlin, if you make one move from that chair I will order you tied to the bed next to Legolas." Elrond was worried at just how pale the other elf had become.

"I am well." Rithlin tried to wave him off. It failed, miserably.

"You really expect me to believe that?" Elrond raised his famous eyebrow at him. "I never believe it when a Mirkwood elf says that, not even Thranduil."

"But I am…"

"Going to be tied to the bed, if you continue that sentence. The last thing you are, penneth, is fine. Let us help you. We will keep you here, near Legolas."

"I… do hurt." Rithlin admitted reluctantly.

"Where?" Gailarphen was there in an instant, already reaching to examine the archer.

"Leg… and chest." Rithlin would not meet his eyes.

"Chest!" Gailarphen asked, the report had said nothing about a chest wound.

"I did not tell them. It did not seem that bad at the time." Rithlin rubbed his chest gently.

"You still should have told us. We cannot help you if you hide things from us. We have had this discussion before. What would Palanwen say?" Gailarphen was undoing Rithlin's outer tunic.

"She would have my head, but she is not here and need never know." Rithlin closed his eyes against the dizziness. It seemed to be getting worse and he was having a little trouble drawing breath.

"You plan not to tell her?" Gailarphen sounded stunned at that little revelation.

"She is in the middle of preparations for our bonding ceremony. The last thing she needs is to be worried about me." Rithlin hated that he sounded so breathless.

"We will talk about this later when you are feeling better, for now just rest, no more talking." Gailarphen removed the inner tunic to reveal a huge bruise that covered almost all of the right side of Rithlin's chest. "That must be painful, you should have told us."

Rithlin just shook his head, gently, not wanting to aggravate the dizziness that kept coming over him.

"I will see to this, rest. I will make some tea for the pain." Gailarphen was already gently palpating the area.

"I will see to that, Gailarphen." Elrohir had in fact thought ahead and had already had the goblet of tea ready for the healer. He held it out with a worried smile.

"Hennad, Elrohir, this will help him." Gailarphen took the goblet and solemnly handed it to Rithlin. "I think that Faelien and you will be having words later. She will not be happy that you kept this and your leg from her."

Nestoron laughed from where he was monitoring Legolas with Elrond, the two of them working together with an ease of long practice.

"Rather you than me, mellon-nin. I would not cross her in the mood she will be in." He could only shake his head. Faelien may be dainty as all elleth were but she packed such spirit that it was frightening.

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

The orc seemed to sense Legolas' one moment of weakness and pressed forward.

"Do you trust me, mellon-nin? I am your old friend, after all." The dark eyes seemed to sparkle for a second and Legolas was not sure what it was that he was seeing.

He faltered once more, but this time it was with uncertainty.

"I do not trust orcs, even if you do sound like Estel."

Suddenly the pain in his stomach became worse and he bent double, unable to breath.

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

Legolas still spoke to something that they could neither see nor hear. It was beginning to worry them all.

Much of the time, his words were unintelligible. His fever was rising rapidly. If this carried on they would need to wash him down with tepid water to lower the fever.

Elrond reached out to check his pulse and stopped as Legolas spoke clearly.

"I do not trust orcs, even if you do sound like Estel."

Then Legolas gasped and his back arched as a sudden rigor shook his body…

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

To be continued