Title: 'Bridges'

Author: freeflow

Rating: T

Disclaimer, A/N, Summary: See Chapter 1

Hmm, just noticed that I'm using what is considered to be an outdated elvish word here; forgive me, I started this fic a loooooong time ago and really leapt into it with both feet, without giving much thought to research or accuracy. Although, in my defence, I did have a valid reason for choosing to use it – I just lost interest in that plotline mid-way through the fic and am still debating whether or not to work it in somewhere. So excuse the 'amme' usage, and sorry if it detracts from the story at all. I hope it doesn't – but at the very least, it does show that continuity is still a primary aim in my story! (Hee...)

Because you've waited for so long, and I feel guilty, you're getting a double dose of fic! And because I've missed these characters more than I'd realized…

Chapter 22

Legolas could not remember ever being quite so confused as he was right now.

It had been a difficult day.

First, they had still been with the men. That was horrid. Then, they'd been locked in some dingy, dusty cellar with hardly any light and no food and then the men had come and shouted at each other, and then they had gone and left a woman crying outside their door.

Legolas didn't know if men cried a lot, but if his Amme had ever cried, then he would have felt terrible. That was just one more reason to dislike these creatures, as far as he was concerned. They let their women-folk cry, and that would always be wrong in Legolas's eyes.

Then, Glorfindel had turned up, but he'd only been able to rescue Elladan, and Legolas didn't know how he felt about that, exactly.

He had been pleased to see his new friend, of course, even if he did look slightly the worse-for-wear. And he was glad that Dan was feeling better, too. At least, as far as he knew, from what Elrohir had told him. But they'd had to stay behind, and he didn't much like that. Not one bit.

But then, everything had happened too fast. And he knew that he'd sworn with Ro to be brave and make his Ada proud, but the men had scared him, and hurt him, picking him and Ro up like sacks of flour and carrying them about, and then his man was shot, and he'd felt excited but still scared, and then the leader man had grabbed him.

Legolas hated him.

He hated his stupid hair and his horrid voice and his rope-like arms that had dug into his chest when he'd tried to wriggle free. He hated that they'd hurt Ro and he couldn't do anything to stop them, and then, more than anything else, he hated that the leader man was the only thing stopping him from running to his Ada as fast as he'd ever run in his life.

Then, just as suddenly, he stopped hating him.

For his Ada was speaking in that same, ugly language, and had that look in his eye that meant either a very long spell in his dungeons, or a short, sharp meeting with the blade of his sword.

And so then, Legolas pitied the man.

Because his Ada wouldn't let the leader man hurt them anymore. And he'd teach him a lesson for all the bad things he'd done, and he'd have him tell him in his man-language that it was wrong to steal people and hurt their friends and make the trees scream and make ladies cry and, and, and-

And then, all of a sudden, he was in his Ada's arms, and he didn't care about that man or any other man anymore. And he was crying.

Now that was not supposed to happen.

But his Ada was there, after what had seemed like forever, and he could hear the trees again, and they were singing for them, singing with joy. And Legolas felt sudden relief.

Not just to be away from their captors – although he was perfectly fine with that, thank you very much – but he realised with sudden clarity that he hadn't felt content since that night in the woods, when he had awoken from that strange, odd dream, and had wanted his Ada. He hadn't known it, he thought, but he had been ignoring that sense of, of something, that had assaulted him on that trip to Imladris.

Not that he had any powers of foresight. Legolas knew his strengths, and they lay solely in creeping, pouncing and tree-talking. And someday, when I'm the greatest archer in all of Arda, shooting too, I suppose!

But that vague sense of events in the near future could quite easily have slipped in to his dreams. The trees which helped him rest easily beneath their boughs caught inklings of things to come, reading the air and earth as easily as an elf did Sindarin. Whispers of foreboding may well have trickled on to the path of elven dreams and since that night, Legolas had felt a disturbance, an unnamable inevitability that had pervaded all of the fun times he and the twins had shared.

Creeping and sneaking and stalking Glorfindel had all been underscored by the itch between his shoulder blades which had smacked of unease.

Until now.

Because now he knew what the trees had known, had lived through all that they feared. And whilst he had not enjoyed this adventure at all, he knew for certain that this time, in this instant, that they were safe. They'd all be alright, now.

Until his father froze, and raised his face away from where it had been pressed snugly against his own.

Until the Lady Celebrian paused in her attack on the leader man, and fell to her knees.

Until Lord Celeborn drew his sword from its place at his side, and began striding towards the village, raising his arm as he spun.

Until more elves than he had known existed seemed to melt from the tree-line, and began stalking towards them with pure hatred in their posture and eyes.

And now, Legolas was even more confused.

He was tired of it.

Wrapping fingers around one of his father's braids, he nudged the chin in front of him with his forehead.

'Ada?'

The only response was a tighter hold and one of his father's hands coming to rest on the back of his head, stroking down his tangled hair and returning to lie against his neck, keeping him close.

Legolas liked that. He really did; it reminded him of home and of night-time snuggles before bed. But now was not the time.

'Ada.'

But his father was turning to speak to the man on the floor again, angry and trembling.

The leader man was silent, and had an empty look in his eye. Legolas didn't care. He had more important things to worry about.

'Ada, why is everyone going in to the village?'

When it came, the reply was almost an afterthought.

'Ssh, Greenleaf. There is naught for you to trouble yourself over, everything is fine.'

The gentle rocking motion had been soothing before, but now it had begun to irritate the smallest prince of the Greenwood.

'Ada! Why are you still shaking? And where is Lord Celeborn going?'

He couldn't help it; his Ada was doing that adult thing again where he would ignore children when he thought they would only be getting in the way.

Legolas had had enough of being something to exchange, an object to be bartered or stolen or trapped. He was going to be heard, and he was going to be heard right now.

Pulling on the braid in his hand, he squirmed with an almighty push, and dropped to the ground. He could see the fear in his father's eyes as he took a step back, away from his outstretched arms, but he would not stop now.

It was time to make a stand.

He stomped one foot in to the grass and crossed his arms over his chest.

'Ada, no! Tell me where everyone is going and tell me what the leader man said to make you so mad! I am not a silly elfling who doesn't know when something is important, and I want to know - now!'

Eyebrows rising in surprise, King Thranduil stepped back and acknowledged the determination in his child's face. He knew where that came from, and whilst stubbornness had been his family's trait for the last few ages, such steadfast righteousness was a resounding example of his late wife's line.

How he had loved her for it. And how he thanked her for passing it to their son.

''Tis Elladan, my Greenleaf. This wretch said that he is… that he is, well, gone, and the Lord Celeborn will not accept that. He is, I suspect, going to tear that village to pieces to find his grandchild.'

Legolas's eyes opened wide.

'But he isn't there, Ada. Glorfindel came and took him away, rescued him from the cellar.'

A sob emanated from behind them, and they both turned to see Lady Celebrian fall against her husband, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Legolas almost flinched as Lord Elrond met his gaze, need and hope blazing from him.

'Glorfindel? He has Elladan?'

Legolas felt his father move to stand by him, and this time, he did not move away. He nodded his head and forced himself to straighten up, meeting the elf lord's stare, not noticing as his hand wrapped itself once more in the hem of his father's tunic.

'Yes, Lord Elrond. Glorfy came and tried to get us all out, but Elladan was hurt and he needed to go first and by the time we'd wrapped him up and he was saved, the men came and stopped us. But Ro said he feels better now, not jagged like before, so Glorfy must be making him well.'

Legolas felt the soft palm of his father's hand skim over his head and he looked up.

'We tried to make you proud, Ada, me and Ro both. We tried to stay brave when the men came, but it was hard and the walls were dead and cold and we were hungry, you know!'

He didn't mind it so much, now. When his Ada swooped down and wrapped him tight in his arms, this time, Legolas just laid his head against the broad shoulder and sighed.

Sometimes, it was difficult to be an almost-nearly-warrior. And things certainly did get confusing when everyone was speaking in horrid man-tongue and believing what leader-man had to say. But some things, at least, stayed quite simple.

'I love you, my Greenleaf.'

Mm-hmm. Some things Legolas knew without ever having to ask.

There was fear in the eyes of each of the humans before him, fear such as he had not seen for an era. He knew the wrath in his face was telling, that the scores of elven warriors ghosting behind him on deadly, silent feet was forcing home a bitter inevitability to the men scattered behind wattle and daub outbuildings, aiming trembling bolts and shaking arrows.

He knew that he should feel some inherent sorrow that it had come to this.

But he could not.

He would not, so long as the son of his daughter remained within this deadened village, hidden by stone and mud and the bones of these mortal creatures' ancestors.

Elladan did not belong here, should never have been here, would not stay-

His rapid breaths tore from his heaving chest and he could take no more.

He knew what Galadriel would have said. She would have chided him for his impetuosity, calmed him with a golden word, then turned her bewitching charms on the peons he now faced. And they would have crumbled at the fearsome sight of her rage, in utter gratitude of her mercy, in mortified horror at the truth in her endless eyes.

But he had no such innate wonders at his disposal. And for the first time in a long while, he felt as hot-blooded and vicious as those he confronted. Galadriel was not here.

Celeborn was.

The dagger that whipped from his belt flew by the cowering faces of two of the men cringing behind a water barrel and thunked to a juddering halt in the upright support of the roof of the well.

Whilst it would have taken elven eyes to note the individual hairs that drifted down from the petrified heads, Celeborn was in no doubt as to the humans' acknowledgement of his intent. The silence alone told him as much.

'Two of our children have been returned to us. We are still waiting for the third to be brought out. My patience has ended. Your leader is finished; this foolishness is done with. Return the child or this village will be returned to the dust it was built from. All restraint is gone from my being and by the Valar, should my daughter's son be harmed in any way, the right of vengeance I shall claim. And know this; the blood spilled of my blood shall be returned tenfold amongst your own.'

The eyes grew wider and Celeborn could feel the solid line of elves waiting, steadfast and terrible at his back.

Yet still, none of them moved.

Spitting on the grass before him, he felt his lip curl into a snarl reserved only for those he considered beneath contempt. Never amongst his own kind would he have needed to repeat himself. Surely they could read the honesty in his words, even shrouded in fury as they were? Surely they recognised an endgame when they saw it?

He took a step forward and growled.

'He is gone! We do not have him!'

His head snapped to one side, fixing his gaze upon the unfortunate who had spoken.

'Gone. Where.'

He would not accept the increasingly, sickeningly obvious answer. He would not hear it, and so help him, should this human utter it…

'Gone! We don't know where, wherever you lot take your kin when they're hurt, I s'pose - up a tree, into a magic forest, I don't know - just not here, alright? He was 'ere with the others, then-'

The metal which appeared at the quivering white throat probably did not help the clarity of the man's words, but it certainly improved Celeborn's rapidly darkening state of mind.

'You think this a jest, human? You would mock me and mine on a day such as this, when your very existence has come to offend me so? You play a risky game indeed, sir, when the advantage lies largely with myself and my well-polished blade.'

The squeak was as music to the elf lord's ears.

'He took 'im, the crazed elf with the gold 'air! He came and took 'im right from under us, I swear it, he took the little elf and scarpered back into your haunted forest! S'true, I swear on my father, my father's father and 'is before 'im, I swear it so please don't chop off my head, sir, I swear it, we don't 'ave your littl'un anymore!'

Lowered eyebrows - the only outward sign of Celeborn's thoughts - must not have translated well, as he suddenly caught the bitter tang of salt on the air. Glancing at the man's clothing, Celeborn took a slight step back, edging his boots away from the growing puddle on the ground between them.

He looked again at the man before him, and this time, truly saw.

A boy, just a boy. One who has probably lived only a few summers more than my own grandchildren, but forced to age before his time, even for a mortal. He shook his head and lowered his blade, anger frothing in his belly but no longer fueling his actions. 'And here I stand, threatening the child of another. This is a miserable day indeed.'

Glancing back at the gathered elven warriors behind him, he stretched out a hand, palm down, gentling the fury in each set of hardened eyes.

'Nay, my friends, I do not believe that our strength is warranted on this field of battle. Return to our woods and spread out; the Lord Glorfindel should be close by and carrying Lord Elladan. I would reunite my grandson with his parents as swiftly as possible.'

As proud as Celeborn had long been of his people, never had he more cause for it than in that instant, where loving rage turned to dedicated loyalty, where hesitation was not seen in any individual, where each of those that he commanded melted back into muted pacifism, but with all the speed and intensity of a mother wolf hunting a missing cub.

He turned back to the man he had tormented. 'Go, boy, clean yourself up. It was never my intention to humiliate you, only to find my daughter's children.' He watched with a growing relief in his heart as the man backed away, scuttling into the nearest doorway but making no effort to go any further. The elf lord shrugged mentally. It was of no interest to him if these humans chose to live in filth; he had that which he had come for, and was, as of this moment, finished with this village.

The sooner he could see both of his grandsons, together, hale and whole, the sooner they could put this entire sorry affair behind them. It made him infinitely grateful that Imladris was not his realm – honestly, he had no idea how Elrond could bear the tribulations of races such as these. Shrugging his shoulders physically this time, he began the walk back to his family.

Must be his half-blood heritage, Celeborn mused. Although I certainly hope that the twins have inherited no such 'gifts' from their father's side. They find enough trouble as it is without embroiling themselves in other people's problems!

Yet even as the thought flickered through his mind, he could hear and feel a gold-tinted chuckle echo in his head. He sighed. Tis futile, I suppose. With a half-blood father and a full-blooded, head-strong, stubborn-natured elf princess as a mother, I will be chasing those two scalliwags all over creation for an age to come.

Gazing at the tiny figure held between his daughter and son-in-law, Celeborn could not help but laugh a little. Now that he had his grandsons back, he found that he was looking forward to the adventure.