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Shar: Hopefully you will not kill me this chapter... evil grin... Thank you for reviewing it, glad to know that you love it. Deeply sorry for the long wait. *Hugs & Kisses* Have a great day/night and keep smiling.

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A/N: This chapter dedicated to Destined Darkness for ask for something specific... grin...

Disclaimer, Summary and Warning could be found in 1st chapter.

Beta: Aranel

Chapter 11: Beyond Pain and Sacrifice

Elladan watched, stunned as Thranduil returned his weapon to its sheath and walked towards the wargs, unarmed. His eyes were nevertheless wary and his heavy footfalls betrayed his grieved heart. Something was wrong, that Elladan knew too well. Thranduil was walking toward certain death. Why, he had completely no idea. They were in the midst of battle, what good could that possibly do?

Noticing Haldir not too far from the king, he called the warden. "Haldir," Elladan caught his attention at once. "Save the king..."

Haldir nodded, suddenly alert. His sharpened blades raised, he turned at once towards the wargs and their orc riders. They had clearly noticed him as well.

"Scouts!" Haldir shouted, running toward the king. One of the wargs was gripping a body in its teeth. Thranduil did not seem to have noticed them. The wargs were growling, having released that body, their foul saliva dripping from their mouths. Their teeth were still stained with blood and they were ready to lunge, ready to kill.

One of the orcs released an arrow and Haldir instinctively dove towards the king, shoving him out of the way. He heard the sharp whistle of the arrow, felt its impact in his shoulder, but his only response was a sigh of relief. Whatever was that king thinking?

The wargs were approaching, the smell of blood spurring them on.

Haldir turned, hoping for some aid. Elladan was nowhere in sight, Elrohir was crouched protectively over his little brother. Humans always got injured, didn't they? He groaned as the warg neared, and gripped his blade.

Elrohir released two arrows at once, killing two orcs. He had no rest as he spun around, just in time to fend off a warg. Elladan had just dispatched an orc and was coming over.

"Where is the king?" Elrohir shouted, stabbing the warg.

Elladan finished the creature off. "He was here..." Elladan answered.

"Cover Aragorn, Haldir is down. I'll find the king," Elrohir told his twin.

Elladan hurried to his brother's side, checking his injuries. Aragorn never ceased to amaze him with his ferocity in any skirmish. Another orc had come too close and Elladan lashed out, kicking him, and quickly grabbing his sword.

Elrohir, meanwhile, was following a trail of blood, his heart fearing the worst. "Haldir," he called but there was no response from the march-warden, "HALDIR!" he shouted this time. Nothing.

He saw the king, and quickly hurried over, somewhat relieved. There was a body before him.

Thranduil was lost in thoughts, his eyes so glazed over that Elrohir feared that he was mourning the loss of his son.

"King Thranduil," he called, trying to bring the king back. "THRANDUIL!" he shouted, his hand squeezing the king's shoulder. The king turned at last.

"He is not your son," Elrohir stated, repeating for good measure, "He is not Legolas."

Elrohir now noticed what the king had, and added, "He does wear the leaf of the royal family, but he is not your son, he is not Legolas." There was no explaining, however, how the elf had gotten hold of Legolas' leaf.

Thranduil spoke finally, "Do you think Legolas might have thrown his leaf off?"

"The leaf? It is possible, considering the mood he was in. Yes, it is indeed possible," Elrohir replied.

"Aye, it is a possibility," Thranduil reached for the leaf, his hands still trembling.

"Once we find Legolas, you could reassure him and return him the leaf," Elrohir suggested, adding grimly. "My adar's words might have had shamed him into thinking that he is not worthy of you, and that he had killed Aragorn."

"But he did not kill him," Thranduil cut in, but he had to agree with Elrohir. "Knowing my son, he would have done so." He turned the leaf over, gripping it tightly in his hand. "I fear to lose him," he said. "I will bring Legolas his leaf again, and he will know that I have never forgotten about him, because he belongs to me, and I will never be ashamed of him, whatever your father thinks."

"I am sure of it," Elrohir told him. "You have a wonderful son, and to us, he is a great and loyal friend, even though it will be hard to win his trust again."

"ELROHIR!" Elladan's warning shout caught his attention.

Elrohir pushed the king away. He felt the stab of an orc blade and ignoring it, he raised his own. The king was faced with a warg but Elrohir was far too engaged to help him. Through the din, he made out his little brother murmuring, "We are all going to die."

"No one is going to die, little brother." Elladan's voice. Certainly Elladan would not let him give up so easily.

"I am not little anymore, brother, you should know that by now." Aragorn reminded him, even if his voice was still weak.

"Aye, you are right, I should," Elladan nodded, and then he added, smirking, as his arrow brought down another orc, "But for me and Elrohir, you're always going to be our little brother."

"Hannon-le," Aragorn thanked his brother, resting to regain his strength. The last of the foul creatures had been cleansed from the area and there was a collective sigh of relief and weariness.

Thranduil could feel blood against his body. Turning, he followed it in shock to see the elf who saved his life so grievously hurt.

"Elrohir, what have you done?" Thranduil asked. He let out an involuntary groan as he tried to get up. He could feel his leg burn from the warg's bite.

"Hannon-le, mellon-nin," he thanked Elrohir, "If we survive the journey and find my son, I shall have you addressed as lords in my homeland."

Aragorn limped over. Brushing the sweat from his forehead, he bent over to clean the king's wound and check on his brother. "I never was so happy to finish a battle," Aragorn remarked. "The warg was far too close to you, Thranduil."

"Aye, but I could do nothing since your brother had knocked me away," Thranduil replied wryly, and then he turned to the wounded elf, "Will he be all right?"

"He will be," Elladan replied, helping Estel to bandage his twin. "Do you think adar will welcome us and help treat our wounds?"

"I would suppose so," Thranduil replied and sighed heavily. "Though I do not expect the same reception for myself, seeing as he has forbidden me to enter his realm."

"He will let you in, if we stand our ground before him," Elladan told the king confidently. From the corner of his eye, he could see that Aragorn was nodding in agreement. Elladan continued, his voice bitter, "Because of him we lost Legolas, and because of him, you are forbidden from entering an elven haven. This all has to stop."

"Lord Elrond has to know that words can hurt more than orcs," Aragorn added.

"Aye, he should," Thranduil agreed, remembering the sheer despair he had seen in his son. "I will come with you to Imladris, and once I have recovered, I will leave and may the Valar help me."

"Just try not to kill him…" Elladan added with a grin.

"I will, but if he says anything against my son, I hold no responsibility for what happens."

"We hear you, my friend," Aragorn nodded.

"But first, we stop at the caves. I would rather our healer check on us first, before Lord Elrond does," Thranduil told them. He steadied himself, hissing from the pain that such a simple movement elicited.

"And you should have something for that," Aragorn suggested, then turned to where his brothers were attending to the unconscious Haldir. "How bad is it?"

"There is an arrow near his chest and shoulder, and he is losing blood," Elladan replied, moving the Lothlórien elf slowly to see if there were more injuries. "He hit his head as he fell, but I suppose he will survive."

"He is going to have a major headache when he regains consciousness," Aragorn grinned.

"Or he might not even remember how he ended up wounded," Elladan added with a smile. "Try to remove the arrows slowly," he reminded his brother, kneeing up to give him more room to work. "I suppose Haldir should have more training when he recovers."

"Aye, he should, but he should first have something for his bravery," Aragorn suggested.

Thranduil nodded, looking at the Lothlórien elf. The ground was still marked by the sacrifices the march-warden had made and Thranduil released a long sigh. "Aye, he should, but he is not the only one."

All he could hear was silence and there was a heavy smell of death in the air. He looked up into the sky, taking in the whisper of a breeze, and refocused his gaze on the elf who nearly gave his life to save his.

"Thranduil," Aragorn called, noticing his frown. "Are you well?"

"All this death, all the pain…" Thranduil murmured, gesturing vaguely. He was now leading them to hurt and injury, and all this because of him and his son.

"Do not blame yourself or Legolas…" Aragorn had guessed what was on the king's mind, and added, "It's no one's fault."

"That is not exactly correct," Elladan interrupted and then glanced at his twin before sighing heavily. "It was my fault – mine and Elrohir's. We started it, and when Legolas came to see if you were alive, adar added more flames to the fire."

"But all that is over." Aragorn would have none of that. "Now what's important is finding Legolas."

"And if we do not…" Elrohir could not finish the sentence.

"We will," Aragorn replied, "We must have hope and faith."

The sun had set and the breeze was growing colder. There were occasional hisses from both the king and Haldir as they plodded along, slowly and steadily on their horses.

"How is Haldir doing?"

"Not good," Elladan replied, sighing heavily in the embrace of the cold breeze. "He has lost too much blood. We must hurry; I fear he will not survive another day."

Aragorn glanced toward Haldir, noticing how his chest heaved with effort. "Might he have been poisoned by the orcs' arrows?"

"It is a possibility we need to consider," Thranduil replied.

Galdor rode alongside them, watching quietly. When he could hold it no more, he coughed lightly to catch the king's attention. "Your Majesty, if I may ask…"

"Galdor, please do continue," Thranduil told his guard and friend. Just what could he do to make Galdor understand that he could talk freely? Galdor was his friend, his true friend.

"Why are we stopping?" he asked. "All our healer could do is to clean the wounds, nothing more; he is not trained for anything like this. Perhaps you should seek The Healer," Galdor advised.

"I will seek him, but not right now," Thranduil replied.

"Why not? Haldir looks bad, and you, Your Majesty, are certainly not entirely well," Galdor asked, gesturing. The unspoken comment was that Galdor could hear the king's soft grunts of pain.

"Galdor, if you say 'Your Majesty' yet again, you will feel more pain than I do," Thranduil warned his friend, trying to change the topic.

Elladan laughed softly, then asked the guard, "I thought you remained behind to help Saelbeth."

"I did, but I had a bad feeling, so I followed your trail," Galdor nodded and looked pointedly at the ranger, "You should have covered your tracks; it wasn't very hard to tell where you were."

"Well, thank you for your feedback," Aragorn cut in. "You missed the battle, though. Still, I am glad that you are here."

"See?" Galdor turned to Thranduil, adding with a smile, "At least someone appreciates my presence."

Thranduil laughed. "You should let the healer know that we are arriving."

"I will do that, when I see that you are well enough to ride," Galdor replied.

They were still a few hours from the caves of Mirkwood, and Galdor could feel the horses slowing down. The exhaustion from the battle and the hard riding had certainly gotten to them, and they needed to rest. Even Aragorn looked as though he could fall off any moment, and Galdor did not wish to risk riding into any danger in the darkness.

"Perhaps we should pause for a while," Galdor spoke loudly, hoping to catch the young man's attention.

Thranduil wary eyes strayed toward his guard. Though he knew that his loyal friend was right, he did not wish to waste any time; they still had a good way to go. But before he could do anything, Galdor had turned his horse to block his path and had dismounted.

Thranduil scowled, too weak to order him otherwise. There was nothing to be done but to dismount, and as he swung a leg over, he slipped, falling heavily to the ground. He sucked in his breath. The blood was dripping from his shoulder.

Without a word Galdor turned toward Aragorn, and they helped him to lean against a tree before setting up camp.

"How is your brother?" Galdor asked Elladan.

"He will be better when we reached home. Hopefully adar will look into our eyes and understand," Elladan replied and Galdor could feel the sadness in his voice.

"Either way, we are not leaving until everyone gets rest," Galdor said decisively.

Thranduil smiled at his friend, teasing him, "Who died and made you king?"

"Hopefully no one, my king, but it might be nice to be a king for a day," Galdor returned the tease.

"Do not push it, my friend," Thranduil's voice was playful, but clearly growing weaker.

"Maybe when this is all over?" Galdor looked at the king with concern; he looked far too pale.

"Maybe I will…" Thranduil whispered, then fell still.

Aragorn hurried over at once. "How is the king?" Galdor asked.

"He is alive, but he's losing blood and the wound might be infected as well," Aragorn replied with a heavy sigh.

"Then we should keep our eyes on all of them through the night," Galdor decided.

"Who will take the first watch?" Aragorn asked.

"Elladan and I," Galdor replied, turning to nod at the half-elf. "You should take a rest, young man, you look bad."

The expected retort did not come, but a minute later, they had to grin upon hearing a snore.

Before dawn, they woke the others and set off. They had lost precious time, even if it had been necessary, but, with their wounds, neither the king nor Haldir could hold out much longer.

Galdor rode on ahead and had the healer start preparing before the others reached the caves of Mirkwood.

"You should seek Lord Elrond's help, not mine, Your Majesty," the healer emphasized, "All I can do is to ease the pain but I cannot heal the bite, nor can I help Elrohir or Haldir much."

Thranduil sighed. "Do what you can. The sight of Elrond revolts me."

The healer nodded. "I will check on the Lothlórien elf first. He seems to be seriously hurt."

"Aragorn, help him, " Thranduil directed the man.

Aragorn and the healer settled the march-warden in the chamber that the healer had prepared. Turning around, Aragorn saw only Elladan. "Where is Thranduil?" he asked. "Wasn't he following us?"

Elladan, suddenly alert, replied, "Stay here and rest. I'll find him."

He traced his steps back to a corner in the caves. Thranduil was slumped on the ground, bleeding freely. Elladan knelt beside the king, his hands shaking with worry.

"Thranduil," Elladan called. No response. Turning around, he called to the elves, "Get the healer at once!"

The healer rushed over. "He is bleeding," Elladan said.

"I can see that, my friend," the healer replied. "I will see to him now. Could you please check if Haldir has come around?"

Elladan nodded and hurried to the wing. Aragorn was sitting beside a bandaged Elrohir, worriedly watching Haldir.

"We should be at home, not in Mirkwood," Aragorn said suddenly.

Elladan knew it was futile to explain things anew and it was Elrohir who spoke, "Thranduil is not considering his long friendship with adar. To him, they are enemies now."

Aragorn sighed. "When we approach Imladris, I'll handle adar. We need his aid to take care of both Haldir and Thranduil."

One day later…

Thranduil was ready to depart; he was feeling stronger and so was Haldir.

Haldir was still somewhat confused about what happened but he gave an awkward look of embarrassment when Thranduil thanked him for saving his life.

Aragorn and the twins were mounting their horses as Galdor helped the king towards them.

"I am coming with you," Galdor insisted. "You need someone to watch over you, and, before you ask, Saelbeth will remain on guard – I've given him the command."

Aragorn chuckled, turning around to look at the king. "You do have great loyal guards, Thranduil."

Thranduil smiled. "It seems that everything is under control, and there is nothing else I can do," Thranduil said gratefully, "You have done wonderfully, Galdor. Thank you."

They rode leisurely from the caves, enjoying the morning light and the soothing breeze, until something caught their eyes: golden hair.

Thranduil urged his horse closer and dismounted carefully. He knelt down, almost fainting as he recognized the figure.

Aragorn, following immediately behind, noticed his frown, but his hand trembled too much to check for a pulse. The elf lay too still, too frozen. There was no movement, no sign of life in him.

"It is Legolas; it is him," Aragorn mumbled.

"Is he… alive?" Elrohir asked with concern.

The king moved his hand to trace Legolas's cheek. He felt nothing but coldness.

"We came too late…" he mumbled, his hand falling beside his son's face.

End of Chapter 11.