Disclaimer: Tolkien owns it all.
Summary: Legolas has been injured, and Thranduil and Aragorn are out for revenge.
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for comments, suggestions, and coping with fics at awkward times. *hugs*
Part I: Hunting
"Hold him, my king."
Thranduil gave the healer a terse nod, tightening the arm that was wrapped around his son. In response, Legolas squeezed his hand weakly.
"Do not look so worried, Ada," he murmured. "I will be fine."
Thranduil managed a smile.
"I know you will be fine, Elfling. As your king, I am ordering you to be fine." He glanced at the healer, before bending his head to his son's and adding, "You must be brave for me, tithen pen. This will hurt." Legolas nodded, snuggling even closer to him. Thranduil looked at the healer again. "Feredir – quickly."
Feredir dropped into a chair on Legolas' other side, grasping the arrow shaft protruding from the young Elf's shoulder. He worked it as gently as he could until it was free of the bone, and then pushed it through with one quick thrust. Legolas' grip on Thranduil's hand tightened painfully as he bit his lip to stifle his groan. Thranduil, looking even more agonized than his son, pressed a comforting kiss to the golden head.
"There, it is over," Feredir said soothingly, pulling the arrow out.
He went to work to stitch the wound with deft movements, while Legolas, now only half conscious, rested his head on his father's shoulder and mumbled something unintelligible.
"Hush," Thranduil whispered. He hugged Legolas closer, unmindful of the blood staining his clothes. "All will be well."
He held his son as Feredir worked, his eyes growing steadily darker. As soon as the last bandage had been secured and the healer was directing one of his assistants to pour out a sleeping draught, Thranduil gave Legolas a light squeeze and got to his feet.
"Ada?" Legolas came to immediate awareness. "Where are you –?"
"I have some unfinished business, penneth." Thranduil could not keep his emotion from his voice. The hand that rested on his sword hilt left his intentions in no doubt. "Do not fret. I will return soon."
"Ada!" Legolas tried to push himself out of bed, and was held down by Feredir. "Ada, do not – Estel, stop him!" He turned pleadingly to the man who, until then, had been watching the proceedings in silent concern. "No – wait – he will not listen to you. Find Lord Arbellason. He will be in –"
"I will deal with it," the King of Gondor replied, coming around the bed to pat Legolas' shoulder. "He will come to no harm… But drink that first." He indicated the cup Feredir was holding out.
"But – Ada –"
"I will deal with it," Aragorn repeated. "Trust me. All will be well. Now drink the potion."
Legolas took the cup and drank obediently, but something in his friend's face made him frown suddenly, just before he slumped back against his pillows and his face slackened in sleep.
"Do not even think of trying to stop me," Thranduil growled, not bothering to look up from sorting arrows.
"I am not –"
"Too often have I had to sit and do nothing when Legolas returned home injured! It is not to be borne!"
"My king, I –"
"And every time there is a plausible excuse!" Thranduil stuffed the arrows into the quiver with a carelessness that would have horrified any archer. "Last time it was something about how I should not go into battle and risk my life unnecessarily."
"I did not –"
"Unnecessarily!" Thranduil thundered, glaring up at Aragorn. "They let Legolas go out with just two archers, oh yes, because there is need for stealth and because he has somehow persuaded everyone that he can take care of himself, but when he comes back with an orc-arrow through him and I want to go and finish those foul creatures off they insist on sending half the army with me because otherwise it is not safe."
"It was not –"
"And this time it was brigands! Brigands, threatening my son in my kingdom! Legolas sent you to stop me, did he? Does the child think I am senile?"
"I am sure he –"
"Or does he think I enjoy sitting worrying in the stronghold while he is out playing the heroic warrior prince?"
"I do not think –"
"I am going after them," the Elven-king said, in a soft voice that was far more terrifying than his shouting had been. "I am going after them, and I am going to ensure that they know better than to harm my son again."
"I did not come to stop you," Aragorn burst out.
If he had hoped to see Thranduil gaping at him foolishly or looking embarrassed he was disappointed. The Elven-king only grunted, "Good," and picked up his sword and whetstone.
Aragorn sat down, facing Thranduil across the table that ran the length of the armoury.
"You must not go alone, my king."
"I am not taking any guards with me," Thranduil replied, not looking up from sharpening the blade. "Those cowards attacked Legolas while he was unarmed – they would not have dared to face him otherwise. I need no soldiers to help me teach them some honour."
"I had hoped you would permit me to accompany you."
Thranduil stopped short in his work and darted a suspicious glance at the man.
"Did Legolas put you up to this?"
"No, my king. Legolas, as you guessed, asked me to stop you." At the Elven-king's raised eyebrow, he added, "I promised I would not let you come to any harm."
"It was the only way to calm him down, my king," Aragorn said hastily. "In truth, I feel much as you do. Legolas is my oldest friend, my gwador." He hesitated, and then drew his own sword and laid it on the table. "Also, ever since Eldarion's birth, I have been able to better understand your plight."
He reached for a whetstone, but waited for Thranduil's nod of assent before he began working his sword.
"I expect you do understand," Thranduil said.
"It has always grieved me to see any of my friends suffer, and Legolas more so than any other, but only now do I know the fears of a father." He paused. "The weapons masters tell me Eldarion is turning into a fine swordsman. I know he is; I have sparred with him. He has skill, and experience will come. Yet when the time comes for him to go on patrols…"
Thranduil's knowing smile said more than any words. For some time the two worked in silence.
"Children are fools," Thranduil said suddenly. "Especially young warriors… They rush headlong into danger, little heeding the consequences, and they do not listen to good advice."
"I have told Arwen and Legolas this," Aragorn agreed. "Legolas laughs and says he sympathizes with Eldarion. Arwen laughs and says nothing. I do not know which is worse."
"Never has Legolas listened to me when I have told him to stay out of danger. I told him not to ride from Ithilien alone even if the road is more peaceful now!"
"Nor does Eldarion ever listen to me. I cannot imagine why they are so stubborn." Aragorn worked the whetstone so furiously that sparks flew. "You would think that they want to make us worry."
"I am certain beyond any doubt that that has always been Legolas' aim. I cannot count the number of times I have been summoned to stand in the Healing Wards."
"And healers are so often unable to answer questions."
"They blubber and tremble like frightened children!" Thranduil held his blade to the light, examined it for a moment, and then began to hone it again. "No… To be fair, experienced healers do not… But some of the younger ones…"
"To make matters worse, Eldarion always persuades Legolas or my brothers to get him out of trouble. Whenever I wish to have a serious talk with him about his tendency to run recklessly into peril, I find him quivering and clutching an Elven-cloak, with the Elf in question looking at me as though it is my fault that the child is upset."
"Your brothers and Legolas have spent centuries persuading Glorfindel to get them out of trouble with Elrond and Thorontur and Arbellason to intercede with me. No doubt they think it is time for them to do their part."
"And the eyes…" Aragorn complained.
"The eyes are terrible."
"Legolas has always known how to get around me."
"He knows how to get around anyone, and as if his knowing were not bad enough, he has taught Eldarion! I promise you, my king, the child looks exactly like your son when he is attempting to wheedle indulgence out of me."
"And then Legolas attempts to tell me what is too dangerous for me to do!"
"Fortunately Eldarion has not come to that yet."
"He will get there," Thranduil prophesied gloomily. "When a slip of an Elf-child can tell his father, who is millennia older than him, what is too dangerous, why not Eldarion?"
"Children are fools," Aragorn said, echoing Thranduil's earlier sentiment. "We can do nothing about that, my king, but we can do something about those brigands."
Legolas opened his eyes.
The room was in near darkness. A tiny chink in the curtains admitted just enough light to tell him that he was in the Healing Ward.
He turned his head slightly. His friend Saeldur was sitting in a chair by the bed, fletching arrows. It was a measure of Saeldur's skill that he could do so in the dark, although he had to devote enough attention to the task that it was some minutes before he realized Legolas was awake.
When he did, he put down the arrow and gave the Elf-prince a relieved smile.
"Good afternoon, Elfling."
"Afternoon?" Legolas rasped.
"You slept through the rest of the day and the night. Feredir gave you a strong draught." He eyed his friend critically. "It is just as well that he did – you look far better now. Are you hungry?"
"That does not matter. You will eat nonetheless." Grinning at Legolas' exasperation, Saeldur helped him sit up. "Cheer up! Barancrist has said that your injury is not serious and he will not confine you to the Healing Ward if you agree to let him put your arm in a sling without making a fuss."
"I believe I can accept that." Legolas reached with his good hand to take the tray Saeldur was holding out to him. "What are you doing here? I thought you and Eredhion were going straight to Ithilien."
"We thought our lord would not mind if we spent a few weeks in Eryn Lasgalen," Saeldur teased. "It is just as well that we are here, Elfling. At least we know you well enough to keep you out of mischief until your shoulder has healed fully. I do not believe Barancrist would have been so well-disposed to you otherwise."
"Where is my father?"
"He did not go after them, did he? Estel would have stopped him – where is Estel? I thought Feredir must have sedated him and had him taken to his room."
"Where are they?" Legolas asked insistently.
"They are away." Legolas and Saeldur both started in surprise at the sound of a new voice. They turned and saw that Thorontur had entered the room. "I am glad you are awake, Legolas. I was beginning to worry. How do you feel?"
"I am fine, my lord. Where have they gone?"
Thorontur favoured him with a mirthful smile.
"They left you a message bidding you not to worry. And now that you are awake, you are to take on the duties of regent until your father returns."
"But I –"
"Feredir will be here in a few minutes to look at your arm. Once he has put it in a sling, you will be able to leave the Healing Wards."
Legolas looked at him gratefully.
"I will go after them –"
"You will do nothing of the kind," Thorontur said sternly. "To begin with, you are injured. Moreover, the king has commanded you to stay here and carry out your duties as his heir."
"There are diplomats from Rohan visiting us, as well as men from the eastern villages who are here to discuss trade terms. They were very disappointed not to be able to begin their discussions this morning. I have assured them that you will see them tomorrow."
"But Istuion can –"
"Tomorrow is also the day the king would have received petitions from the Elves who do not live in the stronghold," Thorontur went on smoothly, ignoring Legolas' interruption. "Since he is not here, you must do that."
"I have never –"
"Now I will leave you to finish your lunch. Afterwards Istuion will see you in your study to brief you on the status of the trade negotiations." With a smirk, the Elf-lord added, "I sympathize with your feelings on the matter, Legolas, but you know how forceful your father can be. Eat well."
For a few moments after he had gone, Legolas and Saeldur sat in silence. Then, turning to his friend, Legolas said, "Do you know which road they took?"
"You cannot go after them."
"I do not intend to go after them," Legolas assured him. "I only want to keep track of where they are."
"Are you tired, Estel? Do you need to rest?"
"No, my king," Aragorn replied, hiding his amusement at Thranduil's words, so much like Legolas' in the early years of their friendship, before the Elf-prince had grown accustomed to the habits and needs of Men. "We have been riding all this way. It will be some time before I need rest."
"Are you certain? Legolas has told me that Men need rest almost every hour."
"Legolas exaggerates, my king. Truly, I am perfectly able to continue."
"If you insist," Thranduil said doubtfully. "The brigands do not seem to be moving. I doubt we will fall behind even if you want to stop to rest."
"What do you plan to do with them, my king?"
"I do not know," Thranduil confessed. "What I most want to do is to make them suffer for every drop of Legolas' blood they spilled. But I have never approved of harming mortals, not unless the threat is dire and immediate; it has always seemed to me unfair. I do not want to return and have to tell Legolas that I have done precisely that."
"He would not hold it against you."
"That is true, but all the same," Thranduil mumbled, flushing and suddenly becoming very interested in the bridle-straps. "I do not want to do anything that might lower his opinion of me."
"I doubt that will happen," Aragorn replied, amused. "The Elfling adores you."
"He always finds excuses when I do something I should not," Thranduil said with a chuckle. "Even when I lose my temper with him… For that I am thankful."
"You have lost your temper with Legolas?" Aragorn asked in astonishment.
The Elven-king laughed again, although this time it sounded regretful.
"It is not easy to rule a kingdom perpetually at war with the Shadow, and a king may not vent his frustration upon his subjects. There have been times when Legolas has borne the brunt of my anger."
He looked up at the trees unconsciously. Aragorn followed his gaze, but saw only still leaves overhead.
"My king, may I ask you something?"
"Of course, Estel," Thranduil said, seeming startled by the unexpected question. "What is it?"
"Has Legolas ever… held anything against you?"
Thranduil shot him a sympathetic glance.
"Did you have an argument with Eldarion?"
This time it was Aragorn who coloured and looked away.
"Eldarion is impossible," he muttered. "He is unwilling to accept that he is far too young to ride with the patrols in the more dangerous parts of Gondor. Even Legolas and my brothers agree that it is too soon, but he will not hear anyone! We have been at odds over this far more often than I would like."
"Is that all? Legolas still claims I treat him like a child. I would not worry."
"He will have cause to complain that you are one, now that we have come here without an escort and left him to worry."
Thranduil made a dismissive sound.
"One thing he will not be doing is worrying. The trees are probably supplying him with a minute-by-minute account of the proceedings." His eyes gleamed wickedly, and he added, "No doubt he is aware, for instance, that at this very instant I am referring to him as a moronic child who will probably be locked in his room for the balance of his immortal life – and that is if I am merciful."
Aragorn smiled as well, but he looked slightly worried.
"I thought you asked the trees not to divulge our location."
"I did," the Elven-king reassured him. "And they will not, on the whole. But anything Legolas wants to know, the trees will tell him. There is no point trying to persuade them to do otherwise."
"Moronic child, am I?" Legolas muttered, frowning in the direction his father and his friend had taken. "We will see about that."
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