Disclaimer: I own nothing Tolkien created.
Summary: After receiving a cryptic message from Mirkwood, Lord Elrond hurries to the aid of the realm's troubled Crown Prince and discovers that things now are so very different for both of them.
Warning: This story is about a romantic relationship between the two main characters – Elrond and Legolas. It concentrates almost solely on the friendship and comfort side of the relationship and there are no explicit scenes or anything that could really be described as slash. However, if you really don't like that kind of thing then please don't read.
As You Were
As he approached the courtyard of Mirkwood's palace, Lord Elrond slowed his horse, shivering slightly as the cold crept into him, chilling him even beneath his thick cloak and tunic. He looked around himself but even through the thick fog he could tell that the large courtyard was empty of people. Frowning deeply, Elrond's hand instinctively strayed to the hilt of his sword, ready for anything that might jump out at him from the dense fog. The overly quiet forest and empty roads had seemed strange but now, seeing the palace dark and deserted, it was, for lack of a better word, creepy.
No guards challenged him as he neared the doors to the palace. In fact, it looked as if there weren't even any guards on duty. Suddenly more alert, Elrond wished that he had heeded his seneschal Glorfindel's advice and let some of his own guards accompany him on this journey. Only the fact that the letter he'd received had been so desperate and insistent that he come to Mirkwood alone had persuaded him to make the long, occasionally perilous journey on his own. Now he deeply regretted that decision. He had never felt so lonely upon entering a place, as if it were draining all his spirit from his soul.
Straightening up on his steed, Elrond shook off these thoughts and focused on why he had made this trip in the first place. In his breast pocket rested the carefully folded letter from the Crown Prince of Mirkwood. Given that Legolas and he had not parted on the best of terms, he'd been surprised when a messenger had handed him an envelope bearing the seal of Mirkwood. Even more surprising was the tone of the letter was so very different to anything he had ever gotten from the young prince. Not that communication between them was usually that great anyway but this was infinitely more disturbing.
It was easy to recall the hastily scrawled words on the page.
I know that it has been a long time since I last wrote to you but I write now pleading for your aid. My father had been seriously hurt. None of the healers here have been able to help. I fear he is lost to me and I have no where else to turn. I beg of you, please come to Mirkwood with all haste.
Short and vague: two things that in the past Legolas had never been in their letters. Of course, things had changed so very much in the past few years. After almost two hundred years involved romantically they – or rather, Legolas – had ended things and it had not been an entirely amicable separation. It wasn't that Elrond was angry, just disappointed that the prince had bent to his father's wishes and bowed out of their relationship. Hence, contact between them had been strained and formal when it did occur.
And yet despite all this bad feeling between them, Elrond had left Imladris just hours after receiving the cryptic letter, ignoring his family's concerns about a renewed involvement with the prince, and had raced toward Mirkwood as fast as his horse could carry him. His head told him that no good could come from riding to Legolas' rescue but his heart could not abandon the person he loved in what was clearly his time of need. Besides, apparently Thranduil needed help too and he definitely couldn't ignore the King of Mirkwood. He supposed that given everything that had occurred between him and Legolas, the prince would not have contacted him unless it was a genuine emergency.
Coming back to the present, Elrond pulled his horse to a halt by the steps leading up to the large front doors of the palace. No stable hands rushed forward to take his horse but he easily dismounted and pulled his own light bags down, quietly instructing his horse to remain where he was for the time being. The worn out mount shook his head in compliance so Elrond walked slowly up the steps. For the first time in all his many visits to Mirkwood, the tall double doors were closed tightly. Walking up to them, Elrond laid his palm against the cool wood and pushed, finding that doors were actually unlocked. Shoving them open, he stepped into the cavernous entrance hall. Despite the fact that it was only minutes after dawn, none of the lamps were lit and the hall was dark and freezing cold. His footsteps, however light against the flagstone, echoed throughout the hall.
"Elrond," a familiar voice echoed in the dark, making Elrond startle slightly. He spun around to find Legolas standing before him. "You came."
"So I did." Legolas stepped forward but remained at a respectful distance. There was a time, Elrond remembered, that he would have been immediately surrounded by enthusiastic arms and held close. "Not much of a welcome," the Elven Lord noted, pointedly looking around the hall.
Something strange flickered through Legolas' eyes but the prince answered softly, "I'm sorry. Things have been, well…Welcome."
A smile tugged at Elrond's lips and he expected Legolas to return the gesture but the prince remained stoic. "Thank you. I came as soon as I got your letter. Although I admit to being surprised that…"
"Come, let us go somewhere we can talk in private," Legolas interrupted.
"Right, of course."
"This way." Legolas stepped past him and led him through a door on the other side of the entrance hall. No lights shone in the hallways either but Legolas did not seem at all concerned by this, striding onwards without even glancing behind him at his guest. Deciding not to comment for the time being, Elrond followed in silence. He saw no one on the way, not one servant scrambling to help their beloved prince or guard fussing over his safety and well-being. It was strange to say the least. Usually, they had to fight to get even a moment alone. Now it was just the two of them in the empty palace of Mirkwood though, it just felt wrong.
Elrond quickened his pace to walk beside Legolas and asked in a hushed voice, "Where is everyone?"
"Not here," Legolas muttered, not looking across.
"Clearly," the Lord of Imladris mumbled. Legolas ignored him though, not rising to the bait. With a sigh, Elrond fell back and followed again, trying to figure out where exactly they were going. Certainly it wasn't anywhere he had been before. As they entered yet another hallway, Elrond noticed a light burning ahead. Whilst he found himself pleased for the light he noticed that Legolas tensed up even further. He did, however, slow his pace then come to a stop outside what Elrond recognised to be the Throne Room.
"Wait here please," Legolas told him, barely looking at Elrond before he opened the door, slipped inside and closed it tight behind him.
"No problem," Elrond muttered under his breath to the empty corridor. As he waited for Legolas to return, Elrond looked around the room he now stood in, the antechamber to the Throne Room. No Elves stood guard outside the doors but still Elrond felt uneasy. There was no doubt at all that something was seriously wrong here; he just didn't know what. As he paced back and forward, Elrond strained his hearing to hear what was being said behind the doors but he couldn't hear anything at all from inside.
Just when he thought that he had been abandoned completely, the doors opened and Legolas appeared, looking even more grim-faced than before. He walked right past the Elven Lord but Elrond did not follow him, waiting stubbornly for an explanation. However, Elrond was not going to get an explanation. Legolas stepped back over to him and took his arm, pulling him forward.
"Come with me," the prince said simply, pulling Elrond from the antechamber and down the corridor. As they went further and further from the Throne Room, Legolas sped up until he was practically jogging down the corridors, dragging Elrond behind him, unconcerned by the darkness. Once again, Elrond didn't recognise the halls but Legolas knew where he was going. He moved with confidence but there was something different about the young prince. After years together, first as friends then something more, Elrond knew the prince better than anyone, apart from his father, and he could tell something was wrong.
As they neared the more familiar corridors though, Legolas slowed, releasing Elrond's arm.
"Thank you for coming," the prince said softly, glancing over his shoulder at the Elven Lord.
"I appreciate it."
"Your letter sounded urgent. I got here as fast as I could," Elrond said, hoping for a reaction but Legolas did not bite. He just kept walking onwards, taking what Elrond now recognised to be a roundabout route towards the royal apartments. "Legolas, do you want to tell me what's going on?"
"I asked you here to look at my father."
"Is he injured?"
"There was an attack on the palace; he was hurt."
"Your own healers couldn't help?" the Lord of Imladris asked in confusion.
Once more, Legolas hesitated but seemed to decide to answer this time. However, before he could form a reply, the prince stumbled, reaching out for the wall to steady himself before he fell. Elrond's hand instantly went to his back to support him.
"Are you all right?" Elrond asked in concern, taking Legolas' arm as the blonde Elf closed his eyes.
Legolas nodded, opening his eyes, which he didn't even realise had slid closed. He pushed away from the wall and shook Elrond's hand off. Rather reluctantly, Elrond stepped back, his eyes still fixed on the younger Elf, looking for signs that something was wrong. In the slightly better light, Elrond could see how pale Legolas was; dark circles shadowed his eyes and looked altogether unsteady and shaky.
"Come and sit down, let me take a look at you," Elrond offered, reaching out to take Legolas' arm again.
However, Legolas pulled away again, as if suddenly afraid of the Elven Lord. "No, I'm fine."
"You are clearly not fine," Elrond pointed out, his concern growing.
"I'm just tired, that's all. It's been a long few weeks," the prince said in little more than a whisper.
"All the more reason for you to sit down."
"No! Please, just look at my father. Please, Elrond," Legolas almost begged.
There was such pleading in Legolas' voice and on his face that Elrond was forced to nod in agreement. "I suppose you can sit whilst I look at the King." The prince nodded sharply and turned to walk away again, acutely aware of Elrond's eyes watching his every move, looking for another slip-up. Thankfully, the Prince of Mirkwood was well-practiced in disguising his troubles from others, especially Elrond. Mostly, the Elven Lord could see right through him but he had learned how to keep things even from his closest friend.
Once more striding confidently, Legolas now took the direct route to the King's quarters. As they neared the place, Elrond saw the first guards since his arrival. They stood strictly to attention outside the doors but did not react as Legolas passed them by, not so much as a polite salute. Legolas was normally quite lenient with his staff but even he insisted upon some protocol, and surely that would have been even more appropriate with the Lord of Imladris visiting. Not that Elrond particularly cared for the overly strict protocol of Mirkwood. Still, it should have been observed nonetheless.
Eventually, they came to what Elrond recognised to be the door to the king's chambers. More guards stood outside but did not acknowledge Legolas as he pushed the doors open and Legolas took no notice of them either. For all the notice the prince and guards took of each other, they may as well have been invisible to each other. It only added to Elrond's curiosity and concern. Legolas held the door open for Elrond and the Lord of Rivendell stepped inside, glad to have finally reached their destination.
The first thing that hit Elrond when he opened the door was the heat coming from the room. It really was stifling, especially in comparison with the chill of the corridors. The pale light of dawn was just starting to filter through the curtains, which were drawn over the windows but Elrond could tell that the room had remained unlit besides the dull glow of the embers from the fireplace. None of the lamps were lit and even the curtains looked as though they had been opened in weeks. Legolas had left his side now and was standing at the edge of Thranduil's large bed, staring down vacantly at the King, not inviting Elrond forward.
After glancing around the stuffy, untidy bedroom, Elrond turned his attention to the King, who was laid silently in the bed, the only indication that he was even alive being the slow rise and fall of his chest as he shallowly breathed. Laying his bags down on the floor, Elrond stepped forward to the side of the bed and the closer inspection of the King showed just how bad his condition was. The King was deathly pale, his golden hair dull and lank against the pillow. His eyes were closed and he remained unmoving under the sheets. Although he wore nightclothes Elrond could tell that he was worryingly thin beneath the clothes.
"May I?" Elrond asked Legolas, motioning to the King. Without looking over to him, the prince nodded, his eyes still fixed firmly on his father's form. Elrond reached for Thranduil's wrist, wincing at how cold it was despite the heat of the room, and took the king's pulse. He then laid the palm of his hand against Legolas' forehead, pleased to find there was no fever; that was something, at least. Elrond then proceeded with a full examination, pulling the sheets back and unbuttoning the King's shirt then peeling back the roughly applied bandages, beneath which was the wound. Surprisingly, it was no where near as bad as Elrond had been expecting and it had obviously been cleaned well so there was no infection. By all rights, Thranduil should have been fine by now. This would have caused some discomfort but that should be all.
Legolas' quiet voice broke the thick silence. "He's been…unconscious for nearly three months now. The healers have tried everything but he won't wake."
"Three months? Strange," Elrond murmured to himself before finally looking up at Legolas to ask another question. He was surprised to find the young Elf leaning heavily against the bedpost, looking very nearly at the point of collapse. "Legolas, are you all right?" he asked in concern.
"I'm fine," the prince replied softly, not meeting Elrond's eyes.
"Clearly you're not fine. You look like you can barely stand." Legolas shook his head, dismissing Elrond's concerns. "Go and sit down." The young Elf looked up and opened his mouth to protest but Elrond cut in before he could speak. "Legolas, sit down before you fall down." Legolas nodded and slowly walked over to the couch by the window and stiffly sat down, as if the action was foreign to him. Once satisfied that Legolas was safely perched on the couch, no longer in danger of dropping to the floor, Elrond turned his gaze back to Thranduil once more. "This is the only wound?" he asked, gently prodding at the almost healed wound.
"Yes. He was…stabbed," Legolas answered.
"Was the weapon kept?"
"Of course." The prince went to rise to retrieve the weapon.
Elrond stopped him though, saying, "Stay where you are. Just tell me where it is."
"Top drawer, wrapped in cloth," Legolas said, pointing to the desk on the other side of the room.
The healer strode over to the desk and pulled the drawer open. It was empty except for the well-wrapped dagger, which Elrond closely but carefully inspected. "Did your healers analyse the poison?" he asked as he turned the blade over in the light to get a better look.
"No, there wasn't a big enough sample, they said."
"Did they try to retrieve a sample from your father?"
Frowning, Legolas shook his head. "No, they didn't, I don't think."
"Well, if it is still affecting him so badly then it might be possible to get a sample even so long after it was first introduced into his system. It might take some time though." Carefully wrapping the dagger back up, Elrond turned back to Legolas to find him leant forward on the sofa looking more down-trodden than Elrond thought possible for the young Elf to look. He stepped over and crouched before the young Elf, reaching over and taking his hands, noting they were nearly as cold as Thranduil's. "Now, what about you?" he asked kindly.
Legolas straightened up, meeting Elrond's eyes only for a moment. "I am fine, thank you."
"You do not look fine."
"I'm just tired. What with…Ada…" He found he couldn't continue as he choked up.
Elrond moved to sit beside him and laid his arm over Legolas' stooped shoulders. "Hey, it's going to be all right. I'll figure out how to help your father. If it is within my power, I will return him to you." Legolas nodded and quickly wiped away his tears. "All I will need for now is access to your healing halls and a complete list of the King's symptoms."
"Everything you need from the healing halls can be brought here. And I will provide you with the list – as accurate as I can make it."
"I'm sure a healer could do that," Elrond told him, surprised at the sudden change.
"I can do it."
"Legolas, you look worn out. Have you been looking after yourself?"
Glancing over to where Thranduil laid unconscious, Legolas said softly, "I haven't really had the time. Everything has been so…hectic lately."
Elrond gently took his hands again and softly said, "You have to make the time. Surely you have not taken it entirely upon yourself to look after your father."
"There is no one else," the prince said in a whisper.
"What about the healers? They could…"
"No!" Legolas exclaimed abruptly, startling Elrond slightly. "No, I have to look after him."
"Well, you're not alone anymore. I will do everything I can to make him better. But for now, you have to go to bed." The younger Elf opened his mouth to speak but Elrond would not allow him. "Go to bed. I'll take another, closer look at your father and get the list of symptoms from one of your healers."
"I'll have one brought to you," Legolas offered quickly.
"Very well. Now go and rest, mellon nin."
"But you've just arrived."
"We can catch up later once you've slept for a while."
"Yes, I am sure," Elrond smiled, already knowing what Legolas' question would be.
A flicker of a smile touched Legolas' pale lips but it was gone before Elrond could marvel at it. "Thank you," the prince said as he slowly stood up, this time not brushing Elrond's hand off as he helped him to stand. "I'll be…"
"I know where to find you," Elrond assured kindly, walking with Legolas to the door. The prince's eyes drifted over to the bed again and Elrond could feel him hesitate. "I will look after him, don't worry."
"You will stay with him? You won't leave his side?" the blonde Elf almost pleaded, looking deep into Elrond's dark eyes. "Promise me."
"Of course. I promise." Once more, Elrond was struck by the desperation in Legolas' eyes and he wondered what exactly had happened to provoke such a look. Given that Legolas looked like he was about to fall to the ground, the Elven Lord decided not to press the subject any further, it could wait until Legolas had rested for a while, then he would demand answers. "Go and rest, mellon nin. We'll speak later."
"Thank you," Legolas said in a soft voice before slipping from the room.
Alone once again, Elrond went to the windows and pulled the curtains open, brightening the room a little. Strangely though, it remained bleak. Mirkwood, even at its worst, had never felt quite this cold and uninviting. Slowly, Elrond returned to the bed and replaced the sheets over Thranduil. In a whisper, he asked, "What is going on here?" As he expected, he received no answer.
Legolas went straight to his rooms, just down the hall from his father's, ignoring the guards standing there and they paid no heed to him. Inside his room was dark, the heavy drapes drawn across the windows, blocking out the daylight and as he sat down on the bed a shiver rippled through him at the chill of the room. Unlike Thranduil's room, this fireplace remained cold, unlit. With his eyes already starting to fall closed, Legolas unbuttoned his tight collar of his tunic, breathing deeply. His mind told him that he really should get up and do something but now he was here, a wave of tiredness swept over him and he slowly laid back, sideways across the bed, and let his eyes fall closed. These sheets had not been lain on in many weeks but it didn't bother the prince as his mind quickly started to drift off.
Just moments after closing his eyes though, there was a sharp knock at his door, snapping him abruptly awake. He dragged his body up so he was sat on the edge of the bed and called, "Come in." The door opened and a guard performed a shallow, swift bow. "What?" the prince snapped, running his hands down his face in an attempt to clear the sleepiness.
"Lord Elrond?" the guard asked vaguely, enquiring as to his whereabouts.
"Don't worry, he's next door with the king."
"Come with me," the Elf at the door demanded, already stepping away, knowing fully well that the young prince would obediently follow. And indeed, Legolas pulled himself wearily to his feet and shuffled from the room after the guard; not that he needed to be shown the way, he knew exactly where he was going. He did now regret even thinking that rest was not far off; that had only made him feel more tired and he tried to make himself more alert as he walked down the corridors. All too soon, they reached the Throne Room and Legolas paused at the doors before taking a deep breath and opening the big doors and stepping inside.
To Be Continued…