Title - Cling and Clatter - Chapter 15 - Unexpected Turns

Authors - Jules

Rating - PG

Summery - Still caught in the dwarven cave. Legolas and Aragorn find themselves some most unexpected allies.

Disclaimer - They do... I don't.

Authors Notes - Cripes... its been a while. This chapter doesn't quite flow as well as some of the others, but hey, my muse only visits rarely so I take full advantage when she lobs! This follows from the other 14 odd chapters, which follows on from my previous fic Faded Ashes.

Dedication - To Katie, who finally made me find Ms Muse (albiet only shortly), Minka, and Sonbon, you girls keep me sane!

Unexpected Turns

Darkness consumed his vision, the blackness swirling lazily in front of him, obliterating all colour and leaving only his hearing and other senses to tie him to the waking world. Coldness invaded his feeling of touch, making his body shiver and perspire alternatively. His joints ached with fever, his mind foggy with delerium, and on top of this, his eyes still refused to open and dispel the insistent darkness. He was unaware exactly how long he lingered within this state, the blackness swirling from all-consuming to just plain annoying and leaving the elf with little sense of time passing.

Aragorn pushed his own sense of blackness away from his mind as the slow ache of a healing injury lurched its way into his semi-conscious thought. He was leaning against something solid but very uncomfortable, yet when he tried to adjust this somewhat dodgy position his shoulder throbbed incessantly. Gritting his teeth against the pain, the Ranger struggled to sit up and forced his eyes to take in his surroundings. Legolas was still blissfully unconscious, sweat sheeting off his body as the dwarves tended his ailing figure. Just how long he had sat between full wakefulness and dazed thoughts the King did not know, but it was a pair of lilting voices that drew him rapidly to full awareness.

"Brother! How in the name of the Valar did you end up here? We have been searching for months!!" the dark figure on the left exclaimed as they entered the large cavern, drawing up short when a series of axes and pikes were arranged aggressively in front of them.

"Peace my friends, these are my brothers" Aragorn slurred through the throbbing of his shoulder. The dwarves look unconvinced as the two elves tried to placate the stout beings with words of peace. A battle of wills ensued, the dwarves brandishing their few weapons and the two newcomers offering words of reassurance and assistance in their plight. Eventually the words of Aragorn and the elves wore away the defensiveness of the smaller folk who were still on guard after being ambushed by orcs. Finally allowed entrance Elladan pushed his way over to Legolas, maneuvering between the dwarves to better access the fallen elf's condition. Elrohir meanwhile moved straight over to Aragorn, taking in his glazed eyes and strapped arm before his eyes fell on the tatters of clothing and near starving condition. The regal elf swore under his breath as the full extent of Aragorn's ails befell him, shock and disbeleif crossing his features before the finely school neutral mask dropped into place.

"Elrohir... how... when?" The King spoke slowly, trying to force his pain hazed mind to focus on this very unexpected turn of events. The last thing he remembered was stitching Legolas' shoulder, then having Bombur pop in his own dislocated shoulder. How the twins came to arrive he didn't know, but one thing was for certain, he was very glad they had.

" Father sent us to search for you when you failed to return from the Lorien months ago. The Lady of the Wood said you had left to trail Legolas who had also failed to return from his quest. We've been looking for you ever since" Elrohir said quietly by way of an explanation. He opened his pack as he spoke and pulled out a number of healing herbs, handing a sprig of something brown and shriveled to Aragorn to chew. Once satisfied the human was indeed chewing the pain-relieving herb Elrohir continued.

"We headed for Mirkwood, where we knew Legolas had been heading and we found your tracks there several days ago, but lost them again in the snow. We sheltered in a nearby cave when a rather nasty snowstorm hit, it seemed to have led into the same one you ended up in." the elf murmured, expertly probing Aragorn's shoulder as he spoke and steadfastly ignoring any hisses of pain from the human. His gentle hands probed the rest of the ranger's torso, his skilled fingers feeling for any breaks, fractures or unhealed injuries as they traveled lightly over the stretched skin. Finding nothing more serious than a bad case of malnutrition and a dislocated shoulder which was on the way to mending, the lean elf turned his attention to where his twin was still hunched over Legolas.

Elladan also swore in a manner most unbecoming of an elf lord as he assessed the Prince of Mirkwoods' condition. The fair elf was far more pale than natural, his skin diaphoretic and clammy, a stitched but infected wound covering the sunken muscle of his shoulder, and his overall condition also approaching that of near-starvation. He sensed Elrohir's eyes upon him and glanced around, noting this his brother held their pack. A small gesture bought both the elf and the pack to his side, his twin's brow furrowing in concern at the state of the two they had finally found. Together they worked mixing a salve from herbs and water from their waterskin, spreading the thin mixture over the oozing wound to fight the poison that was more than probably coursing through the royal elf's veins. Elladan also tipped a small amount of freshly made herb-draft down the fallen elf's throat, carefully positioning his head and upper torso so the liquid flowed uninterrupted to the other's stomach.

Aragorn, even in his somewhat dazed state noticed the change in demenour as his brothers worked over the still form of his best friend. He wouldn't describe it as frantic, no not at all, it was more like serious concern that filled their movements. They spoke very little, which told one who knew them volumes about the way of their hearts. The human slowly shifted his position and made his way over to the trio, ignoring the watchful eyes of the dwarves as he did so. His muscles ached and shuddered, making each step heinously long and agonising, but concern for his friend pressed him forward.

Finally he reached the twins' side, awkwardly lowering himself next to the bed and taking one of the Legolas' hands in his own. He risked a glance at his brothers and noticed the concern that has indeed laced their dark features. They were clearly worried about the Mirkwood elf, and that in itself did not bode well. Words were not needed as Aragorn asked with a glance as to his friend's condition.

" It does not go well dear brother. His shoulder is infected and a high fever courses through his veins. The shoulder we have treated, but the fever is yet to break. The fact that he is critically weak to start off with does not help matters. The same goes for you"

Elrohir reached behind him into the pack, pulling out a small portion of lembas and handing it to his human brother. Although not overly fussed on the Elven waybread the human was so hungry he was past caring and quickly finished the piece then he turned his attention back to his companions, obviously looking for something he could do to help, even in his weakened state. The younger twin noticed the change and decided that if Aragorn was not going to look after himself, someone was going to have to do it for him.

" Estel; rest, we shall look after Legolas. There is little that neither yourself nor we can do to aid him at the present, his body must fight the infection on its own. Sleep and let us care for him. "

Aragorn seemed about to protest when Elladan placed a hand on the King's upper arm.

" Rest, brother, I swear I will wake you if there is any change"

Although still concerned for his friends' wellbeing, dark edges had begun to creep into the exhausted human's vision, merging and swirling until consciousness fled him and he slumped forward onto Legolas' bed. The twins quickly glanced around to see if any other sleeping material was available, kindly thanked the dwarf who offered them another thin torn mattress, and set their now sleeping brother upon it. Elladan carefully inspected the Ranger's bandaged shoulder for himself before easing back into a sitting position near Legolas' head. The Royal elf was not out of the woods by any means, but his condition had not deteriorated any since their arrival. If anything the elf's fever had dropped slightly, letting him rest somewhat more comfortably in his fever induced state.

Settling themselves more comfortably, the twins gathered themselves for a long and tiring night.

To Be Continued.