Disclaimer: Those you recognize belong to Tolkien. I do not own them. Those you do not recognize belong to me.
Summary: Gaining the friendship of a mortal child was not something Thranduil expected on his trip to Imladris with his son. But when secret plots result in grave consequences, the boy may be the king's one hope of survival.
Author's Note: Oh, my gosh, guys, I sincerely, sincerely apologize for the lack of updating for so long! The last few weeks of school were so hectic and busy that it got to the point of being stressful, and I just couldn't write. But, I am now on break, so here we are. I just had to relax a bit. And thanks to the motivational style of U2, this chapter was completed, lol. But, thank you so, so much to Gwedhiel0117, Elven Warrior Princess, Zammy, Doreen, GuenVanHelsing, The Pearl Maiden, and PadawanCassy for your wonderful reviews and patience! With that said, enjoy the last chapter! If you celebrate it, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
hír-nín– my lord
hannon le– thank you
ion-nín– my son
penneth– young one
tithen pen– little one
mellon-nín– my friend
The tall, fair-haired figure silently walked down the lightening hallway, his intense eyes set on a door at the end where a guard was stationed. He slowed his pace as he stopped before it, his gaze hardening and his jaw setting as he turned to the dark-haired Elf. The guard nodded once before reaching out and sliding the lock aside.
"If you require my aid, call out, hír-nín," the Imladris Elf told him quietly.
"I will," the fair-haired figure muttered before the guard pulled open the door, allowing him to step inside the small room.
Aeglironion slowly looked up from where he sat on the floor at the sudden sound, hints of the bandages that were wrapped tightly around his shoulder visible beneath the loose, light gray shirt he wore. A smirk appeared on his face when he saw the fair-haired Elf towering before him as the door shut quietly behind him.
"Your son has the truest aim of any I have ever seen," he said lightly, his slender fingers hovering near his wounded shoulder.
Thranduil stepped closer to the traitorous Elf, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Spare me the pleasantries," he replied, his tone now containing a dangerous edge.
Aeglironion's smirk broadened as he lowered his gaze once more. "As you wish, hír-nín." The slight traces of sincerity that had previously been reflected in his voice was gone, his tone now almost mocking. When the king remained silent, the prisoner slowly raised his light eyes back to his impassive yet still pale features. "You are faring better, I see."
However, the cook received no answer. Aeglironion sighed quietly as he leaned back against the wall, wearily closing his eyes as his smirk vanished. Thranduil watched him carefully for a moment before he sighed as well. "'Tis been a long time, Aeglironion," he muttered.
Chuckling quietly, Aeglironion slowly opened his eyes, meeting the king's impassive gaze. "Aye," he agreed quietly, almost thoughtfully. "A long time. The lovely Wood had not been tainted by the Shadow when last I gazed upon her."
Anger flitted across Thranduil's stern features, his jaw setting firmly. The traitorous cook's eyes gleamed, realizing the effect his words had on the other Elf. "Mayhap your banishment was at an ideal time, then," the king said stiffly. "Though why you have been able to dwell in Imladris–!"
"Lord Elrond did not remember my name," Aeglironion interrupted heatedly, his eyes suddenly flaring. "He did not remember my face." He paused for a moment before his smirk returned. "Astounding how time affects even our memories. Though as I recall, you were burdened by other matters when you wrongfully banished me. It must be difficult, Thranduil, to follow in your father's footsteps. The pressures of living up to his name only to dwell in his shadow."
Thranduil's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he forced himself to take a deep breath before turning his gaze back to Aeglironion. "You were not wrongfully banished," he said, his tone steady.
Aeglironion raised an eyebrow. "No?"
The Woodland king took a few steps forward, stopping directly in front of the prisoner. "If you recall, you were banished on the grounds of plotting an assassination," he told him quietly, his light eyes smoldering.
"You still stand by that, I see." Aeglironion winced as he straightened up a little, setting his hand lightly on his tended shoulder. "I admitted to you that there were a few soldiers in my forces who were discontent under your father's rule and did not desire for you to take his place on the throne. Aye, they were close to me. But I did not aid in their plans."
Thranduil's face remained impassive, but his intense gaze did not leave the Elf before him. "You were among them when they were discovered. You possessed the poison you planned to use."
Aeglironion shook his head slightly. "You never took into consideration that the reason I was there differed from their own," he countered. "You hardly gave the case a second glance."
The Mirkwood monarch sighed as he passed a weary hand over his face. "It was a difficult time. My–!"
"Yes, your noble father was killed in the field of battle, leaving you to take his place." Aeglironion slowly rose to his feet to meet his former king's gaze. "You were under the pressures of beginning to rule a kingdom." He paused, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Matters of greater importance to handle, am I correct?"
Thranduil steadily held the traitorous Elf's gaze. "'Tis something you would not know," he murmured.
Aeglironion nodded once. "Aye, I will say I have never been forced to bear such a burden," he agreed. Then a smirk turned up the corner of his lips. "Though mayhap it is Elrond I should have given more attention to. He was over your shoulder, as I recall. Lending his wise guidance in such a turbulent time–!"
The cook's sentence abruptly came to an end when Thranduil stepped closer to him, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "It was my judgement, my word, that banished you," he whispered angrily.
"Aye, hír-nín," Aeglironion muttered, his eyes narrowing slightly as well. "You know not what you, and Elrond, have taken from me, Thranduil, though by the Valar, one day you will."
Thranduil stiffened at the threat, though before he could respond, a new voice was heard from behind him. "You should not be out of bed, Thranduil."
A slight smirk appearing on his face, the Mirkwood monarch turned to find Erestor standing in the open doorway, his arms crossed before him in slight irritation. "Lord Elrond would not approve," the slender advisor added, arching an almost challenging eyebrow.
The king chuckled quietly. "Then mayhap it is fortunate that he is not the one who discovered me," he said.
Erestor sighed, uncrossing his arms as he approached the two fair-haired Elves. "You remind me of two certain difficult Elflings who often had a disregard for their father's orders," he grumbled, causing Thranduil to laugh once more. A hint of a smile appeared on his paler face for a brief moment before his gaze hardened when they landed on Aeglironion. "Your punishment will be decided on the morrow, as well as Amonost's."
Aeglironion smirked, nodding his head once. "As my lord Elrond commands it."
There was something about the traitorous Elf's tone and the look in his eye that did not settle well with Erestor, though he kept his face impassive. The advisor then turned away, setting his hand on Thranduil's arm and steering him in the direction of the door. Aeglironion chuckled from behind them.
"Remember my words, Thranduil."
The king stopped, glancing over his shoulder to look at the other fair-haired Elf. The confident yet dangerous smirk on Aeglironion's face was the last thing he saw before Erestor none-too-gently urged him out of the room, shutting the door behind them.
Elrohir rolled over on his bed one more time, sighing heavily with defeat as he buried his face in his pillow in attempt to block the sunlight sneaking into his room. Though he immediately knew it would do no good. His entire body was nearly pleading with him to rest after the trials of the past night, but sleep had been evasive since he and Elladan had retired to their rooms once they knew Thranduil would make a full recovery. However, he was sure his twin was being rewarded with that rest since his mind was not nearly as burdened down as his own.
Giving another resigned sigh, Elrohir slowly sat up and stretched, detangling his legs from the light sheets before rising to his feet. He quickly changed from his sleep shirt to a deep blue tunic, passing a weary hand over his face and through his dark, disheveled hair. Perhaps he would focus on his training with some of the soldiers that afternoon. That should provide him with the distraction he needed.
But then, a small smirk appeared on the younger twin's face as he placed his hand lightly on his stomach when it rumbled quietly. Training would have to come after he stopped by the kitchens.
Elrohir stepped out into the hallway, shutting the door behind him before he began to walk down the hall toward the stairs that would bring him down to the kitchens. But he slowed his pace when he passed the slightly open door of the healing ward as he turned the corner, and with a quiet sigh, the younger twin slowly approached the room and snuck a look inside.
Elrond was asleep in the chair under the window, and Elrohir was slightly concerned to see that his eyes were closed. He hadn't realized just how exhausted his father was, but he knew he should not have been surprised. The lord of Imladris had given a substantial amount of his own strength to keep Thranduil alive.
A small smile then appeared on his face when he noticed Estel curled up under a blanket leaning against Elrond's chest, his mouth slightly open. Elrohir was just relieved that the small mortal had been returned safely after Aeglironion had taken him. He loved the boy as though he were his own brother and did not know what he or any of his family would have done should something have happened to him. With a quiet sigh, the younger twin quietly entered the room and approached the sleeping pair, bending over and leaving a light kiss on Estel's head. The child did not stir.
When Elrohir turned back around, he was surprised when he saw Legolas was smiling at him from where he sat beside a sleeping Thranduil, the king's eyes also closed. "I apologize, Legolas," he muttered. "I did not realize you were awake."
The Mirkwood prince chuckled quietly. "'Tis all right, Elrohir," he replied just as quietly. "I have also been unable to sleep soundly."
Elrohir did not miss the brief but worried glance Legolas sent toward Thranduil. "Has your father been sleeping the entire morn?" he wondered. "That will aid in his recovery."
Surprisingly, Legolas chuckled. "Nay," he said. "Though I am sure he would wish me to believe so. I am uncertain where he went, though he left the room some time ago. He was not gone for long, but I knew the moment he left the bed. I have been awake since."
The younger twin smiled. His friend was as stubborn as always, it would seem. "You do not know where he could have possibly gone?" he asked. He wasn't sure where Thranduil would feel the need to go when he was still so weak. Surely anything could have waited a bit longer.
Legolas slowly shook his head, turning to his father again. "I know not," he answered. "And I am certain he will not tell me."
Elrohir nodded slightly, knowing the king had his reasons. But then, another smile appeared on his face. "Hannon le," he murmured.
The prince quickly turned to the younger twin, confusion clear on his fair face. "What for, Elrohir?"
"For saving Estel," Elrohir said, his smile lingering. "No one would have taken the shot you made. If you had not, I know not whether my brother would be safe with us now."
Legolas gave the dark-haired Elf a warm smile. "That child is dear to us all," he replied sincerely. "I am grateful he is home where he belongs."
Elrohir's smile broadened, but before he could say anything more, both he and Legolas turned to the chair under the window when they heard the quiet sound of a throat clearing. The younger twin's gray eyes widened slightly. "Ada."
A small smile appeared on Elrond's face as he looked back at Elrohir and the Mirkwood Elf. But then, a knowing look entered his gaze when it rested on his son. "What is troubling you, Elrohir?" he asked quietly, resting his hand on top of Estel's dark hair to ensure the child did not wake.
Surprised by the inquiry, Elrohir lowered his eyes slightly. "Nothing troubles me, Ada," he answered, not able to look directly at the Elf lord. "I apologize if we woke you."
Elrond nodded once. "You did not wake me," he assured him, his smile lingering. "I am more concerned for you, ion-nín. What is it you wish to speak to me about?"
Elrohir did not answer. With a quiet sigh, Elrond held Estel close to him as he rose to his feet. Then, making sure the blanket was wrapped securely around him, he carefully set the small boy back down on the chair before he approached his son. The younger twin still could not meet his gaze, and the Elf lord set his hand lightly on his arm.
"Come. Walk with me, Elrohir," Elrond muttered, giving him a kind smile when the younger Elf finally did look at him.
Unable to argue, Elrohir nodded once. Elrond tightened his hold on his arm for a moment before releasing it, and after a careful look at Thranduil, he stepped out of the room. Sighing, the younger twin hurried after him.
Elrond was slowly walking down the hall, a serene smile on his face as he gazed out the windows at the bright sunlight that covered his realm. That smile broadened when Elrohir fell into step beside him. "Lovely afternoon," he commented quietly. "'Tis refreshing to feel the sun after such an ordeal."
"Aye, Ada," Elrohir agreed, though it was only halfheartedly.
The Elf lord gazed at Elrohir with concern. "Speak what is on your mind, penneth," he said, and though his voice was gentle, it was still almost a command. "It burdens me to see you so perturbed."
Elrohir's gray eyes faltered as he turned to meet his father's similar ones. "Ada," he began hesitantly. "Why would you place the blame for Aeglironion's actions on yourself? Surely the fault is not yours."
Elrond's kind visage darkened slightly as he slowed to a stop, Elrohir doing the same beside him. He then approached one of the broad windows overlooking the peaceful land, and he sighed quietly as he leaned on the stone sill. Elrohir lingered back, watching the older Elf carefully. A long moment passed as the lord of Imladris simply watched his people move around to fulfill their daily obligations, his dark hair spilling over his shoulders and shielding his face from view.
"I journeyed to Greenwood after the death of her king," Elrond explained quietly, his fingers tightening around the windowsill. "Though his closest advisor was doing all he could to aid the kingdom, I wanted to ensure that Thranduil was handling the turbulent time as well as possible. He was, of course. He was strong for his people, which I admire him for. It was difficult for him to not only handle the new responsibilities of ruling a realm, but also the death of his father."
Elrohir watched Elrond carefully, unable to imagine how difficult that time must have been for Thranduil. His eyes narrowed slightly. He wanted to forgot how Aeglironion had almost taken his father from him. He did not want to imagine what would have happened had he succeeded.
"While I was there, a small group of Greenwood's soldiers was discovered plotting to assassinate Thranduil," Elrond continued, his body stiffening slightly at the memory. "They were displeased with Oropher's rule and did not wish to see his son on the throne. Aye, both Oropher and Thranduil had the love and support of their people, save for these select few. Aeglironion was among them, though he claimed he had discovered their plan and was attempting to dissuade them.
"But the evidence against him was overwhelming. The poison they planned to use, which was of his own making, was in his possession. I should have recognized it now since it was the same. Though Aeglironion was insistent."
"What happened, Ada?" Elrohir still could not see how his father could place the blame on himself for the traitorous Elf's actions against him and Thranduil.
Elrond sighed as he turned to face his younger son. "Thranduil was burdened with many matters during that time," he told him. "I aided him as much as I could. And when this assassination attempt was revealed, I advised him to do what I thought would be best for him and his kingdom in the already present turbulence. So, he banished Aeglironion and the other soldiers. Aeglironion argued with us until the end, claiming that he had no part in it. But, what was done was done. Thranduil's word was final."
The Elf lord paused and chuckled quietly, though it had a somber feel. "If Aeglironion truly had no part in the plot, I will never know. It was over quickly, and I had my own worries, so I almost had no recollection of him when he arrived in Imladris. But that he would wait so long before plotting against us, I suppose he never will forgive us."
"Ada, the blame for what happened is not yours or Thranduil's," Elrohir said, approaching his father. "You did what was best. It was better not to risk that."
Elrond gave the younger twin a small smile as he set his hand lightly on the side of his head. "Hannon le, Elrohir," he murmured. "That is what I believed then. There were so many matters demanding Thranduil's attention, and later mine in my own realm, that if we could handle ones like these as quickly as possible..." He paused with a sigh. "But if there had been even the slimmest chance that Aeglironion was innocent, we should have looked at the situation a bit more closely. I just thought that at the time, it was the best route. But, looking back, I know it was not."
Elrohir placed his hands securely on Elrond's arms. But before he could say anything, the Elf lord continued. "However, I am simply relieved that I was able to create the antidote for Thranduil in time to stop his plan this time. It is over, ion-nín. It will do you no good to dwell on it anymore. Do I have your word?"
The younger twin nodded, and Elrond smiled as he embraced him for a moment. He then pulled away, giving his son a warm smile before he turned and began to walk back toward the room where his patient was hopefully still asleep. Elrohir watched him for a quick minute before taking a couple steps after him.
Elrond stopped, looking over his shoulder. "Aye, penneth?"
Elrohir sighed. "What part did Amonost have in this?" he asked. He had a hard time believing that the guard who had long served under Glorfindel and who had a hand in his and Elladan's training as they grew would aid in such a plot.
The Elf lord sighed as he completely turned to face the younger twin. "He was one of the guards who accompanied me to Greenwood when Aeglironion was banished," he answered. "He had gained his friendship during the Alliance, which is why I am sure he aided in his coming to Imladris. Though from what Glorfindel has told me, he has retained some of his loyalty to me."
The younger twin smiled slightly, remembering how the guard had seemed much more hesitant than Aeglironion to harm the gentle-hearted master of Imladris. But then, that look slowly vanished. "And what of Estel?" he pressed. "Why would Aeglironion take him?"
Elrond shook his head slightly. "Aside from an attack on me, I know not why Aeglironion would take Estel," he told him honestly. "He is but an innocent child who should have had no part in this."
Elrohir opened his mouth to reply, but the Elf lord held up his hand to silence him. "Estel is safe," he added. "That is what is important." The younger twin only nodded.
At the new, quiet voice, Elrond quickly turned around, a smile appearing on his face when he saw Estel was standing in the open doorway, rubbing his tired eyes as he looked up at the two dark-haired Elves. Legolas stood behind him, giving the Elf lord an apologetic look. "You are awake, ion-nín."
Estel only nodded, yawning as he stepped out into the hallway and held his small arms out to the lord of Rivendell. Elrond knelt on the hard floor and pulled the child into his arms, feeling him rest his head on his shoulder before he rose to his feet again. "Shall we put you to bed, Estel?" he asked.
But Estel shook his head, quickly lifting it to look at Elrond. "I'm not tiwed, Ada," he answered, causing the dark-haired Elf to chuckle. "Can I stay with you? To hewp Thwan'dil?"
Elrond smiled, leaving a soft kiss on the mortal boy's forehead. "Aye, tithen pen," he muttered. "You may." Estel smiled, wrapping his arms tightly around his foster father's neck.
Elrohir couldn't help but smile as he watched Elrond carry Estel back into the room, Legolas with them. He stood out in the hallway for a moment longer, sighing before he followed them inside and shut the door behind him.
"I did not intend to sleep for the entire day, mellon-nín," Thranduil said with a grin as he took a spoonful of the herb soup the house's cooks had prepared for supper.
Elrond chuckled as he turned to the Mirkwood king. "Rest was something you needed," he replied. "I was not about to wake you." His attention was then drawn to Estel, who sat close beside him with his small hand tightly grasping his light tunic, to ensure his soup was not too hot.
The two Elves were sitting at one of the long wooden tables in the kitchens with not only Estel, but Legolas, Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel as well. The warm sun was beginning to set over Imladris, and while the twins and prince chuckled about some jest between them, the Elf lord was just relieved that the Mirkwood king was well enough to join them.
"You are appearing better, Thranduil," Glorfindel stated with a smile, taking a sip of his wine.
"I am feeling better, Glorfindel, hannon le," Thranduil told him, returning the smile as he too tasted the wine. "Thanks entirely to Elrond's care."
The Elf lord grinned. "I am pleased you have not struggled too much, mellon-nín," he muttered.
Thranduil narrowed his eyes slightly at Elrond, but then his smile returned. "I do believe I will follow your suggestion and remain here in Imladris for a few more days," he said, turning his gaze to Legolas, who had perked up slightly at his words, across from him. "That is, if my son does not mind."
"Nay, Ada," Legolas assured him, an excited grin appearing on his face.
Elrond laughed. "The decision would not have been yours, Thranduil," he told him. "I would not have allowed you to depart if I did not deem you fit for travel." His grin returned when he caught the disgruntled look that crossed the king's face. "Do not fret. You and Legolas are always welcome in my home. I will have your rooms prepared. And we still have those negotiations to complete."
"Ai." Thranduil placed his face in his hand. "I had hoped you had forgotten those, mellon-nín."
"There was never a chance." Elrond's gray eyes gleamed as he sipped his wine.
Estel blew on his soup before taking a cautious spoonful. Then, he turned to his foster father. "Thwan'dil and Legowas awe reawwy staying hewe?" he asked hopefully.
Elrond smiled down at him, kissing his head. "Aye, for a few more days so Thranduil can fully recover," he confirmed. The mortal boy grinned broadly as he turned to Legolas, his eyes radiating the joy he felt. The sight warmed the Elf lord's heart, knowing how close Estel was to the Elven prince.
Glorfindel chuckled as he watched the excited child, but then his features grew more serious as he turned to Elrond and Thranduil. "And judgement must be passed on Aeglironion and Amonost," he muttered gravely.
Thranduil took another sip of wine before turning to look at the lord of Imladris. Elrond sighed. "Aye, Glorfindel," he agreed quietly, watching as Legolas and his sons all laughed excitedly together. "Though it must wait until the morrow if Thranduil is able. 'Tis almost nightfall."
"I will be," Thranduil said in nearly a whisper, his intense gaze resting on the bowl of herb soup he had hardly touched before him. His tone made it clear that he wanted the entire ordeal behind him as soon as possible. He felt a light hand land on his arm, and he gave Elrond a grateful smile.
Glorfindel's smile slowly reappeared as he watched his two friends, his mind wandering to their absent companion. "I believe I will bring some soup and wine up to our dear advisor," he stated.
Elrond met his gaze, chuckling quietly as he nodded. "It concerns me when Erestor locks himself up in the library so often," he muttered. "Though his work cannot wait, I suppose. Aye, Glorfindel. I am sure he will appreciate it."
The twice-born warrior laughed a little himself as he rose to his feet and made his way into the back of the kitchens. He watched the table as the cooks hurried to prepare another bowl for the missing Erestor, his smile lingering as Elrond and Thranduil joined in their children's laughter. After the king had nearly lost his life the night before, it was a welcome sight indeed.
Once the soup and wine were ready, Glorfindel took them and hurriedly left the kitchens, making his way up the nearby stairs to the library. Balancing the bowl and goblet on one arm, he pushed open the door and stepped inside the vast room. Humming quietly to himself, the Balrog Slayer walked between the many rows of bookshelves toward the back table where the chief advisor always worked.
However, Glorfindel stopped, his eyes narrowing slightly. Erestor was not sitting at his usual table, bent over with his nose nearly touching the parchment he was working on. In fact, it appeared as though he hadn't sat at his designated spot since before Thranduil had been poisoned.
A bit concerned, Glorfindel turned and crossed the library at a slightly quicker pace, stepping out into the hallway and walking in the direction of the slender advisor's room. It was the only other place he could think of where he would be at this hour.
The twice-born warrior walked around the corner, noticing the door of Erestor's room at the end of the hall was open. He hurried forward as quickly as he could without spilling the soup or wine in his hands and paused in front of the room, sneaking a look inside. It appeared to be empty.
Wondering where else the irritable Elf could be, Glorfindel took a quiet step inside the room, seeing nothing was disturbed. It also appeared as though Erestor hadn't been in there since the night before.
But where could he have been?
Then, Glorfindel paused when he saw the closet door was open. His concern growing, the Balrog Slayer silently crossed the room and leaned around the door to look inside.
Erestor was standing stiffly in the dark closet before the shelves of blank parchment, extra quills, vials of ink, and organized paperwork, his face much paler than when Glorfindel had seen him that morning. In his hands rested a Noldorin dagger.
Author's Note: Okay, so before you guys freak out, lol, this kinda mysterious, open ending was very much intentional. As are the couple questions I'm sure I've left you all with. Why? Because part two, called "Stained," will be coming up soon! So, again, thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this story! I'm glad you all enjoyed it so much! And, with that in mind, here's a sneak peek at what's coming up in "Stained." Thanks again, guys!
The darkness hung heavily over him, nearly compressing his lungs.
The dark-haired Elf slowly sat up, pausing and placing his hand on his ribs when a sharp pain shot through them. He waited a moment for it to pass before sitting up completely, slowly looking at the darkness pressing in around him. At first he believed himself to still be blindfolded, but when he tentatively reached up to touch his face, he felt the soft cloth had been removed. A slight twinge of panic touched his heart. He could not see much of his surroundings despite his sharp eyesight, a sensation he was unaccustomed to. It was enough to unnerve him.
Where was he?
Then, he gasped when a quiet, pained whimper fell slightly muted on his ears. The dark-haired Elf quickly looked around him intently for the source of the sound. He reached out with his hands, hardly able to see them in front of his face as he searched, frustrated by his hindered sight. The quiet sound was heard a second time, and he hastened his search.
Finally, he felt his fingertips brush against a cold hand. Tightening his own hand around it, the Elf winced slightly as he moved closer to the second figure, hardly able to make out his companion in the darkness. He moved his fingers up the arm of the other Elf, feeling what seemed to be dried blood in the long strands of his fair hair, before finally coming to rest on top of his head. The dark-haired Elf shook his head slightly, his eyes narrowing with concern.
"You should not have had to suffer this," he whispered to himself. "Not with me."