A/N: Just a quick thank you this time around to a couple of new subscribers and some lovely reviewers, love you guys!
Aragorn watched as the guards carried Braelors body back down to the dungeons, it was regrettable that he had to be kept there, the dead were usually tended to in the healing wing, but with both Legolas and Thranduil there it was best to keep Braelor as far away as possible. Even though he was their enemy, no elf took any death lightly and even the bodies of those against them were still treated with respect, orcs and spiders were burned and humans buried as they spoke a lament for the lives they had taken, for those who were truly evil had no choice and those who had chosen the wrong path had usually done so for good reason.
Once the guards were out of sight he walked down the hallway in which he had seen Adrenen run, the boy must have been terrified and he hoped he could find him soon to explain what was happening and that he was safe. It didn't take him long to realise that the hall he had ran down led to the Kings private quarters, this should be easier than he thought, there were only a few rooms to search down this particular way. He started in the bath house with no luck, moving on to Thranduil's bedroom and finally the door to the hall leading to the Kings gardens. He felt as though he were a child again, sneaking around Imladris to take a look at all the rooms Lord Elrond had specifically told him not to enter. King Thranduil's private quarters were off limits to all but a few people, and Aragorn was not one of those people, he hoped the King would forgive him when he finally awoke.
He knew in his heart the King would be fine, the wound to his head was certainly nothing to take lightly, but he was sure the healers would be fussing over him so much he would make a full recovery in no time. They all loved their King, and not just because he provided them with a safe place to escape from all the turmoil of the outside world, but because Thranduil genuinely loved them all back. Aragorn was silently hoping that the King would stay in a state of forced sleep long enough for him to make it to the healing wing. He was unsure of how Thranduil would react to Braelors death, and more importantly how he would react to Aragorn being the one to kill him. It was not Aragorns place to end Braelors life, even with threatening Legolas and Adrenen, if they had been on the battle field he would have been fair game, but these were Thranduil's Halls, and anything that happened in his realm was his decision alone.
The other problem that Aragorn faced was his promise to the villagers, he had told them he would return in one week with Braelor unharmed. He had no idea how the villagers were going to react to their leader being killed, Braelor had pulled them so far in to his web of lies that it seemed they trusted him unconditionally. There was still a spark of hope though, he could vividly remember the faces of some of the villagers when Legolas had been brought out into the yard the day of the games. What he saw was doubt, doubt over what he could not be certain, but there was a definite weakness that he could play off, try to expose to lessen the blow of Braelors death.
His heart ached for Legolas, he knew his friend had been through a lot of grief in his long life, but to see him going through so much pain at once almost broke his own heart. He was a strong warrior, always calm in battle, always in control of his emotions and to see him on the brink of shattering like a pane of glass worried him greatly. He knew that once Thranduil had recovered he would be on his way to clearing his own mind and regaining control, but he would still be there to stand by him and mend the cracks that formed in his facade.
Aragorn shook the thoughts from his mind as he stepped out into Thranduil's gardens and blinked disbelieving at the sight before him. Legolas had told him of the gardens but no description could match their true beauty, thousands of flowers covered every inch of the ground, ancient looking stone pillars stretched upwards wrapped in flowering vines. Aragorn almost forgot the reason he entered in the first place, he could see why Thranduil escaped here when he had need to think, it had an almost instant calming effect. He scanned the brightly colored garden and his eyes came to rest on a particularly twitchy shrub.
"Adrenen?" he stepped over to the shrub and parted the foliage, Adrenen was seated on the ground hugging his knees, tears streaming down his face. He raced around behind the shrub and kneeled down beside the boy. "It is okay my friend, you are safe."
"I'm a coward" he sniffed wiping the tears on his sleeve.
"You are many things Adrenen and a coward is not one of them."
"I ran, and now Legolas is gone" he looked up at Aragorn and his eyes widened. "You have to find them! You have to save Legolas!"
Aragorn shook his head "Legolas is safe."
Adrenen looked relieved by the news and started to relax. "And Braelor?"
Aragorn took a deep breath, he was not quite sure how to tell Adrenen of Braelors demise. Although the boy knew the truth and knew that Braelor had lied to them, he was still a man who had helped raised him, a man he had known his entire life. He furrowed his brow and took another breath. "To save Legolas I had to do something... regrettable. I'm sorry Adrenen but Braelor is dead".
"Oh" Adrenen lowered his head his eyes focussing on the ground, "well that is good."
Good? That was certainly not the reaction Aragorn had expected. "You are not troubled by his death?"
"Well yes, but at the same time no. He..." Adrenen's voice trailed off, obviously reluctant to finish his sentence.
"What is it Adrenen?"
Adrenen swallowed and took a breath, "he hated the elves so much it changed him, even the other villagers were starting to see it, especially when he started using elves in the games." Fresh tears welled up in his eyes at the memory of the games. "Only those born after he became leader didn't challenge him in secret. I only heard stories because of my Uncles tavern, when I cleared the tables I often heard some of the older men speaking of the elves and how some of them had even met them before. Stories of them not being as bad as Braelor was telling everyone circled, people started to doubt him, but they were just too afraid to do anything about it. At least now people will be able to think for themselves again."
Aragorn felt a spark of hope, his suspicions were correct, it wasn't the village that hated the elves, it was all Braelor. This news, although not perfect, was certainly positive and though they never had the chance to convince Braelor that the elves were not as he perceived them to be, at least there was still a chance the other villagers could be swayed. He made a mental note to bring this information to Thranduil as soon as the elf had recovered, if the King agreed to his original plan then it would all play out very well indeed.
He stood up and offered a hand to Adrenen "come, we had best leave this place before someone finds us here."
Adrenen took hold of Aragorn's hand and he lifted him off the ground, the boy looked around as if seeing the gardens for the first time. "You know, I had that same look on my face when I walked in here" Aragorn smiled at him noticing the boys dumbfounded look.
Adrenen blushed slightly, "where are we? I didn't really take notice of where I was going," his blush deepened.
"This is the Kings garden, you certainly chose a nice spot to go."
Adrenen continued to look wide eyed at the gardens as they stepped back towards the door to the Halls. From what he had seen in the village Aragorn guessed the boy had never even seen real flowers before, all the grew on the plains were wild grasses and a few knapweed. He got the distinct impression that the villagers were rarely permitted to leave the Hollow save for hunting and recently 'gathering', picking flowers was not high on their agenda. He couldn't help but smile at the boys curiosity and wonder at everything he saw.
"Come now, I think a stop at the kitchens for some tea is needed before we go to Legolas." Aragorn would have much preferred a few pints of ale at that point to help dull his nerves but he would have to settle for some herbal tea. They made their way back out to the main hall which was now filled with panicked elves, they had all heard about the incident with their King and came to show their concern. Aragorn had to dodge a barrage of questions as he and Adrenen made their way through the crowd, most knew there was a prisoner being held in the cells but none of them had any idea why, and they were all confused by the stories and rumours circulating about his death.
Aragorn looked at Adrenen who was seeming increasingly ill at ease. "I cannot answer your questions." He told them, "your King will be able to answer them all for you soon, now please, let us pass." There was a murmur from the crowd, most sounding relieved at Aragorn informing them that Thranduil himself would be addressing them, showing that he would recover from his injuries quickly. The crowd finally parted and Aragorn escorted Adrenen to the kitchens where they both breathed a sigh of relief.
Legolas was starting to become annoyed as Nestariel asked him to stop pacing for the umpteenth time, the healers had finally allowed him into the healing wing but they had warned him to stay out of the way. Try as he might he could not just sit back in the corner of the room and a few minutes after every scolding from Nestariel he found himself at the foot of his fathers bed once more. He looked at his father, the proud warrior and King confined to a bed, his eyes closed in unconsciousness. The wound on his back had only been minor and tended to easily, the gash on his head did not look much worse but it was the damage inside that concerned them.
It felt like hours before all heads in the room turned towards the sound of a soft groan.
"Ada?" Legolas rushed over to the side of the bed, nearly knocking one of the healers off her feet in the process.
As Thranduil blinked his eyes open everyone in the room froze on the spot, none of them were sure as to what state the Kings mind would be in. They had all seen the effects of a head wound before, some recovered well, others were much less fortunate.
"Ada?" Legolas repeated as Thranduil's eyes began to focus and he turned to the sound of his sons voice, when his eyes met Legolas' his brow furrowed slightly. "Ada, do you know who I am?" Legolas asked tentatively slightly afraid at his fathers reaction upon seeing him.
Thranduil seemed to think for a moment before responding. "Legolas... Ion nin" /My son/ he smiled before closing his eyes briefly and taking in a breath. He reopened his eyes and a look of worry filled them. "Braelor? The guards?" He tried to sit up at his sudden realization but the healers sprang into action stopping him.
"No Hir nin, you cannot get up yet" Nestariel told him but her worry went unheeded as Thranduil proceeded to push himself from the bed, but his injuries played against him however and he winced before sinking back down into the pillows.
"The guards are fine Ada, they are in the next room being tended to." Legolas reassured him, trying not to let his own worry show through.
"And Braelor? Tell me that you found him."
Legolas sighed slightly before nodding, "Aye."
"Then he is back in the cells?" Thranduils question was tentative, Legolas knew his father could tell something was amiss, he swallowed as he tried to find the right words. He knew his father would not be pleased when he heard of Braelors death, it was not in his nature to kill prisoners no matter what they had done and this situation with the villagers was delicate enough already.
"After we found you Aragorn went searching for him, but Braelor found Adrenen first. I happened to stumble across them and traded my life for Adrenens." He paused to gauge his fathers reaction but he remained impassive, simply listening to the story. "We struggled briefly before Aragorn found us, he had no choice, he had to act, Braelors body has most likely already been taken care of." Legolas looked down at the ground, feeling ashamed of his own failure and dreading the Kings reaction to Aragorn ending Braelors life.
"This is ill news" Thranduil said and Legolas heart sank a little, "however I do not believe Aragorn would have acted in such a way had there have been no other option. I know how he cares for you, and you for him." Legolas looked into his fathers eyes and surprisingly saw no anger, he had half expected his father to start to send him from the room and banish Aragorn along with him. 'Maybe that knock to the head has done him some good' he mused.
Thranduil went to sit himself up once again and the healers dove over to the bed before he barely had a chance to press his hands against the mattress. He held one hand up and gestured to them to stop. "I am fine, I assure you."
"Forgive me Hir nin but I hardly think-"
"I said I am fine!" There was the Thranduil Legolas knew, the one with the short temper and the only person with a sense of pride larger than his own. The healers backed away and Thranduil pulled himself up with ease, the disorientation from his first attempt obviously passing.
Legolas waited a moment before finally working up the courage to ask one of the question that had been plaguing him. "Ada, how exactly did Braelor escape?"
Thranduil furrowed his brow and shook his head "it was my mistake, pure and simple, I underestimated him. I have never seen a human move so fast nor be able to predict what was about to happen. I barely had time to turn around before Braelor struck me in the temple, that is all I remember until I woke up in here."
"So you were already unconscious when he stabbed you, as were the guards?"
Thranduil raised an eyebrow at Legolas. "Stabbed me?"
Legolas nodded, "when we found you there was a dagger embedded in your back."
Thranduil adjusted his shoulders slightly testing the muscles, "I did not even notice" he looked up to the healers and inclined his head towards them. "You have done a fine job." The healers simply bowed their heads at the King in thanks.
"Ada, what was it that Braelor spoke to you about down in the cells? Before he died he said something about our people paying for something, and that dagger was a message to me saying" his eyes flicked to the healers and he lowered his voice "a message saying you had stabbed them in the back."
Thranduil closed his eyes for a moment and Legolas thought there must have been something wrong, he went to signal to the healers but they were already hovering in the background and watching their King closely. "I think that tale is best left for us to discuss alone" he finally answered, his voice sounding laden with grief. That answer only served to grow Legolas concerns and beg even more questioned to be asked, but he respected his fathers wishes and spoke no more of it, though the moment they were alone he would certainly be bridging the subject again.
He nodded his head in agreeance and smiled "I am just glad to see you are in one piece, you had the entire staff in an uproar."
"An uproar you say? It takes more than a mere mortal to put me down for good, I feel well enough to get up already though I feel I would not be permitted." He gave the healers a sideways glance.
"If you would stay just a while longer we would feel much more comfortable" Nestariel said with a worried expression.
Legolas looked at the distasteful look on Thranduil's face and suppressed a laugh, "well at least you now know how I feel every time I am ordered to stay in these beds."
"Yes, but you are in them far more often than I, how you and your mortal friend find yourselves in so much trouble is beyond me." Thranduil shook his head.
"You cannot blame us, I think trouble seems to follow us wherever we go, it is probably safer for us NOT to be in these Halls."
"No matter what trouble you cause here ion nin, I would not wish for you be anywhere else."