New story, as you can see. Welcome back! There isn't too much to say here now... I do not think it's gonna be one of my best fics, but hopefully, it will give you a good time reading. I guess the story will take 5 chapters, more or less. Have fun!
angelfabeth: Yep, it's a real saying, at least it is here :P How are you nowadays? :P
LotrNienna: Well, it's enough :) Thanks ;)
TheButterflyCurse996: *peeks from under the table* Is it safe now? :P
Ynnealay: Thank you! :P Don't be too confused, it will all work out ;) Take a deep breath ;)
"How did this happen?" A sigh.
"It's merely a scratch, Estel."
"Off course it is. Save that it's deeper than a scratch, and bleeding more profusely. And it's also broader. Not to mention it needs stitching. So let us just call it a wound, don't you agree? I think that would be a more appropriate term," Aragorn bitout. He was looking fairly irritated, and his cleaning of the 'scratch' was a bit rougher than it could have been. Legolas wisely decided to keep his mouth shut.
For a time, all was silent, save for the occasional splatter of water, disturbed by a wrung rag. The liquid was turning red already. Perhaps it was more than a scratch… but even then, it was barely worth making such a fuss over. And normally, Aragorn wouldn't. Off course, he would stop Legolas and examine him thoroughly before the elf could go to his room, but he wouldn't get this agitated for a mere scratch. Legolas wondered what was going on.
His thoughts were interrupted when Aragorn suddenly rose and disappeared, carrying the bowl in his hands. The elf heard him throwing away the water, before putting down the bowl rather violently. An irritated curse followed. The elf winced. Something was certainly not right here.
After a few moments, Aragorn came back with great steps. Between his fingers, he held a needle and a small thread. The top was blazing red, a sign that it had only recently been disinfected in the fire. Legolas groaned, forgetting his intention not to irritate the young king more.
"Is that really necessary?"
"Yes. Now hold still." Before Legolas could react, Aragorn pierced throughhis skin. The elf hissed at the sudden invasion. Not being able to prevent it, he backed away a little. Estel's fingers hesitated for a second.
"I'm sorry," he grumbled.
"No harm done. But I would be grateful if you would be a little more careful," Legolas replied lightly.
"Very well." Gently yet efficiently, Aragorn stitched the wound and stood.
"That should suffice. I cleaned the cut quite thoroughly, so you won't need athelas. From the moment you feel any itching or discomfort, anything at all, you will call me, understood?"
"Fine. Will you nowtell me what's bothering you?" Aragorn looked a little taken aback, but then he smiled sadly, as if remembering the many times he hadn't been able to hide something for his elven friend. Perhaps it was better that way. A listening friend could ease your pain, and offer you healing even before the scars had formed. But still, there was a faint feeling of guilt gnawing on him.
"Tis nothing, my friend. I have been very busy of late. I am sorry to have taken it out on you," he replied vaguely. He tried to keep a blank expression under Legolas' scrutinizing gaze, but he feared he was failing badly. As he was failing everything and everyone lately, a bitter voice added. He turned around.
"Will you please excuse me? As I said, I have other business to attend to."
"You still haven't said what is bothering you so." Legolas' soft voice followed him.
"In case you didn't hear it with your sensitive elven hearing, I'll repeat it for you. I am busy. At least I do not have time to wander around in my garden and sing lofty tunes. I have wounded people to attend to, and a city to rebuild and-" Here he cut himself off, partly startled by his vicious snapping, partly to hide the real reason for his concern. Legolas, however, was not intimidated.
"And what?" Aragorn kept silent. "And what, Estel? I know you. You have been busy before, without losing your temper. What is weighing on your mind?" Aragorn sighed.
"So there is no chance I can just deliver you to your room where you will stay nice and quiet?"
"I thought so already. But I must warn you, Legolas. You won't like it at all."
"Still, I will help you carry your burden, whatever it might be." The man smiled gently in gratitude, and nodded.
"Tis good to have a friend such as you, my friend." Hopefully it would stay like that after he had seen them. His smile disappeared. Almost immediately. Legolas laid a hand upon his shoulder.
"Mellon nin, you must tell me what is bothering you! I have never seen you this f… sad." The elf didn't think Aragorn would take it well if he called him fragile, but it was exactly what he looked like. He seemed almost… old. His face was drawn, and a sparkle of grey had entered his hair. He had more lines around his eyes and upon his cheeks than Legolas remembered. Estel, his best friend, was aging. And he was absolutely powerless to stop it.
Cease! There are other matters to attend to now! There would be time enough to grieve later on. Now, they'll just had to deal with the problems and enjoy every minute he spent in the king's presence. Beginning with the first. With some effort, Legolas created a waiting smile again upon his face.
"Please tell me, Estel."
"Perhaps it would be better if I showed you." He just couldn't get the words over his lips. The elf nodded.
"Fine. Lead the way." Without a word, Aragorn left the room, Legolas just behind him. The man's steps were quick, agitated, even nervous. Almost angrily, he turned around corners, not even acknowledging the greetings and curtseys he received. To his astonishment and growing concern, Legolas noticed they were heading for the Houses of Healing. Several dreadful possibilities wereswirling around in his head.
"Estel… Arwen isn't…"
"Arwen is in perfect health. She's not the one I'm worrying about. I'm quite sure her human blood will protect her."
"What are you talking about?" No answer. Legolas thought about anyone else who could be lying in the healing chambers.
"No. As I said, I believe having a part of human kind in you can save you, even though it is only a little part."
"You are not making any sense, my friend."
"Perhaps I will, in a minute." Aragorn halted at a door, in the middle of the healing quarters. Legolas knew where the gate would lead to. A grand, elegant hall filled with beds, curtains and cabinets with herbs and books. It had been used during the war to treat the masses of fallen soldiers and injured civilians in, but after peace had come, the wounded men were brought to private chambers, where they would be more secluded. The opening of this door could only mean one thing.
A disaster had fallen upon the city.
Nervously, Legolas stretched his hand towards the door to open it. Even here, he could hear faint screaming and delirious mumbling, and the hasty footsteps of the nurses and healers. The smell of athelas and numerous other herbs penetrated his nose. He feared what he might see, and yet he longed to end this painful ignorance. But Aragorn stopped his hand mid-air.
"Legolas, before you open that door… I must ask of you – no, you must swear to me you will not enter the hall." Legolas didn't even have the patience anymore to ask him why. He was sure he would find out soon. So he just nodded.
"I will." Then he opened the door.
What he saw amazed him. Rows and rows of beds were placed behind each other, and the cabinets where stuffed up with all kind of herbs and bandages, but except for the beds closest to the windows, the hall was empty. At the most, fifteen beds were occupied. Legolas felt anger rising in him. He turned around.
"So this is your idea of a joke? Have me worried from the moment I arrive here, as if something terrible had happened? Or is it more like a payback for me being injured? What were you thinking? VALAR, ARAGORN! I BELIEVED ARWEN OR ELDARION WAS DYING!" His scream echoed through the large hall. Several of the nurses temporarily ceased what they were doing to cast an irritated glance at the elf's direction. Even the coughing and feverish cries had stopped for a few seconds. Legolas mumbled an apology and turned around, shoving Aragorn rather roughly out of his way. The man however, caught his shoulder.
"No, Legolas. This is not what it seems. Look at the patients." The elf only gazed at him furiously, before throwing a quick glance at the beds. He would have almost missed it, had one of the sick not just turned over the edge of his bed to throw up some blood. Immediately, a nurse was there to support him, blocking him from view. But Legolas had seen it. With great eyes, he examined the other patients, and felt his knees almost give way.
"They… they are all…"
"Elves. Indeed," Aragorn nodded solemnly. "You know them."
"My father's messengers. We… He mentioned he had sent ambassadors to the city, to coordinate the initial rebuilding of the gardens. They should have been back in Greenwood a few days ago," the elf whispered. He turned to the king.
"How did this happen?"
The man sighed, and gestured to the room on the opposite side of the hall. It was a small chamber with a table and some chairs. Sometimes, healers came here to discuss a patient's treatment, or to rest a little before visiting the other rooms. Legolas chose the chair nearest the window and looked at Aragorn. He noticed his friend didn't look him in his eyes. Instead, he examined his hands carefully and inhaled deeply.
"Greenwood's messengers arrived here well. They were skilled and courteous in their meetings with men. Under their charge, the gardens flourished again, so well that they asked for other craftsmen from the other elven realms."
"I know that, Estel. You sent me a letter yourself."
"My apologies. I just want to discuss my thoughts. Countless times I have been thinking about how… But I can't find the solution." Aragorns voice trailed off and he seemed deep in thought. Legolas waited a few seconds.
"Mellon nin, pray continue." The man blinked a few seconds and smiled apologetically.
"Off course, I'm sorry. Well, everything went well, and some days ago, one of the ambassadors, Camceleb, told me there was little to be done anymore, and asked my leave to go back to his home. I thanked them for their services, giving them each a purse filled with pieces of silver, but Elentìriel asked me for a flower of the White Tree instead, saying it reminded her of Elentari's light, and wishing to carry such a star with her for eternity, so that she would remember the hope I brought. So I gave her the last fruit of the old tree, for the new one doesn't bear any blossoms yet. Then we parted."
He paused a few seconds, collecting his thoughts.
"That night, Elentìriel came back to me in panic, crying that the others were vomiting blood and beseeching me to help them. I followed her immediately. When I came into their quarters, I found Celemceb, Sulfalas and Nelladel gravely ill. They were brought to the hall. That was two days ago."
"And what about the others?"
"Elentìriel and I examined the sick thoroughly during the night. Since at that stage, I didn't know what was bothering them, I gave them some pain stilling tea and washed their faces with athelas. Then I went to the library to find out what was causing this illness." Aragorn sighed, rubbing his temples.
"When the morning came, more bad tidings reached me. During the nights, other elves had fallen ill. Most of them had worked with Celemceb, Sulfalas or Nelladel, or had been in contact with them in another way – which made me to conclude the illness is contagious. Yesterday, fourteen others were brought to the hall, all of them were elves."
Legolas leant back, staring at the small fire in the room. His thoughts were fumbling over each other as he took in the new information. He was shocked. Elves didn't get ill. That was a law of nature. They could die of grief or wounds, but not of sickness. Whatever was the cause of this plague, it was unnatural.
"What are the symptoms?"
"Apparently, the illness is betrayed firstly by coughing up blood. The patient gets a fever, and can't hold any food or liquid inside anymore. Thence, he weakens, before going into a coma. That's the last stage before death occurs."
"I thought about that already, but it doesn't make sense. Elentìriel ate the same as the others, and she didn't get sick, and some of the sick elves drank wine with some craftsmen from Lorien, and they didn't get ill." Legolas frowned, and thought back on everything the man had said. Then he remembered something.
"Aragorn, you said that after Celemceb, Sulfalas and Nelladel, fourteen others were brought in. But there were only sixteen beds occupied." Now did the man look up with pained eyes.
"Legolas… Sulfalas died during the night. The illness is extremely contagious and deadly. That's why I didn't want you to enter the hall. And that's why I would like you to leave for Ithilien, and not to come back until this plague is over."
Hopefully it isn't too bad? Hey, would you like another chapter on Dawn Never Came?