Between Darkness and Dawn

Chapter 24: Son of Rivendell

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Night had finally descended and the stars were out.  The valley was quiet and the breezes had cooled slightly, lifting up from the floor of the ravine and brushing through the trees as they rushed passed Imladris.

”Thank Ilúvatar they are out.” Elrond sighed softly, thinking the words to himself as he gazed up into the dark sky adorned with silver pinpricks of light.  Their distant beauty did little to ease the tightness in his chest.

The elf lord was seated on the steps that led from the northernmost balcony to the gardens below.  He made no attempt to hide his presence and made no excuse for it either.  It was not often that the steps made a good bench, but tonight it was as far as he had gotten in his nightly walk of the grounds.

Another sigh escaped his lips as he subconsciously crossed his arms, pushing his hands up underneath the overlarge sleeves of the tunic he wore.  He hadn’t slept in days and had taken less food than could even support an elf.  Elrohir and Elladan were out again.  He didn’t even know where they were, but they never could sit around and wait.  On the other hand that seemed to be all he ever could do.  They had had no word from Mirkwood since Raniean and Trelan went home, but Elrond knew that, if they discovered anything, Thranduil would inform him.  It had been months since Legolas and Aragorn had all but disappeared.  Elrond felt each moment acutely.  

It surprised the elf lord when he sighed again.  All of Rivendell seemed to be holding its breath, waiting on what he would do next.  Only, he had no idea.  He was at a loss and his heart was weary, more so than it had been in a long time.  Tonight the weight of the years pressed down on him and he did not resist.  Estel was going to be the death of him yet.  He had never had cause to spend so much time worrying and grieving over any of his other children.

Elrond watched quietly as Celboril lit the lamps situated about the garden grounds.  The servant was caught up in what he was doing and not quite paying attention to his surroundings, so it startled him when a soft voice requested that he kindly not light the glow globe next to the winding staircase.

“My Lord?” Celboril questioned, stepping around the ivy that wound about the stone balustrade.  The greenery had blocked his view of Elrond.

The elf lord smiled softly.  A smile that did not reach his eyes.

“Are you ill?  Do you have need?”  Celboril hesitated in his questioning as he saw the weariness that lined Elrond’s face.  “You have not eaten or slept in days.  I know you are troubled, but the whole valley grieves your absence.  Come, take your rest.”  Celboril extended his hand, intending to help Elrond to his feet, but the gesture was not accepted.

The ancient elf that sat before him simply refocused his gaze out into the darkness of the gardens and shook his head slightly.

“Not tonight.”  The piercing gaze that Elrond laid on his old friend touched Celboril’s heart. “I do not require food or rest at the moment.”

“No, what you require is your sons home... all of them.  But, denying yourself what you need will help no one and only hurt you and those you love.”  The elf pressed quietly.

With the barest hint of acknowledgement, Elrond shifted his gaze back out into the night shrouded gardens.  It was the same evasive tactic he always used when he knew Celboril was right but intended to ignore him anyway.

“I will be in later, Celboril,” was the nearly whispered answer and the servant knew he would get no more out of his lord.

Quietly, the house servant moved off to continue his rounds.  He would check back in with Elrond when he had completed them.  He had seen Elrond through many trying times, but he had never really seen the Elf Lord manifest his distress by denying himself food and rest this way.  It worried the servant.  He was not about to let his old friend fade away for lack of the necessities.  Perhaps he could even slip some of Elrond’s own tea to him.  He feared that the elf lord was distracted enough that he might not even notice.

Elrond knew full well what his friend was thinking.  Celboril hadn’t served in the house of Rivendell as long as he had without the elf lord learning his habits and ways.  He smiled softly as the servant moved off into the dark.  It wouldn’t be long before the Lord of Imladris would notice that Celboril had returned.  Celboril had a penchant for watching over his liege.  The elf would come out to look after Elrond, standing in the shadows of the balcony where he thought his vigil would be unnoticed.

Elrond shook his head.  He was fine.  He just needed solitude this evening and a chance to sort out the chaos in his heart. 



Dread...and an overwhelming darkness...

They had been his companions for the past few months.  Seething to the top and receding to the farthest recesses of his heart, the emotions had haunted his waking hours.  Sometimes it felt as if the weight of Middle-earth rested on his decisions, or lack thereof.  And yet the ones that caused him the greatest distress, his sons, had minds and wills of their own.  He had to learn to trust them to let them go.  Elladan and Elrohir were old enough... but Estel?  His head said yes, but sometimes his heart said no.  His dealings with the race of Men, a people that was perpetually younger, had taught him that distrust was the best choice.  They never lived long enough to see the results of their impetuous decisions, never were privy to the long-ranging effects of their choices.  They died too young, too swiftly and often too brutally to ever know if they had been a hindrance or a blessing to their race.  Only those far older could ever recount their course and weave it into the tale of humanity.

And how would that tale read...after all was said and done and his own part in their history was told someday, far into the future?  Would he have helped, or would he have failed them?

Elrond let his head sink into his hands.  No, it wasn’t Estel he doubted.  It was himself.  He had treated Estel as an adult for long before his brothers had been ready to accept him as such... but he had to wonder if he had made a mistake somewhere, if he had fed rather than tempered his youngest’s natural inclination towards danger.

Not too long ago he had been forced to re-look at all the pain surrounding the loss of his wife, and the dull ache of that had only just begun to fade.  Now, faced with the probability of having lost Estel, the grief was simmering just below the surface, waiting for him to let his guard down.  His wife, his brother, his parents, maybe someday his own children, not to mention the countless Dunèdain he had befriended and sheltered over the years...  Why?  Why was he destined to always love and lose?  Why did he keep taking that hurt upon himself so willingly when he knew so painfully well that, in the end, all humans perished?

//“Tell me, Peredhel, is your heart that calloused or do you simply enjoy pain?”//

Elrond had long ago forgiven King Oropher for speaking those unthinking words to him shortly before the final battle of the Last Alliance.  He had to wonder with a wry smile what the elf would have thought of his grandson.  Yet at the same time, the former King of Mirkwood’s words came back to him often, perhaps echoing with a faint ring of painful truth.

Fishing in the pocket of his robe, he retrieved the Ring of Barahir.  It had been cleaned and polished and it sparkled brightly in the palm of his hand.  Closing his fist tightly about the heirloom, he glanced back into the darkness of the garden.

Too much.  It was all too much for his heart to consider, too much for his mind to wrap its logic around.  Another sigh punctuated his weariness and he glanced upward, finding the twin stars above Imladris and hoping they would guide his sons home.  All of them.


The journey home had been a long one.  When the great eagles finally came to rest in the courtyard of Imladris Estel was asleep, sprawled forward over Gwaihir’s shoulder blades and nestled into the downy feathers for warmth.  The repetitive motion and feelings of weightlessness had lulled his tired mind and body into a deep peaceful sleep, something he hadn’t experienced in many nights.

Legolas slipped quickly from Minhalthain’s back and walked to Gwaihir’s side.

“Your friend has fallen asleep.”  The bird’s deep, soft voice finally stirred the ranger and he groaned slightly.

Aragorn’s mind was on the verge of deciding whether he should get up or snuggle back down, when Legolas’ hand touched his shoulder and shook him gently.  Jumping lightly up onto the low retaining wall of the courtyard, Legolas was able to reach his friend on the bird’s back.

“Estel.”  Legolas laughed as the human frowned and tried to move away, nearly falling off the other side of the great eagle.

Gwaihir compensated quickly, stretching out his wing and catching the man.

“Come on, you are not abed yet.  Wake up.”  The elf shook the ranger harder, trying to lift the man into a sitting position.

The jostling motions finally woke Aragorn who pushed himself groggily up and looked around, momentarily disoriented.  His tousled hair and confused gaze caused the prince to laugh lightly.

“We are home. Now come, quickly.  Gwaihir tires of hauling your dead weight around.”  Legolas jumped back to the ground lightly from his position on the courtyard wall.

Much slower than his companion and with far less grace, Aragorn slid to the ground.  He was finally pulled back to partial alertness when his boots hit the stone walkway.  He swayed slightly as he reoriented himself to being upright.  He didn’t even shrug off Legolas’ hands as the elf gripped his arm tightly, keeping him on his feet.

“Strider, are you awake?”  Legolas asked quietly, turning the man to face him.

Silver eyes stared at the elf prince for several heartbeats before Aragorn drew in a deep breath and blinked several times.


“I’m awake,” the ranger responded softly as he followed Legolas towards the house.  It took him a moment to realize they were at Rivendell and a moment longer to catch up with Legolas’ softly spoken thanks to the eagles as they left.

“We’re home,” he stated flatly as his boot hit the first step.

“Strider, are you all right?”  Legolas stopped.  He still fretted that the antidote hadn’t worked correctly.  He reached for the small vial he had brought back for Lord Elrond, fully intending to make the human take an extra dose if he had regressed.

Sitting down slowly on the large step, Aragorn concentrated on his surroundings.  His sleep had been deep and peaceful.  Nothing had intruded on it, not even the night terrors he had suffered from constantly in Angmar.  His thoughts were sluggish and he was having a hard time waking up his mind.  He could still feel the receding fingers of poison in his system and shivered slightly.

“That’s it!  What’s wrong?  You must tell me.  Strider, do you need more antidote?”  Legolas was kneeling in front of him now, uncorking the glass vial. 

Legolas tried to banish the sick feeling that chased around the pit of his stomach.  He had done his best, but the fear that it had not been enough, or that, Valar forbid, he had unintentionally created even more problems was never very far away.  The prince was glad that he wasn’t really a healer by trade.  He would never have been able to take the nervous strain.

Aragorn’s fingers slowly wrapped around the elf’s, halting his movements.

Blue eyes focused intensely on grey, searching the ranger’s face.

“It is well, Legolas.  I just... I had a hard time waking up.  I haven’t slept that soundly in over a month.  And my mind is still sluggish.”

“Is it the poison?”  Legolas’ eyes were locked on his friend, his gaze searching.  “I knew we shouldn’t have stopped your treatments already.”

“Yes,” the ranger answered simply.  “But it is leaving my system, slowly.  So you can stop sounding like Elladan.  Let us give the sample to Ada and if I continue to need more treatment he can make more with the extra lichen we brought back.” He smiled softly at the elf.  “Lets go in. It’s cold out here.”  Aragorn rose slowly to his feet once more.

Legolas was not at all convinced, but followed his friend into the main house.

Rivendell was quiet.  The lights had been lit for the evening but no one was about.  In fact, it felt as though no one were home at all.  Legolas trailed a bit behind Estel and walked from room to room looking for any occupants.

They found no one.  Even Elrond’s study was empty, which was unusual.  It was slightly unnerving.

“I think I’ll go look out back.” Aragorn spoke softly into the quiet that surrounded them.  “Will you be in your room?”  He turned to gaze at Legolas.  His eyes were brighter and he appeared more coherent than he had earlier.  The wood-elf relaxed a little.  Perhaps everything would be all right after all.

With a small laugh Legolas stepped towards the hallway. “I think I shall go see if Celboril is in the kitchen and has anything left over from dinner.  I could eat!”

“That’s because you refused to in Angmar!  I swear Legolas, if you always insist on skipping meals whenever you’re worried you will waste away into nothing.”

“Whereas, if I followed your example, I would be able to punch holes in the snow like a great, cloddy human.  I see your point!” Legolas’ cheerful retort trailed off into laughter.

Aragorn shook his head, smiling as he headed for the northernmost balcony, hoping to find his father or brothers there.


The night had deepened and passed.  Elrond realized with a start that it had slipped by without his awareness, so deep in thought had he been.

When he pondered on what had drawn him from his thoughts, he felt the small tug at the back of his mind alerting him that someone was on the balcony behind him.  Thinking it was Celboril come to draw him back into the house, he sighed and spoke aloud.

“Yes, yes I know, I have lost all sense of time once again.  As you wish, I will...” Elrond’s smile faded as he stood and turned.  His gaze lighted on the slender figure that stood at the top of the stairwell.  It was immediately obvious that no elf had come to retrieve him.


That voice.  That was the one he had hoped to hear every night.  Now that he could, the elf lord inexplicably felt a hot ire rise in his heart.  The emotion surprised him and he found he had no voice.

Aragorn lived.  His son was alive.  With a start, he realized that he hadn’t actually expected him to return home alive this time, but here he was.   He had come back, again...again after who knew what had happened to him.  Whatever had befallen his mortal, human son, Aragorn had once again been beyond his reach, his aid, his help.  Perhaps it was destined to be this way for the rest of Estel’s achingly short, human life.  The elf lord didn’t know if he could handle that.  Turning on his heels Elrond walked out towards the gardens, needing to clear his thoughts.

His father’s abrupt reaction surprised the human and he moved quickly to follow.  It was dark on the balcony and his eyes had not yet adjusted to the lower level of light.  He was simply fixed on the gently glowing elf as he stepped forward.  In his haste he stubbed his boot against the edge of the balcony railing, throwing him off balance and into the opposite wall.  His wounded shoulder hit the stone hard and he winced, sucking his breath in quickly and stifling a groan.

The sounds of distress were not lost on the sharp, elven hearing.

Elrond turned quickly back and took the stairs two at a time, his ire temporarily forgotten.  When Aragorn opened his eyes, the elf lord was standing directly in front of him.  Things were moving much too fast for the human this evening and he was having a hard time keeping up with everything.  So he was surprised when strong hands gently took hold of his shoulders and moved him back into the dim light of the nearest glow globe.

Before he could explain anything, Elrond had pushed back the ranger’s tunic, exposing the still healing wound.  The black tendrils of poisoning were still easily visible beneath his pale skin.

“Estel...” Elrond’s voice held so much sorrow and horror that it nearly broke Aragorn’s heart.

Ada, I’m...” His explanation and apology was cut short as the elf lord pulled him quickly inside the house and drew him into the pantry where he stored all his healing herbs and medicines.

Indicating he wanted Aragorn seated on the wooden table, the elf lord kept up a running, one-sided conversation, his voice soft and inflected slightly with the sadness in his heart.

“Estel, that wound has morgul poisoning in it.  Do you know how much danger you are in?”  He shifted aside vials and pouches looking for just the right one.  He didn’t even want to ask how the ranger had gotten the wound.  Didn’t want to know why it looked so dangerously old.

Ada, I know...”

“No, you don’t! You are mortal, Aragorn!”  Elrond’s tone of voice took on a slightly harsher edge as he spoke over the top of the human.

The ranger cringed imperceptibly at the use of his name.  It was rare to see Elrond this upset.  Aragorn had heard the ‘mortality’ lecture before, but never with quite as much pain or striking ire behind his adopted father’s words.

“Mortal,” Elrond repeated the word as if it were either painful or distasteful to him.  At the moment, Aragorn couldn’t tell which.  “How much do you think a father’s heart can suffer your adventures and escapades, never knowing if you are coming home or the reason for your absences?  Even your brothers are not as slack in keeping me apprised of their whereabouts as you have been these last few years.”  Elrond’s anger had found a voice and it was fear and worry for his youngest child that colored his words.  He found he was repeating himself out of total frustration at his helplessness the past months.  His worry vented on his youngest son, coming out harsher than his hurting heart had intended.

“Then you show up in the middle of the night with morgul poisoning as though nothing were the matter!  And it’s not the first time Estel, it’s not.  Do you realize the darkness that has been my companion the last few months?  It was as though hope itself had been extinguished in Middle-earth, and I feared for you.  Obviously I was right to worry!  And what state is Legolas in?”  Elrond turned back to the human that sat behind him, causing the ranger to pull back slightly.  The hurt in the young man’s eyes softened the heat in the elf’s lord’s heart, but it was the quiet, elvish voice behind him that brought him up short.

“Legolas is fine,” the elf prince replied softly in the Grey Tongue.  He moved into the room, stepping in front of Aragorn and staring up into the huge silver eyes that watched him carefully.  The ranger’s ragged breathing belied the fact that the man was near tears and Legolas smiled sadly at him.  Tonight, the human looked as young as the elves around him truly believed him to be.  Aragorn hadn’t been prepared for the full force of his father’s worry.  He was still recovering from his time with the Nazgûl and wasn’t handling Elrond’s response very well.

Legolas knew from past experience that this lecture had been coming and it was only a matter of time.  Elrond was infinitely more patient than his own father, but that didn’t mean he worried for his children any less, or was any less hurt by the nearly constant trouble Estel seemed to have been in lately.  Having lived nearly a thousand years longer than the human, Legolas had the lecture down pat and could recite it in his sleep, although he wished he could spare his friend the experience this once.

Gently Legolas began untying the ranger’s tunic and pushed the leather jerkin back off of Aragorn’s shoulders, providing Elrond with a clean view of the ragged, black cut.  Knowing how the rest of the speech went, Legolas continued talking softly, trying to forestall it for the most part.

“Nothing that has happened the past four months was Aragorn’s fault. In fact, if the truth be told it was probably mine.”  He shushed his friend when Aragorn started to protest.  “Something that has haunted us from my past caught up with us again.”  The elf hesitated, realizing how much of their lives that phrase described.  He regretted always dragging Aragorn into the battles of his past, another detriment of having lived so long.

“Be angry with me, my Lord, not him,” the prince said quietly.

Legolas turned his full attention to the elf behind him.  Elrond stood with his arms crossed, listening to the Silvan prince.  His face was set, not unlike Legolas expected, but he was listening, which was more than the prince’s father would have been doing at this point.

“Go on,” Elrond prompted.  He wanted to hear this story.

Legolas took a deep breath.  It was just as well he had to tell it this time.  He wasn’t sure Aragorn could have.

“We ran afoul of the Nazgûl, the Witch-king who took me so many years ago and tried to enslave me.  He wanted to interrogate us.”  He wanted...” Legolas had to stop a moment before continuing.  “He wanted to know who Estel was and why we protected him.”

Elrond pushed past Legolas, his anger forgotten as fear gripped his heart.  Aragorn had remained quiet through the entire explanation - too quiet.  So that was the reason Elrond could not see his son’s past or present the last few months.  That was why Barahir had been abandoned.  The human had been wrapped in a dark void, isolated from the elf’s ability to find him through the gift of foresight.  And that void had been a Nazgûl.

Gently the elf lord took the human’s face in his hands, looking deeply into the silver eyes that gazed back at him.  Aragorn swallowed hard, allowing his father to search his soul.

“I’m sorry, Ada,” he whispered softly, finally finding his voice.

“Oh, Estel.”  Elrond pulled the young man forward against him and held him tightly. “Did he discover...?” the elf lord could not finish the question.  His arms tightened about his son as he felt the tremors that chased through the human.  If it was known, then Aragorn was safe nowhere on Middle-earth.  Yet the hounds of Mordor themselves were going to have to come knocking at Rivendell’s gates before they could have the human while Elrond had any say in the matter.

“No.” Aragorn answered quietly, “But he tried.”  It was enough of an admission to make Elrond’s heart clench.  He could well imagine just how the Nazgul had tried to coerce confessions from his captives.

The elf lord stepped back, his hands resting on the ranger’s bared shoulders.  The fading bruises were easier to see now and Aragorn dropped his gaze.

“I was coming right home, I swear, we both were,” he started to explain when Legolas reappeared in the doorway, his departure having been unmarked by father and son.  The elf carried a blanket with him.  He knew that Aragorn was easily susceptible to the cold while he was still healing.  He moved forward and held it out toward Elrond, but the elder elf was not paying attention to him at the moment, his gaze still locked on the human.

“I never meant to worry you.  I’m sorry,” Aragorn apologized again.

Elrond cupped the ranger’s face with his right hand and nodded in response to the admission.  He knew.  He smiled softly when Aragorn leaned forward wearily and rested his forehead against the elf lord’s.

“I’m glad you are home.” Elrond whispered quietly.  He did not stay upset long, he never did.  The hot, tightness in his heart had dissipated, leaving behind the knowledge that perhaps he would have to say goodbye to Estel someday, but not today.  Perhaps he would always love and lose, but to not love would be the true loss.  That was what his heart reminded him every time he looked into his youngest son’s eyes.

“I promise not to leave for awhile.  I will stay near.”  Aragorn answered just as softly.  Truthfully, Aragorn had no desire to go anywhere.  If he never set foot outside of Rivendell again for the rest of his days, he would be happy.

With a grateful nod Elrond withdrew the Ring of Barahir from his pocket and held the silver circle out to Aragorn.  “I do believe this is yours,” he spoke softly as the human drew in a small breath.  “Your brothers found it when they were out searching for you with Raniean and Trelan.”

Aragorn smiled slightly and slipped the ring on his hand.  The memories he had so long repressed in the Nazgûl’s keeping crowded to the front of his mind and settled quietly once more deep within his heart.  He accepted them back as easily and readily as the heirloom on his finger.  His secrets were safe once more and so was he now that he was back amongst his family.  He realized that both he and Legolas had totally forgotten that they needed to retrieve the ring.  He was glad his brothers had found it for them.

“I hid it so he would not find out who I was,” Aragorn spoke quietly almost as though answering his own question.  “And because of Legolas he never did.”

“The poison still causes him to chill easily.”  Legolas explained after a moment, hesitant to break up the quiet conversation.  He had heard the softly spoken confession and smiled gently at the ranger.  Elrond realized Legolas was still standing there, awaiting his attention.  The elf lord turned towards him and accepted the blanket, draping it lightly around Aragorn’s shoulders as the prince continued speaking.  Grateful for the warmth, Estel held it tightly about him and listened as Legolas continued.

“The Witch-king poisoned Estel so that we had no choice but to go to him in Angmar.  He used this poison on many other people as well.  It is how he kept control of his servants.  He administered only enough antidote to keep them alive, never enough to fully heal them.  After we were free, we created an antidote and administered it to all the infected.  I fear Aragorn was worse off than most however, for the Witch-king often lengthened the time in between doses of the antidote and lessened his strength, trying to wear him down.  The servants took to the cure we created very quickly, but I fear Aragorn needs more and all I have is this one vial with me that I intended to give to you.”  He passed the small corked glass to the healer along with a bag of the mosses they had collected from the cavern pool.  The explanation was quiet, automatic almost.  Legolas was hiding behind his ample diplomatic training and Elrond wasn’t sure why.  Legolas was like family, but now he couldn’t seem to bring himself to meet the older elf’s eyes.

“Estel provided the base, and the rest was simple enough, once I figured out the ingredients.”  Legolas turned to the bench behind them and began pulling herbs from the cabinets that lined the walls, assembling the necessary items on the counter.  He was trying to sound reassuring, but insecurity lay hidden just beneath the surface.  “But perhaps too simple... Lord Elrond, please, I would that you examine what I have done.  I fear it may not be adequate.” The terrible thought that at any moment Estel, Yrin, Tinald and all the others up north might simply drop dead because he had miscalculated something would not leave the younger elf alone.  He had never considered the incredible weight of responsibility a healer carried and he felt woefully inadequate under its crushing press.

Elrond nodded slowly.  “Of course, Legolas.  Tell me what you did.”

Legolas detailed each step of the antidote preparation carefully, trying to make sure he forgot nothing, and sometimes indicating various ingredients now on the table with a gesture.  Often he glanced hesitantly to the older elf, seeking confirmation that he had done the right thing.

Elrond stared intently between the ranger and the prince, surprised by what the young, Silvan elf was saying.  What Legolas had done in creating an antidote from scratch was something that even experienced healers found difficult.

He had not thought when Legolas said he made the antidote that it had been such a complicated one to construct.  The essential careful balance of the elements alone was a staggering task for a beginner.

Legolas stopped speaking.  He saw confusion in Elrond’s eyes and his stomach tightened nauseatingly.  “Did... did I err?  Was that not the correct thing to do?”  Color drained from the prince’s face and he felt ill at the thought.

“No, no,” Elrond shook his head quickly.  “I will examine the compound more closely to be sure, but as far as I can tell you did everything exactly right Legolas.  That was not what I... forgive me,” he assured quickly, seeing the fear tugging at the wood-elf.

Legolas looked relieved, but Elrond was still puzzled.

“Legolas, you say Estel was unconscious.  How were you able to create the antidote?  Forgive me for saying this, but I did not think that the Silvan elves were as adept in the healing arts.  Have you had some degree of training?”  There was something more to what had transpired under the Witch-king’s care than they were letting on and Aragorn’s wide-eyed stare told him volumes.  “How have you come by this knowledge?”

It was Legolas’ turn to drop his gaze.  He stepped aside and glanced at Estel out of the corner of his eyes, unsure how to proceed.  Leaning around his father, Aragorn gently touched Legolas’ shoulder, reassuring his friend.

Ada will understand,” he whispered softly.  The blanket shifted off his shoulders and he grabbed the edges, pulling them tightly about him once more for warmth.

“Your wound should be bandaged so you can get back into some clothing.” Legolas countered, trying unsuccessfully to change the subject.

“Legolas...” Elrond questioned again.

Mellon-nín, he has to know.”  Aragorn pierced the elf with a gentle look.  “You can say anything in this house and you will be safe.”  The ranger turned to his adoptive father, “Won’t he, Ada?”

“Of course.  There is nothing you cannot divulge here,” Elrond pressed, his voice gentle as he realized the subject must be difficult to discuss.

With a simple nod Legolas assented.  He had known that someday he would have to tell the elf lord about the memories he carried.  He just hoped it wouldn’t have come so soon.  He felt uncomfortably as if he had somehow stolen the knowledge, as if he was an offensive intruder in a private place he should not have been.  He wasn’t sure how Elrond would react to idea that someone else held intimate glimpses into his mind and heart that no other being on Middle-earth really had a right to know.

“I have memories and knowledge that are not mine.”  Legolas glanced up at Elrond.  He could have limited what he said, but he opted to tell Elrond the whole truth.  He respected the older elf and felt he had a right to know.  “Sometimes... sometimes they are like a dream, barely remembered.  As if I lived another life... but I know I have not.  I see a beautiful, golden-haired elf maiden, and the emotions that go with the sight of her face are not mine, for she passed onto the Undying Lands ‘ere I had chance to meet her.  Yet,” he faltered for a moment, wishing to be released from having to explain all this and yet knowing he must go on.  “Yet, sometimes they feel like mine, and I miss her.” He touched his hand to his heart absently.  He chuckled mirthlessly, his eyes begging understanding and forgiveness.  It was uncomfortable to think that he was having these feelings about the lady he knew had been Elrond’s wife, and even more uncomfortable telling Elrond about it.  “But I didn’t know her.  Although I met her mate when he was younger and his twin sons, younger still than myself.”  He stopped speaking when Elrond drew his breath in sharply.  Legolas had to look away.  He couldn’t meet Elrond’s eyes and tell him all this, he simply could not.

Almost hoarsely, the prince pressed on quickly.  He had to get it out in the open.  If Elrond despised him for what he knew, what he had somehow stolen from him, then that was as much as he deserved.

“I see battles in my mind's eye that I have never fought, although the sorrow of them sweeps over me if I give them too much leave.  I miss a brother I never had...” he shook his head.  “I thought I was going insane.  Most of the memories have faded but I find that I also have knowledge that should be foreign to me.  The craft of creating medicines and knowing herbs that I have never had contact with in my life.”

Legolas swallowed hard as he continued. “I wasn’t really aware of any of this until I was trying to make the antidote.  I was desperate.  Estel was dying and I did not know how to save him.  Knowledge came to me then, things I should not have known, but I latched onto them and forced them to consciousness... unfortunately I seem to have brought everything else forward with them.  When you saved my life, when I died... there was a point where I did not know if I was you or myself, so jumbled together were our thoughts and emotions.  I fear I have some of your knowledge now and retain some of your memories.  It was this skill of yours with medicines that saved Aragorn’s life, not mine.”

Elrond was shocked speechless for several moments.  “I never realized...” he glanced back and forth between the human and the prince.  “Although that would explain some of the strange dreams I have had of late...” his voice trailed off quietly.

Actually, that explained a lot.  The odd, random, out of place thoughts he had occasionally, the child constantly crying in the dark that wouldn’t give him peace; that had all been Legolas’ influence on his mind.  He had been troubled about Aragorn, but it had obviously been manifesting itself through nightmares from the Prince’s past.  He understood now.  It made sense.  He was relieved, rather than disturbed by the news.  Now that he knew, it would be simple to put the prince’s thought patterns aside when they troubled him.  He could see how deeply this situation was disturbing Legolas and smiled faintly.  He would have to teach the prince how to do the same.

“I won’t retain the knowledge for long; at least, I pray I won’t.  Already most of what I remembered on waking is gone, faded, even as the memories grow faint now.  With time all that was not of my memory will gradually disappear, of this I am sure,” Legolas tried to assure.  “I meant no intrusion, Lord Elrond...”

“No, of course you didn’t.” the older elf agreed, still somewhat stunned by the knowledge that his memories were held by another.  It was surprising and perhaps a little embarrassing, but he certainly did not hold it against Legolas, and he did not want the younger elf thinking that he did.  A small smile crept slowly across his face.

“Is that also why I desire to have ketrals in my house?” the elf lord was mostly joking.

Legolas laughed and shook his head, relieved that Elrond was not angry.  “I am afraid so, my Lord.”

Leaning against the wooden table, Elrond nodded knowingly.  “I hadn’t given the after effects of what that type of healing would have on another.  The only time I used it before was on my wife and we already shared an oneness of thought and mind because of the marriage bond.  I never realized there was any further blending that occurred.”  Elrond had to wonder now, if his own sense of devastation at their parting had been heightened by unknowingly sharing part of Celebrían’s pain.

When Aragorn returned his smile, Elrond turned his full attention on the human.  “Worry not, Legolas, it was not your fault.  And I am very glad you did retain that knowledge.”  He patted the human’s knee, noting the sleepy-eyed look the man was giving him.  “Let us administer a half portion to you, my son and we can make more should the need arise.”

Aragorn complied, drinking down the foul tasting draught with an appropriate grimace.  He hated the stuff.  One would have thought that after being forced to drink it for so many months he would have gotten used to it, but he hadn’t.

Elrond insisted on washing and dressing the slowly healing cut on Aragorn’s shoulder.  It looked much better than it had in weeks but it was painful and tender to the touch.  The elf’s ministrations were gentle and careful.  He smiled into the sleepy eyes that watched him.

All the while Legolas explained the antidote’s ingredients and measurements as he worked with the herbs, recalling the compound from memory by now.  He laid the various items out in heaps and mounds so that the elf lord could experiment with them and look them over later.  By the time Aragorn was shrugging back into his tunic, Legolas had another batch of the antidote nearly ready.

Celboril found the small family talking quietly in the pantry and offered to bring food and drink into the Hall of Fire if they wanted to move there for a bit more comfort.  He was relieved to find that the two had returned home and knew it would only be a matter of time before his lord returned to his usual self.  Already the sparkle in Elrond’s eye was back as the elf lord easily accepted the offer.


The Hall of Fire was warm and comfortable as Legolas sat on the floor near Aragorn, perched on a huge overstuffed pillow, recounting all that had happened to them.

Aragorn lay stretched out on his right side propped up on a pillow and covered with the blanket he had brought with him.

The ranger had been content to let Legolas tell his father everything.  He was sure that Elrond would have questions for him later, but tonight he was simply content to be home, warm and safe.  He added his agreement when asked, but remained happily quiet for the greater part of the evening.

Elrond had been intrigued by Legolas’ information on the Togiuith, although the reasons for its use bothered him greatly.  For the most part, the elf lord had listened intently, interrupting only now and again for clarification or observation.  He wondered briefly exactly how much of the tale Thranduil would ever know and how soon he would get it out of his son.

“But the people are free now, and the mountain is safe.  Whatever lived in the water is gone, perhaps killed when the volcano shifted as it did.  We do not know but it has not reappeared so the inhabitants of Angmar will have fresh water.  I don’t think the Witch-king will be back anytime soon.  He will not find a warm welcome.  Wouldn’t you agree, Aragorn?”

When the human didn’t respond, Legolas turned towards him only to find Aragorn fast asleep and breathing deeply.

“Let him rest.” Elrond answered, “He needs it.  His system is not yet rid of the poison, but with extra treatment that shouldn’t be a problem.  Tomorrow I will give him the last dose he should need.”

Legolas leaned over and gently pulled the blanket up higher around the man.  Aragorn stirred and shifted slightly.  Turning towards his friend he stilled as Legolas’ hand rested on his shoulder.  “He was weary when we left Angmar.  I can’t imagine he will wake for sometime.”

“Your room is ready, should you want to retire yourself.  Estel can remain here tonight.  Celboril and I will check in on him from time to time,” Elrond offered, standing from his seat and indicating that they should continue later.  He knew that both his son and the prince were more tired than either wanted to admit.

“If you don’t mind, Lord Elrond, I would just as soon stay here with Estel myself.” Legolas glanced around them at the pillows and throw blankets scattered here and there.  The fire crackled brightly warming the room and throwing light into the corners of the huge hall.  “I do believe I am too tired to climb the stairs myself and if Aragorn should wake then there would be someone close by.”

Elrond smiled, “He will be fine, Legolas.  You did well, gwaedh ion-nín.”  The elf lord praised the younger elf, fondly including him into the family as a ‘son of the heart’.  He could see through the prince’s pretense and knew that Legolas was still worried about Aragorn’s recovery.

Legolas’ eyes sparkled for a moment at the gesture of inclusion.  Admitting he had been caught, the prince laughed softly, “Yes, my lord.  Then, to ease my heart, may I sleep here in the hall as well?”

“As you wish.” Elrond consented, taking his leave.  “I will see that no one disturbs your rest until the two of you are ready to waken.  Good night, Legolas.”

“My lord.”  Legolas nodded in respect as he stretched out next to Aragorn, laying his head on the pillow he had just been seated on.  The warmth of the fire touched his back and he smiled, relaxing against the cushions.

“And, Legolas?”  Elrond’s voice cut through the fog of sleep that was just beginning to steal over the elf.  “Thank you,” he continued as he crossed the room and knelt by his son, gently placing a kiss on the human’s forehead.

Aragorn barely opened his eyes, subconsciously registering his father’s presence.  “Ada” he whispered softly, his left arm wrapped the elf in an awkward hug before sleep reclaimed him fully and he relaxed once more.

The fire in the great hall leapt and crackled in its alcove, the only sound that broke the still night.  It was in the doorway to the large room that Celboril found Elrond.  The elf lord stood watching over the slumbering friends.  His heart was light, his burden gone.  He knew the nameless darkness of his dread for Estel would haunt his dreams no more.

Lightly Celboril touched Elrond’s shoulder, “My lord, it would do you good...”

He was cut off as Elrond raised his hand, silencing his words.  “I know, my friend, and I am going.”  Blue eyes free from the shadow that had clouded them gazed at the other elf.  “You are right.  I do need rest.  I believe will retire for the evening.  But, would you do you me a favor...”

It was Celboril’s turn to silence the elf lord, “It would be my pleasure.  I will see to it that they are not disturbed and should anything go amiss, I will call you immediately.”

Elrond returned the smile that his long time friend gave him.  “Thank you, Celboril.  You may want to warn Glorfindel so he can keep the twins occupied should they come back early tomorrow.”

“Consider it done.”  Celboril bowed as Elrond turned to leave.  He breathed a sigh of relief as he watched the elf lord walk up the stairs.  The cares of much in the world fell on Elrond’s shoulders, but he was glad that the worries for his youngest son had at least been relieved.  It was a burden he had feared would crush the elf lord.

Gazing back into the room Celboril watched the sleeping youths.  “Young ones,” he muttered under his breath with a smile.

Tonight the house would sleep.  Tonight Rivendell had peace once more.