Siege of Dread

Chapter 15: Come Back Home

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Come back home for another year
and ask yourself if you could handle this.
Say my name before you disappear
I always thought that you could handle this...

And you know you're hard enough
and you find you're strong enough
and you feel you're strong enough...

Come back home
Yeah, come back home.

--Pete Yorn

Aragorn just stared, letting the vials in his hands fall uselessly to the hard ground.  He couldn’t understand it, could not make sense of the horrible reality.  He had seen death a hundred times or more, but it had never prepared him for this moment.  It was all so horribly wrong.  Their whole adventure since the warg rider attack on Rivendell had been bizarre, but this ending was too twisted for comprehension.  It should not have happened, they should not have lost Legolas like this.  How had so many simple things gone so wrong?  How had he gone so fast from injured but stable to... to this?  Aragorn knew well that death often came suddenly and without warning, but he had never hoped to see just how suddenly in this way.

Thranduil curled over his son’s body, his shoulders shaking silently.  Aragorn bowed his head, gathering Legolas’ face between his hands and resting their foreheads together as he had done so many times in life.  He wept.  He wept as if his heart would break from the force of his grief.  He felt he would never feel joy again, never recover from this loss. 

Elrond watched all this unfold with a breaking heart; he knew with crushing certainty that in one way or another, all he had foreseen would come to pass.  Estel was right, he would never recover from this... none of them would. 

The elf lord saw again the horrible future mapped out before them, and running underneath this despairing knowledge was Legolas’ voice in his head. 

//“Don’t let this destroy them.  Don’t let this destroy them...”// 

There was only one way to keep his promise.  Only one way to try to change what he saw... one way he could try to bring back the bright, lively elven prince that he loved almost as another son.  His own life was a small price to pay.

Moving forward with urgency, he gently but firmly took Legolas out of Thranduil’s arms, ignoring the surprised and uncomprehending look that that action garnered him from the elf king.  Pushing Estel aside, he lay the prince’s body on the ground and bent over him.  Elrond placed one hand on Legolas’ heart and the other on his temple, their faces so close they were almost touching. 

“Ada?” Aragorn’s tearful voice was questioning, but he did not hinder whatever his father was doing, nor press his question when Elrond did not respond. 

Elrond focused his attention on Legolas to the exclusion of all else.  Letting the waking world fall away from him, the elf lord used his special gift as a healer to reach into Legolas’ body in a way that few other elves on Middle-earth could have.  It was an extreme use of his skills and power that taxed him to his limits.  Elrond had done this only once before.  He had done it to save Celebrìan the night she almost died when the twins brought her home from that accursed place that now lay in ruins.  He had been strong then, and even so the effort had critically drained him.  This time... Elrond knew he did not have enough strength for them both this time, but he might have enough for Legolas. 

Plumbing the depths of their newly forged connection, Elrond felt Legolas’ spirit lingering on the very fringes of oblivion, resisting the call to the halls of waiting.  His body had failed, but his fëa, his spirit, had not yet fled, holding on tenaciously until the shell that held it had gone so far that it could never return.  Legolas had the will to fight, to live if only his body did not betray him.  Elrond was determined to give him that chance.  Steeling himself, he practically forced his life energy into the ‘dead’ elf’s body.  He concentrated so hard that his hand on Legolas’ chest began to tremble as he focused on the prince’s heart, commanding it to contract, willing it to beat again. 

Tolo, Legolas!  Come!” Elrond murmured in elvish, gritting his teeth as the effort made his head swim.  Forcing himself past his own physical weakness, Elrond intensified the energy flowing out of him.  //“Please let me do this last thing, please help him...”// the elf lord prayed silently as he felt his strength failing.

Legolas’ frame jerked as an almost physical jolt of power or electricity shot through him and he arched up against Elrond’s hand on his chest.  His heart fluttered, but did not respond. 

Elrond’s vision hazed yellow at the strain of the extended connection and supreme effort he was tendering, but he did not break contact even as he felt himself sliding into the grey twilight.  They were so close, so close... 

Aragorn observed his father with concern.  He could tell that a massive surge of power was passing out of the elven lord and into Legolas’ body.  He feared what it was doing to Elrond, but dared not interrupt.  Instead he moved quickly to his father’s side, laying his hand on the elder elf’s back. 

The ranger’s eyes widened.  It was like touching a vacuum.  All of Elrond’s strength was funneling downward into Legolas with the force of the elf lord’s will propelling its rush.  With his connections flung wide open and no strength to keep up any guards, Estel touched his adopted father in a way that was usually only possible between elves.  Aragorn felt as if he were being sucked under with that powerful vortex, his strength spiraling out to join his father’s in its focused rush to oblivion. 

Knocked breathless and reeling, Aragorn refused to move away from the staggering connection.  He didn’t know if he could help either Legolas or his father, but he was going to try. 

Elrond felt the small, bright flame of Estel’s consciousness enter his awareness.  He felt his human son’s presence anchor him, giving him enough strength for one last try. 

Elladan and Elrohir topped the small hill, returning from their foray only to find the heart-breaking scene unfolding below them.  Thranduil was watching Elrond and Legolas with obvious concern and uncertainty, and Aragorn was pressed close to their father, seeking to give him anything that would help, but neither the king nor the ranger truly grasped what was happening.  The twins, however, recognized what was going on instantly.  They had witnessed it before.  Now, they could almost see their father’s essence flowing out of him as he struggled to bring Legolas back.  They knew they were about to lose him. 

Ada!” Elladan pitched himself down the hill at a dead run, stumbling and tripping down the incline in his heart-pounding haste.  Elrohir was right behind him as they gained the bottom.  “Ada, no!” 

Legolas jerked and arched again under Elrond’s hand.  The elf lord could not hear his sons, and if he could have, it would have made no difference.  He had made his choice, and it was too late now to turn back even if he wanted to. 

This time, Elrond was rewarded with the hesitant feel of Legolas’ heart contracting and expanding under his tingling fingers.  It had started beating once more. 

That was a start, but it was not enough.  Elrond’s body was failing him, but he knew that Legolas would only slip away again if he were not strengthened sufficiently to keep his wounds and weakness from overtaking him once more.  Feeding the last measure of his strength into the elf prince’s body Elrond gave all, keeping nothing back for himself.  He was not afraid to die, in fact at the moment he did not think it sounded like such a bad idea at all.  He was weary in heart and soul, old wounds having been stirred painfully back to the surface.  He knew that death was not the end, even for an elf.  The halls of waiting were not to be feared and after that there would be Valinor, even if it was the long route there.  He was ready to see Celebrìan again.  He was looking forward to it. 

Warmth spread across Legolas’ chest as the gift of life, given freely and selflessly, flowed throughout his being. 

Elladan and Elrohir reached them.  The twins dropped to their knees by Elrond, Aragorn and Legolas.  Part of them wanted to yank their father away and sever the connection that was killing him, yet they knew to do that now would condemn both he and Legolas. 

“What?  El, what?” Aragorn remained by Elrond’s side, breathless and wide-eyed.  His connection with Elrond had severed as the elf lord poured the last of his strength into Legolas, but Aragorn had yet to fully understand the depth, or the cost of the gift that had been given. 

“We’re losing him,” Elrohir grit out in horror as he laid his hands on his father’s shoulders. 

Aragorn was confused for half a moment, still reeling and a little unsteady from what had just happened.  He thought they were talking about Legolas.  “I know...” he choked softly.  “He’s already-” 

“No, Estel!  Ada!” Elladan shook his head, kneeling next to his human brother on Elrond’s other side and wrapping his hands around his father’s shoulders from the opposite direction. 

Suddenly, Aragorn understood what he had felt, what was truly happening, and found that his heart was being torn down the middle.  No!  He could not lose them both, he could not!  His hand tightened on his father’s arm.  //No, Ada...// 

Elladan and Elrohir did not waste any more time talking;  Elrond was slipping away in front of their eyes and so was Legolas. They knew what their course needed to be now... the only thing they could do.  Closing their eyes and tightening their grip on their father, they attempted something they had never done before.  Taking the long plunge, they tried to join Elrond’s connection, attempted to initiate with their father the same bond he had created with Legolas.

 It was hard.  Elrond was no longer open, no longer possessing the strength to maintain the connection he had had moments ago.  The twins were untried at this, they were not as gifted as their father and weren’t even sure it was possible... but they had to make the attempt.  Elladan felt his heart speed up until his pulse was pounding painfully between his temples, making the world swim in a blinding haze of whites and yellows as he sought to go deeper than his own gifts and skills as a healer truly allowed.  Elrohir winced as painful pressure compressed his eardrums, the strain going immediately to his weakest point.  It felt like being deep, deep underwater with no way to relieve the pressure.  Despite the consequences, neither twin was willing to give up the attempt.  They would not lose again.  Elrohir let his head fall gently against his father, ignoring the pain that sought to disrupt the bond they were forming. 

Aragorn’s feeling of helplessness was deep as he watched his family struggling.  He feared and hated that he could not help them.  He had never more cursed the fact that he was not an elf than at this moment. 

Thranduil did not understand what was happening, but he found himself holding his breath, rooted in place and able only to beseech the powers above for help and intervention for his son, for Elrond, for the elven lord’s sons... for all of them. 

Elrond was dimly aware of a new and foreign source of strength rejuvenating his weary body.  He could not tell its source at the moment, but he was glad for it, because it enabled him to give one last push to Legolas’ mending body. 

The elf prince’s eyes fluttered open.  Silver-blue eyes tried to focus in confusion.  Legolas had a jumble of memories and emotions that he could not reconcile for a moment.  He was so deeply connected to Elrond that he was almost not sure who he was, or where his consciousness started and that of the other elf began. He knew things that his own experiences should not have made known to him.  He could see pieces and memories of a life that was not his own.  It was confusing, but strangely not particularly distressing.  He was still in pain, but it was greatly lessened, the deadly edge sapping him had receded and he did not understand how this could be.  Was he dreaming?  Or had before been a dream? 

Then everything suddenly snapped back into focus and he gasped deeply as his lungs abruptly began functioning once more. 

Elrond smiled faintly as he saw the confusion leave Legolas’ eyes when the younger elf’s fëa returned to his body completely.  Legolas would live.  He had succeeded.  With that final realization of success, Elrond’s grip on his own body slipped quietly away and he let go his ties to the world. 

Legolas saw the elf lord smile faintly at him and for a moment he felt Elrond’s presence wash over him like a wave rolling out to sea... and then suddenly it was gone.  Not just receded from its connection with him, but gone.  Elrond’s eyes closed and he slumped forward against the elf he had just poured his life out into. 

Legolas struggled to sit up, alarmed.  He was trembling again a little, but he felt stronger than before.  He knew that that was because of Elrond, but a deep fear gripped his heart about what price had just been paid that he might live. 

“Ada!” Elrohir half cried, half moaned.  The twins had not severed their connection and clung to the elf lord’s failing body, fighting to replenish enough of the strength that had just been lost, fighting to bring him back as they all slid down the slope towards darkness.  They meant what they had said to Glorfindel before they left.  Either all three of them came home, or none of them would.  Daradwayn could not have this last, final victory over them. 

Legolas was gasping still as he scooted back a little on his elbows with difficulty, staring in confusion and horror at the three Noldor elves.  His trembling gaze turned on Aragorn.  “What have I done?” he whispered hoarsely. “What have I done?!” 

Aragorn broke away from his helpless desire to aid his family long enough to quickly gather his shaky friend against him, trying to sound more confident than he felt.  “Shh, Legolas, you haven’t done anything,” the ranger’s voice choked. 

Legolas was shaking his head, looking in horror at where Elrond lay still on the ground, Elladan and Elrohir kneeling over him now, clinging to him in a strange replay of the situation he himself must have been in a moment ago.  Strange memories and longings that seemed both familiar and foreign ghosted faintly across his consciousness.  He saw in his mind’s eye a beautiful golden-haired elf woman and the feelings that accompanied that image told the young archer that these memories were not his own.  The prince blinked, trying to clear away the strange after-images of Elrond’s psyche that had been imprinted on his own. 

“No... I’m sorry... I-I’m sorry, mellon-nín,” Legolas was still confused, but clarity was coming back and with it the understanding of what had just transpired.  “I-I didn’t want it this way... I would never have asked for this... this wasn’t what I meant...” 

Aragorn shook his head, touching Legolas’ lips softly with a trembling hand.  “He gave you a gift, Legolas, it is not your fault.  Quiet now, regain your strength...” the ranger’s voice choked off.  He felt incredibly blessed that his friend had been returned to him from the brink of death, but with Elrond’s life now slipping away his heart was rent in two.  He didn’t know how he was supposed to handle this, first Legolas, now Elrond... things were happening almost too fast for him to comprehend.  He felt lost and incredibly helpless.  He had never experienced the type of healing that his father and now his brothers were employing.  It was both fascinating and horribly terrifying.  He could only pray that it would work a second time. 

Raniean had returned with the twins, but remained quiet on the sidelines, his heart aching.  He hurt for Legolas, but he hurt for Aragorn too.  He had been where the ranger was once.  His father too had once been willing to give his life that Legolas might live.  It was horribly twisted to have to watch something like this play out again, but he could only hope that somehow this situation too, would work out.  He did not know Elrond and the twins very well, but he knew they were powerful elves... he had to believe they could find a way through this.  He hoped so. 

Thranduil was at Aragorn’s elbow, staring unbelieving at his son who was definitely not dead.  Gently, Aragorn passed Legolas back to his father who was already hovering over them, desperate to hold his son, to assure himself that the younger elf really was still with them. 

Legolas smiled faintly at his father, squeezing Thranduil’s hand against his chest.  “Sorry,” he murmured.  “You’ll have to put up with me a little longer.” 

Thranduil held Legolas close, unable to speak. 

Legolas’ gaze drifted back to Elrond and the twins.  He frowned, his heart bleeding.  Why?  Why did he cause so much pain to those he loved?  Valar, why did they not just let him go?!  He wasn’t afraid.  Outwardly, it seemed that Elladan and Elrohir were merely holding their father’s limp body, but the connection with Elrond that had brought his body back to life left Legolas with a lingering understanding of what was truly happening. 

“Estel...” Legolas whispered urgently.  “Your father... he is not sure he wants to return.  He could fight his way back... but not without a reason.  Help them, if your brothers cannot pull him back, they will go with him...” the quiet , dazed conviction in the prince’s voice frightened the ranger.  Legolas spoke of things he should have had no knowledge of, but Aragorn did not doubt for a moment that he spoke the truth. 

The ranger scrambled back over to his father and his brothers, wondering how in the world he could help them.  Please heaven, let there be a way! 

Elladan and Elrohir were locked in a silent but deadly struggle.  Reality was slipping away from them as they chased their father down into the twilight seeking to take him from them.  They fed all their combined strength into his failing body, but the elven lord seemed to be unwilling or unable to grasp that lifeline to pull himself back to them.  Still they refused to let go. 

A soft, gentle touch brushed through their minds. 

//Dear ones, let me go... do not follow where it is not your time to go...// 

The twins hung on stubbornly.  //It is not your time either, Ada. You must fight, you must stay with us...// 

Yet all three of them were almost gone beyond recall now.

Standing on the outside of the struggle, Aragorn felt a rush of ice through his veins as he realized that Legolas was right.  He could possibly lose all three of them together, for his brothers were unwilling to return alone. 

“Don’t do this, don’t go...” the human whispered hoarsely, gripping Elrond and Elrohir’s shoulders.  They could not hear him; they were too far away.  All his knowledge of healing could not help the ranger now, because it was not a physical malady that they were battling. 

“Call them,” Legolas rasped quietly, his voice returning to him slowly.  “Reach out and call them, Estel... you are the only thing they will come back for now.”  He had had a privileged look into the minds that were now sliding away from them and he knew that of what he spoke. 

Aragorn did not hesitate, did not question, but did as he was told.  Reaching out as his father had taught him to do many years ago when he had learned to dispel the shadow cast by the black breath of the Nazgul, the human put all the strength of his love for his family into the effort, into the call. 

“Ada, Elladan, Elrohir... come back.  It is not your time, come back... I need you.  Arwen needs you.  Middle-earth needs you...” 

Instantly, Aragorn seemed plunged into a world of shadows as his senses tuned out that which was visible for the strange realm of that which was not. 

The blackness was comfortable, not frightening.  Elrond was not disturbed by it and neither were the twins, not any more.  They had forgotten why they were struggling, there didn’t seem to be a point.  The sky was lightening and away in the distance a beautiful dawn of light like the sun shining through reflected crystal glass was beginning to appear.  They were together, all was well... and all of them felt ready to go to meet the light. 

Then they heard a voice.  It seemed to be coming from a long distance off, but all of them recognized it. 

“Estel?” Elrond murmured questioningly, struggling through his complacency to try to ascertain where his youngest son’s voice was coming from. 

“Ada, don’t go.  Elladan, Elrohir... I need you to come back.  Please... come back.” 

Aragorn’s presence burned like a twinkling flame in the distance, on the other side of the darkness they had crossed.  The three elves felt themselves drawn to it, drawn to his call. 

“I know you want to go, but not yet,” the human’s voice pleaded from afar, getting slowly closer.  “There is too much yet to be done... too many who need you.  Please, do not make me the one who has to tell Arwen that her family is gone.  Do not... do not leave me.” 

The shadow world slowly dissolved before Aragorn’s eyes and he realized he was seeing the waking world around him once more, still bent close to his father and brothers.  A deep, dreadful ache filled his heart for a few moments as he thought he had failed and lost them. 

Then, Elrond’s eyes opened. 

Elrohir started coughing and he shook his head, as if coming up from deep underwater.  Elladan jerked and looked around, seeming to be unsure where he was for a moment.  Both felt as if they had run thousands of leagues without rest. 

Aragorn felt strong relief course through him and realized he was trembling.  He felt so drained he thought he could sleep for a month, but his heart was light. 

Elrond was too weak to move, but his lips curled into a soft, small smile as he looked up at his sons who had all been willing to give everything they had for him.  Yes, he would stay; he would stay for them.  “You’re... very persuasive, Estel,” he murmured faintly. 

Aragorn smiled, gently touching the side of his father’s face with the back of his hand.  “I had a good teacher.” 

Elrohir ran his hand through his hair with a chuckle, waiting for his ears to stop buzzing; the pain in them was slowly receding.  “Let’s not take anymore little family trips like this, shall we?  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not feel very well.” 

Elladan rolled his eyes at his brother, but could not have agreed more. Curling his arm around his stomach he sat back a little, closing his eyes.  “Yes, the next time we all almost die, let’s just leave well enough alone and go quietly.  Coming back is torture.” 

Aragorn laughed and clapped his brothers on the shoulder, pushing aside his own weariness.  “Well there had better not be a next time; how much of this do you think I can take?  I’m only human.” 

“Mellon-nín,” Legolas’ soft voice nearby made them look up.  “That would be considered an understatement.” 

Smiling, Aragorn scooted back over to the prince.  “And you had better not scare me like that again either,” he chided with a fond smile. 

Legolas smiled back weakly from his father’s arms. “I’ll try not to.” 

A peaceful expression settled on Elrond’s face as he listened to the slow return of normal joviality between the four younger beings he loved.  He had been ready to leave it all behind, weary of life and missing the dear ones who had gone on before... but he could not forget how much life and light there was left for him here.  “Let’s go home,” he murmured. 

Everyone agreed.  Prudence however, suggested that they stay the night in the secluded glen and begin their journey in the morning, once they had all had a chance to rest.

The next day everyone was stiff and sore.  Aragorn had begun to keenly feel the knocks he had taken when Daradwayn collapsed, and rubbed his aching head and eyes as he looked out towards the rising dawn.  His arm hurt terribly where he had smashed it against the tree when Daradwayn imploded.  He had been ignoring it but was beginning to think he had fractured it and perhaps his collarbone as well.  Hugging his arm tightly against his midsection he slowly sat up and watched as the Mirkwood elves quietly disassembled their makeshift campsite. 

“Well, you look horrible,” Legolas’ soft voice nearby made the ranger turn and smile at his friend.  The prince was sitting on the ground, wrapped up in a blanket and carefully surrounded by Thranduil, Raniean and Trelan.  The prince was obviously trying to ignore his hovering entourage. 

Thranduil had finally allowed the ranger to tend his arm late last night after he was sure that Legolas really was out of danger, and it now rested comfortably in a sling, while his other protectively lay gently across his son’s blanket-clad shoulder. 

Aragorn rolled his eyes and then grimaced because that motion gave him a headache.  “You should talk, I’m not the one who almost died yesterday.  How are you feeling, my friend?” 

Legolas cast a wry, meaningful glance at his father, friends and guards.  “Smothered,” he said frankly, causing all of them to chuckle. 

Raniean glared balefully at the prince as he rose.  “All right, Legolas, point taken.  I have to see to the troops anyway.  Strider, watch him.  If he starts pulling his ‘everything-is-fine’ act on you, don’t believe him.” 

Aragorn chuckled.  “Don’t worry,” he winked at Legolas.  “I know all his tricks.” 

The prince pretended to pout.  In truth, Legolas was still weak, but he was able to walk well enough as long as he had someone to lean upon.  Given the current company, Legolas had no shortage of helpers. 

Elrond however, was in no condition to be going anywhere under his own power.  The elf lord was still too drained and even if he had had the strength, they had his broken ribs to worry about.  The less he moved until they could get him back to Rivendell and better set those broken bones, the better it was.  Accordingly, Elladan and Elrohir fashioned a liter for him with the help of the wood-elf warriors. 

Morifwen and Brenyf offered to help carry him, but it was a precious burden that the twins took upon themselves alone, although they thanked the other elves for the offer. 

And so they started for Imladris as the morning sun rose slowly above them. 

Legolas leaned on Aragorn’s arm, having finally managed to convince his father to give his own injuries a little rest and allow the ranger to help him instead. 

“I would be fine on my own you know,” the prince confided in his friend.  “But I have to let all of you feel useful.” 

Aragorn chuckled.  “Well thank you so much, Your Highness, I think my life would be painfully unfulfilled if I could not drag your sorry carcass around like a-” 

The ranger ducked the elf’s retaliatory swing only just in time, proving that neither his reflexes, nor Legolas’ aim had suffered much.  Legolas winced at the abrupt removal of Aragorn’s support and reached out lightly with his other hand to catch the wall that ran the length of the glen near the pond. 

Aragorn quickly caught his friend’s arm once more, steadying him.  “Hey, are you all right?” 

Legolas looked over with a tired, rueful grin.  “Will you never outgrow useless questions?” 

The ranger smiled.  “Probably not, indulge me.” 

“Here now, if you can’t do a proper job let someone else more competent take over,” Trelan chided Aragorn for letting the prince stumble like that, but he winked as he said it to let the ranger know he was jesting only. 

“Well that certainly wouldn’t be you, Trey,” Raniean called over his shoulder from a little way ahead. 

Aragorn chuckled.  He remembered how frightened and uneasy he had been around these strange elves once, long ago.  How formally they had treated him, watching his every move carefully lest he hurt their friend and royal charge.  He was glad that the long years that flowed behind them all now had changed so much.  Now they often reminded him more of the twins than anything else. 

Thinking of his brothers made Aragorn’s roving gaze search them out.  They carried Elrond on the makeshift bed between them.  Elrohir caught his little brother watching them and smiled, turning to smile gently down at his father’s pale face. 

A mischievous grin twinkled in the younger twin’s eye and a moment later his words made everyone laugh.  “You know, Ada, this will be a first.  This time Aragorn and Legolas are walking into Imladris, and you are the one being carried.”

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