Authors Note. This has not been betad. Barb has been very ill and unable to get onlinme. Terri has kindly stepped into help and I will change as each chapter is done. Sorry for the wait I hope it is worth it.


The Evil Inside

By MCross

Disclaimer: Not mine, they belong to the wonderfully talented Tolkien and as much as I would love to say they belong to me, they don't. I own and get nothing for these stories apart from pure pleasure.

Rating: M for Horror/Angst

Summary: On a visit to Imladris, Legolas begins to feel sick. He hides this from his friends until matters take their own course. What could be causing Legolas to black out and why is his behaviour changing so rapidly? Can his friends find out in time to help him?

WARNING! Intense scenes. Character death (?).

Much of this chapter is based on the Silmarillion and its history.

Thanks to my wonderful Betas Sara and Barbara. Also big thanks to Mysty, Terri, Becky and Katy for their ongoing support and love.

o Vocabulary o

Ada, Adar …Dad, Father

Anor … the sun

Caun … prince

Estë … Vala of healing

Fëa … spirit

DaerAda, DaerNana … grandfather, grandmother

Gwador … brother (by adoption or choice)

Híril … Lady

Ilúvatar … Eru, head of the Valar, the One, the Creator

Irmo .. Vala of dreams and visions, also known as Lórien

Melkor … fallen Vala, Sauron was his disciple

Mellon … friend

Mellon nin … my friend

Námo … True name of the Valar Mandos, guardian of the dead

Olórin … true name of the Maia, Mithrandir, Gandalf, the Grey Wizard.

Penneth, pennyth … young one, young ones

Saes … please

Sîdh … peace

Suilad … greeting, hello

Tiro! ... Look!


Chapter Sixteen


"Ada?" Estel was surprised to hear the quaver in his voice.

"In a minute, Ion-nin I need to think." Elrond had still not taken his eyes off of the wound on Legolas' arm. But what he said was right, he needed to think and think quickly if they were to turn this around to theirs and ultimately Legolas' favour.

"What can we do?" Elrohir stepped forward, willing to do anything to help, he dragged his gaze away from the awful wound, it was making him feel incredibly nauseous, how could his Adar still be looking at it like that?

"Mellon-nin? We are willing to do all we can to help." Glorfindel stepped forward to stand next to the younger twin.

"I know, I just need a minute." Elrond did not wait for an answer he gently began to feel around the edges of the deep wound.

There was some improvement to the last time he had seen it, it was not as deep as it had been before, but the infection was still bad and to his earlier shock had begun to go black.

"We need to stop this infection.." It was the only thing that they could do. "Elladan, make sure that we have plenty of warm water, copious amounts. I will be washing it as much as I can to clean the detritus out. Take the blade on the table. Wash it in Athelas water and then set it in the fire to heat. I need it as clean as you can get it."

"Of course, Ada what are you going to do?" Elladan moved to get the knife.

"We scrape and clean the wound as much as is possible and then…." He stopped with a sigh, there really was only one way to clean a wound that was this bad.

"Yes?" Worried eyes were watching him.

"We keep it clean. Glorfindel go to my study. You know where I keep my jar?" Elrond knew the Balrog Slayer would understand what he was talking about.

"Aye." Glorfindel's mouth twisted in an expression of distaste.

"Good, get it for me? I will be needing them." He only ever used this treatment in the direst of circumstances. It made him feel filthy and needing to use the bath. There was just something… unclean about them.

"What will you be doing, Ada?" They were intrigued as well now, and although it had been Estel that had spoken the others all nodded to show they agreed with their needing to know.

Elrond sighed deeply. He would be unable to hide this from them anyway.

"I am going to be using maggots to clean the wound." He waited for the outburst that he was sure would be coming. He was not wrong.

"Maggots?! Ada that is disgusting!" There was a look of horror on Estel's pale face.

"But they are also the most effective way of dealing with the deep routed infection." Elrond answered.

"I know but the thought of them crawling over me." Estel shuddered just at the thought.

"If it saves Legolas' arm that is all I worry about." Elrond told him simply.

"It is that bad?" Estel was looking worriedly at his friend again.

"Yes, Estel it is that bad. The tissue is necrotic, you can see where it is going black on the edges?" Elrond pointed it out the edges of the wound.

"Aye. But the maggots will help with that?" Estel was peering at the wound, his interest piqued and he had forgotten it was his best friend that they were discussing here.

"Yes, the maggots will eat the diseased tissue leaving the undamaged tissue behind. It will help." Elrond reassured him.

"It is a very old remedy." Gailarphen stepped in. "Has been used for centuries."

"Amazing!" Estel was truly amazed. But still the thought….

"We will need to watch the as they work, we cannot let them eat undamaged tissue." Elrond was already washing the wound gently and yet firmly.

"E.. eat?" Estel was green now.

"What did you think they did?" Elrohir teased, he and his elder brother had seen this before, and it was always used as a last resort.

"I did not really give it much thought, to be honest." Estel admitted with a scowl.

"They eat the dead tissue, Gwador nin that is their task." Although know that Elrohir came to think of it, it was more than a little disgusting. To have them crawling over you did not seem right.

"You have them in your study?" Grey eyes turned to the Elf Lord.

"Yes I keep them there. They only have a short life span before they change into flies." Elrond was talking as if it was an everyday occurrence.

"Just let me know where and I will stay away from them." If he had his way he would not go anywhere near them!

"We can do that." The smile was gentle as he spoke.

"Hennad, Ada." There was utter relief in Estel's voice. "But they will help?"

"Yes, Ion-nin they will help." It was not exactly a promise.

"Good, I will do anything if it helps even handling them." Although he rather hoped that it would not come to that.

"I know you would, Estel but I would not expect that of you. Of any of you. I will be doing this." Elrond told his son gently.

"So where do you keep them?" Estel could not stop from asking. If he knew he would certainly steer clear of them.

"Top shelf of the right book case. I have rather tended to move them so that they remain undisturbed and in the dark. They seem to like the dark" He looked up as he spoke. "Is the knife ready, Elladan?"

"It is, Ada. I will just clean it with some Athelas water." It would also help to cool the blade.

"Good, Hennad." Elrond turned back to the wound. Trying not to think of how much he was going to hurt the Prince who was like a son to him he continued to wash the exudates away. There was so much of it. The more he wiped the more seemed to come. Although he was sure that it was just his imagination working over time.

"Do you think it will work, Ada?" Estel nibbled on his lower lip. They had been through so much with Legolas already and the thought that he could loose his arm and even possibly his life scared him more each time he thought of it. He had no doubt that if Legolas lost his arm he would either fade or sail. To never be able to draw his bow and shoot would kill his friend, the bow was another extension of him. Almost like an extra arm.

"I hope so, Ion-nin I do hope so." Elrond would say no more than that.

"It is ready, Ada is there anything else that you need?" Elladan carried the knife carefully over to them, it was sharp and he was wary in case he had some kind of accident. He just did not want to tempt providence.

"The water?" Elrond took the knife gently aware that his sons knew all too well how to handle blades. But you could just never be too careful.

"It is almost ready as well." Elrohir had taken that job on, his Ada wanted water they would make sure that he would get water.

"I will need plenty of cloths as well. Clean, to wipe with and then more to put pressure on and bind with. It will stop the bleeding." At least he hoped they would need to stop the bleeding. That would be such a good sign.

"I will see to that." Estel was moving. At least this way they were all doing something, anything to help.

"Good. Celeborn? Make certain that Galadriel and Mithrandir rest, they will be exhausted after the fight that they have had." He looked over at his Father-in-law.

"What about you?" Celeborn had already started to pour Miruvor for them all. From what he had witnessed and heard they would all have need of it.

"I will rest later. Legolas needs me." How could he leave this now? He could not in all conscience leave him now. They had come too far. They had also fought too hard for him to give up now.

"I will be making sure that you do rest." Celeborn told him sternly, he was his father-in-law after all and as family had to look after him.

"Hennad." Elrond bent back to the wound and with a sigh realised that he had cleaned off all that he could. He then accepted the blade from Elladan and with small gentle movements began to scrape the wound, he could not do much or he would cause more harm than good.

Once happy he had done all he could he picked up a fresh cloth, wet it in the Athelas water and gently pressed it to the wound. Anything that could help. He closed his eyes and sent his own strength to the Prince. Legolas needed all the help he could give him.

He did not know how long he stood there like that, he just knew it was as long as Legolas needed. He wearily opened his eyes to find Estel standing with him and watching everything he was doing.

"Ada?" There was worry once more in Estel's eyes.

"I am well, Ion-nin." He assured him.

"You are exhausted, Ada." Estel's lips had twitched at his statement he had heard that somewhere before.

"I can sleep and rest later. I am needed for now." He looked around as the door opened,

Glorfindel entered with his hands firmly holding a specimen jar.

"Good you have them." It was more a statement than a question.

"Aye." Glorfindel walked over to the bed and to his utmost amusement Estel drew back a look of disgust on his face. "They will not harm you."

"I know but I would rather not see them, thank you." Estel could think of nothing worse and to think they would be crawling over Legolas!

"Perhaps you should go and sit down while I do this? Then you will not need to see them." Elrond was amused as Glorfindel was, it was rather funny that Estel could be cowed by such a small creature. "Do you not use Maggots when you go fishing?"

Elladan laughed when he heard his father's innocent question. "No, Adar Estel will not use them! He will not go anywhere near them."

"What do you use?" He took the jar from Glorfindel and sat it to one side.

"Bread." Elladan and Elrohir spoke in unison and then burst out laughing when they looked at each other, it felt good to laugh after so long.

"Bread?!" Elrond and Glorfindel also spoke together and laughed as well when they each looked at the other. Estel flushed bright red from the roots of his hair to the tips of his ears.

"I had to use something and that was what was to hand." He tried to defend his decision.

"But Bread? Ion-nin that will fall apart the minute it gets wet." Elrond was still laughing, amazing what just a small bit of laughter could do to make one feel better.

"I found that out." Estel looked up and then grinned madly. "I also found something else out." He glanced over at his brothers aware that they were no longer smiling.

"What was that Estel?" Elrond gently lifted up the cloth he was using before placing it back and pressing on it once more. He need the bleeding to have stopped or the maggots would be useless.

"I found that the fish and Ducks love the bread!" He was beaming now. "I caught more than both Elladan and Elrohir together!"

"Is this true?" Elrond asked his eldest sons, amazed at this turn around. Who would have thought it?

"Yes, Ada it is true, but I am sure that Estel was cheating!" Elladan glared at his younger brother and then winked, Estel relaxed.

"You are just a poor looser that is all!" he could and would play along.

"Me? A poor looser?" Elladan sounded affronted even as his eyes sparkled with laughter.

"Yes, Elladan you are a poor looser." Elrohir back his foster brother up. "You always have been."

"That was the day that you came back saturated." Elrond could recall that day he had been less than impressed and Erestor had been furious that the halls had been left covered in water that had dripped from Estel's clothes. But he had been furious a few days later when Estel had come down with a chill. He had been ill for weeks after wards, the chill had settled into his chest and he had been very ill for a while.

An ill Estel meant misery for every one else. Estel hated being ill. As they all knew from old.

"Yes, Ada." Estel admitted. He bent to speak into Legolas' ear. "Ada is not aware of what happened that day."

"May be Ada does not want to hear about something that happened over a year ago." There was smugness to Elladan's voice and he tossed his head back so that his braids were straight over his shoulder.

"Oh I do not know. I think in fact that Ada would love to know what happened that day." Elrond told them. He knew what they were trying to do and he was most grateful.

"Adar?" Elladan's eyes were wide.

"Estel, I would much appreciate it if you told me the truth about what happened that day." Elrond pointedly ignored his eldest to look at his youngest.

"Elladan is right Ada it was a long time ago now and should be left alone." Estel tried to put his father off.

It failed miserably.

"No, I think that as it was a relatively short while ago you need to tell me what happened." Then it dawned on Elrond why they were trying to stop him from finding out and he smiled. "None of you will be punished. I just would love to know the truth about what happened that day."

He watched as they all relaxed back somewhat.

"I will tell you then." Estel told him.

"We will tell you, Ada it will be better coming from all three of us." Elrohir interjected.

"Good. I think that is a very good idea." it would take their minds off of the task he was about to do.

As Estel began to tell him the incredible tale Elrond released the top of the jar that the maggots were in, using a fine pair of tweezers that he often used for picking delicate debris from wounds he reached in to lift the first maggot out of the pot.

"Elladan decided that I had cheated that the fish could not have liked the bread and he took exception to having being beaten by bread and not maggot!"

Elrond nodded as he placed the maggot onto the wound. "I see, what happened then?"

He was already reaching for another maggot, he could have just poured them over the wound, but he did not think that his sons could live with that sight.

"We began to argue." Elrohir thought that only the truth would be best at this point. "Elladan was getting a little angry."

"A little!" Estel sounded astonished. "I would say he was very angry not just a little!"

Elrohir smiled at his brother. "Very well, Elladan was very angry at Estel and would not listen to reason."

"I would! I would have listened to reason!" Elladan told him with a glower for good measure.

"Really? Do you really think so? So why did you throw Estel fully clothed into the lake?" Elrohir asked his twin with an arched eyebrow.

"Well, he would not listen to me!" Elladan protested.

Elrond lifted the last of the maggots that he would be needing and placed it next to the others and then he gently placed a covering over the top to hide it from view.

"Are you finished?" Estel's voice sounded incredibly small.

Elrond looked up. Estel was looking everywhere but at the wound. It was obvious that he really hated the thought of the maggots.

"Yes, Ion-nin I am finished for now." He had to smile as Estel sighed with relief.

"What know?" Elladan sounded thoughtful.

"Now we wait while they do their work. I will leave them for half an hour and then remove them. I will use them again this afternoon and again tomorrow. I do not want them to eat healthy tissue that will cause more damage than I want at present." Elrond explained gently. He did not elaborate further, he was sure that Estel was be sick if he did, he looked that green.

"But it will help?" Estel pressed again. He did not want to know the details, he just wanted to know that his friend was going to be alright.

"Yes, it will help. I have seen them clean a lot of nasty wounds, wounds that had potential to kill." Elrond admitted.

"As bad as Legolas'?" Elrohir asked. He knew that Maggots could help a wound but had never really given much thought to the mechanics of how they helped.

"Almost." It was just one word, but it froze them all in place.

"Almost?" Estel and his brothers were gaping at their Father. His answer had not been what they had been expecting at all. They had expected a simple yes.

"Yes, almost. I have seen few as bad as Legolas' that did not end in amputation. Or amputation and death." They needed to be aware of what could still happen. Legolas was still deathly ill, still unaware of what was happening about him. He could only help that Legolas remained unconscious until he was well on the way to healing. As it was it would take months, many months for him to recover. It would not be the quick recovery that all Elves enjoyed.

"That could still happen?" Estel slumped in his seat, his face the picture of abject despair.

"Aye, Penneth it could. The operative word being could and not will. I will do my hardest to prevent that from happening." Elrond tried to rally them.

"I will do my best for him as well." Estel straightened in his seat. "Legolas would for me it is only fair that I should reciprocate. Besides we need to get him back for that prank he pulled."

"Ah, yes the infamous feathers." Elrond had to laugh in rememberance at that one.

Typical Legolas, well thought out and executed just as they would expect from Mirkwood's Master Strategist.

"That was funny." Glorfindel admitted.

"So it was Legolas who did that!" Understanding dawned in Elrohir's eyes.

"I thought you had that all worked out." Elrond teased. It was rare that someone managed to prank his sons and for them not to fully realise who it was that had done it.

He had to hand it to Legolas he had done well with this one.

"I had my suspicions but he seemed so ill I discounted him. I thought that perhaps Glorfindel…" Elladan was looking at his friend in amazement. He really had thought that Legolas was too sick to plan something like that.

"I came to get a drink in the middle of the night and he was in the kitchen. We spoke briefly. He gave nothing away. He did not mention what he had planned at all." Elrond was shaking his head at the memory and then he gave a wide smile. "It was worth keeping quiet about. Just the looks on your faces made it worth it."

"Be that as it may, we need to plan for getting our own back." Elrohir's eyes had taken on a devilish glint. His agile mind already at work.

"You can plan only. I want nothing more than that until Legolas is fully healed. No matter how long that takes!" Elrond warned them.

"We would not do that, Ada we would not do anything until he can fight back." Estel gently took the warm hand in his. Praying that the day would come sooner rather than later for all of their peace of minds.

"Good, I had no doubt of that either." Elrond's smile was warm, these four were loyal to each other. He recalled a human expression. Cut one and the others would also bleed. It was uncannily accurate with this particular group.

Elrond looked up to check Anor's passage in the sky. Another ten minutes and he would be able to remove the maggots. Perhaps it would be best if Estel was not in the chamber to see that.

"Estel in ten minutes I want you to go and speak to the cook. I want some thin creamy porridge for Legolas and some food for the rest of us. We will sort Thranduil out when he wakens, he will need the sustenance as well."

"Of course, Ada and I know the cook enjoys making the porridge for Legolas." Estel could not stop the comment if he had tried. And as it was the truth.

"I know it has ever been the same." There was fond remembarance on Glorfindel's face.

"Yes, since the day that Legolas first tasted it he always has to have the stuff." Elrohir would eat the foul food if he had to, but only if there was nothing else. He could not understand how anyone could want to eat it of their own free will.

"That is true. I will never forget the look on his face when he first tasted it." Elrond added.

"What happened?" As ever Estel was eager to hear about his friend when the Prince was younger.

"It is not spoken of much. The time was hard. It was a year after his Naneth's death. I believe you know of the trade meeting in Fornost?" Elrond asked him.

"Aye you have spoken of it and how badly Legolas was injured." Estel settled to hear what his father was saying.

"Well when we got back to Imladris we needed Legolas to eat but only something light. I do not think Thranduil expected him to eat any of it, he cleared the plate and even asked for more!" Elrond was beaming.

"Aye Thranduil's face was incredible to see." Glorfindel admitted.

"True, since then he has always loved our porridge. Just ours and no one elses." Elrond concluded his little tale.

"Just Imladris porridge?" Estel was amazed at that thought.

"Yes, just ours he says the others are too weak and tasteless." Elladan's voice was soft. "And he is right. The Porridge in Mirkwood is awful."

"They certainly have a much harder life than we do." Galadriel had been listening while she sipped her Miruvor. She felt drained and was amazed that Elrond could still stand at all let alone be articulate.

"Yes, they do." Elrond's voice was full of worry once more.

"We need to send some aid. After what has happened they will need help. The Spider attack would have depleted already stretched resources." She commented.

"Aye, again that is true." Elrond sighed. Why was it always Mirkwood who suffered? They always seemed to be the Realm that was targeted. Evil certainly seemed to leave her mark. More so than was already apparent.

The Mirkwood Elves had somehow kept the growing darkness around them from spreading, but how much longer could they continue like this? The threat of Dul Guldor was growing by the day, its insidious evil spreading like vines throughout the once flush forest. Where once was green living trees were now blackened hulks. Even the animals were changed. No longer was there the happy chittering of the red squirrels that Legolas loved so much. Now in the forest about Mirkwood the chittering was angry and the squirrels black.

But nearer to the Palace you could see how Mirkwood would have once been in her prime. Her glory shining like a bright beacon in the darkness. It was that which the Elves were fighting for. That which they gave their lives to protect.

Imladris was hidden from sight. Safe from hostile eyes and kept that way by Vilya. The only way you could know where Imladris nestled was to have been told where it was. The hidden passage was constantly guarded to make sure no unfriendly 'guests' could make their way in.

Even Lothlorien was protected by Galadriel and Celeborn with the aid of Nenya, they did sometimes get incursions of Orcs, but they were few and far between and easily put down.

But Mirkwood, well Mirkwood was protected with nothing but the Elves dertermination. And what determiantion! They did not seem to know the meaning of giving up. They were determined that they would keep their home free from evil and were actually doing a very fair job of it! They were always given aid, they rarely asked for it though. The Elves had too much pride. Far too much!

"I agree, it will be difficult to get them to accept the aid, but perhaps now would be the best time to offer when Thranduil wakens?" Galadriel's light voice broke through his musing.

"It may be better to arrange something before then. That way the aid is already on its way and Thranduil can not refuse it." Elrond could be as cunning as his old friend. If Thranduil was given the choice he would say no. But if he were told the aid was already on its way. "They will probably be in need of some healers as well. Not that I think Doroniel cannot handle the situation, but there is much that they do already." Elrond pointed out.

"They are always over stretched." Estel admitted, he had been amazed at the constant stress the Mirkwood healers worked under. He was not sure that he could do the same. At least not without collapsing exhausted.

"Then we will do that. I need to see to Legolas, Estel your DaerNana has need of food." She opened her mouth to protest at that. "Do not say you have eaten, you have not. I will not take no for an answer!" Elrond told her a little sharper than he would have otherwise spoken.

"I was about to say that you need some food as well and some Miruvor." There was affectionate amusement in her eyes.

He had the grace to flush at her words, he had expected her to protest and when she had not…. Well he felt badly now.

"That is true. I am sorry." He told her quietly.

"There is nothing to apologise for, you are looking out for my well being and you could never be found at fault for that." She smiled at him.

"Hennad. Estel?" He turned to his foster son.

"I will go and see to it, Ada." Estel rose and headed for the door.

"I will help him, Ada he will have too much to carry otherwise." Elrohir joined his younger brother.

"Hennad once more." Elrond watched as they left the chamber the door closing behind them.

"Why did you not want Estel in the chamber?" Was Elladan's surprisingly astute question.

"Because he is uncomfortable enough around the maggots before they cleaned the wound. I did not wish him to see them now that they have been at work." Elrond told him simply.

He lifted the cloth and one after another he lifted the maggots from where they had been gorging on the dead flesh. Once they were all safely back in the jar that he kept them in he passed it to Glorfindel. "Ordinarily I would keep them here, but in the circumstances it might be better to return them to their usual spot."

"I agree. Estel is most uncomfortable with the idea." There was no mirth in Glorfindel's voice. This was too serious for that.

"Aye, but they will help." At Elrond's nod he turned and left the chamber.

"What do you need, Elrond?" Gailarphen was instanty there.

"More water and cloth. Some Athelas. I need to clean and dress the wound." Elrond slowly straightened feeling his aching muscles pull.

"Sit and rest while I get them, it will do you some good." Gailarphen's grey eyes had not missed the signs.

"That may be wise, Mellon-iaur." He sat with a grateful smile.

"You can take the time to drink this." A goblet appeared before him his father-in-law would not take no for an answer and if he were truthful he was too tired to even try and protest.

"Hennad." He took it gratefull and sipped the cordial, feeling the strength flow through him as he did so.

"How is it looking?" Galadriel was frowning at him.

"It is too early to tell. We will need to be patient and wait for a couple of treatments." This was going to be the hard part. The waiting. At least they knew Legolas' Fea was safe and away from any harm that Sauron could think up. The evil one had been forced once more to flee. Although they all knew that he would in all likelihood return once more. That would always be the way until the One Ring was found and destroyed.

"That will be hard on all of us but more so Thranduil when he realises what he has been forced to do." The sorrow in Celeborn's voice was clear for them all to hear. Thranduil was so close to his son, this would hurt him immeasurably.

"Aye but he has us to help him through this. He will not be alone in this." Mithrandir had woken from his doze as they were speaking.

"True." Celeborn admitted knowing that this was true. It was also a relief.

"Your supplies are ready, Elrond." Gailarphen had placed two pots of water on the table. Both contained the fresh herb Athelas. One was for use in cleaning the wound on Legolas' arm the other was for him to wash his hands in.

"Hennad, Gailarphen it is appreciated." He stood slowly, feeling the exhaustion pulling on him, but he could not rest just yet. Once this wound was cleaned and re-bound, then he could rest. But not until then.

"I know." The grave healer told him. "Let me hold the arm for you." He gently moved to pick up the afflicted arm.

"Hennad once more, it would be difficult to treat without aid." Elrond smiled at him.

"It is nasty." Gailarphen's lips were pursed with worry.

"Very nasty, I agree but we will get there with it. I will strive for nothing less." The memory of the brief vision flickered in his consciousness once more.

"And my bow!"

There was more going on here than they knew. Some greater happenstance than they knew at the moment.

"We always knew that Legolas was here for a reason. That the Valar in their wisdom have decreed that he is needed." Galadriel was watching him.

"Aye but what and who is he offering his bow to protect?" Elrond spoke absently as he began the task that always soothed him, meticulously washing his hands. It always seemed to clear his mind in times of turmoil.

But his words did not have the effect that he expected them to have. For all pretence at relaxing left her at his words.

"You have seen it too?" She was sitting up and watching him with her intense blue eyes, Eyes that seemed to see right into his very soul.

"I have seen little. Only Legolas looking whole and well offerinng his bow to someone. I do not know who." He looked up from where he was washing his hands. "Have you seen more?"

"I have seen many things. All confusing. But I do believe that the time the prophecy has spoken about draws near." Galadriel sounded serene.

Elrond drew in a sharp breath. "How near?" He shared a worried glance with Mithrandir and Celeborn. Legolas was too ill and weak to fight and in the vision he looked better than Elrond had seen him for some time.

"Not imminent but it is darwing close, the time when Estel will have to choose between duty and love, the time when Legolas has to decide where he wishes to be. At the side of his friend or his father. Neither of them have easy choices to make, but what they do decide will have far reaching ramifications." She kept her voice steady. She could not give away all she had seen, the good or the bad for fear that they change the future and make things worse rather than better.

Elrond blinked at her cryptic words, he was used to it, but it could still be shocking and give him things to ponder about.

They had know at the time of the trade delegation with Fornost that Galadriel's dreams and visions of the single Elf with the link to nature pertained to Legolas and that in all likelihood the prophecy about the elf and human coming together to save Middle-earth was about Legolas and Estel. But they had not known when these things would talk place.

But if Galadriel said it was coming soon then he believed her. They would have to work at getting Legolas well enough to meet the challenge.

But the fact that they would both have difficult choices to make worried him more than he cared to admit. What choices and why difficult?

He could worry himself grey if he let himself think in circles like this and he would also get no where.

He put it to one side, he would ponder that at a less difficult time than this. Now he had to look after Legolas and get this wound seen to.

"We will have a talk at a later time about their choices." Elrond told her seriously. "But for now I need to see to this."

He finished washing his hands and dried them on a towel that Gaialrphen had also brought with him.

"Make sure that he is well enough to see his destiny. He will be sorely needed." There was sadness in her voice as well, Elrond was more sure than ever that Galadriel knew more than she was saying. Not that it would do him any good once she decided that she was not speaking about a vision she would not be drawn into speaking at all.

"That does not sound good." Elrond was already washing the wound. It looked better for the treatments it had received already. Perhaps he could begin to hope a little.

"You know what I mean when I say it is all a web." Galadriel was watching him closely and felt rather than saw that Celeborn had stiffened at what she had just said. "Celeborn knows what I am speaking of."

"The Web of Life? You have not mentioned that in many years, Melleth." Celeborn looked shaken as did Elrond.

"It has not been needed. But now that the time draws near we will all see just how that web has grown and changed. How each strand has effected the over all web." Galadriel knew they were confusing Elladan, but that could not be helped.

"How has it been effected have you seen?" Mithrandir asked hoping that she would answer.

"The Web is stronger than I have ever seenm it. It was tattered until a short while ago but is strengthening once more and the moment that he realises that his Ada is back with him it will change once more." Galadriel informed them.

"How many strands?" Elrond was already thinking. "How many strands does the web have?"

"You understand the web. I am pleased." Galadriel gave an enigmatic smile. "There are numerous thin strands connecting to the outer web but some thick well tended strands in the centre. We all have a strand. There is even a twin strand that glows with vitality." She grinned at the stunned look on Elladan's face. "Yes it belongs to you and Elrohir. In the centre are three thick strands. Very thick."

"I think I know who they would belong to." Elladan had relaxed somewhat.

"Tell me then?" She asked gently, wishing to see if their ideas matched.

"One has to be Legolas, the other Thranduil and the last one Estel." Elladan ticked them off on his fingers.

"You are very right. Where once there was one single sickly strand others have come to its aid. The Web is healthy and strong. For that we can be grateful. For the time is coming when the web will be needed and when that time comes we will all know." Galadriel sipped on the Miruvor that had been forgotten in her hands as they had been speaking.

For so long she had dreamt of the Web, watching from afar as it was left to dwindle down to one strand. She had worried to see the strand begin to unravel. So to see it as she was at the moment filled her not with dread, but pleasure. They could have lost so much had Legolas been allowed to fall to Sauorn. But that had not happened. Would not happen.

"That is good, I am glad of that." Elrond was spreading the prepared Athelas paste over the wound prior to dressing it.

"As am I." A comotion at the door caught their attention and Elladan, shaking his head in amusement went to open the door. It was a good job that he did so. For neither Elrohir nor Estel had the hands free to even knock let alone answer.

The trays they held were piled high with food.

"Have you got enough there?" Galadriel shared and amused glances with Celeborn. This was typical of her grandsons. Always hungry and teasing Estel about his appetite.

"No this is only some of it. The cook would not let is leave without making sure there was enough for all of us." Elrohir sounded amused.

"He said there would be more deserts later and some of the fruit pies that Legolas loves so much!" Estel was looking forward to that, he loved the pies as much as Legolas did.

"I am pleased that you are pleased, unfortunately Legolas will be unable to have the pies for sometime to come." There was a tinge of sadness in Elrond's voice. He knew, as did all of those in the chamber with him that Legolas had an incredibly sweet tooth.

"Good there will be more for me." Estel's eyes glinted with amusement.

"And leave Legolas deprived? That is not nice, Ion-nin." Elrond chastised gently.

"There will be more made for when he is ready for them." Was the matter of fact reply.

Elronf blinked at that, it was true. What Estel said was perfectly true, but what is right?

"I will make sure that there are some set aside for Legolas." Elrohir was as amused at his Father.

"Hennad, Elrohir I will keep you to that." Elrond was pleased at this suggestion.

"I expected as much, Ada." There was a grin in Elrohir's voice.

"That is not fair!" Estel sounded petulant and when they looked over at him in amusement He was pouting.

"Life is not fair, Ion-nin. Trust me." Elrond was suddenly serious. Look at what had happened in Mirkwood for one.

"I know, Ada." The young human's voice was just as serious suddenly.

"I know, Estel I know, Penneth." One could not loose both parents at such an early age and not be aware of that.

And what an incredible child they had missed raising to adulthood. All he knew about it was the fact they, Aragorn's parents would have been very proud of their son, he had grown into a fine man. A very fine man. He, Elrond was very proud of him.

"We need to eat." he shook himself from his maudlin thoughts, this would not help Legolas.

"What do you want me to do with his porridge, Ada?" Elrohir was willing to wait for his own food…

"Put it by the fire to keep warm. He is sleeping deeply and will not mind you eating before him." His Father's voice was kind.

"As you wish, Ada it will keep it warm for him." Elrohir picked up the lone bowl and walked to the fire with it before setting it to one side. It would not spoil that way. Elrohir's smile became strained. This was too much like another time that Legolas had been badly injured. This time it had begun in Mirkwood, moved to Imladris before finally ending back in Mirkwood. It was not a time he would like to go through again. His father had been almost killed and Elladan kidnapped before the end. It had not been a fun time at all.

They had fed Legolas porridge that time as well. Always porridge, whenever his friend was seriously injured they always resorted to the porridge, knowing full well that it was the one thing Legolas would eat without complaining about.

With a sigh he straightened and stood. "I will get the rest of the food." His younger brother was already setting out what they had brought.

"Hennad, Ro." Estel smiled at him and then frowned. "What is wrong?"

"Just thinking about the last time this happened. The last time Legolas was this thin and ill." he had to shake himself free of the memory.

"Aye that was not a fun time." Estel's voice was equally as grim.

"But we got through it with him. Just think that. Legolas is still with us." Mithrandir sounded wise beyond his years. And he probably was they all realised. Just because he looked like a wrinkled old man and his fea reacted to that, he was a Maia, beloved of the Valar, brought to help Middle-earth. He was wiser than they probably realised.

"Aye he is still with us and we will make sure that it remains that way." Estel was watching his friend sleep. At least Legolas looked settled more than he had done for some time.

"He has his family and friends. He just needs to know that we still are here with him." Galadriel's voice was soft and full of sorrow. "He will have some doubts when he wakens."

"Doubts?" Elrond raised his head sharply at that comment.

"Aye, doubts. He has afterall been over taking bt Sauron's minions. Had the evil within him. Had it whispering inside his head. I dread to think of what it would have said to him, the things it would have shown him. But we will help him. The Valar already have." Her smile was sweet and full of love when she turned to Legolas once more. "We just have to show him that it is real."

"We will make his doubts flee, DaerNana. We will not let him suffer this alone." Elladan's voice was strong.

"Legolas is not the only one, Penneth. We have another who is going to need as much, if not more care than him." The sorrow was deeper.

"Who is that? Where?" Estel was puzzled, who could this be?

"Thranduil, Estel it is Thranduil. We do not know how long Sauron had command of his body. We do not know what foul acts he was made to watch, unable to stop when his hands did these deads, unable to stop the hateful words as they left his own lips? No Thranduil will need our love and help as much as Legolas." Her eyes were full of tears as she spoke. What her old friend must have suffered!

"He will have it, they both will have it. They will know that they are well loved." Elrond told her seriously.

"He will need it I fear. When you think of the things that he would have witnessed. The things that he would have been powerless to stop. He must be so scared." Galadriel's blue eyes were wide in her pale face. It made her look as if she were terrified.

"Sauron has a lot to answer for. He will too, when the time is right." Mithrandir told them softly and yet there was a hint of anger in his tones as well. He sounded more like the old man he tried to portray in that minute, it was rare that he felt deep anger and he tried not to feel hatred for anything, it was the way of the Valar and the Maia tried to live by that decree as well. But when he thought of the fallen Maia and the cruel and heartless things that he had done it angered him more than anything.

"When the time is right. Yes when the time is right." There was that dream like qaulity to Elrond's voice as he spoke. One that put them all on the alert.

"Elrond?" Galadriel would have risen but Celeborn stopped her with a warning glare.

"It will come and when it does he will reap what he has sown. All will rejoice, even the very sky above us. Hail to the nine they will always be blessed by the Valar!"

"Elrond?" It was Celeborn who tried to bring him back this time. There had been too many visions recently for Elrond, if they were not careful he would collapse. That would be a potential disaster when it came to Legolas' care. Not that Gailarphen was neglegent as a healer, after Elrond he was the most experienced healer in Middle-earth, but the most experienced was Elrond himself. And that was what Legolas needed at the moment. The best and most experienced healer that could be provided.

Elrond blinked and looked around him. "I am sorry you were saying? I think I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes."

Celeborn and the others could only gape, Elrond was not showing any of the normal signs that typified a vision. He sounded completely normal.

"You were talking about the nine?" Mithrandir spoke, asking the question that was bothering all of them.

"The nine? What nine?" Elrond looked as puzzled as they all felt.

"We were rather hoping you could tell us." Mithrandir sighed and looked at the others. It seemed that they would have to wait and see what happened, as was normally the case with the visions the two Elves received.

"I cannot recall talking about the nine? What are they?" Elrond was thoroughly confused by all of this.

"You need to get some warm food inside of you, and some Miruvor. Elladan?" Galadriel was worried about how pale and exhausted her daughter's husband looked. She had rarely seen him this bad. Normally it was when her grandchildren managed to harm themselves in some confrontation with Fell Creatures. Of course she labeled Legolas as one of her grandchildren, she loved him as one.

"Yes, DaerNana?" Elladan hurried forward.

"Get your Ada some Miruvor and sweetend tea? Then I want you to rest, penneth." She had turned back to Elrond.

"I am not sure that is wise. What if Legolas has need of me?" That was why he had not rested as much as the others had recently. Legolas was in such a critical condition that he did not want to think about what could happen if he were to fall asleep.

"Then we would waken you. You could use the bed here and sleep, that way you would be near to him should the need arise." Galadriel told him gently.

"I would rather stay awake and be here in case." He told his mother-in-law.

Gailarphen stepped forward then and interjected. "If I were to say that and seemed to be putting both myself and my patient in danger by not sleeping what would you say?"

"That is different." Elrond told him.

"How do you work that out, Mellon-nin?" Glorfindel finally spoke from where he was sitting watching all of this.

"It is simple I am not tired." Elrond told him.

"Then why do you have Dark rings beneath your eyes and why are you doing that?" Celeborn asked him.

"Doing what?" Elrond was puzzled the only thing he was doing was sitting there.

"That." He pointed to Elrond's mouth and he could have sighed.

For Elrond was trying to stop himself from yawning.

"I am not tired!" Elrond sounded just like a beligerant child.

"I would beg to differ." Galadriel was smiling sweetly. And then the smile died. "But I do need you to be sensible, Elrond. Legolas needs you sharp and alert and not exhausted and trying to hide the fact."

"I know you are right. But if something happens…" Elrond was more worried that he would not be there.

"We will wake you. We will make sure that you are wakened. How long before you have to change the arm dressing again?" Celeborn asked.

"Three more hours. I would not want to leave it any longer than that." Elornd admitted, not with the state of Legolas' arm.

"Then we will make certain that in three hours you are awakened and if anything happens in that time, you will also be woken then." Celeborn would not take no for an answer.

"Alright, I will sleep. But if you do not waken me I will never forgive you!" Elrond did not have the strength to argue any more.

"Good. Ah here is Elladan with that tea and Miruvor." Celeborn was pleased that Elrond had seen sense at last.

"The cook wanted to send more food, but I did not think that it was needed." Elladan handed the goblet of Miruvor to his father with a worried smile. "There you are, Ada."

"Hennad, Elladan and I do not think we need any more food either." They had eaten well. But it was the cook's way of managing any crisis large or small. If there was a crisis then they would need food and he made food. A lot of it. Sometimes Elrond had to tell him that enough was enough and that they needed no more food.

"I agree." Even with helping Fornost by sending food, the Elves had eaten well. The roots and nuts as well as berries that had been gathered before the snows came had lasted well.

"He said that he has more porridge for Legolas when he is ready for it." Elladan glanced at his friend, his worry all too clear.

"Good, that will also help." He knew that the cook would be aware of their need. And Legolas needed the nourishment. Would continue to need the nourishment as he recovered and his body healed.

"has there been any change?" He was hoping. Hoping so much that there would be some improvement in Legolas' condition.

"No, nothing he has not so much as stirred." Estel could not hide his worry.

"He will. We have to give him time." Just one treatment would not make that big a change. It would take a lot more than that.

"I hate waiting." it was a mutter but they all heard it. None called Estel on it though because inside of them they all felt the same.

"How is Thranduil?" Mithrandir was tired as well. Soon he would need to rest, but not until Elrond was sleeping.

"He is still sleeping. It will do him some good, it will help him recover." Elrond had been watching his friend closely to make sure that his recent experiences did not cause him nightmares.

"Yes. It will take them both time to recover from this." Galadriel agreed. "Are you finished with the Miruvor?"

Elrond had the grace to flush at her words. He had been hoping that no one would notice that he was drawing this out so that he could stay up a little longer and watch his patient's. It seemed that he had been caught out. He quickly took the last swallow and nodded. "I am know." He placed the goblet on the herb table, thankful that the cordial was working already.

"Good, so you can have the sweetened tea know." There was soft understanding in her voice and a glimmer of sadness in her eyes. He realised she knew what he had been hoping to do. "I do understand, Penneth but you must understand this. Legolas needs to completely fresh and able to handle any emergency that comes. At present you could not do that."

"Youa re right. I am sorry. I will drink this and lay down. But I do want to be woken to see to Legolas' arm. Just over three hours. Do I have your promise?" He was looking at Galadriel, know that her word would be kept.

"I promise you that I will wake you personally at the time you specify." Galadriel was pleased that he had seen sense.

"Good and then you can rest." Elrond told her. "The stress has been as great for you."

Galadriel opened her mouth to protest at that, but that was not a good idea.

"I will not take no for an answer. You have rings under your eyes as well. And if you look very closely your hands have a fine tremor." He watched in amusement as Galadriel lifted her hand up to look. Sure enough there was a fine trembling in the long slim digits. "That is caused by exhaustion."

Galadriel sighed, she knew she was beaten. Well and truly beaten. "I will rest as soon as you wake and have seen to Legolas." She accepted that.

Elrond had to smile at that. It was rare to back her into corner like this. "Good, it is good that you are seeing sense as well." Then his smile slipped at the smile Galadriel was giving him.

He could have groaned then, he would most certainly pay for this later, she would make sure of that! And he would not be happy.

He cleared his throat, suddenly very nervous. "This is good tea, Elaldan." He tried to change the subject.

He was aware that the others were finding it amusing, too amusing.

"I am glad, Ada." He could hear the laughter in his eldest's voice, it would be better to ignore it and act as if nothing had happened.

"Who is going to sit with Legolas while I sleep?" He knew that there would be many wanting to look after the Prince, Legolas had a way of attracting loyal friends.

"I will, Ada." Estel jumped in first, just as Elrond expected.

"We will take it in turns, Ada." Elladan interjected.