By Any Means Necessary
“Nay, I won’t let you… Fight you…” Thranduil mumbled feverishly in his sleep, which was tormented by severe nightmares.
Erestor tightened the hold he had on the blond, although that wasn’t really necessary as Thranduil was violently clinging to him, refusing to let go. Thranduil had molded his body against his, and was tucked safely in his arms. The blond had even used his legs to ensure Erestor stayed close, wrapping the long limbs around the Noldo’s waist.
“You are not alone, Thranduil. You do not have to fight the Shadow on your own. Draw from my strength if you can!” He wished he possessed Elrond’s healing skills, for then he might have been able to provide more support. Rocking Thranduil in his arms, he continued to whisper reassurances and, after long hours, the blond began to calm down. In the end, Thranduil slipped into a calmer sleep, but although his eyes were open now, the pupils flashed dangerously, revealing the Sindarin Elf was still in considerable discomfort.
Breathing a relieved sigh, Erestor caught sight of Arien’s first rays, which tentatively touched the tops of the royal talan. He hoped the golden light would chase off any lingering nightmares and deliver Thranduil from evil. Unexpectedly Thranduil relaxed in his arms and the blond’s tense muscles relaxed. The rapid eye movements stopped and Thranduil drifted into a deeper state of sleep.
Erestor felt exhausted and wondered how Thranduil coped with these nightly attacks; there was no other way to describe these nightmares. He had literally sensed the heavy air of evil that had hung around the blond during his restless sleep.
“He has had those nightmares every night for several months,” said Legolas, soundlessly entering the room. It hadn’t been his intention to startle Erestor, but the dark-haired Elf’s head whipped upward upon hearing his voice. “Now that Arien is in the air he will recover somewhat, but every night is a struggle.”
Erestor sighed deeply. “Why is he so determined to fight the Shadow alone?”
Legolas shrugged his shoulders. “I am not sure. My father has always been a loner, but I suspect something happened in the past that made him very apprehensive when it comes down to trusting someone.” He gave Erestor a thoughtful look. “I have the suspicion that it has something to do with Elrond, but I am not sure.”
“I could ask Elrond,” mumbled Erestor thoughtfully. After drawing in a deep breath, he addressed Legolas again. “What happens next?”
“He will continue to sleep for another hour. You might want to move him into the sunlight, which will strengthen him. Upon wakening he is usually rather confused and you need to reassure him that he is at home and he survived another night without giving into evil. Slowly, he will regain his composure and then he will try to push you away. He did that to me during those first nights. Later, he learned to accept my closeness and care.”
Legolas approached the bed. He needed to make sure that his father was recovering from another exhausting night. “In two hours I will send a servant with some food. You must ensure that he eats something.”
Erestor suddenly realized Legolas’ true intentions and couldn’t help but grin. “You want me to take over your task, hoping he will learn to trust me.”
“Aye, and once you have gained his trust you might be able to persuade him to agree to the alliance, which Elrond proposed.” Legolas exchanged a knowing glance with Erestor. “I am helping you because I want what is best for my father and my people.”
“I understand perfectly,” said Erestor. “And I thank you for your help.”
Legolas nodded once and then headed for the doorway. “Remember, he will be thoroughly confused. Be kind and patient with him.”
Erestor filed the information for later use and concentrated on Thranduil after Legolas had closed the door behind him. This situation was unlike anything he had expected and he wondered how the blond would react upon finding him this close.
Well, there was only one thing he could do, and that was wait for Thranduil to wake up.
Thranduil struggled to reach consciousness again. The darkness that had gathered around him was suffocating and he gasped for breath. Finally waking up, he felt disorientated and instinctively clung to the warm form that was holding him, thinking it was Legolas. A hand gently patted his hair, stroking it reassuringly and he closed his eyes, trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings.
The nightmares were always intensely vivid, and at times he was stunned to find he was still alive. In his dreams Sauron consumed him, devoured his body and soul before he even had a chance to reach Mandos’ Halls.
A soft humming floated through the room, and although Legolas had never done such a thing before, the sound was soothing and he buried his head against the other’s chest. It was only after long moments that he realized something was different. The color of the clothes was wrong and the scent he was inhaling wasn’t his son’s. Legolas smelled of pine and the forest, whilst this scent was sweet. It reminded him of cinnamon.
Raising tired eyes, he met dark ones that curiously stared at him. His mind was still recovering from the nightmares and he simply gazed at the dark-haired Elf who was holding him, vaguely wondering who the stranger was.
Involuntarily Erestor held his breath when Thranduil’s eyes met his. How would the blond react to his presence? Apparently not at all. Thranduil continued to stare at him with empty eyes. In the end, Erestor moistened his lips and spoke. “Are you feeling any better?”
Thranduil’s eyes widened slightly at hearing the musical voice, finally realizing that this stranger was very real indeed. What was more, the raven-haired Elf was holding him protectively. “Where… is… Lego…las?” His mouth was dry and his lips chapped. He craved some water, but was too confused to ask for it.
“Legolas is arranging for some food and water,” replied Erestor, hearing Thranduil’s croaking voice. “You had a bad night.”
“I…always… have…” mumbled Thranduil tiredly. He closed his eyes momentarily, gathering his strength. A few moments later he felt strong enough to open them and stare at the stranger questioningly. “Who are… you?”
“My name is Erestor and I am chief advisor to Lord Elrond.” Erestor closely monitored Thranduil’s reaction and immediately noticed the green eyes widening. “Peace, Sire, I mean you well. I am here to help.”
Thranduil tried to free himself of the embrace, which no longer felt comforting, but restricting. “Leave me…!” Pulling away from Erestor took his last strength and he nearly tumbled off the bed.
Erestor was just in time to keep the blond from falling and pulled Thranduil onto the bed again. “You should rest a little longer. Legolas will arrive with some food shortly.”
Fury, born out of desperation, flashed across Thranduil’s features. “My son… knows… you are here?” Why had Legolas allowed Erestor into his rooms? His son knew he didn’t want anything to do with the Imladris Elves! He hated his weakness, as it stopped him from moving away from Erestor. He wanted as much distance between them as possible, but his body wouldn’t cooperate.
Acting instinctively, Erestor loosened the hold he had on Thranduil. “Legolas told me to move you into the sunlight. Will you allow me to assist you?” A comfortable chair stood beneath the window and the first sunbeams were directed at it. Erestor suspected Legolas normally helped his father cross the distance so Thranduil could sit in the sun.
“I do not need your help, Noldorin Elf!” Thranduil, slowly regaining his strength, managed to swing his feet onto the ground. He pushed himself upright, but then swayed unexpectedly.
He would have fallen if it hadn’t been for Erestor, who quickly rose from the bed, wrapping his arms around the blond’s waist. Erestor couldn’t help it and chuckled softly. “You are most stubborn, Sire.”
Infuriated, Thranduil glared at Erestor. He was about to forbid Erestor to touch him when his knees gave away beneath him. The dark-haired Elf was now the one thing holding him upright, and he had no choice but to lean heavily against Erestor for support.
Realizing how much this weakness infuriated Thranduil, Erestor refrained from making a teasing remark. Instead, he guided the blond over to the chair and helped him sit down. Arien’s beams caressed the grey hair, played with it, and slowly restored some of its luster to the Sindarin Elf. Erestor doubted the effect would last long, however. By nightfall Thranduil would have lost most of the strength that Arien was bestowing on him now.
Erestor pulled up another chair and sat down, studying the blond closely. “I encountered you at the lake last night,” he explained, seeing Thranduil’s wondering expression. “You collapsed and I brought you here.”
“I cannot believe Legolas let you do that!” Why hadn’t his son stopped Erestor?
“Don’t be angry with your son,” said Erestor calmly, “He has your best interest in mind.”
Thranduil snorted angrily. /My best interest?/ Leaning back into the comfort of the chair, he closed his eyes, soaking up the warmth. Arien’s rays were the only things that kept him alive, making it possible for him to fight the Shadow. But the darkness was rising. and it wouldn’t be long until it reached the treetops, making it impossible for Arien to reach the weakening King. “I want you to leave me now.”
Erestor inclined his head. “I cannot do that. Legolas trusts me to watch over you in his absence.” Emerald eyes flashed open and stared at him in disbelief.
“My son would never entrust me to your care! That is a lie.”
“Ada?” Legolas had appeared in the doorway, just in time to catch his father’s last words. He carried a tray filled with porridge, honey, thick slices of bread and hot tea over to where the two Elves were sitting and placed it on the floor. “Erestor speaks the truth. I asked him to look after you.”
Thranduil stared at his son in amazement. “But…”
“Aye, he is a Noldorin Elf, but that does not mean he is evil. I told you before to let go of your prejudice.” Legolas handed his father a bowl filled with porridge. “Eat. You need to maintain your strength.”
Displeased, Thranduil stared at the bowl. “I am not hungry.” But Legolas glared at him and he reluctantly began to eat, nearly choking on the sweet substance.
Erestor remained quiet during their exchange. He wondered if Thranduil realized that Legolas was the one in control. Thranduil had gained a reputation of throwing tantrums, being haughty and authoritative, but he encountered none of those traits in him now. Thranduil was as meek as a lamb, obediently eating and drinking everything Legolas handed him. The ruler of Mirkwood was nothing like he had thought he would be. All he had to do now was figure out his next step.
The food strengthened Thranduil and he exchanged a puzzled look with his son. Why had Legolas allowed Erestor to stay? But then again, Legolas still thought he didn’t know about the friendships that he had formed in Imladris. When his spies had first told him that his son had befriended the half-Elves he had been enraged, but later he had realized he couldn’t order his son to abandon these friendships when they obviously were important to him. So he continued to act as if he were unaware of his son’s actions.
“Ada?” Worried, Legolas rested his hand on his father’s knee and squeezed it through the green fabric. “Do you feel any better now?”
Thranduil nodded his head, grateful for his son’s care. “I do.” Then his eyes narrowed, fastening on Erestor. “But I still cannot believe you allowed him close.”
Legolas swallowed hard, realizing he had to risk it all, knowing very well that his father might not forgive him for making this admission. “Erestor is a friend, Ada. I trust him.” He expected a tirade, or questions at least, but his father remained quiet, making Legolas wonder. “Ada?”
Erestor watched the exchange between father and son with great interest. He had always wondered how an Elf with a reputation like Thranduil’s had managed to raise Legolas that splendidly. Maybe father and son were more alike than he had ever thought. Elrond and he may have been misinformed when it came down to Thranduil. What the Sindarin Elf said and did were two different things. In the end, he cleared his throat and said, “It does not surprise you that Legolas calls me a friend.”
Thranduil released a tormented sigh. “I know of his frequent visits to Imladris.” He tried to look cross with his son, but failed.
Legolas raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “You knew?” Although he should have expected his father to be aware of his visits, he was still surprised. “You never told me to stop visiting them!”
A sad smile surfaced on Thranduil’s face. “I cannot cage you, ion-nîn. You are entitled to choose your own friends. I might not approve of them, but I will never stop you from talking to them.”
Erestor and Legolas exchanged a surprised look. In the end, Erestor addressed Thranduil again. “Your son is a true delight, sire. Legolas is greatly loved by the inhabitants of Imladris. We still hope we will be allowed to welcome you to the Last Homely House as well one day.”
Thranduil gave Erestor an annoyed look. He had met Elrond at that ill-fated Battle of the Last Alliance and had stayed away from the half-Elf ever since. He had never met Glorfindel, Elrond’s children or Erestor for that matter. “Don’t count on that.”
“And why is that?” Erestor refused to give in just yet. “Lord Elrond would be honored to welcome you.”
“I do not wish to meet Elrond ever again,” hissed Thranduil and his emerald eyes regained some of their former vigor. “I suggest you leave Mirkwood this very night. I have granted you hospitality because you needed rest after your trip, but I want you to leave before Ithil appears in the sky again.”
“I cannot do that,” said Erestor calmly. “You still haven’t accepted my Lord’s offer to form an alliance.”
“I will never accept that offer!” spat Thranduil. “And you will leave now or my guards will make you!”
“Ada…” Legolas pleadingly looked into his father’s eyes. “Preserve your strength. The night will be upon us before you know it.”
“Your son speaks wisely,” said Erestor in what he hoped was a reassuring tone. “Maybe I too can somewhat ease your burden?”
“I want no help from you.” Thranduil glared at him.
Erestor was losing his patience with the stubborn King. “Why do you hate me?”
Thranduil’s green eyes grew icy. “You cannot be trusted. No Noldorin Elf can.”
Erestor cocked his head, wondering about something. Testing his theory, he said, “I take it you would not consider an alliance with Celeborn and Galadriel either?”
Thranduil’s eyes filled with anger. “Galadriel? Never! Celeborn is an honorable warrior, but I want nothing to do with Galadriel.”
“It is because of the Kinslaying,” whispered Erestor knowingly. “I understand your feelings, but Galadriel, Elrond nor I had any part in that.”
“All Noldor carry that burden, the shame and guilt,” said Thranduil sharply.
“But I assume there is more. You are cross with Elrond because…?” His eyes narrowed, reading the answer in Thranduil’s burning eyes. “Your father attacked without permission, Sire. You cannot blame Gil-galad for that.”
Thranduil had paled. “Do not speak his name in my home!”
“Neither can you blame Elrond for your father’s actions,” said Erestor calmly. “Will you let the past prevent you from forming an alliance from which all would benefit?”
Thranduil slowly rose from his chair, called on his strength and for one moment he became his old regal and authoritative self. “You will leave now.” The words were spoken softly, but carried a tone of command that usually got him what he wanted.
But not this time.
“Sire, Elrond wants you to carefully consider his proposal and I won’t leave until you have agreed.” Erestor knew he was treading on dangerous ground, but he had to get his point across.
Thranduil glared at the dark-haired Elf that dared to defy him. Calling out to his guards, they appeared a moment later. “Take him to his assigned quarters and guard him closely. I want him confined until he leaves.”
The guards looked at Legolas for confirmation. They loved Thranduil dearly and respected their King, but they also knew that Sauron’s Shadow was clouding their ruler’s judgment.
Thranduil noticed their hesitance, but didn’t comment on it. He was also aware of the fact that he had acted strangely these last few weeks.
Erestor saved both Elves from embarrassment by rising from his chair. “You know where to find me, Sire, if you wish to talk to me. I will stay in Mirkwood until you have agreed to my proposal.” He could tell that Thranduil was confused by his insistence, but the Sinda was too exhausted to challenge him. “I assure you that we will meet again, Sire.”
Leaving, Erestor noticed that the guards remained at a respectful distance. Looking over his shoulder, he caught sight of Legolas steadying Thranduil when he swayed.
“Ada, you are not well and should rest.” Concerned for his father’s well-being, Legolas made sure Thranduil sat down again.
Thranduil breathed in deeply and then released his breath again. “I feel weak today, ion-nîn. The Shadow is growing stronger.” Legolas was the only one he would admit his weakness to.
“You need help, Ada. You cannot fight this battle alone.” He paused to gather his thoughts. Now that they were alone again, he asked, “Why did you never tell me you knew that I had befriended the Peredhil?”
Thranduil gave his son a sad look. “I was told you enjoyed their company and although I do not approve of your choice, I will not meddle in your personal affairs.”
“Thank you,” whispered Legolas sincerely. “Erestor is wise and honorable. You might find you like his company if you give him a fair chance.”
“He is a Noldorin Elf,” repeated Thranduil calmly. “I do not trust them.”
Legolas chose his words carefully. “And yet Elrond and his family welcomed and accepted me. I am proud to call them my friends and I trust them.”
Thranduil closed his eyes again. “You are young, Legolas. You haven’t known much suffering and I pray you never will!”
“Ada?” Legolas decided a change of subject was in order. “Will you go outside with me? The fresh air will do you good. You can rest later.”
Thranduil sighed tiredly. “Are there any pressing matters I need to attend to?” He hoped not. He didn’t have the energy to deal with his advisors today. All they did lately was implore him to call for a truce with Imladris and Lothlorien.
“Nay, Ada, I already took care of them.”
Thranduil gave his son a grateful smile. “You will make a fine ruler one day.” He just hoped that the Shadow had been defeated before Legolas became King of Mirkwood.
Lindir looked up in surprise when Erestor suddenly appeared, his dark eyes narrowed with worry.
“Make sure I am not disturbed,” said Erestor, retreating into the small room at the back.
“Of course,” whispered Lindir, determined to guard Erestor’s privacy.
Once he was out of Lindir’s view, Erestor sat down, cross-legged, and centered himself. He clasped his hands, closed his eyes and concentrated, as he attempted to do something that he hadn’t done for centuries. The last time he had far-spoken with someone had been at the Battle of the Last Alliance. But now it was important that he contacted Elrond to update the half-Elf.
Elrond startled, as someone touched his mind. Trying to identify the sensation, he realized it wasn’t Galadriel. He knew her mental touch and yet this one felt familiar as well.
Suddenly Elrond understood. /Erestor? Why contact me this way?/ Erestor wasn’t used to far-speaking with someone and the effort would drain the other Elf.
/The situation is much worse than we thought. Dol Guldur has gained a tight hold on Thranduil. Legolas arranged for a meeting and I ended up comforting Thranduil throughout the night. He desperately needs our support, but is too stubborn to admit that./
Elrond, seated behind his desk, put down the scroll he had been reading. /What do you advise we do, Erestor?/
/I will stay here. I am rather confident I can convince Thranduil eventually. I just hope he won’t let the Shadow consume him. He is fading, Elrond./
Elrond sensed Erestor’s concern through their link. /Fading? Aiya, that is bad news indeed./
/Maybe I can reverse the process. Fortunately Legolas and Thranduil’s advisors agree that an alliance is necessary to ensure Mirkwood’s safety. But Thranduil still rejects the offer. The Shadow is devouring him from the inside and its presence clouds his judgment./
/There is only one way to make sure he does not continue to fade,/ replied Elrond, as shivers of apprehension coursed through him. /Someone has to bond with him./
Back in Mirkwood, Erestor absentmindedly nodded his head. /That should be our last resort./
/I will try to think of a different solution,/ sent Elrond. Involuntarily his thoughts drifted to Vilya. The Ring of Power had kept Imladris safe. Maybe it was time Mirkwood benefited from its strength as well? But he was hesitant to take that step just yet. /Keep me informed. Tell me the moment Thranduil’s condition worsens./
/I will./ After saying his goodbyes, Erestor let go of the link. Sighing, he collapsed. Instantly Lindir appeared at his side, supporting him. “I am only tired,” he said, reassuring the other Elf.
“You should rest.” Concerned for Erestor, Lindir guided the dark-haired Elf to the bed. “Maybe a bath will help revive your spirits? Legolas also had clean clothes delivered so you can change into those after you have bathed.”
Erestor smiled thankfully. “I will follow your advice and rest for a while. Wake me when Arien starts her descent.” He would go to the lake tonight, hoping Thranduil would allow him close again. /I must win his trust. It is the only way to keep the Shadow from devouring him!/
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