By Any Means Necessary
The day’s meetings had mentally worn him out and Elrohir slowly rose from behind his father’s desk. The advisors had finally left and he now faced an empty room, wishing his father were still here, for then he wouldn’t have to face his feelings by himself.
He walked over to the window to look outside and caught sight of his twin. Elladan had just dismounted. That meant his brother had been inspecting the outer borders, whilst he had been stuck in his father’s study. As if feeling his stare, Elladan looked up and Elrohir shrank away from the window, unwilling to meet his brother’s gaze. Before turning away he caught Elladan’s disapproving expression at seeing him pull away, but his heart was breaking at seeing the one person he loved but could never have.
Elrohir returned to the desk and sat down again, putting another piece of paper in front of him. After dipping the quill in the ink, he tried to write down his worries and fears.
[Elladan knows something is wrong. I can see it in the way he looks at me. I feel it when he is close. He knows something is bothering me and he feels frustrated because he cannot make me confide in him. But that is something I cannot do. The moment I tell him that I love him in that way, he will turn away from me in disgust. And even if he should answer my feelings, I could not allow it. A love like this between brothers is forbidden. I cannot drag him into disgrace with me.
I caught the first signs of the Elven sickness today. My hands were shaky and I felt dizzy. My stomach was tense and had I eaten breakfast I would have found myself being sick. It is only a matter of time now.
Nana traveled to the Undying Lands to stop herself from fading. It was months before she began to fade. She lasted almost a year before she had to depart. Will I have the same amount of time? Or I will fade more slowly? Or faster?
Aiya, Elladan. Just thinking about leaving you behind makes my heart ache, but it is the only way.]
Laying his quill down on the desk, he stared at his words. His head slumped forwards in defeat, folding the parchment and slipping it into his sleeve. Maybe he should gather everything he had ever written and give it to Elladan to read after he had faded? Maybe then his brother would understand what had happened and why?
Elrohir raised his right hand and rubbed his brow. Lately he was experiencing headaches, something that had never happened before. He suspected it was the grief that was causing them; tormenting him in this way. There was only one way to ease them, but he refused to give in to his weakness.
“Elrohir?” Elladan frowned, seeing the pallor that had settled over his twin’s face. Elrohir looked like he was feeling miserable and his heart went out to his suffering brother. He covered the distance between them with a few steps and sat on his heels next to his twin, gathering one of Elrohir’s hands in his. “You look tired.”
Elrohir startled, suddenly finding his brother this close. His hand twitched inside his twin’s and, although he desperately craved his brother’s touch, he pulled it away. Elladan’s shocked expression made him wince and he hated himself for adding to his brother’s worry, but he couldn’t allow the touch as it fed his hopes and desires. He had to distance himself.
Elladan’s eyes darkened dangerously and he reached out again. This time he claimed his brother’s hand forcefully, holding on tight. “Why do you shun my touch?” He had tried being subtle in the past and it hadn’t worked.
Elrohir sighed deeply, feeling miserable for worrying his older brother. “’Tis nothing.”
“I do not believe you, pen-dínen.” (Silent one.) Elladan got to his feet and pulled Elrohir along until they stood, face to face. “Talk to me.”
But Elrohir slowly shook his head. “I cannot.”
“Cannot or will not?” Elladan was beginning to lose his patience. Elrohir’s stubbornness had frustrated him in the past, but this time it actually caused him to worry for his brother’s well-being. Acting on impulse, he released Elrohir’s hand and caught the relieved sigh his brother released. His frown deepened at hearing that sigh, and he determinedly wrapped his arms around his brother’s waist and pulled him close.
“Rest against me.” But Elrohir tensed against him and even tried to pull away. “Nay, I won’t let you.” He wouldn’t have any of that. “I am not letting go before you tell me what ails you.” Elladan tried to capture his brother’s gaze, but Elrohir unexpectedly rested his head against his shoulder, denying him eye contact. “I want to help you. We are twins, Elrohir. When you hurt, I hurt.”
Elrohir fought back the tears that were building in his eyes and reckoned it was a good thing that Elladan couldn’t see them. /Aiya, êl, (star) you will hurt even more when you find out I desire you. I have to take this secret into the grave with me. You can never know./
Now that Elrohir remained quiet Elladan felt powerless, even helpless. “Why won’t you confide in me? We have never kept things from one another.”
Suddenly, Elrohir slumped against him and he tightened his hold on his brother, quickly, half-carrying, half-dragging his twin over to the couch in the corner where he laid him down.
Kneeling next to the couch, he finally realized what had happened; Elrohir had fainted in his arms. Stunned, he stared at his brother’s pale face. “What is ailing you and why won’t you tell me?” His heart thundered in his chest and it began to show small cracks now that his twin was distancing himself. “Why is Ada not here when we need him?” Why did he feel like he was about to lose Elrohir? Lose the other half of his soul?
Tears appeared in his eyes and he allowed for them to slide down his face. “I do not want to lose you, Elrohir. Don’t you understand that by losing you I would lose myself?”
Glorfindel’s instincts warned him that trouble lay ahead of them. He couldn’t really explain the foreboding, but he listened to it nonetheless. Addressing his men, he ordered them to remain close to Elrond at all times. The half-Elf gave him a curious glance, but Glorfindel only shrugged his shoulders in mute reply.
Elrond assumed that something troubled his seneschal and now that he focused his mind, he felt it as well. Something dark and evil was advancing on them. “We have reached Mirkwood,” he mused aloud, addressing the Elda. “Several dangers lurk close.”
Nodding his head, Glorfindel confirmed the half-Elf’s suspicions. “I feel it too. Let us hope the spiders haven’t noticed our presence. I have fought them once before and have no desire to face them ever again.” Once, on a mission for Elrond, he’d had to deliver a message to Thranduil. He had barely escaped when the black, hairy monsters had targeted him.
Elrond shared the blond’s concern. Rubbing a fingertip over Vilya, he hoped the ring emanated enough power to keep them safe. He noticed that Glorfindel remained close and the Elda’s hand now rested on the hilt of his sword. Several other guards had already drawn their swords or strung their bows, ready to defend themselves if necessary.
“’Tis near,” whispered Glorfindel worriedly. Drawing his sword as well, he now felt the danger more clearly, causing him to grow tense. Addressing one guard, he ordered the Elf to remain close to Elrond and never stray from the half-Elf’s side. The guard nodded and took up position close to the ruler of Imladris.
Reaching for his own sword, Elrond felt grateful that he had decided to arm himself before leaving Imladris. He trusted Glorfindel to keep him safe, but he also wanted to be able to defend himself and fight in case of an attack.
Suddenly a deafening shriek echoed through the woods. Several Elves raised their swords and others slipped arrows into their hands. There was one Elf who charged at once, seeing three hairy spiders emerge from the woods; Glorfindel.
Looking over his shoulder, Glorfindel called out, “Head for Thranduil’s talan!” He would make sure the monsters didn’t chase after Elrond when the half-Elf fled.
But fleeing was the last thing on Elrond’s mind.
Glorfindel reached the first spider and aimed for its legs, hoping to bring it down and immobilize it. Glancing at the party behind him, he cursed, finding that Elrond was leading the guards when they attacked. “I told you to head for Thranduil’s talan!”
Elrond was too busy dodging a hairy leg and ignored Glorfindel’s indignant cry for now. “Charge!” His men acted at once, hearing and obeying their Lord’s command.
Cursing loudly – and not caring who heard him – Glorfindel tried to bring down the first spider. Damn Elrond for not obeying his orders! All he wanted was for the half-Elf to be safe and then Elrond had to do something stupid like joining them in this fight! Didn’t the half-Elf know that he was too valuable to lose in this way?
Elrond’s curses joined Glorfindel’s as the half-Elf realized that they were up against formidable foes. The three spiders moved quickly, their fangs and hooked barbs flashing dangerously.
“Look out!” Glorfindel screamed his warning, but it came too late. He could only watch in shock at the spider’s furious attack. The monster lifted one hairy leg, aiming the barbed hooks at the half-Elf’s back.
Elrond’s eyes widened impossibly and his movement froze when the hooks buried themselves in his side. He had underestimated the speed and agility of the spider, and was now paying a heavy price. Agony swept through him as the spider lifted its leg again; this time with the half-Elf's immobile body attached to it. He screamed in pain as he was lifted out of his saddle. The hooks drove themselves deeper into his body and suddenly jagged fangs bit down into his right shoulder. An icy cold seeped through Elrond as the spider released its poison. Seeking out Glorfindel with his eyes, he could only yelp in agony.
Enraged, Glorfindel charged. The guards followed their seneschal and all tried to bring the spider down in an effort to free their Lord.
Glorfindel gave in to the rage that had been building in his body and he managed to cut off the leg that was holding Elrond. The half-Elf tumbled into his arms and the Elda stared at his lover in shock. Nay, this couldn’t be happening! Not now when they had just confessed their feelings for one another!
But the spiders didn’t grant him the luxury of dwelling on their love as the monsters attacked again, enraged at losing their prey. Glorfindel gritted his teeth upon seeing Elrond’s eyes grow vacant. The poison was strong enough to do serious damage and he had to get his charge out of danger.
Grabbing hold of the reins of one guard’s horse, he thrust Elrond into the startled Elf’s arms. “Take him to Thranduil. Maybe the King can help him!” Time was of the essence and he swatted the horse’s backside. The mare broke out into a gallop.
Wishing he could have been the one to stay with his lover, Glorfindel growled, focusing on the monsters once more. One of the spiders was breaking away from the group, trying to follow Elrond. Glorfindel knew he had to prevent that from happening at all costs. Raising his sword to encourage his men, he released a battle cry and charged again, determined to kill all three spiders.
“Lindir?” Erestor was very much aware of the troubled look the white-haired Elf was giving him. Lindir had been pacing Thranduil’s antechamber, hoping to be granted an opportunity to talk to him. He could tell the other Elf was worried and Erestor felt slightly guilty for not having set Lindir’s mind at ease sooner.
“My Lord, is everything well? I grew worried when you did not return to our talan. You have now been away for three nights.” Lindir studied the chief advisor and caught a slight blush on the troubled features. What was going on here?
“I should have talked to you earlier,” said Erestor, sitting down on a chair. He signaled for Lindir to do the same and once the other Elf had seated himself, he began to explain. “The Shadow is consuming Thranduil and I have found a way to slow down the process. However, it means that I have to stay close to him.”
Lindir nodded once. “I have heard rumors that the King has fallen ill, but I was not sure how much was rumor and how much truth. Do you want me to inform Lord Elrond?”
“Not yet.” Erestor felt conflicted. He knew he should update Elrond, but at the same time he didn’t want Thranduil to feel like his trust had been betrayed. “We will wait a little longer.”
Lindir wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he would obey. “Do you want me to stay in our talan and wait for more news?”
Erestor shook his head. “Nay, I want you to remain close. Thranduil does not want his subjects to learn of his true state, but he might tolerate your presence. I need someone to look over him when I cannot be close.”
“Of course.” Lindir wanted to help in whatever way possible. “Is there anything I can do right now?”
“Go to the kitchens and bring us something to eat. Make sure it is a light meal. I doubt Thranduil’s stomach can deal with much food.” Erestor rose from the chair, and Lindir followed his example, eager to carry out his instructions.
As the white-haired Elf left to go to the kitchens, Erestor raised a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. He had to take good care of himself. The Sindarin Elf needed him strong and in control. Looking outside, he found that Arien was blazing hotly. Maybe he should take Thranduil outside to sit in the sun? Arien’s rays always seemed to strengthen the blond. He started back to Thranduil’s chambers and was stunned to find them empty. Where had Thranduil gone?
Elrond remained conscious during their ride to Thranduil’s talan. He hung helplessly in the sentry’s arms, as the spider’s venom had rendered him paralyzed. He was incapable of even the tiniest movement and it was growing increasingly hard to draw in his next breath. The poison was also affecting his heart and lungs.
The horse’s hoofs barely touched the ground as she hurried towards the talan.
Panic coursed through Elrond’s mind. He wasn’t ready to die and travel to the Great Halls, but he had little choice in the matter. The spider’s hooks had caused a large wound in his side and his shoulder was throbbing from the bite. He had heard Glorfindel’s command to take him to Thranduil, but what if the King refused to help him? What would Thranduil do when realizing that his enemy was at his mercy?
A few moments later, loud voices sounded all around him and he was lowered into arms that gently caught him. Although his thoughts were blurry, he saw several golden-haired Elves fussing over him, carrying him into a talan. They had made it to the heart of Mirkwood.
They laid him down on a soft bed and an Elf, dressed in the robes of a healer, moved closer, anxiously hovering above him, but not touching him. A sickening feeling settled in Elrond’s stomach. Thranduil had forbidden him to ever enter Mirkwood and had vowed to end his life should he ever dare cross the borders.
And now he had done that very thing because Legolas had assured him Thranduil was all bark and no bite. /I was a fool. I should have known Thranduil would never change his mind. These healers are afraid to help me. I will die after all. Aiya, Glorfindel, Arwen, Elladan and Elrohir, I should never have left Imladris./
He wished he could see his loved ones one last time, but realized he wouldn’t be granted that luxury. Thranduil’s love had changed to hate and that hatred would be his undoing now.
“Sire, please forgive me for disturbing your peace, but…” The servant stared at his King in shock, and then bit down the agony he felt at seeing his
ruler in such a pitiful state. The rumors that Thranduil was fading were roaming the Kingdom, but he hadn’t fully believed them to be true... until now. Thranduil’s wretched appearance confirmed the rumors. May the Valar help them, for they loved their King and they didn’t want to lose him!
“What is it?” Thranduil pushed himself to his feet and tried to ignore the fatigue that had settled in his bones. He tried to appear regal, but one look at the other Elf’s face told him he had failed miserably.
“Lord Elrond of Imladris has arrived and is badly injured. Only one guard accompanied him and he told us that they were attacked by spiders. Apparently Lord Glorfindel is still fighting the spiders and has sent Lord Elrond here, hoping that you will heal him.”
Thranduil reacted instinctively. “Send out two patrols to aid Glorfindel in his battle. And where can I find Elrond?” Emotions whirled inside him. He hadn’t even known the half-Elf was near! In the past he had been able to sense Elrond’s presence, but his senses had dulled. What was the half-Elf doing in Mirkwood? Had Elrond forgotten he risked his life by coming here?
Sweet pain ripped through his heart, recalling the half-Elf’s compassionate eyes. It had been those very eyes that had made him fall in love with Elrond so long ago. And now the half-Elf was here in Mirkwood, injured and in need of his help!
“We took him to the healers, but… They are hesitant to help him, as you proclaimed the half-Elf unwelcome here.”
Thranduil raised a hand to silence the other Elf. “Carry my instructions to my men and tell them to hurry. I will see to Elrond in the meantime.” The servant turned and broke out into a run, whilst Thranduil drew in a deep breath. He had hoped to never see Elrond again, but he couldn’t let the half-Elf unduly suffer.
/Once I am dead he will be the only force capable of stopping Sauron. Middle Earth cannot afford to lose him and therefore I will aid him and see to his survival./ He should inform Erestor that Elrond had arrived, but he didn’t have the time to do so. /The bond will tell him where to find me./ Erestor would seek him out at any rate, once the advisor was finished talking to his secretary.
Thranduil, who was wearing a dark green robe, draped a brown cloak over his shoulders, which would hopefully keep him warm, and then left the royal talan to tend to Elrond.
Glorfindel stared until the horse, rider and charge had disappeared from his view. Elrond’s expression haunted him. Was the half-Elf mortally wounded? The spider’s venom was strong and, although it seldom killed Elves, Elrond’s side had also been pierced, which would lead to extensive blood loss. Combined, the two injuries might demand Elrond’s life.
Tears blinded him momentarily. It wasn’t as though he could do anything to aid Elrond now. He had to hope Thranduil would put his hatred aside and help the half-Elf. All he could do was turn his rage toward these spiders and make sure they would never hurt anyone again.
Elrond’s mouth and throat had gone completely dry, making swallowing extremely painful. He stared at the ceiling and tried to remain as calm as possible. It was a strange thing: feeling the poison spread through his body, paralyzing his muscles and organs, whilst he remained sound in mind. This actually frightened him. He had faced death many times, but he had never thought he would leave Arda in this way.
Suddenly the door opened and he instinctively studied the Elf that now entered. The three healers who had been staring helplessly at him now bowed respectfully. Elrond grew alert. Why would they bow to the grey-haired Elf? His eyes suddenly met the other’s and he realized the truth in that instant. /Thranduil? What happened to you?/
The Sindarin Elf moved slowly, as if it pained him to walk about too much. Thranduil whispered softly and the healers hurried to carry out his orders. Elrond managed to establish eye contact as Thranduil approached and he cringed mentally, realizing the formerly golden-haired Elf had become a dreadful apparition, who now hovered above him.
Thranduil noticed the doubt and apprehension in Elrond’s blue eyes and smiled sorrowfully. Elrond probably expected him to turn away in disgust. But fighting the Shadow had greatly changed him and he sensed the other’s suffering as if it were his own. Resting a hand on Elrond’s clammy brow, he nodded. “The venom is very strong, but I will try to counteract it.”
Elrond’s eyebrows would have risen questioningly if he had still been able to do so, but all he could do now was to stare at Thranduil. He couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the other Elf, now that Sauron’s Shadow had reduced the formerly proud King to this. /I should have come earlier. Maybe Vilya would have made a difference./ But he was too weak to wield her now.
“Sire?” One of the healers had reappeared and handed Thranduil a wooden bowl.
“Remove his clothes,” ordered Thranduil. He caught the worry in Elrond’s expressive eyes and realized it was the only way the half-Elf had left to communicate with him. “Rest assured. I won’t let you die.”
Hearing that reassurance stunned Elrond, who was now being manhandled by the healers as they removed his clothes as ordered. Naked now, he stared at Thranduil, wanting to ask what would happen next, but the paralysis made that impossible.
Thranduil caught an echo of Elrond’s thoughts. “We are both suffering,” he whispered soothingly as he signaled for the healers to leave the room. “I will try to ease yours.”
Elrond’s panic mounted now that they were alone. Whilst the healers had been close he had felt somewhat safe. But now that only Thranduil remained, he felt completely at the other’s mercy. What if the Sindarin Elf remembered his threats and decided to keep his vow to end his life? He didn’t fear for himself, but he was afraid of the reaction his death would trigger in his loved ones. Unexpectedly Thranduil’s fingers settled on his side, rubbing some sort of ointment onto his skin. Questioningly, he sought out Thranduil’s eyes again. /What are you doing?/
Thranduil sighed deeply and continued to rub the ointment –- which contained the antidote to the spider’s venom -- onto Elrond’s skin. After covering the injured side with the cream, he bandaged the wound to slow down -- and hopefully stop -- the bleeding. Next, he cautiously rolled the half-Elf onto his side to attend to the shoulder. He cringed, seeing the imprint that the fangs had left behind on Elrond’s skin. “You thought I would let you die,” Thranduil said in a sad tone.
At first Elrond was alarmed when Thranduil’s fingers gently probed the bite mark. But then he realized that the Sindarin Elf was cleaning the wound. Thranduil rubbed more of the ointment onto the damaged area and then bandaged this wound as well. Helpless, he listened as Thranduil spoke again.
“Not many know this, but I hate the spiders with all my heart. They took my oldest son away from me.” Thranduil placed the bowl aside momentarily and rolled Elrond onto his back again. Sensing the half-Elf’s terror, he allowed for the eye contact to be reestablished. “Valthoron was twelve years old when he escaped his minder’s care and ventured into the dark woods. The spiders quickly found him and, like you, he was stabbed. But they didn’t stop there. They took pleasure in tormenting him and bit him again… and again.”
Elrond listened in growing horror. He had never known Thranduil had had two sons.
Thranduil rubbed the ointment onto the rest of Elrond’s body, taking great care not to miss a spot. After finishing the front, he rolled the half-Elf onto his stomach. Now that the eye contact was gone Elrond grew ill at ease again and Thranduil reacted at once. Using his ability to reach out mentally, he soothed the half-Elf’s terrified thoughts and continued talking. “When Valthoron died I vowed to make sure the spiders would never claim another life.”
The ointment was beginning to enfold its affects and Elrond experienced a burning sensation on those parts of his body that Thranduil had already treated. Entranced, he began to relax, listening to the Sindarin Elf’s soothing voice.
“This antidote will draw the poison from your body. You will feel hot for quite some time. Soon you will become feverish. In a few days, you will begin to feel stronger.” Touching Elrond in this way reminded Thranduil of the attraction he had once felt for the half-Elf. An echo of those feelings had remained throughout the years. Although he was no longer in love with Elrond, he did care about him. He tried to keep his touches clinical when he rubbed the substance on Elrond’s backside, and then helped his charge roll onto his back. For one moment their glances met and Thranduil flinched, realizing Elrond suspected he still cared. Needing to distance himself, Thranduil left the bedside.
Elrond felt confused, but no longer feared for his safety. The fact that Thranduil had reached out to touch his mind had taken him aback, but it had left him with the knowledge that the Sinda was acting in his best interests and wanted to heal him. His eyes sought out Thranduil’s when the other Elf covered him with several blankets. Elrond tried to speak, but his lips failed him.
“Do not strain yourself,” offered Thranduil. “It will take a while for your body to recover from the venom. You should rest now.” Thranduil, exhausted as well, pulled up a chair and collapsed onto it. He needed Erestor’s strength to replenish what he had lost whilst tending to Elrond. “Try to sleep.”
Elrond finally realized that Legolas had been right. Thranduil didn’t hate him, didn’t wish him harm. The threats had been the Sindarin Elf’s way to keep him from finding out that Thranduil still cared. /I have been blind./
“You are safe here, Peredhel. I do not wish you any harm. You can rest… Sleep now.” Thranduil leaned back in the chair, feeling drained and tired. Arien’s rays now settled on his face and he sighed blissfully.
But Elrond still didn’t feel completely at ease and it kept him from falling asleep. Unexpected movement behind Thranduil caught his attention.
Erestor quickly moved toward them. He had encountered a guard as he had made his way back to Thranduil’s chambers and the Elf had quickly informed him of what had happened. He had hurried here after one healer had told him the way.
“Elrond? Thranduil?” He came to a standstill in between them. His right hand sought out Thranduil’s, squeezing it reassuringly, whilst his other came to rest on Elrond’s icy brow.
Thranduil smiled happily at having Erestor close again. Now that Erestor was touching him, energy traveled down the link, strengthening him. “I already tended to his injuries,” said Thranduil, trying to reassure Erestor. “We must be patient now.” The antidote would fight the poison and all they could do was wait.
Erestor looked into Elrond’s eyes and tried to soothe the half-Elf, who looked stricken. “You are safe here. Thranduil and I will watch over you. Rest.”
Elrond gave in to his fatigue, knowing instinctively that Erestor would never lie to him. What Thranduil had said was true then; he was safe here. Drifting off into sleep, he hoped the ointment’s healing potion was strong enough to ensure his survival and hopefully his full recovery.
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