Mirkwood had experienced several days of heavy rain. Such a long period of bad weather was unusual and the elves had felt restless within the stronghold. The heavy rainfalls had prevented every outdoor activity, so as the first clear day arrived, a lot of elves were drawn outside, despite the fact that the ground was soaked with water and puddles were everywhere.
Thranduil took a deep breath of the clean, fresh air. The sun had broken through the clouds and the earth steamed with evaporating water. It seemed that it would be a nice day.
He crossed the courtyard of the stronghold and spotted his son standing with Angon and Tinwion on the bridge, seemingly deep in conversation.
As Thranduil approached, he could hear Tinwion reporting the conditions of the paths and the nearby villages. The water had caused a lot of flooding and damaged several homes.
Angon and Tinwion inclined their heads in greeting at their king's arrival, while Legolas turned around and addressed him. "Adar, there are three villages that need help. The rain has caused severe flooding and there is a lot of damage."
Thranduil nodded. "We will send groups to help them. Do they require anything else?"
Tinwion nodded. "I have a list with material and other things that they asked for."
"Let's get started then. Legolas, can you and Tinwion go to Feron and let him know what is needed? Ask him to prepare everything. I'll summon groups to ride out and give aid."
Legolas nodded, Tinwion gave a light bow to his king, then they turned and headed for the stronghold.
They had just left the bridge and were on the path to the palace when the four elves heard an ominous rumble in the distance. As they turned, they could see the water level rising and white foam cresting the waves that were rising ever higher. Stunned they watched as the normally peaceful water turned into a churning maelstrom, sweeping away everything in its way. Obviously the heavy rain had caused a flash flood in the mountains that was now heading their way.
Dismayed they saw a little boy on the water edge a short way away. The elfling had played near the water and was now standing and staring ahead towards the oncoming flood. From the distance the frantic screams of his parents could be heard, who were trying desperately to reach their son but were too far away. After a moment the child stirred and frantically tried to scramble to safety, but the wave was higher than the point where he was standing and the flood reached him before he could climb up further. With a terrified scream, the elfling vanished in the water. By now, the water level had nearly risen up to the level of the bridge.
Legolas didn't hesitate for one second. He ran to the edge of the river and jumped in after the boy.
Horrified Thranduil could only watch as his son disappeared beneath the surface and was then swept away with the current.
Angon grabbed the king just in time to prevent him from doing something stupid, like jumping into the water after his son. "You can't help him by going in after him," he shouted. "We have to take the horses and follow them." He turned around and spotted Tinwion, standing on the path and staring dazedly at the river. "Tinwion, go and get the horses and more warriors. We need to search both river banks."
Tinwion shook himself out of his stupor and hurried away to follow Angon's orders.
Angon turned to Thranduil again. Since the king seemed to have calmed down, he released him and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. We will find them. Legolas is a good swimmer, he will be fine."
Thranduil took a deep breath. "I hope you are right." Watching the raging torrents, he seriously doubted that his son and the child would be fine.
It didn't take long for Tinwion to return with more warriors and Thranduil's and Angon's stallions. The king's group would search the side where the child and Legolas had plunged into the river while Galdor, Legolas' second in command and longtime friend, took command of the group that would search the other side.
They didn't lose any time in mounting the horses and starting the search.
When Legolas hit the water he was immediately tossed around, causing him to lose his orientation. Struggling with the raging current he kicked out, managing to stay afloat and avoid a group of boulders looming in front of him. He started to search for the boy and with some luck, he spotted the child to his right and in some distance before him.
Legolas started to swim in the direction of the elfling, hoping that he would reach him before the boy's strength gave out and he was lost beneath the surface. A lot of debris had been swept away with the water and made swimming now dangerous. He was hit by a few branches and other wreckage. Luckily it were smaller pieces, so he wasn't seriously hurt.
Finally he managed to reach the boy. He grabbed him and was met with a frightened gaze. The child was terrified. He pulled him closer and shouted about the noise of the river. "Hold on to me."
The child nodded and clutched to Legolas. The tight grip hindered Legolas' swimming but he didn't have the heart to ask the child to loosen his grasp.
He turned so that he could see in the direction they were carried from the current. Suddenly he detected a fallen tree protruding halfway into the stream. He managed to steer them so that they were heading in the direction of the trunk. A few limbs were hanging down into the water and Legolas grasped them. The impact jarred his shoulder but he managed to hang on to them and resist the current trying to sweep them away. He lifted the boy a bit. "Can you climb up there?"
The elfling gripped the branches and pulled himself up on the trunk.
"Very good," Legolas praised, then he gripped the limbs with both hands and began to pull himself up.
Unfortunately this time there was a big piece of debris carried in the flood. A large part of a tree trunk was heading straight for him. Before he could pull himself out of the water he was hit from behind, the impact causing him to loose his grip and fall back into the water. The pain in his back was severe and he was swept away, being helplessly tossed around in the water and against some rocks.
A few moments later something hit his head and he fell into a deep, dark abyss.
After about an hour of riding and searching the river bank the king's group came to a place where a tree had fallen and protruded over the river. On the trunk sat a small elfling, clutching to a branch and crying silently.
Thranduil reined Berion in and dismounted. Before anybody could prevent it he carefully climbed onto the trunk and made his way over to the child.
The boy noticed the approach and gazed tearfully at the king.
Thranduil smiled encouragingly. "Hello child, what is your name?"
The elfling wiped his eyes. "Sarnon," he murmured.
"That is a nice name," Thranduil commented. "I think your parents miss you terribly, do you want us to bring you back home, Sarnon?"
The child nodded eagerly. "I want my nana," he sniffled.
Thranduil extended his arm to the boy. "Then come, Sarnon, I won't let you fall."
The elfing gripped his hand trustingly and let himself be pulled to the shore. As king and boy stood on solid ground, Thranduil knelt down in front of the elfling.
"Sarnon, what happened to the elf who jumped in after you?"
The boy again started to cry. "He helped me to get on the tree. Then he wanted to pull himself up but he was hit by a trunk that was in the water. Do you think he is dead?"
Thranduil felt dread rising in him. He tried to conceal it from the child and smiled at Sarnon. "We will search for him and bring him home." He raised his hand and wiped Sarnon's tears away. Turning to the warriors he motioned to one of them. "Amarthon here will bring you to your parents."
Sarnon sniffed one last time, then he nodded and turned to Amarthon.
The warrior helped the boy onto his horse, then he turned to Thranduil. "I hope you'll bring him home safely, Sire." He mounted his horse, put his arms around the child in front of him and rode back to the stronghold and two anxious parents.
Thranduil, Angon and the others continued their desperate search. They scanned the water and the shore but didn't detect anything.
After a while they came around a bend in the river. There the stream widened and the speed of the currents lessened. The shore was littered with stones but directly near the water was a patch of sandy beach.
Thranduil's keen eyes spotted something bright. As they drew nearer he discovered that it was blond hair and that a body was lying on the shore. His heart clenched. He stopped his horse near the shore, dismounted and hurried to the body. His son was lying on his side. Legolas' eyes were closed and from his head seeped blood and formed a puddle on the sand.
Thranduil's hand shook as he reached for Legolas' throat and felt for a pulse. First all he could hear and feel was his own heart pounding wildly. After a moment he detected a weak pulse and nearly fainted with relief. His son was alive. Legolas looked dreadful. He was soaking wet, his face was pale and his hair was plastered to his head and streaked with blood.
By now Angon had reached them and knelt down beside Legolas. His worried gaze met Thranduil's eyes.
"He's alive," Thranduil whispered, gently stroking the hair out of his son's face.
Angon breathed a sigh of relief then he carefully examined Legolas' back and spine. "I think it's safe to move him," he said, continuing to gently feel for broken bones or ribs. He could feel Legolas shivering. "He's in shock."
Thranduil unclasped his cloak, placed it behind his son and they carefully rolled him onto it.
Angon turned around to the other warriors. "Tinwion, ride back to the palace. Tell Celairdir what happened and that we bring Legolas in. It looks like he has a head wound and he's in shock."
Tinwion gave an affirmative nod, turned his horse around and galloped into the direction of the palace.
Three of the warriors had already dismounted and were gathering wood for a stretcher. Two others approached the place where Legolas lay and handed Thranduil their cloaks.
With a grateful nod he accepted them and spread them carefully over his son. Out on the shore there wasn't much they could do so he just tried to keep him from slipping further into shock and to stop the bleeding from the head wound.
Legolas was deeply unconscious and didn't even stir at their ministrations. Thranduil noted worriedly that his breathing was labored. Obviously the raging water had done quite a lot of damage.
It didn't take long for the warriors to fashion a stretcher. Thranduil and Angon carefully placed Legolas on it and covered him with cloaks. The stretcher was tied between two horses. Even then the prince didn't stir or show any signs of waking.
They slowly made their way back to the stronghold, Thranduil riding behind his son, keeping an eye on the motionless figure.
Angon watched his friend. It was rare for Thranduil to be so undone, but he knew how deeply the king loved his son. He just hoped that the head wound and the shock didn't prove fatal.
By the time they reached the palace it was evening. Celairdir was waiting for them outside of the stronghold. Wordlessly the healer preceded them to the healing room.
As soon as Legolas had been placed on the examination table he set to work. He assessed the head wound, checking Legolas' pupils for a reaction. He turned to Thranduil, who hovered anxiously nearby. "He has a severe concussion. Looks like he hit his head on a stone or something." He probed the head wound carefully, noting the large bump that had developed. It had stopped bleeding but the swelling was impressive. He hoped that it would cause no lasting damage.
The king took a deep breath. He remembered the sight of his son and the child being swept away by the current. It was something he wouldn't forget soon. "He was swept down the river for quite some time. When we found him he was already unconscious."
Celairdir carefully cut off Legolas' still wet tunic. As he removed the garment, both elves could see the back of the younger elf. It was covered in bruises.
Thranduil gasped and gently run his fingers along the bruises. "The child said that a tree trunk hit him in the back. That's the reason why he couldn't pull himself up to safety."
Celairdir studied Legolas' back critically and examined his spine for any injuries. "He was lucky that he didn't break his back. There's only deep bruising. That will be painful enough once he is awake." He moved on to Legolas' ribcage and detected more bruising and two broken ribs. With a sigh he started to bandage the ribcage, so that the ribs were fixated and could begin to heal.
After Legolas' injuries had been taken care of and the prince was clean and dressed in dry clothes, Celairdir and Thranduil gently transferred him to a bed, carefully placing him on his side to avoid putting pressure on his back. Celairdir stuffed blankets behind him to prevent him from rolling onto his back.
Since Legolas was still cold and shivering slightly, Celairdir spread a few soft blankets over him to keep him warm.
Thranduil sat down beside his son, feeling like he had done this far too often. Although the other times Legolas had been injured had mostly been in battle. This time it had been totally unexpected since his son was safe at home and not on patrol.
He concentrated on Legolas' breathing, which was still a bit labored but already better than it had been when they found him, and prepared for the long wait for his son's waking.
Pain. All he could feel was pain. His head felt as if it would explode, overshadowing the ache in his ribcage and his back. He tried to escape the pain but sleep or blessed unconsciousness wouldn't come. His eyes were closed but there seemed to be flashes of light in front of him, so intense was the pain. He moved feebly and moaned.
Despite his discomfort he felt a presence near him and somebody whispered his name. "Legolas?"
Even if the speaker had spoken very quietly, it still sent spikes of pain through his head. He moaned again and tried to open his eyes. He managed to lift his lids a bit, only to slam them shut again as light flooded his sight and caused a piercing agony. He couldn't stifle a cry of pain.
"Close the curtains," another soft voice sounded.
He could hear somebody move through the room and the rustle of fabric.
"Try again," the voice commanded.
It took a moment until he realized that it meant him. Then he again tried to raise his lids. This time he managed to open them a slit. His sight was blurry and all he could see were two shapes leaning over him.
One of these shapes moved and he felt a hand on his forehead. A face swam into view and he recognized Celairdir. "You hit your head and have a severe concussion," the healer explained, keeping his voice low.
His muddled brain took a moment until memory set in. "The child?" he murmured.
"He is safe and back with his parents," the blurry shape near Celairdir explained softly.
Legolas recognized the voice of his father. "Ada," he whispered.
His father stroked his forehead. "You gave us quite a scare. After you managed to get the child to safety you were hit by a tree."
Legolas closed his eyes. "Sorry for worrying you." He moaned as the pain in his head erupted once more.
"Legolas, I want to give you something for the pain. Try not to move and let us do the work," Celairdir addressed him. "Your back is badly bruised so this might hurt."
The prince felt himself gently rolled onto his back, then an arm slipped behind his back and he was carefully lifted a bit. He gritted his teeth against the pain that flashed through his body. Thranduil and Celairdir gave him a moment then he felt the rim of a cup against his lips. He slowly drank the medicine then he was lowered down again and resettled onto his side.
He squeezed his eyes shut tightly and just breathed until the pain was bearable again. A hand rubbed his shoulder gently, distracting him from the agony.
A few minutes later the medicine took hold, dulling the pain and letting him slip into sleep again.
As Legolas woke the next time, the headache was still severe and his sight still blurry but it wasn't the fiery agony he had felt before. Unfortunately his other injuries clamored for attention instead. His back and ribs now really started to hurt.
Groaning in frustration he closed his eyes again. Obviously he had been heard then suddenly he felt a hand on his wrist. "How is the headache?" Celairdir's soft voice asked.
"A bit better," he managed. "My chest and back ache."
"You were obviously thrown against some rocks. Two ribs are broken and your back is severely bruised. No wonder it hurts," Celairdir explained.
Legolas opened his eyes again and fixed his gaze on the healer. "I would rather battle some orcs."
The healer smiled. "I can imagine. Try to sleep some more, it'll help."
Legolas was about to heed the advise when his gaze fell on a chair near the bed. His father was slumped on his side, head resting against the backrest, eyes glazed over in sleep.
Celairdir followed his gaze. "He is exhausted," he said softly.
Healer and prince exchanged a smile then Legolas followed his father's example, falling into a deep, healing sleep.
This time, when he opened his eyes, all he felt was a dull throb. He breathed a sigh of relief and stretched tentatively. The pain was greatly diminished from the last time. He risked further movement and rolled onto his back, trying to sit up. He couldn't suppress a gasp as his ribcage made clear that that hadn't been the wisest idea.
Suddenly an arm around his back supported him and he leaned gratefully against it. He looked to his side and met the disapproving gaze of his father.
"I don't think Celairdir will approve of your activity," Thranduil commented dryly, raising an eyebrow.
Legolas blushed slightly.
His father put a few pillows behind his back and helped him to settle against them. "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Better," Legolas declared. "A lot better."
Thranduil sat down in the chair next to the bed and studied him critically. "The bruising has faded a bit and Celairdir said that your ribs are starting to mend. You should be able to get up in a few days. Are you hungry?"
Legolas' growling stomach answered that question for him.
His father smiled, went to the door and talked for a few moments with somebody outside the room. He closed the door again and returned to the bed. "I asked a servant to bring something to eat."
He leaned back in the chair, still studying his son. "The parents of the child you rescued have asked to see you. I told them you would receive them when you're up to it."
Legolas smiled. "I would like to see the boy. To make sure that he is really alright."
Thranduil nodded satisfied. "Perhaps in a few days."
Four days later Sarnon and his parents were finally allowed to visit Legolas. The prince had been moved from the healing room back to his own chambers but he still suffered headaches occasionally and his ribs forced him to move carefully. It would take a bit more time for him to recover completely.
Now he was settled in an armchair in his sitting room when Tinwion showed Sarnon and his parents in. They approached shyly. The older elves bowed before their prince then Sarnon's father addressed Legolas.
"My prince, I'm Thalon and my wife is Laeriel. We can't thank you enough for saving our boy. We were so afraid that we had lost him." His voice shook. Obviously the memory of what had happened still haunted him.
Legolas smiled. "I'm glad that your son is alright. I hope you are well, Sarnon?"
Sarnon nodded eagerly. "I wasn't hurt." He looked down at the floor. "But the water was scary," he added in a subdued voice.
His mother squeezed his shoulder. "We are so sorry that you were injured, my prince. Sarnon told us what happened."
Legolas gave her a reassuring smile. "I am well, don't worry." He hid a grimace as he thought about what his father and Celairdir would have to say to that statement.
Sarnon's father stepped forward. "Please accept this as a token of our gratitude." He lifted a package he had been carrying and revealed a wood carving.
Legolas took it and admired the work. The carving was a kingfisher, poised with stretched wings, about to plunge into the water and hunt for fish. It was magnificent. He looked up at Thalon. "Thank you, it's beautiful."
Thalon seemed almost embarrassed at the praise. "I'm a carpenter, so I do a lot of carving."
"I have plenty of animals," Sarnon chimed in. "He always makes me new ones."
Legolas smiled. It was obvious that Thalon and Laeriel adored their son and that Sarnon loved his parents. He was glad that the family hadn't suffered a devastating loss. It was worth the pain he had endured to see them happy and together.
"Your father does beautiful work." He turned to Thalon. "I'm sure my father would like to talk with you about a few decorations and works he would like to be done."
The older elf seemed pleased. "If the king thinks my work worthy of his notice I'm glad to be of service."
Legolas invited them to sit and they talked for a while longer then the family took their leave. Legolas settled back in his chair, trying to find a comfortable position. He turned the carving in his hands, admiring the fine work.
A knock on the door preceded his father. Thranduil had decided not to intimidate Sarnon's family with his presence, so he had worked in his study. Now he came to check on Legolas. His critical gaze took in his son's appearance. He was still a bit pale and slight creases around his eyes indicated another headache. Then he noticed the carving in Legolas' hands.
Legolas looked up. "Sarnon's father gave it to me." He handed his father the work.
Thranduil took and examined it. He was impressed with the accuracy of the carving. The kingfisher looked as if it would come to life any moment.
"It's magnificent," he commented.
"I told Thalon that maybe you would like to use his services for a few decorations."
"If everything he does is as good as this carving, I certainly would like to do that."
He looked down at his son and watched Legolas rubbing his forehead. "Another headache?"
"It's not so bad. Just a slight throbbing." He met the concerned gaze of his father. "Stop worrying, I'm fine." At his father's disbelieving snort he amended. "I will be fine."
Thranduil's gaze softened. He sat down in a chair next to his son's. "I know that. And you can't imagine how proud I am of you. You didn't think about your own safety when you jumped in after Sarnon. But I was also terrified." Thranduil shuddered, remembering the terrible moments when he spotted his son lying motionless on the shore, not knowing whether Legolas was dead or alive.
Legolas could sense his father's agitation. "I'm sorry for worrying you, Ada."
Thranduil smiled wryly. "Unfortunately that's nothing new for me. I expect something like this when you are on patrol, not when you are home and supposedly safe." He laid his hand on Legolas' shoulder and squeezed gently. "At least promise me to listen to Celairdir and to take it easy until he says you're fit for duty."
His son nodded his assent and took the carving again. "It's amazing how Thalon can create beauty with just a knife and some wood."
Thranduil kept his hand on Legolas' shoulder and watched his son as he admired the carving. Feeling Legolas' solid presence beneath his hand did a lot to ease his mind. He gave a silent thanks that his son had survived and was on the road to recovery.