Tears leaked from the corner of her eyes as she continued
having no control over her own body. Glorfindel wrapped a gentle hand
her middle to steady her, and his other hand swept her hair back from
and supported her forehead as he spoke soft words into her ear.
“Easy, penneth, easy now, just let it all come up, that’s
it. Just get
rid of it all,” Glorfindel spoke quietly as he held the child. He
sharply as a figure appeared in the doorway, meeting Elrond’s peircing
Elrond took in the sight of the child crouching over the basin on the floor and the golden-haired elf supporting her. “She has gotten worse,” the lord of Rivendell stated quietly.
Glorfindel nodded. “Aye, and the fever is still rising.” He looked down as Aerinel lifted her head and wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. “Are you finished, little one?” When the child nodded shakily, he handed her a small face cloth. “Wipe your mouth with this.”
Elrond leaned over the other elf and filled the cup sitting on the stone counter with water. He handed it to Glorfindel silently, who held it to the girl’s lips, urging her to take some of the cool liquid. “Take a sip, Aerinel, and spit it back out; it will take the taste away,” the elf instructed.
Aerinel did as she was told, thankful to have the horrible taste of bile out of her mouth. She curled up against the elf, who pulled her into his lap. She was cold, tired, and felt very shaky after throwing up. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, glancing up at the golden elf. “I didn’t mean to get sick, I really didn’t.” She gulped back a sob. She wasn’t going to cry, not in front of these regal creatures.
The dark-haired elf crouched down in front of her. “It was not your fault, little one, nor should you be sorry.” He reached out and touched her forehead with the back of his hand. “You are unwell, child. These things happen when you are ill.”
His voice was kind, and for a moment Aerinel almost
believed him. She
waved her hand weakly towards the basin. “But I made a mess and woke
Elrond smiled kindly. “You did not wake me; I was on my way to check in on you and make sure you were comfortable. I knew Glorfindel was looking after you. Did you think we would be cross with you for being ill?”
Aerinel blinked. She could hear the elf’s voice, but it was as if it was coming from far away, through a tunnel. The words became muddled in her mind as she tried to make sense of everything around her. It was like the room was becoming foggy. She could hear voices, but could no longer make out the words being spoke to her. She tried to grasp onto something, anything, but her confused mind couldn’t seem to make her arms work. Her eyes slid shut.
Elrond frowned when Aerinel didn’t reply to him.
“Aerinel?” he called.
“Aerinel?” He touched her cheek lightly, but there was no response from
child. She just sat in Glorfindel’s arms, staring across at the far
concern, he noted Aerinel’s increased breathing and glazed eyes.
However, Elrond ignored the crash as he took off his
outer robe, lifted
Aerinel’s head up and placed the soft cloth underneath her head in an
to tilt her chin up and keep her airways clear while she jerked beneath
hands. “Easy, little one, easy, you’re safe...hush…” he murmured
held her still, but gently enough that he wasn’t restraining the child,
her body shake as it needed it to. “It’s all right...shhh…you will be
“Can I get anything that would help?” Glorfindel asked hesitantly, standing in the doorway.
Elrond didn’t look up as he replied. “A warm blanket. The
temperature will most likely drop rapidly after this.”
Glorfindel nodded and turned to leave, colliding into Aragorn’s tall form in the bedchamber, sending them both reeling.
“Glorfindel, what is going on? I heard a crash. Where is Aerinel?” Aragorn’s grey eyes were clouded with worry as his gaze swept anxiously around the room, noting that the child was no longer in the bed.
The golden-haired elf steadied the man, grasping his shoulder, his sharp eyes noting the man’s tousled hair and the sleepy expression on his face. “Aerinel threw up and then her fever spiked rather quickly and it has resulted in a seizure. Elrond is with her now.”
Aragorn frowned sympathetically. “The poor thing. She
does not need
this.” Aerinel coughed and spluttered, her hands coming up and feebly
at the neckline of her nightdress. “Easy there, little one,” Aragorn
his fingers deftly undoing the three small buttons and loosening the
around her neck and shoulders. “Take it easy little one, deep
A tense few moments followed as Aerinel’s body refused to give up its jerking, continuing to shake slightly against the hands that held her. After one final twitch, it seemed that the seizure had run its course. Aragorn sighed with relief as the child’s body relaxed and went limp, lying unmoving on the floor.
“Sîdh, Aerinel, av’osto penneth. Naun hí.” Elrond let his
hand rest on Aerinel’s forehead for a moment, lending some of his own
to the child. “Peace, Aerinel, do not fear little one. I am here.”
The little girl seemed to hear to the elf’s deep, rich voice, for she moaned weakly and her eyelids flickered open, revealing dazed and confused grey eyes. She lay on the floor, not knowing how she had gotten there. She was cold and every fibre in her body seemed to ache. She did not want to move.
“Aerinel? Aerinel, can you hear me little one?”
A soft, kind voice spoke close to her ear as a hand brushed through her damp hair. Aerinel slowly lifted her chin so she could see who the speaker was. She was met with the face of a man, concern etched on his brow as he stared down at her. She recognised him. No, more than that – she knew him.
"Estel," she said in barely a whisper. He apparently heard her, however, because his stern face broke into a grin.
"Indeed it is, penneth. It is good to see you awake again. You gave us a bit of a scare just now,” he said with a gentle chuckle. Then he sobered as he reached out to pick her up. "Now then, let us get you out of those damp clothes, shall we?"
Aerinel nodded and let Aragorn lift her into his arms so she was resting with her head on his shoulder, little arms entwined around his neck. She didn't say a word, just clung to him mutely and gradually relaxed against him as he stood up.
This worried Aragorn. “Ada?” he asked, glancing over at
his father, who
was gathering up the broken fragments of the vase in his hand.
Elrond looked up at the note of worry he heard in Aragorn’s voice. He regarded the child in his son’s arms with a critical eye, noticing the way she rested limply against Aragorn’s chest. He stood up and crossed over to where Aragorn stood. “Sometimes a child can be confused or drowsy after a seizure and need to sleep for a while.” He placed a hand on Aerinel’s forehead, gauging her temperature. “It would be best to get her bathed and changed and into bed once more.”
“Bathe her?” Aragorn echoed with a troubled expression. “Surely that would not be wise?”
Elrond shook his head and said with a calm, controlled voice, “On the contrary, it will help relax her body after the seizure.” He rested a hand on the child’s back. “She is shivering. Get her out of those clothes and I will get ready some lukewarm water.” With one last look over the child, the healer stepped out of the room.
Aragorn still with the child in his arms sat down on the small wooden stool present. Grabbing one of the large towels, he draped around Aerinel’s shoulders before unclasping the rest of the small buttons on the nightgown. “There,” he said softly, maintaining a calm and steady voice as he slipped the little gown over her head and discarded it in a pile near the door. He wrapped the towel around her frame securely. “I will get you nice and warm. Do not fear, my little star,” he murmured, his hand brushing through the girl’s dark hair. “I will keep you safe and care for you. I won't leave you alone.”
Aerinel shuddered and burrowed deeper against the man, relishing in the warmth the towel provided. She was tired, though she did not want to sleep. But the feeling of Estel’s fingers brushing her hair and the heat and safety she was surrounded with made her drowsy.
Aragorn glanced up with one eye as Elrond stepped by him carrying a large pail of water. He poured it into the tub before adding a few drops of scented oil to the water. Turning to his son, he said, “Give her to me, Estel. She is almost asleep in your arms, but first she needs a bath.”
Aragorn handed over the child and watched as his father lowered her gently into the tub. Aerinel started slightly at the feel of the warm water against her cold skin, but relaxed with a word from Elrond. The healer picked up a soft cloth and dipped it into the water before dragging it gently over the child’s back. He repeated this several times, all the while speaking in a soft tone and slipping in and out of elvish. The child wasn’t really paying much attention to the elf, just letting the sound of his voice calm her.
A few minutes later Elrond said, “Pass me the towel, please, Estel.”
The man did as he was asked and watched as the elf lord easily lifted Aerinel out of the tub and enveloped her in a cocoon of paternal warmth, wrapped snugly in the large towel. Aerinel stirred slightly and raised her head, gazing around the small room until her eyes came to settle on Aragorn. Immediately, she reached out towards him, but was gently restrained by Elrond.
“Nay, little one, do not try that. Wait until you are dressed and then you may go to Estel,” Elrond said with a hint of amusement in his voice, gazing down at the small human. Raising his voice, he called, “Glorfindel, could you please bring a fresh nightgown for Aerinel?”
The golden-haired warrior appeared moments later with the small garment in his hands, which he handed to Elrond. “I have stoked up the fire again and changed the bedding; she should be more comfortable.”
With a dip of acknowledgement Elrond said, “Thank you, Glorfindel.” Then turning his attention back to the child in his arms, he stood up and spoke once more. “Now, penneth, let us get you back to bed where you belong.” He left the bathing room, followed closely by Aragorn.
With practised ease and gentle hands, Elrond laid the small girl on the bed, drawing one of the lighter blankets over her tiny frame. Aragorn settled himself into the chair beside the bed. His sharp eyes caught the look that passed between his father and Glorfindel. For the first time since bringing Aerinel home, he began to have doubts about whether the child would live. He cupped her warm cheek with his hand, brushing his thumb over the soft skin. A smile pulled at his lips when Aerinel turned her face towards him, blinking dazedly up at him.
“Hush, penneth, “ he whispered, leaning over the side of the bed. “Go to sleep now...you need to sleep, little one.” He continued murmuring soothing words as he stroked her cheek.
With a deep sigh, the child’s eyelids fluttered closed and very soon her breathing evened out and deeped.
Aragorn too breathed a sigh of relief as he settled himself more comfortably. The illness was getting stronger, intent on dragging the child down with it. She does not deserve this, he thought. Why her? Ilúvatar, what has this child done to deserve such pain?
He glanced up as he sensed his father approach him. Elrond murmured, his tone low, “Estel, it has been a long night. You should find some rest before the dawn.”
“I do not want to leave her now,” Aragorn argued back softly. “She needs me. I need to be here with her. In case – in case she does not…” He couldn’t finish his sentence, but his eyes begged Elrond to understand.
The elf lord nodded. He could easily understand the worry the ranger held for Aerinel. “Very well. You may remain, only if” – he raised his hand to ward off any arguments his youngest son might have – “you remain seated in that chair,” he finished.
Aragorn nodded. “I will.”
Elrond pressed his lips into a thin line and turned back towards the table where some of his healing supplies were strewn about on the polished surface. He caught Glorfindel’s eye and pressed his lips into a thin line. It was going to be a long night.
"We simply can't keep the fever down," Elrohir said in
"A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath...
Aragorn knew the song; he had heard it many times in Elrond’s house as he was growing up and it took him back to the bright, happy times, sitting in the Hall of Fire and listening to the elves’ merry-making.
o galadhremmin ennorath,
On the bed, Aerinel sighed deeply, curling one small fist into the sheet as she settled down, the soft elvish words penetrating through the fog in her mind and quelling the nightmares that haunted her dreams.
"Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!"
Elrohir smiled and closed his eyes, allowing the song to wash over him, the lovely, lilting elvish words sounding so beautiful to his ears. Slowly the song came to an end. He smiled softly at his twin. Anytime Aragorn had had a nightmare as a child, one of the twins would sing that song to him to calm him down. Now it seemed to work on Aerinel just as well.
The room grew silent for awhile, the only sound being the harsh breathing of Aerinel and the occasional cough breaking the silence. The door opened, and Lord Elrond entered with a cup in his hands.
Aragorn nodded his thanks to his father and took the tea. Wiping Aerinel’s forehead a few more times with the cloth, he finally laid his hand on the child’s cheek and began to call her name softly. "Aerinel, Aerinel, little one, I need you to awaken. Come on, open your eyes for me.”
Aerinel stirred fitfully at the sound of Aragorn’s voice, making soft noises of discomfort.
"Come, Aerinel, you must wake up, tithen pen." After a little more persuasion, the child finally woke. Fever-glazed eyes roamed over the three elves standing above her before coming to rest on the man sitting beside her.
"Es-tel?” Aerinel's voice was cracked and weak. Her hand reached for Aragorn, who immediately took it in his own.
“I'm here, Aerinel,” Aragorn said, laying the tea aside
for a moment as
he began to gently stroke Aerinel's forehead.
Closing her eyes again, Aerinel whimpered, "Everything hurts.”
"I know it does, little one. I know it does, but I'm going to help make you better again." Aragorn reached for the tea once more. "You have to drink this now, Aerinel; it will make you better."
Elladan and Elrohir instantly moved forward to help the child sit up, carefully pulling her out from under her blankets and leaning her against their shoulders as they sat against the headboard on either side of the bed. At their touch, Aerinel stirred and opened her eyes again. She blinked hazily at the two elves.
“Do you remember Elladan and Elrohir?” Aragorn asked, brushing her dark, shoulder-length locks out of her face.
Aerinel nodded sleepily.
“There’s a good child,” Elladan murmured in her ear. "We're here to help you get better."
"You just have to drink the tea," Elrohir continued, rubbing Aerinel’s back in soothing circles, trying to rouse the child from her semi-delirious state of mind. "I even put honey in it so it will taste better."
Aerinel nodded again, resting her burning head on Elrohir’s shoulder. She was too weak to be able to refuse. Elladan wasn’t even sure if the young girl understood what they were saying.
Aragorn brought the herbal drink to Aerinel's lips. "You must drink this now, Aerinel."
Other than a small wrinkling of her nose, Aerinel made no protest towards drinking the tea. As Aragorn held the cup to her lips, Aerinel's smaller hands overlapped the man’s, causing Elladan to smile. It didn't take long for Aerinel to finish the drink, and when she did, she promptly fell right back asleep, her head on Elrohir's shoulder.
"The poor little thing is worn out."
Four heads turned to see a tall, golden-haired elf step into the room.
“Glorfindel,” Elrond acknowledged. “I did not expect to see you so soon. You, after all, spent the night watching over the child.” He did not mention what had taken place during the night. Aragorn had told the twins an abbreviated version that morning, only saying that Aerinel had become more ill during the night and had thrown up. The elf lord was happy to leave it at that for the time being.
Glorfindel shrugged. “I wanted to see how Aerinel was faring.”
Elrond raised one eyebrow. Glorfindel had mentioned nothing about what had transpired between him and the child the previous night. However, the lord of Rivendell had more or less guessed that something had taken place after he had finally persuaded Estel to leave the room after he had fallen asleep in the chair beside the bed. Why else would he have found Aerinel sleeping in Glorfindel’s arms when he entered the healing rooms just before dawn this morning? But he let it go. Now was not the time.
"The child needs to rest in order to heal." Elrond sighed. "Someone will have to watch her at all times should she get worse." Reaching over to the bedside, Elrond dipped a cloth into the bowl of cool water, wrung it out, and placed it carefully on Aerinel's forehead. “I have business I need to take care of today. Will you and your brothers be able to care for Aerinel?” He turned to Elladan, who nodded wearily.
“Of course we can, Adar.”
“Alright, then, but you have to remain quiet so she can rest, and come to me immediately the moment something changes."
“We won’t mind looking after Aerinel,” Elrohir agreed with his twin. “We promise to come and fetch you of anything changes.”
With a final glance at the child, Elrond turned and left the room with a quickened pace. There was much he needed to do this day. He made his way towards his study with eyes clouded with worry. In the hall, he met a servant of the house and called to him. "Can you please bring some food for my sons?" he requested. "They will need it, and I fear I can't convince them to leave the room long enough to eat." The servant nodded and made his way towards the kitchen.
Aragorn raised his head and looked bemusedly at
Glorfindel. It surprised
him that the twins had not taken off in their usual Son’s of Elrond
hunt orcs, the classic way they usually dealt with worry and feelings
“No, I do not, Elrohir.” Glorfindel’s eyes twinkled as he draped an arm around each twin’s shoulder and giving them a squeeze. “I think it would be very noble of you to stay here.” The golden haired elf knew how hard it was for them to stay and face the sickness of the small child they were rapidly growing to love, rather than taking off to rage their feelings on evils that were easily destroyed. “You may be excused for today.”
“Ada, you sent for me?” Aragorn stepped into Elrond’s study, followed by Glorfindel. The ranger cast a glance of apprehension over his shoulder. Although he had not been informed what his father wanted to speak with him about, he had the feeling that this wasn’t going to be an enjoyable conversation.
Elrond looked up from where he was seated, bent over his desk. “Yes, Estel, I did.” He motioned for his son to sit down in the chair in front of the large desk. “There is something I wish to discuss with you.”
Aragorn sat down. He shifted uneasily as Glorfindel leant against one of the floor-to-ceiling bookcases. “What is it?”
“Do you remember the Star of Elendil I showed you when I gave you the Ring of Barahir?” Elrond steepled his fingers together.
“Yes.” Aragorn nodded. “Ada, please, what is this about?”
Without a word, Elrond produced a chain on which hung a small, five-rayed star pendant with a white gem in the centre, backed with a thin plate of silver.
“What is that?” Aragorn asked as he leaned over to get a better look at the strange necklace.
“It is a pendant shaped like the Elendilmir.” Elrond
handed the necklace
to his son.
“But how is this possible?!” Aragorn stared at his father in disbelief. In his hand lay the star-shaped pendant.
Elrond gazed back at his foster son. “I am as clueless as you are, Estel.”
“Where did you find it?” Aragorn asked, looking back up
at the two
“It was sewn into a pocket inside the child’s clothing.” Glorfindel pushed off from the bookcase and crossed the room towards them.“It was obviously not meant to be found. I could hardly envision anyone searching a child’s clothing for an object of obvious value and secrecy.”
“Indeed,” Aragorn murmured, taking the strange pendant from Elrond and turning it over in his fingers. His eyes flickered down to the Ring of Barahir that he wore and then back to the necklace. “Do you think Aerinel knows what this is? What does it mean, Father?”
Lord Elrond sighed. “I wish I knew, Estel. I am searching through the books.” He swept his hand around the study, gesturing to the tall bookcases. “But there is no mention of a similar item of jewelry being made that matches the Elendilmir. As for the child, she has been in no fit state to tell anyone anything.”
Aragorn handed the pendant back to his father. “There must be some reason why it was kept hidden. Perhaps it was a trial...an exercise, before the real one was created?”
“But why would it be in the keeping of the rangers? The Elves were the ones who created both Elendilmiri, for they were made with white elven crystals. This one” – Elrond held the pendant up to the light and examined it closely – “this one is less bright, but there is something about it that does not strike me as a fake, however.”
Glorfindel moved closer to the desk. “I agree with Elrond. There is something larger at work here. Until the child is well again, it will be unlikely we shall have any answers.”
Elrond sighed. “Let us hope that she lives to reveal whatever it is she is hiding from us.”
Aragorn stood up abruptly. “I will return to Aerinel now.
Thank you for
showing me this.”
“What is it that draws you to the child?”
Elrond’s question caught the ranger off-guard. He turned back around to face the elf. “I don’t know. Maybe it is because I – I see myself as…as a young child; maybe it is something else. But I could not have left her trapped in that house.” He walked towards the door, his soft leather boots making little sound.
Glorfindel raised one eyebrow at the dark-haired elf
“Estel,” his father called. When Aragorn turned, Elrond’s face was stern. “Do not mention this to your brothers just yet.”
There was a pause before Aragorn nodded. “As you wish, Adar.”
Warm afternoon sunlight illuminated the room and a few birds could be heard singing. But Aerinel's condition still hadn't improved. The child was caught in her delirious state, often screaming and thrashing around in her bed, gently held by one of the twins or Aragorn. Time passed slowly for them as they helplessly watched how the young girl struggled for her life.
Aerinel’s pale skin and the dark circles under her eyes clearly showed her bad state, and the ragging breathing didn't make it better. Every time another coughing fit attacked the young girl, the elves tensed at the painful expression on her face. Every breath seemed to be an obstacle for the child which was the more difficult to defeat the more time passed.
In her delirious state, she would often mumble and toss around, whispering words only she could understand. Even Elrond, who had returned to the room after studying a few of his books, couldn't clear the worry from his face. “It can be dangerous if the fever doesn't break, but if we can manage to keep her temperature down, she should survive it."
“She's being haunted by nightmares," Elrohir said hoarsely, glancing at Aragorn. "And we can do nothing to help her..."
Elladan shook his head. “I don’t like seeing her like
"I believe the child is strong," Elrond stated calmly. "Her body is young and full of life. I firmly believe that she will survive this."
But Aragorn saw the worry in his father’s eyes, and he couldn't believe his words. "Don't give up,” he whispered to Aerinel. “You can’t give up...you must fight it…for me.”
Another coughing fit shook the otherwise motionless body on the bed, and immediately Aragorn moved forward, pinning the child back to the mattress. Aerinel gasped for breath, opening unseeing eyes and closing them again.
"Calm down, Aerinel, calm down," Aragorn whispered as the girl struggled against his grip. The coughs subdued and silence sank once more over the room.
Aerinel was weak, so weak. The numerous coughing fits had made it unable for her to breathe properly and the lack of air was eating her strength. Breathing and coughing took too much energy, energy that was needed in fighting the fever. They had to get her to wake up, and they had to do it soon.
Slowly, the elder elf stood up and rubbed his hand across his face.
"You should go to sleep.” Elrond turned to see Elladan staring at him.
"I cannot." The elven lord shook his head. "How could I sleep while knowing that the child is struggling with the fever? Aerinel needs me.”
"True, but she needs you at full health and not as a weary elf who could drop down any second." Elladan's look was stern. "Ada, please. I do not tell you to leave Aerinel; I’m just telling you to take a chair, sit down, and rest a bit."
At first it seemed as if the elf lord wanted to say something, but then he just nodded and sat down wearily in the mentioned chair.
A slight smile appeared on Elladan's face. "Thank you.”
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