Along Came a Spider

Chapter 3: The Gates of Mandos

by Jay of Lasgalen

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    “Elrohir!”   Desperately, Elladan gathered Elrohir in his arms, one hand feeling for the pulse in his throat.  His hand was shaking, slipping on Elrohir’s sweat-slick skin, and he could find nothing.  Taking a deep breath, he wiped his hand against his trousers, fighting down his panic, and tried again.  There was still nothing, and in his heart he knew there would not be.  He held Elrohir’s body tightly, head bowed to rest against his twin’s, numb with grief.
    “Oh, Elrohir.  I will miss you.  I love you, little brother,”  he murmured, his voice breaking.  He swallowed dryly, and took a deep, sobbing breath. “Forgive me, El.  I should have been able to stop this.  I should have been able to protect you.  I am sorry I failed you,” he whispered softly.
    He sat, holding Elrohir against his chest, rocking him gently as he would a child.  His heart ached, and he could scarcely breathe for the hard knot of grief within him.  Tears leaked from his eyes, soaking into Elrohir’s hair, and he brushed the dampness away tenderly.  Then, placing a last gentle kiss on his brother’s brow, he laid Elrohir down lovingly.  His face was peaceful now, but Elladan knew he would never be able to erase the memory of Elrohir’s torment and agony during his last few hours.  His brother was finally at rest, but this was wrong.  They were twins. They had been together from the beginning, from the first faint spark of life, and had rarely been apart since then.
    Why?  Why had this happened?  How had it happened?  Why had his cursed visions not warned him of this?  He knew danger had threatened, had known about the spiders.  If only they had stopped as they originally planned to, if only he had learned to understand and control his visions, Elrohir might still be alive.  Elladan knew, quite simply, that he could not face a life that did not have his brother in it.  He had once before believed Elrohir dead, and it had all but destroyed him.  He knew he could not endure the same grief twice.  And this time there was no error, no case of mistaken identity, nothing that he or anyone else could do.
    Yet was there nothing he could do?  He was a healer; perhaps not as gifted as Elrohir had been, but a healer nonetheless.  Clutching his brother to him with one arm, he swept the pillows that had been supporting Elrohir to the floor, and laid him flat on the bed.  Placing his mouth over Elrohir’s he exhaled strongly, took a quick breath and breathed into him again.  Then he placed his hands on his brother’s chest, above his heart, and pressed down sharply several times.
    Without waiting to see if there had been any response, he repeated the breaths and chest compressions, settling into the familiar routine.  Breathing; pressing down; breathing; a relentless routine until he was panting with exertion.  He considered briefly calling for help, but then focussed on Elrohir alone.  There was no time, and if he could not call Elrohir back, no-one could.  As he worked, he used his own healing gift, together with their bond, to give life to Elrohir, refusing to allow him to die. He used his strength, his love, his despair; to call to his twin, to draw him back – to life, to light; and, he knew, to pain.  Perhaps it was pure selfishness that drove him now, but he had to try.  He was too afraid not to.
    All the time, a constant litany of pleas fell from his lips.  “Stay with me, Elrohir.  I need you,” he begged.  The room seemed to be growing dark now, as he pushed more and more of himself through their bond, feeling the drain on his energy but refusing to stop.  “I love you, El.  Please do not leave me,” he whispered, struggling to continue.
    Firm, gentle hands took his shoulders and pulled him away.  “Enough, Elladan.  You have done it.  Leave him now.  Stop.”
    He resisted briefly, fighting the hands that gripped him, when the words penetrated his torment.  Disbelievingly, his hand shaking even more than before, he felt for a pulse again – and found it.  It was slow, very faint, but it was there.  Trembling, he again pulled Elrohir into his arms and cradled him gently.  He could feel the soft brush of breath against his face, no stronger than a stir of air, but it was unmistakable.
    “You did it, Elladan.  He is breathing again.  He is still alive – you saved him.”  Helplessly, Elladan nodded.  He buried his face in Elrohir’s sweaty, matted, hair, and began to sob with relief.


    Elrohir reached out to take the hand that Námo offered him, and nodded. “Yes.  I will come.”  He stepped forward, then stopped as a desperate cry reverberated through his mind.
    Who was it?  Who could be calling to him in such torment?  The anguished cry came again, and he raised his hands to his temples in pain.  There was such terror and loss in that cry.   He turned to look back at his previous life again.
    His body still lay in the infirmary; limp now, but cradled tenderly and lovingly in the arms of another.  Elladan.  How could he have forgotten?  The black agony had swept away everything, all memory of loving or being loved, but how could he have forgotten his twin?
    Memory swamped him – how they had fought and argued; how they had plotted and schemed together; how occasionally only one had done wrong, but both had always borne the resulting punishment; how in one moment they would deliberately confuse the whole of Imladris with their identical appearance, and in the next furiously assert their unique individuality.  How the normal trials of growing up were compounded by having a mirror image.  He remembered how he had pitied those like Legolas and Arwen for their loneliness in not having a twin.  He remembered the security in always having someone at his side who understood, who would not judge, who loved him no matter what.  Elladan.
    Elrohir looked up at Námo again, and slowly lowered his hand.  “I cannot,”  he said regretfully.  “I cannot join you yet.  There are those who love me – I cannot abandon them.”
    Námo’s thought fluttered all around him again.  “Families survive even this loss, little one.”
    “I know.  But Elladan – he is my brother; my twin.  We are bound together.  It would not be long before he joined me, and you would have us both in your Halls.  I cannot do that to him – to our parents.”
    “Your father survived the death of his own twin,” Námo pointed out.
    Elrohir nodded.  “I know that, too.  But Elladan and I – we are far closer than my father and uncle were.  I cannot leave him.”  He felt another wave of love and gentleness sweep over him, and the slow, reluctant withdrawal of Námo’s touch.  He nearly cried out at the pain of loss he felt.
    “This is the second time you have turned away from me, little one.”  That was puzzling, but Elrohir did not query it.  One did not question the Valar.  “Remember, there will always be a place for you here.”
    Elrohir bowed his head again in reverence.  “Thank you.  But I must go back.  I have to.  I cannot leave Elladan.”
    Námo’s love and warmth wrapped around him once more.  “Then go.  You have chosen a hard path, my child – there is much pain ahead.”
    Elrohir swallowed, remembering what he had left behind.  “I know.  But I have to do this.”  He looked again, and saw Elladan trying desperately to revive him, breathing for him, trying to make his heart beat once more.  It was time – time to leave this bliss and return to an uncertain fate.  He could feel Elladan’s despair and growing exhaustion as he poured all his strength out through their bond.  “I must go now.  Goodbye.”
    “You show great courage, little one.  I will do what I can to ease your way – but you may yet join me again soon.  Rest now.  Sleep.”  Elrohir was enveloped in Námo’s gentle love a final time, then he was falling into a peaceful darkness, a world away from the desperate pain and agony he had endured before.  Then there was only silence.


    Elladan clung to Elrohir, marvelling that he still lived, amazed that he had succeeded in pulling his twin back.  He sat at the edge of the bed, holding his brother’s body tenderly, still shaken.  Elrohir was limp; lifeless; his face blank and still.  But he was alive.
    There was a soft cry of denial behind him, then Legolas wrapped his arms around him and Elrohir, pulling them both close.  “Ah, Elladan.  I am sorry – so very, very sorry.  I wish that there was more we could have done.  Forgive me.”
    Startled, a little dazed, Elladan looked up.  “Forgive me Legolas – I did not mean to alarm you!”  He smiled weakly.  “I thought I had lost him, but we are both too stubborn to give up.”
    Calmacil nodded in agreement, smiling.  “It is not as it seems.  Elrohir still lives – just.  Relief takes people in many ways.”  He rested one hand lightly on Elladan’s shoulder.  “Well done.  You have your father’s talent, I see.”
    “Thank the Valar you do!”  Legolas murmured  reverently.  Elladan finally released his grip and lay Elrohir down against the pillows Legolas had retrieved from the floor.  He then positioned himself at the head of the bed, one hand resting on his brother’s head, the other taking his hand and wrist.  He was still very concerned about Elrohir.  Perhaps he was marginally better – he no longer twisted in agony, and the harsh gasping as he had struggled for every breath was gone, but he now lay pale and motionless, his eyes still closed, scarcely drawing breath.  The change seemed ominous – he knew there was still a very real chance that Elrohir would die.
    Elladan closed his eyes in despair at that thought, after all he had done.  Had it been enough?  He felt exhausted, and doubted he would be able to do the same again.  He simply had to rely on Elrohir’s own strength now.
    He opened his eyes to find that Legolas had settled himself in the chair by the bed and was regarding him thoughtfully.  “I spoke to my father,” he said.  “I asked him to send a message to Imladris, to inform your parents.”  He smiled.  “He had already dispatched his fastest rider.”
    Elladan nodded, then looked down at Elrohir again.  “Thank you – and your father – for the message, though I expect my parents will already know that something is wrong; even if they do not know the details.  But it will take them a week to travel here, and by that time – ” he broke off.
    “By that time let us hope that Elrohir will be able to greet them himself,” Legolas finished.  “Father said he guessed they would already know – he was here earlier, did you know?  He came to see Elrohir and Nólimon.”
    “Thranduil was here?  He saw Elrohir?”  Elladan was startled.  He had had no idea, and must have totally ignored the king.  “I – I did not know.  I did not even notice him!”
    Legolas chuckled.  “He realised that.  He understands.  Elladan, I know you do not want to leave Elrohir, but you look close to collapse yourself – you are nearly as pale as he is!  Will you not rest?  I will sit with Elrohir, and you do not even need to leave this room.  I am sure we can find you a bed.”
    Calmacil agreed.  “Indeed.  There are a number of small folding beds we keep for times such as this.  It can go here.”  He indicated the side of Elrohir’s bed.
    Stubbornly, Elladan refused.  “Thank you, but no.  Perhaps if he wakes – when he wakes – perhaps then.  I will be fine.”  He was desperately weary, worn out by fear and worry, and by the energy he had expended to save Elrohir.  But he would not risk sleeping, not while Elrohir’s hold on life was so tenuous.
    Legolas laughed, and Calmacil sighed.  “Of course.  What was the expression I heard?  Ah, yes – ‘he does not have the sense to lay down before he falls down,’ ” he quoted dryly.
    Elladan flushed slightly.  Elrond had indeed said that, of both him and Elrohir, on more than one occasion.  But how had Calmacil known of it?  “I did not realise you knew my father so well,” he said, slightly defensively.
    “It was not your father who said it, youngling – ‘twas this one’s!”  Calmacil pointed accusingly at Legolas.   “I had forgotten how stubborn you and your brother could be!  Very well then – I cannot insist.  At least eat or drink something.”  He filled a cup from the pitcher of water, and passed it to Elladan.  “I do not want the prospect of two patients if you collapse.”
    Elladan took the cup with a nod.  He was about to drink, when he regarded the cup suspiciously, and set it down, untouched.  “No,” he said flatly.
    Calmacil looked startled, then understood.  “Elladan, I have no intention of drugging you!  If Elrohir d – if anything were to happen to him while you were insensible, you would quite rightly never forgive me.  You have my word that it is no more than water!”  He sounded a little offended.
    Elladan regarded him rather sheepishly.  “Forgive me, Calmacil – I should not have doubted you.  Thank you.”  He sipped at the water, relishing how wonderfully cool and wet it was, then drank more deeply.  He drained the cup, then drank again as Calmacil refilled it.
    Feeling somewhat better, he leaned back against the rough stone wall, one hand absently brushing against Elrohir’s hair.  He took his brother’s hand in his, feeling the dry heat of fever, and the slow, erratic beat of his pulse.  His chest barely moved as he breathed, and, perhaps most worrying of all, there was no flicker of movement behind his closed eyelids.  Elrohir seemed to be beyond pain for the moment, but was now in a deep sleep – one from which he might never awaken.

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