Along Came a Spider

Chapter 6: On the Wings of Eagles

by Jay of Lasgalen

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    Elladan sighed as he settled into the chair at Elrohir’s side, taking his turn to watch his brother.  A day had passed now since Elrohir had first roused, and he had awoken two or three more times since then.  Each time he had been a little more aware and alert, and each time he had been able to stay awake for a little longer than before.  Finally, Elladan had at long last been able to admit to himself that Elrohir would indeed recover.
    The intensity of the first few days, when he had never left his twin’s side, had not eaten or slept, indeed had scarcely taken his eyes off him, was beginning to fade.  With the arrival of their parents, and especially with Elrohir’s awakening, Elladan had finally been able to relax a little, relinquishing the tension and fear that had gripped him for so long.
    He looked at Elrohir again, this time with a healer’s assessing gaze.  It was not his imagination; there were clear signs that spoke of healing.  The bruises and flush of fever were fading, and although he was still pale, the frightening waxy tinge to his skin had gone.  His eyes were still closed, but the skin around his eyes was no longer grey and dull.  Elrohir’s chest now rose and fell regularly as he slept, the harsh gasping breaths and long pauses between inhalations that had been one of the most worrying aspects thankfully a thing of the past.
    Elladan dropped his hand to Elrohir’s wrist, feeling his pulse.  He frowned.  Although Calmacil had warned him that this symptom of the venom would linger longest, he had hoped that it would not still be so erratic.  Elrohir’s heartbeat was still fast and irregular, but stronger now than it had been.  Finally, he placed one hand on Elrohir’s brow.  He could still feel the heat of fever there, but again it was better than it had been, and not so worryingly high as before – a gentle warmth rather than fierce burning.
    He leaned back into the chair again, feeling restless.  He had confined himself to this tiny room and the hallway just outside for days now, and was beginning to find it rather claustrophobic.  At first he had not really noticed the poky, cramped conditions – all his attention had been focused on Elrohir – but now he found it increasingly oppressive.  He craved light and air, and longed to feel the soft breeze against his face.  He wondered idly how Legolas could stand it – he had far more cause than Elladan did to hate dark, confined places.
    Elladan knew that if he was totally honest with himself, he was bored.  It was not that he begrudged the time spent with Elrohir – far from it; there had been moments when he had feared this would never happen again – but he had been here for so long, for days now.  He was unaccustomed to such inactivity.  Tomorrow, while Elrond or Celebrían sat with his brother, he vowed he would take the opportunity to go outside, to walk in the forest, and breathe the clean air.
    He glanced up as Legolas came in.  He stood over the bed, looking down at Elrohir.  “How is he now?  Asleep again?”  He took the only other chair, in the far corner of the room.
    Elladan nodded.  “He woke a short while ago, and managed to eat a little of Calmacil’s broth.”  He grinned.  “He complained.  He said that he was not a baby, and did not wish to be fed like one!”
    Legolas chuckled.  “Elrohir is complaining?  That must be a good sign!”
    “He still lacks the strength to hold the spoon, so he has little choice in the matter at the moment; but knowing El that will not last for long.”  He smiled, leaning back and stretching.  “It is good to have hope again.  Ah, but I am weary of this waiting!  How much longer will we be here?  Legolas – when you were bitten, what do you remember of that time?  How long was it before you were well again?”
    Legolas frowned as he tried to remember.   “It is hard to be sure – it was a long time ago.  I remember the pain, and wanting to go back to unconsciousness whenever I woke up.  Each time I remember seeing my father beside the bed.  I found out later that he did not move from the room for a week.”  He smiled wryly.  “I remember being fed – I know just how Elrohir must feel!  I hated it.  Even when I was allowed up, I still felt very dizzy and faint at times.  It was some weeks before I went back to my duties.  I remember how frustrating it was – there was a time when I was able to stay awake long enough to be bored, but was not able to do anything!”
    “Poor Elrohir.  Yes, Calmacil warned me about the dizziness.  He will hate all that.  He must be the worst patient I know – even worse than I am!  He tends to become extremely foul-tempered.  Do you recall that time he was kicked by the horse?*
    Legolas winced.  “I do indeed – I have never known him so snappy!
    “It seems you will have our company for a while longer, anyway.”  Elladan listened to the quietness surrounding them.  “It must be late,” he observed.
    “It is – I was on my way to bed.  I brought you some books, though – I thought you may be in need of something to do.”  Legolas grinned suddenly.  “I thought you found it impossible to tell the passing of time in here?  You seem to be improving.”
    Elladan shrugged.  “I must be getting used to it.  It is either that, or the fact that Calmacil referred to evening meal when he came with Elrohir’s broth!  Thank you for the books – I fear I shall lose my mind if I stay within these four walls for much longer!”
    “If you can be prised away from Elrohir’s side tomorrow, we can go for a ride.  I have finally taken the leave I postponed when the spiders appeared!  What do you say?”
    Gratefully, Elladan nodded. “Yes.  That seems an excellent idea – I had already decided to leave him to my parents’ care for a while.  Tomorrow, then.”
    After Legolas left, Elladan turned to one of the books Legolas had given him.  It was a collection of tales and legends of other races.  As he leafed through it, he shook his head in disbelief – some of them seemed most bizarre.   Then he laughed at himself.  Others might find his family history just a little odd, the stuff of myth and legend.
    As he read, silence settled around him, broken only by the faint hiss and pop of the wood burning in the grate, and Elrohir’s quiet breaths.   Weariness crept up on him, and slowly his head dropped forward, and the book slipped from his hands. 


    Struggling to escape from the bonds of sleep, Elrohir slowly opened his eyes.  He was cautious – the small lamp at his bedside, and the flickering fire had seemed impossibly bright the first few times he had awoken, hurting his eyes.  The light was dimmer now, causing less discomfort.  He blinked, finally able to see his surroundings clearly for the first time, despite a fierce headache.
    He was in a small, windowless, stone chamber.  A fire burnt against the wall opposite him.  He turned his head slightly and saw Elladan dozing in a chair, a book lying forgotten in his lap.  He smiled – each time he had woken up, his twin had been there, and sometimes his mother or father as well.  Their faces had been blurred and indistinct, but unmistakable, and their voices full of love and concern.
    Elrohir knew he must have been gravely ill.  The pervading lethargy told him that; the way his whole body ached; together with his deep weariness and lassitude.  What had happened?  He began to piece events together, recalling the spider bite, the awful pain, unlike anything he had endured before.  Much of his memory of the time was vague, but he could dimly recall Elladan holding him, soothing him as he shook and twisted in agony.  There had been more pain, so bad that he would have readily welcomed death itself; a bright light – then nothing.  He could recall nothing after that until awakening some time before.  When had that been – a few hours ago, a day?
    He had a raging thirst, but the cup on the table at his side was empty.  He was not sure he would have been able pick it up in any case – he had tried earlier, tried to hold a spoon to eat a little broth Calmacil had prepared, but to his humiliation and frustration had not even been able to lift it.  He was deeply reluctant to wake Elladan – his twin looked exhausted, with lines of strain etched around his eyes – but feared he had no choice.
    “El?” he tried quietly.  His mouth was so dry that little sound emerged.  Elrohir swallowed harshly, and tried again.  “Elladan?  El, wake up!”  There was still no response.  Slowly, tentatively, he edged his hand towards Elladan.  He could not quite reach, but was able to move himself a little closer and stretched out again until he was able to tap Elladan on the knee.  “Elladan – wake up and go to bed!”  It was an old joke, one left over from their childhood, when one or both of them would fall asleep in a cosy chair, or on the wolfskin rug by the flickering flames in the Hall of Fire.  Their parents would wake them with the same comment.
    Elladan jerked his head up with a start, and the book slip off his lap to land on the floor with a soft thud.  Then he smiled.  “Elrohir!  Forgive me – I should not have fallen asleep.  Do you need anything?”  He leaned forward, one hand on Elrohir’s forehead, the other touching his wrist.  Elrohir made himself accept the attention – there was little he could do about it, anyway.  “How do you feel?”  Elladan continued.  “I am sorry I was asleep – I was supposed to be watching you.  Do you have a headache?  Anything else?”
    Exasperated, Elrohir swatted his brother’s hands away in irritation.  “No!  Leave me be – stop fussing!  And I do not need anyone to watch me!”
    Elladan’s hand dropped to his side.  “I am entitled to fuss,” he said a little stiffly.  “You nearly died – I was worried.”
    With a sigh, Elrohir reached out to his twin.  It was not fair to snap at Elladan – if their positions had been reversed, he would have been frantic with fear and worry. “No, ‘tis my fault – Forgive me.  I just hate feeling so helpless!  I am sorry to wake you, too.  Could you get me some water, please?”  He pushed himself a little more upright, pleased that he was able to do so, as Elladan filled both the cup and a pitcher with water.  He watched, puzzled, as Elladan tipped half the water in the cup away again.
    “Do you want to try to hold this?  It should not spill if your hand shakes a little – and if you do drop it, there is not enough here to make too much mess.”  Elladan held the cup out questioningly.
    Elrohir nodded, and carefully took the cup, allowing Elladan to steady his hand.  It still shook a little – if the cup had been full, the water would have spilt – but he was able to drink.  Triumphant at the small victory, he drank again after Elladan refilled the cup.
    As he passed the cup back again, his hand shook, and the cup slipped from his grasp.  Elladan caught it deftly, setting it on the table. With a sigh, Elrohir leaned back against the pillows.  For no reason at all, his heart had started to race, and a wave of dizziness swept over him.  He clutched at Elladan’s arm, as his brother bent over him.  “Shh.  Just relax – Calmacil warned me about this.  Legolas mentioned it too.  You may feel faint or dizzy for some time yet – it is nothing to worry about.”
    Elrohir leaned back, his eyes closed, taking deep breaths.  He swallowed, fighting the nausea that accompanied the dizziness.  Gradually the faintness subsided, and the whirling sensation that had engulfed him slowed.  He was tired now though, and did not try to fight as sleep crept up on him again.

    When he awoke again, Elrond and Celebrían were there once more, and there was a bustle of noise from outside.  To his immense relief, the pounding headache had gone, and he felt more aware of his surroundings.  His mother leaned over and kissed him lightly.  “Well, good morning, sleepy-head!” she teased him.
    He studied both his parents curiously.  At first he had simply accepted their presence gratefully – they were there when he needed them, as they always had been – but now he wondered.  “When did you arrive?” he asked.  “Did Thranduil send a message to you?  It is at least a week’s journey each way across the mountains.  How long have I been here?”
    Elladan also turned to look at them.  “Yes, how did you arrive so quickly?  You never did explain.”
    Celebrían smiled.  “We knew immediately, of course, that something had happened.  Something serious.  We began to make arrangements to leave straight away.”
    Elladan nodded.  “I guessed you would know.  But that still does not explain anything – and you said you had already read Thranduil’s message.   Legolas said he had sent his fastest messenger, but no-one is that fast!”
    Elrohir listened curiously.  There was some strange tale here.  His imagination drifted into wild fantasies – horses that could run like the wind, the giant eagles delivering messages like common carrier pigeons, the wizard Mithrandir using magic to transport his parents on a cloud.
    His father’s voice broke into his thoughts.  “Elrohir, wake up!  I thought you wanted to know?”
    “I was not asleep,” he said with dignity.  “I was thinking.”
    “With your eyes closed?”  Elladan asked with a grin.
    Elrohir ignored his brother.  “So tell us.  What was it – super-fast horses?  The eagles?  Mithrandir?”  He was joking, so was astounded when Elrond nodded.
    “Yes.  Thranduil sent a message with one of the great eagles – they warn him of orc movements in the mountains.  Sûllilta brought his letter, and Gwaihir, Meneldor and Annrovail agreed to carry us.”  He still looked awed.
    “You flew with the eagles?”  Elrohir and Elladan asked the question simultaneously.
    Elrond nodded.  “Yes.  Apparently they still remember the time we healed a young eagle who had been caught in an orc’s snare.  It seems that he later became Gwaihir, the Wind Lord, himself – one of their greatest leaders.  They were grateful.”
    Elrohir shared a look of amazement with his twin.  They both recalled helping their father with the young eagle, his leg gashed to the bone from the cruel snare, one wing broken as he had struggled to free himself.  “They remember?”  he repeated in surprise.  “It was so long ago.”
    “They remember.  It seems the story has been passed down from parent to chick.”  Elrond smiled.  “Gwaihir said he hoped my own fledgling would be well.”
    Celebrían shivered. “Despite their speed, I feared we would be too late.  There was one moment when I was sure we had lost you.”  She touched Elrohir’s arm lightly as if to reassure herself.  “Then I felt you again.”
    “What do you mean?” Elrohir asked, a little uneasily.
    There was silence for a moment.  Then Elladan spoke, slowly and hesitantly.  “You nearly died, El.  There was one time – you stopped breathing.  I could not feel your heartbeat.”  He paused, his voice shaking.  “I thought you dead.”  He leaned forward, his hand resting on Elrohir’s arm.
    Elrohir was stunned into silence at first, but there was a dim memory of a dazzling light and a voice calling him, flickering in the deepest recesses of his mind.  “Was I?  I can remember something … what happened?”
    For a long time Elladan seemed to struggle to find words.  Slowly, he began to speak.  “At first, I despaired.  I thought that was the end – of everything.  Then … I realised I could not give up without a fight – could not give you up.  I knew what I had to do to try to save you, so I did.  And it worked,” he concluded simply, with a slight shrug.
    The little room was silent.  At the foot of the bed, Elrond stood, his face ashen.  Celebrían stood beside her son, her arm around his shoulders, and pulled him closer.  “Oh, Elladan!”  she said softly, breaking the silence.  “Thank you.  You pulled him back.”   She turned to Elrohir, and hugged him tightly as well.  “Thank the Valar you are well.”
    Elrohir returned her embrace.  “I am fine, mother – thanks to El.”  He looked up at Elladan.  “Thank you, brother,” he said quietly.  The simple words did not nearly convey his depth of gratitude – but he knew Elladan would understand, nonetheless.  The words were not needed, in any case.
    At length, Elrond moved from his stance at the end of the bed, and drew Celebrían to him.  “Come.  I think we should leave them for now – they have much to discuss. And I shall send a message to Gwaihir that this fledgling will indeed be well.”  With a gentle kiss to each of his sons, they left.
    The twins sat  side by side in silence for a while, words unnecessary between them.  “You thought I was dead?”  Elrohir asked at last.  Elladan nodded silently.
    Elrohir closed his eyes, trying to remember more.  “I think you were right,” he said slowly.  “I saw Námo.  He asked me to join him.  I agreed.”
    He opened his eyes to see Elladan staring at him in disbelief and horror.  “He offered me such love, such warmth and comfort.  I felt …”  He stopped, trying to describe the indescribable, to put into words the vague sensations and feelings he had experienced, for which no words existed.   The memory seemed blurred and indistinct now.  “All I could remember from before was darkness and pain.  Nothing else.  It was an easy choice – so I said yes.”
    Elladan’s grip on his arm tightened.  “So what happened then?”  he asked.
    Elrohir looked up.  “I heard you calling me,” he explained.  “I remembered you; remembered everything.  I knew I could not stay – I had to go back.  But it was hard to deny Námo.”
    “Merciful Valar, El!”  Elladan burst out.  “You might not have been able to come back!  You could have been trapped here, one of the houseless ones!”
    “I knew you would not let me die,”  Elrohir said simply.  Then he grinned suddenly, lightening the tension.  “If you had, I would most certainly have haunted you – it  would have been fun!  Just think what I could have done to you …”
    Elladan’s fingers tightened convulsively on his arm.  “Stop it, El!” he snapped.  “Never say things like that.  Not even in jest.”
    He placed his own hand over Elladan’s in sympathy.  “I know.  If I had joined Námo, it would not have been long before you followed me there.”  He chuckled.  “Can you imagine both of us in his halls?  Námo would have sent us on our way to be reborn even faster than Glorfindel was!”
    Reluctantly, Elladan began to laugh.  “Poor Námo.  I never thought I would pity him!”  He hugged Elrohir suddenly.  “I am glad you decided to return, little brother – I think I would have missed you!”
    “As I would,” Elrohir agreed.  “El, I never did get an answer to my question.  How long have I been here?  When did we fight the spiders?”
    “It was a week ago.  Mother and father arrived three days ago, and you first woke the day after that.  Legolas and Thranduil have often been here as well, and Calmacil and Tirana.  Do you remember Tirana?”
    Elrohir nodded.  “Calmacil’s second?  Yes, of course.  El, did you say I have been here a week?  As long as that?” He was astounded that he had lost so much time.   “No wonder you were worried.”
    Elladan simply nodded, as Elrohir continued.  “I supposed you have been here the whole time?  Did you eat?  Sleep?  Have you even left the room at all?”
    “Stop fussing, El!”
    Elrohir smiled, and threw Elladan’s earlier words back at him.  “I am entitled to fuss – you are my brother.  But Elladan, there is no need for you to hover over me.  Go – find Legolas or Alfiel, go into the forest, do something!”
    “Well – I had planned to ride out with Legolas today.  Do you mind?”  Elladan sounded apologetic.  “I was going to ask mother or father to stay with you.”
    “I told you, I have no need to have anyone watch me!”  Elrohir snapped.  “Elladan, go.  When you return, perhaps you can help me persuade father and Calmacil that I am not in need of constant attention.”
    Elladan nodded reluctantly, and moved towards the door.  “When I return, perhaps you will be in a better mood, little brother – or should I say ‘little fledgling’?”  He left, grinning, as Elrohir threw a pillow after him in frustration.  He missed.

Author’s Notes:

* An event described in Chapter Ten of ‘The Search’.  back

Eagle Names:  Sûllilta – Wind Dancer.  Gwaihir – Wind Lord (I’m using this as a title for the Lord of the Eagles). Meneldor – Sky Lord.  Annrovail – Long Wings.  I’m not too sure about some of these translations, so if anyone has better suggestions, please let me know.

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