Night on a Bare Mountain

Chapter 2: A Race Against Time

by Jay of Lasgalen

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“I am coming with you – Elrohir needs us.”

Elladan felt as if a huge weight had dropped from his shoulders at Glorfindel’s words.  He simply nodded, thankful beyond words.  Glorfindel had always been a friend and confidante to him and Elrohir– and a hard taskmaster when they were young warriors in training.  It would be a relief to have his company and staunch support.  He gripped the other’s arm in gratitude. 

“Thank you.  Will you find Erestor and tell him, while I go down to the stables?  I will meet you later.”

They left Imladris in the grey light of dawn, with only Erestor to watch them depart.  Despite Elladan’s relief that Glorfindel was accompanying him, he was still tense and anxious.  An odd sense of urgency gnawed at him, and a feeling that there was no time to be lost.  There was still something very wrong.

With a single backward glance at Erestor’s solitary figure standing on the steps, they swept out of the courtyard.  Elladan set a fast pace as they rode swiftly through the hills behind Imladris and then, more slowly, began to climb steadily up through the pines that blanketed the slopes and foothills.  Elladan looked up towards the distant peaks.  The mountains were once again living up to their name – the snow capped heights were lost in cloud and mist.  It would be a cold, wet journey through the pass, and then he would still have to cross the vale of the Anduin and face at least a day’s journey through Lasgalen.   He gave a sigh of frustration – it was too far, and too long.

As they rode, his anxiety increased.  It seemed there was a dark cloud of foreboding in his mind, and he shivered at a sudden chill.   He could feel pain, and deep anguish, and a terrible loneliness.  Why?   Why was Elrohir feeling such sorrow and isolation?

Elladan.”  Glorfindel’s patient voice called to him, and Elladan realised that Glorfindel had been talking to him for some time.   He drew a deep breath, and forced himself to pay attention.

“Your pardon, Glorfindel.  What did you say?”

Glorfindel sighed.  “I was asking what happened in your … dream.   I do not doubt that you know Elrohir is injured, but how?  Why?  What happened?”

Elladan shook his head helplessly.  “I do not know.  But I feel … I think he is not in Thranduil’s halls.  He is alone somewhere, I know it!  There is still danger.”  He rubbed at the back of his neck, trying to ease the growing tension there.  “Glorfindel, we must hurry.”  He did not voice, even to himself, his fear that they could yet arrive too late.

Suddenly he gasped, his hands tightening on Morel’s reins.  He could hear Elrohir calling to him – faint and far away, but unmistakable.  But here?  So close to Imladris?   He slowed Morel to a walk and looked around, trying to establish where his brother’s voice was coming from.   It was strangely difficult to tell the direction, but he came back to face the mountains again.  “Elrohir?”  Glorfindel looked back at him, startled by his sudden shout, but Elladan ignored his questions and called again.  “Elrohir!”

Elladan.’  Elrohir’s voice came again – but no, the voice was inside his head.   He stopped disbelievingly, and then closed his eyes, trying to empty his mind of all thoughts so that he could hear more clearly.  ‘Elladan.   Can you hear me?  Listen.’ 

Yes, he could hear Elrohir.  He did not believe it – it was impossible – but he could hear him.   “Yes.  Yes, I can hear you!”  From Glorfindel’s startled comment, he realised he had spoken aloud.  ‘Yes, El.  I can hear you!’   he replied silently.  ‘Where are you?  What happened?  Are you all right?’   He stopped his frantic flow of questions and waited, wondering if Elrohir could hear him

‘Elladan, listen to me,’  Elrohir continued.   ‘I need help.  I am in the high pass – just below the cave.  I fell.  El, I am injured and need help.  Mornaur … Mornaur is dead.’  Elrohir’s mental voice hitched and faltered again, then resumed, weaker than before.  ‘ Please, El – if you can hear me – it is so cold …’   The voice in his mind faded away, and there was only the silence of his own chaotic thoughts. 

‘I can hear you, Elrohir.  I am coming.  Just stay where you are – I will find you.  I am on my way.’    Elladan opened his eyes to find Glorfindel staring at him in alarm, one hand clutching at his arm to hold him upright.

“Elladan?  What happened?  Is it – is it Elrohir?”

Elladan nodded slowly, still a little dazed.  “I heard him – in my mind,”  he said in wonder.  “I heard him.”  

“You heard him?”  Glorfindel gazed at him with concern.  “Elladan, your worry for Elrohir has touched your mind!  How could you have heard him?”

“I do not know!”  he snapped, irritated by Glorfindel’s scepticism.  “But he spoke to me.  He needs help.”  He shook himself, suddenly decisive.  “I know where he is, but he is injured.  Glorfindel, I need you to go back to Imladris and get more help – a healer, a few of the guards.  More medical supplies, and a litter.  Food as well – I think it will be a few days before he will be able to move far.”

“Elladan …”

Elladan’s thinly-stretched patience snapped.  “Listen to me!  You must trust me in this – I know where he is, and I know how to get to him.  I know.”

Glorfindel stared at him for a moment, doubt clear in his eyes, then he sighed and gave a reluctant nod.  “Very well,”  he said slowly.  “Where is he?  What happened?”

“The pass through the mountains.  Just below the cave.  He says he fell.  And there is something else – something he is trying not to tell me.”  Elladan drew a deep breath.  “Glorfindel, I have to go.  Now.”

Glorfindel hesitated for a long time, then slowly nodded again.   “Then go.  I will come as fast as I can.  And Elladan – be careful.”  Glorfindel caught at his arm again.  “I mean it.  Pay attention to your route.  Do not let your worry for Elrohir blind you to your own safety.”  He paused.  “You cannot help him if you yourself are injured!”  he added deliberately.

It was Elladan’s turn to nod sharply, then he urged Morel into a gallop and raced through the trees, negotiating the steep, rough track, the protruding roots and low, overhanging branches with heedless ease.   Glorfindel’s final warning rang in his ears though, and he did not take any risks that were too foolish.   He stopped just once in the late afternoon, and let Morel drink from a tiny brook that babbled at the side of the track.  They were already on the edge of the tree line, and he began to gather fallen branches and pine cones together – when he reached Elrohir, they would need a fire.  He bundled the load into a spare blanket and tied it to Morel’s saddle.  Then he set off again, riding Morel as hard as he dared in the fading light, alternating between a gallop and periods of walking to preserve Morel’s strength – but the periods of walking seemed far too long, and he had to force himself to wait before urging Morel back to a faster pace. 

Slowly the mountains, and the pass, drew nearer, yet it seemed always far too slow, and never near enough.   As the path wound into the foothills it grew steeper and rockier and he had to slow his desperate pace even more.     The sun had long since set behind him, and ahead the moon rose, a great white circle hanging low in the sky.   It framed the tall peak of Meneldol that rose beside the pass, and cast a shimmering light over the mountains.  The snow that covered the highest peaks glittered and shone like crushed diamonds, and the moonlight threw a silver path straight to his feet.

It was a beautiful, breathtaking sight, and Elladan’s heart sank. 

If the blanketing clouds had lifted, the temperature would have plummeted with nightfall, and it would now be piercingly cold in the pass.    Elrohir was alone, and injured, and without shelter – and he would be far more vulnerable to the freezing conditions.  He urged Morel on relentlessly, afraid of what he might find if he came too late.

The moonlight cast long lines of shadows across the path, concealing potholes and loose stones.  Suddenly Morel stumbled, nearly pitching Elladan over his shoulder, then lurched again as he regained his footing.  Elladan eased him to a halt and dropped to the ground, patting his heaving flanks absently.  “I am sorry,  my friend,”  he murmured as he checked anxiously for any injury.  “I know this is a strain for you.  It is not much further now, but we cannot stop for long.  We must go on.  Forgive me.” 

Tense and impatient, he nonetheless made himself wait while Morel rested.  Despite his desperate hurry, the risk of Morel falling again was too great, and he was becoming careless as well.  He was pushing Morel too hard, and knew it.  The horse was tired, and would not be able to maintain this desperate pace for much longer.

While they rested, he forced himself to eat half a wafer of waybread and drink from his water skin – there had been no time for breakfast, and he could not remember stopping to eat or drink at all during the day.  He recalled his promise to Glorfindel, and smiled.  Poor Glorfindel had been deeply reluctant to leave him, but had finally realised there was no choice.  From his expression though, he had harboured clear doubts about Elladan’s sanity.

<>Staring at the fold in the mountains that hid the pass – much closer now, but still too far – he tried to reach out with his thoughts again.  ‘Elrohir.  Wait for me.  I am coming – I will be with you by morning.  Just … just hold on.’   Was there any point?  Could Elrohir possibly hear him?  There was only a blank silence in his mind now, and he half wondered if he had ever heard Elrohir at all, or if it was just his own desperate imagining. 


He was not aware of falling asleep or losing consciousness, but his thoughts kept drifting away.  When he caught at them again, the light had changed.   It was dark again now, and had grown even colder. 

Elrohir moved stiffly, biting back a gasp of pain as his injured shoulder – probably dislocated – protested.  The joint had seized and locked in position, and now he could not move his arm at all.  He groped clumsily with his uninjured hand for his flask of water and drank a little.  The water was so cold it made his teeth ache and seemed to burn his throat as he swallowed, then lay in an icy pool in his stomach.  He forced himself to eat a few raisins and some of the waybread as well, though it all seemed dry and tasteless.  He felt nauseated rather than hungry, but knew he had to try.

It had been raining again, and the water had seeped through his cloak and the saddle blanket.  The surface of the cloak was stiff and filmed with ice.  He shook the water bottle and drank again, just a little, then tucked it back beneath the blanket.  It felt cold against his side, but he did not want to risk it freezing.  That thought reminded him of the belt pouch he had placed out in the rain earlier.  He stretched out stiffly and pulled it closer.  The driving rain had filled it to the brim, but he had left it for too long and it had frozen into a single block.  He swore at his carelessness and lay back wearily, gathering his strength for another attempt to move from this cold, exposed mountain. 

Slowly, he pushed himself up on his one functioning arm, fighting the dizziness that spun around him again.  His arm shook with the strain as he dragged himself forward, and he managed to move perhaps a few inches before collapsing back against the icy rock with a sob of despair.   He would not give up, though.  He prided himself on being determined and single-minded – though Elladan was more likely to use words like stubborn, pig-headed, and bloody-minded.  He smiled.  Where was Elladan now?  Had he left Imladris?  Was he even now riding out of the valley, with Glorfindel or Erestor or a troop or warriors in his wake?

With a grim determination Elrohir hauled himself forward again, and this time managed to move an inch or two, no more.  He stopped again and lay back, trying to think clearly.  Determination was one thing, but he had to be realistic.  There was no way he was going to be able to reach the path.  Even if by some supreme effort he managed to crawl a few more feet, he would then be out in the open, totally exposed to the killing weather.  Here, still lying against Mornaur, he was at least sheltered a little from the bitter winds.    His only hope now was to wait.   ‘Elladan,’  he thought hazily, ‘if you are coming, I think you had better hurry.’

Time seemed to skip again, and when he was next aware, the moon had risen above him.   It cast a cold silver light down on him and lit the mountain slopes in stark black and white.   Although his breath frosted in white plumes as he breathed, he had stopped shivering, and did not feel so cold now – indeed, he could not feel anything.  His legs were numb, and even the fierce pain in his back had gone.  He thought about that for a moment.  He should be relieved that it was warmer – but there was something wrong.  It was a sign of danger.   His mind drifted back to Glorfindel’s survival training again.  Even an elf could be affected by extreme cold, especially if injured.  And although it only showed itself in tiny ways, he was not a pure-blooded elf.   In fighting the cold, and his injuries, and struggling to stay conscious, his body was using what little strength and energy he had too fast.

He took a deep breath, and focused inward.  His eyes drifted shut as he concentrated, deliberately slowing his breathing and heart rate.  It was a deadly gamble.  This would keep him alive for longer, but it left him dangerously vulnerable.  He would be defenceless against attack by wolves or other wild beasts, and if rescuers came but did not see him, he could not call for help.

As he slipped into unconsciousness, he sent out a final thought.  ‘Elladan.  Come and find me, brother.’

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