Night on a Bare Mountain

Chapter 5: Welcome Guests

by Jay of Lasgalen

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Elladan stood tensely as he waited for whatever lurked outside to show itself.  The only external sound was the soft crackle of the fire, but he could hear within himself the thud of his own heart.  The tension grew, cresting like a great wave – then suddenly lessened, as he sensed the presence outside and relaxed.  He smiled, lowering the sword.  At the same time Morel snorted and took a step forward as he gave a soft whinny of welcome. 

A voice spoke from outside the cave.  “Elfling?  I hope you have put the sword down.  You should welcome old friends.”

Elladan sighed, sorely tempted to feign ignorance and attack the intruder regardless.  “I should take your head from your shoulders for scaring me like that!”  he retorted, as relief mingled with irritation.  “Come in, Glorfindel.”

Glorfindel ducked his head as he stepped through the cave entrance, followed by two other elves.  Elladan gripped his arm in greeting, but Glorfindel pulled him into a rough embrace.  “I am glad to see you in one piece, elfling,” he commented with relief.  “Erestor thought I had taken leave of my senses when he learned that I had left you to continue alone.  He said some most uncomplimentary things about my state of mind – and yours!”  His sharp gaze went past Elladan to the huddle of blankets.  “Elrohir?”

Elladan turned back to his twin.  “Sleeping.  He is badly hurt, but he will recover.  I am glad you are here though,”  he admitted with relief.

Glorfindel nodded, and turned to one of the elves who had accompanied him – one of the warriors.   “Good.  Ilmarin, go back and say that we have found those we sought.   Make camp overnight and return in the morning.  I will remain here.”

Ilmarin nodded.  “Yes, sir.”  He moved closer to Elrohir, gazing down at him as if reassuring himself that Elrohir was indeed alive.  Dropping to one knee, he touched Elrohir’s head for a moment. “Be well, my lord,”  he murmured.  Leaving the bag he had been carrying on the floor he rose, saluted Glorfindel, and disappeared into the softly falling snow. 

Glorfindel skirted the fire and knelt by Elrohir, pulling back the blankets that covered him.  He held one hand close to Elrohir’s face, not quite touching him, then smoothed back his grimy hair.   He cupped his palm, touching Elrohir’s cheek for a moment, then rested his hand on Elrohir’s brow.  “I am glad to find you alive, elfling,”  he whispered. “You must have remembered your training.  Well done.”

Elladan watched silently, overwhelmingly relieved that help had arrived at last.  As captain of the Imladris forces, Glorfindel was a strict, stern taskmaster – but Elladan knew he loved the two of them like sons.  There was no one apart from Elrond himself whom he would rather have at his side.

Glorfindel’s other companion was Nindamos, a healer who had known the twins since their birth.  He dropped a well-filled pack on the ground and joined Elladan by Elrohir’s side.  “I doubt there is anything I can do that you have not,”  he began, as he laid a hand on Elrohir’s brow and then felt the pulse in his throat, “but I brought more supplies – bandages, splints, medicines and drugs.  Everything I thought you might need.”

Elladan nodded with relief.  His own medical supplies – just a small emergency kit – were running out, and there were some items he simply did not have.  “Thank you.  His leg is broken, but I have not been able to splint it properly.  And there is still some severe swelling and bruising across his back.”

Nindamos rummaged through the pack, retrieving a small jar.  He tossed it to Elladan.  “Arnica.  There is more if you need it.  And here … ” – he picked up some long, thin strips of wood – “are splints.”

<>“Thank you,”  Elladan said again.  He did not want to wake Elrohir – he was still pale, and there were dark circles of pain and exhaustion beneath his eyes.   But the sooner Elrohir’s leg was properly splinted, the sooner it would start to heal.   Bending close, he touched Elrohir’s face, calling him softly.  “El?  Elrohir, wake up.  We have guests.”


Elrohir tried to draw the warm cloak of sleep closer, shutting out his weariness, his pain and his deep-seated, unspoken fears.   But Elladan’s voice was insistent and relentless.  Reluctantly pushing away the misty veils of sleep, Elrohir opened his eyes slowly.  Blinking, he gradually brought his eyes to focus on Elladan, bending over him.  He sighed, and tried to sit, but pain stabbed through him as he moved, and he bit back a hiss of discomfort. 

“Be easy – keep still,”  Elladan murmured.  “We have guests,”  he said, moving aside slightly so that Elrohir could see Glorfindel beside him.

Glorfindel smiled down.  “Well, elfling.  What have you done to yourself this time?”

Elrohir frowned at him.  “Glorfindel?  You were not here before … were you?”  He was unsure.  He did not remember seeing Glorfindel there when he woke earlier, but had Elladan said something about travelling with him?

“No.  I started out with Elladan, but he sent me back for reinforcements.  I have just arrived.  I must say, I am glad to see you awake.”

Turning carefully – his head still throbbed, and every muscle was stiff and aching – Elrohir’s gaze flicked from Glorfindel to Elladan, then back again.  “ He sent you back?  What do you mean?   El, you should have kept Glorfindel with you.  It is dangerous to travel alone.”

Elladan laughed.  “I believe I said the same thing to you before you set out for Lasgalen!  And I was proved right!”

Elrohir smiled.  “First time for everything,”  he murmured faintly. 

Elladan chuckled, but did not rise to the bait.  It was a sure sign that he was still worried.   “Now, one more thing.   Your leg is broken, and we need to splint it – Nindamos is here as well.  It will hurt, and I need you to keep completely still.  I know you are in a lot of pain, but before I give you anything, I want you to tell me what you think is wrong with you, in case there is anything I have missed.   I can see what injuries you have, but there may be something I cannot see.  Tell me what you feel.  And do not try to pretend, El, or hide anything.  I always know when you are lying!”

“Bully,”  Elrohir roused himself to protest.  “I hate it when you start being so bossy.  Just because I am not quite at my best, you think you can order me about.”

Elladan nodded.  “You are right – I can!”  he admitted almost cheerfully.  “Come on, little brother – tell me everything.”

Elrohir sighed.  He hated Elladan when he was in this mood.   All his protective instincts as firstborn and ‘eldest’ came to the fore, and he saw it as his right and his duty to harass Elrohir into compliance.  And where should he start?  This would be a long list, for everything hurt. 

“Everything hurts,”  he began.  “Is that enough for you?”

“No,”  Elladan insisted.  “I want details, El.”

“Bully,”  Elrohir protested again.  “I hate you sometimes.  Just because you were born first – you think it gives you the right to harass me!”  He caught the look Elladan gave him and sighed, then began to recite a list of injuries.  It was difficult, because his mind still had a tendency to wander.  “My head aches.  Oddly enough, I struck it on something when I fell, and lost consciousness!!”  He scowled at Elladan, who was grinning.  “What?  What is so funny?”  he demanded sourly.

“Nothing.  But if you are this grouchy, I know there is nothing seriously wrong.   You make a terrible patient, El.  But I remember one of the times you had concussion – you were so meek and compliant it terrified me!”

Elrohir sighed, and began again.  “My head aches,”  he said again.  “I feel dizzy, and not quite with it.  My thoughts feel … hazy.”

Elladan nodded.  “I think that is a combination of concussion and blood loss.  That cut on your leg was deep, and from the state of your clothes you lost a great deal of blood.   It was fortunate you were able to bandage it.”

“I knew I had to – there was no choice.”  He paused, trying to gather his thoughts.  “My shoulder – I think it was dislocated.”  He flexed his fingers, and moved his wrist and arm experimentally.  “I can move it again now, though.  It hurts to breathe – I think I have some cracked ribs.  My legs hurt – especially the left.  And there was a deep cut on my thigh, but I managed to bandage that.”   He frowned.  He seemed to be repeating himself.   His thoughts were drifting again, and he had to concentrate to keep track of the conversation.  It made his head ache even more. 

He tried once again.  “And my back …”  he hesitated, reluctant to put his fears into words.   “My back hurts most of all.  I think I landed against a rock.  El …”  he swallowed and took a deep breath.  “I cannot move my legs.”   Finally he had said it, voicing the fear he had not wanted to admit even to himself.   He closed his eyes in despair, then snapped them open in shock and disbelief as Elladan chuckled.

“My foolish little brother,” he sighed.  “You really are not at your best.  Did it occur to you that if you can feel the pain in your legs, there is no serious, lasting injury to your back?”  He leaned forward, and touched Elrohir’s face gently.  “Do not fear – there is no permanent damage.  I know.”

Oddly,  Elladan’s teasing response reassured him even more than his latter words did.  It was so normal – and so typical of Elladan.  He took a ragged, shaking breath, ashamed now of his fears, and even more ashamed that he had somehow forgotten such basic principles of healing and medicine.  “I should have thought of that,”  he admitted.

“You had other things to think about.  Things like staying alive.  You have some very bad swelling and bruising here,” – Elladan touched his own back in demonstration –  “and that is affecting your movement.  It looks like you did hit a rock.   And your left leg is broken – it is scarcely any wonder you cannot move it!”  He brushed a finger very lightly against Elrohir’s bare right foot.  “Can you feel that?” 

The sensation was faint but intensely ticklish.   Elrohir nodded, his foot twitching uncontrollably until he jerked it out of Elladan’s reach.

“You see?”  Elladan asked with great satisfaction.  “You can move your leg.  Now will you stop worrying, and let us care for you?”

The relief was overwhelming.  Exhausted, Elrohir nodded and leaned back, his eyes drifting shut against his will.   Glorfindel held him in a firm embrace, supporting him carefully without touching his bruised and aching back. 

“You were fortunate though, elfling,”  Glorfindel pointed out.  “You could well have broken your back – or your neck!”

Elrohir turned his head away, surprised by the rush of sorrow Glorfindel’s words evoked.  “Mornaur did,”  he said shortly.  “He is still down on the mountainside somewhere.”

“When the storm eases, I will send someone to find him,”  Glorfindel reassured him.  “We will give him a fitting farewell – not leave him for the wolves to scavenge!”

He nodded, blinking away shameful tears.  “Thank you.”

“Do not fret about Mornaur now, little brother,”  Elladan interrupted gently.   “I still need to splint your leg.  It will be easier for both of us if you are oblivious.”  He poured a cup of water for Elrohir, then gave him another cup of the bitter tea.  Elrohir pushed it away.

“No, wait,”  he protested.  “I want to know what happened.  I knew you would know there was something wrong, Elladan – but how did you know where to find me?  I was still supposed to be in Lasgalen.  And what did Glorfindel mean, you sent him back for reinforcements?  What reinforcements?”  He twisted his head to look at Glorfindel again.  “I do not understand – I knew El would know that something had happened, but how – why – are you here?”

Glorfindel began to explain, his voice low and soothing.  As he spoke Elrohir began to relax against his support, again struggling to stay awake.   Elladan put another cup into his hands, this time something warm and sweetened with honey, and he sipped at it slowly while he listened to Glorfindel’s tale. 

He had finished half the cup before he recognised the bitter aftertaste, but by then it was far too late.   “Elladan, you toad!”  he protested.  “That was …” – a massive yawn escaped him – “unfair …”    Elladan’s unrepentant chuckle was the last thing he heard as sleep took him again.

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