Out of the corner of his eye Elladan saw Elrohir fall, but he could not go to his brother’s aid until he had slain his own assailant. Fear gripped him as he recalled his premonitions of death, distracting him dangerously as he hesitated. The man took full advantage of Elladan’s lapse as he glanced helplessly towards Elrohir, and he lunged forward and aimed a vicious slashing stab at his stomach. Elladan jerked away, brought back to sudden awareness at the last minute, and the blade cut harmlessly through the loose fabric at the front of his tunic. His abrupt movement put the raider off balance, and Elladan raised his own sword, plunging it deep into the man’s side.
Pulling his sword free, Elladan ran across to where Elrohir lay. The one remaining man who had been fighting Elrohir leapt towards his helpless quarry, a knife bared, in an attempt to stab him where he lay. Meanwhile, the man on the horse had turned it again, and now rode deliberately straight at the prone form, intending to trample him underfoot, but the horse shied at the last minute when faced with the knife-wielding bandit. The man likewise fell back in fear as the crazed animal was ridden straight at him. With a curse the rider turned and rode off towards the concealing trees.
Legolas had just killed the last of the bandits who had fought against him, and now he reached for his bow again, firing at the rider before he reached shelter and disappeared. He fell with a single cry.
As he reached Elrohir’s side, Elladan turned, killing the final outlaw without a thought. He bent over his brother and shouted a warning to Legolas, not even glancing up. “Legolas! Check them all. Make sure they are dead.”
Legolas simply gave a curt nod and limped over to the nearest body. Elladan returned his attention to his twin, running his hands swiftly over him, feeling for broken bones, talking all the while. “El? Elrohir, wake up. Can you hear me? Come on, El, we went through this conversation a few days ago. Do you remember? Wake up, El, please!” Despite his pleading, Elrohir remained unconscious, laying partly on his side, his face pressed into the earth. . Miraculously, the horse did not appear to have trampled on him apart from that first kick.
Elladan turned him over gently, noticing for the first time the blood running down his own arm from the long cut. He dabbed at it briefly with the tattered remains of his sleeve, but otherwise ignored it. Elrohir had a deep, curved cut above one eye, surrounded by a dark, swelling lump, but fortunately he did not appear to have any further injuries. Elladan looked up as Legolas limped over and knelt on Elrohir’s other side.
“They are all dead,” he explained. “None got away. I hope we accounted for all of these scum. How is he?”
“This appears to be the only injury,” Elladan said, running his fingers gently over the swelling. “But until he wakes, I cannot tell how serious it may be. Can you see if there is somewhere here where we can camp tonight? I would rather not move him far for now, I think we should stay here and continue to Withypool in the morning.”
Legolas nodded. As he stood again, he winced in pain.
“No, wait,” Elladan decided. “Leave it for now. You are injured as well. Let me see that gash. And perhaps you could help me bandage my arm.” They quickly tended to their own wounds and used a salve that Elrond had made which counteracted the most likely poisons they would encounter. The wound in Legolas’ thigh was deep, and caused him to limp, but it appeared clean and should heal quickly. The long gash in Elladan’s arm still bled freely, but caused him no discomfort. Legolas bound it tightly, and then left to scout around the area for a suitable campsite.
Meanwhile Elladan rounded up the horses. The one which had panicked and kicked Elrohir was still skittish, and he approached it cautiously. It calmed as he murmured quietly to it, standing docilely while he went to Bereth’s horse. It had not been gently treated, and jerked its head away as he reached for it. He guessed that the animal had not taken kindly to its new owner, and had been beaten. Elladan spoke softly to it in Sindarin while he stroked the soft nose. Hearing the familiar language reassured it and suddenly it pushed its head against Elladan’s chest, accepting him as a friend. There was another horse, and two ponies, and he soon had all five standing quietly together.
He looked up as Legolas returned after his search for a camp for the night. “There is a place a little further down the track that seems ideal. There is a spring, grazing for the horses, and it is sheltered from the wind. It looks like travellers use it frequently.”
They set off, Elladan carrying Elrohir carefully, and Legolas leading the string of horses behind him until they could decide what to do with the animals. The site Legolas had found was only about a mile away, set back from the track; but with a clear view of it. A spring welled up at the foot of an outcrop of rocks, filling a small, deep pool. The overflow ran into another pool, wide and shallow, where the horses could drink without contaminating the main supply. They settled here for the night, lighting a fire for light, comfort, warmth, and to cook their meal. Elladan placed Elrohir down next to the sheltering rocks, where he would be shielded from the night wind. Heating a small pot of water in the fire, he added a pinch of herbs; a mixture of athelas, valerian and balm, then gently bathed the deep gash from the horse’s hoof, washing away the blood from the wound and the mud from the path. The cut had stopped bleeding, so Elladan decided against bandaging it – any pressure against the bruise would be very painful. Instead he smeared an ointment onto the wound, and pulled a light cover over his brother.
He sat down with a sigh, and looked across at Legolas. Despite a tendency to worry over Elrohir, all his instincts told him that the injury was not too serious, and that his twin would awaken soon. He just had to wait.
“Elladan? Do you think he will wake soon?” At Elladan’s confirming nod, Legolas smiled with relief. “Good. After all that has happened, I would like to get him back to Imladris in one piece. You told me on our journey that you foresaw many things concerning Elrohir. Was this one of them?”
“No. There were many visions, nightmares, call them what you will, but not this. Not even a hint. Perhaps if I had seen it, I could have done something. Warned him. Taken another route. Anything. But this foresight, it seems – unreliable.” He sighed deeply, confused and uncertain. “My grandmother says it is dangerous as a guide to deeds. Perhaps that other vision I spoke of will be one that never comes to pass. I hope so.” He looked at Legolas again. “I have not mentioned it to Elrohir. It seems too – vague.”
“Do you think that wise? It clearly concerns him. I would think it is his right to know.”
Elladan nodded slowly. “Perhaps. But it may not even be true. I would not worry him unnecessarily. Not at the moment, after everything else.” He lapsed into silence, waiting.
The first thing Elrohir was aware of was voices. That, and the pain in his head. The voices were faint and indistinct, but spoke in soft, concerned tones. He recognised both voices, but could not make out the words they spoke. One was a voice he had known all his life, as familiar as his own; the other he had known for nearly as long.
As he lay there, trying to focus his mind, the pounding in his head continued but gradually he became aware of other sensations. He could smell the scent of wood smoke, and felt the heat of a fire on his face. There was the hiss and crackle of burning wood and the soft sounds of horses – several horses – grazing and moving slightly. He could taste the sour, metallic taint of blood in his mouth.
Very slowly he opened his eyes. A bright fire burned not far in front of him, and he closed his eyes again until they could gradually adjust to the brightness. On the far side of the fire he could see Legolas, and just outside the circle of firelight there were the shadowy shapes of horses. Although he could not see Elladan, he knew his brother was there, at his side. He turned his head, very slightly, to look.
“Well. You are awake at last. Welcome back. How do you feel?” Elladan spoke gently, his voice both concerned and relieved.
In answer, Elrohir pushed himself upright until he was supported on one arm. The movement was a mistake, causing the world to whirl and spin dizzyingly. His arm shook, and he nearly fell, but felt Elladan move suddenly to catch him. The blinding headache intensified, and a wave of nausea swept through him. He closed his eyes again, took a deep breath, and swallowed hard, hoping he would not disgrace himself. He was aware of Elladan’s arm around his shoulders, holding him, a comforting and supporting presence.
“That was rather foolish, El.” Elladan scolded him softly. “Be careful, sit still. Here. Drink this.”
A cup was held to his lips. Elrohir sipped at the liquid cautiously. It tasted sharply herbal and rather bitter, but was nonetheless familiar and somehow comforting. He took another sip, then another, and slowly drained the cup. The feeling of nausea receded slightly, and the throbbing headache diminished, but he still leaned very heavily against his twin.
Elrohir nodded fractionally, wary of moving his head. “A little. Thank you. But that tastes foul,” he whispered.
Elladan gave a small laugh. “Of course it does. The remedy was one of Father’s. Do you remember it? Now, can you tell me how many fingers you can see?” He held up a single forefinger.
“One,” stated Elrohir. His eyes were still closed.
“That was a good guess. Now try again. This time, open your eyes. Come on, El, you know the routine as well as I do.”
Slowly, very reluctantly, Elrohir opened his eyes again. After blinking once or twice to clear the fog from his brain, he could see that Elladan now held all five fingers in front of him.
“Five,” he said, a little more certainly this time. What was more, he noticed a slight improvement; the world no longer swam and spun so sickeningly. The dizziness and nausea were still present, but were a little more bearable now. Cautiously, he eased himself a little more upright, moving more carefully this time, away from Elladan’s support, relieved to find he could sit unaided now.
As Elladan removed his supporting arm, he pushed Elrohir back a little. “There is a boulder behind you. Lean back against it.” He peered closely at his brother’s eyes, searching for any irregularity there. Then he turned slightly, taking a branch from the fire behind him. A flame burned at one end of the wood. Carefully, he held it before Elrohir’s face, watching as both pupils contracted at the bright light. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. El, can you remember what happened?”
Elrohir began to nod, but then grimaced and stopped. “I remember,” he said softly. “We were attacked – it was the same men who killed Bereth. One of them tried to escape. He was cruel – the poor horse was terrified. I – I think it kicked me.” Elrohir sounded a little unsure on this point.
“Yes. It did. And then the man rose straight at you while you were on the ground.” Elladan sounded grim. “You were lucky, I suppose. It looked as if the horse jumped right over you. But he did not get away. Legolas shot him.”
Elrohir smiled faintly. “Well done Legolas. But are either of you hurt? Legolas, I remember one of them hit you with an arrow. Are you all right? Did El look at it?”
“Yes, have no fear. It was just a flesh wound. We tended to each other’s injuries, like we usually seem to do.” Legolas rose to his feet, moving a little more slowly than normal, and limped across to where Elrohir sat, Elladan still kneeling beside him.
“Each other’s injuries?” Elrohir echoed. “El, what happened to you?”
“A cut on my arm, nothing more than that. It does not even hurt, so stop worrying about us! But what about you? Do you have a headache?”
“What do you think? Elladan, do you have to ask such foolish questions?” Elrohir snapped, sounding uncharacteristically ill-tempered. Then he sighed. “Sorry, El. I apologise. Yes, I do have a headache. But no concussion, I think. I know the feeling well enough by now to know that.” His hand rose to brush against the gash on his head. “How bad is this?”
Elladan pulled the hand away. “Leave it! You have a deep cut where the hoof hit you, and some bad bruising, but I agree with you. No concussion. You were lucky.”
Legolas look as if he would make some comment to that, but he restrained himself, and turned back to the fire. “This is ready,” he said, stirring a pot suspended over the flames. He ladled the stew onto three plates, and passed one to Elrohir, who poked at it with a spoon, then put it down, untouched. Before Legolas could comment, Elladan spoke up.
“El, I know Legolas’ cooking leaves much to be desired, but you must eat.” He picked up the plate and gave it back to Elrohir. “Now, either you eat it yourself, or I shall feed you.” He gave his brother a challenging look.
Elrohir sighed. Elladan was quite capable of carrying out his threat, he knew that, and he did not feel up to arguing about it at the moment. Reluctantly, he took the spoon and forced down a few mouthfuls. He hated it when anyone, even Elladan, fussed over him, and he hated being treated like an invalid. But by the time he had finished half the stew and set the plate aside, he had to admit that he felt a little better. He looked up at his brother as Elladan stood to return to the fire.
“El? Help me up.” Elrohir held his hand out to his twin.
“Help you up? Why, El? Where are you going? What are you going to do?”
“I was thinking of walking back to Imladris! For the Valar’s sake, Elladan, stop fussing!” Elrohir drew a deep breath, and continued more calmly. “I need to see if I can stand, or better yet, walk, without keeling over. We cannot stay – wherever we are – indefinitely. Legolas, tell him!” he pleaded, struggling to his feet.
Legolas gazed silently at Elladan, recognising the sound sense of Elrohir’s words, but not wanting to be drawn into the discussion. There was a possibility that not all of the raiders had been dealt with, and if they did have to fight again, they all needed to know Elrohir’s capabilities.
Elladan watched silently, rubbing sub-consciously at the bandage on his arm as Elrohir took a few steps, slowly and hesitantly at first, but then with growing confidence. “You see? El, you do not need to worry, or fuss.”
“I cannot help but fuss over you, little brother, but you made your point. Tomorrow we continue to Withypool, and then home. And then I will be able to stop worrying about you! Now, get some sleep. Legolas can take first watch, then me.” Elladan waited until Elrohir opened his mouth to make the inevitable protest, then added: “And if you insist, I will wake you for the final watch.”
They settled for the night. Elrohir was asleep almost immediately. As he watched Legolas pace slowly, still a little stiffly, around their campsite, Elladan reflected that not the next day, but the day after, they would be safely back in Imladris, and he could finally relax.Stories > First > Previous > Next