“Where in all of Arda is Elrohir?”
Elladan’s question hung in the air between them. Legolas had no answers or even suggestions. Where indeed? He stared down at Bereth. He had no recollection of having met him before, but had probably seen him at some time during his visits to Imladris. He could understand how, in the eyes of men, Bereth could perhaps look a little like Elladan or Elrohir. He had the typical Noldor features, so there was a very slight resemblance, and Legolas had heard the comment ‘all elves look alike’ from some of the men at Esgaroth as well. But no one who knew either of them could possibly confuse Bereth with Elrohir.
The facial cuts and bruises the guard had mentioned were painfully obvious. Some attempt had been made to clean them, but there were clear signs of dried blood on Bereth’s face and in his hair. “What do you think we should do now?” Legolas asked at last.
As Elladan looked down at Bereth sadly, his vision suddenly blurred as the tears he had been unable to shed for Elrohir now threatened to fall. He brushed at his eyes impatiently with the back of his hand, and had to wait for a moment before he could reply to Legolas’ question.
“I think we should ask Aldor if he can spare a guard or two to escort Bereth back to Imladris. Then I can send a message home as well. I need to let my father know what is happening here, both how the plague is spreading and how people are responding to it. And – I will have to write to Bereth’s family. That will not be easy.” Softly, he spoke the ancient Elvish ritual of grieving, “May he find peace in death,” and both he and Legolas made the traditional gesture of farewell.
Then, sadly and silently, they left the little storeroom, and ascended the stairs to where Aldor waited for them. After explaining that they had identified Bereth, Elladan added: “I would like to send him home. I wondered if it would be possible for you to send one of your guards with him? I would go myself, but cannot, we still have no idea where my brother may be. We will continue to search for him, but – but I fear we will not find good news.” His expression was sombre.
Aldor nodded. “I could send Dervorin and Derufin. They’re still here. If I do, would you tend to those who are ill first? Remember, we haven’t seen anyone since we first asked for help over two weeks ago.”
“Yes, of course. We can do that now. If you will show me where your infirmary is?”
Aldor summoned Dervorin and Derufin to him, and explained their errand. “You will leave in the morning. Go and rest now, but would you first please take our guests to the infirmary?”
The two guards saluted, then led the way out of the house and back into the main thoroughfare. Then they turned off into a side street and continued. “The infirmary is along here,” explained Derufin. “I’m sorry about your friend, but I’m glad it weren’t your brother we found. What’re you going to do now?”
“After we finish here, continue to look for him.” There was a hopeless note in Elladan’s voice. “If you could tell us where you found Bereth, we will start there. And then …” he shrugged, a little helplessly.
“Look, I’ll tell you what. I’ll ask around the other guards, see if one or two of them can go to Rivendell instead. Then, if Mayor Aldor agrees, we’ll show you where we found your friend, and help you search. What do you think, ’Vorin?”
His brother nodded. “All right. I expect he’ll say yes. And if we can find any trace of the outlaws who attacked him, so much the better. We found an isolated homestead that had been abandoned and looted. Whether the people had fled because of the fever or because they had been attacked, we couldn’t tell. There was no trace of them. But after they’d took everything of value or use they’d burned it to the ground. The ashes were still hot.” Dervorin looked at his brother. “I hope we catch these bastards soon. Your friend – no one deserves what they did to him!”
Legolas wondered what trait it was in men that led some to display such brutality and hostility to others, even their own kind. Yet others showed the kindness and concern they had met from Aldor, Dervorin and Derufin, and from Dacy’s family; had given help to complete strangers, even those of another race. He sometimes felt he would never understand men.
They reached the infirmary and entered quietly. Derufin spoke to an elderly looking man who appeared to be in charge. While the guard was explaining their presence, Elladan looked around the room. There were many beds, but several were unoccupied. There appeared to be only about two dozen patients, which seemed odd. The message Arahad had brought to Imladris had given the impression that there were far more victims, more than their own healer was able to cope with. At length, Derufin and Dervorin left, with a wave of acknowledgement to Elladan. He turned as the elderly healer approached.
“I’m glad you came at last. I’d be grateful for any help you can give us – especially medicines. We ran out several days ago, of just about everything, it seems.”
“Of course we can help. But where is everyone? I was expecting more victims; we were told there were very many who were sick.”
The old man sighed sadly. “Oh, there were, there were. But they died. Nearly all of them. Our healer as well. After that, there wasn’t no one much left to care for the rest. I did what I can, but – I know far too little.”
“Forgive me. I thought you were the healer here.”
Tears came to the man’s eyes. “No. He was my son. I did what I could for his sake, from what he’d told me about his work, but I know so little about what to do, and I’m tired, so tired …”
“Then rest. Let us help you. I grieve for your loss, iauradan.” The title simply meant ‘old man’, but it sounded more respectful in Sindarin.
Leaving Elladan to sort through the medicines they had brought, and to examine the victims of the fever, Legolas led the old man away to one of the empty beds in a dimly lit, quiet corner of the room. “What is your name, iauradan?”
“Duinhir. My boy was Duilin.” He leaned heavily on Legolas’ arm, as if the few steps across the room were too much for him. Legolas pulled the covers back from the bed, and helped to settle Duinhir, removing his boots, before covering him again.
“Goodnight, iauradan Duinhir. May you sleep well.”
Duinhir gave a soft sigh as his eyes closed. “Thank you. You’re a good lad. Just like my Duilin was.” He slept.
Legolas returned to where Elladan was still tending to one of the patients. “Well?” he asked.
“Yes, I think they will be well,” Elladan replied. “If they have survived so far without any medication, they will probably live. The old man – ”
“Duinhir,” Legolas told him.
“Duinhir, then – he did well. But if El and Bereth had arrived when they were supposed to, they could probably have saved nearly all of them. All it needs is the right knowledge, and the right medicines.” He paused, his expression bleak. Thoughts of Elrohir were never far away now. “Come, help me mix these potions.”
They worked through the night, preparing potions and remedies, administering some to the sick to sooth fever or the congestion of the lungs that affected most of them. Peles eased their pain and helped them to sleep. At last there was nothing else to be done. Their patients were all sleeping, and enough draughts had been made to last Duinhir, or anyone else who tended to the sick, for several days. As they worked, Legolas’ admiration for Elrond and the twins increased ten-fold. As a warrior, he knew enough field medicine to treat broken bones, staunch bleeding, remove arrows and bind the resultant wounds. He also knew which plants or trees could be used to provide pain relief, bring sleep, or prevent wounds from festering. But that was the limit of his knowledge. Under Elladan’s guidance he learned much about making other medicines and treating patients. In a tiny kitchen area Elladan found a jar of honey, which he used as well. Legolas queried the use of it.
“If you add a little honey to a medicine, it disguises the bitter taste. It works particularly well with children, but even adults prefer it.”
Legolas gave a small smile. “That seems to be a skill even your father has never learned! He could learn something from you, it would seem,” he added a little sourly. He had been on the receiving end of Elrond’s treatments at times, and could never quite believe the foul taste of most of the concoctions.
Elladan stretched wearily. “I shall tell him,” he agreed. “But first I have to tell him what has happened here, and about the spread of the fever.” His voice dropped, and he added, almost to himself, “And somehow I have to tell him that we are no nearer to finding El than when we left.” From his pack he found a sheet of parchment and ink, and slowly began to write.
Legolas sat silently, lost in thought, confronting fears. He could not sleep, he was too concerned for Elrohir – and for Elladan. Faced with the reality of Bereth’s death, he had to accept that, in all probability, Elrohir was likely dead as well, killed alongside Bereth. Perhaps when they searched with the two guards the next day – no, in the morning – they would find some trace of him. And what effect would that have on Elladan?
But what other explanation was there? Perhaps there was a remote chance that the raiders had taken Elrohir prisoner, but to what purpose? Because he was a healer? He recalled that Aldor – or was it one of the guards? – had reported that the medicines Bereth had carried had been stolen. Could that be why? What if it they had taken him for some other, more sinister reason? And what if they never found Elrohir? If he had been killed and his body flung in the river, they would never learn what had happened to him. And again, what would that do to Elladan? An eternity of not knowing his twin’s fate would be even worse than facing the fact of his death, an unending torment of uncertainty for his whole family.
Legolas gave himself a mental shake, remembering Elrond’s warning words about pointless speculation. He was working himself into a state of anxiety nearly as great as Elladan’s, and one of them needed to keep a clear head, no matter what they found. Bringing his awareness back to the infirmary, he watched as Elladan finally finished his letter, and sealed it.
“Well, that is done,” he announced. “But I fear I have taken the coward’s way – I could think of nothing to say to Bereth’s family, I have no idea what befell him! So I asked my father to talk to them. I hope they can forgive me.”
“I am sure there is nothing to forgive. I feel sure that later, when we return to Imladris, you and Elrohir will be able to tell them everything.”
They spent the rest of the night perched cross-legged on one of the beds at the far end of the infirmary. Legolas knew better than to suggest that Elladan try to sleep in the circumstances. They talked in soft voices, each trying to avoid speaking of their fears for Elrohir, until the soft grey light of dawn filtered in through the windows. Shortly after, Derufin and Dervorin returned.
“I’ve spoken to Mayor Aldor,” Dervorin reported. “He agreed that we can take you to where we found Bereth, and has arranged for an escort to return him to Rivendell. They will leave shortly – did you want to be there?”
“Yes, I should be,” replied Elladan. “And I have a letter, if they would take it for me as well.”
Making their way back to Aldor’s house, they found him overseeing the two guards who would take Bereth home. Elladan felt a moment of deep unease – this could so easily be him and Legolas, taking Elrohir back to Imladris. And as he was all too well aware, that could still happen.
When all was ready, the two elves stood next to the travois where Bereth lay. Aldor and the four guards stood back, granting them at least a semblance of seclusion. Heads bowed, Elladan and Legolas placed hands on hearts, and softly spoke the words of an ageless Elvish blessing, a prayer to Elbereth.
“Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the flowing wind to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the still waters to you
Deep peace of the Lady of Peace to you.”
They watched silently as the escort set off, taking the track which led north-east towards Imladris. It was not until the guards turned out of sight that Aldor spoke, breaking the silence.
“Thank you for what you have done for our sick. With the correct medication, we can manage now. Will you tell your father that when we are able to, we will again collect the herbs and plants he requires? And – I hope you will find your brother. Good luck.”
Elladan inclined his head in acknowledgement. “Thank you for your help. Both for Bereth, and for allowing Dervorin and Derufin to accompany us. And I hope we will meet again in happier times. Farewell.”
“Farewell. No, wait – what is your word?”
“Namárië,” Legolas told him.
“Namárië, then,” Aldor repeated.
With that, the four rode off, down to the gates, to continue their search for Elrohir. Silently, Elladan prayed fervently that today they would find some trace of him. He just hoped that it would be good news.Stories > First > Previous > Next