“El? Elrohir!” Elladan’s cry was full of panic. “Help me get him out!” he pleaded.
Legolas still held the branch he had intended to hook the rope with. He turned to Elladan. “Grab hold of my wrist. Don’t let go!”
With Elladan holding his wrist tightly, Legolas leaned over the water as far as he could. Stretching out with the branch he managed to snag Elrohir’s belt, and pulled him back to the bank.
Several eager pairs of hands pulled Elrohir out and up onto the bank. He was limp, unmoving and unresponsive. Frantically, Elladan felt for a pulse. He found it, but then looked up in horror.
“He’s not breathing. He’s not breathing!”
Taniquel pushed Legolas aside, then knelt next to the twins. “I know what to do. Move back, and let me help him,” she said softly to Elladan.
Swiftly she checked Elrohir for herself. He was very pale, and his lips had an alarming bluish tinge. Carefully she tilted his head back, and pinching his nose firmly closed, exhaled into his mouth – praying that this would work.
Nothing happened. Desperately, she repeated the procedure. Still nothing. *Dear Elbereth, please!*
Elladan knelt beside her, stroking Elrohir’s head. The combination of his own accident only days before; and the sudden switch from farce to tragedy was too much, and tears streamed down his face. “Don’t die, El,” he whispered. “Please don’t die.”
Alfiel felt a deep sense of frustration. Stranded here on the wrong side of the river, he was powerless to help Elrohir. The novices, and Legolas, Tirnan and Brethil stood watching the three on the ground in total silence, shocked by what had just happened. And before he could begin to work out how he would get back to them, there was a spider to deal with.
He turned to see where the spider Legolas had seen was. It was moving rapidly towards him, using his distraction to scuttle closer. Thankfully he still had his bow, and several arrows. The way this expedition had gone so disastrously wrong, it would be just his luck to have left his weapons on the other side of the river.
He drew an arrow and aimed at the spider. It was fairly low in the tree and fell from its branch just five feet away from him. There was a second one higher in the tree, and again he killed it with a single shot. Warily he scanned the forest all around, looking up at the trees above his head. There was no sign of any more of the beasts. Turning, he examined the trees on the far side of the river for the creatures. The last thing the others needed was more trouble. Thankfully, the area was clear.
There was only one way he was going to be able to get back. He would have to take his chances, and jump. The nearest alternative crossing point was the bridge, three miles downstream. He could not abandon his trainees like that, and by the time he got back Elrohir could be dead.
Alfiel called across to one of the novices. “Eléntia! Eléntia! I shall have to jump across. Be ready to catch me!”
She dragged her attention away from Elrohir. “Are you sure? It looks too far! If you fall in too …”
He was afraid of that, too. But there was no choice. “Then you pull me out. But I have to try. I think it the only way. Are you ready?”
She nodded. Alfiel moved several feet back from the bank, then ran. At the edge of the bank he took a mighty leap, and nearly managed to clear the river. One foot came down in the water, but his boot prevented him getting wet. He stumbled forward, and Eléntia caught his arm to stop him falling.
Regaining his balance, Alfiel moved over to where Taniquel still crouched over Elrohir. On her fourth attempt, Elrohir finally took a harsh, gasping breath, and began to cough weakly. She turned him over onto his side, and watched him anxiously. He was breathing more normally now, but was still unconscious. His face was ashen, and damp tendrils of hair clung clammily to his skin.
Taniquel sat back on her heels in relief. She realised she was shaking with reaction. Theory was one thing, but it was the first time she had actually done this for real. She looked up as she felt Alfiel’s hand on her shoulder, then stood. “Well done,” he said simply. “Very well done.”
He drew her away from Elladan, and spoke very quietly. “For how long did he stop breathing? Do you know?”
Taniquel though hard, looking back over that eternity. “I – I’m not sure. A minute? Two? No more than that, I think.”
“I hope not,” Alfiel said soberly. “You did well today. I shall tell Lord Elrond, and the King of your actions.”
“No!” she protested. “You would have done the same. And Elladan, I think, if he had not been so worried.”
“He was right to be worried. Taniquel, Elrohir nearly died. You saved him.” Alfiel turned then to find Hirilornë, the novice whose wild shot had cut the rope.
The youngling stood, still clutching his bow, staring in horror at Elrohir. He looked up, startled, as Alfiel rounded on him. “You! What were you thinking of! You could have killed him!” Alfiel was white with fury at Hirilornë’s stupidity. It had been more than carelessness, it was the utmost negligence. Hirilornë’s arrow had cut the rope only two inches above Elrohir’s head. A little lower, and there would have been nothing any of them could have done.
“Legolas! Why did you decide not to shoot at the spider?”
Legolas gaped at Alfiel, wondering why he had been singled out for failing to kill the creature. “I – I was going to,” he stammered defensively. “But – but Elrohir was in the way. I didn’t have a clear shot!”
“Precisely!” Alfiel turned back to Hirilornë “Legolas is not even a novice yet. But he shows more sense than you!”
His anger still at white heat, Alfiel snatched the bow from Hirilornë’s unresisting hands. “You are not fit to carry this! Come to see me in the morning!”
Alfiel knew not to impose any penalty while he was so furious. The way he felt now, Hirilornë would be removed from the ranks for good. Tomorrow they would both be calmer.
Hirilornë was very subdued. The enormity of his miscalculation was sinking in. “Yes, sir. I’m - I’m sorry, sir.”
Alfiel glared at him one last time. “So you should be. Think about it tonight. And remember, I want to see you in the morning.” He turned his back on Hirilornë and went back to Elrohir and Elladan. Elladan, reassured that his brother would live, was calmer now. Elrohir was still unconscious – or, to be more accurate, asleep. The waters of the Morn Nen had that effect, and none of the usual revival remedies seemed to work. Elrohir would probably awaken some time the next day, but until then there was nothing to be done. He stared down at the twins, his anger draining away. He should not have lost his temper like that. Hirilornë had made a bad mistake, a potentially fatal mistake, but he was only a novice.
What had made matters worse was Alfiel’s sense of helplessness and frustration when he had been unable to do anything, and the horrifying vision he had had of carrying Elrohir’s body back to Elrond.
Drawing a deep breath, Alfiel looked around at the forlorn group. “Come. We need to go back to Lasgalen. Are you all ready?” He knelt next to Elrohir. As he pulled him up into a sitting position, Elladan leaned forward and enveloped his brother in a fierce, one-armed hug. Then he released his brother, and got to his feet, brushing away the traces of tears that still glistened.
Alfiel carried Elrohir, wrapped in a dry cloak against the chill of the river. His head rested against Alfiel’s shoulder. Elladan walked as close to Alfiel as he could, his gaze rarely leaving his brother’s face. At times he stumbled over roots or branches. At last Alfiel stopped.
“Elladan, will you please look where you are going! I have no wish to return two casualties to your father!” They were drawing near Lasgalen now, and Alfiel knew he should send warning to Elrond. He looked at the very subdued party. “I need someone to run ahead to Lasgalen, to tell Lord Elrond – no, not you, Brethil!” He had heard of Brethil’s panic-stricken message – was it only two days before? “Legolas, you go, and Eléntia. But be careful. For now, just tell Lord Elrond that Elrohir fell in the Morn Nen. No more than that. Do you understand?”
Legolas and Eléntia both nodded, then ran in the direction of Lasgalen. The remnants of the expedition set off again more slowly.
Thranduil and Elrond were again in the study, poring over an account of the battle of Dagorlad, and a volume of diaries kept by a foot soldier in Isildur’s army. The minutiae of everyday life was fascinating, even to those who had been there themselves. Their attention was diverted by the sound of light steps running up the stairs, and voices calling.
“Your Majesty! Lord Elrond!”
Thranduil and Elrond exchanged glances. What had occurred this time? The voices were not as frantic as before, so presumably the matter was not as urgent.
“Which one do you think it is this time?” Elrond queried.
Thranduil shrugged. “I dread to think.”
“Father! Lord Elrond!” So, presumably Legolas was alive and well. At least this time they would get a coherent explanation.
“Not Legolas, clearly. Elrohir, at a guess. It must be his turn, surely.” Elrond sounded resigned, rather than worried.
The study door burst open, and Legolas and one of the trainee warriors stepped hastily into the room. She looked awed at her proximity to the King, in his personal quarters.
Legolas stopped abruptly, looking from his father, to Elrond, and back again. “Father! Lord Elrond! We – we have a problem. It’s Elrohir. He fell into the river.”
“He fell in a river? Then I imagine he is rather wet. Is that a problem? He has fallen in the Bruinen many times at home.” Elrond sounded unconcerned.
“He – it was the Morn Nen.” Legolas stopped, as if that was all the explanation needed.
Elrond was unfamiliar with the name. “Morn Nen?” he questioned.
“It is also known, to outsiders, as the ‘enchanted river’ ” Thranduil explained. He watched Legolas carefully. There was something he was not saying.
Elrond nodded in understanding. “Ah. I see the problem. He fell asleep? You need someone to bring him back?”
“Alfiel is bringing him back. But we – we thought you should know.” Legolas and his companion exchanged a worried glance.
Elrond patted Legolas on the shoulder. “Do not worry, elfling. Shall we go to meet them?”
Eléntia bowed, then led Elrond down the stairs. When they were out of sight, Thranduil held Legolas back. “What is it you did not say? What else happened?”
Legolas felt relieved to tell his father. “I told you he fell in the river. We didn’t get him out in time. He – he stopped breathing.”
“Dear Valar!” exclaimed Thranduil in shock. “Is he dead? But you told Elrond …”
“No! Yes, he stopped breathing. But Taniquel – oh, Father, she was marvellous, she saved him, and he’s all right now, but we thought it best not to tell Elrond everything, not at once, we didn’t want to worry him.”
‘Worry’, reflected Thranduil, was scarcely the right word to use. If he had known the whole story, Elrond would have been more than worried, he would be beside himself. They caught up with Elrond and Eléntia by the bridge, and had not gone far before they met Alfiel’s group. Elrond immediately went to Alfiel’s side, taking Elrohir from him, and looked at him carefully. He somehow managed to find a spare arm to hug Elladan as well, before lifting Elrohir again. Reassured that there did not appear to be anything obviously wrong, they returned to Lasgalen.
Thranduil had sent a messenger to find Calmacil, who knew the effects of the Morn Nen well. There were one or two victims every year, usually over-confident elflings who, having been dared to swim, jump or swing across, found out their limitations the hard way. They all recovered, with nothing worse than a long sleep, a slight headache, and some odd gaps in their memories of the incident.
It was not until Elrohir was in bed, stripped of his wet clothes, and warmly wrapped in blankets, that Alfiel admitted to Elrond the true seriousness of what had happened. Elrond was shocked, and questioned Alfiel closely.
“You say he stopped breathing. How long for? Do you know? What happened then? Do you know if he breathed in any water? Are you sure?”
Alfiel attempted to answer Elrond’s frantic questions. “I’m not entirely sure how long he stopped breathing. The others said it was ‘forever’, but I think only one or two minutes. No more. And because of that, I do not think he inhaled any water. But Taniquel can tell you more.”
Taniquel was a little embarrassed at the close attention she was receiving. “I did nothing that Alfiel could not have done. We all learn it during our warrior training. I did nothing special.”
“Lady Taniquel, you saved the life of my son.” Elrond’s expression was sombre. “That is very special. You have my eternal, undying thanks.”
“And mine,” added Elladan. To her surprise, and his own, Elladan leaned forward and kissed Taniquel on the cheek. She blushed scarlet.
“I – I was glad to help.”
Finally left alone, Elrond sat on the edge of Elrohir’s bed, Elladan opposite him. Elrohir slept peacefully, but would not awaken, Calmacil assured him, until the next day. Until then, there was nothing they could do but wait to see if Elrohir had suffered any more serious effects. It was simply a matter of time.
Long after Elladan slept, Elrond gazed down at his younger son. What had happened could so easily have had a very different outcome. And it was not the first time he had feared for Elrohir’s life. Even at birth, his survival had been in doubt. It was another stark reminder of the fragility of life, even an immortal one.Stories > First > Previous > Next