Legolas scrambled down from the tree faster than he thought possible, faster than he ever had before, with the possible exception of the previous night. He did not even see Elrohir pass him, but by the time he reached the ground, Elrohir was already kneeling next to his brother.
“El? El?” Elrohir whispered, his voice shaking. “El, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It was Athela. The letter was from Athela. I’m sorry, El, please wake up.”
Legolas ran to his friend’s side, and knelt next to Elrohir. Elladan lay motionless, face down, with his head turned slightly to one side. His face was covered with scrapes and scratches from his fall. One arm was trapped under his body.
Legolas felt utterly helpless. He had no idea of what to do, how to help Elladan. He glanced sideways at Elrohir. He was trembling slightly, and held one arm as if it pained him. “Elrohir? What should we do? Do you think we should turn him over?”
Elrohir looked up. “No! No, we mustn’t move him.” He tried to remember what his father had told him. “Don’t move him,” he repeated. “He – he may have hurt his back, or his neck.” His voice quavered again. Trying to recall what Elrond had said, he felt again for Elladan’s free wrist, and sighed with relief.
A shadow fell over them as Brethil approached. He looked down with a horrified fascination. “Is he dead?” he asked.
“Brethil!” Legolas snapped at him in exasperation. “Go and get help. Find my father, or Lord Elrond. Tell them what happened.”
Brethil nodded once, glanced again at Elladan dubiously, then ran back towards Lasgalen. Legolas watched him go, almost with relief. Comments like that would not help Elrohir, who already seemed to be close to panic. When Brethil had passed out of sight, Legolas turned back to Elrohir, still crouched over his brother, and talking to Elladan in a vain attempt to rouse him.
“Elrohir? What was all that about? Why were you chasing him? What had he taken?”
Elrohir looked up at Legolas. It seemed so long ago that Elladan had snatched the message from him. “It was a letter,” he said at last. “Just a letter. El wanted to know who it was from. I was teasing him … I should have said! Then none of this would have happened. It’s all my fault…” Elrohir trailed off, utterly miserable.
Legolas wished he did not feel so useless. He did not have enough medical knowledge to be able to help Elladan, and did not even seem to be able to console Elrohir. He looked around for inspiration, and spotted the letter, lying on the ground. Reaching across, he picked it up and offered it to Elrohir, who shook his head, and pushed it away. Legolas pushed it into a pocket for later. “Who is she? This Athela. You said the letter was from her.”
“Oh. She’s a friend of mine from Imladris. Her mother is a healer. She – she said she would write while I was away, but she wanted it to be a secret. I didn’t tell El about it …”
Brethil raced back to Lasgalen. He crossed the bridge, and shot past the startled guards. In the entrance hallway he saw Mireth, and skidded to a halt.
“Miri, I need to see the king, or Lord Elrond. Where are they?” he demanded breathlessly.
Mireth was startled. “Brethil? What is it? Has something happened?”
“Just tell me!”
“In the library, both of them. I just came from there. But you cannot …” She was talking to herself; Brethil had already fled up the stairs towards the library. Something was clearly wrong; Brethil would never normally act in such a precipitous manner, or actively seek out the king, for whom he had a very healthy respect. She hoped nothing had happened to the young prince. Despite her frequent annoyance with him, she was very fond of Legolas.
Running down the hallway, Brethil flung open the door to the library and burst into the room. Thranduil and Elrond were drinking rosehip tea and both looked up, startled, at Brethil’s unceremonious entrance.
“Brethil? What the Valar …” Thranduil began, but then he stopped. “Is there something wrong? What happened?”
“You’ve got to come with me, both of you,” Brethil panted. “I – I think he’s hurt.”
“What? Who? Who is hurt? Brethil, what happened?” Thranduil attempted to calm him enough explain events.
“It’s Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir. They were climbing a tree. I said he was too high up! Oh, please, you must come with me!” Brethil pleaded, turning to leave. When he reached the door he glanced over his shoulder. “Come on!”
Thranduil tried one last time to establish facts. “Brethil, calm down. Just tell me what happened!”
“I’ll tell you on the way. I told you, they were climbing the tree, but he fell, and I thought he was dead, but he said he wasn’t, and then he told me to find you both and get help.” Brethil’s breathless, rambling words spurred both fathers into action. They followed Brethil as he ran back down the stairs, and out through the heavy doors. Elrond paused briefly to collect a pouch of medical supplies, while Thranduil directed several of the guards to accompany them, and sent another to find Calmacil, or one of the other healers.
As Brethil retraced his steps through the trees, Elrond and Thranduil kept pace, still attempting to determine exactly what had happened – and to whom. Brethil’s sense of urgency was palpable, but his frantic explanations were not exactly coherent.
The journey took only minutes, but it seemed as long as an age of the sun. Thranduil and Elrond ducked beneath the branches as Brethil finally announced “Here!”
The two elflings kneeling on the ground looked up with identical expressions of relief as they saw help approaching. Their relief was matched by Thranduil’s silent prayer of thanks as he saw Legolas, immediately swamped by guilt as he saw Elrond’s anguish.
As the lord of Imladris knelt next to his motionless son, Thranduil went to the other two. He looked at them both closely. “Are either of you hurt? No? What happened?”
Elrohir answered the question. “It was my fault,” he whispered shakily. “It’s all my fault. I was chasing him. It didn’t matter about the letter! It was my fault, and now El’s hurt …” his voice broke off, perilously close to a sob.
Thranduil knelt between Elrohir and Legolas, and placed an arm around each. He could feel the tenseness across Elrohir’s shoulders, and the odd way he placed his arm.
“Elladan will be all right,” he reassured the younger twin. “Your father knows what to do. Do not worry.”
“But it’s my fault …” Elrohir repeated.
Thranduil looked at him questioningly. “Why? Did you push him?”
“No! No. I would never do such a thing! I didn’t push him, I didn’t …”
“Father, stop it!” Legolas interrupted Elrohir’s desperate denials.
“I was wondering why he felt it was his fault,” Thranduil explained mildly.
Belatedly, Elrohir realised Thranduil had been teasing him. He managed a shaky smile. “I didn’t push him, but I was chasing him when he fell. He dropped the letter and tried to catch it.” His gaze had flickered to Thranduil as they spoke, but now reverted to watching his father and brother.
Elrond examined Elladan carefully, feeling along his legs and right arm for any sign of broken bones. The left arm was hidden, and would have to wait until he could turn Elladan onto his back. But first he had to check for further injuries. Drawing a sharp hunting knife, Elrond swiftly slit the back of Elladan’s tunic and undershirt, then running gentle, probing fingers down his neck and back, along the length of his spine.
“What’s he doing?” asked Legolas, curiosity overcoming his concern.
“You remember what I told you last night? Elrond needs to be sure that he did not hurt his back.” Thranduil ran a finger down Legolas’ spine in illustration.
Apparently satisfied that there were no spinal injuries, Elrond gently turned his son over, tenderly brushing away leaves and dirt. His face was grazed and scraped, but there did not seem to be any serious cuts. As Elladan’s left arm shifted slightly, Elrohir flinched and held his own arm more tightly, cradling it against his chest.
“I thought you said you were not injured?” Thranduil asked.
“I’m not,” said Elrohir softly. “But my arm hurts – here, and here. I can’t move it.”
“Let me see. Does this hurt? Or this?” Thranduil gently felt Elrohir’s arm where he indicated the pain.
Elrohir shook his head. “No.”
Thranduil was puzzled. There was no visible injury, and Elrohir did not react to movement of his arm. Yet he was clearly in pain.
As Elrond moved Elladan’s arm again, Elrohir winced, and gave a gasp of pain. From what Thranduil could see from his position, Elladan’s arm was clearly broken, and his shoulder probably dislocated. He turned to look at Elrohir again, wondering. Twin empathy. He had heard of such a thing, but had never witnessed it. Could it be?
“Elrond!” the elf king called softly. “I think Elrohir can feel Elladan’s injuries. Is that possible?”
Startled, Elrond looked up at his younger son, considering. Although he had never experienced that particular phenomenon himself, he and his brother Elros had often known exactly what the other was feeling. And the bond he had had with his twin had never been as strong as that shared by Elladan and Elrohir.
Moving slightly so that Elrohir could not see his actions, Elrond touched Elladan’s arm lightly. Elrohir tensed, and drew in his breath sharply, biting his lip. Elrond sighed in frustration. This complicated things. He had intended to reposition Elladan’s shoulder, and set and splint his arm while he was mercifully unconscious, but if Elrohir was feeling the pain vicariously …
He felt in the pouch which contained his medicinal herbs, and removed two peles leaves which he passed to Elrohir.
“I want you to chew these. I need to reset Elladan’s arm, and at the moment you can feel everything that I do to him. This will help.”
Elrohir shook his head obstinately. “No! It’s my fault he was hurt. I deserve it!”
Elrond frowned. “Elrohir, stop being foolish. This will not help Elladan.”
“No. I don’t want them.”
Elrond suppressed another sigh of frustration. Elrohir possessed an unexpectedly stubborn streak, which sometimes manifested itself at the most awkward moments. Ruthlessly, he resorted to emotional blackmail without a qualm. “Elrohir, if you do not take these, I will have to wait until we return to Lasgalen to treat Elladan. He will probably be awake by then. Do you really want to do that to him?”
With a furious glare at his father, Elrohir took the peles leaves without another word. He chewed the leaves quickly, grimacing at the bitter taste. The drug was fast acting, and after a few minutes his eyes were slightly glazed and dilated. He blinked several times.
While waiting for the leaves to take effect, Elrond continued his examination. He called Legolas to assist him.
“I need you to help me. I want you to stand here.” He indicated the spot. Legolas’ shadow fell across Elladan’s face. Elrond leaned closer, and looked carefully at Elladan’s eyes. The pupils looked normal. “Legolas? Stand back now.”
Legolas complied, and as he moved the afternoon sunlight shone down. “Good,” murmured Elrond as both pupils contracted. At least that was one relief. He glanced across at Elrohir. The peles leaves he had given his son had a dual effect. Elrond was not sure if the pain-killing properties would have any result, as the pain Elrohir was experiencing was not real, but phantom; but the soporific effects would certainly calm and soothe him immediately, and quickly make him sleep.
Elrond rummaged in his pack, and found two short, smooth pieces of wood, each about ten inches long. Elrohir was leaning against Thranduil more and more heavily, but still struggling to keep awake, fighting the effects of the peles. Before long, however, he lost the battle, and Thranduil gently eased him down onto the ground.
Able to work swiftly now, Elrond splinted and bound Elladan’s forearm. It was a clean break, and the bone did not appear to be displaced. The dislocated shoulder would be more difficult. Elrond felt the injury carefully, then held Elladan’s arm just above the elbow. Calmacil, who had just arrived, held Elladan while Elrond pulled and twisted, until he felt the shoulder joint move back into position.
One of the guards, not knowing from Brethil’s incoherent words who was injured, had had the wit to bring two litters. Elladan and Elrohir were both moved onto the litters,to be displaced. The dislocated shoulder would be more difficult. Elladan and Elrohir were both moved onto the litters, then the party went swiftly back to Lasgalen.
By the time they reached the room which the twins shared, Elladan was stirring. He slowly opened his eyes, and blinked owlishly as Elrond leaned over him. “Father? What hap – oh. What have I done?”
“You have a broken arm and dislocated shoulder,” Elrond explained gently. “You were lucky. You could have been killed. Does it hurt?”
“A little. It aches, but not much. I thought I was going to die,” Elladan whispered. He felt he would never forget the moment of terror as he had slipped and fallen. “Where’s Elrohir? I want to say I’m sorry.”
Elrond moved aside so Elladan could see his brother, still asleep on his bed. “What’s wrong with him? El?”
“Nothing is wrong. He is just asleep.”
“Asleep?” Elladan sounded faintly put out that his twin was sleeping while he lay injured.
“He can tell you why himself.” Moving to the other bed, Elrond shook Elrohir gently. “Elrohir. Wake up now.”
The first thing Elrohir saw as the sleep haze cleared from his eyes was Elladan, propped up on pillows with his arm bandaged and in a sling, watching him anxiously.
He sat up, but when he tried to stand, Elrond pushed him back down.
“What about your arm? Does it still hurt?”
Elrohir flexed it experimentally, then shook his head. “It still aches a little, but it feels better than it did.” Released, he crossed to Elladan’s bed, stumbling slightly from the effects of the peles. “El? Are you really all right? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the letter. It was from Athela.”
“Idiot!” replied Elladan good-naturedly. “I was the one who took it. I shouldn’t have teased you. I know you’d have told me about it later. But why was Father asking about your arm? What’s wrong with it? And why were you asleep? Did you faint?” he added slyly.
“No!” Elrohir protested indignantly. “I’ll tell you what happened. And I’ll read the letter to you. But I’m not sure where it is.” He looked up in surprise as Elrond handed it to him.
“Legolas found it, and gave it to me to pass on to you. Please tell your brother what this girl has to say, she has caused quite enough trouble for one day!”
“But it wasn’t Athela’s fault!” Elrohir began to protest, then looked sheepish as he caught his father’s smile. He wasn’t normally so slow when it came to teasing.
When Elrond left them, Elrohir was sitting cross-legged at the
foot of Elladan’s bed, reading the letter to him, and at the same time
explaining animatedly how he had experienced the effects of Elladan’s
broken arm. It seemed that any temporary rift had been more than