I have always feared the healing rooms, yet I have no idea why. The relief at not having to immediately endure the healer's attentions when I brought Elrond back was quickly replaced by the knowledge that I would have to eventually let them treat me. So far I had foiled their interest, but that was only because their resources were employed elsewhere. Elrond was seriously injured, and he would need all their skill and attention. I could wait, but as I moved the pain tore through me. With a certain amount of dread I knew the inevitable could not be postponed forever.
Saelir, the head healer, a gruff elf known for not tolerating fools and being straight to the point, walked out of the room where they were treating Elrond and sat down on the stool in front of me.
"What happened?" Saelir sighed, as though I was an idiot.
"Elrond had an accident."
"I can tell that. What happened?" Saelir yawned, barely covering his mouth with his hand. "I haven't got all night."
Suppressing the nature of the place and the dread of the ordeal to come, probably at his hands, I began. "Elrond came to my rooms this morning and said that he thought we could go bird watching up the other end of the valley, and see if we could spot some hatchlings. So we packed some provisions, food, ropes etc, and took our horses most of the way. I thought we would look at them through our spyglasses but he wanted to get nearer. I should not have agreed."
"I would second that." Saelir's look of derision made me want to smack him, but I dared not because he might be the one treating me very soon. Sometimes I wonder why Elrond tolerates him.
"We arrived at a cliff face and Elrond wanted to climb it. I could not find a reason to disagree, so I took the ropes out of my pack and slung one to him. "We could eat our picnic first," I said to him, but you know what Elrond is like. Once he gets bitten by an idea all thoughts of food go out of the window."
"We trod single file around a ledge, looking for rocks jutting out so we could throw a rope up and secure it. Then we intended to haul ourselves up. It seemed that whenever we found an ideal place the birds were nesting nowhere near. After edging our way around the cliff, with Elrond calling to me to not look down at the thousands of feet drop in the ravine opening out to the side and below us, we saw an overhang. Elrond wanted to listen for birds, but I was fast losing my patience and demanded that we climb up or go back and eat our fermented cabbage and tomato sandwiches."
"What? Fermented cabbage and tomato?"
"Elrond's new diet."
"Oh." With that one word Saelir showed his feelings were in harmony with mine about how awful the food sounded. I did not tell him that mine were slightly nicer, with a bit of dressed chicken included as well, or that we packed cake for afterwards.
"There is a rock up there," I said impatiently.
Elrond shrugged. "Go on then. If we don't see any birds, it will be your fault."
"It's pretty dangerous here. What about going back to before the ravine starts and climbing up there?"
"Scaredy cat custard. You're made of mustard," Elrond chanted. "No, we will throw the ropes up to that overhang and climb up there." Honestly, I could not believe he said that.
"So because he called you a scaredy cat you agreed to an action that would put both your lives in danger?" Saelir was not impressed, indeed he raised an eyebrow. "What are you? An elfling?"
"It's a man thing, Saelir. You should know that."
"You both need to grow up."
"At least I have never walked on a well roof and fallen down it because I was too drunk not to know it wasn't a good idea."
"Get on with it." He almost barked at me there. I touched a nerve it seems.
Perhaps I should not have said anything of the sort to him, but an elf can only be irked so far.
"I slung the ropes up. They circled behind the rock and the end part of the rope dropped down towards us. I am stronger than Elrond, so I had to do the rope throwing."
Saelir looked unimpressed.
"Well, the ropes caught on a sizeable overhang, looping right over the top and down again. Elrond secured the ends to a large boulder while I looped the rope around our waists. We climbed up with hardly any incident - it all seemed a bit easy, but we thought nothing of it. When we reached the top we could see a cave. "Did you know this was here?" I asked Elrond.
"Yes, of course I did," he lied.
"How did you know he was lying?"
"His eyes slide to the side when he tells an untruth. I think it was a matter of pride more than anything. He needed to show that nothing was unknown to him in the valley."
"I should think not."
"Anyway, I invited him to lead the way. He loudly criticised me for making him climb up at that point because he couldn't see any nests, but his eyes shone with excitement at the thought of going in a cave."
"Did we bring any lanterns?" he asked.
"You helped me pack. You know we didn't."
"We can only go into the entrance area," Elrond decided, stating the obvious. We went forward and saw only blackness, until my foot touched something furry. I leapt back and saw a baby bear sit up from its slumber and screech for all it was worth. "Good bear," Elrond said softly.
I did not tell Saelir I had almost wet my leggings in surprise. There was no need to give him any ammunition to use against me after my crack about him falling down the well.
"Neither of us were prepared for two much larger bears suddenly awakening and going crazy. They chased us around the entrance area, and we ran around in circles like our arses were on fire."
I had said too much. Saelir was laughing uncontrollably and spluttering that he could see us doing exactly that. "Wait until I tell the others here! You will never live this down. Now get on with the story. What happened next?"
"Happily, the rope was still attached to my waist; Elrond had removed his when he thought we might explore the cave. I shouted to him to run over to me as I went to climb back down, but the bears had him cornered. The baby bear shuffled out to watch and came close to me. Seizing the opportunity, I grabbed it by the leg. Then it squeaked fit to burst, thus diverting the bigger bears' attention. I shouted to them to leave Elrond alone. About that point, I realised that bears cannot talk Sindarin."
"I have known that since I was a baby." How I wanted to wipe that smug look off Saelir's face.
"The cub carried on screeching as hard as it could. The parents turned to rescue him, leaving Elrond a narrow avenue of escape. As they lumbered towards me, surprisingly fast I might add, I shouted to Elrond to run to the side and jump, and I would catch him. After pushing the cub towards its rabid parents, I pushed myself out from the cliff, rope around my waist, and shouted to Elrond to jump again. His hesitation nearly cost him his life. His eyes darted from me to the bears and back again. "Jump. They are going to kill you!" I cried. As if a spell had been broken, he sprang into action and leapt towards me, just as the larger of the bears swiped at him. The claws tore across his chest and abdomen, gouging deep lines. He yelled in agony and fell short. I caught his arm as he fell past me, which is why his shoulder is dislocated I suppose."
"And the rest," Saelir muttered.
"It was hard carrying him down, especially as we had rebounded off the cliff face after the jump and I had taken the brunt of the impact. I had to move swiftly because the bears had already realised that if they worked at the rope they could break it. They managed to break the one we were climbing down and we fell about three feet, which must have been disappointing for them."
"Are you all right?" I asked Elrond.
"No, of course I am not all right," he whined. Then he threw up his breakfast porridge all over my boots.
"Feeling better?" I asked, somewhat sarcastically. He replied that he did, no doubt suppressing a titter, like he always does.
"What happened then?"
"We left the ropes and I carried Elrond in my arms. "Close your eyes and don't look to the side," I said softly. His face was white, and his eyes were flickering. Suddenly he looked up. "What?" I asked, following his stare.
One of the bears was climbing down the cliff face! It wasn't even using a rope.
"Right." Saelir obviously did not believe me.
"This is going to hurt." I slung Elrond over my shoulder as gently as I could and made my way along the ledge until we reached the end of the gully that led into the ravine. After laying Elrond down I took a dagger from the backpack and threw it at the bear, who caught it and threw it back. I can see you do not believe me, but it really did happen."
"You are dead right. I do not believe you."
"I am not telling you the rest of the story."
"Time to see to your injuries then." I must have paled because Saelir said I could tell him the rest of the story instead. So I continued. I felt such a baby!
"Getting back to what I was saying: the bear threw the dagger back at me and I caught it." He couldn't argue with that, my palm was sliced from side to side and blood was leaking through the bandage. "I threw it back and missed. The bear sneered at me and walked back to the cliff face. I picked Elrond and our packs up and did not look to see what the bear was doing. Time was of the essence. Elrond was injured and my hand was bleeding heavily.
The journey back to our horses took longer than I anticipated. Several times I had to stop because Elrond could not bear the pain. His eyes rolled backwards and he shook with the agony of the rips in his skin."
"His internal organs were lacerated too."
"It's not something I would make up."
"I rode as quickly as I could, Elrond in my arms and Asfaloth speeding smoothly, as if propelled by one of Lord ManwŰ's winds. Just before we reached the house proper, we were actually in the courtyard, I stopped my horse and laid Elrond down at his insistence. "'Fin, I am dying."
"You are not dying. I will get you to the healers and everything will be all right. You'll see."
"No, Fin. I have had a long life and I would have liked longer. I can feel my blood ebbing away and the veil between this life and the Halls becoming thin." He looked up at me, grey eyes piercing and urgent. "I love you so much. Tell my children I love them too. Tell little Aragorn as well, when he gets home from his Junior Rangers convention." His eyes fluttered and then he looked up again. "I love you. I have always loved you." Then his eyes shut, but his heart still beat. I picked him up and ran here as fast as my feet would carry me. You know the rest of the story." I looked hopefully at Saelir.
"Lord Elrond has many injuries, both internal and external. It took a long time to clean them properly and stitch him up. I am confident he will live though."
"Thank you." The relief flooded through my being. I hadn't realised how taut I must have been.
"Now let's look at your hand."
"I am sure it will heal all right. Just keep it strapped up, like now, and it will be all right in a day or two."
"Get your hand out and let me look at it," Saelir demanded. He nodded to a nearby attendant, who came over. Saelir whispered into his ear, "Get Lord Glorfindel onto one of those beds and remove his top clothes. Give him a quick wipe down, he stinks of fear and sweat."
I let myself be put through the ordeal of having the slash crossing my palm washed out and stitched, with no pain relief. I had to turn my face away because I could not watch. Bloody scenes and injuries in others do not have much of an effect on me but when it is myself it becomes too personal. The fear gets me every time and I have no idea why. Maybe it's the memory of the pain when the balrog caught me and I burned to death, or maybe there is no reason. However, all things considering, it is strange that I do not fear going into battle, even when there is great risk of personal harm to myself.
"Right, let's pop your shoulder joint back in."
"I thought you hadn't noticed. Anyway, I intended doing it myself when I got back to ... Aaaagh!"
"There you are," Saelir the sadist said with a satisfied grin. "You thought I hadn't seen it. Didn't you? I must say, Glorfindel, I am full of admiration for you carrying Elrond while having a hand that didn't work properly and with a dislocated shoulder as well."
"Thank you." How unexpected. "It happened when we bounced off the cliff face."
The doors opened at the far end and a bed was wheeled through. The assistants parked it beside where I sat and left.
"He will wake up shortly. I am sure the face he will most want to see will be yours." I did not know whether Saelir was being sarcastic or not, and I did not care to ask as he left the room.
Elrond woke shortly after. "Am I in the Halls?" he asked in a raspy whisper.
"You are here in Imladris," I said softly as I took his hand and kissed his cheek. "I got you to the healers and they have done their bit to make you better, but it will be a long recovery by the sounds of it.
"Are you all right?" His eyes slid to the bandage on my hand and he smiled. "Once a healer, always a healer."
"It's minor. Let's concentrate on you."
"How about your shoulder?"
He gave a tiny smile, much how Saelir would have done.
"Are you in any pain?" I didn't think he was but I thought I should ask.
"I thought I had lost you. My life would be nothing without you by my side." I kissed him gently on the lips. "I love you so very much."
"I love you too." His hand brushed my cheek. "Let's not go cliff climbing anymore."
"No, we will do something else instead. Something less dangerous."
"I know, we could tie lots of kites to our bodies and run through the meadows. The wind would pick them up and with enough kites us too." Elrond's eyes blazed brightly. "You know it's a good plan."
I nodded. "It's a brilliant plan. When we are both better we can do it." I looked at my only one. "Hurry up and recover."
We settled back contentedly, like we always did, not having to speak, like a couple that have been together for many years. Elrond would heal in time and then we could try our adventures again. Only this time we would get it right.
Now, where was I going to find a kite maker who could make ones large enough for the both of us? The thought made me smile. I sat back, feeling at peace, and watched as Elrond closed his eyes.
Thank you so much to Keiliss for your fabulous betaing skills :)
Thank you to Ignoblebard for the title suggestion :)
Thank you to Ignoblebard for the title suggestion :)
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