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Water and Stone: 11. The Journey Home
Caranfir was injured and lay still, bleeding from a wound in his shoulder inflicted by Galdorn, who lay dead a short distance away, but Gwirith and Aiglin were unhurt. Gwirith waited while Haldir cut through Aiglin’s bonds. His body felt strange, as though it were not really his own. His heart beat fast with relief and yet he was sick with fear when he thought of the danger Celinn was in. He looked across the clearing to where several elves were working to free him. It looked as if his bonds were all that prevented him from falling to the ground. The cut on his face had stopped bleeding but the stain of blood from the wound below his ribs had spread across his thigh and down nearly to his knee and looked to be increasing.
But what Gwirith most feared was the absolute abandon of Celinn’s body, the utter hopelessness of the bowed, shorn head. Gwirith gazed at him and felt a sudden unexpected rush of tenderness. His hands and arms tingled and he told himself it was because of the ropes binding his wrists. But for an instant he heard a voice from deep within himself, from a place he had not visited for a long time, and it said it was because he wanted to hold Celinn’s mutilated body close and safe, to touch him with love and healing. At once Gwirith shook his head as if to clear out such an inconceivable notion, and distracted himself by examining the ropes from which he would soon be released.
At last it was his turn to be cut free. He closed his eyes and only opened them again when he heard Haldir’s voice say,
‘Your brother is home at Caras Galadhon, Gwirith. His wound is healing well. It was he who alerted Rumil to your danger through his courageous escape.’ Gwirith felt a wave of relief but his voice felt stiff and unused and all he could say was, ‘Thank you, Haldir.’
‘Finished,’ said Haldir, and he helped Gwirith to his feet. Gwirith leaned on his arm, getting his balance. Suddenly from behind him he heard Aragorn shout, ‘Let me go, by the Valar, I must see him!’ They turned to see him struggling with Orophin who was attempting to make him receive attention from one of the healers.
‘Later!’ shouted Aragorn. ‘I must see Celinn.’
Gwirith went over to him. Aragorn stared at him, suddenly still.
‘How is he, Gwirith?’ he whispered, glancing over Gwirith’s shoulder at the group that was working around Celinn. Suddenly he was speaking very fast. ‘I should never have tried to do this alone. I knew there might be evil here, evil greater than that which men might dream up by themselves. Now I know what happens when we meet the power of the Dark One face to face; and Celinn has suffered because of it, because of my pride and my arrogance. It’s all my fault. He shouldn’t have come after me…’
‘Aragorn, it is what we are trained to as warriors,’ said Gwirith wearily. ‘It is the risk of combat.’
Aragorn’s eyes filled with tears. ‘But he’s my friend,’ he said, his voice shaking. ‘I want to see him.’
He swayed suddenly, and Gwirith took him by the arm.
‘Of course you may see him. But if you do not care for yourself, all his efforts will be wasted,’ he said.
‘I do feel a little strange,’ said Aragorn softly, and then his eyes rolled up suddenly into his head and Gwirith and Orophin caught him as he fell.
Helevorn was at his side at once.
‘At least he isn’t struggling so much,’ he said caustically, his hands feeling Aragorn’s body. ‘He bleeds inside,’ he said at last. ‘Has he received any blows to the head?’
‘Yes,’ said Gwirith. ‘Several.’
Helevorn sighed. ‘We will do what we can for him, but men do not heal as easily as we do,’ he said.
‘At least it is fortunate that men find scars attractive,’ said Haldir’s voice with forced lightness as he knelt down beside them and looked at Aragorn’s ravaged face.
‘By the holy ones, does he still live?’ came Degil’s breathless voice behind them.
‘Yes, he lives,’ said Helevorn, looking in surprise at only the second man he had ever seen in the whole of his long life.
‘Your brother is following Adanwath on my horse,’ said Degil hastily, seeing Haldir’s expression. He knelt down and removed a lock of hair from Aragorn’s white face. ‘Foolish, brave boy,’ he said gruffly, ‘I hope he will learn something from this escapade, at least. What injuries has he taken?’
‘It seems they are all within,’ said Haldir. ‘We will do what we can for him.’
‘Would he not wish to return home to his father?’
‘Imladris is too far,’ said Helevorn. ‘He should not risk the journey in this state.’
‘We will care for him in Lorien,’ said Haldir.
‘Shall I send a message to the Master of Imladris?’ said Degil.
‘Do not trouble yourself, we will see to it,’ said Haldir, then, catching sight of the Dunadan’s face, ‘Degil, it was not your fault. He is your Chief, he made his own choice.’
‘He is only a boy,’ said Degil, angrily, ‘brave though he is. It takes more than a title to make a leader, as I am sure you know.’ He sighed deeply, and all the anger left his voice, leaving only weariness. ‘I should have resisted him with more heat.’
‘Enough,’ said Haldir, gently. ‘This will help neither Aragorn nor you. Even though Adanwath is still at liberty, he will not get far, and we will bring him to justice.’
Degil smiled a little at that, then stood up and extended his hand. ‘We will do all we can to apprehend him. Blessings of the Valar on you and all of yours, Haldir of Lorien.’ he said. Haldir shook his hand, and when Degil had said the rest of his farewells, he turned and strode away.
Haldir watched him out of sight, then turned to Gwirith.
‘How bad was it for Celinn?’ he asked quietly. Gwirith looked at him, and after a long moment Haldir turned away. ‘I hoped it had not been as bad as that,’ he murmured. They got up and left Aragorn to the healers and went over to Celinn.
Aiglin was supporting his brother while Orophin cut the ropes that held him to the tree.
‘By sweet Elbereth,’ said Haldir, white faced, ‘What has been done to him?’
Gwirith was astonished to find that he was weeping. ‘What has not been done to him?’ he said, brushing the tears off his face with his palms. With the utmost gentleness, he passed his hands over Celinn’s head, feeling the rough hair which Adanwath’s knife had hacked.
‘Celinn,’ whispered Gwirith, taking his face in his hands and looking into his eyes. ‘Mae carnen, mellon nin. La maethor daur.’ Celinn looked back steadily at him, but there was no recognition in his face.
Aiglin was weeping too. Tathrenil, one of the healers, took his arm. ‘Come and get some salve for your eye, Aiglin,’ he said gently.
‘I have to stay with him,’ said Aiglin, brushing away the tears with the back of his hand.
‘You can come back to him as soon as I’ve finished,’ promised Tathrenil. Aiglin shook his head, but Gwirith said, ‘Go, Aiglin. I will stay with him until you come back,’ and Aiglin let himself be led away.
‘The bonds are cut, Haldir. I will loosen the ropes. Are you ready to take him?’ asked Orophin.
‘Yes, brother, let him loose,’ said Haldir, then stepped back as Celinn’s body sagged against him. Haldir lifted him into his arms and carried him to a space by the fire where the healers had already laid blankets. Another elf stood by with a blazing torch, but in the east Gwirith could see the first light of dawn touching the edge of the heavens.
Gwirith stayed by the tree, and when the others had gone he bent down and began to gather the golden hair that lay like sunlight on the grass of the clearing. As he worked, tears flowed down his face and soaked the long tresses until he had collected all he could find. He folded them carefully and for some reason he did not clearly understand, stowed them away safely within his clothing, weeping still at the sight of Celinn’s blood on the tree and on the ground below.
Then he made his way to Celinn’s side, where one of the healers was cleaning the cut on his face and the burns the ropes had made on his wrists and ankles whilst the other uncovered the wound below his ribs.
‘What do you think, Helevorn?’ asked Haldir.
‘It is deep,’ said Helevorn. ‘It is too early to say whether there is any infection in the wound. I will clean it with an astringent and that will have to last until we are in Lorien.’
Gwirith knelt down beside Haldir. ‘He has other wounds,’ he said. ‘An arrowhead in the back and an injury to his head and his leg from being trampled by a horse. And maybe others, for all I know.’
Helevorn nodded and continued to work on cleaning the wound below Celinn’s ribs. It was still oozing blood and Helevorn had to press a pad of linen to it for some time before he could spread some thick strong-smelling salve over it and cover it with a dressing.
Gwirith began to speak, but immediately stopped. Something in his voice made Helevorn look round.
‘Yes?’ said Helevorn. Gwirith mumbled something incomprehensible.
‘Gwirith, tell me, whatever it is,’ said Helevorn irritably, but Gwirith suddenly covered his face with his hands. Helevorn glanced at Haldir, full of disquiet.
‘I am sorry, Gwirith, I was impatient,’ he said. Gwirith sighed deeply and looked up. The others watched the anguish on his face as he struggled to speak.
‘You will find a wound on his neck, where he was … bitten by Adanwath, after he … after he had violated him,’ he whispered.
There was a long silence. At last Haldir said,
‘He was violated…and yet he still lives, Gwirith?’
‘I do not know how it comes to be so, but so it is,’ said Gwirith.
‘It is unknown, Gwirith,’ said Haldir gently. ‘His fea would have fled his body at once. Are you quite sure of it?’
‘Yes, I am sure,’ said Gwirith, looking away to hide more unaccustomed tears from Haldir.
‘Well, even though he has not left his hroa, he may not stay in it for long if what you say is true,’ said Helevorn briskly. ‘We must hope that the Lady will be able to help him, for I fear there is no craft of mine to heal this kind of hurt.’
He began to examine Celinn’s legs and his voice sunk to a mutter, they heard him say, ‘The right one,’ his hands travelling from Celinn’s thigh to his ankle and back. ‘I think the thigh bone is broken. Haroth,’ he called, ‘I need two straight branches about this thick,’ he made a circle with his thumb and middle finger, ‘and as long as Celinn’s leg. And we need to make a stretcher to carry him back. Even were he to wake, he will be unable to ride with these injuries. And one for Aragorn also.’ Haroth nodded and went to find what Helevorn needed.
Gwirith stayed where he was, hearing and seeing everything that was going on, yet feeling distant and detached. Something about the scene seemed terribly familiar and yet just out of reach. He shivered a little, and Haldir turned suddenly to him.
‘Gwirith, you too are hurt. Come with me to one of the other healers and we will see to your face.’
‘My face?’ said Gwirith, frowning. Haldir touched his cheek and held up his fingers, and Gwirith was surprised to see them covered in dried blood. Then he remembered Galdorn hitting him, but next to Celinn’s injuries it seemed unimportant.
‘I will wait until Helevorn has finished with Celinn,’ he said. Haldir looked at him as if he would argue, but he said,
‘Very well, but take my cloak, at least,’ and he unclasped it and wrapped it round Gwirith’s shoulders.
Haroth came back with the branches then, and Helevorn and Tathrenil splinted Celinn’s leg firmly and then strapped both his legs together with linen bandages to keep the broken bone as motionless as possible. When they had finished, Tathrenil said something quietly to Helevorn.
‘Good,’ said Helevorn. ‘Aiglin is sleeping. Tathrenil gave him a draught; Lord Elrond’s recipe: it never fails.’
Then Haldir looked up, his face alert. ‘The others are returning,’ he said. Some moments later the elves who had given chase to the escaping men came alone into the clearing.
Haelon came over and said, ‘We caught most of them, Haldir, but not their leader. He threatened to hurt the child, so we let him go, and then he threw her from the horse and rode off.’
‘Is she hurt?’ asked Haldir.
‘Her fea is hurt at the way her father treated her, but her body is only bruised. She and her mother and the men we have captured will go with the Dunedain.’
‘Very well. Tell Rumil to send out a party to follow Adanwath, Haelon. He must be brought to justice for what he has done, here and elsewhere.’
Haelon bowed slightly and went to find his captain to pass on Haldir’s orders.
‘Guardian, will you help me raise him?’ said Helevorn, and Haldir put his arm under Celinn and gently lifted him up. Celinn’s head fell sideways, resting on Haldir’s shoulder.
Gwirith heard Helevorn sigh heavily as he examined the arrow shaft protruding from Celinn’s back. ‘How long since he took this wound?’ he asked wearily.
‘Many hours ago,’ said Gwirith. ‘He was trying to free Aragorn when he was hit.’ He took a deep ragged breath, and Helevorn and Haldir both looked up at him. ‘We were not able to help him at all, except by calling out to him. And once, or maybe twice during his ordeal, I was able to touch his mind, to try to strengthen him.’
The Guardian and the healer glanced at each other, but Gwirith was too lost in his own thoughts to notice.
‘Well, we must do what we can,’ said Helevorn. ‘I will remove the arrow to prevent infection. I wonder if his lungs are touched. Has he bled from his mouth?’ Gwirith nodded miserably.
With Haldir and Gwirith supporting Celinn’s body, Helevorn cleaned the wound, then began to enlarge it. ‘Does he sense what you are doing to him?’ asked Haldir. Helevorn sighed again.
‘He shows no sign of it. I wish he did, even though it would be to his torment. At least then we would have a hope of his fea being near.’
Gwirith touched Celinn’s forehead gently with his fingers. ‘I feel him,’ he said softly. ‘Faintly, but he is here.’
Again Haldir and Helevorn exchanged a look, as the healer prepared to remove the arrow.
‘Well, we will see,’ said Helevorn, and, gripping the broken shaft, he swiftly withdrew the arrow from Celinn’s back. For a moment nothing happened, but then some dark blood flowed from the ugly wound, and beneath their hands, Haldir and Helevorn felt Celinn shudder momentarily.
‘He is aware of what we are doing. You are right, Gwirith, something holds him here.’
The healer handed the reeking arrowhead to Tathrenil who wrapped it in some cloth.
‘We will keep it in case of poison,’ explained Helevorn, his quick fingers already cleaning out the oozing wound with astringent. Tathrenil rummaged in Helevorn’s pack, then straightened up and handed the healer two narrow dried leaves.
‘Ah, I thought I had a few left,’ said Helevorn in satisfaction, and crushed the athelas directly into the wound. The fresh smell was clean and reviving and Helevorn smiled a little as he put a dressing covered in salve over the wound and then secured it with linen bandages. Then he sat back on his heels and brought his hands together, cupping one in the other as Haldir laid Celinn down again.
‘For now, that is all I can do for his body,’ said Helevorn. ‘When he has rested awhile I will increase the energy within him, but I cannot give him too much for he is too fragile to endure it.’
He seemed about to speak again.
‘What else?’ said Haldir, sensing his hesitation.
The healer looked down at Celinn, then at Haldir. They held each other’s gaze a long moment.
‘His hair,’ whispered the healer at last. There was a long silence. Gwirith’s hand reached out and came to rest on Celinn’s shoulder. ‘It will have been a great shock to him,’ went on Helevorn, ‘especially after everything else he has endured.’
‘Who knows where he wanders now?’ said Haldir. ‘Let us hope we can call him back from Mandos. Should we return to Lorien straight away, Helevorn?’
The healer frowned, looking down at Celinn’s scarred face. ‘His body is very weak,’ he said. Gwirith and Haldir watched him pass his hand gently along Celinn’s body, over his heart and then up to his throat and brow, close but not quite touching him. ‘But it is his fea that concerns me more,’ he continued. ‘He is indeed releasing it from his body. I fear he is fading.’
‘Can you help him?’ said Haldir, quietly, his hand reaching out to hold Gwirith’s shoulder as the other elf drew in a harsh breath beside him.
‘I can call to his fea. Indeed, it would be wise to do this before travelling home. Otherwise he might not live through the journey. After that he should rest for a little before we take him back to Lorien.’
‘And Aragorn?’ said Haldir.
Helevorn beckoned to Tathrenil and they conferred for a moment.
‘Aragorn has recovered his senses,’ said Helevorn, when they had finished speaking. ‘We have made a compress of rose and cypress and it seems the bleeding within is slowing. I prefer not to move him until it has stopped, so we have time to treat Celinn and then travel home with them both.’
‘Very well,’ said Haldir. ‘We will attend you.’
Helevorn nodded, than opened his cupped hands and placed one on Celinn’s brow and the other over his heart. He began to sing, a quiet, haunting song in Quenya, about the waking of the elves under the stars at Lake Cuivienen in the First Days of Middle Earth. He called to Celinn’s fea, singing softly of the beauty of Arda and the joy of the Firstborn, whom Orome had woken so long ago, and also of Elbereth Starkindler, the help of all who called to her. Finally he sang to Celinn of the love of the elves for him and their longing for him to return to them.
‘Return to us, brother, from the very gates of Mandos, for we are in tears at the thought of your loss.’
The last words of the song seemed to hang in the air long after Helevorn had fallen silent, and Haldir became aware of the other elves standing close by, and indeed many were in tears. Haldir’s face too
was wet as he got to his feet.
‘Thank you, Helevorn,’ he said, surprised at the tremor in his voice. ‘Now we will leave him to rest?’
‘Yes. We can move when it is full daylight, after I have strengthened him.’
Haldir nodded and turned to Gwirith.
‘Now you must let Helevorn care for you,’ he said firmly. Gwirith bowed his head in acquiescence, and the healer took a pot of salve from his bag and applied a good dose to Gwirith’s bruised face.
‘I can give you some of the draught that Aiglin has taken,’ he said, searching for the bottle in his bag, ‘It will help you to sleep.’ But Gwirith shook his head.
Caranfir came over and knelt beside them, grasping Gwirith’s shoulder.
‘How fare you?’ asked Gwirith.
‘The wound did not have time to bleed much. It will mend,’ said Caranfir, gruffly. He looked down at Celinn for a moment, then bowed his head so they would not see his face. A moment later he rose and walked away. Haldir made to follow him, but Helevorn laid a hand on his arm.
‘Leave him awhile. I will see to him presently.’
Gwirith looked down at Celinn, whose turquoise-blue eyes gazed sightlessly and calmly up at the starry sky. He felt his own eyes begin to leak more tears.
‘Let me hold him,’ he said, his voice a mere breath of exhaustion. ‘Maybe he will know he is not alone.’
‘Gwirith, you are weary,’ said Haldir.
‘Let me…’ Gwirith could not speak any more, but simply held out his arms. Helevorn looked at Haldir, who nodded. Between them they raised Celinn, but just as they were about to place him in Gwirith’s arms, Gwirith gave a cry.
The other two looked at him, frowning, wondering if his reason too had been unseated by his ordeal.
But Gwirith’s hand was gently lifting Celinn’s head, and beneath it was a long, thick lock of hair, enough for a small braid for the right side of his head. Gwirith passed his fingers down the golden fall of hair with the utmost tenderness.
‘He did not take it all. Celinn will have a kinbraid still.’ And he smiled again with a face that felt unused to smiling.
Rumil brought a saddle for him to lean against, and Haldir and Helevorn helped him to settle Celinn with his head in Gwirith’s lap. Then they covered them both up with blankets. Gwirith’s hand rested on Celinn’s shorn head, and scarcely knowing what he did, he began to sing, a song that he had not heard since he was an elfling, sleeping in his mother’s arms. Haldir stooped down, greatly moved, and kissed him gently on the brow.
‘I will have someone bring you food and water,’ he said, his voice less steady than usual.
Gwirith nodded and closed his eyes. His voice went on, and as the elves moved quietly about the clearing, trying to restore their companions and the land itself to wholeness, the sound drifted strongly through the trees like a thread of gold, settling on the souls of wounded and hale alike and beginning to weave a new pattern of healing.
At last Gwirith’s voice stopped, and when Rumil came with food and water, he found both Celinn and Gwirith with their eyes closed, but somehow Celinn’s hand had crept up into Gwirith’s, and they breathed gently in time one with the other.
Gwirith had no clear memory of the journey back to Caras Galadhon. Instead there were fragments, moments of heightened sensitivity, as vivid and richly coloured as a painting, but disconnected from each other. Years later he could call to mind the soft murmur of Tathrenil’s voice as he spoke the strengthening ritual over Celinn’s motionless body wrapped in a green wool cloak. He could still remember the soft colours of the autumn sky, fawn and grey and violet like a ring dove’s breast. And of course he remembered Celinn’s face, as still and white as marble, except for the long livid scar on his cheek and the shadows like stains under his eyes. Then nothing until Tathrenil’s sudden urgent command halfway home to put the stretcher down, and his broad hands pushing on Celinn’s breastbone to urge the blood through his unmoving heart, and Celinn’s grey-blue lips slowly blooming back to warm pink again.
And then darkness had fallen and they were at the white bridge of Caras Galadhon. Gwirith could see the lights glimmering in the mellryn as they entered the great gate. He stood cold and wretched behind Haldir, with no clear sense of what to do next. But then he felt a change in the air around him, like the first warm and scented breeze of spring, and rubbing his face with the palms of his hands he saw that Galadriel was standing at the door of the healing house.
Gwirith followed her inside. It was immediately quieter, and the air was rich with the tang of drying herbs. Haldir was there, and said, ‘Go home and rest, Gwirith. We will take care of him.’ But Gwirith shook his head and went with them into a big light room that looked out on to the forest. Celinn’s long-limbed body was stretched out on a work table and Helevorn and the other healers were gathered round him, beginning to work on his wounds. Helevorn glanced round and seeing Gwirith, said, ‘If you have come to see your brother, he is still sleeping, but you can see him later.’ Gwirith nodded.
‘Where is Aiglin?’ he asked.
‘I have given him another sleeping draught,’ said Helevorn. ‘He has been severely shocked.’
They heard Galadriel gasp as she saw the damage to Celinn’s body. ‘If it were not for Aragorn, I would say that men must have neither heart nor soul,’ she said, bitterly.
Gwirith watched Helevorn and the other healers remove the makeshift splint from Celinn’s leg and begin to cut off his stained and torn clothes. The bandage below his ribs was soaked through again and Helevorn cut through it quickly to examine the wound.
‘How is it?’ asked Haldir, who had just come back into the room after dismissing his company. ‘Is there infection?’
Helevorn put his face to the wound. ‘It smells clean,’ he said, ‘but it is not knitting as I would like.’ He passed his hand over Celinn’s leg. ‘Nor is this,’ he said, ‘and no doubt the arrow wound, which is older, will not be faring any better.’
With Tathrenil’s help Helevorn raised Celinn and removed the dressing from his shoulder. ‘This one is not so good,’ he said, worriedly. ‘Fetch me the strong salve,’ he said to Tathrenil, and he cleaned the wound with an astringent before loading a dressing with the salve and binding it in place.
‘Why has he not returned to himself? Is it the head wound?’ asked Haldir.
‘It is possible,’ said Helevorn, running his fingers over the broken skin just above Celinn’s brow. But I fear it is more serious,’ he went on. ‘His fea does not wish to return. With the energy leaving his hroa, it would not have the power to heal itself.’ He glanced at Celinn’s still white face. ‘I can barely feel his heart or his breath,’ he said sadly. ‘He may be too far for us to call him back.’
Gwirith felt his own heart tighten within him at these words. Galadriel turned very slightly and glanced at him, and he wondered if he had made a sound or shown something on his face. She said nothing, but as she went past him to Celinn’s side, he thought he felt a fleeting touch on his shoulder.
Galadriel rested her hands gently on Celinn’s brow. Gwirith saw that she was speaking very softly, and there seemed to be a pearly light issuing from her fingers as they stroked Celinn’s cropped hair tenderly. Galadriel sensed his gaze and glanced at him, and in his mind he heard her voice calling Celinn’s fea to return to his body and to those who waited for him with love. Gwirith watched her and Helevorn working on Celinn’s body and suddenly wished deeply that his own craft were to make objects of healing rather than death. He turned away and went to the window, looking out at the leaves drifting down from the beech trees on to the plants in the physic garden. Despite the fire that burned in the hearth, he felt cold again, and there was a knot of dread in his gut. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against the cool glass of the window and closed his eyes.
‘I think you can help him,’ Galadriel’s voice said.
He turned to her, frowning. ‘I?’ he said, incredulous.
‘Yes. You have helped him very much already. Now we need to bring his fea back to his body.’
‘But I’ve done nothing,’ protested Gwirith.
‘You are wrong,’ she said, coming to him. ‘You have touched his fea. Did you not tell Haldir and Helevorn that you reached his mind during his ordeal?’
‘Yes, I did. I wanted to help him, so I imagined I was in his place and tried to take some of his adversity on to myself.’
‘And you felt him respond to you?’
‘Yes,’ said Gwirith, ‘It was as if we touched each other.’
Galadriel took his hands in hers. ‘There is a chance, then. If you were close to him at the worst time, he might still be able to find his way back.’ She looked at him intently. ‘Will you help me?’
‘What must I do?’ said Gwirith.
‘He may come back if you are the one to call him. There is an energy between you.’ The resonance of her last words seemed to continue long after she had finished speaking. Gwirith looked into her face, and he felt a strange tremor pass through his heart.
‘Then I will call him,’ said Gwirith.
‘Thank you, my dear,’ she said, in her deep, musical voice. ‘Wait now while I speak a word to Helevorn, and we will begin at once.’
Helevorn’s hands did not stop their work as he tilted his head to listen to Galadriel. Then Galadriel called Gwirith.
‘We will do what we can to hold you,’ she said, ‘but I do not know what you will have to endure. If it becomes too difficult, look to the power of your heart and feel the constancy of the earth beneath your feet and all will be well.’
Gwirith nodded and put down his weapons. ‘I will prepare you,’ Galadriel said, and placed the palm of her hand on his forehead and spoke some words. Then, turning him to face Celinn, she placed her other palm on Celinn’s forehead and spoke again. Gwirith felt a tingling as if a fine chain of energy had linked him to Celinn through her hands. ‘You must touch him,’ she said, placing Gwirith’s hand on Celinn’s forehead and removing her own. ‘Put your other hand over his heart,’ her voice said softly, and Gwirith felt the energy increase in vibration as he laid his hand on Celinn’s chest.
‘I will make the circle,’ said Galadriel, and in a deep lilting tone, she spoke a word of power to each of the four quarters, then turned a full circle, her arm extended as she marked out the healing space. Gwirith felt the air contract around him, holding him into the container she had made to focus their energy. Finally she took a candle in a bronze holder and lit it.
‘This light now stands for Celinn’s fea,’ she said, and placed it where they could all see it. The flame was small and tremulous and although it was not near the window, it shook and guttered as if blown by a strong wind.
‘We must make haste,’ said Galadriel, and she came to Celinn’s side, and placed a hand on Gwirith’s so that they were connected to each other and to Celinn. Around them, Helevorn and the other healers continued to work with quiet persistence on Celinn’s broken body.
‘Now we are ready,’ said Galadriel. ‘Go wherever your heart and your fea take you, and we will try to bring him home.’
Gwirith opened his mind as he had when he had touched Celinn’s during his ordeal, and began to call along with Galadriel. He felt his fea drift out of him, so that although he was in the room, watching Helevorn setting the long bone in Celinn’s leg, yet he was also above him, looking down on the beautiful white face which even the ugly scar failed to disfigure, and also outside the healing house, in the forest, and above the trees in the ink-blue sky among the stars.
He saw Galadriel’s hands move to Celinn’s brow, and through his link with her he sensed her call the energy of the One to move through her and heal him. In his mind he moved towards her, and with the eye of his fea he saw a shimmer of translucent colour flowing from her hands and surrounding Celinn’s head. With astonishment he saw the same pearly light spreading out from his own hands.
‘We will gird him round with light so that he may see his way back to us,’ she said wordlessly to him, and perceiving her purpose, he let the light of the One flow through him until the sacred space Galadriel had bounded for the ritual glimmered and rippled with it. Then Galadriel began to rest her attention on Celinn’s injured body, beginning with his head. Gwirith made to follow her and with his fea searched for the ragged wound above Celinn’s brow and felt an echo of pain from the scar on his face. But Galadriel’s voice sounded in his mind. ‘I will hold his body. Stay near me if you wish but remember you seek his fea.’
So he let himself open further and the sense of a twofold consciousness intensified as he was able to feel his hands on Celinn while at the same time he drifted high above the healing house, surrounded by a soft blue light. He sensed other feas around him, but none he recognised as Celinn’s. He moved effortlessly as though he were in something like water or air, yet even lighter. But though he called again and again, there was no sign of Celinn.
He closed his eyes and moved his hands down Celinn’s body, searching for a way to reach him. Maybe it was the light of the One which heightened his senses, but he found he could feel the pulse of Celinn’s blood and each difficult breath that he pulled into his lungs. He could touch the heat of his wounded shoulder and feel the unknit tissues below his ribs. But none of these things helped him. A flickering light caught his eye and he saw that the candle Galadriel had lit was burning fitfully, guttering so low that it seemed it must go out at any moment. Filled with a redoubled sense of urgency, Gwirith met Galadriel’s hands on Celinn’s solar plexus. At once both felt a thread of connection, a high painful vibration like a distant scream.
At the same time Gwirith’s fea far above the healing house heard an echo of something familiar: at first it was gentle, like the string of a harp vibrating with a musical note. But as it came nearer, the vibration became disturbing, then agonising and difficult to bear. The blue light faded and was replaced by a dead twilight. Gwirith knew Celinn was near, but so changed was he by his ordeal that his fea was barely recognisable. Gwirith called to him, but when he tried to approach he met a strong resistance. Now Gwirith knew in his own self the anguish of being rebuffed when one sought only to bring comfort and healing. Staying humbly at a distance, he called out with an effort,
‘Celinn, do not leave us, Mandos does not summon you yet. Please, come back to those who wait for you. We can help you to bear this torment.’
But Celinn’s fea drifted away from his, and as if the wind itself sighed, he heard him say in a voice calm and empty of emotion,
‘It is too late. I cannot come back,’ and in an instant seemed so far away that Gwirith thought he had lost him again. Desperately, he cried out with his fea,
‘You helped me to come back to myself, when I was alone and suffering. Please, Celinn, let me help you now, for the sake of our friendship.’
For a long while he waited in the cold darkness, and it seemed as if the stars in their implacable orbits wheeled around him many times. In the far distance he could sense Galadriel’s presence, but her touch was no more than a feather against him. At last, just when he was about to give up all hope, he felt Celinn come near, his fea a mere breath.
Gwirith moved closer to him, reaching out, and at the same time his hands on Celinn’s body felt impelled to move downwards. All at once the healing house and the far twilight were gone and it was Gwirith’s body which was stretched out helpless against a tree, struggling against Adanwath’s violent abuse. His fea screamed and instinctively strove to escape this agonising vision, and he felt it break free from his hroa as his very self was invaded. But as his consciousness began to leave him, Galadriel’s hands seized his and his eyes snapped open and looked straight into Adanwath’s. His gut heaved with fear and disgust but her hands held him even more firmly and suddenly he remembered where his help lay: in his own heart and in the solid earth beneath his feet. With a tremendous effort he opened his heart and called his fea back, and asking the earth to hold him, he let himself inhabit the vision Celinn’s body was sending him through his hands, knowing it was the price of bringing him home.
‘Celinn, you have suffered,’ his fea cried out to Celinn’s, ‘but we suffer with you. Let us be with you, please, don’t leave us!’
Celinn’s fea did not respond, and Gwirith felt his strength beginning to fade when Galadriel’s voice sounded strongly nearby.
‘Dear Celinn,’ she said, ‘you need to be healed of your grievous hurts. Come back to us, and all will be well.’
But still Celinn did not reply, and they sensed his fea drifting even further out of reach. Then Gwirith called out helplessly to Elbereth, and found himself looking down on Celebrant, and deep beneath the cool green waters, he saw something blue and gold, sparkling on the river bed. He cast down until he could see what it was, and touched a smooth blue stone, inscribed with tengwar in golden letters. One by one, he read out the words, and they were the names of all the members of his company, finishing with Celinn’s own name. As he read, he could feel Celinn’s fea coming closer again, until it was right by him.
Gwirith said to him, ‘You are still our captain, and we are still your company, whatever has happened. You are not free to abandon us while you are bound to us in the name of the Holy Ones. Whatever is broken must be made right, no matter the cost in pain. But you are not alone, and the pain will be shared.’
Then he and Galadriel approached Celinn again, and this time they felt him reluctantly submit at last to their entreaties, and they surrounded him tenderly with the comfort of their strong feas, and he came to them.
And then Gwirith felt hands gripping his shoulders tightly and he opened his eyes and saw that he was in the healing room. Directly in front of him the candle Galadriel had lit burnt straight and unwavering. Galadriel and Helevorn were staring at him, their eyes full of concern.
‘What’s the matter?’ he said, ‘What happened? How is he?’
‘Let us see,’ said Galadriel, and Gwirith became aware again of the others in the room as Haldir, Tathrenil joined them at Celinn’s side. There was a little more colour in Celinn’s face, and Galadriel took his hand and held it. As they watched his eyes fluttered open and he gazed at them, frowning a little as if he were not sure if he were dreaming. Then he took a laboured breath and his lips moved silently. Galadriel leaned closer.
‘Let me go,’ Celinn whispered. The Lady’s eyes filled with tears.
‘It is not yet your time,’ she said softly
‘Please,’ he begged, the word a mere breath.
‘We cannot let you go,’ she said, pressing her lips to his hand. ‘Do not leave us, Celinn.’
He gave a harsh, rasping sigh and then his eyes clouded over with pain. His hand moved fitfully on the sheet as he tried to touch the wound on his side but he did not have the strength to do so. Helevorn raised his head and held a cup to his mouth, and Celinn drank a little, swallowing with difficulty.
‘It will help with the pain,’ Helevorn said. But, if anything, the pain worsened, and Galadriel and Tathrenil quickly recast the circle and surrounded Celinn with healing light.
‘You too, Gwirith,’ said the Lady, so he stood beside her, his hand touching hers on one side and Tathrenil’s on the other. The current of energy they had focussed on to Celinn’s injured body tingled as it passed through his fingers. Celinn was moaning softly, and Gwirith was filled with a deep sadness as he looked down on his fair face shadowed with pain. All at once he had a vivid recollection of Celinn on the day of his braiding, straight backed and strong and joyful, his long hair streaming across his shoulders, his face alight with happiness. From some deep place in himself, there arose in Gwirith a longing that Celinn should be well again, that his body should be restored and remade and that Gwirith could see him again as he had been, free from the shadow of this evil day.
At last Celinn fell silent and his breathing slowed.
‘The pain has eased somewhat. At least now he is able to sleep, now that he has come home,’ said Galadriel quietly. Then she and Haldir and Helevorn were suddenly laughing with joy, and Tathrenil was mopping his eyes with a square of cloth. Gwirith was laughing too, but then his strength suddenly gave out and he found he had to sit down heavily in the chair Tathrenil had already placed behind him, and cover his face with his hands. A long time seemed to pass, and then the healer touched his shoulder and Gwirith looked up to see him holding a cup of something hot to drink. ‘Helevorn’s own recipe,’ he said gently, but Gwirith found his hands were shaking too much to hold it, so Galadriel held it to his lips and he drank. Whatever Helevorn had put in it seemed extremely efficacious and he felt his strength returning as he watched Galadriel undo the circle she had made for the ritual. Soon he was able to ask again, ‘What happened? Why did I have that …vision?’
‘You were moving through the aura of his hroa,’ said Galadriel, ‘and since you were open to him, your fea felt the strong memories which he had escaped.’ She and Helevorn glanced at each other. ‘We feared for you,’ she said quietly. ‘You endured a great deal.’
‘But did it help him?’
‘I cannot say, but it may help him later to know that you did this. I think it was your finding the blue stone that called him back. How did you know where to look?’
‘I have no idea. It was after I called to Elbereth. All I know is that it is an important place for him, his own place.’
Gwirith watched as Celinn was laid in a bed by a tall window of coloured glass and covered with blankets with a warming stone at his feet. Then Galadriel made a sealing charm to make the healers’ work more efficacious.
‘Will he be well now?’ Gwirith asked Helevorn, who was nearly at the end of his own strength.
‘His fea can begin to help his body to heal,’ answered the healer, ‘but his injuries are deep and serious, and he has been long away. In addition, his suffering is not only of the body. I wish I could give you a certainty, but I cannot. May Elbereth protect him,’ he said, bringing his fingers to his lips and kissing them in homage to the Starkindler. ‘He is in the lap of the Holy Ones.’
Gwirith felt Galadriel’s hands resting gently on his shoulders, and a powerful issue of strength radiated through him. He looked up at her, and heard her say silently, ‘Well done, my dear. Your heart has gifts you did not dream of,’ and then in her own voice, she said,
‘Rest, Gwirith, or you will be no help to anyone, least of all yourself.’
‘Yes, Lady,’ he said, and felt the gentleness of her compassion as she smiled at him. She thanked the healers and then left them to go and visit Aragorn.
Gwirith stood up and looked around for his weapons, preparing himself to leave. But instead of doing so he found himself sitting down for a moment beside Celinn’s bed and tentatively taking Celinn’s hand, only to see if it was any warmer than before. He wondered at the change that had come over him in the last weeks, he who had been so defended and fearful and was now sitting here before everyone, using the strength of his body and his heart to help another.
He wanted to see Luinil again. His brother would want news of Celinn, and of course so would Aiglin. Gwirith wondered whether he might be awake now, and made to get up, but his body would not obey him, and within a surprisingly short number of minutes, he had fallen asleep sitting up. Haldir came back into the room to see that Helevorn was trying to release his hand from Celinn’s so that he could make him lie down, but was having little success.
‘Don’t waste your effort trying to separate them,’ said Haldir. ‘That story is just beginning, by my reckoning, and there will be many storms ahead before they come this close again.’
Helevorn shrugged his shoulders expressively, and they looked at the two elves, hands firmly clasped, their faces lost in exhausted sleep.
‘Well, I need sleep, even if you don’t, Guardian,’ said Helevorn. He glanced round the room to see all was in order, and nodded at the healer who had just come in to begin the night duty. ‘Call me if you need me, Arodir,’ he said, yawning, and he saw Haldir out into the night before closing the heavy door behind him.
Galadriel stood beside Aragorn’s bed, looking down on his bruised and lacerated face, frowning even in sleep. Bound to his body was a pungent-smelling compress which Tathrenil had made to encourage his internal injuries to heal, and his left arm was folded across his chest and held securely in place with a broad linen bandage. When Tathrenil had stripped off Aragorn’s shirt on their arrival at Caras Galadhon, he had found an ugly wound on his back, and a cracked shoulder-blade beneath.
A moment ago Elrond’s voice had been speaking in Galadriel’s mind, but now as he looked through her eyes at his foster-son, all she could hear was the absolute silence of his anguish.
Her hands rested on Aragorn’s brow and heart as she sent him what healing light she could, but as Elrond’s pain intensified, she directed another stream of healing towards him far away in Imladris, and slowly she sensed him begin to release his torment in gentle tears.
‘It was too soon, Galadriel,’ he whispered in her mind. ‘I should have waited.’
‘He is called to confront evil, dear son of my daughter. You knew there would be pain, even if you had waited until he had lived half a century to tell him who he truly is.’
‘You are right,’ he said softly. ‘But I had forgotten the depth of this pain; the pain of being helpless before the suffering of someone you love.’
Galadriel knew her daughter Celebrian was in Elrond’s mind as she was in her own, and that Aragorn’s suffering had opened that wound again.
‘I will come to him at once,’ said Elrond. ‘I will leave now. Tonight.’
‘No,’ said Galadriel. ‘He will be well, my dear. He will be on his feet again before you are halfway here.’
‘Trust me, Elrond. What he must face now is his own burden, the burden of leadership and of the evil that comes from even the best-intentioned actions. You cannot carry this for him. You have let him go: now leave him to come to you when he is ready.’
‘But…I wish to see him, Galadriel!’
‘And that is your burden, my dear. He will come to you, in his own time. Be patient, Elrond.’
He had withdrawn from her then, more abruptly than was courteous, but she had understood he had no energy to spare for farewells. Aragorn stirred and tried to turn on to his side, but at once abandoned the attempt, wincing a little in his sleep. She had stayed with him a little longer, until she was satisfied she had given him as much healing as he could bear, and then had left him, her heart bruised by his youthful, shadowed countenance.
In the darkest hour of the night, Gwirith suddenly lurched awake, rigid with terror. His eyes darted around, looking for something familiar, but in his terrified state everything appeared strange and monstrous. Staggering to his feet, he began to crash his way blindly around the room, searching for a way out, his heart pounding wildly. Moments later the door opened and he stood blinking in the sudden blaze of light from the hallway. Then Tathrenil’s strong hands were holding him.
‘Gwirith, it’s all right, you’re safe,’ the healer said, looking into his face. But Gwirith was too deep in dread to comprehend his words. He pulled away from Tathrenil and stumbled into the hallway, then began to struggle to open the main door.
‘I have locked it, Gwirith, let me fetch the key,’ said Tathrenil, less calmly, trying to pull him away, but Gwirith flung off his hand and stared at him.
‘Let me out! I have to get out!’ he pleaded. Without another word, Tathrenil pulled him down to the other end of the hallway and opened a door. Gwirith pushed past him into the garden. The cold air hit him in the face like a blow and he stood gasping for breath as if he had been running a long way. Both Tathrenil and Helevorn were beside him now, one of them trying to make him drink something, but he didn’t want anything to drink. Suddenly he was overcome by a wave of nausea and pushing them aside, he ran into the shadows and, clinging to a tree, bent double and vomited on to the earth, his ears ringing and his brow clammy with a cold sweat.
It seemed a long time before he had finished. When finally he stopped retching he felt so dizzy that he had to sit on the grass and hold his head in his hands. He could hear himself groaning and wanted to stop, but apparently he had no control over his voice. He almost hoped he would pass out, but the cold air kept blowing in his eyes, and he thought he felt rain on him too. No, not rain, it was someone trying to wipe his face. Gwirith pushed them away and threw his arms round the smooth trunk of the tree.
‘I must hold on,’ he gasped. ‘Until the ground stops moving. The tree will hold me.’
‘It is the shock,’ said someone anxiously, close to his ear. ‘We have attended to everyone but to him and this is the result. We should never have left him alone so soon.’
Gwirith felt a heavy cloak settle on his shoulders. He released his grip on the tree for a moment and pulled a fold of it across his face and sat shivering, his cheek pressed against the bark. The tree was strong but the ground still swung dizzyingly below him. Disconnected images flashed into his mind and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying to block them out. He had to talk, it didn’t matter what he said: anything, as long as he could drown out the sounds that crashed and wailed in his ears. For a long time he struggled, but at last his strength gave out and he knew he could not hold them back any longer. And although he took in a huge shuddering breath of air, they washed over him like a great wave and at last his breath ran out and he was still.
After a long time he felt a little warmth creep into his stiff body, and though his teeth were not chattering quite so much, his gut ached as if he had taken a beating. Finally after what seemed like hours, the ground beneath him was still and the singing in his ears quietened. A familiar pleasant smell came to him from the heavy folds of the cloak and by the sound of gentle breathing beside him he knew he was not alone. With infinite care he straightened up and uncovered his face and saw Helevorn and Tathrenil sitting beside him on the grass, patiently watching him.
‘My poor boy, I am sorry we failed to prevent this,’ Helevorn said sadly. ‘We should have known you would feel the shock of it. At least we could have warned you.’
Had Gwirith been more lucid he would have reminded Helevorn that he was probably several centuries older than him, but in fact his gentle words touched Gwirith deeply and he felt as he had not felt for a very long time: a child in the presence of comforting elders. The feeling brought tears, and Helevorn held him as between shuddering sobs he poured out the story of the horrors he had seen.
‘We couldn’t help him … he was suffering, there was so much blood … and then that foul creature … he touched him … against his will … he shouldn’t …’ He had to stop then, to be sick again, before crying and talking incoherently in alternate bursts. ‘I tried to help him. In his mind. I tried to hold him somehow. But his hair, why his hair? He was going to kill him. I thought we would all die. And he still might. He was kind to me. Why did it happen to him? He is kind, he didn’t want him to hurt us. And he used him. The foulest thing anyone could do. None of us will ever be clean again.’
Then a familiar voice said, ‘Gwirith,’ and he turned and looked into his brother’s face. Without thinking he put his arms round Luinil and clung to him, eyes closed, listening to the sound of his heart beating strongly in his chest. Luinil’s arms held him firmly and when he gently raised him to his feet, Gwirith did not resist. Within a very small space of time he was sitting in front of a fire which Tathrenil had coaxed into a blaze, drinking something hot and sweet.
‘Slowly,’ said Helevorn. ‘You have had too much to stomach in the last few days.’
Gwirith sipped the drink, his body relaxing into the bonelessness of exhaustion. The murmur of the healers’ voices reminded him of his father and his uncles talking together in Eregion so many centuries ago.
‘Do you remember when ada used to tell us stories before we went to sleep?’ he said to Luinil, his words slurring a little with tiredness. But before his brother could answer, Gwirith’s eyelids drooped and Luinil reached out to catch the cup before the tea could spill. For the second time that day, Gwirith fell asleep sitting up.
Mae carnen, mellon nin = you did well, my friend
La maethor daur = you are a great warrior
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