3. Chapter 3
He had questioned the sentries as he had entered the camp, seeking news of Isildur and Elrond. Yes, they were both within. They had gone in the direction of their quarters near half an hour since. No, they had not arrived together, or given any word of their errands.
Half an hour! So long? Elrond must truly have travelled at speed.
Glorfindel had turned south, not long back, down to where the pyres were being built, promising fervently to return as soon as he could. Cirdan could not be sure whether his return would prove blessing or curse. Glorfindel knew more of Elrond than he ever could, but all the same... Isildur had never made any secret of despising Glorfindel, and Glorfindel - well, he hid his own dislike but poorly.
There had been rumours in Lindon some years ago that Glorfindel and Isildur had once duelled, and that neither had prevailed, in spite of Glorfindel's undeniable strength and skill, and Isildur's extreme youth. For the first time, Cirdan found himself wishing he had paid attention to the rumours. It had never been his habit to pry into others' business; but now, too often, he was finding others' business being made his own - and himself in ignorance of things he much needed to know.
But first he needed to deliver Thranduil - and discharge some other of his duties he could not evade.
The moment the Healers' tents came in sight, the camp seemed to become fuller, busier. He saw many of his soldiers among the milling crowds, and beckoned one of them, asking him to seek Galdor, the most senior surviving commander among his troops..
The Elf walked off briskly, and Cirdan continued to ease his way towards the mouth of the Healers' tents, mindful of the injured around him, and careful not to jolt Thranduil's unconscious body. Haste would accomplish nothing, save to worsen the boy's injuries, and earn him a tongue-lashing from Narglin in the process.
He would have to speak to Narglin, he knew, though he knew neither of them could spare the time. He had soldiers who were dependent on him for their command - he could not afford to neglect them even for his other duties. He merely prayed it would not take long.
<<Near half an hour!>> The sentry's words had brought an undercurrent of fear in their wake. There was so much that could have occurred in that time.
"Cirdan! My lord!"
He looked up quickly, recognising Galdor's voice. The honorific always seemed an afterthought from Galdor, though Cirdan had never sensed in him the disrespect the words might have implied. Rather, it seemed to spring from some unvoiced, unspoken trust. "Galdor," he said, relieved. "What news?"
"Little enough. We have charge of gathering the wounded, though it is slow work." Galdor paused to walk beside him, pushing his dark hair back from his face. "I mustered the remaining soldiers after-" he made a slight gesture with one hand which Cirdan understood without asking. "-and it seems we fare better than most. We have lost fully one fourth of our number, but of those that live, few seem severely injured." He paused, and it seemed to Cirdan as though he suppressed a sigh. "You could say that we have come off very lightly."
"Aye. I suppose you could say that." Galdor's twin brother, he knew, lay among the dead. "If any could be said to be lucky in this place."
They had reached the entrance to the tents by now, and stepped over the threshold. They had been greatly enlarged since Cirdan had last passed by them - Narglin, with her usual ruthless unsentimentality, had commandeered two of the larger barrack-tents (Amdir's and Oropher's), and joined them to the healers' tent to make a single, large enclosure. Already it was becoming crowded, though, with both Healers and Falathrim going briskly about their assigned tasks without fuss or confusion. He could see Narglin in the far corner, working among the most gravely injured, with three other of the most experienced Healers.
As they entered, a Healer came close to inspect the boy's injuries, and then gestured to Cirdan to take him to one of the far beds, not far from Narglin. Galdor followed him as Cirdan continued to question him about the welfare of their troops.
"But you are well?" Galdor asked. "We feared for you, when we did not find you after the battle."
"I am well enough, and that is more than can be said for most here," Cirdan said mildly. "I have had other duties to fulfill which took me away for a while. I understand my sister has taken the command? Does it go well?"
"Yes ... She has the art of it - whatever some might say. She has sent a third part of the troops to rest for a watch; the remainder are here or out seeking the wounded."
"That is good." Galdor looked in need of rest himself; but then, who did not? "I am told she has been somewhat ... peppery ... of late."
Galdor gave a nervous glance in her direction and lowered his voice. "Things do not go well, my lord. We are short of supplies, and particularly of water, and there are many wounded and too few healers. It is ... trying ... for us all." Another nervous glance; he lowered his voice further. "It does not help that Glorfindel of Imladris has been trying to commandeer your troops for the spring-clean. She is ... furious ... with him, Cirdan."
Cirdan could not restrain a smile at that. "I can well believe it, Galdor. I shall be tactful, when I speak to her." He paused, a touch awkwardly. "I must warn you, though, that I will probably be leaving her the command at least a watch longer. There are things I must do which cannot be put off. Should she no longer need the Falathrim, you will have charge of them, of course." Galdor accepted the responsibility without question, though Cirdan perceived the flicker of grief in his eyes. It had been his brother Lindor who had been the highest of Cirdan's commanders, and it had been Lindor's death that had gained Galdor his command.
"I fear that is unlikely," he said softly, glancing round at the fevered activity of the crowded tent.
"So do I."
They had reached the place the Healer had indicated, and Cirdan set Thranduil down on the bed carefully, as another of the healers came over to oversee the new arrival. "I had best leave you now, and see if Narglin will speak to me." He took his leave, and they parted, Galdor walking briskly back to the door of the tent, to resume his search for the wounded, while Cirdan approached, with only a the slightest edge of trepidation, the corner where his sister worked.
It was a few seconds before she finished her task and looked up, and then rose to greet him. She was a tall woman, as tall as her brother, with hair as black as his was white. Like all the female healers, she dressed as her male colleagues did, her hair hacked off level with her shoulder blades, and bound back from her face with a length of leather cord. She was not fair to look on, even by the low standards of Men, but a light burned in her eyes like a bright flame, and on the rare instances when she smiled, she shone like fire.
Now she did not. She looked as greyed and as exhausted as Cirdan felt, and as she reached for a basin of water to clean her hands he noted the lines of tension in her face. Her movements, though, were as brisk as ever, and her eyes still held their accustomed watchfulness.
"Cirdan," she said by way of greeting, but she did not smile. She made no enquiry after his health: she could see that he was uninjured, and did not waste her time on niceties when there were injured to attend.
"Narglin," Cirdan said. "I know you have no time to spare, so I will be brief." She gave him a single suspicious glance, though she did not cease from cleansing her hands and tools. "I - I need you to keep command of my people at least a watch longer - and possibly more. I have other duties that I cannot neglect." He saw the relief in her face, but he asked the question anyway. "You will not be inconvenienced by my absence."
"Of course not." She gave him the reproachful glance she reserved for those who insisted on asking unnecessary questions. "I will have need of their services a great deal longer than -" She whipped round suddenly to glare at a very young Healer in a corner. "You there! Leave the beds - it is water we need, not linen!" The healer, who had been folding blankets two rows of beds away, from her flinched as if stung and then hurried away. "Lackwit," Narglin muttered under her breath. "You would think he'd be able to follow a simple order by now." She turned back to Cirdan, her face impatient. "Was there anything else?"
"One thing. Have Isildur or Elrond passed this way?"
"Cirdan! Do you truly think I would know? I have hardly had time to breathe, let alone to note who passes by." She paused in her work an instant, and then yelled for clean knives. One of the Falathrim came quickly with an armful and presented them to her. She took them and then turned to Cirdan with a grim smile. "Though I am quite sure Elrond at least has not passed this way. I would not have let a healer of his calibre out of here lightly."
She clearly caught some unguarded expression in his face for she stopped her inspection of the knives and stared at him, narrowing her eyes into two fierce pinpoints of light. "He has been harmed?"
"No ... yes .... He is not himself."
"Cirdan! Can you give no better diagnosis than that? Really, there are times when I-" She stopped, narrowing her eyes at him. "I see. You mean in spirit ... you ask about Isildur also. Do you mean-?"
"You knew about them?" Yet again, Cirdan felt the weight of his ignorance.
Narglin gave an impatient sigh. "I am a Healer. It is my place to know these things. So ... you consider him in danger, and Isildur also."
"Yes." Cirdan had often wished for a less perceptive sister. The wish had never been granted.
"Then what are you doing loitering in here? If you are needed elsewhere, go!"
"Narglin ... They are ... If they ... I mean, I cannot simply intrude in such matters."
Narglin glared at him for an awkward instant, and then her eyes softened. She laid the knives and the other utensils aside, and led him to the tiny enclosure in the corner that she wryly called her office. "Tell me," she said, and her voice lacked the harshness it had held before. "But do so swiftly."
He did so, swiftly, giving the whole story of the last few hours in a few, unemotional words.
"Well!" she said pensively. "If that is how it stands, I see no choice. There can be no option but to intervene - though you will need to tread carefully."
"I?" A sudden bolt of panic. Cirdan looked up sharply, but what he saw in his sister's eyes gave him no comfort.
"Could any other do this?"
"Narglin ... I am the last person qualified to offer help in these circumstances."
"On the contrary ... Remember you have had nearly 2 millennia of experience in handling such things." She reached out and touched his ring finger lightly. Her meaning was plain. "I know of nobody else here so qualified."
"But nothing! If you must intrude, you must. It cannot be helped - this is too late to be nice about people's feelings."
With that she left, and with that Cirdan was forced to be content. Though he could not help but feel that it had been many years since Narglin had been nice about any creature's feelings. He sighed and straightened, and, setting his face grimly, left the healers' tents.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.