5. Fevered Dreams...?
The grief was so new to me, after my father died… Strange really, it amazes me still, how one can love a person that has only entered your life a couple of times, so much… He might not have been there often, but he was a good father when he was…
The tale used to make me shiver, the banner in the blood, and such. Not so now. I have witnessed too much reality, I suppose, to be romantic about anything in Middle-earth anymore.
We were forced to the sea when Morgoth sent his forces to ravage the Falas. Círdan was the one who proposed sailing to the Isle of Balar, and there we founded a refuge, able to keep our foothold at the Mouths of Sirion.
I recall the masts of the numerous small ships that lay in Sirion's waters, and I do not believe I shall ever forget it… She is so closely connected to that image, like a certain fragrance can link to the memory of an event… And yet she was just one of the many Noldorin ladies.
Had she known at that time who I was, she might have acted differently. Either she would have pushed me away, or drawn me even closer… Though I doubt that possible… At that time we did not speak of betrothing ourselves… Which was not exceptional… But I dreamed of her, only to wake and find her in my arms, trusting me with her life, possibly her honour… Fiery eyes in passion and anger, in love and hate, both of which lie so close now… The best kept secret in Middle-earth, perhaps.
But then Gondolin fell, and the tidings reached Balar, where I resided at that time. I could not return to her as I wished, before I was named High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. I was not able to tell her personally…
I saw her once, afterwards, and I knew she was angry with me for not telling her the truth, that I was Ereinion, son of Fingon, nephew of Turgon, and not just Gil-galad. But there was not enough time to speak, then. And I was careless, assuming we had all the time in the world.
When the call came, the plea for help from Sirion, it was too late… All had gone, all that I had vowed to protect.
She was gone, like all of them, most likely to Mandos…
In my despair, I took to the seas once more, and it was then that Eärendil called to me, from his ship, Elwing, as by miracle, at his side. It was she that asked it of me, and I considered it a burden, at that stage.
Seek my sons, and take care of them, Ereinion.
Still, I made it my mission, to find Elrond and Elros… Because I could not let it happen again…
Malthon was the son of one of my father's squires, and therefore had logically been made a part of my following. I grew up with him, and at that time I considered him as close a friend as I had known until then.
He knew she and I had been lovers, and she knew he was my friend.
I never inquired, so I do not wish to speculate on how he found her, when all the while I mourned her death. When he returned from a long errand, he took her with him, and he stood before me and informed me of their bond. I laughed at him, to his face, amused he thought he could spite me by doing so.
I mourned it privately.
But he loved her, he loves her now… He despises me for treating her as I did… He would not believe me when I tried to tell him what I intended...
And now, his punishment is that she does not return his devotion. Her penalty is living with the knowledge she could have been mine. My chastisement is realising she loved me, and squandering it.
Now let me ask you, in what name do you ask these questions?
It is an interesting subject, yet, my name is of no importance now.
I have learned it is not wise to hide one's name…
There is a risk that comes with knowing my name… And you are not to take it yet. It is not your choice, nor mine… Indeed, if it had been mine alone, you would not have been here at all…
I do not understand.
If you would learn my name now, you would not be allowed to return. And in many ways you have not finished yet… The intentions of Ilúvatar are unfathomable, for you, and for me…
So, I am to return?
It seems so…
Softly the voice trailed of, disappearing as if it had never been, as if it had been an echo in the void… Yet there can be no echo in a void… It was as if he was being drawn back; nothingness making room for an emerging world…
He ran through the forest, only half-heartedly attempting to evade the lower branches of the pine trees that stood in his way. Most of them broke as soon as they touched him, brittle and dry as they were. It was not his intention to stay away from the campsite, not too long anyway, but he had to lose the apprehension within him, for it was clouding his senses, and this seemed the only way to rid himself of it.
He felt his heart-beat, quicker than usual, but nicely consistent with his tread, as he passed under a branch. A thread of spider webbing tickled across his face and slightly startled, he tried to sweep it away.
Closing his eyes for only a moment, making a movement with his arm that would have appeared strange if anyone had observed him doing it, Elrond met his branch. It hit him at chest-height and made him tumble into the humid carpeting of brown leaves. The smell of leaves became too persistent for his liking.
A bit dazed he sat up, angry with his own blunder.
For a moment he contemplated taking out his rage on the tree, but discarded the notion even quicker. It was his own stupid mistake. All of it.
He should have ordered the group off the road as soon as he had noticed their followers, he should not have ridden up to Gil-galad before they were entirely out of sight…
Yet if he hadn't, he would not have been there in time when…
Elrond threw back his head and took a deep breath. With a quick movement, coming more from habit than being an actual attempt to remove the pieces of leaf from his hair, he scrambled unto his feet. The rain had started again.
Malthon sat under the canvas makeshift tent, elbows on his knees, watching the dreary weather just outside. He was barely out of reach of the raindrops that leaked from a hole in the covering. A hole he had tried to plug for three days now, all attempts unsuccessful.
They had ridden for two hours, deep into the forest, before Elrond had given the signal to set up camp. This tent, in which he now sat, had been ready within minutes, Gil-galad inside almost as soon. Malthon had watched Elrond, his fingers flying between the medicines and his patient, never wavering, never tiring. He had marvelled at how much the Halfelven had matured since he had last seen him. They had only met once or twice, but the last time, Elrond had not been older than five centuries. Some wisdom does appear to come with age…
He glimpsed over his shoulder, to the motionless body lying deeper inside.
Even Malthon had to admit he was, and had been worried. But how he could feel so many different emotions, concerning one person, was still a mystery to him. There was a part of him that admired Ereinion, almost as much as the young Lord of Imladris did. A charismatic personality, possessive of both his father's bravery as well as his mother's patience, made it almost obligatory. Besides that, Gil-galad was his Lord, and Malthon would give his life to protect him.
Yet, another part, an equally large part, felt loathing, jealousy… How easy would it be if the High King would not survive? How much stability would return to Malthon's personal life?
Elrond came running, and shot under the roof, a little short of breath. His eyes shot towards Gil-galad, and entered further.
'I wish this rain would stop.' Malthon mumbled, staring into the dreary woods, his mind apparently somewhere else.
Elrond sat down beside the stretcher and began rummaging through his medical supplies, which were running precariously low. He had confiscated anything useable from the others, including every clean cloth, even the smallest patch. Anything he could use…
He had watched Gil-galad go through the stages of the fever, as the poisoned substance had begun its attack on the nervous system. Throughout the difficult respiration, rapid heartbeat and high temperature, Elrond had tried what he could, which had been little, but enough.
Yet his greatest fears had surfaced during the seizures, when he had not been at ease at all with the likeliness of spinal damage. He had stood by, like the masters of healing had long ago taught him, while personally, every vein in his body wished to help. But they had been short, and he had thanked the stars for it.
More worries had gone through his head the following days; damage to blood vessels, extensive internal haemorrhaging, permanent damage to the immune system… But those had all gone now.
Somehow the poison had been neutralized, but during the many hours at Gil-galad's bedside, Elrond realised it had not been due to his healing skills.
He had tried to explain it to Jarin, who had spent most of the days at his side, watching his every move, running his errands if necessary.
'They were required to hit him more than once. A single hit would likely not have killed, it was not supposed to. They expected to strike several times, but did not succeed. The poison was not able to accumulate, and if we are lucky, it will soon be making it's way out of the body.'
The only remaining worry he had was dehydration.
Elrond was surprised to find upon reflection, that there had never been a single instant when he had feared Gil-galad would die. At the moments when he had cause to do so, he had been too busy, and during the moments of waiting and watching, he had never doubted all would be well. It was his opinion Gil-galad was to regain his consciousness soon.
Giving the pressure-bandage a thorough assessment, he judged it satisfactory, and joined Malthon, who offered him the last of the wine and some waybread. He declined both.
'Do you suppose we shall ever leave this place?' Malthon pondered, storing the nourishments for later usage.
Elrond shrugged as he pulled on his cloak, his moist clothing making him shiver. Then he collected his journal from one of the pockets, and opened it, studying the drawings inside.
'It is not my intention to remain here for long. Seeing we are closing in on our own troops.' He followed the remaining space with his finger.
Malthon pointed his thumb towards Gil-galad.
'When shall he be able to ride?'
Elrond's eyes narrowed, as he rested his elbows on his knees.
'If we were in Lindon, or Imladris, I would say at least two weeks… After he wakes. But I suspect we are searched for already. And not by people we wish to be found by. If we take him on the stretcher, we will go slower, and be detected sooner.' Elrond sighed. 'Even though every logical part of me says I shouldn't, I'd let him ride as soon as he is able, accepting the risk of the wound re-opening.'
There was a long silence between the two Elves. Elrond raised his hand at Findor, who had been left in charge of securing the vicinity. The Elf did not near them, simply went on into the woods, reading no changes in the High King's situation from the faces of his superiors.
'Were those Dark Elves, we encountered on the road?' Malthon asked, studying Elrond's profile, amazed by the likeness to that of the High King.
'Yes,' Elrond mused. 'Avari, by the look of them…'
'I thought they kept away from either side?'
Elrond shook his head.
'Not all… If they are offered the right price…'
Both of them were startled as Gil-galad grunted softly.
'I can hear the blood pumping through my head, so that would indicate I'm not dead yet.'
Elrond was quicker than Malthon, up and away, as soon as the voice sounded.
'Not yet,' He replied, pushing Gil-galad back, forbidding him to rise. 'But if you do not stay calm now, it might not take too long.'
Malthon also came nearer, not able to look Gil-galad in the eye.
'I'll be outside.'
Gil-galad's eyes followed Malthon leaving the tent, before he turned back to Elrond, saying nothing. Elrond meanwhile folded a blanket, which was to function as a makeshift pillow, and placed it under the High King's head. Then he sat down beside the stretcher, collecting a water flask and offered it to Gil-galad.
'How do you feel?'
His patient grimaced, sipping the water, his eyes closing for a moment.
'How do you think I feel?'
Elrond flashed a smile.
'Not too good, I would guess.'
'You are going to make me say it, aren't you?' Gil-galad groaned, trying to shift a little, but returning to a his earlier position as the pain shot through his body.
Elrond caught his wrist and took a moment.
'Your pulse is still fast, temperature seems better than before… Nausea?'
'And pain in parts of my body I was not aware of having.'
'You fell off a horse. That is what hurts. Oh, and the arrow of course…'
Gil-galad collected enough force to raise his hand towards Elrond, playfully slapping him against the shoulder before letting the limb fall back. He was silent for a moment.
'There was poison?'
'Hmm, yes.' Elrond nodded, pointing at the other arm. 'Can you move it?'
Gil-galad tilted his head.
'I'll try if you help me sit up.'
'Then I won't try.'
'Very well, don't.'
The High King chuckled shortly, which turned into a coughing fit. He mastered it quickly, and weakly smiled.
'I do appreciate your presence, Elrond.'
The Lord of Imladris pursed his lips.
'And I appreciate yours, my Lord. Now try and raise that arm.'
Gruntingly Gil-galad gave in and flinched while attempting to reposition his shoulder joint. Elrond unrelentingly caught the arm and forced it as far as possible, receiving a waterfall of protest. Gil-galad's eyes were accusing.
'Is it your intention to torture me to death?'
Elrond shook his head, almost seriously denying the statement, as he continued his examination.
'I could not allow you to die… I wouldn't make a good ruler.'
The expression on Gil-galad's face changed, and he smiled broadly.
'I beg to differ… But help me up, we need to leave. I solemnly pledge I shall follow your dictation concerning what is best for my health upon reaching safer grounds.'
Elrond reluctantly offered his hand to help the High King rise.
'I fear that is an empty promise, my Lord.'
He watched Gil-galad flinch again as too much weight was placed on his wounded arm. But the Elf-lord persisted, flinging both legs over the side of the stretcher. For a moment a blackness came before Gil-galad's eyes, and he shrank. Taking a deep breath, closing his eyes, he waited for it to slowly pass.
Elrond shook his head, whispering.
'You cannot ride like this, my Lord.'
Gil-galad's eyes turned to a stare.
'I will rather die on my horse than here in this dark place.'
Glorfindel sat in the saddle, on the road back to Imladris, while all within him was screaming for him to turn back. Celeborn observed him, his piercing eyes every once in a while returning, questioning.
Lord Brougham had started his journey to Imladris two days earlier, and only because of that, were they now starting as well. Glorfindel did not trust the Man, and was certain part of Celeborn did not either. There was no reason to distrust Danhelm, who travelled along with the Man. But Imladris did not yet know of the disappearance of its Lord, and Glorfindel was adamant that this remain so, at least for now.
They were there, he mused, unwilling to accept neither of his friends had survived. Firmly believing that at least one of them, and possibly both, still had to be in those woods.
Some of the Avari, it is said, were corrupted by Morgoth in ancient days to become the progenitors of the race of orcs. (source: Encyclopedia of Arda: also known as 'Paradise')
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