The sky was beginning to lighten as Gwirith looked down on Luinil’s sleeping face, frowning at his flushed cheeks and damp forehead.
‘The fever rises in the evening,’ said Helevorn, wiping Luinil’s brow with a piece of linen.
‘Is it poison?’ said Gwirith.
‘No,’ said Helevorn. ‘The wound is infected. He should not have got up from his bed, though I am glad for your sake that he did.’
‘I will come back later to see him,’ said Gwirith.
‘I don’t know why you’re not still sleeping yourself, Gwirith. If you can’t rest here, go home and take your ease. We will take care of him, and the others. ’
‘I am going, Tathrenil,’ he said, beginning to yawn. ‘But before I go, can you tell me …’ his words faltered.
‘Luinil is strong. He will recover,’ said Helevorn. But then he understood that that was not what Gwirith meant.
‘I cannot give you hope that is not there. His wounds are grave and he was so ill-used that even though you saved him from immediate flight to Mandos, his fea wavers between his hroa and its halls. You know we use the ritual to call him back.’ As he spoke, he led Gwirith to the door leading to Celinn’s room. ‘Look now and you will see,’ he said, opening it. Tathrenil stood at Celinn’s side, his hands on his heart and waist, while Galadriel was behind Celinn, gently supporting his head. Many candles burned round him, giving a soft light and scenting the room with a delicate fragrance. Galadriel was silent but Tathrenil murmured softly under his breath.
Gwirith sighed deeply. ‘It is hard to watch and to do nothing,’ he said.
‘It is the hardest thing to do,’ said Helevorn. ‘But at the moment we can do little else. He knows you love him, and that will touch him even now.’
‘I? I do not love him,’ Gwirith corrected him. ‘I respect and admire him. He showed the courage of a true warrior. But we are not lovers.’
‘I did not say you were,’ said Helevorn, gently, watching Gwirith’s face.
‘Very well,’ said Gwirith, and his fair skin was flushed. He turned back to look at Celinn, but of course nothing had changed. His face was as pale and still as marble. Galadriel’s long golden hair shone like a diadem in the candlelight, and the blue cloth of Tathrenil’s garments rippled with light and shadow like deep water. Suddenly he could not bear to watch any longer.
‘I will go now,’ he said, and he seized a travelling light and pushed past Helevorn out of the main door and into the forest. Helevorn stood, one hand on the wood of the door and watched him stride away into the cold light of early dawn.
Although Gwirith walked through the green lanes of Caras Galadhon, he noticed nothing until he found himself standing at the foot of his talan. His mind had been full of the events of the last days, and now his home looked strange to him, especially since he knew Luinil would not be there. As he began to climb, he felt at last the weariness of his aching body, and when he reached the talan, he stepped into the dwelling and looked about him. Everything was exactly the same as they had left it, but he was different. He could not yet say how he was, but something had changed within him.
His legs ached, and he had an overwhelming desire to lie down on his bed and go to sleep without even removing his boots. But he fought it, putting the light down on the table before setting his bow on its rack and unbuckling his quiver. He was grateful to Haldir’s company for finding his weapons: this was one of his best bows. And in his pocket was the green velvet bag Galadriel had given him with miraculously all but one of the carved pieces unharmed. Haldir had found that too.
He unpinned his cloak and laid it aside and was beginning to remove his shirt when he felt something tucked within its folds, in the inner pocket. He put his hand in and his heart turned over as it met something soft. He drew it out carefully, and his hands were full to overflowing with Celinn’s shorn hair, gleaming gently in the light of the lamp. It was the bright gold he remembered from the day of his braiding, not at all like the white-blond cap of hair that surrounded Celinn’s face when he had sat and looked down on him for so many hours in the last days.
All at once it seemed too intimate a thing to hold, and Gwirith put it down carefully on the bed. For a while he stood, uncertain, then he went to his clothes chest and, opening it, he reached beneath the clothes and took out a small box of fragrant wood, carved and painted in bright enamels. He opened it slowly, as though he feared something might suddenly leap out from it. Inside were a quantity of things. Gwirith’s eyes blurred with tears and all he could see was a mist of different colours. He put his hand in quickly and drew out a large piece of turquoise cloth that shimmered with an iridescent thread, then shut the box at once and buried it in the bottom of the chest.
For a long time he remained kneeling on the floor, his hands shaking and his legs refusing to support him. At last he was able to stand. The turquoise cloth was crumpled in his hand. He unfolded it and smoothed it out on the bed, then carefully laid the long thick golden locks within it. Now that he was calmer, he could see the stains of blood and dirt on the hair. He would have to wash it. Later, when he had slept. He felt a need to bring his hand closer to the shining gold, and almost without his volition, one finger touched it, softly tracing a path from end to end. Half way down there was something in the way, and his fingers pushed gently down and closed round a thick braid. Then he was weeping again, remembering, and then his fingers found the slender kin braids also.
Gwirith felt an absurd urge to press his face to the soft gold pile of hair, but with an effort he mastered it. He wrapped the hair carefully in the cloth and placed it in the chest, near the top, and closed the lid.
He stretched out on the bed and pushed his boots off and lay in his shirt and breeches, pulling his thick dark hair over his shoulder. He remembered what Helevorn had said to him about loving Celinn. Surely he did not love him. Anyone would be moved by the experiences of the last days. He was his comrade, no more. He closed his eyes and breathed in the freshening smell of dawn. But as he drifted into sleep he saw Celinn’s face before him, not the pale features he had seen in the healing house, but the face that had looked at him across the guardroom many days before, laughing and happy, and Gwirith’s face relaxed into a smile as he looked into Celinn’s sea green eyes.
For many days Celinn lay between life and death. It seemed that his fea still yearned to be free of his body, and three times more Gwirith watched Tathrenil’s skilled hands revive Celinn’s quiet heart. Despite the healers’ best efforts, his wounds became infected and his body burned with a slow fever. Galadriel visited him often and did all she could to strengthen him, and Helevorn asked Haldir whether he too wished for a bed in the healing house, since he seemed to be spending all his time there. Celinn’s company were all relieved from duty, and he was never without one of them by his side. Caranfir came every day and sang to him, and Aiglin fetched some of Celinn’s precious possessions and put them near him, so that their energy might call him back.
Celinn lay on his side in a bed by the window. The coverlet of his bed was white, as were the garments in which the healers had dressed him. His shorn hair seemed to have lost its strong gold hue and lay bleached against his pale face. The only touch of colour was the slight flush of fever on his cheeks and the light that fell on him from the stained glass in the big window behind him, blue and purple and gold.
Aiglin stood by the bed and looked down at the long scar on his brother’s cheek. His fingers moved tentatively to touch the cropped hair and then the single thick lock that rested on his right shoulder.
‘He looks as if he is already dead,’ he whispered.
‘Aiglin, you must keep hope in your heart,’ chided Tathrenil. ‘He rests and heals. He is pale because he has lost so much blood.’
‘I am glad my father is in Mandos and my mother in the Undying Lands, for I would not have them here to see this day,’ he said wretchedly. ‘But maybe he is closer to them now than he is to us.’
He turned away, covering his face with his hands. Tathrenil rubbed his shoulders briskly, murmuring soothing words. At length Aiglin looked up again.
‘I would like to stay with him,’ he said, and Tathrenil indicated the chair beside Celinn’s bed.
‘Why does he not wake?’ asked Aiglin, sitting down.
‘It is probably because of the blow he received to his head,’ said Tathrenil. ‘But the fever and his other wounds have used up his strength, and his hroa tries to heal him in the best way it can. Waking is for later, when the work has been done.’
Aiglin took his brother’s hand, sighing deeply as he felt the dry brittle heat of his skin. ‘It is good to be with him, even if he does not know it in his fever.’
‘His fea knows it nonetheless,’ said Tathrenil.
Aiglin fell silent and Tathrenil was turning to leave when he saw that someone was standing in the doorway.
‘Aragorn!’ he cried. ‘Why are you out of bed?’
‘Is that Celinn?’ said Aragorn hoarsely, ignoring him and addressing Aiglin, who nodded without speaking. Aragorn walked carefully across to the bed, as though it took something of an effort not to lose his balance. His left arm was still strapped across his chest, and he supported it with his right.
‘They wouldn’t tell me if he still lived, Aiglin. I thought my father was a tyrant, but your healers are even worse.’
Tathrenil made a noise of outrage, but Aiglin smiled sadly. ‘You look half-dead yourself, Aragorn. I expect they are worried about you.’
‘Oh, I always look terrible when I’ve been hurt,’ said Aragorn, dismissively. ‘I’m fine really.’ He waved his right arm expansively, then swayed and had to catch hold of the end of the bed.
‘Aragorn,’ said Tathrenil irritably, ‘do you realise how close to death you have been? We nearly had to send for your father.’
Aragorn turned sharply to him and immediately regretted it, gritting his teeth against the wave of dizziness that threatened to overwhelm him.
‘But you didn’t, did you?’ he said shakily at last. ‘Send for him, I mean?’ Tathrenil scowled at him.
‘No. The Lady told him he did not need to come.’
‘Good,’ said Aragorn, trying to hide his disappointment, and remembering not to nod his head. ‘He does fuss so.’ He turned slowly towards the bed and looked down at Celinn, and his eyes filled with tears.
‘How is he?’ he whispered.
‘He…has a fever,’ said Aiglin softly. ‘And many wounds.’
Aiglin looked away without replying. Aragorn stared at him.
‘But he can’t…he won’t…will he? Aiglin!’
‘Peace, Aragorn,’ said Aiglin, dully. ‘He is in the hands of the Holy Ones.’
‘But…it was my fault,’ whispered Aragorn.
‘Of course it was not your fault,’ said Aiglin, irritably.
‘It was,’ insisted Aragorn. ‘I…gave myself away. Adanwath spoke to me…in Sindarin, and I answered him without thinking. That was when he found out I was not who I said I was…and I knew at once Celinn would come for me.’
‘We could not leave you in the hands of the enemy, Aragorn. If it had not been Celinn, then Rumil would have come.’
‘But I knew it would be Celinn. I expect Rumil thought I belonged with my own kind and wasn’t worth the risk of elvish lives,’ he said with uncanny accuracy. ‘I put him in danger, Aiglin. If it hadn’t been for me, he wouldn’t have come without the rest of you. If I had dealt with Adanwath as I promised, he couldn’t have hurt Celinn. It was my fault.’ His voice had sunk to a whisper.
Aiglin was silent for a long time, and the only movement in the room was made by his thumb tracing tiny circles on Celinn’s hand.
‘It doesn’t matter now,’ he said wearily at last. ‘Go back to bed, Aragorn.’
‘When will Adanwath be brought to justice?’ demanded Aragorn. Aiglin seemed not to have heard him.
‘Has it not been decided?’ said Aragorn. ‘I will speak against him, before any lord in Arda: Rohan, Gondor or Lorien itself.’
Aiglin muttered something incomprehensible.
‘I couldn’t quite hear you, Aiglin,’ said Aragorn.
‘We do not have him,’ said Aiglin, in a strangled voice. ‘He threatened to harm the child if we tried to take him, so we had to let him go. The other companies of the pellarim are still out searching for him. He let her go a little while after. She and her mother are being sheltered by the Dunedain.’
‘He was bluffing. He would never harm Linnet.’
Aiglin turned sharply to him. ‘You knew about the child?’
‘Yes, I knew. But of what importance could a child be to our plans?’
‘She saw us, Aragorn,’ said Aiglin angrily. ‘In their trustful innocence, the children of men may perceive us when others do not. How could you forget to tell us such a vital piece of information?’
‘I…I don’t know,’ said Aragorn, white-faced. ‘I didn’t think.’
Aiglin looked at him, and Aragorn felt as if his heart had shrivelled up within his breast.
‘I am sorry,’ he whispered.
Aiglin slowly laid his head down against Celinn’s hand and closed his eyes.
‘I cannot talk any more now, Aragorn,’ he said in a faltering voice. ‘Please, go away.’
Aragorn opened his mouth to say something, but Aiglin’s utter dejection defeated him. He reached out to touch him, but even that seemed too much of an intrusion, and after one last glance at Celinn’s scarred face, he turned and stumbled from the room.
‘I must go,’ said Aragorn, pulling on his boots one-handed.
‘This is utter foolishness,’ said Helevorn angrily. ‘You can barely walk, let alone ride.’
‘He is right,’ said Galadriel gently. ‘Rest a little longer, my dear.’
‘No!’ shouted Aragorn. Galadriel said nothing, but something changed in her face. Aragorn hung his head. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ he said harshly, through gritted teeth. ‘But I can’t just sit here while Celinn…I have to do something to help find that…that fiend!’
Galadriel turned to Helevorn and a moment he later he bowed and went out. Galadriel sat down and watched Aragorn as he paced round the room, a little bent over because of his injuries.
‘My dear, you cannot always do just what you want any more,’ she said. ‘You belong to others as well as yourself now.’
‘And what good am I if all I do is bring trouble to those I care for?’ he cried. ‘This is not why my father… why Lord Elrond told me my true name. I must do something to put right the harm I have done. I know what you and Celeborn think about me: that I’m too young, too green for this task. That’s why I did all this: to prove to you and to myself that I was worthy to bear my father’s name, worthy of all my kin. But look what’s happened to Celinn because of me. Maybe Celeborn was right. I’m just a boy, a useless boy.’
Galadriel looked at him for a long time in silence. Then she said,
‘You are neither a boy, nor useless, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. You are Isildur’s Heir, and you are learning your craft, the craft of kingship. Part of that learning is to endure when things do not go as you would wish.’
‘At least if I could find him it might help Celinn somehow, just to know we had brought Adanwath to justice,’ he said, as if he had not heard her, and he reached for his sword belt and began to buckle it on.
‘Aragorn, in the name of the Valar, please listen to good sense!’ Galadriel said, suddenly at the end of her patience. ‘You are lucky to be still in life! It is only the skill of the healers which has saved you. Your father has endured torment these last days. What will I tell him if you push yourself past your strength when you have so lately been so sick?’
‘Tell him whatever you like,’ said Aragorn, stopping in front of her and looking her in the eyes. ‘I think I know where Adanwath may be hiding, and I am going to search for him.’
Galadriel simply looked at him. For a long moment he returned the look, but then he went suddenly to his knees in front of her. His sword knocked loudly on the wooden floor.
‘Forgive me, Lady. I was lacking in respect,’ he whispered. ‘You have been so kind to me, and in return I show you the manners of a brute.’
There was a long silence, and Aragorn felt Galadriel’s power, the power that made Lorien what it was, and he repented of his rashness. At last Galadriel’s hand came to rest lightly on his bowed head.
‘Estel, you are quick and impetuous, and if you are to come into your inheritance, you must learn long patience. Rest tonight, and in the morning if you are still determined, I will ask Haldir to go with you to search for this man. But you shall have only one day. After that you must leave it to others and care for your own wellbeing. You belong to your people now, though they do not yet know it.’
‘Then Celinn is one of my people,’ he said in a shaking voice, ‘and I want to help avenge what has been done to him.’
Galadriel sighed. ‘Enough, my dear. Let me see you lie down, now, and we will speak again in the morning.’
Aragorn kicked off his boots and unbuckled his sword dejectedly, and carefully stretched out fully clothed on the bed. Galadriel drew a blanket over him.
‘If you cannot sleep, then at least think of something that makes you truly happy,’ she said, and she gently kissed his brow. The door closed quietly behind her.
Aragorn found that he was trembling, though with what emotion he was unsure. His mind went immediately to Celinn, and he saw before him his white face with its long vivid scar. Feeling the aching begin again in his shoulder, he curled over on his side, clenching his right fist and pressing it to his eyes, trying to prevent the tears from leaking out from beneath his tightly closed lids.
For a long time he endured the torment of guilt and self-loathing, but at last the Lady’s words came back to him and he wondered what made him truly happy.
Then he was back in Imladris, walking under the trees, seeing Arwen for the first time, and with a deep sigh his hand uncurled and came to rest on the linen sheets, and before he had come close enough to look in her face, he had fallen asleep.
‘Why here?’ said Haldir, looking at the yellow stone buildings with their crumbling tower.
‘I heard them talking about it. That’s what gave me the idea to leave Surindel’s body here after we escaped from them.’ Aragorn twitched the reins one-handed and his horse began to move towards the derelict hall.
A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance and they both turned to look east, to where the dark cloud hung over the tower of Dol Guldur on the other side of Anduin.
‘Quickly,’ said Haldir. ‘We are too exposed here.’ He turned and made a sign and Degil rode over to them.
‘Are we going in?’ he asked. Haldir nodded.
‘Even though he was hit, he may still be dangerous. Aragorn, take heed.’
Aragorn nodded and slid awkwardly round his horse’s neck, then immediately ran towards the door of the tower. He and Haldir made their way silently up the spiral stairs, avoiding the ones where the boards had rotted through, while Degil, stood guard outside, holding the horses. At the top was a large empty room, the sunlight falling in broad bands on the bare wooden floor. Motes of dust danced in the thick beams that penetrated the dirty, cracked windows. No-one was there.
‘Let’s try downstairs,’ said Aragorn.
‘Wait,’ said Haldir. He pointed at the floor. The dust had been disturbed, and over in the corner was something that might be the print of a boot. Silently Haldir crossed the room, his sword drawn. It seemed completely empty, but there was an area of shadow against the far wall, where it looked like there was a store cupboard with an open door. Haldir pulled the door open. It creaked loudly.
‘Nothing,’ he said. Suddenly there came a loud crash from somewhere behind the wall. Haldir went into the store cupboard and leaned against the back: it gave, revealing another set of stairs.
‘He’s got out. Go and warn Degil. I’ll go this way,’ he said, not waiting to hear any objections Aragorn might have to his plan.
Haldir ran lightly down the steps and found himself in the derelict great hall of the main building. It was so dark after the tower that he could not see well at first, but soon his eyes became accustomed to the light, and he saw a trail of red running across the floor. He followed it, stepping across dead rats and broken furniture inches thick in dust and cobwebs, until it stopped at a closed door.
Haldir cursed under his breath. He did not want to let whoever was in there have a chance to escape, but it was not a plan of the greatest intelligence to take on an unknown enemy your comrades. He stood uncertain, and was just about to turn to find Aragorn and Degil when the sight of Celinn hanging limply from the tree flashed suddenly before his eyes. Animated by a surge of incandescent rage, he tore open the door.
Adanwath was slumped on the floor against the wall of the small windowless room, half-turned away from Haldir. His face was pale and blotchy and he was breathing with difficulty. Haldir stood watching him, a little distance away. There came the sound of running feet outside and Aragorn appeared.
‘Haldir!’ he yelled.
Haldir shook his head. ‘It is lucky I do not need to keep my presence a secret from my enemy, Aragorn,’ he said quietly.
Aragorn came over to him. ‘Sorry,’ he said shamefacedly.
Then his eye fell on Adanwath, who had not moved, but watched them, unblinking. Aragorn went pale and lunged forward towards him, but Haldir restrained him. Aragorn winced as his shoulder came into contact with Haldir’s body.
‘Aragorn, you must think first! You will get yourself killed if you always do the first thing that comes into your head.’ Aragorn struggled against him half-heartedly for a moment, then sighed and turned away from the outlaw.
Haldir went over to Adanwath and took his arm.
‘Get up,’ he ordered, coldly.
Slowly Adanwath got to his knees, evidently greatly weakened by his wound. But just as he was about to stand up, there was a ringing of steel and he drew his sword out from between his body and the wall and thrust it towards Haldir. Haldir saw it out of the corner of his eye and leapt aside, but the point of the blade drove into the muscle of his upper arm. Instantly he brought down his own sword and Adanwath’s blade slid across the floor and came to rest in the opposite corner of the small room. Haldir was kneeling in front of him, his hand tight around his throat.
‘Your life is mine, Adanwath,’ he said, in an icy, grating voice Aragorn had never heard before. ‘This boy here wants you to be tried for your crimes, so I cannot kill you straight away. But if you give me the smallest chance, I will take great pleasure in doing so. I hope that is absolutely clear.’
Adanwath’s eyes bulged from their sockets and he was wheezing loudly. Haldir loosened his grip, then dragged the man to his feet and pushed him against the wall.
‘Search him, Aragorn.’
Aragorn obeyed, doing the best he could one-handed, and relieving Adanwath of a couple of knives and several small scrolls of parchment. When he was satisfied, Haldir said,
‘Walk,’ and shoved Adanwath through the door and out into the great hall into the afternoon sunshine. Involuntarily Adanwath glanced towards the shadow that shrouded southern Mirkwood, and Haldir said,
‘I wonder if you may have some interesting things to tell us about your connections, Adanwath. Do you think we can be as imaginative as he was in persuading him to talk to us, Aragorn?’
‘I am absolutely sure of it,’ said Aragorn, bitterly, his body still aching in several places from the persuasion that Adanwath had used on him.
Adanwath turned his face away in silence, standing still while Haldir bound his wrists tightly behind his back. Degil appeared then, fiercely pleased with them.
‘Well done, boy,’ he said, clapping Aragorn on his good shoulder. ‘This is a good day’s work.’ He looked Adanwath up and down.
‘Nothing to say? That does surprise me, after our last meeting,’ he said dryly.
‘What would I say to the likes of you?’ spat Adanwath suddenly. Degil’s eyebrows went up, but he barely reacted, turning away to talk to Haldir.
‘Don’t turn your back on me!’ growled Adanwath. Degil pointedly ignored him, but Adanwath threw himself sideways and crashed into Degil, sending him sprawling on the ground.
Haldir pulled on the rope he had tied to Adanwath’s wrists, and the man jerked back violently.
‘I don’t think you’re in any position to aggravate us, Adanwath,’ he said angrily. ‘It is only because of this boy that I have not killed you already.’
‘Well, what are you waiting for, then? Too much of a coward?’ taunted Adanwath.
Haldir did not react to this, but Aragorn flared up, seizing Adanwath’s jaw and shoving him up against the horse.
‘Have you any idea how much damage you have done, Adanwath?’ he shouted. ‘Not only to your own men who were killed, and to the woman and child who had to be rescued after you abandoned them, but to me, and to those who risked their lives to save me from you?’
Adanwath’s dark eyes blazed at him. ‘The more, the better,’ he said softly. ‘That’s what I do, little boy who thinks he’s a man. Do you think I didn’t recognise you when you asked to join us last month? I knew you, from the time you performed your first amazingly heroic act, and rescued that pathetic elf.’
‘Then why did you take me in?’ asked Aragorn, bewildered.
‘Because I was bored,’ said Adanwath. ‘I knew you wanted something, so I thought I’d wait and see what it was, and maybe then I could get something out of you.’
‘But you haven’t,’ said Aragorn. ‘You’re alone, wounded, captured. All your men are gone. You’ve lost and we’ve won.’
‘Oh, you’ve won, have you? I’m not sure that’s quite right. Didn’t I take something from one of your filthy allies? One of those with the long hair - of course it’s not as long now, is it? Something he owed me, that was mine by right?’ His voice fell to a lascivious whisper. ‘Something that I enjoyed very much, especially since he tried so hard to resist me.’
Aragorn struck him hard across the face. Adanwath gasped, and a trickle of blood ran down his chin from where he had bitten his lip.
‘You make me ashamed to name myself a man,’ Aragorn said, low and fervent. ‘I think I have been mistaken in thinking that bringing you to justice would do anything to make you regret what you have done.’
‘Aragorn,’ said Haldir, warningly, laying a hand on his arm, but Aragorn shook him off.
‘Regret it?’ said Adanwath, lazily, and actually yawned. Then his face changed, becoming almost unrecognisable. ‘I would do it all again,’ he snarled, his face very close to Aragorn’s. ‘Maybe you were jealous, were you, sweetheart? Did you want him for yourself? Well, if your little friend was here now, I’d give him a second dose. Only this time I wouldn’t just rape him and cut his pretty hair. This time I’d kill him.’
Aragorn went white. Haldir and Degil stepped closer to him, thinking to restrain him, but Aragorn was suddenly more controlled than they had ever seen him.
‘Adanwath, you have convicted yourself out of your own mouth. Even did I know all the crimes you have committed throughout the years that you have tormented the people of Rhovanion and Eriador, this one alone would be enough to pay for with your life.’
Haldir and Degil stared at him.
‘Aragorn, what are you saying?’ said Degil.
‘I am Chieftain,’ said Aragorn, his voice deep and confident. ‘Within my lands I enforce the law. That is true, is it not?’
‘Yes, it is true, but…’
‘Then I pass sentence on this man. He has raped, murdered, robbed without mercy, and shows no remorse for what he has done. If he lives, he will commit more crimes. I say that his life is forfeit.’
Adanwath smiled complacently. ‘You do not have the right of life and death over me, boy.’
‘I have it, and I exercise it now,’ said Aragorn. ‘Choose your way of death, Adanwath, for you will die here, now.’
Adanwath began to laugh, but when he saw the faces of Haldir and Degil, he fell silent.
‘You’re not going to let this brat do this, are you?’ he said, incredulous. ‘Tell him! He has no right.’
‘He has the right,’ said Degil softly.
Adanwath’s face went grey. ‘You cannot do this. I am unarmed. It is dishonourable,’ he stammered.
‘You speak to us of honour?’ said Aragorn, ‘You who take your greatest pleasure in tormenting those who cannot defend themselves against you? Choose. I can only offer you the sword, thanks to the kind attentions you paid me when I was in your hands. If you prefer the bow I must ask Haldir to oblige you. ’
‘No, I will not choose,’ said Adanwath, beginning to shake. ‘Spare me, I beg you.’
‘There will be no mercy for you, Adanwath,’ said Aragorn, and he spoke with the voice of cold justice. ‘You, who have never shown mercy to others, taste that same mercilessness now.’
Adanwath fell to his knees. ‘My Lord, spare me, I am sorry for what I have done,’ he begged in a trembling voice. ‘I will take whatever punishment you will give me, but only spare my life.’
‘I will not,’ said Aragorn. ‘Choose your death, or I will choose it for you.’
Adanwath remained hunched over on the ground, breathing heavily. At last he said, ‘I choose the bow.’
‘Haldir,’ said Aragorn quietly. ‘You are the best archer of the three of us. Will you do this? If it goes against your heart, I will use my sword on him.’
‘No,’ said Haldir, ‘it does not go against my heart. I will do it.’
Aragorn leaned down and with a single stroke of his knife, cut the bonds around Adanwath’s wrists.
‘Do you wish to ask the forgiveness of the One for your crimes before you die?’ he asked.
‘Yes, oh yes, I do,’ stammered Adanwath.
‘Then do so,’ said Aragorn. Adanwath pressed his forehead to the ground and mumbled to himself for several minutes. At last Aragorn said,
‘Enough. Do you wish to see the arrow that takes your life, or will you turn away from it?’
‘I will…turn away,’ said Adanwath, almost inaudible.
‘Then go,’ said Aragorn. ‘When the time is right, we will send it, and you will die quickly.’
Haldir strung his bow and nocked an arrow to it. Adanwath dragged himself to his feet and stood leaning against the horse’s back, weeping softly.
‘Go,’ said Aragorn, without emotion. ‘Your time is over.’
At last Adanwath pushed himself away from the horse and stumbled away from them, gradually moving faster until he was some distance away.
‘Haldir, are you sure you wish to do this? I would not force you to act against your conscience,’ said Aragorn quietly, but Haldir raised his bow and took sight. A few seconds later his bowstring thrummed as the arrow left it, and they saw it arc through the air and strike Adanwath cleanly in the centre of his back directly over his heart. He threw his arms out with a sharp cry and fell heavily to the ground.
Aragorn walked slowly across the short dry grass and knelt down beside him. His eyes were open, but he was dead, and on his face was an expression of incredulous surprise. Aragorn closed the eyelids with his fingers, then sat back on his heels beside Adanwath, his hands laid palms upturned in his lap, suddenly aimless and bone weary, looking across the flat plain of Anduin at the shadow that hovered over Mirkwood.
Haldir unstrung his bow. ‘Go to Rohan, Degil, tell them the good news. Their justice will not be needed: Adanwath is gone.’
Degil smiled a little at that. ‘The credit should be yours. It was by your hand, Haldir, not mine.’
‘It was owed to me,’ said Haldir softly, ‘for what he did to my youngest captain.’
Haldir walked over to Aragorn and laid a hand on his shoulder. ‘Let us go home, lad,’ he said gently. But the face which Aragorn turned on him was no longer that of the youthful, idealistic boy whom he had first seen riding by Anduin not far from here: it was the wise, sad face of a full-grown man, who has looked on evil and known it, and will never return to innocence again.
‘Lord Aragorn,’ Haldir said. ‘Lorien awaits you.’
Slowly Aragorn got up. ‘Thank you, Guardian,’ he said. ‘I am very tired. I will be glad to rest in the Golden Wood.’
In the days that followed his return to Caras Galadhon, Gwirith began to be aware of a strange nagging pull towards the healing house. He knew of course that it was because of a natural comradely concern for the welfare of his captain, and took no notice of it. But since he was not accustomed to find his will in less than perfect control of his emotions, he felt it best to find some occupation to engage his mind, especially since his company had been relieved of their duties for the present.
Haldir was surprised to see Gwirith at the door of the guardroom.
‘Of course there is work for a bowmaker, but you do not need to offer yourself, Gwirith. Take your ease, as do the rest of your company,’ said Haldir. ‘I assure you that you have earned it.’
‘I would like some task on which to concentrate my mind,’ said Gwirith. He hesitated, then went on, more urgently, ‘Give me something to do, Guardian. My mind will not be still. It is … quite an unpleasant sensation.’ He looked down at the ground, shifting awkwardly from one foot to another.
Haldir’s eyebrows shot up, but he managed to compose his features before Gwirith looked up again.
‘Very well, if you wish to help, there is always a need for someone else to mend bows and make new arrows,’ said Haldir. ‘You can use the workshop in the guardroom if you wish.’
‘Thank you, Haldir,’ said Gwirith with relief. ‘I will fetch my gear.’ He saluted quickly and was gone.
Gwirith took his turn to visit Celinn the next day as any comrade would.
‘Hold this,’ said Tathrenil shortly, handing Gwirith a large earthenware bowl. ‘No, better still, put it on the table and you can lift him while I remove his shirt.’
Gwirith did as he was told, putting his arm around Celinn and raising him up while Tathrenil undid the laces and began to push the shirt off Celinn’s shoulders.
‘I think it may be caught on the arrow wound,’ said Tathrenil sharply. ‘The dressing is soaked through again,’ and he gently detached the linen from the thick bandage.
‘Now hold him steady while I look at him,’ said Tathrenil.
Celinn’s eyelids flickered briefly as they touched him but apart from that he gave no sign of consciousness. The flush of fever was on his cheeks and his skin felt hot under Gwirith’s hands.
Tathrenil undid the bindings on Celinn’s shoulder and dropped them into the bowl before examining the old arrow wound. Gwirith heard him mumbling to himself.
‘How is it?’ he asked, but Tathrenil did not answer. Gwirith glanced down: the wound was still inflamed and weeping.
‘Move him so that I can see the knife wound,’ said Tathrenil curtly. Gwirith gently shifted Celinn’s body in his arms and the soft weight of Celinn’s fair head came to rest against his shoulder. Some unnamed emotion lurched deep in his gut and he felt a tingling in his fingers.
‘Please be still,’ said Tathrenil, removing the dressing from Celinn’s side. ‘Ah, this one is better!’ he exclaimed with satisfaction. Gwirith watched his nimble hands as he cleaned both wounds before salving and re-binding them.
‘When will he come back to us?’ asked Gwirith. ‘It is nearly a week now, and yet you say he wakes only for moments at a time.’
‘He will wake when he is ready, hroa and fea,’ said Tathrenil. ‘His wounds are very deep and the fever grips him, Gwirith, and he does not have the strength for anything but healing them.’
‘But if he does not eat or drink …’
‘When he wakes, we give him what we can. That is all we can do: fretting will not help him. Be calm when you are with him, even though he sleeps, and you will help him to heal. Now, be quiet a moment while I finish this.’
Gwirith did his best to be calm while Tathrenil finished securing the dressings on Celinn’s wounds.
‘Good,’ said Tathrenil. ‘You can put him down now,’ said Tathrenil. ‘No, don’t go, hold him still while I look at his leg. Like this, one hand on his shoulder and one on his waist, here.’
Gwirith felt his fingers tingling again as they touched Celinn’s skin. He shifted a little, only to receive another rebuke from Tathrenil.
‘What is the matter with you? Can’t you stand still for two minutes, by the Valar?’ But then the healer looked at him keenly, first at his face, then down at his hands.
His winged eyebrows rose up sharply for an instant. ‘I did not know you had a healing gift, Gwirith,’ he said, almost accusingly.
‘A healing gift? I do not!’ protested Gwirith. ‘I am a bowmaker and fletcher. My hands know their craft but they work with wood and leather and feathers, not with flesh and blood.’ He bowed his head. ‘And my craft brings death, not life,’ he said in a muffled voice.
‘Oh, and how would we eat without your craft?’ said Tathrenil. ‘I suppose you think that starving is a good way to die?’
‘No, but …’
‘Gwirith, I know many ways to bring death using my craft,’ he said quietly. ‘But it is my intention to use it to bring life. You did not create the evil that we strive against, so do not rebuke yourself for helping to fight it.’
He turned back to Celinn. ‘We have no time for this now; he will get cold,’ he said, passing his hands slowly from Celinn’s knee up to his thigh. ‘Put your hand here, Gwirith,’ he said, indicating Celinn’s thighbone a few inches below the joint. Gwirith did so and immediately removed his hand.
‘What did you feel?’ demanded Tathrenil.
‘It is cold,’ said Gwirith, shocked. ‘Not like ice, but like steel. Cold and sharp.’
‘Yes,’ nodded Tathrenil. ‘It is not mending well. See if you can bring some warmth to it,’ and he put Gwirith’s hands back firmly on to the broken bone.
‘How is it now?’ he asked, after a few minutes.
‘Still very cold,’ said Gwirith through gritted teeth. ‘It feels as if I am holding a naked blade.’
‘It is difficult, I know,’ said Tathrenil. ‘Don’t fight against it. Let the cold and the steel into your hands, and send the warmth down into its place.’
Gwirith willed himself to open, to replace the coldness with warmth, but something in him resisted. His hands began to shake and a chill sweat broke out on his face.
‘I cannot do it,’ he said, his jaw clenched. But then Tathrenil placed his hand in the middle of Gwirith’s back and gently held him. Gwirith gave a sigh of relief, and then it was as if his whole being became a light turned on the broken bone in Celinn’s leg, and the light flowed deep into every living fibre of it, and the cold sharp vibration began to fragment and dissolve and to flow backwards into Gwirith’s hands. Celinn stirred suddenly and made a small sound. Gwirith turned to him but his eyes were still closed.
‘Good,’ said Tathrenil’s voice. ‘Gently now, a little at a time is all he needs. Remember the earth is beneath your feet and the One is with you.’
Then Gwirith became aware of himself at the centre of a spiral of moving energy, rooted by the earth and by Tathrenil’s solid and unwavering touch on his back. But both of them and Celinn himself were surrounded by a greater power, the life of the earth and of Eru himself. He knew himself then to be a channel of this power and his body tingled with its vibration.
‘That is enough now,’ said Tathrenil’s voice quietly in his ear. ‘Let the flow stop gently so that he will not be shocked.’
Gwirith imagined the stream of light slowing and finally stopping altogether.
‘Let the light pass out of him and out of your hands into the ground,’ instructed Tathrenil, and Gwirith obeyed, letting the last vibrations of energy pass out of his fingers and be absorbed into the earth.
‘Now I will let you go,’ said Tathrenil, and gently removed his hand from Gwirith’s back. Gwirith staggered a little and Tathrenil caught his arm and pushed him unceremoniously into a chair before going quickly to Celinn’s side. Gwirith saw him pass his hands from Celinn’s head down to his feet without touching him before covering him with the sheet.
‘May the Valar be blessed,’ he said softly, then turned to Gwirith, his face shining.
‘My dear, well done! You have a most delicate healing touch, and you will be much help to him!’ He took Gwirith in his arms and held him tightly for several moments, then let him go and kissed him on both cheeks. ‘I should not have asked you to do so much the first time, I know, but he is so sick and since you have a special affinity with him, I thought you might be the one to help him when I saw the light in your hands.’
‘Light?’ said Gwirith, incredulous. ‘But I thought that only happened when the Lady was there.’
‘No, you have your own gift,’ said Tathrenil, kneeling down beside him. ‘Now, how do you feel, Gwirith? I must get Helevorn so we can cleanse you. Would you like something to drink or to eat?’
‘No,’ said Gwirith slowly, ‘I think I am … fine.’
‘Good, I knew you were strong. Now sit here and don’t move until I get back with Helevorn.’ He leapt to his feet and ran out of the room in a whirl of robes.
Gwirith sat unmoving as he had been commanded to do. The silence rang in his ears as he looked across the room to where Celinn lay motionless on the bed. Was there something different about him now, or was that just what Gwirith wished to see? He truly didn’t know, so instead he looked down at his upturned hands as they lay on his lap. Soon he heard voices and Helevorn and Tathrenil came into the room. Helevorn took both Gwirith’s hands in his and Tathrenil stroked the air around Gwirith’s body from his head down to his feet. Gwirith felt small movements in his body as they did this, and at the end felt perceptibly warmer.
‘What a blessing, Gwirith, just when we needed you,’ said Helevorn. ‘We have tried all we know and he is beginning to mend, but so very slowly. Your names must have been written together in the making of Arda.’
But Gwirith was still bewildered by what had happened. ‘Are you saying that I am especially able to help Celinn?’
‘Yes, indeed,’ said Tathrenil. ‘The vibration in your hands is in accord with him, and helps to heal him.’
Gwirith shook his head, uncomprehending.
‘It is as if your energy and his are like two singers, whose voices harmonise perfectly with one another,’ offered Helevorn. ‘It seems that his fea consents to you whilst resisting the touch of others. Because of what you did, the bone in his leg is beginning to mend. If you are willing, you can help us in his healing.’
‘But how could this be?’ asked Gwirith, unaccountably disturbed by their words.
‘There are many reasons. Sometimes it is a gift that is found in kin, close in blood. Or in those who practise healing for many years.’
‘But I am not kin, nor am I a healer.’
Helevorn and Tathrenil exchanged a look. Then Tathrenil said quietly,
‘You know why it is, Gwirith.’
Gwirith stared at him, open mouthed. ‘I have no idea what you are talking about,’ he said.
Tathrenil looked deep into his eyes for a long moment. At last he said, ‘I believe you do not. Maybe it is not yet time for you to understand.’
Gwirith frowned, and for a moment his face darkened, but then he looked down at his hands.
‘In these last weeks I have entered a new life,’ he said. ‘There is a great deal that I do not understand. Since I suppose you are not going to tell me, I will have to find out for myself.’
‘If you have eyes, you will see,’ said Helevorn. Both he and Tathrenil were smiling foolishly.
Gwirith stood up, shaking his head. ‘I must go to the guardroom. At least there I understand what is going on.’ He stepped over to the bed and rested his hand on Celinn’s shoulder, his face softening for a moment. Then he turned back to the healers.
‘May I come back tonight?’
‘Gwirith, you may come whenever you please. When you are ready, we will tell you more about your gift,’ said Helevorn.
‘But come as soon as you can,’ said Tathrenil, suddenly serious. ‘He is still very sick.’
For a moment Gwirith’s blue grey eyes were shadowed, but then they saw him deliberately straighten his shoulders.
‘Until later, then’ he said.
‘Namarie,’ said Tathrenil. Gwirith nodded and was gone.
Gwirith did as he was asked and returned to the healing house when his duty in the guardroom was finished, and from that day, he joined the healers in their daily care for Celinn. He did not understand why his hands seemed particularly efficacious in healing Celinn, but he knew it was his duty as his comrade to do all he could to restore him to health.
‘It is partly because you were with him at the worst time,’ said Galadriel, when he asked her. ‘It is probably because of you that his fea did not leave his hroa at the moment he was violated,’ she said. ‘Somehow he knew he was not alone and that your touch on his mind connected him still to a place of safety. Now there is a memory in him of that touch, a haven in the midst of hell, and he recognises it through your hands. But that is not the only reason.’
He waited for her to explain further but she did not speak.
‘What is the other reason?’ he asked, a little impatiently.
‘When it is time, you will know it,’ she said, and though he looked full into her clear eyes, he could not find the secret of her answer.
‘Yes,’ said Tathrenil, ‘Gwirith must have been unaware of his gift, although as a craftsman it is a part of the skill of his hands.’
‘And he is here each day?’ said Haldir, watching with interest as Tathrenil prepared some birch bark and twigs for boiling.
‘We have let him have one of the healers’ rooms, to save him making the journey back and forth to his talan. And he has his work as bowmaker and fletcher as well.’
‘He asked for the task. All the rest of the company is off duty.’
‘Well, the guardroom is nearby, so he can come at a moment’s notice if we need him,’ said Tathrenil, dropping the stripped birch twigs and bark into a pot of boiling water.
‘What is that for?’ asked Haldir, his eyes alight with curiosity.
‘It makes an infusion which relieves pain. I will give you some, if that wound is still troubling you.’
Haldir glanced down, frowning, at his upper arm where his clothes hid the bandage over the sword wound Adanwath had given him. ‘Even after his death Adanwath’s mischief continues,’ he said. ‘But no, the wound troubles me little, Tathrenil.’
‘Ah, here he is,’ said Tathrenil, as Gwirith appeared in the doorway, carrying his bowmaker’s gear. He saluted Haldir formally as he came into the room, putting his leather bag down on the floor.
‘Are you working on a new bow, Gwirith?’ asked Haldir, coming over to see the bowstave which Gwirith was carrying.
‘I have just started it,’ said Gwirith. ‘Celeborn the Forester has given me some good wood which he cut in the spring. This one is well seasoned and true.’
Haldir balanced the stave in one hand. ‘It has a lively feel to it. I would gladly have the bow when it is made,’ he said.
‘I will make the next one for you, Guardian,’ said Gwirith. ‘This one is already promised elsewhere.’
‘Very well,’ said Haldir. ‘I look forward to it. Is your craft changed now that you have discovered your healing gift?’
Gwirith pondered for a moment, then replied, ‘There is much that is alike in the two crafts. Whether I make a bow, or a bracer, or some arrows, I am guided by the voice of the wood, or the leather, or the iron. I feel it through my hands. It tells me how to shape it; it speaks to me of itself. And so it is with healing. I feel Celinn’s body through my hands, and it speaks to me, showing me where the touch of the Light is needed, to cleanse and renew what is broken.’
His face was suddenly transformed by a brilliant smile. ‘It gives me great happiness to be able to do this,’ he said.
Haldir and Tathrenil watched him with pleasure. ‘Your coming to us has been a great boon,’ said Haldir warmly. ‘I am sorry for all the years that I did not know you when you dwelt alone in south Lorien, Gwirith.’
Gwirith’s fair skin flushed and he managed to look both pleased and uncomfortable at the same time.
He mumbled something incomprehensible and nodding a farewell, he picked up his gear and left them.
The leaves of the tall mellryn had just begun to turn to gold when Celinn’s fever finally broke and he began to return fully to consciousness. Galadriel was the only person present when he opened his eyes, and she was worried by what she saw.
‘His hroa is mending but his fea is out of true,’ she said quietly to Tathrenil when they had left Helevorn with Celinn. ‘His heart is closed and the energy of what was done to him still stains and defiles him: he has not released it. He will not be able to heal while that memory is still locked deep in his body.’
‘We cannot force him to release it,’ said Tathrenil. ‘He must choose it. Otherwise it will be another violation of his will.’
‘And…he asked me for something to cover his hair,’ said Galadriel, ‘I sent to my talan for a hood I once made for Celebrian. He does not wish to be seen bare-headed.’
On the same morning of autumn mist, Haldir stood in the garden of the healing house as Helevorn gathered herbs for the stillroom.
‘May the Valar be blessed for restoring him,’ Haldir said, at hearing the news of Celinn.
‘I must admit I had almost begun to despair,’ said Helevorn. ‘He has had such a consuming fever and so little nourishment; I scarcely know how he is alive at all, after what he has endured.’
Haldir drew his cloak more tightly round his tall frame. ‘You have done wonders,’ he said. ‘And so has Gwirith.’
‘Yes, and he does not know why,’ said Helevorn, straightening up and smiling at Haldir. ‘Hold this, will you?’ he asked, putting a bunch of rosemary into Haldir’s hands, then bending over to cut some lavender. A companionable silence followed, intensified by the insulating mist. Haldir closed his eyes and breathed in the fragrance of bruised rosemary. Right at this moment he was perfectly happy.
‘But something does worry me,’ Helevorn’s muffled voice said.
Haldir opened his eyes with a sigh, and waited.
‘He does not like us to touch him,’ said Helevorn. Haldir turned slightly towards him. ‘He does not say so,’ the healer went on, ‘but of course we can tell. We touch him as little as possible to avoid causing him distress. He speaks gently, though very little.’ The scent of lavender blended with the tang of rosemary as Helevorn tied the bunch together with twine and placed it in Haldir’s hands.
‘Is it because …’ Haldir hesitated, then looked away.
‘His body remembers how it was most recently used,’ said Helevorn gently. ‘He does not trust any touch, for fear of reawakening the horror he endured.’
‘May I see him?’ asked Haldir.
‘Wait a while, until the others arrive,’ said Helevorn. ‘We must not disturb him too many times when he is so newly woken.’
Haldir shook his head, and a shadow passed across his face. ‘I have only just made him a captain. Maybe it was too soon. He thought he was not ready, but I believed he was. If I had listened to him…he could have been trying to prove himself.’
‘You know that is not true,’ said Helevorn firmly. ‘He acted exactly as he should. You would have done the same yourself.’
‘Yes,’ Haldir agreed sadly. ‘I would.’
‘It will not help him if you needlessly blame yourself, Guardian.’ said Helevorn. ‘We do what we can to stand against the Dark, you more than most.’
Haldir tightened his arms around the fragrant plants as another deep sigh escaped him. ‘Thank you, Helevorn, for your good sense,’ he said ruefully.
‘And thank you for yours, which you seem to have temporarily mislaid.’ said the healer. ‘Now let us go in. I must have some tea straight away. I know you love the autumn mist but I wish I had worn my thicker cloak.’
‘Quiet, all of you,’ said Tathrenil, trying to make himself heard over the combined voices of Haldir, Alfirin, Aiglin and Luinil. Gwirith, who had just emerged with him from the stillroom, stood behind him, smiling but silent. ‘Children, I said, please be quiet,’ he said firmly. Some note in his voice penetrated the consciousness of those he was addressing and they fell silent.
‘Luinil, come in and close the door. Guardian, you should know better than to let them stand there making so much noise. I know this is a blessed day, but remember those who might find your celebration a bit difficult to bear.’
Celinn’s visitors stood smiling as sheepishly as elflings caught stealing apples.
‘Please at least try to look serious,’ Tathrenil went on. ‘I want you to understand what I am going to say. Yes, his fever has broken at last and he is conscious now. Yes, he is better. But he is changed.’ He watched Alfirin, Aiglin and Luinil’s joyous expressions become slightly more doubtful. ‘Haldir and Gwirith I have already spoken to, but you three must hear this now. There is a long journey ahead of him, and I think it unlikely that it will be a smooth one. You must be patient with him.’
He looked around into each face. ‘It will take time for him to come back fully to himself. One more thing. He seems to remember only some of what happened to him after he was captured. It seems that his mind mercifully veils what is too painful for him to endure at present, so it is best to let him recall it in his own time. Do not insist that he talk of what occurred; only tell him all is well with you and your company.’
For a moment Tathrenil hated himself as he looked at the now definitely subdued expressions on the faces of Celinn’s visitors.
‘I am sorry,’ he said quietly. ‘I am trying to spare you unnecessary pain by telling you this.’
At last Haldir spoke. ‘Thank you, Tathrenil. We will try to remember what you said.’
Then Aiglin said hesitantly, ‘Maybe Alfirin should not come in with us.’
‘Why not, brother?’ demanded Alfirin. ‘I want to see him as much as you do.’
‘I would not have you hear all that he endured, if he should wish to speak of it,’ said Aiglin.
‘If he can endure it, I can listen to him tell it,’ Alfirin said. Brother and sister looked daggers at each other, but at last Aiglin dropped his gaze. ‘If you are sure,’ he said quietly.
‘Can we see him now?’ said Alfirin.
‘Of course,’ said Tathrenil, opening the door to Celinn’s room.
‘Do not tire him out. Guardian, I will hold you responsible,’ said Tathrenil, closing the door as he left them.
Celinn was sitting up in bed propped up by several pillows, with an embroidered blue woollen wrap covering his shoulders. Muffled as he was in this and the bedclothes, they could still see how very thin he had become. The strong light from the stained glass window spilled its colours over his white face, defining his brow and his fine cheekbones, sharpened into a painful beauty.
For a moment the five elves stood beside the bed. Then Aiglin flung himself at his brother and threw his arms around him.
‘Oh, my dear Celinn, I have been so dreadfully afraid,’ he said, his voice breaking. Luinil started talking at the same time, seizing Celinn’s hand and pressing it to his cheek. Haldir sat on the bed and his face broke into a brilliant smile, while Alfirin rested a hand on Haldir’s shoulder, laughing and crying at the same time. Only Gwirith stayed a little way back from the others, and after a while it was he who said, tentatively,
‘Perhaps Celinn would like a little more air?’
He turned to the window and opened it, but the others had heard the note of warning in his voice. Aiglin released his brother and looked him in the face, and with a shock saw that Celinn was pale and shaking. Luinil slowly put down Celinn’s hand, and Haldir moved a little further away. Alfirin sat down on a stool next to Haldir.
‘I am sorry, Celinn,’ said Aiglin, ‘I forgot myself. After what you have suffered …’
Celinn looked away in silence.
‘How are you, Celinn?’ said Gwirith, gently.
Celinn turned to him very slowly, as if he found it difficult to move. When at last he spoke they scarcely recognised his voice.
‘I don’t know,’ he said softly.
Aiglin tentatively pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down.
‘Everyone has come home safely,’ Aiglin said. ‘Aragorn and Luinil were hurt but Luinil is well now, and Aragorn is mending. Caranfir’s wound has healed.’ There was a pause. ‘I am also well,’ said Aiglin hesitantly.
But Celinn still did not speak. Aiglin stared at him, his longing for Celinn to give some gesture of closeness plain in his face.
‘My dear brother,’ he whispered at last, forgetting Tathrenil’s words, ‘my heart has suffered with you in these last days, as it did in the hours you spent in the hands of the enemy. I beg of you, let me help you to grieve for what was done to you.’
Aiglin reached out to take his hand but Celinn flinched away from him so sharply that Aiglin stood up and staggered back a few steps. There were a few moments of dead silence, then Alfirin said, in a voice full of tears,
‘My poor darling Celinn, what has happened to your beautiful hair?’ Her hand moved as if she would touch the single lock that rested on his shoulder, but then she let it drop to her side. Haldir leaned a little closer to Celinn.
‘Captain, I wish to commend your courage,’ he said gently. ‘You and your company have done well.’
Celinn looked at him dully for a while, then slowly turned and looked at the others.
‘So you haven’t told him,’ he said hoarsely.
‘Told him what, brother?’ asked Aiglin. But Celinn did not answer. After a long silence, he said,
‘I am tired,’ and they saw his head fall back against the pillow as though he no longer had the strength to hold it up.
Gwirith looked on his face, and was overcome by a wave of hopelessness that did not seem to be his own.
‘Celinn, this will pass. You will be yourself again,’ he said urgently, but Celinn did not respond.
At last Haldir stood up and said,
‘We will leave you to rest, Celinn.’
‘We just wanted to see you,’ said Luinil, forlornly. Aiglin could not speak.
They left the room dejectedly to find Tathrenil was waiting in the hallway.
‘You didn’t listen to a single word I said, did you?’ he said, looking at their anguished faces. He held out a tray on which there were five small glasses of miruvor. The elves downed them without a word.
‘I didn’t think it would be as bad as you said,’ said Luinil. ‘He hardly spoke to us.’
‘He didn’t want me to touch him,’ whispered Aiglin, almost in tears.
‘You didn’t tell me about his hair,’ said Alfirin, in a shocked voice. ‘I’m sorry,’ said Aiglin and took her hand.
‘Please listen to me,’ said Tathrenil, speaking very carefully. ‘It is not that he does not love you. He is not well. Hurts which are not of the body take longer to heal.’
He put his arm round Aiglin’s shoulders. ‘He will come back to himself in time,’ he said gently. ‘You must keep up your hearts.’ Aiglin gave a muffled sob and Tathrenil pulled him against his chest and held him tightly.
‘Elbereth aid our dear Celinn,’ said Haldir, ‘for he will not let us do so.’
In this chapter I was interested in the idea that with practice, someone could develop the skill of sensing the energy of another person, and in channelling a healing energy to where it was needed. I think this fits in with the elves’ connection to nature, which to me is a recognition of the similar energies of all living things.
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.