Light and Darkness: 13. Chapter Twelve

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13. Chapter Twelve

Haldir hoisted his pack on to his shoulder and tightened the buckle on his sword-belt by another notch.  All five companies of the Galadhrim stood waiting, ready to begin the two-day march to Dol Guldur.

'Keep your wits about you,' he said soberly.  'The nearer we approach the dark tower, the more dangerous it will be.  If you see any sign of the enemy, however insignificant it seems, alert me or one of the officers at once.  Any questions?'

No-one spoke.

'Very well.  Stay close together, to each other and to the Mirkwood host.  Onward, brothers.'

The elves of Lorien fell into formation and began to walk out of the camp on to the track which led west towards Dol Guldur.  A short distance away Haldir heard Saelon give the same command to his warriors and they too began to move.  Soon the whole host was travelling at a fair speed.  At first the elves talked and laughed as they walked, glad at last to be on their way, but after several hours had passed they fell silent, giving all effort to travelling.  By nightfall they had covered many miles and made camp around a single fire a little way from the road.  Haldir kept watch with two other Galadhrim officers, and he could see that Legolas was on the same duty at the other side of the clearing.

In the last days he had tried to speak to the prince, but Legolas gently turned aside from him whenever he approached, and avoided him as much as he could.  For once Haldir was mildly contrite, regretting not only the loss of what would surely have been a memorable encounter, but also the gentle unreproachful sadness that Legolas now carried about him which strangely seemed only to heighten his beauty.  No-one else commented on the prince's mood, so Haldir thought he might be the only one who could see it, possibly because of his part in bringing it about.

With a warrior's knowledge of which battles to fight he knew this one was all but lost, and did what he could to forget his desire for Legolas, but from time to time he would find himself watching him from afar, noticing ridiculous things like the colour of his hair at different times of day or the graceful movements of his hands as he cleaned his long white-handled knives.  Occasionally he felt his usual rage that anyone, even a prince, should have the audacity to refuse him, but as always the demands of duty soon took possession of him as did his love of Lorien and of those under his command, which was the only pure and true love he knew.  For these he would gladly lay down his life, if such a sacrifice would help to ensure their continuation safe from harm.  Nor did he find it strange that he could bear such a love for land and comrades and yet have no desire to give anything deeper of himself to any other individual, except his two brothers to whom he was joined with unbreakable bonds.

Haldir was able to snatch a few hours of sleep in the darkest part of the night, and at dawn was back on duty, waiting with Saelon at the rendezvous Mithrandir had given them. Not being one for pomp or ceremony the grey wizard arrived quietly as always, leaning on his staff as he walked energetically over the ridge towards them.  His grey robes were dusty and mud-stained but his weathered face was cheerful and full of intelligence, and his blue eyes sparkled like ice.  Around him, like a light field of energy, a kind of soft radiance trembled.

'My dear friends,' he said, 'I am very glad to see you.  Haldir, you I know, but you, Sir...'

'Saelon of Mirkwood,' said the commander of Thranduil's host, bowing.

'Saelon,' said Mithrandir, taking his hand with a smile.  'I am sure you are as wise as your name, and you will prove me right by telling me your plans.'

'Will you not rest or take some refreshment first?' said Haldir.

'I will not,' said Mithrandir.  'Time is short, and I would not expend my powers on veiling us from the enemy for any longer than is needful.  And in any case, I'm sure that after so many weeks in this benighted place, you have little to offer me.'

'Clean water and good bread,' said Saelon, 'and our regrets that Mirkwood cannot offer you better.'

'It is not the wood elves who have rotted the forest,' said Mithrandir, low-voiced, with a note of anger thrumming through his voice.  'Let me have water and bread, then, while you tell me what you propose.  You know I will need to break through whatever defences the dark one has placed around the tower, and though I will do what I can with my skills, your bows and swords will play their part.'

'Yes,' said Haldir, while Saelon sent someone to fetch the maps and food and drink for Mithrandir.  'And you will need to get out again afterwards.'

'First let me get in, and then I will worry about how to get out,' said Mithrandir.  'Ah, you elves have magic in your hands, to be able to make bread which still tastes good after so many hours crammed into someone's pack.'

Haldir laughed, and he and Mithrandir sat down on the ground, while Saelon spread out his maps between them.

'And is the prince not with you?' asked Mithrandir, not failing to notice the way Haldir's hand shook suddenly so that he dropped the stone he was using to weight a corner of the map.

'He is,' said Saelon, 'and is most eager to see you.'

And indeed there was Legolas coming quickly towards them.  At once Mithrandir was on his feet, a vast smile on his face, and then Legolas reached him and was enfolded in his arms.

'Mithrandir!  I've missed you...' he said.

'My dearest Legolas, I have missed you also,' said Mithrandir, holding him in a firm embrace.

'My father sends you his respects,' said Legolas, when Mithrandir had released him.

'And I send him mine,' said Mithrandir, and then he looked searchingly into Legolas' face.  'My dear, I think we will speak a little later on, when the work is done.'

'Of course,' said Legolas.

'Now, all of you, tell me your plans.'

Over the next hour they discussed the disposition of the elvish warriors and the timing of the attack.  Mithrandir was to deal with those things against which the elves had no defence: the discordant sounds, the strange fires and the powders which caused destruction all around them.  In the meantime the elves would fight those creatures which defended the tower and the woods around it so that Mithrandir could enter it and confront the dark lord.

'I will need some time within, both to find him and to defeat him,' said Mithrandir.

'You will have it,' said Saelon.

'Do you wish some of us to come into the tower with you?' said Haldir.

Mithrandir sighed deeply.  'The place is so foul it hurts my heart even to ask the Eldar to go near it.  No, Haldir, this time I will go in alone.  Curunir and I have prepared ways for me to do so.'

'You can't know how grateful we are to you, Mithrandir,' said Saelon.

'I think I can,' said Mithrandir gravely.

They discussed their final dispositions and then, the meeting over, they packed up and stowed away maps and parchments and set to making a final check of weapons and gear.  Mithrandir strolled about the camp observing the work that was going on, assisting where he could.  He spent a long time with Legolas, and Haldir found himself watching them as they conferred, heads close together.  Once Mithrandir looked up suddenly and caught his eye, and something in the wizard's face made Haldir shudder, as if Mithrandir had seen through him, right down to his bones.

He didn't watch them any more after that, but it was not so easy to avoid Mithrandir in person.

'Galadriel and Celeborn chose you out of many to lead the Galadhrim on this expedition, Haldir of Lorien,' said the Grey Wizard.

Haldir nodded, feeling distinctly unworthy of the honour.

'I am a warrior.  I love my land and my comrades,' he said, low-voiced.  'I hope this will be enough.  It is everything I have to give.'

'It is more than enough,' said Mithrandir.  'But even so, you are more than your duty, Haldir.  A great deal more.'

Haldir looked at him, questioning, but Mithrandir had no more to say to him.

In the hours that followed he had no time to think about the wizard's words as he went round every company of the Galadhrim.  Haldir made sure every single warrior knew exactly what to expect when they launched their attack the next day, and when all that could be had been done he stretched out by the fire next to Rumil, leaning his head on his brother's shoulder.

'Where is Orophin?' he said.

'Sick, as always before a battle.'

'Valar, for once I understand him,' murmured Haldir.  'Brother, if I fall tomorrow, know that I love you.'

Rumil kissed him on the brow.

'And I you, my dear,' he said gently.

They did not speak much after that, and indeed everyone who sat round the camp fire that night was subdued.  All except Mithrandir, who smoked his long pipe calmly, and told gentle stories of heroes of old.

Dawn came with a barely perceptible lightening of the skies.  The ranks of elvish warriors stood drawn up in battle order, the blue steel of their blades shining dully in the dimness.  Quietly the commanders confirmed each company's disposition, and then they marched the last miles to the foot of Amon Lanc.  Once there, Mithrandir removed the glamour with which he had veiled them from the attention of the enemy, for with it they would be unable to fight, and they stood revealed, the dark tower stark and black before them.

Haldir was surprised at how long the silence lasted.  Maybe that was one of the enemy's weaknesses: slowness to react.  It would be like Sauron to underestimate the determination and courage of those who sought to defeat him.  Mithrandir was a third of the way up the hill before the howls of wargs and the snarls of orcs were heard, and then they were in the midst of battle.  The creatures poured out of the tower like a fetid flood, and they came also from behind the elves, from the part of the forest through which they had moved in secret under Mithrandir's protection.  Haldir felt the high joy of battle tear through him as he pushed forward surrounded by his comrades.  In combat everything seemed perfectly clear, clear enough for many voices around him to be lifted in harsh, triumphant song.  And the frustration of these last weeks of waiting - waiting for this day and for Legolas both – boiled up in him and came rolling out on to the point of his sword, and he used it to power his arm and his spirit as he advanced against the enemy.

As always Haldir lost all sense of time, knowing only his heart beating hard in his chest, and the strength of his arm, on bow or sword.  The elves fought well but sometimes a comrade fell before him and at once Haldir and the others near him did what they could to defend their brother until he could be taken from the field.

There was noise, always noise: shouts and screams, groans and snarls and growls.  There were the odours of battle: the sweat of fear and exertion, the tang of spilt blood, the damp smell of the churned-up earth.  Mithrandir had disappeared into the tower, and Saelon's own company were at its foot, defending the entrance so that none of the enemy could pursue him.  Haldir thought he saw a slender blond-haired figure at the top of the hill, but he convinced himself he was mistaken; and in any case, even had it been Legolas, what difference could it make to him?

Nearby Haldir saw his brothers fighting side by side.  Orophin was listing a little: was he hurt?  Haldir tried to make his way over to him, but the tide of battle swept him away in another direction and he lost sight of him.  A huge orc appeared suddenly inches away.  Haldir raised his sword, two-handed, and blocked the ugly black blade that the creature was wielding.  It took all his strength to force him backwards, but the orc was pushing him now, making him give ground.  Haldir wedged the pommel of his sword against his hip and whipped out his long knife, then slid it neatly between the creature's ribs.  A gush of black blood came out of the orc's mouth, and his eyes glazed over.  Haldir stepped aside quickly and the orc crashed down full length on the ground at his feet.

Another orc came then, and another, and numberless orcs after that.  Haldir's arm was growing weary, and for the first time he began to wonder how much longer how would need to fight before he could rest.  There was no answer, and he fought on, his breath coming harsher in his chest.

Then all at once there was a terrifying shriek, one so loud and potent that the ground shook with it.  For one unbelievable instant the battle stopped, as if all the protagonists had been frozen to the spot.  Then the shriek came again, and the orcs and wargs and other creatures shuddered and began to move away.  From the tower itself came something like a pulse of energy, and all those in its orbit staggered as it rippled out across them.  The creatures of the dark tower seemed dazed by it, and at once the elves began to press them even harder, and their enemies began to turn and to run from their blades and their arrows.

'Mithrandir!' came the cry from someone near Haldir, and looking up he saw the wizard right at the top of the tower, his staff streaming with light.

'Mithrandir!  Mithrandir!'  The cry was taken up by many voices and something in its resonance broke the already-faltering enemy.  Squealing and crying, orcs and wild men turned and fled, dropping their weapons on the field of battle.  Shouting in triumph, the elves followed them, dispatching as many as they could.

Haldir stood exhausted, his sword trailing on the ground, looking round him for his brothers and the other elves of Lorien.  He had just seen Rumil and had taken three steps towards him when out of the corner of his eye he saw a figure hurtling towards him.  Instinctively he raised his sword but the creature was on him, brandishing an ugly weapon, broad-headed and studded with iron points.  Haldir took the force of the blow with his left shoulder and felt the bones break deep under skin and muscle.  The pain came straight away but he had scarcely any breath with which to cry out.  The weapon was already coming down again, this time towards his unhelmeted head.  In a desperate instinct to save himself, he rolled sideways and away from the creature, feeling the bones of his shoulder grind together sickeningly.  Almost overcome by nausea, he dragged himself blindly in what he thought was a safe direction, but something had seized him and he didn't have the strength to pull away.

'Valar take me,' whispered Haldir, his sight blurring, and then something crashed down onto him, something so heavy that he couldn't breathe.

'Valar take me.'  This time his lips formed the words without sound, and then there was only blessed darkness.

***

A light.  There was a light, far away, and Haldir struggled to reach it, and then he was in it, like coming up through water.  But with the light the pain came again, and then he longed for the darkness to come back and cover him with its merciful oblivion.  Many hands were on him, trying to turn him over, and he tried to push them away, to let him return to the darkness, but they continued regardless.  Someone was crying out nearby and he felt pity for whoever was suffering so much, but there was nothing he could do for them; and then he recognised his own voice, and knew it was for himself that he should have pity.  He tried to open his eyes, but there was the light again, hitting him like a hot blade.  If he half-squinted he could see the topmost bare branches of the trees moving gently in the changing light, and for a moment he was soothed by the sight; but only a moment later they were moving too much, spinning and lurching sickeningly.

After that he didn't know whether he was looking at the sky or at the ground, and was overcome with nausea again.  Someone held him while he was sick, and then he groaned and closed his eyes, drifting back into unconsciousness.  But now new hands were on him and he was sitting up, and the pain from his shoulder was sawing through him with such force that he felt it would crush him down into the humid earth.

Again he cried out that they should leave him alone although he knew no-one could hear him; but now there was a voice speaking gently into his ear, telling him to stay still, that they would help him, a voice that seemed to be breaking with tears.  After that he couldn't fight any more, and wondered how long it would be before he died from his wounds.  He wished he had been able to say goodbye to his brothers, but of course they might even now be dead or dying, as he was.

He fell into a kind of semi-consciousness, in which fragments of sound and movement and vision came to him in between long periods of muted greyness, but the pain was always there, like a snake coiling round him, tightening so that he couldn't breathe, piercing him with long poisoned fangs.  There was the taste of salt in his mouth and in his throat and he retched and coughed, but now someone was holding a cup to his lips, and the liquid in it was cool and sweet, and he drank it.  It dulled the pain so that he began to drift into sleep, and even the hands that pushed aside his cloak and cut through tunic and shirt to expose the ruin of his shoulder seemed far away, and he barely twitched when the healer began to work on him, excising ruined flesh and shattered bone, and repairing the torn edges of the wound.  Haldir wondered why they were wasting their time on him since he was going to die anyway, but there was nothing he could do to stop them, so he let them do as they pleased.

When it was finished they strapped his arm across his body and gave him another draught of poppy juice, and washed his bruised and battered face before taking him to lie with the other wounded; but Haldir had a strange moment of lucidity and said he wanted to lie outside under the trees.  The healer would not hear of it, but Haldir tried to get up and walk there himself, and the wound broke and bled again, and when they had repaired and re-bound it a second time they laid him down on a pallet under a leafless beech tree a few yards from the healers' tent, and covered him over with blankets.

Haldir lay still, shivering with the beginnings of fever.  A chill little wind blew across him and he tried to lift his hand to push his hair from his face, but he did not have the strength.  He thought to himself that it would be soon, and that there was no point fighting any more.  He would have liked to have seen his brothers one last time, but they might already be in Mandos, waiting for him.  The thought comforted him a little, and as the poppy-juice ran swiftly through his veins he felt himself relaxing, and the pounding pain in his shoulder eased a little.

He didn't know if it was a minute or an hour later that he heard voices near him, so near that their owners must be kneeling beside him.  One of them was surely Rumil's.  Did that mean Haldir was already in Mandos?  There was another voice, deep and soft, which seemed to go into the heart of him, even soothing his shattered shoulder.  Haldir sighed and tried to turn towards the source of the voice but the poppy juice had taken him too deep.  Maybe he had managed to give some sign because the voice came again, although he was too drowsy to understand it clearly, and then someone laid a hand lightly on his damaged shoulder.  Instinctively Haldir shrank away but with the touch came an issue of warmth and the pain faded a little.  After that he could understand something of what the voices were saying, and he was sure it was Rumil speaking, and maybe Mithrandir who had laid his hand on him.

'Keep up your heart,' Mithrandir was saying to his brother.  'With luck he will mend.'

'Haldir is always lucky,' said Rumil lightly, but there was something broken in his voice.

'I fear he has a fever,' said another voice.  There was something familiar about it but Haldir couldn't place it.

'He is strong, Legolas,' said Mithrandir.  'You must both have hope.  Grieving will not help him now: think of life, not death, and you will give him new strength.'

'You are right,' said Legolas, and now Haldir could hear the uncharacteristic heaviness which had made his voice unrecognisable.

'Why won't he go into the tent?' said Rumil, irritably.  'Even now that the shadow is lifting from the dark tower, it's still very cold.'

'I suppose he feels too much hemmed in,' said Legolas gently.  'Perhaps he wishes to be near the trees.'

'I'll go and speak to the healers again,' said Rumil, and went away.

For a while there was silence and Haldir began to drift into a troubled sleep, but then Mithrandir said,

'You know touch helps him to heal: if you like you may lay your hands on him.'

'He wouldn't wish it,' said Legolas sadly.  'Even though I know he desires something from me, he finds my touch difficult to endure.'

'It is because he fears what you offer him,' said Mithrandir.

'I know it,' said Legolas, 'but I would not inflict it on him now, when he is so weak.'

Haldir's attention began to drift then and he couldn't concentrate on anything else that was said, but he sensed the moment when Legolas left, and later when Mithrandir removed his hands from his body.  Haldir shuddered suddenly as if he had been doused with iced water, and he knew the fever had taken hold of him.  Rumil was beside him, speaking softly, and although Haldir could not understand him he was comforted by his presence.  Even through his closed eyes he seemed to sense that it was a little brighter in the forest, but he didn't know whether it was day or night, or whether the fever was distorting his perception.

When the effects of the poppy juice began to wear off, he fumbled for and found his brother's hand, but he didn't have the strength to grip it.

'Haldir,' whispered Rumil, close to his ear, 'please, brother, don't leave us...'

Haldir wanted to console him but the pain was returning, and under its sway he felt more sure than ever that he would die of these wounds.  He must have given some sign of discomfort because Rumil said,

'I will fetch you something for the pain,' and Haldir felt him get up and move away.  Now he was much colder than before, and for the first time he felt grief for what he was about to lose: not only his life and his brothers, but Lorien itself and Galadriel and Celeborn.  He felt tears on his face, but someone was wiping them away and lifting his head.  Haldir cried out weakly, but there was a strong arm under his shoulders, holding him, and a cup against his lips.  He drank the poppy juice, hoping the dose was strong, maybe strong enough to end his suffering once and for all.

Before the medicine could begin to work on him he whispered some words of farewell, and whoever was with him leaned down to hear what he was saying.

'Haldir, no, not yet...' said a shocked voice, refusing him a parting, but Haldir knew it would be so.  The poppy juice was strong and almost at once there was music around him, and he heard Galadriel's voice singing in the Golden Wood.  Comforted, he leaned back against whoever was holding him.  He could hear a heartbeat, strong and regular, and he moved closer to it, but that dragged painfully on his shoulder and he had to turn away.  He could still just hear it, and his last thought was that this heart would go on beating once his own was quiet.  Galadriel was close now, as close as whoever was holding him so tenderly, and he drifted into unconsciousness, and darkness covered him.

*** 

Haldir knew he was awake even though his eyes were closed.  For a moment he wondered what otherworldly sight would meet him, and his whole being cringed away from finding out.  But never having lacked courage, he whispered the name of Elbereth and opened his eyes.

The brown mist had gone and the sky was a pale washed-out blue above him, criss-crossed with a filigree of bare branches.  There was no birdsong, nor could he hear the sound of forest creatures, but nearby there was a murmur of voices.  He wanted to turn towards them, but couldn't work out how to do so.  Maybe things were different here in Mandos and it would take time to learn.  But now someone was approaching: he could hear the sound of feet walking through the fallen leaves.  So they must have seasons here, as they did in Arda.

The feet stopped beside him and Rumil looked down into his face.

'By the Valar…' he said in a voice of wonder, falling on his knees beside Haldir.

'Rumil,' said Haldir, but his voice was rusty and no sound came out.  He tried again, and croaked out his brother's name.

'Yes, my dear,' said Rumil, bending down and kissing him.

'Rumil,' said Haldir again hoarsely.  'Is Orophin dead too?'

'What?' said Rumil, surprised.

'At least…we are…together…' said Haldir, wondering why his brother had laid a hand across his forehead.

'Haldir, you're not delirious again, are you?  Of course Orophin's not dead.  He didn't even get a scratch.  You took the wounds for all three of us, brother.'

Haldir frowned at him, trying to make sense of his words.  At last light began to dawn.

'But… I was dying…' he said.

'You came close to it,' said Rumil, his voice shaking suddenly.  'You've been in fever for three days.'

Haldir looked about him, as if seeing his surroundings for the first time.  'And I thought…'

'What did you think?'

'Never mind,' said Haldir.  Suddenly the whole idea of Mandos seemed ludicrous and he began to laugh, but that brought on a spasm of pain and he stopped at once.

'Rumil, help me up,' he said, and with difficulty Rumil raised him so that he was sitting with his back against the tree. 

Haldir looked down at his bandaged shoulder and at his arm strapped across his chest.

'How bad is it?' he said.

'Bad,' said Rumil.  'Did you see what that creature hit you with?'

Haldir closed his eyes, feeling suddenly sick again.

'Don't remind me,' he said weakly.

'Sorry,' said Rumil.  'Everything's broken: collarbone, shoulder blade, quite a few ribs, and of course your arm.'

'Valar, no wonder it hurts so much,' said Haldir, leaning his head back against the tree.

'You lost a lot of blood, and they've been giving you twice the normal dose of poppy juice.'

'That's because he's too feeble to put up with the pain,' said a voice behind them.

'Orophin!'  By Elbereth, I'm glad to see you.  I thought…' said Haldir, and stopped.

'What did you think?'

'He thought we were all dead,' said Rumil, 'and in Mandos, I suppose.'

'Well,' said Orophin, 'If he dies, I'm going too, and you're coming with us.'

'It's not a bad idea,' said Rumil.  'But for now let's enjoy being alive, shall we?'

The three brothers grinned at each other, and then suddenly Rumil had his arms round Haldir and Orophin round both of them, and for a long time they clung together, wordless and relieved.

'Let me go: it's like being crushed by a pair of bears,' said Haldir at last, breathless and grimacing a little.

They released him and stepped back, Orophin surreptitiously wiping his eyes.

'Now, tell me…,' said Haldir, breathlessly.  'What were the casualties?'

Rumil bowed his head.  'Haldir…wait awhile, until you have recovered your strength…'

'Tell me!' insisted Haldir.

'Nearly a third of the company,' said Rumil quietly.

'And how many deaths?'

Rumil and Orophin glanced at each other.  Haldir waited, hoping he had misunderstood.

'I just told you,' said Rumil.  'And eleven wounded including yourself.'

Haldir gasped.

'By sweet Elbereth, so many…'

 'You did all you could, Haldir; you taught them well.  It was their time.'

'What will we tell their kin?' whispered Haldir, white-faced.

'What there is to tell.  That they died in action, fighting for what was needful.'

'Where are the wounded?'

'Here, in the camp.  We are some miles from the tower.  We met with the baggage train as Saelon arranged.'

'Saelon, is he…'

'He is alive and unharmed but they have lost almost as many as we have,' said Rumil.  'They invite us to stay until all our wounded may travel.  And they would fête us before we go.'

'Fête us?  Why?'

'Because they wish to thank us for helping them to defeat the dark lord, Haldir.  Did you forget?'

Haldir's brows came together in a deep frown.  'He was defeated?  I can remember only …' He paused.

For a single instant he could see the face of the creature that had attacked him, and coming straight towards him the weapon that had nearly taken his life.  Instinctively he flinched, as if he were there again, trying to escape.

'Haldir, don't think of it,' said Rumil, seeing his face.  'All you need to remember is that the tower is empty, although Mithrandir says it isn't safe to enter it yet, nor will this part of the forest be wholesome until he's cleansed it.  He's already begun to do so but it will take some time, and he says Curunir will help him.'

Haldir sighed deeply.

'In that case I look forward to being fêted, but at the moment I would be glad to have the strength to stand up.  I'm sorry to have put you to so much trouble, especially you, Rumil.  That time you went to fetch the poppy juice, and then you came back and had to listen to me mumbling something about saying farewell because I was leaving and never returning…'

'I don't remember that,' said Rumil.  'You never said a word all the time I was with you.  In any case I didn't bring you any poppy juice.  I had to go and see one of the young ones who had taken a spear wound in the chest.  The healer told me he would send you the medicine.'

'But someone stayed with me,' said Haldir.  'I thought…and they…'  He stopped, a slight flush of colour on his cheeks.

'And what was all that nonsense about staying outside?' demanded Rumil.  'It's no surprise you caught a fever.  It was so cold I thought it would snow!  Haldir, how could you be so stubborn?'

But Haldir didn't reply, still pondering the earlier question, unaware of his brother's belated irritation with him.

'Well,' said Orophin, 'whoever it was, it doesn't matter now.  You've had many devoted attendants, including one of royal descent, and you won't be short of people to take care of you until you're back to your usual robust good health.  Rumil, what's the matter now?  It's not a secret, is it?'

'He was here?' said Haldir.  'Oh, yes, I remember hearing his voice, just after they brought me out here…when Mithrandir…'  Haldir fell silent again.

'He helped us tend you sometimes when you had the fever,' said Rumil.  'Haldir…'

'Don't say it,' said Haldir, recognising the monitory note in his brother's voice.  'I'm in no state for one of your lectures on continence, Rumil.  I'm suffering enough pain in my body without you trying to add mental anguish to the total.'

'You're in pain?' said Rumil.

'Yes, I am,' said Haldir irritably, 'and so would you be if your shoulder was in as many pieces as you say mine is.'  And now that he looked more closely, Rumil could see the pallor around Haldir's eyes and the tightness of his mouth and jaw.

'Orophin, go and fetch some more poppy juice, will you?' he said.

'He'll be writing poetry soon,' said Orophin, but he got up and went towards the healers' tent.


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.

Story Information

Author: erynhith

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: General

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 06/28/06

Original Post: 05/05/06

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