12. The Healer
Ellie happily hummed to herself as she rubbed the waxy leaf of a fascinating evergreen tree between thumb and forefinger, pausing to sigh in pleasure as the unique fragrance of the aromatic oils released by the action wafted up to her nose. She was beginning to truly enjoy her sabbatical, or so she called it in her mind, a no small part of her still clinging to the hope of being returned to her proper place and time in the universe, even as she had accepted her fate. These afternoon trips to the wonderful walled garden had become an almost daily occurrence, and Ellie was ecstatic for a space free of fainting women and unbearably handsome men (Ellie had since long discovered that while Neldor was rather good-looking, he was nothing compared to the works of art Ellie had seen hanging around the place).
Neldor seemed to be fussing with a bushy sort of herb. Noticing Ellie looking in his direction, he smiled and gestured for Ellie to come over, pointing at the plant. Ellie eagerly made her way towards him. As she entered the little patch of nearly-bare ground (newly cleared and ready for seeding, she assumed), Neldor bent down, and with his back towards her, appeared to be striking something against a stone. Then the gate to the garden creaked open, and Neldor hurriedly threw what looked like a lit match to the ground, snuffing it out with his booted toe, and immediately assumed an expression of angelic innocence. Ellie narrowed her eyes. What was he up to now?
Círdan entered the garden, another, taller elf behind him, and an expression of near panic flitted across Neldor’s face. Then his eyes did a little dip and slide towards a small depression in the ground that was almost suspiciously covered with dried leaves. Ellie’s eyes narrowed further.
Círdan and the new elf had come forward, and began speaking to Neldor, who was now very obviously sulking. Curious, Ellie took a closer look at the newcomer. Raven-haired, grey-eyed and almost achingly beautiful, the newcomer seemed the very definition of “tall, dark and handsome”, and exuded an aura of wisdom and power.
He stepped towards her, smiling slightly. He spoke something unintelligible, and pressed one hand over his heart. “Elrond,” he then enunciated clearly.
Ellie couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping.
* * *
Mandos had a very, very bad feeling.
“So,” he said slowly. “What is this slight problem?”
Lórien smiled faintly. “I have been unable to reach Glorfindel. It appears that he was incapacitated by his overly abrupt re-embodiment. Of course, the entry of a foreign soul must have taken its own toll. It seems as if the strange woman you were speaking of – Nelli? Welli?—is in complete control of Glorfindel’s body at the moment.”
Mandos sighed. This was not entirely unexpected, and yet he had hoped—
“And before you ask,” continued Lórien. “I do not know when Glorfindel will awaken. Very tricky thing, consciousness.”
“You and I, brother, are the two who know most about the connection between body and soul,” said Mandos, a little desperately. “We will solve this.” They had to.
“Well, can you not see what is to come, Doomsman?” asked Lórien, a little petulantly. “Can you not tell what paths we must take?”
Mandos fidgeted and coughed.
“All is not yet set in stone,” he said slowly and in what he hoped was a convincingly authoritative manner. “And such things may not be spoken of, even for such a purpose. All I can say is that there are deeds that must be done; events that must be set in motion. And that Glorfindel has his part to play.”
“So we might have to remove the woman?” wondered Lórien, idly drawing circles in the ground with his stick. “That will be difficult.”
“Indeed,” replied Mandos, reflecting that he had not quite yet gotten round to that part. Perhaps he had been too hasty in removing Feanor-Alhael from his halls.
* * *
Elrond wondered for a moment if the petty rumors were true after all, and Glorfindel was merely an empty-headed sword-wielding blond with a talent for systematically knocking things off cliffs (including wolves, several hordes of orcs, and himself plus a fairly large Balrog in his famous last act of heroism).
The erstwhile leader of the House of the Golden Flower was currently sporting the dumbly incredulous expression of an asphyxiating fish.
Or perhaps the shock of re-embodiment truly was too much for him, pondered Elrond. And then immediately being thrust into the clutches of that incompetent fool…
He turned to Círdan and Neldor (the latter of whom was wearing his famous artificial smile) and requested to examine Glorfindel.
“Of course,” replied Círdan immediately. “Neldor will provide all necessary assistance.” He punctuated his sentence with a hard glare at the healer, whose smile was becoming noticeably strained.
“Much obliged,” replied Elrond, not quite able to keep the smirk off his face.
Well, the issue of Glorfindel certainly had its importance (with all its socio-political ramifications and all that), but Elrond would be damned if he would miss this opportunity to put that quack healer in his place once and for all, for the peace of mind of all sentient beings this side of the Sundering Sea.
* * *
After a long period of quiet agonizing on how exactly this … extraction … was to be done (without the slightest input from his brother), Mandos finally hit upon an idea.
“The tether that binds the soul to the body is weakest when a person is close to death, in deep meditation, or in extreme emotional distress” explained Mandos. At least, he thought so, from what his observations suggested. Eru had never been very clear on the subject. “When two souls are inhabiting the same body, the same three processes may result in the expulsion of the foreign soul, which has a weaker connection to the body.” Possibly. Hopefully.
“Ah.” Lórien tapped his chin thoughtfully with a finger.
“That is difficult, even using the power of dreams, which can only influence a person so much.”
Mandos fretted a little before experiencing a brief flash of inspiration. Perhaps… perhaps there was a way, after all…
“I remember something on one of Vaire’s recent tapestries,” Mandos recalled. “It seems to be a recurring theme. Perhaps it will give us some insight.”
* * *
Ellie didn’t quite know what to think. Elrond— from the book!-- was currently giving her something that probably amounted to some sort of physical examination. It involved a fair amount of prodding and tapping and making Ellie blink. At least Elrond seemed to be meticulously writing down notes, which was much more than Neldor ever did. Wait, so they still thought Glofindel was ill or something? Ellie remembered that Neldor never believed (or understood) her efforts to tell him that she wasn’t the hero. So Elrond was here as… a consultant? It did make some sense— didn’t Elrond heal up the hobbit-guy in the story?
A small part of her vainly hoped that maybe, just maybe, Elrond had brought some kind of magic elf-stone that would set everything to rights. But Ellie’s common sense knew better. The first thing Ellie learnt as a scientist, after all, is that nothing was ever that simple.
As if to seal her fate, Elrond gave her a perplexed frown and shook his head slightly before giving a little bow and leaving the room.
* * *
Elrond strode into Neldor’s study. This was going to be unpleasant, but Elrond had long gotten used to dealing with downright unpleasant stuff in his capacity as Herald and occasional pet minder.
“Elrond,” Neldor greeted in a tone that just about but not quite bordered on rude.
“Nel-dor,” responded Elrond, drawing out the syllables. “How … pleasant to see you again.”
“I have taken the liberty of examining your patient,” Elrond continued. “ Fascinating case, I must say. And such an important personality! You must be terribly thrilled by such a challenge.” Unfortunately for you, and fortunately for Glorfindel and possibly the fate of Middle Earth, I am taking this out of your incompetent hands.
“Indeed, very honored” replied Neldor dryly. His eyes narrowed, almost as if he had heard Elrond’s unspoken words. “So, I am dying of anticipation. Please do share your views on the patient. Perhaps one of your ‘rare and difficult malignancies’?”
Elrond ignored the jibe. “Hardly. Just your average memory loss from shock, which is understandable given the circumstances.’
“Then we are in agreement,” said Neldor. “How unusual.”
“I am afraid you are forgetting your own diagnoses if you think so.”
Neldor actually growled, the savage. “Do explain.”
Elrond restrained a snort. “You did suggest memory loss, but Glorfindel is clearly not under the delusion that he is a dwarf.”
Neldor, visibly angering, opened his mouth, but Elrond, his good sense finally overpowering his desire to argue with the idiot, waved away his retort.
“Oh never mind,” he sighed. “Let us go through the records and discuss this case like civilized professionals.”
Neldor, sulking like a child, got up and headed for his shelves.
* * *
Neldor gritted his teeth and firmly clenched his firsts to prevent himself from tearing Gil-galad’s Herald into thousands of tiny pieces. The young upstart was currently casually dismissing every one of Neldor’s methods (“rather unorthodox, hmm?”), diagnoses (“somewhat unlikely, don’t you think?”), suggestions for treatment (“out of the question!”) and even the organization of the infirmary (“considerably understaffed—how do you manage?” ).
And he was saying it all with such an earnest, falsely sincere look on his face that proclaimed his objectivity to the world.
Neldor knew better, of course.
Elrond did not seem to notice Neldor’s steadily darkening expression, and continued prattling on in that nauseatingly perfect tenor of his.
“Perhaps you should have conducted a systematic analysis of---“
Neldor had had enough.
* * *
They traveled to his domain, where Vaire was working industriously on her loom.
“We wish to look at some of the tapestries,” said Mandos to his wife, after they had exchanged greetings.
She nodded absently and gestured at the expansive tapestries hanging about the room. “If you can find them. The maidens have yet to catalogue them all.”
Mandos sifted through the stuff until he finally came to one he recognized.
“I do believe it is this one,” he said, holding out the tapestry. He indicated a particular scene in one corner.
Lórien bent a little to look.
Mandos pointed out a few more. “And this, here. Here, as well.”
Lórien looked, his eyes uncharacteristically wide.
“Ah,” he said at last, after a long period of silence. “I suppose this means that we are allowed to do nothing.”
Mandos sighed, partly in relief. “So you agree. Yes, it seems it might just work out by itself in the end. The Firstborn are quite … resourceful, after all. It would be for the best—you know we are encouraged not to meddle.” Now all Mandos had to do was to convince himself that this was truly the best course of action and would not end in disaster.