6. Wait and See
"Yes, Fëanor," sighed Mandos. "This is absolutely necessary. Or do you wish to remain a cat for the rest of eternity?"
The feline he was strapping down gave him an insulted glare and tried yet again to bite him. The cat had never liked Mandos; with the arrival of the Spirit of Fire it was the most vicious thing on four legs since Carcharoth.
Mandos secured the last strap and rubbed his temple gingerly. It had been a trying day, to say the least. First he had spent the better part of the morning hiding the cat from his wife ("Have you seen Miuco1, Námo?" "No dear, he's probably off catching birds again."). Then Random Newly-Re-embodied Elf #2 had somehow escaped from the laboratory and gone around shrieking about "cruel, cruel experiments" and "that insane Vala". Luckily, no-one had paid much attention, and Mandos was able to mumble something about his "traumatic death" and "not enough time spent in the Halls, sorry, will take him back now."
Back on the laboratory table, the wretched creature was watching the proceedings with a look of sheer terror on his face. Now, seeing that Mandos was about to begin the next stage of the procedure, he whimpered and tried to shrink away.
Mandos ignored him. He inspected the room to ensure it was free of any other sentient life-form, chased out a nosy moth, wiped out a spot of mold just to be on the safe side, and finally returned to his place in front of the cat and elf. Never able to resist a little drama (even when faced with such a small audience), he theatrically cracked his knuckles and stretched. Then he focused.
Ellie sank back on the soft bed with a happy sigh. The past few hours had been heavenly. Neldor (who she assumed was now her official babysitter. But not that she minded) had taken her to a beautiful little garden, where she'd spent a most exciting afternoon attempting to classify the indigenous flora of Middle Earth (which were, for the most part, quite similar to those back home). Then Neldor, ever attentive, had brought her some more of that wonderful Elvish food. It almost made up for being male, really.
With that last thought, Ellie turned pensive. Would she be stuck in this body for the rest of eternity (here it must be noted that most humans have no idea what eternity really means. We often say "this paint takes forever to dry!", not realizing that if you said that to an elf he'd probably reply, in all seriousness, "no, it takes about a century and a half")?
And where was the real Glorfindel?
Back in her old body, perhaps? Ellie giggled to herself. He wouldn't like that very much now, would he? Then again, there probably wasn't much of her body left to be in. She knew she'd died (though there hadn't been any tunnels with light at the ends of them, just a loud bang and searing heat, and then…nothing). Somehow, Ellie doubted that the real Glorfindel would appreciate waking up charred for the second time in a row. Or would he be stranded in Valinor? Were the Valar angry at her for messing up their plans? Ellie winced at the thought and decided that she would put off sailing west (if she remained as Glorfindel) for a long, long while.We'll see how it goes, Ellie told herself, fluffing out her pillow and laying herself down. No point worrying about that now, right?
It is the general opinion that people suffering from some form of amnesia or other should be treated gently and patiently, to calm them and ease the road to recovery, all the more so if the amnesia was caused by a traumatic event. Even medical practitioners, more or less, also subscribe to this view, though they do have an inclination to carry out all sorts of distressing tests and pump the patients full of chemicals (but they can hardly be blamed. We all get carried away sometimes when we're having fun).
Neldor however, regarded this school of thought as being highly misguided. He preferred a more... physical approach. One, in fact, that might possibly involve his favorite cudgel (weapon of choice for annoyed healers in the field dealing with screaming patients and the odd orc or two) or some similar medical instrument. Or perhaps even one of those extremely numerous cod left all over the place by careless fishermen. Anything, in short, that was blunt and heavy and caused major reorganization of brain tissue when applied (We are, indeed, beginning to see a pattern here.)
You see, Neldor had recently hypothesized that memory loss was caused by bits of brain not being where they should, and that a good hard whack would somehow scuttle them back to their proper places and teach them to behave (much like how you and I fix malfunctioning electronic devices). Unfortunately Neldor had never been able to test this, as elves seldom got memory loss, and those that did usually had concerned family members who sent them to Elrond anyway. ( In fact one of the reasons why Neldor was so successful as a healer was that all his patients were simply too afraid of his unconventional methods to want to remain in his care for long, and thus willed themselves back to good health.)
This time, there was no smoke, just a surge of static electricity and a rather disappointing floop. Mandos would have liked it to have been a little more spectacular (after all, he was the Doomsman of the Valar, and had to live up to his reputation), but, considering the earlier disaster, had decided he couldn't afford the slightest lapse in concentration.
He eyed his two test subjects critically. Miuco the cat lay limply in his bonds, mewing pathetically – a good sign, as Fëanor would sooner join Morgoth in the Void than sound pathetic. Random Newly-Re-embodied Elf #2, however, was out cold. The trauma of another fëa entering the body? Mandos did not know. It disturbed him how it was becoming very quickly apparent how he did not know a great many things.
He would have to wait and see, then.
Ellie rose long before dawn, troubled by strange dreams of stout wooden sticks. Unable to return to sleep, she strode to one of the large windows and sat on the low, wide windowsill. For a while she gazed out at the star-strewn night, and felt a strange urge to burst into song. I'm becoming Elvish, she mused, then shook her head. No, that's not right- I am an elf, if only in body. She tucked one leg beneath her and began to idly swing the other. I wonder what they think has happened to Glorfindel? And how long more before they find out he's actually not him?
If something didn't happen for her to leave Glorfindel's body soon, would she have to take over Glorfindel's duties? She remembered now, quite clearly, that it involved a horse with jingly reins, several evil black things and a half-dead Halfling carrying the jewelry equivalent of a WMD. Ellie couldn't see herself pulling that off by any stretch of the imagination. And wasn't there something about leading an army off to some war in the north somewhere2? The prospect frightened her -- the closest thing to a weapon she had ever handled was probably a scalpel, and the only things she had ever purposefully killed had been several large cockroaches. But if she didn't … it did not bear thinking.
Ellie felt completely helpless. There was absolutely nothing she could do about her current situation. She couldn't speak Elvish, for one thing (surely that would have been a hint to Neldor that Glorfindel wasn't quite right?), and thus couldn't tell anyone of her predicament, and could find out nothing of her current situation. There were so many questions she had to ask, and no way of asking them.
She sighed, laying her head back against the cool stone. Part of her prayed that the real Glorfindel would return soon to make things right again. But if he returns, she reflected, where will you go?
Neldor entered the room with a breakfast tray in his arms, and felt mildly surprised when a cursory glance failed to locate his charge. Looking around more carefully, he found the Balrog-Slayer, half-hidden by a wall, sitting on the windowsill with his face turned towards the dawn. He appeared too absorbed in his own thoughts to notice that Neldor had entered the room.
What is it with him and sunrises, wondered Neldor, dropping his professional expression of cheerful optimism in favor of an irritated scowl. Ah, I am a fool to leave him in a room where he can be seen in plain view; the ellith will spot him! And we know what trouble that will be … He made a mental note to have the elf-lord moved as soon as possible.
With that thought, he turned to call to Glorfindel. To his surprise, before he could do so, the elf turned and flashed him such a radiant, sincere smile, that for the briefest of moments the healer felt the faintest stirrings of remorse for what he was about to do to the unsuspecting elf-lord. Burying the twinges of guilt below the growing feeling of anticipation, Neldor swiftly assumed an expression of kindly concern (meticulously copied from Elrond centuries before) and, returning the smile, beckoned Glorfindel to his breakfast, ensuring his back remained out of sight all the while.
Neldor waited patiently till Glorfindel's attention was completely occupied by his food. Then, slowly, his fingers began to reach into the back of his tunic.
Ellie's worries were smothered completely by the glorious aroma that pervaded her nostrils as she approached the food tray. Not as ravenous now, she took the time to savor every bit of her breakfast, which consisted of delightfully light, flaky pastries and a honey-sweet fruit drink of some kind.
She was well onto her fourth pastry when a soft rustle of fabric caught her attention. It wasn't the sound clothes produced when people were walking around- it was an ominous rustle, and Ellie, somehow, knew something was up. She stopped her chewing and listened, and time seemed to slow. A nearly imperceptible change in the air currents, an almost inaudible whoosh of something slicing through the air…
Without thought, quick as lightning, she spun round, her arm lashing out to intercept something hard and wooden mid-blow. Blinking in surprise, she met the sight of Neldor clutching one end of a short club, staring at her in complete astonishment. Her fist was closed firmly on the other end, which had already begun to crack a little under her grip. Was the elf mad? He had tried to kill her! And how on earth had she moved so fast?
They stayed awkwardly frozen in place, Ellie still reeling from the shock of having miraculously prevented a fatal (or so she thought) blow to her head, and Neldor petrified with an expression that looked very much like panic. As Ellie tried how best to react, the door opened.
Momentarily distracted, Ellie loosened her grip. Neldor instantly took advantage of the situation to yank it away, but it was too late. A deep-throated exclamation issued from behind the door, and a silver-haired, bearded man strode imperiously into the room, firing angry questions at the healer.
No, not a man, decided Ellie, noting the fine, ageless features3. An elf…with a beard? Silver hair, beard, Mithlond…Círdan? Behind her, Neldor gave a strangled squeak, and began to speak very rapidly, his tone placating. He came around to the front of her with his club, smiled shakily, and waved it, then, before she had time to react, swiftly and smartly rapped her on the knee.
"Ow!" cried Ellie as her lower leg jerked upwards. Neldor grinned a little more confidently, and continued speaking, making broad circular movements with his arms. The elf she thought might be Círdan seemed unimpressed.
So Neldor was telling Círdan that he had been testing her reflexes using a club that could've brained a rhinoceros?
"Hey, look, you can't get away with trying to kill me!" thundered Ellie, springing to her feet and pointing an accusing finger at the healer. Now quite recovered from her shock, she had to battle an almost irresistible urge to throttle the damned elf. Neldor, cowed, wisely took a step back.
The bearded elf stepped between them, speaking gently to Ellie. "He did, I swear!" insisted Ellie, thinking he was defending the healer. "Tried to hit me on the back of the head, he did!" Círdan looked at her curiously for a moment, then turned and barked a few sharp orders to Neldor before sweeping majestically out of the room. The healer followed bravely, an unreadable expression on his face.
Great, thought Ellie, watching the two elves leave. The nicest person I've ever met just attempted to kill me. She sank back into her chair and fumed.
1: Miuco: cat (Q.) Yes, I know, it's a highly unimaginative name. But so is Kitty.
2: This refers to the Battle of Fornost, T.A 1975
3: Cirdan does not appear very aged at this time, and his beard is definitely not the long wispy kind favoured by ancient Confucian scholars.
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