6. A New Day
Blood smeared on the rock. Elrohir paused from his labours just long enough to cast a brief scowl at his bleeding, swollen hands. The palms were covered with cuts and his nails were cracked and torn from many hours of digging and scraping the rough surface of the heavy rocks as he strained to lift them. He was quite certain that his hands would pain him greatly had they not become numb long ago.
None of that mattered, of course. The cause of his distress was not so much the state of his hands as the fact that the blood was making them slick and the lack of feeling prevented him from getting a firm grasp on the boulders, hindering his progress.
With a frustrated sigh, Elrohir continued his ceaseless labour. The sky was beginning to lighten and become tinged with the red of dawn, but he did not notice, nor did he care. He knew not how long he had persisted, but the incessant noise of rock grinding on rock had become his constant companion as he moved one heavy boulder after another.
A loud crack resounded through the clearing as a particularly large boulder slipped from his grasp, pinning his fingers beneath it, and he released such a curse that he earned a look of mild surprise from the ancient balrog slayer toiling at his side. Carefully, Glorfindel helped to free his fingers from under the rock, but, as Elrohir tried again without pause to resume his work, he was stopped by a gentle yet firm grasp on his hands.
After a quick examination of the damage, Glorfindel spoke, looking him steadily in the eyes: “You will be glad to know that your fingers are not broken, , but you must take some rest.”
Shaking his head in resistance, Elrohir tried unsuccessfully to remove his hands from Glorfindel’s unyielding grasp. “Nay, I can not stop now. Elladan still lives, but he grows ever weaker. I know that we are close, but time is short. There is not the time to rest.”
Glorfindel responded firmly: “We have all been working to the fullest extent of our endurance to remove these boulders, but the others, at least, are willing to admit their limitations. You have laboured throughout the night without taking so much as one moments rest, and now your exhaustion is becoming dangerous. At times such as this, you can be as stubborn as that brother of yours.”
With a sudden sharp tug, Elrohir succeeded in freeing his hands. “While I appreciate your concern, I will remind you that your brothers are not the ones trapped amongst this rubble.”
Looking resigned, Glorfindel attempted a compromise: “Will you at least grant me the time that it takes to wrap your hands? You will be able to gain a greater hold on the rocks if you are not bleeding on them.”
Elrohir had to concede the truth in those words. He dipped his head slightly in acceptance and sat wearily upon one of the nearby boulders, offering his torn hands palm up to Glorfindel. Sitting for the first time in many long hours and feeling the firm but comforting pressure of the bandages being wrapped around his wounds, he realized how deeply exhausted he was.
He sighed in frustration. Though Elladan was likely only a few paces away from where he now sat, he may as well have been in Valinor. His twin was close, that much he knew, but, despite all of their tireless efforts, still there remained a wall of rocks dividing him from his brothers. If only he could know with certainty where they lay amongst the massive pile of rubble.
Drawing in a deep breath and clearing his mind of his worry, Elrohir tried to focus wholly on locating the presence of his twin. As he reached out with his senses, he felt an unusual tugging on his mind, as if an invisible chord was drawing him near. Without a word, he stood abruptly, the unfinished wrapping dangling loosely from his hands, and he began to walk with sure steps toward the source of the pull.
He stopped in front of a rather nondescript pile of boulders. Though they appeared the same as all the rock around them, he could sense heat emanating from the very stone. Smiling broadly, Elrohir turned to meet Glorfindel’s questioning look. “Come quickly and help me! They are right here!”
Elrohir directed the elves who came with haste to his aide. “Lift these rocks, but do so carefully. I believe that we are very close!”
With the utmost care, they began to remove the boulders, starting at the top of the pile and working down. As a few of the larger rocks were removed, they found, much to their astonishment, that a small crevice of open space remained between the rock pile and the surface of the mountain. Though seeing the gap in the rock gave their hearts hope, it was difficult to believe that two people could live for so long with such little air.
Soon, however, much to their great relief, they began to detect the faint sound of voices, though the words were indistinguishable over the noise of the grinding and scraping of rock as the excited elves continued to break down the barrier of stone. Elrohir peered anxiously down into the growing gap in the wall of rocks, and finally he could distinguish the familiar glow of his twin in the dusty gloom. Feeling suddenly like a giddy child, he called out joyously: “Elladan!”
As Elladan looked up in response to his name, Elrohir’s elation quickly turned to worry when he saw the weariness and pallor of his brother’s face. “How do you feel?”
Elladan had heard the question twice now within the span of a few hours and it seemed to him no more astute upon the second asking. His voice was frail and scratchy, but also tinged with a hint of humour as he responded: “I have fared better, though obviously I yet live.” He felt weak and tired and his whole body ached, but so great was his joy at seeing his twin again that Elladan could not resist the opportunity to tease, and hopefully put his brother’s mind at ease, as he smiled weakly and added: “I know you are never one to act in haste, Elrohir, but truly you did take your leisure on this occasion.”
Elrohir could not help but smile in response. “You certainly are one to talk my brother! You lie there and leave the rest of us to do all the work!” Though he knew that Elladan’s smile and jest must mean that all was relatively well, still he had to give voice to his greatest remaining concern. “And what of Estel? How does he fare? Better than you, dare I hope?”
Elladan was about to answer when he was interrupted by a second voice, which sounded almost as tired as his own. “Do not worry, Elrohir. I am fine, though I do believe I would feel much better out of this dreary cave.”
Elrohir’s smile broadened at hearing Estel’s voice. “Then lay back and take your ease, my brothers, and very soon we shall have you free.”
With much lighter hearts the elves carefully removed the few remaining boulders which stood between them and Elladan and Estel. Finally, Elrohir could get a better look at the state of his brothers, and he observed them with the eye of an experienced healer. He was most pleased to see that Estel was relatively hale given the circumstances. He was tired and dirty, of course, and there was a small and superficial cut on his temple, but he was not in bad shape, all things considered.
Elladan, however, did not fare so well. His left arm, his chest, and his head were tightly bound in a fabric that appeared to be the remains of Estel’s cloak and his face was drawn and pale. Frowning with worry, Elrohir held out his hand to his twin, offering him his support.
Elladan too studied his brother with concern. He saw his own weariness mirrored on his twin’s face and he was dismayed by the state of Elrohir’s hands. However, he was far too tired to refuse his brother’s offer of aid, and he wrapped his good arm around Elrohir’s waist, leaning on him heavily as they slowly made their way around the rubble and out of the cave.
After a few paces, the exhausted brothers sank to the ground. Elrohir, mindful of Elladan’s injuries, wrapped his arms around his twin in a loose embrace, and spoke softly, “Elladan, it is so good to see you. I will admit that for a while I began to lose hope. When I could no longer sense your presence, in my heart I feared the worst.”
Trying to ease his brother’s worry, Elladan responded lightly: “Have you so little faith in my stubborn nature, Elrohir? You of all people should know that I would not give up so easily! An avalanche of boulders is no match for my hard head, or so Estel informed me.”
At the mention of the young man, Elladan suddenly grew deeply pensive, and he added in a much more serious tone: “Truly, though, I owe my life to him.”
Elrohir looked over at Estel, who was being tightly wrapped in Glorfindel’s cloak, before turning again to Elladan. “What did he do?”
Elladan looked down at the ground as his thoughts turned inward. “He healed me. He brought me back from the very brink of death with his touch. Often you have urged me to open my mind to Estel, and I know now that I should have followed your advice. I have underestimated the young man’s abilities. In truth, I have been misguided about a great many things.”
Elrohir’s eyes widened in wonder as he spoke in a whisper: “He healed you with his touch? Is he really the one for whom we have waited so many generations of Men? Though I have wanted it to be true in my heart, I have scarce allowed myself to believe it. As you well know, father believes it is so. Perhaps there are times, Elladan, when we should take greater heed of our father’s wisdom. He did not name the boy ‘Hope’ without reason borne from foresight.”
“Truly not,” responded Elladan distractedly, for he seemed far away in his own thoughts.
Elrohir was about to question him further when Glorfindel approached, looking Elladan over with a critical eye. “We will make camp right here in this clearing, though some distance away from the cave-in, of course, where it is relatively secure. Already the forest feels brighter without the taint of the trolls. Your bedroll is ready. You need rest, and perhaps some of your father’s pain relieving tea.” This was spoken in a tone that brooked no argument.
Helping his brother to stand, Elrohir again supported him as they slowly made their way over to where the bedrolls had been laid out. After settling Elladan and checking over his injuries, Elrohir then turned to Estel, who was already nearly asleep. Gently, he placed a hand on the side of the young man’s head and his eyes fluttered open in response. Though Estel smiled at him, Elrohir could sense that he now carried his own burdens.
“How do you feel?” Elrohir enquired.
“Weary,” came the mumbled response.
Smiling warmly, Elrohir took a closer look at the head wound to assure himself that Estel was in no danger. Then, after carefully cleaning and bandaging the cut, he spoke softly: “Sleep now, little brother, and later we shall speak more.”
Estel nodded in agreement as his eyes again slid shut. Soon he was fast asleep.
Elrohir then turned his full attention to his twin. After giving him some medicinal tea for his pain, he carefully unwound the makeshift bandages and thoroughly examined each injury. He was quite satisfied that, with time, Elladan would heal completely. As he rebound the wounds with a proper splint and bandages, he could not help but be amazed by Estel’s healing abilities. What Estel had done was remarkable and quite likely had saved Elladan’s life.
As Elrohir gently tended him, Elladan remained awake, but he spoke not a word and seemed to be deeply immersed in thought. When he was finished his work, Elrohir sat back and studied his brother intently. Ever had his twin been as familiar to him as he was to himself, but Elladan was somehow different now. It was as though a burden had been lifted from Elladan’s shoulders, only to have another added; as though he had been granted many answers, yet left with many questions.
Frowning in confusion and concern, Elrohir put a hand on Elladan’s shoulder and, feeling the need to communicate with his brother, spoke, his voice tinged with worry. “You are changed,” was all he could think to say.
Elladan looked at him absently as he responded. “Changed? Perhaps I am, but then again, perhaps I am not, for nothing has truly changed, and yet many things are different.”
Again Elrohir frowned. “I do not understand, Elladan. It is unlike you to speak in riddles.”
Sensing his brother’s concern, Elladan pulled himself fully from his thoughts and gave Elrohir a reassuring smile. “Do not worry, I will be fine. I do not mean to speak in riddles, I merely have much to think on. We will speak of this again another time, and I will give you a clear answer when I have one to give. What I need most now is rest, and soon I will be back to my charming old self.”
Elrohir’s worry eased a little with his brother’s smile, and though he was well aware that he had been given no answer, he knew that eventually Elladan would share with him his thoughts, as always he did. He managed a somewhat mischievous smile of his own as he responded: “If you fall asleep now and wake up ‘charming,’ then I will surely know that you are changed!”
Elladan managed another weak smile at his brother’s jest, but said nothing in response. As the medicinal herbs were taking effect and providing him some relief from his pain, his weariness and his need for healing sleep was overtaking him. He found himself being pulled irresistibly to the path of dreams.
Pulling the blankets higher around his twin’s shoulders, Elrohir spoke softly. “Sleep well, my brother. The rest will do you much good.”
“And you too.”
Elrohir knew that familiar voice and he responded without turning around to face the speaker. “I wish to remain awake, Glorfindel, at least for now, in case my brothers need me.”
“Both of your brothers sleep soundly. You, too, need to rest, after you allow me to tend to your hands, of course. You can be woken easily enough if you are needed, though I do not believe it will be necessary.”
Glorfindel spoke with that tone again, and Elrohir knew there was little point in trying to argue. Honestly, he found the thought of taking some rest to be quite appealing. He would not sleep, of course, but merely lay down to appease Glorfindel while remaining awake to attend to his brothers should he need to. With a slight nod of acceptance, he once again offered his injured hands to Glorfindel’s care.
After he had finished cleaning and wrapping the wounds, Glorfindel gently yet firmly placed his hands on Elrohir’s shoulders and guided him to lay back on his bedroll. He spoke softly: “Sleep now, child, for you are much in need of rest. Do not worry about Elladan and Estel, they will be well attended.”
Elrohir cast another glance at each of his brothers before he allowed himself to contemplate all that had recently transpired, for he too had much to think on. In a short while, however, he found his thoughts beginning to drift and wander, and, though he had no intention of sleeping, his exhausted body and mind betrayed him. Before he realized what was happening, he was firmly pulled into his path of elven dreams, and all three brothers slept, side by side.
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.