It was just before dawn when Theo started from fretful sleep to stare into the face of a nightmare. Gwindor knelt before him, his face mere inches away; a face that was a dreadful mask of dried blood highlighting the whites of wild, red-rimmed eyes. His hair hung forward, matted darkly with black blood, and around his blood-stained neck was a terrible necklace, a thong laced with orc ears, noses, and other gory trophies Theo did not wish to think about. The horror stared into his eyes, then seized his wrist with a blood-clotted hand and tried to press a darkly encrusted blade into it. Struggling with unfamiliar words, Gwindor whispered in halting Westron:
Théodred shook his head. Gwindor tried to make Theo's fingers grasp the knife that he turned towards his own chest.
Theo darted looks right and left, but the other two elves were nowhere in sight. Gwindor snarled through bared teeth as he used both hands to try and force Theo to take a grip of the filthy blade.
Abruptly, he keeled over sideways and slumped to the ground, narrowly missing the man. Lindor stood behind Gwindor; he'd struck the grief-maddened elf on the back of the head with the pommel of his knife. Lórindol appeared at his side and the two of them quickly bound his wrists and hobbled his ankles so he couldn't run. They stood back to look down at their work; in the stunned silence Theo asked,
Lórindol unbuckled his tunic and tossed it aside, then quickly pulled off his boots.
"First… we clean him up."
Théo followed their example. He stood and shucked out of his leathers and grabbed his boots to heave them off. He paused, one boot in his hand.
"But what about the orcs?"
Lindir kicked off his boots as Gwindor stirred on the ground.
"There won't be any orcs around here for three leagues or more…"
He tugged the vile and bloody trophy from Gwindor's neck and tossed it to one side.
"…This is all that's left of them!"
They half carried him the short distance from their camp fire down to the river, wading out beyond the muddy shallows until they were waist deep in the flowing water. The cold revived Gwindor, who began to struggle against his bonds, hissing a fluent torrent of elven profanities. He arched his back and bucked against their restraining hands, trying to break free, then threw himself backwards, trying to plunge his head deep beneath the water in an effort to drown himself.
Théo shifted from holding Gwindor's feet, splashing around the struggling elves, to dive and grab Gwindor by the hair and pull his face above the water. He wound his arms about the elf's neck, supporting his head on his shoulder, bracing his feet in the mud to stop Gwindor submerging. Lórindol and Lindir held him fast, wrapping their arms around his body and legs, keeping from finding a purchase to spring away from as he fought against them. They cradled him between them, pressing closely against his body to quiet his struggles.
Automatically, Théodred found himself murmuring and crooning into Gwindor's ear as if the elf was a frantic colt, baulking at the ropes meant to break him to the bridle. He kept a firm hold of the elf's head making the gentle, soothing sounds of the horse-whisperers until Gwindor eventually exhausted himself and ceased to struggle so violently. All the pain of the previous day and the wild hunt through the night, slaughtering everything he could find, had finally left their mark on him; he slumped in his captor's arms.
Theo stroked his hair, loosening it to float in the water, where the foul blood began to wash away. Lindir tentively loosed Gwindor's wrists, but he had stopped thrashing about now and allowed them to support him in the water as they rubbed to remove the dried blood covering his whole body. The water ran foul with loose threads of darkness. Face cleaned now, they were able to see how very pale he was; he began to shiver in the flowing water. They half dragged, half carried the withdrawn elf back to their small fire; a few embers still glowed among the ashes there. Lindir made himself busy re-kindling the fire to life. Lórindol beckoned to Théo to help him strip the clothes from Gwindor, then noticed that Theo's teeth were chattering as well.
"Best strip out of your clothes, too."
Théo found himself so cold now he could only nod. Lórindol wrapped the now naked Gwindor in a cloak and made him sit near the fire side.
"Come and sit with him. We need to take turns – no, sit behind and wrap your arms around him." Lórindol instructed Théo, wrapping a blanket about them both as they sat.
"Will he try to run away?" Théodred asked.
Lórindol shook his head, stripping off his own sodden leggings and drying himself with his cloak.
"No… not his body anyway. Hold him tightly, skin to skin - so he can feel your warmth and your grip on him."
Gwindor's hair was cold and wet against Théo's chest. He gently combed his fingers through the wet mass and pushed it forward over the elf's shoulder before pressing closely against his back. Gradually his chilled skin warmed at the contact with Gwindor's. Theo squeezed the dripping water from their hair and pressed it with the blanket about his shoulders to take away the worst of it as Gwindor shifted slightly in his arms. Theo hugged him tighter and very softly began to murmur a slow song into the elf's neck, letting his warm breath play over the pale stretched skin as Gwindor's head sank forward. He found himself rocking them both, as if he cradled a sick child in his arms. He gathered Gwindor's cloak to the front of them and as much as he could, he rubbed the elf's body to dry him, and himself; all the while crooning reassuringly.
Lórindol fetched water from the river and set it to boil for tea before he beckoned Theo that he would take his place behind Gwindor. They shifted positions without great difficulty, Gwindor sitting listless, but obedient. Eyes half-closed, he moved like a sleep-walker, or one heavily sedated by poppy-juice. Lórindol frowned and shook his head: such disinterest was not good.
Lindir arranged their sodden clothes around the fire to dry. Théo had no other clothes of his own now, but to his surprise, Lindir handed him Gwindor's spare shirt and leggings from his pack.
"I will give him Gelmir's clothes. Better he wear them than smell them on you," he said.
Theo nodded; having seen Gwindor in a rage, he had no wish to provoke him.
"Shall we dress him?" asked Theo.
Lindir shook his head.
"Not yet. He has another task to perform yet in the river."
Lórindol looked up, Lindir shrugged. "It is the best way."
Lórindol frowned and looked as if he were about to protest, but then thought better of it and nodded slowly in agreement. Lindir stood upright and took a step away from the fireside. Then, Lórindol gripped Gwindor more tightly, bracing his legs around Gwindor's, as Lindir strode across to where Gelmir's body still lay and lifted it up in his arms, hastily striding away with it towards the river. A strange high-pitched mewling came from Gwindor's throat, more the piteous cry of an animal than anything. He struggled in Lórindol's arms.
"Hold his legs, Théodred!" Lórindol commanded, as Gwindor's struggles became more urgent.
Théo hurried to do as he was bid, kneeling across their intertwined legs, holding them down with his body-weight and catching hold of Gwindor by the wrists.
"Gwindor, Gwindor… calm, we will follow," murmured Lórindol. "…Just a few moments and we will follow…"
Gwindor's eyes fluttered open. He stared first into Theo's face, and then tried to turn his head to Lórindol.
"Hush, hush, my friend – we will go to him. Lindir prepares – you know what we have to do. You must give him to Ulmo."
Gwindor stifled a wail of grief that shook his whole body.
"You know you must – he cannot rest here with dignity. Let Ulmo gather him into his merciful care and carry him to Mandos," whispered Lórindol.
Gwindor shook, his face crumpled with pain and grief. Lórindol and Théo continued to hold him fast, and after a few minutes he nodded curtly. Lórindol nodded that Théodred should release them. They helped Gwindor to his feet, wrapping the blanket and cloak about him and supporting him as they slowly retraced their steps to the river.
Lindir had been busy. He'd cut strips from the bottom of the cloak Gelmir was wrapped in to make bands to hold it tightly in place as a shroud. He'd also found a large flat rock and positioned it on Gelmir's chest, binding it tightly into place. The corpse lay on the grassy river bank above the river. At the sight, Gwindor shook off their helping hands, and strode forward to fall to his knees beside the enshrouded body. He sat motionless for several minutes, during which time Lórindol stripped out of his clothes and stood with his back to Théo, oblivious of his nakedness. Théo could only admire the beautiful, athletic form in front of him, even as he cursed himself furiously for noticing the graceful curve and swell of the elf's well-muscled back and buttocks, and the fine length of his thighs '… and at such a time as this…!
Gwindor reached out to part the cloak from Gelmir's face. He bent down and kissed first the cold lips, then his forehead in a final benediction. He sat back shrugged the blanket from his shoulders and bent to gather Gelmir in his arms, struggling slightly with the ungainly amount of weight the rock gave to the body. Lórindol stepped forward and touched Gwindor's shoulder.
"Come, Gwindor, my brother," he said quietly, "I'll help you take him to the water."
Gwindor shrugged away his hand with a snarl and struggled to his feet, holding Gelmir's upper body in his arms. Lórindol ignored the rebuff and bent to pick up Gelmir's legs, now bound at knee and ankle. The two of them waded out into the river in silence, sinking deeply into the soft mud. Lindir stood on the bank and chanted benisons in a whisper. Théodred stood at his side and watched, his own heart deeply touched by their sorrow.
The elves were nearly chest deep in the river when Gwindor suddenly pulled away from Lórindol, clasping Gelmir to his chest and throwing himself backwards so that the weighted body pushed him under the water. The two rapidly disappeared beneath the surface.
"No!" shouted Lórindol.
He jack-knifed with a splash, diving after them; his limbs a flash of white in the murky green waters.
Théo started forward, but Lindir held his arm, pulling him back from rushing in after them. The river stilled as the ripples rolled away and flattened to nothing. For several long moments only the early morning breeze disturbed the surface and rustled through the long grass around them. Still Lindir grasped Théo's arms, preventing him from going into the river after them. Théodred almost believed they were both lost, when Lórindol suddenly erupted to the surface with Gwindir flopped boneless in his arms.
He swam with difficulty, hauling the unconscious elf towards the shore. Now Lindir released Théo and they splashed into the muddy shallows to help drag the apparently lifeless elf from the river. On the grassy bank, they threw him face down. Theo straddled his buttocks and pummelled his back pressing hard again and again to force the water from Gwindor's lungs. After what seemed an eternity, Gwindor spluttered and began to come around, thrashing about with growing agitation. Lindir slapped his face hard and shouted at him unmercifully, shaking his shoulders until his head flopped alarmingly. Gwindor coughed and choked, but Lindir was unrelenting, shouting at the half-drowned elf as he shook him violently.
Théo stepped back, breathing heavily; he didn't understand the tirade, but realised Lindir was demanding that Gwindor came back to them from where ever he was so anxious to follow Gelmir. Suddenly, Gwindor pushed Lindir hard, shouting back at him angrily. Lórindol had pulled his leggings and shirt back on again, he came forward to grab at Gwindor, but the distraught elf aimed a mighty blow at him, which Lórindol easily dodged. He grappled with Gwindor, as Lindir shot to his feet and joined Lórindol in attempting to subdue Gwindor.
"Stay back!" shouted Lindir to Théodred as he stepped forward to help them.
After several minutes of scuffling they had the naked, slippery elf secured by twisting his arms behind him until he was on his knees, his head bowed to the ground. They held him there, panting slightly; Lórindol spoke quietly in a conciliatory manner. Theo picked up the blanket and stepped forward to place it over the elf, who had now stopped struggling. Tentatively, Lórindol eased his grip to loose his arm lock. When Gwindor remained acquiescent, Lindir followed suit. They freed him and helped him to his feet, wrapping their arms about his waist, supporting him back towards the camp fire.
Gwindor was quiet now. They rubbed him dry, chaffing his skin back to warmth, and as they spoke softly to him, they dressed him in Gelmir's spare clothes. As they did so, Gwindor sniffed, he held one arm across his face and buried his nose in the shirt sleeve that still bore the scent of his lost love. Tears began to stream down Gwindor's cheeks, though he made not a single sound. They finished dressing him, wrapped him in a cloak and sat him by the fire. All the while he continued to bury his head in the sleeve and weep in silence. Théodred had never seen a more melancholy sight.
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.