Tínen sat on the wide steps that led down from the veranda. He stared up towards the stars, listening to their song, waiting for the sounds that would call him back to his patient.
Under the extended roof stood a long row of beds meant for recovering warriors. Some liked to spend the night out here, but most were still not well enough to tolerate the evening chill; injured Elves suffered from the cold and should not be exposed to it.
This night, only one bed was occupied, and the warrior in it knew he would not recover; he had requested to spend his last evening out here, with a view to the starlit wood.
A groan woke Tínen from his contemplation of the skies and he hurried to his patient’s side, bending over the helpless form and lifting him up to ease his breathing.
Burning eyes met Tínen’s. Another groan escaped the patient’s parched lips, and Tínen quickly held a glass to the trembling mouth. His patient obediently swallowed the draught, foul though the remedy tasted. Tínen eased the shaking head down again. He wetted a cloth and carefully wiped the patient’s gaunt face. Then he sat back and took hold of the Elf’s hand, which jerked every time spasms of pain racked the once powerful body.
As the soothing herbs took hold, the warrior grew calmer.
‘He is calling me,’ he whispered. Tínen cocked his head and lifted an eyebrow.
‘The Judge,’ the patient said, too exhausted to be annoyed by the healer’s lack of apprehension.
Tínen nodded. He had expected the warrior to hear the call of Mandos this night. The calloused hand grasped Tínen’s hard, and he stroked it, trying to soothe and comfort the dying Elf.
‘But I refuse his summons!’ The voice was surprisingly strong, and the healer looked up. The burning eyes held his gaze as the warrior continued,
‘I will not leave. Never!’
Tínen shuddered. Although this was not the first time he had sat with dying Tawarwaith, he would never get used to the ways of the ancient ones. It was, however, his duty to ease the warrior’s passing, and so he felt compelled to question him.
‘Where will you dwell, Sadron?’ he asked.
The warrior shot him a suspicious look.
Tínen gently explained, ‘I would know, so that I might tell your family if they do not get here in time.’
The mad gaze left him, and the healer drew a relieved sigh. The warrior fell quiet for a while, weakening fast now, but finally whispered his response, a few words at a time between laboured gasps for breath.
‘A glade - not far from - the Falls – old trees.’
Tínen nodded. The warrior spoke no more; moments later the long fingers released their grip on Tínen’s hand and the gasps ceased.
The healer sighed. After a silent prayer, he set to work, removing clothes, straightening limbs and wrapping the body, marred with old scars and fresh wounds, in a clean sheet of roughly woven cloth. Over the years, he had become familiar with the ways the Tawarwaith treated their dead.
He would keep watch over the warrior until the family arrived. They lived in the northwestern part of the Wood, and no matter how fast they travelled, they would not reach The Houses until early morning. Until then, he would keep the ancient one company; he was not afraid, for no Tawarwaith fëa had ever bothered him.
Tínen sat on the wide steps that led down from the veranda. He stared up towards the stars, listening, but their song had ceased.
This little piece was written to prompt #21 of The Tolkien Tango, 'Silent'.
Thank you to Viv for a great beta-job and to my GoI friends for their support and encouragement!