“Discontinuing the search is not an option,” Rawien finally stated.
Nine sets of eyes met his and nine heads nodded in agreement. Rawien’s statement was clearly an observation of the obvious.
“Anyone who wishes to return to Mirkwood may do so,” Rawien offered.
Nine heads shook, indicating their desire to remain. None could walk away from that which they had begun.
“Then I believe we are heading east, to the area near Rhûn,” Galithon picked up the discussion. “The tracks of the easterners break up into many trails. With so many horses and booted feet, it is impossible to tell which splinter of the original group may have taken Tathiel and the children. The one thing we do believe to be true, though, is that they all will return to the east.”
“We will have little to guide us,” Rawien added. “We have limited maps of the area, and little information of the people. We can move somewhat faster than the caravans; I propose that we start after the largest. We will need to be on watch and careful at all times. Once we are sure our own are not in the caravan, we will move on to another.”
Ethiwen looked troubled. “It would be more efficient to split up,” she said finally.
“More efficient, yes,” Rawien replied kindly, “but not very wise. We are only ten. We cannot afford to be divided if trouble finds us.”
“We will stop in the trading village to the west of here, near the Carnen River. We will send word to King Thranduil of what we have learned, and our plans for pursuit. We will also need some supplies, which I hope to obtain there.
The ten were again silent, as they considered the trek they were to undertake. None had ever been to the lands of the east, and they knew very little about the men they might encounter. Decisions made, they laid themselves down to rest for the night. The next day would start a journey unlike any they had taken before.
Tathiel struggled towards wakefulness, her senses still dulled, seeing only darkness and hearing only silence. It was some moments before she convinced her eyes to open. She was laying curled in a ball and the world around her was gray. She attempted to straighten her limbs, and felt stabs of pain shoot up her legs and into her hips. She tried to push herself up with her arms, and almost screamed as agonizing pain ripped through her wrist and up her arm into her shoulder. She collapsed again to the ground, and heard next the very irate howl of a crying infant.
“Legolas!” her mind screamed, but all that came from her mouth was a hoarse whisper. She struggled to roll herself slightly to the arm that did not hurt so badly, and felt the baby move beneath her. As she moved to push herself upright with her good arm, she saw the debris and dust slide off of her and she immediately slumped herself over to protect the baby from being suffocated in the cloud of gray.
She tried to sit up again, this time wrapping her battered arm around the infant. Pain again burned through her and it took all her will to not cry out. She pushed herself into a more upright position, and finally found herself able to survey the mess around her.
Her right leg was pinned under a slab of rock, and debris coated her cloak and clothing. Her right arm was certainly broken; she wasn’t sure what damage she had done to her shoulder. She was bloody and bruised, and her hands lacerated from landing on them when she fell to the ground.
She pulled open the cloak, and beheld the screaming Legolas. His face was red and twisted in outrage. She coughed, finally clearing her throat of the dust that had nearly choked her.
“I am here, tithen min,” she soothed him, her own voice breaking with emotion. “Let me see if you are hurt, tithen Legolas….shhh, tithen min.”
She continued to soothe him with her voice, her words calming her own racing heart and distracting her from the pain she was in. She unwrapped him from his swaddling, and with her good hand felt his limbs and ran her fingers down his torso and back. He did not flinch at any particular point of touch, and although he was quite dirty he did not appear to have any broken bones. He had dust in his eyes, and his little fists flailed as he cried in the pain of that.
Tathiel managed to remove her water skin from around her neck, and after some difficulty unscrewing the cap with only one hand, carefully poured the water onto the bridge of his nose, and let the flow run across the eyes and off his face. He blinked rapidly, the crying stopping at least momentarily at this new sensation. She gently pulled down the lower lid with her finger, careful of the grime on it, and flushed the eye again with water. Legolas quieted then, and contented himself by sucking on his thumb. He was still filthy and she remained concerned that she might have injured him when she fell, but his heartbeat was steady and his breathing regular, and she felt somewhat certain he was not seriously injured.
A moan to her left caught her attention next, and she saw Tinánia’s head rise slowly from the dust. She pushed herself upright, shaking the dust and small rocks from her hair and face.
“Tinánia!” Tathiel called to her. “I am right here. How badly are you hurt?”
Tinánia was silent for a few moments as she slowly moved each limb and moved to a sitting position. She coughed several times, clearing her throat of the dust before she could speak.
“I am not injured,” she finally answered. “I am bruised and cut, but I am not seriously hurt.”
Memory came to her then, and she felt again the horror of Eärundra’s hand slipping from hers and then seeing her younger sister collapse beneath the falling rocks.
“Where is Eärundra?” she cried frantically.
She crawled in the direction she had last seen Eärundra, pushing aside some of the larger rocks.
“Do you see her, Tinánia?” Tathiel called to her.
Tinánia was digging in the debris, carefully moving and then tossing aside rocks. She could see strands of dust-covered hair spread out over the stones, and she kept removing the layers of stones until she could see her sister.
“She is here” she called, “but she is not moving!
Tinánia finally uncovered Eärundra’s body, only one large stone still pinning her lower body to the ground. She brushed the dust from her sister’s mouth and nose, and blew air to remove the fine particles covering her eyes. She shook Eärundra by the upper arm, and was rewarded with a groan and then a small cry. Eärundra struggled to move, crying out when pain and resistance restricted her movements.
“Eärundra!” Tinánia tried to pierce the veil of confusion about her sister. “Eärundra, it is me. Do not fight me; let me help you! Do not try to move!”
Eärundra calmed a little then, and raised a hand to brush the lingering dust from her eyes. She finally worked them open, and her eyes fixed on her sister.
“Tinánia!” she coughed, then reached her free arm to grasp Tinánia. “What happened? I cannot move. I hurt all over,” she gasped as she tried to move and the pain again flowed through her.
“Stay still,” Tinánia answered her. She held her sister’s hand tight. “There was a rock slide. There is a big stone still on you. I will try to remove it in a moment.”
Tinánia suddenly realized Tathiel wasn’t helping her, hadn’t come over to even see Eärundra.
Their eyes met, and Tinánia saw the pain reflected in Tathiel’s eyes. She noted the odd position in which Tathiel held herself, and the limp arm. Tinánia bit down on her lower lip as the thought ran through her mind that she was the only one uninjured. She had to help Tathiel, Eärundra and baby Legolas.
She turned back to Eärundra, who lay panting before her, her eyes closed. She also was in pain, and was concentrating on not crying out, on letting the pain flow through her and out of her.
“Eärundra,” Tinánia waited until Eärundra opened her eyes and focused on her. “I am going to move the rock off of you. I will try not to hurt you more.”
Eärundra nodded and drew in a deep breath as Tinánia scooted down to the rock. She first tried to lift it, but it was too heavy. She tried next to push it, but it wouldn’t budge. She cast a worried look at her sister, and Eärundra breathed again. She squeezed her hand reassuringly.
“I’ll be right back, tithen muinthel,” she patted her sister’s hand.
Tinánia dragged herself painfully to her feet, feeling all the cuts, scrapes and bruises on her own body. She stretched her limbs and then moved carefully off the rock-strewn path to the edge of the ravine. She found a broken limb from a tree, still fairly fresh and limber, and made her way back to her sister. She built up a small pile of medium sized stones next to Eärundra, and then placed the branch with one end under the large stone that pinned her sister, and the midway point of the branch over the small pile of stones.
Tinánia waited until Eärundra had caught her breath again, and when she nodded, Tinánia pushed with all her weight on the end of the stick. Miraculously, the stone lifted and began to shift to the side.
“Eärundra, you must move out!” Tinánia cried, straining against the rock. “I can not tip it!”
Eärundra gritted her teeth and with a small cry pulled herself backwards with her arms until she was clear of the rock. Tinánia released the lever, and the rock fell back where it had been. She rushed to Eärundra, who was breathing heavily, sweat soaking her hair and tunic, and tears of agony spilling down her face.
The leggings and lower part of the tunic were torn and dirty. Blood seeped from scrapes and cuts all along her lower body. Most distressing was a large open wound on her thigh, and the severe bruising of her hips and upper legs. Tinánia stepped back and removed her cloak, shaking as much dust from it as possible, and then covered her sister with it.
“I must help Tathiel. Rest. I will be right back.”
Tathiel had watched the rescue with vision dimmed by pain and helplessness. She could sense that Eärundra was severely injured and knew herself to be too. She felt fear, terrifying fear, that they would die in these hills. Die of their wounds, die of hunger, die of exposure. She hugged Legolas to her, tears spilling from her own eyes. The baby was calmer now, but his eyes remained beet red and small bruises now appeared on the fair skin of his chest and abdomen.
Tinánia approached Tathiel, and touched her gently on the shoulder. Tathiel looked up, eyes tearstained. She masked her face, hiding her fear, and smiled instead at the young one before her.
“How is Eärundra?” she asked. She could hear the occasional whimper escaping from Eärundra, and knew the child was in great pain.
“I think her legs are broken,” Tinánia whispered as she quickly assessed Tathiel’s situation. “I need to get this rock off your leg.”
Tathiel smiled at the bravery of this young elleth. She had become wise beyond her years very quickly. Perhaps there was some hope she at least might survive and make it home.
Tinania employed the same lever technique on the stone pinning Tathiel’s lower leg as she had on the stone that had pinned Eärundra’s. Tathiel was able to pull her leg free, and finally straighten her cramped and sore muscles into a more comfortable position. She slid her injured leg in front of her, and twisted until she was sitting upright, her back against the rock. It took her several moments of deep breathing, eyes closed, until the pain relented enough to speak again.
Tinánia stood, and looked around her. The horse lay on his side, but the rise and fall of his chest indicated he lived yet. She decided she must see to him, and then find Tathiel’s medicine chest. She would have to think about finding them shelter after that.
She approached the horse carefully, talking softly to it as she approached. The horse was quite battered, and seemed to have taken the worst hits of all. His two front legs were broken and he seemed also to have an injury to his back. The packs had fallen off of him, and she quickly located and dugout Tathiel’s medicine chest. She brought it to Tathiel, and then went in search of the splints she requested. She stopped where Eärundra lay, and comforted her.
“Tathiel has to splint her own leg, and then I will help her come to you and she will help you,” she said as she gently stroked her sister’s hair. “Just a little bit longer”
Tinania found wood of the right shape and size, and returned to Tathiel. While she was gone, Tathiel had mixed some herbs and water, and prepared a small vial for Eärundra.
“Have her drink all of this,” Tathiel instructed. “It will dull the pain. Try and get her to drink some water, too.”
Tathiel assessed the break in her leg. The fracture of her lower right leg was a simple fracture; the bone had not split apart and would not require any setting beyond a good splint and wrap. She had never broken a bone before, but had treated many. Elves healed fast, and she estimated she would be able to walk on it some within a week.
Her wrist had a similar break, but her shoulder was dislocated and needed to be pushed in place. Unfortunately, none of this could Tathiel do on her own. She instructed Tinánia, and it was the child who splinted her arm and leg, and with much consternation helped her push her shoulder back into place. Tinánia spent some time looking but finally found a staff that would serve as a crutch for Tathiel. She took Legolas and strapped his carrier to her own sore shoulders, and then helped Tathiel to stand.
It took Tathiel and Tinánia several minutes to cross the ten or so feet to Eärundra. She was dozing; her eyes shuttered from the painkiller Tinánia had given her. Whimpers still issued from her on occasion, and Tathiel’s eyes prickled with tears at the child’s request for “Nana.”
“Oh, child, how I wish your Nana was here too,” Tathiel murmured as she carefully lowered herself down next to Eärundra.
She used her good hand to examine the child, running her fingers up and down limbs, gently pressing and probing at ribs and vertebrae. The upper bone of her left leg was broken, and the bone itself had caused the wound when it poked through her leg. Tathiel did not believe the right leg was broken, just badly bruised. She felt the hip bones might be fractured as well, but there was naught to do about that except keep the child on her back and immobile.
“Lay Legolas down, Tinánia; I will need your help to set this leg,” Tathiel instructed.
Legolas was less than pleased at being removed from the warmth of Tinánia’s body, and began to cry as well. Tathiel took another quick look at him, noting again the bruises that likely occurred when she fell with him beneath her. She pondered the child for a moment, trying to assess the amount of pain he was in and the risks of giving him a pain-numbing drug as well. Opting for the drug, she quickly mixed up a tiny portion of the same potion she had given Eärundra and carefully poured it between Legolas’ lips. His face crinkled at the odd taste, his tongue pushing the liquid out.
“You are a stubborn one, nín tithen caun” Tathiel chastised him gently, stroking his throat as Tinánia held him. He finally swallowed the rest, and gazed at them for a moment before a yawn overcame him and sleepy eyes blinked shut. “The medicine will take effect in a little while, and he will stay sleeping.”
Turning their attention back to Eärundra, Tinánia found suitable splints and using her dagger carved them as Tathiel directed. Together they set the leg, the bones grinding into place, the awful noise punctuated by a short scream from Eärundra as the pain roused her from drugged sleep, then mercifully pushed her into oblivion. With tears of relief in their eyes, Tinánia and Tathiel quickly bandaged and splinted the leg.
“The horse,” Tinánia said, waving towards the suffering animal. “His front legs are broken.”
Tathiel felt another wave of fear wash over her at the thought of losing the horse. Eärundra would not be able to walk for some time, and without a horse to pull a litter or carry her, they had little hope of leaving this area for a long while. Tathiel looked at Tinánia. She would not ask the child to end the horse’s life. Instead she let Tinánia assist her to her feet, and leaning heavily with her good arm on the crutch, she bade Tinánia to stay with Legolas and Eärundra and hobbled over to the horse. She knelt down beside him, stroking his mane and scratching his nose and behind the ears. He whinnied softly.
“I am sorry, my friend,” she whispered. “You have served us well, and have not deserved to suffer in this way. Go to your rest in peace.”
She unsheathed her dagger, and finding the jugular, quickly slit the animal’s throat. Big eyes widened further and the horse gasped. Tathiel continued to stroke him and soothe him until the last breath issued from his lips.
Tathiel sat on the ground for several minutes, cradling the horse’s head in her lap. They had to find shelter. The afternoon sun was waning, and she could feel the temperature dropping. Normally unaffected by such changes, in their injured conditions she knew that exposure would further weaken and even kill them.
Tathiel struggled to her feet, wincing at the pain, and picked her way through the debris to Tinánia. She lowered herself carefully to sit on a rock, and looked at Tinánia as she sat holding Legolas once again. Tinánia met her gaze unblinking, waiting for her to speak.
“Our situation is grim,” Tathiel began. “I am glad you are with us, ber min, for you a truly a tithen maethor and we all need you greatly.”
Tinánia nodded solemnly, accepting the responsibility.
“We need to find shelter,” Tathiel continued. “Eärundra will have to be moved in a flat position, on a litter, so we must hope for a shelter close by. You must find the shelter, Tinánia, but you must be very cautious. I do not think there are Orcs in these hills, but I do not know for sure. There are most certainly bears and other wild animals, and you must be on watch for them. Ask the trees for help. They are fewer here than before, but perhaps they will tell you of danger. Move with all speed you can, for soon dark will be upon us.”
Tinánia rose stiffly to her feet, and carefully placed the sleeping Legolas back in Tathiel’s arms.
“I will go find something to use as poles for a litter first. Then I will go seek shelter.”
Tinánia adjusted her bow and quiver on her back, and checked to make sure she had her dagger. She quickly kissed her sister on the forehead, and then moved quietly off into the shallow ravine to their north.
Tathiel set Legolas to nurse, and even in his drowsy state he latched on and suckled. She rocked him gently, stroking his head and the little arm and hand that reached for her hair, finally grabbing hold of a few strands and nuzzling them to his chin. Tears fell from her eyes, carving dirty rivulets down her cheeks before landing on the downy but very dirty head of Legolas. His light hair cleansed where the drops fell, and little borders of mud formed at the edges of the tear marks.
“I did not mean to fail you, son of Narawen,” she whispered. “I did not mean for us to die alone in the wilderness. Oh, Elbereth, if you mean for these little ones to live, you must aid us! Otherwise I fear that we will all walk in the Halls of Mandos before winter’s end.”
Tathiel watched as Legolas drifted into a drugged sleep, and then she laid him near Eärundra. She took the poles Tinánia had brought back, and in her own pain she struggled to make a frame and attach a blanket and pine boughs to it. She couldn’t properly fasten the pieces together, for that she would need Tinánia’s two good hands. She allowed herself a small dose of the pain medication, and waited for Tinánia to return.
tithen min = little one
nín tithen caun = my little prince
nana = mother, mommy
ber min = brave one
tithen maethor = little warrior
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.