She soon came to the area she had been thinking of, and moved south along a narrow path to the shadowy cliff wall. She withdrew her dagger, and closing her eyes, listening to the trees whispering above her. They did not speak of danger. Encouraged, she began exploring the hollows. She ran her hand along the rock wall as she walked, and was surprised when her hand slipped. A small opening, almost like a door, opened in a cleft in the side of the hollow. It was not visible on approach. She slipped quietly inside, and waited while her eyes adjusted to the darkness. The space was of medium size, and dry. The unique entrance provided protection from the elements. Sunlight gleamed in through slits in the wall high above her. Tinánia felt her spirits rise and she quietly thanked the Valar and Eru himself for delivering her to this spot . She explored the interior of the cave, and noted to herself that there was no fallen rock; no bones left by any predator from his meal; and no evidence of any other inhabitants . She did not see any secret entrances; although the cave did meander into the hill for some feet, and a small cavern led deeper south. Tinánia would have had to crawl to move through it – and she decided quickly that she would not do that and hoped no unfriendly creature would wish to brave the narrow opening either.
Satisfied with what she had found, she shrugged her pack off her sore shoulders and kept only her bow and dagger. She would have to make several trips to move all of their packs to this spot; plus get firewood and water.
She returned to Tathiel just as the sun began to dip behind the treetops.
“Tathiel!” she called, a hint of excitement in her voice. “I have found a perfect place for our shelter. Eru himself must have placed it there for us; that is how good it is.”
Tathiel returned her smile, her own spirits rising at the hope she heard in Tinánia’s voice.
“Let us finish this litter, and then I will take you all there. I can come back for the packs,” Tinánia continued.
She was already on her knees next to her sister, whispering in Eärundra’s ear as she stroked her hair. Eärundra remained blissfully unaware, as Tathiel had hoped. She had dosed the pain medication heavy in the hopes of the child sleeping through both their treatment of her wounds and moving her to a safer place for the night.
Tinánia quickly saw how Tathiel had laid out the materials for the litter, and with small but strong hands she deftly bound the boughs and blankets to the poles. She looked at Tathiel, noting the tired sag of her shoulders and droop of her eyes.
‘I am a warrior,’ she told herself. ‘Everyone needs me, and even though I am small and young for an elf, I know what needs to be done. With the aid of the Valar, I can do it.’
She moved the rocks away from Eärundra, and slid the litter next to her. She straightened, eyeing her sister, pondering how she would get her onto the thing without hurting her or twisting her broken leg.
“If you help me, we will gently roll her to her side and I will hold her there while you slip the litter beneath her,” Tathiel offered, her eyes welling with tears as she beheld this galu of a child.
Tinánia smiled. Yes, she thought, that would work.
Tathiel got carefully to the ground and when Tinánia shifted Eärundra carefully to her side, she held her there. Tinánia moved the litter over, and then they carefully slid the child over. Eärundra moaned as they moved her, but did not wake.
Once Eärundra was securely attached to the litter, Tinánia slid the baby and his carrier around her shoulders. She picked up the end of the travois with her hands, and once Tathiel had her balance on the crutch, they began the slow journey to their temporary refuge.
The sun had set and dark had fallen by the time they reached the cave. Tinánia again felt with her fingers along the rock face until they slid into the cleft. She was barely able to slide the litter through the entrance. She lowered the litter down against the wall, and placed the sleeping baby on the makeshift bed next to her sister. Tathiel struggled in a few minutes later, and nearly collapsed against the wall near the sleep-drugged children.
“Tinánia,” she murmured after a moment.
Tinánia knelt down beside her, and pressed herself gently against Tathiel’s uninjured left side. Tathiel stroked her hair, and kissed her forehead.
“You have done well, ber nin,” she whispered.
Tinánia glowed from the praise and let herself be cuddled for a moment.
“I must go for the packs,” she said at last. “I will gather some firewood when I return.”
Tathiel wished to tell her to stay; to rest; that she had done enough. But she instead kissed her again and said, “Be careful, nin tithen maethor. May the Valar watch over you.”
Tinánia went back out into the night with Tathiel’s cloak about her shoulders. She made four trips that night retrieving the packs, each time carrying in an armload of firewood. She made one last trip to the spring, and filled their water skins. Then, satisfied with the night’s work, she looked up at the star of Eärendil that had shone brightly on her all that eve, and thanked the Valar for protecting her.
When she returned to the cave for the last time, Tathiel had built a small fire in the spot on the cave floor that had been lit by the sun earlier that day. Eärundra and Legolas still slept, covered now with blankets. Bedrolls were spread next to them, and after Tinánia ate of her waybread and drank the clear spring water, she sank gratefully to her pallet and fell immediately to sleep.
Tathiel was awakened at dawn by the sound of Legolas crying. He had so seldom cried since his birth that the harsh sound tore at her heart. She turned painfully, and lifted him between her good arm and the splint, laying him in the curve of her body. She unwrapped his swaddling, and her own eyes filled with tears and she stifled her own cry as she beheld the bruises on his fair skin. They had deepened in the night, showing the extent of the injury, yet in the manner of the elves and their fast healing, already were fading to yellow.
Freed of his wrapping, Legolas kicked and flailed small feet and hands. His face was red from crying and tears ran down his cheeks. One eye was still a little inflamed, but it was open.
“Nín tithen caun, are you hungry or are you in pain?” she whispered as she inspected the bruises.
He grabbed her hair as she set him to nurse, and he latched on to her breast with such force that she gasped. “I guess you did miss a meal last night,” she winced. “I will try to see that that does not happen again!”
Legolas suckled intently, Tathiel’s hair wrapped in his fist, her promises falling on deaf ears as he filled his little stomach. When he had eaten his fill he graced her with a smile, cooing and gurgling as he kicked his feet and tugged on her hair.
“I think you are recovering well, tithen min,” Tathiel laughed, “and you need a bath. Never have I seen such a dirty tithen caun!”
The crying had also awakened Tinánia, and she had laid in her bedroll, stretching limbs which already seemed improved over the night before. When she heard Tathiel laugh, she smiled herself. Perhaps things were going to turn out well after all. Having also heard the comment about the bath, she rose, and offered her water skin to Tathiel.
“Use this, the water is not so cold,” she smiled at Tathiel.
“Mae govannen, ber min,” Tathiel greeted her. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“I am nearly better,” Tinánia replied solemnly. “I have never taken such injury before. I thought I would be sore for days.”
“This is a gift of Ilúvatar to the first born,” Tathiel answered. “Our bodies heal quickly. I, too, feel much improved, although I am still sore.”
She gazed at Eärundra, who lay still next to her. “Eärundra will still be in much pain today,” she said sadly. “We will need to keep giving her the pain medication for many days, I think.”
Tinánia stroked her sister’s hair, watching as the small chest rose and fell with the slow breaths of one deep in sleep. “I will go for water. Perhaps I can find something to put it in that we might have enough to bathe her. She would not like to be so dirty.”
Tinánia rose, and walked from the dim light of the cave into the bright sun and crisp air of the morning. Frost decorated the landscape, the sun melting the cold into dewy droplets. She took a deep breath of the fresh air and looked about the area. The narrow path to the left led to the larger path and the spring. To the right there was a narrow canyon, and she could see bright light filtering through to shine on the west wall of the gorge. Her curiosity aroused as to what lay beyond, she decided to explore in that direction after caring for her own morning needs and obtaining water that the others might bathe.
She returned to the now familiar spring, and filled all the water skins. She had emptied what water they had into their cooking pots, and Tathiel had been bathing Legolas when she left. Tinánia had enjoyed watching him as the clean water ran over him and he laughed, kicked his feet and swung his little arms; and was glad he did not seem bothered by the bruises that covered his torso.
She explored the ravine around the spring, and was rewarded for her tenacity when she spied a chunk of wood hollowed in the shape of a bowl. The gnarled edges of the wood gave the appearance of handles. It was not terribly heavy, so she placed all the water skins in it and carried it back to the cave.
Legolas was propped in a near sitting position on blankets near the fire, and Tathiel was attempting to bathe herself around the splint on her lower right leg.
“Look, Tathiel,” Tinánia grinned. “I have found the perfect small bathtub.”
She set it down by Legolas. “See, I think he will fit right into it!”
Tathiel laughed too, and they filled the vessel and took the opportunity to undress Eärundra, bathe her and clean and re-bandage her wounds before the pain draught wore off. The bruises to her pelvis were fading some, but the wound from the breaking bone appeared angry and blood still seeped from it. Tathiel mixed a poultice of cleansing and healing herbs and applied that to the wound, then she and Tinánia wrapped and splinted the leg.
After helping Tathiel bathe and dress in cleaner clothing, Tinánia decided once again to explore the area that they would call home for the near future.
She headed first to the area where the rockslide had occurred, to see if in the dark she had missed any item that might be of value to them. She picked up a blanket that had been dropped, and then moved to the horse. She gazed on him sadly, mourning his fateful passing and the loss of an important asset to them. She removed the bridle and reigns, thinking they might be useful in the future. They had lembas that would last them some time, if they were careful, but she wondered about horsemeat. Was it wrong to eat of one who had served them? She decided it was a moot point, as her small dagger was inadequate to cut the flesh. She wished for a way to properly take care of the creature’s remains, but found none. She continued past the body of the horse, deciding she would ask Tathiel for ideas. The thought did occur to her that wild animals might be attracted to the smell.
She walked a ways ahead, trying to note every detail of the trail. The path became rocky and treacherous, and she knew they would not have been able to continue this way even had the rockslide not come upon them. She turned and headed back the way she had come, this time continuing past their cave home and entering the small canyon. It curved to the left, and she followed it cautiously, finally coming out on the edge of a precipice. She felt her breath catch as she surveyed the view from this vantage point. There was a straight drop down from where she stood, and a clear view of the whole of the land. Many leagues to the south and west she could see with her keen elven sight the glistening waters of the River Carnen. The trees that bordered it were bright in their autumn glory, their leaves brilliant shades of red, gold, yellow and orange. The grass of the plains swayed in golden waves as far as the eye could see. Tinánia thought the land beautiful, and she gazed at it for some moments, drinking in the beauty.
Her gaze swept eastward and she saw spread far apart on the plains tiny figures of people and horses; perhaps caravans and groups of hunters heading east. Her heart welled with thankfulness that they were not part of any eastward caravan, and she looked then to the west. She could not see the borders of the Greenwood, but home lay there, and she saw the familiar beloved trees and lands in her mind’s eye.
Tinánia never looked behind her, where the cliff wall rose to rough and craggy stone formations and scattered scrub trees. She never saw the eyes that watched her; had indeed watched her every move since she had left the shelter early that morning. The trees did not whisper of danger to her, for this being had been with them so long that they accepted his presence amongst them. He watched her as she practiced shooting her arrows, and took note when she returned to the cave with a rabbit later that day. He noted the berries she collected from the bushes, and the roots and nuts she dug and gathered.
It was several days before Tinánia ventured back up the trail as far as the site of their accident. She had asked Tathiel about the horse and how they might dispose of it. They had not contrived any solution to the problem: they had not the strength to bury it nor the tools to utilize the horse for meat; they could not risk a pyre to burn the remains and in the end sadly left the animal to scavengers. Tinánia in her daily wandering and searching for food ventured upon the area, and it was several moments before she realized that the path had been mostly cleared of debris and the horse was gone.
A sudden chill came upon her, and her senses heightened in awareness. She focused on the trees, but their song had not changed. She scanned the cliff walls, and the ravine and neither saw or sensed anyone near. The birds yet chirped and called to each other, and she felt no danger. Confused, she wondered who had done this and when? She hurried back along the path and slipped inside the cave.
The watcher waited motionless until she had entered the cave, then silently abandoned his perch in the hills above and returned from whence he came.
galu = blessing
nin tithen maethor = my little warrior
Nín tithen caun = my little prince
Mae govannen, ber min = Well met, brave one
tithen min = little one
tithen caun = little prince