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“I should have all the test results by next Wednesday,” Vorondur told them as they exited the hospital. “Mir, do you and Elrond want to scan Loren later tonight? I’ll come over after dinner.”
Both Vardamir and Elrond nodded. “We’ll set it up for around eight,” Vardamir said. “I might ask the other healers who won’t be on duty tonight to join us if you don’t mind, Glorfindel. It might help to have more than one of us scan you so we have a better idea of what we’re all seeing.”
“And what are you seeing?” Vorondur asked.
Vardamir shook his head and it was Elrond who spoke. “It would be better to discuss this tonight once we’ve had a chance to examine Glorfindel completely.”
“Fair enough,” Vorondur said. “In the meantime, Loren, why don’t we plan to get together next Thursday? I’d like one session with you before you go on your trip.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Fine with me. Call my secretary and set it up.”
Vorondur stopped on the sidewalk as they were heading for the parking lot, frowning slightly. The others stopped as well. Glorfindel gave him a cool stare, almost as if he were daring Vorondur toward some action. Vorondur nodded. “I’ll give Zach a call and make the arrangements,” he said softly, “unless, of course, you prefer him not to know what is happening with you.”
“He’s going to know eventually,” Glorfindel replied with a shrug. “Hell, the entire town will know by tomorrow.”
“And what will they know?” Vorondur asked.
Glorfindel blinked. “What do you mean, what will they know? They’ll know that I was here having tests.”
“And do you think what I told the Mortals in the blood lab was a lie?” Vorondur rejoined.
Glorfindel went still, replaying the scene in the lab. “You told them that you were looking to find a… an elven baseline so Mortal doctors would know what’s normal for us if they have to treat us. But that’s….” He paused to think it through, giving Vorondur a puzzled look. “That’s just too devious even for you, Ron.”
“Nevertheless, it’s true,” Vorondur assured him. “Yes, I do need these tests to see if there’s any physical reason for what you’re experiencing. Doubtful, but, as I said before, we need to eliminate all probable causes before we come to any real conclusions about treatment. At the same time, this afforded us an opportunity to get some further baseline parameters. You’re the first Reborn to undergo these types of tests. Everyone else who’s done so has been a Once-born, as I believe you refer to us. I plan to have my sons take similar tests for comparison purposes. And if I can convince Beleg, Brethorn and Edrahil to come out of the woods long enough, I want to get them tested as well.”
Glorfindel continued staring at him, then cast a sideways glance at Finrod. “So why hasn’t he corralled you into these tests?”
Finrod gave them a supercilious sniff. “Because I am a prince. No one corrals me unless I let them.”
Glorfindel snorted in disbelief. “Whatever,” was his only comment.
Vorondur smiled. “Don’t worry, Loren. Finrod’s not getting out of it that easily. In the end, I think all of us need to undergo the same tests as you have. We really do need to know what our baseline is, not for our sakes but for the Mortals. We cannot guarantee that there will always be elven healers on hand to minister to us when necessary. We may well end up being treated by Mortal doctors. It would be helpful if they know what they are doing.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, I can see that. Well, give Zach a call and have him set up the appointment. He usually knows better than I where I need to be at any given time of the day.”
“We will see you at the picnic?” Finrod asked Vorondur.
“Yes, of course,” Vorondur replied. “We’ll be there. My sons are very excited to see the fireworks.”
Glorfindel actually chuckled. “Maybe we can convince Olórin to give us a show. He’s rather fond of them.”
Elrond chuckled in agreement as he, Glorfindel, Vardamir and Elrond bid Vorondur good-bye and headed for the van. Vorondur watched them go, his expression pensive, giving a wave as they drove by with Finrod at the wheel.
“The tests will not show you what you’re looking for.”
Vorondur turned to see Olórin in his Oliver Grey disguise right down to the lab coat and stethoscope, his hands tucked in his coat pockets in a casual pose, looking every inch the respected doctor that he wasn’t.
“I have to start somewhere,” Vorondur insisted. “You say he’s fading, but I don’t see it. I don’t even know what the symptoms are. I’ve tried to sound a few of the others out on the subject, but most of them admit that they never saw anyone actually fade. One day they were there and the next they were not, but no one can actually tell me what signs there are to look for. So, unless you’re willing to tell me, I have to do this the good old-fashioned way.”
“And that is perhaps for the best,” Olórin said. “Glorfindel is more likely to believe you if you can show him the proofs from your own observations rather than we handing you the solution by fiat. It always works better that way, we find. Now that you’re aware of the truth of his condition, you can concentrate on that instead of looking for more, shall we say, normal causes for what he is experiencing.”
“Well, perhaps when Mir and Elrond and the other healers do their exam, we’ll get something more conclusive.”
“One would hope,” Olórin said. “He held up better than we were expecting.”
“Oh?” Vorondur said. “What were you expecting?”
Olórin smiled thinly. “With Glorfindel, we expect mayhem at any moment.” He shrugged. “That’s just his nature. On the other hand, we were especially vigilant whenever he had to remove his ring so as not to interfere with the tests. Lord Manwë ordered an entire legion of his People to be on hand just in case.”
Vorondur blinked in disbelief. “Seriously? Six thousand Maiar? Where did you put them all?”
Olórin laughed. “Trust me, it wasn’t all that difficult.”
Vorondur gave him a skeptical look. “No one knows the actual number of Maiar who followed the Valar into Eä. Just how many of you are there?”
“Enough,” Olórin answered, “and that is all the answer you will get, my friend. There are enough of us to get the job done and that is all that you need to know. Concentrate on the moment and on Glorfindel. He’s going to need all the help he can get if he is to survive what is to come.”
“And what is to come?” Vorondur demanded, feeling suddenly afraid, though he refused to show it.
“Why war, of course,” Olórin replied with a lift of his eyebrows. “Why else would we be here?” And with that, he turned and headed back toward the hospital, fading away before he went a dozen steps. Mortals coming in and out of the entrance did not seem to notice.
Vorondur stared at the space where the Maia had been and shook his head before fishing out his keys and heading for his car, unlocking it as he approached. Two minutes later he was pulling out of the parking lot and heading home.
“So do you actually watch these… um… soap operas?” Finrod asked Glorfindel as they drove up Kodiak.
“What? Uh, no, well, I’ve caught a few from time to time.” Glorfindel gave them a merry look. “But no, I don’t actually watch them. I was just being facetious. Some people take their soap watching very seriously. They love to live vicariously through the characters.” He shrugged and fell silent.
When they reached Edhellond, Daeron was waiting for them. “So how did it go?” he asked anxiously.
“As you can see, I’m still standing,” Glorfindel replied, “but I’m bloody well glad it’s over with or almost.”
“Oh? What more needs to be done?” Daeron asked.
“Ron wants Mir and the other healers to scan me.”
“Yes, I know, you already said. I thought that would be done at the hospital as well.” Daeron gave them all a quizzical look.
Vardamir answered him. “Ron thought Glorfindel would be more comfortable if we did it here. We will do the exam after dinner. Ron will come over then to watch.”
“Library or perhaps your bedroom?” Daeron asked, looking at Glorfindel.
“Wherever you feel the most comfortable, Loren,” Vardamir said before Glorfindel could answer. “It’s entirely your choice.”
“If it were entirely my choice, I wouldn’t be suffering these exams in the first place,” Glorfindel muttered darkly.
Finrod took him by the shoulders and shook him. “No, gwador. Do not take that attitude. Come, I think you need some down time. Let us retire to the woods. We’ll throw everyone else out who’s there and it will just be the two of us.”
“I wish Sador were here,” Glorfindel said suddenly.
“As do I,” Finrod allowed. “Perhaps in time. Gil-galad really does depend on him greatly, else I know he would have been right beside me on Vingilot.”
“And to think I knew him when he was just a newly released Reborn potter mangling up Quenya,” Glorfindel said with a grin.
“He has become one of the most powerful and most respected leaders of our people,” Finrod admitted. “I am happy for him. He deserves every praise given to him. Now, unless you’re hungry and would like some lunch, let us head for the woods and renew our chi.”
“Good lord!” Glorfindel exclaimed in shock. “What are you reading in that bookstore?”
Finrod laughed, the sound merry and unforced, sweeping through them and brightening their spirits so that even Glorfindel looked and felt more relaxed.
“Are you hungry?” Daeron asked. “It’d be easy enough to fix something for you.”
“Not at the moment, thanks,” Glorfindel said. “Let’s take something to drink though.”
They all headed for the kitchen. Glorfindel stopped long enough to grab some bottled water from the refrigerator for himself and Finrod before the two went out again, leaving the others to their own devices. When they reached the woods, Finrod called out in Sindarin, ordering all who were in the woods to meet him in the clearing. When they got there they found half a dozen people milling about, giving the two quizzical looks.
“Is there something wrong, Finrod?” Edrahil asked.
“No, but Glorfindel and I wish to be alone for a time. By your courtesy, if you would leave the woods we would appreciate it.”
“Your wish is our command, lord,” Beleg answered with a short bow. He glanced up at the sky to judge the position of the sun. “Come, it is almost time for The Young and the Restless.”
The others all nodded and, giving Finrod and Glorfindel bows, they headed quickly out of the clearing with Edrahil asking, “So do you think Nikki is wise to accept Jack’s proposal of marriage after seeing Victor and Sharon together? It seems to me that that is a relationship that is doomed before it even begins.”
“I am sure we will find out eventually,” Brethorn answered, “but I was hoping Victor would ask her instead of Jack. Mortal courting rituals are so confusing.” There were murmurs of agreement as the group disappeared from view.
Glorfindel and Finrod stared at one another for a long moment and then burst out laughing. “To think that we have a household of soap addicts,” Glorfindel said with a shake of his head. “What would the folks back home think?”
“Probably that we have all gone insane if not native,” Finrod replied. “Would you like to sit here or in a tree?”
“Here is fine, though really we didn’t need to shoo the children away.”
“Perhaps, but I just thought you would enjoy the peace and quiet without them. They haunt these woods often enough. It’s good for them to be elsewhere for a change.”
“Once they start working as Rangers that will certainly be the case.” Glorfindel took a swig of his water and with a sigh sat on the ground, leaning against one of the logs that were used as benches. Finrod joined him, putting an arm around Glorfindel’s shoulders.
“It will be well, gwador,” he said softly, giving him a squeeze.
Glorfindel nodded and then quite unexpectedly burst into tears. Finrod simply held him closer, never saying a word.
Daeron came to the woods sometime later to check up on them and let them know that dinner was on. He found Glorfindel lying with his head in Finrod’s lap fast asleep while Finrod gently stroked his hair, singing softly. Without stopping his ministration or singing, he looked up at Daeron’s approach, shaking his head slightly before looking down at his gwador with a fond smile. Daeron nodded to himself and left silently, returning to the house to inform the others. Then he picked up the phone in the kitchen and called Vorondur, explaining the situation.
“You may want to come over now and the healers can conduct their exam in the woods,” he told Vorondur. “I don’t think Finrod wants to waken Loren unless absolutely necessary. Unless he wakens on his own, I suspect they’ll spend the night out in the woods.”
He paused to listen to what Vorondur had to say and nodded. “We’ll see you shortly then.” He hung up and turned to the others. “Ron is on his way. Decide among yourselves who will go out to the woods, but I don’t think it wise for all of you to go.”
“No, I agree,” Vardamir said. “Ron wished for me and Elrond to conduct the exam. I’d like at least one other to join us.” He turned to the others who were there. “Dan and Roy are still at the hospital, though they should be home soon. Ernest, you’re scheduled to be there later, right?”
Eärnur nodded. “As is Manwen. In fact, we should be leaving. Conan’s giving us a lift.”
“Well, I don’t want to wait for the Twins. Randall, I guess you’re with us.” Laurendil nodded.
“Then we’ll see you later,” Eärnur said and he and Manwen left with Cenannion while others gathered in the dining room to eat, their conversation subdued. No one bothered to sit at either end of the table where Finrod and Glorfindel always sat. Daeron stated that he would go back to the woods and let Finrod know what was going on.
“When Ron gets here, just come out,” he told them as he exited the house. He made his way swiftly to the woods and presently came to the clearing where he found that nothing had changed except that Finrod was no longer singing, but he continued to stroke Glorfindel’s hair. Daeron settled himself carefully on a nearby log and spoke in a whisper.
“I called Ron. He’s on his way now. As soon as he comes, Mir, Elrond and Randall will come out and conduct their exam. Do you think you can keep Loren asleep in the meantime? I think it will go better for all of us if he remains asleep.”
Finrod nodded. “Yes, I can do that.”
“I’ve already told the others that you will likely remain out here for the night unless Loren wakes on his own, so once the healers are done then we’ll leave you alone.”
But Finrod shook his head. “No. I don’t think we will do that. For one thing, I’d like to have dinner and for another, I think my legs have gone to sleep and I’m pretty sure my bottom is numb as well.”
Daeron flashed him a grin. “And we can’t have that, can we?” He paused, looking in the direction of the house and nodded. “Ron made good time. I think they’re here.”
Even as he was speaking, four figures flitted into the clearing with Vardamir in the lead. He took in the scene at once and said, “We’ll do this quickly. Finrod, keep him under. Here Daeron, hold this for me, would you? Thank you.” He slipped off the satchel he was carrying and handed it to Daeron who moved further out of the way, joined by Vorondur, who watched the healers with grave intent. The three healers ranged themselves around Finrod and the still sleeping Glorfindel with Elrond and Laurendil kneeling before Finrod and Vardamir standing behind him. Vardamir nodded to the two ellyn who held their arms out with their hands a few inches from Glorfindel’s body. Elrond muttered an invocation to Lady Estë and then fell silent as he concentrated on what he was sensing.
There was no sound, not even the soughing of the wind in the trees. All was still as the light dimmed toward twilight, though that was still a couple of hours away. After what seemed to Daeron to be forever but was perhaps no more than twenty minutes, both Laurendil and Elrond sat back on their heels, dropping their arms. They looked up at Vardamir who just nodded while he bent down and whispered something in Finrod’s ear. Daeron saw Finrod nod and leaned over to speak softly to Glorfindel, bidding him to wake.
Glorfindel sighed slightly and began blinking his eyes, focusing them, frowning slightly as if he wasn’t sure where he was. Then he seemed to notice Elrond and Laurendil still kneeling before him. “What time is it?” he asked as he struggled to sit up, yawning and shaking the sleep from him, while Elrond and Laurendil rose to their feet, giving Glorfindel some room.
“Time to eat, gwador,” Finrod said decisively.
Glorfindel looked up at Vardamir standing behind Finrod. “Why are you here?”
“We decided to do our exam while you were sleeping,” Vardamir answered without apology. “It’s always best if the patient is relaxed when we do such an exam. I doubt you would have been too relaxed had you been awake. This way, you got some sleep and we got our results.”
“And what are the results?” Vorondur asked before Glorfindel could.
“I would like to take some time to consult with my colleagues to see if we agree on the results before we tell you. Why don’t you all go back inside and have dinner and we’ll meet afterwards, perhaps in the sunroom? That way we won’t be tying up the library if others wish to use it.”
“Does that meet with your approval, gwador?” Finrod asked.
“Sure. I guess.” He ran his hands through his golden locks and sighed.
Vorondur smiled. “Come and have dinner, Loren, Finrod, and while you’re eating I’ll tell you what crazy thing my sons did this morning while we were at the hospital. You’ll have to tell me if this is a Reborn thing or if my sons are truly that insane.”
Everyone gave him considering looks and Glorfindel even smiled. “This I have to hear.” He stood up and gave a hand to Finrod who groaned slightly and spent a few seconds shaking out his legs, while Daeron returned Vardamir’s satchel to him. Vorondur headed back to the house with Glorfindel, Finrod and Daeron following, leaving the healers to themselves.
For a long moment the three just stared at one another, silently communicating their thoughts. Finally, Vardamir broke eye contact and sighed. “So we are in agreement,” he said softly, speaking in Quenya.
“It’s not good,” Elrond replied in the same language. “But then we knew that already.”
“Yes,” Vardamir allowed, nodding. “The only question that remains is, what do we tell them?”
“The truth, of course,” Laurendil said with a shrug. “Don’t forget, both Finrod and Vorondur have the ability to do what we’ve done. They can verify our findings on their own. I cannot lie to Finrod even if I wished to. My oaths will not allow it. And lying to Glorfindel is also out of the question, though for different reasons.”
“I am not countenancing lying to them,” Vardamir said sharply, “but I question the wisdom of telling them the full truth, especially Glorfindel. Vorondur, yes, because he needs to know in order to treat Glorfindel.”
“Yet, Glorfindel will demand an accounting and I have perhaps known him longer than either of you,” Elrond said. “He is stronger than you might think and he will not thank us for withholding such information.”
Vardamir gave the other two healers considering looks. “So, who wants to do the honors?”
Both Laurendil and Elrond snorted. “That is a rhetorical question, right?” Elrond asked, smiling knowingly at his friend.
Vardamir gave them a rueful look as the three headed away from the clearing. “Unfortunately.”
Note: The Elves’ discussion of The Young and the Restless plot is based on the actual storylines aired on 21 and 22 May, 2012.
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