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Legolas glanced at Glorfindel who had sat through the narrative staring into space as if he had not heard a single word being spoken. The Wood Elf sighed. “After the fighting was over and I realized that Glorfindel was missing, I sent word immediately to my adar so he could send me help. Some of those with me were injured and needed the safety of the Stronghold and I could not in good conscience leave them to go look for Glorfindel, not immediately. We were close enough to the mountains that my fastest scout was able to reach the Stronghold and return with help two days later. In the meantime, I had anyone not injured scouring the area in the hope of finding a trace of where Glorfindel had gone. I also sent one of my people to Rhosgobel, which was only about fifty miles as the craban flies, alerting Radagast the Brown and the Woodsmen who dwelt in the area.”
“Where did you find him?” Finrod asked as he stroked Glorfindel’s hair. Glorfindel continued staring into space, lost in memory.
“We didn’t,” Legolas replied. “Radagast did. We searched for almost three days without any luck and then a message came from Rhosgobel urging me to come quickly. When I got there, it was to find Glorfindel raving. In fact, Radagast had had to tie him down and had thrust a piece of leather into his mouth to prevent him from swallowing his tongue. Radagast told me he had found Glorfindel wandering witless about three or four miles from Rhosgobel covered with spider silk and suffering from spider poison.”
Finrod closed his eyes and leaned his head against Glorfindel’s shoulders. “Valar!” he muttered in shock.
“It took all of the Wizard’s powers to neutralize the poisons, but even so, it was nearly a week before they were all out of his system and he was conscious and sane again….
Legolas helped Radagast with Glorfindel as the Wizard used several different concoctions on the ellon that he assured Legolas would help neutralize the poisons raging in Glorfindel’s body.
“He should be comatose or dead,” Legolas said at one point, “given the amount of poison in his system.”
“He’s not the same as you or other Elves of Middle-earth, young prince,” Radagast explained as he forced some water down Glorfindel’s throat. Luckily, Glorfindel’s thirst appeared paramount and the ellon accepted the cool liquid eagerly even in his half-conscious state. “Glorfindel was born and lived in the Blessed Realm and has many powers of mind and spirit that those born here lack. On top of that, he is also a Reborn and that may well be his saving grace here.”
Legolas gazed upon the ellon raving in delirium feeling full of guilt, knowing that he was somehow at fault for what had happened to one who was essentially a guest in his adar’s realm.
Radagast gave him a piercing look, as if he could see the guilt in him, and shook his head. “Would you feel as you do, princeling, if it had been one of your own people?”
Legolas looked up, his eyes burning with anger. “Had it been one of my own people, we would not be having this conversation.”
“Exactly,” the Wizard said with a slight smile. “Keep that in mind, elfling. Now, help me change these sheets.”
Elrond arrived at Rhosgobel with Thranduil five days after Legolas had sent them word. Thranduil took his son aside to get his report while Elrond quietly consulted with the Wizard and made his own examination of Glorfindel who was now sleeping, for most of the poison had been leached from his body.
“I decided to wait to put him into healing sleep until you arrived, Elrond,” Radagast said. “I figured it should be your decision and not mine.”
Elrond nodded. “Let us wait a bit on that,” he said, then turned to Legolas. “Tell me what happened.”
So Legolas told them and at the end of his narrative Elrond sighed. “You are not to blame, Legolas. What happened is unfortunate but you could not have foreseen it. No one could. That Glorfindel somehow managed to escape in spite of his injuries is nothing short of a miracle. We must hope that when he wakens he will be able to tell us what happened.”
But that hope proved vain. Glorfindel slept for another few days, rousing only enough to take some sustenance and see to personal needs but it was almost two weeks after he’d been found before he opened his eyes with no memory of anything that had happened, not even the fact that he had been on patrol with Legolas and the Wood Elves.
“My last memory is of the welcoming feast,” he told them when they asked.
Radagast nodded. “A common occurrence when suffering a traumatic experience,” he told them. “The mind blanks out the memory to protect itself, retreating to an earlier, happier time. The memory might come back on its own or not; there’s no way to say either way.”
“Perhaps when he is feeling stronger he will allow himself to remember,” Legolas offered, but even he seemed doubtful.
It took Glorfindel the better part of another week before he felt strong enough to make the journey back to the Stronghold. Radagast was not so sure but he did not try to convince the ellon to remain in Rhosgobel a while longer. Glorfindel was pale and withdrawn and his dreams had been unsettling, causing him to wake screaming on more than one occasion. He still insisted that he had no memory of what happened to him, but Elrond suspected that the dreams were his mind’s way of trying to bring those memories to the fore.
“Perhaps I can convince him to let me try something to help him remember,” Elrond said to Radagast, “but he has to want to remember. I cannot force it upon him, none of us can.”
With that, the Wizard agreed. “He might feel… um… safer within the Stronghold. He might feel too exposed here in Rhosgobel. He needs to feel safe before he will allow himself to remember.”
And so, nearly a month after the spider attack, Legolas helped Elrond with Glorfindel, an entire contingent of Wood Elves armed with bows and knives accompanying them. Elrond decided to travel north along the eaves of the forest to the Elf Gate and the Path that led to the Stronghold rather than risk the forest.
“It will take longer but I do not think Glorfindel is ready to traverse the woods just yet,” he told Legolas.
Legolas had no objections and the guards would do as they were told, so they journeyed north, taking it at Glorfindel’s pace which was somewhat slow, though as the days passed and the color returned to his face, it quickened so by the time they were making their way on the Path, he was almost walking at Elf-speed.
But all the while, he insisted he could not remember what had happened to him and his dreams, when he bothered to sleep at all, were disturbed….
“We finally returned to the Stronghold and only then did Elrond broach the subject of employing a technique to help Glorfindel to remember,” Legolas told Finrod.
“And did he accept the suggestion?” Finrod asked, still stroking Glorfindel’s hair.
“Not at first, but when the dreams started to become overwhelming and he felt himself slipping away, he agreed to it. I imagine Elrond used a technique similar to what Vorondur wishes to use, getting Glorfindel to relax enough to remember without feeling threatened.”
“I woke up in a cocoon,” Glorfindel suddenly said, startling Finrod and Legolas.
“How did you escape?” Finrod asked softly.
“I still had a long knife,” Glorfindel answered, never looking at either ellon. “It took a while and I was dizzy with the venom and in much pain, but I managed to free myself, only…”
“Only what? Shh… it’s an old memory and it can no longer hurt you,” Finrod said, wrapping an arm around Glorfindel’s shoulders and hugging him.
“They were waiting for me,” Glorfindel said, swallowing visibly, his body shaking. “I don’t know how often I was stung, but somehow I managed to kill them all. Only afterward, I was so full of poison that I know I was hallucinating but it was all so real. I was no longer in Mirkwood but elsewhere and elsewhen trudging along the strand under starlight after having witnessed my adar kill my nan….” He broke off and lurched away, falling to his knees a few feet away and retching. Both Finrod and Legolas went to him, holding him up through his spasms.
When the heaving ceased, Finrod helped him to stand while Legolas took a moment to cover the vomit with dirt.
“Let’s move away from here,” Finrod suggested and he led them away, following a path northward up a hill until they found themselves in what appeared to be an amphitheater. While it was apparent that it was not yet finished, it was complete enough for them to sit. Looking downhill, they had a lovely view of the gardens.
“Look! There are Gwyn, Gareth and Nielluin,” Legolas pointed out.
“And I can see the Three Amigos,” Finrod said, fishing out the map. “Let’s see, it looks as if my son and his gwedyr are examining perennials according to this map and my niece and the ap Hywel brothers are… ah… looking at an herb garden. Well enough.” He shoved the map back into a pocket. “We will just sit here and enjoy the view. How are you faring, hanno?” he asked Glorfindel. Legolas handed him some bottled water which he had on hand and Glorfindel gave him a grateful look as he rinsed out his mouth before drinking.
“I’ll live,” he said after taking a swallow. “Damn memories!”
“I can understand why you would want to forget what happened to you,” Finrod said carefully. “Yet, what was worse: knowing or not knowing?”
“They say ignorance is bliss, but it can also kill you,” Glorfindel said. “Legolas will tell you that I hesitated for a long time before I allowed Elrond to help me to remember, but the dreams just got worse and I refused to leave the Stronghold. I was a basket-case, as they like to say these days. Had I had a similar experience in this day and age, I would’ve been placed in a rubber room for my own protection.”
“Then you know that regression can only help,” Finrod pointed out.
Glorfindel nodded. “Intellectually, yes, but there is some part of me that screams at the idea, which is stupid in a way because I’ve already had it done to me. I know what the score is. I know that I have complete control and yet…”
“And yet, you still hesitate,” Finrod completed the thought for him and Glorfindel nodded.
“Stupid, I know.”
“No, just a normal response,” Legolas said. “I would feel the same under similar circumstances.”
“Ron said I could have whomever I wished to be present when he puts me under and I can choose where I want him to do it, wherever makes me the most comfortable.”
“I am glad,” Finrod said. “I hope you take him up on his offer for all our sakes, but mostly for yours, hanno. I think your dreams and your fading are linked.” He waved suddenly, for Finda had apparently looked up toward the amphitheater and seeing them, began waving. “Shall we join the youngsters? I think I’ve seen enough of this garden. I would not mind finding a nice tavern and enjoying some wine or ale.”
Glorfindel actually grinned at that. “Hedonist. C’mon, let’s round up the kiddies and go find us some lunch and we need to call Alex and decide where we will meet him for dinner.”
“Why don’t we let Gwyn and Gareth decide that?” Finrod suggested as the three stood and made their way down the hill. By now the ap Hywels and Nielluin had also noticed them. Finrod pointed to his right even as he was speaking and the two groups in the garden began making a beeline toward the entrance.
“What’s wrong with Glorfindel?” Finda asked when he and the other youngsters joined up with them.
“Is he all right? What happened?” more than one person asked, all of them looking worried.
“You look like hell, mate,” Gwyn said with a grin.
“Thanks,” Glorfindel said, “I feel like it as well.”
“Glorfindel had a sudden bad memory,” Finrod explained. “It took him by surprise, is all.”
“Are you going to be okay to drive?” Gareth asked solicitously. “You want me to drive for you?”
“I think I can drive my own van, thank you very much,” Glorfindel muttered as he fished out his keys.
“No,” Finrod said firmly. “I do not want you driving, Loren. Gareth, take his keys. Gwyn, is there someplace nearby where we can have some lunch and something to drink?”
“Not around here, but we can go to Molly Malone’s. It’ll be cool there and no one will disturb us.”
“Then let us go. No, hanno, we do this my way. I do not trust you behind the wheel in your present state. If necessary, I will drive.”
“Uh, in that case, here you go, Gareth,” Glorfindel said, handing the ellon his keys.
A few minutes later they were on their way with Finda, Calandil and Elennen going with Gwyn to keep him company. Soon, they were filing into the dark coolness of Molly Malone’s and Glorfindel excused himself to use the bathroom, coming out a few minutes later looking more steady. Lunch was a subdued affair. However, neither Finrod nor Legolas mentioned what happened in the garden, and the younger Elves knew enough not to ask, for which Glorfindel was grateful.
After lunch, Glorfindel announced that he was feeling too tired to do much of anything else but to go back to the B & B and relax until dinner. “But feel free to do whatever you want,” he told the others. Gwyn suggested that perhaps they could all go back to his and Gareth’s house instead. “You can take the guest room and lie down if you’d like,” he offered to Glorfindel who accepted, even going so far as to allow Gareth to drive the van back to the house, much to everyone else’s surprise.
Once at the house, Gwyn called Alex while everyone else went out to the back garden armed with glasses of lemonade. Glorfindel sat musing, staring at nothing in particular, ignoring the conversations around him.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Glorfindel looked up to see Gwyn taking a seat next to him, giving him a smile and taking a sip of his lemonade. “I dreamt of you,” he said suddenly and the other conversations ceased as everyone turned their attention to him and Gwyn.
“Oh? I hope I wasn’t doing anything embarrassing,” Gwyn quipped.
“I don’t know,” Glorfindel replied in all seriousness. “I don’t really remember. All I can remember is that both you and Gareth were in the dream and there was something important that you were trying to tell me or show me or something only I don’t know what, only that whatever it was leaves me with a feeling of dread when I think about it.”
Gwyn gave him a troubled look, glancing at Gareth who also looked troubled. “And you don’t know what it is we were trying to tell you or show you?”
Glorfindel shook his head.
“Is that what last night was all about?” Legolas asked, giving him and Finrod a shrewd look. “Gwyn and Gareth are in those dreams you can’t remember?”
“Apparently,” Glorfindel admitted with a scowl and then, seeing the questioning expressions on the faces Gwyn and Gareth, he gave them an explanation. “I have been having a recurring dream, one that I cannot fully remember upon waking. All I have of the dreams is a feeling of dread. Last night I had the dream again, but this time I clearly remember you two in it and knew that you’ve been in my dreams all along. I don’t know why.”
“If Ron regresses you, though, perhaps you will learn the reason,” Finrod pointed out.
“Yeah, I’m beginning to agree with you there,” Glorfindel admitted.
“And you have no idea what we were doing or anything to give us a clue?” Gwyn asked.
Glorfindel shook his head. “Do you have any idea why I would think you two knew something or possessed something that I would consider important?”
Both ellyn shook their heads. “We’re just mortal-born Elves,” Gareth said with a helpless shrug. “What could we possibly have or know that can be of any importance to anyone, least of all you, Lord Glorfindel?”
“Well, if I have the regression, maybe we’ll find out,” Glorfindel shot back. “So, where did we decide to have dinner?”
Recognizing that the topic was closed, Gwyn shrugged. “I thought the Chowder House. As we’re a large party, I took the liberty of making reservations for six o’clock. Alex will meet us there.”
The others nodded and they spent the rest of the time before they had to leave in quiet conversation, but as the evening progressed Glorfindel couldn’t help noticing the troubled, and, to his mind, almost furtive looks that passed between the two brothers and wondered.
Monday morning was spent at the Ice Museum, though the youngsters all claimed that they preferred the ones at Chandalar where an ice sculpture contest was held every winter. Then they went to Bentley Mall and after that to the Wal-Mart Superstore, which impressed not only the younger Elves but Finrod and Legolas, both of whom were amazed by the variety of items that could be gotten there.
“If we had something like this back in Valinor, I doubt anyone would be bored,” Finrod commented as they wandered the aisles.
“If a Wal-Mart ever shows up in Valinor, Finrod, then I’ll know the End is nigh,” Glorfindel quipped, giving them a sardonic look.
Later that evening, they ended up at the Big I for drinks with Alex and the ap Hywels to say their good-byes as they were planning on getting on the road fairly early. Thus, they were having breakfast at seven the next morning and on the road an hour later.
“Denali here we come,” Glorfindel said as he pulled out of the parking lot and headed west through the city until he picked up the road for Denali, which lay about a hundred and fifty miles southwest of the city down the George Parks Highway. Once they passed out of the city, Glorfindel pulled over long enough so that he could switch places with Finrod, giving him time behind the wheel. The others spent the trip staring out the windows at the scenery with distant mountains on either side of them.
Eventually they could see the Park, passing some hotels that apparently catered to park visitors. Consulting a map, Glorfindel directed Finrod to the park entrance and the Backcountry Information Center where they were required to pick up their permit to backpack.
“I scoped out a number of possible treks,” Glorfindel told them as they climbed out of the van, “as there are quotas in some areas in terms of how many people are permitted to camp overnight. Since we’re a large group, some areas will be closed to us, but we may get lucky.”
Inside, Glorfindel filled out the necessary permit application while the others stood around. The Woman processing the application glanced over at them, eyeing them in a rather suspicious manner. “Six fellas and a single girl?”
“We’re brothers and this is our baby sister,” Glorfindel said with a straight face.
“Brothers, huh?” the Woman said, glancing at the space on the application where all members of the party were listed. “All with different last names, except for two of you.”
“Half-brothers,” Glorfindel said without missing a beat. “Mom was… bored a lot. Long winters and all.”
“Uh-huh,” the Woman said skeptically. She leaned across the counter and spoke directly to Nielluin. “Honey, are you sure about this, going into the wilderness with these… gentlemen?”
Nielluin gave the Woman a haughty look that would have done Galadriel proud. “Uncle Alex taught me how to kill a man quickly if he tries anything stupid.”
The Woman blinked at that rather unexpected remark, glancing at Glorfindel who just smiled at her. She shook her head and finished processing the permit. “You’ll be camping in unit one, that’s the Triple Lakes area. Before I can give you your permit, though, you’ll need to see our video and one of our Rangers will also give a short safety lecture. The auditorium is through there.” She pointed toward a door and Glorfindel nodded, thanking her.
As they shuffled into the small auditorium along with a few other people interested in backcountry camping, Glorfindel whispered to Nielluin, “Uncle Alex?” She gave him a smile and a shrug that was so reminiscent of Celeborn when that ellon was not willing to explain his motives that Glorfindel nearly laughed out loud.
“Why did you say we were all brothers?” Finda asked, speaking in Sindarin as they found seats.
“Half-brothers,” Glorfindel corrected pedantically, speaking in the same language. He shrugged. “She sees six seemingly young men with a single young female and she has to wonder. I suppose we should have invited one of the other ellith to come along for Nell to have some female companionship, then the Woman wouldn’t have been so suspicious. I told her we were siblings to allay her fears for Nell’s safety.”
“But she did not seem too surprised by the fact that you intimated more than one husband for our putative naneth,” Calandil said.
“Not husbands, lovers,” Glorfindel said. “Mortals don’t always bother to marry when they produce children.”
All four younger Elves looked suitably shocked by the notion. Legolas chuckled at their expressions and they all turned to him. He gave them a wide smile. “I once knew a Man who lived in Esgaroth. He had ten children. I think only three of them had the same mother and as far as I could figure it, he never bothered to marry any of the other Women who bore his children.”
Before anyone else could comment, one of the Backcountry Rangers came in and introduced himself, welcoming them to Denali and proceeding to show them the video. It lasted thirty minutes and covered such topics as campsite selection, sanitary procedures, the Leave No Trace principles of wilderness camping and warnings about wildlife dangers. Then they had to endure a ten-minute safety lecture from the Ranger describing proper food storage and, as the Elves had brought their own Bear Resistant Food Containers — the park issued them free-of-charge to those who did not have their own — they had to show them to the Ranger for approval before they were at last given their permit, which they all had to sign. The whole process took an hour or so and it was heading towards noon before they were free to leave, but not before purchasing the appropriate USGS quadrant map and drawing in the unit boundaries and wildlife closures.
“I can’t believe we were made to sit through that stupid video,” Calandil groused as they headed back to the van which Glorfindel needed to move to the overnight parking area before they could head out.
“Yeah, what a joke,” Elennen sneered. “Who do they think we are, anyway?”
Glorfindel gave them an amused look. “They think you are clueless humans who don’t know squat about wilderness living.”
“Still—” Elennen started to say, but Glorfindel shook his head.
“Their world, their rules,” he countered as he pulled into a parking space and turned off the engine. “C’mon. We’ve got at least a nine-mile hike to the campsites and we’re wasting daylight.”
“Considering that daylight will last until nearly midnight, I do not think we have to worry about it too much,” Finrod offered with a smile as he accepted his pack and swung it onto his back.
“Whatever,” Glorfindel replied as he locked up the van and they headed for the trailhead. Soon they were hiking into what was called the taiga, the boreal forest of white spruce, aspen, paper birch and balsam poplar. There were no others on the trail that they could see, though Glorfindel surmised that on the weekend it would be crawling with people.
“We have to sleep in unit one, but we are free to wander through the entire park if we wish,” Glorfindel explained to them as they made their way along the trail. “We may want to take one of the bus tours that allow you to go deep into the park. We’ll be able to see Mt. McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. It rises over twenty thousand feet with a vertical relief of eighteen thousand feet that’s steeper than Mount Everest. The park is named after it.”
“The park is called Denali, not McKinley,” Finrod pointed out.
“Denali is the Athabaskan name for it,” Glorfindel corrected. “It means ‘High One’ in their language. The Europeans who first came here gave names to mountains and rivers and such to suit themselves, but the old native names remained and in some cases were recovered as in this case.”
Silence fell between them as they continued along the trail. Almost as soon as they had passed out of sight of the visitor center and were deep in the taiga the Elves visibly relaxed. Even Glorfindel appeared to Finrod and Legolas to be calmer than he had been earlier, and they heard him humming a lilting tune that set them all smiling.
They crossed a newly constructed suspension bridge that spanned what their map called Riley Creek and continued the moderate climb up to the ridgeline, affording them spectacular views of the snow-capped Alaskan Range and the glacial valleys. Here they were in dry tundra and they walked with care through the scree. The trail eventually headed down again as it meandered toward the western-most of the three glacially carved lakes for which the unit was named. As they were not in any particular hurry, it took them nearly five hours to traverse the trail.
“The campsites are along this lake and the next one over,” Glorfindel said. “We could camp further up on the ridge but there’s no ready access to water. Let’s check the campsites here first and then move to the next lake if these are taken.”
But all of the campsites on the third lake were occupied, which surprised Glorfindel. “I didn’t think this early in summer and in the middle of the week there would be that many backpackers. Well, there’s still the next lake over. There obviously are available campsites otherwise we wouldn’t have been assigned to this unit.”
The others accepted the situation philosophically. Legolas even went so far as to say, “If worse comes to worst, we can always sleep in the trees.”
“Or just spend the night wandering through the forest,” Nielluin offered.
“We’ll see,” was Glorfindel’s only response. However, when they reached the next lake, the longest of the three, they discovered that none of the campsites were occupied. “This is much better,” Glorfindel said approvingly. “So, Finrod, why don’t you pick our site.”
Finrod looked about and finally chose a location nestled among the birch and aspen with a view of the lake facing east, though they were careful to be at least a hundred feet from the water’s edge. Soon they had their tents up. Since open fires were not permitted during the summer, Glorfindel set up a small propane stove on which they would cook their food. Legolas took the Three Amigos and did a quick sweep of the area, checking out possible wildlife threats while Glorfindel, Finrod and Nielluin poured over the map to plan their itinerary for the next day.
“I suggest we start by ascending the western hillsides and then head south along this alpine ridge system.” He traced a finger on the map. “We’re bound to see some great views of the Yanert Valley and we can move into unit two and make a sweep north back toward Riley Creek and return to the campsite along this drainage out of third lake.”
Finrod nodded. “It sounds like a pleasant day’s walk. What do you think, Nell?”
Nielluin nodded. “And I brought my camera. I’ll take lots of pictures and put them on my Facebook page when we get home so I can share them with everyone. Too bad they can’t get Facebook in Valinor. I would love to be able to show my parents.”
“Well, maybe someday if the Valar ever figure out how to connect to the internet,” Glorfindel said, giving her a fond smile. Then he looked up as Legolas and the Three Amigos returned. “What did you find?”
“The area is clear of any predators, though there are traces of a lynx,” Legolas answered.
“How do you know about a lynx?” Glorfindel asked.
“When I knew I would be coming here, I asked Paul Pettingill about the type of wildlife we might encounter and he gave me a booklet that showed the different tracks.”
“And naturally, you memorized them all.”
“Naturally,” Legolas said with a lift of an eyebrow.
“Whatever,” Glorfindel said. “Okay, well, let’s hope the lynx won’t give us any trouble. Now, while you were out scouting, we figured out our trek for tomorrow. Gather around and I’ll show you.” And for the next several minutes they discussed their route some more until they were satisfied with the plan.
The evening progressed. Nielluin volunteered to cook dinner. Legolas insisted that he, Glorfindel and Finrod at least draw watch duty through the night if the youngsters decided to sleep.
“This isn’t Mirkwood, my friend,” Glorfindel said.
“It is a wilderness,” Legolas shot back. “I only wish I had my weapons with me.”
Glorfindel sighed and looked at Finrod. “I thought this was supposed to be a vacation?”
Finrod gave him a brief smile. “It is, gwador. You let Liam and me worry about security. You just loll about and take your ease with the youngsters.”
“Maybe I will,” Glorfindel countered, but in the end, he agreed to the watch and even insisted that the younger Elves share watch duty as a way of training them. The others agreed, and thus their first night of camping passed without incident.
Craban: (Sindarin) a type of crow; the plural is crebain.
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