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a love denied
Chapter 2: suffering souls
He awoke to feel someone caressing his face. He opened his eyes and closed them again with a groan when a splitting headache made itself known.
“Don´t move, Ada. You have a nasty bump on your head.”
The Elf-Lord opened his eyes again and looked into the concerned face of his daughter. How had he acquired the injury?
“Celebrian…..” he breathed as he sat upright.
He did not see the narrowed eyes of his daughter because his gaze swept toward the high working table - now empty.
Freeing himself from the restraining hand he rose.
“You should stay in bed, Master Elrond.”
He had not heard the healer approaching. Irritated he turned his head. Not a wise course of action either.
“Tinár, where is she?” he asked his gaze again scanning the large room.
“Who?” the healer asked with forced calm while deliberately stepping into Elrond's line of vision.
The dark haired Elf-Lord started to round on his colleague. “I have seen her….” Irritated, Elrond tried to free some tangled hair from the bandage around his head.
“Elrond stop,” Tinár said his voice still calm but strained now.
The Elf-Lord stopped and turned. For a short moment steely grey eyes were fixed on the healer. Tinár was reminded that the ruling Lord of this valley was a descendant of a long line of noble heritage. Not for nothing was he once destined to succeed his King.
Suddenly, the dark haired elf begun to sway again. Tinár was at his side an instant later, swearing. He would not let a second fall happen. Determinedly he guided his chief to a nearby chair. With gentle force he made the elf sit.
“Please remain sitting down. You have a slight concussion.”
Elrond´s head jerked up. Not an action recommended for a headache. Tinár refrained from sighing.
“Where is Celebrían?”
Dragging another chair near the chief-healer of Imladris sat down.
“Elrond. Your Lady wife is no longer dwelling here. You have personally escorted her to the havens. The woman you have seen was not her. She´s the patient I asked your assistance with earlier.”
Propping his head in both hands the Elf-Lord took a deep breath.
“What happened to her?”
Tinár pressed his lips into a thin line. Since his return from the havens the Master healer had hardly left his room, barely eaten or slept. He had neglected his duties, his family, himself. Tinár had already rued asking him for assistance.
He would need some distraction but was a gravely wounded, dying woman the right kind?
Tinár sighed. He had started this so he had to go on now. He rose.
“I will show you. Please follow me.”
With a critical eye on the other healer, Tinár motioned the Elf-Lord toward an alcove where patients were shielded from view separated by a screen.
From the corner of his eyes Tinár saw that Lady Arwen was leaving the infirmary in a rush. He made a mental note to inform someone to look after her. She had sat on her father´s sick bed all night and now Elrond had not even acknowledged her.
When Elrond rounded the screen he stopped in his tracks. On the bed lay the woman he had earlier mistaken for Celebrían. Now he saw instantly that the woman was human, not an elf, yet her built was especially graceful for a human and she was unusually tall. And she had beautiful long blond hair, albeit matted in grime and blood.
He shook his head. How could he have mistaken her for his wife? He had no mental or emotional connection to this woman and yet…..
Three assistants of Tinár were still engaged in tending to the woman.
Elrond, however doubted that the woman on the bed would survive, with or without his intervention He was already doing what came naturally to him. Observe, analyze and weight up the options.
This woman had been too long bereft of proper help. The skin was no longer grey, rather translucent presumably from lying on cold earth. Without touching her he was sure that her body temperature was well below normal.
The woman was covered all over in cuts, bruises and scratches and it was clear that she had been severely beaten. The many bruises told their own story. Most prominent however, was the deep stab wound in her left side, dangerously high up, so that her lung could be affected. That she had been raped and abused was also clear to see and only completed the horrible sight.
Finally nearing the heightened bed the assistants moved aside to give the Elf-Lord room to further observe.
Yet there was not much to discover additionally. It was a miracle anyway that the woman still lived.
“What happened?” Elrond asked a second time, having got no explanation so far.
Tinár spirits sunk. He had hoped to spark some interest in the healer´s heart, yet the cool indifference in the Elf-lord´s voice dampened his hopes. Yet he had asked and not ignored the woman. Tinár cleared his throat. Elrond might be troubled, yet his healer's mind was still sharp and he would tolerate nothing short of a thorough briefing.
“By chance, the northern border patrol came across a small homestead that had been raided by orcs. It was obvious that a whole family, along with their farmhands and animals had been killed. At first the warriors took her – he nodded toward the woman on the bed - for dead too. She held a dead baby in her arms. When they realized that she was still alive they brought her here. She´s not counted among the Dúnedain nor does she seem to have other relatives nearby.”
“Has the child been brought here too?”
Tinár narrowed his eyes and nodded. A short but precise question.
“Please see that it is buried according to these people's customs.”
Tinár nodded having given this very order hours again. He still shuddered, remembering the sight of the little child's body. The boy could not have older than one year. His little body was nearly cleaved into two with a crude but sharp weapon. The child must have died immediately, but this sight was hard to endure, even for him. As a healer he had seen much senseless cruelty during his long life.
The Elf-Lord bend over the woman and started his examination. Returning to his side, Tinár raised an eyebrow.
Was there any hope that the woman could survive? He believed their efforts would be futile in the end. She had lost too much blood and her wounds had been neglected far too long.
But was not Master Elrond the best healer in all of Middle- earth? Had he not for this reason called for him earlier? If anyone could, the Elf-Lord would be the only one able to call her back.
He in any case would keep a wary eye on the superior healer. Elrond was in no shape to overtax his abilities.
Elrond had worked for hours. His world had narrowed to this bed, to this one soul in need of rescue. But whenever he solved one problem a new one would arise. Maybe he should cease his efforts and let nature take its course. Why the woman was still struggling eluded him. Her whole family had been extinguished, her husband and child dead. But was she even aware of that?
Death would be more merciful. If a miracle happened and she recovered there would be a long road ahead of her.
Maybe he had done the woman no favors in helping her to survive. Without help she would already be united with her loved ones beyond the circles of this world. But this was not his way. He would not let her die.
He did not know why, but this woman touched his heart. For a short moment he paused in his ministrations, earning a bewildered look from the assistant opposite to him by ignoring the bandage roll the younger elf was handing him.
Searching his inner feelings he knew suddenly why it was so important to him that this woman lived.
It was quite simple. He could not help his wife despite all his power, maybe he had a chance with her.
After he resumed his work, another hour or so went by. Several times the Elf-Lord had to pause to make sure the woman was still alive. Her vital signs were so faint by now that he had to strain his senses to detect them at all.
Sometimes he was worried that she would not take another breath. But somehow her struggles always continued.
Maybe the second-born were not as fragile as it was believed.
Albeit the figure on the bed looked exactly like that: fragile, weak and one step away from whatever fate awaited Eru's younger children after leaving this world.
Again he was reminded treating his wife after being brought home all those months ago. Bleeding, filthy, reeking of orc-filth and odors the Elf-lord did not care to remember.
He shuddered at the memory of when his older son had placed the limp body of his beloved into his arms. The horrible truth he had long felt before the rescue party came in sight had now become very real before his eyes.
Bodily, Celebrían was not nearly in such a bad shape as this young woman. She had also been stabbed and raped, yes, but her numerous wounds were of another nature. Deeply embedded in her soul, her mind shattered beyond repair.
Maybe unconsciously the Elf-Lord longed for the confirmation that his healing power would not have been strong enough to heal his wife and the blame was not his.
Oddly enough, no one but he blamed himself for things that were out of his control.
Celebrían had sailed, either not able or not willing to accept the help she could have received.
She had left a not only grieving but also frustrated family behind struggling to understand her decision.
At home surrounded by her family she could have received the utmost care, love and support and Elrond would have trodden every dark path with her.
But she had rejected him every time he had tried to get through to her and sooth her.
She had always used the same argument. She was afraid that her husband would be too shocked to see what the orcs had done to her.
Elrond had two healer-trained eyes and could well guess what had happened.
They had tortured, tormented and wounded her with a poisoned blade.
This could hardly be the reason for her flight. He was sure that he could have gone with her through the long way of recovery from being put to torment. Not once did any thoughts of blame or revulsion cross his mind.
Elrond was a warrior and had surely seen more cruelty and pain in his long life than Celebrían could even imagine.
And he was a healer, trained in easing hurts in body and spirit. Certainly, it was much worse when the patient was a family member but the motivation was also much higher then.
Her husband would have had the power, strength and will to travel the long way of recovery with her, but as always she did what was best for her.
Finally Elrond had relented and stepped back with no less envy in his heart why his wife should find healing in the blessed realm but not with him. He knew that Middle earth was marred and all his personal might could never compare with the healing power at the Blessed realm. He felt somehow guilty for not going with her, yet till today he could only accept, but not really understand.
She had left him and three children behind, when she had not been able to come to terms with what had happened.
And who could help her in Valinor? Someone nearer or with more insight in her heart than her husband, her children, her parents? He knew that he was again betraying himself. The very nature of Valinor alone would help her. Angrily he shoved these disturbing thoughts away.
Feeling the burning gazes of all around him, Elrond continued working, blocking the past out.
Why did this young woman touch his heart so?
Her fate was that of many in these dark times. Attacked, abused, killed and thrown away.
To be continued…….
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