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On the knife’s edge  by Laikwalâssê

Chapter 5:  a child alone, an unreal dream and a bad ending

Elrohir grunted when he finally reached the top of the cliff, pulling himself over the rim he lay there panting hard. His hands hurt and pounded in league with his head, as he looked at them he could not detect with all the dirt if the wetness was blood or water.

The sun had already risen, and the rain had thankfully stopped. Yet, a stiff wind was still blowing making his wet clothes feel all the more uncomfortable.

Lifting his head, Elrohir looked to his right in the vain hope that the horse had stood up, but it still lay there unmoving. Sitting up, Elrohir removed the tears of frustration, pain, and sadness from his face unconsciously smearing it with dirt and blood.

Elrohir stood up and looked over the landscape. He turned into the direction of his home and sighed, knowing he had to get off the cliff face and down through the wood surrounding Imladris until he would finally reach its borders.

Even elven children had an innate sense of direction which did suit him now even if not consciously knowing it.

Before leaving, he searched again for Glorfindel´s bag. After retrieving it, he shook the items out: a water bottle – half-full -, a wrapped piece of dried meat and a small knife.

That was a start. Storing the items away again, Elrohir shrugged the strap of the bag over his head.

The last thing he needed to do was collect the rope. Kneeling, Elrohir loosened the rope around the horse´ leg and retrieved it from the cliff face.

After rolling the rope up and tucking it into the bag, his fingers smoothed the fur on the horse´s front leg where the rope had bit into the flesh.

`I´ll go now, brother. I will be back as soon as possible`.

`Take care little brother.'

 

……………………………………………………..

 

Elladan lifted his head when he had heard a sound. At first, he did not know where he was. His memory, however, returned quickly when his feet shoved some pebbles over the edge of the ledge he was cowering on. He scrambled back and flattened his back at the rock face when he realized the sound he had heard was a moan.

“Glorfindel?” he asked while crawling alongside the warrior.

With cold and dirty fingers, the older twin smoothed a strand of hair out of the elf´s eyes. The warrior´s skin looked gray and felt cold to the touch. Glorfindel had his eyes closed but was licking his lips.

Elladan swallowed. “Are you thirsty?” he asked while looking around. He already dreaded the answer because all their supplies lay twenty feet above them.

“Do not bother, child. Please remain still lest you tumble to your death.”

Elladan wrinkled his brow. He was thirsty too, and his leg hurt still awfully – even if the sharp pain had now changed into dull throbbing.

Glorfindel sounded so dejected, a bit of water would help, he had only to find some.

“I will be back shortly,” he announced and shoved himself back until he had the full ledge for him to rise. This, however, was not a good idea. A sharp pain was shooting up his leg, up his spine and right into his brain. He cried out and fell back on his knees.

“Elladan? Are you ok?”

After taking a few steadying breaths, Elladan nodded until realizing his mentor could not see this.

“I´m alright. Don´t worry.”

A snort was his only answer.

While crawling forward, Elladan shoved smaller loose boulders over the edge to not have to round them. His hands and knees already hurt from crawling over the ground. He was just about to turn around when his eyes lit up. One step ahead lay a piece of bark, and it was filled with some water.

Grabbing it, Elladan carefully dragged it with him crawling all the way back this time backward. After endless moments, he had reached the warrior.

“Glorfindel, I´m back with water, look!”

The warrior opened his eyes and smiled.

“Thank you, child, but you first.”

“I have already taken some; it´s for you.”

The lie had come easily over his lips even when his throat felt parched. Hopefully, Glorfindel would not recognize it.

Kneeling next to the elf´s upper body he lifted the warrior´s head and nearly dropped the bark when his mentor let out a pain-filled cry followed by a pressed coughing. Elladan registered with horror that his tunic was now speckled with blood.

When the coughing stopped, Elladan tried again and lifted the warrior´s head – this time much more gently. Sip for sip he infused the liquid into Glorfindel´s mouth. Much too quick the bark bowl went empty.

Glorfindel had not said a word only closed his eyes again but this time a bit more relaxed, or so Elladan meant to observe.

The older twin looked into the sky and judged it was already late afternoon.

He laid down next to warrior, carefully not to touch the other´s ribs but nonetheless let him feel he was near. He rested his head on Glorfindel´s sprawled cape. Maybe he could retrieve the cloak under the body and cover the warrior with it?

Later, perhaps later. Now the elf was lying still and seemed to sleep. If only the wind would lessen.

Gratefully the throbbing in his leg subsided a bit. He felt so alone, without help, they would never leave this mountain alive.

`Please Elrohir hurry. `Ada, Nana, where are you? `

Exhausted he closed his eyes and fell into an uneasy sleep.

 

…………………………………………………….

 

 

Glorfindel opened his eyes slowly. He was still lying on the ledge, some pebbles poking into his back. With his left hand, he groped for the child that had snuggled close to him only to make sure the elfling was still there. When his searching hand met thin air, he jerked upright.

Where was Elladan?

He sprung to his feet and looked right and left down the ledge – not much space a child could vanish too. Carefully he bent forward and looked over the edge, but his gaze could not pierce the darkness of the chasm. Valar, the child had not tumbled down while he had slept?

Carefully setting one foot in front of the other he walked to the left until the ledge ended abruptly.  There was no sign of the elfling. Swallowing, the Elf-lord turned and walked into the other direction.

“Elladan?” he called, the wind ripping the word right from his mouth.

When he rounded a massive boulder, he stopped.  Someone was sitting on the small prong, feet dangling over the abyss.

The strange being – it was no elf – wore a midnight blue ankle-long shirt held only by a small golden band in the middle. The long raven hair was cascading down the small of his back held in place by an elegant circlet. Despite the blowing wind, his hair was not moving.

Glorfindel took a deep breath. The presence of the being felt disturbing, yet at the same time comforting.

“Missing something?” The sonorous voice was not overly loud, yet it predominated the wind effortlessly.

The beautiful being turned his head and Glorfindel swallowed as he realized he was looking into the piercing gray eyes of Lord Namó.

He was suddenly aware the wind had stopped; in fact, he could hear no sound at all.

“My Lord Namó,” Glorfindel said while bowing, his voice sounding rough, “the elven child, Elladan. I cannot find him, my lord”.

The Lord of Mandos briefly closed his eyes. When he looked at the warrior again, Glorfindel was not sure how he should interpret the expression in those eyes.

“You have lost him. He´s not here, child.”

Glorfindel stepped back in shock.

“No! Please don´t. I´m responsible for him.”

The ancient being seemed unfazed by the desperate words, his gaze directed into the distance.

“Yet, you do nothing to help your charges.”

Glorfindel swallowed. “But I cannot move. I cannot leave this damned ledge….”

Glorfindel looked down and was suddenly aware he was standing. The numbness in his legs had vanished, and the piercing pain in his chest was no longer there – this had to be a dream or some sort of vision.

“Helping does not always mean moving, child. There are other ways to leave the cliff face. The elflings need your support Glorfindel.”

When the warrior looked up, the place before him was empty. From one moment to the other, the Vala had vanished. Glorfindel sunk to his knees. A pleasant smell of apples and lavender suddenly filled the air. So out of place and yet so welcome.

Before he knew what happened the howling of the wind was back, as was the pain in his ribs.

 

 

…………………………………………………………..

 

 

After many hours of walking, Elrohir stopped and looked around. The sun had already started its descent, and the temperature began to drop.

He decided to go on until the sunlight had vanished and then search for a place to spent the night. He had already left the mountain and was now wandering through the woods surrounding Imladris. He had never been alone at night. The trees gave him some comfort but at the same time frightened him.

When the light had faded, he chose the hollow base of a huge tree to crawl into. The nook provided at least shelter from the wind. He pushed his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them, trying to ignore the loud rumbling in his stomach. Elrohir had eaten the dried meat from Glorfindel´s bag long ago.

´Ada, Nana, where are you. Please get me home. `

When he leaned back, he felt a probing in his mind – no words but an empathic whispering. Just as when Ada was easing a hurt or Nana comforting him after a fright; however, they were not here.

Looking up, Elrohir relaxed a bit when the tree welcomed his presence. Slowly he eyes glazed over…

…with a loud cry, he jerked awake. Elladan had fallen over the edge and plunged into the chasm.

No, no, no it was only a dream…

Panting to get his rapidly beating heart under control he was about to crawl out when the tree warned him.

‘…remain still, elfling… not safe…`

Elrohir froze when he heard growling followed by sniffing. He swallowed hard; it sounded like a big animal. Maybe he could pat it and then it would not bite?

Then he remembered last year when he had found a stray wolf puppy, and just as he wanted to lift it up, mother wolf had shown up and bit his hand. Only Ada´s quick reaction by snatching him away and making much noise had saved him from worse.

Afterward, Glorfindel had long lectured him that wild animals were only one thing – wild! Nothing to pet and nothing to play with and never, never get near a puppy!

When two glowing eyes appeared at the entrance, Elrohir closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

…go away… go away… go away.

Suddenly he heard a yelp, and the animal ran away.

Carefully he opened his eyes and waited. No more sniffs and growling. What happened?

…´It's ok child, just wait until sunrise…`

Taking up his former position, he sank again into a light sleep even with his stomach rumbling loud.

 

…………………………………………………………….

When Elrohir awoke, he felt the same probing in his mind. He poked his head carefully out of the tree base and not perceiving anything threatening he crawled out.

Again, rain clouds had gathered, promising rain. Patting the bark of the tree, Elrohir began walking. After some miles, he heard the sound of water running. Being immensely thirsty, he ran down a small bank and gratefully plunged his bottle into the clear water. Drinking his fill, Elrohir sat down at the small stream. Slowly he removed his shoes and dipped his toes into the water. He hissed at the coldness but welcomed the easing. After he had washed his face and hands, he discovered the long cut on his palm anew stinging from being touched.

Elrohir looked around and spotted some chamomile blossoms. Only the blossoms would ease the pain Ada had said. Plucking some, he squashed them and pressed them over the cut fastening his scarf around his hand.

When the stinging had eased, he closed his eyes.

´Elladan, are you alright? How´s Glorfindel faring?´

Even though he could clearly feel his brother, he received no answer.

´Elladan? `

`We are alright. I´m cold. Are you at home? `

`No, not yet. I´m hungry´.

`What is taking you so long? Asfaloth is swift! ´

Elrohir swallowed, and tears were again gathering in his eyes.

`What´s the matter, little brother? `

´Asfaloth is dead…´

Elrohir sniffed when first a mental outcry and then a hug reached him.

`Take care little brother and make haste. ´

“I will,” he said out loud.

With a sigh, the elfling rose and climbed the other side of the bank. When he had reached the top, he spotted a trail and followed it.

´Not far from the border… not far from the border…´

The sun had already sunken under the horizon, and the forest began to darken. Elrohir looked carefully left and right, but as much as the darkness deepened, his uneasiness grew. The towering trees did not give much comfort.

After hours of walking, he spotted a glow in the distance.  A fire?

Quickening his pace, soon the warm glow of the fire came into sight.

His heart quickened when he saw some people sitting around the fire. Surely some border guards – people of ada.

Oddly the fire was immensely smoldering….

Before recognizing who was sitting around the fire a heavy hand was landing on his shoulder.

“Look, guys, what we have here. A little elfling. It seems our day will bring some fun still.”

Elrohir cried out in shock when he looked into the sneering face of an orc.

To be continued……………..     





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