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Chapter 9: A difficult endeavor
While Elrond carefully climbed down the rope, he shuddered inwardly when he saw the sharp jutting rocks and the rough surface. It was a wonder anyone had survived this fall at all. Carefully the elf-lord rechecked his bond with Elladan. The connection was weak like before, yet the child was alive. The healer regretted he could not reach Glorfindel in the same way.
As much as he wanted to fly down the cliff, he had to restrain himself. Tumbling into the abyss due to a thoughtless step or acquiring another injury would not help matters. His arm was already paining him much, and the cut felt as if it was on fire. He grimaced as if he had expected otherwise.
Elrond’s heart pounded in his chest when he tried to imagine how Elladan and Glorfindel were swept down this steep incline. Nothing but bare, cold rock with no means to stop the descend and yet a small ledge had been there to save their lives.
He risked a quick glance upward. Tinár — not two feet above him — fared well. He avoided looking down. Elves were free from giddiness, yet he always had disliked heights. It could not be far now. Elrond closed his eyes when another small avalanche of pebbles rained down on him.
Suddenly a sharp pain emanated from the cut in his arm, and he opened his fingers reflexively. Surprised and shocked he slithered down the rope a good deal until his feet hit the ledge. He dropped to his knees with a grunt.
Celeborn´s voice held a hint of panic.
“Elrond, are you alright?”
Hearing the worry in his father-in-law´s voice, the healer took a deep breath.
“I am alright. Nothing happened,” he called back while coming to his feet and dusting off his pants. A loud snort was his only answer. Huffing irritably, he knew he had to deal with this damn wound sooner or later.
The dark-haired elf looked up.
“Tinár it is not far now, you are almost there,” he called. The younger healer nodded and quickly finished the last steps. Elrond waited until Tinár had reached the ledge.
Elrond gathered his bag and turned before the young healer had a chance to say anything. Knowing what Tinár wanted to say, he briskly ignored the critical look of his colleague.
As he rounded a bend, he quickened his steps. Just ten feet away he espied Glorfindel and Elladan. The golden-haired warrior was laying on his back and the elfling in the crook of his arm — neither was moving.
Elrond frowned, they must have heard the commotion and shouts they had made.
His heart went out to his child. He could well imagine how afraid the boy must have been. First the shock of the fall, then sitting here several days and nights injured and with no one to make him better. By the look of Glorfindel, he had not been able to comfort the child which caused Elrond to worry, even more; he knew how much his friend cared for his children and would not just let them suffer.
While walking forward, Elrond directed a wary glance toward the abyss. There was not much room for working. Dropping his bag, he knelt next to the injured elves. Tinár close behind did the same and was already rummaging through their bags.
“Elladan?” he called softly while reaching out to the child. To his dismay, he had noticed the blood stains on the right pant-leg of the elfling.
Elrond felt for a pulse, and although he knew it was there, he let out a breath of relief when he found one, albeit a bit quick but that was to be expected. What troubled him more was the lack of response.
“Elladan?” he called again.
Caressing the elfling´s cheek, Elrond tapped lightly with his index finger. Feeling that the boy was slowly coming around, he mentally repeated his call.
Guiding his son´s fëa from the depth of unconsciousness, the boy began to stir. Elrond removed his fingers and placed them on Glorfindel´s neck.
The warrior´s complexion worried him immensely. The skin looked gray and felt cold to the touch, and he could barely feel a pulse. A weak and faint pounding was the only evidence that the warrior still lived.
With his concentration still on his son, he was already pouring healing energy into the still body of his friend.
“Ada?” Elladan was just opening his eyes. After blinking, he focused on the familiar face.
Elrond smiled and concealed the worry in his eyes.
“I am here, my son. You must not be afraid. We are here now to help you. See, there is Tinár.”
The healer leaned over Elrond´s shoulder and waved at the elfling.
“Well met, Elrondion,” he said smiling for the benefit of the boy. The ledge was too small to kneel beside the older healer.
Before Elrond could react, Elladan tried to raise up but instantly fell back with a cry. Elrond, partly still focused on the warrior, quickly placed a restraining hand on his son´s shoulder
“Shhh, Elladan do not move. I will just have a look at your leg.”
Placing the palm of his hand on the boy´s forehead, the elfling stilled somewhat as silent tears cascaded down the round cheeks.
“Here,” Tinár said and handed the healer a small sharp knife. The younger healer directed a critical look at the warrior. He refrained from commenting however not wanting to upset the boy further.
Nodding his thanks, Elrond carefully cut away the pants. The revealed leg looked swollen and inflamed. Elrond felt along the limb and detected a break just at the middle of the shin. Gratefully no bone had penetrated the skin. Nonetheless, sinews and ligaments were damaged enough to cause much pain not to mention the break itself.
Elrond moved back a bit, but his feet went dangling over the chasm. He grimaced and looked to his right irritated.
“I will take him, my lord, so you will have space to work on Glorfindel,” Tinar offered.
He saw the conflict of the Master healer. He wanted to care for his son, yet Glorfindel was in a much worse shape and needed Elrond´s full attention.
“Ada, I want to go home, where is El?”
Huge tears were still streaming down the child´s face.
Elrond took a deep breath. He made a quick decision.
“Elladan, Tinár will make your leg better, and then we will be on our way home. Your brother is well and waiting for you.”
The elfling nodded, and Elrond carefully lifted the boy from the ground and handed him in the outstretched arms of the younger healer. Tinár had already spread a blanket on the ground and was now placing his small patient on it.
“Here we are, now let us look at how we can make your leg better, shall we?” Tinár kept his tone light.
Elladan nodded again. The tears had stopped, but he pressed his lips into a thin line. He had known the younger healer since his birth and trusted him readily. Nonetheless, his eyes never left his father. Tinár had placed the elfling such that he could always see his Ada.
After a last glance at his son, Elrond returned his attention back to the warrior.
“Glorfindel? he called while lightly patting the others cheek. Not expecting a reaction, he tried again.
“Glorfindel?” Concentrating on the warrior´s fëa, Elrond stopped his efforts when he recognized that the elf was deeply unconscious. This would cost him too much of his strength.
The healer began to examine his friend. To his surprise, he at first could not make out any injury. He noticed several cuts and bruises on the hands and arms and a bump on the forehead, but nothing that would warrant his friend’s condition. However, when he began cutting away the elf´s shirt, he frowned. — there were speckles of blood all over.
Elrond inhaled sharply when the shirt fell away. The whole right side of the upper torso was a massive black-blue bruise and swollen to the extent that was more than worrisome. Elrond betted that two — if not more ribs — were broken. And, if that was not bad enough, one of the ribs had punctured a lung. This would explain the blood blotches on the shirt.
Carefully, Elrond felt around the neck and was relieved to find no more breaks or damaged bones. Still, the deep unconsciousness troubled him. His injuries were severe but did not justify this total lack of response.
Briefly, Elrond remembered Glorfindel´s apparition at the clearing where the orcs had attack Elrohir. Maybe this action had cost the warrior too much energy?
Elrond wondered how long the warrior had been lying in this position. Calculation on the marks on the skin Elrond feared Glorfindel had not changed his position since the fall. This was untypical. Even severely injured patients tried to get into a more comfortable position. Glorfindel had not even tried to change anything. Feeling around more, Elrond felt something pointy and hard. Carefully pulling it out from under Glorfindel’s back he gasped when he realized it was a small sharp rock.
Elrond swallowed and briefly closed his eyes. This did not bode well at all. Placing his ear over the warrior´s torso, Elrond grimaced when he heard deep rattling noises on the one side and nothing on the other side: the lung was definitely damaged.
The Lord of Imladris looked up. Down here, he would not be able to achieve anything. They had to bring Glorfindel up to safer ground and in a more controlled area. Here with the non-existent room for working, the dirt and the inadequate supplies he could do nothing.
“Tinár, how are you progressing?”
“I am finished, my lord. The leg is stabilized and bandaged, and I have given him a bit of the poppy juice for the pain. I have cleaned all cuts and applied ointment on the bruises.”
Elrond nodded in appreciation. He glanced at his drowsy son and then back at Glorfindel.
“I will take Elladan up and come back down with a litter. There is nothing more I can do down here. I wish for you to stay with Glorfindel.”
Tinár nodded. He knew to argue with his senior healer was futile, and they were running out of time. He could also take the elfling up, but he was aware that Elrond would not surrender his son. Nonetheless, he had to try again.
“Elrond, please let me have a look at your arm. I will at least re-bandage it and wrap a stronger hold.”
When the irritation of the healer grew Tinár quickly added:
“Elrond on the way down you nearly lost your hold. Another pain attack can happen anytime, and you do not wish to lose your hold in the middle of a cliff wall with your son on your back, right?”
The older healer briefly closed his eyes and blew out his breath. He nodded.
“You are right, but hurry.”
Tinár nodded relieved and quickly grabbed a bandage. Rolling up the other´s sleeve, he inhaled when he had cut away the soiled dressing. The cut was gaping open, the tissue around puffy and inflamed. He refrained from directing a significant look at the healer. Elrond was expert enough to know that this needed further treatment than bandaging.
Quickly and carefully, Tinár cleaned the dried blood and pus away before applying a very tight bandage around the upper arm. Elrond tested the result and nodded.
“Thank you. As soon as we are up there and all is settled, I will let you stitch it, all right?”
“Please be careful nonetheless.”
Elrond looked upwards.
“I will come up with Elladan. Then I will take Glorfindel on a litter. He is critically injured and down here I cannot do much for him.”
“Understood. Call when you are ready.”
Elrond crouched down.
“Place Elladan on my back, please.”
Tinár bent down and scooped the boy into his arms, mindful not to bump the outstretched splinted leg. The pain-killer had apparently work. Elladan only grimaced.
Tinár placed the boy on the healer´s back. The elfling slung his arms around his father´s neck.
“Ada, I will fall,” Elladan suddenly shrieked in near panic.
Elrond took a deep breath and stopped his movements.
“Elladan, do not be afraid. I am here. I will not let you fall, do you hear me?”
The elfling sobbed even harder.
“Glorfindel said the same, and he could not hold me. He let me fall.”
Elrond turned his head to look into his son´s frightened eyes.
“Elladan, this was an accident. Glorfindel had no chance to hold his promise. This is planned. Listen, Tinár will secure you with a rope, and you have nothing other to do than to swing your arms around my neck. I will advance the cliff, and Daerada Celeborn is securing us from above. You see, nothing can happen. Uncle Haldir is also waiting for you up there.”
Elladan nodded reluctantly and buried his head in his father´s neck.
“That is right, Elladan. Hold as tight as you can,” Elrond instructed. Elladan nodded again and tightened his hold.
Tinár had already slung a rope around the healer´s middle, which Elrond was knotting in front of his breast. Another rope came around his hips securing the legs of the elfling and cushioned the rope with a blanket. He checked once more if the elfling was safe and the injured leg secured.
“All ready,” he said softly, and Elrond pulled on the rope.
“Up,” he called and instantly the rope went taut. Tinár stepped back to give the healer space to ascend.
Elrond just lifted his left foot and pressed his boot against the wall when he heard a choked cry.
Quickly he placed his food back on the safe ground and turned with dread.
Below the right foot of the young healer, part of the ledge was breaking away. The younger elf flailed his arms and tried to get back his balance. When he slithered over the rim he tried to grab anything but the shelf was smooth, no roots or juts he could grab.
Elrond had instantly dropped to his knees and reached out a hand, yet it was too late. The younger healer had already slithered over the edge. Elladan tightened his grip and was nearly choking his father. The elfling screamed in terror and pain when his leg bumped on the ground while his father tried to reach the falling elf. He was crawling forward on his hands and knees.
Celeborn fell back on his behind when the rope suddenly went slack. He looked up at Haldir standing right beside him with trepidation. At this moment, they heard Elrond´s panicked call after Tinár and the screaming of Elladan.
Haldir reached out a hand and hoisted his foster father up.
“By the Valar,” he breathed and stopped at the edge of the abyss. Celeborn swiftly followed.
“Elrond? Elrond what happened?” the Lord of the Golden wood called.
Both fair-haired elves waited for a response, but nothing came.
“Elrond?” Celeborn tried again this time louder.
Again, no answer.
The commotion they had heard had stopped, only the screaming of Elladan was drifting up.
“I will go down there,” Haldir announced. Not waiting for affirmation the younger elf grabbed the rope and swung over the brink.
“Inform me,” was all, Celeborn called after his son.
To be continued…
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