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Chapter 15: Coming home
Elrond cast a last look around; the group was ready to march. Finally, they would return home. Elrond had forestalled the departure two further days to give the injured time to recover enough to make the journey.
Thalan was fit for travel even if only on horseback due to his injured ankle. Celebrían was also doing well, the wound to her calf healing fast. Tinár was still recovering from his stab wound, yet strengthened sufficiently to make the journey on one of the wagons Erestor had brought with him from Imladris. Haldir had shown no further after-effects of his head wound.
There were only his sons and of course Glorfindel to consider. The twins had regained consciousness after Elrond and Celebrían had come to some understanding, even if they still did not speak much with each other.
Elrohir had accepted the change and was acting remotely normal while Elladan only responded to his father. He had not once spoken to his mother nor accepted a touch or help from her. Celebrían had been shocked, but Elrond had asked her to be patient.
Elladan's leg had healed enough even to stand short periods of time on it, but Elrond would take no chance. Elrohir´s arrow wound to his shoulder was also healing nicely, yet Elrond still kept a close eye on him and made sure that his youngest always wore a sling for support. The burn marks on his leg were already fading.
Glorfindel was another matter entirely. He would make the journey on the other wagon so that he would get as much rest as possible. He was now awake longer periods of time, but more downcast than Elrond was comfortable with. The body could only heal if the mind complied.
He had asked Elrond to ride on horseback with the healer´s help, but Elrond had declined. The warrior´s broken ribs had just healed, the wound on his side closed, yet there was still swelling to his spine, and the jostling on the back of a horse was surely not helping.
Even if understanding the warrior´s desire to get back some of his self-esteem he still hoped that in getting more rest the paralysis would be only temporary. Glorfindel had apparently already given up on this matter.
Elrond had expected another fierce debate, but to his surprise, the warrior had complied without a comment and let himself be bedded on the wagon.
Elrond sighed knowing how his old friend was suffering from being dependent of other´s helping him, yet it could be not changed for now.
Furthermore, Elrond wanted both hands free should another attack arise during their homeward journey. They already were too much of a vulnerable target.
Elrond held up his hand to stop the baggage. They had made a good time the last two days, and Imladris was not far now. Just one hour ago he had spoken to the first sentries and given the order to relay a message that he wanted all prepared when he arrived with the injured.
A border guard, now acting as a messager, had bowed and left to bring word of his lord into the valley.
Elrond had been surprised how smooth their journey had been so far. No danger had presented itself, and no problem with the injured had arisen. Glorfindel had even accepted a meal Erestor had cooked for them all last evening.
Elladan had been delighted when Elrond had allowed him to ride with him and the boy had directed the great stallion to his wishes. Elrond had patted his faithful steed´s long neck in thanks for accepting the child´s irritating commands. Elrohir had driven Erestor´s mare to her patience limit.
Celebrían had come over to take Elladan down, but the older twin had turned away and ignored her mother´s hands. After a pained look at her husband, Celebrían retrieved her hands and turned to try her luck with her youngest. Elrohir, ever eager to please, complied and let himself be set down.
Elrond lifted the chin of his son gently until Elladan was looking at him. “Your Nana wanted to help. You hurt her.”
The older twin looked at his father. “I need no help. Can I get down?”
Elrond sighed and let his son wriggle down. His feet had not touched the ground when Celeborn came from behind and snatched the elfling.
“How are you, my little warrior. Are you hungry, yes?”
Elladan shrieked in delight. “Yes, yes please let me down. I can walk.”
Celeborn swept the boy in a wide arc to the ground. “Of course, my lord, I forgot.” Celeborn bowed to the elfling in an overdone gesture.
Elladan ran off to his brother already sitting on a log in the middle of the little clearing.
Elrond also dismounted and raised a surprised eyebrow when Erestor appeared with Glorfindel on his back. He was placing the warrior on a log around the now kindled fire.
Elrond even saw the warrior smile to something Erestor had said.
Elrond would not, however, let himself be fooled. If Glorfindel´s injury to his spine could not be reversed, then the warrior would not remain in Middle-earth.
He shook his head while he let his stallion roam free. Now it was not known if the damage was permanent. The swelling was still there and could eventually go down.
“Tomorrow I will ride with Ada,” Elrohir just announced when Elrond joined the elves around the small fire. He gratefully received a mug of tea Erestor was offering him.
Even Tinár had joined the little group, his complexion much improved.
“You can ride with Nana,” Elrohir said with a side look at his brother.
Elrond held his breath. Cunning little boy. The younger twin had clearly sensed the dissonance between his brother and Mother. Elrond directed his gaze at his oldest in expectation. Elladan looked darkly at his brother.
“I will ride with Tinár then in the wagon,” he announced as if this was the only logical answer.
Elrond sighed. Another rejection. Elladan always kept his course. He looked at his wife. She did her best not to show her frustration. Elrond made a mental note to talk to his son as soon as they had reached home.
Elrond sighed when they finally crossed the border to the hidden valley. Although twenty guards were accompanying them for hours, the healer was relieved to arrive home. Even if all injured were holding up it was high time to give them proper care and most of all a bed to lie down.
Reaching the courtyard, he sat for a few moments on his horse´ back to savor the peace and serenity. He blended all the bustling activity all around and let his mind wander free around the house, through the valley, and along the Bruinen and was relieved to detect no disturbances.
“My lord, welcome home, may I take charge of your horse?”
Elrond blinked. He had not noticed Lindir, the house´s administrator approach. “Yes, thank you, Lindir.”
Elrond slipped off his horse. He walked over to the wagon and observed how four of his healers staff were already busy to discharge Glorfindel. Tinár was instructing his colleagues.
Elrond stepped next to the litter. “I will come and check on you shortly.” Even if the warrior had his eyes closed Elrond knew that he was awake.
“I will see you at the healing yard too.”
Tinár trailing behind the litter nodded.
Elrond sighed when the last homecomer had vanished into the house. What weird days—now was time to recover and reflect.
He was also looking forward to a hot bath, a hearty meal, and his bed to replenish his strength.
“Maybe I can help you to relax tonight?” Celebrían asked suddenly appearing behind him. Elrond looked up in surprise. His wife had never been shy to voice her wishes, yet he had heard her uncertainty.
“I would like that,” he answered quickly in seeing her rising irritation. “I will see all injured settled; maybe you can instruct cook for a sustaining but light dinner?”
She nodded and turned to heed after Erestor who was carrying a sleeping Elrohir inside. He mother was carrying another sleeping elfling.
Three weeks had passed since their arrival, and all injured had been released from the infirmary care, except Glorfindel. The paralysis had not vanished after the swelling had gone down. He had been transferred to his own rooms for more privacy; this, however, did not mask the fact, that he needed constant assistance and care. Nothing the warrior could cope with easily.
Elrond had not given up on the warrior and had ordered a moving program to keep the muscles always trained in the hope that the paralysis could still be reversed. Maybe some nerves had to knit again, and this would need time. He had always told the warrior this and demanded not to give up hope.
After another week, Elrond now had the sneaking suspicion that the paralysis did not have a physical cause. He had witnessed patients where the mind´s condition had blocked a physical recovery. Was this the case here? Why would Glorfindel not want to return to his former life?
Elrond was at a loss. At first, Glorfindel had responded well to the exercise and participated in the daily routine to train his legs and arms while forced to lie in bed all day.
A few days passed, however, and things had changed. The warrior had refused to work his morning´s schedule and had driven his therapist from the room.
Elrond sighed when the healer appointed to work with Glorfindel had reported to him that the Glorfindel denied any further treatment. Elrond had long expected this to happen. While the warrior had complied at first, his motivation had more and more lacked until he even refused to eat properly. He was no longer interested in anything going on around him. Something had evoked this reaction, but Elrond was not sure what had brought this change of mood.
The healer feared that Glorfindel had now decided to leave for the West or much worse to fade. He had to find out.
Elrond was just on his way to talk with Glorfindel and had nearly reached the warrior´s rooms when he heard a small sniff and a forced swallowing. Raising a concerned eyebrow, he quickened his steps and saw how an elfling just vanished around the next corner.
“Elladan?” he called while stopping just in front of Glorfindel´s door.
His oldest son came slowly back around the corner. “Ada?” he queried fruitlessly trying to give his voice a steady tone.
Elrond knelt down at eye-level. “Elladan, what´s wrong, child?”
First hesitating, the elfling walked up into his father´s outstretched arms. Gently Elrond lifted his son´s face with his finger until they locked eyes. “Well?”
Elrond saw the inner struggle. He lifted the boy up and entered a small room just to the left. He used the room to treat minor injuries or discuss further proceedings away from the flurry of the vast infirmary complex.
He placed the elfling on the high table and pulled a chair in front of the counter. Elladan squirmed under the gaze of his father.
Elrond placed a comforting hand on his son´s thigh and waited patiently. Elladan was
not to be pushed. He would come out with information voluntarily or never.
Since their return, the child had never returned to his happy self, and unfortunately, the relationship with his mother had not improved. Elladan was still shunning her.
Elrond had had a long talk with his wife and was sure all misunderstanding had been addressed. She had expressed her anger over his decision not to let her come along, and he had tried to explain his reasons. It had ended with many tears and apologies, and a romantic dinner cook had produced miraculously sensing that the right evening had arrived. Galadriel and Celeborn had just left the morning after, and some contentment had again settled over the valley. All had returned to normal…almost.
There was still Glorfindel.
Finally, Elladan looked up.
“Glorfindel no longer wants us to visit him…” the boy stopped his underlip already quivering.
Elrond looked at his son aghast. Since the trip and their shared experiences Elladan and Elrohir had, if even possible, developed a much deeper relationship with their mentor than before. Elrond had always encouraged this in the hope the children could drag the warrior out of his depressive mood. This seemed to work of some sort. What had happened now?
Not wanting his son to draw back, Elrond inhaled slowly.
“He has said this to you?” he asked carefully. He still could not believe that Glorfindel would confront the boys in such a manner.
Elladan nodded. Elrond frowned. Something essential must have happened to change the warrior´s mind so radically.
“Elladan, maybe he did not mean what…” Elrond had no chance to finish his sentence.
Elladan had looked up with anger in his eyes.
“Yes, he meant it, but it is Naneth´s doing. She is to blame.” The elfling brushed away his father´s hand and hopped from the counter.
Irritation was coloring the healer's voice. What has his wife to do with the deterioration of Glorfindel and his son´s distress?
The elfling was slowly turning around his fists clenched.
“Can you please enlighten me on what is going on, child?” Elrond kept his tone light but insistent, and Elladan was no fool.
“Naneth has scolded Glorfindel that he is responsible for our injuries and she no longer wants us to visit him. She had already caught me twice sneaking in. Today she was really angry. I hate her!”
Elrond swallowed. He could barely believe what his son had told him. Celebrían had never voiced any resentments against Glorfindel in his presence. What had his son witnessed? But if Elladan was right, then he had found the reason for Glorfindel´s deteriorating state, and Elladan´s still repellant attitude toward his mother.
“Elladan calm down, I will talk to your Naneth. Maybe it was a misunderstanding? You…”
The boy looked up his eyes swimming.
“It was no misunderstanding. She has said it at the camp and twice since we arrived home. I have heard it myself. I am no baby, Ada but you do not believe me. I hate you too!”
Before Elrond could react in any way, the elfling had turned and ran from the room.
To be continued…
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