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On the knife’s edge  by Laikwalâssê

Chapter 17: changed reality

Glorfindel tossed in his bed and tried to find a more comfortable position. Something on his back was itching, and a wrinkle in the bedsheets was giving him trouble.

With much effort, he raised his upper body and cursed once more his helplessness. His arms were shaking just from the weight to hold him upright.

He tried to smooth out the wrinkle but was once more unsuccessful. He let out a frustrated sigh and sank back. One of the healers would soon show up anyway.

As much as he wished for someone to help he also dreaded it. To be handled and washed and dressed was not a concept he would ever be comfortable with. Even if they all treated him with the utmost respect, he felt ashamed nonetheless every time.

This could not go on. Elrond´s hopes that the feeling in his lower body would return after the swelling had gone down had been futile. Nothing had changed after Elrond had declared this very fact. He still had no feeling below his waist.

Long days he had tried to come to terms with his new predicament and had even considered only to work as Elrond´s personal assistant, taking over all the paperwork being neglected because of fewer elves able or willing to do it.

He could help to organize Imladris from the desk, read all border reports and add his experience even only with advice. He could help mediate treating agreements, his diplomatic skills only a bit rusty, or so he hoped.

He was just about to carefully think this through when he registered that the visits of the twins had thinned out and finally ceased altogether.

He frowned. Had he done or said something to frighten the children off? As small as they were they were fully aware what had happened to him and handled his immobility much better than he. They had shown no dread to ask him about matters and his feelings. With their carefree spirits, they had given him hours of joy in his darkened existence. They loved to help him eat, dress and were always more than willing to keep him company.

In his opinion, he had also done the boys some good in talking over what had happened. They had voiced their fears, and inner thoughts, not even their father was aware of.

And now they stayed away.

One morning he was sure to hear little feet running down the corridor and in joyful expectancy he awaited them to burst through the door.

Suddenly he could hear a hushed voice, and the light feet trudged away. He frowned. Who had hindered the boy or both to visit him?

His train of thoughts was interrupted when the door opened, and Celebrían entered. Glorfindel raised an eyebrow at seeing her closed features.

“My lady,” he intoned with a carefully neutral voice.

Celebrían inclined her head. Contrary to her earlier visits she did not sit on the edge of the mattress but dragged a chair near.

Without much stalling, she looked up.

“Glorfindel I do not want my sons to visit with you any longer.”

Glorfindel narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath. The fear that he had done something wrong or that he had frightened the children off resurfaced.

“Celebrían, if I have said or done something to upset the children it was not my intention. I will instantly make up for it…”

Elrond´s wife had raised a hand preventing him not to be able to finish his sentence.

“Glorfindel, you have said nothing wrong. I simply do not want them to come here anymore. They are still traumatized, and I will not have them confront every day with the cause of their hurts.”

Glorfindel swallowed. Celebrían was accusing him that the trip had gone wrong and her sons getting injured in the process. Elrond had assured him that both boys had healed or would completely and no lingering effect was to be expected. Celebrían apparently thought otherwise.

Glorfindel was aware that today her parents had departed. Had this changed her mood so radically?

Seeing that there was no response forthcoming she rose.

“I take your silence that you agree. Let some time pass. Maybe we can then reconsider our agreement.”

Glorfindel did not answer. Instead, he closed his eyes until Celebrían had left his rooms. This was not really an agreement; it was an order. What could he say anyway? If the first lady did not want her sons to visit with him, then he had to accept this. He briefly wondered talking to Elrond, yet the couple had inevitably aligned their opinions.

Glorfindel swallowed the threatened tears. All recent thoughts of redirecting his position in this community had vanished into thin air. The twins were like sons to him.

He had always enjoyed teaching and mentoring them, to share his experiences and training the boys into formidable warriors. This had been one of his foundations in life, his mission. The other was to protect the line of Earendil and to keep Imladris safe and hidden.

Both tasks he could no longer perform. What sense did staying in Middle-earth still make?

 

……………………………………………

 

Glorfindel awoke the next morning and blinked. He could not remember going to sleep. When his memory returned, he sighed. The talk with Celebrían must have drained his reserves if there were some.

Again this unique pain in his heart returned–the first signs of fading. He knew it the instant he felt it and nothing could reverse this process once it started.

He stared out of the window and wondered why the morning shift had not appeared to help him wash and get dressed. Glorfindel sighed. He did not care. It no longer mattered to him.

He grunted when something itched at his ankle. Irritated he rose up and scratched the spot. While retrieving his hand, he stopped in mid-air. His eyes went wide. Why could he move effortlessly and why could he feel the itching in the first place?

His breathing increased. Something had changed. He felt it clearly.

He tossed the cover aside and looked at his feet. Carefully he wiggled his toes. He nearly let out a cry of surprise and immense joy. The feeling had returned. He could feel his thighs, his shins, his feet.

Carefully he moved his feet to the edge of the mattress and let them glide over the rim. He sighed contently when his bare feet touched the plush carpet. He could feel the rich texture, the coolness from the floor below. What a bliss.

With some dread, he carefully rose to his feet and wondered how easily this was accomplished. No pain, no swaying, all felt as it ever did.

He shook his head. Elrond had been right after all. He looked around and grabbed his sleeping robe. Since the healers did not come to him this morning, he would go to them. He was agitated like a child to see their faces. Elrond would be in the healing ward as every morning making his tour.

The warrior hastened down the corridor still savoring how all his motoric abilities were working like before. He refrained from running.

When he passed Elrond´s study, he stopped bewildered when the door opened, and the healer stepped out. He had expected the Elf-lord at the healing ward. All the better. Elrond would be overjoyed to see him.

Glorfindel waited at the healer's reaction. The reaction came, yet much different than Glorfindel had expected.

“Ah, already awake. A long night, yes? Maybe you could dress. We do not want to scare anyone, do we?”

Without another word the healer turned and left him standing speechless.

Glorfindel swallowed. What was happening here? The feeling had returned to his body, and he could again walk. Something Elrond had wished for desperately, and now he had nothing more to say then some sarcastic words?

Glorfindel grabbed the wall for support. The joy had been intoxication, but the fall down made him shiver.

He slowly walked forward again and still tried to solve this riddle. He had nearly reached the Hall of Fire when the great double door opened. He held his breath when he spotted Celebrían at the door.

When she looked at him with a raised eyebrow, he narrowed his eyes.

“Celebrían I can walk on my own,” he said for lack of anything smart to say.

The first lady let out her breath.

“Not to ignore. A real accomplishment after your late night´s drinking splurge.” Her laughter rang in his ears.

Drinking splurge? What was she talking about?

He resumed his way suddenly no longer willing to visit the great hall. He hastened down the staircase, through the corridor and quickly out of the house. The many elves he traversed did not even notice him passing.

He ran over the grass and around a bend where he knew there was a bench. With trembling legs and shallow breathing, he sat down. First, organize my thoughts, he demanded of himself.

“Glorfindel, are you alright?”

The warrior started at the voice. In his haste, he hadn´t seen Erestor sitting on the other end of the bench.

“Alright? Do I look for you okay?” he retorted while briefly closing his eyes.

He opened them quickly when Erestor laughed.

“My dear Glorfindel, you look like you do every morning. Sleeping long, recovering from too much wine and a bit dizzy. Nothing special. But why do you care? Others have long started their day. You are just yourself–as always.”

Glorfindel swallowed. He blinked several times, but the image in front of his eyes did not change. This could not be. What were they all talking about? He had just recovered, and no one was noticing that? Anger rose in him.

“I had expected more attentiveness from you but most of all mind your tone. I´m the Troop Commander of this valley and well in my rights to give you orders.”

Erestor threw his head back and laughed even harder.

“Troop Commander. Hey, Glorfindel what was in this wine last night? You have never been and will never be in such a position. Thalan would die laughing if he could hear you. He is in charge since I can remember. Not very successful, this I have to admit…”

Erestor suddenly sobered. “Imladris would not be invaded once in a while…ah, what nonsense…Glorfindel, thank you for a good laugh this morning.”

With that, the dark-haired elf turned and left.

Glorfindel stared at him a second time speechless this morning. All around him had changed. And not for the better. What had Erestor said? Imladris was not guarded properly and therefore overrun from time to time? What a horrific thought. He had ever made sure that the valley remained hidden. Erestor had acted as if he had never done such.

He shook his head. So much did not make sense. All he had met treated him as if he was the cause for the shortcoming of the defenses. As if he was only unworthy, lazy and not able to accomplish anything. How ridiculous.

The joy over his recovery had vanished. He had to investigate what was wrong here. Slowly he rose. Elrond would know the answer, and this time he would talk clear words.

He headed back inside the house, and when he had reached the healer´s study, he hesitated only briefly before knocking.

After a grumpy “enter” he opened the door.

Elrond looked at him irritated.

“Glorfindel, I have no stomach for your complaints. Please let us talk another time. Orcs have just crossed the Bruinen.”

Glorfindel’s head jerked toward the great window.

“What?” he cried.

The Master of Imladris raised a surprised eyebrow.

“Calm down Glorfindel. Nothing new. As you well know, we have nothing to protect the valley. Neither the warriors nor a competent leader.”

Glorfindel narrowed his eyes.

“I´m guarding the valley. I´m more than competent. Why does everyone intend to insult me, what´s the matter?”

Elrond only raised an eyebrow.

“You? Since when? Glorfindel I´m not in the mood.”

The healer started when Glorfindel stepped forward and grabbed his upper arms.

“Elrond stop this farce. Only yesterday you pleaded with me not to give up hope, and you still voiced your hope that I would recover and today you act as if you know nothing of all this? Is it some sort of punishment? Are you also of the opinion that it is best I stop meeting with the twins?”

The healer´s eyes went wide. He wrenched free.

“Very good, Glorfindel. Re-opening old wounds is your specialty, right?”

“Pardon?” Glorfindel growled now thoroughly confused.

He started however when tears appeared in the healer´s eyes. Elrond turned already shaking.

“Glorfindel not…” He nearly pleaded with a thin voice.

The warrior advanced again.

“Elrond speak plainly. I do not understand.” His tone was icy now.

Elrond´s head jerked up at the sharp tone. He slowly turned.

“Alright, mighty Glorfindel. My sons died nearly three-hundred years ago. Murdered in their beds. Only being elflings of ten summers. Orcs slaughtered them and hacked them into pieces. And all because of you. Again you had more important things to do than your task in guarding our borders. Four-hundred elves died this day, including the twins…” the healer´s voice broke.

“My heart broke this day. You promised to protect them…”

Glorfindel had stepped back in shock. He could barely believe what the healer had told him. He had neglected his duties and was responsible for this horrific happenings? Impossible. This was not the Imladris he knew. What was happening with him?

His world begun to spin. This could not be. He sank to his knees, and the outside world faded into nothingness.

To be continued…

      





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