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A/N: to understand this story fully it would be advisable to read part 1.
Warning: the story is rated PG-13: this chapter contains violence, disturbing themes, and death
Chapter 8: homecoming
Calan was at a loss. He could do no more for his lord. For four days, he was now sitting on Celeborn´s sickbed but was dammed to look at how his lord was slipping away.
Two days ago, however, something was different, and he had taken a bit of hope. Celeborn had suddenly jerked upright, and Calan was sure he had recognized him—as if he had suddenly been released from whatever had ailed the Elf-Lord.
“Where´s Galadriel?” he had asked.
When Calan did not answer immediately, Celeborn struggled out of bed.
“She´s in danger. I have to help her.”
Calan was about to let the elf have his will, but from one moment to the other, he collapsed again and relapsed in this coma-like condition like before. He had cried the names of his sons in some fever delirium and again demanded to see his wife.
Calan was sure that only the appearance of Galadriel or their sons could drag the Elf-lord out of his state. Was the evil influence cut?
However, neither Galadriel nor the young elves were available, and so Calan could only hope that they would arrive soon.
When Calan heard the horn from the perimeter guards, he sprung up.
“Go,” Arwen said. I will watch over him.”
Knowing that he could achieve nothing anyway, Calan nodded his thanks to the daughter of Elrond and hastened down the grand stairway leading into the clearing where the travelers would arrive. Galadriel was returning, and she had to reassure her husband immediately. The vital functions of his patient were reduced to almost undetectable by now.
When he had reached the area, he squeezed through the group of elves already awaiting their lady´s return. When he could see neither the Lady of Light nor the Lord Glorfindel riding, instead lying on two litters attached to horses his heart sank.
Only now, he registered the depressed atmosphere around him; in his concern about his lord, he had shut out all other emotions.
`Let her be alive, ` he prayed silently when the riders stopped at the clearing. He stepped forward next to the first litter and swallowed when he saw the thick-bandaged head and chest of his lady.
Calan straightened when Lord Elrond dismounted and came straight toward him.
“I had to drug her to stand the journey. She´s stable, yet it will be many days until she is back on her feet.”
Calan looked at his colleague with thinned lips. Elrond did not like this gaze at all.
“Lord Celeborn is dying, and the only chance I see is the contact—the physical contact—to his wife. He keeps asking for her. Now I understand why.”
“The influence is cut, yet he needs the reassurance that she is alright.”
Calan issued some orders, within minutes the injured were transported up the flets, and the clearing emptied.
Celeborn floated in darkness. Where moments before he had been in his home fighting masses of orcs and seeing his people die, there was now, nothing. Darkness and total stillness were everywhere he turned.
However, was he moving or was this only his imagination? The thick dark grey mass around him was impenetrable to his eyes, and he could not judge any distance.
He had to try. This was not real. He would not give up like this. The survivors in his home needed him. He was no longer sure if his wife was dead. He had seen this with his own eyes, yet from time to time, he had the impression of sensing her. Was this wishful thinking or real?
Hour after hour he walked an endless path, his stab wound bothering him more and more. His left side was blood-drenched and still fresh blood was seeping. He no longer cared. If he did not find any escape soon, he would not have to bother in this state any longer.
He sank to his knees and stretched out on a surface he could not even see nor feel after countless tries to get away and calling his throat hoarse.
He took one more try, and this would decide all.
Calan jerked when Lord Celeborn again shot upright and looked at him with wide eyes. For hours, he had lain there dead like and now he was awake. No healthy concept for a healer.
“She´s dead, isn´t she? I want to see her at once!”
Calan swallowed. What should he answer? Obviously, his lord assumed his wife dead. Had he perceived what had happened at the dark hill or stemmed his fear from other sources only he could experience?
Yet one thing he knew with certainty. If Galadriel would not immediately appear and talk to her husband, Celeborn would slip past their reach forever.
“Then let me talk to him.”
Calan started and jerked around. Galadriel was standing in the doorway dressed in a white gown.
“But…?” he could see no bandage or other trace that would indicate her severe injuries. Master Elrond was not a step behind.
“Calan, I will talk to my husband.”
The healer could only nod and step aside. He looked at his colleague with much irritation and just earned a shrug.
The healers turned to leave, but a wink from the she-elf stopped them.
“You can stay.”
The two healers moved out of sight while Galadriel sat on her husband´s bed. Gently she brushed his face and kissed him lightly.
“Tolo dan na galad, meleth.”
Elrond held his breath. His own experience not two years ago came to the forefront. He knew how long it had taken him to pierce the fog of desperation and believe what the voices around him were telling him.
When Celeborn stirred, Elrond narrowed his eyes. He looked at his colleague, but Calan was wholly focused on the royal couple.
“Artanis,” Celeborn whispered lightly brushing his wife´s hair. Elrond saw Galadriel flinch. The cut on her skull still prominent, yet for Celeborn not to see from his lying position.
“We are both dead?” he asked while searching for his wife´s hand.
Galadriel kissed cold and white knuckles.
“No, meleth. We are at Caras Galadhon and alive.”
To Elrond´s consternation, Celeborn laughed and tugged his wife closer.
“Nice try, my love but I saw you being pierced with a spear and Lothlórien burning. So don´t tell me…”
Elrond started when Calan touched his arm and pointed at Galadriel.
A red stain was forming on the Lady´s right side apparently coming from her chest wound.
Elrond narrowed his eyes. They had to intervene. He could see Galadriel shivering, and he was sure she was not far from collapsing. Yet, this was not his territory. He did not want to compromise his fellow healer.
Calan was about to step forward when a blinding white light exploded from the spot the couple sat. Elrond had to shield his eyes, and Calan let out a small cry of surprise.
Elrond was not sure how long this state lasted. After seconds or even hours, the light dimmed and then vanished altogether. Galadriel had collapsed on top of her husband both elves not moving.
Elrond and Calan hastened toward the bed synchronic, Elrond moving Galadriel next to her husband and Calan checking on Celeborn.
“He´s alive but unconscious,” Calan informed Elrond.
“She too. The wound has reopened a bit, but it´s quickly fixed.”
Elrond was already doing this. He re-applied the bandage around her head also and together they made both elves comfortable on the large bed.
Suddenly the door burst open and revealed a concerned looking Haldir, closely followed by Arwen.
“What…?” Haldir began.
Calan rose from the bed.
“The crisis is over. They are both alive and resting.”
Not really convinced, the two younger elves turned and left reluctantly. After a last gaze, the healers left too.
Celeborn sat quietly at the great table after everyone had finished his tale. He still looked pale. Galadriel sitting next to him had recovered, but the traces of her ordeal were still visible.
Four weeks had passed, and it had taken much effort to convince the Lord of Lothlórien that all he had experienced had only happened in his imagination.
This Celeborn had finally accepted, but he was still shaken by the news, that his wife had gone to Dol Guldur to drive out the manifested evil and nearly died. And he was additionally not happy that Galadriel had used the ring to bring him back. Too many risks at stake for his liking.
“Things that happened are now in the past. This cannot be altered, only accepted. Our focus has to be the future.”
Galadriel raised her glass, and everyone saluted her, even Celeborn but only reluctantly.
Feeling the tension between the couple, Elrond raised his glass after one swallow.
“Dol Guldur is free, and you are returned to us. That´s all that matters.”
This time the silver-haired lord wholeheartedly agreed.
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