Heart In Chains
Leaving the camp, Haldir kept a close eye on his charge. Just by looking at Erestor’s body language he could tell that the other Elf was hurting. Galadriel and Celeborn had told him to be very alert and to ensure that Erestor wouldn’t escape. They had also told him to return to ‘Lorien as quickly as possible, so he pressed his heels into the flanks of his horse, urging it to make speed.
As Rumil was still holding the reins of his horse, Erestor didn’t have a choice and was dragged along for the ride. The bouncing movement made him sick to his stomach and more blood ran down his thighs. So many times he had wished he could heal himself, but his powers never worked on himself. He had to endure this torment and hopefully he would get the chance to recuperate once they were back in Lothlorien.
Haldir exchanged a look with Orophin. His younger brother had disliked Erestor since finding the dark-haired Elf driving the knife into Elwing’s personal guard’s chest. In contrast to Orophin, Rumil had accepted their duties and tried to be detached and impersonal when dealing with Erestor, but things were different with Orophin.
At times, he caught Orophin glaring at Erestor with barely concealed hatred in his eyes and he had tried to talk to his brother about this, but Orophin had simply shaken his head. He had seen Erestor slay one of their own and his mind was set; he would never forgive Erestor.
The night was still dark and Haldir estimated they could travel several more hours before the horses would need to rest. He wanted to return Erestor to Lothlorien as quickly as possible, knowing Galadriel wanted him confined there.
Erestor sensed their distrust and it only added to the physical and mental pain he was already in. The agony that continued to build in his lower body was becoming unbearable and he knew he would eventually pass out, but he wanted to hold on as long as possible. Being on horseback and unconscious was not a good combination. So he gritted his teeth and managed to keep conscious. The pain, however, continued to intensify.
Hours later, Arien’s first rays touched a Middle-Earth that had momentarily been freed of evil.
By this time, Erestor’s fingernails were deeply buried in the leather of the saddle, holding on tightly. Suddenly, the earth beneath them gave away and vanished into a gaping hole. Orophin, who was riding in front of him, was pitched from his saddle into the crevice that had suddenly opened at their feet when his horse planted all four legs and lowered its head in order to stop in time.
Haldir released a shocked cry, seeing his brother disappear beneath the earth. Looking over his shoulder, he found that Rumil had stopped Erestor’s horse in time and both Elves were now staring at the gaping hole in front of them. It was also at that moment that Haldir saw how pale his charge was. Pale and shaking like a leaf. That was something he had to investigate after reclaiming Orophin. “Rumil, stay here with Erestor.”
Rumil, who had wanted to dismount, glared at his oldest brother. He wanted to help as well, not be stuck guarding their prisoner!
Erestor wished he could help, but knew they wouldn’t let him – they didn’t trust him. So in order to not distract them, he sat quietly, relieved that the bouncing motion had momentarily stopped. His lower body felt intensely enflamed.
Haldir slid off his horse’s back and cautiously approached the crevice. Using strong Elven rope, which he had tied to the saddle, he lowered himself into the hole.
“Do not think you can escape now,” hissed Rumil, “We have orders to kill you if necessary.” It wasn’t that he hated Erestor that much as he felt the need to threaten him so as to intimidate him to the point that he wouldn’t even think of running away.
Erestor nodded and concentrated on the rescue mission. It was a shame that Rumil was stuck guarding him as Haldir would have greatly appreciated the help.
Long and stressful moments passed, but then Haldir reappeared, carrying Orophin over his shoulder. The younger Elf was motionless and hardly breathing, but his eyes were open and frighteningly lucid.
Tenderly, Haldir laid Orophin down on the ground, checking for injuries. “Orophin? Are you hurt?”
“I… cannot… move…” Panic and fear shone from Orophin’s eyes, as he was unable to move. “My neck… I fell onto… my neck.”
Haldir’s breath caught. “Nay…” If his suspicion was correct and Orophin had broken his neck, it would take years, maybe even decades, for his brother to recover. Even his Elven healing ability couldn’t cure such a grave injury in a few days. And then there was the possibility of complications. What if the injuries were too severe and the bones wouldn’t mend properly?
“Hal… dir?” Orophin began to fight for breath. His lungs, which had been working fine a moment ago, now stopped all together. His panic increased, realizing he was dying. This was a mortal injury! His eyes frantically moved in their sockets, realizing he couldn’t draw in his next breath.
Haldir, panicking as well, grabbed his brother’s hand and tried to control his raging emotions. “Nay, we cannot lose you!”
Rumil, unable to remain on horseback any longer now that his brother was dying, let go of the reins of Erestor’s horse, jumped onto the ground and hurried over to them. “Aiya, Muindor-nîn, do not leave us!” Devastated, he knelt at Orophin’s other side, also cradling a hand.
Orophin’s lips were slowly turning blue and his eyes began to mist over. He had never thought he would die like this! He would have accepted dying in battle, but not because of an earth slide!
Lost in their pain and grief, neither Haldir nor Rumil noticed that Erestor had managed to dismount. Gathering his cloak around him, he bit down the pain that swept through him with every step that he took. He was a healer and it was in his nature to help where he could, even when the wounded was one of his jailors.
Haldir suddenly registered a third pair of hands on Orophin’s body and wanted to glare at Erestor, who was disturbing Orophin’s last moments with his two brothers. But then he held his tongue, seeing the anguished expression in those dark eyes.
Rumil also wanted to sweep away Erestor’s hands, which the raven-haired Elf had rested on Orophin’s throat, but something kept him back.
Orophin was still alert, although a terrible coldness was trying to eat him from the inside out and his eyes widened, feeling Erestor’s warm hands on him. His brothers’ hands didn’t feel that warm!
Centering himself, Erestor called on his own life energy – the little he had left after pulling Elrond from the brink – and let his remaining energy flow into Orophin’s body, hoping it was enough to heal the injury.
For long moments, Haldir and Rumil stared at Erestor in disbelief. Then they looked down and found that a warm glow surrounded Erestor’s hands. That glow disappeared into their brother’s chest and they both sucked in their breath, feeling Orophin’s fingers twitch.
“Muindor?” Haldir’s eyes widened, afraid to believe what he was seeing. Orophin was moving about, squirming beneath Erestor’s hands. His brother’s breathing was normal again and Orophin was even trying to sit up.
But that attempt was sabotaged when Erestor collapsed on top of Orophin. The raven-haired Elf’s body had gone completely limp.
“What happened?” Rumil was also afraid to believe Orophin had been healed, but then again, Erestor was a healer. Why would their prisoner heal one of his enemies? “Haldir? What do we do?”
“Get him… off… cannot… breath.” Orophin, stunned by Erestor’s action, stared at the dark-haired Elf who now moaned miserably.
Haldir was the first to act. With extreme caution, he gathered Erestor – his brother’s savior – in his arms. After what Erestor had done for them, the raven-haired Elf deserved some respect.
“Orophin? How do you fare, Muindor?” Rumil assisted Orophin when his older brother sat upright. Three pair of eyes now stared at Erestor.
“He healed me. Why?” Orophin shook his head in disbelief. “Why? He knows I loathe him.”
“He is a healer,” offered Haldir after pondering Orophin’s question. “He could not turn his back on you.”
“A healer,” mumbled Rumil thoughtfully. “I still wonder how a healer was capable of taking a life.”
“Aye, I saw him driving that knife into the guard’s chest,” said Orophin, confused. But he couldn’t deny that Erestor had saved his life.
“We can ponder this later. First, we need to take care of our healer.” Haldir lifted an unconscious Erestor in his arms and carried him toward his horse. After placing Erestor back in his saddle, he steadied the Elf with a hand, supporting his back. “Rumil, help Orophin onto his horse and make sure he does not go anywhere near that hole!”
Orophin felt disorientated and unsteady when he walked toward his horse but the frightening numbness no longer terrorized his body. Once he was safely back in his saddle, his gaze sought out Erestor again. /Why?/
Erestor slumped forward and his upper body now rested against his horse’s neck.
Haldir, worried for both Erestor and his recovering brother, decided to search for a location where they could set up camp. All of them needed to rest.
Long moments later, Rumil pointed out a suitable spot and Haldir agreed. His gaze came to rest on Orophin. His brother was awfully quiet, but seemed to have recovered from his fall. “Are you still in any pain?”
Orophin shook his head. “I am rather tired, but there is absolutely no pain.” But memories of being unable to move and breathe still tormented him. Erestor had changed that. Erestor had given him life again when he had been ready to release his last breath. How was he to react to that? How to act when Erestor regained consciousness? The hatred which he had formerly felt toward the raven-haired Elf was quickly vanishing.
Haldir dismounted first and went over to Orophin, just in case his brother needed support while dismounting. But Orophin gracefully slid off of the horse’s back and began to gather firewood. Now that Sauron had been defeated, the area was relatively safe and they could risk building a fire. He distanced himself, needing a moment to deal with his near death experience.
Rumil dismounted as well and helped Haldir to get Erestor onto the ground. He gasped in shock, seeing the fresh blood clinging to the saddle. “He is injured, Haldir.”
Catching sight of the blood, Haldir’s features contorted. “Then I should examine him. I still find it odd that he cannot heal himself. Hand him to me.” Rumil placed Erestor in his arms and Haldir carried his charge nearer the fire that Orophin was preparing to build.
“Rumil? Do you still keep that blanket in your saddlebag? And Orophin, can you arrange for some fresh water? See if a stream is nearby.” Orophin would welcome the chance to get some moments alone. His brother left at once after nodding his head.
Rumil had removed the blanket from his saddlebag and now spread it out over the cold, somewhat damp earth. Haldir then placed their unconscious charge on it, lying Erestor down.
“It is best to do this now whilst he is still unconscious.” Haldir was amazed at the protectiveness he suddenly felt toward Erestor. /He saved Orophin’s life. I am indebted to him. And I want to know why he did that./
Slowly, the two brothers pushed Erestor’s heavy cloak out of the way and turned him around. Both gasped, seeing the bloodstains on Erestor’s robes. Their gazes met above Erestor’s body, both thinking the exact same thing.
Erestor had been sent to rescue Elrond, and from what they had gathered, Galadriel had instructed Erestor to bond with the half-Elf. Making love strengthened a new bond and apparently Erestor had been on the receiving end.
“Riding must have been pure torment,” whispered Rumil softly. “And he never said a word.”
Haldir wondered why. “Maybe he thought we would not take the bleeding seriously.” They hadn’t been very kind to the raven-haired Elf.
“I found water.” Orophin, also realizing the nature of Erestor’s injury, paled. With stern determination, he placed the water skins next to Haldir and then sat down to build the fire, adding wood. He remained quiet, having lots to think about. Erestor’s deed had upended his life.
“Do we have some spare leggings with us?” Haldir looked at Rumil, knowing his youngest brother at times packed odd things into his saddlebags.
“Nay, but I wish I had.” Rumil sighed distressed. “Maybe I can help by gathering healing herbs?”
Haldir nodded his approval. “But do not stray too far from the camp.” He was staring at his charge, feeling strangely helpless. There was so little he could do to help Erestor.
“I can heat some water for a healing tea,” said Orophin unexpectedly.
“I am sure he would appreciate that,” said Haldir, “But he is bleeding severely. He will have to apply it internally.”
Rumil got to his feet and disappeared between the trees, hoping he would easily and quickly find the plantain leaves, sage, and yarrow that he needed.
“I still do not understand,” whispered Orophin, using the small kettle they always took with them on their journeys. At times, even Elves needed to eat.
“Maybe we should ask him when he wakes up again.” Realizing there was little he could do to help, Haldir unclasped his cloak and placed it over Erestor’s body, which was now beginning to tremble. “We should have been more alert.”
Orophin’s usually melodic voice sounded harsh, replying to Haldir’s remark. “We are only checking on him now because he saved my life. If that earth slide had not happened, we still would not know he is hurting.”
Haldir bowed his head in shame. “You are right.” It had been easy during all these millennia to merely think of Erestor as a kinslayer. They had never bothered to look any closer.
Orophin stared entranced at the water, almost willing it to come to the boil. “We should have brought more supplies. The only thing we have is Lembas and water.”
“We did not know we would end up with a wounded Elf on our hands.”
“Haldir, I was dying when he reached for me. His warmth enfolded me, kept my fëa from traveling to the Great Halls. How can I ever repay him for saving my life?” Orophin looked at Haldir pleadingly. “How can I reconcile that with the fact that he took a life in the past?”
“I do not know,” said Haldir tiredly. He had guarded Erestor for many centuries, but had never been interested in the healer. He had carried out his duties and when he had been relieved he had never given Erestor a second thought. He had been convinced the raven-haired Elf deserved his punishment. But now he wasn’t that sure anymore, after witnessing Erestor healing his brother.
Absentmindedly, his hand had found its way onto Erestor’s brow and his fingertips were trying to smooth away the deep lines that had formed there. He had never tried to get to know the other Elf and maybe it was time to change that now.
Rumil soundlessly approached the camp and, once he had reached Orophin, handed his brother half of the healing herbs he had gathered to make tea with. The other half he handed to Haldir, who knew of other ways to use these herbs. Looking at Erestor, he found that the injured Elf was still asleep. “He did more than healing Elrond Half-Elven, didn’t he?”
Haldir nodded. “He bonded with the Peredhel and confirmed their connection by submitting to him. The half-Elf could have been a bit more… considerate.” Realizing his protective feelings toward Erestor were growing stronger, he wondered what that meant when looking toward the future.
Taking hold of the herbs Rumil handed him, he put them in his mouth and began to chew until the leaves had turned into to a smooth paste. Once it had reached the right consistency, he put it in the leaves that had formerly held the waybread, which he now handed to his brothers. “Eat, we will need our strength.” This journey seemed ill fated.
“His tea is ready,” announced Orophin. “See if you can wake him up.”
Haldir wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do, but complied, knowing Erestor’s body needed the plants’ healing qualities. “Erestor? Wake up.” He slowly shook the healer’s shoulder, hoping Erestor wouldn’t startle himself awake as he had seen happen in the past.
This time Erestor’s eyes only slowly regained awareness and he was thoroughly confused, seeing Haldir’s concerned gaze directed at him. Then he began to remember everything; arriving in Elrond’s tent, the pain that had followed and giving life back to Orophin. The least Haldir could do for him was to let him sleep. Why wake him? Whilst asleep, his body had felt numb, but now the pain had doubled in strength. “Please… Can’t I continue to sleep?”
“Not yet,” replied Haldir, who was suddenly growing aware of the pleading, and somewhat childish tone. “We made you some tea.”
“Tea?” What kind of odd dream was this? The three brothers had never been interested in taking care of him before. /I saved Orophin. They are probably doing this because they feel indebted to me./
Orophin had filled a cup with the healing tea and now walked over to where Erestor was resting. “This would be easier with you sitting up.”
Sitting up? Erestor cringed; he still felt like he was being burned from the inside and sitting up was not a good idea. “I do not need the tea. Thank you for making it, but—“
“We will help you,” said Haldir in a remarkably gentle tone. “You can lean against me.”
Erestor suddenly realized they knew and immediately lowered his eyes, falling back into behavior he had learned during his childhood when he had been afraid to look at Feanor. /They know! They know, know, know./ Panicking, he wondered why they were taking care of him when it would be much easier to make fun of him.
He flinched violently, feeling Haldir and Rumil’s hands on him. Both Elves were gently pulling him upright and just when the pain threatened to overwhelm him, Rumil eased him back against Haldir. He suddenly found himself cradled against the sentry’s muscular chest. Feeling lost, he let them take charge. He was in no condition to oppose them.
The fragrances of several healing plants drifted into his nostrils and he easily identified them as herbs meant to stop bleeding and infection. By the Valar, he felt so embarrassed now that they knew Elrond had made him bleed. They probably thought him a whore as well as a murderer!
“Sip, Erestor,” commanded Haldir in a gentle tone. Erestor’s behavior worried him and he realized that, if he had paid attention before, it would have worried him back then as well. But he had ignored it.
Erestor automatically obeyed; another instinct that had been ingrained in him by Feanor and Celegorm. Raising his eyes, he probed Orophin’s, trying to assess if the Elf had made a complete recovery. Although the blue eyes seemed somewhat dull, he could tell the Elf hadn’t sustained any permanent damage. His healing power had just been strong enough to pull Orophin back. /It is no wonder that I feel like this. I pulled two Elves back from the Halls of Mandos./
Haldir cleared his throat, uncertain how to address this. “We noticed that you are bleeding – internally.” Erestor’s blush now faded and a ghostly pallor appeared instead. “We think we know what you did. You bonded with Elrond Half-Elven.”
Violent tremors coursed through his body, realizing that if he hadn’t been bound to Elrond already, he might have ended up being bonded to Orophin instead. It surprised him that he had been able to pull the sentry back without forming a bond.
Taking Erestor’s silence as an affirmative, Haldir continued. “Rumil gathered healing herbs. We put part of them in your tea and I made a paste with the other half. You are a healer. I assume you know how to use this paste?” He cringed, feeling Erestor trying to pull away from him. “Do not worry. None of us will apply that paste. That is something you need to do yourself.”
Erestor was relieved that he was spared this final humiliation. “I will also heal without it.”
“But it will take you much longer to heal and you will continue to be in pain, especially once we continue our journey,” said Orophin calmly. His changed feelings puzzled him, but he accepted them nonetheless. When he had felt Erestor’s warm, healing touch, he had instinctively known that the dark-haired Elf was incapable of inflicting pain, or taking someone’s life. He just didn’t know how to combine that new knowledge with the scene he had witnessed such a long time ago. Erestor had killed that guard!
“Maybe some privacy would convince you to apply the paste?” suggested Rumil. He had put himself in Erestor’s place, trying to understand the other Elf’s fears. “We can leave you alone for some minutes. No one will be watching you.”
Erestor stared at Rumil in surprise. Were they actually trying to be kind to him, or was this just a new trick to hurt his feelings? He was afraid to trust them.
“I can tell you are hurting,” said Haldir, whispering softly into Erestor’s ear. “You saved my brother’s life and did not run when you had the chance. Instead, you healed Orophin. We trust you not to run away now either.”
/Like I am in any state to run away!/ thought Erestor dejectedly. /I cannot even walk unaided./ He tried to pull away, seeing Haldir reach for him. It was an old reflex, which he had adopted when Feanor had begun beating him.
Haldir’s eyes widened and his hand froze in mid-air, seeing and correctly interpreting Erestor’s reaction. “I am not going to hit you.” What else had he missed when he should have been paying attention?
“You should accept the offer,” said Rumil, rising from the earth. Inclining his head, he hoped his brothers understood and would follow him away from the camp.
Haldir placed the leaves, holding the paste in Erestor’s shaky hand and then eased his charge onto his side, so he could rest without being in too much pain. “We will return in a few moments. We will call out to you first to make certain you have finished.”
Trembling over his entire body, Erestor watched the three brothers move away from the camp. He still didn’t know if he could trust them to keep their word. What if they were playing with him and would burst out laughing when he was pushing the paste inside his abused passage? Could he take the risk of further humiliation?
Haldir exchanged a saddened look with his brothers once they were out of Erestor’s sight. They had no plans to peek, wanting Erestor to have his privacy. “What do you think? Will he use the paste?”
“I do not know, Muindor,” said Rumil, feeling miserable. He kicked a small pebble over the ground, feeling annoyed with himself, a feeling he shared with his brothers. “We will give him some minutes and then we will check on him.”
Haldir nodded once. “We will have to make sure he takes care of himself.”
Back at the camp, Erestor was straining his hearing. As far as he could tell, the brothers had kept their word and were giving him his privacy. Staring at the bundle that held the paste, he knew he should use it. Applying the paste would help him heal and keep the pain to a minimum. Sighing, he made his decision.
After prying open the bundle, he gathered some paste onto a fingertip and reached behind him. His breathing was ragged and his senses remained trained on the three brothers, determined to pick up on them should they return unexpectedly.
The moment he pushed the paste into the injured channel, its healing qualities began to unfold, cooling and numbing the area. Quickly, he repeated the treatment until he had coated the most severely torn section. Sighing blissfully at the absence of pain, he pulled his robes back in place. Suddenly he grew aware of the fact that it was Haldir’s cloak that was keeping him warm. What had he done to deserve such kindness? Ah, they felt indebted because of Orophin. This had nothing to do with wanting to take care of him. They were just repaying a debt.
Feeling depressed and alone, Erestor pulled Haldir’s warm cloak closer to his body. He had better enjoy this whilst it lasted.
“Erestor? Have you finished?” Haldir called out softly, and when he didn’t get an answer, he walked toward the camp. From this distance, he had a clear view of Erestor, who had fallen asleep again. Signaling for his brothers to follow, they came to a halt in front of their sleeping charge.
All three of them felt relieved, finding that Erestor had used the healing paste.
“We will spend some more hours here,” decided Haldir. “Rumil, you take first watch and I will take second. Orophin? Rest, you just returned from the dead.”
Orophin snorted at Haldir, but did it softly, not wanting to wake Erestor, whose face was finally relaxed in sleep now that his pain had lessened. He privately vowed that things would change from now on.
Muindor = brother
Fëa = soul
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