Dinîf en Qualen
The sky was growing dark and Erestor buried himself deeper in the warm comfort of his velvet cloak, pulling the hood over his head as first raindrops descended onto their heads. “I told you we should have stayed another day at Caras Galadhon, enjoying Celeborn’s hospitality, but you had to leave today.” His tone was calm as always, but a hint of irritation still showed.
Glorfindel studied the threatening clouds, which seemed to devour the sun. Those clouds made him feel apprehensive; heavier rain would fall shortly. The wind was also gaining in strength and ruffled his golden hair. He hated to admit it, but Erestor was right; they should have stayed at Lothlorien another day. But he couldn’t openly admit to being wrong. Erestor would never let it go and harass him for the next few days, and over the years he had learned to be careful around the raven-haired advisor.
Erestor’s sharp tongue was more dangerous than a Morgul blade. He had learned that the hard way, often being ridiculed or chided by the Noldorin Elf. Erestor was intelligent and cunning, but building a friendship with him had been impossible so he usually kept his distance. But now that they were traveling together he had no other choice than to converse with the other Elf.
Glorfindel never considered replying, or even worse, admitting he had made a mistake. Who needed enemies with a ‘friend’ like Erestor? Glorfindel shivered as the rain came pouring down on them. The earth beneath their feet was turning into mud, making it hard for their horses to maintain their pace for it was forcing them to slow down.
“We should seek shelter before thunder and lightning come crashing down on us,” said Erestor, studying the grey and black clouds. He didn’t expect Glorfindel to reply, knowing the blond detested his company. He even suspected Glorfindel had tried to convince Elrond to send someone else in his place, but the Ruler of Imladris had not given in, sending the two of them.
Erestor sighed softly. He could have done without Glorfindel’s company as well. Now he had to be alert the entire time, and could never let down his guard. “Maybe we will take shelter in a cave, should we encounter one?” Glorfindel still remained silent, and Erestor glanced at the blond. Glorfindel’s lips were a narrow line now and his blue eyes had darkened ominously. Maybe it was time to stop talking.
Glorfindel continued to ignore Erestor, but he took the raven-haired Elf’s advice and searched for shelter. They couldn’t stay out in the open much longer. A thunderstorm echoed in the distance, but would probably reach them in just a few minutes. The rain whipped down onto them, soaking their cloaks, and the horses grew restless as well.
Erestor glared at the blond, but Glorfindel was busy searching his surroundings. He was tempted to repeat his earlier comments, but bit his bottom lip instead. If the storm really broke loose then they might need each other, and he didn’t want to alienate Glorfindel any farther.
“We will look for shelter,” said Glorfindel eventually, just waiting for Erestor to gloat and make a condescending remark, but the advisor remained silent. Surprised, almost expecting a trap, Glorfindel looked at his traveling companion. Erestor looked extremely uncomfortable; water dripped down the hood and slid down the black tresses, dripping onto his velvet cloak again. And although he was soaking wet as well, he realized it was worse for Erestor, who usually sat in a warm study.
“Finally,” groaned Erestor, cringing when thunder erupted over their heads. “Now all we have to do is find a cave or cabin.” And what were the odds of them finding one of those?
A strong gust of wind nearly knocked Erestor off his horse, and he held on tightly to the saddle. “We need to get out of this storm!” The wind roared and the thunder exploded, and Erestor was forced to raise his voice and scream. “It will sweep us away!”
Glorfindel nodded sharply. There was no use in denying the truth. “Just hold on tightly.”
Darkness descended onto them, smothering the last ray of sunlight that tried to pierce the black blanket which had now settled between the Elves and the sun. Glorfindel held onto his cloak when the gale almost blew it from his shoulders.
“Any shelter in sight?” enquired Erestor in an urgent tone. The pouring rain hit his face hard and he quickly lowered his head, hiding within his hood. He would never admit it to Glorfindel, but he was growing scared. In his long life he had witnessed a number of storms, but none had grown as quickly as this one and it was still gaining in strength!
“Nothing yet,” replied Glorfindel, annoyed that he couldn’t find any shelter. But what worried even more was the swaying of the branches above their heads. He prayed to Elbereth that the lightning wouldn’t strike into one of those trees. If it did, they might be crushed beneath the massive branches.
Erestor now looked up as well. The trees, strongly rooted in the earth, swayed dangerously, and one branch after another was torn off the trunk. Holding his breath, he stared at the unfolding mayhem around them. They were in a life-threatening situation! If only Glorfindel would admit that and act accordingly!
A strong wind pushed back his hood, revealing his stricken face at the exact moment when Glorfindel looked at him. Embarrassed, he averted his eyes. He didn’t want Glorfindel to know he was scared!
Glorfindel was tempted to make a remark about the fear in Erestor’s eyes, but didn’t get the chance. A loud and frightening roar swelled behind them, and looking behind Erestor, he froze.
Erestor, seeing the shocked stare in Glorfindel’s eyes, looked over his shoulder. He had heard the ominous noise as well and his eyes widened, realizing a flood was heading toward them. Somewhere a dam must have broken, releasing large amounts of water. The wind only added to its power, whipping the flood on.
“We are in its direct path!” realized Glorfindel, worried. The horses had seen the threat as well and reared, afraid. Glorfindel frantically looked up, searching for an escape route. “There is nowhere we can go!” They were trapped and the water was closing in on them.
A flash of lightning lit up the sky and hit an overhanging cliff. Large rocks were shaken loose and began to fall. Glorfindel, realizing the great danger they were in, grabbed Erestor’s reins and pushed his heels into Asfaloth’s sides, urging him on.
Erestor held on to his saddle for dear life, letting Glorfindel take control of the situation. Behind them, huge rocks tumbled down the cliff, and dropped heavily into the water. They had just escaped one danger when another caught up with them. Cold snuck up on him from behind and he didn’t have to look over his shoulder to know that the flood had reached them. “Glor…”
The water thrashed onto him, drowning his words and pulling him from his horse. For the briefest of moments he managed to make eye contact with Glorfindel, just before the water completely covered him. Struggling against the powerful mass of water, he reached the surface again and saw how Glorfindel was pulled from his horse as well. No matter what happened next, he had to make sure he stayed close to the blond. Only together could they survive.
Glorfindel swallowed some of the bitter water and he spat out the rest. The powerful wave of water seemed to play with him, tossing him from one side to the other. His eyes searched for Erestor, recalling that the dark-haired Elf had gone down first. Seeing a patch of dark in the water, he assumed it was Erestor and tried to move towards him.
Erestor saw Glorfindel move toward him, but he also saw the rock that doomed out of the water behind the blond. Glorfindel, however, whose back was turned toward the rock, didn’t see it, and Erestor yelled a warning.
Glorfindel never heard that warning as another wave rolled over him. It flung him against the rock and a stabbing pain swept through his legs, rendering him unconscious in seconds. Never realizing what had happened, Glorfindel was pulled beneath the surface, releasing his last breath.
Erestor’s heart missed several beats, seeing Glorfindel being pulled under, and quickly dived after him. The power of the water tried to throw him off course, but he persevered and managed to grab Glorfindel’s cloak. But the blond’s dead weight pulled him along and he was no match against the swirling water. The fabric of the Elda’s cloak slipped from his fingers and frustrated, he flung himself forward, trying to find the blond again.
Suddenly something sharp pushed against his stomach, broke the skin and… Erestor, caught by surprise, raised his arms, trying to remain at the surface. A sharp object had pierced the skin of his abdomen and was now forcing itself a way inside. His eyes had widened, but his scream was silenced by the roaring flood.
Instinctively he placed a hand over the injured area and his fingertips quickly identified the object piercing his stomach; it was a branch. Agony spread from his abdomen through the rest of his body, waves of pain that nearly robbed him of his consciousness.
Glorfindel? Where was the blond? Was he injured as well? He needed to find Glorfindel as quickly as possible. The burgundy of Glorfindel’s cloak showed through the water, and, whilst biting down his anguish, he dived into the flood again, this time grabbing hold of Glorfindel’s tunic. Now that he had the blond, he wasn’t going to let go again, and he folded one arm around him.
Using his last bit of strength, he struggled toward the rocks. He had no idea how he managed to push Glorfindel onto the slippery rocks, but he did. Panting hard, he wrestled himself free of the water and collapsed onto the rock as well, next to Glorfindel.
Worried that the other wasn’t reacting, Erestor gently rolled Glorfindel onto his back. A load moan full of agony left the Elda’s lips, and when Erestor studied Glorfindel’s form, he felt shocked at seeing the way the blond’s legs were twisted. Were they broken? Both of them?
Erestor groaned and pushed his hand tighter against his abdomen, realizing he couldn't count on Glorfindel to take them into safety. The Elda was unconscious and couldn’t even walk. It was now up to him to keep them alive. He doubted that he was up to that challenge when he doubled over due to the stinging pain in his stomach.
“Glorfindel?” Kneeling next to the blond, he shook Glorfindel’s shoulder. “Wake up!” He couldn’t possibly carry the Elda into safety! His stomach injury wouldn’t allow that! “Glorfindel!”
Erestor’s urgent tone finally registered with the trained warrior and Glorfindel fought himself back to awareness, but then a terrible pain attacked him. Agony ripped through his legs, pooling in his knees.
Realizing Erestor was kneeling next to him, he managed to make eye contact. The Noldorin Elf looked wretched, but coherent. “Eres… stor… I…” He never managed to finish his sentence as agony overwhelmed him, pushing him back into darkness.
“No, you cannot faint! I need your guidance! I am no warrior!” He was a scholar; how could he possibly take care of them? Especially when he was wounded as well? Throwing back his head, he glared angrily at the dark skies, which continued to release impossible amounts of rain. “Why? Why me? Why now?” Despair enveloped him momentarily, but he shook it off, refusing to give in to the dark feeling. No, he was stronger than that. He could manage. He would take Glorfindel into safety and take care of him. Never before had he given up and he wasn’t going to start now! With grim determination he hooked his hands behind Glorfindel’s back and hauled the blond onto his knees, then draped him over his shoulder. Getting to his feet was one of the hardest tasks he had ever faced, but his inner strength pulled him through.
Erestor searched his surroundings with his eyes, trying to find a cave or tree that would provide them with some shelter. His abdominal pain was increasing, making it nearly impossible for him to lift his feet. Glorfindel’s weight was also putting pressure on his stomach and he lost his footing in the mud.
Tightening his hold on Glorfindel, he took the impact on himself and nearly fainted from the pain consuming him. “I refuse to give up now.” Erestor pushed himself to his feet and spotted something dark to his right. Was it a cave? Could he be that lucky?
He concentrated on placing one foot in front of the other and slowly covered the distance to the cave. Just when he had reached it, the rain stopped. Erestor glared at the clouds, which were now traveling west, and entered the cave, eager to lay down his charge.
At the back of the cave, he slowly placed Glorfindel on the cold earth. Their clothes were still soaking wet and Erestor wished he had never left Imladris, staying warm instead. But wishful thinking wouldn’t get him anywhere. Probing Glorfindel’s leg, he froze when the blond released a keening wail whilst examining his knees.
“Broken.” He studied the blond. “What do I do now? I cannot carry you all the way back to Imladris.” But Glorfindel depended on him to get him back to the Last Homely House.
His head bowed, and hand pressed against his injury, he considered his options. Carrying Glorfindel was out of the question. Maybe he should try to find the horses? Then he could build a litter and have the horse pull it whilst he rode it? That might work. Now that he had some sort of plan he felt better, stronger. He always needed a goal to work toward. It had saved his sanity in the past and it would now help him survive again.
“Find the horses, build a litter and take Glorfindel back to Imladris.” Imladris, he registered bitterly, and never home. But it was not the time to dwell on this now and he sat back, leaning against the rocky wall. He carefully probed his wound. His features contorted, discovering a hooked branch had nestled in his abdomen. Was it safe to remove it? Or should he leave it there?
“I cannot leave it in there.” There was dirt and grass clinging to it. If he left it there it would only cause more infections. Wrapping his fingers tightly around the branch, he swallowed hard, steadying himself. He had survived worse pain; he could do this! Gritting his teeth, he removed the branch, flinging the bloodied wood into the far corner of the cave. Blood gushed from the wound and he used some strips of his cloak to bind it, hoping the bleeding would stop in time.
If not… He could only hope Glorfindel wouldn’t notice the red stain that was already forming on his shirt. The last thing he wanted was for the Elda to point out to him how stupid he had been to get injured. His father had been like that, always… No, he didn’t want to think about this now and should focus on Glorfindel instead.
Frustrated that every inch of his cloak was still soaked, he wrung it, trying to remove as much water as possible before shredding it into strips. He used those to bandage Glorfindel’s legs and especially his knees, hoping the support would lessen the agony the blond would be in upon waking.
Once he had finished, he rested his back against the wall again. He longed to lie down, but didn’t dare to actually do it, afraid he might not get to his feet again later. Distressed, he stared at Glorfindel, relieved the Elda wasn’t awake whilst he was experiencing a panic attack. His breathing quickened, his eyes widened and he clawed the fabric of his shirt whilst his other hand continued to press against his wound.
“Find the horses, build a litter and take him back to Imladris,” he repeated, making it his mantra. After long moments he finally calmed down again. “I can do this. I have been in worse situations. I can do this.”
Looking at the entrance of the cave, he found that the rain had started again, but it no longer resembled the storm they had been caught in. He would catch his breath and then venture out again, hoping at least one the horses had remained close. And he also had to build that litter! He needed to gather branches for that, and some strong grass to bind the branches together.
Erestor pushed himself to his feet. He shouldn’t postpone building the litter, for he was afraid his wound might grow infected after all. When he had removed the branch, he had seen that dirt still clung to the wound.
He placed his hand against the wall, using it to guide and support him whilst he walked toward the entrance. Relieved, he noticed that it was no longer raining and he stepped outside.
The valley was a complete mess. Trees had been ripped up by their roots and had been spread throughout the valley. Rocks, which had tumbled from the cliff, lay haphazardly in the torrent’s path. He could hardly believe that a violent flood had turned this lovely rivulet into a murderous deluge. It had almost taken their lives. Nature would always be unpredictable.
He looked east, to where Imladris lay, and reckoned it would take them two or three days to reach Elrond’s realm where the healer could tend to their injuries.
“You are wasting precious time, standing here,” Erestor chided himself. After fighting down another wave of nauseating pain, he whistled softly, hoping his mare would hear him and follow the sound which would lead her here. “Amdir, hear me, and come to me.” If the mare heard him, she would answer his call. Throughout his entire life he had placed more faith in animals than his fellow Elves. Animals never judged him, never withheld their love and affection, and he could return that friendship. Amdir was precious to him and he hoped she had survived as well.
Realizing that it would take Amdir time to get here – and that was if she had heard him — he set out to gather branches that were strong enough to support Glorfindel. As expected, most of the wood was wet, and he carried it back to the cave.
He sat down awkwardly, ignoring his pain, and looked at Glorfindel. Over long years the Elda had gained his respect, though he would never admit it aloud. Glorfindel was loyal and seldom avoided his company, which was far from pleasant at times. He knew Glorfindel disliked his sharp tone and remarks that could be haughty at times, but he couldn’t change a habit that had helped him survive.
“I never was a good friend -- not even a friend,” said Erestor softly, “But I vow to take you back to Imladris. I won’t let you die here. Glorfindel, the Balrog slayer, does not deserve like this.” New determination was born, hearing his promise aloud. “I will look after you.”
Glorfindel moaned softly. Something was disturbing his peaceful sleep and pain was pulling him toward consciousness again. As he slowly became aware of his surroundings, the pain became very real as well. Whimpering, he tried to establish what had happened, and then he remembered the flood.
“Easy, Glorfindel, easy. Your legs are broken, and you need to preserve your strength for later."
Erestor’s voice took him off guard and his wide eyes focused on the raven-haired Elf, who looked like a drowned cat. “Bro… ken?” he stuttered in shock. Seeing Erestor nod, he tried to recall more. The flood must have dragged him along, throwing him against the rocks like a rag doll. How had he gotten into this cave then? “Erestor?” Frowning, he made eye contact with the other Elf, and was surprised when Erestor averted his eyes. “You went in after me?”
Erestor felt distinctly uncomfortable, but managed to hide it when looking at Glorfindel. “I did not have a choice. I cannot possibly return to Imladris without you. Elrond would never forgive me.”
The words were like a cold shower to Glorfindel. He had been a fool to believe Erestor cared about his well-being! Erestor was as cold as ice and would never express any warm feelings of concern and compassion. He forced himself to concentrate on their situation, refusing to linger on his feelings. “Do we still have the horses?”
Erestor shook his head. “We lost them in the flood.” His stomach painfully contracted around the wound and he bit his lip, trying to not scream out his pain. Glorfindel was glaring at him and he hung onto his composure, unwilling to let his agony show. “But maybe Amdir will return. I called out to her.”
Now that was another thing that puzzled Glorfindel. When Elrond had given Erestor that white mare, the gloomy adviser had called her "Hope". He still wondered about that name. Pulling himself away from his musings, he tried to shift slightly, but pain shot up his leg, making him whimper in agony.
“Move as little as possible. I bound it tightly, but the broken bones need time to heal.” Erestor, concerned at hearing Glorfindel’s strangled whimper, leaned in closer and searched the blue eyes. “I am gathering wood to build a litter.”
Glorfindel was stunned to see concern in Erestor’s dark eyes. It was the first hint of emotion he had ever seen in those brooding orbs. But he shook it off; it was probably just his imagination. “What use is a litter when we do not have a horse to pull it?” He realized he had said the wrong thing when Erestor’s gaze darkened.
“I am doing the best I can!” said Erestor in a painfully clipped tone. His wound was throbbing, sending violent vibrations through his body, but he concealed them, unwilling to show any weakness right now. “Why do you not rest whilst I take care of matters?” He cringed privately. That sounded much harsher than he had intended.
Glorfindel glared at Erestor. How many times had he hoped the raven-haired Elf would let go of his harsh attitude? Why couldn’t Erestor reach out just once? They needed to support each other! “Fine, I will rest!” He immediately regretted playing along. This was probably just what Erestor wanted! Why did he always allow Erestor to provoke him like that? He frowned slightly, seeing the amount of time it took Erestor to get back to his feet. Deep lines showed on the Noldorin Elf’s face and he had never seen them there before. But then he dismissed his concern. Erestor’s clothes were still wet and probably making it hard to move around.
Erestor walked over to the pile of wood he had gathered, sat down and used the dry branches to build a small fire. Then he began to separate the branches he could use and the ones that were worthless. He felt Glorfindel staring at him, but refused to acknowledge that.
Glorfindel, now staring at Erestor’s back, frowned. Something seemed wrong with the other Elf, but he couldn’t label the feeling. The fact that pain spiraled up his legs wasn’t making coherent thought any easier either. But he didn’t want to let this dark feeling grow between them. “You were right.”
Hearing Glorfindel’s voice, Erestor looked over his shoulder. “About what?” He felt somewhat suspicious; Glorfindel had never admitted he had been right about anything. Why start now?
“We should have stayed another day at Caras Galadhon.” Glorfindel carefully watched Erestor, wondering what was eluding him.
Erestor cleared his throat. Glorfindel had actually managed to surprise him. He was tempted to say ‘I told you so’, but he didn’t. “You could not have known about that storm. This was not your fault.” It was a strange thing, but he was actually getting used to the pain.
Glorfindel was baffled at hearing Erestor’s mellow answer; he had expected a sneer. Then the pain ripped through him again, making him groan in agony. As he was still looking Erestor in the eyes, he saw another wave of concern course through the dark orbs. /It is amazing, he is actually worried about me!/
Erestor dragged himself to his feet, relieved to feel his wound go numb. Leaning against the wall, he said, “Rest now. Once our journey starts you will need your strength.”
Knowing Erestor was right, Glorfindel nodded. He wasn’t looking forward to the painful experience of being dragged to Imladris on a litter. “Erestor?” Seeing the familiar, distant expression in the other’s eyes once more, he swallowed hard, wondering if he had just imagined the concern in them. “Thank you for coming after me.” Privately, he admitted, /I never thought you would./
Erestor was growing increasingly worried; the bleeding still hadn’t stopped and warm blood was seeping through his fingers. “We are safe here for the moment. Rest.”
Unable to stay awake much longer, Glorfindel gave into the pain and returned to the soothing darkness that had cradled him earlier.
Erestor barely managed to stay on his feet and leaned heavily against the wall. “Elbereth, what am I supposed to do?” He had fought off despair for so long, but now that everything seemed utterly hopeless he hung his head in defeat.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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