The Skills of a Healer
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I guess that's perfectly obvious. And I don't do this for money, but for the fact that I love Legolas-angst.
Summary: A lost mare is giving birth in the woods and Legolas comes to her aid. But not without bitter and very painful consequences. Pre-Fellowship, but most likely AU anyway. See for yourself.
A/N: Okay (takes a deep breath), here we go: I can tell I belong to a family of horse breeders, so I know about horse births and witnessed many of them. And I suppose I got all the other medical facts right, for I experienced all of this myself. I can tell about broken bones and dislocated shoulders if there are any questions. Just ask. I wrote this during my recent time in hospital. I promise to update weekly.
My biggest hugs go to Middle-earth's best beta Nautika. You should take a look at her own fics, they are just fantastic.
Nautika, thanks for your patience and your time. Thanks to you and to "my" DC ladies for being with me and for encouraging me. And thanks to all the members of the Mellon chronicles yahoo group.
I'd like feedback, for I always try to improve my writing.
He had never been late before.
Perhaps one hour, but not an entire day. Estel sat in the small clearing next to Rivendell, legs crossed, and let his gaze wander over the Misty Mountains and the High Pass just in sight.
His mind drifted away. They had spent some enjoyable weeks in Rivendell with archery and sword training, but Legolas had left for Mirkwood about two months ago. His father had asked for his assistance in some kind of royal matter.
His friend had only left with the promise to meet him on exactly this particular day, right here, at this place. Actually, it would have been only fair to meet half the distance between Mirkwood and Rivendell.
But Legolas had wanted to bring a young mare along, the still a little inexperienced Galad, a grey horse with a long, bright mane. Riding her for the first time alone, without a group, would be some task, he had said. And so he had asked Estel to wait for him in sight of the Misty Mountains.
Anyway, after their meeting, they were supposed to ride to Rohan together to visit some of the finest horse breeders there, for Estel's foster father, Lord Elrond of Imladris, was in need of a new stallion for his own horse breed.
Sometimes, other bloodlines crossed with the blood of elven horses would bring healthy, well built foals with the best constitution a warriors' horse could offer. No words had been said, but Estel just knew that his father would prefer a black one, and he thought of all the breeders they would have to visit to choose a young stallion with an extraordinary height, an excellent exterior and interior plus good behavior and a great character.
Estel sighed. Legolas has never been late, indeed. He whistled and his reliable mare Wilwarin let the fine, green grass alone, trotted along and nuzzled his hand. He sighed again and mounted. "We shall go and look for him. I have this feeling trouble already found him this time," he told the chestnut and she shook her head up and down in agreement - as though she understood what had been said to her.
"Come on, girl, you can do it, one more push and it will be here. Come on! I can feel it is still alive." In Legolas head, times and places began to spin around.
There was not a now, an earlier or a later, whereabouts became meaningless while his hands, full of blood and birth fluids, pulled on the rear legs of a tiny, little foal that was about to come to this world. The mare and her little one were fighting for their lives. Legolas knew that for sure.
On his way to meeting Estel, most of the days had gone smoothly. His young mare Galad had not betrayed him once. The strong and well trained steed had even allowed him to ride through some nights, for he had left his home much too late to meet Estel in time. Royal matters, as usual.
But just hours before their meeting point, Galad suddenly had become excited, her ears had started to move, and she had wanted him to turn to the right. The blonde archer knew he could trust his horse as he would any creature and had changed the direction.
On a well hidden clearing, Legolas had discovered the reason: A sweating mare, scratching the dry leafs with her hoof, just throw herself to the ground in pain. Then she stood up, turned around on weary legs, only to lay down again within a few seconds.
Legolas' trained gaze discovered the swollen belly and he knew: The poor horse was about to give birth, but apparently with some problems.
He quickly but almost silently dismounted and left his horse grazing. After that, the archer slipped out of his quiver and tunic, then opened his bracers. He washed his hands in a small stream next to a lonely willow tree in the middle of the clearing and his quiet footsteps brought him next to the laying mare that breathed hard.
"You will be fine. I will reach into you to help the young one come to this world. But only if there is no progress with your labor. Trust me, I will care for you," he whispered in elvish. The mare stayed calm but looked at him with pain-widened eyes.
Legolas sat aside to watch the mare some time, but as he had feared, there seemed to be trouble with this birth. Perhaps the mare had felt like that and therefore ran away from her home wherever this might be.
But right now, he had to do what a horse breeder would do in such a situation. Silently, as was the elven way, he slipped behind the trembling mare and reached with one probing hand into her birth canal. "Easy, easy," he whispered in elvish while his long fingers moved to look for the foals' nose, normally laying on the front legs inside the mother. Then, suddenly, Legolas froze. What he felt were not the front, but the rear legs.
And he knew: There was no time to lose, for a mare's uterus would only hold the connection between her and her foal for a short time while giving birth. The placenta would rip off and the foal would die within moments because of the lack of oxygen. Legolas pushed his other hand in, too. He felt that the tiny one was still alive. But the labors of the weakened mare seemed to die down.
"Come on, push, we can do it together," again, he used elvish for horses always liked this tongue. The mare moaned but prepared for another contraction. Legolas used his strength but he did not want to injure the mare, so he stopped pulling when the foal's pelvis reached the one of its mother, some mostly small and delicate passage.
Then, another contraction, Legolas pulled with all his force and the mare, in utter pain, thrashed her rear legs around. It happened within one second: One forceful kick hit the archer's right shoulder. Legolas heard a bone crack but pure adrenaline kept him going and he did not feel any pain.
He knew he had to get the little one out now. Quickly. The foal was completely through its mother's own pelvis now and Legolas felt the navel rip. He pulled once more with all his might, the mare again moaned deeply and seconds later, a wet, blood-stained foal slipped out and into Legolas' lap.
The archer used his left hand to squeeze the little one's nose and mouth to get the blood and birth liquid out of the airways, then he smiled: It breathed. "Oh Elbereth, thank you," he whispered, exhausted, and laid the tiny foal down on the grass, next to its mother. He felt that there was something wrong with his right arm so he only used his left hand and gently massaged the newborn's ribcage to steady its breathing.
His legs almost betrayed him when he stood up to take a closer look at the mare. She was exhausted, too, but her fastened heartbeat seemed to get back to normal and she already turned her head and a high whinny escaped her mouth. She called for her newborn.
Legolas stood back to allow the mom and her filly some space. He had discovered the gender when the foal had slipped into his lap. He was tired, not only because of the horse's birth. He hadn't slept for some nights before and had delayed eating also, just to make some time. And suddenly, with the vanishing adrenaline running through his veins, a white, hot pain shot along his right arm and his legs almost gave way. He headed back to the lonely willow tree in the middle of the clearing, sat down and closed his eyes against the sensation of sickness he suddenly felt. 'A dislocated shoulder. Ai, he thought. It must be a dislocated shoulder. Again. But I can deal with it,' he told himself.
Estel frowned when his chestnut lifted her ears and suddenly a demanding whinny escaped her mouth. Wilwarin could feel the presence of other horses. He patted her neck softly and murmured her name to calm her down. As usual, the man trusted his steed to find the ones of her kind, as horses do with their herd instinct.
The chestnut snorted and immediately changed direction. Estel gave her all the space she needed, eventually laying the reins down and loosening his grip on them.
It still frightened him that his friend had not shown up.
Only an instant later, the ranger heard another horse answer. 'It is not too far away,' he told himself. In fact, his trained ears suspiciously heard more than one horse answer and he froze. If this were Legolas' horse, the archer most probably was not alone. And Estel had no idea who would have accompanied the Mirkwood prince. He knew Galad's whinny, very high and well intonated, but this time, it was strange. She sounded not like she should.
He dismounted quietly and took the reins of his mare in one hand, the chestnut snorted and shook her head. "Shhh", the man whispered and started walking in the direction the whinnies came from. His other hand on the hilt of his sword. Just in case.
There was no path underneath the huge oak and willow trees and Estel cursed the hot, dry days of spring for the very noticeable noise he produced. Leafs from lower trees flashed into his vision and he angrily pushed them away, his mare trailing along.
Only moments later, he reached a small clearing. First, he stayed hidden behind a few hazel bushes and let his gaze wander around and finally gasped at the sight before him. As he anticipated, Legolas' horse was not alone. She stood with another one, a dark brown with a curled mane, sweat all over her thin body that prominently revealed the lines of her ribs.
Her flanks and chest showed signs of exhaustion, for she was breathing much too fast and very unsteadily, too. She looked like she would fall any minute, and Estel suddenly felt sympathy for the poor animal. Then, his eyes stopped:The mare seemed to lick at something and right in front of her legs, he spotted the reason A small, tiny foal lay there, almost unresponsive, but obviously alive.
The little one's back was dark from birth fluids, so the birth must have taken place less than one hour ago, he thought.
Estel lifted his gaze, looking for a sign of Legolas and found immediately what he was looking for. The blonde archer sat leaning against a solitude tree in the middle of the clearing, his gaze fixed upon the newborn and its mother.
It took Estel only one moment to see that his friend looked anything but fine: Blood covered the elf's arms and hands, for he must have loosened his bracers before. Even the blonde braids which had fallen from behind his ears, were stained with blood. He obviously seemed to be in some kind of pain. His chin rested upon his chest. The archer's breathing was labored and he looked as exhausted as the poor mare now watching her foal making its first tries to stand on his tiny, little legs.
The small brown with the big, white blaze eagerly tried to get on its feet. An amazing sight, Estel always loved when it came to horse breeding.
Before stepping out of the bushes, Estel chose to make his presence known without frightening horses or elf, for he saw that Legolas had only eyes and ears for the horses next to him. But suddenly, the blonde archer, too, felt someone near and grabbed one of his daggers.
TBC (you see, I'm a good girl feeding you with veeeeery long chapters)